Phoning it in, Part 3

“Just – look, don’t say L-E-A-V-E-S again, alright?” Creepy said. “Over.”

“This is among the most bizarre and unnecessarily specific phenomena we have ever had in our living room,” I said, stepping towards the trees and eyeing them carefully. They were growing up out of the carpet as if it was grass, which was strange because I happened to know it was pretty much solid concrete underneath the carpet – at least for a few feet, before Basement Space began. And it seemed unlikely they were springing up from that. Nothing this green and lush ever came out of Basement Space, with the possible exception of gremlins.

I wondered if these were some new kind of gremlin. They did multiply, which seemed to be a cornerstone of gremlin physiology.

If the gremlins had found a way to multiply every time we switched our television on, it occurred to me, we were in big trouble.

“I know,” Creepy said heavily, in response to my earlier remark – but, in a weirdly telepathic way, also in response to my line of thought. “It’s ‑ ”

“Okay,” I said, realising that Creepy was still talking just as I began the word but not giving the time-delay the satisfaction of stumbling. And besides, I hadn’t said ‘over’ yet, “about your ‘not a where, so much as a who’ line, there are three possibilities. One, that you are in somebody else’s house and calling from their phone. I am discounting this because technically it would still count as a where. Two, that you have been shrunk down and are calling – somehow – from inside someone’s bloodstream or intestines again. Or three, that you have astral-travelled in some way and have possessed some poor innocent bystander, and are calling not only from their phone, but also from their body. And that you’re about to be shouted at until you jump into the body of the nearest priest and he throws himself out of a window. What I can’t fit into the hypothetical is the whole television-replicating, keyword-growing magic trees thing that is happening in our living room. Over.”

“You’re way off,” Creepy said. “I’m … look, that’s not important. What is important is, how many T-R-E-E-S are there in the room now? Over.”

“Hold on,” I frowned, “I’ve said ‘trees’ several times. Nothing happened. You didn’t even freak out about it. Why are you spelling the word out now, other than just to prove that you can spell? Over.”

Creepy had sighed gustily about halfway through this question, and now he sighed again. “Can you just trust me? Over.”

I choked, tried to think of something to say, then decided the splutter would do nicely. “Over.”

“Fine. If you say T-R-E-E, the T-R-E-E-S will, let’s say they’ll imprint on you, and that could be bad. If you say L-E-A-V-E-S, the T-R-E ‑ ”

“Will get bigger, yes, I got it,” I sighed. “And apparently turning on the television makes them multiply. Over.”

“No,” Creepy said, “not multiply. Just … turn on the TV, and one T-R-E-E comes through in exchange for someone or something from our world. You were lucky it wasn’t you. Over.”

“If it wasn’t me, who or what was it?” I wondered. “Over.”

“Maybe it was that guy who kept throwing up on our lawn on his way home from the pub,” Creepy suggested. “Over.”

“You haven’t seen him wherever-you-are?” I asked, and was unable to resist adding, “or whoever-you-are? Over.”

“Nope,” Creepy said, “just a half-dismantled VCR with a clothless umbrella sticking out of it. Oh,” he went on, “actually now that I come to say it out loud, that was probably what came through. Over.”

“My region-stabilising bio-recorder got teleported from the garage?” I growled. “That was a carefully geocalibrated piece of ‑ ”

“Just avoid turning the television on again,” Creepy said. “Over.”

“That still doesn’t explain why you were okay with me saying tr – T-R-E-E earlier,” I said. “Over.”

“Well obviously,” Creepy said, “they imprint on whoever says the word, so as long as I wasn’t saying it ‑ ”

“Of course,” I interrupted again. “And you never thought to warn me about the whole imprinting thing. Over.”

“Hey,” Creepy protested. “I knew you’d figure it out. Over.”

“Any other words I should know about?” I asked. “Over.”

“Um … ” Creepy mused. “Maybe avoid saying … ” here he seemed to be consulting something, either an arcane scroll of some sort or just a sticky-note where he’d written the word so as to spell it out correctly, “um, yeah, avoid saying D-E-F-O-L-I-A-T-E. Over.”

“You know, as soon as I realised we were talking about some sort of magic T-R-E-E that responds to words,” I said, “I sort of assumed all the major L-O-G-G-I-N-G-related words were out of bounds. A couple more questions, if you have a moment,” I went on before Creepy could continue. “First, how do you know they’re imprinting, and what does that mean anyway? They’re just standing here. Over.”

“Ahh, they’re biding their time,” Creepy said gloomily. “Yes yes. They’ve already become smart enough, and connected to you thoroughly enough, to hide how smart they are from you. That means trouble, Hatboy. Very serious trouble indeed. Over.”

I did my best to ignore this. “Second, how did you know the television initiates teleportation from wherever? Is that where you are now? Did you teleport? Over.”

“What do you take me for, some sort of amateur? Anyway, that was three questions at once so I insist that you start again from five now. Over.”

Third,” I grated, “how did you know all the rules? Did you stumble on this situation and just blunder around making an army of self-replicating giant tr … T-R-E-E-S, accidentally transporting half our stuff and probably our neighbours into some alternate forest-universe, and then get rid of the T-R-E-E-S from here somehow? If so, how? Over.”

“That’s nothing like what happened. Over.”

I realised, with a familiar sinking feeling, that Creepy was not going to answer any of my questions and I had been naïve to think he ever would. “And where are you and what caused this whole stupid thing to happen and what are you doing to stop it?” I snapped. “Over.”

“You’re breaking up.”

“Oh no, don’t you even try that ‑ ”

With a click, Creepy was gone.

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.
This entry was posted in Creepy and Hatboy Save the World and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Phoning it in, Part 3

  1. thelinza says:

    Don Cheadle is a character here, right?

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