Stan opens his eyes and stares up at the ceiling. The wooden beams stare back down at him. Morning sunlight filters through the window and flutters through the room. He knows where he is: He’s in his bedroom in the Mystery Shack. That’s where he is every day when he wakes up. So why, today, does it feel so wrong?
He prods his half-asleep mind for an answer. What is the date today? What did he have for dinner last night? What is he supposed to be doing today?
He remembers what he’s supposed to be doing today. He and Ford are supposed to dock in Reykjavik by noon. How are they supposed to dock in Reykjavik if they’re in the Mystery Shack, though?
Mystery Shack. He’s not supposed to be in the Mystery Shack. He’s supposed to be on the Stan O’ War II with his brother. Where is his brother? How did he get here?
He shoots up in bed. He isn’t supposed to be here. He looks down at his brown hair, cut just below his shoulders. He isn’t supposed to have brown hair. He isn’t supposed to have long hair. Why does he, then?
Scrambling out from under the blankets, he looks around the room. He remembers when it was like this, but not anytime recently. There are no photos of Dipper and Mabel on the walls. There are no photos of Soos. There are no glasses on his bedside table, and no glass for his dentures. Of course there is no glass for his dentures, there are teeth in his mouth. And they’re his teeth. Why does he have teeth?
He runs over to the mirror, and peers at himself in it. Even though his eyes are blurry he can see clearly that he is not a 60-something year old man. He seems to have de-aged by 25 years in his sleep. How could that happen? And why can he not remember why he’s in the Mystery Shack? Why can he not remember? What’s happening? Why? How? Is this-
Stop. No. He needs to calm down. He needs to think. What could have made him younger? A youth potion could have made him younger. Where would he have gotten a youth potion? Ford probably knows how to make one. Where is Ford? Why can’t he remember?
Maybe, it’s the summer of 2013. Maybe, he fell asleep last night remembering that, but when the potion took effect, it made him forget some things. Not everything. Just a few things. A few months. That makes sense. That makes perfect sense.
Now, he just needs to find Ford.
He walks over to the door and grabs the handle. The hinges creak as he eases it open and he steps out into the hallway.
He looks around and doesn’t see anyone. He doesn’t hear anyone, either. Why can’t he hear anyone? It’s never quiet when the kids are in the house. He turns back around and peers at the alarm clock in his bedroom. 8:00am. It’s morning. Everyone else is probably just asleep. That’s it.
He wanders down the hall. He decides to check every room in the house. Of course he’s going to check every room in the house, and not just go straight to Ford’s room. Something weird is happening. He has to make sure no one else was turned younger and forgot, or something. Obviously that’s what he has to do.
He opens the bathroom door. There is only one toothbrush in the holder. Maybe, the kids are keeping their toothbrushes in their bedroom. And so is everyone else, except for him. He opens the door to the storage room. It’s piled high with boxes. Didn’t Soos convert that to an extra bedroom? Maybe he changed his mind.
He climbs up the stairs to the attic. He opens the door to the twins’ room. There are no beds pushed up against the walls. There are no posters. There are no cracks in the window. There are no twins.
He rushes back down the hallway. There are no family photos on the walls. There are no photos of Dipper and Mabel. There are no photos of Soos. The only photo is of him and Ford as children.
He almost tumbles down the stairs into the living room. The TV is playing a morning workout show. He stops and stares. It looks like it's straight out of the 80s. It must be a rerun. He turns the dial to the news. The report is about a speech the president had given earlier that morning in west Berlin. Why west Berlin? Why would they specify west Berlin? It’s just Berlin. Unless Germany split again while he was asleep.
No. That can’t be.
He runs into the gift shop and he peers at the calendar on the wall.
No. Absolutely not.
He rips the calendar off the wall and stares at it.
No. No. Absolutely not.
The calendar falls from his grip. It lands at his feet. He stomps on it once. He stomps on it twice. It’s not right. It’s not supposed to be here. Why is it here? He stomps on it again. It doesn’t go away. He stops on it once more. It’s still here. It won’t go away. Why won’t it go away?
He must be dreaming. This must be a dream. He pinches himself. He doesn’t wake up. He slaps himself. He doesn’t wake up. He slaps himself harder. It hurts. He doesn’t wake up. He throws himself at the shelves lining the walls. Everything comes crashing down on top of him. Glass breaks. Wood splinters. He starts to bleed. Why! Doesn’t! He! Wake! Up!
He’s still here. This is still happening. How could this be happening? Why is this happening? This can’t be happening. What is happening?
Is this not a dream? He’s not waking up. He throws himself across the counter. He doesn’t wake up. No. It’s not a dream. He wants it to be a dream but it’s not a dream. If this isn’t a dream, then is everything else a dream? No. No. No.
No. It couldn’t all have been a dream. Don’t let it all have been a dream. It wasn’t a dream. It wasn’t a dream. It wasn’t. It couldn’t.
He slams his hand into the broken glass. It bleeds. He slams it again. It bleeds more. He slams his head against the ground. He cries.
Dipper and Mabel weren’t a dream. Dipper and Mabel can’t have been a dream. Soos wasn’t a dream. Soos can’t have been a dream. His brother. He got his brother back. That wasn’t a dream. That couldn’t have been a dream.
He cries more. He knows that he’s lying. He knows that he’s lying when he tells himself it couldn’t have been a dream.
He continues to cry.
He thinks he hears voices. But he knows the voices aren’t real. They aren’t real because they’re talking about Weirdmageddon. Weirdmageddon never happened.
The voices don’t go away. He knows the voices aren’t real, but they won’t go away. He knows they aren’t real but they continue to speak. They continue to get louder. To get closer. To get clearer.
He rises up from the floor. The voices are real. The voices are real and they’re in the house. He grabs a baseball bat. He needs to protect himself.
He creeps towards the living room. There’s no one in there. The voices are louder now. He creeps towards the kitchen. The voices are inside the kitchen. They sound familiar. He holds the baseball bat high above his head, and prepares to swing, putting all of his force behind the blow and-
He drops the baseball bat. In front of him stands two men. The first man has light gray hair and five fingers on each hand. The second man has dark gray hair and six fingers on each hand. He steps closer.
Stanley flings himself at his brother, and wraps his arms tightly around him. He begins to sob into his sweater. He can feel a six fingered hand rub his back.
“Stanley? Are you okay?” Ford sounds concerned. And confused.
Stanley tightens his grip and starts to whimper into his turtleneck.
“You’re here. You’re really here.”
Ford pulls his brother off of himself and looks him in the eye. His look is sincere and caring.
“Of course I’m here, Stanley. Did you really think I was just going to leave you?”
Stanley tries to talk through his tears. He wishes he wasn’t crying. He feels small. And weak.
“When… When I woke up this morning, everything was wrong. I was in the Mystery Shack even though I knew we were supposed to be out on the ocean, and when I looked in the mirror I looked like I was in my 30s. At first I thought that maybe you had made some sort of youth potion or something and I just forgot, but as I looked around everything was like it was in the 80s and I started to think that-that-”
Stan cursed himself. He was breaking down again. He needed to man up and calm down.
“-I-I thought that everything had been a dream. Dipper, Mabel, Soos, Wendy, you… Everything.”
The expression on Ford’s face lowers and he squeezes Stan’s arms.
“Stanley, I’m sorry. I didn’t even consider that that’s where your mind would go, although I wouldn’t have been able to prevent it either way. What happened was a time anomaly that resulted from residual weirdness from Weirdmageddon. You switched bodies with a version of yourself from the past.”
Stan wipes his eyes and looks over his brother’s shoulder. He didn’t realize it before, but the other man in the kitchen does look familiar. It was him.
“So, is that me? The me from this time?”
“Yes, yes. We would have been here sooner except that it took a bit for the Time Paradox Avoidance Enforcement Squadron to show up after I reported the issue, and even longer to convince Time Baby to allow me to borrow a time machine. Although, now that I think about it, I guess that doesn’t really matter since we could have just time traveled to an earlier time in the morning…”
Ford blushes. He seems to be embarrassed about not getting here sooner.
Stan wipes his face on his shirt. He is still crying, but this time the tears are happy. He looks down at his hands. Long cuts run up and down his skin from the broken glass he had slammed his palm into. He turns towards the other version of himself.
“I kind of, uh, freaked out a bit back there. You’re probably gonna need to buy new merchandise for the gift shop. And maybe some bandages if you don’t have any already.”
Stan feels bad about making more for this past version of himself to worry about.
The other him looks between the Stan and Ford.
“So, uh, I don’t really have a good understanding of what’s going on right now. I woke up this morning thinking I was still asleep, and even now I’m still not really convinced that this isn’t just some crazy dream.
That being said, though, I don’t wanna get my hopes up, but, I really get you back? And you’re friends?”
Stan and Ford look at each other in silent conversation. Do we tell him? Ford seems to have an answer, and Stan lets his brother speak.
“It would not be advisable to tell you too much about the future aside from what I have already told you.”
The other Stan frowns, obviously disappointed. Ford places his hands on his shoulders.
“However, I will say this. No matter what happens, or how it seems sometimes, your brother loves you. And there will come a day in the future when the world will let you be happy.
The other Stan’s face lights up, and he pulls Ford into a tight hug.
Stan watches as the two stay like that for a moment. He doesn’t want to interrupt them. After a moment, though, Ford breaks the embrace and turns towards him.
“Stanley, do you know where my electron carpet is? It’s plush, and blue. I believe it was in my thinking parlor when I fell into the portal.”
Stan thinks. He remembers it still being in the room when the kids found it during the summer. It should still be there now. Stan leads the way, and the three of them push the bookcase out of the way of the shelves.
The two Stanleys rub their feet on the carpet and switch bodies. The future Stan and Ford bid the past Stan farewell, and then they disappear into a flash of light.
As past Stan watches them go, he thinks to himself: Don’t let this all have been a dream.