Day 65. 161 pages, 58,131 words.
Creepy was still looking at me querulously.
“What do you mean,” he said, with his usual knack for picking up on the most innocuous, pointless, tangential and utterly unimportant aspect of recent dialogue and worrying at it until he won some sort of existence-justifying victory, “that’s not the way dog years work?”
I sighed slightly, already far too aware of where this was heading. “I mean,” I said, “that you were probably suggesting you were twelve calendar-years old in dog terms, making you the equivalent of eighty-four or something, you know – old and wise. But it sort of sounded like you were a twelve-year-old human in dog terms, so, like, a year and ‑ ”
“Don’t tell me you’re starting this whole thing again,” Creepy said in exasperation.
“I didn’t start ‑ ”
“You need to take your drug mushroom and leave,” Trainee said unsteadily, “or I really will call security … ”
Neither of us were listening at this point, and I doubted the Myconet was either. The very fact that Trainee hadn’t called security yet suggested, to me at least, that she was worried to do so because she was beginning to wonder if it would get her in more trouble than us. Either because it would be traced back to her letting us past the front desk in the first place, or for some more convoluted reason like all three of us being hallucinations … it was a familiar phenomenon to Creepy and me. We quite often depended on it to keep us out of the hands of the mythical ‘security’ that seems to patrol important corporate areas.
Of course, I knew that my explanation of Creepy’s misunderstanding, intended as it was to make him seem like less of an utter, utter freak than he really is, wasn’t the actual explanation. And I probably should have known that Creepy, being Creepy, would not simply be able to accept a simple and best-light attempt to gloss over his fundamental, gaping psychological problem and move on. That really was a classic rookie mistake on my part, expecting that to work. It was like I didn’t know Creepy at all. I’d clearly been hanging out with too many normal, well-adjusted humans lately.
I confess, I’m not entirely blameless. I could have allowed Trainee and the Myconet to simply assume Creepy meant something else, something halfway sensible, with his attempted comeback. But I’ve learned from long and bitter experience that letting Creepy’s comments slide and letting other people assume he meant something else was the perfect way to cement those comments in his psyche as being right. Not only that, but it’s a perfect recipe for other people to think everything’s okay until the true breadth and depth of Creepy’s other-ness becomes apparent at some later point, when it’s too late, and then I don’t get to say I warned you that wasn’t what he meant.
This case – the whole dog years thing – may seem like a very minor example, but I’ve also learned that there are no minor examples. It’s sort of become an instinct for me. Live long enough with a … well, for want of a better word … mind like Creepy’s, and you might begin to understand.
No, when Creepy made a failed rejoinder like the one he’d just given Trainee, I usually tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, provide some quick disagreement that allowed him to save face while still making sure that everyone knew he’d just said something that put the fundamental divergence of his world-view on display to the discerning observer, and move on without too much time wasted. Creepy wasn’t one for moving on, of course. Not when there was a trivial disagreement he could run into the ground in a pathological attempt to get me to concede a single nonsensical facet of his mentality. Because as soon as I let those floodgates open a single crack …
Well. There’s a reason they’re called floodgates.
“Fine,” I said, “you’re twelve. Twelve dog years. Why don’t you tell us what that means, and then we can get on with fixing the mess down there?”
The truth, while not even remotely in line with the generous-benefit-of-the-doubt-giving summary I’d provided, was just another long story that I’d hoped to avoid since there was already too much of that going on, but oh well. As it happens, this whole issue had first arisen – Creepy and I had first argued about dog years – back during the unfortunate incident with the werewolf.
The werewolf with the embarrassing worm problem. Romulus, his name had been. Romulus Fetch. I mean, honestly, with a name like that I should have known better. I should have known that not only was he definitely a werewolf, but that he was a werewolf with some sort of embarrassing problem of a domestic nature. Fetch was really more of a weredog than a werewolf.
Don’t even ask me how many years – how many of any sort of years – he lived. He was rolling in the remains of a dead rabbit last time we saw him, but at least we’d ensured that he was no risk to anyone. And barring the irritating but temporary mix-up with the silver worming tablet, and my half-a-human-day-or-possibly-half-a-doggy-week as a golden retriever, it had all been nicely resolved without anyone getting hurt.
It’s only natural that there be some confusion between dog years, human years and calendar years, because when comparing them back and forth you wind up talking about the one being the equivalent of the other. A seven-calendar-year-old dog is a middle-aged dog, the equivalent of a forty-nine-calendar-year-old human. Yes, to those of us with normal brains, it’s pretty simple.
Where Creepy ran into trouble, and I admit I didn’t go out of my way to help him much with on account of the lycanthropy illness he’d infected me with, was the question of whether seven human years was forty-nine dog years, or seven dog years was forty-nine human years. Or both. Whether forty-nine calendar years was seven dog years or three hundred and forty-three dog years.
The problem is, Creepy wasn’t content with the different ways you could look at the question, which ultimately boiled down to the twin facts, “seven times x is the same as x times seven,” and “dogs live approximately one-seventh as long as humans, dumbarse.” Those were boring facts, and in Creepy’s mind “boring facts” translated to “facts put in place by some unknown agency to hide a darker and more compelling truth.”
So he’d consulted with his own sources of wit and wisdom on the matter.
Another thing that’s important to keep in mind is that Creepy’s sources were not minds the likes of the Saint or the Myconet. They weren’t wise or knowledgeable in the classical sense. Most of them weren’t even minds. Wisdom and knowledge were secondary attributes to the requirement “must concur with Creepy’s outlook”, and as attributes – as you can probably see – these were almost always mutually exclusive.
Creepy’s sources were psychotic thugs like Staples and Ray, or crazy Martians like Xil and Xol, and the list only got weirder from there. They tended to come in pairs. I can only assume that this is because the universe has figured out that the buddy system is important when dealing with Creepy. What that says about me, I’m not sure I want to know. I suspect it means the universe has thrown me under the cosmic bus as Creepy’s buddy, presumably because I was a dimension-eating warlord of chaos incarnate in a past life or something.
Anyway, when it came to the whole unfathomable dog years conundrum, Creepy had consulted one of his more esoteric sources, a pair of potato-licking subhuman newt-creatures whose names I can’t even remember because they’re so utterly irrelevant. According to Creepy, they helped save the universe with him one Christmas, but it doesn’t ring a bell. Creepy has assured me that it wouldn’t ring a bell, of course, because the universe did end and then they saved it so it hadn’t ended, so how could I be expected to remember?
Just like everything that happens once Creepy gathers a few weirdos together and starts weirding out, the whole thing just got too weird for me to bother with. I did ask him how many times he’d managed to save the universe in such a way as to leave no evidence of it ever having been in peril in the first place, and he said wouldn’t you like to know. Which I generally take to mean not even once.
“Dog years,” he now delivered the verdict of the tuber-addled newt delegation in tones of blistering ultimatum, “are like God years only backwards. So seven days is the equivalent of the billions of years between the beginning of the universe and the start of recorded human history,” he barely paused. “Or the other way around,” he added, without batting an eyelid. “I sometimes have trouble keeping it straight in my head.”
“I can certainly understand why you would,” I said wearily.
Creepy drew himself up with infinitely undeserved dignity. “Happens to the best of us, Hatboy,” he said loftily.
I turned to Trainee, who was looking worriedly at the conference room door. “So the point is,” I said, “when you asked my colleague here whether he was twelve, and he said ‘Twelve dog years, maybe’, what he meant was ‘twelve multiplied by three hundred and sixty-five-and-a-bit, possibly divided by seven, expressed as a number of universal life-spans’,” I glanced at Creepy.
“‘Or the other way around’,” Creepy prompted.
“‘Or the other way around’,” I concluded. “Now, can we possibly get on with this, or did you have more pointless corrections you wanted to air out?” I looked at my watch. “I’ve got nothing but time.”