The world around them hums. Darkness shrouds everything within reach; consuming, always consuming, every object in its path, bending in on itself to swallow everything whole. They feel its presence, crawling along their skin and under their clothes, desperately digging into them in an attempt to reach the glowing red light resting deep within their chest.
They've been here before. Many times, in fact, though they don't know why. They don't know how, either; all they remember last is being home with their mother Toriel, looking over at the other side of their bedroom and asking her "when, when will he be back, when is he coming home, I miss him so much, Mom, just tell me when he'll be home, please."
Not that it matters, considering they've ended up here countless times during random moments, never with any connection or correlation. All they know is that, from the start of their existence to now, they've wound up here, floating in the darkness, waiting for something, anything to happen, until--
A voice speaks, all around them--familiar yet foreign to them all the same. Though the sound of it makes them nervous, it makes them hopeful, relieved that someone else is here with them after so many years of spending their time here waiting to be released from this hell.
Kris looks around, head whipping around from side to side, eyes squinting through the dark to pick the stranger out from the darkness. Hello? Who's there?
the voice speaks again,
ARE YOU THERE?
ARE WE CONNECTED?
Kris wants to scream. Their body, however, remains static; allowing for only the smallest of movements and nothing more.
Yes! they think, I can hear you! Please, help me!
The stranger, of course, hears none of this.
...IT APPEARS THAT THE EXPERIMENT IS RUNNING INTO SOME COMPLICATIONS,
the voice murmurs.
The humming around them grows closer. Louder. Deafening. Kris squirms, fingers twitching with the need to cover their ears, the teen's eyes filling with tears as an ache floods through their body and straight to their soul.
The sound of Kris' soul being ripped from their body drowns out their weak scream, growing brighter than the sun in this vacuum of nothingness. It lets out a soft, melodic sound, playing a strange but calming melody that almost succeeds in calming them down.
SO THE SPECIMEN IS FUNCTIONAL AFTER ALL...
The darkness rushes towards them, and Kris, helpless in their immobile state, can do nothing but allow themselves to be consumed, grabbed by its burning tendrils and pulled lower, and lower, and lower.
As they sink, Kris swears they see a glimpse of something--of a small child and a flower, talking amidst rock and ruins, their murmurs just out of earshot to be understood but forms clear just the same. A familiar sight, they hate to admit, though Kris doesn't remember seeing the flower. Usually, they only see the human, talking to other people they know or have seen around, like their mother or that weird skeleton that just moved in yesterday. Just like every time they come to this place, the scene calls out to them, tries to pull them in...
They sink deeper and deeper until they break into blinding light, all the while with their soul shining that bright, obnoxious red.
Freed at last.
The teenager gasps, giving a jolt as their blanket flies off them and onto the floor, leaving them cold and exposed. They shiver and curl in on themselves, blinking away shock and confusion to look up at the angry, impatient expression of their mother.
"Get up! You are late for school," she says, though her words don't have as much bite as they used to. She walks over to their window and pulls open the curtains, looking out. She sighs. "I know that you have been feeling unwell as of late, but it would be a shame to waste such a beautiful day inside. Besides, I am sure that a good day at school will lift your spirits, will it not?"
Kris stares, the words barely registering. School...? How will school help with this?
They notice their mother still staring at them expectantly and, not knowing what else to do, give a weak nod and a smile. "Mhm," they respond. "I'll...be ready soon. Jus'--just give me a few minutes."
Toriel smiles in return, "Perfect. I'll be waiting for you out in the car, alright?" She heads for the door, pulling it open. She pauses right before stepping out of the doorway, turning back to them, "I love you."
Kris' throat tightens, "I love you, too."
Click!--the door slips closed,
leaving them alone once more.
Kris stares around their room, headache starting in their temples and fingers trembling in their lap. They glance over at the empty birdcage resting in their rusty old wagon against the opposite wall, frowning to themselves.
Their tremors worsen.
...So that's what I am...
They grumble and get up, smoothing out their sweater before leaving their room, expression purposefully neutral to hide their anger, their disgust, their fear. They can already feel the edges of their reality blur, can feel themselves slipping in and out of their body, control slipping from their grasp. They grit their teeth and shove the front door open with their shoulder, stumbling down the steps and into their mother's car. They can't hear a word she says to them on the way to school.
Well, if I'm just an experiment to them, I'll make it an experiment worth remembering--for better or for worse.
When they walk into the classroom, they're greeted like they always are--with shifty glances and judgmental whispers. Alphys greets them with a nervous gesture to their seat and a weak request for them to see them after class to catch up on what they missed before returning to her lecture, scribbling notes on the board.
Kris deflates into their seat, hair hanging in their face and eyes already collecting shadows underneath them. Alphys' words pass over their head and becomes white noise, matching the static raging in their mind. They can feel eyes on them; watching them, studying them, wondering just how such an odd, quiet human like them acts the way they do.
Kris wants to tell them. Wants to scream it for everyone to hear--that something is wrong with them. That they need help. If only they could just figure this out, make sense of the dreams and the darkness and the voices and everything bubbling underneath the surface that's just begging to spill over and make a mess of things--
The classroom door slams open, and everyone but Kris flinches, Alphys letting out a yelp and dropping her chalk.
Susie stands at the entrance, her wild hair pushed slightly out of her face and clothes loosely hanging off her muscular form. Her eyes dart back and forth, taking in the classroom and everyone within it, before settling on Kris.
Kris' eyes light up at the sight of her. There's still a hint of nervousness that creeps up in their chest when looking at the purple monster--fear left over from the many times Susie had targeted them or someone else to unleash her wrath on. However, after their adventure in the Dark World, with Lancer and Ralsei and the other Darkners, those nerves are replaced with relief, a fondness rising in their chest and reassuring them that they're safe.
Well, so long as Susie doesn't swing an axe at their head, that is.
Susie waves, gesturing for them to follow her into the hallway.
They sit up and place their palms against their desk, about to stand, when Alphys stops them in their tracks.
"E-Excuse me! Where do you two think you're g-going?" she demands, waving her chalk at them. Her burst of confidence withers and dies the moment Susie meets her eyes with one of her familiar glares, Alphys shrinking and stepping back, "I-I-I mean--I m-mean, uhm--g-go do wh-what you need to! We'll--we'll be here. Heh."
That's all the invitation they need. Kris jumps up and runs over to Susie, the taller of the two closing the door with a loud BAM!
"You looked like you were itching to ditch class," Susie says, snorting. "What, was yesterday not enough of a break for ya?"
"Like you minded that 'break' any," Kris shoots back. They smile when Susie laughs in response, looking around. "So what's the plan?"
Susie rolls her eyes, fixing them with an "are you serious" look. "Did you pay attention to that mushy heart-to-heart shit I spouted out before I left, or are you an amnesiac?"
Kris blinks, their response nothing but an empty stare.
"...A'ight, a'ight," Susie puts up her hands in mock surrender, backing away. "You don't gotta give me the silent treatment, yeesh." She gestures again for them to follow, and they do, driven by their curiosity and--though they won't admit it--their craving to spend time with someone. Anyone, even if it's a companion as unlikely as Susie.
They start walking down the hall, and Kris knows where they're going the moment they turn the corner--of course they do, having done this same thing just the day before. Though when before they had been shivering and dragging their feet, their movements automatic and their body stiff with the invasion of another person's presence, now they have a slight bounce to their step, a small smile on their face.
"So, what's with the look of death, huh?" Susie asks as they walk, scuffing the heel of her shoe absently against the tiled floor. "Did ya not sleep last night?"
Kris shrugs, staring off in the distance. Yup--there's the door. Almost there... "Eh," they mumble, "just the usual."
"You didn't look so bad yesterday," Susie pointed out, "so I doubt it was anything normal for you."
You'd be surprised, Kris bites back a sigh, shrugging. "I'll be fine. Don't worry about it--besides, since when were you a worrier?"
"Since I made a friend." She pauses, looking them up and down. "...What, did you spend all night jacking it, or--"
"Oh good lord, Susie--" Kris pushes her away and laughs, Susie elbowing them back playfully. They shake their head fiercely, saying, "No, I wasn't--doing that. Where's your head at?"
"Well, if you must know, my head is on my shoulders, thank you. Yours, though? Pretty sure it's in the gutter. Or a body bag, one or the other."
"I don't know what you're talking about--"
"Kris, seriously, you look like a corpse. Are you sure you didn't replace my friend with a dead body or somethin', dude? 'Cause I'm starting to think you did."
Kris groans. They pull her to a stop, grabbing onto her wrists and looking her straight in the eyes. "Y'know," they say, "for someone who's tough as nails, you have one of the softest hearts I've ever known."
Susie beams, shining with pride and victory, "Eh, well, y'know how it is."
They fall silent. Kris stares at the floor, at where their hands hold their friend's wrists, and Susie watches Kris, noticing them shift from foot to foot, exhaustion seeping into them in waves.
"...Hey, if you don't want to hang out, I get it," Susie says finally. Her hair starts to fall into her face as she tries to back away, "I mean, we hung out for a while yesterday, and that was a wild mess, so I get if you're tired and would rather not--"
"That's not it," Kris cuts her off before she can finish, shaking their head. They hesitate, glancing over their shoulder. "...If--if I tell you this, promise me you're not gonna say anything to anyone else?"
Susie narrows her eyes, "You didn't kill someone or anythin', did you--"
"Susie," Kris lowers their voice to a whisper, hissing through their teeth, "this is serious! I'm trusting you with something...really important to me. Okay?"
Susie's expression softens. She looks over Kris' nervous, wary frame and sighs, nodding. Pulling her hands free, she runs her fingers through her hair, saying, "Alright. Alright, bud, tell me what's bugging ya. Just between us."
A sigh of relief escapes the human. "Okay...okay. So, I've been--"
They stop. How does someone even begin to explain what they've been going through? Sure, to them, being controlled by some unseen force is normal, being an experiment is normal for them, being less than normal is their normal. But Susie? How would she understand?
They bite their lip as Susie waits, the silence between them growing heavier as Kris tries to find their words.
"...Okay, so--you know how like, we went to the Dark World, right?" they ask.
"So it's the Dark World that's bugging you?" Susie starts.
Kris shakes their head. "No. Well, kind of--it has a part in it, I guess--it's--ugh." They rub at their eyes. Sigh. Start again. "I...I have this--this thing, that happens. Sometimes. It doesn't matter where, or when, but when it happens, it's like I'm not me anymore. Like I'm being...controlled."
Susie nods, slowly, "Okay...?"
"Yeah. It's like--uh--" They wrack their brain, trying to find a good analogy for their situation. "…It’s like a puppet on strings," Kris says, fidgeting with their hands, their hair hanging in their face. They sway, Susie’s worried frown deepening as a look of terror crosses her friend’s face, an expression so unlike Kris’s usual blank stare. "You can still see, sure–can still feel everything that’s happening to you. But you can’t control your movements; can’t control the words coming out of your mouth; can’t pick and choose your battles or your friends. It’s like someone else is you, and you’re not you. And sometimes…sometimes, when it happens, I…it’s like I see things. Another world. Other people. Another me. You know what I mean?"
Susie doesn't know what they mean. Not really--and Kris can see that in the way her expression twists into one of confusion, one of worry. But, right when Kris is sure that Susie will turn on them, when they think Susie will start yelling at them and accuse them of making up stories, she says, "Sure, dude. I think I can get what you mean. That sounds terrifying."
Kris feels a weight lift from their shoulders. "It is."
"...Say," Susie places her hand on their shoulder, and Kris looks up at her, blinking tiredly. "This weird puppet thing--how often did you say this happens?"
"It's not often," Kris murmurs. There's that feeling again; that wavering between realities, pulling them in and out, in and out. They lose feelings in their limbs, conversation becoming harder by the second. "It's...random...when it happens. But...'s not like it happens always. Just sometimes."
Susie nods. "And you've told...who about this?"
"Nobody?" Susie repeats. "Just me?"
"I tried to tell my brother once," they mumble. Their mouth feels like it's been filled with cotton; their tongue thickening. Their eyes start to slip closed, "But he didn't really belie..."
Susie reaches out as they collapse, pulling them into her arms. Kris goes limp as she turns them over, shaking them and calling their name, her voice growing louder and louder as they slip away, away, away...
Humming welcomes them as they open their eyes, drifting in an endless sea of shadows. Their skin crawls with its intrusive presence, their head foggy as they look left and right, left and right, searching for an escape, a way back home.
the voice is back. It booms around them, filling the empty void with echoes of "hello, hello, hello."
ARE YOU THERE?
DO YOU HEAR ME?
Kris blinks. Frustrated tears stream down their face, the teen struggling against the darkness, fighting against the binds that wrap around their form and threaten to drag them under.
THE SPECIMEN SEEMS TO BE MALFUNCTIONING,
they hear the voice murmur.
THIS WILL NOT DO. ONE MOMENT.
Kris looks down in horror as their soul glows, lifted from their chest and painting the darkness a crimson red. They squirm, tugging again at their restraints, trying to pull away--
They scream as a wave of pain washes over them, so overwhelming and unexpected that it blinds them and zaps them of any energy they might have had. They grow limp, their soul cracked along the front, body aching all over and mind a dull hum.
THAT IS BETTER.
WE SHALL CONTINUE.
Kris murmurs something--a quiet plea for help, drowned out by the sounds of the world's incessant humming--before they are returned to the dark, their form vanishing amidst dense, suffocating fog.
As they drift, they see a mountain, a small child in a blue and purple jumper falling down, walking within its depths, looking at them curiously in a dilapidated, broken world...
When Kris comes to, they find themselves lying on hard, rocky ground, dressed in armor, unable to move. Instead, their body moves without their input, pulling them up on their feet and forcing them to look around.
Defeat and disappointment settle in before their other emotions can take hold of them.
Well, they think, at least I'm not alone in this place.
...Please let Susie and them be here.
From where they stand in the closed-off walls of the Ruins, Frisk stares at where the older child had been standing just moments before, frozen in place. They grip their stick tighter in their fist, their free hand reaching up to touch curiously at the smooth, flat surface of the stone wall, as though that would make the other magically reappear.
"My child," Toriel calls from the other room, Frisk startling at the sound of her voice, "please follow me. It is dangerous to stray from the path, and I would prefer that you not get hurt, alright?"
Frisk glances in her direction and back to the empty space in front of them, a frown fixed onto their face. Weird...
They follow after the goat monster, their grip on her hand weaker than it usually is.
It's...been a while since something new has happened...
Maybe Sans knows what's going on.