The Returned

Chapter I

Wendy Corduroy hurt. With each dull throb that wracked her head, she could feel her eyes pulsate behind their closed lids. Her muscles ached from her neck down to her shins, and she could not for the life of her remember what she could have possible done to cause her body so much distress. A gentle gust of air licked her arms, and with a start she realized she was not at home in her own bed, but outside.

Wendy opened her eyes. Tall pine trees reached out above her towards an impossibly blue sky. The gentle babble of the nearby creek reached her ears, and Wendy slowly sat up.

She was in the forest. It was quickly recognizable. The small incline she lay on was on the edge of McKinsey Road, a small dirt path that wound through the forest from Route 45 to the edge of town. It wasn't really a road, not anymore, but it saved Wendy 20 minutes when she was going to and from the Mystery Shack. Yes, she recognized where she was immediately.

So why did she feel that there was something off?

It was little thing that seemed to set off alarm bells in her head. Like how the path seemed a little less defined. How there seemed to be an extra stump just across form her on the far side. She'd taken this route so often she knew it like the back of her had. And the brush underneath the tree line seemed more...wild. Unkept. As though no one had maintained the road for a couple of years. As these slight discrepancies caused a slight feeling of dread, another thought entered her mind.

How had she come to be lying in the middle of the forest?

Her mind raced. What was the last thing she remembered doing? She tried to recall the night before.

She remembers Soos asking her to stay late to help him stock some extra inventory for the shop. There where quite a few boxes, and she ended up being stuck there for the better part of the night. Not quite the way she wanted to spend her Saturday off from school. Sure, she only had about a week and a half left before summer, but she didn't want to spend the evening working. She had plans and preparations to make. Her sixteenth birthday was coming up, and, perhaps just as importantly, her two favorite doofuses were due to arrive the day after. She remembered being annoyed as she hopped her bike and left around 1130, and she could recall turning off the 45 and up McKinsey. Then...nothing. No memories of what might have transpired to cause her to end up asleep in the middle of the woods.

Wendy stood and stretched. She felt her muscles creak and pop, and some of the tension she felt in her shoulders lessened. She ran her hands along her pants and felt her phone in her left pocket. Thank god. Pulling it out, she flipped it open to call her dad, who was probably worried sick about her right now. But her phone wouldn't turn on.

Battery must be dead. She thought. A quick glance down the path told her she wasn't that far from the 45, which meant that the Shack was about five minutes away. They had a land line, so she could call her pa from there.

With her mind set Wendy glanced around her. Where was her bike? Unless somebody had stolen it, it couldn't have gotten very far. But as she searched up and down the winding path, she could find no trace of it. As she resigned herself to walking back towards the shack, a glint of metal caught her eye. Looking closer, she realized the metal bar was part of a larger object now tangled in the weeds.

With all her strength she heaved on the bar, and slowly pulled the object out of the tangled grasp of the overgrown brush. she thought. And it was indeed her bike, though nothing like she had remembered. The metal was chocked with rust, and the bright red paint that had cheerily coated its frame was faded and chipped away. Both wheels were nothing more than rims, the rubber tires having rotted away. The seat was sun cracked and shredded, yellow fluff all that remained of the rich black cushion. The chain was missing.

'What the hell?' she said aloud. It looked like it had been out here for a good long while, exposed to the elements. Anger rushed through her. Just what in the hell was going on. She wakes up in the forest with no memory of how she got there, the whole area that she grew up around suddenly feels slightly off, and now her bike...her bike that her mother had given her before...

Angry tears threatened to spill from her eyes as she stared at the ruined treasure she cherished, but she refused to let them fall. Taking a deep breath, she steeled her resolve. It was time to get answers and that was going to start with retracing her steps. Gently, tenderly, she lowered the bike to the side of the dirt path. She'd be back for it. She'd call her pa and they'd come back here with his truck and take it home. And she'd fix it.

Quickly turning, she made her was up McKinsey Road towards Route 45, and upon reaching it, proceeded left down the footpath that led to the Mystery Shacks dirt road. She again noticed that the highway was in a state of disrepair. Not to any major degree, but the painted lines were faded, a few new potholes dotted the lanes, and here and there it looked like a weed was pushing up through the asphalt. Almost like the road saw very little traffic anymore. Which was impossible, considering it was the main highway in and out of Gravity Falls. What was going on?

She reached the Mystery Shacks driveway and proceeded up the straightway until the shack itself came into view behind the trees. Again she took a moment to look, and again, that same dreaded feeling that something was just slightly off about her second home hit her.

The Shack had always had a rustic look to it, but now it looked worn. The totem pole Stan had bought from one of the Indian tribes up north was dull, its paint no longer bright and welcoming. The carved wooden animals were less defined, looking as though time had simple stolen away the details. The house itself looked slightly better but still, the paint looked faded, especially around the big Mystery Shack sign. She could see a few busted shingles along the roof, and part of the rain gutter was missing. To top it off, and unfamiliar pickup truck sat were Soos's old Chevy would normally be parked. Which was nowhere in sight. Wendy guessed it to be about noon, so where could Soos be? Perhaps he was out looking for her?

Her mind quickly latched onto that explanation. She hadn't returned home last night, her dad had contacted him and he went to search for her. And in the dark, he had missed her lying on the side of the road. It made sense. And Melody would be here at the Shack in case she came back, and the truck must have belonged to a tourist.

Yes. That was it. That had to be it. It still didn't explain why everything looks so rundown, or why her bike had gone from a well maintained machine to a rusted hunk of metal in less than twenty four hours.

She approached the shack and quickly stepped through the front door. And blinked. The area she was in now was what should have been the Shacks gift shop, but now appeared to be a kind of library-slash-workshop. The two far walls were bookshelves stretching from ceiling to floor, the shelves overflowing with various tomes and scrolls. The counter she used to sit behind was bared of her cash register, instead sporting a number of vials and maps, and sitting in the middle was what, she supposed was a smashed tape measure with various tools around it. Behind the counter on the wall was a gun rack, various firearms siting along with a bow, a couple of future looking energy weapons she guessed were of Fords design, and what she recognized as the memory gun from that weird eye society. The vending machine still stood in its place, the one constant in a room that had seriously changed overnight.

Something was seriously fucked up.

Tentatively she called out. 'Hello? Melody?'

With no reply, Wendy moved from the gift shop turned laboratory past the stairs and into the kitchen. That at least, appeared the same, everything as she remembered, along with the living room. She made to turn and head upstairs in search when the coffee table caught her eye. For there, sitting upon it, was her trapper hat. The very hat she had traded with Dipper last summer, with the promise to trade back upon his return. The hate that wasn't supposed to be here for another two weeks. She picked it up. It was real. It was really here.

Wendy wanted to scream. She wanted to cry. She wanted to grab her axe and take her frustration and confusion out on the woodpile back home. What it all of the nine circles of hell was going on? With the exception of the gift shop that had changed drastically, the rest of the world seemed almost the same. Almost. As though...

A thought crossed her mind, a sudden, frightening thought. Could Bill have returned? Could he be seeking revenge, trapping her in her mid while altering slight aspects of her world to torment her? But as quickly as it came, the thought left. These where subtle differences, and Bill Cipher was anything but subtle. With that though having calmed her she proceeded with her plan to look for anybody on the second floor. Hat still in had she turned the corner to the stairway and...

A boy she'd never seen before stood halfway up the stairwell. He stared with shocked blue eyes down at her from beneath brown shaggy hair, while his mouth hung open in surprise.

Wendy too, found herself shocked, but she recovered quickly. The boy was maybe a year or two older then her, and wearing nothing but pajama bottoms hanging low around his waste. She fought back the heat in her cheeks as she realized this half naked stranger was rather handsome. But then her eyes were drawn to his face, and there was, yet again, a feeling of familiarity to him. Those sky blue eyes staring at her as though she were a ghost come back from the dead seemed were eyes she knew. She knew him, but shed never seen him before, and especially not in this house.


He knew her. He defiantly knew her. As Wendy watched him, he shifted, and his brown hair moved reveling part of his brow. Her eyes widened. There, still partly concealed behind his hair, was a very recognizable birthmark. A birthmark she would know anywhere. A birthmark that should be on the forehead of a thirteen year old boy a hundred miles away right now.

In a hushed shocked voice she whispered up to him, 'Dipper?'

The boy in question moved so quickly Wendy almost didn't register it. One second he was up the stairs, and the next she found herself wrapped up in his arms as hot tears streamed down his face.

'Wendy.' he spoke again in a strained choke.

Wendy for the life of her didn't know what to do. A boy who couldn't be Dipper but was Dipper was hugging her and balling into her shoulder. Before she could say anything though, he quickly let her go and rushed towards the kitchen. Still reeling from these sudden turn of events, it took a moment for Wendy to follow him.

She found him in the kitchen on the wall mounted phone. He was staring intently at the wall and muttering to himself while he listened.

'Come on.'

He paused. 'Come on, come on, pick up. Please, be there.'

A moment later and Wendy could faintly hear a 'We're sorry, your call could not be completed as dialed...' message before he slammed the handled into the receiver, picked it up, and dialed again. When the exact same thing happened, Dipper let out a sigh and banged his head against the wall. 'I'm losing my mind.'

He hung up the phone, turned and again had a shocked expression cross his face when he saw her. 'You're...still here.'

Wendy raised an eyebrow at him. 'Uh, yeah. I am. You wanna explain what's going on Dip, and why you're suddenly taller than me?'

This time though Dipper cautiously approached her and, slowly, reached his hand out and touched her arm.

He stared blankly at her. 'You're really here. You're real. H...How?'

Wendy stared at him. 'How? How what?'

'How are you here?'

Wendy stared at the boy incredulously. 'Dip, in case you forgot, I live in Gravity Falls. You're the one who shouldn't be here right now. And you're not suppose to be taller than me.'

And you sure as hell shouldn't spring an attractive chest like that on an unprepared girl, she thought.

Wendy shook her head. An older, handsome Dipper was suddenly in front of her, and she should be trying to figure out what happened, not ogle her suddenly hot friend.

Dipper opened his mouth to reply when the phone rang. His head whipped around so fast Wendy was sure he had whiplash.

Slowly, Dipper picked up the receiver and brought it to his ear. 'Hello?'

Wendy was standing close enough that she could hear the voice coming through from the other side. 'Hello? May I speak to Stan or Ford Pines please? Or perhaps Mr. Ramirez, if they're unavailable? Please, its urgent.'

In a strangled gasp Dipper whispered, 'Mom?'

A pregnant pause past before the women on the other end spoke again. 'Who is this?'

'Mom its me. Its Dipper.'

'Dipper?' Mrs. Pines asked. 'Dipper, are you ok? What are you doing in Oregon? Why do you sound so different?'

But it appeared Dippers mind had endured all it could for the day, and he slid down the wall and sat on the floor, the phone falling from his grasp. Wendy quickly grabbed it and brought it to her ear. 'Hello, Mrs Pines? This is Wendy. Wendy Corduroy.'

'Oh hello Wendy dear. What happened? Is Dipper alright? Do you know what he's doing at the shack?'

Wendy glanced down at the trembling form of her friend. 'No, I'm sorry Mrs. Pines, I don't. He was here when I arrived, but he's unhurt.' Not a complete lie, but she wasn't about to tell Mrs. Pines her son was suddenly almost an adult. 'Are you ok?'

'I'm fine dear we all are. We've just been worried sick about Dipper, I mean we all just woke up and the house is in shambles and he's gone. His father and I didn't know what to think, and Mabel's almost in tears.'

Wendy stopped watching Dipper and started focusing on what Mrs. Pines just said. 'Just woke up? What do you mean, like just now?'

'No.' the Pines matriarch responded. 'About half an hour ago. And I felt just terrible as well. Why? What's this have to do with anything?'

'I...don't know Ma'am. Do you think you could get up to Gravity Falls. Dippers safe with me right now, but I have a feeling he'd sure like to see you.'

'Of course, dear.' the older women responded, before her voice took on a more angry tone. 'And that boy is going to get a piece of my mind. Honestly what was he thinking running away like that. He's going to have some explaining to do.'

Wendy glanced down again. 'Yeah. He is.' before hanging up the phone.

She then sat down across from him and his eyes seemed to focus back on her. Good, time for some answers. 'Alright Dip, what's going on? Where's Soos and Melody?'

Dipper closed his eyes, took a breath, and leaned his head against the wall. 'Wyoming. They moved to Wyoming.'

Wendy gasped. 'That's not possible. Dipper I just saw them yesterday.'

This time Dipper opened his eyes and looked at her. Really looked at her. 'You have no idea what's going on do you?'

'No!' Wendy almost screamed. 'I don't got a fucking clue what's going on! Everything's all out of wack and I'm trying to find answers!'

But now Dipper was studying her closely. 'Wendy, what year is it?'

That brought her up short. 'Huh?'

'What year is it?' he asked again.

Wendy paused. 'It's...2018.'

Shaking his head, Dipper looked at her with sad eyes. No Wendy. Its not. Its 2023.'