He was asleep.
Dipper knew he was asleep because all he saw was black with white in a forest that should have green leaves with a blue sky along with brown dirt on his shoes. The real world isn't set in monochrome, but Dipper has experienced reality while asleep before. He knew he was interacting with the Mindscape.
The realm of his domain.
"Alright, I know you're here, Bill. And I know you can hear me," Dipper called out through the dark wood, cautious to take any steps. "What do you want?"
"Wow, Pine Tree. So brash, so bold. But what I want to know is: What makes you think I want anything from you?"
Dipper couldn't help but jump his own glowing shadow shaped like a triangle with an eye. Filled with a strong desire to run away from a shadow that shouldn't even exist with such dim lighting, Dipper had to remind himself that he was in the mind and that compared to his shadow he had little power. Dipper shuddered when his shadow rose from the ground and started to laugh, slowly illuminating and lighting up his way.
Bill Cipher, once he achieved a corporal form, started to file his fingers. Probably to sharpen his claws or something. Dipper didn't want to think about it. "If you really want to get straight to it, it's more like what do you want from me?" Dipper recoiled from the light provided by the dream demon. Bill just shrugged. "But knowing you, you're too distrusting of me to ask me that just yet." He laughed, causing Dipper to shudder. If Bill noticed, he didn't say anything. "Not that it matters. I'm the only one who can help you at this point."
"I don't want anything from you!" Dipper exclaimed, taking a step back. "Not after how you tricked me and stole my body!"
"Hey! I didn't 'steal' anything," Bill countered. "You just misunderstood what I said." He blinked, the narrowed his eye. "That's what it means to 'read the fine print', Pine Tree. It'd be best for you to remember that."
Dipper sighed, turning away from the triangle. "Forget this, I'm out of here." He looked around for anything he could use. That rock over there looked promising. He made his way towards it.
Bill hovered after him. "And how do you plan on leaving here, kid? We're not done yet."
"Yeah well, I'm done with you," Dipper said as he picked up a rock as big as his palm.
Bill widened his eye. "Wait, Pine Tree, what do you think you're doing?"
Dipper tossed the rock into the air before grasping it firmly. He's been researching the dreamscape as much as he could with his limited resources. "If I die in a dream, I'll wake up." He sighed, not looking forward to having to commit suicide. Even if it was just in a dream. "This shouldn't hurt. I really hope this doesn't hurt." He readied his hand.
Just as the rock was about to collide with his forehead, "Pine Tree, wait!" stopped him.
Dipper paused. He didn't even think that Bill could sound so concerned, and for him no less. He lowered his rock arm. "What?"
Bill looked around the darkness before narrowing his eyes onto the only person around. "How do you know this is a dream?"
Dipper groaned, rolling his eyes while at it. Did Bill seriously think he didn't learn from their past encounters? "Obviously this is a dream. If this wasn't a dream how could you -" A single red leaf landing by his feet interrupted him.
Dipper paused, bending down to grab the colored leaf. "Wait, red?" He turned to Bill, causing for the demon to shrug.
"One step ahead of ya," Bill said before brightening up their surroundings. Dipper looked around and discovered that he was not looking into the abyss of the mind, but rather just darkness. The trees were a dark brown, the leaves were a mixture of red, orange, and yellow with occasional brown. The sky was a midnight blue, but there was no moon or stars to illuminate the way tonight.
"But… that's impossible…" Dipper stepped back from the demon and closer to the darkness. "You can't… You can't be here…"
Bill shrugged, following the boy so he still glows under his light. "Details, details." He looked around, narrowing his eyes to the darkness. "What I would ask if I were you, Pine Tree, is -"
Dipper realized something. If he wasn't sleeping... He widened his eyes and turned away from the demon, trying to recognize any of his surroundings.
Bill snapped to attention. Dipper could tell that wasn't the question he wasn't expecting him to ask, but now wasn't the time for that. He called out for his sister, staying in place just in case she was on her way back from getting help or whatever caused her to leave him.
As Dipper called for his twin, Bill said incredulously, "Shooting Star? You have no idea of what danger you've found yourself in and you ask for her?"
Dipper ignored him; finding Mabel was much more important than speaking with the dream demon. "Mabel!" he continued to cry, needing to find his sister. They were in this together, in everything together.
"She's not here, Pine Tree."
Dipper whipped back towards Bill. "What do you mean, 'she's not here'?"
But Bill was no longer with him. Dipper darted his wide eyes around the area, searching for any hint of his sister. "Where could she be?" he whispered with only the wind as a reply.
Bill was gone and he was alone.
Dipper didn't know what that meant.
The most important thing was for Dipper to find Mabel. There was no doubt about that. He could either leave and search, or stay and wait. Alone with his thoughts, he debated the pros and cons of both methods of action for him to take. Taking time to wait for her.
In the end, the wind caused for him to move. He didn't have anything on his person save the clothes on his back and he could feel the beginning of a major headache coming on. He wasn't wet, but the wind was giving him a chill. His clothes exposed most of his skin for relief from the summer heat but according to the leaves it was autumn where he was. He will need to find a change of clothes, or at least a sweater and pants to cover his skin from the cold.
Thinking both logically and mechanically, Dipper started to move blindly in the dark, away from the wind. Moving helped ease off the stress and horror that kept threatening to creep in, and Dipper did not want to deal with that just yet. He'll prolong that for as long as possible. He has other issues to deal with.
Why was Bill out of the Mindscape? Why did Bill save his life, if they were not dreaming? Was he not more of an inconvenience to Bill, or did he still find him amusing enough to keep alive? Why was Bill with him when he woke up?
The questions started leaning towards his being now without him realizing. Where was he? Why was he here? What was the last thing that he was doing before ending up here? Is he going towards civilization, or was he heading deeper into the woods? Would anyone even be willing to help him should he find someone? Where was Mabel?
Thinking about these questions without an answer in sight were causing for the headache to become a migraine.
Dipper wasn't sure but he could have sworn there was a light at a distance. Stumbling forward, he almost tripped over a tree stump but felt an arm grab him to move out of the way, and balance him so he wouldn't fall.
Dipper however just focused on the light in the distance and froze. He had to weigh his options. Was it Mabel? But if that were Mabel, she would be yelling out for her brother. So Mabel was out. Dipper had no idea where he was, so it must be a stranger. Would the person with the light be safe enough to go with? But does he have any other option at this point? He was tired, cold, starting to get hungry, and with the strength of that migraine it may soon be difficult to walk.
He had no other options.
"Help!" he yelled, knowing it would only waste energy to wave his arms. "Please, I need help!"
With his eyes so adjusted to the darkness at this point, the light coming closer made him dizzy. He fell to his knees, trying to steady himself but his body was shutting down.
The last thing Dipper saw was the soft glow of a lantern before he passed out.
The first thing that Dipper noticed was that someone was poking his cheek and pulling on his lips.
"Yo, Pine Tree. Pinee Treee."
Too tired to do anything else, Dipper opened his eyes and found himself staring at a certain triangle. He groaned and waited for a moment for Bill to stop, but the triangle only stopped poking him. "Whereb wereb youb?" Dipper whispered, mouth dry and scratchy.
Bill then released Dipper's mouth, wiping his dry hand on Dipper's cheek. Was that a touch of endearment? "Hey, who do you think brought someone to find you?" Bill shrugged. "I mean, I don't know if this guy is gonna kill you with his axe or whatever, but hey, at least you won't die alone in the woods." He looked around, pausing at the fireplace. "Man is he obsessed with bluebirds. They're bad luck, ya know."
Dipper made a move to get up, but stopped when Bill appeared to have two eyes and was in the shape of a square. The image was very disconcerting. Dipper closed his eyes and started to rub above his ears, trying to get everything sorted out in his head. He spared a fleeting thought of the blanket over him. "I can't die alone," he murmured quietly - more to himself than to Bill. "Not without Mabel."
Bill looked at Dipper carefully. "That's falling towards dangerous codependency, Pine Tree. I'd get that checked out."
"Shut up." Dipper would have glared, but everything was still spinning in his head. Why was he having such a hard time adjusting? He checked for any bumps or bruises. If Dipper had a concussion, he'd have a serious problem. Luckily, he didn't find anything much to his relief. He deduced he must have been out for a while and just seriously dehydrated. "How long was I out?"
Bill pat Dipper's head a few times. "I'd sayyy… about four days?"
That jolted Dipper out of his stupor. "Four days!"
Bill snickered. "Nah I'm just messing with ya, kid. I'd say about three hours, but time is still a weird human concept to me. You powerless creatures and your desire to control things you have no jurisdiction over. It's funny really."
Dipper collapsed back onto the bench with face palm. "Thanks for reminding me why I hate you."
"Aww, I love you too, Pine Tree." Dipper opened his eyes to see the triangle blink at him. The boy narrowed his eyes at the triangle and blinked back, confused. Bill blinked again, narrowed his eye, before blinking at Dipper once more. The demon clarified, "You can't tell but I'm winking. I know it's hard to tell because I only have one eye but I'm winking." Dipper just blinked, still confused but head surprisingly clear. Just Dipper processed what Bill was saying, the triangle stopped blinking.
Bill turned away and waved a quick "Bye!" to Dipper before snapping his fingers and poofing away. Dipper could now hear the loud creaking of someone going down the stairs without Bill for company.
Dipper's thoughts may still be jumbled, but his head was no longer causing him great pain. He knew Bill had something to do with that and silently sent his thanks as he got up from underneath the sheet placed over him. The footsteps were getting louder and closer.
Bill mentioned that the person who found him had an axe. Thoughts of the head of Mabel's rendition of Grunkle Stan as a wax figure came into mind, but Dipper wasn't made of wax. His best bet right now would be to find a weapon, for the worst-case scenario. There were a bunch of logs around, but axe trump logs. Dipper turned to the fireplace. There should be an iron poker by the firewood.
To be fair, if the rescuer wanted to harm him, Dipper was pretty sure he could have done that when he passed out.
Though, while still a tentative thought, Dipper was sure that Bill Cipher would not let him die… wherever the heck he is.
"Oh, you're awake!"
Dipper froze, cursing his thoughts for making him lower his defenses. Empty-handed, he turned towards the voice and was surprised to find someone not much older than himself. Maybe around the same age as Wendy? Dipper did a quick lookover to find his rescuer wearing mismatched shoes and the navy blue cloak would have covered the suspenders and white-buttoned shirt were his arms to his sides. The tall, red, pointy hat reminded him of the gnomes in the forest.
Most importantly, the teen was unarmed. Though he was holding what looked like -
His throat still dry, Dipper coughed first before pointing to the Tupperware. "Is that a casserole?"
His rescuer shrugged. "I'm told it's a lasagna." He gestured to the table in the other room. "You've been out for a while and I'm sure you're hungry." Without waiting for a reply, the teen in the tall pointy red hat made his way to the table and began to set up seats for himself and his guest.
The stranger started to hum, which was innocent enough but one could never be too careful in these situations. Dipper looked back to the fireplace and wondered if it would look bad if he were to actually fetch the poker like he planned. There was a glimmer of light and it turned out the axe was behind the firewood.
Figuring that he was safe (for now), Dipper slowly made his way to the table where his seat had him face the stranger. His host had already placed a small portion of food on Dipper's plate.
"I'm Wirt, by the way," Wirt introduced himself as he placed a lantern on the table for additional light before setting down the lasagna between them. "I don't know how hungry you are but feel free to get more if you want."
While he was famished, Dipper opted first for the pitcher of water to finally quench his thirst and relieve his dry throat. As Dipper downed a glass in one go and quickly poured himself another one, Wirt frowned. "Oh, sorry," Dipper's host apologized. "I should have known that you'd be thirsty."
Finishing about a third of his third glass, Dipper shook his head. "It's okay," he said before laughing nervously. The pitcher was more than halfway finished. "Sorry I drank all the water."
Writ shrugged. "It's okay. There's some more outside."
Dipper took a chance to glance outside, where the darkness still covered most of the terrain. Not knowing what to say, to excuse his silence he took a small bite of the lasagna. Dipper appreciated the hospitality that Wirt has given him so he smiled as he ate some more. "This is really good," he complimented, quickly finishing the small portion Wirt gave him.
"Would you like some more?" Wirt offered, pushing the plastic container with more than half of the pasta dish left closer to his guest. Dipper hesitated; there was a lot of food and it didn't seem like Wirt had any of it.
With Dipper staring at the food with longing and yet not taking any more, Wirt clarified, "I ate already, so be sure to get as much as you want." He sighed, pouting as he leaned on his elbow on the table. When Dipper did grab some more food - albeit not too much more - Wirt frowned, looking downwards. "I remember how scarce food was for me and Greg when we first got here."
It was an excellent transition to the question Dipper really wanted to know the answer to. "Where is here?" he asked.
Wirt sighed, propping his elbow on the table and rested his head on his hand. "I couldn't tell you for sure. The name I've been told is the Unknown."
"How ominous," Dipper replied, eating more pasta. If he weren't so concerned for his and his sister's well-being, this would have been an excellent area of interest and note. When was the last time he ate? He looked around, but the cabin he was in didn't look very lived in, let alone a home for two people. "You mentioned... someone else? Greg? Is he nearby?"
Wirt frowned, eyes outside. "I'm looking for him. He was taken. By the Beast. Because of me."
Dipper paused and set down his fork. "The Beast? W-what's the Beast?" He spared a glance outside of total darkness.
Wirt looked back to Dipper but his gaze looked distant and dreamy, as if in a trance. "He stalks like the night. He sings like the four winds. He is the Death of Hope," Wirt recited hollowly, giving Dipper chills.
"And… and that thing has your brother?" Dipper widened his eyes as a horrible realization came into mind. He dropped his fork and could feel himself start to get nauseous. He pushed his chair away from the table and wrapped an arm around his waist while covering his mouth with his free hand, trying not to waste what he just ate.
Wirt quickly got up and went to Dipper's side to hold him steady. "What's wrong?" he asked, sounding genuinely confused before letting out a sharp gasp. "Is it Greg?" His voice trembled, and there was a faint trace of hope. "Have you seen a kid in green overalls wearing a metal tea kettle on his head? Probably with a frog?"
Dipper couldn't, but he had to. He looked away, eyes to the floor and on his fork. "I'm sorry, I haven't. It's just. My sister," he whispered.
Wirt realized what he meant. "I'm… I'm sure it's not as bad as it seems," he tried to reassure, but Dipper was frantic.
"Mabel could be in trouble! And I've just been here doing nothing to help her!" Dipper turned towards the door. "I've got to look for her!"
He should grab a weapon in case he runs into terrors like the Beast. Though it might not help much, it was better than nothing. Wirt wouldn't mind if he took the axe, right? He probably wasn't using it. Or maybe he was chopping firewood or something? There were many logs and Dipper could hear the churning of a watermill probably from outside. Maybe he'll take the iron poker instead. He just had to give it back. Or maybe -
Dipper was forcibly taken from his thoughts with a harsh jerk from his arm. Wirt's hold on him was too strong for Dipper to loosen and tightened to the point of pain.
It was more of a command than a suggestion, and Dipper unconsciously flinched at Wirt's tone of voice. Simultaneously, the harsh wind from outside flung the door and windows open before blowing out the fireplace. The table lantern's flame protected by glass provided an ominous light that cast all in shadow, giving Wirt a sinister look.
Wirt continued, "Why would you look for her after everything she's done to you, or lack thereof?"
Dipper widened his eyes at Wirt, afraid of the change that has come across the older boy. He frantically attempted to remove himself from teen's grasp to no avail.
"There's no point, Dipper. She will never choose you."
"Mabel..." Dipper whimpered, eyes towards the ground. Tears soon began to fall and Dipper clenched his fist, thoughts of all the times he sacrificed his own happiness for hers. It wasn't fair, being the younger brother, always hiding in the older sister's shadow. Scenes from their summer played, the ones Bill showed him in order to get his puppet.
Then Mabel blew up her play, something she worked a whole week on, to help save him.
Dipper tugged his arm in an attempt to free himself. "Let me go!" he exclaimed, afraid of his host's sudden change in personality. "Mabel would never do such a thing!" Wirt surprisingly had a strong grip and Dipper knew he was going to get a bruise from this ordeal. He managed to release himself and made a mad dash to the door leading outside into the darkness. Not caring at the various repercussions of such an act, all that mattered was that Dipper get out and look for his sister.
Footsteps faded as Dipper stumbled out into the Unknown, Wirt not following.
The boy in the pointy red hat then called, "I can see why you like this one. He would burn nicely for me."
A triangle silhouette appeared from the lantern's shadow. "I already lay claim on his soul, back off."
Wirt chuckled. "I know I know, just impressed with your choice." His eyes began to glow fluorescent shades of blue, yellow, and pink as Bill made himself corporal. "Thanks for the food." Wirt slumped down in his chair and waved Bill towards the door. "Hope everything works according to plan."
Bill let out a chuckle himself as he headed towards the door and after his favorite mortal.
"With Pine Tree, that's half the fun."
Dipper was pretty sure his wrist wasn't broken. But just in case he cradled it close to his person. It certainly felt like it was broken, and he couldn't help but think he would feel better if Bill -
"Whatcha got there, Pine Tree?"
Startled, Dipper let out a gasp as he jumped. He ungraciously fell on his butt as Bill suddenly materialized in front of him, disrupting his hold on his wrist. He winced, and slowly picked himself up from ground, trying to avoid putting pressure on his injured wrist. "What are you doing here?" he asked, checking for any other injury.
Bill shrugged. "You know, stuff to see, people to strike contracts with, all that stuff I gotta do." He floated in front of Dipper, snapping his fingers. Suddenly Dipper's wrist felt fine. "Not everything revolves around you, Pine Tree." He paused. "Though that problematic co-dependency the two of you both seem to have might need some attention."
"Shut up," Dipper mumbled as tested his now healed wrist. He started to move, and mumbled something else that Bill didn't catch it.
"What was that?"
"Thank you," Dipper yelled, face red and embarrassed that he needed help from an enemy. He lowered his voice. "Thank you for healing me. I know you did it."
Bill started to file his claws again as he floated around Dipper. "No problem, Pine Tree. I take care of my humans, unlike the Beast."
Mentioning the Beast had Dipper stop in his tracks. "The Beast has someone? Is it Greg?" He widened his eyes. "Does the Beast have Mabel?"
Bill rolled his one eye. "That co-dependency is starting to annoy me. And you already met him. What's his name? The one with the gnome hat. Shirt? Bert?"
That had Dipper breathless. "The Beast has Wirt?" But before he mentioned the Beast, or Mabel, he seemed perfectly fine.
"He sure does, Pine Tree." Bill snickered before turning towards a faint light in the distance. "I suppose the question for you is, is he going to get you?"
Dipper narrowed his eyes. "What do you mean?" But Bill disappeared before he could further elaborate, and Dipper could see the light shining in the distance heading towards him. It must be the Beast controlling Wirt, like how Bill controlled his body during Mabel's play. Dipper needed to find not only Mabel, but Greg as well. Maybe if he could find Greg, he could also save Wirt from the Beast's clutches. He needs to…
A small part of him thought that maybe, just maybe, he should just focus on finding Mabel and trying to get out of the Unknown and leave Wirt and Greg to their own devices.
First things first. Dipper had to get away.
Throwing caution to the wind yet again, Dipper broke into a run to put distance between the Beast and himself.
Dipper lost count of how long he's been in the darkness. He knew it had to have been at least a few hours, but the sun didn't look like it was rising any time soon. He was haggard, completely lost in the Unknown. He's stopped calling for Mabel, instead using all of his energy of maintaining the distance between himself and faint light of a lantern held by a human possessed by a supernatural creature.
He needed a long overdue break. He'll just stay here, behind this tree, and catch his breath. He ignored the splinters and closed his eyes.
"You know, running isn't going to solve anything."
The triangle demon's sudden voice doesn't faze him anymore. Bill has been popping in every now and again, for some reason healing Dipper's clumsy injuries and providing some "guidance", Dipper supposed. Picking on that 'co-dependency' thing, he would usually tell Dipper to let go of Mabel and focus on himself. Which was never going to happen.
"What other choice do I have?" Dipper asked as Bill materialized out of thin air.
Bill rolled his eye. "Well, you could confront Birt or whatever his name is. Of course, you might actually be talking to the Beast, but it would sure be a lot better than just running. It gets boring after a while, ya know?"
Dipper raised an eye as Bill pat his head, healing his fingers. "Boring for you?" he asked, frowning.
"Very boring, Pine Tree. Shooting Star isn't here. Stop looking for her. It's pointless, and we both know it." Then Bill disappeared.
Dipper spent too much time thinking about what Bill said, unaware that the light was getting closer and closer. He was startled by the sound of loud cracks of the twigs on the ground.
"There you are," Wirt said, stepping around a few bushes to get to Dipper. "I was worried when you ran off like that. These woods are dangerous."
Dipper was frozen, afraid of what the Beast would do. "What have you done to Wirt?" he asked, and couldn't control the slight tremble in his voice.
Wirt frowned. "What are you talking about?" he asked instead of answering.
"Don't try playing dumb. Bill told me who you really are." Dipper noticed the axe Wirt was carrying in his other hand. It would be so easy to lose a limb with Wirt's grip on the weapon. He started to slowly back up.
Wirt blinked, then smiled. "Oh did he now? His eyes began to glow in a different color scheme of blue, yellow, and pink and the Beast swayed the axe back and forth. "Did he tell you why you're here?" He grinned wickedly and held the axe steady, ready to attack.
"What your sister did to you?"
Mainly concerned with the axe, that threw Dipper for a loop. He paused. "What? Mabel? What are you talking about?"
The Beast holding Wirt hostage laughed, a hollow sound that shook Dipper to his core. He threw the axe behind him, stabbing through the tree trunk. As he moved forward, he said, "Don't you remember? Under the floorboards of your home, your beloved sister chose your Great Uncle over you, her twin brother."
"What?" But the gears were turning, and Dipper could remember feeling angry and upset before the memory started to consume him.
"Grunkle Stan, I trust you."
It hurt to think, to remember, and it hurt even more when Dipper was tackled to the ground. The Beast grabbed his arms and placed them to over his head, grip too strong for Dipper to break free. He laughed at his attempts, setting more chills down Dipper's spine.
"Betrayal by your own twin sister. I feel sorry for you," the Beast echoed the thoughts in Dipper's head. Dipper shook his head, ready to spurt out denials even when in his heart he knew that the Beast was right. He turned his head, away from Wirt's face and stared at a rock, eyes blank.
"What a shame, huh, kid? Shooting Star doesn't trust you."
"Abandon all hope, child. Everything is for naught." Wirt caressed his face gently.
"Abandon all hope…" Dipper whispered.
Surprisingly enough, the realm was quiet. No snarky laughter, no luminous yellow glow from afar. It seemed to be only Dipper trapped in his mind.
That was when Dipper knew he needed to wake up. Because this, whatever this was, couldn't be real.
Wirt grinned. "Are you ready to see true darkness?"
"Stick with me, kid, and together we can unlock the secrets of the universe."
Dipper closed his eyes, thinking about Mabel's betrayal.
He smirked, eyes glowing yellow. "I already have."