With numerous and profuse apologies to Charles Dickens.

The chimes were ringing the three quarters past eleven at that moment.

“Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,” said Channing, looking intently at People’s robe, but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?”

“It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,” was People’s sorrowful reply. “Look here.”

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two men; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment. One of them wore a green ring.

“Oh, Man. Look here. Look, look, down here.” exclaimed People.

They were two sunken, hollow-eyed men. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shriveled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Their biceps looked like triceps; their triceps were nearly nonexistent.

Channing started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine men, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

“Spirit – are they yours?” Channing could say no more. He needed a protein shake.

“They are Man’s,” said People, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This one – Bradley Cooper – is Ignorance. This one – Ryan Reynolds – is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree – beware Clooney, beware Depp, beware Jackman – but most of all beware this Bradley Cooper, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried People, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.”

The smaller one – Reynolds – began to cough violently, his frail and battered frame heaving with each spasm. Bradley turned his black and lifeless eyes toward Channing. “One year,” he whispered tonelessly. “Your reign will last a year, and you will join us then.”

“Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Channing.

“Are there no prisons?” said People, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”

The bell struck twelve. And Channing wept.

[Image via Prefix mag]