Disclaimer: Viacom owns Dib, Zim, Gaz, Membrane, etc. The inspirational quote used in this story is by Martin Luther (if I'm not mistaken).

I could just not go, Dib thought as he trudged down the hall toward the counselor's office. No one would ever know. Yet a minute later he found himself in the old school kitchen, staring at the door to the walk-in closet cum counselor's office. As he quietly – but not silently – debated what to do next, the door opened and a fifth grader stepped out, giving him a cold look like the one Gaz gave him when she was in one of her better moods. A citrus scent and a strain of music wafted out the door as it swung shut.

Curiosity got the best of Dib. "I don't have to believe anything he says," he muttered to himself. "I won't believe him. I'll just see what he's like."

The new counselor had blue-green hair, and that was all Dib could see as the staff member bent behind the desk, perhaps to pick something up. The citrus almost covered the musty mold of the closet, and the spooky whispering no longer came from the vent – or else the New Age music drowned it out. Pictures of sunsets, lighthouses, eagles, penguins and other inspirational clichés hung wherever there were no pipes. The sunset picture had an inscription at the bottom: "Everything that is done in the world is done by hope."

Dib sighed.

The counselor's head popped up like a prairie dog. She was a young woman with a reddish-tan face and a pleasant smile, above which was a huge pimple. Thanks to Zim, Dib could no longer look at a zit without thinking of the flood of puss and the tiny sponge. His face twitched.

"Hello, I didn't hear you come in. I'm Missouri."

Dib raised his brow. "Come again?"

She pointed to her name plate. "Ms. Zurri."

"Oh." He shrugged. "I've heard worse."

Ms. Zurri chuckled. "That's true. I'm glad my name isn't Ms. Bitters."

"You read my file, didn't you," Dib said, noticing the monolithic block of papers on top of the file cabinet.

"I read some of it, yes." She reached for her laptop and turned down the music. Then she leaned forward with a serious expression. "I'm not here to pass judgment, Dib. I'm here to help."

"You can't help me."

"Why not?"

"The last counselor who tried to 'help' me lied to me and stole my camera."

"Mr. Dwicky?" she asked with wide eyes. "Really?"

"Yeah. I thought he was different, that he actually got it. Turned out he was stupid and condescending like everyone else." His anger flashed at the memory.

"I'm sorry to hear that, Dib. It must have been awful. Do you want to talk about it?"

There was probably a zero percent chance she would believe his story, but that had never stopped Dib from talking about the paranormal before. If people kept hearing about his discoveries, maybe they would start to view them as "normal," even if the didn't view them as truth. Dib clung to this meager hope, so he took a deep breath and began his story with Dwicky's lie. Ms. Zurri didn't interrupt and appeared to pay attention, nodding at appropriate times to show she heard and understood.

I wonder if I can keep talking all day, Dib thought. Will she sit there and nod the whole time?

He went on to tell what happened after Dwicky left, including the school election, the fiasco with the spelldrives and the Shadowhog, and the alien monster snatching Zim in front of the whole class. In the end his monolog ran over half an hour, and when he finished he felt weight fall from his shoulders – not all of the weight, but a sizeable chunk at least. He sat on the edge of the chair and stared at the counselor, who wore a worried frown beneath her whitehead. Hopefully this was a sign that she hadn't tuned him out, and Dib was encouraged in spite of his misgivings.

"So what do you think?"

She looked him in the eye. "I think you've been through a lot in two weeks, that much is plain. What concerns me most is that a staff member went to your house when your father wasn't home, and then took you into the middle of the woods! I don't want to scare you, but you could have been hurt."

Dib's mouth fell open halfway. He had told her about aliens and pig demons, yet she was more concerned about him being alone with a strange man. Did Ms. Zurri believe only the parts of his story that were scientifically possible, dismissing the rest as delusions? What made her sure he wasn't also delusional about Dwicky going into the woods with him?

Still, he admitted she had a point.

"I know I was gullible. Believe me, I won't make that mistake again."

"Good." She smiled. "I didn't think you would, but I wanted to make sure." She frowned again as she continued, "Now tell me more about Gaz. Has she always been this violent?"

"She's always thrown tantrums and hit people – usually me – but she's been a lot worse since the Shadowhog curse, even though it's lifted. I can't even be in the same room with her anymore."

"What does your father do when she acts out?"

Dib snorted. "Dad has no idea she's ever done anything wrong. He thinks she's a helpless little girl."

The counselor raised her eyebrows. "Have you told him what she's done?"

"I gave up a long time ago. He thought I exaggerated about how hard she hit, and that I should suck it up and be a man."

She rubbed her finger on her chin. "For an inventor, he sure has some old-fashioned views."

"I know. Like he expects me to follow in his footsteps and study 'Real Science.'" Dib folded his arms and rolled his eyes.

Ms. Zurri shook her head in sympathy. "You have to do what you want with your own life." She paused. "What's the likelihood that I could speak with your father?"

"Pretty slim. I've only spoken to him twice this week," he said with a shrug. "Anyway, he won't believe you about Gaz if that's what you want to talk to him about."

"Perhaps not. Still, I'd like to find out what his feelings and motivations are, and if necessary I'll try to help him see how he needs to change."

"Isn't it your job to tell me how to change?"

Ms. Zurri bent toward Dib. "My impression so far is you're a bright, enthusiastic boy with a strong spirit who wants all the best for the world. I wouldn't want you to change that for anything."

Dib stared in disbelief. Was he dreaming? He hadn't felt this way since…since Dwicky lied to him.

He swallowed and spoke through a tightened throat. "I don't know if you meant that, but even if you didn't, that's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me."

"I really mean it," She smiled gently.

"I want to believe you."

"I wouldn't lie to you, Dib," she said, spreading her hands.

"Really." Dib lowered his eyebrows. "Do you believe what I said about Zim?"

"I don't know," she confessed. "But I don't think you're crazy."

"So I'm a liar?"

"I didn't say that. I believe you saw some things that are," she put her finger over her pimple, "difficult to explain. But I would have to interview Zim myself to determine whether or not he's from another planet."

Dib was mollified, knowing he couldn't expect a more reasonable answer. "That's fair enough. Problem is, Zim's been missing for three days."

"The, uh, monster never brought him back?"

"No. I'm planning on going to his base today to find out if his robot knows anything about it."

"Be careful. Don't do anything dangerous or illegal."

Dib stood in his chair. "I'll take any risk to expose the truth about an alien race that wants to conquer the Earth. Here." He pulled a disc out of his coat and handed it to her. "Pictures of aliens and spaceships. I did dangerous and illegal things to get some of these shots," he said with a smirk.

"I see." The worried frown returned. "Just remember that you need to stay alive and well to find proof of alien life."

"I will." He jumped off the chair and strode to the door, throwing a look over his shoulder to say, "Thanks for listening."

Ms. Zurri's frown gave way to a smile. "Any time you want to vent, I'm here for you."

"Then I guess I'll be seeing you." Dib grinned and turned to open the door and stroll through the old kitchen, feeling better than he'd felt in weeks.