“It’s been a while since any new Creepies – sorry, any new coincidentally Creepy-like yet distinct entities for some reason – showed up,” I said, looking at my watch. “You all appeared within a few minutes of each other, and we’ve been sitting around and talking for a while. It’s fair to assume that it’s just the five of you, and now we’re waiting for the next stage of this to-”
“Six of us,” Mister C of 9 said.
“Sorry, right, counting the original, I mean the Creepy from this universe, I mean Creepy, distinct entity for some reason, there’s six,” I amended.
“No,” Mister C of 9 said, “with Creepy, there’s seven.”
“Um,” I looked around uneasily. “Is there an invisible one that only you can see with your spooky half-”
Creepy, Mister C of 9, Winona, the Drake, Mell and Carla all pointed up simultaneously, all unerringly – and unnervingly – at the same air-conditioning grate.
I should pause for a moment here, and explain a little about our air-conditioning system.
Our house isn’t really that fancy. Our ‘air-conditioning’ is pretty strictly limited to a couple of standing fans – what Creepy sometimes refers to as The Creepy and Hatboy Fan Club, because I think it’s a fundamental law of the universe that somebody has to make that joke, and Creepy and I don’t want to be responsible for what happens when someone doesn’t – and a lot of wilting and flopping and groaning about the heat. That does actually help, if you wilt hard enough.
Sometimes we experiment with assorted ways of keeping the house cool. My project in the garage, for example, creates a lot of excess heat and I’ve tried various methods of converting that heat into energy and that energy into different kinds of refrigeration. But our house-cooling experiments are generally more trouble than they’re worth, what with sometimes achieving sentience and building bodies for themselves, or emitting an energy signature that alerts hostile aliens to our planet, or turning the whole house into a strange frozen woodland with a lamp post in the middle. That one was weird.
Anyway, my point is, we don’t have air-conditioning. We do, however, have an extensive series of vents and grates that do not actually provide cool – or even moving – air to any part of the house. There’s no immediately obvious reason for them to exist, although they certainly make it easier to deal with the smaller and more scurrying-and-nesting types of aliens and mythical creatures we get in the house. They always go into the vents.
Additionally, sometimes, I’m pretty sure Creepy gets in there. But I’ve never actually caught him doing it, no matter how many times I’ve tried.
I blinked up at the grating. “Okay,” I said. “So, we have seven. Did you want to come down?”
“I hadn’t quite made up my mind about that yet,” a male voice, with that distinctive Creepy-ish tone, said from the grate.
“I should warn you,” I continued, “that the air vents have a crude driving and flushing system that we built into it, in order to dump unwelcome critters out of there by force when they become inconvenient. It’s not as pleasant as I’m making it sound.”
“He’s right, it’s not,” Creepy said. I squinted at him. “I’m yet to see a space scarab come out of that thing with all fifteen legs,” he added innocently.
“Excuse me, but that’s my axe,” the voice from the ceiling said. I looked over to see that the Drake had picked up Bob and was holding it casually.
“You left it behind when you went and hid in the ventilation ducts,” the Drake said. “If you want it back…”
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” the voice said. “When I turned up, and happened to overhear how much young Miss Mell disliked doctors, I thought I should probably stay out of the way for a bit.”
“You’re a doctor?” Mell said in a purr so menacing it went beyond scary, past ludicrously overblown, and back into scary on the far side.
“Not the sort you don’t like,” the voice – I was trying very hard not to think of him as ‘Doctor Creepy’ now – said quickly. “I’m the good sort of doctor.”
“Are you the sort of doctor who has a time-travelling spaceship that’s bigger on the inside?” Creepy asked in a voice that quivered with borderline erotic ecstasy.
“I … we call it hydroketamine hallucinomorphinate solution type 3, but sure,” Doctor Creepy said. “It’s bigger on the inside and the outside and the other side. And you can make it with stuff you can find in your kitchen cupboards.”
“Come on down,” I said, “you’re clearly one of them.”