Truth or fiction

'It seems perfect,' Drew had to admit. 'Very perfect.'

'Art and I think so too,' Les confessed. 'It's actually nice to cooperate with someone. We should do that more, Art and I. He may be the best one in drawing, but you know, he admitted I was better in writing characters and developing them. So we'll be making comics together when I get out of jail. And we plan to brainstorm soon!'

'That sound nice,' Roland said enthusiastically.

'Maybe we'll drop by here some more, in Hillhurst, I mean, this environment is so inspiring,' Les announced. 'We could have some late night drawing sessions here, fun!'

'So when I meet Dragonborg again,' Little Ghoul and Horribelle discussed over a drink. 'I won't say I want to marry him.'

'Yes, yes, very good, you got that right, and what dó you say?'

'You are so handsome and pale, like you've been dashing in the moonlight!' Little Ghoul swooned. 'Brilliant!'

'Is Horribelle teaching you corny catch phrases again, Little Ghoul?' Jo asked.

'Yes. And I think they might work. Pick-up lines are in general very corny. She also thought me that.'

'As a recently solely paper character and mantis, exactly how many men have you managed to pick up?' Fang asked, interfering with the conversation constantly to the point where it was awfully nagging. He presumed his psychic hotline also meant that he had innate romantic savvy. He was thinking of starting a career as a dating advisor soon, even.

'Just one, and he's exactly my type,' Horribelle smiled, staring at Nukus who was at the end of the room, amused by Flabber.

'Okay, okay, everyone,' Les announced, climbing on top of the table, gesturing his hands. 'As some of you know, Art and I have news!'

'Not more unexpected news today,' nagged Drew.

'This is super duper news, in fact. First let me start of with the small news. Wolfie, come here, you!' He gestured at the werewolf. 'I want to thank you for filling in for me at jail and leaving an impressionistic field of drawings there, that is now posing as myself! You made the best of drawings and papier-mâché and even brought us a representational photograph to show your expertise. You learned a lot in a day. Here are some doggie snacks!' Wolfie hastily grabbed the bag and devoured the snacks.

'Okay, now the big and actual news! Can I please get your attention? Nukus, Horribelle, we have a wonderful gift for you! And it's not doggie snacks, I can tell you that much! Could you come here please? Boy, this is exciting!'

'They get a gift!' Jo called out. 'And what about us?'

'Aside from bikes, Spectral suits and other stuff, you never get any gifts,' Art said to her. It made her feel a bit duped, being as young as she was. 'I'm joking, girl, joking! Anyway, Les, continue.'

'Okay, okay, gotta stay a bit cool here. Well, now that you are both near this supreme table – and I have managed not to stand on the delicious waffles that Little Ghoul made or on the cherry pie - let's see, drum roll, please. Thanks, Flabber! Right, I have a drawing here and it's going to blow your minds! I want you to bring it to life without seeing it. So it's in an envelope, wrapped, you can't see it!' He showed the envelope to everyone like a regular quiz master.

'Fascinating,' Horribelle said, taking the envelope and placing it carefully on the ground, as she had done many times before. 'You know, we never had a present from you before, cartoonist. I like it already. Thank you!'

Nukus pulled out his sword, hesitated and pulled it back.

'Horribelle, could you place a hand on it too? After all, it's our surprise.'

She swooned. After that whole I-want-to-be-mega-too affaire he understood how much she enjoyed being part of the fun. And in control.

'Why, I'd love to,' she whispered. She touched his hand more than the sword, lovingly squeezing it and moving a bit closer to him. Though they'd both grown used to awakening drawings with the sword, this time it was awfully erotic. The sword started to gleam, twinkle, yes, even sparkle. Out of the envelope a small object came forth.

'Go ahead, pick it up, see what it is!' Les called out.

They both stared at it, while Nukus finally took it from the floor. 'A key.'

'A key! Yes! And not just Any Key!'

'What kind of a key is it?! The suspense is killing me!' Flabber shouted.

'It's a super special key to the second dimension. Nukus, now as you may recall, you are officially overlord of the second dimension, right?'

'That's true.'

'And you both want to have something to do aside from battling the borgs, right?'

'Also true.'

'The key guards a door somewhere in the land that you have brought to life as well, because that was on the other drawing in the envelope! The door is very mysterious but through it, this portal, the second dimension is connected with ours!'

'Fascinating,' Nukus said sincerely, beholding the key and then giving it to Horribelle.

'I want you to find the door and guard it, as you are meant to do. I wouldn't enter it myself yet, and certainly not with Horribelle by your side.' Horribelle frowned.

'You, as the overlord, can transfer from paper to matter, but she can't, so who knows what'll happen. She can't resurrect a drawing, that's your job, you mediate between these worlds. However, you cán go in there yourself, but only do so if it's absolutely necessary. We're not quite sure what you'll find there ourselves, so it's all pretty spooky.'

'Exciting, isn't it!' Art clapped his hands.

'Adventurous,' Horribelle summarized.

'Now I don't want to force you into this. It's a gift. It's your life, you have made that perfectly clear. You have become more than paper. You are actual characters with your own consciousness, free will and traits. I made you from a kind of sketch, but you made each other. Just like your name, Horribelle, was a dialogue between me and Nukus, so you have learned through each other. Sometimes the hard way, but mostly through honesty and loyalty. I'm sure you'll both do well. You were made for each other, literally. You chose her out of a field of drawings, and you chose to serve him when the cause was noble in your opinion.'

'Man, that speech is very good, Les!' Flabber sobbed in his tissue.

'I know, right?! I didn't even know I could properly speak in public, let alone this. But now that I'm excited and had cherry pie, I can do anything. What was the main line here again? Oh yes, do you two accept?!'

Nukus looked at Horribelle for approval. 'I'd love to join you on this little mission,' she whispered. 'Do whatever you think is right.'

He pressed her hand, in which she still held the key and leaned over to kiss her.

'Is that a yes?' Les frowned.

'That's definitely a yes,' Nukus replied. 'But, I don't want to keep the key myself. I already have my resurrection sword amongst others. Horribelle, I want you to keep the key. It'll be just as safe with you as with me, perhaps even safer.'

'I'd happily accept. There's a convenient necklace on it already. Would you do the honours?' She smiled as he opened the necklace, placed it over her shoulders and locked it again. It was a beautiful gesture.

'Also, there's another little trinket Art and I drew, this one is also for the both of you. Nukus, for you it's mostly in case you want to go back into your non-mega form. Horribelle, if you still want to find out what your mega is like, here's your chance. Man, are we spoiling you or what? And after months of painful harassing in a tomb, even! But we get along fine now! Anyway, mega-forms, so you mediate between them with this device. It's nice. You morph if you ever need to battle, but if you're mostly travelling, you normal form might be more comfortable. I still find it a bit odd that Vilor could shift back to the non-mega, I wonder what caused that. But without further adieu, here's a new version of the mega-device!'

'Very convenient,' said Nukus, obviously pleased. 'This megaform is a bit out fashioned, don't you think?'

'I meant it yesterday when I said you were better looking before,' Horribelle said. 'Accept that device and please morph back.'

'It would be my pleasure.' He resurrected the device and pulled the switch.

'Red is your colour, definitely,' Mums complimented.

The monsters put on some interesting music, and there was a bit of celebrating before the Crusteceans left and made their goodbyes.

'Well, then we'll be off,' Nukus said. 'Thank you, cartoonist.'

'And thank you, Nukus. This was certainly a surprising turn of affairs.'

'But a positive one,' Art added. 'We've all learned a lot of good things!'

'And without killing our darlings,' Les laughed. He even seemed slightly sane now. 'And with some proper meds, I can get back into business too.'

'Yup, and I'll make sure you take those meds this time.'

Horribelle and Nukus made way for the door. 'When we have found the door, we'll report back to Hillhurst. Do we have any leads?'

'There's a map here, but it's very eclectically drawn by Art, let's see, and the key works as a compass, it should point the way if you put it in your hand palm a bit. Just let it rest. Like that, yeah, see, now it says north.'

'Les, thanks again,' Horribelle hugged him for a few seconds.

'You have really, really fleshed out you,' he laughed. 'Hugging?'

'Just to thank you and just this once,' she smiled. Then she leaned over to Little Ghoul. 'Good luck, girl!'

'Good luck to you too!'

Nukus shook hands with Flabber and Drew on his own initiative.

'I really can't take anymore surprises,' Drew decided. 'When I get home, I just want to the new issue of Beetleborgs and some coco.'

'I have the new issue here,' Art waved with it. 'Would that ease your soul a bit?'

'Definitely,' and the other kids laughed too.

It wasn't a sad goodbye, after all, they'd been enemies for so long part of them was relieved to see them go. But it felt oddly melancholic for each person standing at the porch waving, especially for Little Ghoul, who never went outside, and now ran a bit over the lawn. Or for Les, who ended up crying really, really loud and ate a lot of cherry pie to comfort himself.

'You know what. We can make new villains,' Les suggested. 'And we can think of a whole second dimension. We have so much work to do!'

'I think Nukus and Horribelle should be canon in the comic too,' Art felt inspired now.

'What, as characters that are now not in it, or in the other way?'

'Also as a canon couple, yes.'

'Sweet, dude,' Les beamed.

The kids read the latest issue near the fire place that evening and got home really late. Jo and Drew were grounded and didn't get to go to Hillhurst for a week, but it was 'totally worth it'. Les and Art joined sides and had many artistic arguments to follow, but critics now say that Beetleborgs had improved immensely since Les wrote the scripts. The Beetleborgs themselves would surely make new foes in real life too, but for now, they're on a hiatus and enjoying it. Mind you, the monsters still want to eat them and Flabber still has to prevent them from doing so. And somewhere in the house, Little Ghoul is still dying to use her corny pick-up lines on Dragonborg. Some things never change.

The End