Disclaimer: With a wink and a smile, the author blows a kiss of gratitude in the general direction of DC comics and their wonderful stable of writers, bypassing a sour faced Jeph Loeb entirely.
CATverse A/N: Don't know what the CATverse is? Well, you better get your tuchus over to catverse. com and find out.
A/N: Oh, here we go. Yet another retelling of one of the oldest, stalest, most cliché storylines known to man. But, last year, Captain gave us a 'Christmas Carol' rehash that pleased me immensely, and now it's my turn to tip my hat in the general direction of a Christmas classic-albeit a few weeks late. It's also an excuse to dive back into writing nonsensical prose, if only for a minute or two, which is by far one of my favorite things.
For those of you familiar with the B:TAS episode 'Christmas with the Joker' know that I, like Batman, at the time of writing this, had never actually seen the movie the concept is based on. This year, I made a very special Christmas pilgrimage to the AFI Silver to do just that. Also, for those of you who have a working knowledge of the DC Universe outside Gotham City, this story should be a particular treat. For those who don't, don't worry, I'll do my best to make sure you don't get lost in the shuffle. If you get confused at any point, just bear with me and keep reading—the explanations should be forthcoming.
Finally, I'd like to say that reading Jack Kirby on acid is a hell of a thing. A hell of a hell of a thing.
Mister Mxyzptlk (who, for the purposes of this story will hereby be referred to as 'Mxy', since his name is such a dreadful bother) stood in the fifth dimension. Or, perhaps it is fairer to say he sat there. Then again, perhaps that is not fair to say at all. Perhaps he did cartwheels in the empty spaces between the stanzas of sonnets, or stood on his head with his feet in a bowl of mint chocolate chip anchovy ice cream (by far, the fifth dimension's most popular flavor, second only to rocky roadkill)—it's quite difficult to say, really, what he did precisely in the fifth dimension.
After all, the fifth dimension is not a place given to definitions that rely on gravity, physics or the rigid laws of rational sense. In fact—if fact can be allowed in such a place, which I very much doubt—the fifth dimension, unlike the first three in which we reside, is not the least bit sensical at all. It is a place of twisted perceptions and unhinged clichés, where up is purple and down is boiled cabbage.
(Please, leave us not entertain thoughts of what diagonal and backwards might be. We'll be here all day.)
For the sake of argument, however, and to save us all a drawn out discussion on the nature of the universe—as well as saving your long suffering narrator a headache—let us establish two things straight away: first, Mxy existed in the fifth dimension. In what position he did this is currently immaterial. Second—and of far more dire importance:
He was bored.
This is not to suggest that the fifth dimension is boring, per se—indeed, the moment one recovers from the complete lapse of sanity that comes upon entering the place, one finds it quite a nice neighborhood to build a summer home—no, this is to say that Mxy, bless his impish little heart, bores easily.
But, we must be fair in our examination of Mxy: when one is near omnipotent, immortal and potentially one of the most powerful beings in the known universe and all eighteen of its dimensions, boredom must be expected and, furthermore, forgiven. Even if you had the ability to do anything and everything you'd ever wanted to do, and had eternity to do it in…forever is a still long time. It's hard to think of things to do that'll fill up your datebook from here to infinity.
Under ordinary circumstances, Mxy might have relieved his boredom by going off to pester Superman—as was his custom—but for whatever reason, he considered the idea and almost immediately discarded it, deeming it unsuitable. He grew weary of Metropolis and its bright, shining champion—the bright, shining champion who always, always, always outwitted him. It was definitely time for a switch. Not a permanent one, mind—he knew he'd go back to poking Superman sooner or later, because he was a creature of habit even more than he was a creature of mischief, but for now…a new victim would be a refreshing change of pace.
So, without delay, Mxy stopped doing whatever it was he'd been doing in the fifth dimension in whatever position he'd been doing it in, and went off to find one.
When Jonathan Crane awoke to find a short, balding man in yellow and purple with a bowler derby jauntily perched atop his head, sitting cross legged and floating in mid-air next to his bed, he blinked lazily, yawned, rubbed his eyes and muttered impassively, "Another tainted batch."
(When one's livelihood depends on working with mind altering hallucinogenic chemicals, one eventually begins to dismiss such things as part of the routine, you see.)
Without acknowledging his hallucination in any way, Jonathan sat up, peeled the covers off himself, stood and stretched leisurely. He walked right past the tiny man, grumbling to himself, and opened the door that led to his adjacent laboratory. If he noticed that the figment of his imagination glided along after him on the air, he didn't make comment about it. He simply set about reading the labels of his various antidotes, looking for the one he'd concocted for the latest batch of toxin. When he found it, he searched around for a syringe, drew a dose's worth from the bottle and plunged the needle into his arm.
Jonathan turned his eyes on the little man and smiled, anticipating the phantasm fading into the nothingness from which he sprang.
A minute passed.
The tiny man remained.
The smile slipped a little.
With a shrug, Jonathan administered another dose of the antidote.
Two minutes passed.
The tiny man smirked.
The smile became a frown.
The tiny man wiggled his fingers at Jonathan and grinned, showing at least ten more teeth than should have fit in his mouth.
Jonathan turned the tiny glass bottle over in his hand, checking the batch number that was scribbled on the side. His brow furrowed and he scratched his chin. He didn't dare take another dose—two was the limit before there were undesirable consequences to be had—but there should have been some effect on the hallucination. "Curious."
"-er and curiouser," the little man replied, not missing a beat.
Jonathan's head jerked up and he stared, narrowing his eyes at the apparition. "They've never talked before. How utterly fascinating."
"You gotta excuse me," the tiny man continued as though Jonathan hadn't spoken at all, "residual quote leftovers. I just saw the Mad Hatter and boy! Can that one yakk yer ear awf! Nice guy, if you like 'em bucktoothed and crazy."
Jonathan ignored the little man just as effectively as he himself had been. He strode to the door, exited his lab and called out, "Girls!"
The sounds of three bodies staggering around in their bedrooms erupted, thumping and ricocheting against the walls, floors and furniture as his henchgirls tried to find their footing, and they stumbled out into the common area in their pajamas. Al had her shovel at the ready, groggy though she was, Techie had her aluminum pipe—which wouldn't do any good, as she let it drag on the ground behind her —and the Captain had armed herself with a very intimidating…body pillow.
"What's the matter, Squi—" Al paused to yawn widely, "—shykins?"
"I seem to be having an adverse reaction to the latest fear toxin formula," he said dryly, ever the scientist. "I'm going to need assistance in figuring out what went wrong and just how to set things right. Also, one of you needs to be recording my behavior and any ill effects I may suffer."
The girls didn't perk up anxiously the way he thought they would— the way they usually did whenever they feared for his life. Instead, they just continued staring at him blearily.
"What kind of adverse reaction, Squishy?" the Captain asked.
Jerking his thumb behind himself at the little man, Jonathan answered, "There's something resembling a Christmas Elf hanging over my shoulder."
"I don't look anything like a Christmas Elf!" The hallucination exclaimed, taking extreme offense.
"I don't see anything," Techie said from around a yawn.
Jonathan fixed her with a look that brought her intelligence into question without a word needing to be uttered.
"I'm better looking, for one thing. An' I don't have those shmucky, fruity lookin' bells on my shoes. See?" The tiny man wiggled his feet in front of Jonathan's face to prove his point. He didn't react, but the imp turned contemplative and stroked his chin anyway. "Although, ya know…"
"Ops," the Captain replied sleepily, voicing Jonathan's own thoughts, "it's a hallucination. You wouldn't."
"Maybe…I do like the idea of jinglin' whenever I walk!" The toes of his purple shoes lengthened instantly, becoming soft and floppy, and two tiny bells burst into existence, one on each slipper. He wriggled his feet merrily, smiling briefly at the tinkling sound they made, and then frowned thoughtfully. "'Cept I don't really walk anywhere."
With a snap of his fingers, his shoes snapped back into their former shape, making a sproingy, rubbery sound as they did so.
"It talks as well," Jonathan continued. "I've experienced visual hallucinations with my botched toxins before, but never auditory."
"What's it saying?" the Captain asked.
"Nothing of any consequence."
"Hey, Squishface, is it green?" Techie asked suddenly, an expression on her features that was very close to being an Epiphany Face.
"Yellow and purple," he replied.
Her face fell. "Oh. Well, never mind then."
Al looked at Techie skeptically. "You thought it was the Great Gazoo, didn't you?"
"No. That'd be silly," she muttered, averting her eyes. "And is it Gazoo? I thought it was Kazoo with a K."
"I dunno," Al said with a shrug. "I can never remember."
"Does the yellow-purple elf-thing have a name?" the Captain prompted.
"My name," the imp said, sweeping off his hat in a grand, gentlemanly gesture, "is Mister Mxyzptlk."
Jonathan tried to make his mouth form the nonsense name. "Mx…Mxy…what?"
"Mxyzptlk. Big m, small x, small y—" the imp laughed, "Not that you need to know how to spell it, of course. It's pronounced Mix-Ye-Spit-Lick. Or Mix-El-Pit-Ley. Or Mix-El-Pittle-Ick. Or Mix-El-Plick. Depends on who ya ask, really. My favored pronunciation varies century to century."
"Ironically enough, my subconscious has given it a name that I can't pronounce," Jonathan responded.
"You can do it," Mxy cheered, popping into existence in front of Jonathan's face and squeezing his cheeks in his small hands, forcing his lips to pucker. "Say it with me: Mix-Ye-Spit-Lick!"
"Squishy, what the heck are you doing to your face?" Al asked in confusion.
Jonathan swatted at the air and Mxy disappeared with a pop, only to reappear directly behind the girls. "Hey, hey, hey, there's no need to get violent."
"The hallucinations are becoming tactile," Jonathan said, rubbing his jaw. "This is by far the most intense reaction I've ever had to my own formula. This merits further experimentation."
Mxy snapped his fingers, just as Al reached over to touch Jonathan's face, and she froze in place, as did everything else. Time stopped for everyone, with the express exception of Jonathan Crane and the imp.
"A-he-he-he-heyum." Another snap of the fingers and Mxy's yellow and purple 'elf' outfit disappeared, replaced by a garish goldenrod colored plaid business suit, lavender dress shirt and a royal purple paisley tie. Even his shoes altered their shape, morphing into black patent leather, complete with a pair of pristine spats, but his purple derby remained the same.
Jonathan barely even had time to register these changes before a chalkboard burst into being, floating several feet off the ground, right in front of his face. Words appeared, one right after the other: "Stop! Look! Listen!"
"I am here to make you an offer- limited time only, one-shot-shoot-the-moon type dealie doo and brother, you ain't gonna wanna miss this (if I may be so cliche as to coin a phrase) 'golden' -opportunity."
"Well, it's finally happened," Jonathan muttered, brushing the chalkboard aside and staring at his henchgirls-Al suspended in mid-reach, Techie in mid-yawn and Captain in mid...stand, "I've gone completely around the bend."
"You-" suddenly there was an index finger poking into Jonathan's chest. He looked up to find Mxy floating there, staring at him intently, "don't seem to understand the gravity of this situation."
"I dare say I understand gravity far better than someone who defies its laws," Jonathan snapped irritably. Why couldn't he just hallucinate dancing pink elephants or man eating arachnids like normal people did? Why did his subconscious have to be as belligerent as the rest of him?
"I know I defy the laws of gravity, but you see-"
"'I never studied law.' Thank you, Bugs Bunny."
Mxy wilted a little. "Oh, heard that one, huh?
"More times than I care to count."
"Look, buddy-boy, I'm here to do you a favor! No strings attached."
"And what could a figment of my imagination have to offer me?"
"Anything you want. And I mean an-eeeeee-thing." Mxy gave Jonthan another toothy grin-arguably a little more toothy than the last one he'd given, which he didn't think was possible. "I'm going to offer you a wish- any wish at all -fulfilled. Money-"
"I'm a criminal. Money isn't an issue."
"I have more than enough of those."
The Scarecrow tilted his head, lifted an eyebrow and stared at Mxy. Hard.
"Eh, heh...I see, you're brilliant enough as it is. How about..."
Mxy's grin got wider, his lips curling upwards in a sinister fashion, as though he'd just realized what kind of carrot he needed to dangle in front of this particular mark. "If there were one thing you wish hadn't happened-any one thing that you could undo-"
A thought- errant, thin, only half formed, a pithy thing, really -fluttered across Jonathan's mind without his permission before he could stop it.
Mxy recoiled in the air, registering befuddlement that bordered on pleasant surprise. "What, really? Really? Oh, you are going to be more fun than I originally thought."
The imp shrugged-a careless, at-ease motion that didn't go with his manic expression at all. "Have it your way, then."
Mxyzptlk snapped his fingers again and the world exploded in a shower of blue and silver sparks.
And with the errant, thin, only half formed, pithy thought "I wish I'd never met them", time itself unravelled and the universe as Jonathan Crane knew it collapsed.