My God... it has been quite a while since I've given a glance at this, hasn't it? Had quite a bit to catch up on... though, by rights, not nearly as much as there should have been. I suppose I am not the only one neglecting these little ol' journals of ours.
In all honesty, I've had far too much to focus on to even think about Blogger. The Highers have been passing me missions nearly non-stop without so much as a "welcome back". Not that I expected anything less from they who were probably pouring the wine in celebration of this particular thorn being removed from their side, but you'd think they wouldn't push so many jobs at a Proxy that they themselves left for slaughter. I'm guessing I'm supposed to be... a "bigger" soldier than to waste time holding a grudge? Heh. For that, we shall see.
Then, of course, there's our very own Crimson Prince. Haven't seen nor spoken to The Devil in some time, however he has sent me more than a few text messages. Usually coordinates or, simply, a name. I suppose he is of the thought that I can figure details out from there. Which I do. Not necessarily the easiest at times, but I manage.
Additionally, I've been burying myself into cult-level research. Attempting to dig out as many old stories on Ol' Ye Plagueness as possible. Exchanging many a theory with an ally I met months ago. Someone that Requiem introduced me to. We've been monitoring my health for any sign of His wrath, but so far I am... mostly clean. Considering what could be, at any rate.
Amongst all that, I put my focus onto Requiem when possible. Or, more accurately, the one who sold him out. You see, I've come to the SHOCKING conclusion that we have a turn-coat in our workings. Someone who has taken to passing out information like candy on Halloween. I've been intent on finding out who... and I have gone to some rather... extreme lengths to find my answer. The latest of which has me locked in a cell with a certain... guest that Shooter and Gleeman picked up. I suppose you'd call him a... "Captain"? Maybe? I'm not certain of these military-grade terms, but I do know that he's been one to give OUT information to lesser standing Soldiers. Stormtroopers. Flies. Whichever term you prefer. I need to find out whether I have to climb the ladder higher, or if he's the sweetheart I've been looking for...
Unfortunately, Moriarty's little troops don't tend to cooperate with torture very well, so I proposed a different angle this time around. One which has me fitted into a torn, dirty, and bloody Killsquad uniform. Female version, to appeal to my company's taste. After a touch of a haircut, I let Shooter take some swings. Just enough for a split lip and a black eye. I have to say, the little pain in the ass has quite the hook. He seemed to enjoy playing "Alpha" for once in this little partnership of ours. As for myself, I simply play my part as it is needed. Also took a few cuts in the right places to get the maximum bang for my buck, so to speak...
After all, an actor that isn't willing to sell the performance isn't worth their paycheck, correct?
I'm a prisoner of war, my friends.
With the correct balance of information asked and given. With the correct posture and tone and sarcastic comments...
I hope to make a stool pigeon out of our caged hawk.
I've been making progress, I'm pleased to be able to report. It hasn't been easy to focus like I need to, but I've been managing decently enough. My work is sub-par at best these days. Will to sell a performance only goes so far, after all. One must also put their HEART into what they're doing for it to come flawlessly. For the rhythm of conversation and movement to be perfect. To be balanced. To come naturally. Living in the moment. Believing in the moment. Even as you're laughing deep down at all nonsense coming off your tongue...
But, for now... there's no laugh.
It hasn't been there for several weeks.
Day by day, the smile became harder to force. I can always make it come to the surface, but for me... feeling it... the laughter has faded beneath a blanket of bitterness and anger. Of pain and frustration. All swirling beneath a dark cloud that I knew all too well. Memories and a sense of longing stirring even has I tried my best to ignore the countdown. The damn calendar. Each day ending only bringing me one day closer...
When I woke this morning... I hated everything. I hated all of them. All of you. All of this. All the blood and the screaming that never ends. All the pain and loss. All the deceit and betrayal. I hated the Organization. The cover-up. I hated Moriarty and his cluster of hypocrites. I hated the Runners and their blind notions. Their naive minds and sickening delusions. I hated the Norms. I hated how I could hear them everywhere I went - complaining about such trivial things and not once looking around themselves and seeing how lucky they all were. How blessed. Hearing how they continuously fail to appreciate all that they have...
Not realizing that, one day, they might be forced to appreciate all that they HAD.
And I hated how I was once one of them.
I couldn't stand my mask. My hoodie. My gauntlet. Everything was tossed aside after I gave Shooter a signal to get me the hell out of that bloody cell. That cage. He proceed to "drag" me out for another "torture session"... at which point I brushed off his hold on me and disappeared to my room. I've been here since then. Nearly finished a pack of cigarettes. Been sipping at vodka all day. Anything to just... calm the storm in my system. To just let the day pass by a little bit quicker. I tried sleeping, but that would be too simple.
I admit, it hits me hard every year.
Though this year... it hit harder than most.
I should be celebrating Leo's seventh birthday today.
Not even The Service can make a parent forget.
Sitting here by the window... staring out into the night as a trail of smoke rises from yet another lit cigarette... all I can think of is 'what ifs'.
I miss his toothy grin.
I miss his laugh. How he had the cutest dimples beneath a mess of hair that you couldn't do a thing with. Hair that he got from me.
I miss how his arms would stretch upwards as he asked to be picked up. And how I could never not notice... how he had Alex's eyes.
I miss listening from his bedroom door as Alex would read him bedtime stories. Alex was always the Reading Master of the house. No one matched those storytelling skills...
I miss how we would do rock-paper-scissors to see which of us would be getting up in the middle of the night to see what monster had invaded Leo's closet...
I miss... feeling Leo crawl into bed between Alex and I when those monsters became too much for our Little Man to conquer for that night...
I miss everything.
All the temper tantrums and crying fits. All the colds and flues and chicken pox. All the little messes and the big ones. All the chaos. All the mayhem.
I was lucky.
And then... I think of how it all changed. How I brought home a disease that knows no cure.
How it was my fault that Father found them.
I remember speaking with Owen the first time - Jordan's father. I remember introducing myself and sitting down in the living room. A quaint place. Modest, but cozy. I had Jordan's permission to be there, but I had advised that she let us adults speak first. As if we knew any better than she did. As if we had it all figured out...
I remember how I had it all planned in my head. How I would bring up Jordan's confession of hallucinating this "Slender Man" creature. How I would subtly suggest that it may be suppressed stressed from the divorce that had shaken the family a few years prior. The mother having taken off. I handled it as carefully as I could. Trying to remain polite and professional. Trying to not cross social boundaries that would cause an argument. He and I landed up speaking for an hour or so. At first there was anger and denial, but then things progressed... and it was agreed that Jordan would attend therapy and that he would be there as support. Constant, non-judgmental support.
At the time, I had offered to back away from the issue. To let it run between him and his daughter...
Owen thought for a while, then told me that his daughter trusted me. So I should stay involved.
I smiled at accepting a death sentence, and proceeded to keep smiling even when Owen called Jordan down from her room. She cried in relief when she realized her father didn't think she was crazy. Didn't accuse her of being on drugs or anything of the like. Just hugged her and told her that we'd get to the bottom of it. That she didn't have to be afraid anymore. That there was nothing to be afraid of.
Because we knew what we were talking about.
I was still smiling as we shook hands. As I closed the door behind me and went out to my car. Eager to tell Alex about how Jordan would be getting the help she needed. Happy that I'd been able to help my student... and that I would be continuing to help in some small, little way... because that's exactly what I wanted to do, right? To connect? To catch these young adults before they fell through the cracks of life...?
That day, my smile only faltered... when a cold chill went down my spine just as I opened my car door. A sensation of being watched crawling over my skin as I turned to look back at the house I'd just been in... but all I saw was an empty yard. A garden in need of being weeded.
One eventually comes to learn... there is no such thing.
Jordan went to therapy for weeks. Was put on medication that was supposed to help calm her "anxiety issues", and, though it seemed to cut down on the number of "hallucinations", it certainly drained her as well. Exhausted her. But, when she slept, she started have night terrors. Nightmares that would have her waking up screaming in the dead of night. Thrashing as if fighting off all the spirits of Hell at once. Owen told me about them. Showed me the scratches he earned from trying to wake her from one such experience. It was... rather unnerving at the time. I had expected her to get better, not worse.
And then... at the end of school one day... all my delusions came crashing down.
It was late. Later than what I should have been at the school, but I had forgotten a folder in my classroom. Tests that needed marking. The rattle of my keys in the door seemed far too loud as I let myself back into my room – leaving the empty hallway behind as I went to my desk. Not bothering to turn on the light as I did. After all, I knew where I’d left the folder. I shouldn’t have been in there for more than a few seconds…
And it was then, in the company of only the empty desks of my own classroom, that I heard something strange.
A small laugh.
Just at the edge of my hearing – almost too quiet to hear – a child’s giggle interrupted my thoughts. Drawing me to a stop just as I found what I’d come for. I remember pausing. Straining my hearing to confirm the noise… but there was nothing. Just… the all-consuming stillness of a nearly-empty building. Dead silence.
I just shook my head and started back towards the door… and then I heard it again. A slight echo from out in the hall. And, I can freely admit… my nerves were on edge as I peered out into the hallway. Looking both ways. Calling a “hello?” which seemed to echo into forever. It itself being my only answer… and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. My skin crawling. And yet… why? That was what I tasked at myself for. My own stupidity. It was just my imagination. Just hearing things. There was no way…
Another giggle in the air convinced my thoughts to change direction. That perhaps a child had snuck in while everyone else was heading out. Or someone else was still here and they had a child. I could see Leo having fun running the empty halls of a school. Enjoying the sound of everything he did echoing back at him. I could see it.
So I went to have a look for myself. I followed the laughter. I followed the sound of small footsteps on the floor. I turned corner after corner, but found nothing but another stretch of empty hallway. And yet… the voice had become a bit louder. Whispering to another voice that answered in whispers in turn. Giggling again and then running some more. Then there wasn’t two voices, there were three. Four. Five. Six. Overlapping and stirring all around me. Coming from all ways at once. Louder and louder and louder until they weren’t laughing. They were screaming. Crying in an agony that knew no words and the speaker system of the school suddenly broke out in wild, crackling static. My cell phone began squealing its own tone as I tried to cover my ears from the screeching that filled my head. Lights flickering overhead…
And then Jordan came whipping around a nearby corner. Scrambling in her steps and hitting the opposite wall before continuing on. Tearing straight by me as if I wasn’t even there. Tears streaked down her cheeks. Clutching one arm. And a terror so pure torn across her face.
I ran after her.
I ran after her right into the girl’s washroom. Where I literally stop dead in my tracks at what I saw.
Jordan with a pocketknife in hand. Hands and wrists hacked and slashed. Frantically painting in her own blood on the walls of the bathroom. Circles with an “X” cut across them. The second she finished one, she started on another…
“…You can’t See me… You can’t See me… You can’t See me…”
I grabbed her.
She struggled at first until she sunk to the floor, sobbing. Pulling her arms and legs into her chest. I followed her down. Tearing at my own shirt to wrap her wrists and hands before she lost too much blood…
Then the lights went out.
All I could hear was my own heartbeat pounding in my ears. My own breathing shaking. As if the air itself wasn't fit to breath...
For the first time... I felt His presence.
And I finally understood Fear.
I understood the Fear that I saw in Jordan's eyes when she spoke about her "hallucinations".
I understood the Fear of living in a nightmare and only wishing to wake up...
I wanted to wake up then.
When I turned from where I was crouched. When I saw His silhouette in the doorway. When I saw Him... His arms... His face... and when He stared back at me... a figure that stood for all of my ignorance... all of my stupidity... my arrogance...
Five words ran through my mind as His head tilted to the side.
"Real enough for you yet?"
Then... one second He was There.
And the next, He wasn't.
Leaving me alone with Jordan.
Just a simple idiot holding onto the student I wanted to help. That I wanted to be there for. Leaving me to work with shaking hands as I tore my shirt to next to nothing and tied up her wounds. As I dialed 911 on my cell phone. As I worked with numb limbs to get Jordan outside. Better access for the ambulance that was on its way...
I went to the hospital with her. I met Owen there. He bombarded me with questions that I could barely understand. Most of his words not even registering. I didn't have answers. I didn't have anything to offer. I had nothing. I just kept seeing His face in my mind... those five words repeating again and again and again...
I was raised to understand... that the only monsters in existence... were those that grew in our own souls. Those that we nurtured with selfishness and evil deeds. I was raised to know that all the tales of other creatures told through myth and legend... that they are just what we blame when the monsters within take over.
But when Jordan looked at me across her hospital room. When she stared right into my eyes with her father standing to the side. That determination. That desperation. All amongst the Fear that I now saw stare back at me in the mirror...
"You saw Him, didn't you? Tell the truth! You saw Him! YOU FUCKING SAW HIM!"
I admitted it.
I forced the words out... and the grip inside only tightened. My system couldn't take the strain on my nerves anymore. The tension. The death hold I had over my composure. Trying to stay calm by smothering the panic under a blanket...
I nearly didn't make it to the bathroom to throw up.
On the floor of that bathroom stall, I prayed.
I prayed to God to just let me wake up.
I prayed to God to just... make it all a nightmare. Too much caffeine. Not enough sleep.
I prayed to God... to keep Alex and Leo safe.
I promised myself I would say not a word to them. I didn't know what was in store for me...but I wouldn't bring it home to them. I would take it. Hide it. I could do it. And I would. No matter what...
After all, I was under the delusion... that He only Hunted those that knew about Him. That He'd leave them alone if they stayed in the dark. I was too blind to realize... that they were already exposed... because I went home. I went
fucking home... when I should have just disappeared. Driven away and not
looked back. But I had the nerve to think... I could still have my
family for a little while.
Ignorance. Denial. Arrogance.
The three keys as to why we will always fail.
As long as you have one, you might as well give up now and save yourself the trouble.
That night, I kissed my son on the forehead and wished him sweet dreams. To not let the bed bugs bite.
Then I wrapped my arms around Alex in our bed... and I didn't sleep a wink. I stared into the darkness. Listening to our house creak and shift. The warmth of my spouse being the only thing that broke through the numbness that I felt. That broke through the shock. That reminded me I was awake still.
I was an idiot.
He came to Them just as surely as He came to me.
And I can still feel the sting of the backhand Alex gave me when realization dawned... that I had brought Him to them. That it was because of me... that He had found Leo.
It was my fault.
And now... they're all gone.
I'm the last one still standing. The last one still playing His Game.
The last one from My Story.
I sit in this room amongst a mess of research and documents. Amongst masses of details about this person and that. That event and this one.
I wonder... what it'll amount to.
A war is coming. Has been for a while. I can feel it. See it building all around me...
And for what, exactly?
It's a lone bridge leading into the mist.
From amongst the chaos, we push forward. We always have. With not a single idea as to if what lay behind the fog... is anything worth striving towards. But we don't care, do we? We continue the march regardless. So focused on the big picture... that the smaller details tend to just get lost beneath the flood...
For now, I only know one thing:
I should be celebrating Leo's seventh birthday today.