Chapter 3 - The Cave
The rocky underground passage seemed to descend endlessly into the depths of the earth. The scant daylight that shone in through the entrance far up the path behind him amounted to little more than a glimmering pinprick. Stan clicked on his pocket flashlight and aimed the dim spot of light at the gray rocky ground before continuing on.
His legs began to grow weary. There was naught to keep him company save the echoes of his own footsteps, the occasional water drip from a stalactite above, and the soft sound of his own breathing. Stan wasn't sure how or why, but he knew they had to be in here, trapped somewhere. He just had to save them; he owed them at least that much. He had come too far back to turn away now. Further ahead, down the last stretch of the winding slope, Stan could see the incandescent glow of a perpetual light source.
Stan finally reached the bottom of the path, which opened up into a small cavernous area. The glow had been coming from a television projector, stuck to a table that had been bolted to the ground. There didn't appear to be any buttons or switches on the projector, and the channel was playing on an endless loop, as was the audio track, which sounded oddly familiar.
"What the hell?" Stan immediately looked down. He had nearly stumbled over a thick bundle of cables and tubes running across the ground in a haphazardly arranged network. Tracing the cables away from the projector with his flashlight, Stan came across something completely unexpected.
Seated in a number of rows, bound to spike-covered Inquisition era torture chairs in front of a large projector screen, were the missing adults of South Park. Sharp wires were wrapped tightly around their wrists, ankles, and throats, digging into the skin and holding them fast to the arms, legs, and backs of the chairs. The adults also seemed to have red throbbing wounds on the tops of their heads, like raw flesh had been exposed.
Upon closer inspection, Stan could see that they all had the tops of their heads sawn off, exposing their brains, into which the bundles of wires and tubes were plugged. He felt himself reaching out to unplug them, but quickly stayed his hand, fearing he might kill them if he tried. Every few seconds, an electrical pulse and a rush of chemicals were pumped in through the wires and tubes respectively. Stan winced at the sight of this, but it almost seemed to make the adults calmer and more complacent. Could they not feel their own pain?
"Mom! Dad!" Stan tried calling out. There was no response from them or from the other adults. They were all fixated on the images on the projector screen, which appeared to be some kind of cartoon, although it was hard for Stan to tell what exactly they were watching because the picture consisted only of black silhouettes. "What is this?" He waved his hand in front of his parents' faces.
"Hey, down in the front!" Skeeter exclaimed all of a sudden, causing Stan to recoil.
"Yeah!" added Jimbo. "Don't interrupt us right in the middle of our Family Guy special!"
"Family Guy?" said Stan under his breath. He looked more closely at the silhouettes. He thought he'd recognized them, and at that moment, he realized he'd heard the soundtrack before too. "Uh..." Stan couldn't tell which was more bizarre, the state that all the adults were in, or the fact that they were focused so intently on the lifeless images. "Wait, which episode is this supposed to be?"
"Oh, it's the best of Family Guy!" said Sheila. "A special that includes all of their classic gags and sketches!" The cables and tubes shuddered, like a sick congested heartbeat was driving them. Red tinged drool trickled from the corner of her mouth.
On screen, it looked like Peter had banged his knee again, and was spending the better part of five minutes moaning and hissing repeatedly. The adults laughed along in monotone. Several of them began commenting on how doing something over and over again makes it funnier.
"But I thought you hated Family Guy," said Stan, thinking back to the debacle that happened not too long ago that drove the town into a panic.
"It's not so bad, once you get into it," said Gerald. "It's the best thing on TV right now."
That was an understatement, Stan thought to himself. It was the only thing on TV, period. The adults were held immobile, so they couldn't turn their heads to see their surroundings, and they certainly couldn't get up to change the channel, if that was even possible. "How can you watch this though? There's nothing to watch!"
"That's enough, Stanley!" snapped Sharon.
On screen, the perennially annoying Vaudeville Boys were interrupting another scene with their song and dance routine. The adults laughed blankly again, although less enthusiastically. A discussion broke out in the back row about the depth of these underused characters.
"Stan, why don't you take a seat and join us, like a good little boy?" Randy suggested blankly. "Come watch the funny shadows on the wall with us." Although the wires around his neck and the cables plugged into his brain prevented him from moving, Randy moved his eyes to indicate the empty seat nearby.
Stan noticed there was one more chair just about the right size for him. Rows of glistening spikes lined the seat and back, razor wires were coiled up and waiting to snare the arms, legs, and throat of their next unsuspecting victim, and the long needles at the terminal end of a bundle of cables and tubes stood poised to latch on to his head like lamprey eels. Stan bit his lip and took a step back. Something seemed oddly and disconcertingly familiar about the chair.
On screen, it looked like Peter was once again slugging it out with the Giant Chicken. Several of the adults began cheering on Peter, several more began cheering on the Giant Chicken. It didn't take long before the two factions were yelling at each other over who was right.
Stan clapped his hands to his temples and shook his head. "How the hell can you stand to watch such a stupid show? How is random cutaway humor funny anyway?"
"Look Stan," said Linda, "Just because you don't get it doesn't mean the rest of us can't enjoy it." The cable bundles throbbed once more.
"But wouldn't you rather watch something that satirizes real world issues with relevant topical humor?" asked Stan.
"Yeah, like Murphy Brown," said Chris. "Why don't you go blah, blah, blah the Ayatollah?" he said, reminding Stan of Family Guy's mockery of shows that feature topical humor. The other adults chuckled at Stan's expense.
On screen, Stewie was once again pointing his ray gun at Lois and threatening to kill her, while Lois calmly chided him for using naughty language.
"But shouldn't jokes be inherent to a story?" asked Stan. "Why can't they use deep, situational, and emotional jokes based on what is relevant and has a point? All Family Guy does is one interchangeable joke after another!"
This did not sit well with the adults. "Stan, mocking real world issues is very offensive!" said Gerald.
"Yeah!" added Randy. "If you make fun of the things that real people believe in, people are going to get offended, therefore nobody has a right to hurt the feelings of others!"
On screen, Peter was doing his annoying trademark laugh for no particular reason.
"Isn't that just taking the lazy way out?" asked Stan.
"Stan, random cutaway gags are better, because they're safe topics," said Jimbo. "I don't see why you have to offend people to get a laugh when randomness works just as well."
"Come on," said Stan, not wanting to back down. "This is the only thing that's on, and it's the only thing you ever talk about. What about the big questions in life: Why are we here? Where are we from? Where are we going? Don't you ever talk about serious issues at all, or anything that's going on in the world?"
"Oh, I don't see why we have to care about all that," said Sharon.
On screen, Stewie was interrupting Osama bin Laden, who had just spent the last five minutes screwing up his own terrorist video.
"See? There you go," said Chris. "They use topical jokes sometimes."
"But that has nothing to do with the war, or the motivations of terrorists, or the plight of the people who live in those parts of the world!" said Stan. He recalled the time he and his friends had stowed away to Afghanistan and met some of the local kids. "I liked the first three seasons a lot better anyway."
"You just don't appreciate randomness," said Skeeter, dismissively. Another pulse of electricity coursed through the cables, bringing a placid empty grin to his face.
"There's no such thing as random," Stan retorted. "I mean, everything is funny for a reason, right? We laugh at things because they're absurd."
Randy began struggling against his restraints, much to Stan's surprise. "We've had just about enough from you, young man!" His voice became uncharacteristically guttural and threatening. "Now sit down, shut up, and just watch the shadows on the wall like a good little boy!"
"I don't want to just watch shadows all the time!" said Stan. "And I don't see why we can't watch a more intelligent show than this!"
"Stanley, stop interfering and sticking your nose where it doesn't belong!" Sharon yelled at him.
"It's easy to see what you're trying to do! You just want to offend people and make them feel stupid!" Stuart accused him.
"No, it's not like that at all!" said Stan. "Besides, why would you be offended anyway? I could just as easily say the same thing about Family Guy! Don't you think that asking people to sit and watch it with you is insulting to their intelligence?"
"Hey, if you don't like it, you don't have to ruin it for the rest of us!" snapped Mrs. McCormick. She also began struggling against her restraints. The other adults followed suit, not seeming to notice the razor wires slicing and sawing back and forth against their bones as they tried to get their hands on Stan. The network of cables running through the theater was pulsating angrily.
Stan felt completely conflicted. On one hand, he hadn't come back all this way just to turn around and leave. On the other hand, he could think of no way to release the adults from their bonds without causing them excruciating pain, or risking his own life in the process. Although they could not move, they looked like they would tear him apart with their angry glares alone.
"You've gotta stop!" Stan tried to reason with them. "You're only going to hurt yourselves if you keep..." He sighed through clenched teeth, at a loss for words. His very presence was acting as an irritant and perceived as a threat to the people he was trying to save. How could they have misunderstood him to such a degree? He was a stranger in a hostile realm, and they saw him as nothing more than an invader.
"Stan, you're making a mistake." The blue-haired boy stepped into view from behind a wide stalagmite, his head bowed in contemplation.
"You! Thank God!" exclaimed Stan, frantically running up to the kid and grabbing him by the collar with both hands. "You have to help me get through to them! I have to save them!"
The Guide could only shake his head. "Stan, don't," he spoke in hushed tones.
"What do you mean, 'don't'?" asked Stan in desperation, shaking the boy by the collar. Tears began to cloud his eyes. "Look at them! We can't just leave them like this." He tried to force himself not to take his eyes of his parents and the other adults, but the deep-seated feeling of horrified pity he'd been repressing caught up with him nonetheless.
"Stan," said the Guide, patiently removing Stan's hands from his collar one at a time. He looked over in the direction of the long passage leading out of the cave. "Listen to me now. You need to walk away from this situation for your own good."
The adults all laughed once more in unison at the shadowy antics on screen, compelled by some conditioned reflex.
Stan tore his gaze away from the sight of them, blinking hard to wring the tears from his eyes. "I thought I knew them," he sobbed, resigned. "I thought they knew me."
"Let it go," said the Guide. "That's all I can say to you right now. Let it go." It was then that the Guide did something unexpected. He gingerly took Stan's hand and gave him an encouraging smile.
"I just never saw this coming." Stan began at a slow reluctant pace out of the theater area and back to the cave passage. "I tried to explain myself to them. I thought they'd understand. They're all adults, after all."
"I know you just wanted to do the right thing," said the Guide, "But people are often set in their ways. They feel that any criticism of what they do is the same as personal criticism."
"But it's not," Stan objected. He could not help but to keep glancing back at the theater and its rows of blissful occupants. "Telling someone their ways are wrong isn't the same as saying they're a bad person."
"I know that, but you have to learn that this isn't an ideal world," the Guide explained.
Stan hesitated again. "What if I just, you know, make sure they're all right?" He began to backtrack, but the blue-haired boy held on to his arm.
"You think they would even care?" asked the Guide. "Do you think you should...?"
As if sensing Stan's potential reentry into the theater, the small chair he had been offered before scooted around and turned towards him on its own volition. The cables and tubes running up the length of the seat back rose up and began to extend eagerly towards him like a mass of flesh-eating worms, with their long needles glistening in the light of the projector. The chair itself tilted and leaned forward so that its arms and front legs rested on the floor, as it undulated each of its rows of spikes in turn.
The message was clear. If Stan wished to return, he would have to do so on his hands and knees. He would have to become like one of them, pretend he was something he was not, and sacrifice every last bit of his integrity. Yet he remained frozen to the spot, no matter how much his mind willed his body to flee.
"We have to go," said the Guide with a sense of urgency. "Now!"
The boy gave a hard tug on Stan's arm, pulling him out of the way and into a dead run at the last second before the cables lashed out at him. "But I can't leave them!" Stan protested, even though he knew that turning back now was completely out of the question.
"Leave them!" the Guide insisted firmly.
Stan knew better than to argue this time. He sprinted up the passage as fast as he could. At the first glimmer of light from the cave exit above, the bundle of cables seemed to shrink away, as did Stan's lingering doubts. The path ahead grew brighter, and Stan found himself stepping back into his own footprints from before, when he had first entered the cave.
When he at last arrived at the entryway, Stan stopped to catch his breath. "I wish I could have done more. I wish I could at least let them know I'm sorry I couldn't save them."
The Guide sighed. "Like I said Stan, let it go."
"Yeah, let it go," Stan echoed. He walked the last few steps up the steep grade before adding, "I guess it wouldn't have done me any good to stay behind, and even if I could, nothing good can come out of arguing with them."
"Now you get it," said the Guide. "Sometimes you have to know the difference between a winnable fight and banging your head against a wall of stupid."
The cave entryway gave way to the dazzling light of the sun, which shone brightly overhead, and Stan was reunited with a long lost feeling of belonging. "It's good to be back," he remarked.
"You should consider yourself fortunate," said the Guide.
The rays of the sun grew brighter as they passed through the swaying branches of a tree by the lake. "I do," said Stan. His surroundings rapidly dissolved into each other and faded.
Stan awoke to a room into which the afternoon sun had peeked through the shades, cutting a bright swath across his face. He turned his head and blinked his eyes a few times. His parents were nowhere to be seen and the hospital was relatively quiet for once, save for the voice of his doctor discussing business down the hall.
"We'll just need you to sign these release papers," he heard the doctor say. "Yes, I know there will be a difficult road ahead. I understand, and we'll do everything we can to make it easier to adjust."
Was someone softly weeping? Tears of joy? It was hard to tell.
The doctor entered Stan's room. "Mr. Marsh. How are you feeling?"
"Where'd my parents go?" was the first thing Stan could think to ask. "I've been kind of worried about them." That was an understatement.
The doctor sighed. "Your father spent last night getting drunk, but since he'd just donated blood, well it didn't take very long to drive his count over the limit. I know this only because he ended up right back here afterwards." He chuckled to himself, possibly to ease Stan's anxiety by showing that he'd dealt with this before. "I'm surprised his liver didn't shut down."
Stan pinched the bridge of his nose and grimaced with his eyes shut. "Great. Just what I need."
"Stan, listen," said the doctor, taking on a more somber tone. "I thought you should know your friends have been released."
"Oh really?" asked Stan. "Yeah, I was wondering where they were today. I was just about to ask."
The doctor said nothing for about half a minute, while he pondered over Stan's charts. "Your condition seems to be stable for now. Maybe once you've recovered, you can arrange with their parents to visit them."
Stan was a little confused. "I what? Oh, right. Yeah, I can't wait to see them again. But why can't they just visit me?" That was a rhetorical question, he realized. It was a school day, as far as he could tell, and his friends were probably too busy. Stan rolled his eyes. "And I thought I was afraid of hospitals..."
"I'll give you some time alone then," said the doctor. "I have to stop in with your father, so I'll let your mom know you're up."
"Don't remind me," Stan muttered under his breath. He switched on the TV and began flipping stations, but there was nothing on that held his interest for long. He wished his parents had brought him a video game, or at least something to read to occupy his time. Stan couldn't wait to get well fast, so that he could see his friends again. For the time being, there wasn't much else to do but lie in bed and let his mind wander.
The days that followed grew lonely and felt like they dragged on forever, without so much as a word from Kyle, Kenny, or Cartman. Stan was not entirely alone, as his parents would occasionally drop by with his homework assignments, and to allow Shelley to verbally torment him when they weren't looking. His dreams were relatively peaceful for once, serving as a respite from the grim reality of the waking world. He spent most of them hanging out by the lakeside with the blue-haired boy, basking in the sun, observing the reflections of trees in the rippling water, and studying the shapes of the clouds overhead.
Things however would start to drastically change before long.
Chapter 4 - Growing Pains
Dusk had descended on the small mountain village, and the full moon glared down in all its prominent glory from atop skies of maroon and midnight blue. Stan found himself running once again, his clothes damp with heavy perspiration, his breath hanging in the air in puffs of hot steam. A ringing pain pierced his skull, running down the length of his spine to a point below his waist. The hair on the back of his neck stood up, and his skin crawled and burned as if he had been touched with a million live wires at once.
The change was upon him.
Stan willed himself to press on, as if he could somehow outrun his fate, but his body had a mind of its own. "Aaah! No!" He staggered to a stop, wrapping his arms tightly around his midsection and doubling over, unable to fathom what was happening to him. He could dredge up no memories of ever being bitten, or having been experimented on, or entering into a pact with the darkest of supernatural forces. How could this be real?
He clenched his teeth hard after an itch like tiny shards of glass embedded in his gums had spread through his mouth. Running his tongue over them, he felt pointy rows of sharp teeth and fangs that hadn't been there before. A scream escaped Stan's lips. The tips of his red gloves were torn through with tough claws that had erupted from his nailbeds.
The blue-haired boy stood before a snow-covered pine tree, wearing an expression that conveyed more intrigue than apprehension. Stan had never before felt more relieved to see the Guide. "What's-happening to me?" Stan demanded. "Why me? This doesn't make any sense!"
"Stan," spoke the boy, "This makes perfect sense. You of all people should realize that."
What was his Guide talking about? Had the boy completely lost his mind? "But how did this happen?" was the only thing Stan could think to ask. The burning sensation all over his body was too much for him to bear, causing him to tug and claw away at his jacket and shirt to quench himself in the chill night air. His skin and underlying muscles felt two sizes too small, and were being wrenched to the limit by his bones as they shifted and popped into the strange new form.
"Stan," the boy addressed him by name again. "This was bound to happen."
"I don't..." Stan started to protest. He fell to his hands and knees in the snow, but could barely feel the freezing ground below. "I don't understand!" Stan lifted his right hand out of the snow and screamed again at the sight of the thick dark pads that now covered his palm. Turning his hand over, he could only watch helplessly as his skin prickled and writhed underneath, and a dense layer of dark gray hairs crept across. The dark gray pelt spread in seconds, enveloping his chest and midsection as far as he could see. Stan's eyes widened as a third scream echoed through the evening air.
"Stan," said the Guide, "Change is inevitable. You have surely matured a lot since we first met. You are simply awakening to your true self."
"No..." Stan tried to say, but was caught short of breath, hyperventilating and straining against the curse that had taken control of him. Stan cried out pathetically when a heavy crunch shuddered through his bones. His limbs, spine, and ligaments continued to stretch and reform, telescoping outwards, while his muscles spasmed and swelled to keep pace. "I don't want to change into something I'm not!" He gave an agonized groan. "I don't want to become a monster!"
"You fear becoming a monster, more than anything else," stated the Guide. "More than death, or betrayal, or even losing the ones you care about the most."
Stan tried to nod, even as his fur covered neck thickened and extended. "I just want to go back to who I always used to be!" The tarsal bones in his feet grew until his shoes became uncomfortably cramped. His ankles had popped out of his socks and shoes, and tough pads formed under his clawed toes and where the balls of his feet once were.
The Guide shook his head. "Change is the only universal constant. You know this. It happens to everyone in some way or another."
"The pain, it's just..." Stan clenched his hands over his head and the fiery throbbing within the confines of his skull. He could feel that his ears had grown pointy and extended upward. "I can't take it anymore."
"Clinging to the past is what causes your suffering," explained the boy. "You must learn to accept yourself and your underlying nature, even if others cannot."
"A-acceptance?" asked Stan, trying to make sure he'd heard right through his own anguished cries. His rapid breathing slowed for a moment, and he slowly unclenched his hands from his head. "What do you mean by clinging?"
The blue-haired boy stood with his hands clasped in front and spoke with his eyes closed. "Do not fight it. Embrace who you are."
Despite his lingering reluctance carried on shuddering breath, Stan knew he had no other choice. Focusing on the Guide's words, Stan crouched in the snow, leaning forward on his hands to find the most comfortable stance to ease into the transformation. What if the pain was all within his mind?
He stretched out his limbs, taming the wrenching pain into a dull ache. Deep cooling breaths filled his lungs, tapering the intensity of his boiling blood to a burning fury within. The stabbing in his skull gave way to the sweet release of pent up tension.
Stan pitched his head forward, allowing his upper and lower jaws to extend. His ears folded and grew into two points atop his head. At the base of his spine, a gray fluffy tail sprouted and unfurled from his lower back. He arched his back so that his chest could expand from front to back, bowing into a long stretch so that his abdomen could assume its longer, more slender shape, as his innards shifted to fill the space. Instead of the excruciating ordeal it had started out as, the transformation had become liberation from the cramped tightness of heavy shackles as it finished running its course.
When at last it was all over, a dark gray wolf pelt now covered the entirety of his body. Stan rose to his hind feet and kicked himself free from the last remaining tatters of his human clothing, no longer feeling the chill of the night air. All that was left was the blue and red poofball hat over his ears. In a dazed state, he reached up and pulled it off, folding it up and placing it in the Guide's outstretched hand. He tried to speak, but wasn't even sure that he could anymore.
"Do you know who you are?" was the first thing the Guide asked.
Stan swallowed in hesitation. "Yes..." Much to his surprise, his voice sounded no different from before. "I'm Stan... Stan Marsh, or at least I used to be."
"What makes you think you're not the same person you always were?" said the Guide. "You still have everything that made you who you were, only now you have this as well. Think of everything you've learned. Think of how far you have come."
"So this...?" Stan gazed at his front paws held before his face. "This is who I am now? But what if I don't want this?"
"To return to the way you were before would be clinging," said the blue-haired boy. "To wish you could go back to your past self is not a solution, but an embrace of ignorance. Tell me Stan, are you still in pain?"
"No." He could feel his newfound strength surging through him like never before.
"You are more powerful than you've ever been, correct?" asked the Guide.
"I guess so. But I just don't want to be seen as a hideous monster."
The Guide waved for Stan to follow. "Come with me, I have something to show you." He led Stan up to the frozen bank of the pond and motioned for him to look at his reflection in the icy waters.
Stan knelt at the edge and peered into the reflective surface. "JESUS CHRIST, DUDE!" He recoiled at once and clapped his paws over his face in shame.
The Guide urged him on. "Stan, look again and tell me what you see."
Stan slowly crept back towards the edge and peeked out from between clawed furry fingers. Bright eyes of arctic blue amid a dark gray complexion met his own from beneath the surface of the pond. He saw a long lupine snout covered in ebony fur, and ending in a cold wet nose, as well as a pair of gray tufted ears with black point coloration. "I'm--not hideous?" he spoke slowly. Stan blinked to ensure the reflection as telling the truth.
He was a beautiful loup-garou.
"So what will you do now?" asked the Guide.
"I don't know," said Stan. "This will take some getting used to."
"You will, in time," replied the Guide.
Stan's ears perked up. He could hear the distant voices of the angry village mob that had chased him from their midst. The villagers had since had time to gather their torches, shotguns, and pitchforks, and they would soon be coming for him.
He looked back at the small mountain village. "There is nothing left for me there," said Stan. The mob voices drew closer. He knew what he had to do. Leaving behind his past attachments, Stan dropped to all fours and loped off into the woods to start his new life, with his own kind.
The Guide smiled quietly to himself and vanished.
Several minutes later, the angry villagers finally arrived on the site. All they found were scraps of shredded clothing and large wolf tracks in the snow, trailing off towards the conifer tree line. The tall shotgun-toting redneck leading the village mob spat and cursed in frustration. "Dagnabbit! We'll never catch him at this rate!"
"It's yer damn fault!" shouted a skinny unshaven villager with a torch. "You took too long to track him down! Now the werewolf is on the loose!"
"Someone think of the children!" an older woman in the mob cried out. "If we don't kill that beast, it'll make off with them in the night!"
"Besides, we don't take kindly to anyone who's different from us!" said a burly villager, waving his pitchfork.
"Yeah!" shouted another of the village women. "I just know that werewolf's been behind everything bad that's been going on lately!"
The lead villager turned towards the rest of the mob. "But he's long gone by now! We all came out here for nothing. So what in tarnation are we going to do now?" Without warning a shotgun blast rang out, and a scream could be heard from somewhere in the back of the mob. Apparently the redneck hadn't realized his finger was still on the trigger, or where the barrel had been pointing.
The skinny villager stared slack-jawed for a second. "That's a great idea! We came out here to kill something, so let's kill each other!"
"Yeah!" shouted the other villagers in unison, before they all turned their shotguns, pitchforks, and torches on each other. The angry mob imploded, shooting each other in the feet, taking turns gouging each other with pitchforks, and setting fire to everything within reach. Before long, the orgy of immense stupidity had taken its toll, and many of the villagers lay dead or wounded, thoroughly enthralled in their victory celebration.
Deep within the forest, Stan had found the place where he felt he truly belonged. He was now strong enough to handle anything life could throw his way. A melodic keening chorus drifted on the night air beneath the full moon.
"Mr. Marsh? Mr. Marsh, how are you feeling?" asked the doctor.
Stan yawned and stretched. "I feel a lot better now, thanks." He noticed his cast had been taken off, and there was a small bandage over where his IV had been taken out. He moved his right arm around for a bit.
"You've made a remarkable recovery, I have to say," said the doctor. "Your bones mended a lot faster than we anticipated, so we went ahead and cut that cast off for you. You should be able to return home in another day."
"Okay," said Stan. He didn't bother to ask what his parents were up to. If they didn't want to come pick him up, he'd walk himself home. He couldn't wait to get out and stretch his legs regardless.
"Take care, Stan," said the doctor.
As the doctor left, Stan could have sworn he saw someone else out in the hallway. Sitting on a bench across from his room was a boy with his face hidden behind the magazine he was reading. A tuft of blue hair was barely visible from over the top of the pages. Stan rubbed his eyes and blinked, but when he looked again, the boy was gone.
The following day, Stan woke up, feeling a little groggy. His family was there, standing beside his doctor. His eyes hurt as they adjusted to the light.
"Welcome back, Stan," said the doctor. "You gave us quite a scare."
"I wha...?" Stan's throat felt dry and his voice came out gravelly. "What're you talking about?"
"Stan," said the doctor, "You've been in a coma ever since you were brought in after that car crash. We weren't sure if you would ever wake up."
Stan sat quietly in bed as reality slowly sank in. "But I thought that... It just seemed so real."
The doctor checked Stan's breathing and pulse. "Those must have been some dreams you were having. You were talking in your sleep so much that we had to move you down the hall so you wouldn't wake up the other patients."
"Oh..." said Stan, somewhat embarrassed.
Sharon approached his bedside. "Stan, now that you're better, we can take you to..." She paused. "...Visit your friends. If you want, that is." Her tone was uncharacteristically somber.
"Why don't you get dressed?" said Randy. "We'll be waiting for you outside."
The drive was the longest ten minutes of Stan's life. He was finally reunited with Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman once more. He knelt in the cold earth, still soft from being dug into recently.
The three gravestones before him were a decent, fitting tribute to his three best friends. He had been the only one who survived the car accident. They had already been gone by the time they visited him in his dreams. His mind drifted back to all the times that they had been together, for better or for worse, laughing and fighting and sharing in each other's struggles.
Stan wiped away a tear with the back of his hand. His will had been tempered, and his resolve had been tested. He had learned to let go when it was time to let go. He rose to his feet and bowed his head. With time, he would learn to navigate the ponderous chasm that had been ripped in his soul.
A much older gravestone, crumbling and covered with moss and lichen, caught Stan's attention. He took a closer look and noticed that, although the name had long since eroded away, the date was still legible. October 15, 1905 - April 30, 1913. The grave must have belonged to a child about his age. Faintly visible under the moss was a carved likeness of the child's face. Stan knew he had seen him before somewhere. There was something vaguely familiar about the boy's appearance.
Stan departed from the cemetery. A great many things had changed, yet life would have to go on. His friends had perished, but they were not gone.
He knew where he would be able to see them again.
Now that I got that out of the way
I thought it was an awesome story. You really do know how to bring ideas and emotions, things that words cannot describe, out of the people who read your work.
I don't know what exact indescribable feelings and ideas you wanted to evoke, but I took that story as a statement of moving on in life. To tell you the truth, the second I learned that the others had died in that car crash I was competly stunned. I was more then stunned. But the first thing that I thought of (once my conscience resumed it's normal course) was all that stan had been though in those really wild dreams of his. I actually applied what had happened before in that story to let my mind take in the fact that this whole time stan had really been alone - as his friends had died.
I mean, that says something about how well the story was written.
Thinking back that was a really really dark story. Even the one you wrote in which Kyle died was not nearly as dark and morbid. But this one had such an atmosphere of darkness, that I cannot believe that these events took place in the same universe as South Park.
Jesus man, I think I'm going to go watch all the light hearted episodes again in rapid succession to erase, in my mind, the absolute darkness that you put Stan though in your story.
All of that being said, are you going to still write more of these, or is this story itself a farewell of your sp fanfic writing carrere? I would _love_ to see more of these by you man, you really have talent.
Actually, now that I have gotten passed all of that I do have some things that I did not like about how the story was written. Although the 'aura' I get from looking back at reading the story in my mind leads me to think of the whole thing as excellent - I distinctly remember some places in the story were I thought that you had lost track of the fact you were writing a novel, not a screen play.
I mean, some places were descriptive, yes, but almost too much so that it sort of lost my attention to what actually mattered about the scene. In a written story, I think that you should focus on what the characters are thinking, saying, and just the basics of their surroundings unless it is absolutely necessary to go into complete detail. In those places I remember myself thinking that, in a screenplay these would be very relivent details, but in a book they are just too overboard. To make this story better, I think you should condense the places where you go into painful detail about physical things so that they are shorter and less literal.
You are writing for our minds, not our eyes.
I think that is the only criticism that I can give. I hope I didn't offend you or anything, but if I learned anything from your story it is that you should be upfront, honest and not ashamed of having different ideas about something
The one tip I have is that before this story started you should have put up a mindf*ck warning
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