“Ach, shut up, yer fuggin useless shower o’ gobshite!”
Gradually, the low hooting faded away, and was replaced by darkness. Debs took her hands away from her ears slowly, and looked around.
“Ah canna see a buggardly thing.”
“Who’s there? Is that Debs?”
“And who’re you?”
“Janica. I can’t see.”
“Neither can I. It’s dark, ye dim lassie.”
“I can’t see anyway. Whatever just happened, it’s left my glasses behind, dammit. I can’t see more than ten centimetres in front of me without them.”
“Hoo much is tha’ in feet an’ inches?”
“Um, not much. Where are we? And what’s this around my neck? Can you see anything yet?”
There was a long silence.
There was another long silence.
Debs looked down at the garish, skin-tight suit of clothes she was wearing. It was bright blue, with wide red panels at the front marked with glittery forked-lightning patterns. It was the most hideous outfit she had ever seen, and she had seen a great many kilts in her time. It was also disgustingly tight, left nothing to the imagination, and was pinching her in several uncomfortable places.
One of those was the wrist, where a tight metal band seemed to be firmly fixed. Leading from it, a thin strand of silvery cord stretched to the wide metal collar around the neck of a tiny young woman in a grey dress.
“I’m hungry,” said Janica, “and I’ve never wanted a cigarette so badly in my life. And I don’t even smoke!”
“Ach, hoo embarrassing,” said Debs.
Satsujinki shouted in shock when the shift took place, but managed to keep his head through it all, and when the darkness settled over him, he took the time to make sure he was all in one piece and had all his belongings with him. The shotgun, the ninja-stars, the chloroform … it all seemed to be there. It all seemed to have gotten a good deal larger in the transition, but he knew he wasn’t supposed to be bringing it over with him in the first place, so understood there might have been some translation difficulties. It was just a shame his car hadn’t made it – he’d been unable to bring it close enough to his computer. Satsujinki nodded to himself and rubbed his nose with both hands.
Then he was startled by a roar behind him, and scuttled across his pile of equipment and tried to hide. Overcome with curiosity, he peered out from behind the large box of shotgun cartridges, and gaped at what he saw in the receeding darkness.
An enormous man was standing in front of him, shaking his fists at the sky. He was immense, dressed all in black and dried-blood-red, and darkness seemed to swirl around him as he stood, roaring in subhuman glee. Satsujinki looked around a bit more, and realised all of a sudden that they were standing on a dark, insubstantial plain, that didn’t seem to conform to any earthly geography that he could think of.
“I’m tall! At last, I’m tall!” the giant was roaring. “Nobody will ever make fun of me again! Nobody will ever say, for example, ‘look, there goes little Angus, let’s put him in the clothes-dryer.’ Never again!” the huge shape screamed in triumph and his eyes and mouth bloomed into hideous flame. He laughed maniacally, the caverns of flame seeming to gape and expand to infinity.
“McSmashie?” Satsujinki tried to say. But no words came out. Angus stopped chortling and looked around.
“Who’s there? What was that sound?” he looked down at the pile of equipment. “What’s all this happy crap? There’s a gun there. Hot damn! I get guns? That’s awesome! Ahhhhh HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!” again, the eternal fires bloomed terrifyingly. “I could rule this world! I shall! I shall rule this world!”
“Angus! You’re Ishamael! Be careful, remember it’s just a character! You have to keep control! Look, we’re in the World of Dreams, as far as I can tell, and all this stuff is mine. There’s been some sort of mistake, and we’ve been put together, and you’ve been made into the wrong character. It’s very simple.”
Satsujinki tried to say the words, but all that came out was a squeak. Angus looked down again, and his terrible eyes narrowed.
“I thought I heard something,” he growled. “Look at that – it’s a dirty little rat!”
Satsujinki opened his mouth.
Ishamael McSmashie curled his fingers.
There was a snap.