The first thing I did after getting out of the hospital was find a pay phone and call Nick and Kay. I got Kay's answering machine for some reason, but Nick answered. I told him what really happened the day I was forced to walk out of my house. What I saw. And what I thought about it. He said it was interesting, but he wasn't in a position to come to me and help me discover more about it. So instead, I did something I've been meaning to do for a long while now: I sent an e-mail to Guess, asking if we could meet.
Turns out, he was already heading in my direction, so Michelle and I started heading in his. We met in a designated motel, we sat down together... and we talked.
Truth be told, I debated for a long time on whether to post this. To tell this story. But if this day has taught me nothing else, it's that stories need to be told. Not just for our sanity, but to actually make a difference.
I just hope that the good this story will do will override the bad.
That day, over a month ago, when my mind was shattered and my will was crushed, the Slender Man forced me to walk outside, to come to Him. He was angry, and this was the only option left to Him, because He couldn't come to me on his own. He couldn't see me, but He could alter my mind just like anyone else. And it hurt, because He made me aware for all of it, He was that angry.
But that was just it. My continued cognitive awareness, the angle I approached Him at, and how close I got to Him before Michelle managed to stop me, all contributed to something I think may have been unique. People have seen Him up close before and lived to tell about it, myself included. But only when He was looking right at them, when control of the situation was His. In all records of encounters with this thing, I don't think anyone has ever approached the Slender Man from behind.
And... it was difficult to make out, but I remember that moment so clearly, the clearest of everything about those last few days. The monster kept turning, looking for me, tendrils stabbing in random directions. And there, beneath that writhing mass, somewhere in the region of where a kidney would be on a human... was a tear in the fabric of His suit.
A tear in the suit. A simple little rip, as though the suit actually were made of cloth. Is it even made of cloth? Is it a covering, or somehow a part of the creature's body? I have no idea, but I can see it so clearly, right down to the frayed threads.
And right then, He turned, and the rising sun hit Him at just the right angle, and I could see it clear as day: underneath the tear in the fabric... was a scar. Knotted and raised scar tissue, directly following the line of the rip.
Just... even now, when I've done practically nothing but think about this, it still blows my mind. A goddamn scar, as in a healed wound, on a timeless, partially incorporeal abomination. Has anyone ever once known a blow on that thing to last more than a moment, let alone persist long enough to leave a scar? Nothing hurts this thing, nothing stops this thing! Yet clearly, some time ago, something did.
Michelle and I spoke with Guess about what I saw. This is what he had to say.
Me: "I just... don't understand it at all. It's completely outside anything this thing has ever been known to do."
Guess: "That's the nature of it, anyway. Total unpredictability, no?"
Me: "Yeah, when it's to His own benefit. What could a scar possibly have to do with anything? It was barely even visible."
Guess: "Perhaps... it's a trap. That's not outside His realm, is it?"
Me: "It could be... though I'm having difficulty comprehending how it could have been set. I can assure you He had no idea from which direction I was approaching.
Michelle: It's true. He kept looking all around with no real pattern, up until He noticed me approaching. I don't think He could see her at all.
Me: "I could barely see the mark, beneath all the..." (I make a vague writhing motion with one hand, indicative of tentacles moving around. Then I sigh.) "I'm still not sure if I imagined it or not, but it's the clearest thing I can remember from that day because it was such a shock."
Guess: "Maybe He doesn't know it's there?"
Me: (I frown.) "That's possible... That might even be why I remember it so clearly, like it jumped out at me, because-" (I blink, surprised.) "...because the scar was the only thing that was real."
Michelle: (To me.) Like with that essay you wrote?
Me: (I nod.) That might also be a possible explanation of why, if He actually didn't know the mark was there. It wouldn't register. Like a blind spot, only more like a... numb spot, I guess.
Guess: "Interesting. It's possible. And perhaps entirely true. For a moment, that was all. Just you, and a scar. Someone page J.K. Rowling."
Me: "Heh... That's hardly the comparison I'd use, especially if the scar and the monster aren't even made of the same thing... And that's a big if, mind."
Guess: "No doubt, if it did exist, it must have come from somewhere. Focusing on the origin will lead us - you - to the solution."
Me: (I glance at Guess briefly, then look back down.) "I was thinking... and so was Nick, when I called him and told him... that maybe it had to do with... Zero. That maybe he wasn't wrong."
Guess: (Looks thoughtful.) "...A sword wound would scar easily."
Me: "Or even a pocketknife, if Nightcrawler's report from a year ago is to be believed. Dimensional bleeding or not, the event had to have happened somewhere."
Guess: "Ah, yes, the dimensional bleeding. And... oh. And if there was a scar, there must have been an open wound once, and therefore, bleeding... 'It is a monster, but the monster bleeds.'" (He pauses a moment.) "I confess, all the blood makes me rather woozy."
Me: "How can it bleed, though? People have hurt Him, yes, but it never lasts more than a moment, not even when Ava blew his arms apart. And does that suit of His even qualify as clothing to be torn? This is what's confusing to me. And Zero, last year. Almost no one gives a damn about Tulpa anymore, and yet nearly all the stories focused on a stab wound of some kind. And if I had to guess, I'd say that way more people thought of stories than actually wrote them down, which would definitely still count for something."
Guess: "There are strong and powerful minds out there, and strong and powerful forces. As you say, many more stories were left unsaid and not written down. If there was enough raw... strangeness behind the Solstice Event, anything could have happened. Factor in the dimensional bleeding and the pseudo-magic of the Solstice itself and you've got, well, something, if not a scar."
Me: "But..." (I put my head in my hands.) "I just don't understand how it happened. Or why it happened when it did, if it happened when I think it did. And most of all, what to do about it. I mean, do I tell people about this? What if it's all another trick, like with Reach? What if people start pulling crazy stunts and get themselves killed because I said there was an opportunity? I just have no idea."
Michelle: Val, people pull crazy shit whether or not they have a reason for it.
Me: If they choose this as their reason, that makes it my fault. Especially if I turn out to be wrong.
Guess: (Leans back.) "I don't think you need to worry about that. Our circle of survivors has grown wary and intelligent." (He barks out a laugh.) "Mostly."
Michelle: You can't be held responsible for other people's stupidity, Valerie. Everyone's actions are their own. You tell me that all the time.
Me: (I remain silent.)
Guess: "...I'm not a doctor, but I believe scar tissue opens up more readily than regular skin, if we are to be comparing His composition to our own. There is no reason to do so, and yet we must to make sense of it. If we cut, tear, pull, maybe He'll be ripped apart."
Me: "That's what Nick said... He said that everything can break, it's just a matter of finding out where to hit it."
Guess: "So now that you've found a crack, how do you suppose we - you - could exploit it?"
Michelle: "We were kind of hoping you'd have an idea in that department, actually."
Me: (After a long pause.) "Guess... Erik... that's the second time you corrected yourself when you said 'we', and I understand why you'd think that way, but... just something about the way you said it... worries me."
Guess: (He spreads his hands.) "This is your discovery, my dear. I'm but a mere scientist, trying to make his way in the world, and... maybe help some few that need it. And... to be frank, I can't say that the recent addition to my family has made me all that more comfortable with human companionship."
Me: "...Do you miss them? Your friends, your family... Anansi?"
Guess: "It's for the best that I stay far away. Even from Anansi and his kin."
Me: (I nod.) "That I understand... Doesn't make it any easier though."
Guess: "That's what whiskey is for."
Me: (I smile sadly.) "No, that's what people are for. People who already understand why you can't go back, and with whom you can keep each other company, and maybe forget the reason for such voluntary isolation, even for a night. Losing my head for a while didn't make me forget that."
A year ago today, an ordinary man convinced many, many people to join him on an extraordinary undertaking. Those people were afraid, more terrified then they'd been in their lives, but they knew that he was just as afraid as they were, and they followed him because they knew he was one of them. Not some prophicized hero come to do what no one else could. Not a legend come to life. Certainly no one with a destiny. He merely had an idea, and he executed it, like anyone with simple courage would have done.
Whatever happened that night, one year ago, Zero was wrong. It wasn't meaningless. Maybe the combined will of the people actually had an impact, and maybe it didn't. Maybe what I saw a month and a half ago was something else entirely. But that doesn't change the impact that sudden, unquestionable unity had on everyone who, until then, was floundering helplessly, alone, in the dark. And even the slightest possibility that it wasn't just that, that it was something more... well, damned if it doesn't give me just the teeniest bit of hope.
Not just hope though. The implications for this idea are astounding, but the possibilities for the consequences are terrifying. Give it a moment of thought and it's not hard to imagine what could happen, both good and bad.
I may never understand the monster's position between reality and fantasy, between existence and nonexistence. But... I know the answer lies somewhere in that boundary. I know it.
I went into the jungle. I proved that the monster bleeds, bleeds in a way that sticks. And I came back to tell you all what I found.
There has to be a way to end this.