Marmalade, Tungsten, and Plot > Through the Looking Glass > Going Down

Schroedy was rushing frantically through the TARDIS corridors, having come to the conclusion that dignity wasn’t something you could afford to carry when the walls were shifting around you. He barrelled to a stop, as he realised he was, in fact, in the kitchen.

“Merp!” he said in shock. Roughly translated, it meant “Great Garfield! Those two idiots did find the kitchen first! Maybe they did know what they were doing, and I shouldn’t have decided to stop following them and try to retrace my steps, just ’cos they went plummetting down an inexplicable rabbit hole.” Because one of the other things Schroedy’s lack of human speech was causing everyone to miss out on was an exposition engine that might rival Imran himself.


It occured to him that neither of the humans in the room was filling saucers with anything. He wondered if a piercing yowl would attract their attention. Then he watched them for a bit, and decided he’d rather not attract their attention. Besides, Daibhid would probably be getting worried about him. For no reason, of course, shifting walls and obvious nutters being something a very-near-Siamese could handle no problem at all, but still, best be getting back.

If he could.

In fact, getting back to the main room proved surprisingly easy, although he couldn’t help wondering if it would be just as easy for Dead and Dumber (as he now thought of them) and hoping it wouldn’t.

Unfortunately, during the quadrille, and subsequent discussion, Daibhid had forgotten he was supposed to be standing between the door Schroedy had used and the Melmacians. Luckily, Bob the Muse was close by, so Schroedy leaped onto the tall figure’s shoulders and gave a contemptuous sniff to ALF.

Lorrill, who’d been paying much more attention to Schroedy’s entrance than to the general chaos and confusion taking place in other parts of the ballroom, wandered over and reached up to give the little cat a comforting scritch behind his ears. “No one ever does that for me,” Bob the Muse said dourly.

“Scritching you behind the ears?” Lorrill gave him a puzzled look.

“Showing me affection or attention,” Bob replied, then started nattering on about his hard life as a Muse and his Rodney Dangerfield–like lack of respect. Lorrill, who was used to becoming a sounding-board for total strangers at the drop of a hat, listened politely, occasionally interjecting comments along the line of “Mmm-hmm” or “I understand.”

When he’d finished, she gave him a pat on the shoulder and said, completely sincerely, “I hope life gets better for you soon.” Before he could reply, Melissa approached the little trio and thrust a drink into Lorrill’s hands.

“You forgot your grasshopper at the bar when the dancing started,” Melissa said, pausing to take a sip from her own glass, which was three-quarters full of some cloudy white liqueur.

“I thought absinthe was illegal these days,” Lorrill said, staring directly and accusingly into her Muse’s eyes.

“I always have a glass when we go to the ’Round, and you’ve never objected then,” Melissa replied, giving her a hurt look.

“Yes, ’cause the ’Round is outside continuity, and therefore, or so I’ve always presumed, outside any laws except its own. But I’m not sure Beloved counts that way.”

“If she didn’t, then it wouldn’t have been available at the bar, surely?”

“Okay, okay, I give! Now could we please take this argument someplace else before we deafen poor Bob?”

“Bob the Muse,” that individual insisted.

“You mean you’re a Muse, too?” Melissa cooed, seizing his free hand in her own. “I haven’t met a male Muse in such a long time.”

“Well, I…”

“C’mon, Schroedy,” Lorrill sighed, transferring him to her own shoulders. “You really don’t wanna see what she’s like when she gets all soppy like that.” After a brief pause to make sure that her feline passenger had a secure grip, she drifted off in the general direction of the buffet table.

“Magnus,” Eloise said. “You know the Nine and Ninety—”

“Not in any way that inclines me to get any closer,” Magnus said, “but go on.”

“What would they think a Snark was?”

Magnus considered. “Hm. I believe the best way to explain would be to quote from the source. Forgive me if my Carroll is a little rusty; it has been some time.

‘Come, listen, my men, while I tell you again
The five unmistakable marks
By which you may know, wheresoever you go,
The warranted genuine Snarks.’

Eloise startled. Could it be—? Magnus was quoting The Hunting of the Snark.

‘Let us take them in order. (Magnus continued.) The first is the taste,
Which is meagre and hollow, but crisp:
Like a coat that is rather too tight in the waist,
With a flavour of Will-o’-the-wisp.

‘Its habit of getting up late you’ll agree
That it carries too far, when I say
That it frequently breakfasts at five-o’clock tea,
And dines on the following day.’

“…They think it’s real?” Eloise finally said.

“On the contrary,” Magnus said. “The Nine and Ninety rarely concern themselves with other than that which exists. If they think it is real, then it is real—somewhere.”

“But how…” Eloise began. “How?

“Carroll was right,” Magnus said. “How he managed it, I do not know, but he was right. I always intended to ask him… but I do not think the Reverend Dodgson would have taken altogether to my questioning.

“Whether he had visited the internal dimensions himself, known someone who had, perhaps received inspiration from his Muse—or whether it was sheer coincidence—I cannot say.”

Mrs Harcourt, who was even then gliding genteely up swigging pensively from a bottle of Candian wine, choked at this, with somewhat moist and messy results for her immediate neighbours. Sensible of becoming the cynosure of many reproachful eyes, she whipped out a patent Evidence Eliminator and pressed the big pink button. “What?” she said.

“Nothing,” said everybody, for indeed it seemed so; and therewith returned to the narrative flow as it should have been in a brighter world with better extended table-manners.

“Regardless, the fact remains that Carroll’s Alice books—and his nonsense poems—are, perhaps, the first, and best, Terran descriptions of the internal dimensions to exist. If that is indeed where we are going, we could ask for no better guides.”

Eloise opened her mouth and then closed it again.

The Nth Doctor looked thoughtful.

Magnus frowned. “However, if the Nine and Ninety are directing us towards Snarks, I would strongly recommend we approach with caution—some Snarks are Boojums, after all, and it would not do to vanish away.”

“Thank you,” Eloise said finally.

“A pleasure,” Magnus said.

The Trader looked most uneasy. “I suspect,” he said, “that there is unfinished business from previous episodes here. Are we truly sure we wish to venture into the internal dimensions upon such ambiguous evidence as we now possess? For have I not read in tomes unhallowed and texts forbid, that these very dimensions enclose that part of reality’s substratum in which the Great Old Ones of recent and evil memory were imprisoned ere Time and Space might begin, and that too unwise probing of the Universe’s deep structure has released them on one previous and catastrophic occasion already?”

Eloise closed her eyes. “Gray, I’m sure I wouldn’t cast doubt on your scholarship, but… which texts were these exactly?”

The titanic brow furrowed with the effort of dreadful recollection.

“You read them somewhere on Usenet?” Varne suggested helpfully.

“No, forbidder than that…”

“Indeed,” said Candy pedantically, “it sounds much like the far-famed Quantum Archangel: a book whose pages oozed, I declare, such consummate dedication to St Onan of the Fanboys that many of them were inseparably stuck together. The ‘Catalogue of Whovian Monsters’ that occupies most of one chapter is considered by connoisseurs to compare favourably with the ‘Cthulhoid Telephone Directory’ section of the nearly-as-seminal Divided Loyalties.” She licked her lips reflexively. “Though I like the bit where the Master escapes in a spaceship from a pursuing army of Great Old Ones by throwing gods at them out the rear cargo doors…”

The Nth Doctor nodded, a wry smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, for all the world as if sometimes the burden of standing outside the bounds of BBC continuity was nothing hard to bear. Ah, brave and gallant soul! thou hast not deceived us! “I think,” he thunk aloud, “we can cross that particular worry off our list.”

“I’ll tell you what you can worry about,” Candy warned. “I don’t like that Dodgy-boy’s Muse has an in on this place. She isn’t quite the company we want to be keeping, if you grok my drift.”

Magnus raised an eyebrow. “You know his Muse?”

“I’ve met her,” said Candy shortly. “She’s called Sylvie: autoinserted in some of his later, Queer ’n’ Disturbing stuff. Her and her brat brother, Bruno. Faugh, faugh, faugh!”

“In what way?” said Eloise faintly.

“Well, Ma’am, I scarce know how to explain; for her personal stamping-grounds, much like Bognor Regis, are thought excellent tasteful and salubrious by many persons other than myself, although in my personal opinions this speaks volumes about their aesthetic discrimination, several of which volumes I have myself written only to have them mean-mindedly burned by the public censor. But ‘Carroll sliding towards Kafka’ is how I see that stuff, personally. With extra faugh. And fairies!”

“I doubt we’ll need to seek her out,” said Eloise. “We’re unlikely to need a guide Inside, after all.”

“Well, if she does, pick another one!” Candy recommended. She produced a hip-, or rather one ought to say a bodice-, flask, and took a long slug of something resembling cherry brandy. “And watch out for fairies in there. They’re trouble. I mean it!”

So Carrie’s hardboiled younger sister was terrified of fairies, Eloise thought. But since Candy, though inarguably clever and accomplished in sundry ways, was manifestly as eccentric as a parabolic wheel in several others, this seemed more unfortunate than (necessarily) relevant.

“Speaking of trouble,” she said, “we know that Boojums are. Does anyone have any idea how one might tell a Snark from a Boojum—any idea at all?”

“From what I have heard, you can tell a Snark from a Boojum on sight,” Magnus said. “The problem being, of course, that those who see the Boojum vanish away, which rather renders it useless as a method of practical identification.”

“I saw a Boojum once,” Evan interjected, then promptly vanished into thin air.

“Uh… then again, maybe it wasn’t. It was dark and I didn’t have my glasses.”

He promptly re-appeared. “Man, that was cool.”

“It occurs to me, however,” Magnus continued, unruffled, “that perhaps using the time-honoured means of defeating the Gorgons might work—that is to say, looking in a mirror when confronting the creature. Since, however, I have not tested this, I cannot say as to its safety.”

“Hmm.” Eloise frowned; it wasn’t what she’d wanted to hear, but it was better than nothing. “Thank you.”

Of course there are other dangers.
I’ve heard a JubJub Bird once, and I am not ashamed to say I ran. Oh, not in the Interior; this was a master summoner we were dealing with.
I remember that: we ended dropping an asteroid on her. Shame about the collateral damage, but there was nothing in the contract, and our employers were not on the same planet.
[Eloise shivered, as she was reminded about just what she was dealing with.]
Never seen a Jabberwock or a Bandersnatch though, and there are other inhabitants of the Interior.
Could you take a Jabberwock, Lord?
No idea; if it would take a Vorpal Blade, though, there would be problems. If Beloved lets me have suitable facilities and the materials I estimate about six months to produce one.



“Did you know Carroll’s Muse?”

“No,” Dominic said. “No, I didn’t, not personally. Candy seems to know her—or at least someone who claims to be her.

“But unless Musely technology was further advanced by 1898 than I remember, it’s unlikely Candy met Carroll’s Muse at the time Carroll was writing.

“And Muses have a tendency to look like characters created before them…”

He glanced over at Ana, who ahemmed.

Dominic’s mouth twitched.

“How much of the Alice books was down to author, and how much to Muse, I don’t know. But I’d suspect that the best part of it was Carroll’s work; there’s nothing quite like Carroll’s writing, before or after.” Dominic frowned. “If his Muse had found a way to access the interior dimensions, I suspect she kept it to herself—she wouldn’t be the first to do something like that…” A tight look flitted across his face. “After they were written, Muses could visit the ‘Wonderland’ areas of Subreality, but I doubt that’s the same thing…

“I’d like to hear Candy’s account of her meeting with ‘Sylvie’ at some point; it may have some bearing on this situation. Because what I know of the Reverend Dodgson doesn’t entirely match up with a Muse like ‘Sylvie’… it may not mean anything, but still…”

“If it wasn’t his Muse, then how did he know?” Tessa asked.

Dominic’s frown grew deeper. “I don’t know—and I’d prefer not to theorise without further evidence. For now, we know that, somehow, he struck upon accurate information about the interior dimensions, perhaps not even knowing what he’d learned—but as to their source… I don’t know.

“And knowing the way things go around here, it might well be relevant.”

“…That’s reassuring,” Rhiannon murmured.

The cookie was just begging her to eat it.

No, seriously.

The cookie had the words “EAT ME” written in delicate pink icing letters on a layer of blue icing.

It looked really, really yummy.

“One cookie couldn’t hurt,” Molly said sheepishly. “Could it?”

“You have seen Alice in Wonderland, right?” Sandra, who was nonchalantly cleaning a glass with her bar towel, asked.

Molly bit her lip and nodded. That cookie could only lead to baaaaaaaad things. But damn, it looked good. Just a nibble, that’s all she wanted. Just one little, eeensy-weeensy, teeny-tiny speck of cookie.

Everyone else at the bar shared the same look of pained restraint with Molly. Death was hesitantly putting a bony hand forward and pulling it back. Crichton appeared as if he hadn’t seen a cookie in a long time, and desperately wanted one. The muses…

Well, the muses left at the bar looked especially worried that a plate holding a suspicious cookie had appeared in the middle of a Lewis Carroll–type situation. But everyone else really, really, really wanted that cookie.

Aw, screw it.

In an instant, bar seats went flying as people went airborne, all grabbing for one sweet piece of icing and cooked dough. But it was gone. Vanished. Instead of getting a part of that cookie, everyone crashed into each other, hit the bar, and landed hard on the floor for the second time that night.


“Who the frell says it’s your cookie?” Crichton shouted back, walking aggressively toward Molly, who pulled a baseball bat out of her coat pocket.

“I knew watching Anime would pay off someday,” she said with a smile. “Here Crichton, Crichton, Crichton…”

“Hey! Guys! Looking for something?”

Rhiannon was standing smugly with the cookie hanging out of her mouth, looking like she had just killed a mouse and was damn proud of it too. Towering above the little black cat, Dominic, Maid TARDIS, and Allie stood defensively. “Bad guests. No cookie.”

“How did you…?” Molly trailed off.

“It’s a cat/muse thing—”

“I wouldn’t understand,” Molly chorused along with her muse. “Right, right.”

“This cookie is extremely dangerous,” Dominic said. “It has to be destroyed. We already have enough trouble tonight as it—”

The cookie dropped to the floor seemingly in slow motion—a cat-sized bite taken out of it.

“Uh-oh,” Rhiannon said.

The cat’s size suddenly doubled…



She shot right up until her head hit the ceiling and the words “F*#@ing ME‑OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!” were heard.

“Curiouser and curiouser,” the Fourth Doctor said with a grin. “Now, who has the bottle marked ‘DRINK ME’?”

“O’course,” Bob the Muse said, to anyone who might be listening, “There’s muses and Muses, y’know.”

A number of people who’d found themselves in the general path of this remark nodded intelligently. Eventually someone took it upon themselves to ask what the hell he was talking about.

Bob took a swig of scumble, wiped his mouth on his sleeve, and began what was clearly a lecture:

“Well, first of all there’s yer proper Muses, like Dom, Rhiannon and Candy. And, despite some people’s opinions, meself. Actual personifications of inspiration, possibly trained at the Imagination Collegium, blah blah blah, you know the rest. But a lot of writers an’ artists call anyone who inspires them ‘their muse’. Byron’s sister, fer example. Or Alice Liddell, if it comes to that.”

“Is there a point to this?” asked Magnus.

“Only that, if we take your claim that the Rev Charles did have knowlege of the Inner Realms, and used ’em in his work, at face value, (and I don’t see why not, the bloke was a theologian and mathematician, he must’ve known all kinds of rubbish), then mebbe Sylvie was exactly what he said she was. But he’d have thought of her as the ‘muse’ of S&B an’ S&B Concluded. ’S a thought.”

And with that, he turned back to the buffet, leaving the rest of the guests even more confused than before.

Normally, as a rule, Evan liked cats. Dogs too. He was an animal person. But giant kitties were something new altogether. “Stay calm, everyone,” he said unhelpfully. “Try not to look like mice.”

“Maybe she’ll be friendly,” Zoe ventured.

Ian Chesterton couldn’t help but interject. “Have you actually seen any giant cats before? Even when friendly they’re terrifying.”

“This one’s intelligent, though, isn’t it?”

“I was being serious, you know,” said the Fourth Doctor. “I mean I was smiling when I said it, but really, if anyone has found that bottle, it’d speed things up quite a— ERK!”

The Doctor said this because Evan was tugging on his scarf very forcefully. “I think we can use this as a distraction,” he said. The Doctor started helpfully twirling around in place as Evan unwound the scarf from his neck. Soon the Doctor was free and Evan was holding the long, multicolored piece of fabric.

Rhiannon felt almost insulted. She could hear them, after all—the ears had gotten bigger too. And to think that she’d do something so undignified, so kitten-ish, as to… then again, it was string. A very long piece of string, basically.

“Nice kitty. Good kitty.” Evan prepared to toss the string—er, scarf into the giant cat’s grasp.

“Look at the nice kitty…” Delirium said dreamily.

“…Nice. Of course,” Barnabas said, trying to hide behind his mistress.

“…Excuse me a moment,” Death of the Endless said. “Del, I’m not sure Eloise wants people turning into giants inside Sweetheart.”

Del blinked. “But that’s where we’re going, isn’t it? Into Wonderland? It happens all the time…”

“Yes… but normally, people save that sort of thing for when they enter Wonderland, not before they ever reach the place.”

“Oh,” Del said, as she thought about this. “Nice kitty…”

“…If you guys could hurry up?” Evan suggested.

Death nodded, and continued on. “So maybe if you could find something to help the cat back to normal size—and shape, and nature—Eloise maybe wouldn’t be worried?”

Barnabas nudged at his mistress’s legs to suggest that yes, getting Rhiannon back to normal would be a good idea.

“I know!” Del said, her eyes lighting up.

A dinner plate of milk appeared in Del’s hands, and she set it down in front of her.

“Here you go!” Del said. “A nice saucer of milk for the kitty.”

From her position, Rhiannon could just see the plate.

Her long, long tongue flicked out, and lapped at the plate.

Almost immediately, she began shrinking.

Four times her height.

Three times.


Until, finally, a normal-sized Rhiannon was sitting on the floor, a good distance from Evan and the scarf.

“Please,” Rhiannon said, looking up at Evan. “As if I would do anything so undignified.”

And with that, she trotted over to Molly.

Evan, Fourth, and Death breathed a sigh of relief.

“YAY! STRING!!” Nuku-Nuku exclaimed, as she bounded up to Evan and started playing with the scarf.

“You might want to let go of the scarf,” Amber suggested.

Evan obeyed.

“Sorry about this,” Amber apologised to Fourth. “You’ll have to wait until she gets bored.”

Fourth flashed her a grin. “There are worse fates…”

Beloved, usually acutely aware of the emotional and physical states of those aboard her, was, this time, completely oblivious to the turmoil Delirium’s confusion had caused.

Every boson of her conscious mind was focused on how to find and get to the location she had pinpointed as the source of the mysterious communication—to find a dimension locked somewhere inside her own atoms, and then, somehow, reconfigure the door in her real-world interface so that it would open into this—entirely unknown—dimension. It was always tricky to fiddle with the door even under normal circumstances—she much preferred to keep its temporal-spacial relationship with the main console undisturbed, no matter how much she messed about with everything else, but now…

She was getting closer to the lock on the signal. She could feel it, bright like the buzzing of a neutrino, at the fore of her mind. As she drew closer, she couldn’t help but wonder what it would feel like to enter the dimension—would it be like turning into a klein bottle—or would it be more like going into a piece of knotted string, and attempting to untie it from the inside?

The truth was, she could not even contemplate the answer. She was a 5-dimensional being, and could no more imagine any dimensions beyond five than Eloise could point to a moment in time with her finger and say: “There!” The ‘lock’ was merely a point plotted on a complex mathematical grid, somewhere in the sixth dimension.

“Then again,” she reminded herself, with bemusement, “your entire real-world interface is, at its core, only a complex mathematical grid.”

She stopped trying to visualize the point in space, and simply visualized it within that grid. And then, she set about reconfiguring that door around that imagined point.





The first side of the doorway, Beloved’s side, felt as normal as it ever did, excepting the strain she’d expected at moving the door away from the main console. The second side of the doorway … also felt normal. It was the minute space in between that felt strangely cold—for that nanosecond it took her to complete the reconfiguration, before her real world interface sealed the two sides together, like sap forming a protective coating over a tree’s wound. It was as if there were two third dimensions, separated by that mysterious new dimension.

Now, she just had to unlock this side of the door open for her Pilot and His guests. If she could have smiled in this form she would have.

A familiar chime rang through the ballroom and everyone fell silent.

“We’re heeere,” said Delirium.

“All right,” said Q, cracking his knuckles and rubbing his hands. “Let’s jump ship, get our powers back, and watch me set the universes to rights with a mere thought.”

“Simpleton,” said First, from across the room.

Q instead turned to Fifth, either because he was the nearest Doctor or because Q thought him most easily cowed. “Whaaat? What holes are you going to poke in my omniscience now?”

“There there,” said Fifth, condescendingly patting him on the shoulder, “not even I know everything.”

“You don’t,” declaimed Seventh, “enter the inner dimensions by deparrrting your transdimensional field.”

“You must go farther down and farther in,” said Sixth.

“Hence the nomenclature ‘inner’,” said Second helpfully.

“But,” said Gordon, like most of the guests a little dizzy from following the Doctor’s peroration back and forth across the room like a Sirian tennis match, “how?”

“Sweetheart already told us how,” said Eighth.

There was a moment’s hiatus while everyone thought back on that. “But… but,” Susan finally said, “she said that was a literary metaphor.”

The Doctors all smiled.

“What,” said Florestan—grinning, back in his own element—“in a gathering of authors and muses, could be more powerful?”

Their host had spoken. Everyone began to examine the mirrors that lined the walls.

“Hey!” Bokman said, turning his attention away from Nuku-Nuku playing with Fourth’s scarf, “Look at that mirror!”

They looked. Where one of the ballroom’s many floor to ceiling mirrors had been, there now stood a pair of TARDIS doors.

Imran grinned. “I trust,” he said, “that this is the sign Sweetheart said she would send.”

“At last,” said Amy as she and her date followed the crowd towards the newly-opened door. “We’re off into the plot. Isn’t this fun?” She suddenly thought of something in his past. “Reenacting events from old stories is one of your favorite games.”

“Only when I’m in control of it,” said Q. “I now find myself in a position similar to Jean-Luc’s on that day in Sherwood Forest, and I don’t think I like it.”

“If I were more vindictive,” said Amy, “I would tell you that there’s something to be learned from that. But I’m not. All I’m going to say is, let’s get in there, hope for the best, and remember that every new world is an opportunity to learn.”

“All right, Amy. But remember, I wouldn’t do this for just anyone.”

Amy considered this as they entered the sixth dimension.

Much Rhubarb ensued, as they all hurried through the doors, generally along the lines of:

“I want to go to the Tea Party!”
“Aren’t we already there?”


“I want to puff on the caterpillar’s hookah!”
“I bet you would!”

All chatter stopped, however, on the other side of the door.

The intrepid partiers found themselves on the flat, tarred roof of a highrise. Before and below them stretched the sooty stone, glass, and steel towers of a sprawling, crowded city. Above them, the sky was rust red from smog in the early evening light. Behind them, the door they had just come through had camouflaged itself as a service bay door, bearing a sign printed in large red letters: “Danger! Do not Enter! Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted!

Several of the guests turned toward Magnus, their expressions questioning and accusatory.

He simply shrugged. “It has been 142 years…” he said, vaguely.

“Mireille, this kitchen contains a dumbwaiter.”

Excel just sighed as she shoved another spoonful of sauerkraut into her mouth. A swallow later, she said, “Ha-chan— I mean, Kirika, or whatever, having worked in a number of restaurants, I can assure you that every kitchen has a dumb waiter. Most have six or eight hanging around, annoying the cooks, getting people’s orders wrong, forgetting to offer condiments, trying to chat up hostesses who are at least five years and as many social levels over their heads and generally rendering services that are undeserving even of their meager wages, much less any sort of gratuity…”

“No. I mean that there is a small elevator or lift for moving objects between floors.” Hyatt pointed at a small opening in the opposite wall and the platform inside it. “Using it, we can take the Soldats in flank and kill them all before we are besieged here.”

“Riiiight…” Excel tried to think of a good argument against crawling onto the little thing, but by the time her brain had disengaged from its ‘mmmmm, sauerkraut!’ mode, Hyatt had already scrunched herself onto it and was waiting for her, finger-gun ready for action. “Excel has more reservations than a trashy motel at a prostitutes’ convention about this, but finds herself unable to articulate them properly. Therefore she will go along with Ha-chan, expecting the very worst and probably receiving it.”

With a modicum of oofing, grunting, and squashing, Excel managed to pack herself into the tiny dumbwaiter as well. As soon as she did so, Hyatt pressed the button on the kitchen wall beside them, which was marked with an ‘up’ arrow.

They immediately began to descend, down into the darkness.

He was a grammar devil, and his name was Mephistevepheles, though he couldn’t spell it.

To be more specific, he was a major grammar devil, of the upper tiers of the Infernal Hierarchy (as indeed most hierarchies might well be denominated). He’d been invited mainly because he was the distant relative of one of the typo gremlins; his sister Berthazeebub had married Spethan’s fourth cousin twice removed and once misplaced, a nervous little chap named Machiel. Mephistevepheles had always considered the marriage to be beneath his sister’s lofty station, but had never let his disapproval get in the way of using whatever perks might devolve from it, such as invitations to affairs such as this one.

And, being that he was a major grammar devil, he had powers far beyond those of any mere typo gremlin or punctuation imp or even the dreaded homonym hag. For one thing, he had the power of scrying, to locate his victims from afar and mark them for doom or at least some fairly severe embarrassment. And for another, he had access to the most feared and loathed of all writers’ curses and he wasn’t afraid to use it.

At the moment, he was lurking (ominously, he liked to think) in the cloakroom, gazing into the cup of O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beer1 that was clutched in his taloned right hand, his entire two-foot-tall body rigid with anger. In that cup floated a golden, beer-hued image of two young women climbing into a tiny elevator. He chuckled nastily.

“SUne u shal, tatsemy reevnge!,” he hissed, toying with the long blonde hair in his other hand. “vrery sooon;..” He looked over at the ingredients list for the dread curse. He had one of his victim’s hairs, now he needed a copy of a Quake CD…

1 Non-alcoholic beer being an abomination in the eyes of God and Man, it is the logical drink of choice for the minions of Hades.

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Story copyright © 2003 the original authors; this compilation copyright © 2003–2005 Igenlode Wordsmith and Paul Andinach; HTML modified by Imran Inayat.