Wednesday, August 31, 2011


"I ignored the signs, opened every door,
But I couldn't find what I searched for.
I tried to fight, but I turn and run.

Every move I make is the wrong one.

"You patiently wait
For my next mistake.
I know it won't be much longer..."

Settled into a new place now. For those who don't follow Michelle, we had a bit of an encounter the other day. Just a small one, but it was enough to get me scurrying in the other direction. I almost don't trust myself with music right now, but I can't let It take that away from me. I can't.

As for Michelle's hunt for her brother's friend... We're working on it. The guy is proving to be the elusive type, and it's hard to tell at this point whether we should be worried, or whether he's just an asshole who bums from place to place without ever leaving a forwarding address. Only time will tell.

However, time is not exactly in great supply. My mom's starting to wonder what I'm up to again, hopping around [LOCATION REDACTED] by myself (because, as far as she's concerned, Michelle went back up to Canada already). School's gonna start soon, but thank god for online classes. My job isn't online though, but that doesn't start (for me) until a bit later. Mom's been asking too many questions lately, but... fuck it, I'll make something up. I'm getting pretty good at lying over the phone. And I kind of hate that fact, to be honest, but there's no denying it's useful.

I've... been trying to figure out some kind of pattern to Its movements. It's never come to me directly, always off to the side or through a nearby friend. I have an idea of why that might be, but... it's not something I want to contemplate... not that I can keep myself from contemplating, in the dead of night... I don't think I got more than half an hour of sleep.

It's just so difficult trying to make plans, to come out ahead. How can you be genre savvy against something that never operates the same way twice? At first it seemed like the monster wasn't even there at all. Then It was only around randomly, like I only saw It accidentally - whether it was due to the company I kept, or something else... I have no idea.

After that, It seemed focused on Camden. I was terrified it was going after my preschool kids, but all I could do was watch and make some attempt at standing guard. And then it started drawing closer and closer to my neighborhood... and I was hoping to get that part over with while my family was gone, but It didn't seem to want to come any closer. And then my family came back from vacation, and the monster was still zeroing in... so I had to get moving. If only for a little while. I thought maybe moving would confuse It again, but It seems to know exactly where we are. Or at least, exactly where Michelle is. Even though it's completely ignored her for nearly a month... Godfuck, I don't know! There's no predicting anything! No proper direction! All we can do is follow the rules and pray!

It's times like these I wish I was a drinker. But there's nothing. I can't even eat when I'm upset; despite my size, that's not something I've ever been able to do.

I can't drink. I can't eat. God knows I can't sleep. I can barely listen to music anymore. Anything funny just seems insulting at this point, so that's no help. There's nothing there for me. Nothing works, nothing helps. There's no one but Michelle to talk to, and I already know she's worried about me.

Her worried about me. That's a laugh.

By the way - Nightscream, I am tempted to tell you to go fuck yourself with a hypodermic, but you're right: I am useless. So why not just leave me and mine alone? I can't seem to accomplish anything worthwhile, so what's the point? There's no reason to come after me, or even insult me over my blog. I'm not worth your time, or anyone else's time. I'm nobody.

I'm nobody.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Nick's Gone

"I'll say it to be proud:
'Won't have my life turned up-side down,'
Says the man with some, with some gold-forged plan
Of life so incomplete
Like weights strapped around my feet.
Tread careful - one step at a time..."

Green Man: Yeeeeaaah... Our house was raided by guys in suits, me and the others were questioned for about a day, Spinner, Weaver, and Cutter weren't there when it happened... and Nick is missing.

This was the general gist of Green Man's call to me on Sunday.

There's a Chinese take-out place on the north side of Philadelphia. Very early on, Nick and I agreed that if one of us needed to disappear for a while, before we did anything else, we would leave a message for the other with the owners of that shop. If there was no message by the time someone noticed we were missing, then something had gone wrong, and the disappearance was not voluntary.

Long story short, there was no message. Something bad has happened.

We went to Nick's apartment afterwards. Michelle and I. Nick's friends Green Man and Forgemaster were both there, the apartment was a mess, presumably from the search, and Weaver, Spinner, and Cutter were still nowhere to be found.

So. The facts.

The suited officials who were not police and wouldn't identify themselves any further than that were very interested in Nick's whereabouts, as well as who has been in contact with him. Naturally, Green Man and Forgemaster kept their traps shut.

Nick is, in fact, missing in action, apparently shortly after he left Kay's house on Friday evening. He did not mention to me where he was going; I just assumed he was going home. His friends also expected him home this weekend. No one can get ahold of him through any means of contact, plus he's normally very good about letting people know if he has to make an unexpected detour, even if he has to call collect on a pay phone. This time, he's been dead silent for over 3 days, and that's not normal.

Nick's buddy Time Lord has a history of rather dickish behavior over the past few months, manipulating people into achieving certain goals for an unknown purpose.

No one's seen much of Time Lord either, aside from the packets of post-it notes he leaves lying around.

Weaver, Spinner, and Cutter are Time Lord's students, but they apparently don't know where he is either. And now they're missing too.

Green Man and Forgemaster thought they saw the trio outside the apartment complex just before the raid, but they aren't certain.

The last time anybody heard from Time Lord was on Saturday, when he called Spencer for a delivery. Spencer also saw a woman being chased by people in suits (presumably the same guys who raided the apartment). This woman may or may not be Weaver, but I'd guess not, since she was apparently alone.

Said delivery that Time Lord ordered and Spencer carried out... was the transportation of a coffin from Philadelphia to Santa Fe. An occupied coffin.

And Nick is missing.

I'm... not gonna make assumptions just yet, but I've got a bad, bad feeling. At least Spence had the presence of mind to remove the nails from the coffin lid, even if he didn't want to look inside.

Just... fuck, Time Lord! What in the fucking fuck was so fucking important that you had to... had to...


And... just to make a bad day worse, I saw It again. It was in the barrier of trees that always lines the highways in my area, on the way back to my house from Philly. Michelle honed in on It the instant It was visible around the bend, stared right at It as we passed. Damn-near crashed the car. I offered to drive the rest of the way, but she insisted she was fine.

The music thing happened again. This time it was Bohemian Rhapsody playing through my car speakers via iPod adapter. God, I don't even want to go into what kind of nightmare that song turned into, it's already about a frigging murder trial... but the frozen girl was there again, unsure, unmoving... She's afraid to die, but doesn't really want to live either... God, I can't do this right now. I can't.

And the radio got all static-y as we passed... probably the reason Michelle insisted on driving, even though she was shaken too. She thought to turn the radio off just as I thought to take hold of the steering wheel before we crashed into oncoming traffic... What a pair we make, huh?

I've done as much as I can for Kay. And, short of flying down to Santa Fe and/or smacking Time Lord upside the head myself, there's nothing I can do for Nick. Not saying I wouldn't do that under other circumstances, mind... but I have to trust him for now. Trust that he can take care of himself, and trust that Time Lord, as big a dick as he is, wouldn't let him die for whatever "grand master plan" he's got going. I've told Green Man and Forgemaster everything I suspect, so it'll be up to them for now.

Meanwhile, Michelle and I elected not to stop back home. We were going away for a while anyway, but after the little... excursion... we had on our way home, we decided to just go. Got people to see, things to do... I'll try to keep an accurate record while I'm gone.

I am... more stressed than I'd like to admit. Pacing the hotel room when I'm not writing, unable to sleep, haven't really been hungry all day... Is it wrong if I'm just tired of talking about it? Describing each... encounter... each sighting... It's like going through it all over again. I hate that, I really do. I don't want to do it anymore.

And, of all things, I actually got an email from Bay today! The preschool and kindergarten classes will be back to school next week, and he wanted to know if I would join him on his volunteer hours to set everything up - mop the floors, dust the equipment, restock the shelves... I don't think he realized just how much he made me want to throw my netbook into a wall... But it really was just an innocent request, he has no idea what I've been going through over the past few weeks, the images that play in my head along with all my worries... so I settled for just deleting the email. It was not at all cathartic.

...Look at me, rambling just for the sake of avoiding sleep.

See you around, guys.

Monday, August 22, 2011


"Everybody's screaming.
I try to make a sound, but no one hears me.
I'm slipping off the edge,
I'm hanging by a thread.
I wanna start this over again,
So I try to hold onto a time when
Nothing mattered."

So yeah. I actually got a call from Green Man yesterday. Not Nick. Green Man. And I had to head out sooner than I would have liked to. I talked to Ryan extensively before I left, and while I'm not entirely convinced he understands the seriousness of the situation he's dived head-first into, I have no choice but to trust that he'll look after Kay.

Meanwhile, Michelle packed up my car with essentials and drove up to get me. We're going to Philadelphia today and, depending on what happens, we might not be going home for a while. I hope not to be gone for longer than a week or two. But I told Michelle to leave a note saying we were spending the remainder of the summer at my grandmother's shore house. My grandparents are in their Florida house at the moment, so their shore house is empty and free for use... and they won't be able to either confirm or deny our presence there.

I'll let you all know more when it's safe to. In the meantime, enjoy the post I've been working on this weekend. It doesn't really qualify as a write-up, since my feelings on the subject have been heavily colored by both my own experiences and my time here with Kay. But it's an important subject, and I couldn't just leave it with nothing. So here's what I have so far.

Until later.


Truly suicidal people see their deaths as an inevitability, rather any any sort of decision on their part.

I know I said I don't really have any right to say anything on the subject of suicide, but so, so often I've heard people say, "Oh my gawd, I could just die!" But hyperbole doesn't bother me. Neither do the genuinely depressed people who say to their friends, "I just want to end it all right now!" Those people are angry and fed up, and often very scared and more sad than they knew they were capable of being, but in truth, they want their sadness and pain to end, not their lives.

About the only thing that does bother me is this growing trend among middle- and high-schoolers: rather than tell a person to shut up, or that they are immensely stupid, they say to that person, "Kill yourself." And that's not at all okay. However, it usually only takes me mentioning that I knew someone who killed themselves for them to knock that off, at least in my presence.

(Actually, I don't know anyone who killed themselves, but I do know someone who seriously considered it for a long time, I know someone who is still considering it... and now I know Kay too.)

I'm getting way off-topic.

Back to my point: There is a difference between those who feel like death is the only way to make the pain stop, and those who think to themselves, "Wow, it's a good thing we don't keep any guns in the house, or I'd be dead right now," with very little thought as to why they'd be dead - they just would be. And there is also a difference between them and people who make attempts at suicide that are designed to fail, or parasuicide, in order to get attention drawn to their real problem. And there is a difference between all of those, and people who feel that they simply deserve to die (for any number of myriad reasons).

For the first and third categories, their focus is not on death itself, but on pain. Suicidal thoughts and attempts are not a symptom of their pain, but an attempt to self-medicate. In most cases, they won't actually be able to go through with it except under extreme circumstances (such as being driven insane by fear of a certain faceless stalker), simply because they do not actually want to die. They just want relief.

Oddly enough, those in the second category might not actually want to die either. To grossly oversimplify it, it's like living with cancer. The moment of your death is this great, looming thing, drawing ever closer, that you couldn't prevent even if you wanted to. It's just going to happen. You may even feel afraid to die, or saddened that you won't get to do all the things you had planned in life. But you feel like an arrow in flight. And the rapidly approaching target might make you a bit nervous, but otherwise you can't feel one way or another about it. It's just something that'll happen, for better or for worse. These are the people who actually will go all the way through with suicide, simply because they lack any passion for it.

The fact of the matter is, the decision to take your own life - when it's made seriously, and not done out of fear or anger - isn't a decision at all. It is simply the result of pain exceeding your resources for coping with pain. Pile enough weight onto a pack animal and it will collapse, no matter how much it wants to remain standing.

Where does Kay fall in these categories? It's hard to say. She's taken on more pain than I have the resources for coping with, certainly, but more than anything else, she is angry and desperate. In addition, she doesn't actually seem to want to take her own life; she wants the monster in the trees to do it for her. While that last is cause for concern, as long as she's acting out of desperation, rather than placidity, I think she has a shot at getting past this. Desperation and anger will fade, and hopefully her desire to die will fade with it.

As for how all this applies to... all this... It's difficult. There are those who believe that the people It kills don't actually die in a sense. Instead, they continue to suffer in some kind of eternal torment. Many choose to take their own lives rather than risk the possibility of such an end. Others end it "early" out of spite, to deny It the satisfaction (if such a being feels satisfaction) of a kill. Still others are driven to psychosis by Its games, and come to think that jumping out of a 8th story window is a perfectly logical and viable method of exiting a room.

...I've never been a believer in divine punishment or Hell. I'm even more iffy on the idea that something somehow happens to the souls of the people It kills - as far as I'm concerned, there's only one place for a soul to go, and that's back to All That Is. But people who take their own lives out of fear of these possibilities... they aren't who I've been talking about. If you remove Slenderman from the equation, and they would be able to go on living normal lives.

The people I'm talking about are the people the monster has already broken. People It could kill at any time, It's just leaving them to suffer for a while first. Sometimes It leaves them alone for years at this stage; reading around, I've seen it - middle-aged to elderly folks, locked up in insane asylums or otherwise kept away from everyday society, so tormented and haunted that It doesn't even need to do anything to make them want peace with more desperation than they thought they were even capable of. The people who can't be fixed.

It just... makes me wonder what the point even is! Why It should bother killing us when It can easily make us do the job for It. And, by all accounts, driving Its victims to suicide is a primary method, even moreso than the eviscerations, impalings, and plastic-wrapping we usually hear so much about. It's almost like the more violent deaths are a treat It allows Itself every so often. If the Slender Man is a disease, It's an autoimmune disease. Almost no effort is required on the monster's part, so why go to the effort at all? What's the point?!

Because there are people - normal people like you and me - who are living with cancer. Who define themselves by it, even as they are dying from it. But sometimes, a handful of those people will learn that it's not terminal, that they're going to live.

And do you know what at least one of those people will do upon hearing such joyous, miraculous news?

Commit suicide.

...There's always something. There's always something.

Friday, August 19, 2011

No Matter Where You Go

"Brace for fallout, the radiation creeps
On cat's feet. We scatter in the streets.
She asks me, 'Do you think it's safe to breathe?'
It doesn't look that way to me."

I'm okay. Really.

I haven't been very okay for the past week or so, but I think I'm better, at least for now. Distance by itself does... wonderful things. No wonder people's first instinct is to just run and keep running.

But yeah. I'm feeling a lot better. I just wish I could say the same for Kay.

Cynthia took care of Redlight. The little kid finally did it, and I couldn't be more proud of her for breaking free of that. But the consequences were dire. Both Tony and Cathy are most likely dead, and Kay took it hard. Cathy was her best friend. She knew Tony very well too, and was on very good terms with Cynthia, even at her worst. Kay was going to leave them her house if she died first.

Now only Cynthia remains. And Kay... is just in a very bad place right now.

She's been stone drunk for most of three days now. The angry kind of drunk too; she lashes out whenever we try to take her bottle away. It's just... awful, seeing her like this. But I needed to get away, and she needed us here... Wasn't hard for Nick to put two and two together and gather us together once more.

We didn't knock on the door. We didn't have to, we could hear shouts coming from the backyard.

I've mentioned before that Kay lives in a wooded neighborhood, right? Her backyard doesn't have a fence, just the treeline. And Kay was... just standing out there, with some sopping wet branches piled up in a heap, trying to start a fire under it. She was failing, of course; multiple storms have passed through the NJ area, leaving everything soaked, and she hadn't thought to go find some lighter fuel... yet.

She was, however, attempting to use newspaper and other paper as kindling, and that was burning. Just not enough. Ryan was there, holding a baseball bat (and looking like he had no clue what to do with it) and standing a respectable distance away, trying to talk to Kay. I don't know if she was ignoring him or if she genuinely couldn't hear him over her own shouting. She just kept shouting at the trees, yelling for Slenderman to come and get her, and working at that fire all the while.

I... I just...

As soon as we heard her yell that, we both ran towards her. Ryan saw us coming, and I guess he didn't know who we were or something, because he got in front of us. Before he could say much though, Nick took two steps towards him and completely socked Ryan in the face. I was surprised, especially after how nice he had been to Michelle that morning. Poor guy didn't even have a chance to raise his bat... and now he has two matching black eyes, because Kay had apparently already nailed him one before we got there.

Anyway, I stayed to (very briefly) explain to Ryan who we were, so Nick reached Kay first, and I joined them a few seconds after. He was trying to get the lighter away from her, and she just... I don't think she even heard anything he said. She just kept screaming variants of "We're all going to die anyway!" and "Just kill me already!"

No one should ever have to hear that, let alone be driven to say it.

We both started talking to her then, which probably wasn't the best idea. The best idea would have been to very calmly take Kay inside, out of the wet, but... well, neither of us were expecting that, not from her. She's always been... well perhaps I've no right to say anything on the matter.

I don't remember everything that was said. Kay alternated between shouting at the treeline and shouting at us, screaming obscenities, death threats, and repeatedly voicing a desire to die "like [she] was supposed to." It got to the point where we weren't sure who she said what to anymore - she begged Slenderman to please, please help her just as often as she threatened to do to Nick and I what Tom did to her, and vice versa. And all the while she kept burning her stack of papers, trying to get her fire to start, threatening to burn down the forest if Slenderman didn't come... and occasionally threatening to throw herself on the fire if we didn't leave her alone.

I saw numerous things go up in flames - photos, receipts, old bank statements, printed paper that was too small to read... I swore I even saw some of the drawings that Zero sent to her go by, though they were mixed into the stack individually, and not grouped together. And then came a small stack of yellow post-it notes that I almost didn't recognize, but Nick did. They were the notes Time Lord sent us in the package with the jade elephant.

Nick made a move to stop her, but he wasn't fast enough. Sticky-note glue burns very well, apparently. And then, forgetting himself, he yelled something along the lines of, "What the hell did you do that for?!" We had still been waiting for the signal to get together again, the way the notes instructed us, so we hadn't looked at the rest of them yet. Now I guess we'll never know.

And again, I don't know if Kay heard him or not. She just kept screaming her old litany of, "We're all dead anyway, so what does it matter?!"

At last, one of the sticks in her pile had dried out enough to catch fire, and this Kay did notice. She tossed the lighter aside and bent to tend the fire... but Ryan, who had been hovering off to the side, took the opportunity to seize her arm. Before Kay could add a split lip to his two shiners, Nick took hold of her other arm. And I... did the only thing I could think of: I hugged her.

She struggled. She screamed in my ear. She kicked my shins and bit my shoulder until it bled. I didn't care. I just held her.

Eventually she stopped yelling... stopped fighting... stopped moving altogether. She just hung limply in our arms, crying, pleading, why wouldn't we let her go? Why wouldn't we let her rest? We started to walk her back indoors, talking to her softly as we did. Or rather, Nick and Ryan did most of the talking. As I mentioned, I don't really have the right to say much on this subject.

As we took her inside, Ryan told her that she was one of the strongest people he's ever met, and he knew she'd be able to get past this. As we sat her down on the couch and put a blanket around her, Nick told her that we wouldn't be around forever, and that the world needed her intact. And as Ryan went back outside to make sure what little fire was built was put out properly, and Nick went up to the kitchen to make her something warm to eat, Kay and I were left alone in the living room.

As fate would have it, that was when she found her voice again.

"Why?" Kay snarled at me hatefully. "Why is it that your child-murdering cunt of a best friend gets to live while my best friend gets to die?"

I flinched. And I didn't really have an answer. Maybe sometimes things like this just happen. Both Michelle and Cathy just wanted to protect a little girl. But they took different routes to do so, and not all of the decisions made were the right ones.

"Because Cathy succeeded in protecting her child," I said finally. "Michelle... didn't."

"And death is the reward Cathy got for doing the right thing? Is that what we all earn in the end?"

Ultimately, yes, I wanted to say. And it's our reward for doing the wrong thing too. And everything in between. It's the one thing that no one can change, and so, doing the right thing is not a matter of attaining reward, but a simple matter of doing what you feel will help the most.

But I didn't say that.

"You're my best friend too, Kay," I said instead. "And all this pain your feeling now... Do you really want to give all that to me? And to Nick too? And everyone else who cares so, so much for you?"

She didn't answer. She just cried.


So that's where I've been for most of this week. Forgive the lateness of this post; looking after Kay is pretty full-time, even with three of us, but I don't know how much longer I can stay here. My parents come home on Sunday, and I can't just leave Michelle alone forever. Nick can't stay forever either. I've been talking to him; he's got so much on his plate it's not even funny. That's the reason he rarely writes anything anymore - he just falls over asleep instantly every night, exhausted beyond measure. But there's nothing I can do to help him, and I can't seem to help Kay either, no matter how much I try.

I don't know what to do. I really don't.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

All Just A Game

"Ano hi mita sora,
Akane iro no sora o;
Nee kimi wa wasureta no desho?

"Yakusoku chigiri,
Shoka no kaze ni kieta.
Futari modorenai."

I've been trying to think about mundane things. Mundane things are good. They're simple, relevant to my actual life, and conveniently time-consuming.

For example, I've paid off my tuition for the coming fall semester. With grants and financial aid and whatnot, it only came down to $103. I've also procured a great deal of scholarship money over the summer. I applied all of it to the past spring semester, which means I get all of it as a cash refund from the school. My bank account now has a comforting surplus, giving me room to maneuver if things go bad...


God, what am I doing?

I'm sorry, everyone. It's taken me nearly a week to realize, but there is no putting it off, there is no thinking about other things. Not anymore. Even typing out that measly little paragraph above without referencing anything slender-related took over an hour, and I still wasn't exactly successful. The truth is, things have already gone bad, and they're getting worse.

It's like playing The Game. If you think about It, you lose.

Yesterday... was my last day of work. The last day I have to deal with Camden City until the fall, when college starts up and daycare turns back into an actual preschool. I had to say goodbye to all my kids. I'll see most of them again in the fall, even the ones who are advancing to kindergarten, since it's all in the same building. But they're all safe, or as safe as they'll ever be in a place like Camden. They're what I think about most when I'm scared. They're who I need to be there for, them and Michelle and Nick and Kay.

Naturally, Michelle's been sticking to me like glue lately, ever since the... Redlight incident. She's actually been insisting on coming to Camden with me now, although I don't think hanging around little kids is very good for her. She spends most of her time there drawing in her sketchpad, which I'm undecided if it's good for her or not... It seems to keep her calm, at least.

...I'm getting way off-topic.

Back to Redlight, Nick seems to be taking care of that. He seems like he takes care of everything, sometimes, but I know him. And I'm worried. There will be repercussions.

Michelle went out and got the envelope. There were photos in it, lots of them. The one she showed was one of the few that looked like natural, normal family photos (all of either her or her late brother Steven), but others were just pictures of scenery - forests, buildings, landmarks - all with It in them somewhere. Like someone was deliberately catching It on film.

The tree's still there, hoodie and all. No one can see it but us.

No one can hear it but me.

I'm trying not to think about the person that body used to belong to, but it's hard to ignore what your lower brain already knows beyond a shadow of a doubt. It has no leaves. It thrives in the darkness. It's not a tree, but it's alive. I know it's alive; I can feel the blood flow. That's why it bleeds.

I'm sorry. It's so hard to concentrate. I'm trying to ignore the screaming. I'm trying.

Michelle recognizes some of the landmarks in the photos she found. She hasn't said anything, but I know she wants to find out what happened with her family, because we thought it was her who was followed as a child, not Steven. I have to say, I kind of share that curiosity, and if she wants to leave, there's no reason why we couldn't... take a short road trip. Whatever might happen, it's infinitely healthier than what she previously wanted to do with her time. And... I've been scared to say it, but it the Time might be drawing near.

My parents get home in a week. My brothers the week after.

...The last time I saw It was yesterday afternoon, just after work let out. It was poking around the subway station, the one I always use to get home.

Music helps music helps music keeps me steady as long as It doesn't

God help me, I need to stay focused.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Wine Red

"Who shot that arrow in your throat?
Who missed the crimson apple?
It hung heavy on the tree above your head...

This chaos, this calamity--
This garden once was perfect.
Give your immortality to me,
I'll set you up against the stars."

I... I'm not really sure how to begin this.

Y'know, on other blogs, you often see entire paragraphs of conversation, perfectly recalled, without any sort of aid from a camera or tape recorder or anything. I used to wonder how people could have such eidetic memory over seemingly trivial things, but now I think I understand. Sometimes the words just get burned into your brain, to the point where the memory, the clarity of memory, begins to physically hurt. By writing it down, we hope to maybe stop that pain. To blur the memories, blot out what was said.

But it doesn't work. It only solidifies it, increases the permanence. I honestly don't think this will ever go away, but what choice do I have?


Michelle was asleep. She keeps weird hours as it is, due to nightmares and things, but last night she was actually asleep at a normal time for once. I was lying awake like I usually do, when I heard noises from the kitchen. Michelle was asleep, and no one else was home, so who could it be?

I crept past her and tiptoed out of my room and into the hallway. From the top of the stairs, I could see something moving from the dining room over to the couch in the living room, but all the lights were out, save for the streetlight out front, which wasn't really enough to give anything more than vague shadows.

Naturally, my pepper spray and pocketknife were both sitting uselessly in my purse, and I had stupidly left my recorder in the rec room downstairs. I should've gone back for a weapon. No, I shouldn't have left my room without a weapon. But it was too late - he could see me too.

"You gonna stand there all night, or are you gonna come and join me?" The intruder raised what looked like a teacup in the darkness. "I made enough for two."

That's what he said to me. It was the beginnings of a very bad night.

And I honestly don't know why I did what I did next. Maybe I should have gone back, but I didn't dare take my eyes of him for fear of... I'm not sure exactly what. Fear that he'd vanish if I looked away? Fear that he'd run up and attack me the moment my back was turned? That second one seems more likely, considering the aura of fear he produced - fear of both kinds: I knew that I was meant to fear him, but I also knew that he was afraid. I also should have called for Michelle, but... some part of me didn't want to wake her, as it's so rare that she sleeps even moderately soundly.

So instead of doing something smart, I did something rather reckless: I reached over and turned the lights on... and tried my damndest not to shrink back at what I saw.

Sneakers, camo pants, bandaged hands (why in the hell does he still have bandages, it's not even the same body anymore!), and the trademark red hoodie obscuring his face.

Morningstar wasn't kidding. Redlight's still around.

I froze, but this was more akin to shock than terror. Redlight is one of exactly two people whom I hate without reservation (and believe me, that's quite an accomplishment), but it's still... almost a perverse sort of honor to be visited by him. A well-known Xanatos Chessmaster wanted something from me? I haven't shat that many bricks since Maduin named me a Sage.

Though the Sage thing might have had something to do with it, come to think of it...

But all of that came to me upon hindsight only. Right at that moment, I had no idea why I was rooted to the spot, only that he was there, I was alone, and I absolutely could not wake Michelle. Don't ask me why I thought that last one, because I don't have an answer, even now. I can only say it must have been something deeply, deeply instinctive.

"I want you to leave my home," I said. "Now."

"What, no tea? No pleasantries? You wound me, 'Sage'." The title was a mockery. It was plain as day.

"Get out," I said.

"But I've come at such an opportune time!" he quipped, casually setting his cup aside on a coaster. "No witnesses, no hostages aside from your little friend upstairs, no one to bitch at you when you inevitably decide to do the smart thing..."

"Get out!" My voice reached a slightly higher pitch than I intended. Even in my sleep-muddled haze, I could tell what Redlight was doing. What he always does: setting up the conversation to give himself the psychological advantage. There are many ways to get what you want out of someone. Every word was calculated, and I was giving him exactly the responses he expected.

He was just staring at me. At least, I think he was. Not letting your target see your face is another psychological advantage, meant to make people hesitate and second-guess themselves. It was working.

"What do you want from me?" I asked weakly.

He picked up his teacup again and took a long sip, then put it down slowly with barely a sound when it landed. He was making me wait to hear his answer, yet another psychological advantage. He was letting me know that he was the one calling the shots here. I needed to wake up and get on my A-game, or I wouldn't survive the night.

Finally, he said, "I suppose I could hold you hostage. Abuse you, even. Or I could go to your friend who's so worried about the dimensional issues. Perhaps I could threaten your BFF's brother Lucien, or even threaten to put my little... spoilsport plan into action, infecting fifty innocents with a concoction of my own."

I remembered the syringes Redlight had given to Morningstar, but I'm not sure if "infect" is synonymous with "kill". With so many concoctions and contingency plans... just what has this guy been up to since he "died"?

But then he smiled. I couldn't see it, but I could hear it in his voice. "But with you, I don't need to. Because I need your help, 'healer'."

And for the first time... ever, as far as I know... Redlight pulled back his hood, and showed me what was underneath.

I just... describing what he looked like would be pointless, because there wasn't even a face left to describe, it was so mutilated. Tendrils of what looked like tree roots spewed out of every orifice. They pierced his skull in every direction, almost like they were growing out of his brain, then digging themselves back in. One eye was gone entirely, replaced with a root that looped back downward into the side of his neck. I couldn't see his nose, nor was any hair visible... I'm not even certain how he was speaking coherently, because one cheek was completely bisected by a root that appeared to be coming out of his throat...

It wasn't until I felt the glass of the coffee table hit my shins that I realized I had been walking forward, trying to get a better look. I clamped down the urge to jump backwards again when I realized that, because I couldn't look like I wasn't in control of myself. I couldn't.

"So, 'doctor of the mind'," That was the third time he mocked me, although this one was slightly less forceful, "care to get to work?"

I blanched. So much for control. "I'm not a frigging brain surgeon!"

"But you can feel this, don't tell me you can't!" He got up and walked towards me, and suddenly I was terrified. "Don't tell me that you don't know exactly what kind of pain I'm in!" I'm not sure when exactly he grabbed my wrist, but he did, and it hurt. Moreover, it felt wrong. It didn't feel like a hand on me, it felt like... something else. I also started to notice other little wrong things about him; his pants and hoodie hung loosely on his frame, but they also stuck out oddly in places, covering the protrusions from inside.

...I swear some of them were moving.

Redlight let me go, but he didn't sit back down. He was breathing heavily, and loudly, like the simple act of raising his voice cost him far more energy than it should have. "You can posture all you want," he said, "but we both know you're going to help me. And I won't even need to lift a finger to threaten you. Because that... is how you are."

It was my turn to make him wait for my answer; Redlight had allowed that as a show of good faith.

But... after what he did to Ava... there was just no way. 

I shook my head. "You've hurt too many people," I said, and braced myself for the fallout.

But he just looked at me, and, after a moment, he smiled. But it wasn't the kind of sly, slimy smile I expected from someone like Redlight. It was a rictus, forced, and though it was meant to express vulnerability, I don't think he meant to look quite like that.

It was then that I realized. God help me, but... Redlight is scared.

"Now now," he said, "I'm a reasonable man, and I don't expect to get something for nothing." He reached into the pocket of his hoodie and pulled out a small envelope. "In my hand I have a few things pertaining to your... charming young friend upstairs. It took some doing, but I remember her-" I looked up in surprise. "-and I can help her get what she wants."

I shook my head and scowled. "Michelle's not gonna kill anyone." Nonetheless, I made a grab for the envelope, but Redlight snatched it away.

"Who said anything about killing?" he said as he stuffed the envelope back in his pocket and sauntered back to sit down. He was back in control. "You said it yourself, healer: there are other ways."

"What do you know?" I asked.

He arched his fingers in a thoughtful position. "As I said, this is a trade."

"Not good enough." He needed me for something, I could see that. The longer I kept him talking, the longer I had time to think.

"Then let me ask you this," he said. "Let's say I've got, oh... two hundred-odd other host bodies out there, all people who work and play and live their lives... What happens when the infection reaches them too? What happens when it wants more?" He leaned forward onto his hands. "That's a proposition neither of us want to consider."

There was another long silence, only I had no control of the conversation during this one. Every second I waited to respond, his smirk only grew wider. I considered telling him to release his connection with all those people (howeverthefuck that would work, but I assume it does) and then I would see what, if anything, I could do, but I really had no way of knowing whether he would actually do it, regardless of anything he could say.

Finally, I said, "Again: what is it you think I can even do?"

"Please," Redlight said with a scowl. It twisted his face even further, and the roots seemed more prominent than ever. "Enough of this playing coy. If I don't get what I want from you, I'll get it from your gender-confused buddy across the river," It took me a moment to realize he was talking about Nick, and I couldn't help but growl, "but it will happen. You have each, in your own time, pursued a very obscure branch of study, and you, healer-Sage, have admitted to its practice on your blog, so stop pretending you don't know exactly what it is I need!"

"I'm nobody," I whispered.

"You keep insisting on that," Redlight snarled, standing up again. He was hunched over like someone very, very old, and he leaned on the table for support. "Yet I confess I had a secondary reason for choosing you." He seemed to find his composure again, and put his disfigured face right up in front of mine. Each place the roots pierced was bleeding like a perpetually open wound. "You're an elusive little critter, aren't you? Been rather lucky so far, against the man's... predatory habits. Someone who can pull that off can't exactly be nobody. And considering I wanted to do this outside of his gaze, else he'd probably rip me to pieces because of this... unwelcome virus hunting me down..." He gave me the rictus smile again and tapped his the side of his head. "Well, what's left of this rotting noggin thought of you." Redlight backed up and, very slowly, sat down once again. "So here I am, Mind Doctor," he said. "Fix me."

I thought of Nick. I thought of Kay and Lucien. I thought of Michelle and the envelope in Redlight's pocket. I thought of the hundreds of innocent people Redlight was willing to use to run from the Bleeding Tree's infection for as long as he could. And I thought of Morningstar and that silver briefcase of liquid death.

"I'll look," I said. "I have no idea what this is, so I can't promise anything. But I'll look."

Redlight just grunted and sat back, watching me carefully.

Slowly, well-aware of the unadulterated stupidity of what I was about to do, I sat down next to him (though as far away as I could reasonably get; I still saw the lumps under his hoodie twitching, though it could've just been a trick of the light), placed a hand as near to the mass of roots and decaying flesh as I could bear, and unfocused my eyes.

I almost couldn't understand it. I thought that by analyzing Redlight I could get some information out of him, but even now, hours and hours later, I can't make sense of half of what I saw. For example, I knew the roots were there, and I could see the spasms of pain they caused... but it was like the body itself didn't know they were there. There was no immune system reaction, not to the roots, and not to the wounds they caused.

The brain somehow still fired, even with all the places it was impaled, but the connections were... tainted, somehow. Something would go off, but the signal would hit the root and get... rerouted, somehow... and then back through the brain where it was supposed to go. I wasn't able to look at that for long, because I kept getting the sickening image of someone playing puppeteer with a corpse.

And then... the roots themselves.

They were at the very edge of itself, like staring at a scrap of fingernail and trying to describe what the person attached to them looks like, but I could still sort of tell: These roots are the kind that spread out for miles, deep beneath the forest. Sometimes it is the forest, and all the visible trees are actually part of the same organism. They penetrate deep, and where one is cut, another tree grows from it, one that will spread just as far as its parent, given time and space to grow.

But there's more to it than that. Trees, even single-organism forests, are passive. They bend in the wind, twine around obstacles, and turn their leaves to follow the sun as it traverses the sky. This... this thing... I don't honestly think it's really a tree. I can't even comprehend what it really is.

I didn't want to touch it, whatever it was. Every fiber of my being was telling me to get out, to run, but staying still was just so much easier... So... I did something...

I just wanted to see what it would do. Really. Because I told Redlight I would see if anything could be done. I never meant to do anything, it was just experimental.

I took a handful of white blood cells and pointed them in the direction of the roots, the infection, and impressed on them that the roots did not belong there.

The results were... catastrophic.

As soon as the immune system woke up even that little bit, the roots stopped playing passive and fought back with a vengeance. They came alive within Redlight's body, twisting, writhing, digging further and further. We both screamed, and Redlight shoved me to the ground and ran out the door.

I got up and ran after him - instinct, I guess. But when I got to the door, I stopped. Without even knowing why, I froze in my tracks. I knew without seeing that there was something terrible outside.

I opened the door anyway.

There, just across the boundary between my front lawn and my next-door neighbor's, is a young tree that hadn't been there before. It's only the size of a large-ish sapling, but it's twisted and gnarled as any thousand-year oak. The trunk splits at the bottom into two bases, and both are rooted fast to the ground. Of the three main limbs, the two longer ones reach out on either side, both bent upward in the middle. The shorter one reaches straight up, and splits off into many smaller branches. None of them bear leaves. Instead, a red hoodie hangs in tatters among the branches spearing through it, shreds of fabric already falling to the ground.

It... It looks like the warped silhouette of a running human.

I felt someone behind me, and whipped around, but it was only Michelle. She had heard the screams and came down to see what was happening.

And then the sun came up.


I tried to sleep this morning. I wanted to see if this would all be a nightmare when I woke up. But even though I was more tired than I had ever been in my life, all I could do was doze a bit. And, predictably, the tree was still there when I got up again.

I haven't gone out yet to get a closer look at it. I'm afraid that I'll be able to see a face where Redlight's head used to be.

But it's not as though Redlight's dead. Oh no, that would've been too easy. When I woke up, I found a voice mail on my cell phone from an unknown number (a pay phone, apparently). It was a harsh, raggedy voice, slightly deeper than the one I remembered, and sounding as though he had just run a mile. The message just said, "I'll deal with you later, mind doctor."

So if Redlight is alive, somewhere else, in some other body... then why can I still hear screaming?

I've spent most of this afternoon watching people walk right past it, like they don't even notice it's there. Unlike them, I haven't been able to stop staring at it.

...Goddammit, Once on this Island was my favorite play.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


"Do you feel sad and lost in desperation?
You build up hope, but failure's all you've known.
Remember all the sadness and frustration
And let it go. Let it go."

I've come to a decision. I am going to do what I can to prevent my best friend from doing something I know will not help her in the slightest. "What I can" meaning everything short of actually going up to Morningstar and warning him of her plans. Because this isn't about protecting him, it's about protecting Michelle. Not much else really needs to be said.

And Michelle, you knew from the beginning that I would be opposed, so rather than be upset with me, consider this: it would be a dream come true for that psychopath to die in the service of his master. So rather than give him the satisfaction and potentially land yourself in jail where you can't protect anyone, least of all me, get the fucker arrested for arson and multiple counts of murder. With his temperament, he'll get the death penalty for sure.

In other news, I may have to make good on my threats to Elaine, depending on what happens when Nick finally answers his goddamn cell phone. Goddammit...


Got into a slight argument with another blogger about this the other day. It's partially advice, but partially a rant on my part, because this is a real pet peeve of mine.

See, I have issues with people up and deciding that they are the victim of a situation. It offends what quickly became the cornerstone of my personal philosophy back when I was finding myself in high school. The quote goes like this:
The promise of God is that you are His son. Her offspring. Its likeness. His equal. is where you get hung up. You can accept “His son,” “offspring,” “likeness,” but you recoil at being called “His equal.” It is too much to accept. Too much bigness, too much wonderment—too much responsibility. For if you are God’s equal, that means nothing is being done to you—and all things are created by you. There can be no more victims and no more villains—only outcomes of your thought about a thing.
No matter what you think about religion or god, maintaining that level of control over my surroundings is what's sustained me through... all this. It's that control that's allowed me to do things that many would consider extraordinary, but that I consider to be a mere mental exercise, one that could be easily taught to literally anyone, provided they adjust their mindset just a tad.

But that's another matter altogether. Basically, what I wanted to say is, there's a difference between "blaming the victim" as this certain blogger called it, and telling someone to assert their own control over their lives. Everyone who knows me knows that I have all the sympathy in the world for people in awful situations like this. Why else would I do what I do? I want to help people, but sometimes in order to do that, you have to tell them what they don't really want to hear.

Victimization is something in that category that particularly annoys me, because it's the hardest thing for people to get past. And unlike the above quote, I DO NOT mean to say that there are never any victims. Because there are. Sometimes things happen to a person that are completely outside that person's control, and that lack of control is probably one of, if not the most frightening thing about it.

But whether you continue to be a victim is entirely up to you.

We all have self-identifiers, labels that we assign ourselves. You can look in the mirror and think, "I am a teenage girl with blonde hair and blue eyes," or "I am a teacher who works with inner city delinquents," or "I am someone's parent, sibling, spouse, enemy, best friend." But as soon as you say to yourself, "I am a victim"... that's when you have a problem.

"Victim" is an identifier that never really goes away. It makes you feel like you have no control over your life, never will, and never did. Sometimes it can make you feel as though your entire life thus far has been a sham, if the rug can be pulled out from under your feet so easily. But more importantly, feeling like you have no control of your own makes you vulnerable to being controlled. And that is potentially more dangerous than anything else in the world.

On the other hand, someone who remembers that their actions are their own and the consequences of those actions - good and bad - are theirs to carry, is far less vulnerable. That single change of mindset is the difference between feeling like trash and thinking yourself unworthy of the support of your friends, and taking the time to cry on your best friend's shoulder because you've been wronged and you know you deserve better. It's the difference between being a victim once and subsequently being a victim again and again because you've gotten it into your head that it's your role in life to be used, and being a victim once and walking out of the situation with your head held high, knowing that you've learned from the experience and won't make the same mistakes twice. And it's the difference between latching onto the first empty promise to make the pain go away, and trusting your own ability to get past it.

Something to think about.


I'm getting nervous again. See, every summer around this time, my uncle takes his kids, as well as me and my brothers, up to Maine to stay in a cabin by a lake for a couple weeks. During that time, my parents usually take a vacation of their own. I've had to decline the trip to Maine this time around due to the beginning of it coinciding the last week of my job for the summer, but I now have Michelle as an additional excuse. My uncle is... not the type to invite additional people at last minute, so we told them that we were more than happy to stay home. Now though... I'm fighting the urge to board up the doors and windows.

That's the other reason I'm nervous. I still haven't seen It, not anywhere. Two weeks ago I couldn't turn a corner in Camden without catching a glimpse of it, but now it's gone without a trace. And that bothers me, in a very "Goddammit, damned if you do, damned if you don't!" kind of way. In any other circumstance, I'd be thrilled to have somehow avoided It's notice again, but after such a long period of activity, to have it suddenly stop is... unnerving.

I still can't listen to that song. But no matter how many times I try, if I try to delete it from my iTunes Library, it just freezes my computer.