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Little Dark Age

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He knows he shouldn’t be here.

 

He’s dead, that much is obvious; by all rights he should have simply ceased to be. Yet he is still here (wherever here is), roaming lands that are both familiar and strange, seeing people that make something in his chest ache for reasons he cannot explain.

 

It’s like radio static. He’s in the space between two radio channels, able to hear the intermixing conversations but unable to make them make sense. Almost, but not quite present.

 

His memories are much the same. He remembers names, details, faces - the word ‘L’Manberg’ keeps appearing - but he cannot parse what they mean to him.  

 

He does not remember dying.

 

-

 

They say his name is Wilbur. It seems to fit, he supposes - it’s not unfamiliar, but it doesn’t trigger any great wave of remembering either. 

 

They say he was a president - that L’Manberg was the nation he founded, “a special place, where men could go and emancipate -“ and sure enough, the words of a song, the chords on an old guitar come to him as easy as breathing must once have come.

 

They say he has a family. A father, brothers, a son. Friends, allies. Their faces are familiar, but he feels nothing when he sees them. (That’s what he tells himself, that the pain is just a side effect of death - phantom pains, he thinks, and if he could feel he’d laugh -)

 

They will not tell him how he died.

 

-

 

As time goes on, things come back to him. He remembers the Camarvan, he remembers the Declaration of Independence; then, like damaged film, his mind cuts to the election, to him winning, then cuts again to a ravine, and then:

 

“Tommy, are we the bad guys?”

 

After that, nothing.

 

-

 

Tubbo is the president of L’Manberg now. He seems - not quite happy, but not unhappy- when he tells Wilbur this. He talks about rebuilding, talks about making it better.

 

Wilbur remembers a strange smelling caravan, walls that seemed to reach to the sky, a bakery, and a podium.

 

He wonders where they are.

 

-

 

Quackity tries to tell him, once.

 

Once.

 

-

 

Wilbur disappears for a while after that.

 

-

 

He comes back into awareness above the ruins of what was once L’Manberg. It is dark, and he cannot feel the presence of anyone living nearby.

 

In front of him is a man with ram’s horns curled into his cheekbones and an unreadable expression. Like Wilbur, the man is grey, almost translucent.

 

“Schlatt.” Wilbur says.

 

“Wilbur.” Schlatt turns to face the hole, and the foundations of New L’Manberg. It’s unclear how long it is before he speaks again. “Was it worth it?”

 

“Was - was what worth it?” 

 

Schlatt huffs. “Fucking everything, Wilbur. The election, the festival -“

 

“Festival?”

 

Schatt turns back to scrutinise Wilbur’s face. Wilbur isn’t sure what he’s hoping to see. “You really don’t remember.” It is not a question.

 

“You do?”

 

“Fucking - of course I do, Wilbur!” Schlatt snarls, and Wilbur jerks back like he’s been struck, “We don’t all have the luxury of denial!”

 

“It isn’t denial. It’s - it’s gaps, I just can’t get to it -“ he tries to explain, tries to make him understand.

 

“You’re a coward, Wilbur Soot.” Schlatt sighs, running his hand down his face. “You think that if you hide away the person you became, they’ll forgive you? You think you can just pretend you were always right? You’ll never change, Wilbur.”

 

“Schlatt , that wasn’t, that wasn’t me, Schlatt -“

 

“It wasn’t you I was talking to.” His voice is ice. With one hand, he reaches out to flick Wilbur on the forehead, and a jolt goes through him. Schlatt leans forward, and whispers in his ear: “I know you’re in there, Wilbur. What’s your plan here, huh? You honestly think it’s as simple as forgetting? It all comes back, eventually.”

 

If Wilbur could breathe, he’s sure a breath would have caught in his chest just then.

 

Schlatt leans back again, a half-smile playing on his lips.  “I know who I am. I know what I want. I am motivated by greed.” It sounds as though he’s quoting something.

 

A flash of something bright and hot in his mind - lava? Wilbur clutches his head, looking down at the pit. Why does it hurt, it shouldn’t hurt - 

 

Schlatt chuckles, humourless. “What drives you, Wilbur Soot? Why are you still here?”

 

When Wilbur looks up, the horned man has vanished, leaving only the scent of burning whiskey.

 

Why are you still here? 

 

He doesn’t know.