CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: Megalovania
The dream opened with me standing in a dark room, on a black-lit platform overlooking a seemingly bottomless abyss. I always hated it when my dreams dropped me right into an action sequence without giving me any context on how I got there and what I was doing. And I knew for sure that an action sequence was about to start, because Mettaton was standing in the middle of the platform, his interface staring me down in angry red, as if he had been expecting me.
"My, my," he said over the soft sound of whirring machinery. "So you've finally arrived. After our first meeting, I realized... something ghastly. You're not just a threat to monsters... but humanity as well. Oh, my. That's an issue. You see, I can't be a star without an audience. And besides... There are some people...I want to protect."
I assumed he was referring to Alphys, who was probably hiding somewhere with all the monsters she was able to evacuate. But I didn't buy into the act. Just like Bratty and Catty said, they weren't friends anymore. Did he just start caring about her again because everyone around them was dying? He had to be using her as an excuse to try and stop me, thinking I would be more likely to spare him if he didn't seem totally selfish. [Not a chance.] I took a step forward.
"Ah ha ha," Mettaton laughed. "Eager as always, eh? But don't touch that dial. There's something you haven't accounted for. As any true fan would know, I was first created as a human eradication robot. It was only after becoming a star that I was given a more...photogenic body. However... Those original functions have never been fully removed. Come any closer, and I'll be forced to show you..." He held up his arms. "My true form!"
I took another step towards him, and his interface flashed yellow for a moment before returning to red. My feet seemed to move of their own accord, without me thinking about the action. I wasn't afraid. I wasn't angry. I wasn't even excited for the battle. The only way I could describe my feeling in that moment is that I just wanted to get it over with. Besides, if I could defeat Undyne in her final form, then I could take anything the Underground had to offer.
"Fine then!" Mettaton announced. "Ready? It's showtime!"
The platform lit up in blinding white, and I was unfazed as Mettaton took hold of my soul. The rectangle body before me was replaced with something humanoid and weaponized, but the stage lights were blaring so brightly that I couldn't make out any details. Intense music played all around us, and Mettaton stood there, waiting for me to make a move. I pulled the burnt pan out of my bag, closed my eyes, and swung with all my might. Metal clanged against metal, sending vibrations up my arm, and the music suddenly stopped. When I opened my eyes again, Mettaton's new form was shaking where he stood.
"Gh..." he uttered, the breath knocked out of him. "Guess you don't wanna join my fan club?" Then the lights went out, and there was nothing on the black-lit platform but me and a pile of dust that was already starting to dissipate.
[Completely trashed,] I thought, although I wasn't sure if it was my own or that other voice I kept hearing, the one that sounded a lot like mine and yet wasn't. [There's no way he could ever be repaired.] I walked past where he stood and passed through a doorway into a corridor with blue walls and flooring. Since I could only turn right, I followed the hallway all the way to an elevator with purple interior, got inside, and pressed the button that I somehow knew would take me where I needed to go. Given the way all the other dreams had played out, I was expecting to wake up sometime during the ride, but this time my brain had other plans.
The elevator stopped, and the doors opened up into a corridor where everything was gray. I took a right turn and followed the path, surrounded by gray brick walls all the way, until an opening appeared on my left. When I reached the end of this road, I found another elevator, and just past that was a drop-off that made this place feel very familiar. As I continued along the path, the gray brick wall was on my right and the city was on my left, a city that looked exactly like the Ruins, except everything was gray instead of purple and the buildings weren't all falling apart. The cavern was dead silent, and I kept expecting a monster to jump out and exert its grip on my soul, but I walked for what felt like a mile and nobody came. [I guess I really did it,] I said to myself as my footsteps echoed on the stone path. [I killed every monster in the Underground, just like I set out to do.] I wanted to pat myself on the back, tell myself that I'd done a good job and I'd be home soon to tell everyone about my achievement. But something felt wrong about this place, and the feeling only grew with every step I took. At first I thought it was regret, but I soon realized it was more than that, more external. I should've felt safer down here once all the monsters were gone, but something ran through my mind, not a voice, more like an impulse, telling me there was something else up ahead, something I wasn't going to like.
As the path took a bend to the left, the city grew darker and the buildings were spaced farther apart. I kept walking, and the path turned to lighter and lighter shades of gray until it came to an end, and I found myself staring at a house that looked exactly like Toriel's, except gray instead of purple and with no tree in the front, just a pile of dead gray leaves. I came closer to the house, and each window had another pile of gray leaves in front of it, just like her house did. Even the inside looked exactly the same, with the golden flowers in the vase on the end table giving the room its only splash of color. The only other difference between this place and the house I remembered was that here, the stairs to the basement were blocked off by a chain with two padlocks. There was a note attached to the chain, but I didn't bother reading it, for I heard that familiar voice in my head, the one that felt like mine and yet wasn't, say [He leaves them in the kitchen and the hallway.] I knew right away that "they" were the keys to these locks, but it took me a minute to figure out who "he" was, since Toriel lived alone last I checked. Then it dawned on me, as I remembered reading about how the monsters trekked from the Ruins all the way across the Underground to build a new capital city. [This is New Home,] I thought in my own voice. [This is where Asgore lives.]
I looked in the drawer of the end table near the stairs and found a calendar with a date circled. [That's the date I came here,] said the other voice. Recalling the layout of Toriel's house, I turned left into the living room, where a golden flower sat in a vase on the dining room table. I was about to turn into the kitchen when Flowey popped out of the floor. His appearance startled me, but I relaxed when I saw that he wasn't giving me the smug smirk I'd come to expect from him. Instead, he was smiling, as if he had never been happier to see me.
"Howdy, Chara!" he greeted me. "You finally made it home." [There's that name again,] I thought. [Why does it follow me everywhere? Why can't I escape it?] But if this was where Chara lived, I knew I wouldn't be getting away from the name anytime soon. "Remember when we used to play here?" Flowey went on. "Hee hee hee... Boy! Today's gonna be just as fun." His smile turned sinister, and he disappeared as I went into the kitchen, where a green key was sitting on the counter. I still had no clue who this Chara person was, or why Flowey seemed to think I was them, but now the sound of that name made me even more uneasy. If they were a friend of his, they couldn't be any good.
I took the key and put it on my phone's keychain, on the phone that looked the way it did when Toriel first gave it to me, then glanced around and see if everything else lined up with my memory. There was nothing special about the stovetop, or the note on the counter that I felt like I'd read already, or the sink with some white fur stuck in the drain. A sudden craving came over me, and I opened the fridge and gave a low growl when I didn't find any chocolate in there. As I went back through the living room, Flowey popped up again with a distressed look on his face.
"I remember when I first woke up here, in the garden," he told me. "I was so scared. I couldn't feel my arms or my legs... My entire body had turned into a flower! 'Mom! Dad! Somebody help me!' I called out." His face turned sinister again. "But nobody came."
[I knew it,] I thought as I crossed back through the hall to where the bedrooms should be. [I knew there was something different about him.] From the first time he appeared in my dreams, something set Flowey apart from every monster I'd met, and even now I hadn't seen anyone else who gave me that same feeling. But if he wasn't always a flower, then what was he before? How did he end up that way? Was he being punished for something he did? Given everything I'd seen from him already, that wouldn't have surprised me. Or maybe it was a tragic accident, a result of him just being in the wrong place at the wrong time? And could it be undone?
Those were the questions racing in the back of my mind as I entered the bedroom that was mine at Toriel's house. The difference here was, this room had two twin beds on opposite sides, and there were two white gift boxes on the floor, each one tied up in a red ribbon. I opened the box closest to the door and found a heart-shaped locket inside. [Take it,] said the voice in my head, the one that felt like mine but wasn't. I picked up the locket and put it around my neck, and as I pressed the heart pendant against my chest, I swore I could feel it beating. [Right where it belongs,] the voice said. Inside the other box, I found a knife, not a toy like the one I found in the Ruins, but a real one that could actually cut something, or someone, without much effort. [Here we are!] said the voice as I picked it up. [About time.] I looked around the room, and as I ran my finger up and down the blade of the knife, a flood of memories came back to me. It wasn't a voice I heard, more of an impulse running through my brain, telling me that the bed on the left side of the room was mine, and the other one belonged to...whoever I shared this room with. A young boy. My brother? I didn't make much of the picture on the nightstand, but I recognized the dusty toys in the box and the drawing of a flower that was hanging on the wall; I remembered drawing it. And when I looked in the wardrobe, I found our clothes, mine and his. The thoughts didn't shake me as I went back out into the hallway, but my own voice, that part of me that was aware that this was all a dream, wanted to pound the side of my head and shake them out like water from my ears. [Whose memories are these?] I shouted from the back of my mind. [Get out of my head!] But something else was taking control now, and I didn't feel the urge to fight it. I walked past vases full of golden flowers and a locked door with a sign that read "Room under renovations" before I found the second green key on an end table. Still, the other room had me curious, so I went inside first and found that Flowey had beaten me there.
"Eventually, the king found me," he said, "crying in the garden. I explained what had happened to him. Then he held me, Chara. He held me with tears in his eyes, saying... 'There, there. Everything is going to be alright.' He was so...emotional. But...for some reason...I didn't feel anything at all."
He lingered for a bit, watching me as I looked around the room and waited for more memories to come back. I didn't know how to react to what he just said; none of it surprised me. Of course Asgore would sympathize with a lost and lonely little monster, and of course Flowey wouldn't feel anything for him in return. He said so himself, he was empty inside. The open journal on Asgore's desk lost my interest; the entries were always the same. There was nothing useful in his wardrobe, or under the king-sized bed, or in the drawers of his bureau. [Still has that sweater,] the other voice in my head observed. I left the room, took the key from the end table, and put it on my keychain, but before I left, I took a look in the mirror at the end of the hall and gave myself an unexpected chill. The face staring back at me was my own, but something was different about it, like I was wearing a blank mask. I tried to smile, I tried to frown, I opened and closed my mouth, I winked, blinked, and squinted at the reflection, but none of it showed. [It's me, Chara,] I heard the voice in my head say. I turned away from the mirror and went back down the hall, Flowey following close behind, and the voice spoke up again as I approached the stairs. [I'll unlock the chain,] it said, and I undid the two locks as if by muscle memory, as my mind listened for the voice to speak again. The chain fell to the floor, and I descended the stairs into the basement, where Flowey continued his story.
"I soon realized I didn't feel anything about anyone. My compassion had disappeared!" He smiled sadly. "And believe me, it's not like I wasn't trying." Then he frowned and furrowed his eyebrows. "I wasted weeks with that stupid king, vainly hoping I would feel something." His face relaxed, but he was still cast down. "But it became too much for me. I ran away from home. Eventually, I reached the Ruins." He gave me a genuine smile, the same one he greeted me with. "Inside I found her, Chara. I thought of all people, she could make me feel whole again." He paused, and his smile turned sad again. "She failed. Ha ha..."
I started walking down the basement hall, a gray replica of the one Toriel once tried to keep me out of, and I knew she was the one Flowey was referring to just now. She had to be. She was the warm presence that drew outside monsters to the Ruins like moths to a flame. If she couldn't make Flowey feel anything, then he truly was a lost cause. That should have scared me, or at least made me look at him differently, but in that moment, I felt nothing new towards him.
"I realized those two were useless," Flowey went on. "I became despondent. I just wanted to love someone. I just wanted to care about someone. Chara, you might not believe this..." He looked like he was about to cry. "But I decided... It wasn't worth living anymore." He looked up at me with his sad smile. "Not in a world without love. Not in a world without you. So..." His smile turned into a happy one. "I decided to follow in your footsteps." Then his face went blank. "I would erase myself from existence. And you know what?" He gave me another happy smile. "I succeeded."
As I kept walking down the hall, my true voice was yelling from the back of my head for me to feel something. Flowey was telling me the saddest story I had ever heard in my life, and yet I couldn't bring myself to say anything in response or give him so much as an understanding nod. No, I didn't really care about Flowey after all he'd done to hurt me, but even then, I should have been moved by what he was saying. I stopped walking when I heard him speak again.
"But as I left this mortal coil...I started to feel apprehensive." His gave me that sinister look again. "If you don't have a soul, what happens when you...?" Then his face went blank. "Something primal started to burn inside me. 'No," I thought. 'I don't want to die!'" He paused for a moment. "Then I woke up. Like it was all just a bad dream. I was back at the garden." He smiled. "Back at my 'save point.'"
[Save point...] Those words mulled over in my head as I continued through the basement. What did he mean by a "save point?" Was there a Saving Star in the garden? But Toriel told me that monsters couldn't use Saving Stars. What happened after he transformed that gave him the power to use them? Actually, a better question was how he used it at all. I'd been carrying one of these things around in my pocket for days now, and I still had no idea how they worked.
Flowey kept talking as we moved along together. "Interested, I decided to experiment. Again and again, I brought myself to the edge of death. At any point, I could have let this world continue on without me. But as long as I was determined to live..." He smiled at me. "I could go back. Amazing, isn't it, Chara? I was amazed, too."
The hallway ended and the only way to go was left, but before I turned, I reached into my pocket and felt for my Saving Star. It wasn't in the pocket where I always put it, so I checked the other one, but it wasn't there, either. In the back of my mind, the real me was freaking out, but whatever version of me was controlling my body simply shrugged it off. Flowey caught up to me, and I stood still and listened to more of his story.
"At first, I used my powers for good," he said with a smile. "I became 'friends' with everyone. I solved all their problems flawlessly. Their companionship was amusing..." His smile faded. "For a while. As time repeated, people proved themselves predictable. What would this person say if I gave them this? What would they do if I said this to them? Once you know the answer, that's it. That's all they are."
At this point, Flowey's words were going in one ear and out the other. His voice was starting to grate on me, being the only thing to break the silence in this forsaken house besides my own footsteps, and I couldn't make sense of what he was saying. [So what if people are predictable?] I thought in my own voice. [Wasn't it those quirks that made you want to be friends with them in the first place? And why would they change, if nothing around them was changing?] But since he had no feelings, he was probably never attached to those things that make people who they are. I turned the corner and kept going, only stopping when Flowey spoke again.
"It all started because I was curious," he said, then broke into another happy smile. "Curious what would happen if I killed them." He shrunk back, sounding sad and scared. "'I don't like this,' I told myself. 'I'm just doing this because I have to know what happens.'" Then he stood upright and gave me his most evil look, the one where his eyes went wide and all of his teeth were bared. "Ha ha ha... What an excuse!" He released his tense face, but his expression was still sinister. "You of all people must know how liberating it is to act this way." Then the evil face came back. "At least we're better than those sickos that stand around and read about it after it's happened..." His regular sinister look returned, and I wasn't sure which one creeped me out more in real life, but here, neither one bothered me at all. "Those pathetic people that want to see it, but are too weak to do it themselves." He smiled in my direction. "I bet someone like that's reading these words right now, aren't they...?"
He was looking through me as he said that last sentence, as if he were directing it at someone standing behind me, but I didn't see anyone when I looked over my shoulder. I tried to shake off his words as I turned right and went back outside into the city. It was easier than trying to work out his riddles. If he killed everyone in the Underground before I came along, why did I still have to fight so many monsters here? Were there a few survivors who went under his radar, and could they have reproduced so quickly? Or were monsters like cats, with nine lives to spare before they finally bit the dust for good? No, that couldn't be it; that went against everything I'd learned about them. I stopped to admire the view, and Flowey spoke up again.
"Nowadays, even that's grown tiring." He smiled sadly at me. "You understand, Chara. I've done everything this world has to offer." Then his face went blank. "I've read every book. I've burned every book. I've won every game. I've lost every game. I've appeased everyone. I've killed everyone. Sets of numbers...lines of dialogue...I've seen them all. But you...you're different." He grinned at me. "I never could predict you, Chara."
As I kept walking with the city on my left and the gray wall on my right, I tried to shrug off his words, but part of me was still trying to make sense of them. The part about me being different was straightforward; if Flowey wasn't around when the six other children fell down here, I would be the first human he'd ever met. Someone with no magic, but the power to keep monsters trapped underground for thousands of years, was surely the strangest thing he'd ever seen in his life. But I couldn't grasp the rest of it, no matter how hard I tried. If he did everything he said he did, why was it all still here when I arrived? Was that the power of the Saving Stars? Did they give him the ability to go back and time and relive his entire life? And is that what would happen if I tried to use them? But how far back would I go? Could I control it? How many chances would I get? Of course, none of that mattered now; I had no Saving Star on me in this timeline. So I shoved those questions aside and kept walking down the path.
"When I saw you in the Ruins, I didn't recognize you," said Flowey, keeping close to me as I walked. I looked over at him, and he was giving me his full evil face. "I thought I could frighten you, then steal your soul." Then his face went blank. "I failed. And when I tried to use my Saving Star..." He smiled, but it quickly faded away. "It didn't work." Then he made his sinister face, which slowly melted into his most evil one. "Chara...your determination! Somehow, it's even greater than mine!"
I turned away and looked in the direction I was going, that word echoing in my brain. [Determination.] Wasn't that the word I'd been using to describe myself this whole time? Was that all it took to use a Saving Star? But monsters could be determined, too, couldn't they? Undyne certainly was. So why couldn't they use the Saving Stars? Perhaps Toriel was wrong, or else she was lying to me to protect me from something. Then I remembered that Flowey was no ordinary monster and reasoned that only the most determined being in the Underground could use them at any given time. For a while, Flowey held that position, but then I came and took it away from him without even trying. And he didn't seem upset about it, so why should I be?
"I just have one question for you, Chara," Flowey said, interrupting my thoughts. "How did you get back to the Ruins from here...?" He paused, but then spoke again before I could even try to answer. "Wait, I know," he said with a smile. "She must have taken you when she left. And decided to give you a proper burial, rather than..." His smile faltered for a second. "Hanging out in the basement forever." Then his face went blank. "But, why then...? What made you wake up?" He gave me a smile that lit up his eyes. "Did you hear me calling you...?"
I said nothing, just kept walking through the city with Flowey by my side. Whatever he thought I was, I wasn't Chara; how should I know what they were doing in the Ruins, or what made them wake up after all these years? And this "she" he mentioned...was it Toriel again? But why would she take this Chara's body with her into exile? I started to grow angry with her, wondering how much she didn't tell me before I left her. But there was no point in holding grudges against the dead. I stopped when I heard Flowey's voice again and turned to face him.
"It doesn't matter now," he said. "I'm so tired of this, Chara. I'm tired of all these people. I'm tired of all these places. I'm tired of being a flower. Chara." He smiled at me. "There's just one thing left I want to do. Let's finish what we started. Let's free everyone." His face turned to its most evil expression. "Then...let's let them see what humanity is really like!" He released the tension in his face but maintained a sinister look. "That despite it all...this world is still 'Kill or be killed!'"
I took a few steps forward and finally found it in me to speak up. "And then what?"
"Then...?" Flowey replied with a nervous grin. "Well, I had..." His face turned sinister again. "Been entertaining a few ways to use that power. Hee hee hee..." His evil expression startled me this time, but after a short pause, his face softened again. "But seeing you here changed my mind." He gave me a faint smile. "Chara...I think if you're around...just living in the surface world doesn't seem so bad."
Somehow I doubted that even having his old friend around would make Flowey less of a murderous maniac. What difference did Chara's presence make if he couldn't feel anything for anyone? Besides, eventually he would figure out that I wasn't really Chara, and then nothing would stop him from stabbing me in the back. I kept an eye on him as we walked along.
"We don't even need to leave to get them this time," Flowey said, his smile growing bigger. "The king has six of them locked away." His smile wavered. "I've tried hundreds of ways to get him to show me them..." He frowned. "But he just won't." Then his smile returned. "Chara...I know he'll do it for you."
[That's right,] I thought as I continued walking. [He has six human souls locked away, and my soul will be the seventh we need to break the barrier. But in order to do that...won't you have to kill me?] I was tempted to ask him that right then and there, but I was in no mood to start a fight, even with this knife of mine. "Why are you telling me all of this?" I asked instead.
"Chara, I said it before," he answered, his smile faltering for a second. "Even after all this time... You're still the only one that understands me." Then he gave me his most evil look. "You won't give me any worthless pity!" I stopped walking, wondering if this road was ever going to end, and when I looked over at Flowey, he was wearing his typical sinister expression. "Creatures like us..." he started, switching to his friendly smile. "Wouldn't hesitate to kill each other if we got in each other's way. So that's..." His smile vanished. "So...that's...why..."
I'd heard enough. I wasn't going to listen to his plan if he was just going to turn around and betray me in the middle of it. I loomed over him and watched him shake from base to bloom as beads of sweat dripped off his petals. He said nothing for a while, and I just stared at him.
"Ha...ha...what's this...feeling?" he stammered, looking up at me with a nervous smile. "Why am I...shaking?" He paused, and the sweat started pouring down in streams. "Hey... Chara... No hard feelings about back then, right?" He paused again, and I leaned in closer, my grip on the knife tightening. Flowey must have noticed this, for his face quickly grew angry and his voice elevated. "H-hey, what are you doing?! B...back off!"
I stood upright and turned away, but I didn't get very far before Flowey cut in front of me. He was still sweating and shaking all over, but this time he was trying to offer a smile.
"I...I've changed my mind about all this," he blurted out. "This isn't a good idea anymore. Y-you should go back, Chara." He stopped sweating. "This place is fine the way it is!" He paused, and his angry face returned as I felt my eyes widen and lips curl into a smile frightening enough to rival his own. "S-s-stop making that creepy face!" he demanded. "This isn't funny! You've got a sick sense of humor!"
I was about to swing at him with the knife, just to see how much more I could unnerve him, but he disappeared into the ground without leaving a trace, and I was left alone at the intersection. At the end of the road was an elevator that I could only assume led back to the entrance of the city, and the only other way to go was right, into the castle that I once viewed from far away. The door did not appear to be locked, and there was no one guarding it, so I started towards the castle, took one last look behind me to make sure Flowey was really gone, and entered. [Time to avenge those six human children,] I thought. [Time to save humanity.]
Everything in the front hall was done up in gold: the walls, the columns, the stained-glass windows, the Delta Rune carved above the door, even the floor tiles were two different shades of orange. There was a Saving Star on the ground near the entrance, and I picked it up and put in my pocket, not noticing if there were any letters carved into it. I cast a long shadow as I stepped into the light, and every step echoed through the empty space. Near the end of the hall, I could see a figure standing in the middle of my path, short and stout and shrouded in shadow. [Is that you, King Asgore?] I thought. [You're not as intimidating as I imagined.] But as I drew closer to the figure, the details became clearer, and I froze in place when I realized who it was. There, in the center of the hall, blocking my only path to the king of monsters, was Sans, staring me down with the same fixed smile and blank stare as always.
"Heya," he said to me, in the same voice he always used. "You've been busy, huh?" He paused, and I glanced down at my hands, which were coated in white dust. I hadn't noticed it on Mettaton's stage or in Asgore's house, but in the light of the windows, it was obvious. "So, I've got a question for ya." Sans closed his eyes. "Do you think even the worst person can change? That everybody can be a good person, if they just try?"
I said nothing. There was nothing to say. Of course he would try and use Papyrus' words against me now. But if he thought he could guilt me out of completing my mission now, after I'd come so far and worked so hard, he had another thing coming. I took a step forward.
"Heh heh heh heh..." Sans laughed. "All right." He looked at me for a second, then closed his eyes again. "Well, here's a better question." He opened his eyes to reveal two black, empty sockets. "Do you wanna have a bad time?" He shut his eyes. "Because if you take another step forward..." Then he showed his empty sockets again. "You are really not going to like what happens next."
I remembered his warning from all the way back in Snowdin, that if I kept going the way I was, I was gonna have a bad time. In the back of my mind, the real me wanted to turn around and go back the way I came, look for some other way out of this place. But now the only voice I could truly hear was the other one in my head, the one that wasn't mine and yet felt so natural and familiar. [This is the easiest enemy you'll ever face,] it said. [He only has one hit point. You so much as scratch him and he's dead.] That was all the persuasion I needed. By the time I was done with him, he'd wish he'd gone to hide with Alphys and the others. I held my knife up just enough so Sans could see it, and with the other voice in control, I took another step towards him.
"Welp," said Sans, his eyes shut. "Sorry, old lady. This is why I never make promises."
[Old lady...] As the light from the windows dimmed and Sans took hold of my soul, I recalled the story of how Toriel made Sans promise to protect any human who came out of the Ruins. I had to wonder how Sans felt now, whether he blamed himself for everything that had happened since I appeared. [Don't give yourself so much credit,] I wanted to say, but something told me I was going to need all my breath to get through what was to come, so I kept quiet.
"It's a beautiful day outside," Sans started, his eyes still closed. "Birds are singing, flowers are blooming...on days like these, kids like you..." Then he opened his eyes, revealing two black, empty sockets, and switched to the serious voice he first greeted me with in Snowdin Forest, and each word was hard and deliberate. "Should be burning in hell."
What happened next was such a blur that I could barely comprehend it. First, Sans' left eye flashed blue and yellow like a strobe light as he held out his arm, turned my soul blue, and slammed me to the ground. Then it turned red again, just in time for me to jump up and avoid a line of bones that shot out of the ground below me. But as soon as they disappeared, more bones of varying lengths came racing towards me from the floor and ceiling, and I had to run up and down the hill to avoid being hit. These were immediately replaced by four giant skeletal heads with horns, long snouts, sharp teeth, and large piercing eyes that surrounded me on all sides and reconfigured themselves over and over as they opened their massive jaws and shot laser beams at me. I felt the white-hot burn as all four blasters fired at me once, twice, three times, and then only two of them took the fourth shot, which I was lucky enough to dodge. Dizzy and aching, I stared at Sans with my eyes wide and my mouth hanging open, gasping for air.
"Huh," he mused, shrugging his shoulders. "Always wondered why people never use their strongest attack first." His little white pupils had returned, and he looked at me with that same smile as always, shifting his weight from one foot to the other as he stood in place.
[Look how weak he is,] said the other voice in my head. [How much damage can he really do?] But despite everything the voice was saying, I felt like I was going to have a bad time. I pulled myself together, grasped my knife firmly, ran up to Sans and swung at him, but I found myself gaping again when he did something I hadn't seen any other monster in the Underground do: he dodged my attack. He turned to face me as I resumed my fighting stance, repositioning himself in the middle of the hall.
"What?" said Sans with a shrug and a wink. "You think I'm just gonna stand there and take it?" Two more rows of bones came at me, a very tall set from the ceiling and a very short set from the floor, so I had to duck and make low jumps to avoid being hit by either line. When the floor was clear, I swung at Sans again, but he slid to the side and I missed.
"Our reports showed a massive anomaly in the time-space continuum," he stated. "Timelines jumping left and right, stopping and starting..." I waited for him to finish, not even noticing the tall blue bone coming right at me from the floor. Luckily, I was holding so still that it fazed right through me, and I saw the short white bone immediately after it just in time for me to jump over it. The pattern continued, and I stopped and jumped accordingly, and then they started coming from behind me in the same pattern. I swung again as soon as I got a break, and I missed. His blank stare and plastered smile mocked me as I felt my sins crawling on my back.
"Until suddenly," Sans finished with his eyes closed, "everything ends." Two more rows of bones came at me, one from in front of me and one from behind, but this time, each bone was a different length, so there was no pattern to the jumps I had to make. High, low, in the middle, they kept me guessing until the floor was clear again. [He can't keep dodging forever,] said the other voice in my head. [Keep attacking.] I heeded the voice's advice, and I missed again.
"Heh heh heh..." Sans chuckled, then opened his eyes and fixed the empty black sockets on me. "That's your fault, isn't it?" A shorter row of bones came up from the ground, but this time, there were a few platforms floating above them. I jumped up onto the first platform, then made the long leap to the second, then ducked to avoid the bones jutting out from the ceiling as I jumped onto the third. The bones stopped, so I jumped back down to the floor and rolled over to dodge the long bone that stuck out from above. As I stood up, I noticed that Sans' movements had grown a little wearier, so I swung my knife again, and I missed.
"You can't understand how this feels," said Sans, a new heaviness in his eyes as another row of bones came my way, this time with a few tall ones mixed in. There were more platforms for me to jump onto, but they also varied in height, so I fought gravity and jumped up and down to stay above the dangerous floor and avoid the few bones that were sticking out of the ceiling. The final jump back to the floor was a high one, and I had to roll over again as soon as I landed. And then I swung, and I swung, and I missed. [I missed both times?!] I vented in my mind.
Sans shut his eyes as he spoke again. "Knowing that one day, without any warning..." Then he opened them, and the heaviness I saw before had increased. "It's all going to be reset." The platforms that appears this time were longer, but they were all being held up by bones, so jumping onto them wasn't as easy as it was before. Not only that, but there were still some bones sticking out from the ceiling, so I didn't have much clearance to jump at any height. I fell to the floor as the platforms disappeared, my legs vibrating from the impact, and then I swung, and then I missed. Between Sans' broken riddles and the sins weighing down my neck, my patience was wearing thin. [We're gonna be here for hours if this keeps up.]
"Look," said Sans, shrugging his shoulders and giving me that heavy stare. "I gave up trying to go back a long time ago." An array of short bones emerged from the floor, and not only was there only one small platform for me to jump onto, but there were bones shooting up from the floor and down from the ceiling in streams, which I had to duck under and jump over while staying on the moving platform. I moved back and forth a few times, towards Sans and away from him and back again. When it was safe to return to the floor, I swung at him with the full force of my rage and missed.
Sans shrugged his shoulders again and closed his eyes. "And getting to the surface doesn't really appeal anymore, either." I wanted to ask him about that, but more platforms appeared before me and I knew I would have to jump right away. I climbed onto the first one I could reach, just as the blasters returned and fired their white-hot lasers at me. The first one came from the left, then came one on the right, and they alternated sides, some firing near the ceiling, some near the floor, and some right in the middle. I jumped up with all my strength and down with all my speed to avoid being lasered again, the memory of the pain from the first blast keeping me on my toes. I was out of breath by the time they went away, but there was nowhere to run or hide, so I swung so hard I thought I was going to drop the knife. But I still missed.
"Because even if we do..." Sans started, then gave me a shrug and another black-socket stare. "We'll just end up right back here, without any memory of it, right?" Now I was really tempted to ask him what was going through his mind, where he had heard such nonsense and what made him believe it. But there was another array of bones to jump over and more streams of them coming from above and below, so I hopped up onto the only platform available and did my best. However, this time I couldn't avoid being hit on the way down, and I winced as I fell to the floor and lay on my back, dust falling all around me like snowflakes. I reached into my bag, pulled out a Bisicle, and ate half of it to recover my strength. Then I got up, and I brandished my knife, and then I swung, and then I missed.
"To be blunt..." said Sans, shrugging and closing his heavy eyes. "It makes it kind of hard to give it my all." Then he repeated his first attack, a short row of bones below me and a tall row of bones above me, restricting me to short jumps. As challenging as it was, I was glad to deal with something consistent for a round. Sans' movements seemed to be slower now, and his last statement gave me hope that he was about to call it quits. But when I swung my knife again, he slid to the same side he always did and dodged it.
"Or is that just a poor excuse for being lazy...?" Sans mused, then added with a wink, "Hell if I know." I saw a row of tall bones coming towards me, sticking out from the ceiling, but as I ducked to avoid them, I noticed the row of short bones coming towards me from behind, so I had to time my ducks and jumps just right to keep them from hitting me. The bones eventually stopped, and I swung my knife and missed again.
"All I know is..." Sans started with his eyes closed, and I had to wonder if his shoulders were tired from all that shrugging. "Seeing what comes next..." He opened his eyes and gave me that heavy look. "I can't afford not to care anymore." Another two rows of bones came my way, once again varying in length so there was no consistent pattern for me to follow, and this time they were moving even faster. I turned my head back and forth, making sure not to miss any set of bones, and I was so dizzy when I swung the knife that I didn't even know what I was going for. I hit something, but it wasn't Sans, so I guess I missed.
When I regained my footing and looked at Sans again, he was sweating profusely and looking back at me with those heavy eyes. "Ugh..." he gasped. "That being said...you, uh, really like swinging that thing around, huh?" He paused for a moment, and for a split second, his smile felt warm and genuine. The room went silent as sweat and dust and drops of human blood pooled up at our feet, my breathing and his making the only sounds. Sans' voice caught me off guard when he spoke again; I wasn't expecting him to be so gentle after all of this. "Listen," he said. "I know you didn't answer me before, but...somewhere in there. I can feel it." He opened his eyes. "There's a glimmer of a good person inside of you." Then he shut them again. "The memory of someone who once wanted to do the right thing." He tried to open his eyes, but they wouldn't go all the way. "Someone who, in another time, might have even been...a friend?" He gave me a wink, then forced his eyes open, but it was a struggle to keep them that way, so they went back and forth as he went on. "C'mon, buddy. Do you remember me? Please, if you're listening...let's forget all this, okay?" He winked at me again before letting his eyelids fall. "Just lay down your weapon, and...well, my job will be a lot easier."
The sweat ran down both of our faces as we stood staring at each other. I waited until my breath was stable and then took a tentative step towards Sans. How did he know that there was more than one of us inside this body? How did he sense the other version of me, when it had been shoved to the back of my brain? How was he, this short, lazy skeleton, the most powerful monster in the entire Underground? Perhaps now he would be willing to answer. I loosened my hold on the knife as the real, conscious me demanded that I let it fall. I felt the urge to throw it away, throw myself at Sans with my arms open wide, and beg his forgiveness for everything I'd done. But before I could take another step forward, an image flashed before my eyes, an image of Sans receiving me for a hug and then running me through with a piercing bone, watching me bleed out, laughing and saying, "Get dunked on!" As my mind snapped back to the present and I saw Sans standing there, waiting for me to make a move, I realized that I had given up that option long ago. I took a few more steps towards Sans, maintaining a cool, calm expression, and when I was so close that I could reach out and touch him, I aimed my knife at his chest and swung. But once again, he slid to the side and dodged it, giving me a teasing wink.
"Welp, it was worth a shot," he said, then gazed at me with two black, empty sockets. "Guess you like doing things the hard way, huh?" The bones in the floor flew at me so fast I barely noticed them in time to jump up and avoid them. Then, when I was in midair, the room flashed in black, as if someone has flicked a light switch off and then on again, and I was back on the floor jumping over short bones and ducking under long ones. The room blinked again, and I was holding still for blue bones and jumping over white ones. Another flash, and the same thing happened. Another flash, and I was jumping over small bones and ducking under long ones. [The real battle finally begins,] the other voice in my head whispered. I took a swing, and I missed. When I looked down again, I noticed that my soul had turned from blue back to red.
"Sounds strange," said Sans, still sweating and refusing to open his eyes, "but before all this I was secretly hoping we could be friends." He squinted at me. "I always thought the anomaly was doing this because they were unhappy. And when they got what they wanted, they would stop all this." Next thing I knew, I was surrounded by an arsenal of blasters, and I ran around in circles as they took turns shooting at me. Bones started moving at me from the sides, as if the walls themselves were attacking me with them, and I waited for them to stop, but even after the blasters disappeared, a stray bone conked me in the head, knocking me back down onto the floor. I forced myself back up and ate the other half of that Bisicle (which I supposed would be called a Unisicle), and then I swung, and then I missed. [Again?!] I wanted to shout.
Sans gave me a wink. "And maybe all they needed was...I dunno. Some good food, some bad laughs, some nice friends." A flash turned my soul blue, and I was hopping between platforms to avoid flying rows of bones and a massive array on the floor. Another flash turned it red, and I was running in a zigzag pattern to dodge the rows of bones jutting out at me on both sides of the room. Another flash, and I was moving out of the way to avoid a four-way blast of white-hot lasers. Another flash, and me and my blue soul were fighting gravity to stay between two platforms of different heights as bones shot out at me. Another flash, and me and my red soul were dodging blasters again. Something strange and deadly was coursing through my veins, burning like poison, and Sans' talk of friendship meant less than nothing to me. So I swung my knife again, and I missed.
"But that's ridiculous, right?" Sans asked with closed eyes, then opened them to give me another black-socket stare. "Yeah, you're the type of person who won't ever be happy." He turned my soul blue, held out his arm, and slammed me against the floor, then released me just in time so I could jump up and avoid a row of short bones. Then he slammed me into a wall, releasing me just in time to avoid a row of short bones from there. He repeated this on the opposite wall and then the ceiling, then twice against the wall, then the floor, then the other wall. I glanced down for a second to assess my bruises, but bones were popping out of the floor at random moments, not giving me any time to think. Sans was done waiting, so I couldn't wait, either. I swung the knife again, and he dodged the attack again, fixing his black sockets on me.
"You'll keep consuming timelines over and over, until..." He blinked, then shrugged his shoulders and winked at me. "Well. Hey. Take it from me, kid. Someday...you gotta learn when to quit." He slammed me twice into the wall, then once on the other wall, then the ceiling, then the floor, then the wall again, then the floor again, then the other wall, and once more on the ceiling before he put me back down. Those bones were still attacking me from the walls and the floor, and my sins were still crawling on my back, but I couldn't surrender now, especially since Sans was starting to look really tired. I reached into my bag for another Bisicle but instead came up with a handful of snow, so I shoved that into my mouth instead and swallowed it, gasping as it turned to water in my throat. I took another swing, and I missed.
"And that day's today," Sans said with a wink, right before the blasters surrounded me again. Their configuration was different this time, and I was running in circles once again, never knowing which one was about to unleash a white-hot blast at any given second. They fired more rapidly this time, and I didn't get away completely unscathed, but with all the bones targeting me during the interim, I had no time to spare for tending the burn. [This is all just a bad dream!] my own voice called out to me from the back of my mind. But as badly as I wanted to reach it, I couldn't make myself wake up. These bones were causing me real pain, and I needed to keep my focus on finishing this fight. I swung the knife once more, and needless to say, I missed.
"Because...ya see..." Sans panted, sweat pouring down his face. "All this fighting is really tiring me out." My soul was red again, making it easier for me to jump back and forth as two rows of long bones shot out at me from the left and right walls. They were moving in opposite directions and at the same speed, so jumping back and forth was an easy pattern to fall into, but as much as I tried to hide it, my strength was fading, too. But I wasn't giving myself up for dead yet, so I swung again, and I missed. [I missed again...] I growled to myself.
"And if you keep pushing me..." Sans said, his eyes shut, "then I'll be forced to use my Special Attack." He gave me a wink as he turned my soul blue and threw me into a fray of blue and white bones. The room blinked, and it was back to jumping short bones on the floor and ducking under long ones on the ceiling. Another flash, and the short and long bones continued. Another flash, and the short and long bones started moving in opposite directions, so I had to change my jump pattern. Another flash, and I was jumping over two clusters of bones that were racing towards me from opposite ends of the room. The largest bones in those clusters were too big for me to jump over, but they were gone in another flash, and my soul turned back to red, allowing me to run in zigzags to avoid two more uneven rows of bones. Sans looked like he was preparing something, and I heard Papyrus' voice echo in my head, warning me about his Special Attack, but I shoved the memory out of my mind as quickly as it came on. I swung and missed.
"Yeah, my Special Attack" said Sans, giving me a wink before switching to his heavy look. "Sound familiar? Well, get ready. Because after the next move, I'm going to use it." He winked at me again. "So, if you don't wanna see it, now would be a good time to die."
[A good time for you to die, you mean,] I thought as he turned my soul blue and slammed me into the ceiling, then the wall, then twice into the ceiling, then into the wall, then the other wall, then twice into the floor, then once more into the wall before releasing me. As Sans was getting ready to use his "special attack," I looked him up and down to see if any weak spots had opened up, but I didn't have much time to look before the rogue bones started hitting me, so I swung at Sans once again, and once again, I missed.
"Well, here goes nothing..." he said with his eyes closed, then opened them and gave me another wink. "Are you ready?" He stared at me with two black, empty sockets, and his voice grew louder than I had ever heard it before. "Survive this, and I'll show you my special attack!"
[Bring it on!] I wanted to shout back, but my lungs were running on empty and my mouth was too dry, even after the thirst-quenching snow. My heart pounded as he slammed me into the wall twice, then once into the floor, then the other wall, then turned my soul back to red and made me jump back and forth to dodge the long bones on either side of me, then turned it blue again and slammed me into the back wall. With all of his psychokinetic strength, he pulled me all the way from one end of the room to the other, and I had to take some control over my flight to avoid crashing into the uneven rows of bones on the ceiling and floor. About halfway through the hall, the rows turned into evenly spaced clusters, but the flight pattern to avoid them was about the same, so I tried to keep my focus directly ahead of me and not think too hard and throw myself off. The rows of bones returned and closed in on me from above and below, but I stayed centered and just barely avoided them both right before I crashed into the wall at the far end. A row of bones shot out at me, but I had taken back enough control to avoid them, so I scraped past them and the ones that came next from the floor and ceiling. The bones forced me into one corner of the room, then another, then I was jumping away from the wall to dodge them, and then I was running around in tight circles to evade the firing squad of blasters and their white-hot lasers beams shooting off in rapid succession. Just as I was about to collapse, Sans' eye flashed yellow and blue as he moved his outstretched arm and threw me around the room, slamming me against the walls, floor, and ceiling so swiftly that I lost my sense of direction. My head and heart were still pounding louder than ever when Sans finally lowered me to the floor, and when they subsided at last, all I could hear over the ringing of my ears was Sans' huffing and puffing. My soul returned to red, and Sans and I were both trying to keep ourselves from fainting, our eyes fighting to stay open against the rivers of sweat running down our faces.
"All right," he panted. "That's it. It's time for my Special Attack." He winked at me and shrugged. "Are you ready?" Then he shut his eyes and said, "Here goes nothing."
There was a long pause, and he looked at me with that heavy expression, but he didn't make a sound or move an inch, except for his expanding and contracting chest. I was tempted to take another swing at him, but I was too afraid that he was waiting for me to do that, so he could unleash the "special attack." I don't know how long we stood there in silence, but it was long enough for it to startle me when he spoke again.
"Yep," he said. "That's right." He winked at me before switching back to the heavy expression. "It's literally nothing. And it's not gonna be anything, either." As he kept talking, he alternated between closing his eyes and giving me the heavy look. "Heh heh heh...ya get it? I know I can't beat you. One of your turns...you're just gonna kill me. So, uh...I've decided... it's not gonna be your turn. Ever." He gave another wink. "I'm just gonna keep having my turn until you give up." Then he stared at me with black, empty eye sockets. "Even if it means we have to stand here until the end of time." The heavy expression returned. "Capiche?"
There was another long pause. Every muscle in my body was itching to move, to take advantage of this lazy skeleton and his pathetic attempt to stall me. But some version of myself, either the old one or the other one that was in control, was holding me back. In the silence, my heartrate slowly returned to normal, and my breath evened out until I couldn't hear it anymore.
"You'll get bored here," Sans said at last. "If you haven't gotten bored already, I mean." His heavy expression turned into a black-socket stare. "And then, you'll finally quit."
Another pause, another heavy expression, another opportunity for me to strike. But the force in control still wouldn't let me move. [Why should I quit now?] I wanted to ask him. [What else do you expect me to do? Go back and live among the dust of all the monsters I killed? Or would you rather I just drop dead?] But what was I saying? Of course that was what he wanted; he'd already made it clear. But for all the horrible things he was probably calling me in his head, and as true as they may have been, I wasn't so sick a person that I would just give up on my goal after surviving so much to reach this point. And Sans knew that, too.
"I know your type," he spoke up, giving me another black-socket stare before switching back to the heavy look. "You're, uh, very determined, aren't you?" He blinked the sweat out of his eye sockets. "You'll never give up, even if there's, uh...absolutely no benefit to persevering whatsoever." He winked at me. "If I can make that clear." He blinked away the sweat again. "No matter what, you'll just keep going." Then the heavy expression returned. "Not out of any desire for good or evil...but just because you think you can." He gave me another wink. "And because you 'can'...you 'have to.'"
In the silence that followed, I wanted to ask him why that was such a bad thing. Why shouldn't I want to finish something I've started? What did he have against hard work and dedication? What was wrong with keeping promises, even if they were really only to myself? Just because he was fine with wasting his limited time in this world, didn't mean the rest of us had to be. [Sorry we can't all be lazy losers like you,] I wanted to say. But that heavy expression on his face kept my lips sealed.
The silence lasted so long that Sans startled me when he spoke again. "But now, you've reached the end," he said, his eyelids drooping shut. "There is nothing left for you now." He gave a wink and struggled to keep his focus on me. "So, uh, in my personal opinion...the most 'determined' thing you can do here? Is to, uh, completely give up. And..." He stopped mid-sentence to yawn, then added "Do literally anything else."
We stared at each other intensely for who knows how long, neither of us making a move or saying a word. Watching the sweat drip down Sans' forehead made me feel it on mine even more, but I was determined not to show any weakness. Then, after a few minutes, Sans' eyelids grew heavy, and though he still stood his ground, he looked like he could collapse into a heap of bones at any second. His eyelids drooped even more, but still he stood blocking my way. Every muscle in my body was itching to move, to strike him before he could regain his strength, but the other version of me that was in control still wouldn't let me point my knife at him. Eventually his eyes closed completely, and at that point, my muscles were aching for action, but I still felt that impulse in my mind, telling me to wait it out. And lo and behold, my patience rewarded me, for soon after he shut his eyes, Sans started snoring, falling asleep while still standing up. As cautiously as I could, I tiptoed towards the sleeping Sans, covering my glowing chest with my right hand and holding the knife in my left. I held my breath and slid my feet across the floor, feeling around for booby traps, and when I was close enough to reach out and touch him, I held up my arm and brought the knife down on Sans. I nearly stumbled forward as my weapon cut through the air, and my mouth hung open when I saw that Sans had woken up and evaded me yet again. He turned back to face me with a teasing wink.
"Heh, did ya really think you would be able-" Sans started, but before he could finish his sentence, my arm moved without any input from my brain and slashed him right across the middle, knocking him onto the floor. His eyes went wider than I had ever seen them before, and he held his left hand to his torso as red fluid leaked out from the giant gash. At first I wondered why a skeleton would bleed and if Sans was hiding even more from me, but then I realized it was probably just that ketchup he always kept on him. I watched Sans with baited breath as he sat in silence, unable to open his eyes for a moment, and I hoped with all my might that he wouldn't take a page from Undyne's book and come back with even more power. But when he finally forced his eyes open, all he could do was gaze at me with that heavy expression, and his voice sounded so weak when he spoke again that I knew it was over.
"So..." he uttered. "Guess that's it, huh?" He paused for a second and shut his eyes. "Just...don't say I didn't warn you." Then he pulled himself up, and with the last of his strength, gave one final wink and shrug of his shoulders. His hand, sweatshirt, and the corner of his mouth were all stained red. "Welp. I'm going to Grillby's." He slowly shuffled away in the direction from which I came, and as he passed through the open doorway, the last thing I heard him say was "Papyrus, do you want anything?" I waited until all was quiet to follow him to the door and see how far he would make it, but when I looked outside, all I saw was a pile of dust.
It didn't occur to me as I was staring Sans down in that moment before he fell asleep that there was something else I could have done. This was all just a nightmare, and I could've woken myself up, brought myself back to reality and acted like none of this ever happened. But even though I still had that power, that battle felt like a turning point, and that other voice was sending another impulse through my brain, telling me to stay determined. That version of me, the one that was in control when I killed Sans, was more powerful than I ever imagined I could be, and that power had such a hold on me that I couldn't fight it off, even if I wanted to. [I've come too far to turn back now,] I thought in my own voice. [I have to see this through to the end.]