For my GML entry, I wanted to combine two great stories of spiritual change and redemption by presenting the narrative arch of the older as an alternative to the arch of the newer. And while A Christmas Carol is perhaps one of the most celebrated and retold stories in the English Language, that doesn't mean Dickens was the first to employ spirits to act as a guide to a beleaguered mortal. The red text is Dickens's original passage which I've used as a jumping off point. (Though I'm omitting "A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer" for narrative reasons).
``That is no light part of my penance,'' pursued the Ghost. ``I am here to-night to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. ''
``You were always a good friend to me,'' said Scrooge. ``Thank'ee!''
``You will be haunted,'' resumed the Ghost, ``by Three Spirits.''
Scrooge's countenance fell almost as low as the Ghost's had done.
``Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Jacob?'' he demanded, in a faltering voice.
"Surely there must be another way."
"There is one old friend, but it is not a path you will want to take. "
"Whatever it is Jacob, it must be better than this three more times! I do not think I could bear more visits."
The Ghost rattled its chains furiously. The face was as blank and expressionless as it was when it had overtaken his lion-faced knocker."I will not argue with you Ebenezer, even I knew better in life than to try and change your disposition. Were it up to me, I would never have bothered with this."
Scrooge suddenly became indignant. "Wouldn't have bothered? Did our friendship mean that little to you Jacob that you would have let me bear these chains with you?"
"If you were to accompany me it would be as if you were adding another link to my already prodigious chain."
"Humbug! If you didn't appear to me on your own volition, than why are you in my bedroom Spirit? To delay your wanderings with idle chit chat?"
The Ghost once again rattled his chains. "Hear me Ebenezer! The path you force yourself to take has been tread before, but that does not mean it is the easier. If you still do not grasp why I am here than you leave me no choice!"
The door that led to the stairwell resonated with the ghostly wail. Scrooge quickly pulled his knees up to his chin and pulled his hat over his ears and eyes to try and block out whatever it was that was happening. The smell of sulfur was overpowering, and it crept into the room unseen like some great jungle cat.
"You are too stubborn Ebenezer! It will take more than the meaning of Christmas to put you right! What Belle failed to grasp when she sent me on this fool's errand is just how horrid you are on the days that aren't holidays!"
Ebenezer's ears perked up at the long forgotten name. "Belle sent you? Belle is the cause of my torment? Was I so cruel to her that she felt she must show me this kindness?"
"Cruel you were old friend," The Ghost said, "But do not confuse her intentions, for she shows you a love that only few before have shared, and not since at least half a millennium ago was it seen on Earth.. Even now in its wretched state, Belle cares more for your soul than you do. Come now, We must tread that path soon, or else it shall be lost forever."
Scrooge, still in his nightgown, stood up defiantly. "Now see here Jacob..."
"ENOUGH," The Ghost, had he still had lips, would have spat. "You will not delay any longer. While I am content to leave you in this dark wood that you have made such rotten home in, you will not deny the request of an angel who wishes to see you at the gates of heaven, and you would have to be as big a fool as I suspect you are to try!" The Ghost howled the final insult, and suddenly a total change overcame it and the great chain grew fainter while his face softened slightly.
The Shade, now standing, began to walk towards the door. It was then Scrooge realized how his long forgotten bride-to-be was able to reach out to him and it deeply pained him for someone absent from his mind for so long to be taken with so little notice.
"I'm an old man Jacob, it has been many years since I was halfway through our life's path. What if it's too late for me?"
Marley opened the bedroom door and revealed a narrow stone stairwell that had almost certainly not been there before. Above it hung an old sign which read 'Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate.' "Do not despair Ebenezer, have faith . Now we must go onwards if you are to be saved, the city of Dis waits for no man."
To name some of the connections here.
The three animals referenced throughout, the Lion (on the knocker), the Leopard (The jungle cat), and the She- Wolf (from the howling Jacob) are all throwbacks to the first Canto of Inferno when Dante is being pursued by the three beasts. The lines "Leave you in this dark wood" and "halfway through our life's path" are two parts of the first lines of the Commedia.
Unfortunately, I was forced to kill off Belle, Scrooge's old fiancé (though I think she could still have been dead in Scrooge's present). It stands to reason that she is last seen at the end of the Ghost of Christmas Past's section around the time of Jacob Marley's death, and her being an elderly woman in Victorian England, there are a multitude of things that could've killed her by the time Scrooge takes his journey. Maybe she was in love with young Ebenezer the whole time and her marriage was an unhappy Mrs. Dalloway-esque nightmare? Perhaps the mention of her old true love incensed her former passions and when she died later that month of the flu, she arrived in heaven and set out to save the soul of Scrooge. Who knows? Additionally, when Marley references her affections for Scrooge, he is alluding to Dante and Beatrice's love 500 years previous.
The last reference comes at the end when Ebenezer's staircase is turned into the passage to hell. The sign that appears is the un-translated Italian version of "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here," Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate, to which Marley replies "Do not despair."