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What do you think it is like to keep hearing about a future you already know will never happen?

And again, I find myself shaken awake by nightmares that won’t end. A voice that has long stopped talking turns into a pull, an involuntary movement. A rope dragging me along towards the end I am wishing, no, begging to avoid. I already know it is no use. Time has long stopped moving. This is one nightmare I will never wake up from. The next morning won’t break. The ‘next week’ my Mom keeps talking about will never come. I already know that. I am already so close to just accepting it.

My knuckles cracking as my fingers move despite my will, I brace for the nauseating feeling of having the source of my ‘being’ itself severed from my body. It barely hurts any longer. I’ve already been here far too many times to still find it painful. And yet I still wish I could at least scream at the sensation. Even my Soul moves against my will. I don’t know what these strings that force me to struggle in ways different from my own intentions really are. I’m not sure I care.  At this point, I wish for nothing more than the rays of dawn to come and break this night. But that’s just a vain hope. A twisted smile I know isn’t mine on my face, the scene fades to black, before my eyes and before my mind. I hear Their quiet, cackling laughter echo through my room as the world ends and prepares to be reset and begin anew.

Soon it will be the morning November 1st again. It is always November 1st. There hasn’t been another day in my world for a long, long time. And no matter how many times I rewind that day, I always end up back at this point. Dangling from strings, robbed of my voice, my agency and, finally, even my body.

Is that just how it’s going to be forever now?

Is there really nothing I can do?

It would be so easy to just submit to this fate and accept that soon, every speck of meaning will have been removed entirely from this day. I know that once all the possible small changes that can be made have been exhausted, everything in this world will become nothing but a memory I’ve already seen a dozen of times. Dead memories. No matter how loudly Susie roars, yells or laughs, once I’ve seen it all a thousand times, she’ll become nothing but a lifeless doll dangling from the same strings as my soul. Even the awkward smile and warm words of the young boy gazing at me with the same look and the same face as my brother will become meaningless. I’ll just stop caring. I don’t think I can care for much longer.

I don’t want that.

I’ve known for a long time that my choices don’t matter. My role as a ‘hero’ in this story is as superficial as can be. I’m not in control of most of my actions, and most of my words are not my own either. But even so, this day I spent with Susie and Ralsei is precious to me, even now that it’s repeated so many times. Even tainted as it is, corrupted as it’s become, it stays one of my happiest days in a long time. And so, I can’t allow myself to let it die and become meaningless and empty just like this. I want to be able to move forward and hold it dear in my memories. I want to see Susie and Ralsei again the next day. I want to be able to smile at my mother when she asks me what got me, the eternally creepy frowner, into such a good mood.

I want to tell Asriel about it. I want to see the look on his face when he heard about the shy little boy, who wanted nothing more than to go on an adventure with me.

And that’s why I can’t let Them have Their way.

‘CHARA’.

That name is on every single one of the Save Files now. My own, as well as the two others that opened up to me once I started resetting. They’re all tainted by that word; a painful reminder of the fact that my life hasn’t been my own for a long time now.

I don’t want to reset one of the files. If I reset, it will just start all over again. But is there any file I can load that could get me out of this cycle? Each of these Saves was taken on November 1st. I can’t go back to before that day, and I can’t proceed beyond it. I’m stuck. But even so, I have to try and Load. Because if I don’t then They will win. Because if I don’t, I’ll never really see any of them ever again. Not Mom, not Susie, not Ralsei… Not even Azzy.

I refuse to just repeat this day again. I refuse to just let it keep replaying before me until it becomes tedious and meaningless.

And just as I am thinking that, am focusing on how deeply I refuse to let that happen, I see an unknown light shine in the distance. It’s small. It’s faint. But I can feel that it is close enough to reach out to. Just barely.

That light has a shape that I am familiar with, yet it is different. I feel it tremble as my fingers reach out for it. Is it scared of my touch? Does it fear me? …I don’t have time to hesitate. If I don’t act now, everything will just repeat again.

Screaming to be freed of this endless nightmare by any means possible I reach out to the light…The foreign Save File, and I call the name inscribed in it. A name I’ve never seen or heard before.

“Frisk…!!”

I don’t know who they are. I don’t know whose life and memories I am intruding on by doing this.

But they’re my only hope to escape from this world without choice or future.

And that’s why I don’t falter as I feel the light’s radiance engulf and consume me, Loading into me countless sensations I don’t think I’ve ever felt before.

It’s overwhelming. But it’s the only thing I can do to get out of this hell. The only choice given to me in what has felt like an eternity.

As the light of the File called ‘FRISK’ turns to dazzling sunrays in my eyes, I feel a voice echo from afar…

 

“VERY WELL. THEN LET US BEGIN.”

Chapter Text

UnReLaTeD

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CHAPTER 0: Prologue

November 1st 202X.

Every time I wake up that morning, I try to convince myself that it was all just a bad dream. That time has moved. That when I look at the calendar, it will say ‘November 2nd’. To do so, I search for things that are ‘off’. Different. An unknown scent, a ray of light in my eyes that I’ve never felt before. Maybe just a wrinkle in my blanket I swear wasn’t there last time.

Right now what I’ve latched onto is the sweet scent of Butterscotch and Cinnamon in the air. But deep inside, I know that in the end, it’ll all be the same. As soon as I get out of this bed, my actions won’t be my own. And there will be a voice, telling me-

…It’s a question nobody had asked me in a long time.

My name is Kris Dreemurr. Just ‘Kris’ is fine. I’m a third year in Hometown High School. My favorite flavors are Chocolate, Cinnamon and Gingerbread-spice, and I love music, practical jokes and video games.

I’m also a human. The only one in my town.

You’d think it wouldn’t make much of a difference. The people in town are very varied in all sorts of manners and I’ve never even seen another human in my life anyway. I should just be different in the same ways everyone else is different from one another, right? Well, things aren’t that simple. When you’re a human, made of flesh and blood, in a town of monsters made of magic, people will take notice of how you’re ‘weird’ sooner or later. They’ll ask you questions. They’ll expect you to just know things you don’t have the answer to. And then you can’t answer. And thenyou’ll start to dislike talking to them. And you’ll talk to them less and less. And you’ll become known as “that creepy kid who blew up the community hall bathroom that one time and who poor Asriel has to hang out with on a daily basis”.

Well, that’s who I am, I guess. But who are you?

I didn’t expect an answer. It was just weird to wake up to a question like that. The sunrays stung my eyes as the fog in my mind began to clear a little. There were so many little things that felt ‘off’ this time. They came pouring in, one after another, confusing me as I stretched myself and sat up in bed.

Firstly, I could get up of my own volition. It was something I hadn’t been able to do for a long time. It almost felt like I had to relearn how to do it from scratch. It took me a while to let my feet touch the ground.

Secondly, moving my body in itself felt strange somehow. My hand took less time to touch my cheek, my feet took longer to touch the ground as I tried to get out of bed. Even the sensation of my hair brushing up against my face was oddly different. Everything was just a split second off from what I expected it to be.

Thirdly the place I found myself in when I opened my eyes was… odd, somehow. I can’t really describe it, but things felt unfamiliar in a way beyond the usual presence of another person in the back of my mind that I’d become accustomed to.

Maybe this was all just wishful thinking. Maybe in a second, I’d hear my Mom call my name and-

Frisk!

…She called something alright. But whatever that word was, it definitely wasn’t my name. I did feel like I’d heard that word before, but my mind as still hazy, and I couldn’t quite recall it yet. I put the thought aside and focused on beginning the day for now.

Everything was just a little off. My Mom’s call, my balance, this room. Once I finally stood on my two feet, I took a moment to process my surroundings and everything going on. It was then that I asked myself a first question.

(…Where am I?)

It should have been a simple question with a simple answer, really. I remembered that I had Loaded a Save File, and I remembered that said File was labeled with the words ‘My Room’. But the room I let my eyes wander through wasn’t ‘My Room’. It was a lot smaller than the room I remembered. A lot tidier too. There wasn’t much in it. Just a closet, a toy box, a simple bed, and some posters of celebrities I didn’t know on the walls. What wasn’t there was Asriel’s bed. Or Asriel’s computer. Or Asriel’s cupboard, or ornaments or shelves… I saw nothing that belongs to him in this room. Not a single item. The walls were a different color from what I knew. The carpet had a different texture. When I finally did find an item that looked familiar, even that one thing was different in its own way. Inside a cage on a cupboard in the corner of the room, a little, yellow canary merrily sung its song, as if to greet the morning with me.

I hadn’t had a bird in ages by that point, and even back when I did have one, I’d never bothered to give it a name like that. The cage itself looked clean and shiny, not a speck of rust on it, as for the carpet, it was tidy. The ominous stain that I’d never bothered to clean up was gone. No, rather, it had probably never existed in the first place. Not here. This wasn’t ‘my room’, that much was clear. But if it wasn’t ‘my room’, then whose room was it?

A framed picture next to the cage drew my attention next. It was a photo I didn’t recognize, but the motive was familiar. There in the picture, I saw my mother, her arm wrapped around me, smiling blissfully at the camera, while I gave a gentle smile and waved. At least, I think it was me. There was nobody else it could be. It was a human child with brown hair but even so, something about that picture just felt wrong, much in the same way everything else in this place was wrong.

I heard my mother’s voice call again.

“Frisk!! If you do not come down soon, breakfast will be cold!”

Breakfast. A nice word. One of my favorite words in the world, actually. One of the few words that, on a normal day, will get me out of bed without much moaning or complaining. But right now, hearing it was odd, to say the least. It brought another question to my mind.

(There’s time for breakfast this time around…?)

November 1st 202X. A Wednesday. It’s always been a Wednesday. It starts with me getting up late, causing Mom to rush as she drives me to school and herself to work. I arrive late for class. Stomach empty, expectations for the day set low. And then things just get weirder from there.

But today, there was breakfast.

I went through a door I didn’t recognize as my own and rushed down a set of stairs I didn’t think I’d ever seen before. I wasn’t sure if I was because I was curious to check and see what else this strange new day could bring, or just because I was really, really hungry for some of my Mom’s cooking, but my steps were swift as I followed her voice. I only made halt when I passed by a mirror in the hallway, having caught a glimpse of the figure reflected in it. What I saw surprises me. Instead of a teenager with messy, long hair, wearing a green and yellow striped shirt and brown jeans, a young child with short hair and a blue and purple-striped shirt looks back at me. A child much too young to be me, at least, the ‘me’ I remembered seeing the last time I passed a mirror. But it had to be me. It was a human, and I saw it in a mirror. There was nobody else this could be, right?

“Frisk!!” my mother’s voice called again, this time louder than before. I gave the mirror a brief tap before I turned towards the voice and raised my own to reply.

“I’m coming, Mom-!”

I almost cut myself off halfway through the sentence when I heard the voice that came out of my mouth. Dear god, was that really me? That grating, high pitched squeaking, like a pool toy that Dad tried to sit down on after it’s been left out in the sun for too long? I don’t usually need an excuse to not talk much, but if I did need one, this voice would have made for an excellent argument. I’d only heard myself say three words so far, but I was already sick of it. I hated being a child.

A child. Right, I was a child again. The realization settled in my mind like dust after an impact. I’d Loaded a Save File I’d never seen before, was now in a house I didn’t recognize, and I was a child. Would that mean I’d gone back in time further than I usually do this time around? Maybe so far that we still lived in a house we owned before Mom and Dad had gotten divorced? I wasn’t sure we’d ever really lived in a house that looked quite like this one, but maybe I’d just forgotten. That was the only thing that made sense. That ‘name’ Mom kept calling me, too, was weird, but maybe it was a nickname I’d forgotten about as well. Or repressed having. A lot had happened those past years. Why should it be surprising for me to get rid of some awkward memories I didn’t need anymore?

After some trial and error, I located the door to what I assumed to be this house’s kitchen. I felt a little apprehensive as I moved to open the door. Mom would be there, that much was clear, but what about others aside from her? Who else would there be?

…If this was the past, then maybe the divorce hadn’t happened yet. Maybe, if I opened this door, I’d find Mom and Dad, nuzzling their noses and whispering embarrassing things into each other’s ears, while Azzy, still getting used to his glasses, would be awkwardly trying to cover his eyes with his ears? It was a nice idea. Nice enough to make me hurry up a little more with turning the knob and opening the door before me.

It was only Mom waiting on the other side. Sitting by the breakfast table, reading a book and eating some Snail Pie while having her usual morning coffee. Just her. Nobody else.

“There you are, my child I was worried you might not be coming at all. Are you feeling well?”

I tried to hide my disappointment at the scene I saw, mustering an awkward smile.

“Y-Yeah… Morning, Mom.”

If I’d showed the way the scene made me feel, it would have only caused my mother to ask me strange questions, the kind I really didn’t want to answer right now. So rather than dwelling on my incorrect expectations, I decided to focus on the breakfast table before me. It was strange how simple it was to just walk up to it and sit down on the chair. I’d already all but forgotten what it felt like to move my own body without intervention. The only involuntary action it took was the growling of my stomach. Man, just the smell of Mom’s cooking was enough to make it feel like a bottomless pit. Eagerly, I began to examine the food items on the table in front of me. Toast and pancakes and pie and even a salad all lined up before me along with a long list of sweet breakfast condiments, ready to be eaten.

“This all looks great…” I mumbled, licking my lips a bit. Even so, there was still apprehension on my mind. “But, Mom… Are we gonna have time for all of this?”

I looked up at her, making sure I had her attention. As simple as the question I was about to ask was, it felt very important to me.

“I mean, aren’t we already late for school…?”

My mother tilted her head a tiny bit when she heard me say that. Then she adjusted her glasses and laughed.

“Ahaha! School? On a Sunday? My child, you must still be half asleep!”

“Oh… Sunday… Right.”

Sunday. Not Wednesday. Sunday. That was it. That was the proof I’d needed. It wasn’t Wednesday November 1st anymore. For the first time in so, so long, it wasn’t Wednesday November 1st. I’d gotten… out…

The realization made me feel as if a straitjacket had been unlocked and taken off me. I took a deep breath, and it felt so relieving. Freeing, even. It was Sunday. For the first time in forever, it was Sunday. I wasn’t Their day anymore.

Immediately I started digging into the food before me like there was no tomorrow. Jam was slathered onto toast and wolfed down. Pancakes were piled up on my plate and devoured with a huge helping of nougat spread. I downed an entire glass for Orange Juice in one go. This was my first breakfast in eons, and nothing would stop me from enjoying it to the fullest. I took care to not go overboard, just enough to not raise Mom’s suspicions. With every bite I took, my mind cleared a little further. Absentmindedly stuffing Dandelion Salad with Pumpkin Seed Oil into my mouth, I started to think, about the Save File I’d loaded and about my current situation. It was clear I’d gone back a lot further in time than I usually did when I reset a File or Loaded. But how far back was I really? Judged by the image I’d seen in the mirror before, I was between eight- and ten-years old right now. Back in the present, I was seventeen. That was a difference of about eight years, maybe a bit less, maybe a bit more.

Eight years ago. That was before Mom and Dad went their separate ways. Long before Asriel left for college, and even before I’d earned myself my reputation as the weird, unapproachable kid people need to keep their guard up around. The idea that I’d now need to redo all those years with everything they entailed sickened me a bit, puberty only being the least of all those problems, but even so I had no trouble deciding that it was preferable to going back to the alternative. For now, it seemed I was finally outside of Their control.

…Or was I? Even though I could move my body and speak freely right now, in the back of my head, the strange, soundless voice that had determined my actions for so long still rang. It was unsettling, but at least it didn’t seem intent on wrestling control back from me for now. Maybe for the time being it was better to ignore it, even if I’d have to figure out how to get rid of it for good at the soonest possible opportunity.

There were other things I wanted to try doing as soon as possible as well. Most of them had to do with how far back time seemed to have turned. It was nice to be able to speak to Mom in my own way again, but there were other people I knew I wanted to see quickly as well. And first and foremost, on my mind was…

“Hey… Mom?”

“Yes, my child?”

My mother’s voice was sweet like the pie I was currently devouring so greedily. Ah, chew, chew and swallow, Kris. You can’t talk to her as long as there’s food in your mouth. She’ll just get mad and glare at you.

“Um, so… since I got up late…” I hoped she knew that I was very sorry for that. “Where’s Asriel at right now? Did he go ahead to ahead to church? I mean, I know Dad is probably at work, so-“

I didn’t get to finish the sentence. It was cut off by the sound of a coffee cup falling on the table and shattering. Espresso spilled all over the wooden surface, soaking it, the bitter smell stinging in my nose. My mother, Toriel Dreemurr was staring at me. It wasn’t the disappointed glare she usually gave me when I misbehaved, but it wasn’t just shock or surprise either. What I saw in her eyes behind her reading glasses there was… something else. Something I’d never seen on her face before. It scared me to death.

“Um… Mom?” I carefully asked, trying to snap her out of it.

Soon, her mouth opened. Mom began to stutter.

H-How…” Her mind had clearly not processed the words she wanted to say yet. She shook her head a little before she continued, but even then the sentences came out fragmented, strung together haphazardly. “I never told you… Why would you… How would you…” Finally, she found what she wanted to ask me. “…How would you know that name?”

“That name…?” There was only one name I’d brought up so far, and that she would have that reaction to it didn’t make much sense. “You mean… Asriel?”

I barely even finished saying my brother’s name before my mother flinched, shrinking away in her chair. The sound of the name alone seemed to be like a knife, piercing her in the heart. I regretted repeating it. It hurt to see her like this. I didn’t understand why this was happening, but it just hurt.

“Mom…” I tried to talk to her, leaning forward a bit. “Mom, say something. You’re freaking me out here. You look like you’ve seen a ghost…”

My mother swallowed heavily before finally opening her mouth again.

“…My child,” she sighed. “I do not know who told you, or why you would bring it up in such a way. I know you are not intending to be cruel. But, my son… Asriel…”

I dreaded the words she would say next. I dreaded them, because the tone in her voice already gave away what they would be…

“…has been dead for many, many years.”

…What.

What the hell.

Now it was me who felt like something was piercing through them.

“Wait…”

I rose from my chair a little, not sure what I was trying to do. I just wanted to move. Even with my body trembling as it did, right now, I just wanted to do something. That ‘something’ ended up being, kicking away the chair behind me and slamming my hands flat on the table. Before I knew it, I was yelling.

“No! That can’t be!”

What kind of sick joke was this?

“I mean… I’m early! I… I’m a child!! There’s still years until anyone… Until They…!!”

Nothing made sense. My Mom’s words, my balance, this house. They all seemed to spin and blur into a garbled mess when my head failed to comprehend what was happening around me.

“Nothing could have happened to anyone yet! Nothing should have happened…!!”

I was waiting for Mom to say something to me, even just comment on my behavior. Just something, anything, that would make sense of this gigantic mess of a reality I found myself in. But instead, she averted my eyes from me. Her glasses slipping a little on her muzzle, Mom trembled. And then she cried, tears spilling from her eyes like the dam had broken on a river.

I couldn’t take this anymore. Pushing myself away from the breakfast table and knocking over a glass of orange juice I’d poured myself earlier, I dashed to the door.

“…Wait! Frisk!”

I still didn’t know that name. I didn’t know anything here, except for Mom. What else was there to see that I wouldn’t understand? How off rails had the world gone on me? I needed to know. And so, I left this unfamiliar house and ran out into town. 


 

The weather outside was freezing. I was so used to early November weather by now, but this felt different. More like mid-December. Not that that surprised me any longer at this point. It wasn’t just the year that was different, right? A lot of other things had changed as well, things that should never have changed just by me using my power to Save and Load. At least that was never how it had worked before. Now I wasn’t even sure what had happened anymore. Did I do this? Did I change the world in this weird way?

Was it my fault that I couldn’t find Azzy or Dad, no matter where I ran? I turned at every corner, but I couldn’t find Dad’s Flowershop, the church, the grocery store, or-

Bam!

-I crashed into something. I was soft, it had fur and antlers and wore a big, ugly Christmas Sweater. It groaned loudly when it hit the floor and then whispered a high-pitched ‘Ouch…!’.

“Argh-! Watch where you’re—Wait… Noelle?”

I started out growling, angry that I’d interrupted in my run, but I quickly calmed down when I realized ‘what’ I had before me.  ‘It’ was actually a ‘she’. I took a moment to recognize her, with her face so much younger and her long hair done up in braids like that, but on the floor to my feet sat Noelle Holiday, clumsily trying to get back on her feet, brushing the long, woolen skirt she wore straight and clean. She looked at me with confusion, raising an eyebrow when I said her name.

“Hm? Do I know you…?”

Yes’. The answer to that question was ‘Yes’. Noelle had been Asriel’s and my playmate ever since we’d been very small. It made no sense for her to act like she’d never seen me before in her life. But then, what even still made sense in this place? Awkwardly I avoided her gaze, not replying to her question. I actually felt relieved when Noelle made a small noise as if she’d remembered something, and gave me a much more knowing look. She started talking.

“Oh, wait! You must be that human everyone is talking about! ‘Frisk’, wasn’t it?”

 There it was again. ‘Frisk’. That weird, weird name. Noelle didn’t know who I was, but she knew to call me a name that wasn’t my own. What did that even mean? Thoughts were swirling in my mind. I wanted to sort this mess out as fast as possible, and I knew only one way to.

“Look, nevermind that now. Noelle! Have you seen Azzy anywhere!?”

No answer. Just a deeply confused look. Noelle raised an eyebrow as if I’d just asked her if Reindeer are real. No sign that she had any idea what or who I was talking about. Not even a hint.

If that was how it was, she wouldn’t get me anywhere.

“…Whatever!”

I yelled at Noelle before turning and running off. In retrospect, she must have been very confused by this, but I couldn’t bring myself to care for how little sense my actions made to her, when everything seemed even more senseless to me.

Noelle Holiday and Asriel Dreemurr had been close friends. Being the huge nerds that they were, they would often spend whole afternoons discussing things that nobody else cared about, such as schoolwork, or ways to design the biggest, most pretty, star-shaped ornament for a Christmas tree in the world, using only environmentally-friendly LEDs. For this Noelle Holiday, who spent so much of her childhood hanging out with and playing with Asriel and me to not know either of our names made just about as little sense as possible.

Wasn’t this the same Noelle? The same Hometown? The same people? So many of the faces I passed by when I rushed through the streets were familiar, but there was also so much I didn’t recognize.  Like navigating a maze using a map that is just slightly incorrect in its placement of walls and doorways. It irritated me.

The weirdness didn’t stop. The next crossroad I came to, I found the police station, just about as far as possible from where I remembered it being. By the staircase in its front was Officer Undyne in company of someone who somehow made even less sense than my encounter with Noelle. Miss Alphys was talking to the Officer. There were both smiling and blushing. …Flirting? Oh. My. God. Of all the things I’d never even considered seeing in my life…

The fact that Officer Undyne was wearing a rather conspicuous eye-patch over what appeared to be a quite nasty and old scar on her face was the least confusing to me at this point. She and Miss Alphys soon noticed me approaching them. They looked happy about it.

“Well, hey there! If it ain’t our favorite little bundle of good ideas!”

 “Frisk! You’re out early today.”

‘Frisk’. Again, with the ‘Frisk’. I was getting sick of that name very fast. As tempting as it was to yell at them to shut up for calling me that, I composed myself. It helped that I was a bit out of breath, too.

“Look, just… tell me where Asriel is…!!”

What did I expect at this point? Did I think I’d get a reaction different from the ones I’d already seen and heard? Probably not. It was just my disbelief speaking. This whole chain of events felt as if I’d been thrust from one nightmare into the next. Officer Undyne and Miss Alphys looked at each other with the same, confused sort of expression I’d seen on Noelle’s face just minutes ago. They seemed unsure what to say or think about my question. Surprisingly enough, Miss Alphys was the first to speak.

“U-Um… Frisk? Are you feeling okay?”

“Yeah…” Undyne was actually trying to sound gentle, and it was weird. “Since when are you the type to get your nose all up in Asgore’s genealogy?”

…So they knew Asriel existed! That was something at least. I took a firm step forward, silently urging Undyne to say more. She squinted a little, still clearly bewildered by my behavior.

“Oh… lemme guess. You went through Toriel’s old photo albums, didn’t you?” the officer asked.

“Old… photo albums…?” I replied half-heartedly. There it was again. I didn’t like where this was going at all.

“Yeah, like, ancient actually.”

“From what I’ve heard…” Alphys took a breath. “‘Asriel’ was the name of King Asgore’s and Queen Toriel’s child long before we left the Underground.”

King’. ‘Queen’. ‘Underground’. A barrage of information that either made no sense or meant nothing to me rained in. What was she talking about? This sounded more like the plot of a fairytale, rather than something that supposedly actually happened.

“But he d-died, years before you fell down the mountain and helped us…”

What. No. No, I did not accept that. I just wouldn’t. This just couldn’t be true.

“I… I have no idea what you guys are talking about!!”

There was no way my Loading had messed up things that badly. No way.

“Asriel… Asriel isn’t dead! It’s always been the two of us… Going everywhere together, and…”

One of the rare occasions I actually felt like rambling on for a good, long while, but yet I didn’t get to do so. Officer Undyne cut me off before I could say any more. The look of worry on her face was uncharacteristic.

“Seriously, kid, Alphys is on to something. You might wanna lay low for the day.”

“Maybe they caught a fever…?” Miss Alphys suggested.

I did not have a fever, not yet, despite the weather, but that clearly didn’t stop the Officer from considering the possibility. Without asking, she put her clawed hand on my forehead and felt it.

I hate being touched like that.

That was the last straw. I didn’t even give them a parting word like I had Noelle. I just hissed and ran, away from them, away from everything. I had no idea where I was going. The streets with their crossroads and turns were far less familiar than they had any right to be. But I at least knew how to get ‘out’, away from people, away from the many, deceptively familiar faces that glanced my direction as I passed them.

This wasn’t Hometown. Not ‘my’ Hometown, at least. No matter how many people I thought I knew I ran into, the outcomes were strange and unsettling. No matter how far I ran, there was no white-furred, long-eared preteen monster waiting to comfort me and timidly ask me what had happened anywhere. Asriel wasn’t anywhere. Somehow, I had Loaded into a world where he was even less ‘there’ than he’d been before. Where he wasn’t even alive.

Instead, I found a forest I’d never seen before at the edge of town. And looming over it, a short distance away, a large, foreboding mountain, casting its shadow on the valley. My lips parted at the sight and a voicelessly mouthed a ‘wow’. It was just surprising to find something this massive and intimidating this close by.

A person that should have been there but wasn’t.

A town that should have been one way but was another.

And a mountain that had never been there before.

Maybe if I’d find answers anywhere, it would be on top of that place? It had a powerful aura, that mountain. Almost as if was calling for me…

A voice called me from behind. I wasn’t sure if it was familiar or unfamiliar at first. Only when I turned, I recognized a white, broadly smiling skull framed by the hoodie of an old, comfy-looking blue jacket.

I didn’t know that person, but I’d met him before. Almost every time on the evening of November 1st. The voice would make me ask question about him that I had no interest in, over and over. So, if anything, there was at least one thing I knew about him.

“You… You’re that guy from the grocery store.”

Sans. His name was Sans. But I didn’t feel like saying that mu-

I cringed as I felt the voice speak in my head. Right. As if They got to dictate who I call a ‘friend’ and who not. No, there was a lot of things I could call this man before me. But a ‘friend’? Far from it.

You hear me? If You want to be helpful, you could start by telling me something I actually want to know. Such as…

…I had zoned out for too long. The skeleton took notice of my silence and took a step closer to me. Too close for my liking. I took a subtle, small step back and glared at him. Seeing that reaction, he just laughed.

I didn’t feel like honoring that poor attempt at humor, that even Snowdrake could have topped, with anything other than two dry, half-hearted sounds.

“…Ha. Ha.”

Thank you, captain obvious. Clearly looking at my face wasn’t enough to tell as much. I groaned. Conversations were bad enough already, but I absolutely despised conversations that didn’t go anywhere.

“Sorry. Not in the mood for bad puns,” I half apologized, half scoffed. “Just…”

I stopped myself. I’d been about to ask the same question again. The same I’d already asked three times today, to four different people. Except this time, I was asking a stranger, someone I knew nothing about and had good reason to assume would know nothing about Asriel either. Why was I doing that? Well, the simple answer was: I was desperate. I just wanted something. Anything. And at this point, did I really have much to lose in trying a long shot like this?

“Argh… Look, Sans, or whatever your name is.” I sighed. “Have you seen a monster, just a little older than me, with white fur and long, floppy ears, somewhere around here? Just, please, tell me. No jokes or anything. I really, really need to talk to him.”

The reaction I got in response to this was nothing like what I’d expected.

The skeleton’s stance changed. Whereas before he’d looked at me in an open-hearted, relaxed manner, now he seemed more guarded, almost intimidating in his own, strange way. The light where his eyes should be faded a little and the tone in his voice changed. Not knowing what any of that meant, I braced myself. But rather than doing anything that would have warranted me fighting back, he continued talking.

Prince Asriel. Immediately the cogs started turning in my head. Unlike what I’d heard about my parents before, that expression and title sounded far more familiar than it had any right to. I quickly realized why. Before my mind’s eye I saw the white-furred face of a boy in green robes, telling me that he wants to meet me again, with a kind, excited smile.

A prince. Whatever this place, this ‘File’ was, the people here thought of Asriel as a prince. Just like how Ralsei thought of himself as a prince. Ralsei and Asriel were alike in a lot of ways. But this place was nothing like the Dark World. So, what did this mean? Was it just a coincidence? Or was this entire world just my mind playing tricks on me after so many times of entering and leaving the Dark World over and over?

I didn’t know what did or didn’t make sense anymore. I just wanted to see my brother.

The first sensical thing I heard today. It was strange to feel understood after an hour of being starved of it, so my reaction came out a bit more enthusiastic than I would have liked.

“Um… Y-Yeah!”

I don’t like skeletons. Well, at least not this skeleton. The way his lack of facial muscles made it difficult to read him irritated me. Just when I’d thought I’d finally started going somewhere with this conversation, I once again had found myself cut off.

No. No, I didn’t ‘remember’. You don’t remember conversations that didn’t happen.

Whatever ‘Happy Ending’ he was talking about, I didn’t care for it. Hearing a world where Asriel was dead be called ‘happy’ felt like just another bad joke. Especially because it wasn’t ‘my’ world. And I still had no idea why that was.

…I had to get away from this guy. Find a chance to end this conversation and slip away, so I could start to find a way to set things back to the way they were supposed to be. I considered resetting the File, right where I stood, but just as I was thinking that-

His voice changed. Too suddenly, too starkly. If I hadn’t felt alarmed before, I definitely did now. But I couldn’t show that. If anything, an adult like him would take that as an invitation to keep talking down onto me. So instead I stood my ground and glared at him.

It isn’t often I look anyone directly in the eyes. But when I do, I make sure to make it count. I’m not sure what he thought about it. I didn’t know this guy, didn’t know how he ticked or what he thought about me, but my glaring did do something. For a while he was quiet, silently looking back into my eyes, almost as if he were mustering me. Then, he chuckled.

I didn’t know what he was talking about and I didn’t care. The skeleton left off and turned his back on me.

He glanced across his shoulder, giving me the most chilling look I’d ever seen on a skeleton’s face.

“I am going to make your every redo from here on out a living hell.”

Again. The tone in his voice had shifted again. Almost as if it were a different person speaking. Still, I didn’t drop my guard and stood my ground. I wasn’t going to let a stranger intimidate me this easily. My steadfastness won the guy off another chuckle. Finally, he began to walk away.

It wasn’t until after that he’d left that I started to think about the things he’d said. That he knew about the ‘File’, my power, something I hadn’t told anyone about in my entire life. And that he’d called me by my actual name.

I wouldn’t realize until a much different time, how foolish it was to not consider these facts right away.


 

I found a Save Point at the top of the mountain, but didn’t use it. The File contained inside still carried that name everyone was calling me now. ‘Frisk’. If I were to Save over that file, would that name disappear and be overwritten with mine, just like how ‘CHARA’ had overwritten my name on my original File? The idea creeped me out. I decided I didn’t want to know.

Not that it wouldn’t have been convenient to Save in this place. On the top of the mountain, I found a hole. Not a small hole, like a gap in the rock of a pothole. A huge, gaping crater leading into what appeared to be a gigantic underground cave.

‘Underground’. Miss Alphys had mentioned that when she spoke about how Asriel had ‘died’, hadn’t she? Maybe the only way to figure out what had happened would be to jump down into that cave. There was nowhere else left to search around here. It wasn’t that I thought doing this was necessarily a great idea, of course; the crater was incredibly deep. Just looking down the hole I felt as if I was going to die if I tried getting down to the bottom.

…but, if I died, I’d just wake up back in that house again, wouldn’t I?

My life. My name. My brother. It wasn’t like I had anything left to lose.

With only little hesitation, I took a step forward and let myself drop down into the black abyss beneath my feet…

…It felt like a good while passed until my fall ended. The first moment I thought I was back in the void between the Files, having had this iteration of my life ended prematurely by the excessively stupid decision I had just made. But I woke up in a familiar pose, face down on the ground, a sweet scent and silken touch tickling my nose. A bed of flowers had broken my fall. How cliché. When I sat up, my body was entirely unharmed, too. Cliché and unlikely. Not that I was trying to complain, of course. I brushed some crushed petals and pollen out of my clothes as I straightened myself up and examined my surroundings. Assessing the distance from the tiny speck of light in the distance above me, which appeared to be the hole I’d fallen from, down to my current position made my stomach turn, and so I quickly stopped it. As for the cavern I found myself in, it was a very odd grotto. Aside from the stalactites and stalagmites dripping with cold water that one would have expected to see in a place like this, there were also broken pillars and old stone plates engraved with ancient writing I couldn’t read, scattered about. It looked like some sort of excavation site and sent a shiver down my spine. Was Asriel really in a place like that?

“…Hello?” I called out. “Is somebody there?”

My high-pitched, thin voice echoed out into the grotto’s emptiness. I frowned. Maybe the skeleton had lied to me. Or maybe he’d told the exact truth, and all that was here was a grave. A dead piece of rock with an anointed memento buried underneath. Something that wouldn’t reply to my calls, no matter how loudly I called.

…No. I wasn’t ready to accept that just yet. I still had air in my lungs. Even if it was just to deceive myself.

“Asriel!! AZZY!!

I wanted to see him. I wanted to see him so badly.

One more time, my voice faded into darkness. I let my arms drop to my sides. What was I doing? I’d already heard the truth, hadn’t I? Over and over and over and over. Just because I didn’t want it to be true didn’t mean I could change it. Despite whatever odd abilities I might have, I didn’t have the power to change fate by my choices. Not once in my life had I managed to use my power to alter the course of time as I wanted to. So, why would this time be any different?

I was lost as towhat to do next, when from somewhere in the Darkness, I heard a small voice echo towards me…

I told you to leave me be…

My ears perked. I raised my head high. There was somebody here. There was somebody here…!

“Asriel!” I called out again, this time more firmly.

No reply.

But I’d heard it. I knew that I had.

Straining my eyes in the darkness, I turned for the only exit I saw in this grotto, a large gate topped by the sign of the Delta Rune, and ran through it.

From one dark room into the next, the grotto continued on, pillars and stalagmites and all. The vegetation remained largely unchanged as well. Only the number of golden flowers to my feet grew thinner as I proceeded. In this room, there was only one. Blooming in the middle of the room under a single ray of light from above, its head was drooping limply.  What a lonely sight. It looked rather sad.

But ‘Sadness’ became ‘strangeness’ when I heard a voice again.

“You came back.”

I looked around. Even with the echo in this place, I could tell that the voice had come from somewhere inside this room with no doubt. But from where? I couldn’t see anyone else here. It was just me… and…

“…Well, of course you came back. What did I expect?”

…The flower raised its head. Not in the way a wilting flower slowly recovers when given water or a dying flower’s head is raised by a current of wind blowing at it. It rose itself and straightened up its body like an animal or a human or a monster would. Like it was doing it of its own will. Like a person.

And then I saw a face. Hidden between the drooping petals of the lone flower in this room were two button-eyes and a pencil-thin mouth, like scribbled on by a child, and yet too plastic and palpable to not be real.

That was person. That flower was a person. A monster? Not any kind I’d ever seen before, but then again, it was hardly likely that I’d already seen all kinds of monsters there were on earth in my lifetime. And plant-elementals were hardly a rarity.

A monster then. Alright. Still didn’t explain what they were doing down here all on their own. Or who they were, for the matter. They did seem to know ‘me’ though… The person ‘I’ was in this timeline, I mean. The look on their face made it obvious that they’d met ‘me’ before. And they were clearly not happy to be ‘reunited’ with me.

At least that’s what I thought, but the flower’s displeased scowl didn’t last for much longer than a couple of seconds before it snapped into a different shape which took me off guard. The frown turned literally upside down and two button eyes opened wide as the drooping petals of the stranger before me lifted up and straightened themselves out. Like this, the little guy that had just been glaring at me as if I owed them several dinners worth of money, looked downright adorable.

“Sooo!” The shrill, sing-song voice of the person before me was laced with layers of syrup hiding cyanide.  They drew their vowels annoyingly long as they addressed me. “Just couldn’t forget about lil’ ol’ me, could’cha?”

Odd. I clearly recognized the accent that guy spoke with. It was the same as my father’s accent, a regional dialect from where he had grown up, which Asriel had picked up from him when we were both young (I, myself, take more after our Mom in that regard). But it was rare for Monsters from other states to migrate to our town. Dad had been the rule-confirming exception as far as I know…

The flower kept speaking.

“Aww, I’m flattered! No, really, I am!  But don’t you have anything better to do? I’m sure Toriel will be reeeeeal worried when she finds out you came down here. Let alone all of your other, amazing friends?”

The concern sounded as fake as can be. I had no idea what this guy was getting at. But that sort of feeling had already become the norm for me by now, hadn’t it? I sighed.  …Given I’d asked that one, useless question to my mother, a friend, my teacher, the local law enforcement and a total stranger already today, why not go ahead and get it over with for this guy already too, while I was at it? Again, not like I had anything left to lose, right?

“…Asriel.” I opened my mouth to begin the spiel for the fifth time today. “I came here looking for-“

DON’T CALL ME THAT.

The response was swift, harsh and cold. I had no time to even process my surprise at it. A second later, I felt my Soul tingle with a sense of impeding danger as a row of bullets sped into my line of sight.

I dodged out the way, holding my breath. What. What was going on?

Why was a monster… attacking me…?

“I told you!!”

The voice of my assailant screamed at me. It was cracking in the weirdest, most unsettling places. Something about the way the tone of their words broke hit me hard. As if they were digging into my chest. And it got even worse when the sound of sobbing started mixing in.

“I told you to forget about me!”

Wait. Something about that voice… Something about that voice was deeply… deeply…

“I told you to just leave me be!!”

…Asriel.

I knew that voice. I knew that voice, I knew that voice.

Asriel. Asriel. Asriel. Asriel. Asriel.

No way. No way, no way, no….

“…A… Azzy!?”

I forced the word out, just as a pair of thorn-tipped vines came shooting at me. I needed to jump to evade their whipping, Then, dodge to the side. I managed to pick up a wooden stick on the floor around me to defend myself just in time to see the flower dive away into the soil underneath its stem. It came back up right behind me, and I noticed just barely in time to ward off another row of bullets it shot at me, this time by smacking them away from my body’s center with the stick. I gasped. It felt as if my entire body and soul were shaking, and that definitely wasn’t just exhaustion speaking.

“Azzy… What…”

Too many questions. Too many questions. I didn’t know how to end that sentence.

I didn’t have to. The flower… Asriel answered anyway.

“Frisk…”

So sick… I was so sick of that name.

Why was he calling me that?

“I know you mean well. But sometime, you’ll have to accept… Some people are beyond saving. Sometimes, they’re not even worth it.”

No. This wasn’t right. It was all wrong. This wasn’t how things were supposed to be!

Asriel shouldn’t say that. The Asriel in my memories would never say that. The Asriel in my memories, who climbed trees to save cats despite being scared of heights, who took my pranks with a smile despite how often he was on the receiving end, who was there to tell me and gently let me down when my ideas were stupid, to cheer for me and help me when he liked my ideas, who protected me when it felt like everyone and everything in the world was conspiring against me, even Mom, even Dad…

The Asriel whose smiles I’d seen reflected in another boy who gave me hope that my choices, my will might still make a difference in the end, every time that damned day repeated, over and over and over and over…

That Asriel… would never say… that sort of…

“But if you refuse to accept that… Then I’ll just have to MAKE you leave, alright?”

-Another row of bullets rose up before my eyes.

“I’ll make you Load yourself back up there! As many times as it takes for you to. Stop! Coming! BACK!!

Bullets. Bullets everywhere. A rain of projectiles. Raining down on my Soul. Even though he said that he was just trying to chase me away, his killing intent was clear. But, of course, he clearly knew about my ‘power’. He knew I would persist. Was he trying to do more than just make me leave? Was he trying to make me… hate him…?

I can’t ask him. Every time I open my mouth, my words are cut off by another hail of bullets. Every time I try to approach him, vines whip at me. He won’t let me come close.

Asriel… Azzy, is that really you?

As hard as it was to believe, I also couldn’t help but feel it was true. The sense of dissonant familiarity I’d been feeling all day… It had nowhere been as strong as it was here. And nowhere this far had I been wishing for it to vanish as much as I did right now. 

What was happening? Where was I?

Another row of bullets. This time, my body was hit. Blood streamed down from a cut on my cheek.

I couldn’t keep guarding and dodging like this for much longer. I knew as much. But I didn’t want to Fight. Of all the people I could Fight, not him. Not him.

Only one way left out of this madness. Only one way to go back and try to avert this moment and find out how to fix this. As a ring of bullet closed in on me in a tight circle, I stretched my hand out to the ray of light above, focusing on the Power inside me.

The File materialized before my eyes. I would have to set it to [EMPTY] and…

“What…NO! DON’T!!”

Asriel’s voice, weirdly distorted and shrill as it sounded, pierced through my concentration. What was he yelling about? A glance in his direction made me realize where was looking… Directly in the direction of the File I’d manifested. He could see it?

…I had no time to consider the fact. His bullets, his vines. Everything was trying to stop me. I stretched out my hand to reach the File, and-

And-

And………

 

In the void between Saves, for first time in my life, I am not alone. A gentle someone is there with me. A child, the one who’s face I’d seen in the mirror this morning when I woke up.

This child is not me. I realize that now.

This child is probably the File I had Loaded before. The person whose life and memories I had intruded on.

But what they want of me, I have no idea.

“What…?” I ask of them.

The child just smiles.

 

 

The child raises their hands, presenting their File to me. Underneath it, I see an option I’d never seen before. “Reset”, it reads.

“Reset”? Just plain “Reset”? Usually, I’d have to erase and set a File to [EMPTY] before I could repeat everything. But now, did this mean that there was an option to go back to a point before the last Save without doing that?

Maybe that was ‘Frisk’s’ special power? The power to ‘Reset’ without sacrificing someone’s memories and name…

A choice. They were giving me a choice.

That fact alone was more relieving than anything I had felt in a long time.

 

 

It wasn’t. I understood how they felt. After what I’d just seen, I wanted nothing more than to right that disgusting display of wrongness myself. I began to stretch out my hand and select the ‘Reset’… The option they had given me.

“…You are…”

They helpfully told me.

 

 

UnReLaTeD

Overflow Error

End of Prologue

Chapter Text

Interlude 1