Hitchens found himself standing alone on a dark wet street, under a lamppost, like Lili Marleen. Presently, he was aware of a presence standing before him. And he rolled his tired eyes as if to say, with that small but telling gesture, what the hell is it now?
The night creature before him was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its entire form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.
Hitchens felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for, at first, the spirit neither spoke nor moved, but breathed very heavily.
“I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?” said Hitchens.
The spirit answered not, but pointed downward with its hand.
“You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not yet happened, but will happen in the time before us,” Hitchens went on. “Is that so, spirit?”
The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head. That was the only answer Hitchens received.
Now it was obvious that the spirit was helmeted, and its face was covered by the visor of that helmet. It made more deep, dark breathing sounds, as though it relied upon a respirator. Altogether, it was an evil and disconcerting visage to behold.
Finally Hitchens had had enough and spoke up: “Just who the hell are you?”
“It is I,” rasped the spirit, triumphantly. “Darth Vader. And I want to get this over with. The rebels are massing, even now, round the Moss Planet of Humidor. No doubt, they plan to invade over Christmas. But I may have outsmarted them. I have sent them several thousand cheap and unwholesome festive shrimp rings via FedEx for their holiday feasting. And in this way, I hope to spread vexatious tummy troubles among them all, and foil their plans. HA! HA! HA! Now let’s boogie.”
In a moment, they were in a Westminster pawnshop, and they observed as a small group of people huddled there with bundles and packages. In the centre of the group was a short man with a moustache, wearing an AC/DC tee-shirt. There seemed to be a joke they all shared, for they smirked and chortled, as though at the unfortunate expense of someone not present.
“Alright, you lot,” said the moustached pawnbroker in the AC/DC tee. “Let’s have some order now. And ain’t this something special, after all. To have all you three here at the same time, ha!
“Now what have we from you, undertaker?”
The undertaker pulled a small bundle from his pocket and unwrapped it. “Watch: Rolex,” he said. “Graduation ring: Oxford, 1970. Toe ring: silver with turquoise and garnet inlay.”
“Toe ring?” said the group in unison. “Har, har, har.”
“I wear a toe ring,” mumbled Hitchens.
“Really,” wheezed Vader.
“Thirty ponds,” said the pawnbroker. “I always give too much for a genuine Rolex. It’s a weakness of mine, and that’s the way I ruin myself. If you asked me for another penny, and made it an open question, I’d repent of being so liberal and knock off five pounds.”
“Now for me,” said the woman from the dry cleaner. “It ain’t much. Just some shirts, jeans and a raincoat.”
“Hey that’s an Aquascutum,” Hitchens said. “I have one just like it.”
“And, oddly enough, you also have your jeans dry cleaned,” said Vader.
“Five pounds,” said the pawnbroker, “and I wouldn’t give another sixpence, if I was to be boiled for not doing it. Who’s next?”
“And now for my bundle,” said the cleaning lady.
She stepped forward and unfastened a great many knots, and dragged out a large and heavy roll of some dark stuff.
“What do you call this?” said pawnbroker.
“Ah!” returned the cleaning woman, laughing and leaning forward on her crossed arms. “Bed-curtains.”
“Bed-curtains? Who has bloody bed-curtains anymore?” “
“I do,” said Hitchens to himself. “They make me feel all cozy.”
“Hear,” said the pawn broker. “You don’t mean to say you took them down, rings and all, with him lying there?”
“Yes I do,” replied the cleaning woman. “Why not?”
“You were born to make your fortune, and you’ll certainly do it.”
“I certainly shan’t hold my hand, when I can get anything in it by reaching it out, for the sake of such a Godless man as he was. And I have his nightshirt. It’s the best he had, and a fine one too. They’d have wasted it, if it hadn’t been for me.”
“What do you call wasting of it?” asked the pawnbroker.
“They’d have buried him in it, of course.”
Hitchens listened to this dialogue in horror. As they sat grouped about their spoil, in the scanty light afforded by the fluorescents above, he viewed them with a detestation and disgust, which could hardly have been greater, though they demons, marketing the corpse itself.
Hitchens and Vader moved on.
“Well wasn’t that a bloody uplifting experience,” said Hitchens as they travelled through time and space.
Soon they arrived at their next destination. It was the Cratchits’ apartment, the television blazing. The family was watching a television special called A Christian Rap Christmas. One rhythm-challenged Caucasian Christian Rap act followed another, punctuated by a succession of white bread Christian celebrities imploring viewers to give until it hurt, in Christ’s name.
“Where’s your father with the beer?” said Mrs Cratchit, her eyes glazed and unblinking. “The bugger’s late again.”
“He is,” Peter answered, toying with the remote. “But I think he’s walked a little slower than he used, these few last evenings, mommy.”
“I have known him to walk with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder very fast, indeed. Never mind that Tim was near 200 pounds and over six foot.”
“And so have I,” cried Peter. “Often.”
“And so have I,” exclaimed another. So had all.
“But your father’s a bit dim,” Mrs Cratchit said, as Pat Boone was wheeled onto the television stage on a gurney. “And Tim was a manipulative bastard. And there is your father at the door!”
Bob came in with a bag, shaking off the cold.
“Beer!” barked Mrs Cratchit, never taking her eyes off the screen. Pat Robertson was prostrate on the stage, convulsing, beseeching, pleading viewers to sell everything, and give the proceeds to his ministry.
Bob gave the bag of beer to Mrs Cratchit.
“You went today, then, Robert?” said his wife.
“Yes, my dear,” returned Bob. “I wish you could have gone. It would have done you good to see how green a place it is. But you’ll see it often. I promised him that I would walk there on a Sunday. My little, little child!” cried Bob. “My little child! I am sure we shall none of us forget poor Tiny Tim — shall we — or this first parting that there was among us.”
“Tim? Tim who?!” Mrs Cratchit and the others around muttered as a particularly bad white Christian Rapper tried to recite The Twelve Days of Christmas, but lost count after five.
“And I know,” said Bob, “I know, my dears, that when we recollect how patient and how mild he was; although he was a bloated burden on us all; we shall not quarrel easily among ourselves, and forget poor Tiny Tim in doing it.”
“Pass the chips,” said Peter.
“I am very happy,” said Bob, “I am very happy!”
Vader placed a hand on his light sabre, and said: “Time to go.”
“Thank goodness,” said Hitchens. “I couldn’t take much more of that. But where do we have to go now? This is really getting boring.”
And in a moment, they were in a churchyard. It was a typical, neat modern cemetery; owned by a massive trans-national corporation that primarily manufactured toxic chemicals and weapons systems for third world and developing nations so that they might wage war on one another. It also, ironically, made navigation systems for US Air Force drones that routinely fired rockets at wedding parties in the same third world and developing nations. Though the funeral business was a small arm of the corporation, it nonetheless turned massive profits.
Darth Vader stood among the graves, and pointed down to one.
“Oh stop,” said Hitchens. “I know where you’re going with this, but you should know that I have purchased a prearranged plot in this cemetery. So it’s no shock that this is where I’ll end up.”
“But look at the tomb stone, you Godless heathen, and see the name upon it.”
Hitchens looked down, and sniffed. “Oh, my,” he said in a mocking falsetto voice. “It says Christopher Hitchens. Is this supposed to frighten me into submission?”
“Does that not make you tremble with fear,” asked Vader, ominously.
“Why would it? I can’t live forever. I’m going to die, and so are you. This whole premise in ill-conceived.”
“Me, die?” said Darth Vader. “No, no, no. You’re mistaken. I am the immortal Vader. I’ve got these Spielberg things lined up into the next century. And he’s thinking of working me into Tin Tin II. And my agent is signing me to a reality TV deal. It’s called The Vaders. It’s a program that profiles the nutty goings-on in the life of an intergalactic fascist imperial ruler with sociopathic tendencies. They say the ad revenue and syndication possibilities are endless. Then there’s the Walmart Super Bowl advertising contract. I’m a franchise, man. And I have the….”
“You’re delusional,” Hitchens interrupted.
“Am not,” said Vader.
“You bloody are.”
“I know you are, but what am I?”
“Okay, I’m done.”
“No you’re not.”
“I want to go home.”
“No you don’t.”
“Look, stop contradicting me.”
“There, there, you just did it again.”
“You contradicted me.”
“Oh, fuck off.”
“Yes, what now?”
“I am your father.”