Opening Credits
rating: +32+x

The Black Garden Pub, Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin
October 1st

Alison Carol was in the same pub for the eighty-nine nights in a row.

She contemplated this fact as the words came into her head again. Creeping in, like a drumbeat, or one of Robert's horrible jokes. That man could force Gears to groan at one of his puns. They had met him, once, at a conference; she could've sworn Gears at least twitched from the conversation.

"The usual?" The bartender, a man of thirty with an impressive black beard, nodded at Carol.

"Yeah."

Pina Coladas were the only form of alcohol that Agent Carol could stomach. And despite everything, despite her trying her best to get rid of it, that damn song always came back in her head.

The dark isn't real, but you are blind without light

"Shut up," she hissed.

The cold isn't real, but you'll still freeze in the night

"No…" she groaned.

Words are not real, and yet you know how to write

"Your drink." The bartender slipped the cocktail over to her just as the final line of the poem rang in her mind. She put the pill in her mouth and slammed back a drink that wasn't meant to be slammed back. A wave of burning, fruity taste washed over her, and the poem went unfinished.

"Ergh." She leaned forward and put her head against the bar. "Thanks, Cecil."

Cecil the bartender shook his head and leaned against the bar. "Y'know, I get dozens of people in this bar every night. Only good watering hole in town. I've seen men flee their families, women flee their husbands, and college kids flee good grades." He stood and looked straight at her. "You're the only one who's ever really worried me."

"Why's that?" She asked, wiping some drink off of her shirt for the Incubi, a local band who, thankfully, only pretended to be sex demons.

"You're with the Plastics people. We ain't stupid, y'know— we know there's more to you than meets the eye." He picked up a glass and pretended to polish it. "I saw you last Halloween, helping everyone evacuate."

Alison chuckled. "That's pretty much all I could do. My boss said I should stay out of the city and look after townies. But… Jesus Christ, what happened…"

"That didn't spook you. Something happened that did." Cecil titled his head. "What are you running from, Alice?"

"Alison. God, you sound like my partner." She sipped through a straw. "And it's… classified."

"I'll put this on your tab, then?" Cecil asked, looking at the set of vampire bat streamers he had put up the previous day.

"Yeah." She stood up, swinging her coat on from her seat. "Thanks again, C."

"Anytime, Alice."

"Alison."

She hated when anyone called her Alice, especially now. It reminded her that there was something down the rabbit hole.


Sloth's Pit was generally not a town that one was afraid of walking in after dark.

The light provided by Edison's pilfered designs was more than enough to drive away most creatures of the night, and the path all the way up to S & C Plastics was illuminated by street lamps that were incapable of burning out or being powered down— a precaution installed following the events of last Halloween.

The Black Autumn, they called it, or SCP-097-D, or the Black Equinox. Alison laughed at the last one— it sounded like a goddamn car. It had nearly opened a hole in reality centered on this dumb town, and they named it after a Chevy.

Alison had been given amnestics months ago, she knew that much. She recognized the symptoms for a few days after the administration— nausea, dizziness, loss of time. Even now, the inside of her arm still had the injection scars. Robert knew what happened, but was ordered to not tell her. But flashes came back every now and again: a pit, a man at the bottom, them in a bamboo forest, a giant shadow—

"Nutella sandwiches on wheat bread with buttermilk and Cheetoes. Nutella sandwiches on wheat bread with buttermilk and Cheetoes. Nutella sandwiches on wheat bread with buttermilk and Cheetoes…."

This mantra was to be spoken every time she felt one of her memories cropping up. Every time she felt it starting to crawl out—

The Pit Sloth isn't real—

Alison Carol leaned on the pole, head hammering. She kept repeating the mantra, like Dr. Merrick had said. Something to focus on to keep the sound out. The sound of something that she wasn't meant to remember, but kept crawling back in.

The Pit Sloth isn't real—

She sat under the unerring lamp post, the light flickering above her. It was never meant to go out, but maintaining the grid 24/7 meant there would be a minor surge or two, a bit of a flicker. She opened the pistol's chamber and slid a tranq dart in.

The Pit Sloth isn't real—

"Shut up!" Alison screamed, hands over her head. A shadow fell over her.

The light above her flickered, and the bulb within popped, as Alison's thought finished.

—but he'll still give you a fright.


October 2nd

The police had cordoned off the section of Main Street— or rather, the section where Main Street was missing. A pair of giant gouges in the ground marked the last known location of agent Alison Carol. Her coat lay at the foot of the lamp post, a blood stain on the left sleeve. There was no other sign of her.

Overlooking this was Robert Tofflemire, fidgeting with the flask on his hip. He brought it to his lips, and drank deep. Vodka burned his throat, but it killed the droning rhyme in his head better than coffee.

"It's impossible."

Beside Robert, Katherine Sinclair held up a Pickman-Sinclair Narrative Fluctuation Detector, which was doing the opposite of its job— not detecting any narrative change. Or any narrative, for that matter.

Sinclair ran the detector over herself and got a baseline reading. Then, she ran it over the street, and the detector went silent. She beckoned Robert over.

"You good, Tofflemire?"

"Yeah. I'm functional." Robert took out a second flask, this one containing water. "So, Alice is—"

"If she was here, she doesn't seem to be anymore." Sinclair made her way to where Alice's jacket sat, under the infalliable lamp. The detector's reader did something that it should never have done, that it was never designed to do— it went into the negative numbers.

"…is that… is that saying she doesn't exist anymore?" Robert stepped back, swallowing. "No way. Alice… are the readings saying that she's gone?"

"I don't know what these readings are saying, but I think we both know what caused them to happen." Sinclair looked at the gouge marks in the pavement behind them. "I wish Bailey were here— he helped design this tech. How long until he gets back from 19?"

"Not until at least the 12th." Robert scratched at the back of his head. "I'd go in his office, but he's threatened 'foam-dart deathtraps' on anyone trying to get in."

Sinclair shook her head and stowed the wand. "There's not much I can do, Robert. I'm sorry."

"What?" Robert's eyes widened. "My friend— my partner! —is missing! And you're saying you can't do anything?!"

"That noise coming out of the Pit means something's coming, if it isn't here already. You and Carol were both exposed to it, and… I'm thinking that's what took her. We're walking on eggshells here." Sinclair rubbed her forehead. "I wish I could help more. But this is… in your wheelhouse now, as it were."

"Okay." Robert rubbed his face, and turned to his tablet. With a soft, humming chime, he activated the tracking app. There was a slightly staticy noise as his partner's GPS trackers came online.

Foundation agents were required to have six tracking chips on their person— one on their torso, one implanted in their neck, and one on each of their limbs. That way, if their extremities got separated, they'd know about it. All six of Alice's chips were intact, in the same place.

The only problem is that "the same place" was two different places at the same time— opposite ends of town. He blanched, and showed his readings to Sinclair.

"Hell." She took out her phone and started tracking Alison herself. Same readings, same bilocation. "Okay, uh. Not sure what that means."

"It means that we need two detachments. I'll go with the Wonder Twins, you call… other people, I don't care." He turned away and started for his vehicle, palming his radio. "This is Agent Tofflemire, hailing Agents Blake and Ruby Williams."

"We read ya, Bob." Blake's voice came through the radio, crisp as the leaves that Robert was crunching underfoot. "What's up?"

"Meet me at these coordinates in ten." He transmitted one of the two sets of Alice's beacons to them. "It's an emergency. Bring Scranton rounds and narrative detectors."

"Some emergency." He could hear Ruby's frown over the comms. "Is this about—"

"Do you even have to ask?" Robert climbed into his jeep and slammed the door, starting it up and heading into the woods.


Even in broad daylight, the Baby Bone Woods were menacing.

Perhaps it was the stray wild pumpkin that still grew out there, a reminder of the Black Autumn's influence. It could be the stillness invoked from their proximity to the Blasted Heath— a patch of land, ash white in color, that was said to contain the Hidebehind. Maybe it was the ruins of the houses that it was said were burned down by the Goatman god knows how many decades ago.

Robert considered himself a funny guy. Alice may have seen him as annoying, and she was far from the only one, but he was well-liked. He tried to put on some of that demeanor here, with Blake at one side and Ruby at the other. "So, uh, Dipper, Mabel, how are things?"

Ruby adjusted her ammo sling, and looked at her tablet. "Still amazes me that you can find new names to call us."

"I've been saving that for this time of year," Robert admitted. "Never got to use it last year, because—"

"Just be glad you were in Duluth and not here." Blake felt the back of his neck— right underneath his hair, at the base of his skull, a piece of Sarkic Amber remained. He'd taken the slow route from 1969 to 2017, and not all of it had peeled off.

"Scale of 1 to 10, where one is April Fool's day and ten is Satyr's Reign—"

"Don't even joke," Ruby snapped. "We lost good people last year, Bob. We… it's not a good time of year anymore. At least, not yet." She gritted her teeth.

Confused, Tofflemire looked at Blake. He explained, "She… used to work with Squad 9. The one that went missing in the Pyramid."

"Oh." Robert looked at the ground, avoiding a wild pumpkin. "I didn't know. Sorry."

"It's fine," Ruby lied. She stopped, putting up her hand. "Do you hear that?"

The others stopped, cocking their heads. Robert heard familiar voices in the distance, but he couldn't place where they were from. One of them was a woman's. "Alice?" He called, running forward.

"Toff, wait!" Blake called. "It could be a wisp, or—"

But Robert had already taken off. Alice's location was growing ever closer on his radar. Fifty meters. Forty. Thirty. Twenty.

And then he ran smack into someone else. His eyes had been so fixed on his wrist-mounted tablet that he hadn't noticed the blonde-haired, lithe form of Seren Pryce, Sigma-10's designated sniper. He winced, and stood, rubbing his head. "What the fuck?!"

"I could ask you the same!" Seren stood, adjusting her rifle; the butt of it had knocked the wind out of her. Flanking her sides were Nicholas Ewell and Alexander Carracos. "You were supposed to check out the south end of town!"

"This is the south end!" Ruby protested, coming up next to them, looking at her tablet. "…unless…"

Ewell's skin yellowed in frustration as he realized what was going on. He turned on his tablet, and activated his personal tracking unit. He went in a circle around the group, and his radar showed him flickering between the north and south ends of Sloth's Pit.

"Fuck me," Ewell hissed. "A loop. We're in a spatial goddamn loop!"

"Like Pac-Man," Robert joked, sniffing and rubbing his face. "Fuck."

"If I had to guess, it starts right about where your partner's tracker is." Carracos looked around the woods. "We should be right on top of her."

"Unless she's right on top of us." Seren rummaged in her rifle bag, withdrawing a thermal scope. She clicked it on and brought it up to her eyes, scanning the treetops. "If she was underground, the trackers wouldn't show up at all."

"Wish they'd put altimeters into these," Robert said as he stepped into some shade. At the same time as Seren, he realized that where he was standing had no tree to shade him.

He looked upward, and his face contorting into a look of horror. Pryce dropped her scope, the lens in it cracking.

"Holy fucking shit."

Alison Carol hung above them, suspended in midair. Blood pooled in the air around her, as if she were in a clear plastic bag. A pair of long, sharp claw marks scored her back. Her face was pale, her eyes glazed over, but her mouth was moving. Robert could read her lips.

"The Pit Sloth is real. The Pit Sloth is real. The Pit Sloth is real. The Pit Sloth is real. The Pit Sloth is real."

| Hub | Chapter 2»

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License