Or, rather, fell directly on top of his head.
“Good morning,” the second spirit said as Scrooge picked himself off the floor, nursing the purplish robins-egg already forming on his forehead. This one was a far sleeker and modern hard disk drive that floated in the air just as the first spirit had done, and the label on its faceplate proudly boasted two terabytes of disk space. Its circuit board was smooth and sleek, its traces bent into the shape of a face. “I am the Ghost of Hard Drives Present.”
“And I’m the Queen of England,” said Scrooge.
The spirit bowed. “Your Majesty. I didn’t recognize you. Did you enjoy your trip down memory lane?”
“I preferred the first spirit.”
“You would’ve.” The hard drive floated through the closed door and vanished. “Come this way!” its voice boomed. “We have much to see!”
Scrooge gingerly cracked the door open. “What if I don’t want to?” he asked.
The hard drive floated back through the door, the shock nearly knocking Scrooge over. “Spiders in your mouth,” the spirit replied, its innards clicking and whirring.
That was as good a reason any to follow the spirit, and so Scrooge did. When he stepped out of his bedroom he saw, to his astonishment and horror, not the rest of his apartment but rather the entire county miles beneath his feet, pinpricks of lights and Christmas decorations ablaze across the pitch-black ground like stars in the sky. Scrooge was seized with vertigo and immediately began to feel queasy.
“This way,” the spirit said, floating by his side. “We have little time. Click.” The two of them began to descend, picking up speed as they fell from the sky like a meteor.
“B-but you have so much more storage space,” Scrooge said, panicking as the ground came closer and closer and the wind whistled around him.
“But data takes up much more of that space—click—than before, doesn’t it?” the spirit answered with a rhetorical question of his own. “I’m recording all this in 4k r-res-resolution.”
Before Scrooge could continue his protests, he and the spirit found themselves safely inside the home office of a man Scrooge had never met before. Despite the late hour, the lights were on, the man was awake, and “happy” was the last word that could be used to describe him.
“Six months?” the man snarled into his webcam. “But this is my busiest time of year! Can’t we restore anything more recent than that?”
“Ransomware attack,” the spirit of hard drives present explained to Scrooge as the man continued to yell at his computer, at the other end of which (Scrooge assumed) sat a hapless IT technician. “Encrypted every document—click—on the network.”
“But doesn’t he have a backup?” Scrooge asked. “It’s best practice, after all.” He crossed his arms. “Should’ve gone with tape.”
If the spirit had shoulders, it would have shrugged. “He had a backup. In a d-data center just a few miles south of here. Three dozen terabytes of data to t-t-transfer over to here—but the last backup was six months ago.”
Scrooge winced. “Sounds like somebody’s getting fired on Christmas. He should have kept his backup onsite.”
The spirit led Scrooge out of the house, through the walls, and across town to a shop on the side of the river. The unseasonable warmth and melting snow had engorged the river, and as the spirit led Scrooge through the doors, flagrantly ignoring the “CLOSED” sign. The store had flooded, and while Scrooge knew he should have been able to feel the frigid water lapping at his bare feet, he felt nothing.
“The man who owns this shop won’t come back in, nor will any of his employees, until the day after Christmas,” said the spirit. “The waterlogged merchandise, unfortunately—click, click, click—will only be the half of their worries.”
“Did they not back up their data either?” Scrooge inquired.
The spirit beckoned Scrooge into the basement, and there sat a tiny four-disk NAS server half-submerged in stagnant, murky water. “Locally, unfortunately.” The spirit nudged Scrooge to the side. “Look! Over there!”
Scrooge looked and saw a handful of LTO tape drives bobbing in the floodwaters.
“Your f-favorite tapes!” The spirit chuckled as he pulled Scrooge away.
“Perhaps he should have gone with the cloud,” Scrooge suggested.
The spirit dragged him halfway across the countryside, lights rushing past the two of them as if they had engaged hyperdrive (or warp drive, or FTL, or slipspace). Scrooge and the spirit emerged in a vast, dark room enclosed by rows and rows of massive servers covered in blinking lights.
“Welcome,” said the spirit, “to the much-vaunted—click, click—Cloud.”
“It’s just someone else’s data center,” said Scrooge.
“Under—click—whelming, isn’t it? Now, where do your backups live again, Your Majesty?”
“I—I have a tape archive.”
“Onsite or offsite?”
“And do you have a V-VPN?”
“I don’t need a VPN,” Scrooge replied defensively. “You’re beginning to sound like Bob Cratchit.”
“P-pushy, is he?”
“Always demanding things of you?”
“Always. I hardly know why I bother to pay his firm.” Scrooge tried to change the subject. “Are you saying that none of these backups work?”
“Alone,” said the spirit, “it seems they do not. Let’s pay Mr. Cratchit a visit, shall we?” the spirit asked, and before Scrooge could object, they were already standing in his home.
Bob Cratchit sat at his dining room table hunched over a pile of bills, his wife at his side.
“His only son, Tim, was injured in a c-c-car accident just a few months ago,” the hard disk drive floating at Scrooge’s side whispered, ticking like a clock. “He lost both legs. Those are the hospital bills.”
“No wonder he keeps trying to sell me things,” Scrooge whispered bitterly. “Why are we whispering, spirit? Can they hear us?”
“No,” said the spirit, “it just seems to fit the—click—mood.”
“We’ll think of something,” Cratchit’s wife assured him. “I could take on more shifts, you could onboard more clients…”
“There just aren’t enough hours in the day,” Cratchit lamented, “to deal with the clients I already have. Each one has their own ideas for what my services should look like, and worst of all is that Scrooge! I wish I could just get them all on one platform that works.”
“Tape archives, perhaps,” the spirit suggested, giving Scrooge a playful nudge. “Unfortunately, since he and his technicians are so overworked, he—click, click, click, click, click—configured another client’s backup incorrectly, and…” The hard drive began to spin down.
“Well,” it concluded, “perhaps another spirit can tell you what h-happens next…”
And as the Cratchit family pored over its medical costs, Scrooge was swept back into his own room. The Ghost of Hard Drives Present had vanished, leaving him alone once again.
Next chapter: The Ghost of Hard Drives Yet to Come