His plate of breakfast was cooling in front of him as he stared at his coffee.
It was dark. Not as dark as the void between the stars, which was at least a dramatic kind of darkness. Instead it was dark as the night, now ruined by the pollution of the street lights into a murky kind of brownish grey...
Robbie stirred the sugar cube in. It crumbled and dissolved - just like his life. Ugh. Why did everything suck so much?
Here he was, in the big city. Finally making a name for himself. Just he and his guitar, like he'd always dreamed. Having breakfast in a shitty diner. All by himself.
"Hey dude. Small world, isn't it?"
Someone dropped into the chair across from him. He gaped at her for a moment. "Wendy?"
The redhead grinned. "The one and only. Can I have a bite? I'm starving - been on the road since last night." She rolled up the sleeves of her flannel shirt and slid his plate closer to her side of the table.
He let her steal half of his omelet without complaint. She looked good. But, heh, she always did.
He put down his elbow, narrowly missing his cup of coffee, and leaned his chin on his hand. "I didn't know you were coming here."
"Believe it or not, I'm actually visiting Thomson," she said, a bit difficult to understand as her mouth was full of egg. But he had experience translating Wendy-speak. "He wrote a book about living in Gravity Falls, can you imagine? Successful too, now the supernatural is everywhere. Or preternatural, whatever. Dunno what's the polite term these days."
"Huh," Robbie said. Thomson could write? Cool.
"Yep. You really haven't heard? I thought you guys would meet up sometimes, you live in the same city."
"I've been busy. With my music career," he said, brightening. "I have a show tonight, in fact. You should come."
"Sure," she smiled. "It'll be cool to see Tambry too. Haven't heard much about you two lovebirds lately."
Ugh. Memories were dumb. He wished he could just erase them. Even the ones about that flowery conditioner she used and how it made the pillow smell like violets and - shut up shut up shut up. Stay cool.
"You didn't hear? We broke up a month ago." Robbie shrugged, flipping his hair to the side as he looked away. "She needed time or something."
"Aw man, I'm sorry," Wendy said.
"Eh, it was a mutual decision - I mean, I dumped her," he added. He tapped his fingers on the wooden surface nervously. Then he caught himself and yanked his hand away from the table, nonchalantly scratching his hair instead. "Yep. That's what happened. But we're cool."
Wendy looked at him for a long, long second. Then she shrugged. "Okay."
No probing questions - score! He'd handled this well. "So, you're staying with Thompson or what?"
"Nah, you know how he snores," she said.
That brought back some memories too - man, those camping trips had been the best. Thompson's snoring scared away everything. "Don't forget the sleepwalking."
Wendy grinned. "Remember that time he sleepwalked into the lake?"
"That time he tripped over Lee and dragged him underwater, and we thought they were toast until they suddenly showed up in a raft made out of beavers?"
"Good times," Wendy said, and he couldn't help but answer her smile with one of his own.
Maybe he kind of missed those days. They had sucked majorly - life was an eternal struggle, damn it - but they hadn't sucked as much as he'd thought, maybe, in hindsight.
"So where are you staying?" he asked. "I have a spare blanket if you want."
Wendy raised an eyebrow. "Dude. You're not hitting on me, right?"
"What? Haha, of course not," he hurried to say. "Just offering you a place to sleep. Nothing weird about that. Just thought I'd spare you some overpriced and bug-infested hotel room."
"So you're offering your bug-infested couch instead?" she teased, and punched his shoulder as she laughed. "Sure, I'll stay at your place. But no funny business."
His smile was genuine, even as he rubbed his stinging shoulder. Ouch. That was going to bruise. His skin was delicate. "No funny business, I promise."
She'd arranged to meet Thompson today. Robbie kinda wished he could've joined them - man, Thompson had written a book? A real one? Was everyone better at life than him? He'd always dreamed of becoming famous, now even freaking Thompson had beaten him to it.
It had been another lousy day at work. Preparing overpriced coffee for annoying, entitled customers was his personal kind of hell. At least he could take revenge by mangling their names.
His time would come, soon. His show would be seen by some producer guy who would immediately recognize his talent and then everything would turn around for him, just you wait. His life would change. Any day now.
He got home to his shitty apartment, popped some instant noodles into the microwave, and made an attempt at tidying up the living room. Or at least hide the dirty laundry somewhere else than underneath the couch. Maybe open a window or something against the smell.
Should he set up some candles? No, no, that would be weird.
The microwave beeped. He poured the water away, ripped open the flavour packet and emptied it over his food. He started shoveling noodles into his mouth while idly browsing the internet on his phone.
Man, it was good to see Wendy again. And she was coming to his show. He was going to be on fire tonight!
The lights of the stage were blinding and hot. It melted the wax in his hair and made sticky sweat tickle the back of his neck as he strummed his guitar.
Did he catch a glimpse of red and flannel there? The crowd in the room beyond was barely visible with the glare of the lights. But he was sure they were watching him, faces slack with awe, feet stamping on the rythm. Yeah!
"Insects are gone, I'm in transatlantic! The fire will burn, but higher - it feels to remember!"
His original song - finally the bar manager let him play something else than cover numbers. Most people wouldn't understand the lyrics (might even say they were stupid Robbie, they make no sense - shut up Tambry) but who cared about those losers? He understood and they were perfect.
"Do you know the cost of betrayal you? Should we be ready, you need ideas!"
Sweat beading on his brow, eyes half-closed against the light, the prerecorded drum beat pounding from the speakers - this was life!
"It feels like a star when you rotate violence!"
He moved onto his totally metal guitar solo. The sound must have deafened him a bit, because the applause afterwards wasn't as loud as he knew it really had to be. Maybe he should get some better earbuds... He couldn't compose songs if he was deaf, right? Deaf musicians didn't become famous.
He flipped his hair to the side and struck a pose at the applause - he'd practised his Bad-Ass-But-Smoldering-Look for hours in the mirror - and returned backstage to freshen up.
He hoped Wendy hadn't missed his song. He hadn't seen her before the show, but she'd promised to be here tonight. He couldn't wait to see how impressed she was by his rise to fame.
His phone made a gurgling sound - a message. Huh. Someone had messaged the Facepage of his band. Some pretty girl, according to her profile picture. A groupie? Score!
He tapped the message and frowned. What was this supposed to be? Looked like latin. Maybe suggested song lyrics or something? He sometimes used Latin in his lyrics - dead languages were pretty sweet.
He sounded the words out, trying to decipher their meaning.
"Corpus levitas, diablo dominium, mondo vicium..."
Huh. He blinked. For a moment the world had seemed to go all woozy and bright. He must have imagined that.
The floor trembled.
He was not staying here if there was an earthquake!
He left the tiny backstage dressing room in a hurry. For a moment he paused in the doorway - what did they advise for earthquakes again? Shelter underneath a table? Wait it out inside a doorway? Whoa, this was a big one - the quakes kept going on, rumbling like underground thunder.
Underground Thunder. Maybe he should change the name of his band... if he got out of this alive.
Finally the floor stopped shaking. Huh, not much damage. Loud but not impressive - nice try, earth. Robbie wasn't going down so easily, he was way too tough for a lousy little tremor to -
His arm hairs stood on edge at the sound. It was coming from the direction of the stage. Panicked and terrified.
Many, many screams.
Fuuuuuuuck. Should he go look?
The door leading to the bar burst open. Robbie saw glowing eyes and drooling faces and his feet reacted before the rest of him could finish the thought.
He turned and ran.
His heart was pounding as he escaped through the back door and slammed it behind him. The zombies were hot on his heels.
If they caught him... he'd get bitten and zombified, if he was lucky. Or they might just tear him limb from limb. That's what zombies did.
Fuuuuuck, he was too awesome to die!
Uh-oh. There were glowing eyes behind the windows of the bar. Stringy hands touching the glass, pushing at it...
A blur of red and green shattered one of the windows on the ground floor and rolled onto the street. He screamed as it turned to him.
"Here you are, come on, don't just stand around!"
She grabbed his arm as she ran past him, dragging him behind her as they fled from the zombies that had started pouring from the smashed window. He tried to keep up while sneaking glances behind him - whoa, where did they all keep coming from? Guess this bar was named 'The Boneyard' for a reason...
"We need shelter," Wendy said, pulling him past a corner, towards a random back alley door. "There!"
"Is it unlocked? What if there are zombies inside?" He kept half an eye on the corner behind them. Zombies were slow, but not that slow... "What the hell is happening?"
Damn, she'd always been amazing at picking locks, even under stress. The lock gave way and she pushed the door open, just as the zombies started shuffling past the corner.
Wendy pulled him inside behind her. "Close the door!"
"I'm - trying -"
The zombies tried to follow them inside the dark room, rotten arms sliding through the narrow gap and grabbing at Robbie's hoodie. He screamed - a very manly scream, thank-you-very-much - and the arm pulled back as if it had been scorched, giving him a second to catch his breath.
"Where do they keep coming from?"
In the shadowy gloom he could see Wendy's teeth bared in a snarl. "Don't know, don't care - shove!"
He put his shoulder to the door and together they managed to push it closed.
Wendy flipped the lock closed, but the door trembled, nearly slipping its lock before they both hurriedly pushed back against the wood to keep it closed.
"Some idiot must have done a summoning spell," she panted, as the door heaved and groaned under the pressure of the horde of undead. "I've seen this before."
Robbie blinked. "Wait - shit - magic is real? Not just monsters, but actual spells?"
Wendy shook her head. "How can you grow up in Gravity Falls and not know that?"
Hey, unfair! Since the Transcendence made weirdness global, those Blind Eye freaks hadn't been around much, but he sure sort of remembered hearing about them being very active in town before! If his head was messed up, he was totally going to blame them for it. "Maybe I would've known if someone hadn't been wiping my memories."
"Don't blame me, I had nothing to do with this."
"Neither did I -" he protested, but she wasn't listening anymore.
"Hold it for a sec," she said, and suddenly darted away.
"Wendy!" Aw man. The zombies pushing at the door were sure as hell not giving up, and now he had to hold the door steady all by himself aw fuck it all he was going to die he didn't want to be eaten by zombies how lame was that -
Wendy appeared out of the gloomy room behind him, pushing a large couch in front of her.
"Whoa," he said. "You're strong."
"Shut up and get ready to move, Robbie."
He helped her get the couch in position to block the door - hopefully it would be enough.
"Where are we anyway?"
"Dunno. Someone's house. Try to find a laptop or some kind of weapon."
"A laptop?" He followed her in a daze, trying not to bang his chins against the furniture he couldn't freaking see in this gloom. "Why do you want a laptop?"
"Because music makes those creeps' heads explode, that's why."
"Really? Whoa..." His mind filled with the most rad vision: himself on a pile of skulls, zombie heads exploding all around as he absolutely rocked his guitar.
Now that's metal.
"We should get back to the bar," he said. "Big sound system."
"And zombies coming up from the floor," Wendy reminded him. "That place is ground zero for whatever caused this."
Aw, right. Shit.
Wendy darted away again. She was good at this zombie apocalypse stuff - better follow her.
"Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about!" Wendy crowed, brandishing the ax she'd found somewhere. "Got a laptop or something yet?"
"Huh? No," he said. "If I had my guitar, I could play a song..."
"Might make their heads explode," Wendy said. "Or not. I think it was supposed to be a perfect three-toned harmony."
Great, only one problem with that. Robbie made an expressive gesture at the empty room. "Do you see a third person here?"
"Nope. Guess it's just the two of us against the horde of undead." Her grin was slow and somewhat unnerving. "Heh, remember that game we always played at Nate's place?"
"Skeletoricide?" Robbie frowned. "But I don't have a flamethrower."
The pounding in the other room gave way to another sound - loud creaking and smashing.
"You sucked at that game, Robbie," Wendy said. "We need to get upstairs. Barricade the stairs - does this place have an attic?"
The zombies had gotten inside the house. They blocked the way to the stairs, dead fingers stretched towards them. Wendy's ax twirled through the air, severing heads and limbs from bodies as they fought their way towards the upper floor.
Robbie grabbed the first thing in reach to fight with - a desk lamp, a fucking desk lamp - and tried to brain some zombies with it. Not the most glamorous weapon, but it was heavy. One hit stunned them enough for Wendy to finish the job.
The detached limbs kept coming for them though, and the stream of zombies through the doorway hadn't dried up yet. Robbie shared a glance with Wendy - time to flee.
Getting to the first floor wasn't difficult. The zombies had some trouble climbing the stairs.
They got inside a bedroom - empty - and closed the door in a hurry. Now to barricade it...
"Right," Wendy said. She flipped on one of the bedside lamps. Her hair seemed like fire in the soft glow. "New plan. Your parents must have dealt with zombies before, you live next to a freaking graveyard. How do they get rid of them?"
"Dunno," Robbie said, trying to catch his breath. He leaned against the dressing table they'd dragged in front of the door. "Give them a stern talking to, I guess?"
A short silence.
He shrugged. "It worked on Mayor Befufftlefumpter when he rose from the grave. Don’t ask me, I’m not an undertaker."
Wendy was quiet for a moment. She walked to the lone bedroom window and drew aside the curtains.
“Shit,” Robbie said, seeing what she was seeing.
“Yep,” Wendy agreed. “They're climbing the fire escape. How long do you think it’ll take them?”
“Not long enough. We need to get out of here!”
Loud pounding on the door. Then quiet, and a familiar whine.
“Guuuuuys, let me in! Please let me in!”
Wendy’s freckles seemed even darker as she paled. “Don’t.”
“But Thompson -”
“- was behind me in the bar when it happened. I saw him get bitten.”
“Guuuys, come on! There are monsters out here!”
Wendy closed her eyes for a second, the ax clenched in her hands. “There’s a cure for zombification.”
“Good,” Robbie said. “What is it?”
“I don’t remember. We fixed Soos, I know it works. We need to call Stan.”
Robbie patted his jeans. “My phone is still in the dressing room.”
“Mine is out of battery,” Wendy said. “Okay. Stay cool. We survived the Transcendence, we can do this. Maybe there’s a charger here somewhere, take a look around.”
Robbie sighed. Where was Tambry when you needed her? She’d never leave her phone behind.
This sucked. A lot. Stuck in some lousy bedroom with his ex-girlfriend while a zombie apocalypse was going on outside, ugh.
“Wait.” He paused in his search through the dressing table. Zombson was scratching at the door and moaning. “What if this thing went global?”
“I really doubt that.”
“We don’t know what’s happening out there,” Robbie said. He glanced into the mirror and covertly tried to fix his hair. “We could be the last two people alive. Maybe we’ll be stuck forever in this bedroom. These could be our final hours.”
“Just saying. If these are our final hours… maybe there’s something you want to do?”
A hairbrush sailed through the room and smacked his head. “Hey! What was that for?”
“Reminding you to focus," Wendy said, rolling her eyes. "We’re not going to die. We’re not the last people alive. Find a charger or come up with a better plan.”
"Yeah, yeah. I'm on it."
Robbie sighed and went back to his search. Stupid life. Here they were in the middle of a frigging horror flick and all those horror movie tropes had lied to him. There wasn't a handy stash of cool weaponry in visible range and the last girl alive would rather take her shot with the zombies instead of him.
And now the lights flickered out - the zombies must have damaged a power supply somewhere.
"Fuck," Robbie said. "Scrap the charger idea."
"I know you're in there, guys! Let me iiiiin!" Zombson changed tactics again, whining instead of struggling with the door.
"I guess we're dead now," Robbie said. "Man, if I ever see the guy responsible for this I'm going to smash his face in." He angrily punched the mirror. It cracked. So did his knuckles. "Shit!"
"Don't be so dramatic," Wendy said, as he cradled his sore knuckles and groaned. "We just try it your way."
Instead of answering, Wendy went back to the window and opened it. "Hey! Zombies! Quit this - urk!"
They must have climbed the fire escape much faster than expected. Hands grabbed at Wendy, dragged her out of the window, there wasn't room to swing her ax -
"Hey!" he yelled. "Hands off Wendy!"
No one was more surprised than he was when the grabbing zombie hands let go of Wendy's hair. She jumped back as soon as she could, leaving space between herself and the window.
Through the open frame a mass of zombie faces looked at him. Some were recently-zombified bar patrons. Some were literally falling apart, worms crawling through empty eyesockets.
"Whoa," Robbie said. He stared at the zombies, so attentively watching him. He stared at his hands. Back at the zombies. Back at his hands. "I guess I am a wizard or something."
"... I can't believe that worked," Wendy said.
Robbie glowed with pride. Those stupid undead did everything he said! He'd ordered them back to their graves and they'd shuffled back into the deep gashes in the floor. The recently zombified, who didn't have graves, were idling around inside the bar.
"I have hidden talents, babe," he said.
"... I can't believe it worked," Wendy repeated. She stole a phone from somewhere and started dialing her boss. "Stan? You there? I'm standing in the middle of a zombie invasion - no, I'm not kidding. I'm dead serious."
Robbie looked around. They should have gotten everyone, right? There were the sounds of sirens outside, guess the police had finally noticed something weird was going on.
He could do magic. That was... not unexpected, of course! He always knew he was destined for greatness! He could command the undead, how metal was that?
Whoa. Such power. He had to use it for good, not evil.
"Hey, Zombson," he said. "Stand on your head."
Zombie Thompson wasn't any more limber than non-zombie Thompson, and even more eager to please. Robbie watched the spectacle for a while. Hey, maybe he could command them all to -
"Stan told me the antidote," Wendy said. "It only works in the first ten hours after infection."
Robbie shrugged. "Hand them over to the cops, let them worry about it? They've probably got this place surrounded by now."
"Works for me." Wendy sunk down into a chair. She was covered in dust and green zombie blood. Her hair was a mess. "Weird how it started inside this bar. The summoner must have used the spell in public... You didn't happen to hear anyone recite any Latin, right?"
"I was backstage, so - uh, wait. Latin?"
"Why do you look so guilty suddenly?"
Robbie fidgeted. He was suddenly very aware of the ax in Wendy's hands. "No reason."
"Just wondering, uh, what kind of Latin? Because I got this weird message and it seemed like cool song lyrics but I didn't translate it and uh, I kinda sounded out the words?"
"You summoned these zombies?"
"Uh, I dunno, maybe?"
He backed away at the expression on her face. "Come on, how was I supposed to know that was a real spell? I just got this message on my page and I dunno, there was no explanation or anything -"
"Wait - someone sent you the incantation online?"
He nodded hurriedly. "Some girl I didn't know. Put it on my band page."
Wendy frowned and stood up, determination written all over her. "We're going to have to track that girl."
"Because who knows how many other people got that message."
Robbie sighed, defeated. "Zombie apocalypse?"
Wendy twirled the axe in her hand. The blade was stained with zombie goo.
"Not if I can help it," she said.