Mr Evil's Christmas Carol

Act I: Goldsmith's Ghost

It was Christmas Eve on the planet Brunsun, and already it was close to midnight. Inside the darkness of the tiny Evil & Sons shop on Grim's Road, the accountant sat softly scribbling away inside the ledger on his desk. His glasses were perched upon the bridge of his straight and pointed nose, and he stopped occasionally to warm himself up. Even inside his slick dark suit, Mr Perkins found himself frozen to the bones in this poky old office. In the room next door, his boss would be sat at his own desk, enjoying the warmth of the hearth on his skin and the warmth of brandy in his belly. In his tiredness, Perkins' weary eyes flickered.

Ten tiresome minutes later, the clock above his desk struck eleven, and Perkins' long shift drew to a close at last. It was finally time for him to head on home. He longed to spend just a few, quality hours with his loved ones. He had been trying to work up the courage to ask his boss something for many hours now, but – not only was his boss an incredibly important businessman, with many great demands upon his time already – Perkins was worried about how the man might react. His boss had always maintained that Christmas, at Evil & Sons, was just another workday.

And yet, perhaps spurred on by the thought of spending just one golden, magical day with his wife, his son and his two daughters, Perkins found himself rising apprehensively from his desk and striding for the door to Mr Evil's office. Perkins rapped smartly at the door, and pushed politely at it with the palm of his hand.

'Mr Evil? Sir?'

Slowly, Perkins stepped around the door and into the office beyond. He immediately noticed how warm it was inside. Mr Evil had boarded up the grate inside Perkins' office long ago, but the fire inside his own grate was blazing away, crackling noisily and casting long shadows on every wall. At the end of the room there was a desk, stacked high with many shining, teetering piles of gold.

Behind the desk, and beyond the piles of gold, there sat Mr Evil himself. He was a tiny, fat man in a brown waistcoat and a large red tie. He was covered from top to bottom in fluffy white fur, which was particularly bushy in the thick clumps at his cheeks. Perkins, who was tall and mostly hairless, except for his eyebrows and the neat brown-grey thatch on top of his head, thought that he looked very warm there in his fur, and the tender embrace of the fire. Mr Evil did not look up at Perkins as he entered the room, but continued idly counting his gold. He was muttering to himself as he counted, and puffing at the enormous, medium-brown cigar perched between his lips.

'Sir?' Perkins said again.

His concentration broken, Mr Evil swept the gold aside to stare furiously at Perkins, glaring over the monocle in his angry left eye.

'Yes, Perkins?!' he barked. 'What is it now?!'

'Well, sir,' Perkins croaked. Gingerly, he raised his freezing hands, and held them out towards the warm, crackling fire. Mr Evil's eyes narrowed, and Perkins quickly lowered his hands and placed them behind his back. 'Forgive me, but I am sure you know well that tomorrow is Christmas, and I just…'

'Christmas!' snarled Mr Evil. 'Bah! Evil & Sons have not celebrated Christmas since the days of my great-grandfather! I hope you have a decent reason for disturbing me! What is it?'

'A-as you know, my son, Tiny Tim, is very sick, sir.' Perkins' voice was hollow and rattling, and he took a deep breath before continuing. As he did, the bored Mr Evil puffed nonchalantly at his cigar. 'The medical bills are mounting fast, and I fear that this Christmas could… could be his last.' He swallowed. A dignified tear glistened behind his browline glasses.

Mr Evil's eyes narrowed to slits.

'So…' he seethed. 'You mean to ask me for a Christmas bonus, do you?'

'No!' said Perkins. It was not that. He would not have dared to have asked the miserly Mr Evil, of all the people, for a Christmas bonus. 'I simply mean…'

'Oh? Then what?' said Mr Evil. 'Out with it, Perkins! I'm a tremendously busy man!'

'As I say, this may be our… our last Christmas as a family, sir,' Perkins said weakly. 'Whatever could be more important than family?' Bravely, he attempted to fix a smile to his aged, stony face, and looked hopefully up at Mr Evil. 'And it is not as if we are busy, is it?' he added lightly.

And it was quite true, after all. Business was always quiet for Evil & Sons at Christmastime, and this Christmas had been no different. It was now 11 o'clock on the night of Christmas Eve. Nobody wandered the streets at this hour. They were all safe and sound in their homes, surrounded by their loving families, by now retiring to their beds with a final mug of hot chocolate. Tiny Tim – oh poor, Tiny Tim – would be awake in his bed, no doubt, waiting patiently for his goodnight kiss from the father he adored.

'Your point, Perkins?'

'I wondered,' Perkins continued, 'as Christmas is a bank holiday, whether I might be able to… perhaps take the day off? I should be delighted to spend just one Christmas with my family.'

Mr Evil was incredulous.

'You wish to take the day off? Whatever for?!' he exclaimed.

'I should simply like to spend the day with Tiny Tim, sir, and our other children. If it is to be his last Christmas, then Mavis and I must do all we can to make it his most magical!' He looked at his boss hopefully, and pleaded. 'You have sons of your own, sir. From one father to another, I am begging you. Please allow me this… just this one day with my family.'

'Absolutely not!' the director roared.

He thumped hard at the desk with a fluffy white fist, so that it shook. A few teetering piles of gold toppled over, and gleaming coins covered the desk. Mr Evil raked them all back in, every last one, with his tiny arms, and looked furiously up at Perkins' white and pasty face.

'I forbid it!' he shouted. 'And if you do not turn up for work, do not expect to be paid!'

'Sir!' cried Perkins. 'Did you not hear what I said about Tiny Tim’s medical expenses? How could you be so heartless? And on Christmas Eve, sir?'

'Because I am your boss!' spat Mr Evil. 'You are my paid employee, and it is my every right to be heartless to you if I so please! But…'

A wicked smile crept across his cruel face.

'But, now that I think about it,' he whispered, 'not anymore!'

'What do you mean, not anymore?!' gasped Perkins, gazing horror-struck at Mr Evil through steamed-up glasses. 'What are you saying, sir?'

'No employee of mine speaks down to me, Perkins!' Mr Evil shouted. 'I am not used to being spoken to like that, and so you are fired! Now – begone! Get out of my sight!'

'You – you cannot fire me, sir!' said Perkins. 'Not at Christmas!'

But as far as Mr Evil was concerned, the negotiations had already concluded, and Perkins had been denied his Christmas wish. Swiftly he pulled out his semi-automatic handgun, and the Evil & Sons accountant did not need to be told again.

BLAT!! BLAT!! BLAT!! BLAT!!

Perkins spun around and raced for the door, skidding on the heels of his smart black shoes. Bullets sprayed at the ground around his feet. He swept the ledger from the desk and slid it back into the underside drawer. Sprinting for the exit now, he pulled his slick bowler cap down from the peg as he went. He wrenched open the door, ringing the tiny bell which hung above it. The blustery cold whipping around his cheeks, he leapt – slipping and tumbling on the stone steps – out, into the black, wintry night before him, and into the snow below.

Back inside the toasty office, Mr Evil quietly slipped the handgun back inside his desk drawer and stubbed out his cigar. Famously, the director of Evil & Sons hated Christmas as well as everything it stood for. Everybody had their hardships in life, himself included. Why should he take pity on Perkins' family, just because tomorrow was Christmas Day? The planet Brunsun didn't stop turning for a day just because people like Perkins said it should. Time was still money, after all.

'Look at the time!' said Mr Evil suddenly. 'Heavens, I should get home. Unlike Perkins, I'll be back at work where I belong at the crack of dawn – even if it is Christmas! Pah!'

Furiously, he swept the fallen stacks of gold aside, and quickly resumed counting the coins that remained. He had counted them yesterday, and he had counted them the day before, too. Still, it would be no good making any miscalculations. He had to be sure. 'Twelve thousand, three hundred, ninety-two and a ha'penny,' he said. 'Twelve thousand, three hundred, ninety-three and a ha'penny…'

'And there we are!' Mr Evil said finally, ten minutes later. 'Twelve thousand, four hundred, seventeen quarts and a ha'penny.' He scribbled this figure down in his tiny notebook, and then swept every last penny of the gold into a large sack which lay beside the desk on the ground. 'My most profitable year ever!'

He put away his notebook, and hopped down from his seat to tie a knot in the bag's top. With tremendous effort he dragged the bag across the room's wooden floor, and rammed it into the safe which hung open. Though it was not easy, he forced the safe shut, and then bolted it before slipping the tiny gold key into his waistcoat pocket. He'd have to be brisk about his walk home. There were far too many would-be thieves on this side of the city, and they'd all jump for the chance to lay their filthy hands on Mr Evil's hard-earned gold. He took the handgun back from the drawer and slid it carefully under his arm inside the lining of his waistcoat.

He prodded the fire with his poker, spreading the coal beneath the now-dying flames, and snuffed out the last of the candles. Finally, stepping out into Perkins' old office, he pulled on his grey winter cloak, opened the door, and stepped wearily out into the icy darkness.

It was a quarter to midnight now, and very quiet. The pubs would still be open – his own pub down on Austere Lane amongst them – but the streets were deathly still. Snow crunched beneath Mr Evil's feet as he walked on home. Even fur as thick as his could not keep out a cold like this. He clutched tightly at his cloak, pulling it up around his multiple chins, and continued on down the lonely avenues.

Suddenly, a creature – significantly taller than Mr Evil himself – slipped out from one of the dark alleys. From the looks of it, it had been sniffing around in the bins outside the apartments here. Now, it looked hungrily down at Mr Evil through its four, milk-white eyes.

'Don't come any closer, foul beast!' snarled Mr Evil. 'I'm carrying a loaded weapon!!'

Yet, come closer the creature did. It was a tall, slug-like creature, huddled up inside a brown rag. The length of its body dripped with heavy globs of slime that made audible splashes on the pavement below; it had left a glistening trail in its wake, and now it had come upon the tiny Mr Evil, breathing down on him heavily as he quivered and scrambled desperately for his pistol.

In its slimy hand, the creature rattled what seemed to be a tin.

'Spare any change?'

Mr Evil straightened himself up at once. A vile beggar – at this hour!

'What is the meaning of this?!' he barked.

'Would yer spare any change, kind sir?' the creature oozed, rattling the tin again.

'How your sort disgust me,' Mr Evil spat callously. 'That I should work so hard for my gold, and a lazy, workshy pauper like you should expect me to hand it out freely! Look at you in your rags,' he added, looking the creature up and down. 'You should be embarrassed! Now go and beg on somebody else’s street corner, why don't you?! Leave me be!!'

He cocked his handgun threateningly, and watched as the creature skulked back into the blackness of the alley, muttering obscenities under its low, wheezing breath. How very much Mr Evil hated the poor. He worked for his money; why couldn’t they?

It was another few minutes before he arrived home, and only five minutes to midnight now – and to this so-called Christmas, too. He unlocked his door irritably, wanting no part in it whatsoever. After all, some people still had work to be getting on with. He kicked the snow off of the caps of his boots, and then stepped at last into the homely warmth of his modest house. His sons had all left him years ago, and so Mr Evil lived alone now – apart, of course, from Sir Luftwaffe, his dear one-eyed pet who came hurrying into the hall to greet him. Its fat white plume of a tail was raised haughtily behind it as it scuttled on its six paws.

'Bed time I think, Sir Luftwaffe,' he said. 'Off we go then, eh?'

Softly, Mr Evil removed his grey cloak and hung it up on the peg beside the door, which he had pressed shut behind him. He was quite tired now. Moodily, he plodded up the narrow staircase – Sir Luftwaffe scampering along in his wake – and proceeded through the dimly lit hall to the master bedroom at its end. As Sir Luftwaffe hopped up onto the bed, Mr Evil headed into the en suite bathroom to brush in vain at his cracked yellow teeth, and quietly switch his outerwear for his plushest gown and sleeping cap. Just then, he was startled by an icy chill at his shoulder…

'What's that?' he barked suddenly. 'Who's there?'

'Only me!' boomed a voice.

Mr Evil whirled on the spot, and gasped aloud – for behind him there stood, as clear as day, none other than the ghost of his old business partner, Mr Goldsmith. Translucent yet incandescent, and wearing his usual opulent pearls, the ghost of Mr Goldsmith hung shimmering in the air, looking down on Mr Evil with all the usual pomposity.

'Franz Goldsmith! It cannot be!' cried Mr Evil. 'What – what are you doing in my bathroom, and at this hour?!'

Goldsmith jingled his chains sadly – Mr Evil hadn't noticed them before. As he looked at the many chains that covered Goldsmith's robe, he saw heavy, golden moneyboxes rattling around at Goldsmith's chest and waist.

'Just look at me!' Goldsmith boomed.

'You don’t look so bad to me,' Mr Evil groaned tiredly. 'Just listen to all that gold! I suppose they never gave you a key, though?'

'No they didn't,' said Goldsmith's ghost. 'And I'm telling you now, my darling Mr Evil, these chests are even heavier than they look. The afterlife's been nothing but torment, and that's why I'm here to give a warning.'

'A warning?'

'Yes, a warning,' said Goldsmith, his voice wavering spectrally as he raised a sausage-like finger to point at his old friend. 'For if you do not alter your greedy ways, you will be committing yourself to this same fate; cursed to walk the earth forever, chains clinking and clanking everywhere you go. Yours will be even heavier than mine, I am sure of it.'

'Oh now, I don't believe any of that for a second,' sneered Mr Evil.

'Oh no? Then perhaps you will believe the other ghosts,' said Franz Goldsmith. 'For tonight, as you sleep, you will be visited by The Ghosts of Christmas Past, the Present, and the Yet to Come. They will show you the error of your ways, and you will be given but one chance to alter them. You must heed their warning,' boomed Goldsmith, 'or regret it for all eternity!'

'Bah! What rubbish!' barked Mr Evil. 'I can treat people however I choose to treat them! I'm not afraid of what happens to me when I die! I say goodnight to you, Mr Goldsmith!'

He trudged back across the bedroom, and pulled back the sheets on his magnificent four-poster bed, to clamber sleepily beneath them.

An excited Sir Luftwaffe pranced up onto his chest eagerly, but – to the pet's disgust, and frustration – Mr Evil was already fast asleep by the time the clock struck midnight.

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