An Academic Christmas Carol: Part 6

Posted December 28, 2014 by Emily Dolson in Humor, Work/Life Balance / 1 Comment

Missed the beginning? Parts 1, 23, 4, and 5.

Part 6

A final chime sounded. Steam poured from the radiator, swirling through the air until it congealed into a dark hooded figure: The Spirit of Christmas Future. As Scrooge stared at the figure in trepidation, it silently raised a robed arm and gestured forward. Scrooge followed its direction, and found himself in the faculty lounge of his department. A group of professors were chatting.

“When did he die?” asked the first.

“Last night, I believe,” replied the second.

“Why, what was the matter with him? I thought he’d never die. What has he done with all of his unpublished data and code repositories?” wondered the first again.

“I haven’t heard. Left it with his grad students, perhaps. I only know that he hasn’t left it to me!” laughed a third.

As Scrooge looked on in bewilderment, the scene faded into another room on campus: Scrooge’s office. But he wasn’t there. Instead, it contained a number of mildly sheepish looking faculty. “Every person has a right to take care of themselves. He always did!” Dr. Oliver was saying. “It’s not like anyone else will be needing this – we’ve taken in all of his students, and they’re much the happier for it!” She eyed the expensive equipment around the room that Scrooge had always refused to share.

“Indeed!” added Dr. Tackleton, picking up a centrifuge and placing it on his cart, “If he wanted to keep ’em after he was dead, the wicked old screw, why wasn’t he more natural in his lifetime? If he had been, he’d have had somebody to look after him when he was struck with death… instead of lying, gasping out his last there… all alone… by himself.”

Scrooge felt a growing sense of dread. “Spirit!” he pleaded, “Show me no more!” But the dark figure gestured onward, once again transforming the scene. They were now back in the Cratchit apartment, but the tone was a much more somber one. The family was seated around the table, looking somewhat teary-eyed.

Bob Cratchit open the door and joined the rest of the family at the table. “I’m sorry I’m a little late… I just stopped by Tim’s grave.  I wish you could have been there. It would have done you good to see how green it is. But you’ll see it often. I promised him that I would walk there every Sunday; to visit him, you see…” He trailed off, blinking back tears. After some time, he managed to perk up a bit. “But guess whom I saw today? Fred Hollowell, Dr. Scrooge’s mentee! I met him on the street. He said he’s heartily sorry, and he pledged to be of any service he could to us! And guess what, Peter?” Bob turned to his eldest son, “He says he’s been looking to take on a high school student, and he’s even got funds set aside for pay! He thinks you’d be a great fit!”

Bob’s wife let out a sob. “One child dead, and one nearly grown and faster than I can imagine. Tim would have been so happy for you, Peter.”

The scene faded out again and Scrooge was left alone in the cold darkness with the Spirit. “Tell me, the man who was spoken of, the one who died, tell me who he was.” Wordlessly, the spirit pointed ahead. Out of the swirling mists appeared a gravestone. In terror Scrooge asked, “Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point, answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they the shadows of things that may be, only?” No reply from the Spirit. Gingerly, Scrooge crept over the grave stone. Inscribed in it were the letters:

Ebenezer Scrooge

(1958 – 2024)

Author of 8 Nature Papers

Scrooge collapsed on the ground in shock. Crying, he pleaded with the Spirit. “I am not the man I was! I will not be the man I must have been but for your intervention! I will strive to leave a positive impact on my field and its culture. I will remember the lessons of the Past; I will live in the Present; I will live toward the Future. The spirits of all three will strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me that I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”

To be continued…

Emily Dolson

I'm a doctoral student in the Ofria Lab at Michigan State University, the BEACON Center for Evolution in Action, and the departments of Computer Science and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, & Behavior. My interests include studying eco-evolutionary dynamics via digital evolution and using evolutionary computation techniques to interpret time series data. I also have a cross-cutting interest in diversity in both biological and computational systems. In my spare time, I enjoy playing board games and the tin whistle.

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