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Madness Swallowing Us Whole

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God dammit.

Your ankle felt like shit and had began swelling. Maybe it was broken, you honestly couldn't tell anymore because the cold was beginning to numb every sense you had. Toriel healed you as best as she could with…well you weren't too sure what she did actually but you chalked it up to monster magic. Sometime ago you had read a bit about the monsters underground having magic. However your battle with her really seemed to agitate it again and undo whatever she did.

Ha, battle, you thought cynically.

That wasn't worth calling a fight, you were fleeing like an injured rabbit from a fox; she could've killed you had she truly wanted to. But she had that broken, motherly look in her eyes when your HP hit a mere 2. She finally let you leave after that, warning you never to return. Not that you wanted to, she was obsessive and clingy and you wanted out fast. Now you were galumphing through snow and clumsily skating along an icy path, surrounded by a dense and dark cluster of pine trees for as far as the eye could see. Everything else was shrouded in a thick, white fog.

You trudged and limped as quickly as your injury allowed, stumbling over another fallen branch. The more you walked that path the more the trees seemed to hang under the weight of the snow piled along their bony branches; rickety trees, you thought. You had a feeling that they'd all continue to concave and bend until they crushed the life out of you. It'd be like stepping on a cherry tomato. Splat.

You tightened your grip around the flaking tree branch in your hand--ignoring the splinters you undoubtedly had now. If you kept brooding on an untimely death, it just might meet you. You decided push the thought away and press on, holding back tears as the unforgiving, glacial wind stung your eyes. Breathing was already becoming difficult; your airways were on fire. You were tired, hungry and alone in a strange place. You had nothing here and you didn't want to die, but it felt like death was hanging over you more than those trees.

Ugh, why'd you even jump down here again? You clicked your tongue and narrowed your eyes as you remembered. You hated it up there. Anywhere was better than there. It was a flat world with flat minds, a place where you felt trapped, so you came down here. If you knew you were to be trekking in the frozen wilderness though, you would've come down in a lot more than a t shirt, sweatpants and old sneakers that did a poor job of keeping out the cold. Good thing you used to watch all those survival shows on Nat Geo and Animal Planet. But, then again, that knowledge meant little in terms of fighting vicious bloodthirsty monsters. Not to mention you were without your supplies. You had a backpack with food and matches and a hunting knife and everything. But Toriel burned that up in your "fight."

You sighed. Maybe you could build a fire the old fashioned way. Though the flower (flowey, was it?) warned you not to, as it may attract monsters. And according to him, Toriel was the least of your concern.

As you stood in the middle of the path, you heard a loud crunch, causing you to twirl around on the balls of your feet.

You gulped.

Was that branch always broken in two like that?

You turned around and kept walking--limping--forward. The sound of your sneakers grinding slushy, hard snow sounded louder than ever to you. Someone was following you.

Was that a chuckle?

Shit shit shit SHIT.

Your breathing was becoming harsher and the palms of your hands clammy--which didn't help with the biting cold. You suddenly noticed every flurry and every gust of wind that passed your frostbitten cheeks, how it pushed against the pine trees. You noticed every breath leaving your chapped lips, every heartbeat galloping in your chest. Another chilling snap and it reminded you of the white hot pain in your ankle.

Shit shit shit shi--

"h u m a n."

You froze instantly.

Run run run why in the hell are you standing paralyzed with fear RUN!

You didn't move an inch. The sound of sneakers in snow became louder; you held your breath.

"d o n ' t y a k n o w h o w t o g r e e t a n e w p a l ? t u r n a r o u n d, a n s h a k e m y h a n d."

You stood silently for what felt like an epoch but was probably only half a minute. You clenched your fists so tight you thought you might snap your own branch, which would suck since you needed it to walk. You could feel eyes on you and you shrunk under their gaze. You turned around slowly, paying extra attention to your ankle.

Behind you was a short skeleton--judging by the phalanges and metacarpals and exposed tibias. You'd be surprised had you not already met a talking flower and been healed--and almost killed--by a crazy magic goat woman that same day. The skeleton was hunched over and wore a big, charcoal winter coat, washed out basketball shorts and sneakers that honestly looked worse than your own. His face was shrouded beneath the fur-lined hood of his coat but you caught his grin in the light that crept in through the canopy of skeleton pine trees. No pun intended. Okay a little pun intended. But those trees were pretty skeletal. As you stared at him you swore you saw a glimmer of...gold? Could just be the light, you thought.

"well I ain't got all day dolly, quit gawkin and shake my damn hand." He growled, his voice strained with impatience.

Without thinking, you quickly grabbed his hand and received a brief but hearty zap of electricity that made your whole body jerk back and stiffen. You went to withdraw your hand on instinct but he held it there firmly. Painfully. You winced in your dizzy stupor.

"heh heh heh, ol' buzzer in tha hand trick. gets suckers like ya every time. anyway, name's sans. sans the skeleton. and you...yous a human girly correct? never uh, seen a human before. what's it like havin all that soft flesh? heh heh heh...forget that actually. how's the surface world? it's shit ain't it? i bet it's shit."

You had hardly heard much less processed anything he said, still dealing with the aftershock of the, well, shock.

When you did finally regain some focus, you managed to speak:

"...What?" Your voice sounded a little hoarse. You hoped it wasn't a cold; you always got sick easily.

He rumbled out a laugh and a shiver ran down your spine. Damn your affinity for dangerous men.

"yous a rude one ain't cha? i dun like rude girlies. at least pay attention when i ask ya stuff." He sounded irritated as he somehow gripped your hand even tighter. You bit the inside of your cheek to keep from whining about it.

You didn't like this, not one bit. Okay maybe a teeny tiny bit. Maybe. But who does he think he is anyway? Who gives a shit about what he likes? And rude? He just electrocuted you! He's the rude one! Okay okay calm down. You let out a shaky breath. Flight or fight? Flight or fight? You tossed those ideas around your head a bit. Well, unless you planned on gnawing your own hand off, flight was out of the question. You took a deep breath. You didn't know if you were shaking from the cold or the fear anymore.

"L-Let me go! You asshole!" Somehow you managed to bark out a command despite stuttering.

The fucker actually seemed amused by that, which only turned your remaining fear to anger. Fuck this guy.

Without even consulting your brain, you raised your hand and slammed your fist down on his head. Ignoring the searing pain flying through your arm, you pushed him back as hard as you could. He didn't seem to expect that. He stumbled back, dragging you with him since he still refused to release you. His hood fell back, revealing wide, bottomless eye sockets that housed little red pupils. Beneath that was his grinning maw, filled with sharp, knife-like teeth.

You swallowed the lump in your throat, all fear returning. Adrenaline fueled bravery never lasts.

Now that you were so close to him, you noticed how warm he was and you envied him and his damn winter coat. How do skeletons keep warm anyway? Must be magic, you mused. You also noticed how musky he smelled and how...sweaty he was. Gross. Is that mustard in the corner of his smile? His breath did smell a bit like mustard. You were quickly pulled back to reality when you felt the pressure vanish from your hand and reappear around your neck. His phalanges held you firmly, wringing the very breath out of you.

"so...ya wanna play hero do ya? well, hate to break it to ya, dolly," he emphasized the word break by teasingly applying pressure to your windpipe, "but there ain't no room for heroes down 'ere. all of them died. it's kill or be killed. here, welp there's just you: a rude lil human, and a buncha monstas like me that either wanna take ya soul, rape ya, or eat ya," He chuckled and you swore you saw a bit of tongue between those daggers in his mouth, "maybe all three." He winked while you choked and sputtered in his grasp. You felt your adrenaline pumping and hoped that he couldn't tell some twisted part of you sorta liked this. Maybe it was just the lack of oxygen getting to you. You hoped so anyway, otherwise you were a lot freakier than you had originally thought.

He noticed your eyes closing and instead applied pressure to your carotid arteries rather than windpipe, as if to keep you from passing out.

"i could crush ya like a bug ya know, wouldn't take much to squash ya, bet you'd pop like a grape heh heh. yer all soft n breakable...fragile lil things, human beins," He spoke so tenderly as he dragged a few phalanges gently down your cheek to wipe tears you didn't even know were there. You'd swear he was reciting romantic poetry and not making threats. You stared down at him with furious yet fear filled eyes. He could and would kill you if he felt like it, and you doubted there was any appealing to his motherly instincts here. It seemed that he was going to be the one to crush you rather than the bowing trees.

"mmm, i like that look in ya eyes dolly, the fear...the rage. Tell me, how'd a lil human like yous end up down ere?"

You gritted your teeth but remembered it was better to answer him.

"...jumped" you hardly heard your own voice.

He was suddenly choking you for real now.

"speak up, human." That was a command he would not repeat.

"Jumped...I-I jumped!" You croaked out.

His eyes seemed to show interest in that and he stopped strangling you almost entirely, but he still kept his hand there.

"now why would a cute lil angel like yous flee from heaven and dive straight into hell?"

You were coughing violently and gasping for breath yet somehow you found it in you to crack a grin.

"Who said...anything about...fleeing heaven? You see you're right. The surface world...heh," you inhaled deeply as you tried to catch your breath, "it's boring. Shitty."

Another epoch passed as he stared at you before his grin widened farther than you thought it ever could. He released you, letting you fall to the ground in a crumpled heap. You heard barking laughter and was curious as to what other sadistic beast was lurking around here, only to realize afterwards that it was coming from him.

"ya know i think i like yous lil dolly. i was gonna let my bro have ya--he's a human hunting fanatic--but i think i'm gonna keep ya all to myself."

Your consciousness was fading but you swore you heard him say he was going to keep you.


"...What...?"