The Voice in the Tunnel
Authors Note: This fanfic is based entirely on the pictures of a comic I discovered online of South Park, a link to which can be found on my profile. Because I do not speak Japanese, I have no idea how to ask permission to put up this fic…but, I figure I can at least disclaimer it.
Original Idea belongs to Colt's Tail
South Park belongs to Comedy Central
I made a space before .com and .html so that FF .net would display it. To see the comic, click on the white words under the picture.
Enjoy the fic!
"Can I have your flowers?"
Stan stared into the darkness, startled by the voice that seemed to have come out of nowhere. His eyes peered into the gloom of the cave, a large, car tunnel entrance carved into the side of the mountain, long overrun and broken down by nature after years of lack of use. No matter how hard he stared, Stan could not make out any indication that there was anyone there at all, and he wondered if someone was playing a trick on him.
Thinking maybe he was just hearing things, he turned away to leave, when the voice called out, "So…no?"
"Whose there?" Stan called, feeling nervous. It wasn't so much that he was afraid, as unnerved. You should at least be able to see who you're talking too, right?
Clearly the voice felt otherwise, as it said in the thickness of the darkness, "I'm here. Now can I have your flowers or not?"
Stan looked down at the limp daisies that he had been collecting idly for the last fifteen minutes. His two friends, Kyle and Cartman, were both off doing other things that day, and so Stan with nothing to do, thought he might explore the mountain side. He had been considering bringing the flowers back to his girlfriend, Wendy, but without hesitation offered them to the voice, stretching out his hand towards the darkness, "Sure, whatever. Here."
Stan watched carefully as, out of the darkness, a pair of hands slowly reached out and grabbed the flowers, before disappearing back in again. He blinked a couple of times, sure his eyes were playing tricks on him, as it had looked like that even out in the sunlight, the hands had been surrounded by darkness, as if it were a clinging, physical matter rather than just a light tone.
"Thank you," the voice said cheerfully, the flowers form disappearing amongst its fold, and Stan raised an eyebrow when he heard the noise, subtle, but at the same time obnoxious, of someone taking a deep breath. The voice was smelling the flowers, and deeply too.
"What do you want with flowers anyway?" Stan asked the voice, kicking the dirt lightly with the tip of his toe, wondering if the voice was done with him and if he should be on his way.
"I'm trying to get high," the voice said playfully, followed by another deep sniff.
Stan blanched, realizing that this whole thing was just a druggie looking for a fix. "Dude! Weak! Don't you know that's bad for you? Besides, flowers don't get you high, numbnuts. What are you doing in there? Why don't you just come out and get your own god damned flowers?"
The voice didn't answer, but there was a sudden, strong feeling of sadness in the air. Stan frowned at the darkness, feeling increasingly awkward as the silence dragged on, before he began to feel guilty. Had he hurt the voices feelings?
"The flowers have already lost their scent," the voice suddenly said quietly, "Nothing ever lasts here…"
The voice sounded so dejected that Stan was only able to hold out for a few minutes before saying in a quick rush, "Look, I'll go get you more flowers, okay?"
"Really?!" The voice cried, ecstatic, and it was the first time that Stan noticed that the voice was young, probably his own age. The next time Stan brought the flowers, he was able to see more of the voices hands. They still had that strange, frightening blackness to them, but it was like they became more real the more he looked at them. He noticed through the blackness that the voice wasn't wearing any gloves, a common accessory for a people that lived in the frigid air of the mountains. For some reason, this bothered him, but he decided not to dwell on it as he ran off to collect more flowers.
He collected flowers three more times before noticing the sun was going down, realizing with shock that two hours had managed to go by. He told the voice, "Um…I've got to go home…shouldn't you be going home too?"
"…I don't know…" the voice whispered, sounding a touch confused, "I…probably. Maybe I'll go…home…soon." The voice theorized, not sounding at all sure about the matter. As Stan turned to leave, the ghost called out, "Are you coming back?"
Stan bit his lower lip, not at all sure he should, before finally saying, "Sure."
It could have been his eyes playing tricks on him, but in the darkness, Stan thought he might have seen a smile.
Stan had thought about telling Kyle and Cartman of his recent discovery, but something had kept him silent all the next day, and when his friends asked him to hang out after school, he found himself making excuses before running off into the mountain. On the way he stopped by the town's flower store, and bought a mixed bundle. It was the cheapest the store had, but the flowers were still better than the ones Stan could find on the mountain side. He knew he had made the right decision when he heard a squeal of joy from the darkness at the sight of them.
This time, when the hands reached out, they were not so dark, and Stan could make out the dulled color of the coat that circled the arms. It was an orange color, a much lighter shade then his friend Kyle's orange jacket, and when he saw it Stan had to fight a sudden, intense desire to grab the sleeves and pull the voice out of the darkness, just so that he could see who he was talking too. The opportunity to do so came and went though as the arms disappeared back into the darkness. This time, though, Stan could still make out the flowers, and a soft, dim image of someone holding them to their face. As Stan had suspected, the size was consistent with someone of his age group. Other than that and the color of his jacket, Stan couldn't make anything else out.
"Thanks for the flowers," the voice whispered gratefully, its dim fingers touching the petals delicately. Stan noticed that the flower shook in its grip, as did the petal that its trembling fingers brushed against. Stan was about to ask if the voice was cold before he, as the voice most certainly belonged to a male, teased, "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were trying to wooe me."
Stan grinned, wondering how Wendy would react if she heard that; he wondered how she's react at his reply. "Dang, you caught me. Is it working?"
The voice sniffed the flower, and again Stan could make out something in the darkness that could have been a smile. "Flowers are the essence of life, you know." The voice said softly, taking another deep sniff, before adding sadly, "they never last long here."
Stan considered this, before asking, "Hey…what are you really doing with those flowers?"
"I told you," the voice said simply, taking another deep breath. The flowers shook in his hands. "I'm trying to get high."
The next day, after bringing the voice more flowers, Stan asked the voice what his name was. The reason he asked was that overnight, the voice seemed to have become more solid, to the point where Stan was starting to get a good idea of what he looked like. It was a blond kid, definitely nine years old like himself, wearing an orange hooded parka. The kid would often fiddle with the strings to his hood while he talked, his bare fingers pale against the orange cloth, and he wore a big, wide smile that delighted Stan when he saw it. Now that he pretty much had a person, he felt it was time he had a name.
The voice hummed slightly, contemplating the question before admitting, with little concern, "I don't know."
Stan's eyes widened, startled. "You don't know? How could you not know? It's your name, dude. Don't you have one?"
More fiddling with his hood strings as the blond boy considered this, "I…think I do. I think I might have had a lot of things once. A name, a home, frie-…" the boy's pleasant smile dropped away completely as he said, in a monotone voice, "It doesn't matter. Things don't last long here." The boy's hands trembled.
Stan looked at the tunnel walls and the darkness that pressed against the boy's body and felt a sudden, deep hatred for them. It was a hatred bordering on rage, at these things that kept the voice inside, away from everything, away from Stan, that he suddenly wanted to scream and cry and throw a fit at the injustice of it.
But knowing that wasn't what the voice needed, Stan swallowed his anger and smiled at the boy, who had been staring at him curiously in the silence.
"You don't have to stay in there, you know." Stan finally said, once his emotions were under control, "If you don't have anywhere to go, you can come home…with me. I'm sure my parents won't mind, and I bet my friends would love you."
That wide, all consuming smile returned, "You…you think so?"
Stan nodded vigorously, growing more and more excited with the idea, "Definitely! I can show you all around South Park, and you can meet my friends, and I don't mind sharing a room with you…come on!" Stan said, thrusting a hand out, his fingertips just grazing the darkness, "Come with me!"
The boy smiled, and extended his hand out grab Stan's…and then it fell away. Stan watched as the boy seemed to suddenly recoil backwards, his smile replaced with an expression of fright that quickly dove down into gloom as the boy protectively wrapped his arms around himself.
"You should go, Stan." The voice whispered, "Don't…don't bring me any more flowers. Just go away Stan."
Stan wasn't sure why his eyes suddenly dipped so low, but for the first time he noticed that all the flowers he had brought, both the mountain flowers and the store flowers, had all fallen to the voices feet. They were bright, and pretty…and looked like they hadn't been touched in days. The ones from three days ago had started to wilt.
Stan's eyes then raised from the flowers to the boys arms, which he had allowed to fall to his sides. The boys hands were trembling; then, as if a switch in his brain had been flipped, he remembered why.
Stan ran away.
The voice didn't call after him this time.
It was three days before Stan got the courage to go back. During those three days he had been a wreck, silent and brooding, to the point where his friends had thought he had broken up with his girlfriend, and his girlfriend had thought he had been fighting with his friends. He had corrected neither group, deciding they could draw whatever conclusions they liked, so long as they left him alone to think.
He knew what he had to do.
The mountain was particularly cold that day. A snow storm was coming.
Stan ran up to the tunnel and stopped, peering inside desperately for the familiar figure. For a moment he was afraid that he had been too late, and that the boy had faded back into darkness, but then the corner of his eyes caught a shift of movement, and he sighed in relief as he saw the boy sitting down against the wall, his hood up protectively over his face as his knees curled into his chest, held still by his own arms. His back was turned slightly towards the exit, though he couldn't seem to resist turning his head to peer over his shoulder at Stan's sudden return; all in all, it looked as if he were trying to make himself as small as possible.
Stan smiled sadly, "You always put your hood up when you were scared. You were scared all the time…" He paused before adding softly, "You had good reason to be."
The boy seemed to curl into himself more at being directly spoken too. His whole body was shaking, and his eyes were wide with fright…but he couldn't help but whisper in a small, shaking voice, "You…know me?"
Stan nodded, stepping closer to the darkness as the boy curled into himself more, half hiding his face into his own arms, though he kept his frightened eyes on Stan as he said, "Of course I know you…I've known you my entire life…" Stan closed his eyes, feeling little flecks of cold on his face as the sky began to lightly snow, as he continued on, "You…went away on a day like this. Snowing, I mean. Me, Kyle and Cartman…we were all busy, doing…something. I can't even remember. So you went off into the mountains exploring…and you didn't come back."
"Don't say this…" the boy whispered, staring in terror into the darkness, "Don't say this…"
Stan went on regardless, still remembering. "They found you the next day…here, right here…how could I have forgotten…" Stan frowned, feeling his eyes well up at the memory, "It was too late already. You had gone the night before. Everybody figured you had gotten lost in the snow, and had stayed here for refuge against the cold. It might have worked, you might have lasted long enough to be rescued, but…" Stan opened his eyes and looked down at the boy, pity welling inside of him as he whispered, "You're hands were black…you had lost your gloves in the snow."
The boy looked down at his soft white hands, first in puzzlement, then in wonder as he the boy whispered in awe, "I…I couldn't keep them warm. I tried everything, but I…" his hands trembled, and the boy held them close to his chest, knowing it would do nothing to end the shakes.
Stan looked down at his own gloves, a bright red color to match his hat, before quietly pulling them off. Stan walked as close to the darkness as he could, before holding them out, quietly offering them the way he had the flowers that the boy had six days ago begged for. The boy looked at him warily, but uncurled himself, reaching out for the gloves, just barely grasping them at the bit before the light. He looked at them a moment before quickly putting them on, staring at them in wondered bafflement. His hands stopped shaking.
A grateful, relieved smile spread across the boys face, "Warm…so warm…thank you Stan."
Stan smiled at his friend's clear joy, before shock spread over his features as the boy said hopefully, "Maybe they'll come now…I can make it…maybe they'll come soon…"
Stan bowed his head, curling his arms around himself as he tried to protect his own bare hands against the cold as, hesitantly and sadly he whispered, "…Kenny."
Kenny froze, being perfectly still for a long time before looking over at his friend gravely.
Stan continued on, not looking Kenny in the eyes, "No one's coming Kenny…and I haven't saved your hands. I can't give you those gloves, any more then I could give you those flowers." At this, Stan pointed at the floor, where the gloves, the same ones that Kenny was now wearing, laid. Around the gloves was every flower that Kenny had gently held, basking in their aroma, now curled and wilting, unused. It was pretty, in a very sad sort of way.
Kenny looked down at the gloves dispassionately, his gloved hands curling into fists at his sides as he whispered, his voice choked with unshed tears, "No one's coming…they're not going to make it…and neither did I…"
Stan frowned, considering it before asking, "Kenny, do you remember me? Do you remember anything?"
Kenny closed his eyes and thought about it. He remembered. He remembered class, ignoring Mr. Garrison as he read a dirty magazine under the desk, Kyle…Kyle, with his green hat, and a voice that was always lecturing, and eyes that were always concerned…leaning over to remark dryly at his interest of reading material.
He remembered recess, where all the boys in their fourth grade class would get together to play football, every day. He had been a catcher. He hadn't been great at it, but he had been better than the other teams catcher, which was all Kenny had ever hoped for.
He remembered Cartman- big, fat Cartman- who Kenny had despised utterly, and had yet felt the closest too for some reason. Cartman, the boy who would throw lives away for restaurants, who would discriminate against people of different financial classes…who always, always knew how to make Kenny laugh, even when the hooded boy was furious with him.
Kenny opened his eyes. "I remember. How could I forget…" Kenny paused, and then looked at Stan blankly, "…how could you forget?"
Stan let his head drop as he confessed, "…I don't know. It's like…you died, and then you stopped existing. I don't even think you have a grave, Kenny…" Stan whispered in horror, it suddenly occurring to him to wonder what they had done with the body after they had found it. Had the adults forgotten Kenny too, misplaced him in the snow? Would he stumble upon the remains one day, half eaten away…or did the body disappear when the memory of Kenny did?
"Why would we forget you, Kenny?" Stan asked miserably, utterly sincere as he said, "we…we loved you, Kenny. How did we forget you?"
For a moment, Kenny seemed to disappear into the darkness, as if frightened away, before fading back into the light as he whispered, "They're trying to get rid of me."
Stan gulped, "Kenny…"
Kenny curled into himself again as he said, partly to himself and partly to Stan, "They are. They always have been. They hate me because of the way I was designed. They hate me because no matter how much they hate me, they can never get rid of me. They designed me that way, and they hate me for it. Those…they designed me, and hate me for that design!"
Stan frowned in fear. He was raised to believe in one God almighty: a God that he felt perfectly comfortable sinning against and speaking his name in vain constantly. Yet Kenny's talks of these two….men? Gods? Whatever…these things that 'designed him', that apparently hated him, frightened Stan to the point where he looked at the sky warily for stray thunder bolts. All there was, was the snow. Which, when you thought about it, was probably just as bad.
Kenny continued on in sullen horror, "How sick is that, Stan? Everyday…since the day I was born, they've tried to fix their 'mistake'. They curse my name! As if it's my fault Stan, as if it's my fault that they went ahead and made something as screwed up as me!"
Stan looked at Kenny despairingly, wishing there was something he could do to bring his friend some comfort, something worth more than the smell of flowers or the warmth of gloves.
Kenny suddenly barked out a laugh, "But I've been beating them. I've been fighting. I…I wanted to live, so bad, Stan…and I was winning! They had tried everything imaginable, and they still couldn't get rid of me! I was winning!"
Stan smiled helplessly, trying to show support, wanting to say "Good! Keep fighting! We don't want you to go. Don't you know Kenny? Kyle cried every time you left. Every damn time! And you were the only one that understood Cartman, really understood him, and he knew it, and he needs you for that! And I…I need you Kenny! South Park wouldn't be the same without you…South Park wouldn't be South Park without you!"
Stan wanted to say all that, but when he opened his mouth to speak, all that came out was, "Who are 'they', Kenny?"
Kenny looked up at Stan. "Don't you know, Stan?" It was the closest Stan had ever seen Kenny to bursting out into tears, though his voice was solid and even as he said, "They're the bastards that killed me."
Stan blinked, and this time Kenny really was gone, rather than hiding in the corner. His body had melted back into the darkness, the silence all consuming, but Stan knew his friend was still there. It was part of his design. Kenny could not die.
He could only be forgotten.
"…come home with me Kenny." Stan finally said, standing as close to the darkness as he dared, "Please. Let me take you home."
Kenny didn't reply immediately, but when he did, his voice was soft, and distant, "No…I'm done, Stan. They win. The last time…the last time was so cold, Stan…and I was so scared…no more, Stan. I can't handle anymore. Let the bastards do what they want…I'm so tired, Stan, I'm so tired…Just go home."
Stan's mouth formed into a thin line. "No. I won't forget you Kenny. I'm sorry, I know you're tired, that you're ready to go…but I'm not ready to let you go. None of us are."
Kenny laughed. It echoed against the tunnel walls. It made Stan's hair stand on end. "Oh Stan…you don't have a choice. None of us ever did."
And then Kenny was gone.
Stan looked around and blinked. What was he doing up in the mountains? Kyle and Cartman were off doing stuff with their families, and he had gotten bored… Stan felt a sudden shiver go up his spine, and he looked down, baffled to see he wasn't wearing his gloves. Looking around to see if they had fallen off, he spotted them in an old car tunnel, surrounded by a bunch of old flowers. Without hesitation, he stepped into the darkness and grabbed his gloves, paying the flowers no attention as he slipped them back on.
Then, just as easily as he had stepped into the shadows, he stepped out.
Stan looked up at the sky and realized he was going to be late for dinner. Just before he decided to head out, he looked back into the tunnel, at the flowers that lay all over the floor. Going back, he reached in, and for no reason at all, took a fresh looking one, and sniffed it.
He smiled at the pleasant aroma, suddenly remembering the time he had seen someone actually get high, just by sniffing flowers. 'Getting wasted on life', as Cartman had delicately put it.
Stan frowned. Now who was it he had seen doing that…?
Stan felt a chill from a passing wind, and decided it wasn't important. He dropped the flower, went running home, and never felt curious enough to visit the tunnel again.