It's... the 27th now. It'll probably be the 28th by the time I'm finished this.
Christ, I'm so tired. We're all so tired. Tired and hurting and scared but... relieved, so immensely relieved. After the complete and utter hell that was the last... nearly 20 days, we're all lucky to be alive. Some are in better condition than others but that's alright. I've never been happier to walk freely around the House, each room exactly where I last remember it.
But if there's ever been a time when the phrase 'close enough' felt appropriate, this is it. We're all just about half-here right now, and even if I'm stopping every couple of minutes to empty my stomach or move some bandages or check on whoever is currently groaning or hissing or whatever else we associate with pain, we're together and hey, we're all alive. Rivers is short a leg and Doc is high on what I think is heroin, which is good because when she isn't, she's...
I don't want to talk about it.
Spencer is in absolute shambles and everybody else... isn't really faring much better. But those are their stories to tell, so I'm just going to recount what I can while I can.
Started getting bad when Steele brought Alex and Rivers back. It got worse when Elaine and Elliott came around. Spencer said he was having trouble holding the place together already, and when he and the two from the forest started complaining about headaches and voices I knew something bad couldn't be far off. I think we all knew it, but here we are again proving our startling intellect and genre-savviness. Instead of getting out we sat like, well, like sitting ducks and waited for our world to collapse around us. I want to say you couldn't blame us for it but, really, couldn't you? Shouldn't you? We should have gotten everybody out when the walls starting shifting around. When the ceilings climbed higher and our third floor disappeared. When the kitchen moved to the first floor and the extension that contained my room, a bathroom and half of the dining room disappeared, taking with it half of our oak table and leaving it seamlessly attached to a wall covered in fleur-de-lis that I know I painted over in March.
But we didn't. We sat and we worked and we pretended not to notice when the cornflower-blue bathroom tiles turned bleached white and when the right stairwell became four steps shorter than the left and when you walked through a door that used to lead to a bathroom brought you to nothing but a brick wall, you closed it and pretended nothing happened, only to turn around and realize the hallway you were in seconds ago is now the library, and you calmly run your hands along the bookshelves and wonder if there were always seventeen of them, and whether or not that window was always there, and doesn't that wall face the foyer why is there a window on it in the first place, and where did the door that leads to the garage go? And you tried and failed to will your hand to stop shaking and when you blinked the ground turned from hardwood to carpet and you found yourself in the living room, only now it's about two hundred feet long and you couldn't even see the ceiling, the vines and the trees have so completely filled this place. Your most favourite chandelier was pulled from the stucco of the domed room, which sent glass flying all across the ground and it cut your feet when you walked. You realized the room is nearly pitch black and the only light that comes in is filtered through a heavy screen of leaves and branches, and the entire room felt stuffed; the air was humid and hot and yet thin, so very, very thin that you felt your vision go fuzzy and your breath turn ragged; shallow and panicked.
But maybe there's another reason for that.
Maybe you've just caught a glimpse of the Figure, that Man who commands so much fear and respect that you feel the need to capitalize every He and His and Being and Figure and name, because you could think of about three dozen things to call this Tall Man, this Thin Man, the Slender Man, the One Who Walks, Slender, Slendy, Slends, Dr. Stalkopus, Betentacled Abomination, Eldritch Abomination, Monster, Killer, Murderer; names born out of spite, out of anger, out of fear donning a wretched mask and hiding away, because the second you behold His shoulders - whether it's across a highway or in the mirror or just out of the corner of your eye in a dark hotel room - your entire being beings to shake and sputter in revolt of this Being, instinct kicks in and your mind goes blank and two voices cry out in your head.
One screams, run.
The other, come.
Neither uses spoken word, and neither possess a tongue or speech to which you could grant a name; it's more the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach; twisting knots wrapping your insides tighter than some South American snake constricting its prey, waiting, waiting, waiting for its heart to cease its ba-dum, ba-dum (though at the time it was more a badumbadumbadumba----badumbadumbadum) so it can feast.
It's about that time, realizing the Being in front of me isn't in fact a single, timeless, inescapable being but seems to be made up of the same breathing, shifting, moving masses that plague our employer that I begin to hear screaming. At first I think it's mine - I really, truly think it's mine, because the moment your eyes meet the perfect, porcelain white of the Man
The colour of the world fades from view and sudden there isn't anything but Him in the room, even your own being seems to be suspended. You're a floating consciousness and the voice that screams run, run as fast and as far as you can is quickly silenced, the boa constrictor that is your insides tightening more and more as each second passes, breath now in quick, hysteric huffs and your heart is skipping like a record, but you're
So very, very calm. You don't notice the pain - you can't notice the pain, because there's something cooing in your head softer than the breeze of warm summer nights, ushering you forward and calling with gentle, honey-sweet notes of safety. You almost decide to listen to it, where somewhere in the back of your mind something finally clicks, the entire scene clicks, and the screaming comes back in a rush and no, no, it's not yours, it's far too distant and not nearly high enough to be yours, and like the last few flashes of a dream you grasp at, you can hear:
Remember, remember, the fifth of November...
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason,
Should ever be forgot.
It wouldn't be until you write this post up later that you ask yourself why that poem came up, why you know it, where you heard it and why it seemed to ring loud and clear despite what you rationalize later as the closest thing to a near-death experience you've had in a long time.
I... things get fuzzy from here. After that the entire world's a haze through a veil of a film grain, 60 frames per second and each one is smouldered at the corners and your head's still floating on air. You think you head in the direction of the screaming, what you think is the basement, (though could you really tell anymore? Did anything make sense here anymore?) but somehow you end up in the old rec hall in the East Wing, other couriers beside you. Doc is swaying on her feet and more gone than here, Steele looks right pissed off - but it's the same mask, the same pretend anger of fear hiding, trying to be anything other than itself - Amanda is on her crutches and looks like she's bleeding, Sam is a muttering mess, Todd's expression never stays the same long enough to register what emotion he's feeling and Spencer is still nowhere to be seen.
Something happens and we start walking. We're a shambling, scared, absolutely terrified mass of survivors who can see the edge coming up, but we're not going down yet, no, no, we can't go down yet, not when we still have the boss to think about...
Hallways. So many hallways. At least fifty, maybe more. Or maybe it's just one, and as we turn the corner we're dropped off at the beginning, each door we open leads us back into the same place we started, but eventually we open a door and we don't see the same thirty feet and three doors, two windows and neglected crown molding.
Let me expand.
And the drapes are in tatters and the tiles are stained with blood and dirty and the wallpaper is ruined and the left stairwell is destroyed. The living room is a mess of splinters and broken vases and our at least two hundred DVDs, blu-rays and CDs are everywhere but we're home and the kitchen is next to the living room and light is filtering in from behind so that must mean we're back on the second floor.
I'm not sure if Doc collapses after or while she utters those two words. Two perfect syllables that speak volumes. They say exactly what we're all thinking, and in obscuring smog of something not quite human we're all shocked that everything can snap back to normal so quickly, and I'm sure if we looked out the window the tree line would be exactly where it was before: exactly 22' 3/4" from the back wall. Nobody grabs Doc and she hits the tile with a thud.
We're back. It's been... christ, it's been so long. Even after everything that's happened and the scars we have to show for it, it still feels like a dream. In all honesty, if it weren't for the maze the basement's become and the completely obliterated living room, not to mention the fact that about five rooms have gone MIA, I would have told you this was all a horrible nightmare.