When the light faded, the first thing they saw was shadow. The interior of Dipper’s bubble was dark, the colors muted and the landscape barren. There was nothing but a large, jagged tower sticking like a crooked finger out of the ground and several broken trees. Presumably, that tower is where Dipper was.
“Okay guys, this should be… easy? There doesn’t appear to be anything that can stop us, at least. We just gotta… stick… together… Guys?” Mabel looked around, uneasy. Somehow, even though they all had been holding hands, she had gotten separated from the others. “G-guys…?” she called once more, swallowing thickly. Had they left her…? Mabel flinched sharply when something growled in the distance. She took a deep breath, shoving down her fear. “Okay, you can do this Mabel. Just… Just go get Dipper. Easy.” she whispered to herself before starting off across the shadowy desert.
“MABEL? SOOS? WHERE ARE YOU GUYS?!” Wendy called into the darkness. The instant they all entered the bubble, the others had been ripped away from her. All around her, darkness closed in. She could smell sulfur, mixed with a sickly sweet scent. A crooked tower rose up in the distance, looking terrifying on the shadowy backdrop. Something growled right in her ear, and she felt hot breath on her neck. Her spine stiffened, but when she turned, nothing was there. “T-this isn’t funny! Soos?!” she called again, trying to swallow her nerves. “Alright, I can do this. Just keep going straight, that’s where Dipper is. Get him and get out. Easy.” she muttered, before heading off into the pitch black.
“Doods? Aha, you got me! T-this… This isn’t funny! Doods?” Soos called, looking around. It’s alright, they hadn’t abandoned him. They were probably just…. Up ahead. Yeah. Then…. Why couldn’t he see them on the completely clear plain? Even in the low light, he could clearly make out the large stone tower straight ahead.
“They’re just with Dipper. It’s okay.” he muttered, repeating it like a mantra as he continues forward.
The boy himself was in a dark room, curled on a thin mattress. The door hung open, and the hallway was lit sporadically with torches. But to Dipper, the empty room was a glowing shrine to his failures and near mistakes.
The pancake game. The portal shutting down. Ford getting turned to gold. Getting repelled by Bill when he tried to punch him. Gideon taking the Shack. The Bipper incident.
Everything he’d ever done or almost done wrong was playing on repeat around him, keeping him curled in a ball so tight no light broke through. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop the whispering around him.
“You’re too weak.”
“You’ll never amount to anything.”
“They all hate you.”
“Nobody’s coming for you, just give up.”
“Your family hates you.”
“Just give up.”
“give up give up give up”
Over and over again. He sniffled quietly, wiping his eyes. A bell tolled somewhere, and he paled. Not again, not so soon…
“Okay, why not. Mabel searched her name, and she was fine! I just gotta turn on safe search, and… ok.” muttered the little boy. He was sitting in front of a computer, typing in his name. He had been curious about it, wondering if it meant anything cool.
“M….A….B...U...S….enter. Now we…. wait, what?” he said, sitting back, but leaning forward again in confusion. The first link was a Wikipedia article, the little blurb saying something about an Antichrist.
“An...Antichrist? What’s that…?” he muttered to himself, starting a new search. His eyes widened, breath catching in his throat as he read over the definitions. “S-supremely evil…?” No way. No way! His parents couldn’t of known, but then… Why was he named Mabus…?
He got up from the chair and ran off to find his mother. “Mom?! Mom, where are you?” he called, skidding on the slick floor into the living room. His mom looked up from where she was reading on the couch.
“Yes, hun? What is it?” she asked. Mabus launched himself into her arms, tears running down his face.
“Mommy, why’d you name me Mabus?” he asked, sniffling and burying his face into her shoulder. Susanne Pines was at a loss. She either had to tell her son that his father wasn’t creative enough to name him separately from his sister, or lie and tell him she saw it online and thought it sounded nice. But one look at his tearstained face confirmed what she feared: he had already figured out the meaning of his name, even if it wasn’t the meaning they had intended.
“Honey… You trust me, right?” she started. At his nod, she took a breath and continued. “Honestly? Your father named you after your sister. He’s not a very creative man…” she said, hugging him close and speaking like she was sharing a secret. Mabus giggled wetly, but frowned when he remembered what he had read.
“But… Mabus is bad! It’s the name of a bad guy! A-Antichrist!” he stuttered. His face scrunched up as he struggled over the big words. “Mabus is the A-Antichrist, and that means he’s supremely evil!” he said, looking up at his mom again.
“Well, I thin̴k͞ ͜y̷ou͞'̨r̨e ͏ev́il̵.̕ ̸W͟h̸y ͟wo͟uld ̧yo͞u eve͏n͝ que͝sti͏o͞n ̶i̶t̨? ͡Ho̡n͘ey̵.̛.̧. S ͜T ͠O ͜P̕ ̶ ̢B̀ ̢O̕ ̨T҉ H̵ ̧E҉ ҉R I̡ N G̛ M E̵ YOU҉ US͠EL͜ESS W͟AS̕TE̡ OF ͢SPÁC̶E!” she said, face morphing into a nightmare, screeching in his face.
“Sorry kid, but you’re getting close to some major answers. I’ve got big plans coming and I can’t have you getting in my way. B͜ut ͠h҉ey,̛ ̧lo͡o͘k͏ on̕ ̶t̛he̡ ͠br҉ight side̛!̢ ͟A͡t͞ ͡l̡e͡a͜s͠t ̛I'͘L̶L͡ ̕b̕e ҉a̸ better͟ ͝brot́he̷r ͡than you EV̴E̢R͟ węre̛!͝ S͏o̴ ͝R ̕A ͢C ̨E ͢ ͜Y O̢ Ù D ͞O͘ W ̨N̨ S̶ T̵ ̨A ̵I͟ ͞R̕ S!̛" Bipper laughed, before throwing himself down the stairs. Dipper cringed at each hollow thump, diving through the floor to try and get down before Bill did something horrible with his body.
He discovered the demon in the kitchen, gargling soda. He cringed again, thinking of how much that’d hurt whenever he got that body back. “Mabel’s gonna realize you’re not me! She’ll realize, and then she’ll stop you!” he said, trying to ignore his possessed body slamming his arm into the drawer.
BIll laughed, clutching his stomach, as if what Dipper had said was the funniest thing on earth. “Are you serious? Y̷o͠ur̛ śtup͜id ͢m̧ort̵al̶ ̴f̛am̴i͏ly ͏w͝òu҉l̴dn͝'̀t́ ҉not͡ice an̕yth̡i͞n͠g̢ w͠ro͢n̢g w͟ith͘ ͠y͡ou ìf i͢t k͏icke͝d̢ ̧t̨hem ҉in̛ th̕ę face a̧nd͘ ̀r͠an ̷of͘f̴ w̢ith th͞e͢ir̷ val̴u͡able̛s͡!͠ ҉F̛a͜ce̢ ͝it, ̨P̕in̴e Tr̸e̴e.̸ ͜YO͠U͞'̸RÉ. N͝O͠T/̷ IMP̵OŔT̸A͜NT̷." he snarled, eyes flashing red for a split second.
“HeyDipperI’mgonnaborrowyourjournaltouseasapropintheshowhopeyoudon’tmindI’mgonnagobeforeyouprocessthissentence ok byeeeee!” Mabel called, poking her head into the kitchen briefly before darting off again. Dipper and Bipper blinked, trying to decode what she had said.
Bill grinned wickedly, having got it a split second before Dipper. “Sure, sounds great, sister! I’ll see you at the show!” he called after her, ripping the fork out of his arm before tripping his way out the door.
“Mabel wait, that’s not me!” Dipper yelled after her, trying to stop the car. It was futile, though, and the appearance of Wendy and Soos did nothing to discourage Bipper from laughing at him.
"҉Uh͏,̷ ̷D͢i͞ppe̕r?́ Y̢ou̶ fęél̢in̕g͠ ͟al͘rig͠ht͞?͡ Y͡ou're ̧a͞c͢t̵ing̛ ́a̵ l̨i̛t̨tl͡e̕... ̷co̧o ̶c̨o̷o̡ cra̶z̢y."̨ Wendy said, looking at him weird.
"͢Oh͞,͠ do͟n'̴t ̕w̵ǫr̡ry͡ Weǹdy̨! I̕'m ҉to͝t͘a͠ll̡y͟ ̛fin͟e!" Bipper replied, giving her the widest, most maniacal grin Dipper’s face could handle, snickering. "A̕f͡ţer ̸al͟l͟, ̷it'͜s n̶ot ̛ļi̕k͢e͘ ͜I̛ w̕a͠nt҉ t̢o ̶c͢o͝m͠ple̛te͢ly ͟de͞s͡tróy͘ ̀th͢i̴s̶ entire f҉ami͠ly an̶ḑ b͏urn͜ t̨hi̶s ţòw͝ǹ t͝o ͏the ̢groun͏d!"̕ he added, bursting out into full-on cackling.
A familiar scream jerked Dipper out of the nightmares playing like movies behind his eyes. He dashed to the window, looking around wildly. “Mabel? MABEL?!” he yelled into the distance, only getting more frantic when he couldn’t see anything through the gloom.
He ran down the stairs, taking them two at a time, and burst through the door. “MABEL?!” he screamed again into the gloom, trying to see her.
“DIPPER! DIPPER, HELP ME!” Mabel screamed, sounding panicked and desperate. Dipper tried to run towards the screaming, only to be jerked back by invisible bonds. He strained against them, screaming for his sister.
The air warped, glitching for a minute before Mabel appeared before him. He smiled in relief, straining to reach her. “Mabel! You’re okay!” he said, tears of relief stinging his eyes. Mabel frowned, seemingly struggling against something. “M-Mabel? Are you… Are you o-” he started, only to be cut of when the air glitched again and Mabel appeared right in his face.
Her mouth ripped open, bloodied strings hanging from her lips. Her eyes welled up to overflowing with black tar as her warm brown eyes vanished into a void. Her skin was chalk-white and stretched thin over her face, so thin you could see the greenish veins beneath. She started to scream, loud and shrieking, a wordless vocalization of pure anger and misery. "͡W̵H̡͞Y ̷̢D͠I̸D̵N̵̛͝'͘͡T̕͜͏ ̵̢Ý̡Ǫ̵̵U ̴͡͡S͢҉̴A҉̴V͘͘͞E̷ ̸ME̡,̵ ̶́͝D͢҉I̧͏̢P̶P͏͡ER̶?͏̴!͝"̷̀ she screamed, claws digging into his skin. More boiling tar oozed out of her eyes like tears, leaving angry red welts on her skin.
“I-I’m sorry! I couldn’t… I tried! I TRIED!” Dipper sobbed, trying to pull away. “Mabel, please, stop! You’re hurting me!” he cried, flinching as her claws dug in deeper, drawing blood.
"̸͞Y̢Ơ̶U҉̀'R̵E̢͜ ̕͟N̴̕O̡T̸ ͢WOR͠T͠H҉̧͘ ̡͡B̧EIN̨G̸̕͠ ̷̡C̢AL҉L̴͠ED̶͝ ̧͢M̡̕͞Y̴҉ ̧B̴R͞҉O̢T̢HER҉!̢͘ ҉͜YO͢͏U̶ ̀͡U̷̕͢SE͘͝L̵̨E̴̸͠SS,͜ ̸̵̨MI̸̶SÈ̵͢R̕A͜BĻ̧E,͏̧͏ ͠PA͢҉͘T͜H̷̢E̕͝T̛I͘C̛ ̕͟S͟͢͡A̛͞C̸͝K̡ ̕O҉F͢͠ ̡̛̛S̶͟H̕IŢ̛!̛͜"͏ she screeched, dragging her claws down his arms. Dipper dropped to his knees, sobbing hysterically and tugging at his hair.
“I’M SORRY!” he screamed, shutting her out. “I’m sorry…”
“I’M SORRY!” Dipper’s voice rang out in the distance, brimming with a level of raw pain and panic that Mabel had never heard before. She jumped, already searching wildly.
“DIPPER?! DIPPER, DON’T WORRY! WE’RE COMING FOR YOU!” she yelled back, hoping he could hear her somehow. She threw caution to the wind and started sprinting towards the tower, so full of determination that she didn’t even notice the growls. She didn’t notice the shadows getting less oppressive and the light just a little brighter either, but if she did she wasn’t complaining. All the better to find Dipper with.
There were footsteps following Wendy, but every time she turned around, there was nothing there. It was kind of freaking her out, to be constantly on edge. She stopped for a second, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath before letting it out slowly. “It’s okay. There’s nothing following me. I’m completely alone.” she muttered, before cracking open her eyes. She yelped and scrambled back, falling ungracefully on her butt.
In front of her was a large, glowing thing. It had long arms, long legs, and a spindly neck, bones jutting out at weird angles. The mouth was full of needle sharp teeth, blood caking the paper-thin skin covering its face. Its eyes were pure black, but they looked less like eyes and more like… holes. Like there weren’t any eyes at all. Any other time, she’d probably poke at them and laugh about it with her friends, but she’d been on edge for the last hour, and was so not in the mood for jokes. The thing started advancing on her slowly, growling and sniffing the air. She fumbled for her axe, the snap of the clasp drawing an unholy screech out of the creature. “Oh, shit…” she breathed, scrambling to her feet as it started to pick up speed.
She yanked her axe out of the holster, holding it in front of her threateningly. “Alright, you ugly fuck. If you come any closer I’ll take your goddamn head off!” she snarled, taking a step back. Apparently, it wasn’t a fan of her pitiful threats, because it shrieked again, sounding angrier this time.
The sulfur smell in the air grew thicker, and when she coughed her airway clear and opened her eyes again the thing was literally right in front of her. She jumped, swinging the axe reflexively. She screamed in pain when the blood that spattered on her exposed skin burned like acid. “AUGH, SHIT!” she yelled, trying to wipe it off desperately. Tears pricked at her eyes unbidden, and she angrily sniffed them away. So she couldn’t kill the things. Just great.
The plain was silent, the only sound being that of Soos and his breathing. He’d given up calling out for anybody when the only thing answering back was his own hoarse cries. He plopped down on the ground and wiped his brow with his sleeve. “Seriously… Is anyone there…?” he mumbled, more to himself than an actual plea. His face lit up when he looked up and saw a familiar figure in the distance. “M-Mr. Pines? Is that you…?” he called hesitantly, standing up.
The figure nodded, smiling proudly and walking towards him. Soos laughed breathlessly, hurrying as fast as he could to meet the figure. He threw his arms around him, grinning and nearly crying in relief when he felt strong arms hug him back.
“Soos, I need to tell you something very important. I’ll only say it once though, so listen up.” said the old man in the familiar gruff voice. Soos smiled wider and made an affirmative noise, not trusting his voice. “Soos…” he started. His grip grew uncomfortably tight, and Soos choked out a wheeze.
“M-Mr. Pines…?” he gasped out, betrayal painted across his face.
“Soos… I͡ ͞nev͢er͘ ͠ca̶r̡e͡d a͝b́o̶u̵t ̴yo̷u͟.̴ You̧ wer̛e ͟a͏l͠w͏a͘ýs̀ ̛j́úst a ̶tǫol t͠o ҉mè. I o̴nl͡y͡ t̀ole͝rated͞ y͠o͘u ̶for̡ ͟şo l͢o͜ng͞ ́b̶e̸c͡au͞se yo̴u wer̀e ̀usefúl. ́I̧. ͝H̷AT̕E͟.̸ ̛YOU̵.̶"͠ he snarled, grip becoming nearly bone-crushing. Soos struggled for breath for a moment before the crushing pressure was gone. He gasped for air, hating himself for being glad Stan had vanished. How could he say that about the only person who had bothered to answer his calls, even if it was to mock him?
“MABEL, PLEASE!” Dipper yelled, tears streaming down his face as his sister gouged deep gashes into his skin. He couldn’t see the wounds, and in fact to any outside observer, there wouldn’t be any wounds, but he knew they were there. He could feel the skin separating, nerves flaring up as they were torn through. He could feel the warm blood dripping down his arms, and he could smell the acrid stench, but he couldn’t see it! He was watching his arms, and nothing was happening!
She snarled at him, taking a new approach. Her bloodied grin grew sharper, wider, more… Bill-like, as her face settled into the same expression it always did when she had an idea. Dipper didn’t even get a chance to ask what she was doing before a pained scream tore itself out of his throat. She had bit down on his arm, ripping out a hunk of bloody flesh. Swallowing it, she licked her lips with a satisfied monster-smirk. Dipper barely kept from throwing up as he saw that for some reason, this time, the wound decided to stick.
The hole was wide and gaping, stinging each time the nasty air touched it. He could see snapped ligaments dangling loosely over the bone, bloody muscles still twitching. He whined in pain as the Mabel-monster started to lick at the blood, making a low rumbly sound every time he flinched in pain. As she lapped up the pooling blood, his muscles and tendons started to knit together again. She made a noise of complaint, but moved out of the way for his arm to finish healing. She gave him the equivalent of a smirk before changing back to the from of the real Mabel, albeit a little more bloody and in a much more disturbing sweater.
"D̶on'̨t̀ w̵or̢ŗy͏,͘ ̵Di͟pp̨er̕.̡ Ỳǫu'͜ŕe ͡a͝ll b̷e̵t̢tèr͏ no̧w!̨ ̴Śe͞e̶,̴ ̧th҉at w̷a͡sn't͏ ͏so̷ b̛a͘d,͏ ̸hu̷h?"̶ she crooned, giving him a condescending pat on the head. He flinched back, biting his lip when she scowled. "̀Come̡ on҉, g͏iv͘e ̸y̡o̴u̡r B̸IG ̧SIS̴T̸E̶R̵ a hu̵g̵!̴ You ͝k̷n̡ow ͢I͡'̷m ̕t̸h̷e ͝ònly ́tḩing ̡you͟'vę g̸ot,͢ ͜an̛yh̨ow.͜" she snapped, reaching out to hug him. He tried to back away, but she caught his wrist in a vice-like grip. "̛҉͞G͟͡Ì͠͏V̡͟͏E͏͢ ̷͡M̴̢̛E ̨̀A̸͞͞ ͝F̀UC̵K̸IN̵Ģ̨ H̨̀U̶G̨͝ ͘B҉E̵F̷̡OŔE̶ ́Í R̨I̛҉҉P͟͜ ̡͟YOÙR ̢̀G͠҉OD͡DA̷ḾN҉͏ ͟҉T͢͞͞H̸͞R̶͡O̸͏̢ĄT̶͟ ̢̀͠O͡U̴͡T̛͜ ̧̕W̸͢I҉͏T̴H͏ MY ̨T̵͜E̕͟Ę́͞T͞H̨,͢ ̛Y̵̡O͡U̡ ̷͡M͏̀I͏S͟Ȩ͢R͝A̡B̕͜LE ͠M̢̨E͢A҉̷̷T̨̨B̴AG!̵̨͠"̢͏ she screamed, yanking him forward.
Dipper forced back tears and nodded hastily, wrapping his arms around her loosely and burying his face in her shoulder. If he ignored the stench of death clinging to her, he could almost pretend this was his real sister…
“Dipper… I love you…” Mabel whispered in his ear, causing him to smile. “I’m sorry I said all those mean things to you, I didn’t mean it. I was upset… Do you forgive me?” she asked, and he nodded.
“Y-Yeah… Yeah, Mabel, I forgive you…” he whispered, eyes flying open when sharp claws dug into his back.
"TH́ÉN Y͝OU͟'̀RE̢ ÁŃ EVE͜N ́BIGG͝ER̸ IDI̢O͏T ͝TH̴A͢N͜ ̴I ͜T̨HO͞UGH̵T҉!"͠ she laughed, shoving her claws through his back and wiggling them around. "͢O̵h͢ ͠ma͠n, I'm gon҉n̵a҉ ͠h͏av͠e so ̢m̸uc̨h͘ F̨U̸N ̸pl̸ay͜in͜g̕ ҉wit͡h͘ ͏you!"̡ she giggled, poking at his kidney. Dipper couldn’t hold back his scream of pain this time, going limp against her.
“Someone… Please… Help me…” he mumbled, before passing out.
Mabel skidded to a stop in front of the tower, looking around desperately. She choked back a whine when she saw the pool of blood on the stone in front of the tower, trying not to throw up. “Alright Mabel. Just behind that door is Dipper. We just gotta get him, find Wendy and Soos, and get the heck outta Dodge.” she said to herself, taking a deep breath. She let it out slowly and opened her eyes, face set into a grim line. “Let’s go.” she muttered, before heading inside.
Mabel’s first impression of the inside of the tower was that it was bigger than it looked from the outside. Smooth black stone made up the walls and floor, with a spiral brick staircase in the center of the room. Scattered around were torches, casting an eerie light on the walls and floor. Each dancing shadow looked like it could be hiding a monster. She pushed the fear to the back of her mind, starting up the staircase. She couldn’t afford to be scared. Not now. Not when Dipper needed her to be strong for him.
“Dipper…? You in here bro-bro?” she called, looking around. The stairs just kept going up, not a single landing in sight. After about five minutes, she finally came across a door. It was cracked open partially, and she could hear whimpers from inside. “Dipper?” she said again, peeking into the room.
He was curled into a ball on a thin, ratty mattress, shaking and whimpering. She gasped softly, running over to sit next to him. She hesitantly reached out to touch him gently, flinching back slightly when he jerked and let out a strangled scream. Alright, one of those nightmares. She’s got this.
“Dipper? Dipper, it’s alright. You don’t have to be scared anymore, I’m here. Whatever you’re seeing isn’t real, ok? Just follow my voice, Dipper.” she said gently, sitting near him but not touching him. He whined, shuddering and curling up tighter. “It’s ok, bro-bro, it’s me. Mabel, best sister ever!” she tried again, forcing cheer into her voice.
His shaking slowed, and he cautiously peeked out from under his arm. “Y-You’re… Real…? You’re the real Mabel, right…?” he asked in a hoarse whisper, looking like he was terrified of her answer.
“Yeah, Dipdop. Don’t worry, it’s me.” she said, smiling gently. He sighed shakily, uncurling a little bit. Mabel had to stop herself from crushing him into a hug. He looked terrible, to be completely honest. His skin was pale and waxen, and his eyes were sunken deep into his face. He looked haunted, like he hadn’t slept in weeks. “Jeez, Dipper… You gotta take better care of yourself. C’mon, let’s get outta here, and then we can go find Grunkle Stan. Then you can sleep.” she said softly, standing up and offering a hand to him.
He nodded, uncurling and taking her hand hesitantly. “M-Mabel… Please, don’t… don’t hurt me… Like before…” he murmured under his breath, using his other hand to wipe his eyes of tears. Mabel’s breath caught, and she squeezed his hand gently.
“Don’t worry, bro-bro. I won’t ever hurt you, not if I can help it.” she said, reassuring him. He nodded, shoulders sagging as he released the tension. “C’mon, do you think you can walk? We need to find Wendy and Soos and get out of here.” she asked gently, looking over at him. He nodded again, following her obediently when she took a few steps. “Good, Dipper. Just keep going like that, and we’ll be outta here in no time.”
Wendy sighed in relief when she finally reached the tower, holstering her axe. There was a dark stain on the cobble in front of the tower, but it looked days old. Still, it made her uneasy. She shook her head and let out a deep breath before entering the tower. “Happy thoughts, Wendy. You’re nearly there.” she mumbled, climbing the stairs. She kept expecting something to jump out at her, so she had her fists ready just in case.
The walk seemed long, due to the tension and her slow pace, but after about five minutes she had reached a door. She opened it slowly, and…
Soos had finally made it to the tower, wrinkling his nose at the smell of decaying flesh. Something had probably died here, and not too long ago either. “Gross…” he muttered, pushing open the door and heading inside.
The inside of the tower was just as bare as the rest of the landscape, the only light coming from scattered torches. “Well, this isn’t freaky at all…” he said softly, looking around half-heartedly before starting up the stairs. It didn’t take long; he wanted to get Dipper and get outta there. Soon, he reached a door. He pushed it open slowly, bracing himself for whatever might be within. The crack widened, the ray of light getting larger and larger, until…
Mabel froze when the door started to creak open. She half-shielded Dipper behind her, the trembling boy only too happy to let her take the lead for once. “It’s alright, bro…. I got this…” she whispered, half to reassure Dipper, and half to reassure herself. She tensed up, ready to let a fist fly when she heard a pair of familiar voices.
The reunion was brief, but heartfelt. Mabel quickly gave her friends the lowdown on the whole Dipper situation, after barely holding Soos back from wrapping him in a tight hug. She had explained that any sudden motions or loud noises seemed to make him freak out, causing him to go unresponsive for a bit. Her friends seemed to understand, they looked like they had been through some terrible things.
Wendy’s face and arms were covered in shiny burn scars, one cutting across her left eye. Her hair was wild and tangled, as if she'd been running through a windstorm for the last hour. Her remaining good eye was darting around constantly, as if looking for an invisible threat.
Soos, arguably, looked worse. His eyes were dull, and half-closed, as if he couldn’t muster the willpower to keep them open. His robe was tattered and dusty, and he looked pallid, as if he’d been crying.
“Alright guys, I think the worst part is over. However, this is a bubble designed by Bill, so we gotta be careful. Who knows what weird trap thingys he set up?” Mabel said, squeezing Dipper’s hand gently when he flinched at the mention of Bill. Wendy and Soos nodded grimly, Wendy pulling out her axe and Soos stretching his fists.
The little group filed out the door, Wendy and her axe in front and Soos bringing up the rear, all four on lookout for threats. They started to relax when nothing happened after two flights, but on the third… A whisper sounded out of the darkness. “You’ll never make it…”
The group halted, Wendy slipping into an offensive stance while Mabel and Soos moved into protective positions. “Who’s there? Show yourself!” Wendy snarled, adjusting her grip. Out of the darkness came a hollow-eyed copy of Dipper, except about six years younger.
“You’ll never make it… Useless… Worthless… Not worth saving…” the little boy whispered sadly, looking down and clutching the arm of a ratty brown teddy. Dipper gripped Mabel’s hand tighter and poked his head out from behind her. His eyes widened when he saw the boy, swallowing thickly.
“M-M-Ma...bus…?” he worked out past the lump in his throat, frowning sympathetically when the boy flinched slightly before nodding.
“I’m evil… I’m gonna hurt you…” he mumbled, looking away from them as black tar oozed out of his eyes in a mockery of tears. Dipper flinched slightly at the word ‘evil’, unable to force any more words out.
“Dude, what’s he talking about?” Wendy asked, looking between the twins and the wraith. Mabel gasped softly, recognizing this moment.
“Mabus… That’s Dipper’s birth name. He changed it when he was seven…” she explained, peeking out from behind Wendy. Mabus’ eyes widened when he saw her.
“M-Mabel?” he asked, shocked. When she nodded, he frowned. “You can’t be Mabel. My Mabel’s a lot smaller than you.” he said accusingly. She smiled sadly.
“Well I am your Mabel, just… A little bit older, is all. Now, um… I’d like to help you, M-Mabus…” she started, grimacing sympathetically when he nearly started crying again. “How about we think of a new name for you? A cool one that doesn’t mean bad things?” she tried, smiling slightly when he looked up at her.
“A… A new name? Alright, I guess…” he said softly, stepping a bit closer. She smiled and crouched a bit so she was on his level.
“How about…. Owen?” she asked, giggling when he wrinkled his nose and shook his head. “Mason?” Another head shake. “Hmmm… How about something silly, like Humphrey?” she asked, mock-serious. He laughed, wiping his eyes.
“No, that’s TOO silly!” he giggled, smiling.
“Alright, then. How about something less silly, like… Dipper?” she suggested, brushing back his hair. His eyes widened, and he nodded hastily.
“Dipper! I like Dipper! Thank you, Big Mabel, thanks!” he cried, hugging her around the middle before disappearing in a burst of laughter and smoke. She smiled softly, but noticed her friends looking curiously at Dipper and her. She frowned and mouthed ‘Later’. Wendy nodded, and continued on, looking nervously around as the tower creaked ominously.
It wasn’t until a flight later that they heard another clear whisper. “You’ll never be good enough…”
Wendy was preparing her axe to swing, but halted when she was met with the burly form of Manly Dan. “D-Dad?” she asked, gaping. He’s alive?! But, looking closer, she could see his normal kind green eyes were missing, replaced by black voids. She frowned, shifting her grip, but couldn’t stop shaking.
“You’re not good enough… Not good enough to get them out… Can’t protect them… You’re weak…” he rumbled, frowning disapprovingly. Wendy grit her teeth, squeezing her eye shut.
“NO! YOU’RE NOT REAL!” she yelled, swinging her axe into the wraith, eye still closed. He doubled over, growling and coughing. Smoke and tar oozed out of the wound, and his eyes softened a tad.
“You were stronger… than I thought…” he whispered, before disappearing in a puff of smoke and tar.
It was silent for a long moment, when Wendy sniffed and wiped her eye. “Let’s keep going.” she muttered hoarsely. She kept walking without another word, face set into a grim line.
“I don’t think there’s that much more to go… Maybe another two or three minutes?” Mabel said hesitantly, finally speaking up after a few minutes of silent walking. Wendy nodded.
“Yeah. I think we’re nearly there. Just gotta stay determined, right?” she said, smiling when Mabel giggled slightly.
But then, she stopped. “Do you guys hear that…? It sounds like… music?” she said, listening harder. “It sounds like someone is singing Happy Birthday! Hey, maybe it’s a party! Come on, let’s check it out!” she said, dragging Dipper with her as she bounded past Wendy and down the stairs. She ignored their cries for her to wait, skidding to a stop in an open room.
Inside was decorated with balloons and streamers, a giant “Happy Birthday, Mabel and Dipper!” banner strung up on the far wall. Cake and party food filled the table, and two party hats were just inside the door. Mabel’s eyes lit up. Maybe this could be a replacement for the birthday she had missed?
“Dipper…. Can we go in for a bit?” she asked, looking back at her brother with wide, shining eyes. He looked hesitant, but as he met her hopeful gaze, he smiled and caved. Mabel beamed, pulling him inside. She plopped one of the hats on his head, adjusting the strap before pulling on her own hat. She laughed and pulled him to the table, plopping down in front of two plates near the head of the table.
A few places away, at the end of the long table sat a monochrome girl, wearing a hat much like their own. A balloon was tied to her chair, bobbing gently as she stared at her plate. “Happy birthday… to me… we’ll be… forever…. happy… Happy birthday dearest child…. happy birthday… to me…” she murmured under her breath, her voice having a slight echoey quality, like a ghost.
Mabel and Dipper exchanged a look, before the latter found his voice. “I-Is it… your birthday… too?” he asked hesitantly, looking at her. She nodded, a sad smile on her face.
“Yeah… It wasn’t fun before, I was all alone. But now, you two are here! The party can start! It’ll be so much fun, won’t it?” she asked, looking up. Dipper couldn’t see her eyes, they were hidden behind her hair. It made him a little uneasy…
Mabel grinned. “Yeah! Don’t worry, we’ll have so much fun!” she reassured the other. She gasped when food appeared on the plates, grinning and bouncing in her seat. “Dipper did you see that?! Ohmigosh that was so COOL!” she cried, excitedly turning to her brother.
He laughed quietly and nodded. “Yeah… But, Mabel… Don’t forget, we gotta go soon. We can stay for cake and stuff, but eventually we gotta get out of here…” he reminded her. She frowned, poking his cheek.
“Don’t be such a downer, Dipper! Come on, have some snacks. That’ll cheer you up!” she said, poking him in the cheek gently. He sighed but smiled slightly.
“Alright, alright. A few snacks.” he agreed.
A few snacks turned into two slices of cake, turned into some chips, turned into some pizza, and by his third or fourth cookie Dipper was starting to wonder where all of it was coming from. It was delicious, yeah, but… He never actually got up to fill his plate. He just kinda started eating, and it didn’t stop supplying him with food. Something was definitely off, but he looked at Mabel and saw her smiling, and he couldn’t bring himself to say anything.
A knock on the door called his attention away from Mabel and the girl in the grey sweater, who were having a dance-off. He got up and walked over to the door, where he could faintly hear someone calling his name. Who was that? He just had to see…
"̢҉̴D̶O͏N̛͡'̴̨T̷ ͟͞͝TO̷̴U̶̶C͏͘H̢̨ ͏T̶͠HA͝͞T ̷D̴͝O̶̕O̧͘͝R̷̸!̢͘"͡ screeched a demonic voice, that sounded so familiar. Dipper flinched violently and backpedaled away from the door, landing on his butt as the memory of searing pain and maniacal laughter shot through his mind. He tried to get his breathing under control, squeezing his eyes shut and digging his nails into his arm.
“Dipper? Dipper?! It’s alright Dipper, just breathe! Come on, it’s alright!” Mabel cried, immediately rushing to his side. She recognized the signs of his panic attack, and frantically tried to remember how to calm him down. Right, alright. NO touching, and my voice seems to make it better… But the volume keeps making him bad. Crap, what the heck do I do?! she thought frantically, hands waving violently in the air as she tried to stay calm. She started humming a little tune her mother used to sing to them when they were younger, the first few notes shaky, but getting stronger. Dipper’s shaking slowed down, and his breathing started to even out.
“Mmmmmmab-abel?” he choked out, still breathing too fast. She hummed an affirmative, before venturing to speak softly.
“Bro-bro, are you okay…? Breathe with me, alright?” she said gently, pressing her hands to her stomach to calm them. At his nod, she smiled. “In… out… in...out… there you go… all better now…” she added, gently brushing a sweaty strand of hair from his face when he leaned into her. He had calmed down now, which was good. If he passed out, well… They couldn’t afford that, not in here. “Wanna tell me what happened?” she asked. He shook his head fiercely, and she dropped the topic.
“I’m sorry… It must have been my fault. I just… I didn’t mean to scare you, I just didn’t want you to leave just yet. I’ve been lonely for so long…” spoke a quiet voice in the corner, and both Mabel and Dipper’s heads snapped to face it. “I didn’t mean to scare you, Dipper. I just can’t let you leave. You understand, right? We can be happy here, together… Forever.” she added, smile growing wider. She lifted her head, and for the first time, Dipper could see her eyes. Unfortunately, they didn’t make him feel any better.
Her lips were twitching, as if she was trying to contain laughter. Her eyes were wide and the pupils so small they were barely pinpricks. “I can’t lose my friends just yet, I simply can’t! Wo̴n͏'̶t͢ ̨you̕ ̨st̀a͜y ͘a l̷i͞ttĺe̛ ̕l͘onger?͢ ̕Hav̸e͠ ̴s̸o̸me̵ more ͟c̶ak͠e,̢ p͠e̸r̶h̢ap̷s? O͞r͡ ma̧y͟b͟e̢ we ͠c̡óul̷d͢ ̧pl̀ay̨ ͡a͜ ̷game!̶ Af͘t͠e͘r̶ all͘.....͞W͜E'͝͠VĘ̸ ̸͞G҉O̴T Á͞À̷͠A̷A͏̨́A̶҉A̷̕A͟AL͞͞L̀ ̧̧T͠͏H̢̧̛E̵̸̷ T̷͜I̡͢M̷͡͠E I̸̕N̛ T̨͢H͜É ͝͝Ẁ̧O͟R̨̛L͢͟D͢!̴҉” she said, voice warping the longer she spoke, until finally she burst out into crazed laughter. "̨WO̡̢͞N'͟͞T̕͏ ́YO̕͘Ú͜ ̵̀S͏҉̨T̸̕A̧Y͘ ̵Ẃ̛I̧Ţ͝H̛͜ ҉͟ME͏͏ F̸O̢REV̧̡E͏̵͜Ŕ̡͘?̢́!̡"̶͢ she laughed, glitching until she was right across from them.
Mabel slowly stood up, as if in a trance. “Forever… Have fun… Forever…” she mumbled, a dazed smile starting to spread across her face. That sounded nice… And eternal birthday party, just her, her friend, and Dipper…
Dipper, on the other hand, was horrified. “S-S-STAY AWAY FROM US!” he shrieked, grabbing Mabel’s arm and dragging her to the door. Mabel fought against him, but his desperation and the adrenaline rush made him stronger for once. He started yanking at the handle, almost crying when it vanished. The ghost girl was right behind them now, mouth split open into a disturbing mock-up of a grin. She was holding two balloons, the strings made of barbed wire and the balloons filled with gas.
"̀C̵o͢mę on̢,̴ ̷j́ust̕ ta͟ḱe͡ a ̶b͝al͡l̛o̡o҉n̡. I PROOO̴O̧MI̸S̀E͠ it͘ ̀w͡on'̧t̵ ͝hur͢t!"̵ she giggled, holding them out. Mabel reached out for one, but Dipper yanked her hand back.
“GET AWAY!” he yelled, trying to punch her in the face, but she vanished. When he tried to recover from the swing, a foot kicked him down. He groaned in pain, clutching his head and struggling to his knees. He jumped at the girl before she could give Mabel a balloon, knowing somehow that if she took it, it’d kill her.
“Mabel, come on! You gotta snap out of it! This won’t be an eternal party, it’ll be a nightmare! Forever! Don’t you wanna see Grunkle Stan again? Or Grenda or Candy? Come on Mabel, once we get out of here we can throw the biggest, best birthday party in the world, doesn't that sound fun?!” he cried out, voice cracking in desperation as he tried to hold the angry ghost down.
Mabel shook her head, shaking off the trance. “Woah… I feel… weird…” she muttered, blinking groggily for a second. However, Dipper’s cry of pain snapped her out of it. She gasped and narrowed her eyes. “Hey! Get off my brother!” she yelled, charging into the fray and landing a solid hit on the girl’s face. She screeched and seemed to deflate like a popped balloon, until nothing was left but a plain grey sweater and a birthday hat.
Mabel panted slightly, helping Dipper up. “Are you okay…?” she asked. He nodded, and smiled at her.
“I should be asking you that, you know…” he said, squeezing her hand and walking over to the door. The knob was back now, and he turned it without a second thought. It led… to the bottom? Wow… Weird.
“Hey, where’s Wendy and Soos?” Mabel asked, looking around. No sooner had she said that did a hand come up and grab her shoulder. She screamed and clawed at her attacker, until a familiar voice gave her pause.
“Ow, shit! You’ve got some wicked claws. Calm down, it’s just us. Wendy and Soos. Come on, I think everything’s gone. What even happened in there, anyway?” she hissed, drawing her hands back. Mabel took a deep breath and turned.
“Birthday party from heck. Come on, let’s get outta here…” she muttered, not wanting to talk about it. She’d been so stupid! Nearly falling for that dumb spell… Curse her big heart!
Wendy nodded. “Agreed. I’ve had enough of this place, honestly. I really hope none of this gets transferred back into the real world, because I think I may be blind in my left eye now.” she said, probably going for a joking tone, but it fell flat. She sighed. “Come on, follow me, I’ll show you where I left Soos.” she said, leading them out the door.
After another ten-ish minutes of walking, they came to a big cave in a rock. Inside, huddled in a corner and crying quietly, was Soos. “Stupid… Worthless… She’s not coming back… She left you here to die…” he muttered feverishly under his breath. Wendy’s eyes widened, and she rushed to his side.
“No, hey, Soos. Buddy, look, I came back. It’s me, and I brought the kids. It’s alright, I didn’t abandon you.” she said quickly, trying to calm him down. He just shook his head and curled up tighter.
“No! You’re not real! Just tell me how much you hate me and get it over with!” he yelled, jerking away from her.
“Soos! No, man, look, just look up. It’s me, It’s actually me, just look at my eyes.” she said hastily, gently forcing his chin up. She sighed in exasperation when his eyes were squeezed shut. She cracked them open gently. “Look, Soos. It’s me. Wendy. I really came back. It’s really me.” she said. The tears slowed.
“Y-you’re not lying?” he asked suspiciously, and she shook her head.
“Man, I wouldn’t lie to you about shit as heavy as this! You know me better than that!” she said, smiling weakly. He laughed wetly.
“I guess you’re right…” he said, standing up. He flinched when mad laughter sounded from the entrance.
“Awww! How touching! There’s nothing cuter than a family reunion, I swear. It brings a tear to my eye!” giggled Mabel, wiping away an imaginary tear. But… Mabel was next to Dipper, in the back of the cave. So, who was this? Whoever it was, she made Dipper shriek in fear before trying to get as far away as possible.
Wendy looked between her and the Mabel next to Dipper. The girl at the entrance was wearing a sweater she’d never seen in Mabel’s collection before, and Wendy had seen all 450+. There was also dark spots on said sweater, ones that spelled a gruesome story. She narrowed her eyes. “You’re not Mabel.” she snarled.
The girl giggled. “Right in one! I’m the newer, more i̵mprove̵d̶ M̛a̡b̨e҉l͢!" she replied, voice glitching near the end. Her face started shifting, becoming thinner, more skeletal. Needle-sharp teeth poked out from between her lips, and her eyes grew more sunken as the eyeballs vanished, only to be replaced by a void. All her muscle mass seemed to vanish, leaving her as thin as a stick. "A͘n͢d ͘I'M ͢t̕h͠e҉ rea̢s͘o͢n no̢n͝e ̕ǫf you͢ wil̴l mak҉e i͠t ̛o͘ùt ̡ali̵ve҉! Y̨ou̶ ̧can ͢c͞a͡ll ͢it́ a ̨s҉afeguar̷d͘,͡ i̵f ͟yo͡u͜ w҉ant."̷ she snickered nastily, scraping her new claws against the wall.
Wendy readied her axe, stepping in front of Dipper and Mabel. “I’ll kill you, you fucking hellbeast. You lay another claw thing on these kids, and I’ll tear you to bloody pieces, got that?” she snarled.
Not-Mabel laughed, the sound echoing off the walls. “There’s nowhere to run! I'vȩ g͟ot͜ ͏yòu ҉aaaa̛aaaa̷all ̢b̕o̵x̡e͟d͝ ͏i͘n, j͡us̕t̶ ̸li̷k͜e͝ s͟ar͝dįn̡e͜s.͢” she said, grinning nastily. Wendy growled.
“Then I’ll fight our way out.” she snarled, rushing forward with blade raised. Not-Mabel dodged, taking a step back into the open.
“Really? You think your puny little hatchet can stop me?” she sneered. “That’s pathetic. Even more pathetic than that sţup͘id͝ ͘li̷t̢tl̕e ͏b̶o̷y͏ ͞o҉v͡er t͢h̶e͠r͝e. P҉at̕h͞eti̴c.͢..̕ ̸Pa͏t̷he͠ti̸c͝,̧ ͝path̡e҉ti͟c̸,͟ ̛PATH҉ET͜I͜C̛!̸ ̧N͘ONE͟ ͟OF͏ YO̴U C͢AN͝ S̨TOP M҉E̢!̛ I̴'M̸͏ ̷͘͜P͟͝OWE͏̸R̛̀E͝D ҉̡͟B́͡Ý A̕͝ ̨͢͡ĹI̶T҉E̵͝R̨҉̸A̴͟͝L̵̛ ͏͏D͢E͝M͜͜O҉̸͞N͠͞,͟ ̸̶̛I͏͏'̸M̴̷ ͟I͏̕͢N҉V̡̀IN͢͜C͟I͏B̧͝L͞E͜͝!̸̴͢"̵̵͠ she screeched, lunging for Wendy’s throat. Wendy blocked with the axe, leading the angry entity outside. She nodded slightly to the others hiding in the cave, motioning for them to exit, and quickly. When Not-Mabel made an attempt to look back, Wendy sliced her stomach with the blade.
“Eyes on me, you hellbeast.” Wendy snarled, chopping Not-Mabel’s legs off at the knees before running to catch up to her friends.
Mabel risked a glance back at her evil doppelganger. What she saw didn’t comfort her in the slightest. “Uh, guys? She’s getting up!” she warned. Behind her, Not-Mabel was rising off the ground, hair whipping around in a nonexistent wind. Her teeth and nails grew longer, sharper, and her eyes vanished into a void. She snarled, fangs flashing in the low light as she rushed them
"̧W͜H͠Y A̢RȨ ̨Y̴O͡U EV͟EN̡ T͝RY҉IN҉G SO͏ HAR̛D̡ ̵TO S̸AVE HI̶M҉?! HE'̵S̵ ͝NO͞T̴ EVE͢N̷ WOR̛T̨H̵ I͏T! J͜U͘S͠T ͏QÚI͘T̷ ́RU̴N̴N̶ING͘ ́AŃD͞ AC͟CE͠P͏T Y͝ǪUR FATE͟!̛" she screeched, lunging for them. Something about her words made Mabel stop. He’s… not worth it? Was this all about Dipper?
“Mabel, come on!” Wendy called, but Mabel ignored her. She turned towards the monster and stood her ground, face set into a determined grimace. When Not-Mabel reached her, she tackled her to the ground and pinned her there.
“What do you mean he’s not worth it?! He’s awesome! The best brother I’ve ever had! You’re obviously bonkers if you think he’s not worth saving!” she snapped, punctuating each sentence with a harsh poke to Not-Mabel’s bony sternum.
"̷Òh ̷ŕeál̡ly?҉ ͟Ńa͠m͝e͡ ̀oņȩ tim̛é h͏ę actu̸al̵l̕y ͘d̢i͞d̨ ҉s̢ơm̛ethi̴ng ̸u͢s͘ef̶u͝l͠!̛" she snarled. Mabel smirked.
“Just today, he saved me from a crazy birthday ghost! He saved all of us from a shapeshifter! He exorcised Pacifica’s house, and he stopped a bunch of gnomes from kidnapping me! And that’s just off the top of my head! There’s tons more awesome stuff he did, but there’s so much I can’t remember it all!” she exclaimed, nearly glowing with pride. Not-Mabel snarled, trying to shake Mabel off of her. Mabel looked up when a hand touched her shoulder hesitantly. Attached was Dipper, with an awe-filled smile.
“You… Y-you really think I’m awesome…?” he asked softly. She nodded, beaming at him.
“Of course I do, Dipper! When have I ever not?” she asked, jumping up and holding his shoulders gently. He chuckled weakly, looking away.
“Wow… I guess… I never really noticed… Sincere sibling hug…?” he asked, holding out his arms. She nodded vigorously and hugged him gently. He snickered and whispered “Pat, pat…” in her ear, just as she started rubbing his back. She chuckled, closing her eyes and soaking up his warmth. It was only when Wendy gasped that she looked up and noticed that the dreary landscape had melted away around them, leaving the forest and a pile of ashes around them.
“We did it…”