A/N: Warning for a touch of body horror due to the presence of Bill Cipher. Nothing really horribly drastic or gory, but I thought I should leave a forewarning.
A chilled wind tossed fallen leaves up into the night sky and rustled the long black coat of a boy trudging up the side of the hill. When he reached the top he stopped for a moment, hunching his shoulders and pulling the jacket tighter around him before glancing up at the moon. It was full. He ran through a mental checklist—Midnight? Check. Mystical Hill? Check. Full moon? Yep, check. All in all, the perfect setting for… what it was he was about to do.
He headed to the middle of the hill and crouched in the grass, setting down the half-finished Suck Munkey he'd carried up here and pulling a slightly crumpled picture out of his pocket. The snapshot was of an odd, earless little boy with greenish skin. His bulbous eyes were crossed out with a large red X.
"I wish I could get good pictures of Zim out of disguise," Dib muttered to himself. "Hopefully it doesn't matter either way."
He glanced around until he found a small rock heavy enough to sit on the picture and keep it from blowing away. Next he pulled eight candles from his pockets and sat them around the picture in a circle, using a match to light each one with his hand cupped around it to keep the wind off. Technically he, uh, probably shouldn't have been using candles when it was windy out, but he was willing to cast basic safety by the wayside for now in the name of paranormal science. Besides, it would be fine. When all the candles were lit he stood back and pulled out one last thing—an ancient-looking pamphlet.
The wind wafted around him again. Dib shivered, the candle flames in front of him wavering in the breeze but not going out. He took a deep breath and looked down at the pamphlet. The paper was brittle, yellowed with age, and the front was decorated with a circular illustration of a wheel inscribed with different symbols. In the middle of the circle was a triangle with one eye and thin little limbs.
"Well, it's not the first time I've tried summoning something with a pamphlet I got at the wizarding store at the mall," Dib reasoned aloud with a shrug, flipping the pamphlet open. "And I still have all my limbs, so… I hope this works, I guess!" He skimmed through the incantation written inside before throwing his hand in the air and clearing his throat. "Demon of the nightmare realm, RISE!" Reciting from the yellowed paper, he read, "Triangulum, entangulum. Vene foris dominus mentium. Vene foris videntis omnium!" He blinked. "Latin! Neat! I wonder what it—" He broke off with a pained choke.
The world had gone a blinding white. His eyes burned—everything burned—and he couldn't see a thing. His legs collapsed under him and he fell to his knees; he couldn't get back up, he couldn't move. Even his facial muscles were unresponsive—wait, but, he was talking. Involuntarily. Dib didn't even know what he was saying but to his ears it sounded like some sort of backwards message. His own voice grew in pitch and volume until his ears filled with a thunderous rushing noise and he managed to regain control of his speech. His vision cleared, though for a second he had to wonder if his brief paralysis had damaged his eyes because his surroundings had turned a vibrant black and white. Was that even possible? Could grayscale be vibrant? Because that's what he was seeing. Everything was eerily silent, too. The background noise of chirping crickets had cut out. Flat gray storm clouds raced by overhead, but Dib couldn't feel the wind anymore.
There was a sound like an explosion right in front of him and he stumbled backward, looking up in shock. Ripples coursed by him as a triangular hole ringed with many little flames opened up in thin air. Pinpricks of stars in an inky void could be seen through it. And, in the center, a single, large eye opened wide.
"AHAHAHAHA!" The creature belonging to the eye was laughing, its voice carrying an odd echo that could never be produced by a human. As Dib watched, the triangular hole flashed and became a black and white—but still triangular—thing.
Dib stared, his mouth agape.
The creature, meanwhile, glanced around at his new surroundings. "Well, well, new change of scenery!" he said. He pulled a giant roadmap out of nowhere and unfolded it, looking it over and ignoring Dib entirely. "Ah, Detroit, Michigan! Not as nice as Pontiac but I hear you've got good salty lemonade!" He stowed the map behind his back again. Only then did he acknowledge Dib's presence, drifting down closer to him with his arms held straight out by his sides and his elbows crooked down at perfect right angles. His body changed color from black to a bright, glowing yellow as he spoke again. "The name's Bill Cipher, nice to meet'cha. And by the looks of things, you've been electrocuted recently! How do you get your hair to do that?" He laughed, giving the scythe-like lock of hair on Dib's head a flick with his thumb and forefinger.
Dib subconsciously took a step back and patted his hair scythe. He was about to respond, but he didn't get the chance.
"Actually, I was wondering when I'd run into you!" Bill flew in a circle around him, looking at him from all sides. Dib clutched the pamphlet closer to his chest.
"Wait, you know who I am?" he asked. The demon stopped in front of him.
"Sure I do! The crazy UFO kid. I know plenty, Dib Whatever-Your-Last-Name-Is."
Oh. "That's not my last name," Dib said.
The demon just chuckled. "Haha, sure it's not."
Dib unfolded the pamphlet and scanned down until he found the phrase he was looking for, prodding it with his finger. "Look, I summoned you because this thing says you're a dream demon. Is that true? It doesn't say anything about you looking like the Eye of Providence, though." He glanced up at Bill with one eyebrow raised. "I mean, there's this picture on the front, but I didn't think that was you, or that's what you actually looked like, y'know?"
"Eye of Providence? You mean that creepy conspiracy symbol on the back of your money?" One of Bill's thin, jet-black arms elongated and reached into Dib's coat pocket, pulling out a wad of cash and displaying the symbol pictured on the back of one. "Absolutely no relation! How much stuff do you have shoved in your pockets, anyway?"
"Hey!" Dib grabbed the money back and tucked it back in his pocket. "You didn't answer my question!"
Bill leaned backwards in the air with one ankle (did he have ankles?) propped on the other leg. "Kid, I'm not just a 'dream demon.' I'm the master of the mind. I know what everyone's thinking, all the time! Gets a little disturbing sometimes! But hey, wanna see something cool? I heard you like swollen eyeballs!"
He reached up to his own eye and plucked it out of his triangular body with both hands like he did that kind of thing all the time, dropping it straight into Dib's arms with a laugh. The pulsating eye had turned puffy and webbed with red veins. Some milky, filmy substance obscured the pupil and smeared pus on Dib's hands.
Dib let out a strangled cry and dropped the diseased blob—as soon as it left contact with his hands it began to decompose, rotting into the ground and vanishing. Dib glanced up at Bill, who still had a gaping, black socket for a face. Then he blinked and his eye was back in its proper place, healthy-looking and clean as if nothing had even happened.
"What was that for?" Dib choked, shaking. All traces of the gunk had disappeared from his hands but he scrubbed them on his trenchcoat anyway, hoping to lose the slimy feeling.
"I thought you might like a present!" Bill replied, his lower eyelid pulled up in what Dib assumed was a mouthless smile. Dib couldn't even tell whether he was being sarcastic or totally serious.
"Well, no! Thanks!" he said. He was still shuddering, but stopped rubbing his hands off and clenched them at his sides, taking a breath through his teeth and struggling to get his mind back on track. "Listen—listen, can you go inside an alien's mind?"
"Hm, why d'you ask? Got some old memories you want me to get rid of for you?" Bill lounged in the air, his arms resting behind his 'head.' "Haha! Just kidding, I know you're not an alien! Seriously though what did you summon me for, kid? Am I here for a request or for an interview?"
"A request!" Dib said. "See, there's this alien—" He pointed at the picture of Zim on the ground. "That's… actually a really bad picture, since he's in disguise and it's marked over with Sharpie, but could you do it? Could you go into his mind?"
Bill glanced down at the picture. "Oh, the green kid! Wears a toupee, hates waffles, not from around here. Yeah, I know him!" His body snapped from a yellow color to animated, fizzing static like on a TV with bad reception, and then it changed again to a blood-red Irken symbol on a black background.
"Exactly!" Dib turned away, eyes narrowed in consideration. "There's probably two problems with going into Zim's mind, though. You're a dream demon and I don't know if he actually does dream, since I don't know if he even sleeps. Also, he's sort of got two brains, one in his head and one in his weird metal backpack. Does that matter? Does it make a difference if—?" He turned around and dropped his hands. Bill was floating there vigorously playing with a paddleball. "…What are you doing?"
"Oh, just ignore me!" the triangular demon replied with a quick wave. "Go on with your monologue!"
Dib gave him a dubious look but continued on, keeping the demon in his sight. "So, if you went into Zim's mind, you could find all sorts of information on Irkens and learn about any weaknesses in his defenses, but that would basically be summoning a dream demon and sending it on a research mission, which is kinda dumb. I was thinking you could implant some sort of false memory in his mind that would make him expose himself. Maybe the Tallest—his leaders—commanding him to leave his disguise off all the time from now on or something. What do you think?"
The triangle drifted down closer and pointed to Dib's nearly-forgotten Suck Munkey. "You gonna finish that?"
Pausing at the abrupt change of subject, Dib looked down at it uncertainly. "Um… yeah, I was going to, but I guess if you really want it—"
"I'm kidding! I don't even have a mouth!" Bill said, throwing out his arms. His eye glinted. "Hahaha, humans! You're as gullible as anyone else! It's hilarious! Anyway, kid, you're asking for a pretty tall order." He laughed again. "Pun completely intended! Memory implantation is a tricky business, although I imagine with Bug-Eyes over there it'll be a cinch. Still, you can't get something for nothing, you know! What're you planning to do for me in return?"
"…Oh." Dib dug around in his pocket until he pulled out the wad of cash that Bill had found earlier. "Well, Dad's a famous scientist, and he's kind of rich, y'know? I could pay you…"
Bill dropped his smile. He snapped his fingers, and a stack of glowing blue hundred dollar bills appeared in front of him in a puff of white smoke. "I've got all the money I could want right here! Actually, look, it's not even real, heh." He waved his hand right through the money. "I don't need real money! Can't really manifest in the physical world!" The bills vanished in another cloud of smoke. "That's right, kiddo, you're dreaming right now. Cash isn't gonna do it. You'll have to think of something else!"
"Hm…" Dib took a few paces back and forth, hand on his chin. At last he stopped, realizing he didn't have a clue what to offer. "Well… what do you want?"
"I thought you'd never ask!" Bill clapped his hands together. "There is one thing I can think of."
Dib braced himself, remembering the little "gift" Bill had given him. Whatever the demon wanted, it couldn't be pleasant. What had he gotten himself into?
"I could use some help in taking down an organization!" The dream demon floated around behind Dib, his hands clasped behind him. "An evil organization. What do you say to that?" He came up beside Dib and nudged him in the side with his elbow.
Dib edged away. "An entire organization? Which one?" he asked.
"What does that matter to you? C'mon, kid, you've got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here to make your archenemy expose himself. Are you really gonna blow it just for some tiny anddidImentionevil society that no one's even heard of? And you'll only have to do a couple of things—I'll take care of the rest!"
Dib narrowed his eyes. "First tell me what those 'couple of things' are." He wished he'd studied up more on how to deal with demons. They were tricky, they hardly ever told the truth, and you couldn't trust them at all.
Bill shrugged. "The major thing is that there's a wizarding store at the mall—you got that pamphlet there, am I right? Haha, of course I'm right! On the wall behind the register there's an owl clock with eyes that shift from side to side. You know the one! I want that first of all."
"You—huh?" Dib shook his head. "You want a clock? That's… really specific, for a demon. Why do you want that? How's that supposed to help you take down an evil organization?"
"I like owls!" Bill said with a shrug.
Dib sighed. "But it's the middle of the night and that clock's not even for sale! I can't break in and steal it off the wall. Can't I just run home and bring you one of our clocks?"
Bill laughed, leaning forward and giving Dib a patronizing look. "Kid, if I wanted any old clock, I'd just go out and get one myself!"
"You just told me you couldn't appear in the physical world!" Dib protested.
The demon chose not to respond to that, examining the back of his hand like he was inspecting nonexistent fingernails. "You'll have to agree to the exact terms, or there's no deal!"
Dib bit his lip and huffed. "All right, okay, fine," he said, frowning. "I'll figure something out."
"So we have a deal, then?"
There was something in Bill's tone that Dib wasn't sure he liked, but he pushed the feeling to the side. If this was a chance to expose Zim, he had to take it. Nothing else he'd tried had ever worked. "Yeah. Do I have to sign a contract or something?"
"Yeesh, no," Bill said, wincing. "That's so old-school. A handshake is fine!"
Warily, Dib stuck out his hand. Blue flames erupted around Bill's hand and they shook on the deal, the flames flowing down and wreathing around Dib's arm. He didn't even feel them. He could feel Bill's hand, though—it was ice cold, like the touch of a ghost.
"Well, that takes care of that!" Bill let go and dusted his hands off. "I'll go take care of your little green friend for you. Remember, realityisanillusiontheuniverseisahologram-make sure to get that clock-andbuygoldBYYYYEEE!"
As he spoke, the light around him brightened until it hurt to look at. He vanished in a flash that sent ripples washing through the air, color bleeding back into the world as they passed.
Dib's eyes snapped open and he gasped, rubbing at them and blinking rapidly. It was still nighttime and he was kneeling at the top of the hill. Everything was just like it had been before Bill arrived, though all of the candles around the picture of Zim had gone out. The sounds of crickets had started up again.
No onlookers would have known that the meeting with Bill had ever even happened.