Time is a strange, fickle thing.
Despite common misconceptions, it is not a linear flow, a straight line into the future. It meanders, flexible and malleable as wet clay, twisting and turning and branching off into new streams, new timelines, where the events that seem just so set in stone never actually happened. And in some places, time is little more than a mess, a tangle.
But even something as abstract as the fourth dimension must have some constant, some anchor to hold it steady.
Frisk had memorized many of the common threads between timelines many, many resets ago. They began the same, with them falling through a mountain and onto a patch of golden flowers. They met Chara. Then their adventures through the Underground, and then the escape to the surface, where the monsters were met with reluctant open arms, forced into camps, or held at gunpoint until they retreated once again, while Frisk themselves either remained with the Dreemurrs, or, as they had this time, returned to the house they'd left behind.
The child's finger hovered over the laptop keyboard. With their parents out of the house, they finally had the chance to check their pro-monster blog and forums, and the email they always set up soon after their return to the surface. Many of the comments were the same, repeating again and again - the same old support, advice, hate, complaints about the electronic curfews in various parts of the world -
*Nothing has changed. You are filling with apathy.
Silently, they reached up to their shoulder and patted the invisible hand there. They could feel the other's frustration, their determination waning with each new run, with every minute they failed to bring a happy ending.
That was another constant. Chara was never happy with just what they got. There was always too much prejudice, too much racism, too little rights for the monsters. It never got better, and yet the one time hope of humans and monsters still clung to their stubborn idealism.
Not too long ago, Frisk had felt the same way. But now, after hundreds upon hundreds of times seeing the sun again, of seeing the wonder on the monsters' faces, of meeting the same politicians or traipsing back to the same house again and again, it was hard to feel as positive as before.
Sometimes they wondered how their ghostly friend managed it.
A familiar ding - an email notification from an unknown anonymous sender. The anonymous sender. The email.
From Anonymous To F. Dreemurr, Online Ambassador and Supporter of Monsters
Recent events have left many of us disheartened at your lack of success. However, unlike those charlatans who would rather express their hate rather than attempt to achieve the end goal, I am willing to assist you in your endeavors, be it politically or economically. If you wish for my aid, please do respond - but if you do not wish for it, then feel free to ignore or decline this message.
To F. Dreemurr, Online Ambassador and Supporter of Monsters
Yet another constant for the list. Two days later than the usual four months, but still there, still glowing on the screen, tempting them to reply with a desperate plea of "Yes, yes! Please help us!"
But instead, they began to type the typical polite refusal. You couldn't trust just anybody online - it had taken them at least sixteen runs to realize it. There was probably a virus in the message, or the anonymous user was far less than honest -
They stopped, and looked up at where their friend was probably hovering. (They'd never seen them in person, so they couldn't be entirely sure.)
They almost asked why. Almost.
But they didn't need to. They already knew.
They could feel Chara's frustration, their desperation for something different, for anything. Even a computer virus would be a welcome distraction.
And on the off chance that maybe, just maybe, this mysterious person could really help them . . .
They sat, pondering the possible consequences, and then, gingerly, they began to type.
Reply from F. Dreemurr, Monster Ambassador Normally I wouldn't want help from someone I don't know, but I'm at wit's end here. Please, if you can do anything, help me out.
Normally I wouldn't want help from someone I don't know, but I'm at wit's end here. Please, if you can do anything, help me out.
Across the Atlantic, in a dim office just barely lit by a single lit monitor, a pale finger clicked on the new notification.
And the finger's owner - too pale, easily visible in the gloom - smiled a sharp, vampiric smile.