It was a good excuse. Chase sat on his bed as Sonic handled the old cartridge back and forth. The ambulance was there for his grandmother. The police believed Mark was probably scared off by the incident. No one could call him missing yet, and he would probably come back home. It didn’t stop David from leaving to look for him. In the meantime, his mom was letting him visit with the ‘nice teenager’ who came to check up on him. And apparently, his little brother.

“This thing.” Sonic finally spoke gesturing to the cartridge. “Gateway to home.”

Strange. Chase remembered in future games, Sonic almost never seemed to stop talking. It made him think back to his question earlier. “Do you know all the others?”

Sonic turned to look at him. “All the other what?”

Chase couldn’t remember them all. “Um, off the top of my head? You know.” What should he start with? What came after the sonic creepypasta? “Sally? Bunny? Amy?” There was no recognition. “Any other allies or friends?”

“Hm.” Sonic put the cartridge in his pocket. The pants didn’t fit real well, they were David’s, but it worked for the moment. “Knuckles.”

“The echidna.”

“Right.” Sonic looked toward Tails who was reading a little pamphlet. “Anything?”

Tails looked up. “It’s just . . . weird.” He put the little pamphlet down. “Seeing our names like this.”

Chase looked at the pamphlet. Tails was reading the instruction manuals, and he was on the fourth game his dad had of theirs. Must be weird.

“Someone was out there, playing a game of us,” Tails said. “Now we’re in another world. Maybe we moved into a new game?”

“My world isn’t a game,” Chase corrected him.

“You would know what we didn’t?” Sonic corrected him. “You don’t know. Someone could be holding a cartridge of your world right now.”

That was disturbing.

“It might not even be a game,” Tails corrected him. “It could be any kind of media. EXE wants media so that his name will spread. You could be a TV show. Or you could be a book.”

“You mean, someone could be reading what I’m . . .” Chase shook his head. His world was real. He leaned on his bed. “How do we get Mark back?”

“Tails dropped a big hint,” Sonic told Chase. “This presumable thing that is EXE.” Sonic refused to call him after himself. “He wants his name spread out. Where do you spread information the fastest in your world?”

“Internet,” Chase said without a thought.

“And how do you get to Internet?” Sonic asked.

Oh. They were from an old cartridge. Chase pulled out his 3ds. “The internet is all around. It’s how everyone communicates with each other. It’s not a place, more like a thing.” He opened up youtube. “This is a part of the internet. People upload things here, and everyone all around the world can watch it.”

“Too much competition,” Sonic said quite quickly. “He just arrived. Somewhere. He shouted ‘not now’ right beforehand. He was planning on coming here, but he got access too soon.”

“He didn’t want us here,” Tails said for Sonic. “That makes sense. Everything screwed up.”

“Yeah. He was on the right path, but he took a wrong turn,” Sonic agreed, “dragging us here too. If he ends up where he wanted to be, I doubt he’d be trying to do something everyone else is doing. How do you get on the top of the internet, so that everyone can see you?”

“There’s not really a way. Views and time.” No one got big overnight. Hardly anyone became real big at all.

“He’s mad at it,” Tails said. He touched his head lightly. Chase saw him do that sometimes. Being separated from his body, it really made him different at times. It looked like he was remembering being with EXE again. “He wants to change it,” Tails said to Sonic. “People know him already.”

Sonic cursed. “Some already know him?”

“Yeah, but, he’s mad. He doesn’t have what he wants. He has recognition but . . .” Tails shook his head. “It’s not what he wants. Trollpasta. Creepypasta.”

Was that it? “He’s creepypasta.” Chase got off his bed. “He is widely known as creepypasta or trollpasta. More of a gag than scary.”

“There’s that word again,” Sonic huffed. “Show me this creepypasta.”

Chase looked toward Tails. “His? It might be kind of hard to watch.”

“I need to know what it is, Chase,” Sonic asked. He wasn’t one to back down.

“It’s stories. They usually aren’t true. Like, make believe stories. Made for the internet. Creepy internet stories, but most of them aren’t real creepy. Some, but not really.” Explaining it was tough. It wasn’t really his thing. “Well, here. Just watch this.” He picked up a real popular creepypasta. “I don’t know how old Tails are in the old games. Is he old enough for this?” Sonic didn’t give him a pleasant look. Yeah. Maybe I should stop using the word game for their world. “Anyway, here.” He showed him a top ten creepypasta video. That should be tolerable, short, but give the basic idea. After Sonic finished, he continued. “EXE falls between that and . . . well, trollpasta is . . .” He hated to say it, but Sonic wanted to know. “Funny.”

“Funny.” Yeah, he heard it in Sonic’s voice.

“It’s not scary. It’s not taken seriously. No one really believes in it, it was just made to be there.” Chase shrugged.

“That’s what made him mad,” Tails spoke again. “No one took him seriously. He’s a joke. Everyone knows him, but as a joke.”

“Ah.” Sonic nodded and looked to Chase. “Where does your serious, professional work come from? That’s where he’ll be.”

“The more people know him, the deeper he can get in. The more they . . .” Tails trailed off again. “The more they are scared, the more he enjoys when he gets them. He can’t have enough.”

“Where do you find the stuff that scares you?” Sonic asked, trying to take over for Tails again. “Chase?”

Chase looked toward Tails briefly. For a minute, he had acted like Tails was just a sweet kid that couldn’t handle some creepypasta, when he just got torn apart. Mark. Sickening. It was just a habit. To protect younger kids. He tried to concentrate on Sonic’s question. The serious stuff that scares you? “Professionally made you mean?” Is that what Sonic was getting at? “Villains people actually get scared of?” Hm. He tried to type in scariest villains and got many results, like always. Except, he was getting closer. “How could he do that though?” He gestured to the screen. “A lot of these are movie villians.”

“If movies are where the scariest come from, that’s where he’ll be,” Tails agreed. “Movies.” He looked toward Sonic. “He’ll want to make a movie.”

“That wouldn’t be easy,” Chase said to them as he put his 3ds back away. “It takes a lot of people to make a movie. Permissions. You’d need a top movie too with heavy advertising to social media to get attention to it.” Tails just stared at him, almost with spooky eyes. “Are you okay?”

“He. Kills. Holds souls, and puts them back,” Tails said to him slowly. “A lot of people won’t stop him. He’ll enjoy it more . . .”

Sonic moved over toward Tails. “It’s okay, Tails.”

“No, it’s not! No one will! Ever know,” his voice went soft. “What I saw, Sonic. What I felt. What we felt.”

Mark. He was stuck in the terrible place that Tails was talking about. Chase tried not to think about it. Tried to help so he didn’t have to, but he could tell just from the way Tails had been? Mark would be even more traumatized. If they could get back to him. He might be so bad, he’d end up being in a psyche ward the rest of his life. Chase was startled a second when he felt an arm wrap around him. He looked up.

Sonic. He’d picked up Tails and came over to try and comfort him too. He didn’t even really know Chase. Chase could have told the cops about them, had them thrown in jail. He thought about it for a little while, until David spoke up. Yet, he was comforting him. He wasn’t the best at it. Chase didn’t know any extra backstory to Sonic before his teens, but he could tell from the way he gripped Tails and tried to comfort him at the same time?

It probably wasn’t just all wild fun. Now, Chase kind of wished Sonic had been the ‘all break out attitude fast talking’ type he’d become for his generation’s platform. It’d be a little less . . . real. 

“Chase?” His mom knocked on the door. “David’s still gone. I’m going to order out for supper. What do you want?”

No way. Chase almost glared at her, she couldn’t just pull that. “Who was Kenneth to David, mom?” What did she hide from him?

“Oh.” She sighed. “Well, I suppose you’ll find out one day. When David was a kid, he used to have a best friend named Kenneth. In sixth grade, he disappeared. Just one random day, he up and left after playing a game. No one ever saw him again.” She looked toward Sonic. “Your little brother looks very much like him, and David is in a tough state. His son is missing right now. He wasn’t thinking straight when he went towards him.” Sonic just nodded while she looked back to Chase. “Your new friends need to go home soon unless they are staying to eat.” She lingered on Sonic for a little while. “What is your little brother’s name again?”

“Dale,” Sonic said, “and I’m Sonny.” The first thing they had to do was get names that sounded like actual names from Chase’s world. They came up with the closest sounding they could to their own.

“Dale, that’s right.” Chase’s mom looked back at him. “Think about what you all want and then come get me?”

Mom never let friends he just met simply eat with them, but he could tell she didn’t believe Mark simply ran off. A person didn’t come running into an unknown house easily with just a small yell. Maybe she was letting them hang around to thank them. Maybe she was feeding them to thank them. Maybe she was being nice since David went after Tails way too fast.  Maybe she thought he would tell them more, and she could get something out of them? The last one fit his mom best.

If it had been anything else, they probably wouldn’t be there. ‘Dale’ was a cute kid, but not only was he probably the body of David’s late friend, but from the way he acted? It was clear he’d been through some serious situations. And Sonic? Alone he was fine. He spoke decently, and he didn’t get out of line, but his mom kept focusing on other things besides Sonic’s face. Whoever’s body Sonic had, it had a pierced ear and a tattoo on the upper arm. Sonic had been wearing a short-sleeved shirt of David’s, so Chase’s mom saw it. It wasn’t a bad tattoo or anything, just the planet with longitude and latitude showing over it, but it was a sign that Sonic probably wasn’t an influence she wanted around him. He was probably sixteen or seventeen, and with tattoos and piercing that young? His mom wasn’t brimming for them to get close.

“He’ll pop up around movies,” Sonic said after she left. “If you don’t mind, we’ll steal some food before we get out of here.”

Yeah. There’s no way Sonic and Tails could stick around all the time. “Where will you go?” Chase asked. “You don’t have super speed and Tails can’t fly.” Wait. “Can he fly planes?” Yeah, that lingering look again. Not everything followed games. In the games, Tails was smart, and then he only got smarter, and then genius status that could make almost anything. There? Tails was just a little kid, like Mark had been. “Sorry. I don’t know your past from a game’s past. Even in the early ones, Tails could fly a plane.” He really needed to stop being so offensive. Some things were the same. Others weren’t. It’s better to assume nothing’s right.

“Don’t worry about it,” Sonic said to him. “Were used to being on our own. Doesn’t matter who we are, we always figure things out. Right, Tails?” Tails nodded.

“Okay. So, what did you want to eat?” It was a toughie. Chase would say they wanted chili dogs, but that could be completely game based later.

“If there’s anything we aren’t, it’s picky,” Sonic replied as he put down Tails and moved to relaxing on the ground. He sat back, leg crossed over his other knee, kicking a foot up and down. Chase had seen that fashion of relaxing in old youtube compilations. He did that in the early games when a person took too long to start playing. It was his last move before falling asleep. “After this, I better steal a car until I get used to this whole body thing. Who’s got a good stealable car?”

Okay? “You know what a car is?” No, wrong question. “Stealing is wrong.” It had been, but from the looks they gave him, they didn’t seem to care. Chase couldn’t believe it. “You steal?”

“When we need to.” Sonic sounded a little huffy. “If I followed the laws, do you think I would have ever stopped Robotnik? Anyone could? I’m not known as a rebellious hedgehog for being a good little boy that follows rules.”

“Robotnik’s inventions are Robotnik’s property by law,” Tails said to Chase. “We destroy his work all the time. Where he works. What he does. We technically break laws all the time, to try and keep the world safe.”

“Oh.” The real ones weren’t role models. Sonic wasn’t going to be giving a right/wrong speech anytime soon.

“We don’t go out of our way to break it,” Sonic said, seeing Chase shuffle slightly. “You do what you gotta do, and I’ve got to go steal a car to find EXE to stop him. At least until I figure out how to run in this body.”

“How?” Chase asked. “He’s . . . well, he’s . . .” He didn’t want to say an invincible god, but isn’t that what he’d been? How was Sonic going to stop him? Even with his own body and super speed, how would he do it? “What about Mark?”

“If we get him back, I’ll bring him back,” Sonic simply said. He was being careful not to make any promises.