It was just too early for this. It was only a quarter past five in the morning, the sun not even close to breaching the horizon. But of course, here you are scaling the side of a building to snatch up this clean piece of real estate spotted last week on your way to a job. Holding on to the strap of your bag to make sure you don't lose your precious cargo you hoist yourself over onto the rooftop. It's been a few weeks since you had been able to find a proper canvas for your art so it was an accomplishment to hold yourself back for so long.
Dropping your bag you started to ready your stencil and supplies. The area was secluded enough that you weren't overly worried about being caught but you could still feel the tickle of adrenaline in your veins as you slipped on your respirator. It was quiet as you worked. The weight of the can grounded you as you lost yourself in thought. Your mind wandered everywhere, ideas for future pieces to bring to life, your job, the monsters you were probably going to get to meet that afternoon.
You could still hardly fathom their existence, but who were you to question it. It had only been a month since they literally popped out of the ground scaring numerous hikers. If you really thought about it there were stranger things. Like the fact that magic existed and most of the world talks about it like it’s make-believe. Though most wouldn’t know about that, only those unfortunate enough to be born with it would know. The negative drift of your thoughts made you pause in disgust at your own circumstances. With a deep breath and a shake of your head, you banished those thoughts for later.
Back to brighter notes of your week at least it wasn't hard to make a pitch to write a story. Your publisher was practically pushing you out the door when you offered to go out to the monster camp in person. Everyone in the country wanted to know more about the mythical monsters of Mt. Ebott. You were just hoping it wouldn't be impossible to meet one of them with how quickly the military jumped on the situation. It was only a matter of time before the world's curiosity would bleed into fear and you were determined to get your story before the government did anything drastic.
It startled you when the first sliver of sunlight burned your retina as it peeked over one of the city buildings. Cleaning up your mess you dropped the last of your cans back into your bag before standing back to marvel at your handiwork. The bright rays of the sunrise only added to the piece. The crow was staring straight into your soul as the heavyweight of your sins return to your back. Like many of your other works there stood a young boy waving up at the building across the rooftop, his body and face broken up by the murder of crows flying by him. You turned to leave with a wave to the boy, the silliness of it bringing a sorrowful smile to your lips.
You had just set your eyes on the building across the way when you nearly had a heart attack. It was like you had seen a ghost, through the window staring right at you was a boy. He could only be around five or six clinging to the Hem of his mom's skirt. Willing your heart to slow you plastered on a nervous smile as you raised a hand to wave at the child before putting your index finger to your lips. A slow Bob to the child's head had a real smile coming to your lips in relief as you made your way down to the alley you stored your bike.
You stuffed the last of your dirtied clothes into your art bag before pulling on your riding jacket. You didn't have the time to head home to change, so you made sure to bring an extra set with you this morning. It was also thanks to your past for thought that you brought some granola to munch on for breakfast, you were gonna need it because you have one long drive ahead of you.
You were nothing but grateful for the fact your roommate let you borrow his motorcycle for the trip. Gratitude aside you were relieved to be near your destination because your thighs were killing you. You had to give it to Jade, he had to have thighs of steel riding that beast all the time. Pulling into the lodge you were planning on staying at for the weekend you gingerly extricated yourself from the bike nearly tripping over your jelly legs.
After nearly two and a half hours of driving the temptation to just check-in and crash for the day was tantalizing, but alas you still had a long hike before you'd finally get to your destination. Thanking the stars you packed light you grabbed your bag and headed towards the lodge to check-in and drop off your goodies. One key card and a few more granola bars later you head back to the front desk to see if they had any information as to where the monsters were being held up at the moment.
The door chimed as you walked back into the lobby, the receptionist practically threw their phone at being caught red-handed. The young woman behind the counter looked up at you with owlish eyes as she sputtered, " Oh, you're back so soon. Is everything alright? Was there something wrong with your room?"
"No, no, the rooms great," you chimed with a flash of your teeth, "I was actually wondering if you knew where the military has helped settle the monsters for the time being. I'm a journalist and was hoping to get to see them myself."
It was like you flipped a switch in the girl mentioning the monsters like that. She grew most distant, her lip unconsciously pulling back in a partial sneer, "Of course that's why someone like you is all the way out here-"
You were nearly left speechless at her sudden change in attitude. “Excuse me? What do you mean, ‘someone like me’,” you were nearly vibrating at the irritation curling inside of you.
Not phased by your growing irritation she waved a hand at you, “You know, just look at you. You’re all dressed up like a city boy. Before the whole monster business the only types to make their way out here were hard core hikers and mountain climbers.” Raising a brow in judgment she continued, “I don't know what the fuss all about anyway. Monsters, glorified animals are more like it. I was working the day they emerged you know. The hikers that stumbled across them were in a panicked frenzy. Then the military showed up and started making a mess of everything. You might as well head back to wherever you came from if those things are the only reason you’re here.”
You stood there silent as you waited for her to eventually take a break for air, your arms quietly crossing in front of you. You’ve had nastier things said to you in ignorance before and it wouldn’t be the last, so when she finally finished her rant you were able to speak calmly.
“Are you done?”
Your lip curled smugly when you saw the red dusting of embarrassment start to climb the receptionist's neck. “Now I understand you’ve probably had to deal with a lot of unreasonable people traveling out here because of the monsters showing up. I also understand that you probably don’t care after all that’s happened being so close to the source and all but I’m here for work, not leisure,” You took pleasure as the rude woman shrunk back further in her seat as you fully approached the counter and leaned closer.
“Now if you would be so kind as to answer my question without the complementary side of sass that would be greatly appreciated.”
“Uh… The military set up the monster segregation a little ways up, maybe a forty-minute drive from here,” The receptionist murmured while pointing towards the mountain itself. Not the most helpful but luckily you looked it up beforehand. There was really only one road up from this side of the mountain so at least you won’t get lost. Even better with the time estimation you weren’t going to be stupid enough to just try your luck hiking out there to stumble upon it. Even the thought was enough to start hurting your feet at the prospect of aimlessly wandering the base of the mountain trying to find the camp.
Getting a little more comfortable you rested your chin on your hand cheekily, “See was that so hard.” You could see the spark of annoyance lighting back up in the woman's eyes at your unnecessary goading. Backing off you turned to the door with a wave, “Thanks for the tip-”
Now that you had a destination it was time to roll. You drop back by your room for a moment, dropping off anything that wasn’t needed you nab your camera back before hitting the road for another long drive.
You were endlessly grateful for your break from earlier, you’d only been on the road again for thirty minutes and your ass was starting to kill you. This was one of the rare occasions you wished you had a car despite how cumbersome they were to have living in Seattle. At least in a car your thighs wouldn’t feel like death and you’d still have the feeling in your fingertips. Luckily it shouldn’t be too much longer before you reached the camp by the receptionist's estimation. As if the fates knew what you were thinking you could see a barricade up ahead.
Slowing down as you approached two men in uniform started towards you. “Hey, the road is closed up beyond this point so you’re going to have to turn around,” said one of the soldiers. You scoffed, the guy was lucky enough that you were able to hear him. How stupid do you have to be to try and talk over the sound of a motorcycle from so far away, but luckily that gave you the excuse to play dumb. As the soldiers noticed you weren’t stopping the one who spoke up continued to walk towards you as you drifted closer.
Stopping the bike you switch off the engine and get comfortable by pulling off your helmet, “Sorry about that, I couldn’t hear you over the sound of my bike. What’s going on, did something happen to the road?” It was a bit of a bluff, obviously, you knew what was beyond but that didn’t mean you needed to spell it out for them.
The Soldier let out an annoyed sigh, it was plain to see that he’d been turning away people all month. “I’m sorry sir but the road up ahead is closed, you’re gonna have to turn around.” Letting out a sigh yourself you try to look as tired and innocent as you can while you dig for your wallet. “I know that you’re probably getting a bunch of people snooping around the area looking for monsters since they emerged, but I’m here as a Journalist. I have my press pass if that would be of any use to you.” Pulling the press pass out of your wallet you try to give it to the man but he oddly declines.
“I’m sorry but the road is closed off to any civilians. Now I’d recommend turning around so we don’t have and problems.”
You grit your teeth at the threat. Taking a second to put your card back into its rightful place you center your helmet before plastering your fakest smile on your face, “Of course. Sorry to bother the two of you.” The look of surprise on the man's face nearly made you break your mask, obviously he was expecting more of a fight out of you. “No trouble at all, I hope you have a safe trip.”
Slipping your helmet back into place you throw a wave at the soldiers before turning around back the way you came. Slowing to a stop after you passed the bend out of the line of sign of the blockade you carefully walk your bike into the woods. Like hell you were just gonna leave without getting what you came here for. It’s not as if you expected any different but you wanted to at least give the legitimate way a shot first. Taking off your helmet you carefully dismount the bike trying your best not to twist an ankle on the uneven terrain. You would have to walk the bike a bit farther into the trees to get it completely out of view of the road.
With your bike and helmet properly sorted away you started your hike.
It took almost an hour of wandering and avoiding the occasional patrolman till you finally found anything resembling a campsite. There were hardly any real tents pitched instead there were numerous bedrolls neatly stacked by fire pits ready for their owners to lay out under the canopy. For a second you wanted to believe they were for the soldiers, but you knew that couldn't be the case. Looking further down you could see more fire pits every few feet piled just as high with bedrolls. Wandering deeper into what you assumed was their 'camp' you wanted to see if there was anything else. It looked nearly abandoned so far, not even a single monster in sight.
You continued down the trail, the only noticeable differences were the occasional tents. You could probably blame it on lack of tents but it's been an entire month since the monsters appeared so you found it hard to believe the military couldn't have gotten and distributed more by now. You decide to pull out your camera to catch the poor living conditions the monsters are having to deal with. Since there didn't seem to be any monsters you might as well get some sort of evidence for being out here so long.
You had just started to take a few shots when you nearly jumped out of your skin due to the loud crack of a stick. Whipping your head in the direction of the noise you still had your camera posed in front of you. Standing there not even ten feet ahead of you was a real monster. Seemingly made of nightmare fuel the skeleton seemed to be a head taller than you. It was weirding seeing a skeleton in person after your only other encounters with them would be a health class dummy. Obviously you were staring for too long when the skeleton chortles,
"you should take a picture, it'll last longer-"
You just stood there for a second, you didn't have any expectations when coming down here but you certainly weren't expecting the monsters to know fluent English. It was a silly thought due to the fact you had actually come down here to interview them so you shouldn't be so surprised.
Your next actions ended up catching even yourself off guard as you turned on autopilot and snapped a photo of the skeleton like he told you to.
Maybe it was the look on the skeleton's face, or it could have even been the awkward silence between you but once the shrill wheeze slipped from the skeleton you were both lost in laughter.
"jeez kid i didn't think you'd actually do it."
"You're telling me, that was pure instinct." You nearly dropped your camera as you curled forward, your sides in stitches. Every time you or the skeleton finally started to calm down then the other one would end up making some obscene noise to get you two going again. It was quickly getting hard enough to breath through your wheezing that you had to plant yourself on the floor to collect yourself, of course that sent the monster into another fit as well.
"ah man, you’re a riot-"
the skeleton had to wipe a stray tear from his eye socket as he tried to regain his composure for the fourth time.
"sorry about that let me start over, hi my name is sans. Sans the skeleton, nice to meet ya."
Sans introduced himself with a beaming smile as he held out his left hand.
Noticing the friendly gesture you tried to scramble to your feet. But apparently fate decided to whip down an Uno reverse card as you fell right back on your ass after stepping on your own shoelace.
"woah careful there bud, i'm flattered but it's hard to believe you're falling for my charms already."
Sans let out a good chuckle at his own joke, his smile only widening as you joined his laughter at your expense. Worried you were going to trip over yourself to meet him again this time the skeleton walked closer to offer you a hand up instead of in greeting.
Finally standing you had to crane your neck to meet the skeletons waiting gaze, “Yeah, sorry. It's been a while since somebody offered me a 'bone'.” You winked trying to match the skeleton, pun for pun. What you didn’t expect was the blue that dusted high on his cheekbones. You had to choke back a laugh as you tried to reign in your composure, “Sorry, was that too far? I was aiming for a rib tickler.” Emphasizing your joke with a brow wiggle you tried to ease the skeleton back with a less loaded pun. It paid off as Sans started to cackle again, one of his boney hands finding his ribs to ground himself.
Once his laughter died down the skeleton seemed to relax slouching into a less daunting height which you were grateful for. It was then that you noticed you were still holding his hand from when he helped you up. Feeling the heat start to crawl up the back of your neck you had to play it cool. Turning the awkward hand-holding into an awkward handshake would have to do. Smiling up at the skeleton you finally returned his greeting, “Hi, my name’s Abel. Abel Edwards,” Unsure about how you felt on letting a stranger know your name when you’re technically trespassing you decided to go with a fake name just to be on the safe side. “I’m a journalist, I’m actually out here to work on a piece about monsters. I’ve been wandering around for a while but couldn’t find anyone, so I thought I might as well grab some pictures if I couldn’t find anyone to talk to.”
At the mention of you being a journalist the hand in yours went a bit stiffer. Concerned you tried to pull back your hand but froze then the phalanges tightened their hold on you.
“a little creepy of you to be purposely taking pictures of monster’s sleeping area though don’t cha think?”
Your blood went cold at the skeleton’s sudden shift in mood. You slowly let your eyes find his only you were met with blank eye sockets instead of the more reassuring set of lights that previously found their home there. Swallowing nervously to calm yourself, you were not going to let this skeleton just bully you into submission.
“Nah, I gotta say I disagree.”
The bluntness of your statement seemed to throw Sans off at least as you saw his eye lights return looking at you puzzled. “I hardly find a bunch of nondescript bedrolls to be anything scandalous. What I find concerning is that they aren’t hidden away in tents to give everyone a bit of privacy. Surely the Military should have offered you all enough proper equipment to be sleeping outside. A month is more than ample time to have supplied you with enough tents or am I mistaken?” Obviously this wasn’t what the skeleton was expecting to hear as your hand fell limply from his grasp as his confusion.
“uh, i dunno. but it’s not like most of us mind, we’re just happy to sleep out under the sky.”
Sans’s dismissive tone wasn’t reassuring in the slightest.
“That doesn’t tell me whether or not you were given the option to have proper shelter from the elements. For fuck's sake we’re in Washington, the state most known for its liquid sunshine,” Wiggling your fingers in fake joy at one of the things your state is proud of you can’t keep the deadpan tone out of your voice. Your journalist instinct has you pushing for more information and it’s too late to lighten the mood with another pun so the fun-loving gesture was going to have to be enough. “Not only that, where is everyone? I’ve been walking around the camp for at least twenty minutes before you found me. Is everyone alright, it’s more than a little concerning seeing so many bedrolls yet nobody to own them.”
“what’s it matter to you human,”
Sans growled defensively.
Standing your ground you rest your hands on your hips hotly, "I'm here to write a story, and if that story is about monsters being mistreated then I need to know about it." You were tired of the run around so you were glad when Sans rubbed at the back of his neck.
Sans' gaze drifted down at you. He looked worn, his smile tired,
"you really drive a hard sell don't cha, kid. you really make it sound as though you're gonna write a story with us monsters as the good guys. it almost sounds too good to be true if ya ask me."
The defeated tone to his voice worked like water over your flames of annoyance. We're negotiations really going that bad over here.
Trying to be a bit more reassuring you pat the side of the skeleton's arm making sans jump at the contact. "Well, I tell it as I see it. That's why I'm here. If you're the 'good guys' show me." Hoping your sincerity finally got through to Sans you tried to not take his skepticism to heart. Most of the time people were inclined to assume you were one of those scandalous tabloid writers, selling out anyone they can for a quick buck. You could only imagine the distrust a monster would have for a human. From the little coverage of the monster's reappearance it was humans, no- mages who were responsible for trapping them underground in the first place. Then once they're finally out they get roped off by the military, barring their newly found freedom.
You were so wrapped up in your head you almost didn't hear sans’ question.
"what do you need?"
His eye lights were looking anywhere but you at the moment. He was still a bit hesitant but it's something you can work with.
"Well, I snuck in here to hopefully get to talk to some monsters so I can show people what they're like. Humans are extremely curious creatures, but they're also quick to fear things they don't understand. I'm the type who likes to find out things for myself instead of jumping into any narrow-minded conclusions."
"wait, you snuck in?"
Sans’ exclamation went right over your head as his eye sockets seemed to 'narrow' in confusion. You couldn't help but stare trying to figure out how bone could be so malleable. Your curiosity got the better of you as you spoke up at the same time sans continued his line of confusion.
"i thought the military was the one to send you to snoop on us-"
"How do your eye sockets squint like that?"
Just like that mysterious squinting eyes went wide and round again as their owner realized you weren't paying attention. You, on the other hand, were shocked by the skeleton’s assumption. No wonder he was so wary of you.
"Sorry, that was probably a little rude of me," you honestly didn't know what you were sorry for more, interrupting him or questioning his anatomy so boldly. "I had to sneak in because the military turned me away at the blockade. I had to drive quite a bit to get here so like hell I was just gonna go back home without getting what I came here for. Though I was pretty surprised with how sparse their lookouts were if they're trying to keep people out."
Glad to see you were back on topic sans took a second to think of a reason for the lowered security,
"it's probably less to keep others out but to keep stragglers in. right now most of us monsters are gathered in another part of the camp. it was getting too crowded for me so i decided to take a short cut over here to take a breather when i found you snapping pictures. it made sense to me that they probably had somebody taking pictures of our stuff since we weren't supposed to be over here.”
“Well no wonder you were on edge. I know I brushed you off earlier but I can actually delete those photos if it’d make you feel better. Readers just tend to believe things more when they can see the things they’re reading about is true,” You couldn’t help but feel bad for dismissing his feelings about taking pictures now, offering to delete them was the least you could do.
"no, no. it’s fine, if you really think they’d help us feel free to take more. though i wouldn’t mind you getting rid of the one of me, i can only imagine the stupid face I was making when you actually took it.”
Chuckling Sans raised his brow bone itching your curiosity again but you held yourself back this time around. Instead a devious smile pulled on your lips.
“Sorry I don’t think I can get rid of that. I’d be a pretty crap friend if I got rid of a picture of my first monster friend wouldn’t I.”
The blue glow of his cheekbones made you feel accomplished at lightening the mood.
“a bit quick to call us friends already isn’t it.”
Rolling your eyes you scoff, “I don’t see a reason to complicate it, and I don’t know about you but I never saw a time requirement for becoming friends with somebody. So unless you object-” Letting the sentence hang to give Sans a second to object, your smile only grew as he stood there silent, “That’s what I thought. So new friend, would you be up to an interview for that story of mine?”
Sighing Sans returned your grin apparently knowing when he was beaten, or so you thought,
“i actually might have somebody better for you to interview, how does the former queen of monsters sound.”
It was your turn to be stunned into silence. All you could do was nod like an idiot as your voice refused to cooperate.
“T-that would be amazing-” A resource like that was harder than hell to come by. Never the type to look a gift horse in the mouth but it did raise one question, “Should I be worried about how rude I’ve been to somebody in such close relation to the former queen?”
“nah, she’s not as scary as the title sounds. some would say she’ll knock knock your socks off though,”
Sans winked so you assumed he was hinting at some sort of an inside joke but it was lost on you for now.
Letting out a breath of relief you get excited at your amazing luck running into the skeleton. “Then yes that would be perfect. Where is she?” Looking to Sans expectantly you don’t want to waste any more time.
“That’s where it’s a little complicated.”
Smile dropping you chewed your lip in annoyance, of course there would be a catch. Noticing your drop in mood he was quick to smooth it over,
“it would be too much of a risk to try and find her right now with the soldiers around the camp. but if you come back tomorrow I can make sure it’s safe to meet her.”
That sounded reasonable, you already booked your room for the weekend so it works out. Nodding it was actually a bit of a relief, now that you’d thought about it you could feel your exhaustion setting into your bones. “That sounds like a plan, is tomorrow around noon alright with you?”
“works for me kiddo-”
Ok, that was like the third time calling you a kid and it was starting to get on your nerves. “I’m not a kid you know,” While it was a bit childish to interrupt him like that you get enough of it in your normal life that you were tired of it. What you didn’t expect was the hearty laughter coming from the skeleton at your outburst.
“well if it makes you feel better i’m pretty sure any humans i meet are going to feel like a kid to me. it probably didn’t cross your mind but most monsters live a lot longer than humans, hell i know for a fact that at least tori was alive before we got sealed underground.”
The stretch of silence because of that revelation was deafening. Sans started to fidget not expecting such a reaction, or lack thereof.
You stared at Sans deadpan as you spoke, “So what you’re telling me is that you’re an old man, and it’s because you’re hella old that you keep calling me a kid.”
You choked on your laughter as the skeletons whole skull turned blue as he sputtered,
“excuse me?! i’ll have you know i’m only a hundred and thirty-two.”
“Oh my god, you really are hella old. I’m gonna die-” You started to wheeze at how upset the skeleton was for being called old, especially after he kept calling you a kid. That was sweet sweet justice if you had ever seen it. You couldn’t help but hammer the last nail in Sans’s metaphorical coffin, “You’re so old you’re a fossil.”
Even though sans was mad at the insult you could see him starting to crack at the joke like you were hoping he would.
“That was bad kid, bad to the bone.”
“Well I’m gonna have a bone to pick with you if you keep calling me kid, old man.”
As weird as it was to just be joking around with the skeleton it was nice. Most of the time when you had to meet somebody because of your job, it would be very cut and dry. But you weren’t kidding when you referred to sans as a friend earlier. Well maybe you were using the term pretty loosely earlier but you could see it turning into a real friendship now, you wouldn’t mind it anyway.
“Come on, I just explained to you I wasn’t that old, you’re gonna break my nonexistent heart.”
You scoffed, “Yeah, and I just explained I’m not a kid. If you’re gonna keep talking to me like a child then I’m gonna keep calling you an old man.”
"Fine, I've learned my lesson. Now as fun as this has been I need to get back, I'd hate to worry my brother."
"Yeah, I should probably start heading back myself if I want to get on the road before it gets dark." That said you raise your hand in a half-hearted wave, “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Have a safe trip, bud.”
Then to your amazement, Sans disappeared right before your eyes. Stunned and just a little bit concerned you whipped your head around looking for the skeleton. When your gaze was met with nothing but the lonely trees you gave up. You really were hoping to get back onto the road before dark. You didn’t want to accidentally give yourself away by needing to use your headlight so close to the blockade.
Annoyingly enough you got yourself turned around in the woods four times before you were able to find your bike. It was getting harder and harder not to trip as darkness quickly blanketed the forest floor. Walking your bike back into the road you had to drive a few miles without your headlight on just in case any of the lookouts would see you. Luckily once you were far enough away to turn it back on it was smooth sailing and only took you about thirty minutes to get back to the lodge you were staying at.
Once you got back into your room the bed called to you like a siren but your mind was restless. Dropping your camera off on the generic dresser your eyes fell onto your art bag. It had been a while since you tried to freehand anything, back in Seattle it was always a lot safer to do stencil work since it was a lot quicker. But you weren’t in Seattle right now. Grabbing your bag you head for the door. You might as well work off the last of your energy.
It took about twenty minutes of walking around before you finally found a place that was safe enough to take your time on. Dropping your bag to the ground you looked to the star-filled night sky. It was refreshing to see how bright the stars were now that you were out of the city. Even though the sun had left for the rest of the day the moon and stars were bright enough to give you a lay of the land. Slipping on your respirator you got to work.
Drawing the young boy and crow was second nature to you with how often they were featured in your art. The skeleton that was leaning down to shake the boy’s hand was a new but fun addition to your work though. By the time you finished and got all your stuff put away you were surprised to see it was almost ten pm. Luckily it wasn’t too far of a walk back to your room. It looks like that last bit of art for the night was the perfect sleep aid as you passed out the moment your head hit the pillow.