Winner: Science Fiction
Evil Editor's unpaid assistant had been reading slush sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, ever since college had let out for Christmas vacation. "I want to go home," she said. "It's Sunday, it's New Year's Eve, and it's freezing in here."
"I told you before," Evil Editor told her again, "if you get cold, shovel some manuscripts into the furnace. Heating fuel is expensive. Manuscripts are a dime a dozen. And not my dime."
"But I worked Christmas. And I have a date. Have a heart, Master."
"All right, already," EE told her. "Anything's better than listening to your whining. Be back by five A.M., or you can forget about that job recommendation."
Five minutes passed. There came a knock on the door. "Now who could that be at eleven o'clock New Year's Eve?" Evil Editor grumbled.
The security camera showed the balding head of an old man dressed in late Victorian fancy dress. "Editor!" he mouthed, "Open this damned door, sir! I require your immediate assistance."
"Dear God! Why now?" EE groaned. He keyed the intercom on: "If you're one of those Christmas ghosts, you're a week late. Anyway, you did me two years ago. Pick on someone else this year!"
"Sir, it is indeed about my ghosts that I have come! Dickens is my name, and I am in need of your editing skills to save my creation."
"Charles Dickens?" EE was, despite his resolve not to open the door, intrigued. "How did you get my address?"
"Not everyone in your life guards your secrets as well as you would wish."
EE was unnerved to hear this news. He made it his company policy that employees never discussed with anyone the intimate details of their daily grind in EE Towers. He also had a contract with the highly respected security advisers, Knuckles and Leer, Inc., to keep former employees in line.
"I'll give you fourteen seconds. And understand that my by-the-second rates are trebled over the festive period."
"Mr. Editor, I assure you that you will be offering your services to me gratis. An alternative arrangement is not negotiable. I have access to, well, personal information - if you understand my drift."
EE's face blanched, rapidly scalding and then freezing. So that's how spinach feels when it's cooked, his subconscious mind thought. Elsewhere in his head EE considered his options. He was beginning to remember details of what happened to him two years ago on Christmas Eve, what he did to his ghostly visitors . . . telling the old boy to sling his hook might not be the best idea.
Eventually he reached a lemon-sour decision: "I'm listening," he said.
"I need you to come back in time with me to re-edit my book back to its former glory," said Dickens. "Thanks to Mr. Magoo, Mickey Mouse, Bart Simpson, and a couple thousand mediocre sitcom takeoffs, it's become the laughingstock of my body of work."
Continuation by Rik Roots