Dear invaderbrainfreezy,

thanks for sending me your picture. your really hot. i read your fanfic like you asked and its hilarious! you're profile said you live in my area so why don't we meet somewhere. how about you just come to my house. itll be loads of fun, we can exchange zim quotes and i can sine anything you want!

sincerly, Mr. Scolex

A chill ran down invaderbrainfreezy's spine. Was this really happening? "What could be better," she squealed to her silent Jhonen-shrine in the corner of her room, "than actually meeting Jhonen Vasquez, the hottest Mexican illustrator ever!" Without waiting for an answer, she shrieked even louder, "Meeting him at his house!" invaderbrainfreezy was so flustered, all she could manage to reply was a simple "yes."

"Hey Mom! I printed out directions to this guy's house. Can you drive me there?" she asked. It was five minutes later (Jhonen was a good correspondent) and they had agreed to meet as soon as possible.

invaderbrainfreezy's mother stared at the piece of paper for a moment, then replied, "I don't know, sweetie, I'm a little concerned." Her daughter started hopping in her GIR-slippers.

"But Moooooom! He's my very favorite celebrityyyyyy! You can trust him!" invaderbrainfreezy whined. She knew her mother could never resist that.

"Oh no, dear, it's not that. We're low on gas money. You'll just have to walk. Let me see that paper again," her mother said. She scanned the directions. "Oh yes, that won't take long to walk. It's only... what, a mile or two at the most? Yeah, you go have fun. Wait, this isn't that guy who drew the Johnny comics, is he?"

invaderbrainfreezy froze. Her mother said she didn't like violence, but bought the blood-filled comics for her anyway. She wouldn't say no, would she...? "Yeah."

Her mother waved. "Okay, as long as I know where you are. Leave me alone now." She changed her waving motion into one of shooing, so invaderbrainfreezy ran back upstairs to her room, her face alight with giggles.

She took even more time than usual to get ready. Make-up only took half an hour, but finding the right outfit proved extremely difficult. She finally decided on something similar to the outfit she wore in the photo she emailed to Jhonen. That way he would have no trouble recognizing her. She did up her hair so she would look like Anne Gwish as well, only blonde.

Clutching the precious directions in her sweaty fist, invaderbrainfreezy skipped all the way to Jhonen's address. It was becoming a rather contrived skip after the first half-mile, but she never stopped. She was surprised that he lived in such a familiar part of town, and yet she had never noticed his house. There it stood, plain as day, a little two-room shack with boarded-up windows. The roof was flat and the yard was devoid of landscaping (and grass, for that matter), save for a few garden gnomes. Then she laughed. Why not! The house looked like a mix between Johnny's and Zim's houses! It even had a sign that said, "Keep off the loose soil."

She walked slowly down the middle sidewalk, pocketing the directions, and approached the front door, trying to absorb the magic of his imminent presence. After a moment's hesitation she rang the doorbell. Once, twice she rang.

She heard a faint explosion coming from somewhere below the house. invaderbrainfreezy tried to ignore the idea that she could have prompted it. Someone cursed loudly and scrambled to the door.

That someone opened the door, letting out a flood of black smoke. invaderbrainfreezy started coughing and waving the cloud away from her face. "Oops," she thought to herself. When it finally cleared, they became visible to each other. The man in front of her was dark, skinny, and Mexican—

"Jhonen?" she squeaked in ecstacy. It was him. Just like in the pictures. He was wearing an apron over his clothes that was probably white before the explosion, purple goggles, and plain black boots. He was in the process of removing some rubber dishwashing gloves, and his hair was a brighter red than previously thought possible. Like a spiky Maraschino cherry hat.

invaderbrainfreezy overlooked the odd appearance and asked, "Do you recognize me? It's Invader Brainfreezy! My real name is--"

"I invited you here, didn't I?" he said suddenly, squinting though the goggles. invaderbrainfreezy nodded, starting to become nervous. "Okay, I know who you are. I hope you forgave any spelling errors that may have been on my messages. My secretary spends too much time on the Internet."

"It looked fine to-- Wait, so your secretary was the one who told me I was hot?"

Jhonen started laughing. "Did it really put that? Man, that thing--" He cleared his throat. "Do you want to come in?"

They both entered the front room (it could hardly be called a living room) and Jhonen took off the apron and goggles. The inside looked very much like Johnny's house too, except instead of blood and styrofoam, he had crumpled up comics and empty Skittles wrappers. invaderbrainfreezy was confused; she had expected something far more modern, or at least less decrepit. But this didn't really bother her. She was just happy to be there.

"Look familiar?" he asked her. "During your visit I'm sure you'll find more than a few parallels to my works. Hold on, I need to get this soot off my face. Oh, don't worry. That explosion was only partly your fault. It would have happened anyway."

Jhonen went back down the steps and less than thirty seconds later, he returned immaculate in an entirely different outfit. "That's amazing," said invaderbrainfreezy.

He looked around. "What's amazing? Oh, please sit down. Let's talk."

"Sit where?" Indeed, there was no furniture in the room.

"Well then let's go to a different room. Follow me, please." He led invaderbrainfreezy down three flights of winding stairs; the first was wooden, the second was metal, and the third was carpeted. invaderbrainfreezy felt she didn't have enough eyes to see all the grotesque paintings on the walls. Finally, they went down a short corridor and reached a medium-sized room with plum carpet and a snack vending machine in the corner. The walls were painted forest green, and a surprisingly tasteful Happy Noodle Boy chandelier lit the room from the ceiling. He gestured her to sit on the black loveseat.

When he joined her, she asked, "Why is it so different down here?"

He smiled. "My dear, I only have it like that up there to repel solicitors. They don't think I have any money, see? Very convenient."

She could understand that, but suggested, "Then why don't you just put a sign on your door that says 'No Soliciting'?"

"Yeah, but then people will know for sure that someone lives here. And they'll wonder what kind of trash doesn't even get real windows for their house..."

"What about an 'Eviction' notice?" said invaderbrainfreezy, desperate to be liked. Jhonen considered it for a second.

"You know, that's actually a pretty good idea. I might even think about doing that for real," he answered. invaderbrainfreezy was delighted. For real!

"So, did you base Johnny's house on this one?"

"Well, yeah. I hated that top level so much I wanted to see it in someone else's hands for a while. I also have some rooms down here that look like Zim's labs. I like those a lot better. Same colors and everything," said Jhonen happily, pulling up his feet to sit Indian-style.

"But you're not Irken..."

"Oh, no, of course not. I made that stuff up. It is a kids' show, after all..." He said "kids' show" with a stark bitterness that somehow made the loveseat less comfortable for a moment. invaderbrainfreezy's eyes widened and she waited for the tension to stop. A second later the fire left his eyes and they continued their discussion. She decided to scratch the ZIM quotes.

"So..." she started, "if your secretary made those messages, did you really even read my fanfic about you?" This suspicion had been on her mind for the last few minutes.

"Oh, I read some of it. Sometimes I like to read fanfiction. It gives me ideas. Usually on what not to do, but uh... I liked yours." He looked tense again, though not as much as before. This was the most exciting thing so far for invaderbrainfreezy, his statement. Would he actually use her ideas? Oh, how she will brag about this day to anyone who listens! Everyone who told her she was crazy or immature would eat their words. "Eat them!" she would say.

"Now, enough questions for me-- Let's learn more about you," he said after a pause. "Where did you find my private email address?"

"I found your friend's email and they told me." Jhonen looked angry at this news.

"The bastard! Who was it?" he demanded.

"I don't remember. I just wanted to talk to you," replied invaderbrainfreezy. She didn't understand why he would be angry about that. Wasn't he happy that they had met? They could even be friends, and yet he said:

"Now I'll have to get another address!" Then he pointed at her. "Don't tell anybody my private email, or I'll--" He stopped himself, cleared his throat again, retracted his finger, and smiled painfully. "It'll just be our little secret, okay?" This had the desired effect on invaderbrainfreezy. She was positively honored that Jhonen trusted her with something, had even given her a smile as he said it.

Still immersed in her warm-and-fuzzy feeling, she asked, "If your friends are the only ones who know about your private email address, then why do you have your secretary answer your emails for you on that one?"

Jhonen put his feet down and pushed himself up from the loveseat. "You didn't come here to interview me," he answered shortly. "Come, I want to show you something."

invaderbrainfreezy jumped into the standing position and opened the door for him. "Are we going to see your studio?" She had dreamt about that place.

"No, it would take days to get there, what with the teleporter being out of order for the last several years."

"Is that why you haven't made anything since then?" They were starting down the hallway, toward the steps.

"Not at all. I still go there every day. Before I got the teleporter that walk used to be my only exercise, so it doesn't bother me."

invaderbrainfreezy thought for a minute or two as she followed him up the carpeted stairs. Of course she didn't doubt that he had access to teleporters; she did go to church, after all. Anything was possible. Except... "If it would take days to get there, how do you get there every day and stay for less than a day at a time?" There really were a lot of stairs.

"I once spent a whole year just in that room. I hope it doesn't show too much in my personality," he said without answering her question. She just decided to stay silent.

When they reached the top, they went on a different route than before. Here was another, longer hallway that she hadn't noticed before. There were so many doors there wasn't even any wallspace left. "What do you do with so many rooms?" she asked, breaking her silence.

"They don't all lead to rooms," he replied simply.

The hallway was narrow enough to where invaderbrainfreezy couldn't see past the back of Jhonen's cherry-colored head, so she was unprepared for him to suddenly descend another set of steps at the very end of the hallway. "Careful there," he muttered as she almost stumbled into him.

While their previous environment was rather colorful and well-lit, these stairs were even more horrible than the top level. The walls were blank stone, and the stairs were a little dilapitated for her taste. In fact, she started going slower because they didn't look like they could hold their combined weights, little though they were.

"Where are we going?" she asked in mild fright.

"You'll see," he said as the lights were diminishing far behind them.

"When are you going to make more Johnny comics?" She was reminded by these steps.

Jhonen didn't change his speed, and didn't look back at her. "I told you no more questions."

"I'm tired. When are we going to get there?" She felt guilty complaining, but she couldn't stand it much longer.

"Aren't you happy you're with me?"

"Well, yeah, but..."

"Almost there. See that light up ahead?" invaderbrainfreezy did notice an eery purple glow in the distance (she could see over his head down the stairs), but not until he mentioned it to her. She wondered what it could be. Every step down was harder than the last, and she couldn't wait to see what Jhonen was showing her. She had been moving around almost all day, ever since that email. The source was growing, whatever it was.

After what seemed like an hour later, the stairs reached an abrupt end at a frosted glass door, though which the purple light was shining. They stopped, and Jhonen confronted her.

"What I want to show you is just inside this door," he told her. "Just walk inside and I'll be right with you in a moment." He opened the door for her.

While the door was still closing behind her, invaderbrainfreezy heard Jhonen say, "Computer. Now."

All Jhonen could see through the glass was a breathing mask fall from the ceiling and attach itself to the silhouette-girl's head. She soon became silent.

Jhonen looked up from the floor at invaderbrainfreezy. His hands were folded behind his back, and he was standing up straight. His neck hurt, but he ignored it as always. It was nothing to what she would be experiencing, he imagined.

invaderbrainfreezy had been put in a different outfit and strapped into what seemed to be a replica of the device used, in "Goblins," by Johnny and Edgar Vargas. She was hanging almost two feet from the ground, her arms were held perpendicular to her body, and two large black belts were fastened to her torso. Her neck and ankles were fastened down. Two walls of alarming spikes were on either side of her, and to top it all off, a pair of blades in front stood poised like snakes.

Jhonen had just finished putting duct tape over her mouth; he sensed that she would be coming around any minute. He wasn't afraid of other people hearing her-- he himself didn't want to hear her.

Eventually, her eyelids flickered and opened. She lifted her head and looked around. Jhonen was amazed at how long it took her to realize where she was. When she eyed the contraption she started squirming and emitting muffled shrieks. The sound was grating; he tried not to grimace. Why did they always try to yell?

"Be quiet," he commanded. Perhaps out of fear, perhaps out of admiration she obeyed. "Probably behind your panic," he said, "your little girl self wonders what happened to your clothes. They're in the consignment store pile. You won't be needing them anymore, and I'm running low on snack money. I hope you don't mind the clothes you're wearing now; the store found them unfit to be sold. Don't worry. I didn't bother with your shoes and underwear. I don't like feet and I don't like you. So you're fine in those respects.

"But look around you. I'm sure you've noticed that in another respect, you are not fine at all. I told you you'd find more than a few parallels to my works. What's it like to be right in the middle of one of your favorite stories?" He chuckled. "Never mind, don't tell me." invaderbrainfreezy was still struggling with the tape over her mouth, but Jhonen paid little attention. In fact, in all his disgust, he was a bit amused. It was so rare that he could manage to capture a crazy fan with the potential to smear yet another privacy barrier between him and her kind. He just hoped she didn't have any friends to whom she could have bragged about her contact. Oh well. If he received any more emails from strangers he could throw a party.

He noticed the hurt look mingled in with her terror. "I'm sorry. I have trouble lying. I can joke, but I can't lie. That's why I had the secretary reply to your emails." It probably didn't make her feel any better.

"Would it make you feel any better if I told you why I even invited you?" invaderbrainfreezy nodded, after some hesitation. "Every so often I need to make another email address away from the eyes of fanclubs. And I do that for one very special reason. Some people actually have important things to say to me, and they need to reach me. I can't afford to accidentally delete my chat invites and commander instructions when I'm clearing out the junk.

"If I had never published my work, then people like you wouldn't want to talk to me. But I did, and you do. If I were a little nicer, I wouldn't want to eliminate you personally to keep the knowledge from spreading, but..." He shrugged. "You know."

Jhonen took his eyes off invaderbrainfreezy. He was feeling a bit weak, so he pulled a bag of Skittles out of his coat pocket. Ripping open the bag (with some difficulty), he asked if she wanted any. She shook her head and started to whimper. He decided not to draw it out much longer. This one looked like she could be trustworthy, if let go. After all, he barely knew her. Maybe she was just an excitable person. She had never tried to make a move on him, which was more than could be said for some others. A test. If she proved herself, he would give back her clothes and have Computer show her the door. If not, then he would carry out his usual plan. Fair enough.

"Um..." He was looking through his glasses right into invaderbrainfreezy's wide brown eyes. "Computer. Remove the girl's mouth restraint." As the thin robot arm was still descending from the ceiling towards the tape on her mouth, Jhonen warned, "And don't start screaming." He was on his fourth Skittle.

She gasped and started breathing as heavily as the belts would allow when the tape was stripped off. "Who peed in your Cheerio's?" she yelled at him. "All I wanted was--"

"To know me, yes, I know. I can't say why, though." Jhonen smirked and put away the Skittles bag. "Crap, they're gonna fall out of the bag. Ah, what the hell. So. Invader... Brainfreezy, was it?" She nodded. "Just one quick question, and be honest. Which of my characters do you like best?" He pointed at her. "Honesty, now." Her life did depend on it, after all, but she didn't know that.

She seemed taken aback. After eyeing him suspiciously for a moment, she answered, "I've always like Anne Gwish the best. I like her hair, and the way she talks. I want to be just like her when I'm older."

"Okay," muttered Jhonen. He sidestepped to the wall and told Computer to shield his face for him.