Farley was dead! No doubt about it. As dead as a doornail from Covid A. Ten years ago this very night, thought Diamond Geezer Goodge, Christmas Eve 2020. Nothing to get maudlin about though, DG, said to himself. Instead he looked at his screen to add up the number of Pay Day Loans that had been granted today. Not bad, but could be better. I think we better increase the interest rate from 2500% to make up the shortfall, he mused. Then he looked through his office window into the floor of the shop, the largest one in his empire.
All his employees were slaving away on finalising new loans or sending out the collection crew on defaulters. All except Scratchit who was clock watching as usual. DG got up from his desk and opened his office door.
“Are we keeping you, Scratchit?” he called loudly.
Rash Scratchit jumped six feet in the air in fright. “Er … no, Mr Goodge.”
“It sure looks like it Scratchit. Your eyes have not left that clock for the past hour. Do I pay you for that?”
“No Mr Goodge. It’s just … “
“Go on! Spit it out Scratchit.” Scratchit, shrugged and spat out his chewing gum. “No, Scratchit, what’s on your mind?”
“Oh! Well, it is Christmas Eve, Mr Goodge,” stammered Scratchit.
“Well, seven o’clock only gives us half an hour to get home before the curfew and that leaves no time for last minute shopping.”
“Well, you have the whole day off tomorrow do you not? Go shopping then?”
“But that’s Christmas Day, Mr Goodge.”
“Christmas! Bah! Skittles!” For he did not like mints, and then he went back into his office and closed the door.
At seven precisely, the bell rang and all the employees packed up their work and made ready to leave the shop. Scratchit was keen to leave too because he was to meet his youngest son outside but there was something he had to ask the boss on behalf of his fellow employees. With trepidation, he went and knocked on the door and he was waved in.
“Well, Scratchit?” DG snapped as soon as he opened the door.
“Well, Mr Goodge, it’s like this. Erm … our face masks, you see, well, they’re a bit out of date now and we were wondering if we, maybe, could have some replacements.”
“Nonsense! There’s plenty of life in those yet. I only bought them in 2025. If you want the new- fangled 87% effective ones then buy one out of your Christmas bonus.”
“Christmas bonus, Mr Goodge, sir? You halved our pay.”
“That is the bonus Scratchit. Still having a job. Now good evening to you.”
“Er … yes, Mr Goodge. And Merry Christmas, Mr Goodge.”
“Get out Scratchit!”
Scratchit left the Pay Day Loan store and saw his young son outside. “Hello Whiney Jim!” He called from the five metre limit. His son burst into tears upon seeing him. “Now no whining, Whiney Jim, we have to get home before the curfew, we better get running.” So off they both ran keeping the required distance apart which meant Scratchit was in the road and kept getting beeped at by the meagre traffic – mostly electric scooters.
An hour later, Goodge locked up and began his walk home. He was not afraid of being caught outside after curfew. He knew people. He had not gone two metres when he was accosted by a man from about sixteen feet away. “Good evening, Sir. Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr Farley or Mr Goodge?”
“It is no pleasure to be addressed by you and Farley has been dead these past ten years. Ten years this very night.”
“So sorry to hear that. I am sure his liberal spirit is surviving in his business partner?”
“Liberal spirit? Farley was as liberal as a conservative, labour love child.”
“Surely not, but be that as it may, at this time of year we all look to provide a little comfort for Covid sufferers. What can I put you down as your pledge?”
“Ah! Say no more. A secret Santa?”
“Secret? Bah! Skittles! Are there no more field hospitals and no conscriptive care homes?”
“There are, but there are so many more victims than facilities available. Some people would rather die than end up in cramped conditions, left for hours waiting for attention.”
“If they would rather die, then they better do so and decrease the already dwindling population.”
With that, Goodge stormed off and arrived home a short while later. He thought he heard someone call out his name as he placed his eye near the retinal scanner. “Gooooodge! Diamond Geezer Goodge!” but there was no one there.
Inside he zapped a protein pack in the microwave and ate it in front of his favourite show – When Turkeys Attack 64 – No More Bisto Nice Dinner. It was just getting to a good bit when there was a loud noise and the viewing room door blew open. Standing there was his old partner, looking much the worse for wear with white face, red drooping eyes and a case of the shakes. He was weighed down with what looked like dozens of small decaying corpses on a chain.
“Diamond Geezer,” said Farley in greeting.
“Farley? Aren’t you dead? No time for a chat as I’m watching TV.”
“Okay then. I had this nice long speech prepared about how we should have been saving mankind, but if you’re busy I’ll just give you the short version. Three game show hosts! Tonight! Starting at midnight!”
Then he just vanished, but after a few seconds he came back. “Oops! Not game show hosts. I mean ghosts. Dementia, you know. Gets us all in the end.” Poof! He was gone again.
“Bah! Skittles!” said Goodge and got back to his programme. When it finished he took his black market anti-Covid injection and retired for the night.
Now, Diamond Geezer Goodge was one of those infuriating people that can drop off to sleep straight away, because he never had any worries. He had no money worries and he never worried about other people. One could not say he slept the sleep of the ‘just’ but he did sleep the sleep of the ‘just don’t care’. He was a deep sleeper too, so when the first game show host … er … that is ghost arrived bang on midnight, he had rather a lot of trouble waking him up.
“What … what is it?” the disturbed Goodge cried out. “Hey you! What are you doing? Get out or I’ll call out the army.”
“I am the spirit whose coming was foretold to you,” announced the ghost, who was dressed in a suit and wore gloves and an old face mask of the type used in the first pandemic circa 2020. He bore a remarkable resemblance to Rob Skunkhouse, who used to host an old TV show called Celebrity Squires.
“What? Bah! Skittles! If you are not a dream, you better get out of my house in ten seconds or you will be sorry!” Goodge pulled a gun out of his bedside cabinet drawer.
“Numbskull! That will do you no good, I am a ghost. The bullet will just go through me.”
Goodge tried anyway and ended up with a nice hole in the wall.
“Enough of this!” roared the ghost. “I am the Ghost of Covid Past and you must come with me!” He snapped his fingers and they were not in Goodge’s bedroom anymore.
“Where are we?” demanded Goodge, as he looked about him. They appeared to be in a large house where there was a party going on. There seemed to be about 50 or 60 people inside.
“Do you not remember?” asked the GOCP. “Christmas Day 2020. The first year of the pandemic. The year that could have seen it stymied if only people could have done as they were advised. But no, Gordon Goodge was having none of that. He did what he wanted. No masks in shops, no social distancing and plenty of mingling. I believe the prime minister at the time, Horace Gonesoon, allowed the mixing of three households for five days over Christmas. A silly action that had its detractors, but even that was not good enough for you. You hosted this massive party and, like many of your ilk, completely ignored the rules, lax as they were. The turn of the year and an infection rate so bad that the country never recovered. It was you and people like you that made the world what it is today.”
“Blah! Blah!” mocked Goodge. “Anything else to show me?”
“No, you have no redeeming history to review,” the GOCP informed him. With a snap of his fingers he was gone and Goodge was back in his bed.
Goodge sat up in bed. He thought he had been dreaming. He checked his watch and it was just coming up to 1.00 am. “Bah! Skittles!” And he turned over and was back to sleep in seconds. Therefore, the second ghost also had trouble waking him up and had to slap him a few times on the face. “What? What?” Goodge yelled.
“I am the Ghost of Covid Present,” said the figure before him. Also, dressed in a suit but with more substantial gloves and mask, more of the kind currently worn in 2030, by those few that could afford it. This one looked like Wes Tennis, stalwart of Gus Rabbit’s Sadhouse and host of Jammily Misfortunes.
Now in those days of instantaneous spectral media, the GOCP2, knew how the previous visit went down, so no shenanigans this time. He just clicked his fingers and they were outside in the cold and snow.
“Snow!” exclaimed Goodge in surprise. “It hasn’t snowed in seven years.”
“It’s just for effect,” said the GOCP2.
“Where are we?” demanded Goodge, like he had done with the previous ghost. They were in a small narrow street, in front of a dingy terraced house.
“This is the home of your employee, Rash Scratchit,” the GOCP2 informed him. “Take a look in the window. They won’t see you, which is the only good news they will get any time soon.”
Goodge crept up to the window and looked inside. He saw six people sat around a table. Rash Scratchit he could identify and the woman must be his wife. And four kids. He guessed their ages were from eight to about fourteen or fifteen. They were all dressed up in heavy coats, gloves and woolly hats.
“Are they off out then?” he asked.
“No Goodge! They have to wear that clothing to keep warm. They cannot afford to have the heating on since you halved his wages.”
“He’s lucky to have a job,” said Goodge. “They all are. What day is this?”
“Christmas Day 2030. So just a few hours ahead of us?”
“So what is that they are eating for Christmas dinner then?”
“That is a cheese sandwich, Goodge! Mouldy cheese on stale bread!”
“Why is that little one crying?” He was referring to Whiney Jim, who was crying his eyes out.
“Would you not be crying at mouldy cheese and stale bread?”
“We all have to live within our means,” observed Goodge.
“As a matter of fact, Whiney Jim is not crying because of the food, although he should be. No. He is a Covid baby, born in 2023, at the height of Covid D. He has a condition that makes him burst into tears at the least thing. There is no cure. He will be a cry baby for life.”
“Have you no feelings Goodge!” yelled the GOCP2. “It is you who have caused this. You and the people like you, who could not just stay indoors and put up with a tiny hardship for a few months. In 2020 the population of the country was sixty seven million. Ten years later it is less than half that. All because of a few totally selfish people who acted uncaringly ten years ago. Do you feel like a murderer?”
“No, definitely not. Not my fault. I’m just a survivor,” declared Goodge, proudly.
“A survivor?” The GOCP2 was roaring again. “A survivor who stole a supply of the Covid A vaccine destined for care homes! A survivor, who now that vaccines are so expensive and not available on the NHS, is making money giving people Pay Day Loans that they cannot afford to repay. A survivor, who snatches the property of anyone who cannot pay their loan back on the day. A survivor, who bulldozes all repossessed property and sells the land for the ever-growing cemetery need. A survivor, who runs the gigantic furnaces that do multiple cremations of all those people who cannot afford a Moon Death Funeral Plan. A survivor, who also has a hand in black market vaccines. Yes, you’re definitely a survivor!”
“So, why are you here anyway? You and the other ghost? Is it my redemption or something?”
“Redemption!” The GOCP2 was so overtaken with the giggles, he could not speak for a few minutes. “Redemption! Goodge, you could not be redeemed even if you had a receipt and photographic evidence.” The GCOP2 snapped his fingers and Goodge was back in bed again.
“Bah! Double skittles!” He was soon back asleep and then he was soon awake again. No messing about from the third ghost, who just threw a bucket of very cold water over him. “Agggghhh!” yelled Goodge, sitting upright. “What the hell!”
Then he saw the third ghost and this one left him with chills other than the iced water dripping down his neck. At first, he seemed human, dressed all in black. Black suit, shirt, tie, gloves and mask. Then before his eyes the clothes and skin all melted away to leave just a skeleton. Even more chilling, was that before he changed into Boney G, he bore a canny likeness to Jeremiah Axeman, the host of Why Should You Be A Billionaire?, the failed quiz show of 2022, where the richest in the land had to answer questions to keep their fortune, otherwise it went into the Covid fund.
Whilst he was scared out of his wits, Goodge wondered why the apparition did not speak. “Cat got your tongue?” he asked it. Boney G just stood there. Goodge tried again. “Are you the Ghost of Covid Yet To Come?” The skeleton nodded. “Good guess,” said Goodge to himself. Boney G, or let’s call him GOCYTC, snapped his boney fingers and they were gone.
This time they were in the city streets but they were totally empty. There was no traffic of any kind, or any people. All the buildings looked deserted. It was hot. The sky was bright blue with a large dazzling sun. There was a solar calendar on one of the buildings that bore the date, 25th December 2040. Goodge noted this but did not know what to think. “What is this spirit?” The GOCYTC snapped his fingers again and they were in another city that was just the same, then another and another. Finally, they were standing on a hill, from which they could see for miles around. Not a building was in sight, just flat land as far as the eye could see. Flat, except for the tombstones.
“Why are you showing me this spirit?” asked Goodge, at which the GOCYTC snapped his fingers once again and they were among all the gravestones. They were next to a very snazzy gravestone made of marble. It just said “Here lies Gordon Goodge” “Born 1st April 1990” but the death date was blurred. “What is that date, spirit?” Goodge needed to know but the GOCYTC had gone.
“Nooooooooooooooo!” wailed Goodge who was panic stricken, but then he woke up in his own bed. It took a few seconds to compose himself. “Just a dream,” he said. The bedroom was flooded with daylight. His watch said it was 8.30 am. “Strange,” he mused. “I never sleep that long.” He was a little confused. What day was it? It seemed a very long time since he had gone to bed on Christmas Eve.
Goodge got out of bed and went to the window. There was a homeless boy in the street and Goodge opened his window. “Hey you!” he called. The boy looked up. “What day is it?”
The boy looked puzzled. “Why it’s Christmas Day of course!”
Without so much as a word of thanks Goodge closed the window. “That all happened in one night,” he said to himself. “One for my shrink to worry about at my next visit.”
Goodge went back to bed. It was the only day in the year he could stay in bed the whole day. Boxing Day was going to be busy. He was thinking of an interest rate of 3000%
The year 2040
Twas the night before Christmas and all was quiet in the world, not a human being was stirring, because they were all dead.