Anonymous, Mister Anonymous, I'm most glad to hear you liked the previous chapter and the little cameo. Thank you for your kind reply.
A very angry ravage, He can't save you now, autobot. Thank you for your comment!
AshuriIncarnate, I am so happy to hear someone is decoding them. I am pretty sure they all work in this chapter. But I've had some problems in my first chapter. So if you think I made a mistake somewhere, feel free to let me know. That being said, I'm not going to give you hints in the A/N how to solve this. You tell me, you certainly seem capable enough! Thank you so much.
TheReturnToTheFalls, I'm so happy you like the story! I hope I can keep entertaining you with this. Thank you.
Gravity Falls: Red Moon
CHAPTER 6: In the dead of night
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Claude reentered the salt-factory with hope, despite his fatigue. With the sun setting behind the hills and his cellphone unable to make contact, he was, truth be told, effectively stranded. Danging up and consequentially repairing the Northwest aircraft had taken longer than he'd planned. As a result, only half of the road had been cleared of snow for the limousine. And he wasn't about to work in the dark. He had yet to see a vampire and, despite the oddness of Gravity Falls, he wasn't completely convinced the drunk of a doctor had hit the nail on the head with that. Yet digging in the dark and cold in the middle of the night, all alone, remained a terrible idea. Despite the medicine man's competence, or lack thereof.
And besides, he was nothing if not a practical man, he reflected as he set aside the shovel and locked the door behind him. Pacifica would not be able to pay him if she got devoured by an undead creature of the night. But, and this was indeed an important thing to consider, neither could she if he were to get devoured in her stead. So no. No amount of money would get him to dig through the remainder of the snow in the dark.
So, blocking all of that out for the remainder of the night, he set about exploring the rest of the factory. There were some things beyond his control. And whatever happened at Northwest mansion, he estimated, was one of them. What happened in this place, however, was not. If he made his way back to the circular room with the filter and the basin, he could make his way to the offices again from thereon-out. Beyond that, he bet, he'd find a shower. With some luck, it might even still be operational. And after all the hard work since the young blonde had called him out of his bed almost hours ago, the chance of catching a shower was enough to warrant a night in a poisonous, abandoned factory. The prospect of possible running water helped. It's thick walls would keep him safe for the night. And here would be blankets and a sofa to be found. Had to be. They'd keep him warm. And the overabundance of salt, as he'd been raised to believe, would keep out the vampires. If there even was such a thing to begin with.
And as a final fail safe, he still had the twins Mona and Lisa. Sisters he valued way over salt and walls. The glocks in their holsters tied to his chest and located under his arms helped him feel safe above all else. With no kids around, it had been finally been safe to take them out of the limo's secret compartment. How well they might prove against the undead would remain to be seen, he supposed. But even if she didn't, Mona and Lisa were a source of hope and strength of their own. Reminders of a life in the past and with that the reassurance that any tough situation that lay ahead would have some stiff competition he'd already left flawlessly in the dust.
Mabel returned from her trip to the restroom, not feeling 100%. As she passed through the great hall, she complained to herself, rubbing her own stomach. "Mom and dad were right… I can't only eat cookies and drink milk for lunch and dinner."
The sudden ring of the doorbell was enough to pull her straight out of this bout of self-pity, however. She knew Pacifica had people to do menial tasks like opening the door to guests, but she wasn't the kind of girl to wait for one to show up. And besides, by the sound of it, neither was the person on the other side of the door.
As she made her way over, the bell rang again and again. And in between, a strong arm pounded the door mercilessly.
"Come on." A man with a foreign accent urged. "Come on!" He spoke again.
"Who is it?" Mabel asked playfully, her hand on the golden doorknob already.
"It's me. The doctor." The man.
"Doctor Who?" She asked.
"Van Hadeschant." The doc explained hurriedly. "Now open up, I'm losing daylight here."
She did as bid, all the while humming the all too familiar tune to an old British science fiction series her dad liked, stuck in the recesses of her mind.
"Danke." The man known as doctor Van Hadeschant said hastily as he stormed in.
He was a well-dressed; elder man, she observed. He looked to be carrying a heavy bag and at least half of the world's problems on his shoulders. He smelled like her father after a hard day at work or a visit from her mother's mother. A strong smell usually accompanied by a slur of tongue, but in this case the doctor seemed focused and there was no hint of problems with speech. But perhaps he was not as aware of his surroundings as he could be. For he addressed her as if she were someone else.
"Honestly though, Pacifica, you must be careful not to let anyone in. It isn't until you welcome the vampire, that it can enter your home." He finished berating her as she shut the door, and turned to her. It was then that he noticed she was a brunette. And not a blonde. "Ah." He followed it up, hardly missing a beat. "And you are?"
"Mabel Pines, at your service doc." She saluted cheerfully. "I'll have you know I'm an expert when it comes to vampires." She watched his kind yet fierce face crack into a vague smile. "I've read all the 'Early Evening' books by Stephany Mayor." And with that, though his eyes remained kind, his smile fell.
"Ah." He repeated. "Nice to meet you, Fraulein." He extended his free hand and they shook it. "I've heard quite a bit about your brother and you. I hope your flight was not too much trouble?"
"Any landing you can walk away from, is one in which you haven't died." She shrugged.
"That it true." The man nodded thoughtfully. "In any case..." He snapped right back into action, his back and legs straightened out, spinning towards the master staircase. "Let's go check on our patient, yah? We have only a few more minutes before the last rays of light are completely swallowed by the dusk. I'd like to get it over before then." His longer strides were at a pace she'd never be able to keep up with, so she didn't try.
"I'll go get Dipper and Wendy?" She asked, already on route to the library, where last her brother and his crush had gone off to.
She liked the man, Mabel decided. It wasn't hard for her to like anyone, really. But he seemed energetic and kind enough. She only hoped it wouldn't turn as it so often did, when that smell was about.
Wendy fidgeted with the radio in the Northwest's fancy library. Whilst not as big and impressive as their original might've been, she'd seen it once emptied but for old man McGucket's collection of 'Squirrel magazine' the number one magazine on articles on critters and nuts, if it was to be believed. Not that it was a magazine which inspired trust. In any case, it was hard to understand that he'd been able to fill four whole shelves with the things…
Still, she could use the old cook right about now, she reflected. Any man capable of creating a giant mecha robot would be able to fix this damn radio. Once in a while she could get some sound out of it. But the static was too obnoxious to permit. It's strange chatter cut the old time song she enjoyed so much.
"I see a bad moon a-rising." The voice boomed from the radio. "… Dv'oo… trouble on the way." John Fogerty's voice boomed on energetically, clearly unaware of the trouble she was having with the device.
Ignoring her companion in the large, oak room, Wendy bashed the red and blue radio with her fist. Perhaps it wasn't to much avail. But as she grunted. "Come on." And smacked the thing, she felt better for it. When in doubt, punch it. A family motto for the Corduroys.
"I see … nvvg … and lightnin'. … I ... Ztzrm … times today."
"It's not the radio." Dipper explained at her display of frustration, as he stood atop a wooden ladder, studying some of the books in the upper shelves. He was so captivated by his research that he didn't
Still, sometimes he reminded her so much of Stanford Pines in his drive to find out all there was about the supernatural. Or heck, even Stanley Pines and his drive to exploit that supernatural for greens. But passion was passion, she reflected as she continued to bash and curse at the mechanic contraption on the table in front of her. It was going haywire by now. "Wlm'g … pmld … tonight …" The song went on desperately amongst the static. "dsviv … bound to take your life."
"It's everything." The young boy concluded.
"There's … Wlm'g ... bad moon … pmld … the rise… dsvm."
"If we could get the radio station back operational..." Dipper ventured whilst studying the books.
All the while John's voice boomed on. " I hear … Yfg … -canes a-blow … R ..."
"Maybe we could get a message through to or from Grunkle Ford." He added pensively.
"I … pmld … the end is ... dv'oo … soon."
"He might have something useful on vampires… I don't know."
"nvvg … rivers over … ztzrm ..."
"But I know that's not helping." He laughed disarmingly.
"I … hlnv … voice of rage and ruin."
"Don't go … hfmmb …"
"Alright. Alright, mister buzzkill." She said, reaching for the knob.
"It's bound ... wzb … your life."
"There." She said, flicking the switch and giving up on the music.
As the Creedence Clearwater Revival faded away, their last sentence was audible in perfect condition. "There's a bad moon on the rise." It ended.
"It's just that waiting and doing nothing ain't my style, dude." She said, leaning back in her wooden chair as she placed her boots on the Northwest's table, probably worth more than her father's entire house and everything in it. Her neck rested in her hands.
"Well, we both know that's not true." Dipper snickered.
"Unless the chips are down." She reminded him.
He conceded, probably remembering the way she stepped up during Weirdmageddon and Bill's short-lived, though not short enough, reign. "Unless the chips are down." He agreed.
"Anyway… " She inquired. "What can I do Dipper?"
"Oh, I'm sure you can find something more useful to do than punching a radio."
"Like what you're doing?" She inquired, ready to take the playful kid down a notch. "How's that working out for you?"
"Okay, I'll admit. Just because the Northwest's have the second largest library in the surrounding area, doesn't mean they have anything useful." He agreed, turning to her on his wooden steps. "For a second there I'd thought I'd had something. But as it turned out, it wasn't really on vampires. It was Pacifica's age-inappropriate romantic novels 'Early Evening'."
"Oh man." Wendy snorted. "The books about those half-vampire, half-disco-balls? Pacifica has one of those?"
"Actually..." Dipper paused, seemingly for dramatic effect. "She's got the entire series."
After a short but effective silence, they both started laughing simultaneously. Until Dipper went on once more. More serious now.
"Anyways, no journals. No Grunkle Ford. No Grunkle Stan." He said. "We're on our own here."
"The radio-tower's been taking a serious pounding over the past few days." Wendy agreed. "If it weren't for us being so close to it, we wouldn't even get the static. Besides, last I heard they were having some storms an electronic issues of their own in the Orient. Dragon's triangle and all that.
You know… We could try fixing it tomorrow. If nothing happens tonight, I'm pretty sure we don't even need to worry about the vampire anymore. But I guess you and Mabel would love to talk to them again. We could try."
"You know a lot about fixing radio-towers?" Dipper laughed. "I'm good with puzzles and mysteries. Not with metal and radio-waves."
"You can't fail if you don't try, man." She shrugged as he took a spot on the table.
She found herself smiling at him. "It's good to see you guys again." She confided. "Just wish it were under better circumstances." She could see the faint blush creep up on him. Still. "If it turns out the doc and I took care of it already, then I'm sorry for dragging you guys over for nothing."
"No don't be!" The boy's reply came back, immediate and shrill. "No. Don't be." He corrected himself in a lower voice.
She had to chuckle.
"I'm glad we're here." He nodded. "It's good to be back." He looked her in the eye with that boyish charm. "I'm sure Mabel feels the same. We wouldn't want to be anywhere else."
He looked past her, distracted by the window behind her. He seemed lost in tranquility.
"It's so different here in winter." He sighed.
"Yeah." She agreed, turning. The night outside had settled, just. But she could still see the snow, on trees, far off hills and the roofs of slightly closer neighbors. Though the new Northwest manor was still without immediate neighbors. It was quiet. But magical in a completely different way than the twins must have seen during summer. As a resident, she'd grown accustomed to it. But through his wonder, it was like she saw it's splendor for the very first time once again.
"Hey, uh… Wendy?" He asked reigning her back into the room with him.
"Got something on your mind champ?" She asked.
"I uhm..." He tried. "I…"
She tilted her head expectantly, awaiting his answer or query with what she hoped was kind encouragement.
"Before we lost contact because of the snowstorm, after you took down the mintycore… You said 'going away again from the past and present' was playing in the theater, right?"
"Think maybe, if we've got this vampire in the bag, we can go watch it sometime?" He asked, hopefully.
"Sure dude." She answered. "I've missed our movie-nights." She added.
"Cool!" He seemed ready to fight the world.
Which, knowing the pines-family, he probably was.
It was at that moment that his twin barged into the room.
"Hey guys!" She ran in like a chicken with it's head chopped off, slamming the heavy wooden door. "Guess what?" She asked, possibly still hopped up on sugar. Possibly, though, it was just her plain old normal level of energy. "Guess what?" She asked again, before coming to an abrupt halt in their midst.
"What up girl?" Wendy asked.
Mabel froze and paused before she answered. Wendy could see the confused look settle on her face. "Did…" The younger girl started. "Did you guys switch hats again?"
Wendy looked over to her best friend who was once again wearing his blue and white cap, with the little pine-tree in front. And indeed, she herself was once again wearing her warmer hat. They smiled at one another.
Dipper answered. "Well, we decided: when in Rome, you know?" He accentuated it by tapping the rim of his cap. "So what is it Mabel?"
She crossed her arms. "You guys can be so weird sometimes." She complained mockingly.
But, it seemed to Wendy, Dipper wasn't in the mood to be a kettle called black by the pot, even in a lighthearted tone.
"What is it Mabel?" He stressed again, pressing this time.
"What's up?" She asked.
"Yeah, 'what's up'?"
"What's up, doc?" Dipper asked.
"All you're missing now is a carrot and the long ears." His sister winked. "Come on." She beckoned, heading for the door. "The doc's here."
The doctor entered Tambry's room without knocking. And though the moment he set foot inside the room and took in the sights, it was clear he wasn't the only one surprised. However, he was the first to recover. Walking in on young couple tenderly making out in a bed was still less awkward than being walked in on.
"Gut, gut, Schluss jetzt, genug, ihr beiden." He spoke nonchalantly as he closed the door. "Aus dem Weg Casanova." He gestured further as the grumpy boy he knew as Robbie seemed to stunned or stubborn to move, instead giving him a wide-eyed stare. "Es ist Zeit für ihre Untersuchung." The doc went on as he set down his heavy bag. Only then did Robbie budge.
The boy's hair was dis-shelved and he was covered in hickeys, the doc could tell. Yet his patient herself, as if by magic, had escaped any visual signs of the heavy kissing… Her tired yet pristine look could be a sign of the young man's gentle touch. Or…
As Robbie took his place on his wooden chair, doctor Vanhadeschant continued. "I take it you are feeling better?" He asked cheerfully as his patient came into view.
She had the dignity to blush. He was glad to see some color in those drained and pale cheeks. "I take it you are the doctor? Wendy told me about you. Thank you."
He sat himself down on the edge of her bed. "That is quite alright, he said, taking her wrist." He felt her pulse. Steady. That he liked. But slow. Slower than ought to be, for her to be this cheery. Still… He swallowed. She seemed oblivious about his internal conflict. It would be best to remain that way.
"Robbie…" He said turning to the boy and peering at him over his spectacles. "Would you be so kind as to grab my flashlight from my bag?"
The sleek boy did as told, though he managed somehow to do it whilst all the way through wearing an expression which conveyed he'd do the absolute opposite. The only time his expression changed from this moody default was when he opened the bag and saw the entire arsenal hidden in there. Nonetheless he managed to find the small torch quick enough and handed it over.
"And the holder that looks like a green purse too, please." Van Hadeschant smiled.
As Robbie sighed dramatically and rummaged through the bag, Van Hadeschant flashed the little bundle of light in her eyes. They appeared responsive and normal. For now. But his own eyes fell on the empty bottles on the cupboard next to her bed. He also couldn't help but notice someone, probably the gallant Robbie, had gathered all the bulbs of garlic from her bed together and placed them on a cupboard across the room. Surely, in the bed they'd be cumbersome when they kissed. But still…
"Open your mouth…" He ordered. She obeyed and he shone the light down the cavern of her throat. "Say 'Aaah'."
No fangs. Not visible. Not yet.
"You've lost a lot of blood." Van Hadeschant spoke casually as he flicked off the flashlight and accepted the holder with a nod. "You have any appetite?"
"I'm very thirsty." She offered.
He nodded, not allowing his expression to change. "Loss of blood will do that. That's normal. Dehydration." And it was true enough. It was nothing conclusive. "You are doing fine, all things considering." He said as he fumbled to open the green holder. As he laid it bare on his lap he pulled out a small vial of clear liquid and a small ball of cotton which rested next to a set of syringes and small bottles.
"Hey, what's that man?" Robbie asked, pointing at it as he drenched the ball.
"Disinfectant." Van Hadeschant replied. "I'm going to give you shot that will make you produce more blood of your own in a faster pace." He added to the girl who shot him a disarmingly oblivious look.
"It's okay Robbie." She comforted her boyfriend. "He's a doctor." She reached out her arm once more.
"I'd prefer to give you another blood transfusion. But I'm afraid I can't ask Fraulein Corduroy to give any more. It'd be irresponsible of me." He added, taking her arm gently. "This may sting just a bit."
He held his breath. As he dabbed the arm, he saw her wince.
"It hurts?" He asked, not skipping a beat.
"Just a bit." She croaked.
He removed the ball and observed the underlying skin. It was faint. Fainter than he'd dared hope. But still it was there, as he'd feared. Holy water should not burn and damage the skin. Even this lightly…
Still… It was lightly. Perhaps there was still time. He looked in her kindly eyes. And as she reached for her neck with her free arm and said: "It's okay, doc. Nothing compared to… You know.", his mind was made up. They were trusting eyes. So much like the ones he'd seen before. Eyes that trusted him. Eyes he could see every night in his nightmares; now judging him for his failure to save them. Eyes haunting his memories and accompanying him every single day.
"You're going to be fine." He promised, taking out as syringe filled with a dark brown fluid. "You're as strong a patient as I've ever had." He allowed some of the liquid to escape the syringe. "This may make you feel a little bit nauseous, but it'll help you get better."
She winced once more as he entered the syringe in her arm and the substance entered her bloodstream. But through it all she smiled miserably. Brave young girl.
"Thanks doc." She said, lying back in an enormous, soft pillow.
"Bitte schön, Fraulein." He answered, packing up his gear.
The dose would indeed make her nauseous, he knew. But the diluted holy water inside the placebo would not kill her. It was far too weak. But perhaps it could buy down. Slow down the turn and give them the time to cut off the head oft he snake.
Whatever happened, he could not have another pair of those eyes staring at him at all times from the shadows of his mind. He would not.
"Hey Tammy." Robbie's voice brought the doctor back from the recesses of his mind and it's wandering memories. "Your phones is charged." He said holding the device close to her. "You want it?" He offered.
Her hand slapped it aside and continued to trail up his arm. And her voice was as lustful as any Van Hadeschant had ever heard.
"I'd rather have you, handsome." The teen with the purple and pink hair purred. An innocent giggle followed soon after.
By the excited yet embarrassed reaction this got from her boyfriend, the doctor couldn't but wager this was not her typical behavior. "Oh Robbie..." Her hand moved up to his chin. "I just want to devour you."
Possibly quite luckily for all, they were interrupted at that very moment. As Wendy and Mabel and the boy the doctor could only assume was Dipper, entered the room unceremoniously. Soon there were warm greetings tossed around and Tambry declared herself embarrassed that the twins had to fly all the way over just for her. Especially when she was feeling fine. The way she talked of the entire ordeal, you would believe she'd only had a terrible nightmare. Van Hadeschant guessed it to be nothing more than a defense mechanism. A vampire attack was not something taken lightly. It never was.
But at long last the injected solution kicked in.
"I'm not feeling too well." Tambry said, feeling her own forehead.
"That's normal." Van Hadeschant assured. "We should give her some room and some rest. We'll take turns in watching over her, yes? No objections this time Fraulein Corduroy?"
The redhead crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. "Whatever." She said in a sassy tone, wailing the only way teens could.
"I'll… uh… I'll take first watch." Robbie replied gingerly. Hopefully. Clearly.
The doctor grabbed him by the shoulders in a stern yet friendly way and ushered him to the door."No. No, no." He said. "She needs rest, I say. And I fear, Casanova, that you would instead just tire her out."
"But…" The teen in the hoodie complained. "But..."
"Tut. Tut." The doctor countered, pushing him out, for his own good as much as hers. "You need to catch some more sleep too. Doctor's orders. Fraulein Wendy and I are well rested, we will draw first watch. Then the kids and then you and I again, alright?"
"Hey." The boy named Dipper protested as he too was being dragged out to the hall, just like his sister. "Not yet man, you owe us some answers?"
"Answers?" Van Hadeschant raised his brow. "Young man, I was not aware you had even asked questions. In any case. You have not slept since you came here, yes? And from what you were telling my patient just now, you've been spending all your time researching the vampires, yes? You should get some sleep, young Dipper. You and your sister both. You'll need it if the monstrosity is still out there."
"I want to know why you're here, doctor." Dipper challenged. "And I want to read some of those books you took from the library."
The boy had done his homework. Uncharacteristically, even after half a bottle of Jack Daniels, Van Hadeschant stumbled to find his words. Perhaps he needed a quick fixer-upper. The Northwest's had an extensive collection to satisfy his needs. "I'm not… I'm not hiding the books." Van Hadeschant said. "I just didn't know we had such clever and competent fighters coming to our aid." He complimented charmingly. "Tell you what young man, at the change of guard's we'll have a little chat, you and I. I'll share with you all I know. But no more before you get some shut-eye, yes?"
The young man, though not hostile in any way at all, clearly was not appeased by his answer. Yet help came from the most unexpected of sources.
"It's okay, Dipper." Wendy offered kindly. She too must've noticed the bags under the kids eyes.
The yawning Mabel would prove less problem in ushering to sleep, he wagered. Yet, strangely, at the simple suggestion of her words, the seemingly headstrong boy turned. But, in the far ends of his memories, the doctor understood. He too had been that age once.
"Alright." Dipper agreed begrudgingly. "But we'll have that talk." He wagged his finger.
"Of course." He had to smile.
"Can we, like, get you guys anything before we're off?" Mabel asked, rubbing her eyes.
"I wouldn't mind a drink." The answer came before he knew he spoke it.
"You look like you could use something to eat." Wendy intervened. "And I know you're a do as I say, not as I do kind of doctor. But now I'm ordering you to get something more than booze in your system."
"Jawohl." He agreed."Das auch."
As the half reluctant set of twins set out into the hallway, a completely reluctant Robbie followed them. At least for a few steps. Before long he turned and tried to walk past Wendy and Van Hadeschant. The doctor was most grateful for his years of keeping up his physique as he hunted down the filth on this world. It helped with blocking the teen's path.
"You can't stop me from sitting with my girlfriend, man." The boy argued, though skinny as he was, Van Hadeschant probably could.
Instead he grabbed him by the shoulders, clearly to the dismay of the lad.
"There will be time later, Junge." He promised.
"I don't like being touched." Robbie complained, clearly feeling uncomfortable at his touch.
"That's not what I saw when I walked into the room." The doctor joked. When the blush crept on the boy's face, he knew he'd won. "Rest now Robbie. She'll need you later, okay? You must be there when she needs you the most. Not when she wants you the most."
"Just go take a nap, Robbie…" Wendy added. "Please, dude?"
Without a word, and slumping as he did so, the boy tugged himself free from the doctor's grasp and turned down the hallway. Following the twins at a snail's pace.
"Und Fraulein Mabel!" The doc shouted after them. "No letting anyone in, alright? As of now, people we know and people we don't know are not coming in until sunrise. None, you hear?!"
"What about Claude?" Wendy asked, turning to face him.
"Oh, right..." Van Hadeschant said, having forgotten. "Well, he seemed like a tough man. And we can't risk it. I'm sure he'll be fine."
"Man..." She said turning away from him and walking into the room to her friend. "I'm sure they'll all be fine. We skewered that lady in red. Mark my words, nothing bad whatsoever is going to happen tonight."
Edward quite clumsily closed the door behind him. Not an easy feat when simultaneously holding a mop and a full bucket of water. But then again, he didn't have to worry about the noise as he entered the projection booth. There was no one in the cinema but him, he told himself.
He'd been telling it to himself time and again for the last hour now.
Beyond the projector's bright light, the small room wasn't all that well lit. Outward, there was only the screen, surrounded by darkness. The movie playing, going away again from the past and present, was a pleasant enough one. But it did little to relieve his sense of anxiety and dread, steadily building.
On screen doctor Bennett Black was reading a flyer with a growing twinkle in his eyes. Edward had seen the scene over a dozen times already. The man's hopeful expression wasn't nearly as infectious as it once was.
"This is it! This is the answer!" The white-haired old cook screamed fanatically as Edward plunged the mop into the bucket, the water in it overspilling. "It says here that a bolt of lightning is going to strike the clock tower at precisely 10:04 p.m. next Sunday night!"
Edward could almost say the lines with him, word for word. He ran them over in his head as he focused at his work, starting near the comfortable couch in the middle of the booth.
"If..." The doc searched and Edward mumbled along. "If we could somehow harness this lightning… channel it into the flux capacitor..."
Something caught Edward's eye. A shadow that shouldn't have been there, glimpsed for only a split second. His grip on the mop's handle tightened. Something was wrong. He could feel it in his bones. All the while he tried to reassure himself. It was probably nothing, right? And even if it hadn't been his imagination, there was a perfectly good explanation. Perhaps some dust had floated in front of the projector, causing the shadow on the screen.
Some very feminine dust…
"It just might work." The doc proclaimed as Edward kept his eyes fixated on the screen. His heart seemed to have stopped moving in anticipation. "Next Sunday night, you are going away again from the past and present!"
Edward didn't hear the rest of the movie. Despite himself he craned his head forward, peering extensively at the screen. The noise faded. He saw the shapes and colors on the screen, but they didn't register as he scanned for the source of his unsettling experience.
It would have been a cliche if a sudden monster popped out. Like some cheap jump-scare. Instead, he felt himself nailed to the floor. Frozen. His mouth dry and quivering as suddenly, where there had been nothing, a full fledged shadow, the shape of the impossibly beautiful kind of woman that visited his dreams oh so often, claimed most of the screen. He wanted to scream. But somewhere between his lungs and his mouth, his voice had taken a wrong turn. All he could do was gasp. And even that only with the utmost difficulty.
A multitude of emotions and thoughts crept through his teenage brain, all at once. He felt an undeniable arousal as he saw the ample figure dance suggestively on the screen. Her hands moving from her hair, down to her neck… And down… down… down… He felt a longing. And a sense of pride, feeling that he'd been chosen. Him, no one else. For whatever this was. A feeling he'd not experienced often in his short life.
But beneath it all lay an omnipresent sense of fear. He remembered, for some reason, the trip he'd made with his parents to the Grand Canyon, all those years ago. It flashed into his mind as the shadow's palms pressed against the screen; calling out for him. Longing in turn for him.
Ten years ago. He'd stood on the cliff of that great abyss. And he'd looked out to the world beyond. Beautiful. It had been an absolutely stunning sight, sure to leave an impression on him for the rest of his life. But it was also so very deep. So enormously vast and empty. It was impossible to stand so close and not fear falling in; swallowed by the emptiness and lost for all time. To witness that beauty had been to tremble in awe and fright.
The palms of her hands pressed. Even only in shadow he could see the outlines of her large fingers arc. Her hands moved down, her nails plunging into the screen, ripping and tearing it along the way. And in accordance, on the glass window in front of him, protecting him from the darkness outside, scratch-marks appeared.
Ten of them. And their pattern… One for each finger.
He finally found his voice. Somewhat. As he stumbled backwards towards the door and dropped the mop, an indiscernible grunt escaped him. His wide eyes remained focused on the glass and the darkness and the screen beyond. The female shadow's movements were less seductive now. More animalistic. Ferocious… As she clawed to get him. To get into the booth. Marks upon marks dug deeper and deeper into the glass. Blindly, he found the doorknob behind his back and twisted it. He turned and bolted as soon as he could.
Sickness. He felt sick to his bones as he struggled out into the hall. He had to get to the main room. Just had to. Around him the lights were flickering on and off. But he couldn't stop to think about it. Escape. Now! He ignored the rising wind inside the building, calling to him. He had to block it out as he moved through the second hall. The doorways leading to the other showing rooms were without lights as well. Hiding whatever horrors he could imagine. Shadows clad in darkness.
Crying like a babe and stumbling along the way he made his way into the main hall. He whimpered as soon as he could see the lights flickering on and off here too. And beyond the food and drink stand, at the only exit nearby, he saw a shape. Vague and distorted. But more clear and real than her shadow had been before. Within the reflection of the glass door, he could see her every time the light flickered off. Fair and dangerous. Lustful and hungering. Her eyes, dead but for the desire in them, and her devious smile said it all.
There was no escape. No way out.
He screamed. A full-fledged scream this time. And turned on his heels, dashing for the bathroom stalls. He had no real plan to flee the apparition. Yet his body told him to run. Run for his life.
The white bathrooms were still brightly lit, at least. The only ones in the building it seemed. He passed the wall-length mirror on his left and rushed over the white tiles into one of the red-doored stalls. Slamming the door behind him and feebly locking the door, he crawled onto the toilet. His legs raised high. His knees kissed his chin as he held them in pure dread. The frog in his throat relentless. The tears flowed freely. The dreadful anticipation, waiting for the boys' bathroom door to open, and hearing those slow footsteps approach, stall after stall, was more than he could bare.
"Please no..." He begged, again and again, to the silence.
Praying, as nerve-wrecking as it was, that it wouldn't leave.
He didn't want it to end. Not like this.
There came no sound of an opening door. No footsteps echoing on the white tiles of the bathroom. No dark humming or an eerie version of a children's carol.
Whatever it was, out there… It didn't need it.
What did come was much, much worse. Realization. There was no escape. She was waiting for him already, just beyond the door. And what was worse… He knew, absolutely knew down to the deepest of his core, that he could not refuse her. He felt her pull. Her fingers in his mind.
She had too much power. Too much control. He could not disobey.
Gingerly, and struggling to fight back, he got up and off from the toilet. He hand slowly stretched out. Even as it reached for the know and turned it, releasing the lock, it shook. And as the door swung open, it revealed the great long mirror and a reflection of his own, puny, petrified self.
He bit his lower lip and whimpered as he shuffled closer to the mirror. He didn't want to. But he had to.
No escape. No escape.
He stood right in front of the mirror now. Quivering.
It wasn't surprise, nor shock, that overcame him as the image in front of him started to change. Rather despair. The hair growing, turning red. His acne disappearing. His features turning fair and voluptuous in the mirror's image. And his uniform now turned into a Victorian dress of gold and red. A dress that fit the woman in the mirror oh so well. For one moment, and one moment alone, his eyes darted down to his own body. They found him still himself. But he was not in the mirror. Even if he could feel her outside of it.
Her eyes weren't comforting. They promised. Yet did not promise anything good as they beckoned him. And as she reached out for him, her hands inching closer to the wall of the mirror, her smile once more revealed itself. And this time, he could see it for what it was.
Pearl white teeth. No braces, all teeth. And those fangs... Her fangs… They stood out against her shapely, red lips.
She was beautiful, he told himself. Beyond beautiful. And she wanted him. All of him.
Beautiful. And frightening.
Her hands reached the wall. And with seemingly no effort, they went through it. And more and more of her followed. Her elbows, Her head. Her shoulders. Her chest. Her waist.
Her arms coiled around him. Not maliciously. Yet he shivered at their touch. Theys stroked his back and rummaged through his hair.
He powerless to throw her off. Powerless to stop what would come next.
"Wait..." He managed to utter, completely frozen.
Her hands didn't wait. Instead, they tugged his head aside slightly, revealing his bare neck to her.
His muscles cramped up. His heart, up until now seemingly stopped dead in it's tracks, jumped into overdrive. And yet, he could not make his body do what he wanted.
He tried to find her look. But she was focused on his neck now. Her teeth… fangs… parted slightly. Her strong tongue licked them in anticipation as she lowered her mouth in what seemed like aeons.
The tension in his body rose. It had to be coming close to a breaking point. It had to.
But it was futile, he knew.
When he felt the bite, the teeth pricking deep into his neck and puncturing his artery, for a moment his entire body tensed up.
"Don't!" Edward managed in a weak voice which betrayed his utmost malcontent and devastating dread. It was one last moment of being himself.
Before all strength left his body. And he could feel all that had ever been him being sucked away; drained mentally kicking and screaming into the never-ending, overwhelming nothingness.
Dipper found himself in strange yet familiar surroundings, without a clear recollection of how he got there in the first place. He tried to focus on what was around him, but it proved argues work. He felt older than he was, somehow. And therefore he was quite pleased with the soft, one person sofa, green and silver, that he occupied, seated upright. He wasn't sure if he could get up. But he didn't even feel like trying either. It might wrinkle black suit he was wearing, in any case. And next to him was a little trail on wheels, with an ornament on it. What it was, he couldn't discern. It looked like a pyramid with a ball on top.
His wasn't the only sofa in the room, though. Two similar ones stood in a ninety-degrees turn in regards to his. The closest not a yard away from him. The angle allowing them to face almost the same direction, if there had been a coffee table, it might have passed for a normal salon setting. But there was nothing normal about this place. The other sofa's were flanked by two metal, standing lamps. Simple and elegant in design. And behind the seats was a white statue, Greek or Roman style, of a beautiful woman shielding her nudity. Tambry occupied the sofa furthest off to him, in a black, female suit. She eyed him expectantly. Dotingly, even.
But they weren't the only ones in the square room, cornered off by red curtains. By a pole a mere few yards away across the zigzag-patterned floor in dark red and lighter red, a smaller figure stood. It was buzzing like a fly, but built like a man. Albeit a small one. His back was faced to dipper and he held his shoulders and sides, twitching as the buzzing continued.
The twitching figure caught his attention once more. Perhaps after a glance from Tambry. Or was it only a hint of a glance? In any case, the figure turned and produced a red cone hat from somewhere. Dipper recognized him now. The grey beard and moustache… The eyes slightly off… Even if he was dressed in a sharp, tailored, red suit,... Schmebulock the gnome would always be Schmebulock the gnome.
As the gnome turned he clapped his hands and said "Let's rock." Before holding the vertical metal bar of the lamp by his side. But there was something off about his voice. And not just the fact that he was saying something different than 'Schmebulock' for once. It ran deeper. Into the very pronunciation of the used syllables. In rather the same way, something, was off about his movements too. Slowy and… wrongly… The gnome walked towards the empty sofa and hopped in.
Dipper looked over to Tambry, for support. This was weird, right? She had to think this was weird too. She just kept looking at him and tapped her nose knowingly. And then… A smile.
He didn't understand.
The sharply dressed Schmebulock rubbed his hands together as the shadow of a triangle flew past them, either on or behind the red curtains. Which one it was, Dipper could not tell.
"I've got good news." The gnome said, grabbing the seat around him and showing the greatest expression of content Dipper had ever seen. The gnome pointed at him "That gum you like is going to come back in style."
Dipper remained silent. No doubt a puzzled look on his face. His eyes darted to Tambry once more.
The gnome seemed to notice. "She's my cousin." He said in that awful, distorted voice. "But doesn't she look almost exactly like Tambry?"
"But it…" He blinked in confusion. "It is Tambry." Dipper replied. He turned his attention back to her. "Are you Tambry?"
"I feel like I know her." The woman that looked like Tambry spoke kindly, but her voice as distorted as Schmebulock's. "But sometimes…" She continued, struggling to go on. "My arms…" She closed her eyes in dismay and craned her head back. "Bend back." She finished before looking and smiling at the pines boy again
Schmebulock turned from her back to him and gave his next words as second's thought. "She is filled with secrets." And suddenly he seemed distracted, thinking of something unknown to the rest of them, lost in his own memories. "Where we're from, the birds sing a pretty song." He added eventually, after which again he trailed off in his own thoughts. He seemed to grow restless. "And there is always music in the air."
Dipper watched the gnome bob and swing his head to the tune even before it was there. But it came on and it came on strong. A fresh tune. It was like the fusion between a jazz balad and a lullaby song. Snapping of fingers started it off, soon joined by a steady bass of a plucking snare instrument Dipper could not quite define. But soon the sound was overshadowed, pushed into mere background, by the full swing of the emerging saxophone and it's uplifting voice.
Enough to make anyone tap their feet or snap their fingers to the rhythm under normal circumstances. Yet Dipper did not feel inclined, too entranced at the swinging torso of the tiny man before him. Besides, his hands lying on the armrests were as if bound. All his fingers could do was tighten ever so slightly. For all intents and purposes, he was cloistered to the chair. As the gnome rose from his seat and left it, his movements became more dance-like. And lightning, without thunder, flashed in the red room as the melody completely took over.
The gnome moved further and further away from them, led by the music which made him swing and dance. A dance that could only be for himself. Bereft of grandeur and talent, but catchy and confident. The gnome snapped his fingers along the beat as it carried him. All the while, the flashing light grew more and more intense.
Tambry rose from her seat now, never taking her eyes off Dipper. The taller girl moved in on him. Her hips not quite swaying to the music. But perhaps hinting they might. When next to his seat, she took her time and bent over, bridging the gap between them. Dipper became aware of his neck craning up to meet her. And her fingertips of her left hand found his neck. Their faces got closer and closer. Until finally their lips met. There was no time to think about things. About where he was or what was going on. No time to contemplate if what he was doing was alright.
And then she broke it off, smiling. She whispered into his ear. Once again in her broken, off voice.
"I'll see you again in 25 years." The girl said.
He stared at her, confused as ever.
"Meanwhile." The girl added, as if what she did next were an explanation.
She placed her left hand by her right shoulder, horizontally. And her right hand, behind it, vertically. It looked liked a small statue or an award. Or possibly; a very docile flame.
She was gone the next thing she knew. But something else caught his attention. From across the room the still dancing Schmebulock called out 'Doppelganger'. Repeatedly. His voice enough to cut through the funky tune.
And Dipper could see him; The Doppelganger. Staring half from behind one of the red curtains. Only half of him was visible. Half a body, dressed like he was. One arm that clung to the curtain. Half a face, oh so familiar. Half a devious smile. And only one eye. And that one eye was so recognizable. It wasn't Dipper staring back at himself from behind the curtain. It was, as Mabel had dubbed him, Bipper.
Under the flashing light, Bipper laughed. His laugh too susceptible to the speech-impairment the rest of the people around him seemed to suffer.
"We are mirrors." The unholy demon said, suddenly turning serious. Sad even. "But the light does not catch us."
Dipper wanted to rise from his chair. To fight or flight from the monster only yards away. To do something. Anything other than having to undergo all of this. In wooden movements, however, and much to Dipper's dismay, Bipper let go of the curtain and walked through. The smile on his face that of either a psychopath or a predator. Nothing good, that much was certain.
The Demon stopped clearly within the Pines' boy's personal space. Dipper could see his own face smiling back at him so horribly only half an inch from his own nose. This close, Dipper could see the demon inhabiting his boy was still missing an eye. One was nothing but reflective glass, showing Dipper his innermost self. Like most people in the world, he wasn't completely glad with what he saw in there. And Bipper was laughing. Laughing like a madman now, right in his face. His already demonic voice now a thousandfold as unnerving as it suffered from the same distortion as the others. Dipper couldn't do anything but watch. He couldn't even turn away or scream. Only feel the cold sweat running down his neck.
"Vbv vsg hgvvn mzsg ivgkzsx hrsg lg viln hr vivsg!" Bipper shouted right in front of him, in a brief respite from his horrid laughter.
His laughing continued, but he moved out of the way despite it all, cackling to himself. It was hardly a respite, however. As Dipper could now again see the sofa's. Or at least, could see where the sofa's had been. They'd been repaired with lighter, more modern seats. Two of them, completely red. And on one of them, Tambry sat with her hands in the same position as when she'd disappeared. Her eyes were grey. Blind.
"Meanwhile." Her distorted voice carried as the music died.
But nor her expression, nor her voice was doting this time. Instead: rather angry. Violent. Monstrous.
And indeed, the shrieking followed soon after. Her mouth open like a dreadful cavern. The lights grew dimmer, the flashes of light that broke it stronger. Her teeth were bare now. Sharp teeth. Fangs. And her screaming… Oh, her screaming. A fury so primal Dipper could not even comprehend it. Like an animal she crawled over the seats. Out of the seats. She moved to him in shocking movement. And her face, so close now, unavoidable…
It flashed along with the lights, turning into that of Schmebulock for one instant.
"Hxsnvyfolxp!" It screamed.
And finally, Dipper too screamed. Screamed as he shot upright, jumping from his cushions and his covers, bathing in sweat and surrounded by the dark of the room he recognized, after a few seconds, as the room he'd gone to sleep in. Finally he realized he was seated on the two person couch in one of the many guest bedrooms of the Northwest household. And comforting though that thought was, he couldn't help but scan his surroundings diligently. For any sign of Bill, a vampire or a swinging homunculus. His heavy, rapid breathing paired with his shifty eyes and his tight grip on the blankets would have betrayed his distress to anyone. But Mabel didn't even have need for that. As she lay in the bed, half asleep still, one of her eyes opened and peered at him through the darkness.
"Dancing midget dream again?" She mumbled, nudging herself more into a warm crevice of softness made from blanket and pillows.
He could have gotten a bed as well. There were plenty of rooms, even in this smaller Northwest abode. Luxurious rooms with luxurious, grandiose beds like the one Mabel currently occupied. But he hadn't wanted to sleep anywhere else. Not with all that was at stake. No matter what Wendy believed, he was not certain this ordeal was over, just yet.
"Yeah…" Dipper breathed, feeling the blood rush to his face. "But it was different this time."
"Mhm?" Mabel asked shutting her eyes. Already well on her way back to dreams Dipper would envy if they weren't so damn pink.
"It was Schmebulock… And Bipper… And Tambry…"
"Mabel…" He realized it as the words formed in his mouth. "I think we need to check out the gnomes tomorrow."
"Whatever you say bro-bro." His twin yawned.
"I think it's important. "He said, knowing that by now he was talking only to himself.
Still shaken, he discarded the blankets that had been offering meagre protection to anything but the cold. There was no way he was going to get back to sleep tonight. No way he wanted to either. What he wanted now, for some reason, was a damn fine cup of coffee and a slice of cherry pie.
Pacifica Northwest faced the darkness of the hallway. The three branched candelabra in her hand her near only protection. Near, as the dark blue fleece blanket covering her shoulders and draped over her light blue nightgown offered some comfort at least.
The source of light had been close by when she'd awoken by the soft sound. It always was nowadays. She was too old for a night-light by far. And yet… She wasn't yet accustomed to the new Northwest manor. Not by a long shot. Oh, it was fancy enough. Pretty enough. Big enough. But when night fell and the shadows set in, all that magnificence turned sour. Even after all these months. And the candles had been very comforting. And classy to boot.
But now she had to investigate what it had been that had awoken her. A sound, she recalled. A soft sound. Perhaps a cough? Or the scraping of a chair. It had been faint. Whatever it had been.
Down the dark hallway, in the far distance, one of the doors was open. She could tell by the light omitting from it. One of the guest rooms. And the light inside danced. Candle-light, like hers, no mistake about it.
She made her way over, gliding through the hallway. The shadows dancing just out of the candelabra's reach instilled a dread she would not readily admit. Not even to herself. Stubbornly, and quite paradoxically, it's subconscious influence and her equal subconscious resistance was why she didn't just flick on the lights in the first place but instead pushed herself through with fire as her companion.
The room's door wasn't completely open. Rather a crack allowed the dancing light to escape. With her free hand she pushed it open slowly. As it creaked open far too loudly for her liking, revealing more and more of the room, she felt her breath stalk in her lungs.
But there was no dreadful reveal. Indeed, all she saw in the otherwise abandoned room was Dipper in a two-person chesterfield wearing a plain white t-shirt and his shorts. As much in his bedtime attire as she was. He looked up from the book he had on his lap, half-eaten pencil in his mouth and a surprised look illuminated by the lit candle-holder on the coffee-table in front of him. She could see two more books on it's surface. One rather thin, the other thicker.
"Hey." She said, readjusting the fleece blanket draped over her shoulders.
He beckoned her silence and nudged for the door across the hall. "Mabel's asleep." He whispered, beckoning her in. She obliged. After all, it was her house. She could go anywhere she damn well pleased.
She closed the door behind her, placed her candles next to his and sat herself down. For a second before they started talking, her eyes glanced his cheek. The mark was gone. That was good. She didn't want to bring it up again either. And if she knew him even marginally, neither would he.
He didn't disappoint.
"I couldn't sleep." He said, closing the book on his lap and removing the pencil from his mouth. "I went to check up on Wendy and the doctor. They are on guard. But they told me to get some more rest. That we'd need two people to watch over Tambry, to make sure one wouldn't fall asleep."
She matched his soft voice, as not to wake Mabel. "Well, you woke me." She said plainly. "I guess we're with two now… How is she?" She added the last part, a little too late for her own taste.
"Well enough, I think." Dipper answered. "Hard to say though… She's been through a lot. … Sorry for waking you."
"We've all been through a lot." She fidgeted with her fingers. "Why are you up?" She whispered. She gestured for the book. "What's that?" She followed up her own question.
Silent as it was, Dipper had to chuckle. "If I told you it was a journal, would you be surprised."
"Hah." She replied. "With you? Of course not."
"A dream journal." He explained further, his fingers trailing over the bland cover. "I've been having recurring nightmares ever since summer." He went on, explaining both her questions at once. "It's not that bad." He added, seeing her expression. "It's just… once in a while, you know?"
She let his answer hang in the air for a while before she asked him. "And the journal?"
"Grunkle Ford has a metal plate in his head. But it's not the only way he prepared for Bill. He's trained himself to be as strong and powerful as he can be in the mindscape. A dream journal helps accomplish that. And beside that, it helps you gain control over your dreams, and so too your nightmares."
His explanation hadn't made things much clearer. In fact, her whispers betrayed her confusion. "But… Bill's gone. You know that."
"Yeah." The boy nodded, smiling. "Yeah." He repeated, putting the book with the others on the coffee table. "I know that. " He agreed, looking her in the eye. "I know he's not coming back."
"Do you Dipper?" She asked.
For one moment his eyes darted. But his gaze returned, under dancing of the candle-light. "I do." He said. "I know it, but… I know it the same way you know your family's sins are not your own." Even in hushed tones he found a way to stress the word giving it the weight of a crashing anvil. "Knowing it… It doesn't solve it, does it? It doesn't make it feel you need to do any less."
She turned away from him, but nodded. Now he made sense.
She tried to break the ice after a while of silence. Not necessarily a bad silence, but silence none the less. "Jeez Dipper..." She started. "So much angst? Looks like we really are teenagers now."
He smiled, and seemingly had to keep himself from laughing loudly. He had to be tired. Despite everything. "Technically teenagers." He agreed eventually.
"And what are these others?" She asked, deciding to keep the roll going as she bent over two pick up the two other books. The thin one was as new as could be. The thicker one seemed much more old.
Dipper picked the thinnest book from her grasp and gave her a look. "Promise not to laugh?" He asked.
She seemed to consider this. "Mhm… Nope." She answered eventually, truthfully. "But you are still going to show me what's in that book, Dipper."
He sighed. But it was a sigh that said it all: he wasn't putting up much of a fight.
"Another journal." He said with a mixture of shame and pride as he opened the book.
She craned her neck over his shoulder to see better. Inside she could see pictures of all manner of creatures and beings native to Gravity Falls as he flipped through the pages. From gnomes to zombies, to the Lilliputians and even to a weird fat, bald man in a jumpsuit and glasses, apparently named 'Blendin Blandin'.
She didn't catch much from the notes accompanying the pictures. Nor the other strange symbols Dipper had put in there. She'd honestly never really cared much for Dipper's journals herself. They had come in handy when performing the exorcism on the old Northwest mansion, but aside from that.
But even with all that said and done, she was impressed. She took the journal from his hands and tore through the pages on her own. Scanning them quickly.
"I started by penning down what I remembered from Grunkle Ford's work. Then added what I remembered." Dipper explained as she turned page after page and saw creatures and objects fly by. "Then I recalled some things like the Lilliputians had been missing. So I put them in there too. And then finally…"
She arrived at the final page… The beast was only half drawn. Yet she could recognize it. A third lion, a third eagle and a third scorpion. And one hundred percent freshmaker. She didn't have to read 'Mintycore' to recall the monster.
"You could work on your drawing." She said. "It's that I know the shape of the beast, but it doesn't quite resemble what it was." She added, bending over to take the pencil he'd placed on the table. She could tell he watched her carefully, from the corners of her eyes. But he allowed her to etch the drawing. To add shades and texture. More expression on the demonic face. To elongate the tail. It still needed more work, she ventured, biting the pencil in thought. But it already looked better.
"Awesome." Dipper acknowledged, nodding. "How did you..."
"I'm a Northwest…" She answered, with some pride. "Excellence is our business."
"I thought it was lying through your teeth." He mocked, obviously mocked.
She tilted her head and took the jape in stride. "We do that with excellence too." She replied. "Truth is..." She answered, putting down his journal. "One of my many extracurricular activities has been art." She leaned back in the sofa, the thicker journal remaining on her lap. She crossed her arms and stared at him knowingly as he gazed back at her with what she could only assume was newfound appreciation. "You're not bad, Dipper." She teased. "But you lack a certain finesse, an eye for detail."
"You really made it look like the Mintycore." He admitted, gratefully.
"Well I remember how it crashed my friend Liana's birthday party." She said, remembering the entire debacle. "Wendy couldn't have picked a worse place and time to hunt it down."
"She was lucky, on the other hand, to have all that diet coke lying around."
She waved it off. Sure, he had a point. But she felt like she had hers too. And she wasn't about to get in an argument. Not this late at night.
"And this last book?" She asked, holding up the thickest, oldest of them all.
"When I went to try and take over from Wendy and your doctor, he sent me off with that." Dipper said, pointing at the black tome. "It's one of the books he's taken from the library. A book on the occult. On vampires. I was going to read it when it was our time to watch over Tambry."
Pacifica turned it over. The gold letters shone in the flickering of the candles. Seemingly still liquid as it shone out from the black leather. 'Memory of a shadow'. It said.
"Not sure it will be useful." Dipper added. "But I figured, might as well."
And well, that settled it, didn't it? Pacifica tugged the fleece blanket close and rose. "Come on Dipper..." She ordered. Let's get you to reading that book."
He knew the memory by heart now. He'd lived it thousands upon thousands of times. As he could recall the faces of the men who rode with him. Quincey, John, Jonathan and Arthur. Their expressions made of pure focus and grievances to hard for men their ages. They had hard faces for hard men, even though they were still strapping men in the prime of their lives. Each and every one of them. Even back then Van Hadeschant had been their senior. Their tutor and responsible for them. He'd known them laughing. He'd known their dreams and hopes. But those did not matter now.
The air around them was thick and stung the eyes. Their horses' stampede only adding to the trail of dust left in the caravan's wake. A dozen riders and a carriage armed by three men, not a quarter of a mile ahead now, and losing ground as the carriage rocked and hobbled over the rocky path in it's desperate climb to the lonely castle atop the dead mountain. Their long brown coats flapped in the wind. Not even the collection of silver daggers, wooden stakes, holy oils and water were enough to pin them down to their bodies in the face of their awesome speed.
Next to him, on both sides, Arthur and John their best shots, fired their rifles from horseback. But good as they were; They hadn't hit anyone back then. And they didn't do it now. The path… The distance… The cloud of sand… And the orange light of the sun setting behind the ridges far ahead, shining in their eyes, made it nigh on impossible.
His younger self spurred his horse. A brown, proud creature. He was the first of their group. But followed closely, as brothers in arms were wont to do. And step by step, they closed the gap between the monster, his servants and the inferior mongrels they rode. But the looming black castle, with it's ever expanding shadow in the setting sun, grew larger and larger as well.
At the beginning of the last turn of the rocky pass, the five riders fell upon in their foes, who outnumbered them three to one. But Van Hadeschant and his men had been better armed. Well trained. And they fought for a cause worth fighting for. A cause held hostage by the monster hiding in it's coffin where it waited for the dark of night to arise. A wish that would be granted to it soon. As the sun grew faint and small, being eaten by the tops of the other mountains.
John and Arthur hit a fair amount of the vampire's servants. And those they didn't, their shots kept busy from stopping the advance of Johnathan, Quincey and himself.
They prepared themselves, in the final stretch, to leap atop the moving carriage, to force the driver to stop by any means necessary and deny the vampire access to it's home where it would be nigh-unstoppable. Backed up by the rifle-men, as one, John, Arthur and himself moved into position.
But as his friends lept and boarded the carriage, a sight caught him of guard.
Mina. Terrified, infected Mina. Her pleading eyes. Her arm outreached. Half her voloptuous body hanging from the door of the carriage, pleading him for help. He aborted his jump and spurred his horse to move sideways from the carriage as his friends fought atop it like lions.
As he reached for her hand, to pull the crying fair woman to him, someone fell from atop of the coach. He'd never torn his eyes from her. And like every night, he wished he had. Watching Quincey, already stabbed in his throat, get trampled underneath the horses was not a memory he wanted in his nightmares. But he owed it to the man. That, at the very least. But there hadn't been time to think. And in many ways, even to this day, that was the worst part of all.
From the depth of the wagon, hidden in pitch black, the monster flashed in sight. It's arms grabbing the poor girl by her dress, just out of reach of the faint sunlight, drawing her into the dark with him. Her high-pitched scream still brought him to tears to this day.
As John and Arhur finished off the stragglers, Van Hadeschant was just in time to see Johnathan descend on the driver and throw him unto the road. Claiming the reigns, the young man forced the horses to a halt.
But too late. They were less than a hundred yards away from the castle built on the cliff-side of the mountain, overhanging the flowing river below. They'd been seconds to late. But those seconds might as well have been lifetimes. They might as well have been eternity.
As the remaining men formed up, Johnathan rose from his seat, his silver dagger in hand. They all reached for their appropriate weaponry as they surrounded the beast with the strength of twenty men.
And as the last light disappeared behind the mountains, the wagon splintered as the dark lord rose from it like a large shadow. The horses took the freight to their hearts, screaming and rearing on their hind legs. Only Johnathan, brave Johnathan, was not hindered. And as the monster's pale face and undead eyes fell upon him, the boy did not waver. The silver dagger slashed, cutting the beasts throat.
If it could have shrieked, Van Hadeschant imagined it would have been a most horrible sound.
And then with one backhand, as it's other reached for the gash gushing red, the monster knocked it's assailant into the air.
John and Arthur, gaining control over their horses, fired shots after shots at their enemy. The silver bullets doing their work as the beast shrunk back into it's black cape a bit further with each blast.
Van Hadeschant himself was less fortunate as his horse topled over. Somehow he managed not to get fully squashed by the large equine. But his leg did suffer, trapped between the squirming, thrashing horse and the hard bedrock below.
As he managed to free himself and his throbbing leg, he heard the shots die out. But not for the reason he'd hoped. One glance was enough. Their foe, low and cunning as it was, hid it's white face covered in red behind the shape of that wonderful woman. His undead eyes filled with passion, lust, excitement and satisfaction. It dared them to fire. It dared them to try.
But the men could not.
Struggling to his good leg, Van Hadeschant could hear Mina beg. For the monstrosity to end it all. For his comrades to pull their triggers. For them to save her. She begged for everything. For anything but this limbo. In that moment of utter panic and dread, she was as far removed from the woman he'd first met that it hurt his heart.
Through moving shadows, the wounded vampire glided from the coach, never taking it's eye off Van Hadeschant and his allies. John and Arthur descended their horses, likewise never lowering their arms. And in the distance Johnathan too crawled back up, grunting and complaining. Slowly, and for the doctor and his bum leg even more slowly than the others, they followed the creature as it backed up to it's castle.
Through a dark enchantment of sorts, the heavy wooden doors opened behind it. The utter blackness it opened up to had a presence of it's own. Or rather, had a presence of the monster before them. As if it were an extension. And step by step, they truly became one as he disappeared in it fully. All the while his dead eyes taunting them like a spider inviting the flies to join him in the web.
John and Arthur were the first to enter, only a few paces in front of Johnathan and himself. Van Hadeschant leaned on his friend as he leaned on him. The young lad still had his silver dagger out. Van Hadeschant produced a golden cross from an inner pocket in his coat himself as they stumbled behind their comrades and the darkness swallowed them whole.
Unlike the memory carved into his brain, however. Van Hadeschant now truly found himself alone in the darkness. Where his friends had gone to, he could not tell. He felt cold. Frightened even, he had to admit.
The doctor tried to raise his cross in defense, but found that he no longer had it on him. And as he raised his empty hand, he noticed the wrinkles on them too. Old. He was old now. Old and weak and spent.
"How you hold to your memories." A beautiful yet terrifying voice broke through the nothingness. It almost sang. A marvelous song of blood and mayhem. "How you cling to the past." It mocked.
He turned and turned and turned again. Frantically he searched the pitch-black around him. The woman's voice had to come from somewhere. In fact, it seemed to come from everywhere. His eyes peered and the sweat ran from his forehead and into his neck.
"I know you now." The voice went on, relentless, dripping like honey so sweet it would allow you to drown in it. "I understand the power of memories… Like you do… Abraham."
"Who are you?!" He shouted. "What are you?! Where are you?!"
He turned and came to face with the most beautiful face he'd ever seen. Perfect in every single way. Her skin, pale but fair. Her nose small and cute. Her lips as red as her hair and her eyes and victorian dress matching too. Her expression passionate. Compassionate, even. And yet… the perfection itself, though undeniably radiant, was off putting in it's own way. Something not visible hidden underneath the outer layer. Like a storm hiding beneath calm waters. She was too perfect… Too good to be true. And therein she frightened him.
He couldn't resist as her soft hand found his cheek. The tops of her fingers trailed his five o'clock shadow sensually, accentuated by her deep short inhale which caused her bosom, to rise. He felt it press against his chest. She longed for something. But he wasn't certain what for.
The red woman's lips found their way to his neck. Her breath was warm. But something in the back of his head screamed at his petrified body. Screamed that it was a trap. And yet, as he heard her smell him, he did nothing to stop her. Her cheek brushed against his as her second hand found his chest. And her lips came to par with his ear.
"I will have her." The woman whispered.
"What?" The doctor managed, taken by surprise.
Her hands cupped his cheekbones and she brought her face in front of his. Her eyes were filled with lust and hatred.
"I will have them all." The woman vowed, her sharp teeth showing in a devious smile.
Van Hadeschant didn't awake with a start. He hardly ever did. Instead dream and reality clashed in a long and argues battle neither party could really be found to have the energy for. Like two stoners arguing to see what's on television, but first having to reach over for the remote. And through that slow lens, the red woman's face changed. Her extremely fair face grew far less stunning. But far less terrifying as well. And slowly the sounds it was making became understandable.
She was asking him to wake up.
His mouth was dry. As his eyes glided from the girl in front of him to the bottle of vintage red wine on the little table next to him, only filled for a quarter, he knew the reason this was so. A low, dismayed grunt rumbled from the very bottom of his chest. He rubbed his eyes and forced the world to come into focus. He was seated upright, he realized now. In a soft sofa for one.
"You fell asleep, dude." Fraulein Corduroy said, her hand still on his shoulder. "I think it's about time we change shifts."
His eyes itched and his head hurt. The world spun. His muscles were cramped at the intensity of the chase. All those years ago. And just now. Like a phantom pain come to haunt him. He wiped the hardened drool from the corner of his lips.
Dutifully, his eyes fell to the girl in the bed.
"She's resting." The redhead said, catching his gaze.
'Or pretending to.' The thought flashed in his mind darkly. He smiled warmly. "Yes." He agreed.
He realized they were talking in a silent tone as not to disturb her. The redhead was tired too. He saw that now. Unlike Her face had been. Unlike her, they had to rest. He struggled to rise from his soft chair. The tooth of time gripping in his lower back. He felt it creak as he drew himself to his full height.
"You know where the kids are?" He asked, he smacked his lips excessively afterword, trying to get rid of the foul sensation in his mouth.
A knock on the door made them both turn around. Before they could even say 'Enter', it swung open carefully, revealing the lady of the house and Dipper, lit by the candle light of their own candelabras.
Fortunate, as Wendy and he had lit candles of their own to give them some light and yet allow Tambry to rest.
"Wenn man vom Teufel spricht, ..." The doctor breathed. He followed it up by a little cough.
"We came to take over." Pacifica whispered.
"Mabel?" Wendy asked.
"Let her take the next shift , and sleep for now." Her brother answered. "If she takes last shift she can prepare her patented Mabel juice. It's disgusting, but it'll wake you straight up."
"I haven't had plastic dinosaur toys in years, though." Pacifica objected. "She won't find any lying around here."
"I bet she'll make due." Dipper replied matter-of-factly.
Either this entire town was insane, or he didn't master the English language as well as he thought he did, or he was more in need of a good night's sleep than he'd realized. Whichever it was, he didn't feel ready to deal with this.
"I'm going to bed." He replied gruffly, taking wine bottle by it's neck, but leaving the glass. "Wake me if you need me."
He could feel the female lumberjack's disappointed gaze boring down at him, trying to pierce him through his back. But he hadn't the strength to care.
But it wasn't the redhead who spoke up. It was the blonde. He saw her point to the bottle. "Hey, is that my dad's 'Chute d'eaux Pesanteur'76?'" She asked accusingly.
He held it up and looked at the label. Truth be told, he hadn't much cared what it was when the young girl had brought it to him. "I suppose it is." He said, examining it closely.
"That was... Oh my god..." The blonde stammered. "Do you have any idea... Just how much... Where did you even get that?!" Her hissing voice was rising, so the rest of them ushered her to remain quiet.
"Your friend got me a drink, as I requested." He answered plainly.
"Mabel..." Pacifica's voice grumble. "But why that one!?"
Van Hadeschant had to laugh. "She came up to me with this and apologized. She couldn't find anything proper. You only had wines that were already many years off. That it was about time for your family to clean up their basement and why you'd even bothered to store it here after your move, if they clearly had to have gone bad many years ago."
He left the shocked and boiling Pacifica behind as he took her candelabra from her and continued to laugh softly as he entered the hallway.
"Tell your father he didn't miss much." He said, bringing the bottle to his lips. "It's a bit too dry." He added before taking a swig and walking off to find a room of his own.