Author's note: at the encouragement of a couple of people, I've decided to write another "Chuck has cracked-out dreams" fic. This one takes place around Christmas 2008, or right in the middle of Chapter 12 of Chuck vs. the Bright Side of Life.
"Dude, I can't believe we got invited to Chuck's sister's Christmas party."
"I thought you didn't like it when they were called Christmas parties."
"What? What are you talking about?"
"You know, because last year, you made Big Mike call the one at the store the holiday party…"
"Dude, I don't care. I'll call it the Lester-Sucks-Ass Party if it means I get invited back. Have you tasted these Swedish meatballs? I mean, holy crap. The woman's a genius."
"Yeah, well, you want genius, you just watch this."
"Jeff… JEFFREY! What did you just put in the eggnog?"
"Chill, dude. It's just something to make the party a little more… fun."
Charles Bartowski was a man of no small account. Feared throughout London, he was the scourge of the banking world. His fortune was comparable to that of much greater men than he.
He did not aspire for their greatness. He merely aspired for their money. And ordinarily, he was quite a confident man.
But not tonight. For tonight, he had been visited – visited by the spirit of his long dead business partner, Bryce Larkin. Bryce had warned him of the tribulations that awaited him in eternal Sheol, burdened forever with the chains of Fulcrum.
"You will have one last chance, Chuck," Bryce's ghostly visage had informed him. "Tonight, three spirits shall visit you. Heed their words! Listen to what they say!"
"Three spirits?!" Bartowski wailed in horror. "Can you not just speak your piece? Why must I endure this?"
"Three spirits, Chuck!" Bryce moaned. "CHUUUUUUUCK!"
And so Chuck sat, huddled in the center of his bed, room brightly lit by fire and candles, fearing the arrival of the first spirit. He did not enjoy this prospect at all.
Then the clock struck one. One by one, each of the candles blew out, and the fire flickered and died. The windows banged open, and a gust of wind rushed in.
Borne on that gust of wind was a spirit of far less horrific appearance than Bryce. Indeed, this spirit appeared to be almost an angel – skin of alabaster, hair of amber, eyes of sapphire – a woman greatly to be desired.
"Hello, Chuck," she said. "I am the Ghost of Christmas Past."
Chuck was having difficulty comprehending. "Is that what I should call you?" he asked. "Or do you have a name, spirit?"
She nodded her head. "You may call me Sarah."
"Very well… Sarah."
She indicated the window. "Come quickly, Chuck. We must go. There is much to see and little time to see it in."
The Ghost of Christmas Past extended her hand, and Chuck placed his own in it. He expected a hand of ice, as one would expect of a spirit, but rather, her hand was warm, almost as living flesh.
She guided him to the window, and was about to fly out, when he stopped her. "Wait!" Chuck cried. "It is far to the ground… what if I should fall?"
Sarah looked back at him. "Trust me, Chuck."
And so he did. She flew out the window, trailing him behind. They flew through the night, backward in time, backward, backward. Finally, they landed at a Christmas years before.
"Big Mike's!" Chuck exclaimed in joy. The place where he had gotten his start. The "technological novelty" shop where he and Bryce had been apprentices. And tonight was the annual Christmas party.
Chuck looked in the window, to find Big Mike's old assistant arguing with him. "Must you call it a Christmas party, Big Mike?" Lester asked. "Have you no consideration for my Jewish faith?"
"Young man, when you start paying me money, I will call it whatever you desire. But until that day, this shall be known as BIG MIKE'S CHRISTMAS PARTY!" the larger man boomed.
Chuck smiled. "A good memory, this?" Sarah asked him.
"Oh, of course," he replied. "One of the best."
Then he saw a much younger version of himself, accompanied by a much younger Bryce, come down a set of stairs. "Big Mike!" he heard himself call. "We have some numbers that we wish to discuss with you!"
"Crazy white boys," the older Chuck heard Big Mike mutter under his breath. Then, Big Mike turned to face his two apprentices. "Gentlemen, it is Christmas. I have no desire to speak of numbers, nor should you."
And as Chuck watched, the shop faded from before his sight, replaced by a vision of another Christmas. This could have been any number of Christmases – for there was his sister, Eleanor Faye, and her suitor, Dr. Devin Woodcomb. However, when he watched himself come through the door, accompanied by Jill Tanner, he turned to Sarah.
"Please, not this Christmas," he pleaded. "The memories are far too painful."
Sarah looked at him, kindly but sadly. "You must confront the demons of your past, Chuck."
He watched as he appeared to be so happy with Jill, the woman he had loved. He watched, the memories tearing at his heart, as he confided in his sister his intent to ask for Jill's hand in marriage. Then, when the scene began to shift, he turned toward the spirit, with rage in his eyes.
"Don't you DARE take me there," he shouted.
And yet, she did. He watched, mortified and broken, as he asked Jill for her hand in marriage, and she rejected him, saying that she had found another. One who was kinder, less interested in the things of this world and more in those of love.
"Please, no more," he finally begged Sarah.
That's when everything went dark. He looked up – and he was back in his bedroom. He looked around. She was gone. The scene was gone.
The clock struck two, and his door burst open!
"AWESOME!" a very large man boomed at Chuck. "Greetings, Chuck Bartowski! I am the Ghost of Christmas Present, and it is AWESOME to meet you!"
Chuck stared at the man in disbelief. He had to be at least eight feet tall. He tried to think of something to say, but could come up with nothing better than, "And what should I call you… good spirit?"
The spirit laughed. "Why, you may call me Captain AWESOME!"
Chuck raised an eyebrow. "You're not entirely sane, are you, spirit?"
He laughed again. "Sane? Why, I find sanity to be highly overrated!"
Then, he flung open the window. "Come, Chuck! We have much to see, and so little time in which to see it!"
"Oh, good Lord, here we go again," Chuck muttered, as Captain Awesome dragged him out the window into the night.
This time, though, they did not fly through time. Rather, they flew across London, to a small home on the edge of the city. Captain Awesome landed in front of it, and plopped Chuck before the window.
"Look, and tell me what you see!" he boomed.
Chuck looked through the window. "Why, that's my clerk, Morgan Grimes!" he gasped. "And his wife, Anna, and their children, Jessica, Vicky, and Tim!"
It was clear that they were preparing for Christmas dinner. They seemed so happy – a family built on love. And yet, it rapidly became clear to Chuck that all was not well.
Tim moved listlessly. He walked about with the assistance of a crutch – when he walked, which was rarely. He was quiet, and his face often seemed downcast.
"What is wrong with the child, Tim?" Chuck asked Captain Awesome.
"He is very ill," the spirit informed him, with a somber face. "Morgan has taken him to doctors throughout London, trying to determine what is wrong. However, none of them know, and Morgan cannot afford to take him to Paris, where there is supposedly a doctor who can help him."
"Why did he never tell me about this?" Chuck asked himself angrily.
Though he had aimed the question at himself, the spirit nonetheless replied. "He knows you only as a hard man, Chuck," Captain Awesome said quietly. "He would not expect you to have sympathy for his family, for the plight of his child."
"But I'm not that hard a man!" Chuck protested, turning toward the spirit. "This is a child! No child deserves to suffer in this fashion! All he had to do was tell me!"
Captain Awesome smiled sadly. "And yet, he could not know that. How would he? You're the man who refused to give him Christmas Day off to spend with his family."
Chuck stood, staring at the spirit, his mouth hanging open. "But… but!"
Captain Awesome shook his head. "And it does not improve," he said softly. "I see, not too far in the future, an empty chair, grieving parents, children lost in despair."
"No!" Chuck shouted, shaking his head. "No, that cannot happen! Tell me how to prevent it!"
But even as he spoke, Captain Awesome faded away into the night, leaving only a dark, snow-filled street before Chuck.
That's when he was hit in the head with a snowball. "Hey, Bartowski!" he heard from behind him.
Chuck turned to see a man, slightly taller than himself. Brown hair, a chiseled jaw, wearing a black robe – and carrying a scythe.
He began to tremble. "Are you… are you the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?"
"Yeah, that's me," the spirit replied sardonically. "You can call me John, though."
John grabbed Chuck's shoulder and forcibly turned him to look back inside the Grimes home. "Look there, bucko," he said. "See what you caused?"
And indeed, it was just as the Ghost of Christmas Present had foretold. An empty chair, Morgan quiet, Anna in tears, Jessica and Vicky angry and aloof. "No," Chuck whispered. "This cannot be!"
"And yet, there it is, sure as you're standing there," John cracked. "Come on, I got something else to show you."
"No!" Chuck shouted. But John reached out and grabbed his wrist – and when his hand came out from under the robe, Chuck saw – no flesh, just bone.
As soon as John's hand touched his wrist, the London street disappeared, to be replaced by a graveyard. "Why are we here?" Chuck asked quietly.
John said nothing, just pointed toward a headstone. Chuck approached it nervously.
When he got close enough to read it, his eyes widened. "Charles Irving Bartowski", it informed him. "1809-1850."
"But… 1850… this is 1849!" Chuck wailed in dismay. "Are you to say that by next Christmas, I will be dead."
John smiled evilly, his eyes beginning to glow. "But, but, this is Christmas yet to come! Surely it can still be changed! I can be a better man!"
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come ignored Chuck's entreaties. Without a word, he guided Chuck forward – and the ground where his tomb was began to sink.
"No!" Chuck cried, as John pushed him inexorably forward. "Please, no!"
But John ignored his cries, and with one final shove, sent Chuck tumbling into the abyss.
"Nooooo!" Chuck screamed, as he fell downward. Then everything went black –
To be continued…