In another world, Bendy clawed his way out of the ink— the Machine still rumbling behind him— and looked up at the man who’d brought him to life. Though his vision was blurry, he could still make out bright blue eyes as his Creator knelt before him and introduced himself as Henry Ross.
In another world, Henry was drafted into the war, and never came home.
In another world, Joey watched, beaming, as his best friend entered the studio for another hard day of work and stopped in his tracks. Henry’s wide eyes locked on the living toon standing beside Joey. Bendy waved.
“Joey… what— is that— Bendy?”
With disbelieving laughter exploding out of him, Henry swept up the little demon and spun him around. With Bendy tucked against his side, Henry wrapped his free arm around Joey.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
Joey hugged him tightly back. “For you, my friend, anything.”
In another world, after putting the final adjustments on the Machine, Joey brushed his hands off and went to stand in front of it. On the ground, beneath the nozzle, a trussed up Sammy Lawrence glared fiercely.
Joey smiled down at him. “I suppose we oughta get started, huh?”
“Yes,” Henry said, clapping Joey’s shoulder. Joey’s grin spread wider at the gleam in his friend’s eyes. “Third time’s the charm, after all.”
In another world, the elevator crashed, and when Boris went to find Henry in the wreckage, the man’s eyes were frozen open, staring unseeingly. Several jagged metal bars jutted out from his chest, fully impaling him and dripping blood. From behind Boris, ‘Alice’ hummed pleasantly as she approached.
In another world, Henry looked up from his couch when his doorbell rang. It was late, and nearly winter; who could be out there?
He pulled his front door open and only vaguely registered his jaw dropping. Standing on his porch were three… well, they looked like cartoons. In fact, they looked like Bendy, Alice, and Boris.
“What the— how, who— what is—?” With all the questions flooding his mind, Henry didn’t have a clue where to start.
The three of them were shivering, and when Bendy spoke, his teeth chattered. “A-are you Henry Ross? Joe-Joey’s old friend?”
Henry nodded, dumbstruck.
“Please,” Bendy begged quietly, “help us.”
He didn’t know exactly who— or even what— they were, but that didn’t stop Henry from ushering them inside and finding some spare blankets for them.
Once they looked a bit warmer, he asked, “How is this possible? And what happened that made you come looking for me?”
Exchanging glances between each other, the toons said as one, “Joey Drew happened.”
In another world, Joey pushed open the old wooden door, stepping into the dilapidated studio.
Letting it close behind him, he said, mostly to himself, “All right, Henry. I’m here. Let’s see if we can find what you wanted me to see.”
In another world, the newly named Buddy carefully dragged the tip of his tail across the wall, completing his picture. He could feel Bendy— the real one, Henry had said— watching over his shoulder. With a flourish, he signed Henry’s name in the corner, as he always did; it was his way of keeping his Other alive around him.
Bendy frowned. “That’s where you got those skills, huh? Ya learned from Henry?”
Did you know Bendy?
Henry mentally shrugged. I don’t remember. I s’pose it’s possible, since I could tell right away that he was the original.
Curious, and lacking any other way to communicate, Buddy drew a thick little equals sign next to Henry’s signature and hopped up against the wall so he was on the other side. Bendy only kept frowning, obviously not getting it. With a little huff, Buddy jabbed a mitten-hand at Henry’s name, then the two dashes, and finished by tapping his head.
Henry equals Buddy.
Bendy gasped and stepped back. “No. No no no no no…”
Huh. Sure looks like he knew you.
I guess so. Hey, maybe he can—
Bendy abruptly leapt forward and grabbed Buddy’s shoulders, startling the smaller toon.
“Henry?” he whispered. The ink at his hairline began to drip slightly.
Buddy nodded and tapped his head again. With a look of pure devastation, Bendy collapsed to his knees.
In another world, the Projectionist screeched and charged when it saw Henry, who had frozen in surprise at the grating noise.
Just before he slammed his raised fist into Henry, the Projectionist stopped. Its head tilted slightly; Henry didn’t dare move as the massive toon leaned over him. The speaker set into its chest crackled, cycling through some static before asking, in a soft but garbled voice, “Henry? Is that you?”
Henry’s eyes widened. It sounded like— “Norman?”
In another world, Bendy guided Henry to stand inside the pentagram on the floor, so they were facing each other. His hand slid up Henry’s back to loosely encircle his neck. He hesitated.
“It’s okay,” Henry said. “I told you— I’m giving you my heart.”
A wave of terrifying calm washed over Bendy, and he nodded slowly. All he had to do was squeeze and twist just the right way, and it’d be over. His arms tensed and Henry took his last breath.
The sickening crack of the man’s neck breaking— though he’d been expecting it— made Bendy wince. Henry’s limp, dead body collapsed forward into his arms. Carefully, oh-so-carefully, Bendy laid him out on the floor. He steeled himself to dig into Henry’s chest and pry apart his ribs to retrieve his Creator’s heart, ignoring the thick globs of ink coursing down his and every other toons’ face.
In another world, Henry turned a corner and sucked in a breath, immediately ducking back around it. There was an Edgar copy just ahead of him.
He cautiously peeked down the hall with the toon, ready to make a break for it— he’d rather not have to kill anyone else if he could help it.
What he wasn’t expecting to see was Edgar flailing about, his teeth making rapid clack-clack-clacks that sounded distressed to Henry. His gaze drifting down, he spotted the source of the little guy’s panic. A puddle of ink was doing its best to absorb him, one of his legs already significantly sunk into the void.
Henry, secure in the knowledge that he was safe, turned to backtrack when a strangled whimper hit his ears. Just keep walking, some cynical part of his brain told him.
Instead, he leaned around the corner again, just enough to see but not be seen. Edgar had fallen onto his bottom, facing opposite Henry’s side of the hallway— both of his legs now trapped in the reaching ink— and was trying unsuccessfully to scoot away.
Listening to the muffled whines and pained clacks was simply too much for Henry; he couldn’t stand knowing that the little toon was suffering.
Taking the three steps necessary to stand directly behind Edgar, Henry reached down and scooped him up by his armpits, easily separating him from the dangerous black liquid. When he set him down, Henry prepared himself for the worst; to his surprise, Edgar merely stared up at him with his mismatched eyes.
Henry stared back, jumping slightly when the toon tipped forward— completely forgoing the use of his feet— to face-plant into Henry’s leg. And then, to the animator’s surprise, he started purring.
“Uh,” Henry said, looking around as though expecting to find someone to help him. “You’re, uh, welcome?” He carefully reached down and patted Edgar on a part of his head that wasn’t taken up by teeth.
Like a cat, he pushed into it, nearly falling over.
“Woah there!” Henry lunged to catch him, standing up with a very pleased looking toon in his arms. Edgar settled in, nuzzling into Henry’s shoulder, clacking gently. “O-kay. I guess… you’re coming with me, then?”
Edgar’s two right arms curled around Henry’s back, his fingers twisting into the material of his shirt. Yeah, he wasn’t letting go any time soon.
In another world, Henry felt the tug of a summoning latch onto his demonic aura. Since he was just cleaning up after dinner— baked mac’n’cheese from a woman he’d made a deal with earlier (she’d lost her beloved tabby cat and had honestly been willing to part with her soul for his safe return; Henry had sniffed the air and asked if he could perhaps get a dish of whatever was cooking instead)— he shrugged it off, which would send it to a different demon.
It didn’t leave though. No, it surrounded him, and his kitchen vanished from sight right as he realized that whoever was summoning him, was summoning him specifically. But that— that shouldn’t be—
Henry blinked. Joey Drew, looking smug as the cat who caught the canary and got the cream, stared back at him.
“Hello, old friend.” Joey wet his lips and tilted his head. “Surprised?”
“What,” Henry said, slightly breathless. How could Joey have known about him? He’d made sure never to slip up during his time at Joey Drew Studios, and after Joey had sent him away, he’d never even made contact in the following years. Of course, he didn’t look a day older despite the decades that had passed, but— Joey wouldn’t have known that before seeing him now.
“I suppose you could say a friend of yours told me about your true nature— oh, but, it seems you aren’t very well liked by other demons, now are you. Probably why he was so willing to give me this—” Joey held up a piece of ancient-looking parchment paper— “to prevent you from ever leaving me again.”
“Leaving you?” Henry repeated. “You’re the one that—”
Joey didn’t give Henry a chance to finish. Instead, he began reciting whatever was written on the page.
Henry’s eyes widened as he felt magick rise around him. That was an enslavement spell; Joey wanted to bind Henry to him!
Panicked, Henry tried to teleport, but something was suppressing his powers. His entire aura felt trapped beneath his human skin.
With no other option, he broke through the summoning spell’s weak barrier— they meant nothing to him, because of his lack of corruption— and ran, ignoring Joey’s cursed yelling behind him.
In another world, Sammy laughed as Henry struggled against his bindings. From over the music director’s shoulder, Henry could see the monstrous form of Bendy rising up.
No. No! Henry pulled as hard as he could, ignoring Sammy as he continued to ramble on about his lord, even as said lord approached.
“Henry,” Bendy said, sing-song. “Didja like what I had to show you?”
Momentarily freezing, Henry stared up at Bendy, not noticing in the slightest as Sammy stepped off to the side. He snapped back to himself, and resumed his efforts to free his hands.
“Oh, yes— I’m the one who sent you that letter. I’m sure Joey woulda loved to see you again, but, well— there ain’t nothing of Joey left.”
Tears gathered at the corners of Henry’s eyes— even if was able to get out of those ropes, what could he do? With both Bendy and Sammy right there, there was no way he could fight his way to freedom, and his head was still swimming, so he probably wouldn’t be able to run, either, even if there wasn’t an eight-foot-tall ink demon standing in the way.
Henry refused to just give up, though. Behind him, his wrists began to bleed from the force of his escape attempts.
“Don’t ya wanna know why I invited you here?” Bendy stepped closer; Henry ignored him. “It’s the same reason good ole Joey’s gone— I’m incomplete. There’s somethin’ of me missing. And he failed to provide it.”
Henry wildly shook his head, trying to force the words away.
“I was created knowing what I’d need; the only question was who would give it to me: Joey Drew, or you. I had my suspicions of course— he might’a been the founder of this studio, but Joey wasn’t much a man of creativity, was he? No, that was you. It’s always been you.”
One of the ropes snapped, freeing his right wrist. He pulled frantically at the other.
“I gotta wonder, though; what’ll happen to ya? Will it be you ’n me, stuck together for an eternity or two? Or will you die in the process?” Bendy took another step, bringing him to the edge of the pentagram beneath his ‘sheep.' Henry’s head twisted as far from Bendy as he could get; his time was up. “I guess there’s only one way to find out.”
The demon reached for him, and Henry instinctively tried to push him away with his unbound hand. Bendy grabbed him, the massive glove he wore engulfing Henry’s fist.
Henry’d always been on the shorter side, but he’d never once felt as small as he did right then, seeing the size difference between them.
“It won’t be so bad, will it, Henry?” Bendy asked, leaning down so his grin hovered only an inch or so from Henry’s face. “Creator and creation, together forever.”
He collapsed forward the rest of the way, his ink submerging Henry within it as smoothly as if he’d been dunked in water.
Sammy watched impatiently as flesh and ink— man and monster— became one.
When Bendy straightened, Henry gone, he looked different. Though still as massive as he’d been before, the corrupted parts of his body had ‘healed.’ His hands and feet matched, his horns weren’t quite sagging anymore, and his bowtie had straightened to its proper place.
Bendy reached up and wiped his face clean, the ink— for the first time— not immediately bleeding over it as soon as he did so. He turned to face Sammy.
Sammy gasped, stepping backwards warily.
Surrounding the pie-cut eyes was a ring of bright blue.
“Heya, Sammy!” Bendy said, his voice doubled with Henry’s. “We’ve got a bit of a bone to pick with you! You went and sacrificed me, you raving lunatic!”
“My lord,” he said quickly, “I don’t understand— I was merely doing as you wished! The— the sheep, it, he— you asked for him!”
“Aww, Sammy! Can’t ya tell? We are him.”
In another world, Henry hunched over a piece of paper, miraculously unstained by ink. From the table on his right, Bendy strained from his page to see what the man was drawing.
“C’mon, Henry, just a hint?”
Henry laughed. “Hold on, bud, I’m almost finished.”
“And then I can see it, right?”
“Right, Bendy. I promise!” With a final flourish, Henry sat back, smiling at a job well done.
Bendy bounced in place, shaking his page. “How ’bout now?”
Setting his pen aside, Henry scooped up Bendy’s piece of paper and placed it next to the one he’d been working on. “Go for it,” he said.
Bendy hopped over the line that divided the two sheets and gasped. A little scene had been set, with a flickering fire and a cozy looking hammock. He turned to gaze up at Henry, his eyes wide and shining.
“Well, go on,” Henry nodded at him. “Give it a try.”
With the animator’s help, Bendy successfully sprawled out in the hammock, his eyes closed in contentment.
“I know you’re tired, bud, but open your eyes real quick.”
Bendy complied, only to gasp again. Above him, a galaxy covered the page from one side to the other. Little twinkling constellations beamed down at him, and even as he watched, a stylized shooting star whooshed by.
“It’s beautiful,” he whispered.
Henry smiled. “It sure is. Tell you what, though: the real thing’s even better. And I’m gonna make sure you see it, if it’s the last thing I do.”
Wiping an inky tear from his cheek, Bendy relaxed as he stargazed. “Thanks, Henry.”
In another world, Joey’s invitation never made it to Henry, the address having been written wrong. The elderly woman who received it instead merely scoffed and brushed it into the trash.
In another world, Joey backed up from the Ink Machine. He’d thought bringing Henry back for the sacrifice would be a good idea, since it seemed that with each progressively deeper connection between human and toon, he became one step closer to a perfect amalgamation.
Joey hadn’t thought Henry and Bendy would be that, though; perfection achieved.
Sammy was nothing but ink, Norman had a projector for a head, and Susie and Alice looked like they’d been half-and-half smashed together. Henry and Bendy combined seamlessly.
At least eight feet tall, with a vaguely human shaped face and colored irises around pie-cut pupils, horns stretching up in an asymmetrical curve, with an inked version of Henry’s suspenders and bowtie combination, Henry-Bendy towered over Joey.
It was a success. But as the snarling toon reached for him with hands larger than Joey’s face, he had to wonder if it was worth it.
In another world, ‘Bendy’ shoved Henry up against the studio’s wall. He pressed close, forcing Henry to twist his head away, and laughed. Though it was the first time ‘Bendy’ had made such a sound, Henry easily recognized it. He gasped. “Joey?”
Gloved fingers tight around Henry’s upper arms, ‘Bendy’ grinned fiercely. “Not anymore.”
In another world, Bendy, Alice, and Boris cowered against the far wall as their toonified animator glared Joey down.
“We’re leaving,” Henry said. “I won’t let you hurt them again.”
“You won’t let me? Is that how you think this works?” Laughing hysterically, Joey’s body began to bleed ink, his form twisting grotesquely. Alice ducked her head and Boris whimpered, squeezing his eyes shut, but Bendy felt helpless to do anything but watch as Joey’s limbs snapped and elongated, his partially human flesh stretching tight over his malformed bones.
His jaw cracked as he roared, unhinging itself as his teeth sharpened. Bendy didn’t even have a word for what he looked like; perhaps, it was simple enough to call him a monster.
Henry stood his ground, unconcerned. As Joey lurched toward him, he whipped out a pen from his hammerspace. He drew three quick lines through the air, up-across-down, and finished with a scribbled circle.
Stepping around to stand in front of his— well, Bendy wasn’t quite sure what it was— he waited until Joey was nearly upon him before grabbing the circle and yanking as he blurred to the side.
It was a door, and Joey crashed through it despite its human-sized dimensions.
Henry slammed the door shut and did something to make the handle unravel and the three lines collapse uselessly to the floor.
Bendy stared. Even he hadn’t thought Henry had that good a grasp of toon logic yet. “Where— where’d ya send him?”
The animator shrugged. “Dunno. But wherever he is—“ he gestured at the empty air before him— “he’s trapped there, now.”
Henry tucked his pen away behind his back and walked over to kneel before the toons. “I think it’s time we went home, yeah?”
They nodded. “Yes, please.”
“Then what are we waiting for?” Henry asked with a smile, offering his hands.
In another world, Joey didn’t answer for a long moment. Finally, beseechingly and with his arms opened welcomingly, Joey said, “Because I need your help, my friend. My Ink Machine only works properly when it’s your drawings put into it. Stay with me, here, and help me create a whole new world, only limited by our own imaginations. Together, we can do anything, create anything— just as long as you can draw it.”
It was insane, it was crazy; it was— far more tempting than it should’ve been. Henry forced himself to remember how convincing his friend’s speeches could be, how easily he’d been able to lure people in to support his cause without quite knowing what they were supporting. He’d seen it happen often enough in college; everyone had hated going against Joey Drew in debates. Try as he might, though, Joey must’ve seen his hesitation, because he was quick to press on.
“Think about it, Henry. Think about what this could mean for the animation industry— real toons, brought to life! The sets we could create— the detail that we’ve never been able to go into before! Anything and everything you could ever draw, popping off the page in a way artists have always only ever dreamed of!”
Henry caught himself staring at the Ink Machine, enraptured by Joey’s words. It was so easy to imagine. Joey was right; every artist— Henry included— wanted nothing more than for the audience to think of their work as being alive. But never before had he ever considered the possibility of such a dream being possible in the most literal sense. It was tempting; so, so tempting.
He looked up at his friend, something new sparking in his eyes. “All right,” Henry said, stepping forward. “Let’s do it.”
A smile curled across Joey’s face. “Oh, my friend. You have no idea how happy I am to hear you say that.” He offered his hand, not to be shaken, but to be accepted.
Henry reached out, and grasped it.
In another world, Henry stepped into his backyard, holding a plate stacked high with a pyramid of hot dogs. He smiled as he carefully walked towards the line of picnic tables on the grass, something joyous and bright bubbling up at the sight of his family.
Susie and Alice sat on the wooden benches, chatting away with Sammy. Boris chased Bendy and the three Butcher gang members around the garden, careful not to step on any plants. Norman and Wally stood, each with a beer in hand, listening with poorly suppressed smiles as Shawn and Grant argued about something or other. Thomas and Allison, pressed shoulder to shoulder, whispered with faint blushes staining their cheeks.
An arm gently slung around Henry’s shoulders, so as not to upset the hot dogs. Henry gave Joey an indulgent smile as his friend bumped into him. “I still don’t know how you did it; how you saved everyone.”
“I suppose I just got lucky.”
“No,” Joey said immediately. “No, I don’t think it was luck. I don’t care what you want to call it— whatever it was, however you did it— it was all you.”
Henry thought of his experience in the studio, the craziness and danger that he’d been forced to face. The impossible odds that he’d been so sure he’d fail against, but that he’d gone head-to-head with anyway, because he couldn’t just accept the suffering everyone had been cursed with. The ultimatum he’d been given by a power he didn’t pretend to fathom, standing alone as the last all-or-nothing.
What had it been, in the end?
Henry glanced down at the incomprehensible markings just barely visible through the skin of his arms, gifted to him when he ‘won,’ for lack of a better term. “Call it… the magick of belief.”