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Raising the Stakes

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“Phew!” I sighed and wiped imaginary sweat off my brow. “Finally done! And no more math until next week.” I leaned back and let my head droop a bit, ignoring the clock.  “It's late. At this point, I don't want to know how late.”

I brushed my teeth and changed, making a point not to look at the clock before climbing into bed. I flailed around a bit, then settled down in a comfy position. Wrapping the blanket around my fatigued body, I quickly drifted off into a peaceful sleep. That is, it would have been peaceful.

Well, well, look who's here!” A familiar voice chirped.

Huh?” I opened my eyes, expecting to see my wall. Except, it wasn't there. In fact, nothing was there. I seemed to be standing in the middle of a black hole, or a void of some kind. I blinked a few times, expecting my eyes to adjust. Still nothing. Well... this is weird.

I tried to take a step forward. My legs completed the action, but I remained stationary. Kicking a bit, I was alarmed to find that I was literally floating. I got no traction in the air, making me essentially paralyzed.

I was stuck in an empty void, paralyzed, and a strange voice from nowhere had greeted me. Any one of those things would have been bad, but together they were becoming one of my worst nightmares. N-nightmares? Wait a sec... dreams! I'm dreaming. That's it. Weird, but that's gotta be it, right? I knew a bit about lucid dreaming, and floating in a black hole seemed to fit the bill. In that case- I blinked a few times and tried to rouse myself.

Nothing's happening. I blinked again.

What do you want to happen?”

“Wha... who? I looked around, but at first there was no light, no anything in my surroundings. Then, a small dot of light appeared in front of me.

I stared at the blue glow, as it was the only thing my eyes could focus on. Slowly, it began to shine brighter and grow, until it was larger than I was and blindingly bright. I closed my eyes and turned away, but the blue tinted light pierced through my eyelids and continued to sting at my eyes. Just as I thought I would lose my vision altogether, though, the shining stopped and cool darkness met my closed eyes once more.

After a minute or two, I cautioned one eye open, but quickly shut it again when I saw a bright figure in front of me. It wasn't that bright, my eyes have just adjusted to the dark. I cracked an eye open again, then the other, and squinted at the golden figure. As soon as they adjusted, however, I closed them once more, unable to believe what I had witnessed.

My eyes still firmly shut, I asked, “Who are you?” This was met by a high pitched laughter.

“You know exactly who I am, Pine Tree. The question is, who are you?”

“Huh? I- what?” I stuttered, completely lost by the cryptic answer.

The triangle laughed again. My jaw dropped slightly and I asked, “You're... you're Bill Cipher? What?”

“The one and only.” With a flourish, he gave me a business card that had appeared in his hand. It was a small piece of yellowed parchment, burned around the edges. The writing appeared to be in charcoal or chalk, but it didn't smear on my fingers. In the center, it read YROO XRKSVI. Underneath, in smaller print, it read girzmtov. The text was surrounded by an odd, scratched out geometric pattern, and dotted with the occasional eye.

Hmm. I guess I could expect no less from Bill fricken Cipher. Wait, what? Bill Cipher. Cartoon character? How? Why... what does he want?

My jaw set at the realization. Not only do I have a cartoon character in my dream, it just so happens to be Bill Cipher, dream demon.  Why is he here? Is he even here? Is this all in my head? Even if it is, what does he want? Because even my subconscious wants something, right? Ugh, damn it Bill! You're giving me a headache.

“Temper, temper! Aren't you a little young to be using language like that?” His eye crinkled up in what could only be a smirk if he had a mouth. I stared back, mouth slightly agape.

I forgot he could... read minds and...

I pulled my mouth closed into a scowl. Bill, on the other hand, seemed ever pleaded with my growing frustration. I pocketed the card and stared at the “grinning” triangle. He stared back, unfazed.

You know what my questions are, then,” I said.

“Do I? Enlighten me.”

“Are you kidding?!” I tried to shake it off. “Fine, whatever. Why are you here?”

Why not?

“Hmmph. Okay, what do you want?”

“Who knows? I sure don't.”

“Grrr...” My patience was wearing thinner by the nanosecond, and Bill was treading on it.

But those aren't your top questions, right Pine Tree ?”

I know what he wants me to ask.

“There's something else eating at ya, huh kid?”

It's probably the only way he'll tell me anything, but... he's just so obnoxious.  I kept staring at him, ignoring his 'smirk'.  “Answer the questions I asked.”

Oh, but those aren't the questions you meant to ask, Pine Tree . I just know there's something else . Something you're just dying to find out.”

He stressed his words, taunting me shamelessly to my face. Finally, I couldn't pretend anymore. He was right, I was dying to know. With what was left of my pride draining, I spoke.

“Fine. I'll bite. I'll play your little power games and say what you want me to. Just remember, 'pal', I'm choosing to. You don't control me, it's still my choice. Don't be fooled 'cause I'm playing along. For now.”

He rolled his eye.

“Sure, sure. You're in charge. Right, kid.”

His 'smirk' told me he had seen through my bluff, but I stood my ground.

“Now, I thought,” he said, twirling his cane absentmindedly, “that you had something to ask me. Must be pretty important if it deserves a speech like the one you just gave me.”

I felt my cheeks flush, but I continued to stand tall and determined.

“Fine. Fine then. Why are you calling me that?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Grr... you know what I'm talking about! Why are you calling me Pine Tree?”

“I thought you knew what a nickname was, Charlie,” he said, addressing me by my lifelong monaker.

I took a deep breath, fighting the urge to snap at him. That's what he wants.

“Why are you calling me by Dipper's nickname?” I asked, growing impatient.

Heh. Heheh. Ahaha haha!”

He burst into laughter. I, however, found the situation far less humorous.

Oh, let me guess,” I said in a deceptively sweet voice, “it's funny how dumb I am?”

“Nope!” He 'grinned'.

I waited, expecting an explanation of some sort, but none came. I sucked in a deep breath and held it.

He knows my deepest, darkest secrets, my worst fears, and exactly how to push my buttons.

Are you still alive?” He broke me out of my thoughts. “You haven't breathed for a while. But that's okay! After all, I'm just dying to know how long you meatsacks can go without oxygen.”

I realized that I was, indeed, still holding my breath. I exhaled slowly before supplying my lungs with some much needed air. I crossed my arms defensively and looked down.

“Only 20 seconds?” He pulled a stopwatch from behind his back. “Hmm, I've seen better.”

Pinching the bridge of my nose, I asked, “Why. Are you calling me. By Dipper's nickname?” I spoke as slowly and calmly as I could. My question was met with no response, however, so I added, “Need I clarify? Because I could.”

Luckily for me, this was enough to snap him out of the stare that had spanned the conversation thus far. Inwardly I breathed a sigh of relief. This feeling didn't last for long, however, and an uneasy feeling settled back over me as he floated in my direction. He twirled his hand and a black cane appeared in it.

You're just so much fun to play with, Pine Tree !”

He poked me in the side with his cane, much to my discomfort. This was the last straw.

“I'm done playing games,” I hissed. “Why do you keep calling me that? Why are you here? Why do you even exist?”

I crossed my arms over my chest and glared at Bill. He continued to 'smirk'.

“Answer me! I will not put up with any more of your bullshit!”

He blinked slowly and backed away.

“Not bad, kid.” He rested on his cane and eyed me. “Just wanted to meet you, get acquainted for the first time. Gotta say, I'm impressed.”

I kept glaring at him.

I got big plans, kid. Sweet dreams, Pine Tree.

A bright light flashed in my vision before nothingness returned.

My eyes shot open to greet the morning light filtering in my bedroom window. I looked at the clock. 6:30 am. Enough time to relax for a bit before getting up. I sat up in bed and closed my eyes to try to process what had happened.

So either I just lived a fantasy, or I'm really obsessed. I threw off my covers with a sigh. Obviously the latter.

“That's it!” I declared to my wall, “No more fanfics this week. My inner fangirl is just going to have to deal with it.”

Pleased by my sudden decisiveness, I turned on some music and hopped into the shower. As the hot, steamy water cascaded down around me, rinsing through my hair, my lingering thoughts drowned out into the constant stream.

An unsettled feeling hung with me through the morning though , despite my efforts to ignore it. I tried to shake it off, to remember that it meant nothing. After all, it was just a dream, right? Yeah. Just a dream.