Doctor Creepy was, indeed, a classic-model Creepy, from the long blonde hair to the disturbing eyes and grin to the overly colourful shirt underneath his white hospital coat. He introduced himself as Doctor Glomulus Cratch. Creepy declared this the coolest name ever, Mister C of 9 insisted that ‘C’ had stood for ‘Cratch’ all along, and Doctor Cratch bowed extravagantly.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you all,” he said.
“Sure,” I replied as gracefully as I could. “Welcome to the universe,” I looked at Carla and shrugged at her irritated expression. “Or whatever this is.”
“I’m with the Drake on this one,” Doctor Cratch said. “This is definitely a simulation we’re all sharing, although my own take on it is that we’re participating in a sort of telepathic construct rather than a technological one, and may or may not each be the extension of our own consciousnesses from wherever we happen to be. Whether we’re separated by time, space, or different layers of reality, or all of the above, I haven’t quite figured out yet.”
“Do you want your axe back?” the Drake asked, and held out the weapon.
“I don’t know if that’s a good-” I started, then sighed as Doctor Cratch took the axe.
“You can never have too many axes,” he opined, and smiled at me unsettlingly. “So you’re kind of the odd one out here,” he went on. “What do you suppose that’s about?”
“At the moment, I’m operating on the assumption that all the other Hatboy variants saw the portal or anomaly or simulation interface or weird alien mask with ‘wear me’ written on it or whatever, and took a careful step away from it,” I said, “because they’re not morons.”
“There’s seven of us now,” Mister C of 9 pointed out. “Like the Seven Samurai.”
“Ooo,” Creepy agreed brightly.
“Or the Seven Dwarfs,” I remarked, and immediately regretted it.
“You know that makes you Snow White,” Carla said.
“I am the fairest of them all,” I replied, since my only hope of surviving the blunder was to power through it.
“I don’t suppose you’re an aki’Drednanth,” Doctor Cratch said casually, then looked around. “Any of you?”
“I don’t know what that is,” I admitted.
“I do,” Creepy, Mister C of 9 and the Drake all said simultaneously.
“No you don’t,” I told them wearily.
“I do,” Creepy insisted. “They’re the big furry freezer-yetis from that cheesy old space adventure show. The Fantastic Voyage of Cap’n Baz. They read minds and can store their consciousness in a giant ice cube kaleidoscope thing that was really badly animated. Remember? They couldn’t make the costumes’ mouths move properly, so they were just like ‘oh yeah, and they waggle their hands and this glove and a flashing light on their suits translates their-’”
“Alright, I remember,” I interrupted, and looked at Doctor Cratch. “So you’re a Creepy from the Cap’n Baz universe.”
This was, I should add, really only unlikely because Creepy and I had been transported to the Cap’n Baz universe, so if there was going to be a Cap’n Baz universe version of Creepy, it would be Creepy. We certainly hadn’t seen a doctor version of him. The doctor in that series had been a big rubbery alien with four arms who kept knocking over the sets and backdrops, and administered medication very clumsily. It was a silly universe, full of bad special effects and nonsensical plot developments – in short, it was the sort of adventure Creepy usually dragged me into and I wanted no part of it, but he thought was ‘retro’ and had ‘cult classic appeal’.
“I suppose,” Doctor Cratch replied with a vulturesque shrug. “I don’t think I’ve ever thought of myself in quite that way before, but yeah, let’s go with it.”
“I remember them from that show too,” Mister C of 9 added, pointing at Creepy. “Great show.”
“The remake was crap though,” Creepy noted.
“Remakes always are,” Mister C of 9 agreed. “Too much schlock.”
“I can’t say I recall the show,” the Drake put in, while I was still squinting at Mister C of 9 and Creepy, “but I have seen mentions of such creatures on my data networks.”
“Well the point is, if we have all been brought into a combined mental landscape together, or all dreamed our way here some way or another, there has to be a reason for it,” Doctor Cratch went on. “And I’m sure we’ve all guessed what that is.”
“I haven’t,” I said, before Creepy could do more than open his mouth, “but I’m sure the seven of you have. So by all means, enlighten me.”
“Well, obviously, the problem is that this whole environment of yours is slowly being encroached upon by this thing you’re calling slo-time,” Doctor Cratch explained. “The aki’Drednanth call it the Gnang. And nobody gets out of it alone.”