A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Summary: A reworking of an old favorite. With my sincerest apologies to Charles Dickens. His
work deserves much better.
Disclaimer: The usual: they aren't mine, but I'm sure you know who they belong to, or you
probably wouldn't be here.
Any and all feedback is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* * * * *
Something woke Harm. He felt like he'd been asleep for minutes, but when he looked
groggily at the clock and saw that it read 2:08, he realized he'd been asleep for hours. He sat up
slowly, wondering what it was that had woken him.
"Ahem!" a small voice said.
Harm nearly snapped his neck when he whipped his head around toward the chair in the
corner of the room. He nearly fell out of bed when he saw the man sitting there. Well, not quite
a man. More like an elf. An ELF?! Yup, sure looked like an elf about four feet tall, curly
brown hair, pointy ears. What was going on here? The absurdity of this situation chased away
any surprise or fear he might have felt at a stranger appearing out of nowhere in his bedroom in
the middle of the night. "I gotta stop eating pizza right before bed," he muttered, sure this must
be a dream.
The little man jumped down from the chair. "Harmon Rabb, Junior," he said, his voice
high‑pitched and grating. "You have been chosen for a special honor and privilege. Tonight,
you will be shown your past, your present and what could be your future. I will take you on a
journey most amazing."
Harm rolled over, prepared to end this dream and begin one much more pleasant.
Somehow, his bed disappeared, and he found himself standing in a fog. "What in the hell is
going on?!" he demanded.
"This is our first stop," the annoying little man said. "This is your past."
"My past? What are you talking about? I want to go back to bed!"
"All in good time, my friend," the little man assured him.
"Where are we? Where did you come from? Who sent you?" Harm asked. "Is this some
"You have many questions, my friend. They will all be answered in due time."
"I am NOT your friend," Harm said grumpily. "Can I at least know your name?"
"I am called Joseph."
"Well, Joseph, let's get this over with so I can get back to sleep!"
Suddenly, Harm found himself standing in the living room of his mother and Frank's
home. He saw himself as a boy, perhaps eleven years old, staring moodily at a Christmas tree.
Frank entered the room and stared for a moment at his step‑son.
"Harm," Frank said, addressing the boy. "Your mother and I are leaving for church. Are
you sure you wouldn't like to come?"
"No, thanks," the boy said sullenly.
"Son, I know you miss your dad . . ." Frank said.
"I'm NOT your son," the young Harm interrupted, using the exact same tone the older
Harm had used with Joseph when informing the elf that he was not his friend.
Frank flinched, accepting this rebuff as he had all the others. He sighed and left the
The Harm of today looked at his feet, embarrassed at the way he'd acted. That wasn't the
first time or the last he'd shut Frank out. His step‑father had been very patient despite Harm's
steadfast refusal to accept anyone but his biological father in the paternal role.
That scene faded and was replaced by another. Harm saw himself, in the very recent past,
standing before the Wall. It was Christmas Eve and snowing lightly. The alter‑Harm stood,
silent and alone, staring at his father's name.
After a moment, Harm found himself back in bed. "Wow!" he thought. "That was too
weird!" He was asleep before he really had time to ponder just how weird it was.
* * *
Harm was awakened once more, this time by the sound of his alarm clock. He looked at
it with annoyance and was surprised to see it read 11:47. Wait a minute. Either he'd slept
through an entire day, or he'd gone backwards in time. Neither seemed very likely.
Slowly, his bedroom dissolved into fog once again. "Oh no!" he groaned. "Not again!"
He found himself now standing in his own apartment. He felt a movement at his elbow
and heard the voice of Joseph. "This is your present," the elf said.
Harm saw himself sitting in his kitchen, eating dinner, alone.
"It's Christmas Eve," Joseph said. "Are you seeing the pattern here?"
Harm did, but he said, "No," anyway.
"You're alone. Again. Still. Christmas is a time to share with family and loved ones.
You've chosen to shut yourself off from those who care. This has been your past and your
Harm's apartment faded, and he found himself now standing in Sarah Mackenzie's living
room. "What's Mac got to do with this?"
"Just watch," Joseph instructed.
Mac entered from the kitchen, wearing red and black plaid flannel pajamas and carrying a
mug in her hands.
"Hey, Mac," Harm called. "Nice jemmies!"
Of course, Mac didn't answer. She took her cup to the sofa and sat down. Christmas
music played softly on the stereo. Mac sipped the cocoa in her cup and watched the lights
twinkle on the small Christmas tree.
"Do you get it?" Joseph squeaked.
"Get what?" Harm asked.
Joseph sighed and rolled his eyes. "They told me you were smart! The loneliness theme.
Seems to pervade your life. And hers."
"So? Is there a point to this?"
Joseph sighed again. "Wait and see."
Harm was once again back in his bed. He wasn't sure he wanted to go back to sleep this
time. This dream business was getting stranger and stranger.
* * *
Despite his intentions, Harm must have fallen asleep, because once again, he found
himself being awakened.
"It's time to see your future, my friend," Joseph said.
"I don't wanna see my future!" Harm complained petulantly. "I wanna go to sleep!" He
felt as tired as though he'd run a marathon.
"You don't have a choice," Joseph said as the fog enveloped them.
Harm was once again in his apartment. It could have been a re‑run of the scene he'd
witnessed previously himself, eating alone, on Christmas Eve.
"This is seven years in the future," Joseph told him. "You'll spend every Christmas Eve
the same way. Alone."
"Okay, okay. I get it," Harm said. "Are we done now?"
"Almost. There's one more thing you need to see."
The scene dissolved to a small room in what appeared to be an old trailer. Harm looked
around, confused. He'd never been here before. He heard voices from down the hall, and he
followed them. What he saw next nearly knocked him over.
Sarah Mackenzie and three small children were in a tiny bedroom. A young girl of five
or so years lay in a top bunk, a boy of about four sat up in the lower bunk. A third child, aged
roughly two, Harm guessed, was sitting in Mac's lap in a chair beside a crib. The baby's eyes
were heavy and nearly closed.
Mac was reading a book to the children. The child in her lap nodded off as she read.
When Mac finished the story, she stood up, kissed the baby on top of the head and placed her
gently in the crib.
She then turned to the bunk beds, tucked the boy into bed, and kissed him. As she was
doing the same for the girl on the top bunk, they all heard the sound of an opening door. Mac
stepped quickly to the door of the bedroom. "Don't get out of bed for any reason," she told the
children sternly. "Good night. I love you."
"Love you, too, Mom," the two older children said.
Mac snapped the light off and shut the door to the children's room.
Harm stared at Mac. Thought Joseph had said that only seven years had passed, Mac
looked at least fifteen years older. She was so thin and pale. He would have thought, seeing the
children and Mac's obvious love for them, that she would be happy. And she had looked happy
briefly, while reading to her children. But as soon as she'd heard the door, her demeanor had
changed. Her shoulders drooped and the worry lines deepened.
As she walked down the hall, he could sense her trying to pull herself together, preparing
for . . . something.
A man now stood in the kitchen. A six‑pack of beer was on the table, one ring empty.
The man held the open beer in his hand.
"Gary," Mac said, forcing a smile. "How was your day?"
"Gary" only grunted in response. "Supper ready?"
Mac moved quickly to the stove. "Yes. Why don't you sit down? I'll bring it to you."
"Where are the kids?" Gary asked as he sat down.
Harm saw the fear jump into Mac's eyes. "They're sleeping."
Gary pushed his chair back. "Maybe I'll just go say good night."
"No!" Mac said quickly, then smiled to soften the force of her words. "Here's your
dinner." She placed a plate on the table in front of him. "Don't want it to get cold."
"Ain't you eating?" he asked.
"I'm not hungry."
"Sit," Gary ordered.
"I don't want to see any more," Harm begged. "I don't understand. How could this
happen?! How could Mac get involved with someone like that?!"
"He wasn't like that when they first met," Joseph explained. "He was the nicest person
you could imagine. YOU even like him. Sarah thought he was perfect. They will marry a short
while after they meet. When Sarah becomes pregnant, he will convince her to give up her career
and resign her commission. Then he'll move them here, far from anyone she knows. It's at that
time his true colors will be revealed. He's an alcoholic who can't hold a job longer than a few
months. She'll spend her days taking care of her children and her nights trying to keep them and
herself on the right side of his temper. She'll usually succeed with them. She'll not be so lucky
Harm's head hurt, and he was pretty sure his heart was breaking. "Stop!" he begged. "I
don't want to see any more!"
"You should be grateful that you're not here on one of the nights he's been drinking
heavily. When he uses her as a punching bag after accusing her of cheating on him. Or when he
tried to make love to his wife and blames her when he can't perform. This is nothing compared
to what she usually lives with," Joseph said.
"And THIS is Mac's future?" Harm asked. "Why are you showing me this?"
"Because it's not too late to change it. You have that power."
"How do I do that?"
"I think you already know the answer to that question. And if you don't, you'll figure it
out. But don't be too long," Joseph warned. "Time is of the essence."
"No! You have to tell me how to fix this! Tell me how to save Mac from this!" Harm
called out to Joseph.
But Joseph was no longer there, and Harm was no longer standing in the future life of
Sarah Mackenzie. He was back in his own bed, his heart racing, a cold sweat covering his body.
"What a dream!" he said aloud, although he wasn't convinced that it had been a dream.
He looked at the clock. 9:30. Only ten minutes after he'd gone to bed, although he couldn't be
entirely sure what day it was. He snapped the radio on and was soon reassured that it was,
indeed, Christmas Eve still. He jumped out of bed and began to quickly dress.
* * *
The knock on her door surprised Mac. She was surprised further when she saw who her
guest was. She opened the door. "Harm! What are you doing here?"
A feeling of deja vu washed over Harm when he saw Mac's plaid pajamas. "Nice
pajamas," he said weakly.
"Are you all right?" she asked, concerned by his demeanor.
"Can I come in? Am I disturbing you?" he asked.
"Oh yeah," Mac said wryly as she stepped aside to let him pass. "My friends and I are
partying up a storm. Actually, I was just sitting here . . ."
"I know," he interrupted. "Drinking cocoa and watching your tree." He himself was
interrupted from further comment by a bump in the apartment next to Mac's. Harm raised his
eyebrows. "Noisy neighbor."
"NEW neighbor," Mac corrected. "Gary's just moving in."
"Gary?!" Harm repeated with alarm. He did a quick calculation in his head. Given the
age of Mac's children in his vision, this could very well be THE Gary. "Your neighbor's name is
"Yes. He came over this afternoon and introduced himself. He seemed very nice. Kinda
cute, too," she added with a smile.
"Looks can be deceiving, Mac. Promise me you'll remember that."
"Is something wrong?" she demanded. He seemed edgy and very tense.
"No," he said, then correct himself. Joseph was right time was critical. "Yes. Mac, I
don't want to be alone. Not tonight. Not anymore. Would you go to the Wall with me?" He'd
already been once, but she didn't need to know that.
She seemed surprised by the invitation, but smiled anyway. "Of course I will. Just let me
As she passed him to go to her bedroom, Harm caught her arm. When she stopped, he
kissed her gently on the cheek.
She touched the spot where he had kissed her with the tips of her fingers. "What was that
"Because, Sarah, I don't think you realize how important you are to me. I just wanted
you to know."
"Harm, is something wrong?" she demanded once again.
"Not really. Maybe I'll try to explain later. Now go get changed. Just because I like to
see you in your pajamas doesn't mean I want all of Washington to see you in them."
Mac smiled up at him, and for the first time since the last dream started, Harm's heartbeat
returned to normal with the realization that maybe everything would be all right after all. "Merry
Christmas, Harm," she said.
"I think it just might be," he said, smiling in return. "Merry Christmas, Mac."