Disclaimer: This story contains characters and situations not claimed by the author. These are copyrights of one or more of the following: SEGA, DiC, and Archie Comics. This story is copyright Sam Durbin, a.k.a. Bryon Nightshade, and is bound by all applicable laws and statutes.
On the screen of the movie theater, one series was displayed.
It wasn't a long series, but many found it compelling. And although the series was cancelled early in its life, it just kept on running. Over and over in that theater, it ran and ran.
It kept running because people kept watching it.
"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" has a cult following, a group of people who devote themselves to watching and becoming one with the movie. This group of people was somewhat different. They didn't reenact the one show endlessly; they added to it, using threads and pieces of it and expanding. Sequels, prequels, stories in between, stories that featured certain characters, stories of alternate futures and pasts—stories of every genre and emotion and quality. They built a foundation of their own, with the series as its centerpiece. The theater buzzed with their chatter, and the screen flickered ever on.
Nothing lasts forever. And because of the stunted development of the series, even its compelling nature couldn't keep it intact.
Slowly, but surely, the people in the theater began to wander out. Very few became fed out and stormed out; more commonly, an individual would tire, or find something else to do, or would discover that their feet were taking them out and they hadn't the heart to stop. Many, tragically, took their stories with them.
Still the show ran on, repeating and repeating. As the fans aged, their stories grew longer and more sophisticated—with the result that new fans refused to read them. With each run of the series, the theater grew quieter and the projector grew dimmer. People left far faster than they arrived.
Outside the theater, clamor grew. A growing crowd of people demanded that the theater shut down. Their motivations were unimportant, though often petty; but their noise encouraged some of the viewers to depart, and they grew louder at every turn.
Some of the theater-goers took a far darker path with their stories; others turned it into an object of derision. The lifeblood oozed from the theater.
Until, one day, an unearthly quiet came over the theater. The hall was all-but-deserted now; although the foundation of the stories was intact, few new pieces were being added.
One more viewer rose, looking for someone to share his stories with, when the screen blinked out. When he turned to it, confused, the images he saw were unfamiliar to him. He sat down, dread growing in his heart, raptly attending to this one, final story.
Sonic and Sally walked at the border of life and death.
To their left, the Great Forest. Home. Sanctuary. Safety in the anonymity of the trees.
To their right, Robotropolis. Danger. Death. The blot of the world, poisons spewing forth.
Neither animal had spoken for long minutes. They walked together in silence and melancholy, smashing down the dead grass as they went.
"Y'know," said Sonic at last, "this sucks."
Sally had to crack a wry grin. "We knew it would happen sooner or later," she said.
"I coulda handled it some other way," he said. "But why does it have to e… e…" he was unable to say the words. He sighed and tried again. "Why like this?"
Sally shook her head slowly. "It had to be like this. Like I said, we knew that."
"What's up with you?" Sonic said, turning on her. "Why are you so… fatalistic? This ain't you, it's not how you are! That was always how we worked," he said, voice becoming desperate. "The two of us jamming together, keepin' each other in the mix. But this… why're you buyin' it?"
Sally bent down, taking the lifeless weeds in her hands. "This is a battle we can't fight. It's beyond us. Fans are almost as important to us as each other. They can give us life beyond our original stories, and if they decide we should…"
"Don't say it," Sonic bit.
She chuckled. "I've always liked it when you're feisty," she said, "but it's time to stop fighting. This is the end."
Sonic winced at the words, then his head drooped. "I just wish… I wish we coulda gone out fightin'. It ol' Buttnik beats us fair and square, that's one thing. But for him to win by default…"
"He doesn't win, either," said Sally. "His fate's the same as ours."
"You know what I mean," said Sonic, annoyed.
They walked a bit further. The sky overhead roiled, a stormfront coming into contact with the haze of Robotropolis' pollution. The two forces battled it out, the clouds meeting and joining and clashing.
"We had a good run," said Sonic, a half-hearted smile on his face. "Fightin' and winning, chasing, escaping, you rescuin' me and me rescuin' you… I remember the time…" he trailed off. What was the use of quoting something to Sally? She'd been there, every time, the two of them.
Sally was in front. Sonic watched as she moved away from him, unaware that he'd stopped. He took a few large steps and turned her around. "Sal," he said, desperation rising. "I… all this time, I… I never really said…"
That wry smile again. "You're not getting wishy-washy, are you, Sonic Hedgehog?" she said.
"I…" he began, but she placed a finger on his lips.
"It's alright," she said, caressing his cheek. "Don't say anything."
"Then what?" he whispered.
"Just hold me," she said, slipping into his arms. "Hold me… one last time."
He did. They embraced, there on the line between life and death, that familiar sensation of fur-on-fur the only thing on their minds.
After long moments, Sonic felt Sally jerk towards him. He backed off, looking at her with eyes wide from concern. She managed a weak smile as she wobbled on weak knees, and a small trickle of blood emerged from her mouth.
And then the flood came.
They came like ants, seemingly out of nowhere, swarming in larger and larger numbers, dozens of them. None of them could have scratched Sally on their own; they weapons were crude, blunt, and unsophisticated. But altogether, with their numbers and their vigor and their hatred, they buried her beneath their feverish assault.
Sonic was paralyzed, unable to do anything—what could he do, anyway? There were too many of them, too set on their task.
The stormfront above had been absorbed fully by the polluted haze by the time the mob was satisfied. They backed off from the scene of their crime. Nothing remained but a red slick on the ground, though each of them had blood at least on their hands.
They began congratulating each other.
This one called himself a fan; this one called herself a writer. Names were unnecessary because none of them could have done it alone. But with a united purpose, they'd done what they'd wanted to do.
The mood was light and happy, almost joyous—until they heard a soft sound nearby. The members of the mob turned slowly towards Robotropolis. There was Sonic, lying on his knees and sobbing, his hand on the cheek the former princess had touched just moments ago.
The crowd became unsettled, losing its certainty and drive upon seeing the grief-stricken hedgehog. He looked up at them with flooding eyes. "But why?" he said between sobs.
"So that you could be happy," said one of the swarm.
Sonic wailed, stumbled to his feet, fell down but came up again, and finally ran off, leaving nothing of himself but a cloud of dust and a trail of tears.
A hush fell over the crowd—and then a new blue blur arrived. It was Sonic—but this Sonic has green eyes, swept-back quills, and a rubbery smile.
"Man, what was with him?" said the new Sonic, looking down the track of the old. "What a lamer."
All remorse vanished instantaneously. The mob immediately forgot the blood on their hands at the sight of their idol. "Sonic!" they exclaimed, as one.
"Whoops," said Sonic. "Looks like I've got a fan club. I'm outta here." He ran off, and the swarm followed, leaving smears of crimson on the ground.
The screen of the theater went solid white, the color of a spent reel. The last theater-goer sighed in sadness—then chided himself. Just like Sonic and Sally, he'd known this was coming. It was inevitable. He just wished it hadn't been… like that.
The projector shut off. Outside, the crowd roared in approval.
He found it within himself to stand; he wandered towards the exit, taking long routes and stopping by familiar, empty seats. At last he found himself by the door. He looked long and hard at the dead screen, as if waiting for something to appear—which he knew wouldn't.
"And so the world ends," he recited, "not with a bang, but with a whimper."
He hit the light-switch and shut the door behind him.