Craig wanted nothing to do with Tweek's delusions and had said as much, multiple times.
"They're not delusions, man," Tweek hissed, leaning into Craig's personal space in a very unnecessary way. The teacher droned on about a higher math Craig didn't give a shit about, but he was more than willing to pretend to if it put an end to this. "They're real! And they're coming."
"Fuck off. All I can smell is your shitty coffee breath."
Tweek let out a distressed gurgle and buried his head in his arms, a trembling mess. He'd been worse lately, something Craig hadn't originally thought possible. But there it was, every morning for the last week: Tweek was disturbed by something, or else on the verge of doing something drastic.
Perturbed by the thought of Tweek taking action to do anything, Craig abruptly got to his feet and walked out of class.
He would get detention, but that was the norm. Craig refused to listen to anymore bullshit. Tweek had been increasingly obsessive about his gnome theory as of late. He'd gone so far as to ask Craig for his assistance in 'putting an end to the thieving menace'. Token said that Tweek's parents grounded him for losing so many pairs of underwear, and that the gnome story was probably a cover for some weird fetish Tweek had.
This, as with most things, was an issue Craig refused to involve himself in.
Even when he caught sight of Tweek burning underwear in his front yard and shrieking incoherently, he refused to get involved. Kenny was standing on the sidewalk watching with the rest of the small crowd that had gathered.
"Tucker," he greeted. "Let me bum a cigarette."
Craig gave him a dour look but pulled out his pack anyway, tapping one out. "What's with all this?"
"This?" Kenny lit the cigarette and looked around at the crowd, then at Tweek. "Dude, he's your friend. You tell me."
Craig stood for a few minutes and watched, smoking in companionable silence with Kenny. About the time Tweek started raving about his final revenge, Craig left. There was a Red Racer marathon running. He didn't want to chance missing any of it.
The sight was quick to spread through town, varying explanations trailing in its wake. For those familiar with Tweek Tweak, and most of the town was, the act was hailed as a revolutionary moment, the eye opening act of his life. Tweek was going to change, they said. Let's join him in his personal revolution, they said.
Craig likened the following Monday morning to waking up in an alternate universe. He swore he overheard Cartman discussing the liberation of his testicles to an overly-chipper Butters outside the biology lab, which was something he could have lived without.
"Hey, man," Token greeted, glancing over his notes. "Ready for the exam?"
Craig returned the words with a dead stare. "What exam?"
But he never did get to hear the answer. Tweek came rushing into the classroom like his ass was on fire, crashing into the desk nearest the door in his haste.
"Jesus Christ, man! I'm fucked!" he shrilled. "Gah!" Classic Tweek. So much for the underwear revolution, Craig thought.
"You seem upset," Token pointed out. He stopped there, though, apparently less concerned with Tweek's latest dilemma than the approaching test.
"I can't be upset! I'm already dead! Oh god, oh shit, oh fuck—"
"You're not dead, Tweek." Token didn't even look up from his papers.
"But I might as well be!" Tweek hissed.
"Is this about that stupid underwear thing?" Craig asked, then immediately regretted it. He was supposed to be staying completely uninvolved. Shit.
"Yes!" Tweek turned such a grateful, if still a tad neurotic, expression on Craig that he very nearly felt guilty about blowing Tweek off for the last week — but not really. "The—the gnomes," he said, dropping his voice on the last word so that Craig had to lean, much to his chagrin, quite close to hear it. "They're coming, Craig."
Oh, fuck, not that again. "There's no such thing as gnomes," Craig repeated for what felt like the millionth time since they were about nine years old. "Jesus."
Tweek let out a distressed sound. "They are, man! They totally are! And—and—and they're going to kill me!"
By this point, the entirety of his first period class was none-too-discreetly watching the exchange, which just irritated Craig even more.
"Yeah, okay," Craig said, brushing him off. "Good luck with that."
Tweek rambled on, but all Craig caught was something about making a terrible mistake before the whole thing went nonsensical. Not that he cared, not really. The teacher walked into the room asking for last night's homework, breaking the mood. Craig buried his face in his arms on his desk and went back to sleep.
When Craig checked his phone after getting out of the shower that night, he had about twenty texts from Tweek, and none of them made any sense after the first three. He could imagine perfectly the terror in Tweek's voice just from the poorly worded THERE COMING JESUS FUCK RUN FOR YOUR LifE.
He dropped his phone off the side of the bed, disgusted with the turn of events. The moment he closed his eyes, he was asleep, worn down from dealing with the day's bullshit.
When he opened them again, it was to a sight he did not wish to acknowledge.
At his bedside, the clock spoke in bold red letters 3:00AM. A rustling at his sheets stole his sleep-addled attention. Craig tried to roll to the side, ignore whatever the hell was happening, but his sheets were caught on something. He looked down.
A small potato-headed creature looked back up at him.
It was one of those rare moments of the surreal, the sort of thing Craig felt was best limited to comic books and Dali artwork — sure as hell nothing he wanted to see in his reality.
The little creature was tugging at his pants, staring up at him with doleful eyes.
Craig returned the stare, his expression unchanging. Then —
Craig threw himself out of bed, hearing the creature hit the ground with a solid thud. They both scrambled up at the same time, and he had to brace himself as the little thing threw itself at him, pleading in a garbled, tinny voice.
"Underwear," it implored, grabbing at the waistband of Craig's pants.
Craig Tucker liked to think of himself as rational — a very pragmatic guy. He didn't lose his cool, didn't give a shit about whatever was going on around him. But in that moment, with some strange, haggard-looking little monster trying to, apparently, wrestle him out of his pants and steal his underwear, reason and rationality were the furthest things from Craig's mind.
He grabbed the lamp from his bedside table and brought it crashing down on the little creature's head, not a single thought to spare for the consequences.
The coffee scalded Craig's mouth, but the pain didn't deter him. He gulped the bitter black stuff down with an odd desperation, his hands shaking as he power walked down Main Street. He was attracting attention in a bad way: between his stiff, awkward gate and the look of permanent shock plastered across his face, Craig was a sight to behold.
Harbuck's was busy as ever when he pushed the door open. The line was long, people in suits glancing at their wristwatches or phones as Mr. Tweak took his sweet time with their orders. Tweek was sitting at a window table, his headphones on, a takeaway coffee in front of him, bobbing his head in time with some unheard beat. His book bag was sitting against the legs of his chair. There was an hour to go before he had to be anywhere.
Craig kicked the chair across from him out and sat down, causing the table to shake. Tweek made a desperate grab for his coffee before it toppled over.
"Jesus, man!" He ripped off his headphones, eyes bulging. "What the hell are you doing here?"
Craig opened his mouth, then closed it again. What was he doing there? A flash of an image bubbled up in his mind of the strange little creature's corpse on his floor. Ah. Right.
"The, uh," he frowned. "Your—gnomes."
Tweek sucked in a harsh breath and glanced around as if expecting the word alone to summon a horde of them. "What—what about the gnomes? They're not mine, man! They're—"
"I, uh," and here, Craig was at a loss of how to explain. So he settled for the simple truth: "I killed one last night."
For a moment, silence. But only for a moment. Craig watched as panic slowly began to slide over Tweek's face, a subtle tic holding court beneath his eye, an upward quirk to his mouth like he was waiting for the punch line. Then, "What?" It was the calmest he'd heard Tweek say anything in a long while.
Craig wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
"I killed one," he repeated. "It—came into my room and—" He made a vague gesture downward. "Man, it freaked me out, okay! Those things are supposed to be your fucked up delusions!"
"Did it steal your underwear?" Tweek asked, tugging at his hair. He was starting to get a wild-eyed look, glancing around as if expecting an attack.
"It tried to," Craig admitted reluctantly. He was still stuck in the surreal feel of it all. Was he really having this conversation with Tweek Tweak of all people?
"I knew it!" Tweek said it loud enough that the dwindling line in front of the register turned to look at him. Twitching and looking more manic by the second, Tweek leaned across the table, his voice dropping to a stage whisper: "I knew this was going to happen! Jesus, man, we're fucked!" He sat back and nodded decisively.
"This is ridiculous," Craig argued. "How are those things even real?"
"Government experiment," Tweek replied without hesitation. "How did you kill it?"
"Uh, I just," Craig made a vague motion with his hands. "Brained it with a lamp." It sounded fucking lame. The whole thing did.
But Tweek didn't seem to think so. He sat back, looking thoughtful. If not for the way his whole body shook with tremors, Craig would have thought he was completely calm. Almost relaxed. "So they can die…"
Craig sat for a moment longer before deciding he should run, lest Tweek's insanity rub off on him more than it already had.
When he got up, Tweek jumped to his feet. "Wait! Christ, man, where are you going?! We—this—we need to plan!"
Craig gave him the finger and walked out the door. Fuck a whole lot of that mess.
The warning bell rang, and then the late bell. Craig didn't give a shit. He stood outside the gym, puffing away at his cigarette, wondering what it would take to get himself to believe the previous night hadn't happened. It was probably just a dream, whether his mind wanted to go along with that thought or not. There was just no way something like that had actually happened.
He entertained that idea through the first half of the class he was skipping, content to let everything else fade away into the background. Or, rather, he would have been content to do so. As it was, Craig was interrupted. Violently.
It started out innocuously enough. One of the secretaries from the front office — it was the same bitch who always processed Craig when he got kicked out of class — was walking down the sidewalk leading from the entrance to the school. Even hidden behind the corner of the gym, maybe sixty feet away, Craig could still hear the sharp snap of her heels clicking against the ground. She had a sign in hand and a snooty look on her face. Craig only bothered following her movements until he was sure she couldn't see him, then he rolled his eyes and went back to his cigarette. She'd caught him smoking once before. It wouldn't make much of a difference if she did so again.
But she wasn't going to catch him. Not then, and not ever again. She'd walked all the way out to the front gate and had the sign, whatever it was, poised to stab into the ground when something came out of nowhere. It leapt onto her shoulders, knocking her to the ground. She screamed. The creature — and Craig, having chucked his cigarette and stepped around the building, disturbed, to get a better look, now clearly knew what it was — took a bite out of her neck.
It pulled away with a mouthful of something meaty and dripping red. The secretary went limp. The gnome sat back, satisfied, and — it turned, slowly, like something out of a horror movie, and looked at Craig.
Craig let out a curse, not pausing to think. He turned on his heel and ran into the side door of the gym, slamming the lock on tight.
What he neglected to remember was that it was his class' day for gym electives. As he whirled around, back pressed to the door, the vast majority of his classmates had paused in the midst of their basketball unit to stare at him.
"Tucker!" Coach looked like he wanted to see blood right then, and all Craig could think was fuck, I'm going to die, those things are going to eat me and steal my fucking boxers—
The coach took a step forward. "Tucker," he said again, "where the hell have you been?"
And Craig, never one to panic, always the calm, cool, collected member of any group, let out a noise that was something between a scream and a gasp before darting away from the coach, speeding past him and slamming full speed into the gym doors before skidding into the hallway.
He'd barely gotten three feet from the entrance to the gym before a cacophony of frightened voices rose in his wake. The gnomes, he decided, must have gotten inside.
It was high time he got the fuck out of there.
Craig panted, leaning heavily against a wall. There was a patch of blood spattered right next to where he rested his head. In his weary, mind-numb state, he found it difficult to care.
Everything had happened so quickly, the day snowballing out of his control — not to say that he'd ever had any control to begin with. But this was all so—
There weren't words for it.
The attack had happened without warning: gnomes poured into the school, gnashing their teeth and killing anyone stupid enough not to run. Students trampled each other trying to get to safety. It was a fucking mess was what it was.
The majority of students were holed up in the cafeteria. Craig had been ejected the moment he'd tried to follow, as it had quickly become apparent that the gnomes were blaming this particular massacre on him. Butters Stotch said he'd heard one of the gnomes muttering about Craig right before it took a bite out of the nurse's face.
And if that wasn't damning evidence, Craig wasn't sure what was.
He still wasn't sure how he'd managed to do this to himself. It was pretty damn spectacular, if he looked at it objectively — more trouble than anyone else had ever caused him. He'd topped the Peru incident all on his own.
And now he was probably just going to die.
He'd been running since his classmates ejected him from their temporary safe room. Every noise made him jump, and he'd twice now stumbled over a mutilated body. His stomach lurched with fear, and his heart hammered against his chest like even it was trying to escape. Craig tried to fall back on apathy, but he was more afraid of death than he'd realized. There was a large gap between smoking up and philosophically discussing the possibility of life after and death, and actually finding yourself on the cusp of a messy end. Bravery was out of the question.
Another sound, like tiny feet scurrying just around the corner — Craig held his breath and looked around. There was a classroom just to his right, and he could probably make it if he was quick about it. Quick, though, usually meant being loud. Any noise he might make, the gnomes would hear, and he was still battling the hysteric voice in the back of his head that sounded much too much like Tweek as it shrieked about the indignity of being killed by gnomes for the sake of underwear, of all things. It was such a South Park way to die.
"Fuck this." Craig gritted his teeth and started walking, quietly, carefully, toward the classroom door. He'd made it, too, before the gnomes rounded the corner, but things didn't work out as well as he'd hoped. When Craig opened the door, it was to the sight of three gnomes gnawing on his algebra teacher's body, her pants down like they were hoping to find underwear. They apparently had not, and Craig was stuck with the immediate impression that this only further served to fuel their rage.
Turning and running sounded like an excellent plan after all.
Craig turned tail and fled so quickly he almost toppled over, teetering dangerously to the side. He caught himself with one hand on the floor before pushing off into a dead run in the opposite direction. He was a heavy smoker and not one to bother with sports or exercise. His body complained about the harsh treatment, and his lungs and chest were on fire. But the sound of those—those things chasing after him was enough to keep him moving, just a little further, though he had no idea where he was going to go.
And then it hit him. Literally.
Craig slid to a halt, slamming into a door that had just swung open. A burst of white flooded his vision as the impact sent him careening onto his ass, throwing his hands out and just barely managing to save himself from banging the back of his head painfully against the floor. But the angry curse he'd been about to sling died a quick death on the tip of his tongue when he realized more of the goddamn gnomes were coming out the open door, and jesus christ, I am actually about to die.
The three trailing him were approaching from behind, and there were another four in the doorway. It was comical, in a bleak way. The four of them were so out of their minds that they were trying to walk out of the room at the same time, and they couldn't fit. Craig cupped a hand over his nose where he'd hit the door and let out a shrill laugh that bordered on hysteria.
The four gnomes managed to get through, spilling out one on top of the other. Craig scrambled to his feet, one hand still pressed to his bleeding, injured nose, just as one of the gnomes from behind grabbed his leg, teeth raking dangerously against his calf.
This was it, he told himself. A numb cold fell over him. He was really going to die. He was going to be killed by underwear gnomes. He hoped his family wouldn't be too embarrassed.
Craig closed his eyes.
Something hit him from the front, sending him and the gnomes into a scattered heap. Something — someone — grabbed him by the arm and jerked him up, shoving him against the wall.
Blinking away the shock, Craig opened his mouth, but found it difficult to find words. "…Tweek?"
Tweek stood in front of him, wielding a baseball bat he'd no doubt stolen from the gym. "Don't worry!" His voice was shrill. "Christ! Fuck! I'm killing all of them!"
"You—you just—" Craig shook his head. He no longer had even the slightest idea what was happening anymore.
"This morning," Tweek said, his voice clipped, like he was having to rip the words from his head, "you told me you'd—you'd killed one. I didn't know you could! I've been—all this time!" He adjusted his grip on the baseball bat.
"All this time," Craig repeated. "What?"
The gnomes managed to get themselves back together, advancing menacingly.
"I FUCKING HATE GOING COMANDO!" Tweek shrieked as he ran forward.
The gnomes didn't know what hit them.
Craig watched, torn between horror and being very impressed, as Tweek bludgeoned the gnomes into a pile of lifeless meat.
"Twee—HOLY SHIT." Clyde skidded to a halt around the corner, and Token crashed into the back of him. They swayed, but managed to stay on their feet.
Tweek swung around to look at them. "Craig showed me how to kill them!"
"No, I didn't," was Craig's automatic response, but no one listened.
"Awesome job, man!" Clyde gave him the thumbs up. Craig flipped him off.
"Let's go spread the word," Token said. "If everyone realizes we can actually kill them, maybe they'll stop listening to Cartman. He's telling them this is the end of the world." A pause. "I think he's just trying to get them to sacrifice Kyle."
"Craig saves the day!" Clyde crowed, jogging back down the hall.
"No, I didn't!" Craig said, louder this time.
But Tweek was nodding, an uncharacteristically serious look on his face. "It's all thanks to Craig."
Token slapped him on the shoulder, grinning, an attaboy look on his face. The two of them ran after Clyde.
Craig stood in the middle of the hall, frozen in his disbelief. Then, he let out a quiet, "goddamnit," and trudged on after his friends.
The school was on fire, and the entire student body — what was left of them — were scattered across the grounds, watching in triumph.
"This just goes to show you how dangerous stupid trends are," Craig could hear Stan saying to his friends. Kyle nodded seriously.
Craig kind of wanted to choke all of them.
"Is that seriously it?" Tweek looked aghast. "They're—gone? For good?"
"Unless they start popping out of the vents again," Token offered, "then yes. They're gone." He paused. "I still can't believe this happened."
Clyde nodded. "Sort of feels like we just had a bad acid trip."
"Like you'd know anything about tripping!" Token scoffed.
Face going red, Clyde scowled. "Token! Shut the hell up!" He hated being called out on the fact that he wasn't as worldly as he tried to project.
"Are you guys being serious right now?" Craig felt sore all over. He was pretty sure his nose was broken, and he was covered in blood and — and other stuff. He was angry.
Clyde and Token shared a look. "What do you mean?" Clyde asked.
"This—" Craig looked around at his friends. Tweek looked like Christmas had just come early. Past him, Stan and his friends were sharing victorious looks and congratulating themselves on a job well done. The entire student body looked like they were survivors of the apocalypse.
All this, over fucking underwear gnomes.
"Fuck it," Craig said, turning on his heel. "South Park sucks."
He heard Clyde call after him, could tell they were going to follow. Token was mentioning something about assisting with the clean-up, and Tweek was already launching into some tale about how if only everyone had listened to him.
But Craig was going to have nothing to do with it — with any of it. South Park was South Park, and by tomorrow, everything would be back to normal. The lesson learned, whatever it was, would be long forgotten, and in a matter of days, a new crisis would come blundering out of the town's nearly tangible stupidity. And this time, Craig vowed, he wouldn't have a damn thing to do with it.
Two weeks later, as he stood with his family by the wreckage of their home and watched the government contain the rest of the giant robot hamsters from the future, he scowled. Stan had just left, thanking him for his help as Craig was apparently the goddamn robot hamster whisperer. Staring bleakly into the mess around him, Craig once again made his vow: never again would he allow himself to get involved in one of South Park's messes. No matter what.
(At least until next week.)
If you enjoyed this story, remember to check out the original artwork that inspired it!