Frisk looks at the child on the wheelchair whose parents are behind him. All of the patients who can stand are gathered around him, congratulating him and expressing their envy.
He’s getting out of the hospital.
Frisk has been in the hospital since this kid was admitted for Leukemia and now he’s getting out. They’ve heard his name be mentioned every now and then, but they can never quite remember.
As they watch the boy say goodbye to his friends and be wheeled out of the room, Frisk clenches the paper in their hand, crumpling their drawing.
They look down and tut. They crumple the paper up into a ball and toss it into the garbage bin. It misses.
That night, Frisk stays up past lights out, when the nurse has left the room for about an hour. They take out the thin pad of paper and box of crayons from under their pillow and continuously write ‘I wish I could get out I wish I could get out I wish I could get out’ with only the dim light from the window to help them. After a few minutes, their eyes hurt and water, tears plopping down on the page, but they continue to write, letters and words sticking too close to each other.
They write until they finish the pad of paper and their writing is unintelligible. Afterwards, they quietly get out of the bed and walk over to the window. They grab a chair, stand on it, open the window and then proceed to rip out the scribbled-on pages of the pad and throw them out the window.
The wind carries them away. Sometimes Frisk pulls too hard and the paper rips in half instead but they toss it outside anyway. When they’re done, their eyes are puffy and red and their chest hurts too much from crying. Their stomach hurts. Everything is spinning.
They close the window and crawl back into their bed, burying their face into the pillow.
Frisk is seven years old.
Frisk is moved to a private room. Not because they would get other kids infected, but because they didn’t like being in loud rooms anymore. They spent most of their time in their bed, staring at the ceiling that they knew exactly where the minute cracks were and where the lizards usually crawled past. When some of their friends would talk and invite them to play or draw, they turned on their bed to lie on their side and never said anything.
They are still given pads of paper and they still write on it every day. Sometimes it’s ‘I wish I could get out’, sometimes it’s ‘I wish I could get better’, sometimes it’s just angry scribbling.
They tear some of the papers out and they never know where the wind carries them to.
They start getting their schooling in the hospital because the doctors aren’t sure when they’ll be getting out. They still have no diagnosis of their sickness since they’re showing symptoms of too many. They refuse to talk to anyone who isn’t their parents, their nurse or their teacher.
Their parents tell them about all of their friends in their old public room that were released from the hospital after their treatment, like Andy whose arm broke after falling off his bike, or Sarah who had tonsillitis, or the older kid Mari who had ulcer.
Frisk nods whenever their parents talk but they don’t say anything. Eventually, they stop bringing them reports. Whenever they ask about how Frisk feels, they just shrug and look away. The doctors say it’s common for a child to feel down after being confined in the hospital for so long. So they offer to walk Frisk around the hospital garden or, if they’re feeling too tired, take them around in a wheelchair.
They do their schoolwork and ignore the pitying looks their teacher gives them. They give short answers to the questions the nurses and doctors ask. Their parents say they’re thinking of getting a puppy, since Frisk likes pets (even though Frisk figures they really wouldn’t, because Frisk is in the hospital and pets aren’t allowed), and that they can take care of the puppy once they’re out of the hospital. Frisk shrugs.
They offer to buy them a dollhouse, or that Lego set they were so enamored with when they went to the mall a few years ago. Frisk shrugs.
The only thing they manage to coax the child with is food. Every other day, Frisk notices that the food they get is a lot classier than the ones they used to be served with in their old room. They eat, because their parents already look so troubled, and they don’t tell them that it tastes like cardboard anyway.
And still, they write down their wishes on the pad of paper and sometimes they throw it out for the wind to take.
Frisk is eight.
Their hands shake whenever they try to write and their teacher lessens their writing work. Frisk doesn’t mind. They figure it’s from writing too much at night until their pen runs dry and their fingers are stuck in the same position for hours. Their teacher just lets them say their answers vocally now. Frisk mumbles their answers. Their teacher sighs and just moves on to the next question like they heard the child just fine.
Frisk asks if they know sign language. They have a niece who is deaf. Frisk asks their teacher to teach them.
It’s the first time in a long time Frisk has asked to be taught anything out of the blue, so their teacher agrees. They start their lessons the next day, with the alphabet, and Frisk stumbles over a few signs at first, but they’re familiar with it by the end.
That night, Frisk still writes. They write that they’ve decided to talk with their hands because their throat hurts too much when they try to speak, and they wish they could tell their parents that, but they look so, so sad, and Frisk doesn’t want them to be sad. Because Frisk knows, it’s their fault. But they’re so tired to try and be happy. They haven’t stepped outside the hospital in a few years.
They rip out the pages again, tuck the one with the confession of their throat hurting into the foam of their pillow, and toss the rest outside for the wind to carry wherever. Frisk never bothers to try and find out, but if it feels like it’s too much of a secret, they don’t trust the wind to carry it right into the hands of the people they’re hiding it from.
They sleep better than they have in years that night.
Their lessons progress. Frisk’s hands still shake when they write, even during their nightly scribblings, but they don’t pay it much heed. Neither does their teacher, too delighted in the thought of Frisk being enthusiastic to learn things again. Before long, they’re conducting all of their lessons through signs.
Frisk smiles whenever they get something right without stumbling through it.
Their teacher is happy to tell their parents of their child’s newfound happiness.
Frisk writes, and it’s not the usual one-sentence wish they soon discard for someone else to get confused over. They write about their day, and they write about how much they’re learning, and they write about they’re actually having fun. They write about how they think there might be hope for them if they just stayed determined.
Sometimes Frisk wonders if the stars ever read their wishes since no one complains about their habit to wasting paper every night.
One day, their teacher practically drags them out of their room and into the garden, claiming that lack of sunlight for so long couldn’t be healthy for them. Frisk had tried to get away, but once they were seated on the wheelchair, their teacher had quickly pushed the damn thing out of the room and the child had to hold on in order to not fall at the speed they were going. A few nurses had yelled at them to not run in the hallways, but their teacher wasn’t listening.
So here they were, at the garden in the middle of the afternoon, sun at just the right angle to grace the flowers with its now-orange light.
“Do you know what those are?” Their teacher points to a bush of pink flowers with their red and yellow anthers in the air.
Frisk shakes their head.
“Gumamelas,” they say. They point to another bush. “Those, of course, are roses, and those are…”
Frisk listens as they point and name each flower that is in the garden, even though they’re sure that they’ll only remember at least a fourth of what their teacher is saying. The hospital garden is quite huge. They even had a bunch of white, marble statues of angels and a few gnome figurines standing around the plots.
They stay there until nighttime, when Frisk is wheeled back to their room. The nurses are too surprised and relieved that Frisk had gone out (not of their own volition, but still), that they don’t scold the teacher for running in the halls earlier.
Frisk writes all of that down too. Their fingers shake a lot worse that night, but they figure it must be because they had gone outside. Their body must’ve been a little tired.
“Your hands are shaking,” their teacher says when they’re in the middle of teaching Frisk how to sign dates and times.
Frisk pauses, then signs, “Fine”.
“Are you sure?” their teacher asks.
The elder gives them a cynical look, but they continue anyway. They end the lesson half an hour early and move on to sciences again. They were currently learning about the layers of the Earth.
There were three layers, their teacher said. The crust, the mantle and the core.
Frisk tilts their head and signs, “If there are only three layers, where do the monsters live?”
Their teacher pauses. “The monsters?” Their young pupil nods and fingerspells “E-B-O-T-T”.
“Underground,” they say, looking down, mouth pursed in thought. “Years ago, they were sealed Underground by a spell. Your parents have told you the story? I don’t think I remember teaching you this.”
“Kindergarten,” Frisk signs. Then adds, “Before.”
“Ah,” their teacher licks their lips, “Well, they live Underground. Not too close to the core, so I suppose somewhere on the upper mantle.”
Frisk wants to ask why, how, and, how do you know have you been there has anybody been there, but instead they just nod and let their teacher continue with the rest of the lesson. It probably wasn’t important to know all of that anyway.
Today, Frisk never stumbled through a sentence while they were having their lessons. They signed smoothly, never hesitating, as if the signing was just second nature and they had been doing all of that their life. By the end of the day, Frisk was grinning, giddy and proud of themselves in a very, very long time. Their teacher was smiling at them too.
Frisk watched as they packed up their bag, neatly placing all of the papers and extra books they had brought for Frisk to study. They couldn’t wait for tomorrow. They were good at signing now. After what amounted to almost a year of effort finally paid off.
“Frisk,” their teacher said, and Frisk turned to them, expectant.
They were smiling but their brow was furrowed. Frisk’s shoulders sagged and their own lips pulled down slightly.
“Frisk,” their teacher licked their lips again and sighed. They set their bag down, removed their glasses and pinched the bridge of their nose. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but,” they paused. “You have been progressing very well, and I am very proud of you,” they said. Frisk could hear the underlying ‘but’ in their tone. “I am very proud of you, Frisk. Remember that, okay?” they sighed again and dropped their hand.
“I’m moving to New York, Frisk,” they say.
Frisk says nothing.
“I know it’s quite far. I haven’t been out of the country – heck, out of the city, in a while, but I need to go. My sister is ill,” they say, “And there’s no one to take care of her.”
Frisk looks down. Their hands don’t clench their blanket and they don’t swallow the lump in their throat.
“Are you mad at me, Frisk?”
Frisk says nothing.
Another sigh. Their teacher wraps their arms around the child and pulls them into a hug, but Frisk’s arms remain at their side. They still don’t say anything.
Their teacher kisses the top of their head, say one last goodbye, before leaving the room. That’s the last Frisk ever sees of them.
That night they write, ‘I wish you could stay’, and ‘I hope she gets better’, and ‘I hope you’ll be happy.’ They tuck that into the foam of their pillow too, along with their other hidden note. They’re lucky the nurses haven’t thought of washing the pillows yet.
Frisk is nine.
Frisk gets a new teacher. They don’t know sign language.
They try to be patient, the child can tell, but sometimes, when Frisk doesn’t speak and just signs like they’re used to, they get this funny look on their face like they’re trying to decipher what Frisk wants to say and utterly failing at it, thus getting frustrated.
Frisk talks, but their throat starts to hurt when they talk too much, probably because of from disuse this past year, so they sign out of habit. Then they just start writing it on paper. Once, they overheard their teacher ask their parents if Frisk was deaf or mute, and they answer, rather awkwardly, that no.
Their teacher insists that, even just for their sake, Frisk speak, because they don’t know sign language. Frisk wants to be considerate, so they talk to the best of their ability. They don’t say that their throat feels like there’s glass growing out of it.
They never hear about their old teacher again, and their parents are rarely around for them to ask about news from their old teacher. They still don’t have a proper diagnosis – the doctors are just grasping at straws and Frisk has lost count how many times they’ve gone through scans and blood tests now – and their bills are piling high, so their parents have to work to foot them. Luckily, their dad had been promoted last month, just in time for the bill skyrocket. That also meant that their parents didn’t have that much time to visit the hospital. Dad was busy and mom worked overtime.
They write slower now too, because their fingers hurt every time they try to move their joints. And they still shake, which amounts to very crooked handwriting and the subtle ‘tut’ their teacher gives. Frisk doesn’t mind. It was their fault their stupid joints wouldn’t work anyway.
Mom stops working overtime when she notices that her health is declining due to so many all-nighters she’s been pulling. Which is good, because they don’t need two people in the hospital. They’ve still got enough saved to pay their bills, and when the money starts going low, she can start overtiming again. She visits the hospital more often too, although Frisk never speaks. Not because they don’t want to, but because, again, it hurts.
The cause of the pain doesn’t show up in any of the scans, which is frustrating.
Mom tells Frisk about the recent news, about how modern medicine is advancing in the world and soon they’ll be able to find a cure for Frisk’s illness. That soon Frisk will be out of the hospital and playing.
Frisk thinks it’s been close to five years since they were admitted, and thinks they haven’t really walked around that much too. They’ve lain on the same bed for years, buried their face on the same pillow, and luckily remembered to take their buried notes out of the pillow foam whenever the nurses came to launder it so that the papers wouldn’t get wet.
Frisk undergoes another scan. The doctors think it’s some kind of cancer. They suggest chemotherapy. Mom starts overtiming again, and once again, the only visitor Frisk gets is their teacher.
Chemotherapy hurts like a bitch and makes them puke afterwards during the first few days. Frisk is usually sleeping after heaving their guts out, and the nurses keep telling them that it’ll be okay. The child wonders if they’re actually just slowly killing them because they couldn’t do anything anymore.
Chemotherapy is also expensive as shit, so mom and dad both have to overtime. Frisk’s family isn’t really rich. They get by enough, but the child’s hospitalization has been sapping their funds for years. Frisk thinks their parents might even have gotten loans.
“I wish I could get better,” they whisper soundlessly into their pillow one night.
Mom never visits because she’s working hard for Frisk. And then suddenly she’s not.
Frisk’s father comes to the hospital one day, in the middle of one of Frisk’s lessons. He tells the teacher to take the rest of the day off. He grabs the chair the teacher was sitting on and takes their place, combing a hand through his hair and sighing. Frisk turns their attention to him and waits.
He says that mom has left, leaving only a note that she couldn’t take it anymore. She couldn’t live constantly working her ass off but not even eating or resting well because all of the money was going to the hospital. She couldn’t live with a dying child who wasn’t sure of having a chance at surviving. She was tired. She is gone.
Dad puts his head in his hand and sobs. Frisk doesn’t put their hand on his shoulder, although they think they should, because that’s what a good child does when their parent is crying.
Frisk is ten.
It’s not cancer, Frisk thinks, or otherwise they would have been dead already. Assuming cancer spread that fast, at least.
They’re not at the hospital anymore. Their dad paid off the last of their bills and stopped Frisk’s hospitalization since they didn’t have enough funds to continue paying. Their education was also halted for the moment. Dad still went to work, salary just enough to pay their bills and their food.
Frisk took their notes – the ones they hid in their pillow – with them. They’re tucked under the mattress of their bed. Frisk doesn’t have a lot of paper in the house anymore, so they write their words on the headboard, making sure that the scribblings would be covered by the mattress and the pillow.
The letters are crooked and horrible, due to Frisk’s numb fingers. They still shake, and they feel a little cold, but at least Frisk can still move them. They had a hard time walking after they were released from the hospital because of being confined to the bed for too long.
They walk around their room whenever they’re bored. Their legs are a little numb too, and they outbalance every now and then. It’s fine though.
Their shelf and toy box is dusty when they check it. Frisk thinks of telling their dad to sell the toys so that they can get a bit of cash. Maybe if they get enough, Dad wouldn’t have to work so much and then he’ll spend more time with Frisk. It was awfully quiet around the house.
Frisk rereads their storybooks from when they were a toddler, over and over until they could recite the book without trying. They walk from their room, to the kitchen, to the living room. They avoid stairs because then their knees start to hurt, but if they feel especially bored, they go up the flight and then back down, and then sit on the floor because their legs are wobbling. Frisk wonders why they feel so tired. Wonders if years of inactivity does this to a person. Probably. Most likely.
So they start walking around the house every day, depending on how tired they feel. If it’s too much, it’s just a quick trip to the kitchen and back. Sometimes they venture up to the attic. Sometimes they sleep the day away.
Sometimes they write ‘I want mom and dad back’ on the headboard. Dad’s not gone yet but it sure feels like it.
Frisk is eleven.
Dad starts coming home smelling funny. He giggles at the oddest things, turns on the T.V and doesn’t get out of his work clothes even though his hair is unkempt, he stinks like sweat and something else, and his tie isn’t made. He tells Frisk to go to their room and not bother him. Frisk obeys, because they think their dad wouldn’t tell them to do that unless it was important. Especially when he smelled funny.
When Dad doesn’t smell funny and has consumed at least two Tylenols, he tells them that if they come home like that, Frisk should always go to their room and lock it. So Frisk always does. Because if Dad tells them that when they’re both fine and not, then it must be important.
Sometimes they hear their dad crying. Sometimes they find a lot of bottles in the kitchen. Frisk doesn’t know where to throw them and they’re too heavy for their weak arms, so they don’t bother. They’re gone the next day anyway.
Frisk can’t grip a pen right, so their letters are incoherent but it’s the thought that counts. They try to write ‘Dad’s drunk’ on the headboard with their sharpie, but it just looks like ink smears. They only ever walk to the kitchen and back, or to the living room and back. The stairs make them want to the sit and puke they moment they get to the top, so they don’t. The stairs are evil. They hate the stairs.
Frisk sets their toys up to form funny little castles that always topple over when their hold on an object slips, but at least it occupies their time. They know the books cover to cover. It’s boring now. They rip the pages out and turn them into creased airplanes and lotuses, something their old teacher taught them. They find old albums of their family in the living room and stares at one photo where they and they parents were at the beach when Frisk was three. The sea was behind them, in a shade of blue like the ones you see in movies, and their dad was wearing sunglasses while their mom had a wide-brimmed hat. Frisk was in loose clothes, hair in their face as the wind blew it.
Frisk closes the album and goes back to their bed to sleep. They ignore the way their pillow is wet.
Sometimes Dad brings home other people, and those times Frisk doesn’t even ask what’s going on and just shuts their bedroom door and locks it. They stay there until their stomach grumbles and they try to sneak out for food. They look at the clock, and then the newspaper abandoned at the table and realize it’s been at least two days. So they resort to stocking food in their room whenever Dad’s not home.
They start taking the newspapers too, because at least they’ll have something to read. They read about the wars in the Middle East, they read about economic crashes in the U.S, they read about the achievements in sports by people they’ve never heard of, they read about celebrity gossip that confuses them, they read the obituaries and try to see if it’s someone they know, they read about a new disease that’s plaguing mankind, they read about terrorist attacks and terrorist groups and religious spats.
They never get to read anything about monsters because humankind is acting like it’s the only species on earth, and even then, they fuck that up a lot too. Frisk thinks humanity is fucked up.
One time, Frisk hear more than one voice come from the front door when it opens and immediately locks their room. The new voice isn’t one of Dad’s friends though, it’s…a woman.
Frisk clenches their fists, but fails to feel the muscles tighten no matter how much they try. They relax their hands and instead crawl into bed. They pull the mattress back a little and carefully trace a finger over ‘I want mom and dad back;, even though they could barely feel the headboard. They wake up the next morning not knowing when they fell asleep.
Dad bringing home a girl happens on more than one occasion. Frisk gets used to locking the door every time he comes home, with a companion or not. They get by with the small packs of snacks and food they get from the kitchen in the morning. One night, however, they resort to eating raw noodles because Dad and his friends are getting drunk in the kitchen again and their stomach was eating itself.
Frisk contemplates calling their old teacher, but they never got their phone number. They haven’t spoken to anyone in days, weeks, years even. The only sounds that passed their lips were short, rasped syllables whenever they talked to themselves, or their sobs whenever they pressed their face to the pillow, listening to their father getting shit-faced in the living room.
Eventually, they only go out of their room to get food and hide it in their closet. Then, the rest of the day, they read the newspaper from a few days ago, sleep, take a bath whenever they feel like it, and then repeat, breaking the pattern only when necessary. Like when they were supposed to get food from the kitchen but then Dad decided not to go to work today, so they spent the whole day hungry and just slept it off to forget their stomach clenching horribly.
It goes on like that for a while. Sometimes Frisk eats, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they sleep through entire days, sometimes they stay up until their vision blurs and they feel things crawling up their skin. Sometimes they stare at the kitchen knives a little longer than usual. Sometimes they look at the newspaper articles about this person and that person hanging themselves or throwing themselves off a building and wonders what it would feel like to do that.
Some days, Dad doesn’t come home and that’s when Frisk feels the safest, and to some extent, the happiest. The television doesn’t air shows anymore because Dad probably didn’t pay for their subscription for a long time, so they just pick out really old movies and watch it, keeping the volume low, in case Dad came home early.
The walk from their room to another leaves them breathing hard nowadays. Their legs would always shake horribly.
One morning, when Frisk is in the kitchen getting food, the notice that the calendar is new, and that it’s a few years further than what they remembered it to be.
Frisk is fifteen.
They lick their lips and wonder how they didn’t notice. But then, considering the circumstances, they suppose it was understandable.
Dad doesn’t leave the house anymore. Frisk notices this after three days of hearing him moving around. They’ve already tried to ration their food, eating only once a day, sometimes not if they could help it, but they were still running low. And that was very dangerous, because their father wasn’t leaving anymore.
He probably quit work. Or got fired. The second option was more likely, since he was often getting drunk off his ass or picking up another girl from the whorehouse. Where he even got the money, Frisk doesn’t know. Although, lately, he’s been sober and he hasn’t brought anyone home, so he’s probably broke.
They take only a few bites of the last pack of uncooked noodles in their closet, wrapped in a plastic bag so the ants wouldn’t get to it. Frisk ignores the heat in their stomach and sleeps. They do the same thing the next day, and the next, and the next, until they open their closet and find that all of their food is finished. Their shoulders drop and stare at the empty plastic in horror.
They couldn’t even get to the kitchen without crawling.
But it’s been eerily silent in the house, so maybe, by pure luck, Dad’s not home.
Frisk goes back to sleep instead.
They wake up a few hours later to a horrible steady croak from their stomach and the stinging from it. Frisk licks their dry lips and the movement makes the skin of it break open. Frisk hisses and puts their fingers to it. They come away red. Even moving their jaw a little makes their mouth sores hurt.
They pat their stomach, making it clench again, and they turn to the door. They take a deep breath and exhale.
The crawl to the kitchen is slow and quiet, Frisk’s eyes alert for any indication their father might be near. Every time their knees and palms shift on the floor, needles poke their skin and their bones feel like they’re about to break, but Frisk’s stomach is rebelling against them, so they continue to crawl to the kitchen.
They stop by the living room doorway and peek their head to look inside.
The television is on, playing a movie, and the top of their Dad’s head sticks out from the silhouette of the couch. He’s still, focused on the movie. He smells a little funny. Not like he’s drunk, but like…like something rotting from the garbage. He probably looted the garbage.
Frisk continues to crawl as silently as they can to the kitchen. He doesn’t stir.
They manage to get there and find a box of expired and uncooked chicken nuggets and a can of soup. After minutes of trying to lift the chair and bring it over to the fridge as quietly as they can so they can sit on it, since standing was too painful, they tear open the box of chicken nuggets and eat them raw, ignoring the sting of their mouth sores in the inside of their cheeks.
From the chair, they try to reach the counter and use it to support them as they wobbled over to the dishwasher to find the can opener. Once they get it, they crawl back to the fridge, open the can of soup, and pour it straight into their mouth. The ragged edges of the can cut their lips, and the wounds sting when the soup hits it, but Frisk doesn’t stop. They’re fucking hungry and they feel like they’re dying, so to hell with it.
They set the empty can on the floor and lean back on the kitchen island, staring at the open fridge. Their face is dirty from remnants of the chicken nuggets and the soup, and their eyes feel hot. Their nose gets stuffy a few minutes later and Frisk puts a hand to their mouth to muffle the first sob. They hunch over and their vision gets blurry as the tears start to fall.
They wake up in the kitchen the next morning. They have no idea when they fell asleep, but their chest hurts, their eyes feel puffy and their throat is horribly dry.
They spend a few minutes trying to get to the tap to get some water. They wash their face in the process.
When they crawl back towards their room, the notice that their dad is still sitting in the living room, still looking at the television. The screen has long turned to static. He still smells. He probably didn’t bathe and fell asleep.
Frisk doesn’t know exactly what they are thinking, or what pushes them to do what they do next, but they crawl to the living room, silent as they ever are. They move slower once they are near the couch and make sure their head is slightly ducked as they crawl to the side, peering up at their father.
His eyes are open.
So is his throat. There’s a thick line of rust red from the gash to his shirt. His mouth is slightly open, like he was fighting for breath up to the last minute, despite what he had done.
Frisk closes their eyes and looks away for a minute.
They crawl up to the front and sit, looking up at their dead father, sitting stiff on the couch with a straight razor in his hand. It’s caked with blood too. Frisk doesn’t know how long he’s been here.
They stay there for a while, trying to decide what to do now.
They find a few broken brooms and mops in the house and use them as makeshift crutches to walk around. It’s slow, but not as painful trying to walk on their own. After bundling up to the best they could, they set out of the house for the first time in years.
The sunlight is blinding.
They had found their mother's jewelry box earlier. The contents looked like they would fetch a good amount of money, so Frisk was headed to the pawnshop first to sell everything inside. Then, as a second thought, they include the box, because it was gold-lined and gem-studded too. Family heirloom, but who the fuck cared.
They use the money to get a bus ticket and the driver lets them sit in the front, since they’re considered a person with disability. Afterwards, they buy a few things to eat and wait till the sunlight doesn’t hurt so much to get a cab to the foot of Mt. Ebott.
It’s a slow, slow trek that takes from sundown to daybreak. Frisk stops a few times when they get tired. They eat a bit of their packed food, they doze off, and by the time they reach the top, the sun has already started to rise.
They breathe, slowly, in and out, looking at the sunrise.
Maybe this is the last time they’ll ever see it.
They turn to the hole that’s right in front of them. It’s hard to tell how deep it actually is since it’s so dark. But if they were lucky, it was enough to break their neck.
Frisk bites their lower lip, reopening the wounds there, and thinks about their house, where their father is still dead and rotting. This was fine. This was better. Better for no one to discover where they would be if they died, because then they wouldn’t be a tragic story in a newspaper, adding to how messed up humanity actually is. They lean forward.
There is a high-pitched whine in their ears as their eyes slowly open, staring up at the great, yellow circle of light above them. The first thing they think is that they are alive, the second is that they hurt everywhere, the third is that whatever they landed on, it was soft and the fourth was that the hole wasn’t deep enough.
They read somewhere, as a child, that no matter how bright the sky was at day, if you fell into a hole deep and dark enough, you would be able to see the stars.
Frisk cannot see the stars, only the sunlight that is intent on blinding them.
They roll over and suck in a breath as their weight falls onto one shoulder. Staying still slowly crushes their arm, so they push themselves until they’re flat on their stomach, giving a little cry as they land. Tears prickle at the corners of their eyes and they rest their forehead on the ground, the flowers that they have landed on tickling their nose.
Frisk sobs. They couldn’t even die right.
They fall asleep before they finally decide to get walking and maybe try to find someplace else to die. Their makeshift crutches are broken, but one of the mop sticks is still intact, so they use that as a cane.
It must be the adrenaline or whatever, but walking seems to hurt a little less right now.
A flower greets them as they approach an old doorway. He says he’s Flowey the Flower, and that in the Underground, love is shared through friendliness pellets. He tells Frisk to get as much as they can as they shoot the white balls of fire towards them.
Frisk watches as they slowly close in. Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t move that well. The first ball of fire hits them in the stomach, and Frisk drops their walking stick, knees slamming onto the concrete floor. They put a hand on their burnt stomach, fingers sticking to the charred skin and the blood. When they pull their hand away, some of their flesh has stuck to it.
The flower laughs and laughs at them, spitting insults, but all Frisk hears is that Shepard tone in their ears, steadily rising and rising and rising and –
Then it cuts off. The pain vanishes like it’s never there. When Frisk looks down at their sweater, it’s still burnt, but the blood is gone. They slowly move their hand to their stomach, but abort the movement, instead just letting their hand hover.
“What a terrible creature, torturing such a poor, innocent soul.”
Frisk continues to stare at their bloodstained hand and doesn’t look up when the stranger approaches them. They’re talking, but Frisk is still looking at their blood and at the peeled-off skin.
They were so close. So close to dying.
Frisk jerks when a hand lands on their shoulder. They squeak and look up, immediately falling on their backside and crawling backwards, breaths slowly going shallow. When they back hits something solid, they freeze, staring at the creature in front of them.
The huge…goat thing looks at them, brow furrowed in concern.
“Are you alright, child?” it asks. The voice sounds feminine, Frisk thinks.
When Frisk just continues to stare at it – her? When Frisk just continues to stare at her, she holds her hands up and says, “I’m not going to hurt you, child.”
Frisk doesn’t move. She tries to get closer and Frisk tries to back away further, but to no avail.
“I am Toriel,” she says, “I am the caretaker of the Ruins. I am not going to hurt you.” She gives Frisk a once-over and then smiles. “My house is a quite a walk from here,” she says, “Would you like to rest there?”
Frisk doesn’t say anything and Toriel slowly approaches. When the human doesn’t try to get away (because they couldn’t if they tried), she kneels down in front of them and extends a hand. Frisk alternates between looking at it and then back to her.
Toriel kneels there for quite a while, and Frisk looks her in the eyes. There is nothing there that suggests she wants to hurt them, and if Frisk was trying to die, what would be the loss?
Frisk takes their hand. They stagger when Toriel pulls them up and they shakily sign that they can’t walk. To their surprise, Toriel understands and carries them past the doorway and into the Ruins. She explains to them about puzzles, what they are and how they work, and somewhere along the way, her voice lulls Frisk to sleep.
They wake up in a warm bed, with a plate of butterscotch pie on their nightstand.
Frisk stares at it, letting the warm aroma tease their nose for a while. Their stomach grumbles as a reaction and before long, they’re eating the pie. Poisoned or not, they’re hungry.
They manage to wipe the plate clean in just a few minutes. Frisk stares at it, and they know that they’re probably going to have an upset stomach from eating too much in one sitting, but no matter.
This is the most they’ve eaten in years.
There’s a bathroom nearby, and they hobble to it to wash their face and get the blood off their hands. After they’re done, they stumble back to bed.
Toriel is pleasant. She reminds Frisk of their old teacher, and once, she admits that she did once wanted to become a teacher. She cooks Frisk all kinds of pies, and a few dishes with snails every now and then, and Frisk has never eaten so much since they were admitted in the hospital several years ago.
They start walking easier too. They still limp and hobble, and their hands are still a little numb, but they can get by just fine with the cane that Toriel has given them. Toriel picks up their education where they left off, and the best part is that she understands sign language just fine.
Sometimes Frisk wanders outside the house and meets some of the Froggits and Whimsuns. They’re rather fond of talking and Frisk listens. Somedays, when Frisk goes outside and gets sleepy, they can hear a voice laughing in their head at what their companions tell them.
Once, they wander over to a place that overlooks what appears to be a castle. It’s a ways off, but it’s beautiful. Frisk wants to go.
But they don’t want to leave Toriel, because Toriel is kind, and Toriel’s probably the best they’ll ever get.
There’s a bunch of shoes in their room that has gathered dust though. Some are too big, others are too small, and only one pair fits Frisk best but it feels like they would be violating someone’s memory if they wore them, so Frisk leaves them alone. There’s also a bunch of clothing in different sizes in their closet, with only a few able to fit them. Most of said well-fitting clothing were sweaters in green and yellow. Frisk doesn’t touch those too.
Then they keep finding old drawings, old pens, old ribbons – so much evidence of so many lives lived in the room that Frisk wonders exactly what happened to these people.
And there has to be a reason Toriel keeps them here.
Frisk sits in their bedroom (not theirs. Not just theirs. To several other people who Frisk thinks are now dead) and draws their knees to their chest. Months ago, they would have done anything, including jump into a hole and break their neck, to kill themselves. Now, they’re terrified if Toriel isn’t what she seems.
Maybe it’s not the prospect of death that scares them. Maybe it’s the betrayal.
Frisk grabs one of the nearby pens and writes ‘I hope I’m wrong’ onto the bedframe. They cap the pen and stare at the words. They haven’t done this in such a long time.
Then they grab their cane and go to the living room, and ask Toriel how they can leave the Ruins.
The first time they die at Toriel’s hands is when they realize that they cannot die.
Not in any way they know how to. Because Toriel’s fire had burned them enough to make them scream their throat raw while she gasped in horror because she never meant to hit Frisk, and then the next thing Frisk knows, they’re standing outside the house, in the middle of a field laden with red leaves.
They look like blood beneath their shoes, Frisk thinks.
And then Toriel beckons them inside for pie. Frisk frowns. Déjà vu? Quite possibly. If that includes knowing exactly what Toriel says, when the plate falls off the table and how to catch it before it smashes on the floor, and when Toriel sends them to bed.
They look for the wish they wrote on the bedframe and find it gone.
But still, Frisk asks to leave the Ruins, because not only are they scared of who Toriel might be, what appears to be a time loop might also be her doing. Or the Ruins’ doing. Frisk’s heard of cursed places before.
Something in their gut tells them to fight back. Fight back, or they were going to die, but Frisk doesn’t ever want to hurt Toriel. In any way.
(You’re leaving her. That hurts her.)
So they try their hardest to dodge her attacks, and by pure luck, they’re able to survive. She gives them one last hug before leaving to go upstairs. It’s then that Frisk knows that Toriel never killed any of the children that have stayed before them.
They climb up the stairs, as fast as they could, which isn’t very fast, but find the house desolate. Toriel is nowhere to be seen.
Frisk looks through every room in the house that isn’t locked and finds no trace of her. They end up crying by the stairs to the basement, nails scratching their scalp until they draw blood.
They fucked up again. Of course. Couldn’t live right, couldn’t die right, and when they finally had a mother, couldn’t trust right.
Frisk is sixteen.
(They start counting again, because if they count, it feels like they’re going somewhere. But they’re not really, because when the numbers run out, so will they.)
Whoopie cushions are a thing in the Underground, apparently. Sans the Skeleton has a lot of them, and Frisk’s hands are actually strong enough to be able to squeeze them so they make a ridiculous farting noise. They stare at their hand, a little surprised, and a giggle escapes their mouth as the whoopie cushion completely deflates.
Sans tells them about his brother Papyrus, and helps them hide behind a conveniently shaped lamp. They stand behind the object, leaning on their cane while Papyrus complains about how lazy his brother is. Sans throws pun after pun at his brother, which makes Frisk giggle and Papyrus angrier.
He’s smiling though. He even leaves with a pun of his own and a loud “NYEH!”
The skeleton brothers are alright, Frisk guesses.
Sans looks at Frisk’s unsteady gait and his brow creases.
“You know, I’d ask if you could maybe solve a few of my bro’s puzzles, but maybe I’d be hassling you,” he says, then amends, “No offense.”
Frisk gives him a small smile and shrugs. They sit down on the snow and then sign, “Don’t mind.”
“Really?” Sans asks, “Pap’s been kinda down lately, see. And he hasn’t ever seen a human before so maybe, you know. You can solve a few of his puzzles to cheer him up. He wouldn’t hurt a fly so you got nothing to worry about.” He grins, “And if things get a little sticky, I can help you.”
Frisk shrugs again. Sans chuckles and extends a hand out to them.
“First things first,” he says, “I’ve got a spare jacket in one of my stations. Can’t let you freeze out here.”
They’re both good people, Frisk thinks. Papyrus loves making his puzzles (and spaghetti) and Sans likes making his brother happy. They’re also watching Frisk the entire time they’re solving his puzzles to make sure they don’t get hurt. Whenever they get confused about something or are about to fall over, something always feels like it’s pulling them up and steering them to the right direction. Magic, probably.
The more puzzles they solve, the easier time Frisk has when walking. It’s probably from the giddiness. Some chemical in their body that is secreted when they’re excited and happy. Or maybe the cold was numbing the aches.
Snowdin is a bright and happy town that catches Frisk’s eyes immediately. They grab a bite to eat at Grillby’s, with the gold they had picked up from whenever monsters dropped them after encounters, and since the inn is too noisy to actually sleep in, they just wander around the place. It was actually a fun walk instead of a painful one.
Eventually, because Papyrus still wants to be a member of the Royal Guard, Frisk has to fight him.
They don’t want to hurt Papyrus either. Because Papyrus is just doing his job. And he’s a good person.
They don’t die, because Papyrus is too kind for that, bless him, but they end up in the skeleton brothers’ garage three times before Papyrus decides that Frisk’s reluctance to fight. They end up having a ‘date’ at the house, an event which actually leaves Frisk laughing breathless after.
Since they have nowhere else to stay, they ask if they can sleep on the sofa for the night. Papyrus, of course, is more than happy to acquiesce.
Sans comes down that evening to eat when dinner is served and gives the human a wave. He signs, “Did you enjoy your date?” while Pap isn’t looking and Frisk chuckles and nods. Sans laughs.
Frisk stares up the ceiling once all of the lights are out, and they’re tucked into the couch with a pillow and a blanket, Sans’ extra jacket draped on the backrest of the couch. Maybe they could ask the skeleton brothers if they could stay with them.
But Papyrus wanted to be a member of the Royal Guard. He had to capture a human, not befriend them. And Frisk actually liked Papyrus and Sans. They couldn’t jeopardize the skeleton’s career because of their selfishness.
So they sleep. Tomorrow, they will leave Snowdin.
Undyne gives them no hesitation to stay. Undyne raises enough alarms in Frisk’s head that their their usual limp turns into a speedwalk. They drag their legs as quickly as they can while they are at the bridge, but even that proves to be useless because Undyne manages to slice the end of the bridge they stand on and send them falling into their darkness.
Exactly how deep was the Underground?
There’s the ringing in their ears again, accompanied by what seems to be faint music box. Frisk can see a light, an extended hair, and can hear someone saying, “That’s a nice name. I am – ”
If you don’t want to live, why are you fighting so hard to keep breathing?
Frisk’s eyes snap open as the Shepard tone cuts off. They see no light above them, and their hands brush soft petals from underneath. Flowers had broken their falls again.
They blink once, twice, and just listen to the water rushing around them.
Frisk has no answer to why they’re still fighting to keep breathing.
Maybe it’s the cold again too, but wading through the water is a lot easier than Frisk expected. They lost their cane in the fall, and so they have to lean on the wall in order to support themselves while they walk, but it doesn’t have them using their arms at full strength as they move from one place to another. By the time they get to dry land, Frisk is limping without anything to hold on to, but they’re standing on their own two feet.
It’s good enough.
They stay in Napstablook’s house for a little while, and the ghost comments that they appear to be walking better than when they first met in the Ruins, during one occasion they wandered outside Toriel’s house and bumped into the specter. Frisk smiles at them. They go through Napstablook’s C.Ds for almost a day, and Frisk’s hands don’t shake even once.
They continue on their trek, because they don’t want to inconvenience Napstablook of course, and encounter Undyne again.
Frisk moves a little faster now and dodges better than they did last night. When they can’t take it anymore, they run, one leg dragging behind – past Sans who is sleeping, past a chasm of lava – and it’s Undyne who collapses from the heat.
There’s a water dispenser a few feet away from them. Frisk reminds themselves that Undyne is still Papyrus’ friend, that Undyne is doing their job and that it would be cruel to leave Undyne to die. They get a glass of water and pour it over them.
Frisk doesn’t know what comes over them, but they follow, wanting to see if the Captain of the Royal Guard was alright. Papyrus is there at her house, which is a relief, and he gives Frisk a bone to give to Undyne as a gift. Frisk holds the bone nervously in their hands, finges clenching as tightly as they can.
It’s a nice feeling, actually being able to hold things with strength.
The visit ends up being better than Frisk expects, although they end up setting Undyne’s house on fire.
Alphys is a little chatty, but Frisk is used to listening. So they listen as they warn them about Mettaton, who arrives a few minutes later and asks the most ridiculous questions ever, and accept when Alphys upgrades their phone and talks to them as they continue to venture through Hotland. It’s comforting to have someone talk to them, if only to just feel like they’re not alone.
They go through show after show with Mettaton, and Frisk bursts out laughing when they see his other form: the humanoid show robot with the fancy hair. Mettaton, because he is Mettaton, doesn’t take offense to this.
“Darling,” he comments right before Frisk walks past him following his ‘defeat’, “You’re walking a little better now.”
Frisk blinks and looks down at their legs as they try to move them. The limp is barely there. The human shrugs and offers a small smile before waving goodbye.
Alphys tells them that in order to leave the Underground, a human must have a monster soul in their hands.
Frisk doesn’t want to leave the Underground. But they don’t tell Alphys that. They watch her leave, looking like the weight of the world is on her shoulders, and they don’t say anything. They don’t tell her that the reason why they keep on going is just for the sake of moving on and on until they find an end.
Frisk thinks it’s called ‘going through the motions’. They wouldn’t understand. It’s pointless, but Frisk has to keep going. Otherwise they just stop. And once upon a time, Frisk would given anything to stop, but for some reason, there’s that hot dread in their stomach that says they don’t want to die either.
So Frisk keeps walking. They think they’re almost seventeen.
It all happens too fast, Frisk thinks. They meet Asgore, and he is hesitant in facing them. The king is a good man. And Frisk contemplates that maybe this is the reason why they ended up Underground. To die heroic even if they didn’t feel like it. To die a martyr for the sake of an entire species.
But then Toriel arrives, and Frisk has never been more relieved to see her. A wave of love and shock at the turn of events leave them standing still on their newly-strengthened legs even though they want nothing more than to run to her arms and apologize. And then everyone else arrives – Papyrus and Sans and Undyne and Alphys and all of the people they have encountered in the Underground.
Frisk’s head swivels wildly, looking at all the familiar faces they’ve seen through the months they were staying and walking around the Underground, and they think, Maybe this is why I am alive. Not to be a martyr, but because they actually had a reason to live. Maybe it was because there was so much love in the world for them and they couldn’t see it until it was all gathered in one place.
And then Flowey arrives – six of the human souls in his clutches – and absorbs all of the monsters’ souls. And suddenly he’s not Flowey anymore.
He’s Asriel Dreemurr, the late prince of monsterkind.
And a voice in Frisk’s head says, “I haven’t seen you in a while, you crybaby.”
It is the voice that navigates Frisk through Asriel’s attacks. It is the voice that tells them that with what little power they have, they might be able to save their friends’ souls. It is the voice that guides them how to tap into Asriel’s soul to do so.
Memories whiz past Frisk – of a younger Asriel Dreemurr with a human child that looks too much like them, but with a green and yellow sweater; of a happier Toriel and Asgore; of the name Chara. The voice tells them to focus and to look for a blue soul since it was the closest.
They find Sans, and together with him, Papyrus. Frisk tells them a few puns and jokes in order to jog their memories and they sigh in relief when the skeleton brother’s faces clear up and recognition flashes in their eyes.
The voice tells them to find the grey souls next. Toriel and Asgore. Another memory passes by them. This time of Asriel filming Chara but the lens cap was on.
“Are you Chara?” Frisk whispers. The voice just tells them to keep going.
They save as many souls as they can and more and more memories brush past. Frisk sees how Chara poisons themselves and Asriel absorbs their soul and how Chara wrestles for control to lay siege on humanity.
And Asriel stops them.
“He was a good person,” the voice says, “Too good.”
“Is that why you’re still here?” Frisk asks, “To get your revenge?”
The voice laughs. “No,” they say, “I’m here because I don’t know what to do, really. I just woke up here and I…don’t have anywhere else to go. Not that I know of.” Frisk feels a pat on their head, “I’m like you, I suppose. I have to keep going otherwise I’ll stop.”
“Are you scared to stop?”
That, at least, Frisk understands.
Frisk almost goes down when Asriel blasts them one last time, but Chara holds their soul together and yells, “Stay determined and hold fast, you fool!”
So Frisk does. And when they wake up, it’s to the nothingness, with only Asriel standing in front of them. He tells them everything. He tells them of how empty he was when he was revived. How he couldn’t feel anything. How he didn’t know what to do anymore so he rewound and rewound the world and kept going because there was nowhere else to go but forward.
“There are a lot of us, Frisk,” Chara says, “There are a lot of people who keep going with no direction because they’re scared to stop.”
Asriel says that he doesn’t expect to be forgiven, but Frisk wraps their arms around them. Frisk hopes he knows that Chara loves them very much too. That Chara is here.
“You owe me nothing, Frisk,” Chara says, but Frisk feels a pair of arms wrap around both of them anyway. Feels someone rest their head on top of theirs. Feels Chara’s tears seep through their hair.
Frisk doesn’t let go for a very long time. Because when they do, and the world outside would welcome them back, none of them would ever know about how much three children hurt and shed their tears for each other.
When Asriel and Chara have left, Frisk feels like they can run and jump and move perfectly. Probably something of Asriel and Chara’s doing, and Frisk loves it. Frisk loves being able to breathe without heaving, being able to talk without their throat scratching, and being able to walk and hold things without worrying if they were going to fall or slip from their fingers.
So Frisk walks from the castle to the Ruins, talking to all of the friends they had made. They think, This is definitely why I am alive, and it feels great. It feels wonderful to have a purpose. To have a sense of belonging. To have something to fall back on whenever they questioned why they were fighting so hard to live. It was for this.
And they find Asriel at the entrance of the Ruins. He says he cannot be saved.
Frisk stays there for a while, just listening to everything he has to say.
“Don’t you have anything better to do?” he asks. Frisk opens their mouth to protest but Asriel smiles and shakes his head. “Go on, Frisk,” he says, “Everyone is waiting for you.”
Frisk raises a hand to put on his shoulder, but stops at the last second. They drop it, look away and leave.
The moment Frisk steps outside the broken barrier, their knees buckles and their throat seizes. All of the strength in their arms fade that they can’t even push themselves up to stand anymore. Luckily, they’re at the very back of the group, and everyone is rushing to see the sunrise. Nobody notices that they’ve fallen down.
Frisk coughs. Their throat hurts like hell.
They look up as best as they can, fumbling to get their arm to push them up to sitting position. It shakes like a leaf as they put their weight on it to lift their torso from the ground.
Sans is looking at them, worried. He kneels down and takes one of their arms to drape it across his shoulders while his other arm goes around their waist. “Okay,” he says, and then slowly helps Frisk up to standing position. The human sucks in a breath at the pain of their joints moving.
“You okay, kiddo?”
Frisk wants to nod. Wants to lie. But that would be kind of pointless right now. So they shake their head.
“What is it?” Sans asks. Frisk wheezes when they try to speak.
“I’m going to set you down, okay – ”
Frisk shakes their head wildly at that. Their vision blackens and they get dizzy, but they grit their teeth and close their eyes.
“Just help me stand,” they mouth. Sans frowns but Frisk looks at him straight in the eyes in a silent plea. He exhales through his nasal cavity and helps them walk over to where everyone else is standing, too enamored by the sunset. They stand a few feet just behind the group.
Sans squats on the ground, taking Frisk with him and letting the arm across his shoulders fall back to the human’s side again. He slowly pulls the arm around their waist back until he’s sure that they wouldn’t fall over like a ragdoll the moment he did so. Frisk, for their part, is doing their best to keep on sitting straight. They listen to the others awe at the sunrise and Frisk wonders why Sans isn’t so taken with it as the others are.
Asgore asks them to be the Ambassador of Monsters.
Frisk swallows thickly and sadly shakes their head. They don’t look up to see Asgore’s dejected expression and don’t watch as Papyrus decides to fill in the role. He goes off to make a good impression and Sans says that someone needed to go make sure he didn’t fall into trouble. He doesn’t move from Frisk’s side, and Undyne goes after the other skeleton, grumbling about why she had to do everything.
Everyone leaves, one by one, and Frisk signs at Sans that he can leave too.
He gives them one last worried look before standing and walking away.
Toriel asks if they have a place to stay or if they would like to stay with her. Frisk’s mind reels back to their old house – of their father who was probably rotten beyond recognition on their couch, if nobody had noticed his corpse; of crawling to and fro from room to room; of being so malnourished that their mouth got cut too easily; of eating raw or expired food and crying themselves to sleep.
They want to tell Toriel they want to stay with her. But Chara and Asriel (and Patience and Integrity and Bravery and Kindness and Perseverance and Justice) race through their mind.
Toriel does not deserve to lose another child again.
“I have places to be,” Frisk croaks. Because Toriel deserves to here them say it, at least, no matter how much it hurts their throat and their heart, so that she could have some closure.
“Oh,” Toriel says. She smiles sadly. “I hope you will be happy, Frisk,” she says. And then she walks away like everyone else too.
Frisk watches her back until it disappears in the distance before they let their tears fall.
It’s nighttime before they decide to crawl back to the Underground. If they were going to die, then they had to make it that nobody found their body. There were still a few monsters in the Underground, but Frisk could probably hide until everyone was evacuated. They wouldn’t die outside. They wouldn’t let everyone find their corpse and mourn over it like that.
The moment they pass the barrier, all of their pain disappears.
Frisk draws in a breath and holds it for a full minute before they try to stand.
They don’t shake, they don’t limp, they don’t stagger.
They run to Chara and Asriel’s old room in the castle and throw themselves on the bed, screaming into the pillow. This was unfair. This was very unfair. They had finally found a reason to live and they wanted to live, but it was Frisk’s life so of course, it’s a fucking bitch, and the moment they step outside, they just had to be sick again.
But in the Underground, they were fine.
Frisk screams their throat raw and doesn’t care if anyone hears them. Nobody probably did hear them. They were too busy packing up to move to the Surface.
A rewind would bring everyone back, Frisk thinks. They wouldn’t break the barrier, they would just stay here. They were happy with everyone. They could live in the Underground with everyone instead.
But then Frisk thinks, What if they could remember? And thinks about Chara and Asriel’s reconciliation. Could they ever dare to tear that apart.
Selfish, they think.
So they don’t do anything. They stay in the castle and listen as the rest of the citizens outside slowly move to the Surface. And when it gets quiet, Frisk still doesn’t leave the desolate castle.
Frisk is sure they are seventeen.
They spend a lot of time in Alphys’ lab. Probably in the hopes of finding out how to cure their sickness, or why they felt fine in the Underground but not outside. Maybe it was the Core, maybe it was the natural magic of the Underground, maybe the Underground never wanted its Angel to leave. Maybe the Underground was part of Frisk.
They figure that, in a way, it was.
Alphys left most of her equipment, and Frisk doesn’t know how to work them, so they mostly just leave it alone. They find a few hidden doors and rooms and find pictures they’re not supposed to. They smile when they find a picture of Sans, Alphys and few other scientists they don’t know.
They looked happy. Frisk wonders what happened.
One of the photos has the words ‘Never Forget’ written on the back.
After they’ve exhausted themselves playing explorer in Alphys’ lab, they go back to Snowdin. It’s still snowing there, even after all this time, and Frisk stays in different houses for the first week or so.
Most of the time, they stay in the skeleton brothers’ house.
It’s like that for a while. They explore the Underground with all of the time in their hands, and they don’t even notice that they’re not getting hungry like they used to. They go to places they’ve never been – they even go back to the Ruins but Asriel isn’t there anymore.
Sometimes they lay on the patch of flowers they had fallen down and stare up the sky. It looked beautiful at night.
One night, they wander to the exit of the Underground again, but they don’t cross the barrier.
There are fireworks outside, as well as the faint noise of people blowing those tiny paper trumpets for New Years’.
That would make Frisk eighteen, they think.
Frisk stays there, looking at the bright lights in the sky until morning.
There’s not much to do in the Underground when you’re all alone, so Frisk just walks and walks and searches every nook and cranny they can find for interesting things. They find an abandoned quiche once, a key at the back of MTT restaurant that opened to Mettaton’s house in Waterfall and several items from some of the other humans that they’ve never found before.
Sometimes they just lay down in Waterfall with all the Echo Flowers, listening to people’s old wishes.
They remember the wishes in ink they’d written all over their headboard, the ones on paper they’d thrown away, and remembers how they once wrote about getting better and maybe finding people that loved them.
They did get better, and they did find people that loved them. They were just stuck in one place.
Sometimes, if they were especially bored, they swam in Waterfall. A lot of the plants were bioluminescent and the water was so clear that it was quite a sight to behold.
And then they always listened for whenever the fireworks and trumpeting outside would sound to mark the year.
It goes on like that for a very, very long time.
It’s like a cliché scene out of a movie, when Frisk steps into the skeleton brother’s old house and then the lights suddenly flicker on. They turn around, one arm raised to defend, but all they see is Sans sitting on their old couch.
He turns to them and the grin on his face looks a little too empty.
A beat. Two. Frisk’s chest is heaving and they’re two parts relieved and one part horrified. “Sans,” they breathe.
He pats the space of the couch beside him.
Frisk slowly walks over to him and sits on the opposite end of the couch, as far away from him as possible.
They’re silent for a while, before Sans makes a humming noise and says, “Are you going to explain anything?”
Frisk turns to him and blinks. “Explain what?”
Sans waves a hand around and turns to them, holding their stare.
So they tell them. They tell them of how they got sick when they were a child, how it slowly started to shoot down their motor skills, how their teacher left, how their mother left, how their father took to drinking and girls and soon didn’t have a job and killed himself. They told him of the starvation, of the years cooped up in the house with only a tiny window for light. They told him of how they came down to Ebott to die.
They pause for moment before they lick their lips and move on to talk about Toriel. About reloads – not that they expect Sans to understand, but Frisk wants everything off their chest and their voice is nasally and tears are streaming down their face and he’s not saying anything so they talk and talk and talk. They talk about meeting him and Pap, about Undyne, about Alphys and Mettaton, about Asgore, about Chara and Asriel.
About how they felt their sickness slowly leaving them as they ventured further into the Underground and about how it crashed into them like a tidal wave the moment they stepped out. About how they didn’t want to leave everyone but also didn’t want to be a burden to them. About how Toriel didn’t deserve to have another child of hers die before her eyes.
By the end of it all, Frisk is breathing hard and leaning back on the couch, staring up at the ceiling that’s blurred from their tears.
Sans leans back and the backrest dips in his direction. He hums thoughtfully.
“Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve gotten to the Surface, kid?” Sans asks.
Frisk shrugs. “I don’t know,” they say, “Five years?”
“Try a few decades,” Sans says.
Frisk frowns, “Bullshit.”
“Truth,” Sans says.
“I have a mirror at the castle, you know,” Frisk says. They sniff. “I look the same.”
“I know.” Sans looks up at the ceiling as well, “I still come here, you know. Just to get away from the outside sometimes. And I saw you a couple of times. I thought I was hallucinating,” he pauses, “But then a few says ago, I saw that my extra jacket was in the kitchen. I thought I lost that thing years ago. I definitely didn’t find it in the house when we left.”
Frisk laughs. “I kept it,” they say, “Even brought it to Hotland. Must have left it in the castle before Asgore.”
“I’m touched,” Sans puts a hand to his chest and grins. Frisk snorts inelegantly.
Another silence falls over them, but this time it’s not so tense. Frisk’s chest feels significantly lighter and Sans hasn’t scolded them for anything yet, so that was a good thing.
Sans sighs, “You’re really not going topside?”
Frisk’s brow creases and they lower their head to look at the floor. “I can’t.”
“Don’t you want to see Tori and the others?”
“I do,” Frisk’s voice breaks and they hastily wipe the new tears that spring from their eyes, “God, I do. But I can’t, Sans.”
Sans stares at them for a while. “You know they can always visit here right?”
Frisk continues to look at the floor. They bite their lower lip.
“Look, kiddo,” Sans starts, “I get that you don’t want them to be burdened and all but, they love you. Hell, we love you. And that’s what love is supposed to do. We’re supposed to carry each other’s burdens – why do you think Pap puts up with me?”
Frisk chuckles and their eyes slide towards him.
“I’m just saying, this is complicated,” he says, “but it’s always like that. Life’s always going to be complicated. You just have to work around those complications and be happy.” He falls silent for a while and scratches his skull. “A lot of people miss you up there, you know. They think you’re dead.”
“I might as well be.”
“Don’t say that,” he scolds. “I’m going up there and I’m telling everyone that you’re down here.”
“Sans – ”
“Frisk,” he counters, holding their gaze again. “You’re hurting yourself and a lot of people. Why do you keep denying yourself the right to be happy?”
The human leans back and puts their hands on their lap and wrings their hands together, looking at the lines on their palms.
“Because I’m scared that it’s going to fall apart again,” they whisper. When Sans doesn’t say anything, they continue, “I have been happy for some parts of my life, Sans. And they always get pulled away from me some way or another. I don’t want to get other people hurt too when it happens.”
“It’s always going to happen, kid,” Sans says. One of his hands come to rest over Frisk’s joined ones and he squeezes. “But the thing is that you can always choose whether you still want to be happy or if you’re not even going to try.” He shrugs. “If shit’s going to happen, you might as well be happy for a little while, right?”
Frisk looks up at him. “You know, for a little while,” they say, “I thought I saw that there was always this sadness with you.”
“I don’t know,” he laughs, “Maybe I got sick of being sad.”
That pulls at the edges of Frisk’s mouth, “Maybe.”
Decades, he said. Maybe all of that freedom and sunlight and love from his friends was enough to make him smile again. That even though he lost whatever he had with Alphys and the scientists, he was happy. Maybe even though everything went to shit, he relearned how to heal.
They look over to the side again, thinking about their options. “Maybe I am sick of being sad too.”
When they look back at Sans, his grin is blinding.
Frisk doesn’t know how old they are, or how long it’s been since the monsters have gone free, since they have lost count a while ago. But maybe that doesn’t matter.
Maybe they should start counting for something new now.