“Imagine the world, the universe, is a tiny little air-bubble rising up through a body of water – a lake. When it reaches the surface, it pops and the world ends.
“But 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.
“Nobbo and Wanker have discovered those conditions. Armageddon, Christmas, they all happen simultaneously. They’re happening right now, in sort of superposition, and it’s only when the preconditions are fulfilled that they really happen, from this world’s point of view.”
I looked around, suddenly wishing I had another White Russian. Carl had gone to the bar for drinks but had yet to return. “So they ran away from Father Christmas’s Workshop, and they’re going to get dragged back there by magic and punished for not making enough toys,” I summarised. “Only they’ve done something, over the course of this year, to trigger the end of the world when they arrive back at the Workshop. And they’ve made Death’s horse sick so Death will have to use Rudolph, thus implicating Father Christmas in Armageddon.”
“That’s about it,” said Ian.
“That’s easily one of the top five craziest things I’ve ever heard anyone except this guy say,” I jerked a thumb at Creepy, who looked proud. “So what is it, a prophecy of some sort that they’ve fulfilled?”
“Not really,” Ian said. “Prophecies only work in linear time, since they predict future events. That sort of concept has no real meaning in slo-time.”
“I have follow-up questions.”
“I thought you would.”
“Is it actually Nobbo’s birthday?” Creepy demanded.
“And why w-” I stopped, and stared at Creepy. “That’s what you want to know?”
“It’s the only thing that doesn’t make sense.”
“Really?” I said. I glanced at Yool, the frighteningly buff Christmas tree who has been here the whole time. “The only thing?”
“Actually, it is his birthday,” Ian said. “Almost all the Elves have birthdays either in November or February, for … various reasons. Not that they were born, as such, but it marks the anniversary of their conceptualisation.”
“And presumably Wanker’s birthday is in February,” Creepy said. “Let’s make sure he gets one.”
“Why do they have workloads and quotas,” I asked, ignoring Creepy and his purposeful chin-jutting, “deadlines they can fail to meet, if slo-time is all simultaneous and concurrent?”
“It’s even more complicated than that,” Ian said. “You were born linear so don’t even ask. Let’s just say, the bubble isn’t perfect. Once you interface with this world, certain characteristics bleed through in both directions.”
“So why do you care?” I asked. “From what I’ve been told, you’re definitively world-weary. You don’t strike me as the save-the-universe type. Isn’t that all a bit bright-eyed and heroic? Helping us save Christmas, all that? I got the impression that sort of thing was very much outside your comfort zone.”
“It’s a fallacy, indeed a failure of logic, to equate the jaded and the cynical with the destructive,” Ian said virtuously. “We’re not dissatisfied with the world – on the contrary, if the world changed, we’d have to admit we were wrong and adjust our attitudes, or come up with something else to be jaded and cynical about.”
“And the instant you do that, you become a poseur,” Creepy nodded.
“Wow,” I looked from Creepy to Ian and back again. “You people actually have a credo.”
“It’s the idealists who want to burn the world,” Ian said. “Burn it down to ash and rebuild it into the world that only exists inside their heads.”
“Is that what Nobbo and Wanker are?” I asked. “Idealists?”
“No,” Carl returned from the bar with tray bearing a coke, a banana daiquiri, a White Russian and a basket of corn chips, which she set out in front of Creepy, herself, me and Ian respectively. “They’re worse.”