Interlude: Okay fine, The Mandalorian rules

Just finished watching chapter 13, The Jedi, aaaannnd … yep. Okay. It rules. I’ve been watching since we got Disney+, but now I’m interested. How does the meme go? You had my curiosity. Now you have my attention.

Star Wars is back on my radar for the first time since Episode VII was announced. Which, just to make it clear, was ten years ago.

Keen readers of the blog, and/or viewers of the show, might be able to hazard a guess as to why I’m excited. It’s not because of Rosario Dawson, although that was fucking flawless casting and great to see.

Squeeeee is it Friday yet? Fuck, this won’t even go anywhere in this season will it? Shit, and I thought Moff Gideon was cool. What’s that about? Misdirection? Character in disguise?

Aaaaaaah! I’m going to plaid here.

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The Seven Creepies in: The Christmas Crossover Caper | Part 13

“It’s been a while since any new Creepies – sorry, any new coincidentally Creepy-like yet distinct entities for some reason – showed up,” I said, looking at my watch. “You all appeared within a few minutes of each other, and we’ve been sitting around and talking for a while. It’s fair to assume that it’s just the five of you, and now we’re waiting for the next stage of this to-”

“Six of us,” Mister C of 9 said.

“Sorry, right, counting the original, I mean the Creepy from this universe, I mean Creepy, distinct entity for some reason, there’s six,” I amended.

“No,” Mister C of 9 said, “with Creepy, there’s seven.”

“Um,” I looked around uneasily. “Is there an invisible one that only you can see with your spooky half-”

Creepy, Mister C of 9, Winona, the Drake, Mell and Carla all pointed up simultaneously, all unerringly – and unnervingly – at the same air-conditioning grate.

I should pause for a moment here, and explain a little about our air-conditioning system.

Our house isn’t really that fancy. Our ‘air-conditioning’ is pretty strictly limited to a couple of standing fans – what Creepy sometimes refers to as The Creepy and Hatboy Fan Club, because I think it’s a fundamental law of the universe that somebody has to make that joke, and Creepy and I don’t want to be responsible for what happens when someone doesn’t – and a lot of wilting and flopping and groaning about the heat. That does actually help, if you wilt hard enough.

Sometimes we experiment with assorted ways of keeping the house cool. My project in the garage, for example, creates a lot of excess heat and I’ve tried various methods of converting that heat into energy and that energy into different kinds of refrigeration. But our house-cooling experiments are generally more trouble than they’re worth, what with sometimes achieving sentience and building bodies for themselves, or emitting an energy signature that alerts hostile aliens to our planet, or turning the whole house into a strange frozen woodland with a lamp post in the middle. That one was weird.

Anyway, my point is, we don’t have air-conditioning. We do, however, have an extensive series of vents and grates that do not actually provide cool – or even moving – air to any part of the house. There’s no immediately obvious reason for them to exist, although they certainly make it easier to deal with the smaller and more scurrying-and-nesting types of aliens and mythical creatures we get in the house. They always go into the vents.

Additionally, sometimes, I’m pretty sure Creepy gets in there. But I’ve never actually caught him doing it, no matter how many times I’ve tried.

I blinked up at the grating. “Okay,” I said. “So, we have seven. Did you want to come down?”

“I hadn’t quite made up my mind about that yet,” a male voice, with that distinctive Creepy-ish tone, said from the grate.

“I should warn you,” I continued, “that the air vents have a crude driving and flushing system that we built into it, in order to dump unwelcome critters out of there by force when they become inconvenient. It’s not as pleasant as I’m making it sound.”

“He’s right, it’s not,” Creepy said. I squinted at him. “I’m yet to see a space scarab come out of that thing with all fifteen legs,” he added innocently.

“Excuse me, but that’s my axe,” the voice from the ceiling said. I looked over to see that the Drake had picked up Bob and was holding it casually.

“You left it behind when you went and hid in the ventilation ducts,” the Drake said. “If you want it back…”

“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” the voice said. “When I turned up, and happened to overhear how much young Miss Mell disliked doctors, I thought I should probably stay out of the way for a bit.”

“You’re a doctor?” Mell said in a purr so menacing it went beyond scary, past ludicrously overblown, and back into scary on the far side.

“Not the sort you don’t like,” the voice – I was trying very hard not to think of him as ‘Doctor Creepy’ now – said quickly. “I’m the good sort of doctor.”

“Are you the sort of doctor who has a time-travelling spaceship that’s bigger on the inside?” Creepy asked in a voice that quivered with borderline erotic ecstasy.

“I … we call it hydroketamine hallucinomorphinate solution type 3, but sure,” Doctor Creepy said. “It’s bigger on the inside and the outside and the other side. And you can make it with stuff you can find in your kitchen cupboards.”

“Come on down,” I said, “you’re clearly one of them.”

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Interlude: Book, Blade, Pen

He opened his eyes and lay looking at the ceiling for a long time before thoughts began occurring to him.

The first, uninspiringly, was ceiling.

He didn’t know who he was, or where, but he knew it was wrong. So very, very wrong. It should not be. He should not be. He had no right. He pushed himself up on his elbows, then sat, then swivelled around and set his feet on the floor. It was cold, metal that would have been mirror-shiny but for the crazed tangle of scratches. He looked down between his feet at the shattered reflection of his face. He didn’t recognise it. He didn’t like it.

He was going to remember soon, and he didn’t want to.

He was barefoot. In fact, he was naked. He looked around the room. Between the white ceiling and scratched metal floor, there was the bed, and a table with a book on it, a door set into one wall and a wall-wide mirror set into another. He recognised all of these things without managing to identify himself. He rose to his feet, avoided his own gaze in the mirror, and walked to the table.

The book was large, as wide as both his hands side by side and as tall as both his hands end to end, and as thick as his first and second fingers. Its cover was red, textured like soft leather but not, his fingertips insisted, actually organic. It felt old.

On the cover, inlaid in gold about two-thirds of the way up, was the name Augustus Sloane.

That was his name, he realised. That was who he was. What he was.

No.

Who he was, was written on the cover. What he was, that was inside the book. And that was as it should be.

After looking at the closed book for a time, he turned and crossed back to the mirror. He didn’t look at himself. There wasn’t much to see. It was just another cover. He looked past it, into the darkness behind the mirror.

He stood that way until a voice spoke from an invisible speaker system somewhere in the ceiling.

“Hello, Augustus.”

He remained silent.

“I’m pleased that you’re up and walking already. Your balance is good. You’ve studied your surroundings and you’re obviously aware that this is an observation mirror,” the voice stopped with a soft mechanical crackle, and again Augustus waited. “Why did you not open the book, Augustus?”

Augustus shrugged one shoulder. The movement was smooth, effortless. He felt strong. He also felt afraid. He shouldn’t be here. If she found him-

“Can you speak, Augustus?”

“Yes,” Augustus said.

“Excellent. And you understand English. This is outstanding. This brings the number of people who still speak English back up to … well, two, as far as I know,” the voice said happily. “Pre-Fall dead languages are so romantic, don’t you think?”

“I’ve always considered English to be the lowest common linguistic denominator,” Augustus said, “although admittedly I have never learned another language so maybe it’s not my place to say.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, Augustus,” the voice said. “You’ve come out speaking Old Meg, Terellian, even Xidh once. We’ll probably never know why. And if you think English was the lowest common linguistic denominator, wait ’til you hear Mygoni,” the voice waited again. “Don’t you have any questions?”

“When will I be allowed to leave?” Augustus asked, since it seemed expected of him.

“You can walk through that door at any time,” the voice replied. “It is not locked.”

Augustus turned and walked over to the door. He turned the handle, opened it, and stepped through.

It was a room identical to the one he’d woken up in, except the naked man on the bed was not him. He was a large, muscular fellow with thick black hair and only one arm. The other ended just below the shoulder in a crisp white-bandaged stump. He was bound to the bed by padded canvas straps at neck, wrist, waist and ankles. He was, aside from the missing arm and another clean white bandage stuck to his lower belly between waist-strap and pubic hair, quite unblemished.

When he heard the door open he turned his beefy, strapped-tight neck as much as he could, eyes rolling. “Cayo?” the man said. “Kadano mori? Cayo? Cayo?”

Augustus walked past the bed, pausing at the table. Instead of a book, there was a sharp, thin-bladed knife lying there. Augustus looked up at the mirror that ran the length of the room. It was, he imagined, one long observation room on the other side.

“Hello?” he said.

Cayo?” the one-armed man on the bed said hopefully, trying to look up at Augustus through the top of his own head.

Cayo,” Augustus said absently, then ignored the man’s jabbering and crossed to the door. It was locked.

He looked at the straining man on the bed. The knife on the table. The bandage on the man’s stomach. The knife. The lock on the door. The bandage. The hint of blood in its centre. Clearly a fresher wound than the severed stump of his arm.

Augustus picked up the knife, crossed to the door and pushed the blade between door and frame. He slid it down, bumped it with the heel of his hand, and the door opened. He stepped through.

The next room…

Augustus looked at the thing on the bed as it strained and flexed and flailed. It was roughly humanoid, but elongated and grey-green, and with a roachlike rack of additional arms folding and unfolding down its sternum. Skeleton and wiry tendons stood out sharply, as if the thing had been flayed alive. It, too, was strapped at neck, waist and ankles, as well as elbow and wrist of its main human-situated arms. These, like the rest of its body, were distorted and over-length, thumb and forefinger massive and blunt while the rest of the fingers were curled little vestigial things. The wavering set of arms on its chest were twisted and foetal-translucent. Its wide, wet grey eyes squinted out at him from folds of skin disproportionately close to the top of its head, and in between them was a tiny button-nose with mismatched nostrils. The eyes fixed on Augustus’s face, and its lips peeled back … and back … and back.

The clammy skin of its upper and lower jaws wrinkled up and down, baring a tiny, clean and almost-human set of baby teeth and a rank, mottled expanse of gums that extended down to its chin and all the way up to the squashed collection of eyes and nose. The teeth clicked and the creature mewled and reached for him with enough strength to make the straps groan, but not quite give way.

He went to the table. There was a pen lying where the knife had been in the previous room.

Picking up the pen, he glanced at the next door. Then he turned and headed back the way he’d come. As he passed the monster on the bed he reversed the knife and, holding it by the blade, put the handle into one of the thing’s grasping chest-hands. He stepped back through the door, hearing the creature snuffling wetly and the sound of thick cloth parting as it sawed at its bonds. Leaving the door open, he crossed the next room.

Kadano mori?” the one-armed man said in a small, fearful voice. Augustus leaned over him, gave him a sympathetic smile, and patted his unbandaged shoulder.

Then he crossed back to the room he’d woken up in, closed the door firmly, put the pen down next to the book, and sat on the bed.

The screaming in the next room went on for almost an hour. Augustus was impressed. After the first twelve minutes it faded, as though muffled by something – some blockage, Augustus imagined. With the screams stifled, the snuffling and chewing sounds came loud and rhythmic, methodical, for another twenty-three minutes, accompanied by a guttural wheezing, whooping noise – not screams, but almost like laughter, an ecstatic muffled howl completely devoid of sanity. The crunching and the slick tearing sounds came faster and faster, the blockage was withdrawn and the screams resumed, even more frantic and animal than before, for the final eighteen minutes. Then it ended, with a final splatter and a sound of high, unmistakable frustration from the creature.

For a short time, Augustus heard a low rattling growl and a damp slithering of hands on his door, but the handle didn’t turn and the door didn’t open. Then there was silence.

He stood, stretched, and crossed to the table. He opened the book. It was paper, oddly soft and yielding. Sheathed in something artificial, he thought, to preserve it. The first three-quarters of the book, two or three hundred softly crackling pages, were filled with writing. Margin-to-margin stream of consciousness, tidy little concise boxes of thoughts, extended poetic verse, even sketches and diagrams. Some of it was in languages he couldn’t read. All of it, he knew, was in his handwriting.

The last hundred pages or so were crisp, unmarked and new. He examined the pen for a moment – it was an odd design, but a pen was a pen was a pen – and then leaned in and set it to the paper.

A pen is a pen is a pen.

He smiled as his muscle memory adapted to the slightly unfamiliar weight and function of the pen.

Today I woke up in a very, very strange rehabilitation ward. I think I made excellent progress for my first day.

He paused for a moment, thinking. Then he put pen to paper once more.

I wonder if any of my predecessors did so well.

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The Seven Creepies in: The Christmas Crossover Caper | Part 12

(I finished part two of The Last Days of Earth over the weekend, 97 pages and 45,762 words. Almost 8000 words written over two days, not too shabby.)


“Obviously,” I said in an attempt to keep Carla’s evident agitation from infecting some of the Creepies who might not handle being agitated very well, “either the general baseline properties of the universe have changed to allow our guests to appear here, or we were never in possession of all the facts about the universe and this new information should be written into our equations as variables from now on.”

“Did you have equations and a list of variables before?” Carla demanded.

“No,” I admitted. “That’s something else we should probably think about doing.”

“We might need a whiteboard,” Creepy said, and ran out.

Mell sat back down in her chair, knife vanishing once more. “While you two are drawing equations, maybe the rest of us can try to figure out why we’re here.”

“Couldn’t hurt,” I said, knowing perfectly well how inaccurate that statement was. “Usually when something like this happens and someone pops up from a portal or whatever, it becomes pretty obvious right away what is going on and why they’ve appeared.”

“Maybe we were just transported to this world so we could explore and use our powers to work our way into high-ranking positions in this world’s government structure,” Winona said innocently, “the way you did on Xix.”

“Um,” I said awkwardly.

“Do we have powers?” Mell asked.

“I’m not sure,” Winona admitted. “When Hatboy and Creepy came to Xix, they had enhanced magical abilities that allowed them to become Paladins.”

“Paladins,” Mister C of 9 hooted. “They’re the nerdiest ones.”

“I had an enhanced ability to use spells without getting exhausted by them,” I said. “I think it was related to the energy differential between this, uh, world and Xix. Time moved differently, so it was like my energy was restored so fast it was as if it never got used up in the first place. Or something like that. I never really thought about it.”

“You don’t say,” Carla muttered.

“And Creepy didn’t have magical abilities,” I added. “He just knew a bunch of high fantasy tropes he took advantage of.”

“Maybe we can do that,” Mister C of 9 suggested.

“Wait, hold on,” I said. “It – Creepy and I came from one place, and – yes, admittedly, we made a stupid mess in Xix, and I regret that,” I nodded to Winona. “I’d hope, since there are so many more of you from so many different places here, it might not be a good idea to make the same mistakes we did-”

“No no, you misunderstand me,” Winona said. “Carla was just saying that you two are the centre of something, and I admit I don’t understand what, but it was no accident that you were given access to Xix. You did make rather a mess, but throughout history you also righted a lot of wrongs, and … after your departure, things continued to improve thanks to the knowledge and perspective you’d given us. I’m not saying we should all go off and use our powers just to take over the government of this world for the fun of it-”

“Aw,” Mister C of 9 grumbled.

“What powers?” Mell demanded.

“-I am suggesting that this time, we have all been brought together in a similar way to the way you were brought to Xix previously, so we ought to consider the possibility that this time, we are here to right some wrong here.”

“Oh, look at that,” Carla said. “Proof that this isn’t a collection of alternate-universe Creepies,” she pointed at Winona. “He actually listened to me.”

“I listened,” I protested. “I said the same thing, it’s just that we haven’t identified the wrong that needs to be righted yet. I just didn’t want everyone to go wandering off and using their powers to try to take over the world before we had a chance to figure it out.”

“If anyone else mentions powers again…” Mell warned.

At that moment Creepy came back in, pulling a whiteboard on a wheeled stand behind him.

“Right,” he said, and uncapped a pen. “Let’s say this circle is the universe-”

“Wow,” Carla said, “you already fucked it up.”

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The Last Alicorn: cover reveal! (another interlude)

It’s finally here!

The Nella preparing to set down on the dark planet Forbidulon.
You heard me. Forbidulon. Don’t “at” me, as the young people say.

If you think it looks like a retrowave text meme, that’s not a coincidence. The aim was somewhere between the played-straight look and feel of a Spaceballs poster, and a cheesy old-fashioned adventure story.

As editing continues on The Last Alicorn, I am charging full steam ahead with part two of The Last Days of Earth and hoping to get it finished soon. Then there is just part three to finish off. It’s been a long haul, but when you’re destroying the Earth you can’t cut corners.

In the meantime, enjoy another sci-fi masterpiece by Mr. Gabriel Gajdoš. This has been a truly wonderful partnership (and we have a long way to go yet!). The internet is many things to many people, but it has always been good to me.

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Interlude: How’s the Weather? Reboot!

I’m still very distracted but working on the second part of The Last Days of Earth, very pleased with how it’s going (83 pages, 38,000 words and counting). This means I haven’t had time to add anything to the Christmas Spectacular just yet, but Christmas is a long way off.

Our stupid renovations are almost finished, and Wump and Toop will soon be getting the bunnies we promised them. I’ll have to post a full story on that sometime.

And this morning we finally got a little bit of snow!

Almost winter!

It’s still not exactly cold, but it’s hovering close enough to 0°C for the snow to stay frozen for now. Let’s see if this winter’s going to be any better than last year’s!

How is it ’round your way?

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The Seven Creepies in: The Christmas Crossover Caper | Part 11

This was all getting a bit deep and intense, so I served out some more coke and opened a couple of bags of liquorice bullets.

“Right,” I said to Carla. “So reality is a figment of our imaginations but since you, and we, and everything else is inside that figment, it’s also completely real?”

“No,” Carla grated.

“Reality is more complex than we will ever understand, but if we keep looking at it through a keyhole we will only ever see small pieces that tell us nothing?” the Drake hazarded.

“No,” Carla repeated.

Winona raised a liquorice bullet contemplatively before his eyes. “Perhaps reality is what we make it,” he said, “and so responsibility for its preservation lies with us.”

“N – no,” Carla said, sounding a little less certain.

Mister C of 9 stood up, one black-stained hand clenched around his staples and torn clothing, and raised the other dramatically in the air. “Every rose-”

No,” at least three of us said.

“Which fucker slipped me a mickey?” Mell growled as she raised her head and lifted her hair balefully from her face. “I feel like a toilet that’s been turned into a person by some sadistic fairy godmother.”

I pointed at her. “I feel like we’re getting closer.”

“I wish Ian was here,” Creepy remarked.

I smiled, thinking about the timeless, irritable reindeer. Munching on a bowl of nachos and holding forth about the nature of existence and the weirdly integrity-bound ideology of the absolute cynic.

The world, the universe, is a tiny little air-bubble rising up through a body of water. When it reaches the surface, it pops and the world ends.

The lake is slo-time, surrounding the universe. You can’t think of it in a linear sense, or a physical sense. The bubble didn’t rise up from the bottom of the lake in the past, to arrive at the surface in the future. The surface appears and the bubble pops when certain requirements are met.

That’s what the end of the universe means. Everything inside the bubble ceases to exist. Slo-time, the real universe, continues in its own unfathomable way, but we are all returned to whatever pure expressions we exist as out there. Standing waves, inconceivable and inapplicable to anything within this universe.

Same would happen to you, and everything else in this universe, only you have no theoretical roots in slo-time to fall back onto. You’d become one with the Wasteland in a planck-length, then the Wasteland would be swallowed by slo-time. Without form, and void, darkness upon the face of the deep, that’s what slo-time is.

What had any of that been about? If slo-time wasn’t the real universe, if it wasn’t the endless nothingness that waited on every side of time and space, then what was it? And what was real? And what could Creepy and I do to affect something so meaninglessly vast?

And were any of these questions even remotely the right ones? I got the feeling, looking at Carl as she drank coke more angrily than I’d ever seen anyone drink coke before, that they weren’t. Probably by definition because it was us asking them.

This little bubble is amazing. It’s the only bubble in the lake. And this is our way of being a part of it.

“I wish Ian was here too,” I said.

“Who’s Ian?” Winona asked. “I assume you are referring to ‘Ian the Reign Dír’, whom you mentioned before?”

It was weird, I reflected, how I could tell exactly when Winona was saying a normal word in a hilariously misunderstood high-fantasy way. “Yeah,” I said. “Um, a reindeer is actually a sort of semi-domesticated livestock animal, um, like a Xixian thunder hamster but with only one pair of horns.”

“Oh.”

“Ian was a special magical breed that could fly and talk, though.”

“I see.”

“But he doesn’t exist anymore, and technically never really did exist in the first place because what he really was could only express itself in this universe as a reindeer-shaped – you know what, this is probably not helping,” I concluded.

“Who knows what might help?” Winona chewed on a liquorice bullet. “These chocolate-covered rat poops are unsettlingly tasty.”

“They’re not chocolate covered rat poops.”

“Well whatever the rat poops are covered in…”

Carla slammed her fists on the table hard enough to make the glasses of coke jump, the bags of liquorice bullets rustle, and Mell to somersault out of her seat and come down in a crouch with her knife out.

“This,” she said, and raised a fist to point around at the six of us, “is really bad.”

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The Seven Creepies in: The Christmas Crossover Caper | Part 10

Carla had yelled at us about this last time, I recalled, but had never really explained what she meant. She was pretty excitable when she’d gone more than a few hours without blowing something up. Which, to be honest, was understandable – but I wanted to get to the bottom of it this time.

“Alright,” I said, “I’m sure it’s more complicated than ‘alternate versions’. But these are all from different types of universe, and-”

“No they’re not,” Carla said. “There is only the one universe. None of you are from there. You’re all from in here,” she pointed at me and Creepy. “They’re in the middle of it. Everything that happens in here is happening because of them.”

“What about you?” I asked.

“Me too,” Carla snapped. “You think it was easy for me to accept that I didn’t exist and I was an element in – in some kind of simulation? You think it was easy for Carl? Why do you think she’s been screaming into slo-time for the past meaningless-distinction-of-timescales?”

I’m not a simulation,” Mister C of 9 said confidently.

“Neither am I,” the Drake added, “although if this-” she gestured at herself, “-is just an avatar that my devices have projected into a simulated infosphere, perhaps in that sense I am. Even the ‘me’ that may or may not exist back in my trove may be completely convinced it is real, and yet still not be.”

“I have always found it safest to assume that I’m real,” Winona mused. “If I am a dream within a completely convincing and apparently never-ending dream, then is that not wakefulness?”

We all looked at the elderly gentleman in the giant froofy hat in quiet surprise.

“Well said,” the Drake approved.

“Very philosophical,” Creepy added. “Good lad.”

Winona ignored him. “We had a lot of fairy snuff addicts at the tavern where I grew up,” he confided with a nostalgic smile. “‘Profound Or Just About To Stroke Out’ was a regular game we played with their ramblings.”

“You are, I mean you’re not real or simulations,” Carla said, still glaring at me and Creepy in clear annoyance, like existence itself was our fault. “I knew you’d focus on that. It’s not as simple as us all being parts of a simulation or a dream. We’re all real, because here we are. Within this framework, by definition, we’re real. If you start with the baseline assumption that this is reality and therefore things that exist inside it are real. But there are fragments all over the place, floating through slo-time like pieces of glass. This,” she gestured around her, “is just the biggest cluster of fragments, and we’ve all just floated into it and been pulled into a new formation according to rules of physics too big and strange for us to understand. Christmas was the same, it was a different clump of shards that was trying to find a way to merge with this larger body, but it couldn’t.”

“Damn right it couldn’t,” Creepy said firmly. “We stopped it.”

“Again, yes, but you’re not getting what that means,” Carla said, deceptively patient. “Entropy had already taken us past the point where elements like Christmas could merge with this ‘universe’ anyway. It was unsupportable. This is about the limit,” she gestured again, this time at me and the Creepies, with an added abstract twist to the gesture to encompass the entire nebulous concept of solstice pagan ritual holy whatever.

I looked around. “Well…”

“Well I like this better than Christmas,” Creepy declared. “Christmas is capitalistic and soulless manipulation of the population and doesn’t include five other versions of me.”

“All Hats’ Eve usually has a parade with lots of different versions of you,” Winona said helpfully. “Or – you know, the mythicised you, the Hatboy, Sir Garçon de Chapeau,” he looked at me with a little shrug. “Sorry.”

“Our fault,” I said. Carla audibly ground her teeth. “Apparently it’s all our fault.”

“See, even that is completely true but still doesn’t cover it,” she said, and looked around at the others. “The fragments don’t just come from nowhere. They – we, you – are all pieces of some sort of reality. The reality you’re based on, even if it is long gone by now, was no less real for the fact that some confused variant of it is still happening in their brains,” she pointed at us again.

“Oh, now this is all happening in our brains?” Creepy scoffed.

“The most depressing part about that idea is how much sense it makes,” I admitted. “I mean, I can’t imagine a healthy brain deciding that five more super-sidekicks is a good idea, and this is just the latest in a long line of horrible things that I’ve had to survive. So, what, this is a self-created simulation gone wrong and I have to wake up? Shouldn’t you all be arguing against that, since if I wake up and you’re in my head…” I stopped again.

“Yeah,” Carla said grimly as she saw realisation cross my face. “Since when have the participants in your adventures – particularly at Christmas – argued against ceasing to exist?”

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The Seven Creepies in: The Christmas Crossover Caper | Part 9

“So what we have here,” Winona once again took on the role of – well, record-keeper, “is a multi-dimensional crossover event that may be related to the two of you, and your adventures in a parasitic sub-universe called … Chris Mass?”

“Christmas,” I said, before realising this wasn’t really a useful correction and that it was opening up, for the Xixian, a whole new book of complex back-story that I wasn’t sure any of us needed to read. For that matter, I wasn’t sure if the Drake, Mell, or even Mister C of 9 had Christmas in their respective universes. The Drake had said she was studying pagan solstice something-or-others, so there was a good chance her universe had Christmas, but … I paused. “Wait,” I said, “I just thought of something.”

“If it’s ‘where the Hell are all the alternate-universe Hatboys?’, I’m way ahead of you, old chum,” Creepy said.

“What? No, that wasn’t what I was thinking,” I said. “I’d been running on the assumption that aside from – what did you call him?” I asked Mister C of 9, “Chuck? I’d been running on the assumption that aside from Chuck, all the alternate-universe Hatboys had died of annoyance ages ago. Chuck and I just got lucky and managed to avoid what seems to be a practically multiversal fate.”

“I wouldn’t rule out Chuck dying of annoyance,” Mister C of 9 said. “He was dealing with some pretty challenging people.”

“I can imagine,” I said. “Still, if I can survive a universe with six Creepies in it, he can survive in a universe – presumably – with none for the moment.”

“There were no Creepies or Hatboys in my universe,” Winona pointed out, “aside from you two, when you visited.”

“That’s true,” I admitted. “Your universe – I mean, Xix didn’t have an annual seasonal holy celebration of any sort either, did it?”

“On the contrary, we have plenty,” Winona said. “The Festival of Hats, Hatboy’s Day, the Hattening, All Hats’ Eve, Hatover … ”

“They weren’t my idea,” I said hastily, “but okay, granted, Creepy and I dabbled in more than a little Prime Directive violation in Xix. Some of us,” I looked meaningfully from Creepy to Winona and back to Creepy again, “a bit more than others.”

“I’ve got to admit that Chuck made a bit of a mess in Chaggabaggawoggaland too,” Mister C of 9 put in. “As much as his wife tried to stop him.”

“His what?” I squeaked, then shook my head. There would be time for extremely detailed explanations later. “But Chagga-whatever has, what, Bel Tine?” I said. “And other real-world-analogous holidays,” I pointed at the Drake. “And you were studying winter solstice rituals,” I turned to Mell, but she was still unconscious. “I guess we can assume her universe has annual rituals of some sort-”

“Aha!” Creepy felt confident enough to step in at this point. “Finally you’ve arrived at the precise conclusion I’ve been painstakingly leading you towards. All of these universes have their own Christmas analogue, and The Claus has been using them in the same parasitic way he’s been using this one. We thought we were saving the universe, but we failed to take the other universes into account.”

“I’m pretty sure I remember quite a few people and reindeers being fairly firm on the fact that there was only the one universe,” I frowned.

“Stop, just stop,” Carla snapped. “These – we’re not alternate versions of him,” she said, pointing at Creepy. “None of us are that. None of us are anything. Can’t you – didn’t you – how long has it been and you’re still not getting this?”

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The Seven Creepies in: The Christmas Crossover Caper | Part 8

“Hold on,” Creepy stood up, “we settled the whole Christmas thing. And where’s Carl, anyway?”

“Who is Carl?” Winona asked.

“I thought that was Carl,” Mister C of 9 pointed at Carla.

“No no no,” I said. “Carl is an associate of ours whose name is actually Ana-Lennox Medianu, her nickname was Lenny but her other nickname was Carl, a few years back she helped us save Christmas, except the entire cultural concept of ‘Christmas’ was actually a parasitic ur-meme sub-universe that had been living off this universe in different forms, and was capable of moving its denizens into this universe using cultural signifiers as anchoring points, stuff like reindeers and winter solstice rituals and commercialism and men with big white beards who share the bounty of constant production with a populace according to their social merits, but I digress, so anyway a pair of Christmas Elves tried to escape the dependency spiral and the eternal slavery they were locked in but the nature of omnisymbiosis meant that the only way they could get away was to destroy both universes, and they were alright with that but Creepy and Carl and I kind of weren’t, so Creepy and I took their places and this is important because we didn’t know it at the time but it established the precedent of travel between this universe and that universe by use of narrative surrogates like I was saying, only in the other direction as well, but anyway long story short we disconnected Christmas and cast it into slo-time, which basically means we destroyed it, but I’ve got to give the Elves, and Ian the Reindeer, credit there, but then after that, Carl found out something was trying to restore the connection so she went looking for it and she got stuck in slo-time too, only she wasn’t really stuck, we just thought she was, she was really just doing research and she was pretty cross when we tried to save her actually, because she didn’t need saving, but the point is she delivered a message to us by using the same surrogate displacement system to pour herself into this universe only she couldn’t occupy our places in this universe to get her message to us so she ended up occupying Carla’s place because Carla was sort of kind of the closest thing to Creepy and Hatboy in a certain narrative sense, so they swapped bodies but that’s a complete oversimplification and also everyone else in this universe was sort of nudged into the narrative structural placeholder of their respective Creepy and / or Hatboy sidekick allegory for a while too, then everyone went back to normal but it was pretty confusing for a while I can tell you, and that’s how we got to know Carla, and then it turned out that she was about to sabotage the Yuletide Corporation (Don’t Worry, It’s Just A Name) that was meant to be dumping waste into slo-time or some other thing that gets eco terrorists riled up, but we found out was actually a big shadow-government conspiracy – which by the way gets super-sidekicks riled up – and they were attempting to re-graft Christmas to this universe using Rudolph the Red-Nosed Differential Engine only I’m not entirely sure who ‘they’ are, but that’s what Carl was trying to warn us about so then Carla blew it up, and Carl said that should be the end of it because that was the last connection between our universe and Christmas even though I don’t see why more connections like that couldn’t be made all over again and she did also sort of hint at the idea that none of us, or the universe, or slo-time, were what we thought they were but since I had no idea what any of those things were in the first place I figured it didn’t matter too much but now you’re all here which suggests to me that some new phase in this whole confusing adventure has just kicked off or possibly has been going this entire time and we’re only just finding out about it, and that’s why it wasn’t really a surprise to see Carla show up, and now I’m wondering if Carl is on her way too even though she’s really not connected to Creepy in any way, she was just in Lapland at the wrong time and saw a flying reindeer once and refused to just shrug it off as a weird reaction to seven billion mosquito bites the way a normal person would, and I have no idea where she ended up because she never sent us a postcard although seeing as how the last time she tried to send us a postcard it Freaky Fridayed the entire population of the universe all the way out to Ωzz∞, I guess I can let her off the hook.”

I collapsed on my milk crates. Creepy burst into spontaneous applause.

Carla was less impressed. “Carl is wherever you left her when you completely failed to do a damn thing last time,” she snapped. “You went inside and watched TV.”

“That sounds like us,” Creepy said. Mister C of 9 nodded.

I had to admit that this was true. But she didn’t need to make it sound so … alright it was lazy. But she didn’t need to make it sound incidentally lazy. It was premeditated, considered laziness. There’s a difference. I just can’t be bothered explaining – which, when you consider what I just bothered to explain, might actually count as an explanation all on its own.

I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Posted in Chuck Dickens’s “A Christmas Carl”, Creepy and Hatboy Save the World, IACM | Tagged , , | 5 Comments