Back to Reality
a shameless 'homage' fanfic
by J. Random Lurker

Ironically, it was Zim that gave Dib the first clues something was wrong.

They slumped side by side on the couch in Zim's living room, gasping for breath, exhausted. The Irken's tongue dangled from his mouth in a slight sheen of drool ; his proud Irken uniform was smudged. Dib's high-tech black ninja-gear was scratched and smouldering. They didn't look at each other, just stared tiredly at the wire-strung ceiling.

It was a five minute time out to catch their breath. The couch, stinking of spilled orange slushy and recognized by both combatants as being the property of Gir, was neutral territory.

"Stink... beast." Wheezed Zim, leaning forward and putting his head between trembling knees, breathing in several times rapidly. "You stink even WORSE now!"

Dib rolled his eyes, let his shoulders sink deeper into the bubble-gum pink fabric at his back. "Your fault. Stupid alien... make me work too hard to catch you..."

Zim gave a brittle little laugh. "... So are you sufficiently -ready- now?"

"Oh, geez... two more minutes."

"WEAKLING!" But Zim flopped upright again with a gasp, antennae limp; thin clear beads of Irken sweat on his green brow showing his own weariness. He gave Dib a brief glower, alien eyes searing human. "Fine. Two more 'minutes'. Then I go back to -destroying- you, ready or NOT." In the silence that followed, Zim scowled, murmuring. "You're getting -faster-. I don't LIKE it." The skin around the edges of his luminous red eyes crinkled painfully.

Dib brushed his fingers back through the thinning sheet of spiky hair under his jagged scythe. His breath was finally returning. " ...well, have to be. To keep up with you."

Suddenly the silence felt ackward. Even being seperated, leaning at opposite ends of the couch, was too close together and they both sprang to their feet. Dib's face reddened, Zim's cheeks burned a deeper green. They glared at each other, and with the telepathy only available to soul-mates and sworn enemies, they both knew they were suddenly standing on extremely perilous ground.

And just as Dib was opening his mouth to tell Zim -exactly- how much he hated the Irken's stinking alien guts...

... Zim disappeared.

Except he didn't just disappear. He... dissolved, was the only way Dib could interpret it. Melted into data. A green wire-frame in the shape of Zim was suddenly standing where Zim was, and then the Zim-shape wasn't there, and then there were...

... giant Irken letters, blinking red, and Dib couldn't read them at all, and Zim's house and everything in it suddenly wrenched fifteen feet to the left and then...

... then, there was nothing at all.


Dib was enveloped in unending darkness. There wasn't even the faintest speck of light for his eyes to grasp. He panted, frightened, into the void. He tried to call out, to someone, -anyone!- but couldn't hear his own voice. There was nothing for it to echo from.

If there was no sound, that probably meant there was no -air-...

Oh god I'm dead, am I dead, oh God, I don't wanna be dead -please-...

He didn't know where he began and ended; he could dimly sense his body, but it felt elongated, far far away like his arms and legs were in a different room than his head and the doors were closed and locked between them. Wheezing he fought his fear.

Calm down, Dib. Calm -down!- Okay. Obviously I'm breathing. I'm not dead.


There was air moving in and out of his chest. His chest...


He could feel it now... it felt strangely heavy, like a great weight was pressing down on it. Something warm. Like skin. He boggled in confusion, and followed the trail of his nervous system through his chest. Okay, there's the left arm ... where's the right? He tried to move the arm he could feel, and found he couldn't. The muscles twitched, but nothing actually happened.

This is crazy. I've got a chest and no legs and one arm and I can't MOVE what is going ON!?

Voices shattered the darkness. High, thin, trilling screeching voices, panicked voices babbling at each other; he couldn't understand them at all. A word or two crept through the screaming that sounded ALMOST familiar; the familiarity ghosted the back of his mind.

He tried to shout back, but found he couldn't speak.

The shouting gave the darkness greater definition. They were close. SO close, inches away! He tried to pull away from them, they were all but screaming in his ears, but he couldn't move.

He was STRAPPED to something...! That's what it was... he was locked into something padded, something HUGE, something that was keeping him completely paralyzed.

Then, at the last, one voice did rise out of the morass of babble with shocking coherency. Although it wasn't speaking English, howling alien words in an unnatural cadence, Dib would have known it anywhere.

Zim's voice, angry as anything, bellowing harsh syllables that felt like knives to the ear. Dib gritted his teeth and commanded his body to MOVE. FIGHT. ANYTHING.


His voice suddenly rose out of his throat, a hundred times too loud, too deep, echoing like a gunshot. There was a collective hiss from the overhead voices, and Dib heard Zim screaming something again. Something broke; glass shattering on a metal floor. Something sharp and mean stabbed into Dib's left arm, the arm he could just barely feel.

... then, there was nothing at all.


Dib's tiny body jerked sharply under three layers of indigo blankets; he didn't gasp or scream, but his eyes opened and all at once he was -alert-. He sat up ready to fight, but nothing leapt out at him. No Zim, no nothing.

The pillow that had migrated somehow from behind his head to sprawl across the center of his chest slid away and fell soundlessly to the floor. Veiled yellow sunlight filtered into the dim room through small porthole windows near the roof. The row of computers at his desk whirred away pleasantly. A window at the corner of the central monitor gleamed in clean red letters he could read even without his glasses. Saturday, 10 AM.

There was a sour, dry taste in his mouth, but that was there every morning; he tended to sleep with his mouth open, and snore heavily. His scythe, damp with night-sweat, hung limp between his eyes. Dib pushed it back into place.

Oh man. Just a dream.

He kicked back the covers and glanced at the fallen pillow for a moment. It made sense, perfect sense. Everything fit. The smothered feeling, the inability to move; he'd read about these, about how the muscles of the body locked up in sleep. He must have had a moment of semi-lucid dreaming, maybe during the transition into REM sleep. Maybe he'd started to wake a little, but not enough to kick his brain back into full control, and in the confusion his admittedly overactive imagination ran away with him.


Or maybe Zim was using one of those rotten nightmare-inducers again...! Dib felt around the bed and patted down the nearest walls, but no concealed shapes, microphones, or alien devices made themselves apparent, either in or around the mattress, or behind the posters. Fine. He could spot-check the walls outside after breakfast. One of a number of small but increasing and urgently necessary daily rituals. When you lived in a state of war, eternal vigilance was required to keep up with the enemy.

Didn't mean he didn't resent Zim for forcing him to be eternally vigilant. "Stupid alien."

He picked up the fallen pillow and tossed it back to the bed, then put his feet on the ground and started pulling on his favorite clothes: Blue t-shirt, black jeans, black boots, and over these his signature nylon trench coat.

Dressed, he started for the hallway, then paused in alarm and sniffed the air.

It smelled like waffles.


Dib had used to like waffles, until that unfortunate day he'd planted the spy camera in Zim's house, and had watched the alien forcefeed plate after plate of the things to a captured human. After that, the very NOTION of waffles made Dib's guts turn sour.

Panic scenarios flickered through his head as he picked up speed and leapt down the stairs to the main floor. What if ZIM was down there? Or.. even worse, KEEF? Dib ran like his life was in danger until he skidded to a stop, panting wildly, at the kitchen doorway.

He was braced for the worst, for Gir at the counter and Zim at the table smirking that unforgivable knowitall superior SMIRK and the steaming plate of waffles full of... cheese, or whatever...

He was NOT prepared to see his father standing at the stove, tall and cheerful in his crisp white labcoat and aquamarine goggles.

"Ah, Dib! Good morning! Have a seat, they're almost ready!"

Dib deflated. "... Dad?"

Muahahahahaha! More to come.