A short story based on the legends of the Slender Man, a tall, spidery humanoid abomination in a business suit who stalks humans and does other creepy things.
Told from the point of view of a "proxy" someone who actually chooses to join Slendy (fan nickname) in his path of terror and madness.
Snapping awake in the dead of night, I hear him. He's calling to me again but the tone has changed. What a wonderful voice; soft and melodious like a song. Its not even real. Its in my mind.
Nonetheless, I go to him. After looking into the abyss for too long, something has finally returned my gaze.
Still partly in a dream state, a small scared voice screaming in protest, I dress quickly and leave out the back door with the distinct feeling that I'll never return again, at least not the same.
A colossal force is shifting on my behalf. Its cold intellect throbs like clockwork in my skull.
The wind is breathless with anticipation and sentinel oaks and other trees are like ink paintings against the icy sky. I don't know why I'm listening. It is a bad thing to do. The old me wouldn't approve. But its...so wonderful. Surely something that puts off such soothing vibes doesn't deserve to be shunned and feared.
So I go. I take my pocket knife, a flashlight, and a hoodie so the branches don't scrape my skin and the chill wont seize my bones.
The voice is as insistent as ever. It somehow seems to be growing louder, like a whisper that becomes a normal tone with increasing urgency. Hurry, hurry.
He probably has a tight schedule to attend to, so I won't make him wait any longer than necessary.
Strangled by vines, carpeted by moss and kudzu, lent a dim and ever-fading sheen by the half moon, the forest is serene. No animals stir as I make my way, and part of me has the urge to start hunting. Hunting. Like him. I'll never be as good as him, but I will try, and that will please him. The knife is for self defense but now I see myself cutting the throat of some succulent woodland creature and eating the meal that I have made raw. Not with any kitchen tools or fancy guns but with my own two hands and the knife I bought out of fear that some night soon would be my last.
He had been watching me then, testing the waters. That's why I was afraid. But no more. There is a kinship, a synergy between us. Welded by terror, nurtured by need, and sharpened by the brilliant aura of the Outside.
Funny. I've never had the desire nor the guts to harm anything larger than an insect, but now the urge is very strong, almost crazy. Even from him reaching out to me without the intent to fully control I am already changing. But I must not succumb to the more wild urges. Must be civilized and cooperative in order to be one of his.
He will approve of me even more once it is done. I just know it.
Hurry, hurry. The voice is a little impatient but subtly amused, as if aware of these eager conflicted thoughts. Normally such a notion would annoy or trouble me but no more, no more.
The forest thickens. The air grows colder, damper. Maybe some fog is coming in. It seems like the kind of night for that. The flashlight is having less effect on relieving shadows as if they are more plentiful where he resides, as if they are aware and intent on staying like old friends.
Worries of becoming lost in these dense woods gradually fade. He will lead the way.
I reach a clearing. The meadow ahead, brightened by the steady gaze of the moon, looks like one after a recent snowfall, but also silvery and strange like a place you see in a dream. A good dream. A peaceful, vivid dream, expectant of something about to happen, something amazing. That's what this feels like.
I press on though the cold stillness, half expecting some primordial flying thing to swoop in from above and carry my life away.
My hand slides into my hoodie pocket, not for warmth but to touch the knife. The sleek metal feels good beneath my exploring fingers, and again images of hunting, stalking and rending, fill my head. I run my thumb over the knife's wicked tip, drawing blood, but it doesn't hurt.
I am almost there. I break into a run so he doesn't get angry, so he doesn't come after me instead of the other way around. He is patient and gentle, but no one better make him mad. Bad idea. Bad.
I reach another clearing, a short one, before plunging into thick forest again. The smell of ash hangs in the air and prickly branches snatch at me as if to say, don't go. These trees look less like trees than like gnarled, multi-legged monstrosities frozen in time as they exit their immense burrows.
It all looks so different now, so different and dark. Some trees are clad in stringy moss and the dried-out husks of dead things, a macabre collection. Fat worms of fog hug my body and leave beads of moisture on the knife, which is now out of the pocket, in my ready hand.
The landscape is changing to suit him. That is all right. I can appreciate this ambiance.
I realize now that this journey was only partly physical. Not only have I made my way through the wilderness to heed that sweetly calling voice, but into his mind, his mysterious forest where nightmares are preserved like insects in amber.
I look for him. No rail-thin figure distinguishing itself from bare-limbed trees or capering in the fog. No encouraging thoughts. Maybe ten minutes go by, but my sense of time is most likely muddled by excitement, by the dreamy quality of the night.
Silence. A dull pang of disappointment goes through me. All trace of the guiding thoughts have stopped completely. Maybe I've lost his interest. Not good enough to be absorbed and utilized, not good enough to drown the prey in fear like he does so skillfully.
Do I have to kill to get his attention? That thought disturbs me.
Just as I am about to continue looking, there is a tearing sound behind me, delightfully organic.
I whirl around to see him with something, its long, kicking legs restrained by his many arms, his head pivoted toward it, which seems redundant because he doesn't have a face, just smooth paleness and vague contours where a face should be.
The fog seems to part like stage curtains, and moon glow dapples like spotlights.
Caught in the moment, excited by the death cries for reasons that can't be articulated, I watch, breathless. He's glad I'm watching, learning.
I come closer, not intruding on his space but enough to better see the prey. The flashlight catches the reflective lenses in its eyes like bluish-white gems.
He has a large, white-tailed buck. Despite its robust size it looks so small next to him. And I do too. Just looking at him, all weirdly contorting limbs and towering frame, makes me feel like a child.
Everyone is a child to him. That's how old he is, how small and brief we are to him. Traveling entire towns and states and countries and worlds is like a quick stroll through the park. Like a connoisseur of fine food, he invades thoughts, invades dreams, and takes what is needed. To blame him would be to blame the lion for feasting on the gazelle.
The buck lets out pitiful bleats and tries to jam its antlers into him, but he has those entwined in tendrils as black as fabric snipped from the robe of Death.
He really isn't a person at all. That is all right. It would be wrong of me to judge. In fact, I think he's better than a person somehow, because he called me here and doesn't judge me for my dark urges--
Which came from him, barks an irritable thought.
The wind suddenly picks up a bit, and as he tears the animal open, the acrid scent of blood is carried to my nose. It is both disgusting and...tantalizing. The soup of fog is stirred and sickness boils through me, and also strange joy. The deer's struggles are becoming very feeble but still protests the taking of its life.
He removes its organs, holding them in each of his snaky limbs, seeming to consider them carefully. The heart first, still quivering, then the liver and intestines and others and still others and its upsetting the sensitive girl down inside me but its good, its good.
Thick arterial blood falls like rain.
I've always loved nature, its cold calculation, its unrelenting force, its exquisite beauty. But he isn't of nature, isn't of here at all, and nature hates him. Hates him because he is wrong, painting every life he touches a darker, stranger shade. An outsider, a monster, a--
Get out of here. I have to get out of here, I...have to ….oh....god no.
I didn't come all this way just to be another thing he can chase and terrify and sow and reap. And he most certainly will if I indulge in any weakness, the weakness of prey.
He chose me. To take part in his amazing journeys. He's not killing the deer just out of hunger. He's killing to communicate something important.
And I must listen. There's no other choice in the matter now.
Deer-flesh sizzles like bacon beneath the sinuous appendages sprouting from him. I watch, entranced. How is the heat being generated? One of its hind legs is torn free with a cruel snap and a spray of red. Its neck breaks as he twists its head at a bizarre angle. Its eyes are gouged, scooped out, tossed to the moon-silvered grass. Fur and sinew is stripped with almost machinelike efficiency, bone jerked loose, strewn everywhere. I'm standing close enough where some of the blood has landed on my clothes.
I repress a shudder. None of this is even necessary but since he does not speak unless he feels like it, the act is serving as shorthand.
The deer was killed to show me what he can do, how much damage those deceptively soft-looking tendrils can cause. To show me what could happen if I cross him. And my gaze moves to the trees. Not all of the creatures impaled on those sharp, slender branches are woodland animals.
I get the message.
He stops mutilating the deer and plunges dozens of smaller wispier tendrils deep into what's left of its belly, and bit by bit, the body sags, the blood ebbs, as if he's absorbing it.
Neither his suit, white shirt, nor pale featureless flesh is marred by blood. This strikes me as oddly funny. I giggle and the giggle turns into a cacophonous, throaty laugh that shoots through the fog like smoke escaping a hot furnace. With every gust of breath the old me seems to be dying, replaced by silken dark.
He looks up from his task and the head tilts, as if he's asking what's so funny. I in turn ask him how he can stay so tidy, and he's an Outsider, so he doesn't completely understand or care.
Finally the tendrils vanish into him and he abandons the prey and comes toward me, long strides graceful but on some level, deeply wrong.
I understand why he chose the businessman motif. He wants to make a deal. Not just with me, but with humanity itself.
He produces something from behind his back in a way that reminds me of my grandfather, who always presented gifts that way. Surprise.
It is a well-made white mask with black around the eyes and lips. Its features are delicate, androgynous, and he explains to me in his own special language that it is for me.
Excitement stirs in my chest, fluttering like a bird desperate to take flight. I want to know more so he tells me, tells me in that soft croon that creeps inside, inaudible to the ear, real yet not real.
He wants me to join him.
The thought of wearing that mask, of being chosen, of roaming night and day alike with grace that is wrong for this world yet beautiful in its own demonic way, of being connected to his ancient intelligence and furthering his power against those who choose to be victims, is too wonderful to resist. Under his guidance I will no longer be the frightened human cowering in her home as the rest of humanity conducts its idiocy, but a force of terror, of liberation, so much more than what I am. My grip tightens on the knife and an internal glimpse of freedom dances behind my eyes.
Yes. Yes yes yes. He interprets my thoughts and, surprising me, offers his hand, like we're sealing a business deal, and in a way we are.
I start cackling again but he wants to be serious so I quiet down.
Its too large to be a human hand, with thin, spindly fingers. I hesitate but not for long, and as the handshake begins, his changes at the last moment, becomes a thatch of long, inky tendrils, thrashing bonelessly like that of a hunting squid. They wrap all the way up my arm, constricting, cutting off circulation, but I don't dare pull away.
Tighter, tighter, not painful until, as the deal is sealed, they stop being cool and harmless and burn like a hot stove.
He's branding me. Oh god, it hurts, it hurts, why does it hurt why does it--
And then they withdraw. The tendrils vanish into the cuff of his sleeve and become a hand again.
“How do you do that?” I ask wonderingly, and as he moves to fasten the mask to my face, I stare at the thin black winding scars that will forever mark me as his.
Scars aren't supposed to look like this. Nature hates him.
I wonder, dimly, who could have worn the mask before, what lives they lived, whether they were given important tasks by their unearthly “employer”, whether they failed these tasks. I wonder what purpose wearing the mask serves, and an answer comes, not from him, but from that small scared voice repulsed by all he is, the voice that did not escape with my mad laughter.
To hide you. You'll lose your identity. You'll succumb....become.... less than human.
Or more, he finishes eagerly. His hand rests on my shoulder.
Coldness exudes from it along with a barely perceptible warmth, warmth that could quickly become searing, agonizing pain.
Suddenly I feel great fear, not my own, but of everyone who has ever looked upon the faceless visage of this morbidly beautiful being. I see them stumbling and running, struggling and hiding, and occasionally, fighting. All to no avail.
The fiery pain is gone but the scars pulse in tandem with an unholy heart. If he wanted, he could do to me what he did to that deer.
And he could do it before death ever came.
Shhhh...the thought soothes. I am his now, and though he is a monster, he takes care of his own.
I smile, and though he has no face, I can't help but think that he returns it.