Inside the Wallpaper is probably my favorite fanfiction for Rise of the Guardians. Written by Queen of the Red Skittle—a very talented author—Inside the Wallpaper follows Jack, who’s coming to terms with the recent murder of Jamie Bennett. Due to the trauma of losing his first true believer and friend, and even feeling guilty about it, Jack becomes very cold and vengeful, forgets who he truly is—the Guardian of fun—and loses his powers. It’s not until he comes to terms with the emptiness inside him and finally lets his guard down and grieves for his friend that Jack regains his abilities.
The fic begins with Jamie Bennett going outside to play with Jack and instead coming across a kelpie. It eats him. The kelpie then proceeds to start eating a bunch of children. At some point, it also attacks Pitch. Stricken with the wound he received, Pitch has to team up with Jack so they can both be cured—Pitch’s physical wound will spread and kill him, and Jack needs to mend emotionally.
While I can name some very annoying things about the story—the writing style jumps into the dreaded purple prose at random—this is very well done. Sure, I don’t like the purple prose, but I’d hardly describe the writing as “flowery” in a sense. It’s flowery in its own way, because it’s overly descriptive, but the descriptions can be really good. Red Skittle has given us a gritty world, and every sentence only adds to that.
When Jack finds Jamie’s body, he can see his jagged ribs sticking out. And Jaime’s murder at the beginning does a fantastic job of setting the mood and tone. The story captures how depraved the kelpie is through Jamie’s murder:
The horse head began to melt like taffy, stretching and ballooning until it was twice as big as before. Its jaws opened, bits of his own flesh caught between its teeth. Its dark throat yawned and inside was eternity. Jaime shrieked again as the mouth bit down, this time at his chest. Something was cracking and tearing inside of him but the boy couldn’t feel anything anymore.
What I like about Jamie’s death is that it has meaning. He went out to meet with Jack, but Jack was late, so Jack blames himself for the murder, because he wasn’t there to stop it. This isn’t just a random gruesome scene for the sake of horror; it’s the precedent for the entire fic. Jack has the strength to kill the kelpie, but he can’t do it, because of what happened to Jamie. If Jack never heals and comes to terms with his grief, he’ll never be able to regain his powers and stop the kelpie.
This story also takes place in the universe as the comics drawn by Rufftoon, which I reviewed before. Though it doesn’t specifically mention anything that Rufftoon drew, it does allude to it. While Jack is off with Pitch, he thinks that Pitch has no idea what it’s like to lose a believer—especially a first believer—and Pitch’s reaction is reminiscent of Rufftoon’s work, wherein, hundreds of years ago, there was a young orphan boy who saw Pitch and found solace with him.
Pitch helps save Jack from his grief in Inside the Wallpaper in his own way. He is Pitch, and Red Skittle writes him well. Pitch on some level can sympathize with Jack’s loss and does provide comfort, such as standing silently over Jack when he sheds his first tears for Jamie, but at the same time, Pitch is also very distant and doesn’t really have any intentions of becoming friends with Jack or the Guardians.
“Let’s say the boy continued believing in you. How many years would’ve that lasted? Seventy? Eighty? Human lives are but a flicker; blink and they’re gone. He would die all the same, and then once again you’d be all alone.”
Jack regarded the Nightmare King as if truly seeing him for the first time. “Is that why you don’t make friends?” he asked, spearing the dark creature with a remorseless look of his own. “So you won’t get hurt when they’re gone?”
For a heartbeat Pitch stared at him, face slack. Then he made a sharp tch! sound. “We’re not talking about me,” he said, and though the Boogeyman didn’t stir an inch Jack could sense him withdrawing, pulling away. When the young Guardian continued walking Pitch followed, but neither spoke again.
In the end, Jack goes to confront the kelpie. The battle is gruesome, but he finds the courage to come out on top—oddly enough, with more help from Pitch—and he defeats the kelpie. As the story comes to a conclusion, Jack and Pitch part on good terms, even friendly terms. Pitch hardly becomes an ally to the Guardians, and the story doesn’t really have a happy ending. Afterward, Jack’s going to have to continue dealing with the fact that Jamie’s gone and learning how to move on, and Pitch is still his enemy in many regards.
Most of this story is about Jack’s denial. But Jamie’s death is inevitable. Jack’s immortal, and regardless of whether or not Jamie had lived, he would have grown old and died. He might even stop believing in Jack sometime before that. This is a moment in time that Jack will eventually have to deal with, even in canon. Inside the Wallpaper is a fic where he has to deal with it sooner rather than later. I highly recommend this one, especially if you’re a Rise of the Guardians fan. Check it out here.