Violet was washing dishes and singing a festive Christmas song:
“May all have sprouts from Brussels,
May all have sprouts from Brussels,
May all have sprouts from Brussels,
To be washed down with beer.”
“Oh that's absurd.”, she thought, “That isn't a Christmas Carol! Where did that even come from? Let me try 'Deck the Halls”.
Violet, when not hyperventilating had a voice like a bell and soon the house rang with:
“Deck the halls with sprouts from Brussels,
Good for bones and hair and muscles,
“What the HELL!” she exclaimed, somewhat worried.
Odd things had happened in Violet's peaceful world over the last few years and she had learned that when things once began to get odd, they rapidly became odder.
A soft sound behind her caught her attention; a sound like a hole in space and time opening and closing, a sound with which she had become much too familiar over the preceding months. But this sound was not nearly as loud as those she had heard previously.
Feigning deafness her hand groped beneath the soapy water and clutched the handle of the butchers knife that waited there. She whirled, stared across the kitchen table to the work counter where sat...
She was rather large for a fairy, perhaps 5' 8” with a figure which indicated a decline in gym visitations and a frequent flier program to the Haagen Daze cooler. She went about 14 stone.
She was clad in a short ragged fairy dress equipped with a droopy looking set of wings. A plastic tiara graced her dark tousled hair and by way of wand she held a plastic tube which had once held sugar candy.
It held none at the moment.
Her dress was transparent and she apparently had a take it or leave it attitude towards undergarments. The fairy herself was semi transparent, which gave Violet an uneasy feeling.
“Who the hell are you, and what are you doing in my kitchen?” she demanded, not unreasonably. Her own words seemed familiar to her, somehow.
The fairy looked stricken.
“Why I'm little Periwinkle! From the early days of your story! Don't you remember me?”
Tears began leaking from her overly mascaraed eyes.
“Little Periwinkle? LITTLE Periwinkle? Um, not clearly, or to be more accurate, not at all. Are you sure you are haunting the right kitchen? And what do you mean by 'my story'?”
“Ooooooaaaaaahhhhhh!” Periwinkle wailed, “You have forgotten me entirely! Little Periwinkle from the first chapters of 'Violet's in Bloom'?”
“Violet's in Bloom? I'm afraid I don't know the tale. You really are in the wrong kitchen.
"Push on then, there's a lass.”
At this, Periwinkle began to weep like a lawn sprinkler.
Violet was moved.
“There there”, she said gently, “It will sort itself out I'm sure. Would you uh, perhaps, like some pie?”
“PIE!”, the fairy snuffled and the waterworks began to subside. “I'm so upset. I couldn't touch a crumb.”
“Er what kind of pie, just tasking to be polite?”
“Apple blueberry with vanilla ice cream. It's still warm. The pie I mean, not the ice cream.”
“Well Okay then. Just a tiny slice maybe.”
A wormhole opened in the middle of the Garden Shed and Milly Quackenbush, dressed as a fairy, stepped through it.
The hole closed.
Somewhere between universes Milly had lost around 5 stone and the dress had adjusted to her slender but quite delicious frame. The wings were now lively and vibrant, the tiara glittered colorfully from the many precious jewels set into the silver frame. Her wand was two feet of polished ebony. An enormous emerald formed the pommel, and tendrils of violet energy leaked from the electrum clad tip.
None present mourned the dearth of underwear.
“Piece of cake”, said the earths last remaining sorceress, “or should I say, piece of pie. Not a bad pie either. In a century or two she might be as good a baker as I am.”
“But probably not.”
“It is as we thought, the dear girl has no idea that she is a literary construct, written into existence by everyone's favorite romance writer, Glory Lennon. We should have some fun with her.”
Uncle Mac grinned like a shark at a shipwreck. “What do you suggest?”
“I say we go Scrooge and Marley on her ass. What do you think?”
There was a universal round of surprised laughter. Even the usually unflappable Delacroix joined in.
“Do it!” said Uncle M.
The wand flared briefly, and Milly was gone.
“Little Periwinkle” returned to Violets kitchen, but as she returned just two nanoseconds after she had left Violet never noticed.
“More pie, er, Periwinkle?” suggested Violet, eyeing the last remaining slice ruefully.
“Little Periwinkle”, corrected the ersatz fairy, as she reached for the pie dish. “I couldn't possibly.”
“Look Violet I am sorry you don't remember me but it's about 'Violets in Bloom'. You need to help your readers out just a bit.”
“My readers? I don't know what you are talking about.”
“Yes, your readers! Your story is now over 760 Chapters long and published online! You need to start publishing a second run from the beginning, so that new readers can catch up.”
“I don't write stories. I can barely write a shopping list! You have the wrong Violet, I'm quite certain.”
Periwinkle was beginning to wonder. She checked the kitchen wall and sure enough, there was a crater in the wooden paneling, as if a tiny meteor had punched it's way through from the outside. There was evidently a hole in the center of the crater, for someone, no doubt Violet, had closed it by hammering a wine cork into the opening.
Vida G. had bored that hole in the wall with a stolen Lapau .338 while shooting at Violets boyfriend.
[It's a long story and not really that relevant, save that it convinced Periwinkle that she was in the right place.]
“You know what? I think you may be right, Violet. Terribly sorry. I have my messages and my Violets confused.”
She stood up, and continued portentously.
“You will be haunted!”
“What?” asked the astonished Violet.
“Haunted by four Spirits!”
“Dickens only hit Scrooge with three, what makes me so freakin' special?”
“Expect them on Christmas Eve, Violet Bennett!”
“NO! I don't want them!” Violet squeaked.
“Never the less, so shall it be. Look for me no more.”
Raising the empty candy tube she was holding in lieu of a wand she sprinkled a few incandescent sparks – violet ones, oddly enough - on her own head and vanished with a mild 'Phumph!' “
“Crap.” said Violet
More sparks appeared and a pudgy hand poked through the center of them. The candy tube waved once at the pie dish, and with another “Phumph” hand, tube and sparks disappeared, this time for good although Violet had no way of knowing this.
The dish, however, once again held a pie.
Quite a remarkable pie, as it turned out.
“Had I two, we'd need to re-evaluate your sexuality”, said Farm Girl
“No seriously. It is now Christmas Eve and we haven't prepared the scripts to follow when we are haunting Violet Bennet like the three spirits haunted Scrooge in a Christmas Carol. We'll need to scrub the mission.”
Moans, groans, expostulations, sighs, muttered mutterings and at least one resonant, lengthy, and tooling fart accompanied his announcement.
Folks moved away from Leatherface.
“No.” came a calm but determined voice from a dark corner. “Violet deserves to be haunted and we by God are gonna haunt her.”
“We will simply improvise and keep our appearances very short. Almost Glory-like.”
It was Delacroix who spoke.
“I can do this”, chirped Vida G. “I'm ready! And I spent so much time on my costume!”
“How much time do a few square inches of silk and fishnets plus a Santa hat actually take up, Vida?” inquired Farm Girl.
“Enough.” Vida sniffed. “the point is, I'm ready to rock.”
“I suppose I can perform a highly abbreviated Christmas Present”, said Uncle Mac, “if it comes to that.”
“Agnes? George? Are your spirits also ready?” said Delacroix
“Tip top, Old Girl!” said George Mallory.
“I need to refresh 'em.” contributed Aunt Agnes, brandishing an empty bottle of Old Granddad.
“That would seem to be unanimous”, Delacroix observed, before anyone else had time to speak.
“Me first”, said Vida G, picking up a white cardboard box and vanishing with a muffled “whoomp” into a suddenly activated wormhole
Violet woke from a sound sleep. She had deliberately turned in early to avoid the various spookly visitations which Little Periwinkle had promised her.
She had been awakened by Samba music, played at high volume.
“Oh bloody hell” she thought “Periwinkle was right.”
Her bedroom door burst open and centered in the doorway a ultra curvy elf lass wearing a Santa cap and not much else was dancing like the practice was going to be made illegal soon. She carried a cardboard box.
“Who are you?” asked Violet, knowing the answer.
“The Ghost of Christmas Past!” said the elf.
“You can't be.” Violet said. “If you are of the past then this is your future and you cannot be here. Go away.”
“Technicalities”, said the elf, “This is for you. It's from YOUR past.”
She handed Violet the box.
“Go ahead, open it, it won't bite.”
Violet did so.
She stared at the contents in horror.
“Puh”, she said, “PINEAPPLE!”
She dived from her bed, impacting the wall with authority. Lacking anywhere else to go she scrambled underneath the four poster. She squeezed her eyes shut, awaiting the detonation.
When she opened them the elf girl was leaning over the bed, looking at her with evident surprise. Even upside down and astonished she was very cute.
“Why are you trying to kill me?” Violet asked.
“What are you talking about, you silly woman?” said the elf. “it's just candy.”
“It's a bomb!”
“No it isn't. It's a pineapple. Made from marzipan.”
“YES, but!” squeaked Violet, rather loudly for a squeak, “There is a bomb inside it! I know there is!”
“Ah-HAH! Well that is the point. You used a marzipan pineapple to blow up that creep John Daily...
“Yearly” said Vida
“Yearly schmearly. Anyway you blew him up and really did not give a hoot that you had done so. There is steel in you, Violet, and yet you pretend there is not. This must change.”
“That is my message.”
“At any rate there is nothing inside this marzipan pineapple except more really good marzipan. Enjoy!”
And with that, the elf disappeared.
“There's an s-load of dust kitties under this bed”, Violet thought as she wriggled out from under it “I really should vacuum.”
Against her better judgment, she nibbled some marzipan.
It was magically good.
The”whump” was followed by a spell of urgent coughing.
Violet, feeling unaccustomedly irritable, swung out from beneath the sheets, put on her terrycloth bathrobe and stalked into the living room.
She was greeted by the vision of a large man in worn overalls and work boots, wearing a checked shirt. He was sporting a fake Santa beard and, as seemed de rigueur for the evenings festivities, a Santa cap. A large sack was at his feet.
Each time he coughed he expelled a cloud of dark soot.
Spotting Violet he held up one finger, reached into his sack, extracted a pint bottle of Yukon Jack, and drank deeply.
The coughing subsided.
“When”, he wheezed, “Is the last time you had that chimney cleaned?”
“1992” said Violet, “You are?”
“The Ghost of Christmas Present, of course!”
“Bull.” said Violet. You are Angus MacCaskel. I've seen your picture.”
The Ghost brightened.
“In “Philanthropists Monthly?”
Violet shook her head.
“No. In the Post Office.”
“Well”, said the Ghost, “you are mistaken. I am the Ghost of Christmas Present. You can tell by my ghostly manifestation – he bent to his sack, dumping its contents on the floor, revealing a gaily wrapped package – and by the fact that I bring you a Present.”
“The last spirit told that you have steel in your soul. This gift may help you when you find your inner strength.”
With that, and with a final cough, The ghost disappeared.
Violet nudged the package with one toe. She was not sure she wanted whatever was inside.
Curiosity is a powerful motivator, however, and eventually she tore the paper, split the tape and opened the box. She saw a thick layer of seed packets. Beneath those was a flattened box, rather heavy.
Opening it, she found a Colt Python .357 magnum revolver, with pink and white grips decorated with exquisitely hand painted violets. It featured a six-inch barrel. Four speed loaders were included, although Violet did not recognize them for what they were.
Beneath the revolver was a hand tooled holster, and beneath that 200 rounds of ammo.
She had no interest in this “present”.
She would simply need to find a discreet, simple and effective way to get rid of it.
Except for the seeds, of course.
Musicians played a lively reel and Violet was being swirled 'round the floor by a tall, slim but firmly muscled dark haired young man who spoke words which Violet could not quite catch, but which were delivered in an outdated upper class British accent. He said something to her, a question Violet thought and smiled at her.
She smiled in return.
Suddenly one well tanned hand which had been pressed chastely to the center of Violet's back slid rather unchastely lower and Violet discovered, to her astonishment, her left butt cheek gripped in a gentle but firm grasp.
She darted a glance left and right. No one in the crowd was paying the slightest attention.
“Well, dammit, it's my dream anyway; I'll pretend I don't notice either.”
Things were beginning to get interesting when...
Violet awakened with a jolt.
Sitting up, she stared around the room wild eyed and frightened. Something, a noise she thought, had torn her from what was after all, a very promising dream. All seemed quiet now but then...
It began. Low at first but then building to a horrid, mighty crescendo.
It was coming from the living room.
It could not possibly have issued from the throat of a normal human being, nor did any animal with which Violet was familiar make such discordant and terrifying cries.
She thought briefly of a huge sentient spider, trying to make itself understood through a surfeit of mandibles, fangs and dripping venom. She suppressed the image.
It had to be the third spirit. Violet slipped to the bedroom door, slid it open noiselessly and padded into the living room. Nothing, at first, seemed amiss but then she noted a smallish and very worn cowboy boot which presumably contained a foot protruding from the arm of the coach which stood, it's back to Violet, facing the fireplace.
Violet stepped around the couch to find sprawled there an aged ruin of a woman in worn jeans, cowboy boots, a denim shirt and, no surprise, a Santa hat. She clutched an half empty bottle of Jack Daniels to her breast as a young mother might clasp an infant. An unopened pack of Camels lay on the floor, where they had dropped from one nerveless hand.
The hideous noise was the old hag snoring.
This was the Ghost of Christmas yet to come? Violet hoped not.
Seizing the fireplace poker she prodded the sole of the crones boot.
“HEY!” she said, “Rise and shine!”
“SNORK?” began the old gal, then her eyes popped open.
“Who the hell air you a-pokin' thar, Missy?”
She got to her feet unsteadily, thought for a few seconds.
“Ah am the Ghost of Christmas Inebriated. Ah brought you some aignog. It's yonder.”
“Ah made it myself, me an' Milly. Little Periwinkle that is.”
Violet turned. On the coffee table stood the biggest pitcher she had ever seen, half filled with a yellowish liquid. A large green bottle closed with a cork stood next to that. A glass rod was also on the table, for no apparent reason.
“What's in it?”
“Aigs! And some of that nog crap o'course! Why in tarnation d'ya think we call it aignog? That green bottle is Napoleons Brandy and the glass stick is to stir it in to the nog with.”
“Now go back to sleep! You got that Ghost of the Future haint to entertain an' ah reckon he's apt to be a mite hard on you.”
With that she opened the Jack Black bottle, tilted it and began to swallow. As the liquid vanished, so did the drinker.
Violet was alone again.
“Crap!” she thought, and not for the first time.
“I better put this 'aignog' in the fridge.”
And that is what she did.
No sooner had Violet closed her eyes when she was back in the dream, with the handsome young man, on the dance floor. But this time, the dream like quality was absent and she could quite clearly hear what he was saying.
“...frightfully pleased to make your acquaintance, Violet. I'm Mallory as you know but please call me George. I am the Ghost of Christmas's yet to come.”
“I thought this was a dream?”
“Well it is, you see, but then again it isn't. Not exactly.”
“Oh. I do see”, said Violet, who didn't. “I know the name Mallory. There was a famous mountain climber by that name. He climbed mount Everest about 100 years ago and vanished in the mist forever. Any relation?'
“Quite a close one, actually. And it was only 90 years ago. And he only vanished for 75 years. They found him, perfectly preserved in 1999 you know.”
“I didn't know.”
Violet was quiet for a bit.
“Do you think he reached the top, George? Edmund Hillary always gets the credit, 1953 I believe, nearly 30 years later.”
“Oh, I made the top right enough. First I summited, then I plummeted and no one will ever know for certain what happened, except for me and the fellow who rescued me.”
“Rescue?”, murmured Violet, “who could rescue you from the summit of the world's tallest mountain and if you were rescued why did you and your partner dissapear?”
“I think you are fibbing, Mr. Mallory and it is unbecoming of you.”
“I understand your thinking sweet girl. But the fellow who rescued me was in fact the chap who appeared as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Uncle Mac, Angus MacCaskel, time and space traveler and Patriarch of Uncle Mac's Garden Shed.”
I was 600 feet beneath the summit, trying to work my way back down but I was out of oxygen and losing coordination and my mental faculties when a hole opened in space and time and MacCaskel pulled me through it to safety, just before I would have fallen, snapped my leg and punched a hole through my own skull with my ice axe as I tried to stop my slide.”
“Later he went back to where my body ended after the fall, had I in fact fallen, and placed the fallen body of yet another George Mallory in just the spot where it would be found in 1975. The body is from another closely paralleled universe but in that universe I never will be found, as I have vanished for good from that timeline.”
“It can be complicated.”
“Too complicated for me, Mr. Mallory, right at the moment,” whispered Violet.
They danced quietly for a brief time and then Mallory broke that silence.
“I say, Violet, have you explored this great pile of a house as yet? Quite the museum you know. One never knows what one might find.”
“I've got a pretty good idea.” said Violet. “let's go.”
The revelery at the shed was winding down a bit when a wormhole popped in the garden outside. The door creaked open and George Mallory crept through it. He was carrying his shoes, jacket and tie. His shirt was open to his waist. There were violet lipstick stains on his cheeks, lips, forehead, nose and chest where it showed through the open shirt.
One could extrapolate to other locations but of course one was above doing so.
Mallory walked a bit stooped over, gingerly; as might a man just pulled from a car wreck or who had perhaps, fallen from a mountain. He collapsed into the nearest hay stack. He was handed a cold beer which he accepted gratefully and drained.
“Tough work out, old man?” said Jack the Ripper amiably.
“You have no idea”, croaked Mallory, somehow summoning the strength to grin.
Violet woke from a sound sleep, the sun pouring in heralded midmorning, Christmas Day. She hopped from between the sheets and stretched. She could not remember when she had felt better. But those peculiar dreams...
She turned to the dresser and froze.
There, on a paper plate sat most of a marzipan pineapple, a fork, and a knife.
“Oh.” she said, “Shit.”
Tiptoeing past the suspect confection she pried open the bedroom door and peeped into the living room. There beneath the tree were seed packets, a very large handgun (with pretty grips) a holster and ammo boxes. Next to the couch lay a pack of Camels. Entering completely she spied the expected green bottle and glass stirring rod.
She had no doubt but that a thaumaturgical Pie could be found on the kitchen counter and enchanted “aignog” located in the fridge.
Which meant, of course...
“Well”, she reasoned aloud, “Christmas comes but once a year. Mallory and me, on the other hand...”
For some reason she found herself blushing.