We stood in a semi-circle, looking at the free-standing illuminated sign.
YOU ARE HERE, it read. There was a floorplan of the mall, with a red X in the absolute centre, not far from Pete’s Pints and Deconstructed Burgers.
“It’s the middle of the mall,” Mell pointed out, “which is the middle of the slo-time or the Gnang or whatever you call it.”
“I thought you stopped listening after ‘it was all a dream’,” I accused.
She shrugged. “I did,” she said, “but I’m also not an idiot.”
“What does it mean?” Creepy pondered.
“Why does it have to mean anything?” I asked. “You keep on wondering that, and the universe keeps on being random and pointless.”
The seven Creepies looked at one another.
“Someone’s in denial,” Mister C of 9 said in a low voice.
“And what does it have to do with the Chris Mess?” the Drake asked.
“Christmas,” I said, “and nothing. Christmas was yesterday. Nothing happened. This was just a random series of meaningless events, and then they stopped happening, and…” I gestured at the sign, “and here we are. Can’t be much clearer than that.”
“Bit of an anticlimax though, isn’t it?” Creepy said plaintively.
“That’s the natural order,” I shrugged. “You can’t expect closure and narrative structure from a universe. You get what you pay for. And any cosmos that starts with a big bang is going to end with an anticlimax. Don’t say it,” I warned Mister C of 9 as he grinned and opened his mouth.
“Man,” Mister C of 9 kicked unhappily at a stray chip packet. “I’m not even allowed to do an innuendo?”
“Not on my watch.”
“I can’t imagine my cliché-craft teachers of old would approve,” Winona grumbled. “Evidently Xix runs a bit of a tighter ship than this place.”
“Maybe we should do Christmas there next year,” Creepy suggested brightly.
“I’ll ask,” Winona hedged.
“So this is it?” Carla said. Her eyes were suspiciously narrowed, but she often looked like that so it was hard to say whether it was additional suspicion. “A couple of cheap shopping mall jokes dressed up in false profundity, you are here, ooooh, you get what you pay for, wow, and then what, nothing actually happens and nothing gets answered or solved? And that’s it?”
“Sounds about right,” I agreed.
“So what do we do now?” she demanded.
I looked at Creepy.
“We could all go back to our place and eat leftovers?” I suggested.
So we did.