Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ava's Awake and I'm Too Happy To Come Up With A Witty or Literary Title

She's awake, finally, and when I got up to her, I kissed her over and over again and she eventually had to remind me that I should probably explain what happened to all you people who might be otherwise confused.

She woke up, put that post together on her laptop in a confused daze, tried to get out of bed and fell. I was in the kitchen getting some food and when I heard the thump, I ran upstairs, picked her up in a bridal carry and started kissing her.

Now you know the situation. Back to kissing her.

Reach out.

Monday, March 28, 2011

An Evening Visitor/Alekhine's Gun, Part 6

So, hmmm, yeah, I'm kinda totally fucking pissed off at the moment. We had a visitor a few minutes ago. Eulogy decided to show up with a crony.

I'll be honest, I'd been sort of dreading this meeting, even if I'd been hoping for it too. I...I'll just post the conversation.

Thage and I are sitting down in the sitting room, drinking tea, when we hear a knock at the door.

Eulogy: Thaaage! Open up, oh friend of mine!

Thage: -she gets up to open the door-

Me: - I push her down and go out to the hall, grab the revolver I had stashed in the hall locker and stuff it into my pocket, then open the door to find Eulogy standing there with another "Revenant" called Hammer backing him-

Eulogy: -he looks taken aback for a moment but them smiles widely at me- Ah, Reach. Delightful to see you, old buddy. How's the memory?

Me: It's fine, Father Knight, how about yours?

Eulogy: -he chuckles- Oh, Reach, it amuses me to no end that you think your memory gain was some grand revelation. Please, call me Eulogy.

Me: Sure thing, Father Knight. Was there anything in particular you came here about?

Eulogy: -his right eye twitches- I came here to speak to Thage. Would you kindly let me pass?

Me: Fuck off, Frank Fontaine. She's busy. Do you want to leave a message?

Eulogy: -his right eye twitches again- Tell Thage that if she doesn't come to the door right now, my associate will be forced to get violent.

Me: -I laugh at his threat- I'm not threatened by Hammer. My memories may have been faked but I figure my memories of training are still based on factual information. I'm pretty sure I can outfight him.

Eulogy: -he glares at me- Be that as it may, Reach, the more important question is whether or not you can outgun him.

Hammer -he pulls out a revolver-

Me: -I do the same-

Eulogy: Oh my, it seems we have a stand-off.

Me: Back off Hammer. Today's not a fighting day. Let's all walk away with our bodies and minds relatively intact. We can fight another day. Not here. It's too public and, frankly, it's kinda dickish to have a shoot-out in someone's doorway.

Eulogy: -his right eye twitches twice- Now, now, Reach, no need to use vulgarity.

Me: -I make a potentially stupid decision and smile- Fuck that, Father Fucking Fuckface, there is every fucking need to fucking use fucking vulgarity. Why the shit shouldn't I fucking use fucking vulgarity? You shitcockcuntfucking arsebandit donkeybuggerer.

Eulogy: -his right eye twitches repeatedly and his face goes read- DON'T FUCKING CURSE AT ME, BOY!

Me: -I stifle exactly one chuckle before exploding with laughter, as does Hammer, who is bent over laughing when I pistol whip his wrist, grab his revolver as he drops it and put it in my pocket then aim my own revolver at Eulogy- Leave quietly and I won't shoot.

Eulogy: -Eulogy's eye twitches again but then his face splits into a huge grin- Why so reluctant to shoot, Reach? After all, we're at you're mercy. You could get rid of us so easily.

Me: I don't want to shoot you because it's not your faults that you're having your mind messed with by Slender Man. I want to help you.

Eulogy: You want to help me? Hardly. You're just afraid to shoot me because you're afraid of what will happen. You're afraid that your great revelation is just another lie and that if you shoot me and my healing factor kicks in, you'll have to start all over again.

Me: -I put the gun right up to his head- You think I won't? You think that if you don't move your fat ass right this fucking minute that I won't put a hole in your head?

Eulogy: -he smiles smugly at me- Those are my general thoughts, yes.

Me: Don't push me, Eulogy. Leave.

Eulogy: -he bows mockingly- As you wish, young master. The feeling of having got inside your head is plenty for me. Before I go though, let me just make something clear to you. This is going to end with one of us riddled with bullets and it isn't going to be me. -he turns and leaves with Hammer in tow-

Me: -I watch as they walk away and close the door once they're gone off the street, then return to the sitting room-

Thage: -she gives me a pointed look - What was he doing here?

Me: He wanted to talk to you about something. I told him you were busy. He had a gunman called Hammer with him, so I was guessing the only question he wanted to ask was something along the lines of "Are you prepared to meet your maker?"

Thage: Sounds like he wasn't very amused by what I did to Mr. Marsh.

Me: Probably not, no.

Thage: By the way, you have no idea how hard it is to give someone a lobotomy with an epeé.

Me: I don't really want to think about that to be honest.

Thage: -she shrugs- It's the most humane way to disable someone on the Black King's side of the board.

Me: No, the most humane way is to get them psychiatric help. Lobotomising them is the easiest way.

Thage: What do you think will happen to them in the asylum? Either a prefrontal, frontal, or transorbital lobotomy.

Me: Bullshit. You've been reading too many books of Victorian history, Thage. You know that Bedlam is at the forefront of humane psychological treatment these days, don't you?

Thage: -she looks up from her journal- The point is, these people are often too far gone. You? You're the exception that proves the rule. Even Cheska's starting to slip, you can see it as clearly as I can. At least this way, with some psychiatric help in re-learning the basics, Mr. Marsh has a chance at a genuine life again.

Me: Yeah, Cheska's starting to slip in the middle of nowhere, with no psychological treatment. Do you want to lobotomise Ava?

Thage: Want to, no. If she falls as far down the rabbit hole as Mr. Marsh did, there aren't many other options outside of killing her.

Me: Oh, of course, we wouldn't want her to be a burden to the health service or anything, we wouldn't want them to have to go through the effort of taking care of a mentally ill person. Much better to cut out a chunk of their brain or kill them!

Thage: It's more a matter that there's nothing the health service could do for them. Would you prefer she's paraded out in front of sixth-graders strapped to a gurney for the rest of her life? A way to scare them straight off of hallucinogens? It's like what you once told me in regards to the government not being able to handle the Black King, Ray.

Me: You're either living in a different century or your own little fucking world, either way, you are not living in reality if you think those are the only options that a mentally ill person has. You know, I thought the lobotomy was an extreme move but I didn't want to get into conflict with someone I consider my friend but if this is the bullshit you're going to be spouting around my mentally ill girlfriend, well, I'd be better off in a fucking Scientologist compound!

Thage: It's like I said. The government can't handle the Black King, and along that same vein, short of corrective brain surgery, lobotomies included, there's nothing medical and psychological science can do for the people he's corrupted.

Me: Of course there is! It's not like he's casting magic spells of "Greater Paranoia" on them, he's driving them up the wall and anyone who has been driven up a wall can be driven back down it. Or maybe I should just go shoot Ava right now, then catch a plane across the Atlantic and put a bullet between my mother's eyes? Does that sound like a good way to help the cause to you?

Thage: Spraying someone's brains out over a wall isn't quite the same as giving them a second chance without that corruption lingering in the back of their mind.

Me: A second chance with diminished mental capacity and no guarantee that he won't just make them loopy all over again. You act like I'm uninformed about the mental damage that Slender Man causes, when you know full well that whichever set of my memories is true, I'm more than fully aware.

Thage: Done right, the damage to someone's mental capacity isn't as severe as detractors paint it out to be. They might seem a tad serene, yes, but only a poorly-executed procedure results in the drooling idiots you see brought up.

Me: I'm not a moron, Thage, but the fact of the matter is that the only reason lobotomies are used is because they are faster, cheaper, easier and less time-consuming than giving long-term psychiatric care. If a lobotomy is medically necessary, by all means, cut a chunk of someone's brain out, but in most cases, and certainly in the case of you cutting a piece of someone's brain out with sports equipment, it wasn't a matter of necessity, it was a matter of convenience. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to take my revolver and the one I just took from the assassin sent to kill you up to my room with me, just in case you decide to try to give her a corpus callosotomy with a bullet. -I turn to storm off in a rage-

Thage: -she runs after me and grabs my arm- Listen. Feel free to disagree, and if you feel so strongly, I won't do it to Ava. But for people who have been under his control as long as Mr. Marsh, it's not a matter of convenience, it's a matter of "better safe than sorry". Another note, -she smiles wryly- the epeé is a weapon if it's not approved for competition.

Me: Damn right you won't do it to Ava. And last time I checked "better safe than sorry" is a matter of convenience. Now, let me go fume for a while until I start to look back at this all from a less emotional perspective and then demonise my own role until I feel like a dickhead, even though I'm the one promoting basic human rights while you want to cut people's brains up "just in case". Good fucking night, Thage.

Thage: Feel free to demonize me. I never walked on the board to be a hero in shining armor. -she turns around and walks back to the sitting room-

Me: Whatever. -I continue storming off, already feeling like a dickhead-

Yeah, I probably shouldn't have shouted or cursed at her but at this stage, I don't give a fuck. She's in the wrong and she can wallow there for all I care.

Reach fucking out.


Sorry about the lack of activity, I'm after stressing myself into a cold. It happened all the time when I was caring for Ariana. I'd stay up until all hours just in case she had a nightmare. In fact, some days, I got less sleep than her. Yeah, well, I did it again, got sick and ended up in bed beside Ava with Thage taking care of both of us. Yeah, I'm stupid, I know.

I've been thinking a lot about the messages that appeared in a couple of my posts, as helpfully pointed out by Aimee. I'm fairly sure that they're not being caused by Slender Man, which I find somewhat worrying, because it means there's someone else altering electronic communications. But then something else occurred to me. For this individual to be leaving these messages, they need certain words to appear in the posts. How do they ensure those words appear in the posts? Are they altering my thoughts before I put them into text to make sure they get the words they need? The implications are...troubling to say the least.

Reach out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Facade Cracks

Okay, so I may have lied about how well I'm dealing with all of this to try and refute the people questioning my sanity. Actually, no, I did lie. I am not dealing with this well. I am not dealing with any of this well, but if I hadn't acted like I was then none of you would have listened to me and what I had to say was important.

This morning, I woke up and I didn't feel like me. I felt like neither Reach nor Ray. I just felt alien to the whole world around me. I think I felt like I was supposed to be in the Fallout universe for some reason. Maybe I'd been dreaming about the games or something. But, somehow, that wasn't the weird part.

See, that feeling of not being myself, I've had it before, so I got a feeling of déjà vu. But the memory of that feeling had been included in both my real and fake memories, so I felt like it had happened to me twice before; déjà vu deux fois, if you will.

Please don't pounce on me and say that this is evidence that I'm wrong or crazy. I'm neither. I'll freely admit that I'm not in the best place mentally at the moment but that doesn't mean that I'm wrong or crazy. So far, anyway. That feeling was unpleasant and what's worse is that it happened a few times. But you can't make any assumptions just from that. I'm not crazy.

Ava's still neither better nor worse than she was yesterday. You'd think there would some change in condition but, then again, we don't know for sure what exactly is wrong with her.We don't know which came first, the unconsciousness or the hitting her head off a table. We're just waiting. It's all we can do, really.

The thing that quite possibly bothers me the most is myself though. I was reading back over old posts and it suddenly dawned on me that I always brush off my problems and treat them like they're nothing. Ava hated when I did it, so, out of respect for her, I'm not going to lie about how I'm feeling to you guys.

I'm tired. Above all things, I'm tired. I know Ava's only been unconscious for just over a week but it honestly feels like I'm caring for Ariana again. In both cases, the work is mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting.

I just want a hug from my Mam. Honestly. I would kill just for that one hug. But I can't get it because my Mam is locked up in the loony bin. My Mam who nearly had to raise me single-handedly, due to the long days my father worked, toiling from 5 am to 9 pm. Somewhat different to a 9-to-5 job.

Ugh, I'm not very good at this. I'll try again tomorrow. Before I go though, let me leave you with this;

While reading through some old posts, I found this comment by zero;
zero said...

uhm, nevermind, sorry Reach. Paranoia reared its ugly head there for a day or so.

"nessa" said in her last post for the day

"Reach Out


thought that was you revealing your colors.

Truth be told I'm not fully convinced you're able to hide from him, this could all still be a puppet show to establish sympathy.

However, I do apologize for the accusation.
It was spelled out for me! Right at the start, it was there in black and dark browny-red! Ugh, I've been so blind, over and over again. I just can't even fathom the depths of my own stupidity. I truly cannot even imagine how I could be such a moron.

Reach out.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Alekhine's Gun, Part 5/News From Home/Running

All this happened a few hours ago. It starts with me in the room Ava and I are sharing in Thage's new house;

Thage: -knocks lightly on my door-

Me: -I'm roused from a daydream- Come in!

Thage: -she steps in- How's Ava?

Me: -I lean over and put my hand on her forehead- The same. Thanks for getting the IV drip. Where did you even get it?

Thage: Some guy in a gas mask.

Me: Is that a joke I don't get it or just you being mysterious?

Thage: Neither. I literally don't know who he is. Tall, black male from what I could gather. Dreadlocks.

Me: How did you get into contact with him? I can't imagine there being a huge demand for medical supplies on the black market. Morphine notwithstanding.

Thage: He caught me on the way here from Maryland, said he knew Ava's mother and wanted to make sure Ava was alright. Then he put this in my car. -she leans back on the wall- In all honesty, I didn't want to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Me: Wait, a guy in a gas mask who knows Daisee? What was that guy that kidnapped her a few weeks ago? His avatar was a guy in a gas mask?

Thage: It could be. I remember he was assigned to guard her shortly after.

Me: Delta Five, that's it. But he's with the PTC now, right? So is he still Delta Five?

Thage: -she shrugs-

Me: Meh, it doesn't matter.

Thage: -she sighs- I knew, you know.

Me: You knew what?

Thage: About what you and Jean have been talking about. I knew since before this round of the game started.

Me: You...you knew that my memories were fake and...and you didn't tell me!? -I stand up angrily and glare at her- Why!? Why did you lie!?

Thage: -she meets my gaze calmly- Imagine being told flat out that your entire forty-year-plus life was fake, that it never happened, and that the woman you thought you'd been turned into an abomination to save hung herself.

Me: -I stand there, silently, then fall back into my chair and bury my face in my palms- I'm sorry. I didn't mean to shout at you.

Thage: It's a stressful time for a lot of people.

Me: Yeah, it is.

Thage: -she starts rolling a pair of dice around in her hand- Something of that magnitude, you have to learn for yourself. Either you wouldn't have believed me, or you'd have ended up like Robert.

Me: You're right, you're right. What's with the dice?

Thage: Nervous tick.

Me: Ah right. I thought it might be something profound or significant.

Thage: Nope.

Me: How did you figure it out?

Thage: Two and two started adding up to chair.

Me: Chair?

Thage: As in, nothing added up.

Me: Ah, I see.

Thage: The red flag, of course, was when you said you'd given me the deal. I got the deal from a man in his late fifties, with backswept white hair and a sense of style right out of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhod.

Me: But you played along to see if you could help me work it out.

Thage: I played along because that's what you needed. I dropped hints here and there, but it was mostly up to you to jog your own memory.

Me: -I facepalm as realisation strikes- That book of European legends you gave me. The one with Elizabeth Bathory in it. It had a story about a man who had his memory tampered with by a god for shits and giggles. Fuck.

Thage: Exactly.

Me: Shit, it's so obvious now. A warrior whose wife was killed by Fenrir tries to kill him but Loki makes him think he's a draugr who serves him. A draugr, for fuck's sake! Ugh, I was so fucking blind!

Thage: Don't be too hard on yourself, it's an obscure myth. -she looks around the room- By the by, can we try not to get the walls in this one carved up?

Me: Yeah, don't worry. As you saw, I decided to type my biography instead of scratching it into your plaster. -a moment of silence- Thage, can I borrow your phone? I think it's time I called home.

Thage: Go for it.

Me: Thanks. I apologise in advance for the cost of the international call.

Thage: I get telemarketers from India all the time, you're fine.

Me: If you say so. Thanks, Thage. For everything you've done for me.

Thage: Not to worry.

Me: Christ, Thage, accept some gratitude once in a while.

Thage: I'm certainly accepting it, I'm just doing it offhandedly. -she winks-

Me: If you say so. Do you mind keeping an eye on Ava while I try to get through to my Mam?

Thage: -she nods and sits at Ava's bedside-

Me: Thanks, I'll be back up in a few minutes.

I headed downstairs and found Thage's house phone. It took me a few minutes to work up the courage to dial the number. The first three times, I hung up as soon as it started ringing. I got it on the fourth try. It was my sister who answered;

Me: Hello?

Emma: Yes?

Me: Uh, is this Emma Shaughnessy?

Emma: It is, yeah, who's this?

Me: Uh...it's Ray, Em.

Emma: ...Ray?

Me: Yeah. Hi, sis.

Emma: Oh my god, Ray, you're...we thought...you went missing and Mam said...oh, Ray...where are you?

Me: I'm, uh, I'm in North Dakota.

Emma: North Dakota? You're in America?

Me: Yeah, it's a really long story, uh, Em, is Mam there?

Emma: ...No, Ray, she's...she...she, um, she had a psychotic break a couple of weeks ago and she's in, um, St. Luke's in Clonmel.

Me: St. Luke's!? Christ, fuck, uh, Em, tell me, what was Mam like before the break? Was there anything particularly strange?

Emma: Yeah, she, um, she got really paranoid and agoraphobic, first, she wouldn't leave the house alone, then she wouldn't leave it at all and, after a while, she refused to leave her room and got scared when we opened the door. And, um, she kept whispering to herself, the same thing, over and over. She kept saying, uh, "He has Raymond."

Me: Shit, fuck, cunt, urgh, Em, I'm gonna be back in Ireland soon but, until I'm back, you can't tell anyone about this phone call except Dad and Dad can't tell anyone else either. Don't tell Brian, Karina, Derek, anyone. Keep it between yourselves, for now. I have to go.

Emma: Wait, Ray! What's going on? Why are you in North Dakota? Why did you go missing in November? What does this have to do with Mam? Did what Mam saw on Coumshingaun really happen? Ray...who is "He"?

Me: Em, don't ask me that question, never ask me that question. If I answer that question, you will be in great danger. If Mam wrote anything down or drew any pictures or anything while she was being paranoid or having her psychotic break, don't read them, don't look at them, just lock them in her safe until I get home, okay? Promise me, Em, promise on Granny's grave!

Emma: I...I promise.

Me: Good, good, thank you. I have to go now, I have a lot to do if I want to get home soon. Tell Dad I love him. And, uh, I know this isn't what we usually do but...I love you, Em.

Emma: I love you too, Ray.

I hung up. I didn't cry or bury my face in my palms or anything. I just felt numb. Since I was downstairs anyway, I grabbed myself a sandwhich and just ate it robotically. When I was done, I headed back upstairs, barely thinking or feeling;

Me: -I enter the room- I just got off the phone with my sister.

Thage: Oh?

Me: My Mam, she, uh, she...he got to her. She's in a psychiatric hospital.

Thage: Ah. Sorry to hear that.

Me: Yeah...I... -I run my hands hands through my hair and try to keep calm but just break down crying and fall to my knees- It's my fault! She's gone off the fucking deep end and it's my fault!

Thage: -she walks over and smacks me on the back of the head- It's not like you left the Mafia and they wanted to get back at you! He would have killed her anyway, altered your memories, and you would never have realised she's gone!

Me: No, he would have left her alone if I hadn't turned against him! I would have spent the rest of my life in that quarry and she'd have moved on from my disappearance and, yeah, she would have been sad and she'd have always wondered what happened to me but she wouldn't have lost her fucking mind! She got caught in the crossfire between me and Slenderfuck and she wouldn't have if I'd been shooting from his side!

Thage: Stop, take a deep breath, and think about what you just said against how he's been shown to operate.

Me: -I cringe as I realise what I just said- He's trying to get me back. He's exploiting my regret. She's bait.

Thage: Now you're on the right track.

Me: -I run my hands through my hair- Thage, is there somewhere I can go for a little while and just calm down? I need to get rational again.

Thage: Here's as good a place as any, but there's a running track a couple miles south.

Me: I think I'll go for a sprint and do a few laps of the running track. I need some fresh air. I've spent too long cooped up in my room with Ava. I'll be back in a couple of hours.

Thage: Alright. I'll be here.

I grabbed some trackies that Thage bought me and changed out of my jeans. Once I was changed, I sprinted down to the running track, stopping now and then to get directions. Even with the stops, I made pretty good time. It wasn't "four minute mile" material or anything but I was outpacing most of the cars in the area (easy enough in an urban setting, of course, what with speed limits and traffic). At any rate, I arrived at the running track. It had quite obviously fallen into disuse. It definitely hadn't been weeded in a few months. But beggars can't be choosers, so I started jogging. And as I was jogging, I started thinking about, well, everything. I reached a few conclusions;

I have to save my mother from Slender Man.
I have to save Eulogy from the delusion and help him remember who he really is.
Pursuant to the above, I have to get back to Ireland.
I cannot go back to Ireland until Ava's awake.
The reason for this is that I love Avalesca Farrell-Conquest more than anyone in the world and abandoning her would break my heart and be a really scummy thing to do anyway.

It just after reaching the last conclusion that I saw him. I don't know how long he'd been there, just beyond the stands, watching me. The last time I saw him, I gave him a mental "fuck you". This time? I ran. I wasn't prepared for him. I'm still not. I'm not in the right frame of mind yet. If I'd stayed, he would have taken me. Even while I was running, I could hear him in my head. Whispering in his sick language of compulsions. Telling me to turn around and run into his waiting arms. To feel the dark embrace of his many, convulsing limbs.

I resisted. Somehow. I could feel the tendrils of his influence reaching into my mind, trying to take hold of my regret and self-blame, hoping to give them a tug and watch as the whole fabric of my mind became unwoven. But I didn't let him. I ran. And I'm not ashamed to say that. After all, I fear him. And why not? Fear is good. Fear is survival.

When I got back, I made Thage go and get something to eat while I returned to Ava's bedside. I've noticed she has a tendency to forget to eat. Who knows, maybe if I bug her enough about it, she'll start eating regularly just to shut me up.

Slender Man's outside. I can see him out the window. He's far away, at the other end of the long street where Thage's new house is. But he's still there. Just standing there. And whispering. Whispering in my head. But I'm safe again. I'm back in my Fortress of Solitude. I'm not running now. He can't get inside my head while I'm here with Ava and Thage. He can fuck off.

Reach out.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Am Raymond Shaughnessy


My name is Raymond Shaughnessy. I was born on the 20th January 1994 in St. Joseph's Hospital in Clonmel, Ireland. I grew up in a town about the same distance from Clonmel as Kilsheelan, but in the other direction. It's called Cahir. And I can say it all I like because there's no curse on the name.

(By the way, my tagline was the hint I left as to the location of the quarry, it's an anagram of "The quarry lies in Cahir, Ireland.")

I lived the first year of my life with my parents, John and Catherine Shaughnessy, in an apartment over the shop of an undertaker, a family friend called Wally Costigan.

When my sister, Emma, was born, we moved to a nearby housing estate called Sommerville. In Sommerville, I made some friends, but I also made some enemies. From as young as two, I was bullied on a daily basis by another kid who lived there called Tony Allen. I was bullied a lot in school too, mainly because I was one of the few kids in the school who gave more of a shit about actually learning things than kicking a ball in between two school jumpers. Luckily, Tony moved away when I was about ten, and, even more luckily, I moved away from Sommerville when I was eleven, to a nice terraced house just down the road from my school. Speaking of which, the bullying situation came to an abrupt end about half-way through 6th Class, when I flipped out and knocked out one of the bullies, a kid called Eoin Murphy.

I went on from my bully-ridden primary education to a much nicer secondary education in the local secondary school, Coláiste Dún Iascaigh. It was in CDI that I first started considering writing as a serious profession and first started learning Spanish (my grammar is excellent, my vocabulary is awful). Between the ages of 14 and 16, I made a lot of friends and lost a lot too. In the end, I ended up with four true friends;

Orla McCarthy, my classmate and emotional sister.
Matthew Hewitt, her cousin and my emotional brother.
Damien Keating, my verbal sparring partner.
Ariana Fenty, my girlfriend.

I met Ariana on March 13th, 2009 at a disco in the little village of Monroe. At the time I was with my then-girlfriend Saoirse O'Dwyer, but she was good friends with Ariana and we'd only been going out a week or so, so she dumped me so Ariana could have me. Well, unfortunately for Ariana, I'm a socially awkward dork, so it took my until September 27th of that year to get up the courage to ask her out (I was in the dark about Saoirse's reasons for dumping me and didn't realise I actually had a chance with her).

Ariana and I fell in love fast and hard, even with the cost of public transport meaning that we only got to see each other, at most, two days a week (she lived in Kilsheelan, though she was originally from Waterford). I really did love her, even though there are the cynics who say teenage love is an illusion. Our relationship was, well, idyllic, really. One of the nicest of the memories I've reclaimed is a memory of us at a 30 Seconds to Mars concert in Dublin on the 26th of February. We were standing, even though we were in the seated area of the O2, and I had my armies around her and she was holding my forearms and she was wearing this corset-esque vest top that I really liked and we were singing along to This Is War and it was just a nice moment. Unfortunately, it didn't last.

On May 17th, 2010, Ariana had the first of her nightmares.

I'm not going to go into detail on what happened in Ariana's nightmares, but, suffice to say, she relived her worst memories and was taunted by her regrets. The nightmares got progressively worse as the months passed, Ariana got very sick due to exhaustion, she became paranoid and depressed and suicidal. I cared for her as best I could while only seeing her one or two days a week but I always felt like she was holding something back. I eventually got her to tell me what it was, in late August.

The Slender Man. Or "The Suit", as she called him. She said that he had appeared first in her nightmares but then she began seeing him in real life. I wanted to have her committed but she had a phobia of hospitals and she especially feared mental health clinics, as a result of spending some time in one and being forced to undergo electroconvulsive therapy (which is legally just dandy, thanks to Section 59b of the Mental Health Act). I decided to wait and see if I could help her alone. I couldn't.

On October 29th, Ariana hung herself.

I collapsed into a spiral of depression and self-loathing. I blamed myself for not getting her the help she needed. Looking back now, I wonder if there was ever any help for her, considering that her nightmares were caused by Slender Man.

Slender Man. He was on the sidelines, waiting for me. Lurking on the fringes of the spiral of hatred to which I'd consigned myself. I was one of a number that he took to the quarry, some of whom became "Revenants" and some of whom became "Conduits" (who were promptly killed). Slate, Eulogy, Aria, Gethsemane? Try Robert Ward, Father Matthew Knight, Jennifer Collins and Even Deveraux. He got into our heads, the way he gets into everyone's heads; one way or another. He didn't come up with new lives for us, he just remade our old ones. Take me, for example. He took all the self-loathing and self-blaming and he took the love and the memories, everything that was already there, even the names, and remade them. He wove together a new life; the life of Reach.

My true purpose in the blogosphere was simple. Introduce a new variable. The most contagious entity in existence is an idea and I was Patient Zero. The idea? Revenants and Conduits. Superpowers. Haven't you guys ever noticed that they only started appearing after I showed up? I introduced this foreign idea to the blogosphere and it spread like a virus. Some managed to resist the infection. But it managed to take hold nonetheless.

How many of us got distracted fighting Revenants, combating this "new threat" (this new threat that had somehow been around for over 40 years without anyone noticing)? Too many, that's how many.

Oh, but it doesn't end there. I thought all that time I was "on the run", that I was resisting his attempts to compel me to serve him. How wrong I was. That's simply what he compelled me to think, while all the while I was following his orders and then being told to forget them (unfortunately, Slender Man's grasp of human psychology clearly doesn't cover the theory that information is never forgotten, simply stored in difficult-to-access parts of the brain).

When Thage re-entered the game, he gave me the memories necessary to pose as the one who made her deal and ingratiate myself with her. He used me to lure Ava to Ireland, then to the dark place and the quarry. The only reason that his attempts to kill her failed is because it was at that point that I actually started resisting his compulsions.

Because I was falling in love with Ava and that love was healing the hurt that gave him his power over me. So, the "Revenant on the run" persona he had constructed as a cover for my use as a tool of his will became my actual persona, because he had been making me forget about serving him. His own plan turned against him.

He took me back again at the quarry and tried to recondition me but failed. So, instead, he used my delusion against me by making me think I was suddenly human again and then handed me off to Redlight, who put me in his little game with my mother, the unsuccessful writer. Redlight knew. Just look at what he said in "Rules, Robert". He didn't say "father and daughter". He said "parent and child". You all assumed because of the false life I'd told you about that I was the parent and Catherine Mam was the child, but it was the other way around.

Unfortunately for Redlight, Robert used the Path of Black Leaves to grab me. "How could Robert use the Path of Black Leaves if there's no such thing as Revenants?", you may ask. Well, in fairness, before I came along, Revenants were never necessary for freaky teleportation to happen. My guess is that Robert used the same way of getting around that Slender Man himself does because he thought he could because he thought he had a Revenant. Again, Slender Man's delusion turning against him when one of his greatest enemies believes in the delusion enough to exploit reality (I think this is also how the "Conduit" Tom gets around; this is an avenue of research that needs to be followed).

And, well, everything that happened after that needs no explaining because nothing after that requires the existence of the Revenants. The only point in the story after my return from Redlight's trap that involves Revenants is when we rescued Robert from Fairfax and it's not like they even displayed their "superpowers"; we just gunned them down.

That's my story. That's the truth. I'm sorry if it disappoints you. I know that, compared to the Reach that you knew, my battles don't seem nearly as mighty and inspiring, but which is better, an inspiring lie or an uninspiring truth? To be honest, I don't know which is better, but I do know that all that I have told you (except for the bits where I theorise, obviously) is the truth. I also know that some of you aren't going to accept this, that you're going to say that what I told you before is the truth and what I'm telling you now is the delusion and you are perfectly entitled to believe that but if you believe that, you are believing a lie. I know the truth now, I know who I am. I have told you the truth, I have told you who I am. If you don't believe me, I'm not going to try and justify myself to you, because you're probably not gonna change your mind anyway.

Some of you, I know, are wondering whether the man you've gotten to know over the past few months was really me. The answer is, well, sort of, yes. Reach and I have the same personality, regretful, self-blaming, angry. We just have different regrets and blame ourselves and get angry for different things. I dunno whether or not that's good enough for you and perhaps some of the friends I've made won't be able to think of me as a friend anymore. Maybe when Ava wakes up, she'll be in love with Reach but not me. I don't know. I can't see the future. But I still care about you all and I still love Ava, so I'm hoping that our relationships don't change.

Also, the question of my name still stands. Well, honestly, I like Ray, but I'm not gonna make you all stop calling me Reach if you want to. Hell, plenty of people on blogosphere don't post using their actual names even if their names are known. Reach isn't my name but that doesn't mean it can't be my handle. And, if nothing else, it gives me a really great sign-off.

Reach out.

Another Day, Another Lie

It was all a lie. It is all a lie.

He's not a physical monster, oh no, that's too simple. He's much more subtle. Is he even real? Of course he is, otherwise what I'm thinking wouldn't make sense. And here was me thinking I'd gotten away with my mind relatively intact.


Like all great tricks, it is composed of three parts; the pledge, the turn and the prestige!

The Pledge; the Slender Man presents, for your consideration, a perfectly ordinary human being! Feel free to inspect our lovely volunteer, ladies and gentlemen, I can assure you, he is quite human!

The Turn; the Slender Man, will perform an amazing transformative trick, using techniques familiar to certain citizens of the Orient and various holy men of the Himalayas. Indeed, many of you may be familiar with this technique, but for those of you who are not, do not be alarmed. What you're about to see is considered safe.


Ladies and gentlemen, the Slender Man has transformed this ordinary human into a Revenant! *pause for applause*

But it's not over yet, ladies and gentlemen!

The Prestige; the Slender Man turns his erstwhile servant back into a human! Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen, oh yes, he is that good! Take a bow, Slender Man, take a bow!

(Meanwhile, backstage, the true secret is revealed. There are no Revenants and there never were. Slender Man is a monster of the mind, not of the flesh. We were never transformed. He just made everyone think we were. I can see the scars now. I can see them all over. There was no superhumanity, no transformation. Another day, another lie, another day, another lie, another day, another goddamn motherfucking lielielielielielielielielielielielielielielielielielielelielielielielie

He got inside our heads he got inside all our heads and he told our heads to tell each other's heads that we were magic and powerful and gods and heroes and fuck fuck fuck there are no Revenants there are no Conduits it was all a lielielielielielielielielielielielielielielielielielielelielielielielie just another way to distract us to keep us in line we spend so much time fighting shadows we don't spend any time fighting the shadow of our entire reality that lies in our own hearts and the heart of every man and woman and child.

Pawns, pawns, we are all pawns, pawns, we are all pawns, pawns, we are all pawns, pawns, we are all pawns, pawns, we are all pawns, pawns, we are all pawns.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Confessions of a London Librarian/A Dialogue Between Self and Same

Sorry for the delay in getting these uploaded but things have been hectic here these past few days. Preparations and plans and plots and pah, I'm exhausted just thinking about it all. Anyway, never mind me, here are the excerpts that Ava had marked. I won't presume to pass comment, I'll just let you reach your own conclusions;

"I didn’t even like Fox. Urgh. Of all the guys. At least I liked Lionel."

"Hound’s kid. Like fucking hell I was going to have the Fox hound’s kid."

"He was odd about it though, wanted to get a job to support ‘us.’ I hate that phrase, ‘us,’ sometimes. It makes it feel like someone's trying to speak for me. I hate that. Patronising and controlling."

"I remember the way his hair fell in his eyes when I told him I’d aborted the thing. Thing, it was going to be a kid. I wanted to be a Mother. I owed it to the kid though. A Mother who was part of a gang wouldn’t have been productive to it’s life. Would’ve been hooked on something before it’s fourth birthday if I kept it around the people I ran with."

"16 weeks was the deadline for deciding whether or not I could do it. I wanted to be a Mother so badly. Even at 15. I still do, not that it’s feasible now. Cynthia’s the closest thing I have to something to care about in that sense now. Big Sister capacity…"

Towards the end of the writings (I'm guessing it's about when Ava posted her tweet about someone else writing with her hand), there is a dialogue between Ava and Ardelia, which seems to end with Ava falling, as there is a line across the wall from the end of the last letter to near where Ava fell. I've done my best to mark in who was talking;

Ava: Oh god what am I doing? He’s sixty. He’s got a daughter. What the hell was I thinking? What if I meet someone else? What then? I love him now, but I’m 18. I’ve never met a monogamous 18-year-old before. It’d kill him. It’d hurt me. What would happen? I’d feel shackled by pity or duty. I’d start to resent him.

Ardelia: I already resent him.

Ava: No I don’t, what the hell.

Ardelia: I want to kill him, rip out his heart and carve my hate into his chest.

Ava: NO.

Ardelia: Why not? If you didn’t love him you’d consider him a serial killing monster. They deserve to die.

Ava: The body is a temple. I can’t kill someone again.

Ardelia: Cathedral of bone, now?

Ava: Shut up you aren’t me, I am me.

Ardelia: No, I am you also but pronouns are messy things and so are your morals.

Well, apart from that, I have nothing in particular to report at the moment. Thage and I will keep you updated as necessary.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Alekhine's Gun, Part 4

Sorry about the no-show on those excerpts from Ava's wall, but things have been a little hectic here and I haven't had time to prepare them properly. Take, for example, what happened when I took a short break from watching over Ava to get a bite to eat;

Me: -I am on my way to the kitchen to get something to eat-

Thage: -she waves me into a study of some sort-

Me: -I tiredly shamble in- What's up?

Thage: Well, once I finish updating these plans, I'll be prepared for you-know-what. There's a lot of things I'm not going to be outright stating for a while, because I need time to set this up in such a way that it'll blindside Them.

Me: I'm still not 100% sure about this. Maybe the wood will stop him just waltzing in, but how long before Eulogy sends someone in to get us? Concrete couldn't stop a determined Revenant, let alone wood.

Thage: Actually, that's where you come in if you feel like playing bait, once Ava's awake. But we'll be discussing that off-the-record.

Me: I don't mind playing bait but I'm not putting Ava right back in the crossfire after she wakes up. Besideswhich, she hasn't shown any signs of waking up. What if she's in a coma?

Thage: She'll come with me, if that's the case.

Me: And what if they don't take the bait?

Thage: I've accounted for that in several scenarios.

Me: I'll take your word for it, I don't want the tiny details to be included if I post this.

Thage: -she slides a small black notebook over to me- Behold the fruits of a childhood spent playing chess and Risk. And reading lots of texts by historic strategists.

Me: -I flip though a few pages- Impressive. I dare say even Eulogy would be jealous.

Thage: Hence why I'm not going to show any activity on Blogger until Friday. There's setting up to be done.

Me: Probably for the best. If Ava doesn't wake up, is there someone else who could take her and split it three ways?

Thage: -she rubs her chin and starts sketching in one of her journals- No, but you could ask around. As it stands, though, if I can get Ava to the car we've got an eighty-nine percent chance of a clean getaway. Seventy-two on foot though I'll need more frequent breaks. I'm not exactly built to carry someone her size for too long.

Me: Well, who of the Runners is near us? Who could I trust to potentially take Ava for a week or two?

Thage: Celeste's in the same state but she has her own problems going on. Any news on that mercenary and her mother?

Me: Mercenary and her mother?

Thage: Never mind, then, that answers that. -she rubs her chin- I was simply going to drive to the new house I told you about and say she's asleep if anyone presses matters.

Me: Not to sound too heartless or anything, but I wanted to split it three ways so that if they decide to chase you instead of me, we only lose you and not Ava too.

Thage: If you want to do it that way then the burden is on you to find someone to take her.

Me: Fair enough. -awkward silence- Sorry if I offended you. I'm just trying to be pragmatic.

Thage: So am I, which is the entire purpose behind how I'm approaching matters. -she shows me a rough map showing plans for escaping the city- Now imagine if I were able to get to the player's seat and move the pieces. This is a game where we need to think twenty steps ahead of the enemy, I'm bordering on forty.

Me: -I examine the map and try to find a flaw, but fail- Okay, I trust you. In the worst case scenario, where they send a team after each party, how long will it take us to rendezvouz?

Thage: Three weeks, four if they're persistent. If it takes longer than that, emails sent from a web cafe through multiple proxy servers--use a proxy server, log into another, and another, to kill any potential paper trail--will help you find us.

Me: That puts a bit of a dent in my plans but I can work with those figures.

Thage: Are you familiar with the Romance of the Three Kingdoms?

Me: I've heard of it. Japanese literature, right?

Thage: Chinese. China had the Three Kingdoms, Japan had the Sengoku era. Regardless, if you're passingly familiar with it, you know how Zhuge Liang propped Liu Bei up as a beacon of virtue with one hand, and trailed his other hand through the dirt to get what Shu needed done done, yes?

Me: I have no idea what you just said.

Thage: Zhuge Liang was Shu's strategist, a famous one at that for his ability to plan for almost every situation--or his ability to make his enemies belive so. Liu Bei was the first ruler of Shu, a man who believed in justice and virtue. So Zhuge Liang would intentionally keep Liu Bei in the dark about some of the things he did, things that were disreputable and underhanded, instead taking the heat for them while Liu Bei remained untarnished in the eyes of his people. He intentionally acted cold and callous to sell this act, depending on who you ask.

Me: Is this going back to your "doing dirty work for the champion" thing from yesterday?

Thage: -she nods-

Me: Any ideas on who our champion is? -I snort- Is there anyone who hasn't already been tarnished?

Thage: Right now, no, but that's part of why I'll be avoiding from making any posts--looking for someone to put the crown on, so to speak.

Me: Once you find the White King, who'll be his Queen?

Thage: Depends.

Me: On?

Thage: Who the King turns out to be and who the eligible Queens are

Me: Honestly, getting answers out of you is like getting blood out of a turnip sometimes.

Thage: Today, it has to be hard to do that for a reason

Me: Point taken. -another awkward silence- Thage, what if Ava's condition worsens? She's still a suspect in the destruction of her street. If we take her to a hospital, she could end up getting arrested. Especially since the UK is the US's bitch these days. Extradition would take all of ten minutes.

Thage: -she flips through a third journal and points to a hastily-sketched US map- Unless they've been shut down in the last year, there's a map  of every under-the-table hospital in the nation.

Me: -I scan the map- How reliable are these places?

Thage: Hit or miss, but they don't ask questions and they don't squeal.

Me: I don't like the idea of putting Ava in the care of less-than-scrupulous individuals. -I sigh- But I may not have a choice. I'm trusting you to take care of her.

Thage: I'll work on potential alternatives tonight.

Me: Thank you. -yet another awkward silence- I want to go back to Ireland when this is done. I have some unfinished business to settle. I'll probably bring Ava back to Egypt then. She seemed to be getting somewhere before she got sidetracked by me.

Thage: Hm.

Me: Tell me, did any of your studies turn up signs of Slender Man in pre-Egyptian times, or am I pushing it?

Thage: Nothing solid, but that's mainly due to oral tradition.

Me: Understandable.

Thage: There was one in Norway that might have been him, or just another unfounded superstition.

Me: Or a perfectly well-founded superstition. Mustn't forget those, few though they may be.

Thage: True. Though I think I'll take my superstitions from a culture that didn't regularly have sex with cattle. -she smirks-

Me: Might be a good call. Though, personally, I prefer not to judge based on sexual deviancies. Especially since I was born in 1953 and my girlfriend was born in 1993.

Thage: That's not quite the same as intruding upon a cow's business.

Me: Hey, for all you know, the cow could have made the first move.

Thage: -she gives me a questioning look-

Me: There have been stranger things.

Thage: "I like long walks under the moooooooooon and smelly blonde men in chainmail?"

Me: You say that like they had chainmail in Babylonian-era Norway.

Thage: -she grins- Well, okay, smelly blonde men in animal hides.

Me: Smelly with hide? Sounds like a dream date for the average bullock.

Thage: -she wrinkles her nose- I don't want to check my browser history now, thanks.

Me: Oh, hardy har har. For your information, I am a gentleman and would never watch porn while in a relationship.

Thage: ...you did not at any point discount the possibility that you would otherwise watch bestiality porn.

Me: ...I probably should have done that first, right?

Thage: It would avoid raising new and unsettling questions about why you eye those hamburgers so longingly.

Me: You should have been an Irishwoman, Thage, you have their sense of humour.

Thage: Most of me's Irish anyway.

Me: Oh?

Thage: The rest is Scottish and general Mediterranean.

Me: "General Mediterranean" is a rather vague term coming from such a learned historian.

Thage: That's because I have something from every country surrounding it.

Me: I applaud the extent of your forays into your own ancestry.

Thage: -she laughs- That was actually my dad's hobby. I should look into the specifics, though.

Me: It could serve as an amusing distraction from learning about humanity's long, sad history with "The Wicked Gentleman".

Thage: Well, regardless, I've planning to do.

Me: Shall I leave you to it?

Thage: For now.

Me: Okay, I'm gonna grab some food and head back up to Ava. Can I get you anything before I go?

Thage: Nope, have a nice night.

Me: -I grab a microwaveable burger from the fridge, heat it up and return to my silent vigil by Ava's side-

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Alekhine's Gun, Part 3/The Pressure Under Which Wooden Doors and Human Minds Splinter

This is probably my longest post yet. It's also a bit difficult to type right now, for a variety of reasons that will be explained further on.

Thage: -she walks in from the kitchen, a hot bowl of crab meat covered in cocktail sauce in one hand and a fork in the other- ... Ava's been quiet all day.

Me: -I stare blankly at the floor-

Thage: -she pokes me with the non-business end of the fork- Talk to me.

Me: Wuh? What?

Thage: I said Ava's been quiet all day. As in, no screams from waking up from a nightmare.

Me: If her last post was anything to go by, I don't think she's sleeping. She's too busy fighting it.

Thage: Fill me in. I haven't had a chance to catch up on all the blogs lately.

Me: Apparently Red turned a part of her own psyche against her and she wants to gut me with mirror shards. Oh yeah, she broke your mirror. And carved her name in your wall. And wrote her autobiography on every available surface.

Thage: Would you believe I've seen stranger things?

Me: Considering I was probably responsible for several of them, yes.

Thage: I'll just make you re-plaster and -paint the walls later, and I've got a few hand mirrors in my room I can use 'til I get a new one.

Me: Did I ever tell you that you're a very forgiving person?

Thage: I blame my upbringing.

Me: Oh?

Thage: -she takes a seat and starts stirring the bowl of food- Well, unless it involves otherworldly abominations in business suits, my parents always told me it was okay to tell them to piss off.

Me: How did that make you forgiving?

Thage: Family secret.

Me: And here I thought I was going to get to learn about more about the past of the mysterious Spectator.

Thage: Most of it's pretty average, so there's not much to tell you can't garner from watching The Wonder Years or Saved By The Bell.

Me: I'll take your word for it.

Thage: Ever watch Raiders of the Lost Ark?

Me: At the risk of being attacked like I was when Ava asked me the same thing; no.

Thage: Well then, you're in for a treat. -she pops the DVD into the the player, then throws herself back on the couch- Back on-topic. So this means you'll be here a while longer?"

Me: It looks like it. Sorry to impose but short of breaking down your door, there's not much I can do and I'm pretty sure that wouldn't really help Ava.

Thage: Noted.

Me: -I break the awkward silence by commenting on the film- They stole this opening sequence from Donald Duck.

Thage: Oh yeah?

Me: Well, Scrooge McDuck, if you want to be specific. This is exactly like two of my favourite childhood comics. I had the strangest collection of literature when I was younger. It was really just whatever was in the attic.

Thage: Whatever was on clearance, here. Mostly the classics.

Me: I read 1984 alongside Scrooge McDuck. I had an odd upbringing.

Thage: I would watch the History channel one day and Nickelodeon the next.

Me: Isn't Nickelodeon that thing with the anthropomorphic sponge? I'm the oddest combination of really clued-in and totally clueless when it comes to the past  forty years of media.

Thage: It could be worse. You could be trying to blog using a printing press and word of mouth.

Me: Or I could be Jack Tyler. -another awkward silence- I'm tired, Thage. Physically, mentally and emotionally.

Thage: -she looks up from her dinner- Tired as in "sleep for a week" tired, or "sleep and not wake up" tired?

Me: Tired as in exhausted but can't sleep.

Thage: Ah.

Me: I've finally got my humanity back but every day there's another stress and strain, more pressure and worries. I haven't had the time to enjoy being mortal again.

Thage: Welcome to being mortal.

Me: I thought regaining my humanity would make me happier but the world's only gotten more painful.

Thage: -she shrugs and takes another bite- Why do you think people revere heroes so much?

Me: Do people admire heroes? Or just their idealistic image of them?

Thage: Bit of both. But the root reason is the same--they're standing against all the efforts the world makes to break them. We all give in to vices and we all let the world put us on its track at some point or another. Heroes are revered because they make the world accomodate them while working to better it.

Me: I'm no hero then, 'cause the world has my rightly caught by the arse at the moment.

Thage: In all honesty, I don't think there are any heroes in the real world, that's why we're so drawn to them in movies, books, and games. So people like you and me will have to do the best we can, find someone the people can rally behind, and do all the dirty work so this person can remain untarnished while we catch all the heat for it.

Me: Ah, but now our master plan will be revealed because this conversation is after getting profound, which means I'm obligated to post it on the blog.

Thage: All the better if they know the plan because they'll know who to turn on if it doesn't work.

Me: If you say so. -yet another awkward silence- I'm afraid that I've ruined Ava's life like I ruined yours.

Thage: Reach, destroyer of worlds, sorrow-harvester, aficionado of good cooking? -she smirks-

Me: -I can't even pretend to smile- Redlight never wanted to assimilate her. He wanted to use her to get to me. He planted a seed inside her mind and it grew into a vine that wrapped itself around her brain and now it's telling her to kill me.

Thage: -she sits back, twirling the fork- I could strap her down to the bed until such a time passes that that's not a risk anymore but atrophy would be a serious issue.

Me: I don't care about being killed, I care that someone I love has had their mind tampered with because they were close to me. I'm a hazard to anyone I care about.

Thage: Well, if you're going to give in to paranoia, why don't you go lift a sniper rifle from somewhere and take Redlight out from three city blocks away?

Me: If that's a joke, I don't get it.

Thage: I'm serious. Redlight's only so powerful. Painting the sidewalk with his brains sounds like a good way to solve this conundrum.

Me: Well, for one thing, I don't know where Redlight is, and for another, three city blocks is an unnecessarily difficult shot. Also, killing Redlight won't kill what he planted in Ava's mind.

Thage: It might, it might not.

Me: I'm reasonably sure it won't. Redlight's too good a planner to let his death get in the way of his schemes. That's probably why he's grooming Cynthia.

Thage: -she tosses me a can of Sprite and opens one for herself-

Me: -I open the can and start drinking- I hope you have no plans for the future 'cause it looks like Ava and I will be here a while. Or at least no plans that we conflict with, anyway.

Thage: Nothing of the sort, really. I was thinking about taking a week and not engulfing myself in the King's lore though.

Me: Mind if you join you? I could do with a break from all of this.

Thage: Feel free.

Me: Sounds wonderful.

I'm going to type the next part prosaically because describing it as a conversation would just be weird.

Right after I said, "Sounds wonderful", there was a loud thump from upstairs. From Ava's room.

I stared at the ceiling for a couple of seconds, before bolting out of my seat and up the stairs. I started hammering on Ava's door.

"Ava! Are you okay in there?"

There was no response but suddenly Thage was beside me with a survival knife. I hammered on the door again.

"Ava!? Can you hear me!?"

At that point, I knew I had to do the one thing I'd been dreading doing since Ava locked herself behind the door. I turned to Thage.

"Sorry about this."

I pulled back my fist and punched a hole right through the door. Thank god for America's flimsy construction standards. Thage muttered something about putting it on my tab but I wasn't really listening. Through the hole, I could barely see the room inside. Ava had left the light off but the room was dimly lit by the humming glow of her laptop monitor. I could see her on the floor, vaguely.

And I could see him outside the window. Not Redlight.

Slender Man.

I have never been so afraid in my life. You'd think that being under him for all those decades, I'd have gotten used to him, desensitised. Maybe I had when I was a Revenant, but at that moment, as I looked through the hole in the door, I was more human than ever.

He was just standing there, looking at her with his blank, eyeless gaze, tentacles writhing, hundreds, thousands, millions, BILLIONS, convulsing repulsively. They started to slither over the window, melting into each other like wax, until the whole window was blacked out.

And then, his face melted through and stared right at me. I could hear him whisper in my mind and this time it wasn't just remembering. He was in my head again. He wanted me to come to him. He wanted me to walk into his waiting embrace. He wanted me to be at peace for those last few seconds before he ripped my body apart, then he'd come in for Thage and Ava. He wanted to release me from the burden of being the keystone holding the whole fortress together. He wanted...

...to kill me. I rejected his silent whispers. I stared right back and rejected him. He seeped away slowly. He still hasn't returned. Yet.

Once he was gone, I started ripping that door apart with my bare hands. The hole got bigger and bigger until I could fit my upper torso through. I slammed the lightswitch and recoiled a bit as the light burned my eyes. It was only when I felt the shattered wood poking into my left shoulder blade that I realised my hands were full of splinters and bleeding. I leaned through again and saw Ava on the floor, a small pool of blood seeping from the back of her head.

"Shit. Ava!"

I looked down at the dresser blocking the door. Self-preservation took over for a brief second and told me not to do what I was thinking of doing, but I told self-preservation to go fuck itself and grabbed hold of Thage's dresser, wincing as the splinters dug in deeper.

Ava had wedged it right under the doorhandle, really tightly. I couldn't even imagine her slender frame managing to fit something so big into a gap that tight. I tried shifting it from side to side to get it loose, but it didn't budge. Instead, I leaned forward further, grasped the sides firmly and lifted it off the floor, taking the handle with it. I swung it back once and tossed it to one side, where it landed with a crash but thankfully didn't break.

I somehow resisted the urge to simply walk through the door and opened it instead. I rushed over to where Ava was lying and was about to lift her up but stopped myself. I was an assassin, not a paramedic. I didn't know shit about what to do with an injured person. I generally didn't leave people alive.

"Thage! Help! I don't know what to do!"

She was by my side seconds later with a first aid kit and a towel. She held the towel to Ava's head until the blood stopped and then cleaned out the wound and applied ointment and gauze and all that shit. I just stood there, watching. I absorbed every movement. I burned what she did into my memory. I didn't want to be useless if anything like that happened again.

I helped her move Ava up to the bed and shifted her into what I was told was the best position for someone after suffering a head injury. I just took Thage's word for it. Then, we both looked up and Thage took the words right out of my mouth.

"Great Scott!"

Well, actually, I was about to say "Holy fuck." but it all comes to the same really. I don't think I've ever heard her curse before.

At this point in the story, I'm gonna switch to present tense. I'm sitting on a chair beside Ava's bed and I'm not moving any time soon. Thage tried to convince me to come down for some food but I just convinced her to bring it up to me.

The walls, ceiling and much of the furniture are covered in writing. Really covered. It's like Ava took a marker and just wrote out a stream of consciousness across every available surface. I guess she figured if she kept writing her thoughts, she'd be able to remind herself who she was. I wouldn't be surprised if she collapsed from exhaustion after staying up all night just writing.

Some of this stuff is very personal. Some of it is stuff even I didn't know. But in the middle of some of the ramblings, there are streams of "TELLTHEMTELLTHEMTELLTHEM". I think she was planning on tell you guys about some of these. I'll post those excerpts tomorrow.

He's back. I can feel him staring at the back of my neck, as if trying to decide which vertebrae to snap. He's whispering again. He wants me to go outside to him. He wants me to go out and play.

He can go fuck himself.

Thage wants me to let her pluck the splinters out of my hands, so I'd better go. Admittedly, I am getting a lot of blood on my iPod.

Reach out.

A Million Miles

A million miles across the hall,
Behind a wall of wood refined,
My love is trapped in another world
And I fear that she may lose her mind,

Or worse still, if it may be,
That from her mind she won't be free,
That it will eat her up inside
And all we built will be destroyed.

A million years from now 'til then,
I cannot see beyond this hour,
She's slipping further every second
But there is nothing in my power

That I can do to help her win.
I'm waiting for the end to begin.
On my shoulders rests the blame,
As before, it's all the same.

A million lives were ruined by me,
The Broken Bird, my little girl,
Every life I touch is cursed,
I kill their hope and burn their world.

A million miles across the hall,
Ava's set to lose it all.
Once again, I have become
The one who murders everyone.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Alekhine's Gun, Part 2

This conversation took place on Sunday night but my iPod was acting up so I had trouble posting it. For your viewing pleasure:

Me: -I enter the living room- I just read your post. Eulogy was here?

Thage: -she looks up from her book- Yeah, about a day before they captured Jeff and Cheska.

Me: I gathered as much, yeah. I'm sorry, Thage.

Thage: What most of them aren't getting is that by letting them have Jeff, my hands are untied for moving other pieces into position.

Me: It's easy to criticise from where we're standing, Thage. Most of the people involved in this are still where you were a little over a decade ago and where I was a little over four. They're not used to the idea of necessary evil yet.

Thage: I'm not criticizing, Reach. -she searches for the right word- I'm just... not savoring being the one who has to get them to realize the object of the game isn't to defeat the king, but to remove all his pieces from the board and leave him alone again.

Me: I understand what you mean. It's hard to be the one to tell them that the game isn't going to end.

Thage: That's the thing. The best we can do is keep it so it's only the king. Right now, it seems his pawns and Knights are more a present threat than he is. The Bishop, though. That should be our main target. Redlight, or Redlights.

Me: To be honest, I'm still not sure whether Robert was right or not. Ava only interacted with one and it was the same one she had the date with and the same one that was at the asylum.

Thage: Regardless, he's the one we need to outmaneuver.

Me: Certainly.

Thage: The Revenants are a threat, but they seem more straightforward and secondary.

Me: Except for those working with Redlight, obviously.

Thage: Even so, they're just pieces being moved on the board.

Me: I'm not sure the chess metaphors will work on a three-sided board.

Thage:Three players just means you play from the corners rather than the sides. Chinese checkers, if you will.

Me: Not familiar with the game myself, but I'll take your word for it.

Thage: -she makes a rough sketch of a Chinese checkers board-

Me: Ah, I see. Makes sense.

Thage: Back to Eulogy, though.

Me: I was just about to say. Did he want anything else other than Jeff?

Thage: Not so far, Jeff alone was a high-profile target.

Me: I can imagine. An uncontrollable Revenant.

Thage: Like I said, I should be rather unfettered in my dealings with everyone else for at least a month with that information.

Me: How unfettered?

Thage: More than I was two weeks ago, less than I'd need to be to get into the player's seat.

Me: What would you need to do that? Or who, as the case may be.

Thage: -she shrugs- I'm not entirely sure, but if I get into the player's seat it would mean the deal's off.

Me: True, true. Out of curiousity, were you able to glean anything from Eulogy?

Thage: -she grins and hands over a notebook- Names of every proxy in the United States government, as well as detailed information on the ones working in state governments on the East Coast. Most of it's information I'd gleaned from others, simply confirmed by him. He doesn't seem very concerned that I know this.

Me: -I frown- This is alot of people. Why so much effort?

Thage: Well, think about the sort of benefits having Knights in the country's power structure would have, especially when it comes to silencing media, politicians, and the law, either through gag orders or intimidation. Only a few are likely to be Revenants. A chunk of them are almost defninitely Renfields or standard proxies.

Me: In that case, I think we can safely assume he hasn't increased the Revenant ranks. That's in line with everything I know about Eulogy. If anything else was happening, I'd be a lot more worried.

Thage: -she nods- Regardless, they're infiltrating governments and legal systems, which makes me think they're trying to keep a media blackout on our friend's activities.

Me: I've always wondered why he didn't want his existence to be widely known.

Thage: You get used to something, and it loses the fear of the unknown. If people got used to him, they wouldn't fear him. He'd be another inconvenience of life

Me: I think if he ripped people apart with his tentacles while bullets and missiles bounced off him like ping pong balls, he could bring the fear back.

Thage: -she nods- But, if people got used to him, government resources could be invested in finding a way to kill him. If he was widespread knowledge, the government couldn't justify not doing anything about him.

Me: They'd just be wasting their money, though. I honestly don't think he can be destroyed. The Heel would have been a temporary measure at best and that was the most powerful weapon we had. If the governments of the world spent billions trying to destroy him and failed, he'd be more feared than ever. It just...doesn't make sense.

Thage: -she frowns and turns a page- But on the flip side, if they keep knowledge of him secret, people remain as they are when he enters their lives--scared, scattered, no plan of action. At least if he were public people would have a support net of some sort, no matter how poorly-funded.

Me: But he's unstoppable! Unless his plans don't have anything to do with being feared.

Thage: Now you're on the right train of thought. Imagine the fear as... his way of having fun. It makes his job less droll, but it's not by any means a requirement for success.

Me: Then what is success to him?

Thage: -she shrugs- You're the one that had direct contact with him.

Me: He compelled me to do things but he never told me why. -a brief silence- I've felt his mind. It's...alien.

Thage: Exactly. For all we know, M might be right--he might not be terribly intelligent. It's the proxies that make up his varying intellect that we see.

Me: He's definitely intelligent. It's just not an intelligence we can understand.

Thage: -she nods again- Now, imagine he were without his proxies. We may well see him revert to the creature that was bound by M's rules because he has no middle man to comprehend us and our reality with.

Me: I don't think he was ever bound by M's rules. I think of them as useful guidelines. After all, if you and Jean have thought us nothing, it's that Slender Man was around long before M. You do raise an interesting question though. If he needs proxies to interact with our reality...who or what was the first proxy, and how was it made?

Thage: I wouldn't say he needs them to interact with our reality. To understand it.

Me: The question still stands.

Thage: -she shrugs- Nothing I've found broaches the subject.

Me: Even with our combined knowledge, there are so many holes...

Thage: It could be worse.

Me: True. We could be Jack Tyler.

Thage: -she chuckles- Or we could be mistakenly attributing him the mantle of one of our gods.

Me: Or we could be wrong and the wackos could be right. -I shudder- I don't really want to think about that idea.

Thage: -she shakes her head and turns a page- If four out of five psychopaths agree on something, it's the duty of the fifth to disagree.

Me: Why do I have a feeling that was said by the fifth psychopath?

Thage: It's actually a quote from World War Z, by a character who was an Israeli intelligence analyst. "If nine out of ten of us agreed on something, it was the duty of the tenth to disagree and dig deeper, to find out the truth.'

Me: World War Z?

Thage: It's a bit pulpier than my usual fare, but it's well-written and funny in spots nonetheless.

Me: What's it about?

Thage: A zombie apocalypse and how various people from a blind Japanese gardener to the former Vice President handled things.

Me: Sounds interesting. How realistically is it played?

Thage: Quite, though some artistic liscence is taken here and there.

Me: Isn't it always?

Thage: If something were played entirely realistically, it'd be educational, not entertainment.

Me: I don't think the two are mutually exclusive.

Thage: Wait until you watch 'edutainment' childrens' shows.

Me: -I grimace- They don't count. They're neither educational nor entertaining.

Thage: -she chuckles- My point exactly.

Me: Do you have any ideas on what Eulogy is planning? Other than normal Revenant operations, obviously.

Thage: Couldn't get a read on him, actually. Slate had a bunch of nervous ticks.... Eulogy doesn't.

Me: Still has some of his old priestly skills of deception then.

Thage: -she wags a finger teasingly- Easy there, Momma raised me a good Irish Catholic and I haven't forgotten that yet.

Me: Mam raised me a good Irish Catholic too.

Thage: Regardless, though-

Me: Let's just say I have issues with the Catholic Church and leave it at that.

Thage: ...fair enough. Back on topic, yeah. I used to be able to read Slate--he had this twitch in his cheek when you had him dead to rights. Can't get that sort of reaction from Eulogy.

Me: Eulogy is a subtler operator than Slate. Much more manipulative. His assassination technique in particular was all about trickery.

Thage: Oh?

Me: Eulogy liked to play a long, cruel and convoluted game. He'd use a variety of methods to convince the mark that they were the Messiah and then reveal the truth and crush them. He liked the feeling of power one gets from utterly destroying a person phsyically, mentally and emotionally. I pity the Conduits he killed.

Thage: -she nods again and scribbles down some notes-

Me: I'm worried about Ava.

Thage: No improvement?

Me: Sometimes I catch her looking at me with utter loathing and then she breaks down crying because she's realised what she's doing, then when I go to put my arms around her, she shirks me off and upsets herself even more.

Thage: From what I've gathered, it's going to be a long road.

Me: What I really want to know is why Redlight hates me so much. What have I done that he made my girlfriend loath me for shits and giggles?

Thage: You turned your back on the king and you did it without layers on layers of intrigue--you did what he couldn't.

Me: It wasn't easy. I still heard his voice in my head. Sometimes I still feel like I can, but it's just remembering. The things he's saying don't make sense.

Thage: -she nods- Still, that would be a sore sport for anyone like Redlight, wouldn't you think? Sort of spitting in the face of all the effort he's gone to form a secessionist bloc.

Me: Maybe. It raises a lot of questions about him though. I was one of Slender Man's top lieutenants. What kind of hold must Slender Man have on him?

Thage: -she frowns and fiddles with a glass of fizzy orange- No idea. The question should be why is his hold that tight?

Me: Tight enough that he can't break away immediately but not so tight that he can't break away eventually...

Thage: There might be some credence to the theory that he's Jay. The one that did those experiments.

Me: Where did that theory arise from, actually?

Thage: I don't know, but it's floated around. If he is Jay, it would make sense why the King kept him on such a short leash.

Me: Possibly.

Thage: -she frowns again and takes a sip of her drink- Of course, we always need to consider the option that we're completely wrong.

Me: About what?

Thage: Everything.

Me: Could you elaborate? There's a lot of everything.

Thage: Well, if we always keep open the possibility that we're wrong about a given theory, it keeps us from getting too wrapped up in it and freaking when it turns out to be false.

Me: Of course. The real problem is that we know so little that there's a hell of a lot to theorise about.

Thage: It helps keep life from getting dull.

Me: A dull life. I'd kill for one of those.

Thage: It's really not all it's cracked up to be. Though... I suppose you do have Ava so you'll have something to do to pass the time. -she winks-

Me: -I smile back weakly- If she ever stops hating me.

Thage: She knows something's not right, Reach. She just needs a lot of support.

Me: What if she needs more than that? God only knows how deep into her mind Redlight went.

Thage: There's only so far you can delve into someone's mind and change if they aren't willing, in such a short period of time. Otherwise she'd be a drooling wreck.

Me: I guess. -an audible scream pierces the silence- That'll be Ava waking up from a nightmare.

Thage: -she drops the epeé she had just produced from behind the chair and settles down again- Then it's best you go to her.

Me: Aye. I'll talk to you in the morning, Thage. And I'm still sorry for the position I've put you in.

Thage: If you, Cathy, and Tony keep that up I'm going to start smacking you people in the heads with a frying pan.

Me: There's a bit of a difference between Cathy and Tony involving you in a love triangle and me forcing you to aid the enemy.

Thage: Cathy doesn't realize I divulged information on Jeff before she came. I don't want her to know I've been doing this for that long.

Me: Will I leave that bit out of the conversation when I post it then?

Thage: No, she'll find out eventually. Now, it's rude to keep a young lady waiting, shoo.

Me: Fair enough. Night, Thage. -I run upstairs to Ava-

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I know I already updated once today and updating every forty minutes is more Ava's thing (sorry, dear, couldn't resist), I felt compelled to make a separate post just to talk about how godly breakfast was.

I hadn't had a traditional Irish breakfast in over forty fucking years.

Oh, the rashers were salted, streaky and fried just enough to be slightly browned but not enough to burn the fat and the sausages were plump and full of meat and the fried eggs were just that little bit crispy at around the edge and I dunked the sausages in the yolk and the scrambled eggs were the perfect consistency and I don't even care that I ate way more eggs than I should have and the hash browns were crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside and fried tomato and sauteéd mushrooms and oh, Thage had gotten her hands on some Barry's Tea and Irish brown soda bread and FUCKING KERRYGOLD FUCKING REAL FUCKING IRISH FUCKING BUTTER, Thage, you fucking wonderful woman, you fucking saint among sinners, I just...

I fucking love fries. I fucking love them. I don't give a fuck that I have ingested more cholesterol in the past few hours than most people do in a year. Defuckinglicious.

Alekhine's Gun, Part 1

I picked up Ava last night. It wasn't quite the movie moment some of you were probably expecting; she was too tired to do the dramatic run and when I hugged her, she fell asleep right there in my arms. I brought her back to Thage's car in a bridal carry and headed straight back to Thage's. She's still asleep in bed beside me. She was exhausted. She didn't puke during the night, thankfully, but I used pillows to keep her propped up on her side just in case, anyway.

As you may have noticed last night, I was still commenting long after I'd said I was going to go talk to Thage. I blame it on a combination of distraction and dread. At any rate, once I'd put Ava to bed, I went down to face the music. Thage and I decided to post the conversation here, it seemed like a good idea to make sure there are archives and backups of all our ideas and theories just in case anything happens to us. There will probably be a few more infodumps while we're staying here, hence the ", Part 1".

Me: -I enter the sitting room- Um, hello, Thage.

Thage: -she looks up from one of her many, many books- Oh, evening.

Me: -I slap my legs awkwardly and waddle over to a chair- What are you, uh, what are you reading?

Thage: -she tries not to snicker at the way I look- Oh, you remember that play I recommended Jean look for? I'm reading the playwright's journal. It's mostly aimless rambling but there's something coherent at least once a page.

Me: Ah, I see. Standard Slendercock in action, or something of particular interest?

Thage: -she flips through some of the earlier pages- Well, yes and no.

Me: Thage, you know an answer like that is only going to make me ask you to elaborate.

Thage: Yes in that there's your usual increasingly paranoid rantings, but he describes a creature more akin to Elizabeth Bathory than our mutual friend, although that does pose the possibility that the Countess was another of his forms through the ages.

Me: Elizabeth Bathory?

Thage: You know, the one who slaughtered virgin girls and bathed in their blood to remain eternally youthful, as the legend goes?

Me: Eh, can't say I've come across that one, I'm afraid. My knowledge banks are a bit bric-a-brac, really.

Thage: -she gestures to several heavy-looking books on a bookshelf on the other side of the room- European legends. There are a few accounts on her in there if you feel like reading later.

Me: Maybe I will, I haven't read anything in a good while.

Thage: But I digress--the point is he seems to be suffering hallucinations of--as he puts it--a tall, pale woman with indistinct features and an air of malice, and he's convinced it's the Countess Bathory.

Me: Then there remains the possiblity that he wasn't haunted by Slender Man at all. Unless I'm missing something?

Thage: You would prefer to think there really was someone so savage that they'd bathe in an innocent's blood to feed their delusion that it keeps them eternally young?

Me: It's not that I'd prefer that scenario, just that it seems more likely to me.

Thage: -she shrugs and turns a page- No, what has me convinced is all the collaborative evidence--madness, being stalked by a tall, pale individual with a face he can't quite get a bead on, a string of brutal killings that were never satisfactorily explained...

Me: The femininity aspect is the only thing that throws me, to be honest.

Thage: Well, do you want the logical response or the one that will keep you up tonight?

Me: I want the truth.

Thage: Either is as likely as the other. Logically, you could suppose he has no concept of gender and will affect the appearance of either as best fits the locale and time period, same as his general appearance. The nightmare-inducing theory is that he's not the only one of his kind here, that there are multiple, all engaged in the same hunt.

Me: The second theory isn't consistent with my own experiences, to be honest. There was a while that I thought it was likely but I've become a lot more cynical. I'm less accepting of the claims of Jack Tyler, among others.

Thage: -she wrinkles her nose- I'm not as familiar with that name as I should be.

Me: Lucky you.

Thage: I only entertained the second one because it would explain a great many things about his activities, and why nobody seems to be able to corroborate the various means he uses to get around.

Me: I'm afraid I can't clarify that any bit. For some reason, he always made sure he was out of sight before doing whatever he does to get around. Yet, at the same time, he let us use the Other World as a shortcut. Most bizarre.

Thage: -she wrinkles her nose again, and starts digging through her bookshelves, muttering to herself before pulling out a decrepit old book and handing it to me- Read about halfway in.

Me: -I flip through the pages-

Thage: Someone stumbled into that world, and described a world made almost entirely of gore. - she sits back down-

Me: ...

Thage: Ground, skies, plant and animal life...

Me: These are some...pretty, uh, graphic descriptions.

Thage: I think that other world is nebulous in nature--it takes on what you fear the most and applies it like a color pallet.

Me: And yet, I have no particular fear of swamps, which is the most common area I come across. Perhaps this merely implies that the Other World is bigger than previously thought.

Thage: A patchwork world of nightmares. That's not exactly something I'm fond of considering.

Me: Well, do you want the logical response or the one that will keep you up at night? -I smirk-

Thage: -she chuckles- In this case, I don't think there's a difference unless you attribute it to psychosomatic hallucinations.

Me: Well, there is a slight alternative; worldlets, rather than worlds.

Thage: Sort of line an island chain rather than a unified landmass?

Me: Sort of, except that instead of a chain of islands, it's a chain of universes. Just a theory.

Thage: -she nods and seems thoughtful for a moment- Maybe I'm just woolgathering here, but just for the sake of discussion, are you familiar with the SCP Foundation?

Me: I think Ava might have mentioned it in one of her big spiels about the Internet. I'm not too big into the Internet personally, so I tend to zone out a little, admittedly.

Thage: Ah. Well, on the off-chance you're familiar with , I might have a scenario which I don't doubt is wrong to bring up, if only because it could encourage thinking outside the box.

Me: How about I look up this SCP thing later and get back to you?

Thage: Sure.

Me: Delightful.

Thage: Next topic? -she starts scribbling things down on a notepad in some sort of weird shorthand-

Me: Well, your choices are "more cross-referencing our knowledge of Slender Man", "discussing the status of the board" or "watching me grovel for destroying your life". You choose.

Thage: Number three is right out and if you start I'll probably end up pissing Ava off for killing your chance at kids with her, so let's go with two.

Me: -I smile weakly- Fair enough. What do you think of this notion of Redlight as a collective noun?

Thage: -she stretches out her back- Hm. Either Robert's losing his mind again, he was killed and this is Redlight making himself out to be more than he is, or I'll need to be more careful about what I say to who.

Me: I'm tentatively giving Robert the benefit of the doubt while planning for the other eventualities. Naturally, I'd prefer if there was just one Redlight for me to choke the life out of.

Thage: On the reverse side, imagine how cathartic it will be getting to do it over and over.

Me: There is that aspect, true.

Thage: If there really is a collective, and there really are Revenants in it... I'm going to need to keep a pot of water boiling pretty regularly if they do secede.

Me: You could always wire a car battery up to your doorhandles and windowframes. -I imitate a shocking noise, badly-

Thage: -she snorts-

Me: Huh, I wouldn't have taken you for a snorter, oddly enough.

Thage: I'm also a talented fencer with the epeé. - she sets the book down and seems wistful for a moment- I think, after this is all over, I'm going to look into fencing professionally.

Me: I'm more of an unarmed figher myself, but I know a bit of bataireacht

Thage: Batawhatnow?

Me: It's an Irish martial art based around the use of the shillelagh. Contrary to popular belief, the shillelagh is more than just a stick held by leprachauns and an inherently funny word. It's also a lethal weapon in the right hands, such as mine. It's the traditional weapon of the Irish gentlement, though, in a pinch, another type of cane will do. Any stick with a pointy end and a knobby end, really.

Thage: -she tilts her head to one side- Back on-topic, though. Now that the Heel's gone, I'm not sure why he's still abiding by the bargain you and I set up.

Me: Ah, that brings me to a somewhat sensitive matter. Something I was loathe to mention before but seems somewhat more...pertinent given my recent mortality.

Thage: Hm?

Me: Basically, the way the deal was made, I was more a middleman negotiating terms than anything else and for him to be assured of the deal, he wanted some collateral, as well as a way out, if necessary. The deal is conditional on my life. If I die, Slender Man no longer has to abide by the deal.

Thage: -she looks up from yet another handwritten book- Hm.

Me: I didn't want to bring it up before because while I was a Revenant, it didn't seem like a major concern.

Thage: No, that's not it. As things stand, though, given my position... -she gestures to the notepad next to her- I could cause a lot of havoc by posting sensitive information on various proxies of varying strength and importance who have situated themselves in the American, German, French, Russian, Italian, South African, Israeli, and a dozen and more other governments, their family members, and what phobias they might have. You wouldn't believe what some of these people will talk about when they assume the person they're talking to will keep out of the fight forever.

Me: That actually brings me to something else I wanted to ask about. Are they still enforcing the "balance" clause?

Thage: They are. I've learned quite a few ways to give them what they ask without giving damaging information, though eventually they're going to catch on.

Me: I see. Well, since you've prohibited my grovelling, I don't have anything else of import to say apart from thanking you from the spaghetti, so if you have any more questions for me, then fire away.

Thage: -she taps the bottom of her pen on her chin thoughtfully. Slate, I think his name is? I keep getting that and the DC Comics villain mixed up. Any idea about his whereabouts?

Me: Dead. Ava finished him when we attacked the quarry.

Thage: Good, he was the one who didn't play ring around the mulberry bush.

Me: If my memory of the Revenant hierarchy is still accurate, the new keeper of the quarry should be a Revenant called Eulogy.

Thage: I'll just assume it's not because they're fond of Norweigan death metal and work from there.

Me: He was a priest, actually.

Thage: What flavor?

Me: Catholic. His name was Father Knight before he was turned. Worked at a school in the town where the quarry lies.

Thage: I feel terrible for making this joke, but that reminds me of a comic called Battle Pope. -she relaxes back in the couch and goes back to scribbling those notes- Any others I should be wary around if they pay a visit looking for information?

Me: You should be wary of all of them. But if you're looking for specifics, there are a pair of Revenant assassins called Arpeggio and Cadence, twins, actually, who even alone are better than I was in my prime, let alone when working in tandem.

Thage: Well, I'm naturally wary of any of his fan club that pay a visit, I'm just talking about the ones that I might not be able to doubletalk.

Me: Eulogy was more of the "general respect" variety than the kind who had sub-minions and whatnot. Arpeggio and Cadence work mainly under a Revenant called Legacy, who is probably after Eulogy's job.

Thage: Odds of infighting?

Me: They seem to be getting higher and higher if Redlight is any indication. It seems Slender Man may have given them too much freedom.

Thage: -she nods- I'm not sure if I should tell the other Runners and Fighters about the balance clause.

Me: Maybe you should tell them now before it comes back to bite you in the ass.

Thage: It's going to bite me in the ass either way.

Me: Quite probably. What are the pros and cons of each then?

Thage: If I do so now, the pros are that the information's out there. The cons are severely impacted trust. If I do so later, I could plan for it and try to balance things so they still get out ahead. Cons for doing so later include the obvious romantic comedy cliché of someone finding out and things going sour.

Me: Well, Thage, in the end, I can only let you decide.

Thage: -she nods- Well, regardless, I'm going to get some practice in and turn in for the night. -she produces an epee and fencing gear from behind her couch then heads out to the backyard to practice-

Me: -I head up to the spare room Ava and I are sharing for some well-earned rest-

Not quite as dramatic as the last conversation I dumped here, but we can't always be exciting, can we?

Reach out.