We awakened, slowly and painfully, to find ourselves in a corridor.
I should mention right off the bat that I can’t say much about what just happened. Sorry to disappoint you. The month or so leading up to Christmas, after our eventful evening at Dingo Loco, had actually been rather dull. We’d done a whole lot of messing around with the VCR because we didn’t know how long we’d be away, and didn’t want to miss anything.
The main challenge had been figuring out a way of swapping tapes.
In the end, we cheated by asking Carl to do it for us. She thought that was a bit of a weird request, but you can’t blame her for having strange priorities. The lot of the saviour is a high and lonely one. And as Creepy said, it showed we had confidence in our own safe return, so that has to be good for the spirit, right?
Anyway, to the obvious questions:
Naturally, Nobbo and Wanker had been initially suspicious of our offer but had quickly seen the logic of it. After all, if our attempt to take their place worked, they would be free and the world would be saved. If it didn’t work, they would be whisked back to the Workshop and the world would end, and they’d still be free. So our worst-case scenario was essentially their Plan A.
And besides, as Wanker said and Ian had already mentioned, the abstruse end-times weirdness they had set into motion would already get the Four Horsemen riding the moment the summoning cast out its invisible net, maybe even before, and Death’s horse was already sick so Santa and Rudolph would still be put on the spot in the middle of their rounds whether the actual world ended or not, so that was totally worth it. They’d get away, and make The Claus look like a tool.
So they happily agreed to perform the rather elementary (but downright impossible to explain) deed of crossing our streams so that we could use their forms as placeholders out in slo-time, as they were using human placeholders in reality. Whether that meant Creepy and I were asleep on the couch back home while we spirit-travelled, or Nobbo and Wanker were in control, or something even weirder, I decided not to think about it. Creepy made a crossing-the-streams joke about Ghostbusters, which was his way of saying he wasn’t going to think about it either.
It seemed, whatever the specifics, that it had worked. We’d sat up on the night before Christmas Eve and then the whole morning of Christmas Eve itself, and then at some fairly arbitrary time in the middle of the afternoon (I don’t pretend to understand how time zones work, and when you bring slo-time into it the whole thing just turns into a joke) we’d been relocated. Leaving Nobbo and Wanker behind to celebrate, we’d fetched up in the general vicinity of Father Christmas’s Workshop, in whatever layer of slo-time reality that whole thing existed in, and had found ourselves occupying the Elf-forms of Chester-Buxley-Fitzsimmons-Wolverwover-deKnobes and Archibald-Wangarrison-Todhunter-Wensleydale-Finchley III.
That was funny for a while, because we were basically Oompa Loompas (I’m talking of course about Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Oompa Loompas, forget your modern impersonators) and both Creepy and I really got a kick out of that movie.
Then, yes, then must have come the punishment.
I can only piece together that it occurred, and that it took place between our summoning sometime on Christmas Eve, and our return to consciousness shortly after the beginning of Christmas Day, when Father Christmas returned livid from his atypical and highly embarrassing delivery mission.
Whether the punishment was so hideously unspeakable that it has rendered me incapable of expressing it in words, or indeed erased my memory of it entirely for the sake of my own sanity, or whether it was simply a punishment devised for Elves and thus utterly inapplicable and baffling to our linear-human-placeholder-shadow-replacement minds and therefore just didn’t stick, I couldn’t say. I regret to inform you that I don’t have a lurid and graphic account of hot pokers, rat cages, dripping water, or Vogon poetry. Whatever happened, happened. And we returned to our senses in the corridor outside the main Workshop floor.
Oh, one other thing.
“The Claus wants to see us,” Creepy spoke the grand, blaring, trumpeting thought that was also seared across my own mind.
I couldn’t help sniggering, because Creepy was two feet three inches tall and sounded like he’d just sucked helium. And that was really very unfortunate, because this was serious business.
Bracing ourselves, we stepped through into the Workshop.