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Outside The Gate

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Clutching her golf club in both hands, Pacifica ducks into the alley behind the convenience store as soon as she hears the flapping of the eye-bats’ wings. She relaxes a little bit when they pass her by, but freezes in place again when heavy footfalls sound just around the corner.

Is it the twelve-eyed lizard that spits glue? The walking set of teeth that tore off her sleeve and most of her collar? Is it her father, with his grasping hands and nightmarishly rearranged face?

Even that wouldn’t stop him from telling me how much I’ve disappointed him… that I have to face the consequences of my actions.

She definitely wasn’t expecting to see two girls her own age, their faces smeared with camouflage paint. The three of them stare at each other.

“We’re going to have to take her with us, aren’t we?” Grenda asks.

Candy nods. “I’m afraid so.”

--

Pacifica recognizes most of the people huddled in what’s left of the library, but she’s not sure that some of them qualify as “people” at all. An eight-headed bear shoves a bookshelf in front of the door, and two or three gnomes are trying to build a fortress out of books.

Sheriff Blubs hands her a dress that looks like it was made from a potato sack. She offers only a half-hearted protest before ducking behind the shelves to change into it.

When she rejoins the group, one hand still wrapped around the golf club, Old Man McGucket is talking to Candy and Grenda. “Your friend over there, was she all alone?”

All three girls speak in unison: “We’re not friends.”

“Well, she ain’t friends with that infernal triangle,” McGucket points out, and then narrows his eyes at Pacifica. “Are you?”

“What? Of course not!” Pacifica exclaims. “Are you crazy?”

“Sure am, darlin’!” McGucket says cheerfully. “Why do you ask?”

“Fabulous,” Pacifica mutters under her breath. Aloud, she says, “I’m not like my parents.”

“Seems that a monster like Bill Cipher sees all mortal creatures the same,” McGucket remarks. “You, me, your family… no matter where we come from, we’re all playthings to be used and thrown away when he gets bored. I once had a friend who…”

Before he can finish his sentence, the ceiling shudders and splits, and tentacle-like vines explode through the cracks, knocking books to the floor and winding around the shelves. One of them wraps around Grenda’s ankle, and she howls.

Pacifica doesn’t spare herself a moment to think. She brings her golf club down on the plant, as hard as she can.

Its grip loosens, and Grenda wriggles free. “Let’s get out of here!” she bellows.

“Great idea!” Pacifica takes another swing. “Where?”

McGucket raises his voice. “Multi-Bear, unblock that there door! I reckon there’s someplace we can go.”

--

As far as Pacifica knows, Stan Pines isn’t in the habit of letting people into the Mystery Shack unless they can somehow earn him money. While she can respect that (not that she’d ever tell him so), it probably doesn’t do much for their chances of finding shelter.

When he opens the door, all five members of Sev’ral Timez (Pacifica didn’t even ask why they were hiding in the woods) sing, “We come here seeking sanctuary,” in impressive harmony.

“We don’t sell that here,” Mr. Pines growls. Pacifica thinks that he’s going to slam the door in their faces, but he pauses when he sees Candy and Grenda, and his voice seems to soften just a little bit. “Do you know where they are?”

Candy shakes her head. “I haven’t seen either Mabel or Dipper since all of this began. I hoped that they would end up here, with you.”

“Which one of you’s responsible for this operation?”

Candy points to McGucket, who removes his hat. “Everyone here’s lost people they care about,” he says. “Your niece and nephew are my friends, too. For their sake, I’d be beholden – we all would – if you’d give us a place to stay, just for a bit.”

Mr. Pines glares at him, glances from the sheriff to the gnomes to the enormous horned and bearded man-creatures that tower behind them, and then steps aside. “Get in here, all of you, before I change my mind.”

--

While Mr. Pines, Sheriff Blubs, and McGucket argue in one corner, everybody else who can lend a hand gathers bedding and canned goods, first-aid kits and any potential weapons, from throughout the house. “That unicorn keeps looking at us funny,” Pacifica whispers as she sets a roll of blankets on the floor below the cash register.

Candy shudders. “Don’t speak to her unless you have to,” she whispers back. “She will delight in crushing your spirit.”

“Yeah, she’s a cruel, lying snob,” Grenda agrees.

Pacifica lets out a sharp little laugh. “Sounds like the two of us would get along, then.” She doesn’t really expect them to disagree with her; they’ve known each other since kindergarten, after all, and they probably remember every single tiny cruelty.

Grenda doesn’t disagree, but she does say, “Nice moves with that golf club, by the way. I thought I was going to be plant food.”

“Well, my trainer is internationally renowned.” Pacifica thinks back to her last game of miniature golf: the first but not the last time the creepy monsters in this town endangered her life and her hairdo. “Not that I’ve really wanted to practice lately.”

Candy nods. “When the sky opened up, I was packing for music camp, and worrying that I hadn’t improved enough since last summer.”

“I was taking online with Marius,” Grenda volunteers. “We were finally having a mature conversation about boundaries, and now he’ll never know what happened to me. Oh, the cruel irony of fate!” she wails, and Candy pats her arm.

“I hope my parents are all right,” she says. “I think, though, that they’re probably not.”

“I do know what happened to mine,” Pacifica tells her. She can still hear her mother’s scream as the eye-bat bore down on them. “Trust me, it’s not much better.”

“Did you know that your dad would try to join Bill?” Grenda asks bluntly.

Pacifica closes her eyes, trying to call up the icy indifference that once kept her from caring what other people thought. “Assuming that it’s any of your business,” she says, “I had no idea. I thought I knew him.” In other words (she doesn’t add), she thought that she knew what he was willing to betray or destroy in order to get what he wanted.

Since the ghost crashed the party at their mansion, her parents have barely spoken to her. She’s spent that time waiting for the sound of the bell that they’ve always used to silence her disobedient thoughts, and worrying that some horrific punishment was on its way.

At the moment, she has a hard time imagining a punishment more terrible than this one.

--

All the clocks in Gravity Falls have stopped, and Pacifica can no longer tell night from day, but eventually, there are more people – and other creatures – asleep than awake. There’s a space next to the blanket that Candy and Grenda are sharing, but Pacifica doesn’t claim it.

Mr. Pines stands by the window, staring out at the churning yellow clouds. “Excuse me?” Pacifica says in a voice that she barely recognizes. Maybe he doesn’t want to speak to her. She wasn’t exactly nice to him when he ended up in the stocks on Pioneer Day.

She tries again. “You know, I’m sure the twins are okay.”

“No, you’re not,” he says. “How can you be?”

“Well, okay, maybe I’m not sure,” Pacifica admits. “But Dipper knows more about the supernatural than anybody else I’ve ever met. And Mabel is, like, weirdness in human form.” He glowers at her, but she stands her ground. “It’s a compliment, okay? If anybody can survive out there, they can. And they always take care of each other.”

“You’d better be right about that, kid. I’m guessing you miss your family too, don’t you?”

“Ask me again tomorrow,” Pacifica says. “Or, you know, whatever it means when we wake up.”

“So it’s like that, is it?” Mr. Pines mutters, almost to himself. “You better get some sleep, then. I ain’t planning on shutting my eyes anytime soon, so I may as well keep watch in case…” He coughs. “In case anything tries to sneak up on us.”

She tiptoes over to the corner where Candy is curled up with her head on Grenda’s shoulder.

Pacifica believed for years that she was better than them. Maybe, now that they’re all in the same dangerous, grotesque, sinking boat, they’ll live long enough for her to admit that she was wrong.

As quietly as she can, she lays out her blanket next to theirs.