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This Fractured Everglow

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Humans. Sucked.

Like. Really, really sucked. And were in dire need of a reality check with a two-by-four upside the head. Or shoved up their ass. You weren’t particularly picky about the delivery of a swift What the fuck is wrong with you!?’ whack. All you knew was that you hated humanity with all of the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns.

...Okay, not all of humanity.

You considered yourself to be a relatively decent person, and you’d met a lot of others that were absolute angels. Ever since monsterkind emerged from beneath Mt. Ebott, however, it was hard to see the good in your own race. Not when over half of the human population were either against monsters living among the general populace, or just wanted to nuke the Mt. Ebott and Ebott City area.

There was even a pastor that tried to convince you that the monsters were actually Lucifer and his legion that had clawed their way up from the depths of hell. You couldn’t keep from laughing hysterically at how serious he was about it. That was the start of the issue of damn near everyone in your town being out for your head.

Proverbially, of course. For the time being.

It was all because you refused to agree with any of their reasons for hating the monsters. You actually quite enjoyed the idea of having monsterkind becoming a part of everyday society. Even elected as political officials, if they ever got out as far as you were. It would be an improvement from the imbecile currently holding the position of mayor in your town. The change would be greatly welcomed.

Despite the backlash, you were sure to make it known to those in your community that you didn’t think the monsters were anything to be afraid of.

You’d seen the news coverage on the ‘incident’ in which the first thing the monster did was come down the mountain to introduce themselves and ask how much surface real estate was available. Half the city of Ebott ran screaming for the nearest border when they realized that monsterkind was planning on staying.

There were also the online videos you watched every now and again that showed the adorable human child that was an incredibly effective Ambassador during the human and monster peace meetings that were still going on. Most adults couldn’t win against the kid’s charm and reasonable logic, which you always found amusing.

As weeks turned into months, the entire world was honed in on the newly surfaced monster community. You had plenty of material to come to the simple conclusion that the monsters were just regular folks, thanks to all of the coverage they kept getting.

You didn’t know any monsters well enough to be guaranteed that one wouldn’t jump you in a back alley. Still, you highly doubted that such an encounter would be for dubious reasons other than forcing you to be part of a show with the only television host of the monster world.

That or holding you at disposable camerapoint in order to get you take copious amounts of pictures of them striking dorky poses in front of tasteful graffiti—as one poor little old lady had the joy of doing for a pair of monsters within the first week of their arrival topside. One of the rapscallions allegedly stole the ketchup she’d shuffled down to the corner store to pick up for an ingredient in her supper that night.

What you did know was that the monsters were genuinely trying to get along with humans. They just wanted to be accepted here, above ground. You were more than willing to give them a chance.

Others in your community were disgusted by your openness. You tried to ignore it, of course, but...

After months of your apartment being egged and TP-ed, the last straw came when your front door was spray-painted with creative slander the likes of which the mortal world had never seen before (‘monster fucker’? Really?). The boy gloating about it right where he knew you would hear? Extra straw of oh hell no. You were done with this bullshit.

Now, granted, you probably shouldn’t have gone to Linda and told her to shove her hell spawn of a spray-painting son back up into her diseased womb when she refused to believe the little twat was the culprit. You were far too strung out to bother filtering yourself. Linda had always needlessly been a bitch to you anyway and, anxiety be damned, you let her know it.

Unfortunately, the problem of the majority of the anti-monster racists in your community was growing. It was passive aggressive now, but you wouldn’t doubt if they rallied together into a lynch mob to take out you and the handful of fellow monster sympathizers in your town.

You could only think to do one thing at that point: move.

Right to the small urban city at the foot of Mt. Ebott.

The property values had plummeted after the monsters moved up from underground, so the prices there were surprisingly affordable to even you and what money you got from selling your crafted wares online. The thought of moving so easily amazed you and terrified many others. This was especially true when you, while taking a short break at a local cafe and ignoring parents ushering their curious children away from your table, openly Skyped a number of monsters that were offering houses or apartments.

Most of the places you were looking at were at reasonable renting prices and some of the monsters you conversed with were willing to do virtual walk-throughs of the properties. Once you explained to them how that last part worked, anyway.

As you had originally suspected, the monsters that you talked to were all very kind. Awkward with some human customs and the more modern technology, sure, but so were you. When your two best friends completely supported and aided you in your decision over the long distances between you, that made things about the move all the better.

And while the process to get everything in order was a long one—meaning dealing with more hatred pointed in your direction, of which your war veteran neighbor dealt with after someone egged his door by accident—you were finding that you were feeling really good about it all. Yes, your anxiety was continuing to plague you, but you were happier than you had been in a long time. Moving away from this hellhole felt right.

It felt so right to you, in fact, that you happily hired a small group of movers to deal with what few boxes and furniture you had. The movers were all dog monsters that only wanted to be paid in dog treats and belly rubs.

Dog treats.

And belly rubs.

How could anyone pass up a deal like that!?

They seemed wary at first, given all of the dirty looks given to them by 99.9% of the other humans occupying the apartment complex. You felt guilty and couldn’t blame them for their unease, but were quick to let them know that every single one of those humans was just one more reason you were moving out of that town. That, on top of you not treating them like they were some ancient blight, brought an easy friendship between you and the moving crew over the few hours you spent with them.

Just the amount of dog jokes they made during their work had you laughing so hard you were pretty sure you died for a few seconds from the lack of oxygen. It was hard not to be swept up by their warm energy and kindness, and despite being an introvert, you loved that.

The discount from all of the extra belly rubs, ear scratches, and milk-bone dog biscuits you treated them to was a bonus despite the fact you insisting that they didn’t have to do something like that for you. They insisted that they did, and you found yourself with several new numbers on your phone; all with varying silly contact photos. You were also made to promise that you’d go out to eat with your new monster friends once you were settled into Ebott City.

With your usual unease when it came to any sort of change in your life, you sent nearly all of your worldly goods ahead of you by a full day. You would have eagerly gone with your first ever monster buddies, but knew that there were still a few things that needed to be done before you moved on from this town.

You’d been planning things for months, never telling anyone that bothered to ask just when you were leaving, and when you saw that the only bus willing to go all the way to Ebott City left just before sunrise on a Saturday?

Vengeance was imminent.

Yes, your actions could be conceived as petty or spiteful and, yes, it wasn’t necessary to exact your bizarre brand of revenge on anyone, but you frankly didn’t care. At all, really. Not after all of the crap you’d been dealing with for almost half a freaking year now.

Nevertheless, despite the mostly pent up ire simmering at the core of your very being, you weren’t going to hurt anyone. Pain and revenge didn’t go hand in hand to you due to certain aspects of your life thus far. It was true that you found amusement in the misfortune brought onto insensitive idiots by karma herself, but who didn’t?

The point was, you never got back at someone by inflicting mental or physical pain. Horror and disgust, however...

If there was one thing in life that you truly excelled at, it was unnerving people. You usually could pull it off with just making offhand remarks or randomly breaking out into song, but this night? This night was going to be different.

...Or this morning, given that it was some time after two a.m. when you last checked your phone. You were an insomniac by nature and were currently using that to your advantage as you stood in front of the door of none other than Linda the bitch.

She and her son had been two of the biggest problems that refused to let up in tormenting you, so you’d planned a little personalized farewell gift for them. You had to make sure that it wasn’t anything too over the top. Just something you knew would make her freak out. It was a little disappointing that you wouldn’t get to see her face when she open her front door later that day to find an—unused—mushroom-shaped butt plug superglued to her front door as the nose of a large smiley face.

A smiley face that had nipple tassels for eyes and the thinnest matching g-string you could find for the mouth. Not to mention that they were all glowing brightly in the dark thanks to the neon green glow-in-the-dark paint you’d applied to them. Having sat them directly beneath a lamp for two days straight really helped give them a startling glow.

Imagining her look of utter shock and revulsion would just have to do. You were also thankful that the owner of the apartment complex didn’t take applications for families that had children under the age of sixteen. She didn’t like kids and just barely tolerated teenagers, but that meant you knew that you wouldn’t be mentally scarring any children for life with this one.

Ah, but time was far too short and you still had something else to do before you headed to the bus station and said goodbye to this shitty little town for good. You couldn’t resist taking a picture of your newest masterpiece and left the apartment complex for the last time.

It was mostly for the sake of cheering yourself up whenever you hit one of your usual depressive states. Manic depression was a pain, but your own childishness somehow kept you from drowning in it completely when you weren’t able to talk to either of your best friends. You had dog monster friends now too, though, so maybe you wouldn’t need to scroll through all of the ridiculous pictures in your phone for a few weeks!

Oh, who were you kidding? You’d be giggling about the glow-in-the-dark nipple tassels all the way to Ebott City.

All the way to your next destination as well, apparently.

You couldn’t stop your shoulders from shaking with barely-restrained laughter as you walked the short distance out of town to the home of the massive hillside letter. Nocturnal wildlife skittered by as you made your way up and initiated your second half of operation Adios Bitchachos.

There wasn’t much time left, so you had to hurry. Thankfully the moon was out to aid in lighting your movements just enough for you to see. Using a flashlight or the assistive light on your phone might alert any law enforcement to your delinquent activities. You weren’t about to miss your bus to a new start in life just because you carelessly let yourself get caught.

Hopefully the changing positions of the white painted stones weren’t too visible from a distance. That thought caused you to work faster. You only stopped to catch your breath once you were finished and stepped back down the hill a bit to look at your handiwork. One hand wiped the sweat from your brow as you did so.

The results weren’t perfect, but it would have to do. You were just about out of time.

You turned around to start your trek back down the hill and found yourself stopping again to peer out across the sleeping town below.

There were very few lights on at this time of the early morning. The business lights were still on as usual, as were the handful of street lights and vehicles of the early risers that had to be at work before five. You preferred the town like this.

The serenity of the night brought the cruelty of the world to a standstill, if only for a few hours. The lights also didn’t interfere too much with anyone who wanted to watch the stars. The town below actually almost resembled the sky above from this distance, but it could never compare to the beauty what you saw when you angled your head up.

Pinpricks that twinkled in hues of whites and yellows and reds and blues; a sight you never got tired of. You’d loved the stars for as long as you could remember. They filled you with such peace and even a little bit of nostalgia.

Nostalgia about what, you didn’t quite know. It was probably your mind bringing back all of the times you’d try to find certain stars with a large map of constellations and a cheap telescope when you were a kid.

It would be better if the moon wasn’t out. You would have been able to see Orion better.

 

Ah, so that constellation is known as Orion here as well? The percentile of consistency for this particular aspect, like many others, never ceases to amaze me no matter how often I come across it. Although...

What’s the matter? You look really sad.”

Nothing you need to be concerned about, little light. A story for another time. Now, what is this one called?”

That’s the Big Dipper! It should be...right over there! Wanna see?”

 

Faded voices bubbled up from the recesses of your mind, what felt like a memory that brought a flutter deep in your chest and shiver up your spine. It also brought a sharp stab to the inside of your skull. A headache was approaching, and you hissed through clenched teeth in your pain when it lingered for a few moments before dissipating unusually fast.

“Weird,” You muttered while rubbing your right temple and pulling out your phone to check the time.

As worrying as the brief headache was, you couldn’t let it get to you right now. There was a bus to catch and you opted for sprinted down the hillside and back into town. Your satchel bounced against your hip with each step closer to your ticket to a new chapter in your life, the imageless memory and headache fading away from all recollection.

You were boarding the only bus that would go all the way to Ebott City before you even knew it. It was a bit unusual, as there would be no changing buses mid-trip just to reach your destination, but you didn’t mind.

The bus had a realistic wooden pattern to the lower half of the outside of it that made it look like some sort of covered rowboat on wheels and the driver was wrapped tightly in a purple hooded cloak. As strange at it might have seemed at first (did you just imagine a dog face on the grill...?), none of this came off as threatening to you. You’d moved by yourself once before now and nothing too horrible happened during that move.

This wasn’t anything different to back then. You just had to sit tight, pray that you didn’t get assholes for neighbors, monster or otherwise, and try not to let your depression or anxiety turn all of this into a disaster before you even reached your destination.

Though the fact you found yourself to be one of only two passengers on the bus wasn’t really helping with the anxiety portion of things. Not with your messed up head.

The other passenger was seated at the back of the bus. They were pretty small in stature and had their hood pulled up over their head while they lay hunched over in their unreclined seat. Your heart’s beat stuttered briefly when your brain decided to be helpful and inform you that this other person looked dead.

A sudden snort from the distant lump of blue hoodie as they wiggled around to get a bit more comfortable let you know that whoever it was was, in fact, not dead. Thus, you could continue with no more worries. You hoped.

“Tra la la,” The driver sang cheerily while you took one of the seats at the front of the bus. “What a wonderful day it is. Don’t you think?”

You realized that they were talking to you as you let your bag rest heavy in your lap and paused to think about their words. A wonderful day, huh? “I guess so...but it’ll turn into an absolutely fantastic day once we get out of this place.”

“Tra la la, how could a day like this get any better than it already is?” The driver asked, yet didn’t look at you. They were too busy closing the bus door and starting the journey to your new home. A home that had to be better than this horrid town.

“After the last few months I’ve just had to tolerate here?” You snorted, “Very, very easily.” You leaned against your bag a little protectively for no reason in particular. It had everything you needed should something happen with the moving truck, and you could feel both your medication and the little trinkets you cared far too much about to be willing to travel away from you in some box.

“How fascinating. Hum hum hum~” The small talk ended with the driver humming to themselves. The ‘NOW LEAVING’ sign to the town passed by surprisingly quickly, and you took the opportunity to flip it off with a vengeance while you turned in your seat. With both hands.

Off in the distance, you could see the first rays of sunrise beginning to illuminate the form of a large hand that had taken the place of the hillside letter. It was blatantly flipping off the entire town on your behalf, despite the simplicity of the design you were forced to place the rocks in. You couldn’t help but grin to yourself as a sense of contentment washed over you at the sight.

Farewell and good fucking riddance.

You’d started turning back towards the front of the bus with that same grin still on your lips, but something had caught your eye before you could turn all the way forward and get settled again. In fact, what had suddenly snatched your attention in the first place made you do a double take so hard that you damn near gave yourself whiplash.

In the back of the bus, lingering in the isle just beside the snoozing passenger, was some sort of transparent black mass. It had something white near the top where a head would be if it was a person, but you couldn’t get a proper look at what ever this thing was. It was there just long enough for you to make out an eerily familiar shape before fading away. Well...more like glitching away, as if it were made out of nothing more than pixels.

You also really hoped that the white head-like bit hadn’t actually turned to you at the last millisecond. As a form of comfort, praying that you weren’t finally losing what little sanity you had left, your hand instinctually raised to grasp the labradorite pendant you always wore. It was a small crystal skull that had been turned into a bead some time before you bought it, but it was your most cherished belonging out of all of the skull-shaped things you had a tendency to hoard like a dragon.

“Tra la la.” The driver caught your attention once more. Not because of the singing, but due to how...serious the tone of it was. It was almost grim, really. Like a funeral march. An omen. “Tra la la. The waters are wild today. That’s bad luck...”

Well that wasn’t ominous.

“Tra la la. Beware of the man who speaks in hands,” They added.

Aaaaand that was even worse than the first bit. No sleep for you anytime soon.

Which, effectively, made the first leg of the trip feel like an eternity stuck in a purgatory of uninteresting landscapes and sketchy bus and truck stops. The trip to Ebott City was supposed to be twenty-three hours of driving. You thanked any gods that were listening that you had remembered to put all of that new music on your phone.

You also were still concerned that the person sleeping at the back of the bus was sick or dying because they hadn’t woken up once so far. Not at any rest stops, not for any food (hello Subway, you expensive but beautiful beast), and not even for the herd of elk the bus had to stop for in order to let them pass safely. Maybe the snoring hoodie lump was in a coma...? Could people in comas even snore like that?

Well, that wasn’t really any of your business unless something bad happened and you had to rescue the unconscious being. Which you would. Probably without even thinking about it, actually. Not that that was a bad thing.

Exhaustion had been gnawing at your senses for hours by the time night engulfed the sky once more. Vehicle rides always tended to make you sleepy to begin with, so it was by some miracle that you’d managed to stay awake as long as you had up until this point. The mass amounts of soda you’d bought at each stop probably had a hand in the matter.

Your body couldn’t keep up with the sugar intake after six straight hours of your soda addiction and was giving you the signs of your inevitable crash. You were beginning to have audio hallucinations of what sort of sounded like murmuring. The driver never really stopped singing to themselves and the creature from the winter wardrobe in the back was relentlessly snoring the trip away, so that’s what it must have been.

Hearing your cell phone going off when you could clearly see that no one was calling you solidified the fact that you were fast approaching a precipice that could either lead to eighteen hours of sleep all at once, or a bout of insomnia so horrid that audio hallucinations would be the least of your problems. You had to act fairly quickly.

The need for sleep won out on this one.

You took your medicine despite it being a little earlier that usual and located what you were amazed to find was a power outlet. That meant you didn’t have to worry about your phone dying while you were asleep.

Still, you kept one earbud out just to remain mostly aware of your surroundings. You doubted that you would be resting soundly in an unfamiliar setting, shifting around in your seat anyway. It felt better when it wasn’t in a reclining position, but still took a few tries to get comfortable in order for the waves of slumber to begin washing over you. The last thing you can make out before sleep finally submerged you is a few lyrics of Starset’s Everglow.

 

(—You come in waves
Til you’re all I know
Then you fade away
Into nothing—)

 

The dream that came upon you had the same setting as many you’ve had in your life.

Tasteless tiles, plush carpet, tacky old furniture...most of your childhood was spent here, in your grandparents’ home. It was always your favorite out of every place you’d been when growing up. It’s probably why you dreamt of it so often, be it a normal dream or borderline nightmare. Sometimes even memories would surface here.

This time could be any of those things. It was hard to tell since the house was dark, save for the single weakened light of the small hallway outside of your bedroom beside the guest bath and bedroom. There was also the laundry room that led out into the garage on that side of the house.

You were stood just outside of that little area, in the kitchen. Night was all that could be seen from beyond the window curtains, not that you bothered looking. You really didn’t know what you were doing there in the first place, as you weren’t thirsty or in need of using the toilet. You didn’t need your grandmother hearing you up and about this late or you’d be scolded into next week. Going back to bed would be the wisest choice of action.

The allure of the large living room, however, seemed far too great. The fish tank was in there, although it was right in front of your grandparents’ bedroom.

Your small—child?—feet padded softly against the rust colored tiles as you crept your way through the kitchen and most of the dining room. You’d almost reached the thick plains of carpet, heard the bubbling of the fish tank just around the corner, when your eyes were suddenly covered by something from behind. This drew a soft, startled squeak from your lips.

Guess who?

The voice soothed you instantaneously when it wrapped around your senses like warm honey. You knew this voice, though never heard it with your ears. It was always barely above a whisper, a mere murmur within your mind like a babbling brook in the depths of a forest. You couldn’t help but giggle each time the words would fill your head because it always tingled like soda bubbles.

Pulling the hands away from your face made the fingers—bone white, practically skeletal—uncover your eyes. You were right in front of the pantry, but you couldn’t see anything through the unusually dark shadows that were attached to the hands you continued to hold. They looked as if they were wispy at the ends, as if they might be made out of smoke.

 

“I always know it’s you G̷̡̛̛̛̲̳̜͇͍̫͕̑̈́̑̂̒̐̎̎̿̿͑̍͌̀͗̓̓͗̓̿̉͌̓̃͑͘͘͝͝͠͠͝ả̸̡̫̟̦̲̪̤͙̻͚͚̮̼̬̱̆͛͗͜͝ͅs̶̡̞̦̪͖̟̗͕̭͈͈̬͓̳͕͙̲̙̬̟̺̗̲̭̩̖̥͇̭͓̫̣͕͙͖̩͆͗̍̎͂̎̅̿̄̓̉̅̂̍̒̑̈́́̕̚̕̕͝͝t̸̨̧̺̲̤͉̜̜̫̥̙͈̳̱͙̻̼̥̱͙̰͖̝̲̩̫̞̜̗͚̗̲̝͈͈̿́͊̅̿̈͐̎͛̑̚͜e̵̛͉̬̣̰̻̯͈͖̭̘̝̭̦͈͋̂̍̓̃̎̃͊͛̍̒̓̎͌̔͑͋̚͝r̸̢̧̢̡̖͉͉̤̹͖̰̯͕͔̠͖͔̺̹̳̣̪̗͚͇͙̝̆̓͂̋̾̆̊̀͂̕̕͜!̴̢̡̣̰͔͕͚͚̜̮̗͓͔̣̳̺̩̹͇̂̔̈̿̚ͅͅͅ” You tittered out a name, one you somehow couldn’t quite hear yourself saying, and grinned up at whoever owned those cold hands. Yes...chilled hands that barely felt like they were there, warm words that embraced all your senses...

Why couldn’t you see their face...?

Shouldn’t you be in bed, little one?” The voice tickled against the inside of your head with the words while the hands released yours to make movements where you could see them. Sign language of some sort, something unknown and otherworldly, but you weren’t sure if you knew that’s what it might be when you were that young. The dancing hands had a large hole through each of their palms, yet you weren’t bothered by them.

A small pout overtook your smile and you felt a little ashamed as you looked down at your feet. It wasn’t a caught-with-your-hand-in-the-cookie-jar kind of ashamed. No, nothing of that sort, but it was something you felt often; even as a child. You hated feeling like this, and yet could never quite escape it.

Trouble sleeping again?” The voice asked as the hands moved to mirror the words within your mind. Shifting on your feet, you could only give a tiny nod and felt a knowing hum against your thoughts. “Ahh, I see.

You began to fumble with the end of the massively large t-shirt that you were made to wear as night clothes back then. “I’m sorry...”

You needn’t apologize,” You were gently assured, It is a common occurrence in many living organisms that require a rest cycle in order to maintain optimal functionality. It is harder for some to slumber than it is for others. You mustn’t be ashamed for it.

“But granny will be mad when she finds out,” Was your meek reply. You loved your grandmother, yes, but every adult was scary when they were upset with you. That made you want to keep them as happy as you could. Unfortunately, apologizing didn’t always work...

The ghost-like touch of a hand running over your head affectionately made you look up. There was still no face within that void of shadows, but it somehow felt as if whoever was there was smiling at you. “Then it would be best that she does not learn of this, correct?

“Uh-huh,” You readily agreed. If the owner of the hands didn’t want your grandma to know that you were up and about, then she probably wouldn’t. It made you happy that your friend was so kind.

...Friend?

They were your friend?

Yes. Yes, you remembered now; the hands and shadows belong to a very very dear friend. What was their name again...?

Come. I shall tuck you back into bed and remain with you until you fall asleep.” Your faceless companion offered one of their hands for you to eagerly grasp. Your tiny fingers were careful not to poke into the hole that was almost the size of your own hand as you held on tightly. It was strange to hold your friend’s hand. The coldness within your grasp had a strange feeling, as if there was barely any solidity to the being beside you, but this was nothing new.

“Will you tell me a story?” You asked as the lump of shadows began to glide out into the faint light to lead you back to your bed. The hazy yellow light never penetrated the inky depths of their body.

Your friend’s soft laughter trickled across your senses beautifully and you silently pondered on why that was. “But of course, my darling light. I shall regale you with any tale you desire.

 

“Yaaay! Thank you, G̷̡̛̛̛̲̳̜͇͍̫͕̑̈́̑̂̒̐̎̎̿̿͑̍͌̀͗̓̓͗̓̿̉͌̓̃͑͘͘͝͝͠͠͝ả̸̡̫̟̦̲̪̤͙̻͚͚̮̼̬̱̆͛͗͜͝ͅs̶̡̞̦̪͖̟̗͕̭͈͈̬͓̳͕͙̲̙̬̟̺̗̲̭̩̖̥͇̭͓̫̣͕͙͖̩͆͗̍̎͂̎̅̿̄̓̉̅̂̍̒̑̈́́̕̚̕̕͝͝t̸̨̧̺̲̤͉̜̜̫̥̙͈̳̱͙̻̼̥̱͙̰͖̝̲̩̫̞̜̗͚̗̲̝͈͈̿́͊̅̿̈͐̎͛̑̚͜e̵̛͉̬̣̰̻̯͈͖̭̘̝̭̦͈͋̂̍̓̃̎̃͊͛̍̒̓̎͌̔͑͋̚͝r̸̢̧̢̡̖͉͉̤̹͖̰̯͕͔̠͖͔̺̹̳̣̪̗͚͇͙̝̆̓͂̋̾̆̊̀͂̕̕͜!̴̢̡̣̰͔͕͚͚̜̮̗͓͔̣̳̺̩̹͇̂̔̈̿̚ͅͅͅ” You, once again, couldn’t hear the name leaving your lips. You couldn’t remember what it even was. Still, you felt safe here. Safe with this friend of yours. It was a sense of safety that you didn’t even know you could experience, let alone in a dream.

Did that mean that this was actually a memory...?

It was possible. In the waking world of a damaged childhood, coupled with the horrors of being an adult, something as simple as this would easily be lost to time.

But such adult things were chased from your mind when a skeletal finger lightly poked the end of your nose. You had to scrunch up your face at that, due to the phantom touch feeling so weird, and bubbled with childish laughter.

Hush now. We mustn’t be too loud.” Your nose was poked once more.

You were going to accuse your friend for making you laugh like that on purpose, but the words stopped short when you realized there was no hand holding yours anymore. In fact, your friend’s entire presence was just...gone.

Their name left your lips, a ringing in your ears drowning out the vowels as dread made your little heart hammer within your chest. Frantically, you began to run all around the house in a desperate, terrified search for your missing friend. You didn’t care if any of the adults heard you and woke up now, because your games of hide and seek never started like this. No game you played ever started like this.

Your friend wasn’t in the pantry, under any of the sinks, the kitchen table, behind the fish tank, or even the space under your bed. You couldn’t find them anywhere, and they weren’t responding to your cries. They always responded to your cries...!

Alone and afraid, unable to think of anything to do, you slid to your bedroom floor and inhaled deep before—

The hissing of brakes and lurch of the bus as it came to a halt caused you to bolt upright in your seat. Your chest ached as your heart hammered within, throat dry and scratchy, and your eyes...stung? Yes, they were stinging. Not too badly, but you realized it was from a few tears that were clinging to your lashes.

You were quick to lift a hand and brush the mostly unshed tears away as you muttered to yourself. “Haven’t done that in a while...”

“Tra la la. Dreaming of old friends?” The driver’s sudden question made you jump with a small gasp. You almost felt like a deer in the headlights, yet didn’t get much time to answer. “Although friends should never make friends so sad that they cry, some things just happen in life...tri li li.”

Tri li li...?

...Nope.

Not awake enough for any of this to process properly in your mind.

“We’re at another stop?” You ask groggily and made sure that your labradorite skull necklace was in its proper place near your heart. Stretching once that was taken care of, you got your back to pop and a soft grunt tickled the back of your throat at how good it felt.

The bus was parked at a truck stop’s pumps, the driver turning it off before hopping down from their seat and responding to you. “Tra la la, oh yes. You slept through two other stops, but Sans said to simply let you sleep as long as you needed. Very kind of him.”

‘Sans’?

Oh, right. Snoring hoodie person in the back of the bus. That must be their name.

Unless...

Popping your head up over the seat to look about the bus, you took note of there not being any passengers that weren’t there when you nodded off. So, by process of elimination, Sans had to be the other passenger’s name. An interesting name, too. Sounded like the font.

And, hey, if they got up some time while you were out, then they weren’t in a coma. Good for them and your lingering anxiety that they might die on this trip!

Taking the opportunity of the brief stop, after checking that every item in your bag was untouched, you restocked on soda and a few smaller snacks to sate the warning twinges of a junk food craving.

The driver’s words about dreaming of an old friend refused to leave your mind the entire time. Even as you reboarded the bus, noting the first light of sunrise creeping across the sky, you just couldn’t let it go.

Had you been dreaming of a friend? The question would have been easier to answer if you could actually remember what your dream was about. Most of the dream had already been whisked away by your time spent awake. The only choppy details you could recall were being in your grandparents’ house at night and something to do with something or someone in the darkness...

It could have been that dream where you had to avoid an old banshee hag long enough to outwit her by hiding in your grandparents’ shower. That, or...

Oh, fuck, it better not have been that ridiculous nightmare about being chased by the freaking massive antique wind-up toy monkey with cymbals again. You’d never seen one in person growing up, so why the hell would that even be a thing for you in the first place!?

The nagging need to try and remember anything important from your dream went on for quite some time. You knew you were overthinking about something small, as you often didn’t remember every little detail of your dreams anyway. There was just something that your brain was desperate in not allowing the attempted recollection of missing information to drift from your attention.

Yet, unfortunately, it had to; at least for the time being. There were a couple of things you felt needed to be done now that you were less than an hour away from Ebott City.

The landlord of the small studio apartment you’d settled on renting knew that you were going to be showing up that day. You brought all of the paperwork they asked you to, which you made certain of quite a number of times before you ever got onto the bus in the first place, as well as during your trip so far. You also were sure to arrange to call them and the movers once you reached the city.

As anxiety-based paranoia dictated, you ended up leafing through the required papers for what felt like the millionth time in the past forty-eight hours. You also triple checked the cash in the envelope you’d kept hidden at the bottom of your bag beneath an unused seven inch glow-in-the-dark dildo. It wasn’t exactly necessary, but you’d learned that such a thing was quite useful in multiple situations when it came to deterring any potential thieves in your life.

The map you printed out in order to find your way to the apartment from the bus station was also looked over many a time in an attempt to somehow burn the information into your very eyeballs.

It wasn’t too far to walk from point A to point B. That meant that everything, for you, was in decent order.

Which was saying something, given your habit of having a messy sense of organization on top of being notorious for forgetting about things. However, as you didn’t want to royally screw this up, you ended up checking everything over and over again.

While some might consider it as having a manic episode, you preferred to think of it as the determination to ensure that you hadn’t unintentionally fucked yourself over. After all, not entirely trusting your capabilities as a functional adult when it came to this sort of thing was what barely saved your ass during your last move.

And luckily, it made an hour go by in what felt like a mere handful of minutes.

It took the sun reflecting against a corner of the Ebott City limits sign to wrench your attention away from your fretting. It was large and would have been magnificent, if it wasn’t for all of the slander that had either been spray-painted or scratched upon the surface. Most were jumbled within the mix of obnoxiously colored scribbles, but one stood out well enough to read.

MAKE EARTH HUMAN AGAIN

Your stomach churned in a toxic mixture of disgust and guilt. Disgust because of fucking course some asshole human would feel the need to write something like this, and guilt because you were human. You chanced an uneasy glance towards the driver.

They didn’t seem at all bothered by the sign as it passed and simply sung softly to themselves, just as they’d done most, if not the entirety, of the trip. Slumping in your seat as the bus entered a tunnel, you silently hoped that monsters would be able to look past the barefaced racism and see that not all humans were going to be horrible to them.

Because you knew for a fact that there were good human beings out there who would be more than happy to share the planet with monsterkind. Granted, you were all outnumbered by the unbelievably self-entitled and negative side of humanity, but you still existed.

You’d turned your head towards the driver with the sudden need to start a conversation and keep from overthinking yourself into an anxiety attack. Instead of speaking, however, you were forced to keep your silence and stare in shock. Not at the driver themselves, but at the black mass hunched beside them. The same thing you thought you saw when you got on the bus yesterday and oh shit, oh fuck, the hazy white bit at the top was most certainly a head and it was turning toward you, shit shit shit shit

The thing was quick to vanished in the same glitched manner as before, making your mind go from oh dear gods that thing might kill me...! to did it seriously pop into existence just to scare the ever loving fuck out of me, only to glitch itself away before I could start screaming!?

You honestly didn’t know whether to be relieved or not.

On the one hand, you could write this off as a result of stressing yourself out and vow to never tell anyone that your first fight or flight instinct was the urge to kick your sandal across a bus at the offending misinterpretation of shadows.

On the other hand, you could sit and stew on the fact that you might actually be losing your mind like a number of your relatives and if that could get you VIP status at the nearest mental institution.

“Tra la la. So close, and yet so far...” The driver’s voice disturbed your mental weighing of options and you reflexively jolted in your seat with a sharp and rather painful gasp. You could only purse your lips faintly at the driver a second later, though it wasn’t out of anger. Their words were probably just random musings muttered to themselves, because everyone muttered to themselves at least once in their life, but with what you’d been experiencing on the bus twice so far? It wasn’t helping right now.

The anxiety that plagued your life had been kept mostly under wraps during the trip until that point. Now, however, you couldn’t seem to stop your heart from its frantic attempts at an escape from the depths of your rib cage. Your breathing was getting harder to control as the seconds ticked by.

Wrapping quivering fingers around the dainty stone skull resting close to your racing heart, you closed your eyes. The lukewarm pendant was your focal point as you began to gradually slow your breathing. You had to focus on anything that wasn’t the need to go into meltdown. Too bad your brain was taking both of the weird glitchy blob thingy sightings and running with it for miles.

Here I thought I’d be hearing the voices first. Who knew insanity started with blobs that glitched in and out of existence like we were in the matrix? Your thoughts unhelpfully mused. It made you twitch even while you tried to ignore it.

Focus on the smooth surface of your crystal skull, on how each inhale and exhale of breath that passed through your lips brought a calm that would help to clear your mind...

I haven’t watched those movies in ages. I should marathon it on my tablet later...if they haven’t locked me up by then, anyway, Your mind continued to be a nuisance. While a movie marathon was a good idea for relaxing after you were all settled into your new home, that certainly wasn’t fucking helping brain!

Oh yes, seeing things that clearly weren’t even remotely something that should be on your plane of existence—because spirits did not look like that—was bordering on crazy to you, yet mentally screaming at your own grey matter wasn’t. The small reminder of how strange a person you could be made you smile softly.

There, that was it. Keep that positive feeling.

You weren’t losing the rest of your proverbial marbles, there wasn’t anyone other than you thinking so, and you weren’t going to let anxiety get the best of you right now. Be still your heart, be silent your mind, be as steady and as sure as a moonless night.

Oh, you mustn’t fear such moonless nights, my dear. The stars have not left you.

Something, no, someone’s voice filled your head with the familiar sensation of being from a distant memory. It was a sense déjà vu, but not? You couldn’t really explain it with words.

You couldn’t place who the voice could have possibly belonged to, but it made cool tingles dance along your spine and a pleasantly bizarre thrumming sensation somewhere within your chest. There was trust in the owner of this voice.

Was it really a voice, though?

You didn’t know what made you think that last bit, but clung to that feeling of trust and forgot all about your anxiety as your curiosity made you shift gears. You had to reach inside of your memories for anything else you could remember of the person. Someone from your childhood, you guessed, but they didn’t sound like any of the relatives you knew. A friend of the family, maybe? There were plenty of those...

Although you cannot always see it, there are some stars that even the most stygian of voids cannot extinguish. The tingling returned and you shuddered as it washed over you in waves. It felt pleasant. It felt safe. You needed to experience more of it, to unearth the face that accompanied the voice that caused this comforting, pulsing glow of warmth to blossom within your chest. In order to do that, you had to cut deeper into the shadows. Deeper into the darkness that was your—

“Ow, fuck,” You hissed under your breath as one hand flew up to grip your head when pain began assaulting your poor skull from the inside out. Great, just what you needed. A migraine on top of...on top of...

...What had you just been doing?

Your thoughts felt a little fuzzy and the last few moments of your life seemed...emptier than they should have. Did you miss something? You couldn’t have passed out, could you?

Wait. Passed out?

Oh, right! You were trying to keep your anxiety from spiking to a level that would leave you far too exhausted to recover from, let alone continue functioning well enough to deal with everything involved in securing your new apartment. Your attempts seemed to have worked, too, seeing as you didn’t currently feel like you were having a heart attack or hyperventilating and your body wasn’t shaking. That was good.

Even if something still felt a little...off...

“Tra la la. Have no fear,” The driver sang out, “For we are here!”

You looked up and, sure enough, the bus had reached its destination in the center of Ebott City. Your heart swelled at the sight of the bus station. True, you weren’t really a city person, but you could manage. All you had to do was find and make your own little niche here, and the starting point would be the very bus station you were coming up on.

The sight was beautiful, in a strange sort of way. There were even some monsters standing outside of the station, including a tall skeleton with a child perched upon its shoulders.

Wait a minute. Isn’t that kid the human ambassador for monsterkind!? Why are they just waiting underneath a giant banner and not at some peace meeting right now? Because that is definitely the ambassador clutching the ribbons of a handful of balloons.

That giant freaking pastel colored banner the odd pair was standing under? Not only did it have matching streamers all over that part of the station, but your name was clearly scrawled across it.

I t’ s not even spelled right.