“Hatboy! Hatboy, wake up!”
I groaned and glared blearily at my alarm clock. It was quarter past eight, but that didn’t mean anything. My alarm clock, along with every clock in my room, had stopped at quarter past eight – the moment the Dalí Warhead had gone off in my cupboard. One of the potplant cactuses on my windowsill had also stopped at quarter past eight. It was a weird bomb.
I groaned again, half-sat, and checked the quantum entangled sundial I’d picked up from the Intergalactic Wormhole Nexus gift shop. I flopped back. Of course, that said quarter past eight as well. I grumbled and pulled the covers up over my head.
“Hatboy, wake up! It’s a miracle!”
I bolted upright, jammed my hat on and lurched out of the door.
“What kind of miracle?” I demanded. “Religious? Statistical? Technological? Meta?” I paused. “Tubular?”
“No, the Surfer Bandits vanished when the ocean did, you know that,” Creepy said, shuddering and averting his eyes. “Put on some pants and come downstairs.”
I looked down. “I’m wearing pants.”
“Put on better ones,” he advised, and bounced away like an angular green Tigger in a coke hat. “We have a visitor.”
I looked down at my pants again, then shook my head and followed him.
“Anything you want to warn me about with this miracle visitor?” I asked him. “Because you seem way more excited than wary, and that’s weird for uninvited-”
I stepped into the kitchen.
Creepy spun around from the open fridge, brandishing a coke bottle and beaming widely. He looked strangely different to how he’d looked a few seconds ago. Dustier, more weatherbeaten. His sunglasses were battered and scratched up, which I was sure they hadn’t been when he’d come to my door. And he was suddenly wearing a weird raggedy black robe over the top of his Mambo shirt.
“It’s been a long time since I had coke,” he said with relish, then – despite the fact that he was looking right at me – seemed to realise he wasn’t alone in the room. He scowled at me. “Oh. You’re here too then.”
“I … guess?” I said. “What are you talking about?”
“Honestly, Chuck, it’s been a while for you too,” he said, and tilted the bottle towards me. “Pour you a glass? For old times’ sake?”
I opened my mouth to demand answers of the universe in general – not out of any expectation of a result, but just because it was my only recourse – when Creepy closed the fridge to reveal Creepy grinning behind the door.
“Ah, Hatboy, I see you’ve met Mister C of 9,” he said happily.
I looked back and forth between the two Creepies – or the Creepy and the Mister C of 9, apparently – with a sinking feeling in my stomach.
It seemed like it came earlier and earlier every year.