I sighed deeply. I turned the page of the journal, smelling the dust and ancient scents that came from it. Holding back a yawn, I raised the black light to the empty page I had turned to. Nothing showed. The page was empty. I rubbed my eyes and looked up.
“Dipper, don’t let this kill you,” Mabel warned. I looked at her across the room. She looked worried.
“I’m sorry Mabel,” I responded. “Ever since Bill tricked me and destroyed the laptop, I’ve been trying to find something else that reveals who the author is and just what this town is hiding. I don’t want to leave Gravity Falls empty handed.”
“Just get some sleep. You can think better and do more exploring if you do,” Mabel suggested. “If you want, we can go back to the author’s bunker tomorrow and investigate more.”
“I would like that,” I agreed. “Thanks, Mabel.”
Mabel smiled, pulled the covers over her arms, and turned her back to me. It wasn’t long before her breaths eased into long sighs. The room suddenly became peaceful, and I could hear the crickets chirping outside.
There has to be something else that the author has besides that laptop. If it isn’t in that bunker, I don’t know where it would be or what I’d do, I thought, closing the journal and placing it next to me. I glanced at it one more time before closing my eyes and going to sleep.
I woke up to darkness. The only fleeting glimpse of light I could see was the stars through the triangular window. What time is it? I thought, sitting up and looking around. I could hear Mabel snoring slightly across from me. I looked at the nightstand near my bed to see that the journal was still sitting untouched on it. Moonlight slanted in through the window and glinted off the golden, six-fingered hand plaque attached to the cover of the journal. The glint gleamed in my eye. I scooted the journal away from the moonlight’s reach and rested my head back on the soft pillow. I closed my eyes and tried to drift back to sleep.
After tossing in my bed for a few minutes I sat up again and threw the covers off of my legs. I can’t wait anymore, I thought. I fumbled in the darkness until I found my flashlight. When I found it, I flicked it on and searched for my shoes. I slipped them on silently and continued to put on my hat and vest. I grabbed the journal and put it safely in my vest. Carefully, I crept out of the room. Before I could open the door, I was stopped by a small snort. My heart rate spiked up and chills ran up my spine. I shone the flashlight down near the floor to see Waddles staring back up at me. He snorted and tilted his head to the side.
“Shh!” I hissed to the pig. “I’ll be back soon, don’t worry. Just…don’t tell Mabel or Stan. No one needs to know I did this.” I opened the door and walked out. Did I just talk to a pig? I thought. Ignoring that thought, I continued forward.
When I had made it to the secret passage, I looked up at the tree branch lever that towered over my head. I hadn’t thought of how I was going to reach it. I turned around to the denser part of the woods. If I could find a vine I could use it as a rope to reach the branch. I shined the flashlight down a row of trees. The flashlight shone a cone of faint yellow light that illuminated the first few trees and quickly ended in a black hole of darkness.
Yeesh. This place was creepy enough in the day, I thought. I inhaled deeply, gathering my courage. Exhaling shakily, I walked into the woods. I flinched at every crack my feet made over the branches littering the ground. Are there even any vines in this forest? I wondered, flinching as I stepped on a twig that snapped loudly beneath my foot. I froze and waited for a while before continuing forward again.
My thoughts scattered as a long, mournful howl rang through the night sky. I needed to turn back or I would definitely be attacked by wolves. I turned around and hurried back quickly. The sooner I got out of there and back into the clearing, the better.
I heard a sudden plopping sound. On instinct, I turned the flashlight towards the sound to see that the source had most likely been a dusty old rope that lay on the ground before my feet. I looked suspiciously from side to side. That rope had not been there before; meaning I wasn’t alone out here. I thought twice about taking the rope when I decided to grab it as I passed it. There was no other way I was going to find a way to get that lever without injuring myself or finding the help of someone that I didn’t want finding out I was out here.
When I made it back to the tree I grabbed the end of the rope and tossed it towards the lever. It took a few tries before I finally managed to wrap the rope around the branch. I grabbed both ends of the rope and pulled as hard as I could. I needed to pull extra hard before the lever finally gave in to my strength and switched open. The bunker opened in a cacophony of squeaks and squeals. I stared down at the dirty, desolate hole before going down the creaky, wooden stairs into the strange fallout shelter. Before I entered the shelter, I thought I heard a laugh echo through the night. As I listened more, I noticed that it was just another wolf’s howl. I shrugged. I was just being paranoid.
I entered the fallout shelter, looking around for anything suspicious. There was nothing to be found except for his sixty year supply he’d had hanging on his shelves. I checked everywhere, but I couldn’t find anything. Sighing, I moved forward into the next room. I searched around the computers for anything. I shone the light towards the strange metal door to the room the Shapeshifter was in. I shuddered and turned away from the door.
Another laugh broke through the air. It reverberated around the small room. I looked around. There was no way I could have heard a wolf’s howl from in here. I could tell that it was a laugh. As the laugh died, another one exploded through the room. I could tell it was closer now. I looked around nervously. I knew now that I was not alone.
“Not to burst your bubble kid, but you’re not going to find anything here!” A familiar voice broke the laughter. My blood froze. I could recognize that voice from anywhere. I felt wind whip my vest. Hiding my fear, I glared into the air as wind swirled around me and formed in a ball in front of me. The ball turned solid white and a thin black chasm split through it. Once the slit formed, it stared at me. A triangle formed around it, and I knew what I was up against; but I was not afraid.
“Bill Cipher,” I growled.
Sunlight touched my face. I sat up in my bed and stretched. Waddles snorted ecstatically and tackled me, burying his snout in my face. Giggling and fighting Waddles back, I crashed off my bed onto the floor. It was then that Waddles finally broke away. I sat up and looked over to see Dipper still hidden deep under his covers. There was the small rise and fall of his chest, showing that he was fast asleep.
He must’ve been up all night reading again, I thought, rolling my eyes and laughing to myself. I was glad that I became able to sleep through his summer reading. I stood up and walked over to his bed. I was about to punch him when he turned towards me and opened his eyes. He stared at me with yellow eyes accompanied with thin, slit pupils. Surprised, I backed up.
“Hello, Mabel,” He welcomed. He sounded the same as he always had, but something about his eyes seemed off. Without another word, he stood up and left the room. I exchanged a confused glance with Waddles. He looked at me and snorted, his ears flapping up.
“You’re right, Waddles. Something is off about Dipper,” I agreed. Waddles gave another small exhale. “I think so too. I’m sure that’s nothing to worry about! You’re good today, Waddles. Come on, let’s go get something to eat. I’m starving!”
Waddles followed me down to the kitchen where Grunkle Stan was sitting staring at a newspaper. Dipper was nowhere to be seen. I walked over to the table and took my seat. I grabbed a box of cereal and poured a bowl. Stan flicked his paper without a word. It was unlike him to not at least make a noise.
“Good morning Grunkle!” I welcomed, trying to get his attention. He just grunted and flicked the paper again. I hooked my finger over the top of Stan’s paper and pulled it down. “Are you trying to avoid eye contact again?”
“What do you want, kid?” Stan asked, turning away from me. He rolled the newspaper and clamped it under his arm. He hopped out of the chair and started to walk away. “Can’t anyone get any peace around here?”
I flopped back down into my chair. Waddles had stolen my bowl of cereal and was beginning to eat in it. He snorted loudly. “I know Waddles. Everyone is acting weird today. Lots of people probably just didn’t get a lot of sleep last night,” I assumed. I giggled to myself. “What next? Is Soos going to end up coming to work late, and is Wendy going to come to work early?”
“Hey everyone,” Wendy welcomed, walking into the Mystery Shack’s door and taking her position behind the register. She wasn’t carrying a magazine, and she wasn’t putting her feet up on the counter like she normally did.
“Wendy. It’s not even eight o’ clock yet,” I pointed out.
“Yeah, so?” Wendy wondered.
“Nothing,” I replied. This was the time that Soos normally came in. “Dipper..?”
“What is it, Mabel?” Dipper responded. I looked over to see that Dipper was standing right next to me. I jumped slightly in my chair. Dipper tilted his head to the side. His eyes haunted me. “Is something wrong?” His voice sounded concerned, but his eyes didn’t change.
“Oh…it’s nothing…” I murmured, looking down at Waddles. Then I remembered the promise I had made with Dipper. Lightening up, I turned back towards him. I avoided his eyes. “Hey! Do you think you want to go check out the bunker again now?”
“What are you talking about?” Dipper asked.
“What do you mean what am I talking about?” I laughed. “Don’t you remember me saying that we should go check out if the author has anything else in the bunker last night?”
Dipper looked at the ceiling. He thought for a few moments before laughing to himself. “I don’t remember you saying anything like that. You must’ve dreamt it,” He responded.
“Well, come on! Let’s at least crack open that journal and go mystery hunting!” I suggested.
“Mabel, are you feeling alright?” Dipper wondered. “You’re not acting like yourself. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
I didn’t respond. I didn’t know how to respond. Suddenly, I saw a yellow flash behind Dipper. I had blinked before I could get a good look at it. When I opened my eyes, nothing was there. I blinked several times and rubbed my eyes. What journal? Why was I talking about a journal? I thought to myself.
“Yeah. Sorry, Dipper. I don’t know where I was going with that. You want to go do something?” I glanced briefly at his right arm that was nothing but a stump. He had been born without a right arm, which limited him from doing a lot of things. “Something that won’t be too hard for you anyway.”
“Sure. At least until Stan makes us work,” Dipper answered.
“Yep,” I replied, looking down at Waddles again.
“Well, well. Look who strayed a little too far from home on his own. What a lucky find,” Bill taunted, twirling his small cane. I backed away from Bill, keeping my arm pressed to my vest until I could feel the edges of the journal against my arm. I was not going to let him trick me into anything again.
“Just cut to the chase, Bill,” I ordered, watching him cautiously.
“What chase is there to cut to? All I wanna do is talk to you,” Bill responded.
“Nice try, but there’s no way I’m going to fall for that again,” I declared.
“Who’s falling around here?” Bill wondered. He laughed slightly to himself. “But seriously. I do recently recall making a deal with you that I would tell you the secrets and mysteries of the universe if you simply let me use you as a puppet for a while.”
“Not likely. If you had said it that way, there was no way I would have agreed to it,” I growled.
“You didn’t hesitate to look into the details of that deal. If I recall, someone was very desperate to find the password of that laptop without thinking twice about the consequences,” Bill pointed out.
“Whatever you’re playing at, I’m ending it now,” I confirmed, turning towards the exit and stomping away. A loud snap echoed through the room and the door slammed shut. Bill floated in front of me, causing me to back up.
“But I haven’t…what did you say, “cut to the chase” yet,” Bill claimed. I backed up a few more steps and rested my hand protectively on the journal. “I just wanted to say I can grant you those secrets of the universe if you let me be you for a day.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Whatever it is, I won’t agree to it. If what you mean is anything like you’ve already done to me, then I won’t do anything you ask,” I declined.
“But I haven’t gotten to the best part yet,” Bill convinced. “The best part is that I will tell you all of the secrets of Gravity Falls. The one thing that you want to find out before you have to return home.”
I hesitated for a moment. If what Bill was saying was true, then I could find out the one thing I’d wanted to figure out since I found the journal. My grip on the journal loosened. Suddenly, I remembered when Bill had said I was getting too close to learning some major things that would ruin Bill’s plans. I tightened my grip on the journal and backed away.
“I won’t do it! You can’t make me do anything!” I yelled. I pushed past Bill. Just before I could reach the door, cold fingers wrapped around my throat.
“Sorry, kid. You’re already too far into this!” Bill laughed. The fingers tightened around my throat, and a strong force threw me backwards. The side of my head collided with the far wall and my sight immediately went fuzzy. I felt a warm liquid run down the side of my head. It only took a few more moments before my sight faded to black and I landed on the cold ground and lost consciousness.
I woke up slowly to the sound of banging. I looked up to see I was restrained to the walls by strange metal bands around my wrists and ankles. The metal rubbed against my skin, turning it red and even tearing it in a few places. I looked down to notice that my vest and hat were also missing.
“Well…what do you think?” I heard Bill ask. I looked up to see that he looked almost exactly like me. The only difference was that his eyes were yellow with thin, black slits. “Do I not make a convincing Dipper?”
I just glared at him. I had no idea what he was playing at, but I was going to stop it. Bill laughed. “I know what you’re thinking. And there’s no way you’ll be able to stop me. All I need to do now is add my own little “flare” to this.” He paused for a minute, looking at the ceiling. He gasped, pointing a finger to the sky. “I know!”
He held out his right arm parallel to the ground. His mouth grew into a twisted grin and, within seconds, his right arm disappeared into nothing. A sharp, stabbing pain split through my right shoulder and all down my arm. Hot tears burned my eyelids, and I fought to hold them back. Bill laughed again. He looked down at his stump for an arm.
“Not bad for a first time disguiser, am I right?” He wondered. I couldn’t say anything between my torn, heavy rasps. Pain was searing through my arm although Bill hadn’t done anything to it. “Now all I need to do is brainwash everyone in Gravity Falls and convince them that this is the real you!” As he spoke, his voice slowly started to sound like mine.
“NO!” I screamed. I could not do anything as Bill disappeared in a frenzy of echoing cackles. I heard the sky explode with thunder overhead, and everything around me shook as though I was in an earthquake.
I stared through the staff only door at Soos as he sat on a chair and leaned back lazily into it. He ignored a customer as they asked him a question. I wasn’t sure if he had even talked yet. I shifted my gaze over to Wendy, who was tending to a customer, smiling and talking.
I had no idea what was happening. Dipper stood next to me, his hands in the pockets of his vest. His eyes remain the same: Haunting and almost lifeless. But I could sense the worry in his body language. I looked at his stump for an arm. Had he really been missing that arm? Was I going crazy?
“You look like you have something on your mind. That’s really unlike you, Mabel. Are you alright?” He asked. I looked over at him, still trying to avoid his eyes.
“Oh…yeah I’m-“ I cut off as I saw the yellow thing appear and disappear behind Dipper’s head again. I saw it better this time. I could have sworn that yellow thing was Bill. “…Fine.”
“Good. You wanna go do something?” He wondered.
“Sure. Did you have something in mind?” I responded. I could feel myself shaking slightly, but I fought to hide it from Dipper. This conversation was starting to get kind of awkward. I rubbed my arm nervously. I didn’t want to point anything out about his arm. Especially since I couldn’t remember why it was missing; or if it ever once had been there.
“I don’t think so. You two little slackers are due for a major cleaning here!” Stan interrupted, stepping into the room. He was dressed in his suit, had the eye patch over his right eye, and his cane in his hand. He looked like he always had, but something still seemed slightly…off about him.
“We can’t let lots of tourists see a pigsty like this.” Waddles hopped up at Stan’s leg. He shooed the pig off with his leg and stared unamused at him. I held back a snort. “And I don’t want any of your sass either.” He walked past us and started ordering Soos around.
Dipper sighed. “Alright. Guess we’d better do as the old man says,” He suggested. He grabbed a mop and immediately began mopping the floors
To keep from getting in trouble, I grabbed a feather duster and started lightly dusting a small shelf. I turned back towards Dipper and the others and watched as they worked their normal duties as if nothing was wrong. But I knew everything was wrong. Waddles snorted and looked at me. Even he knew something was up.
“Mabel!” Dipper hissed warningly. “Stop staring and get working!”
I felt a sharp pain that moved like lightning spark through my mind. My thoughts scattered and I immediately started dusting. Why was I staring again? I couldn’t remember why. I dusted quickly, remaining silent. I felt my heart jump as a laugh echoed through my mind. I turned around to see that no one had moved. I shook my head and continued dusting. I had completely lost it.
A heavy cough heaved my chest, and I hacked loudly. The cough caused a spasm to ripple through my body. I heard the same laugh echo through the room. Seconds later, Bill appeared in front of me. He was still bearing my hat and vest. He looked at me and smiled with twisted delight.
“Your head isn’t looking too good there, Pine Tree,” He pointed out. He didn’t need to remind me. It throbbed every two seconds. Bill held back a laugh and started to reach into my vest. “Oh yeah! I’ve got a surprise for you.” Slowly, he pulled a journal out of the vest. I thought for a second that it was mine, but with a closer look, I noticed that, instead of a three, the hand bore a one. Another journal? I thought. Bill looked at it for a moment, and then placed it down on the floor in front of him. He reached into the other side of the vest and pulled out another journal. This one had a two on it.
I narrowed my eyes, hiding my fear for what he was going to do. Whatever it was, it wasn’t going to be good. Bill laughed and leaned forward. He lifted the two journals and stared at them for a few moments. “Do you even know how much hard work I’ve gone through to get my hands on these things? And it was as simple as disguising myself as you to get them. You wouldn’t believe where I found these. But that’s not important,” Bill droned on.
Before I could even blink, a blue spark ignited at the palms of Bill’s hands. To my horror, both of the journals went up in dancing blue flames almost immediately. I watched as the fire licked at the pages, destroying the years of work and discovery that had been put into them. All of that had taken years to record, and I watched as it was all destroyed in a matter of seconds. Bill dropped the remains of the book and stomped at the ashes until the only evidence that the journals once existed was the charred mess that stood at the ground before me. I suddenly started to feel ill. Just when I thought I had come close to finding out the mysteries of Gravity Falls, I was farther than I had ever been.
“Well…that was easy,” Bill gloated, dusting the ash off of his hands. “Now, back to what I was doing.” He turned and began to leave.
“We’ll stop you no matter what you try!” I yelled after him.
“You don’t think I don’t know that’s a problem?” Bill questioned, turning around and looking at me like I was an idiot. “That’s why I’ve decided to eliminate the problem all together.
“I’m going to kill your friends.”
With that, he disappeared, leaving me dumbfounded.
“Mabel! Mabel, wake up!” Dipper yelled, shaking me awake. I opened my eyes and jumped up in surprise, throwing Dipper off me. He crashed on the ground. Without a single complaint, he jumped up to his feet.
“What? What’s happening?” I questioned.
“Not enough time to explain. Just come down. It’s terrible!” Dipper warned. Without checking to see if I was following him, he ran towards the door. I jumped out of my bed and ran after him.
“Dipper! What’s going on? Why won’t you tell me-“ I gasped and jumped back. A tiny scream escaped my throat as I saw what was before me.
Stan was lying on the shag carpet. He was dead. His glasses were lying on the ground cracked and broken. Near his lifeless hand was a broken wine glass. A purplish-red liquid was spilled from the glass and was beginning to soak into the carpet. I shook my head. There was no way this could have happened.
“He…he can’t be dead…” I cried. I couldn’t fight a tear that ran down my cheek.
“I’m sorry, Mabel. I woke up to a crashing noise, and I found him here. There’s nothing more we can do…” I could hear the sadness in Dipper’s voice. I felt comforted by the compassion I could find in there as well. But as soon as I looked up and saw his eyes. They stared at me: evocative, lifeless, and…evil.
“I don’t know what to do,” I whimpered.
“We need to investigate the scene. There has to be some reason for this,” Dipper replied. “The first question is, why did he drink what I assume is poison wine?”
“There can’t be any reason for this. Stan doesn’t drink wine,” I answered.
“Which begs the next question,” Dipper responded quickly. “Was this accidental, suicidal, or was it a setup for murder?”
“Murder?” I repeated the ugly word. I felt a shudder race up my spine in response to the word.
“Someone could be out for Stan,” Dipper observed.
“But who would be? While Stan is probably a criminal in other countries, there’s no one who would directly want to…” I swallowed. “Murder him.”
“And I wonder why they decided to use poison. Especially if Stan doesn’t drink wine,” Dipper perceived. “Or so you say.”
“What?” His last words had caught me by surprise.
“If you know that Stan doesn’t drink wine, does that mean you know something more about his death?” Dipper questioned.
“Are you accusing me of killing him?!” I retorted in disbelief.
“No…but you may be our only witness,” Dipper mumbled.
Witness? I thought. But he was the one that woke me up. How could that make me a witness?
I woke up again to see Dipper at my side. He jumped back in surprise as I sat up. “I was just about to wake you,” He explained. “I was wondering if you wanted to do some more investigating.”
I rubbed my eyes and looked at the window next to my bed. A weak light was coming in through the window. That meant that the sun had just barely come up. That was strange. Dipper never got up at this time. I hardly ever did either. Breathing deeply, I nodded in agreement to Dipper and climbed out of my bed.
Once I had gotten ready, we headed out of the house. Dipper didn’t say anything as we headed down the road into the town. Everyone was milling about the streets. No one acknowledged our passing, and none of them seemed as I was used to them being.
“Where do you think we should look first?” Dipper wondered.
“I don’t know. Maybe the forest?” I suggested. As soon as I said it, I realized how bad of a suggestion it was. Dipper had seemingly forgotten that Gravity Falls had strange monsters dwelling in the forest. “Uh…never mind.”
“No. Let’s head there. It’s possible that we’ll be able to find evidence there. It’s a good place to start.”
Without any further questioning or words, Dipper started heading off towards the forest. I paused for a moment. It just occurred to me that he had asked me where we should start. It was very unlike him to ask me a question like that. Before he got too far ahead, I hurried forward to catch up with him.
When we had made it to the woods, we weaved through the trees. I didn’t really pay attention to my surroundings. I just stared at Dipper as he walked a few paces ahead of me. Either I was going completely insane, or Dipper was not as he seemed. He would have known that looking in the forest for a person that set up a murder was not a good idea. My thoughts were interrupted when I bumped into Dipper. I bit my lip.
“Why’d you stop?” I questioned, rubbing my lip.
“See for yourself,” Dipper answered, stepping aside.
My breath caught in my throat. Lying before me were Wendy and Soos. Both of them were dead as well. What was happening? I felt the world spin around me. The spinning hurt my head and made me feel ill.
“How ‘bout it, Shooting Star?” A familiar voice asked. I looked up to see if who I thought said it had said it. Dipper was the only person there. He was looking at me sadly. “Mabel?”
“Huh?” I replied.
“I asked you how you managed to find more scenes of the crime on your first try,” He urged. “That has to mean you were a witness to these crimes.”
That feeling I had felt earlier like a lightning strike through my brain. I felt like I was battling my thoughts. One of them was saying that I had witnessed these deaths. The other was saying that I hadn’t. I groaned and rubbed my temples.
“Are you OK?” Dipper asked. Refusing to look at his eyes, I sat on the ground.
“Yeah, sorry,” I responded. “I just need to rest for a little bit.”
“Well. It looks like our next question is why they have been specifically found here. You must have witnessed at least something here,” Dipper begged.
“I…I don’t know…” I sighed.
“Let’s head back to the house. We can think better there,” Dipper suggested.
Reaching down his only hand to me, Dipper offered to help me up. Taking another deep breath, I let him help me to my feet. Avoiding Dipper’s eyes and Wendy and Soos’s bodies, I turned back to the house and headed towards it.
The bones and muscles underneath my right arm started throbbing with searing pain for the third time. I gritted my teeth, fighting the pain. I had no idea what Bill was doing, but it had to do with the fact that he had taken away one of his arms in his disguise. I thought about how he said that he was going to brainwash everyone in Gravity Falls. I thought of Soos, Wendy, Stan, and Mabel. I feared for them. This was all my fault. If I hadn’t come out on my own, then I probably would have had a fighting chance.
Another spasm of pain rippled through the gash on the side of my head. I had learned to ignore it now that it was so frequent. I wriggled my arm, trying to fight the metal band secured over my wrist. I felt it cut my wrist, and it only seemingly tightened around my wrist. Why did I have to be such a wimp? Opening my hands and flattening my fingers, I pulled forward hard. I thought I heard the metal bend when a laugh reverberated through the room; announcing Bill’s return as always.
“How have you been enjoying it down here? Because I’ve been having the time of my life up there!” He announced, sounding like a child.
“You sure have been spending your sweet time talking with me. I don’t know why you think coming here just to monologue is such a good idea,” I interrupted.
“Oh, I didn’t come here to monologue,” Bill started. He reached into my vest. I had an idea what was under there, and I was hoping I wasn’t right. “I came here…for this.” To my ultimate dismay, he pulled out Journal 3. He opened the book, perusing through its pages for a little bit before gasping and stopping on a page. My heart stopped. “Would you look at this?”
Bill grabbed the page by its corner and pulled it against the binding. I cringed as I heard the page rip from its place in the book. I could tell he was ripping the page slowly to torture me. I closed my eyes to look away from the twisted grin he held as he finally ripped the page maliciously from the book. He held it up so it faced me. It was the page that showed where the author’s secret passage was.
“This is a good page. Don’t you think so?” Bill urged, waving the page back and forth tauntingly. With a single flick of his pinky, the page went up in flames. Smirking, Bill rubbed the ash off his fingers and closed the journal. “I think that’s good for now.”
Bill placed the journal down on the ground just a few feet in front of me. I knew he was trying to torture me, but he was risking a lot by doing it. If I were to escape, then I would easily be able to get the journal back. I watched as Bill turned and began to leave again.
“With your friends out of the way, I won’t have to worry about my plans getting ruined anymore,” Bill laughed.
“What have you done to my sister?!” I yelled after him.
“Oh,” Bill chortled. “With her new brother by her side, rest assured that she is in safe hands.” With that, he was gone again.
Once I was sure he was gone, I started working at the metal bands again. The metal creaked, beginning to give in to the pressure I was forcing into it. Just when I thought I had almost broken it, pain struck down my arm. The pain had come so unexpectedly and all of the stress of knowing that all of my friends were dead collapsed on top of me all at once. I was unable to fight the hot, stinging tears that formed at my eyelids and ran down my face profusely. Letting anger take place of my sadness, I continued working to break out of the metal binds.
“OK, Mabel,” Dipper began. “You were witness to all of these deaths. Do you know anything that could lead us to the culprit?”
“I already said-“ I caught myself before saying anything else. If I gave away the fact that I was suspicious towards Dipper, then I could get in trouble. I could already see the slits in his pupils shrink just a tiny bit. That was the first time I had seen his eyes do anything. “…I can remember overhearing Stan coming into the kitchen saying something about today being a hard day. I thought I saw his shadow on the wall, and I can remember seeing the silhouette of a wine glass sitting on the table. Stan took a drink of it, and then headed towards the TV room. That’s when I left and headed for bed.”
“Interesting,” Dipper mumbled. “It seems this way…that the victims of these murders were destined to die.” The blood in my veins stopped and I looked at Dipper in surprise. Dipper would never say something like that. I was glad his back was turned to me, or else he would have seen my strange body language. “Is it possible that the murders of Stan, Soos, and Wendy are all connected?” Dipper tapped a pencil on his chin and I tried to look like I was doing something productive by brushing dirt and dust off the sleeve of my sweater. Waddles walked up to me and sat next to me. He snorted really loudly. I turned towards him and put a finger over my mouth to silence him.
“If you show that you don’t trust him, then he might suspect that something is up with us!” I hissed to Waddles. Waddles squeaked quietly and left the room. That crazy pig, I thought, watching as he walked away.
Dipper turned back around towards me. His terrifying eyes looked the same as they always had. Whenever he was facing me, I couldn’t help but stare at his missing arm. I knew he used to have two arms. I just couldn’t remember how he lost it.
“I know you witnessed Wendy and Soos’s deaths as well. What can you remember happening?” Dipper asked.
“I didn’t see the actual crime in action, but I can remember seeing a strange figure dragging two other figures towards the forest,” I lied. “I couldn’t tell from where I stood that the two figures being dragged were bodies.”
Dipper twitched suddenly. I remembered that as being a sign that something was making him nervous. I tilted my head. What about seeing someone dragging people to the forest made him so nervous? I couldn’t believe I had just asked myself that question. Of course it would make him nervous. That or he was the one that had been dragging the bodies. I shook my head to clear it. The raw sugar packets I had eaten earlier must have begun to mess with my head.
Dipper started talking, but I zoned him out quickly. I hated it when he would start unnecessary lectures. While he was on his soapbox, I had a few good minutes to piece together everything that had happened. That was one upside to his monologues.
Obviously everything here is different. And in this weird world, I’m obviously a witness to these so-called “crimes”, I thought. If I don’t show that I know what he’s talking about, will he suspect something? I gasped. What if he did it?! What if he’s hiding his crime by framing me as his witness?! Again, I was glad that his back was turned to me so he wouldn’t be able to tell that I was thinking something. I normally make huge body gestures when I figure stuff out. I was also glad I couldn’t see his eyes. Whenever I saw them, it seemed as though he knew all of my secrets, all of the things about my hunch for him.
“Come with me, Mabel. I want to show you something,” Dipper ordered suddenly. He didn’t turn around. He sounded distant, and kind of ominous.
Not bothering to question anything, I followed Dipper out the door. Waddles snorted and began running after mer. He grabbed the end of my sweater sleeve and started pulling me back towards the room.
“Waddles, no!” I scolded him, yanking my sleeve from his mouth. “I can’t play now!”
Waddles whined and jumped at my legs. I could tell now that he sounded upset. He didn’t want to play with me. Was he warning me about something? I shooed the thought away and rubbed Waddles’s head in between his ears. I heard Dipper call for me. I pointed to the ground, silently ordering Waddles to stay. I turned and hurried after Dipper.
As Dipper led the way away from the Mystery Shack, I started noticing that he was heading towards the forest. I was confused, and a little scared. Why would we be heading towards the forest? I hoped he wouldn’t be showing me another dead person. I was so lost in thought that I didn’t notice that he had taken me to the tree that led to the author’s bunker. There was a rope wrapped around the branch lever, and the bunker was already opened.
Oh no, I thought. Did someone find this place? I almost ran to the wooden stairs when I remembered Dipper was leading the way.
I waited a few seconds for Dipper to start heading down the stairs as well. He didn’t move from his spot, and I started to worry for him. Was he actually surprised to see it open too? Does that mean this all really had been in my head, and Dipper really did remember everything about the journals? My hopes melted away as Dipper turned and his eyes still remained yellow with thin slits down the middle of them.
“You ready?” He asked.
“Yes?” I responded. I didn’t know what I was ready for.
Without another word or sound, Dipper stepped on the first step. It creaked as he put weight on it. He gestured for me to follow, and I hurried a pace behind him. Once we made it to the bottom, it was mustier than I remembered it being before. I could also smell something in the air that I couldn’t recognize from where I was. I could tell that it was in the bunker, though.
“It’s funny, Mabel. Did you know that I was like, super excited to be the investigator for this case? Of course, I prefer ‘hero,’ but you can call me whatever you want. You could tell me who the culprit of this mystery is because you’re a witness to the crimes, but you don’t have to because I’m just going to end up telling you anyway. So here’s a good idea. Just don’t say it at all because I’ll tell you. Another good question we should be asking is why two of the victims were found in this specific forest. And was it true that our culprit actually had the time to flee from the crime?” Dipper blabbed. I rolled my eyes. There was no stopping him when he started to soliloquy like this. “You see, I had this brilliant plan all conjured up that’s so complex even I can’t explain it all out loud. The only problem is that they had this other secret “hero” that they sent to spy on me. Who do you think they are? It’s almost like they didn’t trust me as being their hero. It’s crazy!”
I zoned Dipper out again. He was really starting to scare me. Although he was talking about random nonsense like Dipper normally had, I was completely convinced the he was not the real Dipper. He always had two arms, his eyes were normal, and he was more paranoid than how paranoid I was times ten. Either he was possessed, or he just wasn’t Dipper. While he continued talking, I glanced over at the table. A small knife was lying on it. If I could grab it, I could use it to interrogate Dipper.
Still keeping a wary eye out for Dipper, I slowly and silently started heading towards the table. The knife glinted in my eye. Dipper was still talking with his back turned to me when I made it to the table. I soundlessly grabbed the knife and hid it behind my back underneath a fold of my sweater. Dipper didn’t quit talking as he headed towards the other secret room that we had found. This was a good spot to corner him with the knife. I snuck up behind him with the knife in front of me.
Just as I was within striking range, Dipper suddenly turned around over his left shoulder. Caught by surprise, I didn’t have time to respond as Dipper slapped the knife out of my arm. He grabbed my other arm with his right arm. The one I was supposed to believe he was missing. He clenched my arm with the new arm he had hidden and smirked at me. Without much movement at all, he threw me to the ground. My tailbone hit the ground hard. He had ruined my only plan.
“Well, what do you have to say for yourself, Mabel?” Dipper asked. “Have you figured out who the culprit is?” I couldn’t respond. I was too dumbstruck. His eyes were locked on me, and I felt like they were bolting me to the ground. “All you need to do is say the name of the one standing before you.”
Laughing slightly to himself, Dipper (or whatever he was at this point) glanced down at the knife sitting a few feet from me. He walked slowly over to it. His footsteps tapping quietly on the floor were the only things I could hear. He leaned forward to grab the knife.
“You know,” He started, picking the knife up. He inspected it for a little bit. He ran his fingers down it, even down the blade. He snickered as it cut the tip of his finger. “I was hoping to hide it. I didn’t want to hurt a cute little thing such as yourself. So I’ve decided to make you a deal. If you could do a little favor for me, I won’t kill you.” He held the knife forward and dropped it right onto my lap.
I grabbed the knife in a shaky hand. I pushed myself up onto my feet slowly. As I was standing up, whoever he was opened the door to the next room. Once the door was open and I was on my feet, whoever he was climbed through the tunnel. I hurried after him. I was afraid now that if I didn’t do anything he asked, I would die. By the time I was out of the tunnel, whoever he was had taken off his hat. Or was it Dipper’s hat?
“If you haven’t quite figured out the mystery yet, I’ll be happy to give you a few clues,” Whoever he was explained. Without any other warning, he threw the hat at me. I caught the hat by the brim with my free hand and stared down at it in surprise. “You have more than one way to solve that. The only problem is…
“The only person that had all the clues pieced together, is about to fall before my hands.”
I looked up and choked on a gasp as I saw the real Dipper bound to the wall by his wrists and ankles. Slowly, Dipper opened his eyes and lifted his head. He looked terrible. His hair was matted, his clothes were torn, his arm was bruised, and he had a gash in the side of his head. I took a step towards him, but the Dipper imposter stepped in between us and backed me up back to where I had just been standing.
“Now I know you aren’t that bright, but by now you’ll have to know who the culprit is by now,” The Dipper imposter announced. “You have one chance to spare your life. If you do me the favor of betraying your brother, killing him, and joining my side, I will let you live. You’re running out of time. Make your choice or you’re both dead.”
The Dipper imposter laughed and pulled a top hat out of the air. He placed it on his head. My hunch had been true. That was not Dipper I had been talking to the past few days. It was Bill.
“Who is the culprit, Mabel?” Bill asked. “Just say the name of your childhood friend.
“Just scream out my own name!”
I cringed inside, but didn’t show my fear to Bill. I sighed and lifted the knife. I glanced at Dipper. He had tears staining his cheeks as I looked at him closer. But he didn’t look afraid or sad. Although he looked nothing like I was used to, I knew that he was the real Dipper. He nodded very stiffly to me. It was so small that I almost didn’t notice it. I knew what he wanted me to do though. I started getting closer to Dipper until I made it past Bill. Quickly, I flipped around, thrusting the blade of the knife at Bill.
Suddenly, Bill grabbed my arm and put his other hand under my chin. He pulled my face up close to his, smirking. I felt him squeeze the knife out of my hand. Dipper called out and there was a faint snapping noise, but I was lost to all background distractions. Bill’s eyes locked with mine, and I felt my entire face flush with hotness. My ears numbed, and the background everywhere around me except for Bill blurred. I almost got lost in his eyes when Bill suddenly cried out in pain and stumbled to the side.
All of my thoughts scattered, leaving my head spinning. In the small line of vision that was still clear, I saw Bill lying on the ground clutching his knee. I could see the knife dug deep into it. I looked over just as Dipper grabbed my elbow and started running for the door. Journal 3 was pinned under his arm. Just before climbing through the door, I reached down and grabbed Dipper’s hat that I had dropped earlier. I put it on Dipper’s head. With that, we made a narrow escape.
I ran forward, shoving Mabel in front of me and urging her to run faster so she would more likely be able to escape Bill. We ran until we were deep in the forest and our trail was well covered by pine needles and sap. Mabel collapsed on the ground, panting. I leaned forward and put my hands on my knees, breathing heavily as well. I sat on the ground at Mabel’s side, rubbing the side of my head as it still throbbed with pain. Mabel sat up.
“We need to find a way to treat that,” She urged.
“It’s fine. That’s not our priority,” I assured. “Besides, it will heal on its own.” Mabel looked unconvinced for a few moments before realizing that it wasn’t important. I opened the journal and searched the pages for anything that could reverse time or bring back the dead or do something to undo the horrors that Bill had caused.
“Why are some pages missing?” Mabel asked, noticing as I turned to where one page had been torn out.
“Bill ripped some out and burned them,” I explained. I flipped frantically through some more pages. I thought I heard a laugh echo through the trees. I looked around. “That knife I stabbed into Bill’s leg won’t last us forever. We need to find a safer place to hide and figure this out.”
I stood up and helped Mabel to her feet. Mabel groaned and held her head. She stumbled for a minute before falling into me. I caught her and cradled her in my arms. I wrapped her arm around my shoulder and helped her get back on both her feet again.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Mabel murmured. Her words were slightly slurred. Her eyes drooped, sure signs that she was about to pass out. “Bill did something to me before you stabbed him.”
“Hold on,” I ordered. I handed her the journal. “Could you hold this please?” Mabel took it in her hand. I could tell her grip on it was weak, though. “Hold on as tight as you can.” I lifted her up and held her in my arms. Once I had her secured, I hurried towards the Mystery Shack. There we could find out more in the journal with the black light.
I heard another laugh overhead. Without warning, a streak of blue and white lightning hit the tree a few feet in front of me. The tree trunk burst into blue flames and began to creak under the pressure. I heard the trunk splinter and break from the ground, the weight from the top of the tree proving too heavy for its weakened foundation. Immediately, the tall tree began to plummet towards the ground right in front of me. Tightening my grip on Mabel and pressing her closer to me, I sped up. Gravity pulled the tree down faster than I had been expecting, and it was right above me as I was coming underneath it. Thinking fast, I leaned backwards, extending both my legs forward and sliding across the grass underneath the tiny gap between the falling tree and the ground. The force bounced the journal out of Mabel’s hands. A thorn of fear stabbed through my heart, and I almost turned around to grab it. I looked down at Mabel as her eyes began to dull; and I continued to run, not even looking back.
“Dipper…the journal…I lost it…” Mabel moaned quietly.
“Getting you somewhere safe is more important than that journal,” I told her. I knew our closest bet to the cure was in that journal, but I risked both our lives if I went back to get it now.
“You can run, Pine Tree. But I will always find you!” I heard Bill’s voice echo somewhere behind me. It didn’t sound close, but it didn’t sound very distant. I continued running.
As I was running, a sudden root from one of the trees tore itself through the ground in front of me. I didn’t have enough time to avoid it, so my foot twisted awkwardly underneath it, pulling all of my speed and momentum back. Mabel flew from my hands and bounced across the grass. She rolled to a stop near a tree. I called out to her and untangled my foot from the root. Just as I finally freed it, another bolt of lightning struck the tree. It leaned forward, tempting to hit Mabel when it landed.
“Mabel! You need to move!” I called to her. She didn’t move or respond. Desperately, I ran to the tree. It was unlikely to happen, but I faced the opposite side the tree was falling from and threw all my weight into it. Pain split through my shoulder, but I could tell I had made a small difference. I gave it one final shove and ran towards Mabel. I grabbed her and dragged her a few feet to safe ground. Taking a breather for a few seconds, I kept a close eye out for Bill. When I caught my breath, I lifted Mabel again and started running.
I heard more strikes and the sounds of branches and leaves crashing on the ground in front of me and behind me. Bill was trying to surround me. More tree roots tore themselves out of the ground, but I managed to be fast enough to dodge them. Hang on, Mabel, I thought to myself, looking down at her. Her eyes were narrow slits. They were too thin for me to see her eyes at all. Her mouth was open just a tiny bit, a hopeful sign that she was still breathing.
I saw the fallen trees ahead of me. I turned sharply to the right and ducked underneath a gap the tree had created. The next tree’s gap was on the far side. The gap between the first one and that one was too small for me to reach the gap, so I bunched the muscles in my leg up and jumped. I landed on the trunk of the tree and jumped off it. When I landed on the ground, a biting pain rippled up my feet. I ignored it and continued running. I slid underneath the last tree. A branch hit my face as I was standing up again, slapping me with pine needles that showered all over me. I shook the most that I could off my face and continued running. In the middle of the open clearing of grass, I pulled my shoes off and threw them at the ground. Suddenly feeling lighter, I sped up. The clearing slowly started expanding. My heart fluttered with excitement. Before long, I saw the peak of the Mystery Shack’s roof. Mustering my last bit of energy, I sprinted to the Mystery Shack. I yanked the door open and ran up the stairs into the attic. I lay Mabel gingerly on the bed. She rolled over towards the walls and groaned. Waddles jumped up on the bed and snuggled into her.
“Keep her safe,” I told the pig, knowing there wasn’t much he was going to be able to do. Taking a deep breath, I turned back towards the attic door. “I’ll be right back.”
I burst out of the Mystery Shack and ran back to where I had exited the forest. If I was lucky and fast enough, I would be able to retrieve the journal and return back to the Mystery Shack without getting caught by Bill. I heard his laugh ring through the trees. I couldn’t target where it had come from. Sticking close to the trees, I hurried back to where the journal had been dropped.
After what felt like forever trekking through the trees cautiously, I found the journal lying open to an empty page where it had been left. Looking left, right, up, and down, I broke out of the safety of the trees for the journal. Just as I grabbed it, a heavy weight pressed onto my back and pinned me to the ground. The journal flew from my hands and bounced out of sight. My head collided with the ground where the gash had been healing.
“Not so fast, Pine Tree,” Bill laughed. I craned my head to the side to see that he was pinning me to the ground. “I can’t let you run away after how far I’ve gotten into this. I’m not ready to let you run free and ruin everything I’ve been working for.”
I struggled underneath Bill’s grip he had on me. If I didn’t turn the tables, Mabel would be in trouble. I glanced down at the knife wound that was still fresh in the side of Bill’s left knee. I carefully wriggled my arm out from underneath Bill and moved to elbow the wound. Bill caught me before I could hit him, and he twisted my arm behind my back until I cried out in pain.
“Do you think I’m an idiot Pine Tree?” Bill asked.
“Maybe a little,” I grunted.
“Wrong answer,” Bill growled. I heard him grunt, and I felt the weight on my left side lift up just a tiny bit. I had balance on my side now. Acting fast, I threw all of my body weight to the right side. Caught by surprise, Bill was unable to catch himself. Bill rolled off me and I stumbled to my feet. For good measure, I gave the knife wound a good kick, and then hurried after where I had seen the journal fly off. “That’s not going to work this time.”
Before I could look back and see what Bill was going to do, fingers wrapped around my ankle and they pulled my leg back. I crashed to the ground, being careful not to let my nose hit the ground. My vision blurred for a few seconds. When it cleared, I looked up to see Bill running towards the journal’s supposed contact point. I jumped to my feet and tackled Bill back to the ground. Bill rolled around and grabbed me by the throat before I could get to my feet. His fingers tightened around my throat, and I started choking.
“Leave him alone!” I heard a weak voice call out. My vision was hazy, so I couldn’t see who had called it out. The grip around my throat loosened, and I could breathe again. I coughed and held my throat, gulping in cool, sweet air. I looked up to see Mabel standing before Bill. She had a big stone gripped in her right hand. The setting sun was casting a shadow over her, silhouetting her brilliantly. She held her other arm up. In her arm was Journal 3. “Looking for this?”
“Mabel! What are you doing?!” I called out to her. “You shouldn’t be here!”
Mabel ignored me and tossed the stone in the air. She caught it again. She lifted it and glared at Bill, threatening to throw it at him. Bill smirked and shot another lightning bolt at a nearby tree. Mabel stared at it. I called out to her to move, but I could tell that she was too weak and too shocked to.
Acting fast, I jumped to my feet and shoved Mabel out of the way into a relatively safe place. Bill had stood up. I turned to him and quickly shoved him to the spot the tree would be falling. I made a move to jump out of the way, but Bill grabbed my arm and pulled me back. Mabel called my name out, but neither of us could do anything as the tree landed on the ground. All other noises were blotted out by the snapping of twigs and the groaning of the old bark as it finally rested on the ground. Pine needles showered over me and all light around me was suffocated by black oblivion.
I dragged myself over to the fallen tree. I called Dipper’s name over and over again. He wouldn’t respond. I tore through some of the pine tree’s branches desperately, hoping to find Dipper among the needles and branches. I called Dipper’s name again. I couldn’t see him.
“Mabel…” I heard a weak voice call out.
“Dipper! Call out again!” I ordered frantically.
I heard Dipper’s weak cry, and I followed it into the branches. I soon found him lying under a pile of broken branches and pine needles. Carefully, I grabbed him by the arms and pulled him out from underneath the tree. He was scratched, scraped, and bruised all over the place, but otherwise looked unharmed. As long as he was conscious and had no broken bones, he would be able to make it back to the Mystery Shack. I threw his arm over my shoulder and started half-walking, half-sprinting back to the Mystery Shack. When Dipper had found his feet, he started to help me.
“Thanks…” He sighed quietly. A small trickle of blood had started to run from his nostril. I smiled and wiped the blood with the sleeve of my sweater.
“Hey…I had to return the favor,” I responded.
When we made it back to the Mystery Shack, we both sat on Dipper’s bed. I had the first aid kit at my side, and I was patching up the worst of Dipper’s wounds. I left and came back with a glass of water for him. He had gone a long time without water, and I could tell that he was dehydrated.
“Do you know what Bill did to you back there?” Dipper asked.
“No. But whatever it was, it’s starting to go away,” I answered. I watched as Dipper lifted the glass and flinched slightly. “Are you sure you’re OK?”
“Yeah,” Dipper grunted. “It’s just a few scratches.” I watched him as he cringed more and held his side.
“Let me see that,” I ordered. Dipper denied it, but I managed to fight him and look at where he was holding his side. His shirt was partially soaked in blood and it was torn in some places. I lifted the shirt to see a mildly deep cut along the bottom of his ribcage. “Dipper…”
“Don’t worry,” Dipper reassured. “I just got grazed by a sharp branch is all.”
I opened the first aid kit again and pulled out some gauze. I pressed it to the wound and let it soak up most of the fresh blood. Holding the first gauze pad there, I grabbed another piece and put it over it. I taped both pieces to his side to help the cut heal itself.
“We need to find a way to reverse all of this,” Dipper declared. He began to stand up, but he flinched and gripped his side.
“Try not to move. I’ll get the black light,” I ordered. “You just rest.”
I stood up and walked over to the nightstand. I opened the drawer and pulled out the black light. I picked the journal up and placed it on Dipper’s lap. Dipper opened the journal and I switched the black light on. He flipped and studied a few pages in silence. He was looking over the invisible ink so fast that I almost couldn’t read it all. The silence was beginning to make me uncomfortable.
“Did you find anything new in the author’s bunker?” I wondered.
“Nothing except for that Bill knew where the other two journals were,” Dipper answered. I sighed, feeling kind of awkward for asking the question. Dipper didn’t say anything as he turned the final page of the journal until there was nothing left except for the blank pages. “That’s what I figured. There’s nothing there.”
I watched the page as Dipper began to close the journal with distaste. I gasped as I saw the corner of a letter appear as the black light shone on it. Gasping, I thrust my hand into the journal to stop from losing the place. My sudden movement surprised Dipper and made him jump. He grunted and held his side.
“Sorry,” I apologized guiltily. “I saw something.”
Dipper took his hands off the journal and let me open it back to that page I had my hand shoved in. I held the black light over the page, and a message that looked recently written showed up on the page. Dipper and I exchanged surprised glances, and then Dipper began to read the message aloud.
“Dipper and Mabel,
“It has occurred to me that one of these days I’m not going to be around anymore. I don’t want to die knowing that I kept a huge secret from you guys; two of the people I care for most in this world. So that’s why I’ve decided to come clean. I have a secret bunker in the Shack that leads to a room with a powerful portal in it. Not even I know what that portal can do. If anything bad were to happen, you could try using the portal to fix it. The only problem is…I don’t know if it would solve that, or make it worse. Also, I’ve been told that it might cause amnesia.
“I’m sorry I lied to you for so long. But I know that if anyone were to use this new power for a good cause, it would be you two. I…love you little twerps. And I hope that in some time and world, you can come to forgive me.”
Dipper and I exchanged glances again. His eyes reflected the sadness and love that I felt at the same time. Underneath the message was an illustration of a bunch of squares. A few of the squares were colored in, and numbers were written in order next to the highlighted ones. Underneath was written “type this code in the order written on the vending machine, and you will get into the bunker. Make sure you close the door, or anyone could get in.” The last line was underlined.
“Mabel, hand me a pen,” Dipper ordered. Without asking any questions, I grabbed a pen from the nightstand and handed it to Dipper. Dipper clicked the pen and started to scribble on the palm of his hand. When he finished, he showed me what he had written. “Forgive Grunkle” was written in all caps on his hand.
“Why’d you write that?” I asked.
“Stan wants us to forgive him. I don’t want to possibly forget to do that when we go through that portal,” Dipper explained.
“So…we’re really going to do this?” Mabel.
I tried to hide from Mabel that I had flinched in pain again. My side was shooting fiery arrows of pain into it. I lifted the journal off my lap and placed it on the bed beside me. Slowly and gingerly, I stood up. I lifted the journal and closed it.
“I trust Stan,” Was all I said before I turned and started walking stiffly towards the door.
“Well I do too. I’m just being cautious. I don’t want to end up going through the portal and losing my memory just to have everything stay the same,” Mabel called after me.
She ran in front of me and held the door open for me. I nodded to her in silent thanks and continued forward. She had a good point. We had no other solution that could possibly help us reverse time.
I checked the room for anything. It was empty. I headed towards the vending machine. I opened the page that had the message, and Mabel lifted the black light over the open page. I reached up and clicked on the buttons in the order drawn on the page. The door opened and the two of us walked through. I stopped and looked back Mabel as she closed the door behind us.
“Make sure it’s closed all the way,” I reminded her. She grunted in response. She shook and tested the door. It hardly budged; a sure sign that it was closed.
I turned forward and began walking down the wide metal steps. The only sound I heard was the soft patter of our feet, and Mabel’s faint breathing. The room smelt of metal, and it was starting to get cold. I adjusted my hat and continued forward. The room darkened, our only source of light was the black light. ‘Trust no one’ was written in invisible ink near the end of the hallway. I studied it for a few minutes before moving on. That same message had been written at the beginning of the journal.
As the hallway ended, it opened into a room full of old, ancient machinery. The room moved forward in a straight line and ended in a simple elevator. A square metal box was next to the elevator door. I pried it open. Underneath it was a keypad with a bunch of strange symbols on it and a passcode that required four symbols. I turned the page and Mabel hovered the black light over the page. Another picture was scribbled in. There were four of the strange symbols drawn with numbers from one to four over it. I punched the symbols into the keypad. After a couple of seconds, the elevator doors opened and we were granted access.
The elevator took us down a long while. I could feel my heart pumping so loud I was sure that Mabel could hear it. As we continued to sink down, the air started to cool and dampen. Anticipation and the cold caused me to shudder. Mabel pressed her arm against me. The sleeve of her sweater was warm against my cold arm. My shudders faded.
The elevator finally stopped. The door opened, revealing the room behind it. There was a giant control panel full of dials and switches on the far side of the room. Above it was a monitor with green numbers and symbols flashing and moving vertically upwards. In between the panel and the monitor was a giant glass window. Through the window was an upside down triangle with a wavy blue circle spinning inside of it. Four other metal circles were surrounding the triangle. Bordering the circles were symbols that would flash red occasionally. When the symbol blinked red, a bolt of blue light like lightning would burst form the sign and strike another blinking symbol.
Mabel and I stepped forward and stared in awe at the room. The pattern of the triangle and circles reminded me of the welcome page that had been on the laptop. Letting Mabel move a half-step in front of me, we moved towards the control panel. On top of it was a framed picture of us two. Next to the control panel was a metal door. It was open. Exchanging a glance with Mabel, we headed towards it. Silently, we stood in front of the door. I hesitated. Mabel did as well.
Taking a deep breath, I stepped over the threshold. My heart was pumping, but I couldn’t target a reason why. We stood before the vibrating blue circle. It felt warm, and I was lured towards it. Mabel took a hold of my elbow and stopped me before I got too close to the portal. I looked back at her. She looked serious.
“We need to be smart about this,” Mabel warned. I stepped back towards her.
“Being smart is not an option here,” I pointed out. “Bill is still out for us.
“Our choice is whether or not we trust Stan.”
“Trusting Stan isn’t our option, Dipper,” Mabel argued. “Stan doesn’t even trust himself on this.”
“Then we have to trust Stan’s theory. This is most likely the only chance we have of stopping Bill and saving everyone. Being wary is not a priority,” I convinced.
“You’d better make your decision,” A voice taunted, ringing through the room. Bill appeared in front of the portal, blocking our access. Bill hovered over a lever that was sticking out of the ground. He leaned on the lever. It twitched in the other direction. I felt my heart skip. “Or something inconvenient might happen.”
“How did you get in here?” I questioned.
“What did he say again?’ Make sure you close the door, or anyone could get in.’ Looks like someone was too smart about watching out for the portal that they weren’t smart enough about closing the door,” Bill gloated.
“Leave her out of this!” I challenged, stepping in front of Mabel so I was between her and Bill. Bill did nothing but laugh. I tried to move, but fiery pain split through my side. Mabel lunged forward. Caught by surprise, Bill crashed to the ground. I limped over to the lever and held it back in the position it was in before. Mabel and Bill wrestled behind me. I could hear bangs and grunts. There was a loud crashing noise and I heard Mabel’s choked scream. The wound in my side throbbed, begging me to not move. I heard Mabel grunting again. I gritted my teeth. Mabel screamed again and I saw her fly back towards the far wall out of the corner of my eye. She opened her eyes. Her pupils were gone and her eyes were blue. Tears were streaming down her cheeks.
I lunged forward, ignoring the pain as fire tore through my side. “Leave. My. Sister. Alone!” I screamed, pinning Bill to the ground and punching him. Bill punched my side. Pain rippled through my body. Bill grabbed my shoulder and threw me to the side. Once he had gained the upper hand, he slammed me on the ground. I moved my arm out of the way of it getting pinned down. Before Bill could catch my arm, I quickly elbowed the knife wound in his knee. I wedged my hand under Bill’s knee and threw him off me. I hurried to my feet and grabbed Bill by the collar of his shirt. I shoved him against the wall and pinned him to it.
“Mabel! Grab the journal and get through the portal!” I yelled to her.
Mabel staggered to her feet and stumbled to the portal. She was mumbling ‘no’ over and over again, and tears were falling profusely from her eyes. She stood in front of the portal. She looked back at me and sobbed. She shook her head and held her hands at her temples. Her eyes were still glowing a portentous blue color. What had Bill done to her? I grunted and gestured with my head for Mabel to go in the portal. Mabel took another step towards the portal, but flinched and cried as another spasm rippled through her. When she stopped, she looked back at me. I looked at her with a reassuring face. She blinked, and her pupils finally returned.
“I can’t leave without you, Dipper!” Mabel called, wiping the tears from her eyes.
“Don’t worry about me!” I reassured her.
“I don’t want to leave you. We’ve gone through all of this together,” Mabel cried.
“Mabel!” I grunted agitatedly. “We don’t have time for this!”
Mabel looked at me sadly. I didn’t want her to leave without me as much as she didn’t. But it was our only chance while I had Bill at my hands. She hesitated for a second before finally beginning to step into the portal. Bill wriggled under my grip, taking advantage of the long time I didn’t have my focus on him. When I looked at him, his eyes had turned red.
“Enough!” He roared. A powerful forced hit my chest and knocked me back. Mabel called after me. My head hit the far wall. My vision blurred for a few moments, and I felt a warm trickle of blood run from my nostril. The force had knocked Mabel back a little, but she was back up on her feet quickly.
Bill rose into the air. Blue flames enveloped his clenched fists. He was breathing heavily, and anger creased his face in many places. I eyed Bill’s hands, Mabel, and the journal lying a few feet away from me. What or who was Bill planning to hit with those flames?
“I’ve been clawing my way up for far too long,” He growled. I looked at Mabel again. She was observing the portal. Her gaze switched from it to Bill. “And I’m not about to let all my hard work get ruined by a couple of bratty kids!”
Bill reared back. I looked at his line of vision to see that he was aiming for the journal. Mabel noticed it too and launched at it. Just before the flames struck the book, Mabel wrapped her arms around it, protecting it. She dive rolled across the ground, just barely avoiding the flames as they burst at the ground where she and the journal were just barely sitting. Bill whipped his gaze over to Mabel. He was gritting his teeth. He charged up another attack and launched another ball of fire at Mabel. Mabel slid under the attack, just barely evading it again. Bill continued shooting at her for a while, and Mabel continued dodging them. When he realized he was going to be unsuccessful, he shifted his gaze over to me.
I noticed by now that he was aiming the flames at me. Frantically, I tried to move. An aching pain rubbed at my side, and my weary, bruised muscles finally gave up. Bill thrust his arm forward, and everything around me seemed to slow down. Just before the fire escaped Bill’s hand, Mabel leaped forward. Time slowed even more as Mabel shoved Bill back towards the portal. He hit the wall and a bolt of lightning struck him. I shielded my eyes from the blinding blue light. When the lightning-like light disappeared, Bill collapsed to the ground. Mabel grabbed my hand and pulled me forward. I stumbled headlong as Mabel pulled me to the portal. We stopped in front of the portal, hesitating for a moment. Mabel looked over at me and nodded. I held her hand firmly and nodded at her. I was scared, and I could tell that Mabel was too. Neither of us knew what we were going to find past that portal. At the mental count of three, we jumped through the portal.
“NO!!!” Bill screamed. His voice faded away as a cold, powerful sensation hit me.
We traveled through a vortex of blue and white light. Our hands were still held, and the journal was held tight in Mabel’s other arm. The tunnel continued on, and I could hear nothing but a low humming noise. The noise disappeared and the wall on both sides of us tore apart. The walls joined together and created a giant towering figure. Black holes formed near the top, presenting themselves as eyes.
“State your business,” The thing’s mouth didn’t move. It only opened to signify that it was talking.
“We want to go back to our normal lives when Soos, Wendy, and Stan weren’t dead. And back when Bill didn’t rule,” I requested.
“That is a bold request to make,” The creature responded. It leaned forward, getting closer and more at level with mine and Mabel’s eyes. “You would have to sacrifice a great lot to reverse the deaths of three people.”
“Please,” Mabel pleaded politely.
“What are you willing to sacrifice to renew this world? Life cannot be given to you without paying the price for it,” The being wondered. “You’re memories are rich. Thick memories promise a full recovery.”
I looked at Mabel. She stiffly shook her head. I agreed with her. I didn’t want to lose my memories. The being waited patiently. Its eyes disappeared and reappeared. I assumed it had just blinked. Mabel and I looked at each other. We didn’t know what else we would be able to sacrifice.
“Knowledge can also carry replenishing life,” The being leaned down and pointed a clawed finger at the journal, held tightly under Mabel’s arm. Mabel defensively pushed the journal closer to her, afraid that the being would steal it from her if it came too close. It straightened again. Its head swooped leisurely from me to Mabel. “I see you are undecided about either decision.” It blinked again.
“Please. There has to be something else,” I begged.
“Unfortunately, asking for something requires the requester to give something in return. What you have requested is a heavy burden, and it requires a heavy sacrifice in return,” The being explained. “But on the other hand, you did mention the Demon, Bill.” The being put a clawed finger on its shin. “That Demon has been a scourge for millennia. Fulfilling your request would mean putting him to justice.” The being paused again. It leaned down until its eyes were level with ours. A yellow ball of flame began swirling around in its eyes. “Look into my eyes, and you will return to where you once were. In return, you will forget everything about what had happened when the Demon first took over.”
A smooth, cool feeling rippled through my brain. The blue background faded into a blinding white light. I shielded my eyes from the light, but I was too late. My vision faded to black. I thought for a minute that I had gone blind when I suddenly felt a sensation like warm arms getting wrapped around me; and a small yellow light broke in through my eyelids.
I woke with a jolt in my bed. I looked left and right. The journal was lying on the nightstand where I remembered leaving it for the night. I looked over to see that Mabel was sitting upright in her bed as well. She was looking left and right frantically as well, as if she had lost something. She calmed down and looked at me.
“Hey,” She greeted.
“Hey,” I responded, breaking into a soft laugh for some reason. Mabel giggled as well.
“You still up for checking out the author’s bunker today?” Mabel asked.
“Yeah!” I answered excitedly.
Mabel climbed out of her bed, followed quickly by Waddles. I stretched and pushed the covers off my legs. I turned towards the nightstand and started reaching for the journal. I glanced at my hand, noticing that it had writing on it.
“Huh?” I gasped, tilting my head to look at the writing better.
“What’s wrong?” Mabel wondered.
“I just have ‘Forgive Grunkle’ written on my hand,” I told her. Mabel walked over to read the writing for herself.
“Forgive him for what?” Mabel queried.
“I don’t know,” I replied, shrugging. “But whoever wrote this sounded like it was urgent. It’s written in caps and underlined and everything.”
“Okay, let’s go forgive him,” Mabel ordered.
I stood up and I felt a small ache in my side. Grunting, I held where my side was hurting. I looked at my side, but there was nothing there. Mabel looked back at me, looking worried. “Are you okay, bro?” She asked.
“Y-yeah…” I stuttered. “Sorry…I thought I saw something.”
Without another word, Mabel walked out of the attic. I followed a few paces behind. A message written on my hand, and a pain in my side, I thought. Did something happen last night? We headed down the stairs and walked through the TV room. Stan was sitting in the kitchen staring at the newspaper.
(Stan’s point of view)
I closed the paper as Mabel and Dipper walked up to me. They had tiny smiles on their faces. I wondered what was making them so happy this morning. It was strange that they were up this early in the morning. I was about to greet them when they jumped up on me, wrapping their arms around me.
“We forgive you Grunkle,” Mabel whispered.
I glanced down at Dipper’s hand to see that ‘Forgive Grunkle,’ was written on it. They had seen my secret bunker and they went through the portal. Although they didn’t remember anything about going through, they had reminded themselves to forgive me. I just came to appreciate how much they cared for me. I sighed. I hoped that one day, I could show them that bunker.
“Alright, alright get off me,” I ordered, unable to wipe a smile off my face. “Get your breakfast and get ready to open the shack.”
Dipper and Mabel started getting their breakfast ready. I opened a cupboard and reached far back into it. I searched around the back for a while before I found it. When I found it, I pulled it out. It was a small container of invisible ink and a quill.
Hiding the items from the kids, I headed towards the attic. I grabbed Dipper’s journal and opened it to a blank page. I dipped the quill in the ink and began to write a message. I heard Mabel and Dipper’s voices growing from the hallway. I slammed the journal shut and hurried behind the attic door.
Mabel and Dipper walked into the room. Mabel was joking as usual. I watched as Dipper walked up to the journal and paused for a second. I slipped out of the room and stood in the doorway, acting as though I had just walked into the room.
“What are you kids doing?” I asked them.
“We were just planning on playing around outside,” Mabel answered.
“Alright, but you’ve gotta promise to do some work in the shack before you do that,” I ordered.
“And you’re not going to get yourselves into trouble, right?”
“Of course not,” Dipper replied.
I nodded and left the room, leaving the two of them alone.
“Good night Dipper,” Mabel called. “Sorry we didn’t find anything new in the author’s bunker.”
“It’s okay, Mabel,’ I responded. “I’m sure we can find out who the author is.” I turned the page and shone the black light over it.
“Way to be positive,” Mabel praised, scooting underneath her covers and pulling them over her arms.
“Good night, Mabel,” I mumbled quietly.
I turned to a blank page of the journal and shone the black light over it. It was unlikely that I would be able to find anything. I felt like I had already checked this page and there was nothing there. My thoughts cut off as I saw the corner of a word shine under the light. I hovered the light over the word. It was a short five word message that looked recently written.
‘I…love you little twerps.’
Smiling, I flicked the black light off, letting the natural light of the moon illuminate the room. I closed the journal and placed it safely underneath my pillow. I drifted off to sleep feeling that small ache in my side that reminded me vaguely of a falling pine tree.