It’s murky. In the bar, monsters are coming and are staying, in a brouhaha as strong as worried. They are greeting each other, exchanging whispers, are laughing and drinking. Nothing changes. By a window pane, an armed human regularly looks inside the room only to turn away again. Grillby is pouring one drink, two drinks, three drinks. He just has to take a look at the client to know what each wants; they always order the same thing, at the same hour. Smiles and coins are exchanged and all continues like a scratched disc that would always repeat the same notes.
Minutes are passing by. Soon, as usual, Papyrus comes in, leaving in his wake a glacial silence. He’s standing with his back hunched, head lowered, as if the weight of the very air is crushing him. All he has on him is a long black mantle that looks more like a dress.
He moves forward like a ghost, without a word, and he sits down at the counter. All the monsters are staring at him, maybe expecting him to start to cry, or to laugh. But nothing happens. Outside, an armed human knocks at the window, asking if everything’s okay, some nod heads. The barman takes a glass, fills it up with milk and puts it in front of the skeleton. The jingling of coins that are hit the wood of the table resonates, Grillby glimpses the visage of the consumer for a moment, he sees his dark rings etched in his bones, his cheeks still damp, the distress in his pupils. They remain silent. Papyrus stares at his glass. He will not touch it. During the few hours that will follow, he will stay like this. But, today, a monster decides to not respect the ritual. He goes toward Papyrus and breaks the walls surrounding him.
“Hi. How are you?”
The skeleton turns towards him but doesn’t reply. His interlocutor doesn’t take offense, after all, everybody knows.
“You haven’t any news yet?”
His eyes sockets widen, this question is more painful than a thump. His visage casts a shadow further, he restrains the tears but, falling that, he just settles for putting his head down to hide them while he shook his head. No, there wasn't any news.
Then the silence that reigned up to that point cracks and whispers are heard.
“I can’t imagine his pain…”
“It could have happened to any of us…”
The monster leaves Papyrus. Discussions intensify, change subject, let’s not talk about it, and the atmosphere wrongly cheerful starts again, like always. Grillby distractedly wipes a glass. An armed human passes behind the window. The skeleton stares at the floor.
Each behavior is regulated in advance and is repeated constantly. A few hours pass and Undyne comes into the bar. She greets those who accost her, reassures others, she doesn’t smile. She makes a polite nod to Grillby then leans over to Papyrus. All her movements are sweating with concern. Careful, to not push her friend, she repeats to him the same words that yesterday, and that the day before yesterday, and that every day.
“Papyrus? Let’s go home, it’s late.”
He looks at her, a little lost, then, seeming to recognize her, he acquiesces and stands up. A movement towards the barman to wish him a good evening and the two friends go out, the guard supporting the skeleton. Monsters observe them leaving, feeling embarrassed by so much sadness, unaware of their own discomfort; they shrug their shoulders and pick their lively conversation up again. An armed human passes behind the window. Grillby cleans another glass.
Then, little by little, the bar empties. The last customers say goodbye to the human fire and leave him alone. Then, he sweeps the room, checks his stocks and smokes a cigarette outside. When he's finished, he waits a little. He knows he will come, as every evening, at the same hour. He arrives.
Papyrus was moving forward slowly in the snow. He stops in front of Grillby and then pronounces the only words of his days.
“If you have news… tell me, please…”
The barman could have reassured him, tell him he already knows, that he repeats it to him every day… He keeps silent. He understands his pain but in the same time, he feels that already for too long, they aren’t part of the same world anymore. He managed to hang on, the other let himself sink at the sides of the dead.
“As soon as I have news, I will tell you.”
The skeleton smiles to thank him, a strange smile, nearly a morbid grimace. Then he returns to the cold and the street lamps are lighting up his twisted shape that drags itself along. Grillby follows it with his eyes.
Snowflakes begin to fall, wrapping the landscape in a veil of exhaustion that crystallizes once again the city. But, an alarming detail breaks the strange routine. A shadow stands under the porch of a house. Huddled at the wall, it isn’t moving and is staring straight ahead at the place where the shape of Papyrus just disappeared, as if, for it, nothing existed but this distant form.
Grillby doesn’t know this shadow, and it worries him. Due to the last events, he’s always on guard and watches the surroundings, just in case. Then he approaches it. He realizes that it’s standing, it’s sticking to the wall, and it doesn’t hear him. He puts a hand on its shoulder; it jumps.
It turns slightly its face toward him, revealing an eye, or rather an empty orbit. The barman pulls his hand back quickly, as if it had been burned. He hesitates, his voice trembles.
The shadow moves, reveals a little more of his visage.
“Grillby” it murmurs.
Then the seconds speed up, life regains a consistence, livings start breathing again. Time explodes.