>Dave: Wake up
Your name is Dave Strider. You’re sitting on the rough, wet pavement of some back alley. You don’t know where you are. Even more disconcerting, you don’t know the date or time, though you think it’s some point in mid-August. It’s night, you think, from the look of the grey-orange sky above the buildings, but whether it’s just past dusk or just before dawn, you’ll have to wait and see. There’s a body propped against the wall further down the alley, where it’s too dark to make out any distinguishing features. It’s not moving, but it’s wearing a light blue hoodie, soaked with something dark, sitting in a patch of something that shines like liquid, and you know it’s John. You know he’s dead. You know you need to do something.
You can’t move. Your chest is tight, your mind is relatively quiet. It repeats, over and over, the same sentence. ‘john is dead john is dead john is dead john is dead’ You’re not panicking. You don’t feel anything really. You just stare at John’s dead body, twenty feet from where you sit, as your mind tries to process what you already know. Your best friendleader is dead, game over. Reset?
The sky is darker, and you can barely make out the shape of the body when it finally moves. The drunk stumbles past you, almost tripping over your immobile legs, and disappears out of sight. You hardly notice. You’re still staring at the spot John sat dead, unable to think or move, and the puddle your hand rests in might be blood, but you don’t care. None of it matters. None of it registers. John is…
>Dave: Wake up
>Dave: Wake up
You have twenty-two unread texts when you wake up, along with a crick in your neck, a bruise on your tailbone, and a chill from the now cool night air. Bro had left you two messages, one letting you know he’d be out late, there was take-out in the fridge, don’t forget to eat your veggies. The second informing you that you should at least invite your boyfriend over to meet the family before letting him take you to some cheap hotel for the night (the Strider equivalent of “Where the hell are you? Are you okay?”).
The other twenty texts were from John, who Bro had apparently questioned when you weren’t home after he got done with his gig. This would have surprised you before the game. The two of you had always kind of stayed out of each other’s business (probably for the best when Bro’s business included smuppet smut), but you’d both died now and came back without a craving for brains. So, things have been different since that nightmare had ended. Anyway, these texts were a bit more straightforward (“hey, where are you? you okay, dude? your bro texted me you’re missing. heeeeeeeey! helloooooooo?”), and could be ignored ‘til after you’d slept more… in an actual bed.
>Dave: go home
The apartment is dark when you get home, but it’s nearly four in the morning, so that’s to be expected. Bro’s already asleep as far as you’re aware, but you’re prepared for a strife anyway, just in case. Like a fuckin’ boyscout you are.
Nothing happens, though. The trip to your room is uneventful, and you’re so exhausted that you don’t even care that there’s a pile of smuppets on your bed. You shove them to the floor, flop down fully clothed, and fall into a blissful coma ‘til what will hopefully be a more acceptable hour… preferably in the late afternoon.
>Dave: wake at a better hour
Five is not a better hour. Five is Grandma’s liver casserole at a family reunion. One only partakes in it if she’s standing there, glaring at you until you take a liberal portion (and then you try to sneakily dump it in a bush when she moves on to the next victim). And yet, here you are, plate loaded up with fresh, steaming, slimy, chunky, possibly squirming 5am casserole, preceded by an appetizer of horrorterror-and-death-by-stabbing nightmares.
You’re definitely not ready to be up yet, but there’s no chance you’re going to get back to sleep. You still spend a good hour trying, though. The light from the rising sun permeates your cheap curtains (football print). It creeps across the room, over the ceiling, and when it finally falls in your eyes, you drag yourself out of bed.
You don’t work today and have no other plans, so you’re not in a hurry to prepare for the day. Instead, you flop yourself down before your turntables and start mixing. For a moment, you recall another set of tables that altered something other than sound… but you push that aside. You have ill beats to drop, sick fires to start.
It’s around 11 when your stomach protests your neglect of it. You take off the headphones just in time to hear the door shut. Bro’s gone. You’re not sure where, but it’s likely to one of his many jobs. You stopped keeping track of them years ago. There was a small space on the counter free of puppets and junk where he’d left a sandwich and a note (Eat something, dumbass. A mother worries.). You hadn’t even known there was bread in the apartment, let alone any of the other stuff. There definitely wasn’t any room in the fridge for it.
You eat (after checking the food for any surprises), and take a second to mollify Egbert (whoa dude coming on a little strong there), before grabbing your camera and hitting the town. By the time you saunter back home, you’ve got a memory card full in equal parts of quality and shitty pictures, and yesterday’s craziness is a thing of the past.
The next couple weeks pass without incident (well, except for the nightmares, but no one has to know about those but you).
I need something good to read while I crochet last minute gift card holders…
[In which Tristan has anxiety and nightmares about Black Friday and this somehow translates into Dave having PTSD]
Your name is Dave Strider, and you’re totally cool. Nothing’s out of place in Striderville. Shit’s chiller than the south pole in winter… except not, because you’re about to do a triple backflip off the fucking handle… or not. Either way, you’re freaking the hell out, and you don’t know what to do.
>Dave: Calm down and assess the situation.
You can’t calm down. Like you said, everything’s already chill. So maybe you lost a couple hours, maybe you were 46 minutes late to your day job, and maybe, just maybe you’re hallucinating that your customers are crocodiles.
"Nak! Naknak nak!" one of them shouts at you, but you can’t remember what it means, and you can’t think past the pain and blood from the bullet wounds littering your chest.
You know somewhere in the back of your mind that this isn’t right. The game is over. You’re not wounded, these aren’t crocs, they’re definitely not imps, and they are not crowding around to boil and eat you. This wound didn’t happen on Lohac anyway, and Jade’s not here. You’re fine.But you don’t register it, and you’re not fine. You’re hyperventilating and about to collapse, and you need to get somewhere safe.
When you finally manage to sequester yourself in the restroom, your legs proceed to give out. Your blood starts staining the floor. You can’t change time anymore. You’ve become just another Doomed Dave. Alpha you will come along and see your body and then do it all better. Woe is you. Suck it up.
So you do. Slowly, very slowly, you calm the fuck down. You take a few deep breaths, think past the dying pain, and the blood around you disappears. The floor is once again just dirty grey tile. You’re in your intact work clothes in the dingy bathroom of a music store.
You’re not dying.
"Dave?" one of your coworkers calls through the door. "You okay, dude?" It’s English, and you’re not in the game, and you’re fine.
You take a second to compose yourself, and then open the door. You give some witty comment to assure your coworker you haven’t flipped your shit, and then decide, perhaps, it’s best if you beg sick and go home. The clock is still ticking and that dog is still barking, and even though the song with the gunfire is over, your heart is still picking up pace and your chest is tightening so it’s hard to breathe.
>Dave: Play hooky
You don’t go home when you leave. Bro might be there, and if he attempts to strife with you in any way, you’ll probably break down. And there’s no fucking way you’re gonna lose your cool in front of Bro. You’ve spent the last ten years trying to prove to him that you can handle yourself, and you’re a fucking adult now.
Even worse, he might not be home, and then you’d probably go back to thinking he was dead again… He’s not.
Instead, you head to the playground at the nearby park… ironically. Right… Okay, so maybe it’s a bit lame, but it reminds you of a time before the game, when an empty home or the sound of a clock didn’t paralyze you or give you flashbacks of your own death. And you’d think after five years you wouldn’t be so hung up on this shit, but you are.
Your expression, at least, has remained safely stoic throughout this. No one else needs to know you’re on the verge of flipping your shit like pancakes at an IHoP. It manages to scare off the few kids that still play outdoors, and you settle yourself in the enclosed area at the top of the slide, out of sight.
The next time you open your eyes, it’s dark and your phone is going off. You’re pretty sure you didn’t black out this time, at least.