I know how it feels to lie.
All I want to do
Is trade this life for something new;
Holding onto what I haven't got."
I didn't sleep well last night, no surprise. Still, it's time for an explanation.
I would've let you guys know what was going on before now, but I didn't want to give away information to potential enemy eyes -coughMorningstarcough- before it was safe to do so. And then I would've posted it yesterday, but I was still kind of weirded out (read: freaking the fuck out and playing it off as PMS in a desperate attempt to hide it from my parents) and not exactly coherent. Also, again, I wanted to have a little bit of time between the actual event and the record of it, for obvious reasons.
Just... goddamn. Maybe I'm whining.. Scratch that, I know I'm whining, at least compared to some other things I've read. But seriously. If this never happens again, it'll be too soon. But somehow, I know better than to hope for that.
This is what happened.
About a month ago, I drew an Operator Symbol on the side of an old abandoned church near my university campus. Yeah, stupid of me, I know, but it was one of the things I was adamantly curious about - whether it attracted It, repelled It, or had any other properties. I had some vague ideas of a longitudinal study in my head that I could maybe eventually make a post about, but I honestly didn't think anything would happen, not with one tiny little symbol.
And aside from the fact that the mark hasn't washed away or faded in the least, even though it has rained and snowed several times since I placed it there, nothing has happened. The symbol got noticed, but not by It.
Three days ago, when I walked past the church and checked the mark as per usual, there was something else there. Someone had written in chalk underneath the symbol:
CAN YOU SEE HIM?
I didn't waste any time, I didn't even think. I just went straight back to campus, logged onto the network, found a binary translator, and printed out the following message:
"01001101 01000101 01000101 01010100 00100000 01001101 01000101 00100000 01000001 01010100 00100000 01010100 01001000 01000101 00100000 01000011 01001111 01010010 01001110 01000101 01010010 00100000 01001111 01000110 00100000 00110100 01010100 01001000 00100000 01000001 01001110 01000100 00100000 01000011 01001111 01001111 01010000 01000101 01010010 00100000 01001111 01001110 00100000 01010100 01010101 01000101 01010011 00100000 01001101 01000001 01010010 01000011 01001000 00100000 00110010 00110010 00100000 01000001 01010100 00100000 00110001 00110010 00111010 00110010 00110000 01010000 01001101
COME. I CAN HELP.
I put the paper in an envelope, drew another Operator Symbol on the back, and tucked it behind the drainage pipe that was near where I drew the first symbol.
And then I went home and waited. And tossed up the previous post, but mostly waited.
I've mentioned I hate waiting, right?
The next day, I looked behind the pipe, and the note was gone. Either the person who wrote the message had found it, or it had been removed/thrown away by some random passerby.
I was jumpy all through my first class, waiting for free period to start. I wound up leaving about 15 minutes early just because I was so antsy. Luckily we weren't doing anything terribly important. Whatever. Anway, I left early and ran straight for the meeting place.
There was only one other person there, and since I didn't know whether my mystery person had actually found my message, I took a moment to size him up first, and he didn't see me because he was too busy scribbling furiously on a little yellow legal pad. That was the first thing I noticed, actually, the thing that made me look twice. After that, I noticed a lot of little things - his limp, unkept hair; the dark circles under his eyes; the rips and nicks in his heavy winter coat (which he wore and shivered in despite it being actually nice out that day).
Of course, that kind of physical description could apply to any homeless person, although the apparent lack of sleep was rather telling. What really gave it away, though, was what he was scribbling. I couldn't read his handwriting, but there was no mistaking the enormous, crooked, vaguely human-shaped drawing that dominated the right half of the page.
And even then, I realize, it was also possible that he was just some random kid who had watched too much Marble Hornets, but... Well, let's just say I'm rather good at reading people at a glance, and I knew he was way further gone than that. There's scared, and then there's scared. And everything about this guy told me that he was terrified.
So... I approached him. I asked if he was the one who found my note. He said yes. He asked if I was the one who drew the Operator symbol. I said yes. I took him to the cafeteria and bought him lunch. And we talked.
Dear lord, did we talk.
His name is Michael. He's been on the run for about 4 weeks now, although he was originally infected via EverymanHYBRID, not Marble Hornets. Probably the reason he wound up coming to New Jersey, actually (he lives in Indiana, or did), though he said he just hopped the first available bus out, not caring where it went.
We talked about a bunch of stuff, although most of it is really his story to tell. Strangely enough, he had never heard of all the blogs over here before. He did, however, have an iPod Touch on him, so I told him to check it out. Naturally, the first place I sent him to was The Tutorial.
He... he calmed down as the day went on. I mean, he went to class with me and everything, cuz this is college and I'm allowed to do that, but mostly he just sat quietly and read the blogs. In all honesty, I think it was just the sheer number of bloggers out there that comforted him. No one likes to think they're alone in the world. Not to mention it's hard not to feel safe on campus. It's so much... cleaner than the city. Even the air.
Anyway, throughout my last class, I kept wondering what the heck I was going to do with Michael. I don't live in a dorm, I commute, and I couldn't exactly take him home with me. That would not go over well with my parents. But I couldn't just leave him either. He had been sleeping on the streets, at ground level, under a tree, for chrissake. I have nothing against trees. Personally, I think they're just as terrified as we are. But there's no point in taking unnecessary risks, and Michael was just so massively unprepared for life as a Runner... oi.
Luckily, help arrived from a most unexpected source. Around dinner, I ran into Bashawn, one of the people I work with at the preschool. Now, Bay is, quite literally, the sweetest, kindest, and most social person I know. When he saw me, he immediately came over to say hi, and asked who my friend was.
Cue a lightbulb popping into existance over my head.
I told Bay that Michael was an online friend of mine who recently got into some trouble with his family. They kicked him out, and he needed a place to crash for the night. I asked if, since my parents would react very negatively to me bringing a stranger home, if he could stay in Bay's dorm for the night.
Bay, being the generous and social person that he is, agreed.
Honestly, I was a little worried that Michael would object to this plan at some point, as Bay was (to him) a virtual stranger who is very much not in-the-know about all this supernatural stuff. But it was better than sleeping on the street for another night. Not to mention Bay is the type of person you just instantly trust.
So I gave Michael my e-mail and MSN screenname, we parted ways, and I went home again. This time, though, instead of sitting around waiting, I ran a few errands. I bought a handful of essentials that Michael didn't have on him or didn't think he'd need when he started out. I also snuck a taser out of our basement (my dad has all kinds of military-grade crap down there) and snagged a handful of my brother's Wawa free-hoagie coupons.
That night Michael and I did a lot more talking (Bay let him borrow his laptop). Mostly I filled him in on what we think we know about It and Its proxies, and every rule for Running I could think of. Sleep at least three stories up. Use artificial lighting sparingly. Never go into the woods. Stick to heavily-populated areas. Try not to stay in one place for more than a few days. Check the watch I bought him frequently to guard against lost time.
I let him make his own judgement call on how to use an Operator symbol.
I also told him he should probably make a blog, rather than scribble incoherently on a notepad that could easily get lost and had no timestamps on it. He said he'd consider it.
The next day (yesterday) was a work day for me. Bay and I, plus a few others on our team, help out at the preschool during the day, moderate an after-school program in the afternoon, and have a meeting around lunch.
Bay brought Michael along to the team meeting and introduced him to everybody. Again, Michael mostly sat quietly and read on his iPod for the duration. After the meeting was over, Bay took us both aside and asked if Michael needed another day to get his act together. Bay and I both looked at Michael, who shook his head.
Even though I was worried, I also approved. Michael was a fast learner, and he knew it was time to move on before Bay or I got noticed by Tall Pale And Faceless. So before I had to go back to the preschool, we both thanked Bay, I gave Michael his new stuff, and walked him to the train station.
It was at this point that things got bad.
It was as we were walking past the pedestrian tunnel that goes under the highway that it happened. Michael and I were going over his chosen route to his destination (which shall not be discussed here), when Michael just... froze, mid-sentence. His eyes went wide, and he shivered, and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. Michael wasn't looking at me anymore. He was looking at something behind me.
Something waiting inside the tunnel.
I swallowed. "It's here, isn't It?" I breathed.
He nodded in such a way that could be interpreted as another shiver. I have no idea if that was intentional on his part or not.
Looking back, I'm honestly surprised I didn't bolt right then and there, or at least have some kind of breakdown. I think it was because I couldn't actually see It this time. And that was what I clung to, really: that oldest of childhood axioms, second only to the impenetrable shielding abilities of a common blanket... If I can't see It, It can't see me. An utter fabrication, I know. Completely ludicrous. And yet it's what allowed me to stay... rational. I wasn't calm, I was far from calm. At that point, I wondered if I would ever be able to be calm again. But I could still think. Which was more than I could say for Michael at that point...
"Keep looking at it," I whispered. Actually, I'm pretty sure I stuttered a hell of a lot, but there is really no point in writing it out. Honestly. "Don't look at Its fa-- Don't look at Its head, just... stare at Its torso or something. Just don't take your eyes off It."
And... we walked. I grabbed hold of Michael's arm, kept my eyes on my shoes, and walked us both forward, towards the station. I knew that as long as Michael was watching It, we might be able to outrun It if we didn't panic.
I was right. It didn't move from the mouth of the tunnel. But that was also the problem, because when we got far enough away, Michael couldn't see It anymore. He started shaking real bad in my grasp; maybe he was actually trying to pull away and bolt. I couldn't really tell, I was concentrating too hard on staying grounded. I do remember he was talking, though. Too fast to catch more than the odd snippet.
I think he might have called me Claire at one point.
Oh god. I'm stalling, I know. I don't want to write this next part.
With no one watching It, It could have been anywhere. And it was.
With Michael still staring backwards towards the tunnel and me looking at nothing but my shoes, neither of us could see It coming.
I... I don't even know if came is the right word, because it was just there, all at once, right in front of us. Like, right fucking there! I almost fucking bumped into It! Oh god oh god oh god It was so cold, like walking into a freezer, like a fucking Dementor. I froze, I couldn't move at all, my mind was a complete blank all I could see was Its... good god, has anyone ever actually looked at Its feet? Everyone's always so busy with the
Sorry. I... god.
Michael ran. It... went after him. I just stood there, frozen, still staring at the place where Its "feet" used to be. Watching them move was... I don't even know. It couldn't have picked the sticks up out of the ground, but there were no holes left either. No path. No sign that It was there at all. But It must have been, because I have less money in my account and my brother saw me take the taser and Bay asked about Michael today. Michael was there. And he still is; I got an email from him late last night. He survived. He didn't say how, but he must have gotten away and gotten where he needed to go.
I stood in that spot for over an hour, staring at the ground. I couldn't move, I was too scared. It was real too, it had to have been. Nothing else does that to me. God, it was just like two years ago. I couldn't move, I couldn't do anything I just stood there and let It
But Michael made it out. Somehow. He's okay. Oh, thank god he's okay.
It wasn't until my phone beeped that I could move again. It was a text from a co-worker, asking where I was. I had stood there long enough to be late for work at the preschool.
I texted her back and said I was taking a sick day. And then I sat in my car for two hours so my parents wouldn't know I cut work. And I cried. And then I drove home and pretended everything was okay.