Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Sword Called Need

I'm not sure how many of you know what it's like to need to do something.

Surely some of you do though, right? The crushing guilt for things that you objectively know weren't your fault but that you'll never forgive yourself for? The absolute surety, down to your bones, that the guilt will lessen someday if you can just... do enough? Help enough? Be good enough?

It never occurs to you to wonder exactly what "enough" is, does it? Even if you do eventually realize... that it will never be enough... it really makes no difference in the end. Addiction is a powerful thing.

An imaginary crime will only ever have an imaginary penalty. That's the truth.

When I left off before, back here, my update-writing was interrupted by a slew of really bizarre comments on Michelle's blog. At first we were baffled - I mean, everybody gets trolls, but this guy was oddly persistent and specific. And... disjointed? It was clearly a cry for help, in any case, so once the guy stopped responding, Michelle and I tried to figure out who it might be. Didn't take long, really. There's only so many places for someone to insist that Michelle "come back" to. Not to mention the things that were talked about on the posts they were on, and... fuck, there's a billion and a half ways to rationalize the "how", and we beat every last one of them into the ground on the drive up there, heedless of their logical possibility. The point is, we went back to the location of Steven's treehouse.

The point is, Christian was still there.

Somehow, he got stuck there when Michelle managed to ditch him all those months ago.

She told me when she first told me the story that there was something very wrong with the place. At first I thought it was maybe residual memory of the story Corey explained to us - how she was found in that spot when she was little, covered head to toe in her own blood but without a scratch on her to explain it. When we got there, though... clearly it was something more than that.

Not for the first time, I wish Nick was around. I did my best, but I'm still not sure what it was I was seeing. My best guess is... it had something to do with Michelle's presence. There was some sort of resonance involved that... moved reality around a bit? Essentially, the area was stuck in a sort of mobius half-twist, completely cut off from everything that was unlike itself. Michelle was something that counted as "like itself", apparently. Something to do with what happened to her? No idea. But if Christian's constant rambling about her blood was any indication...

There was something even more wrong with Christian. Maybe I can't always tell what's going on with the universe the way Nick can, but my empathy has always been incessantly, agonizingly clear. Putting aside the impossible fact that he had somehow survived there for four months without food or water, there was something inside him that had absolutely snapped. Yeah, four months is a long time to be continually dying of starvation/dehydration/exposure, but his mind... felt like he had been sitting there for decades. Centuries. Like he had gone through absolutely every thought, sensation, and memory his brain had ever stored, and just kept doing that over and over again until the very foundation of his personality started breaking down.

And everything was broken down.

At the end of it, I tried to help him. I couldn't take the sensation anymore - watching this burned-out shell of a man the school with a distorted mask of a grin Bashawn was more than I could bear. Never mind the torture he put Michelle through, never mind that he once tried to shoot me. I was starting to hear music again, and I needed to make it stop.

I didn't care whether my attempt would heal him or kill him, either (it's always one of those two, isn't it?). Nobody does anything they don't want to do, and nobody does anything for the right reasons. Altruism doesn't exist.

At some level, I think Christian knew that.

As soon as I got near him, he pulled a knife out of nowhere and stabbed at my heart. I managed to twist myself in time so it hit me in the right shoulder. He managed to slash at me a bit more before Michelle pulled him off of me. She pinned him, and threatened him... and I realized a split second later that it wasn't Christian's presence that was causing me to hear music.

He was there. The monster. The one who took my children from me. Who made me abandon my friends. Who murdered a good man for no reason other than that he helped me. I can distract myself all I want. I keep singing to the void in a voice that's not mine.

I started screaming. Eventually the scream formed itself into Michelle's name, but really, I just needed to drown out the sound. I screamed her name over and over and over and over and then at some point my eyesight started to clear somehow and I could see her standing up. Facing Him. Wearing an expression I never, ever, ever want to see on her face again.

I tried to get up. My hand found a sizable dry stick on the ground.

Random acts of nature - little things like a flickering light bulb - can bring your mind back to reality in a pinch. But sometimes you need to make your own miracles.

I took the stick and snapped it over my knee. The loud crack it made resounded all through the construction site like the sonic boom of a bullet.

Michelle blinked.

I grabbed her hand. And we were running.


I've been avoiding Drew all week. Thank god he works daytime hours (as a lowly cashier, I might add; you'd think all his "government contacts" would get him a better position or something) and I'm not forced to be civil at him all goddamn day.  Likewise, however... Michelle has been avoiding me.

Well, not avoiding, per se. But I'm getting sick of how she never tells me the truth when I ask her how her arm is feeling.

Every few days, she "excuses" herself to the bathroom. She thinks I don't know when she's bullshitting me, but she's wrong. The fact that she only wears her big, pocket-filled coat to an indoor bathroom once out of every 5 times is easily the biggest tipoff.

Actually, that's a lie. The biggest tipoff is the waves of detached pain that come from said bathroom - or wherever she's gone to that day - when she does this.

This afternoon, after a particularly aggravating argument with Drew that same morning, I decided I had had enough of everyone's bullshit. As soon as I noticed it was one of those times, I went to the bathroom and knocked on the door.


"One minute," is the only reply I got. But it definitely sounded strained.

"Michelle, what are you doing? Please, just be honest with me."

I heard a low curse from inside the door, followed by a stuttering, "Nothing. J-Just... cleaning up.

I leaned my head against the door, somewhere between exasperated and exhausted. "Michelle, stop this. You think I can't tell what you're doing in there? You think I can't feel that? Just... open the door. If it's hurting you that badly, then let me have a look, please."

"I'm just changing the bandages, Val. You know h-how my arm gets..."

"Open the door."

"Val, I'll be done soon, just give me five-"

"Do as I say and open the door. Now."

...I honestly don't know what came over me when I said that. But the next thing I heard was the snatch of the lock being turned... and there she was. Clutching her infected arm in a towel that was soaked and all but dripping in her own blood.

"...Shit," was about the only thing I could say, so I said it. And then I started down the hall toward the living room where we had left our bags. "Come with me," I said.

Michelle gave me a pained look. "Val, you don't need--"

"Come here," I said again, in that same tone of voice. She came. In hindsight, I feel sick.

I dug out one of our packs of medical supplies and sat Michelle down in front of me, working around my own rapidly healing shoulder and hating that I couldn't risk even trying to heal her. I took her injured arm and carefully unwrapped it. It was still furiously red and emanating the heat of infection. Still oozing disgusting yellow and black pus from all those not-quite-healed-and-probably-never-going-to-heal-at-this-point burn marks from the barn. But the long, deep knife-marks cutting through it, thankfully cutting across and not lengthwise? Those were new.

Actually, only some of them were new, freshly bleeding. Others were clearly older, made days or even weeks ago. Those were clotted, but still open. Not healing, just there.

I asked her what the fuck she thought she was doing.

Instead of answering, she just pulled apart the lips of one of the cuts with her opposite hand. Inside, I could see something long and thin and white and... and moving. Just twitching every so often in response to the air.

"They keep growing back," she said softly, demurely refusing to look me in the eye. "More of them each time. I have to cut them out, or..."


Neither of us needed the "or" explained. I still have nightmares of agonized, unending screaming in my head.

"Michelle, you can't do this to yourself. Cuts like this are how people commit suicide via blood loss."

"If I leave them in," she said in a stronger tone, raising her head, "then I might as well cut off the entire fucking arm and get it over with."

She looked at me that time.

So I nodded.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Two People

There are three categories of bad people in this world. The first is thankfully the most common - people who, on a sliding scale, feel some level of regret for their actions. Sometimes they can sleep at night, sometimes not. It depends on how long they've been at the job of harming others for a living. Their reasons for doing what they do are as varied and many as there are people, but they all agree that whatever those reasons are, they justify what they do enough to let them continue doing it.

The second category is at the opposite end of the spectrum. These are the people who are truly twisted in mind and soul, whose only reason for doing what they do is because they enjoy it. Other people do not qualify as people to them; they are simply numbers, targets, playthings. There is literally a difference in brain function in these people, one that warps their entire worldview. Remorse is not a word that exists, because what they do, they do for fun.

And then, somewhere between the first two categories, there is a third category - that rare breed that has neither the excuse of circumstance nor the disease of a twisted mind. They don't do bad things because they feel like they're forced into it. They don't do bad things because their worldview is warped enough for them to actually enjoy it. They feel remorse and regret sometimes, and they feel empathy for others, often strong empathy. But rather than letting these things inhibit negative impulses, they put them to use; they strive to understand their victims, and let their victims attempt to understand them, in order to better manipulate them, and make them easier targets in the end.

They don't have a concrete reason for it, and yet they still do it. That puts their actions firmly within the realm of personal choice. They choose to do the things they do for reasons that are never presented as excuses. They understand that their actions are always their own, and they choose to harm rather than help - not for any particular reason, but because that is who they are.

That is why, even with all the forgiveness I can hold, even though hatred is as far removed from my nature as flying... that is why I will always despise anyone who falls into that third category, once he or she is positively identified as such.

In my life, I have met two such individuals.

One of them was Redlight.

The other is a boy in my year named Andrew Svetski.

(And yes, there's you're goddamn link, Drew. You wanna be part of this "writing group"? Be my fucking guest.)

We met in high school. It was a truly stunning coincidence, actually - I had accidentally left a favorite book of mine under my desk in Spanish class. He happened to have a class in the same room directly after mine, happened to sit in the same seat as me, happened to notice my book on the floor, and started reading it. I probably never would have seen that book again if I hadn't missed my bus that day, and caught him reading it by the school's front door after missing his bus.

We started loaning books to each other, and quickly became friends. Best friends, actually - we hung out together literally every day. It's solely because of Andrew that I wasn't completely alienated and friendless during high school, the way I was for the rest of my life previously. He introduced me to people who became more of my best friends, my core circle. They in turn introduced me to the hobbies and skills that I would cultivate for the rest of my life, and those interests and experiences led me to make even more new friends. There is literally no one I'm close to today whose origins can't be traced back to one Andrew Svetski, not even Michelle.

Not even Nick and Kay.

And... that's why I defended him for so long, when he started changing. Out of loyalty and gratefulness for everything he'd done for me.

I'd say the changes started when we got to college, but in my heart I know that's not true. The signs were there before then, some of them even as early as our second meeting. He lied constantly. I'd say compulsively, except that he always kept his stories straight. I don't know how a person can live while lying constantly and consistently, but he did it. Still does, most likely. Not that I can tell for sure, because he was always good at keeping me in the dark about stuff.

But his lies started getting more and more outrageous. He perfected the art of bullshitting - always pretending to be an expert, or at least knowledgeable, about things he knew nothing about in order to make himself seem cooler. Buying and carrying large knives and showing them off at every opportunity because he was insecure about the size of his dick or some other bullshit reason. He systematically dated his way through every female in our circle of friends because he couldn't stand being single - having a chick hanging off your arm is a badge of honor, apparently. He started hanging out with all the wrong people and getting into all the wrong habits.

He told us that his mother had stolen his stimulus check and spent it on herself. She had, of course, done no such thing. It's not even a thing that's possible to do. Drew just wanted sympathy.

He started wearing shades indoors because he thought no one could see him staring at girls' boobs and asses with them on. He was wrong. 

He and our mutual friend Danielle got to sparring with staves one day. She had no experience, but after a few minutes she was winning. So Drew, suddenly furious that a girl was beating him, stopped sparring and started fighting. He nearly broke Danielle's wrist.

He got expelled from college on grounds of sexual harassment.

All our friends stopped talking to him. All of them told me to do the same. I didn't. I defended him, in the name of our old friendship, because I was still loyal for reasons that didn't exist anymore. He promised me he would try to change.

And then, not even a week later, he asked his best friend's fiance to send him nude pictures of herself.

That was the last straw. I deleted all his contact info after that and never spoke to him again.

He's a liar. He's a liar and a manipulator and a user, and the only thing he cares about others is how well he can make them dance in order to puff up his own ego. He knew I was his last chance. He promised me he would do better, but then he didn't even try. He never even fucking intended to try because he was using me as an in to the rest of our friends! He never once gave a damn about me. All along I was nothing but a convenient ear to give him the adoration he craved, but couldn't bring himself to shift his ass and do something to deserve.

And this is what crosses the line. This is what makes me hate him, when I can barely bring myself to genuinely dislike anybody. I've gotten angry. I've wished people would act differently. But I've never actually hated anyone before him. And that fact alone made me feel so betrayed, because I felt like he had taken something away from me, something so, so important...

On the day I finally caught up to him about it... I wanted closure. He had been such a big part of my life for so long... but when we spoke, he simply did not care. He was impassive, apathetic. Not even cold, just... nothing. My words, my feelings, meant nothing to him. His actions meant nothing to him. 

Now, after nearly 5 years of silence, I had almost forgotten he ever existed.

Now, after nearly 5 years of of getting over what a horrible person it took me so long to realize he was, suddenly I was forced into meeting him once again, and all the hate came flaring back.

The exact same thing happened. I was angry, and he didn't care. At least before, when he lied to me about all the ridiculous stories he made up, at least I knew he still gave a damn about what I thought of him (even though he professed to not care what others thought of him, the fucking self-deluding liar). Now... fuck, I can't even look at him. He's sitting across the room from me as we speak, watching an Underworld movie like there is no goddamn elephant in the room, but I can still feel him there, and it's like he's empty inside.

...When I came here, I wanted to punch him. Probably would have, if my dominant hand wasn't in a makeshift sling. I settled for trying to kick him in the shins, which he sidestepped easily.

If I wanted him to show regret, I was deluding myself. He didn't even remember everything that had happened, only that I stopped talking to him for some reason that "had something to do with [his best friend]'s girlfriend, or something?"

...I'm rambling like crazy, and even that can't express the depth of...

Alright, just... fuck this. Fuck this. I'm ranted out, I genuinely don't feel like dealing with this right now.

Especially considering I have a lot of more current issues to worry about? Fuck all of those issues too, but I can't exactly get away from those. My right arm, shoulder, and most of my upper torso are all aching, though not as much as they would be without painkillers. I wish I had thought to take some of my mom's really good drugs before I left home, but I'm making due with extra-strength ibuprofen, plus a hit of tylenol if that's not enough (I can take both because they metabolize in different places, haha). My left knee hurts too, but I'm not sure when that happened. I guess I sort of wrenched it? It's hard to feel in comparison to my shoulder, anyway. Who knew a single stab would hurt such a broad area?

Which is actually why I'm putting up with Drew in the first place right now. I'm sure you're all wondering why I'm even in the same zip code as such an enormous douchebag. Well, what you don't know, and what Andrew still doesn't know and won't know until he reads this, is that bribing our way across the border and back took a heavier hit on my funds than I anticipated. Especially considering our ride jacked up the price of a return ticket without telling us. Couldn't get out of it either - Michelle can be intimidating when she wants to, but the guy was huge, and neither of us were in much condition to pick a fight at that point. It was an unbelievably huge mistake on my part and I feel like a fucking imbecile, but in my defense, I've never done anything that illegal before. So fml.

Long story short, we're going to have to be much more careful with our resources from now on. Maybe pick up short-term odd jobs where we can. But right now, if someone's willing to offer us a bed for a few nights, we're not exactly in a position to turn them down. Not to mention that Michelle and I are both still pretty out of it. As many of you have probably already read, it was a hell of a field trip, with very little turnout. I... How do I even begin to explain what happened?

...Fuck, I think I used up all my catharsis ranting about Drew. >_>

Tomorrow. I'll try to write what happened tomorrow.

And then I'll be able to leave this stupid place.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Yeah. We're both alive. Mostly. Talk about it some other time. Not now.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The So-Called "Devil Book"

Alrighty, I officially have executive permission to post my take on everything we found out. You can read the full story from Michelle. As for me, I have more than a few questions.

First of all, Redlight. What the hell was he doing with Steven's photos? According to the journal, all the photos Steven and Robert took vanished shortly after Steven attempted to show them to the police. Under any other circumstances, I'd blame the government, but then how did Redlight get them? Did he steal them from whoever took them from Steven? Did he steal them from Steven himself? Was it just some pointless series of coincidences that means absolutely jack shit?

He said he remembered her. He said that. I can't see any reason why he would have lied either - it was never his style, not to mention I'm not sure he was even capable of it that night. Given the apparent gaps in Michelle's memory, this is incredibly worrying.

Redlight had the photos. And then he just gave them to us, like some kind of dare. But... Redlight's dead. If he had some kind of plan attached, it's moot point now. 

Doesn't stop me from wondering/worrying what it might have been though.

Then there's this Robert guy. Corey clearly didn't trust him, and it's not hard to see why. Even Steven was able to see how untrustworthy he was by the end, although according to the second-to-last journal entry that mentions Robert, it took him threatening Michelle's life before Steven would get his act together and give Robert the boot. What is the final entry concerning Robert, you ask? It is the final entry of the journal, period.

NOTICE: I was in the middle of writing this post when several things happened. As a result of these things happening, Michelle and I are about to do something very, very stupid. No, we are not being chased. Yet. But we will be off the grid for a while. Rest assured that we are taking every precaution short of not doing this incredibly stupid thing. If we're wrong - and I hope to god we're wrong - we shouldn't be gone longer than a couple of days.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Aaaand once again my sleep schedule is fucked to all hell. That didn't take long.

Sorry for the long absence. We're alright for now. Got to Corey's safely, found out a bunch of stuff, and moved on. Neither of us thought it was safe to stay with him for too long, especially with all the information he just gave us. Michelle's been working on the official write-up, since it's her brother.

'Course, said write-up had to go on hiatus for a while, since we wound up driving all over every-fucking-where over the last 50-something hours. Non-stop. We even hopped a bus at one point, got on a train, then took another bus back to where we left my car just so we could get some sleep.

Michelle woke me up a little past midnight about 3 nights ago. She said we had to leave immediately. I didn't question her, I just got right up, packed what few things I had bothered to unpack that night, and followed her silently out the door. She got into the driver's seat of my car and we were off.

Now, according to Michelle, the late Morningstar, and several others, proxies can sort of instantly know when other proxies are around, or when their boss is nearby. From Michelle's description of the feeling, I'd liken it to the experience of remembering forwards instead of backwards, or a type of deja'vu (and yes, such a thing is entirely legitimate, but I won't bother explaining how it works except to say that there's a reason we call it re-member-ing). As I suspected when she first woke me up, Michelle had been experiencing that feeling again. She has taken advantage of this several times in our travels in order to keep us out of trouble, but this was a good deal stronger than anything from before. She couldn't even identify what it was we were running from, only that it was really fucking close behind us. It also apparently changed positions at random intervals, if Michelle's near-constant changing of directions is anything to go by.

All I could do was try to keep her somewhat relaxed and not let her crash us into a tree or something by accident. Eventually we figured out it had to be some kind of illusion, since the feeling never got any further away no matter how fast or slow Michelle drove. It was at that point that we hopped the aforementioned bus-train-bus, because even in knowing/maybe suspecting that, Michelle didn't want us to stop moving, and I was inclined to agree with her.

So now we're in this new place. Unnamed for security, naturally. Michelle has since calmed down, and we just got here, so we should be able to rest and recuperate for at least a couple days, which means we finally have time to sit down and write up everything we found out. I swear, it is really freaking bizarre how little down time you get when you're traveling. Guess I shouldn't be surprised.

One bit of good news, at least: whatever it is we're doing seems to be working - nobody's found us. No proxies, no monsters, no nightmares (other than what could be considered normal), even that Anon asshole from a while back seems to have vanished. Haven't heard from him/her since... September, I think.

...Godfuck, September. I have been out of it for too damn long.

Expect some new information soon. If not, we're probably dead in a ditch somewhere.


...I fucking hate morbid humor.