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                   -> Ooh Look, it's a story department <-

We  get  to meet Simon Bowell at Xmas time,in a reworking of  the  classic
Charles Dickens tale of Scrooge the miser!

And just for something different,  we've avoided ascii art, and gone for a
straightforward narrative, painting pictures with words in a more orthodox

Chapter 1 - Simon says...

It was Christmas eve,  and the hour was getting late and the snow lay on the
ground.  As  his  breath misted in the cold air,  Simon Bowell,  the boss of
Phoneygraph  records mused that perhaps this global warming thing was a  tad
overhyped. Otherwise, he was quietly content with his lot.

In an adjacent recording studio,  listening with his headphones to the blare
of  'Cratchit  and  the  Orphans',   the  latest  boyband  venture  for  his
talentlessness,  Robotic  Pop Idol looked up anxiously,  wondering if he had
finished  work  for the day.   Simon caught his gaze,  and without enquiring
further, swiftly worked out what Robo was going to say to him.

"I suppose you'll be wanting tomorrow off then?" Simon answered the unspoken

"Well it is Xmas day,  no-one else will be working,  all the technicians and
studio  wonks  will be at home,  and I've got my own family to think  of  as
well..." Robo justified right back.

Simon  sighed,  a  cross between an angry and a resigned noise.  "Xmas,  bah
humbug!  It's  a  crowd  of  unwholesome people chasing a  pile  of  suspect
merchandise,  oh wait a minute,  what am I saying?  That includes the drossy
Xmas  tunes  that we foist onto the public too.  So in that way,  Xmas is my
friend. Still, it doesn't excuse people slacking off work for a day."

He thought about a bit more, and relented a little.

"Well  take  the day off if you must,  but don't forget  that  multi-million
dollar music empires don't grown on trees you know,  especially Xmas trees!"
He chuckled at his own bad joke,  as Robo grabbed his coat, and scuttled out
of the back door as quickly as his little tin legs could carry him.

Very soon,  Simon was left alone in the gathering gloom of the evening.  The
rest of the workers at Phonygraph having better and more thankful things  to
do  with  their lives.  As he set off for home,  a voice piped up beside him
from a bundle of rags at the side of the street.

"Big  Issue  guv,  make  things a little bit better for the  homeless!"  The
bundle of rags resolved itself into a student-thin emaciated stick figure of
a half-man clutching a handful of periodicals.

Simon was quick and to the point,  "The big issue,  from my point of view is
that you should get a proper job and stop bugging the rest of us!"

And with that, he stormed off, muttering to himself.

"What  a  miserable  wanker!" The newspaper seller  muttered  to  no-one  in

Chapter 2 - An old associate re-met...

Stomping  and  cursing  to himself at that unwanted  encounter,  Simon  soon
arrived  home  at  his luxury penthouse apartment,  located  in  a  smarmily
upmarket part of London. Only when the front door closed, did Simon relax.

"Xmas,  what  a load of old cock,  everyone and their guide dog is trying to
get their sticky paws into your pockets for a free hand-out!" He murmured.

"Oh  yes,  and  how  would  a man who has never expressed a  single  act  of
generosity or kindness know?" Came a totally unexpected reply.

In  the  full-length  mirror  normally  reserved  for  preening  and   self-
admiration,  Simon saw a terrible sight. It was Pete Waterworks, formerly of
the  Stock,  Aitken and Waterworks production company,  a long-time business
partner of Simon, and currently deceased..

The  ghost of Pete didn't look too well either.  He looked like he was  pale
and  traumatised,  as  if  he had been given some very bad  news  about  his
untimely  death  for instance.  He was dressed as he was,  on the day of the
awards ceremony, when he dropped down dead live on stage after being given a
lifetime achievement award for parasitism of youthful talent by an awestruck
recording industry. You had to allow for the greenish tinge from the rotting
flesh  on  display.  Then  there  was also the small  matter  of  him  being
festooned in a bunch of metal chains, in a sick parody of Xmas decorations.

"Bloody  hell,  it's my old mate Pete Waterworks!" Simon exclaimed.  "You're
looking a lot better that I remember you when you were alive!"

Suddenly  animated by the unexpected supernatural company,  Simon related an
amusing anecdote about the early 'Flop Idol' auditions.  "There were a bunch
of  no-hopers in leather bondage gear calling themselves Tight Fit.  I think
they may have been around in the 1980's. Anyway, it only took me a couple of
seconds to send them packing."

Pete rattled his chains in a distinctly unamused fashion.  "One of those no-
hopers was my wife!" He grumbled.  "Anyway,  I'm here to discuss your future
well-being. You might well have worked out that I'm a ghost."

Simon arched his eyebrows in a sarcastic "No really?!" fashion.

Not noticing this, or affecting not to notice, Pete carried on.

"To be blunt,  I'm dead,  I've been damned by my actions,  and I'm on a day-
release from the bowels of hell, to warn you that you are in grave danger of
joining me there, Simon Bowell, if you don't lighten up and mend your ways!"

Simon  didn't quite grasp the significance of the occasion.  "So what's hell
like then?" He replied.

"It's a terrible place, every day is an audition where the artistes voice is
like  fingernails scraping down a blackboard!  It's a bit of a reunion party
with all the recording industry types and their tame lawyers down there  and
all,  so maybe it's not all bad.." Pete's dead and dried-out eyes would have
glazed over in a wistful fashion, if they could.

Simon  glanced  at the chains once more,  a question,  waiting for the right
opportunity to appear,  suddenly leapt to his lips. "And the chains? Do they
have bondage parties in hell then?"

"No Simon,  you don't understand at all,  the chains are for a contract more
binding  and  enslaving  than anything even you make  your  young  and  dumb
artistes sign up to! With my contract, I'm tied down forever! Wait until you
see the wording for the one they're drawing up for you!"

At  this  point,  the  ghost of Pete reared up to twice its  normal  height,
becoming darker and more menacing, but Simon was unmoved.

"Fluff and nonsense!  Why should I believe you are real!  For all I know you
could be a bio-chemical reaction to something I ingested earlier today.  I'd
say there's more of you that is cocaine than the crypt!" He sneered.

The ghost of Pete Waterworks looked sadder than at any time before.

"I  am  just the first visitation you will get this evening.  You will  meet
with three more ghosts,  of Xmas past, present, and future. Heed their words
well...." Pete faded to invisibility, and his voice faded out with him.

Simon was dismissive. "Well for my new year's resolution, I'm not buying any
more drugs off that prat with a stupid goatee beard and Jamiroquai hat!  God
knows what he puts in them! Toilet cleaner, no doubt!"

Chapter 3 - The biggest ghost in the music business...

And  with that,  Simon huffed off to bed.  It took a while for him to get to
sleep,  as  the  strange  events of the day flitted in  his  restless  mind.
Eventually  he  did  get  to sleep,  but as if it were no time  at  all,  he
suddenly woke with a start.

Standing  at  the  foot of Simon's bed,  was the spectral figure  of  Nobbie
Williams, with his characteristic half-smile and half-leer.

Allowing  Simon  just  enough time to take in his  appearance,  the  ghostly
figure spoke "I'm Nobbie Williams,  the ghost of Xmas past, and I've got the
biggest cock in the music business!"

Simon was unimpressed. "Bloody hell, it's a show-off fat dancer of a ghost!"

"Well I'm NOT the one wearing those stupid high-waisted Oswald Moseley style
trousers!"  Nobbie  struck  back,   stung  by  Simon's  cruel  but  accurate

"Anyway,  I'm  here,  to show you what bitter fruits of the past you tasted.
Come back with me to your childhood days, to a Xmas past!"

Simon  wanted to say no,  but didn't have a choice,  as the darkened bedroom
walls  dissolved to reveal the sights and small random noises of a  suburban
Xmas  morning.  The  sights  clearly  included an untidy  pile  of  brightly
coloured  paper  from  recently opened presents,  a middle-class  family  at
contented  repose.  The sounds included a childish voice cutting through the
pleasantly natured hubbub.

"I'm gonna sing my latest hit, Anchovy around the U-bend!"

"Oh not now Simon!" A more feminine adult voice countered.  "Gerald, can you
talk some sense into him?"

"Simon old chap,  run along and play quietly with your lovely presents. What
about  the  Action  Man  tax inspector figure we got  you?  The  'My  Little
Accountant'  kit.  Singing and playing at pop idols isn't going to make  you

The small child wilted at this fatherly approach,  "Alright dad, I suppose I

This  grisly  but informative tableau faded to a  milky  nothingness  mostly
occupied by the preening mass of Nobbie.  Simon really wanted to get away at
this point,  but his legs refused to co-operate. Nobbie hadn't finished with
him yet!

"So  the branch is bent when it is a young twig.  Now we take a look at your
teenage years, and we can see you are well on your way to becoming that most
feared and despised of creatures, a critic!"

This time,  they went back to 1976, where the kids are alright, and spitting
in the gutter.  The scene resolved itself to the back room of a seedy pub in
the less nice part of town.  Several dozen dancing punks,  all aglow in wild
hair  and  black  plastic binliners,  pogo furiously in time to  the  primal
sounding  music.  One  person remains unmoved and unmoving,  I think we  can
guess who! Then the music stopped.

A well spoken voice, with a distinct tinge of sarcasm, cut through the fetid

"Sid,  I  loved  the raw energy,  but the rest of your act is lacking.  Those
haircuts have to go for a start, and I think that two-chord guitar played at
high volume won't have lasting appeal.  Punk is going nowhere,  you're right
when you sing,  you have no future! In fact, I'd say this is worth about two
out of ten."

The  Sex Pistols,  just before they became famous,  took one look and yelled
"F*ck off you little tosser!" Simon fled the scene, as the outraged audience
started to spit in his direction.

"And  most  of your later judgements have been this well  appreciated  too."
Nobbie smirked.

"Well  you're proof,  performers are the most ungrateful people in the world
when it comes to taking constructive advice!" Simon yelled.

Nobbie  smirked annoyingly once more,  "Well that's all from me,  I see that
this  whole moral re-education thing is going really well,  but I'm going to
hand you over to your second visitation for tonight, so seeya!"

Chapter 4 - The immaterial girl...

And with that, Simon woke up once more, heart pounding, he looked around the
familiar contours of his bedroom,  nothing out of its place. Surely this had
all been a dream as well?

He  started  to turn over,  to try to get back to sleep,  when he heard  the
first  faint chords of dance music.  Muttering "Not again!" he looked up  in
time for the appearance of the ghost of Xmas present. It was none other than
Madonna, in that leotard!

Simon was more appreciative of this visitation.  "So the second ghost is the
mighty  Madonna  herself,  dressed for an expensive wet dream!  Now you're a
classic  case  of  someone  who has made an entire  career  out  of  wearing
clothing two sizes too small!"

Madonna  was unappreciative,  "This evening is all about YOU,  weird trouser
boy, so knock off the bullshit, stop staring at my crotch, and follow me!"

Yet again,  Simon was compelled to follow where the first lady of pop wanted
him  to go.  This time around,  they were firmly settled in the present day.
Simon  shivered  against  the biting wind and snow,  as his  unwilling  feet
dragged him through the slum quarter of town.  Unseen by the occupants, they
entered the humble home of the Robotic Pop Idol.

Inside,  preparations  for  Xmas were in full flow.  There was a lively chat
going  on  between the family members of Robo's family,  and a  lighthearted
feeling  of enjoyment.  Suddenly the conversation took a downward turn as if
they somehow sensed that the spirit essence of Simon had entered the room.

Mrs Robo Pop Idol spat.  "That damned boss of yours, he's a good for nothing
shyster  with  a bulgy forehead and stupid trousers,  who  takes  everything
you've got!"

Suddenly, Simon recalled the specific reason why the spouses and partners of
his employees weren't welcome at his premises.

Being  at the subservient heart of the matter,  Robo Pop Idol felt compelled
to defend his boss.

"Don't  say that about Mr Scroog,  erm Bowell.  He's a kind and generous man
who allows me to work and put oil on the table!"

Mrs Robo Pop Idol was unconvinced. "But if you don't get a bigger percentage
of your royalties,  in fact,  ANY percentage of them at all, then the future
looks bleak for Tiny Robosapien Tim!"

At  this  mention  of his name,  Tiny Robosapien Tim waved  his  tiny  robot
crutch,  and weakly flashed his LED's.  A tinny voice uttered "God bless us,
every one!"

"I don't think he'll be here for next Xmas." Madonna looked significantly at

Simon  looked  back in a 'So what do you want me to do?'  pose.  "Well  he's
weak, it's merciful really, pointless in prolonged suffering..."

"They said you were a uber-creep, but I don't believe what I'm hearing right
now!" Madonna was genuinely outraged, "I'm done with you, goodbye!"

And with that, Simon was suddenly returned home once more.

Chapter 5 - A weight on his mind...

All  notion of returning to sleep was banished.  Simon sat up in bed,  alert
and awaiting the third and final visitation with a degree of impatience.  In
fact,  it took a little while for the ghost of future to reveal itself, just
at the point that Simon was getting hazy and tired again.

The Ghost of Xmas Future was a silent figure. Simon started with recognition
as he saw John Lennon,  as he was on the day when he was shot, complete with
bloodied bullet holes.

"John Lennon,  wow man,  you're definitely one of the all-time heroes!  I've
always wanted to meet you, albeit in a slightly less corpse-like state?"

Silent John Lennon,  the Ghost of Xmas Future said nothing,  but gestured to

"Ok,  so  it's  walkies  time again." Simon grumbled,  as they both set  off
through the dark and cold streets.

Then  they  were in a light and airy space.  The smell of  disinfectant  and
soldering  irons strongly suggested a hospital corridor,  which was in  fact
the place they were at. Simon vaguely recognised the interior of St Maplins,
the main robot hospital in London. He also recognised the saddened and bowed
figures of  Mr and  Mrs Robotic Pop Idol  talking to one of the white coated
medical  personnel in low voices.  Simon drew nearer to hear what they  were

"I'm  extremely  sorry,  but we couldn't find a compatible battery for  Robo
Sapien Tiny Tim in time." Said the Doctor.

"At  least  he's  in a better place now,  the great spare parts bin  in  the
sky!"  Mrs  Robo  Pop Idol sobbed.   "Yes  it's a very sad time for us,  two
tragedies in such a short space of time." Robo Pop idol added.

Simon  was  mightily  confused,  TWO tragedies?  What was he on about?  Then
suddenly, they were gone...

It was dark,  it was cold. A bitter east wind howled through the gaps in the
cemetery fence. The silent ghost of John Lennon, as he was on the day he was
shot  dead,  gestured towards a tombstone.  Simon felt himself drawn towards
it,  even as he was willing himself to stop, somehow knowing what was coming

The  tombstone  was new,  and the inscription crisp and fresh,  the  letters
gouged  out  of the unrelenting marble harshly spat  their  message.  "Simon
Bowell,  betrayer  of  the music and breaker of dreams.  Thankfully gone and
soon to be forgotten."

Simon was unimpressed,  "It attempts to be hard-hitting, to confront me with
the  sordid  money-grubbing  reality of my  existence,  but  the  underlying
cheesiness  lets  it  down.  I've been threatened  by  professional  hitmen,
scottish people,  and my granny. These are people who know how to scare you.
Well, this hardly touches me at all. I'd say about four out of ten!"

The  ghost of Xmas Future momentarily registered a tic of  irritation,  then
resumed his impassive countenance, gesturing upwards.

Simon  looked up,  suddenly and sickeningly aware of the huge lump of  metal
with  "16 Tons" stencilled on the side in comedy letters,  suspended in mid-
air, in  a  way that bricks aren't.  It descended towards him,  crushing the
breath out of his body, into blackness, crushing everything..

Chapter 6 - It's a groovy kind of redemption...

Simon sat up in his bed,  bolt upright. He struggled against the just fallen
shelf,  containing  his  recording industry "Bastard of the  year"  trophies
which  were pressing down on his head.  The first glimmerings of dawn peeked
shyly through the window,  a welcome sight after this longest of nights.  He
was suddenly re-energised with a new purpose.

Hurriedly he dressed himself,  panting with excitement and impatience to get
on with the new day.  He ran outside, eager to make amends. Just a few short
steps later, he encountered a butchers shop and dashed inside.

"Good day to you,  Mr unfeasibly open on Xmas morning butcher. I see that is
a  fine  turkey in your window which remains unsold,  when the  majority  of
people  have actually started to cook theirs." Simon greeted.

The  butcher,  who  was  a  strange fellow,  replied.  "Actually,  I'm not a
butcher,  I'm  a  homicidal maniac.  I was a butcher but the European  Union
regulations  on slaughterhouses put me out of business.  That was about  the
time when I discovered I liked cutting up things for fun,  so I just carried
on doing it. The fact there is a turkey in my window is down to sheer luck."
Simon  looked  more  closely  at some of the other  things  in  the  window,
retched,  made  a mental note to call the police as soon as he was away from
there, but persevered, purchased the turkey and got the hell out
of there.

A  quick stop to follow,  at Mr Patel's also open of Xmas morning nano-mart,
picking  up an armful of other Xmas goodies.  Then Simon was soon beating on
the door of the humble residence of the Robotic Pop Idol family.

It  was  Mrs Robotic Pop Idol who opened the door,  she saw Simon,  and  was
clearly not pleased to see him.  Her eyes narrowed,  "And what do you want?"
she  asked.  "If you think you're getting my husband to work for you  today,
you've got another think coming!"

"Ah no my dear, it's nothing like that. I'm a new man! I'm here to celebrate
Xmas  with  you,  and  look,  I bring gifts and good cheer!" Simon  joyfully

"Alright, come on in, but if there's any attempt to make him sign another of
your bent contracts, you're out on your ear!" She warned.

Simon scattered the assorted gifts and good cheer across the kitchen table.
"Come on, and see what I've got you!"

Mrs  Robotic  Pop Idol was smitten with her present.  "Ooh look,  a Firewire
cable!"  She joyfully squealed,  "And Robo's got a case of twelve year  old,
oak-matured  WD40,  and what's this?" She encountered the fleshy mass of the

"It's a traditional Xmas turkey, for the traditional Xmas dinner!" Simon was
quick to reply.

"That's all very well Mr Scrooge, erm Bowell, but we're robots, we plug into
the mains for our substenance, what use is a turkey?" Mrs Pop Idol demanded.

Simon paused for a moment, then explained.

"Actually,  it's  a little known design feature of the Robo Pop Idol series.
You're able to take in organic material, and render them down to a series of
long hydrocarbon chains,  thus creating fuel oil. I, on the other hand, will
take  my turkey in the traditional manner,  cooked and served with  seasonal
vegetables, thank you!"

Simon considered Robo Pop Idol with a fatherly expression.  "I think we need
to do something about your working conditions.  Tell you what, when you come
back to the recording studio on on Monday, we'll discuss paying some of your

Mrs Robo Pop Idol,  ever suspicious, looked at Simon carefully for traces of
a head injury or drug abuse. Finding neither, she finally relented. "I think
you really mean it! Thank you, Mr Bowell, thank you!"

Then  everyone's thoughts suddenly turned elsewhere,  to a diminutive figure
in the corner of the room.

"But what about Tiny Robosapien Tim?" The family asked.

"I was saving the best to last." The Duracell logo reflected the sparkle  of
the Xmas tree lights.  "I think this will sort the little fellow out." Simon
moved  to  pick  up  Tiny  Robosapien Tim,  and  levered  open  his  battery
compartment. Simon got the new battery in, with a bit of a struggle. Flushed
with triumph, he looked up.

Just then, Tiny Tim's arm fell off...

Simon looked aghast,  he had to think quickly.  "It's alright, don't look at
me like that! I'll get him fixed!"

Tiny  Robosapien  Tim did not seem to be disturbed by this turn  of  events.
Indeed,  he  came back to life in a stronger and more confident manner  than
before.  He waved his remaining arm in a cheery 'I'm alright,  don't worry!'

"MERRY XMAS TO YOU ALL!" His voicebox boomed out.

Everyone laughed.


"Now why did we say that just now?" Simon queried.

"There's a mysterious power up above,  moving the letters of this script, he
made us do it!" Robo Pop Idol had the answer.

Everyone  laughed again,  then champagne corks started flying,  and everyone
agreed  this  was the best Xmas ever.  This consensus even lasted  into  the
hangover which clouded over much of the following day.

And with that, it is time to end this latter day (im)morality tale.

Merry Xmas to you all indeed!  Don't worry, it'll all be back to business as
usual for the next cartoon!
CiH, for the Alive Mag Xmas special,Dec '05.
Alive 12