To end the year in high spirits, this parody of Dickens’ classic sees bitter Natoshi Sakamoto embark on a journey with three ghosts to be reminded of the real value of bitcoin.
- Stave 1: Christmas Eve
- Stave 2: The ghost of crypto past
- Stave 3: The ghost of crypto present
- Stave 4: The ghost of crypto yet to come
- Stave 5: A Merry Crypt-mas
Stave 1 — Christmas Eve
It’s all over, Natoshi Sakamoto thought to himself as his eyes drifted off of his laptop screen late that afternoon. It was Christmas Eve, and to Natoshi there was nothing to celebrate. All he could see was blood red across the board, the final destination of a 12-month trip down the stairway to hell that took bitcoin and the crypto market from promise land to wasteland.
Trying to find some kind of solace, he opened up his email and broke into a manic laughter. At the top of the list, a crypto charity asking for BTC donations for some kind of coding workshop aimed at teaching bitcoin and smart contract programming to young people in developing countries. He immediately marked it as spam.
“Ha! Humbug! Don’t they know it, already? Bitcoin is never going anywhere, blockchain is just a buzzword and cryptocurrencies are a bust!”, he decried. Perhaps it had been a fluke all along, or even a Ponzi scheme, as his former business partner Roubiel Noubini had warned him. And this time it was really dead.
If only he had listened to Roubiel he would have something to show for all those sleepless nights of trading, reading whitepapers, and following candle bar charts. Not just a bunch of worthless internet money, but something safe, like a mortgage or a savings account. Perhaps even gold, why not? Then his assets would be protected against inflation and such criminal market manipulation. And who knows? He might even be rich, now.
Natoshi was sick and tired of it. After staring at that screen uninterruptedly for the past several days, and pondering for an equally long and painful time, his mind was made up. He would just sell it all. Take the brutal losses and to hell with it. As little as it was, something was still better than nothing.
Whimsically, he picked up his hardware wallet and connected it to the USB port of his laptop. He logged into his Coinbase account and sent his stash in, so he could put a market sell order and be done with it.
Alas, at almost the exact same moment, he let out an angry moan as he was reminded of his own precautions. His account required 2FA to release the funds, which he kept not on himself. To retrieve the 2FA keys, he would need to pay a visit to his safe deposit box at the bank, which would not be open until after the holiday.
“Humbug!”, he scoffed.
Grudgingly, he shut the laptop’s lid close and got up from his home office’s desk. “Bugger me”, he thought, “for being so cautious”. As he walked down the hallway past the kitchen, he thought about eating something, but the anger had done away with his appetite. So he just shuffled straight to his bedroom.
The mattress that once felt as cosy and warm as a womb now felt like electric nails through his ribs. He tossed and turned, as instead of sheep he counted dollars bleeding out of his assets. After struggling for what felt like hours, his body finally started to give in and he slipped into a restless slumber, mercifully rescuing him from his selling anxiety.
And that should have been the end of it, but…
Not long after, a loud cracking sound had him jolt off the bed like a cat with a cucumber. As he rubbed his eyes, Natoshi saw the window blow open and strange rays of green light shaped like chains invade the room, all the while a metallic dragging sound and a distant moaning seemed to approach.
Crouching, he backed himself into a corner and stared at the window frame as the light grew stronger, and a strange silhouette seemed to draw closer, seeming to pull and drag on each ray. Where each green chain touched the ground, Natoshi could see what looked like a pile of heavy greenish gold bars tied to an ethereal chain that clinked and dragged.
And as the moaning grew louder and louder, the familiarity of the sound turned his fear into outright panic as he recognised the voice of his long-estranged business partner, Roubiel Noubini.
Noubini’s figure approached in a strange manner. As if dragged by the eerie green chains and gold he came into view, his figure seemingly floating through the objects, translucent and ethereal like a ghost. His face was a pale, contorted version of the man he knew.
Before Natoshi could even say a word, the ghost’s ominous presence growled:
“Hear me, old friend, and pay heed to my words, for if you want to avoid my fate, you must treat them with the utmost seriousness.
“In my time, I bashed and scathed cryptocurrencies, I called them names, publicly dismissed them as scams and Ponzi schemes. I scoffed and made fun of people who bought it, and I failed to see the full picture.
“I even testified against them, thinking I would be doing the greater good by helping end them altogether.
“And if only I had listened to you”, replied Natoshi, “if onl-
“But, instead of helping people”, interrupted the ghost, “I just ended up scaring them away from the future. If only I could see then…! Alas, my time is long gone, now.
“But you, Natoshi, can still make things right. I know you’ve decided to throw in the towel, to call it quits and join the choir of shills, but do not do so just yet. You have but one chance to avoid my fate.
“Tonight, as the clock strikes midnight, you shall be visited by three spirits. Pay heed to their words, and yours shall be the future. Fail to do so, and these shackles shall be yours to share.
As he spoke these words, a faint wind started blowing stronger and the lights started flickering. The pale ghost trembled, and his form began fading.
“My time has come, my friend. Don’t doubt your senses. Farewell, and good luck.”
With this, the phantom figure disappeared like it was never there, leaving a livid Natoshi clenched to his covers in the bedroom corner, and the bedroom as untouched as if nothing had ever happened.
Stave 2 — The ghost of crypto past
After washing his face with cold water, Natoshi felt relieved. What a strange dream, he though. What nonsense, for a grown man to dream of ghosts.
Nonetheless, going back to bed, he double-checked the window lock just to be sure. Seeing as nothing seemed out of place, he got back into bed, satisfied, and quickly slipped into a deep sleep.
Again he thought that would be the end of it. However, as the clock’s arm struck twelve, a sudden and loud horn again jolted him out of his bed, as he witnessed a tiny train ridden by a dark figure materialising through the wall and unto him, going across his desk, bed and through himself.
As the phantom vehicle stopped and gave away one last horn, its tiny pilot turned to him and stared with big, shiny eyes that contrasted with his shadowy outline. Its face was childish and playful, albeit the eyes were ambiguous and cynical.
“Tell me, are you one of the spirits whose visit was foretold by my estranged friend, Roubiel?”
“Oh he’s a bright one”, the creature replied. “Yes, I am the ghost of crypto past, and I come to take you on a journey. Climb aboard my ghost train, and let’s take a ride down the memory tracks!”
Seeing as Natoshi barely seemed to move, the figure’s eyes blinked with joy as he maneuvered the tiny train straight towards him, and this time, instead of going through, the little fender caught Sakamoto and like magic threw him spinning over the second wagon, hastily rolling through the very same wall it made its entrance from.
For a few moments, Natoshi held onto the toy-like vehicle as it crossed what looked like an ordinary tunnel, but the trip was so short he barely had time to think. As they exited the tunnel, he looked around and saw they were in a messy but cosy room, with a bunk bed and a couple of desks in a corner, where an old tube TV set rested.
The sound of gloomy news filled the room, and a young man sat by his computer, moving his eyes from one to the other. The familiarity of the scene was uncanny — of course, it was his university dorm!
“Tell me spirit, is this my old college bedroom? What have you brought me here for? Is that young man myself?”
Smiling that joyful smile, the ghost retorted: “Come now, do you not recogise this moment? Well, now, make a little effort!
Despite the gloom of the news anchor, who described a massive round of layoffs and the looming inflation that followed yet another bank bailout, the young man seemed excited and happy. It all suddenly came back to Natoshi: of course!
“This is the day I discovered bitcoin! Yes, I remember now!”
The spirit gave out a sardonic smile and seemed to rejoice. “Oh remember he does, doesn’t he? And have you forgotten what you were so happy about, then?
Smiling, he mumbled half to himself, half to the spirit:
“Because that was the day I knew that the days of these thieving scoundrels were numbered. Money would be finally controlled by people, and not by faceless bureaucrats and greedy rentists. Because bitcoin would change everything…!”
Almost as quickly his own smile vanished, as he continued:
“How foolish of me! Tell me, spirit, why do you show me this, if bitcoin is now hopelessly dying?”
“Ah dying, now, is it?”, the ghost replied, “but how can dead things die again?”
Before Natoshi could make sense of the spirit’s cryptic remark, the tiny train again zapped through the wall and into another tunnel, all the faster than before.
As quickly as it had started, the vehicle came to a halt inside an office where a slightly older Natoshi sat by a computer, following charts and typing code into multiple screens. He looked tired but exhilarated. Green was all over the screen, and the mood was sky-high.
“Now this one, do you recall?” the smiling ghost inquired.
With a nostalgic smirk, Natoshi nodded, and the words came almost like a confession:
“Yes, spirit, I do. This was the day bitcoin surpassed its all-time high after the first crash, back in 2011, as I knew it would. But that time was different, it was caused by a hack, and there were so few of us…”
Hearing the last sentence, the spirit laughed and pulled on a tiny lever. Without warning, the train jolted and the tunnel flashed again, only to leave them at the same office, now sharper and more modern. Time seemed to go faster, as a younger Natoshi worked and moved in flashes like each passing second were a day long.
“And what do you make of this?” inquired the spirit. With little effort, Natoshi remembered the long and not always steady climb back from 2013 to 2017, and the joy he felt once bitcoin again crossed the 1,000 dollar mark. He could barely hide a smile when recollecting the day Litecoin was also launched, and Ethereum, and so many others, that he felt bitcoin was no longer alone.
“But what am I to make of this?”, Natoshi let out, “seeing as it keeps on crashing and crashing, and each time it seems to take longer to recover?”
With a knowing smile and a deep, disarming look from his childish eyes, the spirit let out the horn once again, and with dazzling speed the train went through the wall and the tunnel was gone, and Natoshi found himself again under his covers, his bedroom silent as a grave.
Had that just happened?
Stave 3 — The ghost of crypto present
The eerie silence in the bedroom did not last long, though. As the clock’s hand moved once again, Natoshi heard a distinct sound of flapping, together with the clinking of dropping coins, growing louder.
Some sort of mist covered the floor as he watched a strangely jolly, winged figure pry the window open and let itself into the bedroom, dropping coins from its pouch as it did. It had the most amicable of faces, with eyes as wise as age, yet the energy of a youngster.
Less frightened than before, Natoshi posed the question directly:
“Greetings, spirit. Are you the second ghost? Have you come to show me the crypto present?”
“Indeed, my dear, I am the ghost of crypto present. And now, despite your skepticism, I have come to show you what your eyes refuse to see.
“But come now, make haste, for the present is fickle, and there are only so many coins that my pouch can bleed before I must give way to my younger. Now come, grab onto this strap and hold tight”, the ghost concluded as he flew closer.
A puzzled Natoshi hesitantly reached out his hand, and as soon as he made his grip, he could feel his body weightless and his feet moving away from the ground at a million miles an hour as the bedroom zoomed out of view.
From their advantage point, across the globe, the ghost pointed its scaly finger at one continent at a time, bringing small windows into view like a multi-screen reality show. In each of them, a different person was working at a computer from their home countries in Asia, Europe, North and South America, Africa… everywhere.
“What is it that I see now, ghost? And what is the significance of these visions?”, Natoshi asked, half-knowing what the answer will be.
“You need only trust your instincts, my dear, as you already know each one of these people. Perhaps not by name, or even by handle, but you know what they are.”
Natoshi acquiesced. These were the dreamers, the visionaries like he himself once was, that had gone through thick and thin along with crypto. These were the builders, the bold, and the pioneers.
The spirit kept on pointing its finger, and more windows popped into view like a giant mosaic across the planet now. There were so many, and many more were joining in.
Reading Natoshi’s thoughts like a book, the spirit gently inquired: “And what do they do now, my dear?”
“They are building, spirit. But what for, I ask myself? These are dreams, as the law is against them. Regulation is killing it dead, and in the end there is no dream…!”.
With a touch of sadness, the spirit made a wiping gesture with its hand, and all windows disappeared. Without warning, Natoshi found himself glued to the spirit’s pouch strap as they flew back in at an astonishing speed.
Coins continued to fall from a large rip on the pouch as they flew past houses, cities, and oceans. Before Natoshi had time to inquire further, they arrived at a run-down building in a sunny, foreign land, crowned by improvised antennas.
“Where are we, spirit, and what have you got to show me here?”, Natoshi asked.
“I’m not surprised you don’t recognise this with your eyes, although your words have many a time spoken of such a place. Come, let’s help ourselves inside.”
The ghost pried open the wooden window and flapped its wings into a shabby, warm room whose walls seemed entirely lined with strange, humming machines, all connected to a central computer.
“These are miners!”, Natoshi exclaimed. “How unfortunate that today they are worth less as they are running than if they were not”.
“Oh, but that’s woefully inaccurate, my dear. Take a good look around, and remember your own words. Hereabouts, what you call a crash means nothing. They endure one every other day, and then some.” Pointing at the miners, the spirit concluded: “And this is their last bastion of hope, where they make their stand against the demon of inflation.”
“Venezuela”, it finally came to him. “Yes, because of the cheap energy they can still mine with some profit. But what good is that if bitcoin drops all the way down to zero, spirit?”.
“Oh dear, that you came to believe that in the first place is to entirely miss the point. How can a thing ever go to zero while being cherished and held in trust by so many?”
The spirit’s pouch looked nearly empty now, and the ghost itself seemed older and panting, each flap of its wings an increasing burden for the ever-weaker creature.
“Now back we go, for our time is nigh”.
Before Natoshi could even respond, they were flying into his bedroom again. The last coin then dropped from the spirit’s pouch. The spirit landed at one corner, his face now older than time itself, his eyes closing as the tinkle of the last rolling coin faded away.
“The present is as honest as it is fickle, my dear, and the truth hides in plain sight when eyes are trained beyond. It was a fun ride”, the spirit whispered, before closing his eyes and slowly evaporating into a powdery mist, and out of existence.
Natoshi felt inexplicably sad as past collided with present inside his heart and mind.
Stave 4 — The ghost of crypto yet to come
Natoshi sat at his desk and looked intently at the clock as it ticked for the last time before striking twelve. As it did, the room suddenly grew colder and darker, and from the centre of the room, the floor started to bend upwards, like the ground was one massive sheet taking shape above his bed.
He didn’t expect that, but then again he hardly expected anything up until that point. The shape detached from the bed, a dark and hooded figure with deep red eyes ominously pointed at him.
“You can only be the ghost of crypto yet to come”, Natoshi mumbled. “I have met your brothers. I’m ready, now, take me with you and show me the things that are yet to happen.”
The spirit stood unmoved, staring at him for a long time. Impatient, Natoshi opened his mouth to speak: “Come now, spirit-”
And then, the floor disappeared from his feet, and Natoshi found himself free-falling into a dark, thick emptiness. For all his screaming, no sound would come out of his mouth as he dove deeper into the abyss for what felt like hours.
Until his body crashed into something solid with a loud thump — the ground, at last. But what ground?
He found himself at a long queue doubling the corner at an old European-like town centre. With no sign of the spirit around, he walked alongside the people, trying to make out where the queue led to. The faces he saw were all somber and distraught, with no hope in sight.
Dismayed, he found himself at the doors of a bank. By the door, two armed security guards and a sign. Albeit in a foreign language, he somehow could read the strange writing: it warned those who entered that only 100 dollars per person worth of currency were allowed to be withdrawn — per month!
Feeling his stomach starting to turn, he moved away from the crowd and stumbled against the hooded, gloomy spirit.
“So what gives,” he asked, “crises happen, and corrupt governments freeze and steal people’s money. But this happens in less developed countries, mostly. And less and less each time, as I’m sure the future won’t see much of this taking place?”
Without a word, the spirit abruptly turned around and its robe extended to cover Natoshi and everything else in a dark, velvet-like blackness. He found the ground disappearing from his feet and was once again free-falling.
This time, he landed on his own sofa, the TV on and a somber reporter pointing at crashing charts all over the screen. From the news alone he would be led to believe he was back in 2008 if it wasn’t for the room itself — it was his own house, indeed, the one he bought long after that. It felt strangely unwarm and uninviting, for some reason he couldn’t quite discern.
Again, the spirit was nowhere to be seen, so he turned up the volume. Another major bailout was being delivered to a handful of banks, which were now even-bigger-to-fail, and inflation should soar to double digits. Some countries had it worse, with capital freezes and confiscations. Unemployment reached all-time highs, and stocks hit rock bottom.
Panicking, he ran upstairs to his room, and found a bent-over, pale figure packing one meagre suitcase with his back toward him. He called out, but the figured didn’t seem to hear. He took a deep breath as he circled around it.
Natoshi was shocked to stare at his own face, distorted by the weight of age and despair. Had he lost everything? As soon as the thought crossed his mind, he saw the hooded ghost staring at him from behind his older self.
“Tell me, ghost, is this the world of what is to come, or of what may yet come? For if I change my actions now, this gloom is not inevitable, is it? Tell me spirit, is there still time? There must be, spirit!”
Still silent, the spirit pointed his sharp and bony finger to his desk.
Hesitantly he turned and saw the pile of letters resting open at the desktop. But how could it be? The big, thick letters in capital red, “DEFAULT”, and at the top, his deepest fear: mortgage repossession. Only then did he take a good look around: most everything he had was gone. No pictures, no furniture, a bunch of cardboard boxes, and a leave-by notice were all that was left.
“Spirit, please, I can take it no longer! I’ll not turn my back on crypto again, now I understand why, it was never about getting rich quick in the first place! I remember we were changing the world, removing the middlemen and putting an end to economic censorship.
"It was about good money in the long run, free from the shackles of shady economic policy and lobbied decisions behind closed doors. Oh spirit, I again see beyond candlestick charts and quarterly reports. It was always about value, not price. Please spirit, tell me there is still time!”
Yet again the ghost said nothing. His dark robe started shuffling wildly, causing the ground to shake and crack. The house itself then started to fall apart, ceiling and walls crumbling to cover a screaming Natoshi in brick, mortar, and darkness.
Stave 5 — A Merry Crypt-mas
Natoshi opened his eyes to the first rays of sun coming through the window of his bedroom.
He quickly jumped out of bed, as if still trying to escape the debris, but there was none to be found. The roof was still there, as were all his furniture, and no repossession notice to be seen. His face broke in a manic smile as he slammed the window open, unfazed by the chilly wind that blew outside.
The day was just starting, but what day was it? How long had he been away? A week? A month?
Then he saw a group of young children playing outside, throwing snowballs at one another, and shouted from the top of his lungs so they would hear him:
“Children, by the life in me, what day is it today?”, he inquired, barely able to hide his smile. The children looked puzzled, as that middle-aged man could only be joking. They looked at each other, until the oldest one answered with a shrug:
“Well, it’s Christmas day, sir. And what other day could it be?”
“Thank you! Thank you, young man, and thank each one of you children, for the world will soon be yours to inherit, and it shan’t be this old, rusty, parasite-ridden plutocracy!”
Natoshi was outright laughing now, and danced inside the bedroom. At his computer, the latest candle was a convincing green, but even the deepest of reds wouldn’t change his spirits.
How about the ghosts, and that strange apparition of his estranged friend Roubiel? Was it all a dream? “Well, no matter!” pondered Natoshi, “I’m still here, and bitcoin has once again showed its value, and refused to die — how wonderful is that?”
He looked to his laptop, the wallet still clinging to the USB port. Jumping at it, he promptly cancelled the transaction and logged out of the exchange. His eyes were bright with hope and ideas.
He went back to his email and into the spam folder where he had sent the crypto charity’s request. After making sure the senders were legit, he pledged one entire bitcoin to the cause — yes, the world needed more coders, and the cryptocurrency ecosystem in particular could do with each and every one it could get. Moreover, people everywhere deserve a chance to take part in the crypto revolution.
He signed the transaction and gave one loud laugh before pulling it out and shutting the computer down at once.
“There will be no sell-offs today, not on my watch. Profits shall come in due time, as the future rewards the bold, and the steadfast vision of a reality yet to come — a fairer, more connected, and more efficient one than ever before. Or I’ll be damned!”
Good-bye to what has been, and welcome what is, and what is yet to come, to this shelter underneath the holly.
It was Christmas, and crypto was alive and kicking. Natoshi didn’t have the faintest idea of what the next one would bring.
But he was pretty sure that bitcoin would still be there.
Originally published by the author in December 2018, and reposted on Medium in October 2019.