Phoning it in, Part 2

This time, I looked away from the television – although I was loath to break eye-contact with whatever-it-was happening in front of it – and looked sceptically at the phone in my hand.

“Why are you on the telephone and not here?” I demanded. “And what’s with the tree – sorry, my mistake, trees? And where are you anyway?”

“Now’s hardly the time for questions, Hatboy,” Creepy replied loftily after the three-second delay.

“On the contrary,” I said, “experience has shown me over and over again ‑ ” at this point Creepy started to reply to the ‘on the contrary’ I had led in with, but I raised my voice and carried on, “ ‑ that any other time is too late for questions, because the questions have answered themselves,” I stopped, letting him know I was finished.

“If the questions answer themselves, then why ask them?”

“Because they invariably answer themselves in some physical way that is always to my direct bodily or psychological detriment,” I waited to see if Creepy had anything to say to that, but it seemed that disagreeing with such a total and fundamental truth was beyond even Creepy’s current ability. “Right,” I went on, “before we get to the trees, where are you calling from?”

“It’s not a where,” Creepy said, “so ‑ ”

By this point I had already interrupted him. “Please don’t trot out the ‘it’s not a where, so much as a when’ line,” I said. “I know when you’re calling from the past because someone is always playing honky-tonk piano in the background, and I know when you’re calling from the future because a robot voice keeps interrupting our call with that really annoying ‘YOU HAVE FOUR OF YOUR EARTH MINUTES OF CHAT-CRED LEFT ON YOUR MULTIPASS’ countdown thing. Seriously, and incidentally, would it kill you to actually get a decent carrier next time you go to the future?” I paused. “Over.”

“If you’re quite finished,” Creepy said, “I was going to say it’s not a where, so much as a who,” he waited a moment, then smugly said, “over.”

I sighed. “Okay, and assuming you haven’t just made that up in order to pretend you weren’t about to say ‘when’, which I am by no means ruling out, that leaves three possibilities,” I said. “One, that you’re calling ‑ ”

“Don’t say that word!”

I blinked.

The trees – the one had become two the moment I’d turned on the television – rustled their slender branches and swayed lightly, and then both of them suddenly grew a foot taller and a couple of inches thicker.

Now they were head-height.

About Hatboy

I’m not often driven to introspection or reflection, but the question does come up sometimes. The big question. So big, there’s just no containing it within the puny boundaries of a single set of punctuationary bookends. Who are these mysterious and unsung heroes of obscurity and shadow? What is their origin story? Do they have a prequel trilogy? What are their secret identities? What are their public identities, for that matter? What are their powers? Their abilities? Their haunted pasts and troubled futures? Their modus operandi? Where do they live anyway, and when? What do they do for a living? Do they really have these fantastical adventures, or is it a dazzlingly intellectual and overwrought metaphor? Or is it perhaps a smug and post-modern sort of metaphor? Is it a plain stupid metaphor, hedged around with thick wads of plausible deniability, a soap bubble of illusory plot dependent upon readers who don’t dare question it for fear of looking foolish? A flight of fancy, having dozed off in front of the television during an episode of something suitably spaceship-oriented? Do they have a quest, a handler, a mission statement, a department-level development objective in five stages? I am Hatboy.
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