Wherein Shit Hits the Fan, Or at Least Starts To
But it had actually started even before that. Sorry.
Before we went travelling the world – and ultimately the universe – looking for more information about the bizarre phenomenon that had thrust us into this mystery within a mystery within a mystery, we’d done a lot of sitting around and talking about it.
That was just how we rolled. Or, you know, sat.
“If we don’t find the epicentre of the connection,” I said during a commercial break between The Skanky Adventures of Florida Man and Danger Bear and the Pale Blue Flamingo, “it’s just going to go on like this. Or, worse, it’s going to happen again. She’s going to try to re-establish contact, and we won’t be any closer to a solution.”
“Won’t we?” Creepy asked with approximately one-quarter of his attention. In his defence, it was one of his favourite Pepsi commercials because you could mute the television at the twelve-second mark, then switch the television off for seven seconds at the eighteen-second mark, to make it look like a rather horrific mental fracture followed by a fiery death for everyone in the commercial, followed by eternal darkness. But it required a bit of concentration to get the timing right. “Seems to me, the best way to proceed with this is to bide our time, keep an eye on Carla, and wait for it to happen again,” he muted the television with a spiteful jab of his finger. On the screen, Pepsi-drinkers flailed in bright-colour-flashing spasms that looked really quite painful without the sound.
“It’s tempting,” I said, “but we need to find out what made it happen. It could happen differently next time. It could happen worse.”
The explosion of flavour or whatever other lie it was flared over the screen, and Creepy switched off the television with a fierce Hah!, then shrugged. “I still think the best approach is to do nothing,” he said. “Zen Couchism tells us … six, seven…” he switched the television back on and commercials resumed, “…that the universe eventually finds its way into the hands of those who sit with cupped hands and who occasionally snooze.”
“That’s true,” I admitted. “But we were doing nothing the first time, and it didn’t turn out so well.”
“Only because we weren’t ready with our hands cupped…”
“What if we’re the epicentre?” I mused. “It’d sort of make sense, wouldn’t it? I mean, we obviously were, we already know what she was trying to do. And it would play nicely into the Zen Couchist philosophy of being centred around one’s own inactivity and all that stuff. We wouldn’t need to find it because we’d be it.”
“We’re ground zero,” Creepy was pathologically unable to agree with me. “There’s a subtle difference.”
“One’s taken from earthquake terminology and the other refers to artillery bombardment,” I said.
“Well the epicentre one never really made sense, Hatboy,” Creepy said reasonably. “We were right in the middle of the bomb blast, only it turned out it was a strange sort of reverse bomb that didn’t actually explode stuff.”
“A few minds, maybe,” I suggested.
“I’ll grant you that. But we don’t need to know about the blast. We already gathered a ton of data about that, didn’t we?”
“Boy, did we.”
“And what good did it do us?” Creepy challenged.
“Had a few laughs?”
“That’s true,” Creepy sat and pondered for a moment. “But we need to know about who made and fired that bomb.”
“I guess,” I said dubiously. “But how? We can’t hope to get to the source.”
“There’s nothing else for it,” Creepy said, and rose to his feet. “We’ll have to go looking for clues.”
It would be unusual for anyone else to reverse position so swiftly, but I was used to it. Once I’d stopped talking about going looking for the source of the disruptive anomaly, and Creepy had switched very basic terms on it, it was only a matter of time before he smoothly assumed my position in the conversation and pretended he’d always been there.
“Alright,” I said. “But I want all the window seats.”
So we did a bit of travelling, which was something of an unusual experience for us. Oh, adventures, we did plenty of those, but actual travelling, on Earth – not so much. Travelling on Earth was difficult, stressful and expensive, because humans were idiots like that.
Naturally, we didn’t learn much except that there really is a number of bags of peanuts high enough that when you eat them you get a knighthood. Or at least they started calling me ‘sir’ and stopped giving me peanuts. But all of that is a story for another day. To summarise, we learned very little and then we had to rush home because Creepy realised he still hadn’t retired, and was thus in imminent danger of being killed because if there was one thing you didn’t do just days before retirement, it was travel to a bunch of potentially dangerous foreign places.
So we went home, which has always been so safe for us.
And – in case my sarcastic statement above and the reverse narrative up to this point hadn’t tipped you off – it didn’t turn out very well, because as soon as we got home was when things really started to get crazy. That was when the rambling sequence of mostly-unrelated events began to coalesce, all began to fall in roughly the same direction, and became an unstoppable avalanche of causality that would fling us, damp and steaming, right into the spinning fan-blades of The Claus. Sort of.
Because the story had started before all of this.
It had started with The Event, and the female version of Creepy who crashed into our office with a gun in each hand just as Creepy was outlining the dangers of being a private detective on the road to retirement.
I’m hoping this reverse narrative will turn into a semi-recursive one where you do eventually pick your way back along the chain of flashbacks, because I want to see where they transcombobuported.
Also, I’m feeling the end times here.
A lot of these are side-refs that will get filled out later in the Christmas tapestry, but not immediately.