“So what we have here,” Winona once again took on the role of – well, record-keeper, “is a multi-dimensional crossover event that may be related to the two of you, and your adventures in a parasitic sub-universe called … Chris Mass?”
“Christmas,” I said, before realising this wasn’t really a useful correction and that it was opening up, for the Xixian, a whole new book of complex back-story that I wasn’t sure any of us needed to read. For that matter, I wasn’t sure if the Drake, Mell, or even Mister C of 9 had Christmas in their respective universes. The Drake had said she was studying pagan solstice something-or-others, so there was a good chance her universe had Christmas, but … I paused. “Wait,” I said, “I just thought of something.”
“If it’s ‘where the Hell are all the alternate-universe Hatboys?’, I’m way ahead of you, old chum,” Creepy said.
“What? No, that wasn’t what I was thinking,” I said. “I’d been running on the assumption that aside from – what did you call him?” I asked Mister C of 9, “Chuck? I’d been running on the assumption that aside from Chuck, all the alternate-universe Hatboys had died of annoyance ages ago. Chuck and I just got lucky and managed to avoid what seems to be a practically multiversal fate.”
“I wouldn’t rule out Chuck dying of annoyance,” Mister C of 9 said. “He was dealing with some pretty challenging people.”
“I can imagine,” I said. “Still, if I can survive a universe with six Creepies in it, he can survive in a universe – presumably – with none for the moment.”
“There were no Creepies or Hatboys in my universe,” Winona pointed out, “aside from you two, when you visited.”
“That’s true,” I admitted. “Your universe – I mean, Xix didn’t have an annual seasonal holy celebration of any sort either, did it?”
“On the contrary, we have plenty,” Winona said. “The Festival of Hats, Hatboy’s Day, the Hattening, All Hats’ Eve, Hatover … ”
“They weren’t my idea,” I said hastily, “but okay, granted, Creepy and I dabbled in more than a little Prime Directive violation in Xix. Some of us,” I looked meaningfully from Creepy to Winona and back to Creepy again, “a bit more than others.”
“I’ve got to admit that Chuck made a bit of a mess in Chaggabaggawoggaland too,” Mister C of 9 put in. “As much as his wife tried to stop him.”
“His what?” I squeaked, then shook my head. There would be time for extremely detailed explanations later. “But Chagga-whatever has, what, Bel Tine?” I said. “And other real-world-analogous holidays,” I pointed at the Drake. “And you were studying winter solstice rituals,” I turned to Mell, but she was still unconscious. “I guess we can assume her universe has annual rituals of some sort-”
“Aha!” Creepy felt confident enough to step in at this point. “Finally you’ve arrived at the precise conclusion I’ve been painstakingly leading you towards. All of these universes have their own Christmas analogue, and The Claus has been using them in the same parasitic way he’s been using this one. We thought we were saving the universe, but we failed to take the other universes into account.”
“I’m pretty sure I remember quite a few people and reindeers being fairly firm on the fact that there was only the one universe,” I frowned.
“Stop, just stop,” Carla snapped. “These – we’re not alternate versions of him,” she said, pointing at Creepy. “None of us are that. None of us are anything. Can’t you – didn’t you – how long has it been and you’re still not getting this?”