“No you’re not,” the slightly-more-normal female Creepy hissed, and before any of us could do anything she’d launched herself across the room at the towering ghoul.
There followed a very tense and crowded few seconds, where Mell took the Drake by the front of her dirty toga, and the Drake grabbed weird clammy white fistfuls of Mell’s prison greys, and the two shuffled and spun like a pair of psychotic dancers, the wild cords of their hair flailing and their wide, too-toothy mouths snarling. Mell kept up a steady muttered stream of no you’re not, no you can’t, don’t you dare, that’s a lie, it’s not true, it can’t be, while the Drake simply held her and stared fiercely into her hissing, snapping face.
Bit by bit, Mell’s tirade dried up and their struggle slowed, until they were standing and gazing at one another in a very unsettling way, the Drake practically holding Mell upright as she slumped. Finally, with a hopeless murmur of I’m still in Perky fucking Weather, all the fight went out of her and the Drake stepped forward to allow her to collapse back into her chair, where she sat staring into nothing. I considered this a big improvement on the first time she’d encountered alternate-universe variants of herself – she hadn’t gutted anyone at all this time.
“That was strange,” the Drake said, and looked around. “Does anybody else object to me being who I am?”
“Not me,” I said. Creepy and Mister C of 9 shook their heads. Winona, sitting next to Mell, murmured something and pushed her glass of coke closer. She picked it up without focussing her eyes, and numbly took a sip. Winona murmured reassuringly, then looked up at us and shrugged.
“Alright,” I said, “so, I assume you came here through some kind of anomaly or portal or…?”
“I was actually examining a data-gathering program on one of the more esoteric devices in my collection,” she said, “when its interactive matrix overloaded. I assume I am taking part in some sort of immersive virtual reality program, but it seems very … solid,” she gestured at Mell, whose eyelids were actually drooping even though she was still sitting upright with her gaze fixed on something exactly seventeen and a half kilometres away. “I see no reason to assume it is not quite real, and instead of entering a simulation I have in fact been relocated to participate in the data event I was attempting to look at.”
This was interesting, and may have been the closest we’d gotten to an actual answer so far. “What sort of-” I started, then turned at a soft, slithery sound from the table.
Mell had collapsed, sliding half-off her chair before Winona had caught her easily under the arms and hefted her back to rest head-on-forearm on the tabletop. He nodded to me solemnly, and twiddled his long fingers in what at first looked like a weirdly coy little wave, but then I realised he was flashing his collection of rings at me.
Of course. Some, if not all of those rings would be little cunningly hinged things with an assortment of poisons and potions hidden inside them, and he’d just slipped something extremely calming into Mell’s coke. Like I said, underestimate a Creepy of the Xixian royal court at your own peril.
“Um, right,” I said, and turned back to the Drake. “What sort of, um, data event were you studying, exactly?”
“What sort of data event do you think, you morons?” came a new voice, precisely when I should have anticipated it. We all turned, and without much surprise I realised that the sixth Creepy was someone I knew. Someone, in fact, I’d been expecting to show up ever since Creepy had woken me up with a ‘miracle’ almost an hour ago.
“Carla,” I greeted the tropical-shirt-clad, battered-cap-wearing, blonde-haired environmental terrorist and cosmically-designated Closest Thing To Creepy And Maybe Also Hatboy But It Was All Quantum And Extradimensional And Stuff. She had appeared from the back of the house where I’d left the door ajar after grabbing the milk crates, and now she strolled into the room where we were all sitting and standing, her face set as only Carla’s face could set. “Imagine meeting you here.”
“Shut up,” she snapped. “Didn’t you get the message last time? Didn’t Yool, the annoyingly buff Christmas tree who has been here the whole time, talk sense into you? Didn’t Carl make it perfectly clear that any more messing around would cause untold damage and undo all the work we’ve done? Oh no, you had to poke that wasp nest.”
“Sure, you just got versions of yourselves from other universes to do it for you,” she said in withering tones. Then she scowled. “Come to think of it, weren’t alternate universes not even meant to be a thing? Doesn’t matter,” she snapped before I could do more than open my mouth. “You made them a thing somehow, and you got them all studying Christmas, didn’t you?”
I looked at the Drake.
She shrugged, a gesture which went on for far too long in all the wrong directions, and made it look like she was about to fold up like an umbrella for a moment.
“I was researching old world solstice and pagan customs,” she said.
Carla folded her arms, and sighed aggressively. That sigh, I had to acknowledge, was far more Hatboy than Creepy and lent serious credence to the over-complicated idea that she was somehow a close approximation of both of us.
“Idiots,” she declared.