Monday, December 31, 2012

Abduction and Escape

A lot's happened in the past few days.  I'm going to try to start from the beginning the best I can.

After leaving Magpie and Crimson, I started heading down south somewhere warmer.  I had invitations from a few places around Georgia and Florida, and wandering is always more tolerable with a destination.

I think it was somewhere in Tennessee that I got picked up.  It was a car.  The driver was a woman with bright red hair who was probably in her late twenties, with a black-haired young girl in the backseat.

"Hey, thanks for stopping," I told her.  "I'm heading somewhat southeast.  Does that work for you?"

"No problem," she said.  "Do unto others, right?  I wouldn't want to be ignored.  We're going as far as Murfreesboro.  Is that all right?"

I nodded, but to be honest, I had no clue where Murfreesboro was.  That's how things go sometimes.  I wonder if other hitchhikers familiarize themselves with cities and the like beforehand.  "Yeah, as far as you can go would be great.  I'm Jason," I told her, using a random name.  I never use my real name when dealing with strangers unless I have to.

"I'm Sierra," she said, offering her hand to shake.  "That's my sister Rei."

"Nice to meet you," I told her.  We fell silent as she drove off.  Shortly after that, I felt Rei kicking the back of my seat.  I tried to ignore it.

"Rei, sweetie, please stop that."


"It's okay, ma'am," I told her.  I've had worse.  I really had, and it's always best to err on the side of politeness.

"That doesn't make it okay," Sierra told her

"You never said hello to me!" Rei said.

I turned around and let out a mock gasp.  "Oh no!  I am so sorry, Rei.  Hi.  I'm Jason."

"Goodbye Mr. Jason!"  Then she pushed a cloth against my face, and that's the last thing I remember.

When I woke up, realizations dawned slowly.  It was slowly and without fully understanding what was going on that I found out that I was strapped to one of those James Bond-esque tables.  You know, the ones that restrain you while the inevitable laser beam starts slowly inching upwards to cut you in two?  My senses were dulled from the drugs, which is probably the only reason I was able to not panic.  I thought as quickly and furiously as I could for a suitable opener.


Rei (though I'm not sure if that was her real name) was sitting in the the lap of a man in a suit that must have been really fancy-looking once but was currently worn and bloodstained.  There were a few others standing around, all in masks, all looking down at me.

The man in the suit smiled, and Rei giggled and let out a "Hi, Mr. Jason!"  Then the man leaned down and whispered something in her ear.  Any joy on Rei's face instantly disappeared and she looked pained, like she might start crying.  "Y-yes...h-hello there...Kenny..." she stammered quietly.

"So...I guess I'm not exactly the guest of honor here, am I?"

The suited man whispered something else in her ear.  "On the...c-c-contrary.  You're the v-very special g-g...guest of honor."

I was getting a lot of Bond Villain vibes.  It really didn't make my situation feel any better.  "Right.  That sort of guest of honor."

He whispered in her ear again, and it was at this point that I caught on that he was talking through her for some reason.  "S-so many people w-want you.... M-my lord would...see y-you for his own.... C-curious results from your...examin...ations...."

I was still in the dark, so I tried to get them to talk more.  If they were acting like Bond Villains, maybe I could get them to monologue like them.  "So since you people are probably going to kill me anyway, would you mind telling me who you are and what you want from me?"

"W-we w-want you bec-cause others want you.... W-we certainly won't b-be k-k-k-kill...."  Rei started sobbing, unable to go on through the tears.  The suited man started holding her like he was comforting her, but it looked more like he was just going through the motions, like he was petting a cat instead of trying to console a human being.  His eyes were locked on me.  Cold.  Mechanical.  Calculating.

"Why are you speaking through her?" I asked, not sure what was making her sob so hard.  He opened his mouth to say something, but I never heard what came out.  There was too much pain.  My head felt like someone was slicing into it with a knife made of fire.  Almost like hearing the Choir, but different.  It wasn't the man in the suit, but myself and the other proxies in the room who I heard speak:


"Wh...who do you work for?" I managed through lungfuls of air.

He went back to speaking in Rei's ear again.  I could only imagine the hell she was going through.  "F-father."  The Slender Man, most likely.

"And why me?"

"E-everyone wants you.  Supply...and d-demand."

I thought about it.  "All right.  So you don't want me dead.  And you don't even know why you want me other than 'everyone else does.'  So what do you hope to accomplish with this?  What are you even planning on doing with me?"

"M-make you...a p-proxy."

Oh.  Of course.  How stupid of me.  "It's not going to happen," I said.

"That's what the...other n-nine p-people in this room said."

I really didn't have a comeback for that.  I knew he was right.  If they wanted to brute-force me into it, they probably had ways.  So I fell silent and waited.  There wasn't anything else I could do.

The man in the suit leaned down and started whispering in my ear.  I couldn't hear the words, but it was like he was speaking images directly into my head.  There were a lot of things and I don't remember them all but there was Lily.  Lily was there beside me and she was alive only it wasn't really her because it only looked like her and she wasn't the same girl that I loved and she took out a reverse-blade katana like the one Kenshin uses and started beating me with it over and over and over and over

And then there was a crash and everything stopped.  I thought they had finished at first, until I saw that every single one of the people in the room was unconscious.  Rei and the suited man had vanished, and there was a masked man standing in the room that hadn't been there before.  His mask was cracked in the top corner, and the break ran down into the face of the mask, though I never got a good enough look at the face behind it.  He pulled a glass-covered blanked off of himself and dropped it to the ground as he undid the straps holding me to the table.  I looked over and saw that the window was broken--he must have come through there.

"There really aren't words to describe my thanks," I told him, "but, um...thank you."

He held up a finger and shook his head, then removed a pair of earplugs.  I thanked him again as he started searching around the room until he found a tub containing my bag and Lily.

"Thanks again," I said, admittedly a bit lamely, as he handed them to me.  "Uh, who are you?"

He made a zipping motion across his lips, but it lacked the urgency of a command to be quiet.  The gesture must have meant something different....

"...Moth?"  He nodded.  I had actually been heading to visit the mute proxy and his partner Picasso.  Proxies, yes, but...relatively good people despite their loyalty to the Slender Man. They seem to keep their enemies limited only to those they have an order against--and their old boss, Fracture.  But I had been planning on meeting the pair in Florida.  Moth had managed to find me in Tennessee and save me when I most needed saving.  Crimson's words came back to me: there are no coincidences.

He beckoned me over to the window and gestured out to some vans in the distance heading in our general direction.  "Who are they?  Backup?"  He nodded and opened the window.  "We should probably get out of here, then, huh?  You have any ideas?"

He headed out the window and I followed him to a nearby ATV, which he drove into the woods until he reached a truck. "I thought you were supposed to be in Florida," I told him when we finally stopped and after he had loaded the ATV onto the back.  We had been e-mailing each other for a while and I had made plans to visit him.  He pulled out a laptop and showed me the most recent post on his blog.  Apparently their location had been compromised and Picasso's location was currently under siege by Fracture and his men.  He was on his way to bail her out.

"So you're on the move.  But how'd you find me?"  He pulled out an envelope that had instructions to my location and a quick briefing on what to expect.  Apparently the man in the suit was called "Whisper."  Fitting.  The instructions were simply signed "a friend."  That caught my eye.  Someone had left Raggedy a sizable sum of money after I left for keeping an eye on him and had used that exact signature.  "Who gave this to you?"

He pulled out a notepad and wrote something down.  "A stranger."  It figured.  Things are never  that easy.

" you want me to come with you?"  He looked at me seriously and scrawled "Rogue Shadow" on the paper.  "Well yeah, I mean...I guess he's waiting.  It's just...I was planning on visiting you anyway.  Another time, maybe?"

He nodded and pulled something out of his bag.  "What is it?" I asked as he handed it to me.  I unwrapped the cloth around it to reveal a spearhead.

"Oh...n-no," I told him as he gestured at Lily.  "I'm not...I don't know if I want to turn it into something more lethal.  I've...still never killed anyone you know."

He shook his head and indicated that he wanted to spar.  We did for a few moments, and he demonstrated how to use it non-lethally: with the spearhead as a dangerous diversion, and the blunt end as a non-lethal alternative.

"Okay...that makes sense.  But I'm still not sure. I'll think about it.  Is that fair?"  He shrugged.  I didn't feel like telling him the real reason: Lily was a pacifist, and I wasn't sure I wanted to disrespect that by turning the staff named after her into a lethal weapon.

"Well..." I said after a bit, "I guess this is goodbye, huh?  Would you let Picasso know I say hi?"  He nodded.  "Um...good luck with that."

He nodded again and opened his arms for a hug.  I was...admittedly kind of taken aback at first.  I've been alone for a while now.  And while I've spent time with Raggedy and Canis and Wayward and Lyron and Magpie and Crimson, I've...never had anyone make a gesture of affection like that.  It was just a hug, but the fact that he was even offering it meant the world to me.  It didn't matter that he was a proxy.  He saved my life, so I didn't feel like he was about to knife me.  I trudged forward and let him put his arms around me.

It took everything I had not to cry.

After a few seconds I broke the hug.  "Well," I said, secretly relieved at how composed I was, "I guess...I'll see you later, maybe."  He nodded, and I turned to leave.  I didn't turn back.  Couldn't.  Just started walking and let the tears flow.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Christmas Encounter: Part 2

Crimson and Magpie took me to a small apartment filled with cheery Christmas decorations.  "Sorry we didn't get you any presents," Magpie told me.  "We figured that a nice meal and a warm bed would be hospitable enough."

"Christmas truce," Crimson said, echoing Magpie's earlier words.

I turned to him and looked him up and down.  "So what's your schtick."

He gave me a sly grin.  "I'm very, very pretty."

"Crimson's not going to be coming after you," Maggie said.  "He's not much of a fighter."

Crimson nodded.  "I'm the brains here.  Sure, the boss is the one with the plan, but I'm the one who helps him figure out how to run it."

"The Slender Man takes orders from you?" I asked flatly.  He and Magpie both burst out laughing.

"Not 'The Boss,' Kenny," Magpie said.  "Just...our boss.  The man behind the Ten Masks.  Come on.  Have a seat and we'll have a nice warm meal, okay?  We'll explain a few things over that."

We ate in silence for a bit.  They were taking the same food as me, so I trusted that it wasn't poisoned.  After I had eaten a bit, I spoke.

"So why are you doing this?"

"Boss's orders," Crimson said.  "None of us have anything personal against you, not even our boss.  And as you might have guessed--we're not really trying to kill you.  In fact, most of us are actually pretty fond of you."  He winked at that.

"Could have fooled me."

"We're mostly just testing your strength.  At least for now," Magpie said.  "If you can beat us, great.  If you get killed, well--then you're maybe not the guy we're looking for."

"Looking for?"

Crimson spoke up.  "The boss has a plan.  He needs you, or maybe someone like you, to pull it off.  Don't worry, you'll still get to make the choice of whether or not to go along with it, so it's not like you're just some puppet."  He paused, flinching a bit at his own word choice as he remembered what had almost happened with the Wooden Girl.  "That reminds me, though.  Mags, it looks like the Wooden Girl and Cold Boy are working together."

"Good," she said, nodding.  "The boss'll be happy."

"Happy?  About what?  What exactly is going on?"  As the conversation went on, I was feeling more and more in the dark. 

Magpie took a deep breath.  "All right, listen, Kenny.  There's a storm coming.  It's been building up for a long time and hell's going to start breaking out really soon.  Any preconceived notions you have, toss them out right now.  Things have changed since the Fears started entering the picture.  It's no longer light vs. dark.  Runners vs. proxies.  Everyone vs. the Slender Man and his cronies.  This is going to be hard to believe, but...we're the good guys.  And we'll need your help, but we can't tell you how.  Not yet.  You're not ready."

"It sure is taking a long time to prepare him," Crimson said.

"Yes, and we're all trying to move this along a little, aren't we?  We were hoping you'd have met at least seven of us by now.  Or at least enough of us to catch on to our names."

"What do you mean?"

She snorted.  "Really, Kenny.  Magpie, Gabe, Crimson, Phones--"

"He doesn't know Phones's name yet," Crimson cut in.

"Oh, right, he doesn't.  Yeah, Kenny, that guy in the red hoodie you met earlier?  We call him Phones."

"Oh yeah!  The Redlight knockoff?"

They laughed a bit again.  "I'm pretty sure he's never even heard of Redlight.  All just one of those funny coincidences."

"Yeah, there seem to be a lot of coincidences everywhere around me lately."

They grew silent.  Crimson spoke first.  "Kenny, I want you to remember this.  Even if you don't trust a word we're saying, you have to remember this one thing: there are no coincidences.  If something seems too good to be true, it probably is."

"You rescuing me from the Fears and giving me a place to spend the night seems too good to be true."

Magpie screeched in laughter.  Crimson just smiled.  "Yes, but we willingly admit that we have shadowy ulterior motive that we're hiding from you.  We rescued you because we want you alive for our own purposes."

"That, and we can't just let a cute boy like you freeze to death on Christmas."

"Very true.  Special provisions can be made for cute boys."  They both had wicked grins on their faces at that point.

After that, they started conversing more casually.  I tried to turn the conversation back to the earlier topics, but they always stopped me with "we'll reveal more when it's the right time."  I spent the night and then left as soon as possible in the morning.

I've been moving on since then.  There are still a few more months of winter and I'd like to head somewhere warmer.  I stopped to watch Les Miserables, though.  I don't watch many movies, but Lily loved the musical, so I figured that I should at least try to find out what it was about.

I hate to admit it, but Crimson and Magpie really saved me from the Cold Boy there.  In more ways than one.  Say what you want about the quality of the company I was keeping, but after I left, I had to admit that I was much more in the Christmas spirit.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Christmas Encounter: Part 1

I messed up.  Got caught in northern states when winter hit, so I got hit with snow.  Lily hated snow.  I hated snow too.  I still do, actually.

First of all, though, Wayward and Lyron are alive and okay.  I'm not going to say that everyone at the hostel is fine since they're not.  The situation has been resolved, but at the expense of some death and Fear possession.  I should have been there.  I should have been involved.  Tried to help them somehow.

So I was alone, a homeless kid trying to catch a ride in the height of Christmas shopping season.  No one picked me up.  It doesn't matter.  I wouldn't have gotten far if they did, since so many were shoppers who hadn't come from very far.  I found a few homeless shelters to spend the night.  The nice thing about Christmas is that people suddenly remember that charity makes them look good, so there were some nice meals and plenty of volunteers to keep the place staffed.

Still, it was hard not to feel disconnected from it all.  There was no one I could share my story with without putting them in danger.  That's probably why I started to head out of the city on the 24th.  It was hard to be in the Christmas spirit.

I bought some heavier clothes, but wasn't quite expecting the weather I got.  I'm pretty sure the weather got below zero.  Then it started snowing.  I ducked into an alley to try to get out of the wind some and just sat against the wall, huddling up.  I just knew that I was going to be one of those bums killed by the winter cold on Christmas.  The world has a biting sense of humor like that.  That's when I heard the singing.

"Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all"

I looked up then, realizing what was happening.  A little pale towheaded boy dressed in tattered clothes was standing right in front of me.  The Cold Boy I expected.  His companion I didn't.

"So," a cool, measured, silky voice said.  "This is Kenny.  Poor boy...he looks so cold."  The speaker was hovering sideways in midair behind him.  She looked...surprisingly human, considering that her entire body was made of wood.  "He certainly doesn't look like much."  She shrugged, and it was like her wrists were the only part of her arms that actually moved, as if she controlled her body with invisible wires instead of muscles.

The Wooden Girl.

"He'd certainly be a fun doll," she said.  The Cold Boy just giggled.  The cold was making my head murky (though something about the Fears' presence made everything they did feel extremely vivid), so it took me a  bit to realize that my body was moving of its own accord.  I screamed and pulled against it, and though I couldn't see anything, it felt like I was struggling against strings.

I should have been gone then, too.  But that's when he showed up.  "Hey!" he yelled and held up a lit blowtorch.  "If you don't want to get charred or melted, you'll back off now."  The tension on my body slacked and the air felt warmer almost instantly.  The Cold Boy and Wooden Girl exchanged a glance.

"Let's get out of here, Frosty," she said.  "We can deal with this one later."

I looked at the guy.  He was probably about my age and the only way I can describe him is "bishonen."  I have to admit, with the snow in the air, it looked like he was literally sparkling for a second.  Interestingly, the majority of his clothing was in shades of red.

He offered a hand to help me to my feet.  "Hey.  Call me Crimson."

I shook his hand.  "Kenny.  Thanks, Crimson.  I really owe you one.  You don't know how glad I am to meet you."

"And I believe we're already acquainted," came a familiar voice behind me.  A hand landed on my shoulder and I turned to see Magpie.  She grinned and spoke before I could relax.  "Relax, Kenny.  Let's call this a Christmas truce.  C'mon, let's get you out of the cold.  We've got a few things to discuss."

Monday, December 17, 2012


A few days ago, someone who's been commenting on my blog under the name "Last of the Last" told me that I should read up on the scarlet-marked.  I didn't know why exactly he was suggesting it, but I did what he said.  Here's how I understand it: the Red Cap, the Fear of sex and sexuality, has two types of servants/proxies/etc, which seems to be the general trend.  There are the scarlet-marked, those who worship her (him? it?) and serve her willingly, and the "blood vessels," people the Red Cap has possessed.

I've been reading the hostel's blog, Notes from the Underground, and they've been having issues with a certain scarlet-marked called Ruby Tuesday.  Wayward, Lyron, and I had some issues with the greyskins and the Choir.  And then, both attacked at once.

We had been about to leave.  Lyron and I had both been reading the blog and found that the protection against the Fears they had originally had was gone.  We were so close, but right as we were leaving, there was this noise.  Have you ever heard of the "brown note?"  It's a rumored low-pitch frequency that gets its name from the fact that it allegedly causes you to lose control of your bowels.  The concept behind the brown note, though?  That a noise on a certain frequency can actually damage your body?  That's what it was like, hearing the Choir.  It felt like my gut was turning inside out, like my head was exploding, like my skin was going to melt off.  And I hadn't even stepped outside.  Wayward and Lyron had, and they were both vomiting when I pulled them back in.

Wayward told the staff about the Choir, and they put the entire hostel into lockdown.  No one comes in.  No one goes out.  Tensions rose.  Rumors started flying around.  Greyskins were on their way.  Ruby Tuesday may have been involved.  Both turned out to be true.  Whether the Choir and Red Cap had called a truce or the greyskins were also blood vessels or both, Ruby Tuesday showed up with a sizable number of reinforcements.  They surrounded he hostel and laid siege to it.  We were all locked into some supernatural Mexican Standoff.

And then the word got out that one of the hostel guests had left for a day or two.  A girl named Sandy.  Getting some time away from the place.  They said that it happens on occasion.  I'd believe it, since staying cooped up in the hostel was frustrating even before the siege.  But she was on her way back and would be walking into a trap.  She'd be killed or tortured or turned or used as a bargaining chip if she got caught.

She was smarter than anyone gave her credit for, though.  She was a runner, and we runners have to be smart.  A few of us crowded around to watch the hostel's security cameras as she came back.  She realized something was wrong early on.  Approached cautiously.  Surveyed the situation.  Found alternative paths.  Managed to make it back to the hostel undetected, only to find that there was no way in.  She wouldn't be able to slip past all of the greyskins undetected.

That's when I decided to do something stupid.  There was an opening.  A line of defense weaker than the others.  If I could get out there to her, the two of us might be able to fight our way back.  It was a stupid idea, obviously, but I couldn't just leave her out there to die.  I didn't tell anyone what I was planning because they would have tried stopping me.  I grabbed my bag.  Grabbed Lily.  Took a pair of Wayward's headphones and headed out the back door.

It was a dumber move than I had thought.  The greyskins noticed me almost instantly and came straight after me.  That's when Sandy made her dumb move.  She realized what I was doing and came out of hiding to help.  She was unprepared.  Shadows appeared on the wall of the hostel.  They looked like human silhouettes made of flame.  The Choir. 

Then, there was a small break in the shadows as mouth-like shapes appeared on their faces and opened to scream.  My vision turned red.  I coughed and spat blood out of my throat.  Every orifice on my face started bleeding.  Even the greyskins were affected, falling  the ground and clutching their ears.  Only the headphones and my brief prior encounter with the Choir braced me enough to pull through.  I looked up when the scream ended and saw Sandy lying on the ground.  Her eyes had melted out of their sockets.  I didn't have to look twice to know she was dead.

The shadows on the wall had vanished, but the greyskins were recovering.  I tried to stand but couldn't find my balance.  I couldn't run.  I was doomed.  Dead.  Done for.  And that's when he appeared.

I had seen him before, immediately before I had met Wayward.  He had stolen my backpack and I had missed my bus because of it.  He stood over my body with is back to me, wearing the same long brown coat and ponytail that he had worn that day, which is how I recognized him.  He held a wooden staff in his hands and I thought he had grabbed Lily before I realized I was still holding her.

He felled the last greyskin of the wave and turned to me so that I got my first good glimpse of his face.  The features were sort of mousey, and everything about his appearance and expression screamed "clever little scamp."  He extended a hand and pulled me to my feet.  "Last of the Last," he yelled over the noise of the headphones.  "I'd love to chat more, but you need to get out of here.  Run!"

He gave me a shove and I took off on unsteady feet.  My head was still swimming and the damage to my ears was still messing with my balance.  I managed to make it probably two hundred meters before before I toppled to the ground.  I closed my eyes and waited for death to come as the greyskins started approaching.

That's when I heard gunfire right beside me.  Not directed at me, directed at the greyskins.  I pulled myself to my hands and knees and started groggily looking back and forth.

"What the hell were you thinking?" a familiar voice hissed.  Edwin Canis hauled me to my feet.  "Tell me where you're going before you leave next time, and don't try playing the hero so much.  Let's go.  I'm getting you out of here."

I heard more gunfire then and twisted around to see a man standing on the roof of the hostel.  He wore a long brown duster and a bowler hat, and I wondered who he was until he turned.  The gun he held was a sniper rifle, and his face was covered by a gas mask.  Between those two, I managed to connect the dots: the Archangel.  But what was he doing here?  And why was he gunning down the greyskins?

"Move, Kenny!" Edwin shouted, practically dragging me to his police cruiser.  He started the engine and pulled away from the hostel, leaving everyone else behind.

"Wait!  What about the others!"

He shook his head.  "Forget about them, Kenny.  There's no time."

"Go back!  They're still in danger!"

"I can't, Kenny!  Getting you was hard enough.  There's no way they would even let me in.  Besides, the Archangel is there now, and he's evening up the odds."

"How do you know that he's not going to just turn on them?"

He was quiet for a second.  "I don't."  I tried to grab the wheel from him at that, and he reached over with one hand and pressed his fingers somewhere on my neck.  I lost consciousness almost instantly.

When I woke up again, I was in a hotel bed.  Canis left a note.  He had paid for the room but didn't have time to stick around.  There was an apology for leaving everyone at the hostel, accompanied with a warning to play things safer from now on.  Don't try playing hero, because playing hero isn't what keeps you alive.  I threw the note away.

And now I'm on my own again.  Nowhere to go, no one to talk to.  It was nice while it lasted, I guess.  Back to wandering.  I've got questions, of course.  Who exactly is Last?  What was the Archangel doing at the hostel?  Is everyone at the hostel still okay?  I don't know.  Hopefully some answers will show up soon.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Hostel

We're okay.  Don't worry.

As you no doubt saw, Lyron's place was attacked by Greyskins.  From what I can understand, they're servants of the Choir, though I have no idea whether they willingly agree to do that or whether it infects them.  I hope it's the latter because I can't imagine anyone choosing to do what we saw.

Wayward has an account of this too, but basically, the Greyskins attacked in a horde.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but after seeing them, I actually don't think that proxies are too bad.  These things were like zombies.  They have this grey fungus that covers their bodies (hence, "Greyskins") that makes them look undead, and while I've heard that they're not all as deformed as the ones we ran into, they were grotesque.  Wayward mentioned that some had jaws that looked like they were attached by nothing but skin and fungus, but the ones that stuck out to me were the ones that didn't move quite right, like the bones in their arms and legs had been broken and turned into an extra joint.

We were prepared to go in case something like this happened, but I don't think we were prepared for this.  Maybe Wayward was, because I think she's dealt with Greyskins before, but I was completely lost.  They screamed at one point and when they screamed it was just...this terrible, awful noise, like nails on a chalkboard.  But as terrible as that sound is on its own, the worst part is that it feels like those nails on that chalkboard are insulting you.  Like they nails are writing out the vilest insults that exist and they're aimed directly at you and you can hear it.  Wayward lent me a pair of headphones and put on some white noise, which is what she does.  It helped some, but it wasn't quite enough because at one point it felt like I started crying and my vision blurred but it was red and I was actually crying blood.

I really don't remember much of what happened.  The whole thing was a blur.  I've faced enemies several at a time before, but I've never faced this many at once, and never anything like these Greyskins.  All I know is that we couldn't get out and we were going to die and the only reason we're still alive is that Lyron saved us.  Despite how paranoid we were of her and how little we wanted to trust her, she still saved our lives.  She came out with a handgun and started shooting them and managed to clear enough of them out to help us get to her car.  And then we drove.  I don't know how far we drove.  I think I was passed out for most of it.

We're at a hostel now.  Lyron was the one who suggested it.  Between this and what she did with the Greyskins, we owe her our lives.  But now that I've had time to think about it seems wrong.  From what I've gotten from my research and Lyron's notes, the Choir is sort of fungal in nature.  It grows and multiplies and instills itself in a host.  Between that and how much they reminded me of zombies, I'm fairly certain that these people weren't volunteers.  They were infected.  I don't know whether the Choir destroyed who they once were or, even worse, just took control of their bodies.  The former means that they were people and Lyron gunned them down like animals.  While it's technically self-defense, I really don't like killing.  They didn't understand what they were doing.  Why did they have to die like that just because they didn't understand?

On the other hand, if the Choir just took control of their bodies, that means that they were conscious throughout all of that, unable to stop themselves from attacking us.  In which case, they were good people who were killed because our lives are "more important" than theirs.

I can't condemn Lyron.  Not really.  After all, it was us or them.  But I've seen too many people die.  I can't feel comfortable with that they did.  And it's not just her.  Wayward is something of an arsonist.  She uses aerosol flamethrowers and Molotov cocktails as weapons.  When I practice self-defense, the worst my attackers end up with is a nasty concussion.  Wayward's self-defense reduces attackers to ash.

I don't know what to think anymore.  I used to think that not killing anyone was the moral thing to do.  After all, they're still human, and who am I to choose who lives and who dies.  But could I kill if my life depended on it?  When it comes down to kill or be killed, would I deliver the final blow?  Survivor of the fittest?  Or would I put my morals over my life?  And even then, is that truly me trying to be a good person?  Or am I just trying to convince myself because I'm just a coward who couldn't take another life if he tried?

Anyway, I'd rather not try to think of the answers to that now.  We're at the hostel now.  We're safe again for a bit.  I shouldn't need to think about it right now.  We got here a couple nights ago.  It's strange, being around so many people again.  It's really not that many, but compared to just me, it's a crowd.  They've got a blog, apparently.  I've been trying to read through it in my spare time here so that I can figure out who all these people around me are.  I'll let you know if anything else happens.

Monday, December 3, 2012

We're going on the move.

Lyron's place is under attack.  Greyskins.  We have to get out of here.  No more time to explain right now.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Dinner

Lyron prepared a Thanksgiving meal for us yesterday.

It was really nice to have a meal that size again.  Since I've been on my own, it's actually been years since I've eaten like that. We had turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, a bit of ham, stuffing, cranberry sauce...the works for your typical Thanksgiving meal.  Before eating, we all went around the table stating what we were thankful for.  It wasn't hard to come up with something.  We're all just thankful that somehow, against all odds, we're still alive.

But it worries me.  Not the meal.  Not Lyron, since I'm pretty confident by this point that she really does care for us in her own way.  The thing that worries me are how good things are.

Wayward mentioned on her blog that things are, if you'll pardon the cliche, quiet.  Too quiet.  I agree.  Everything is too good.  It's like the calm before the storm.  You just can't have nice things when dealing with the Fears.

So Wayward and I have packed.  We're ready for when everything hits the fan and we have to take off running again.  We're going to enjoy these little luxuries for as long as we can, and I think Lyron would be offended if we bolted before we have to (and while I don't like trusting Lyron, I like offending her even less).  But we're ready to run the minute we need to.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Wayward and I had a talk with Lyron a couple weeks ago.  She's working on a transcript for us, and I'll post that when she finishes it, but let's just say for now that we may have misjudged her some.  She may be a servant of multiple Fears, but I'm not sure how much choice she actually has in the matter.  I think I'd rather die than work for a Fear, but then again, I guess that's why I'm running.

I want to trust her.  I really do.  And it hurts not to.  It feels like I'm betraying her by not letting my guard down.  Like it's unfair to her.  And I can't tell.  Maybe it's the right thing to do, but maybe it's because it hits just a little close to home.

She's lost someone named Lily too.

It's just enough to make me think.  We've all lost people close to us.  Sometimes they end up dead, like my parents and Lily's entire family.  Sometimes we leave them behind, like all my friends back home.  I know that I never talk about them.  I can't.  What happens if I let something slip?  Then they're in as much trouble as Lily was and I still am.  More, since they're unprepared.

Anyway, the reason I've been so quiet is because I've been doing research.  Lyron gave us some documents that have a lot of notes on the Fears.  I've been comparing it to everything I've learned so far and it seems like while the information may not actually be false, it might be inaccurate due to inconsistencies.  I've seen the same thing with the Slender Man, so I wouldn't be too surprised.

I've also been in contact with Canis some more.  I've sent him some of the information, and in response, he's sent me some as well, which I've shared with Wayward.  I want to discuss things with her in more detail, but she's always so difficult to talk to--mostly because she doesn't like to listen.  It's really a shame that the Choir affects her so much, since she seems like she's really nice.  I wonder if she used to be talkative before all this happened to her.  I wonder what her life was life.  It's strange.  I've spent weeks with her, but I feel like I know Lyron, who's on the other side, better than I know Wayward.

Anyway, I've (potentially) learned a lot about Fears that I didn't know so much about before.  I'm really looking as much as I can into the Slender Man and Cold Boy specifically (since they're the ones that I've personally encountered), as well as the Choir, since I think that there might be a connection between the Choir and Not-Redlight, and also because I think it might help me understand Wayward a little better.  I'm not going to bother sharing, since I don't want to post information that I'm unsure of, but I might go into it more later on.

Another thing: after Canis mentioned that Raggedy "doesn't exist," I figured I'd ask him about Wayward and Lyron.  Wayward's blog doesn't exist for him, but Lyron's does.  He says that he can't find any sort of records of her, but he can read her blog and--while I don't want to jinx things by mentioning it--he's actually been able to visit where we are and identify the house where we're staying.  But when he looks into the house's background, he gets conflicting stories.  It's abandoned.  It was demolished.  It was never built.  While Lyron's not the owner of the house, the name she gave for the owner doesn't match any of the multiple names Canis managed to unearth for the current owner.  When he looks into the names he does find, they either do own the house, own different houses, have passed away, or never existed in the first place.  He's confused, but he doesn't think it's that abnormal for people affected by the Fears, and even has a few theories as to what might be happening.

So that's what's been happening.  Research, research, and more research.  I'll post again if anything interesting happens or if I find something particularly notable.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Things seem almost too good to be true at the moment.  From my experience, when things seem too good to be true, they usually are.  So I'm on my guard at the moment.

Wayward and I are staying with Lyron.  It's not her house, but I haven't gotten much more information out of her apart from the fact that it belongs to some man she saved.  Apparently he was pretty rich, because it's a nice place.  There's a TV screen in pretty much every room, even the bathrooms.  And the beds are really, really nice, which would be wonderful if we were staying with someone who wasn't affiliated with the Fears in the way Lyron was.  As it is, Wayward and I have been sleeping in shifts.  Lyron looks like she was telling the truth when she said that we'd easily be able to overpower her, but she could always call in reinforcements.  And either way, it's not like you need to be a combat expert to slit someone's throat in their sleep.

That said, I feel bad mistrusting Lyron, since she's been so good to us.  Like I mentioned, she serves several different Fears, but apart from that, she seems like a really nice woman.  She's welcoming, accommodating, nice, and I guess she's pretty attractive as well.  Overall, she's a really easy woman to trust, which is exactly why I'm trying so hard not to trust her.  It's maybe not fair to her, but we can't take chances.

We met at a fairly large cafe.  Wayward and I had insisted on a public place in case anything went wrong.  Lyron happily agreed and then announced that she would take us shopping.  Her treat, she said.  She'd buy us food and any other supplies we'd need.  After all, apparently she's got access to funds from Australian banks because of the Fears.  I feel bad about spending her money, and guilty about using money that's associated with Fears, but on the other hand, it's using the Fears' own funds against them in a way, right?  That's nothing to feel guilty about.

So we've just sort of lived under the same roof for a few days.  I haven't felt comfortable opening up to Lyron yet, and Wayward doesn't much talk to anyone.  Tomorrow, though, I think that I'm going to try to get some information from Lyron.  I owe her an interview as well.  I'll let you all know how that goes.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Some more about Wayward

Traveling with Wayward is an interesting experience.  If nothing else, it's because we don't really talk much.  Apparently the Choir can twist people's words, and I don't like the idea of accidentally saying something terrible to her.  We talk some, but not much.  I smile at her some (since I'm pretty sure that she's not fond of physical contact and it'd be inappropriate anyway), but we're not about to start spilling our life stories.  She refuses to even give me her name, so I guess it's just Wayward.

I noticed there was something weird about the texture of her clothes, and it turns out that it's because they're flame-resistant.  Apparently the best way to deal with the Choir and its servants is with fire, so she's become...something of a firebug, I guess.  I guess I'm not entirely comfortable sitting next to her on the bus when I know her bag could explode at any time.  But hey, she's company, and company who I know won't kill me.

She's always wearing headphones, and she's apparently listening to just white noise because the Choir won't let her listen to music.  Something about it seemed a little familiar, so I asked her about Not-Redlight.  "It's possible it might be the Choir," she said.  "If he can stand the music, good for him."

Anyway, I guess it's okay to let you guys know where I am.  Lyron is currently on leave and staying in Ohio.  She's invited me to stay with her for a few days on the condition that she gets to interview me.  And she's...well, she's a proxy.  Or servant?  I'm not sure what the right term is, but she serves several different Fears.  I know, a really stupid move, willingly walking into what might be a trap.  That's why I'm so glad I have Wayward with me.  Lyron's claimed in e-mails that she's weak and I could easily take her (a fact that I'm well aware could be a flat-out lie), but even if I can't, Wayward has plenty of fiery weapons with her that could provide some great backup.

Like I said, a stupid move, but I think it's worth the risk.

Well, wish us luck.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I'm amazed at how small the world is sometimes.

After Not-Redlight attacked me, it became clear that the Ten Masks can find me fairly easily.  Speed has become more important than laying low, and while I'm hesitant about my potential safe house, I'm willing to risk it.  To get there faster, I decided to take a bus.

It shouldn't surprise you to learn that pretty much everything I have is crammed into my pack.  I literally can't live without it.  Well, I was at the station, getting ready to purchase my ticket, when a guy swiped it.  I don't get why he went after me.  The pack was right beside me, meaning that I'd notice right away if it were taken, and I'm not the sort of person who looks like he has a lot of valuable possessions.  So why me?  Almost every single person in the bus stop would have been a better person to rob.

I grabbed Lily and chased after him as he ran out the building.  Even with the pack weighing him down, he was fast.  He couldn't outdistance me or shake me off, but I couldn't catch him.  I tried to get a good look at his face, but I mostly just saw his back: dark brown hair tied into a ponytail and a long, deep brown trenchcoat.  I burned those memories into my mind because they were all I had to identify him.

After a wild goose chase around town for about ten minutes, he must have given up on losing me and dropped the pack.  "Better not miss your bus!" he yelled, raising a hand and waving without looking back or breaking stride.  I wanted to go after him and bring him down, but he was right.  I had a bus to catch.

I was winded, and between that and not knowing the town too well, it took me a while to get back to the bus stop.  By the time I got there, the bus I had been planning on taking had already taken off.  I got a ticket for a different bus and waited.

A bus came by shortly after than and unloaded, and there was something...familiar about one of passengers.  Not in what she looked like, but in how she acted.  She kept throwing paranoid glances everywhere and looked extremely tired.  And she seemed to be traveling very light.  On a whim, I decided to try to talk to her.

She was a bit shorter than me, and looked a bit older too, with dark brown hair and eyes, dressed in thick-looking clothes.  I walked up to her and tried to speak, only to be met with an instant reply of "Leave me alone!"

I paused, trying to figure out whether or not to drop it or press further.  "Are you running from something?" I asked.

She pulled a pair of earphones away.  "What?"

"I said, 'Are you running from something?'"

Relief crossed her face, but she still looked at me suspiciously.  Her eyes fixed on my staff.  "Are you...are you The Wanderer?"  She smiled a bit at my stunned expression and said "I'm The Wayward Son."

A confused "...Son?" was all I managed as the gears started turning in my head.  I had stumbled across her blog recently, and knew that she had burned her house down and began running from the Choir, but I had no idea that Wayward was a girl.

"It's a reference to the song," she said sheepishly.  We stood there awkwardly for a little bit, neither really knowing how to react.

"Um...I know how hard it is to be on the run like this," I finally said.  "If you need somewhere to go, I have a place you can stay.  I mean, I don't, but I have somewhere to go and I know my host would welcome you too."

So that's how I ended up in a west-bound bus with Wayward.  Like I said, it's really a small world sometimes.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Another Mask?

I guess I expected this.  I haven't seen one of the Masks since Gabe, and that was a while ago.  I wasn't to surprised when another one found me.  Or at least I think it was another one.

I've been talking to a few people, and I think I have a place to stay for a few days.  I'm not telling you where exactly I'm going because I'll be easier to track that way and because, well, I have to admit that what I'm doing is sort of stupid.  Canis certainly thought so.  But I can't have anyone talking me out of it and I'm not going there unprepared, so my lips are sealed.

Anyway, I was in a rural area cutting across some fields and pastures.  It can cut a lot of distance off of a trip if an area is laid out in square miles.  Cutting diagonally across a square mile can, in theory, cut it down by...over a mile I think?  It'd be a 45, 45, 90 triangle, so it'd be 1, 1, square root of 2?  I'm not sure how the math works anymore, but it's really cuts it down.

Anyway, I was partway across across a pasture when I saw someone.  He looked over and saw me, and started running at me.

He was dressed in a red zipper hoodie that hid his face, along with running shoes, black polyester sweatpants with reflective white stripes down the side, and what I think was athletic tape wrapped around his hands.  I tried to run but I was weighed down by everything on me.  He, on the other hand, was dressed in light, loose clothes designed for athletics.  There was no way I could outdistance him.

My first thought upon seeing him was that it was Redlight, the sarcastic mastermind who had been responsible for the downfall of White Elephant's Robert Sagel, but I thought he was dead.  Or...came back?  He had the hoodie and the tape, but I thought Redlight wore camo pants.  And why was he after me...?

As I puzzled it over, I reacted in time to just narrowly dodge a fist.  A flurry of quick jabs struck my chest, and he hopped back as fell to the ground.  He jumped back and forth from side to side with his fists up, hood restricting any view of his face.  Whoever he was, he certainly didn't move or act like Redlight.

"Who are you?" I asked.  He didn't answer.  Didn't even respond, like he hadn't heard me.  I shrugged my backpack off and charged at him with Lily.  As I swung he ducked under my staff and threw another jab that connected with my side.  I managed to stay up until his leg swept under me.  He hopped back again, shifting his wait from foot to foot.

This continued for a bit.  I tried to attack, he dodged and counterattacked fluidly.  I'd yell at him, and he wouldn't even acknowledge me.  He wasn't very strong, but he was coordinated.  His movement was almost more like he was dancing than fighting.

Then I noticed something.  He bounced back and forth like he always did, always waiting for me to get to my feet before attacking, when his rhythm...changed.  As if he was a metronome and someone had suddenly shifted the weight.  Then I realized: that's exactly what happened.  He was listening to music.

It made sense.  It's why he didn't respond: he couldn't hear me.  It wasn't like he was dancing; he was dancing!  And as the two of us continued to fight, I noticed that he was definitely fighting to a specific rhythm.  If I could just figure out what that rhythm was, I could maybe use it to my advantage.

Sure enough, now that I could predict his moves, it was easier to block or dodge his punches and kicks.  I even got a few hits in on him (though not many) by trying to attack when his music would have offbeats.  After a few of these hits, though, he redoubled his efforts.  He went on the offensive, driving me back, then managing to slip a punch past my defenses directly into my gut.  As my body doubled over in pain, he jumped back and, instead of launching further attacks, turned and sprinted away.

I lost track of him.  It didn't occur to me to follow him, and I spent the time after the fight catching my breath instead.  I grabbed my pack and staff again and headed across the pasture again, trying to make it to the next town.

The question is...who was that?  I think he's one of the Masks, but he didn't say anything.  I don't know for sure.  Why would he be fighting to music when it made his movement predictable like that?  If he's one of the Masks, why did he run instead of trying to kill me?  The longer this all goes on, the more I'm getting the sense that I have no clue what's going on.

Anyway, you should hear from me again fairly soon.  It probably won't take me to get where I'm going.  I'll let you know then.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Supplies, Part 1

I've heard from just a few people concerning possible places to go.  I may not be heading anywhere in particular for a while, but that's fine.  I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other, leaning on Lily, leaning on the memories of Lily, always moving another step down the road.

Between the visit to Raggedy and this business with the Masks, I haven't had much time to talk about wandering much.  My personal problems aren't going to help anyone.  But maybe this will.

I keep everything I own in a backpack.  It's one of those big outdoor sporting ones.  I don't really own much anymore, though.  Most everything I have is essential.  I'm not going to go through everything right now, though.  Just the basics and the things that strike me as most important.

Apart from Lily and the backpack itself, my tarp is probably the most valuable.  It's a necessity for creating quick shelters.  It's also pretty much the entirety of my bedding.  No blankets.  No pillows.  No sleeping bags.  Those are all things I'd love, but they're all bulky comfort items that take up too much space.  I'd love to be able to have at least a pillow, but I try to avoid anything that's not absolutely necessary.  I can roll up some clothes for a pillow if I'm desperate enough.  It may not be comfortable, but it keeps heat in and it's versatile and durable.

I only have about two spare changes of clothes.  It's disgusting walking around in dirty clothes all the time, but I can't spare the room for much more than that.  I have three t-shirts, three pairs of jeans, one pair of hiking boots, a warm coat that's not too bulky, and five pairs of socks and underwear.  Things change a bit depending on the season, too.  During the summer, I'll swap a t-shirt for a tank top and a pair of jeans for running shorts.  During the winter I'll add a sweatshirt and some heavier pants, as well as gloves, a hat, and a scarf.  Of course, that's also why I try to head to the south for the winter.  The amount of exposure I'd suffer in the northern states could kill me if the weather got bad enough, even with warmer clothes.

I carry some food on me.  Mostly canned goods since they last pretty well, though it's never fun to eat cold beans straight from the can.  Sometimes, if I'm up to it, I'll start up a fire to heat some of my food up.  I have a can opener on my Swiss Army Knife, which comes in handy a lot.

Speaking of the knife, it's one of the most useful tools I have. I got the best one I could find and I don't regret it at all.  Not all of the tools work the greatest, but they work well enough to get the job done and the fact that it's so compact is a must.

And of course, there's my laptop and my mp3 player, the former to connect me to the world and the latter so that I don't go crazy.  I listen to a lot of audiobooks (I found a good site for some free ones) since they don't actually take up space and I can listen to them on the go.

Those are just a few of the things that I find most valuable.  There's more, of course.  I'll get into those later.  For now, though, I've finished my coffee and I need to get moving so that I can find a place to sleep for the night.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Request

Canis and I have parted ways.  I'm back on my own again.

I'm out of Texas now.  I probably won't say which direction I headed, other than "not south."  I'm still in the US.  I don't know why I've never tried leaving the country.  Probably because it wouldn't really matter.  He'll find me no matter where I go.  They'll find me no matter where I go.

Basically, I have a request for anyone out there who might be reading.  Is there anyone who would be willing to take me in for a brief period of time?

I know it's a lot to ask, especially with these Ten Mask guys after me.  Still, I could maybe make it worth your time.  I'd gladly do some work for you.  I could maybe pay you.  Maybe someone else will.  Someone left Raggedy a thousand dollars after I took off, and while I don't like the idea of someone following me like that, there's nothing wrong with some extra money, right?

I don't know.  I guess that after all this business with the Ten Masks and these other Fears showing up, I just don't want to be alone anymore.  At the very least, I haven't encountered any since the Black Dog incident, so that's at least something to be thankful for.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Black Dog

Canis and I visited the church where Gabe attacked me the other day.  He was looking for any clues to who and what the Masks might be.  He didn't find any clues in the church itself, but he said that it provided him with a good place to think.

"I think I can see a pattern emerging," he said, "but I'm not sure enough of it yet.  Even then, I can't use it to actually predict anything.  The next Mask could be anyone, anywhere, at any time."  He stood up.  "I'm sorry, Kenny.  All I can do at this point is use you as bait.  Withhold your location from the blog if you need to, but give me all the details you can in an e-mail.  Where you were, where you were headed, what time it was...I want everything.  I don't think they'll kill you.  Not yet.  I'm so sorry that I can't act as a bodyguard at this point in time, but I'll be trying to stay one step ahead of them for your sake."

We started driving back but stopped at a Burger King to grab a bit to eat for lunch.  As we headed back to Canis's police cruiser, he held up an arm, stopping me.

"Kenny," he hissed, "don't move."  I looked up and saw something move around from behind the car.  It was some form of dog, or wolf or something, standing at least five feet from ground to back.  Night-black, with intense red eyes and gleaming white fangs, saliva dripping from them as its lips pulled back in a snarl.

The Black Dog.  But what was it doing here?  From what I had learned, the Black Dog was the Fear of being found out.  Of being hunted down or having your secrets exposed.  But I don't have any major secrets, and I don't have to worry so much about being found now.  Why was it coming after me now?

"Kenny," Canis said in calm, measured tones, "on the count of three, I want you to run.  It doesn't matter where.  Just down the sidewalk there.  I want you to run as fast as you can."

I nodded, and he started counting.  On "three," I bolted.  I sprinted for about a minute straight, and finally slowed when I realized that I couldn't hear any sound of pursuit behind me.  I looked back.  Neither Canis nor the Black Dog was anywhere in sight.

After a bit of hesitation, I decided to take a chance and head back to the parking lot.  Canis was there, winded, fumbling with his keys.  "In the car," he said with a sense of urgency that I didn't ask any questions.  He had barely started the engine when I saw the Dog come barreling around the street corner.  It barely lost any momentum coming around the curb, and Canis wasted no time putting the squad car in gear.

"Why's it after me?" I asked, craning my neck around to watch.  It was keeping pace with us.  Maybe even gaining on us.

Canis turned the sirens on, plowing through red lights in an attempt to lose the beast.  "It's not.  It's after me."  I stared at him.  "Don't look so shocked," he said flatly.  "You know that I'm familiar with the Fears.  Did you think I'd never had any encounters with them myself?"  He paused.  "Don't worry, we're not in any danger.  I've done this before."  Sure enough, after a few twists and turns, he managed to shake the Dog from our trail.

I've been spending the time since thinking.  Obviously, if the Black Dog is after him, he has his own secrets he wants to stay hidden.  Are these secrets that could hurt me, or just things he doesn't want to share very easily?  What other Fears has Canis encountered?  Has he helped people like me in the past?

All I know is that I'm thinking it maybe would be a good idea to split from Canis soon. I don't like that he's essentially using me as bait, but I trust him when he says that there's no other way.  He can't protect me without knowledge, and he can't get that knowledge without putting me in a tricky position.  I just wish that there was some other way.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Edwin Canis

Thanks to Canis I now have a working bank account that I've got a fair amount of funds in.

"I'm sorry that I can't personally provide you with anything," he told me.  I let him know that his help alone has already done far more for me than money would.  "Just make sure to ration it."

I already know how to ration money.  I've had to for almost a year now.  But with the money from my parents that Canis has managed to secure for me, I'll at least have something to fall back on in case of emergencies.  He's made it easier for me to have money on hand.  I don't have to have cash on me now, so I don't have to risk carrying larger sums.  He's also made it so that I don't have to be afraid of using an account.  I can be traced through it, yes, but most likely only by authorities.  Maybe the best thing that Canis has done for me is to make sure that the authorities aren't my enemies anymore.

I asked him how exactly he knew what was going on and what all he knew.  "Well," he said, "as you may have guessed, I've had some contact with the Fears myself.  I've known about them for a while now.  I know how they work.  So when your family and the Andersons were killed, I recognized the methods.  Knew it was the Slender Man.  And since you were still missing, I asked to be put on the case.  I knew you'd need someone who understood."

Canis placed a pair of rectangular glasses on his sharp nose as he began looking through his paperwork.  "You covered your tracks pretty well, Kenny.  Laid low for a while, and by the looks of it, ended up not mentioning your full name or the Anderson girl's on this blog.  It took me a while to find it, and when you finally let slip a less vague location, you left Texas before I managed to track you down."

"Really?" I asked him.  "But wouldn't you be able to find Raggedyman fairly easily?"

"You would think, but it's not actually that simple.  You see, Mr. Schultz doesn't actually exist."

I froze as soon as the words left his mouth, shocked.  "What?  But...but that's impossible!  I met him myself! He...he exists!  He wouldn't lie about who he was, would he?  How could you not have any records of him?"  I reached into my backpack, fumbling for the Yu-Gi-Oh! cards he had sent with me as a parting gift.  "I have some cards he gave me right here!"

"I don't doubt you, Kenny.  And I'm sure that he used his real name.  But he doesn't exist.  Those links on your blog are all dead."  At the shock on my face, he added, "Things like that happen at times when the Fears are involved.  I can't explain why it happens, or even what happens, but sometimes realities don't line up."

At this point I asked Canis if I could use his computer.  He let me, and I checked Raggedy's blog.  It was still there, and I could still read it.  Canis told me that all he saw was a notification that no such page exists.  I exhaled a bit.  As long as he hadn't suddenly ceased existing on me, I didn't have to worry about Chris.

"I think something similar happened to him," I said.  He talked about this one girl.  Aura, or Anna.  I think one was her name and the other was her screen name.  And I think he loved her, but her blogs...didn't exist.  And he kept forgetting things about her.  Even forgetting her name by the end of his visit.  Like she had never existed in the first place."

Canis nodded.  "It's strange.  It's one of the things I'd try to investigate if I had more time.  But right now, I've been more concerned with these 'Ten Masks.'  I've never heard of them before."

"From what I've gathered, they're an elite squad of ten proxies trying to kill me."

"Almost certainly.  Although I'd hardly call them 'elite.'  I mean no offense, Kenny, but you're still an amateur in terms of combat."  He pushed his glasses up his nose.  "No, the fact that they're not elite is what bothers me.  If they wanted you dead, why not just find one person to put a bullet through your head?  Why ten of them?  And this 'Gabe.'  I know him.  Jeremiah Landis.  What's he doing in all this?"

"How do you know him?" I asked.  He returned with a glare.  His eyes narrowed to slits and his lips curled back into something close to a snarl.

"That information is both confidential and inconsequential," is all he said.  I didn't try broaching the subject again.

"So how did you find me?" I hazarded.

"Like I said, an anonymous tip.  I'm as surprised as you are.  Sure, smashing up a church technically is vandalism, but I get the impression that he called more so that I could find you--which means that whoever it was knows that I was looking for you and knew where you were."  He started speaking less to me and more to the paperwork in his hands as he looked through it.  "Who that might be, I don't know.  My best guess at this point is that they're a member of the Ten Masks who wanted to get their turn.  That might also be why they're not too concerned with killing you at the moment...."

A thought comes to my mind.  "After I left, someone left Chris a note with a thousand dollars."

That stops him.  "Really?  Tell me all you can about that."  I read him the post that he had mentioned it in, focusing on this part:

The strangest thing was that yesterday, I found an envelope at my doorstep. Given my track record with things being left on my doorstep I was kind of hesitant to open it. Once I got up the nerve to do so, I saw that inside was $1000 along with a note:

For your trouble. Thanks for keeping an eye on him.
A friend.

As surprising and confusing as this was, I am certainly not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. So to whoever left me that, thank you.
"Well," Canis said, standing up and removing his glasses, "it seems that you have a benefactor of sorts.  It still stands to be seen whether or not they're the same person, but he seems like he's the most likely person at the moment."

"You're sure it's a he?"

"Phone call, male voice.  My informant was certainly male.  Either way, I'd be careful.  Because whether or not they're helping you, you have someone who's been following you without your noticing."

I'm going to start wandering again in a few days, and Canis might come with me for at least a bit while he looks for more leads on the Ten Masks.  As much as I'd love to have the protection of a trained officer with a gun, it won't last for much longer.  All I can do is hope that I can find new allies or stand up to the Ten Masks on my own.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


After my encounter with Magpie, I decided to try to lay low for a while.  Lose myself in the city, then stay on the move, hoping that they wouldn't be able to follow me.

Last night, I decided to spend the night in a church.  Bigger cities usually have at least one church that holds a Saturday evening mass, and even if they lock the doors, they don't have particularly tight security.  I can slip in on a Saturday night and slip out on Sunday morning.  I feel weird, using a religious place like that.  Like, even though I know that I need a place to stay and the church would probably be willing to let me spend the night if they knew about it, there's still some judgmental heavenly eye looking down on me.  Something about it just feels wrong.

After everyone had left, I crept into the sanctuary and sat looking at the architecture.  Stained-glass windows are always so cool, but it's been a long time since I've seen them during the day when they're actually lit up.  At night, they're just dark and murky images.  I looked up at the cross above the pulpit.  It too seemed more threatening than comforting in the dark.  I curled up on a pew and thought.  Is there a god somewhere?  I don't know.  It's hard to say it's impossible while on the run from the supernatural.  At the same time, could the Fears be gods themselves?

I wish I had talked to Lily more about her beliefs on religion.  She said that she was "raised Christian."  I never got much of a solid answer beyond that.  I tried to keep from thinking about it last night, though, because wondering about that leads to wondering whether or not she's in hell now that she's dead.  I don't want to think about that.

I heard footsteps and flattened myself into the pew, gripping my staff tightly.  I hadn't expected anyone to be in the church after this point and didn't want to risk getting caught, even if they might be understanding.  After a bit, I heard a voice.

"Huh.  Fitting.  So bright and cheery during worship.  So euphoric that you could say that the building itself is alive.  You can practically feel the spirit of God around you."  The man was muttering to himself quietly, though every word echoed in the empty sanctuary.  "But when it's empty...." he let out a dry chuckle.  "Look at it.  Just look at that cross.  All these people coming in and worshiping a brutal execution instrument.  Eating a guy's body and drinking his blood."

He fell silent for a moment.  "Could be worse," he muttered.  "Could be Scientology.  Don't you agree, Kenny?"  I froze.  "Come on, I know you're here.  Come on out."  I didn't move.  I heard some more footsteps, then lights flickered on.  "Let's not draw this out, okay?  My little girl's back home.  I need to get back to her before it gets too late.  You can understand that, can't you?"

I slowly stood up, knowing it was useless to run.  The middle-aged man there was probably over six feet tall.  Balding, heavyset and muscular but with a beer belly, dressed in a white wifebeater and jeans.  In his hands he carried a pair of meat mallets.  The spikes on the ends didn't look particularly sharp or long, but with the man's strength and the weight of the hammers, it didn't look like it mattered much.

The man smiled.  "Name's Gabe.  Nice to meet you.  As I'm sure you've guessed, I'm one of the Ten Masks.  Nothing personal, you understand.  It's just business.  It's a steady job that pays well, and I've gotta take care of Janie somehow."

I looked up at Gabe, and even though I'm sure I looked like a cornered squirrel, I still put on a brave face.  "It looks like she'll have to go hungry, then."

Gabe gave a full belly laugh, as if he found my statement more charming than threatening.  "Oh, Kenny.  I'm so sorry, kid.  You're brave, I'll give you that much.  Not a good fighter, but you're definitely brave."  He smiled.  "I'm really sorry we had to meet under these circumstances.  I'll try to make it quick for your sake."

He charged down the aisle at me.  He was a lot quicker than I would have expected from a man his size, but I could already tell that speed was my biggest advantage over him.  That, and my reach.  Even without using the full length of the staff, I had more range than his hammers.  Of course, if he hit me even once, I'd probably be done for.

I jumped back as he swung and the hammer crashed into a pew, sending wooden shrapnel flying.  I watched as carefully as I could as he swung at me again and again.  It was fairly easy to dodge him, since he telegraphed his moves so much.  There was a lot of power behind his swings, but there wasn't much speed.  Overhead or from the side.  He'd swing one of those two ways.  All the while, wooden slivers would go flying at us as the hammers would chip at the pews.

I ducked beneath his arm as he raised it and swung at him from behind with all my strength.  He grunted and coughed as my staff struck his back and knocked the wind out of him, but shrugged it off and turned.  I hadn't planned for him to recover from my maneuver, and he caught me off balance.  I desperately raised Lily to ward off his blow, and managed to clumsily block the mallet.  I felt the wood start to give a bit, as if it was going to break, but it didn't.  Still, it was enough to throw me completely off-guard mentally.  I ended up on the floor with Gabe standing over me.

"That's enough," came a voice from the other end of the sanctuary, echoing around the room.  Gabe looked up and I craned my neck around.  A police officer was standing at the far end of the aisle, gun drawn.

"You..." Gabe whispered.

"I'd leave the boy alone and get out of here if I were you," he said.  "Your choice.  Consequence-free freedom, or death."

Gabe stood there a second before smiling down at me.  "Congrats, kid.  Guess I'll get the chance to see you again, ya lucky bastard."  He stepped away from me and walked past the cop out of the sanctuary.

"What's...what's going on?" I asked as the cop helped me to my feet.  He was a tall, thin man, with a long, very sharp-looking face.  I blinked, trying to get my bearings.  The whole thing had given my mind a bit of whiplash.

"Kenny Mortel?  My name's Edwin Canis.  I've been looking for you."  I tensed up, and I could tell he sensed it.  "Relax, I know your situation here.  I know exactly what you're dealing with, and I want you to know that I'm here to help you.  I've pulled some strings.  You're not listed as a missing person anymore.  I'm also going to be providing safety for you for a short while."  He gave a slight smile.  "You're in good hands for the time being."

"How did you find me?"

"An anonymous tip.  Told me that this church was being vandalized and that I'd want to check this one out personally.  Looks like I got to you right in time."

So instead of a night in the church, Canis let me spend the night at his house.  He's asking me about what exactly I've been through.  Says that I'll have access to some of my parents' money now that I'm 18, but I think I'm going to save it for emergencies.  Basically, Canis is going to help me get back on my feet.

But I'm still worried.  Gabe found me so easily last night.  Who knows when he or Magpie will be back, or when the rest of the Ten Masks will show up?

Friday, September 14, 2012


It's my birthday today.  I'm 18 years old, which means I'm now a legal adult.

I guess that means I'm allowed to continue doing what I've been doing.  I could open a checking account.  Save up some cash.

But I think I'm still a missing person, so I don't think I want to risk it.

Happy birthday to me.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I've got a new internet card so I can occasionally jump back online.  After this latest incident I have the feeling that I'll need to now and then.

I did some looking into that nursery rhyme that the Cold Boy used.  Apparently it has to do with magpies and luck/misfortune regarding the number of them that you see.

I reached another city.  Spent the night there.  Gargoyle, one of the bloggers I followed, suggested that parking ramps make good shelters.  He's gone now.  I don't know whether that means his advice didn't work or what but it was still worth trying.  I got up to the top level and just stood there, watching the city below me.  Cities are really different then towns and the countryside.  In the country I usually like looking at everything above me, in towns I watch what's around me, and in cities, I like to look at what's below me.

"Nice night, isn't it?" came a voice from beside me.  A girl was leaning against the wall of the ramp beside me.  She had darker skin (I think she was Hispanic but I couldn't tell) and tangled black hair, with a bright, silvery streak dyed into it.  She wore jeans and a white T-shirt (the logo was too faded to read) and a black leather jacket over the top.  She grinned at me, and I couldn't help but think that she was kind of cute.

"Yeah, I guess it is," I said.

She slumped over it, letting her arms dangle over the edge.  "So, what brings you up here?"

"No real reason.  Just passing through.  Didn't have money to spend on a hotel."

She nodded and made a little humming noise.  "Bet you're one of those runner guys."


"You know, running from that tall guy in the suit."  She beamed at me when she saw the look on my face.  "I've met my fair share of runners.  I'm just good at noticing the signs."  She stuck her hand out for me to shake.  "Magpie."

"The Wanderer.  Call me Kenny."

"Nice to meet you, Kenny."  She grinned again.  "It's a shame I have to kill you now."

The words didn't sink in until after I had dodged the swing she took at me.  I instantly went into the defensive with Lily as she started laughing, a sort of shrieking cackle.  "Oh, man!  The look on your face!"  She started throwing a few jabs at me.  "Come on, fight back!"  I'm really not the kind of guy who hits a girl but I didn't have a choice in this case.  It was self-defense.  I started using a few of the offensive techniques I had learned from Raggedyman.

She didn't do a very good job of blocking them.  In fact, I barely had to try at all to land any hits on her.  Then she jumped back and ran along the ramp a little, grabbing a staff that someone (I'm guessing her?) had left there.

"Okay, not too bad...but this'll get you fighting at full strength!"  She started using the staff, clumsily at first, but as we went on, her offensive and defensive fighting both got better.  I noticed her sticking her tongue out against the corner of her lip, and her eyes kept flitting back and forth, taking in everything I was doing.  Of course concentration is important in battle, but it was a type of concentration that was a bit different than I expected.

That's when I realized what it was.  She was watching my fighting patterns and committing them to memory, then copying them herself.  She was using my own techniques against me.

"Copycat!" I yelled.

"No need to be so childish about it."  She gave that cackle again.  "It's not like it's unfair.  I'm actually at a disadvantage since I'm learning as I go."  She smacked the butt end of her staff into my shin.  "It's not my fault that I'm just better than you."

As the pain shot through my leg, I remembered something Raggedy had told me in a training session.  "You guard your upper body pretty well, but you tend to forget about your lower body and leave it vulnerable."  That was all I needed.  I was fighting someone using my own techniques.  That meant I was also fighting someone who would share my weaknesses.  I swept my staff low, knocking her off her feet.  She landed hard on her back and dropped the staff upon impact.

"I'm not going to kill you," I said as I pressed the tip of my staff against her neck, applying just enough pressure as a warning to keep her from moving.

"I know."  She coughed.  "Look, you've beaten me.  I've lost.  Just...let me go.  I'll leave you alone.  For tonight at least."

"How do I know I can trust you?"

"If you're not going to kill me, you're going to have to move again at some point.  If I was going to attack you again, I could just wait until then."

"Yeah?  I've beat you before.  I can do it again."

"Then why are you worried?  Look, Kenny, I'm not going to hurt you.  This was...let's call it a test.  A little scouting expedition to get an idea of how you fight.  I'm gathering information."

"For who?"

"The rest of the Ten Masks.  There's nine more, and a lot of them are stronger than me."  She grinned.  "At least, that's what they'd tell you.  Just between you and me I still think I'm the strongest."

"Ten Masks?  You're not wearing a mask."

She rolled her eyes.  "It's just a name, moron.  It's a symbolic thing.  Now let me up."

I pulled the staff away hesitantly.  She sat up and held her arms up in a gesture of surrender.  "Listen, Kenny, you should probably leave now.  No offense since you seem like a cool guy and all, but I really shouldn't be hanging around you.  You know, for obvious reasons."

I nodded and ran, sparing a glance back.  She hadn't made a move for her staff, or even towards me.  She had walked back up to the edge of the parking ramp and just stood there, staring back over the edge.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

There's been a bit of trouble.  I'm okay and Raggedy's okay but I'm getting ready to leave now.  I've had to leave to protect both of us.

The other day we were out training.  Some running and some sparring.  I've really improved in my time here.  It was another hot day but it was cool enough that we managed to brave the heat.  Raggedy tossed me my water bottle during a break.  "You did pretty good today, Kenny."

I thanked him for the compliment.  I have gotten stronger, faster, and better at using Lily in combat situations.  I'm not near an expert yet or even near Raggedy's level (after all, I've never taken any sort of self-defense course), but I should be able to hold my own in a fight a bit better now.

Raggedy started going on about training plans for tomorrow but I sort of zoned him out.  I was tired and it was hot out and I just wanted a drink.  I sort of tuned it out to the point that it was background noise but when he stopped talking I looked up and saw that he was looking at me funny.  "What did you say?" I asked.

"I said, does it suddenly seem colder out to you?"  He was shaking slightly.  I noticed the temperature for the first time.  It was kind of cold out.  I stopped and looked down at the bottle in my hands.  The contents had gone from lukewarm water to ice.  I held the bottle up to show him and his eyes grew wide.  We exchanged a glance that said everything in one unspoken word:


We took off, leaving everything other than my staff and Raggedy's training swords and headed for his car.  We got maybe a hundred yards before a wall of ice shot up in front of us.  We turned around to run and saw a young boy on the path behind us and stopped dead.  The kid looked about seven years old.  He was dressed in tattered clothes, but what really stood out was that he was almost unnaturally pale, with hair so light it was almost white.

"Cold Boy, right?" I asked quietly.

"Never seen him before, but that'd be my guess," he said.  He gripped his sword, a wooden foil, tighter and gave it an experimental swing.  "You know, Kenny, I've never wanted to hurt a kid, but I think I might make an exception for this fucker."

He charged at the Cold Boy and swung his sword.  The sword was about a foot away when the boy raised his hand.  Raggedy let out a yell as his body twisted and he toppled to the ground.  As the Cold Boy started giggling like someone had told a silly joke, I glanced over at Raggedy.  An icicle, already melting in the heat, was sticking out of his right shoulder.

He turned and looked right at me and gave me a giddy smile, speaking in a soft, high-pitched voice.  "One for sorrow.  Two for joy.  Three for a girl.  Four for a boy.  Five for silver.  Six for gold.  Seven for a secret, never to be told."  Then he turned back to Raggedy and held out a hand again.  Ice started appearing around his feet, slowly creeping up his legs.  I reacted more on instinct than anything else, rushing forward and swinging Lily as hard as I could.  There was a crack as the wood collided with the boy's face, and his feet left the ground.  The ice on Raggedy's legs and the wall in front of us instantly melted and as I helped Raggedy to his feet, I gave the Cold Boy a quick glance.  His face had shattered, like it was made of glass, but it was already starting to repair itself, water pouring out of the wound like blood and freezing to reform the face.

We ran.  We ran as hard as we could, made it to Raggedy's car, and drove as fast as we could.  But once we were driving, we saw the boy standing on the side of the road, smiling and waving goodbye.

"He's playing with us," Raggedy said.  "They love doing that."

"So did we escape or did he let us go?"

"I don't know.  It could be either one.  He could probably catch us again if he wanted to."

There was an awkward silence for a while.  "The Cold Boy, huh?" I finally said quietly.


"That rhyme he you know anything about it?"

He shook his head.  "We'll have to look it up.  Do some research on it."

I was quiet for a bit more, trying to figure out how to tell him what I wanted to.  "Chris, I think I'll have to do the research alone.  I think I should leave tonight."

His head turned at breakneck speed to look at me.  "What?  You can't!  You're not done with training yet and you still haven't managed to do anything with the patches!"

I shook my head.  "He looked right at me when he said that rhyme.  I think I'm the reason he's here, and now your shoulder's hurt because of me.  It's not safe for either of us to stay here anymore."  I grinned.  "Besides, if I'm going to be a wanderer, I need to keep moving.  You're a great guy and everything Chris, but I'm not about to let you become my Kaoru."

So now I'm packing.  It was nice to have some company for a while, and I'm really going to miss that when I take off, but it's time for me to go.

I just wish there was some way I could pay him back for all that.

Monday, September 3, 2012

It's Time to Duel?

I've been training with Raggedyman some more.  It's going better.  I still don't have enough aggression to do well offensively, but my self-defense skills have improved.  Like he said over on his blog, I'm staying longer than we had planned because the heat's been terrible.  I'm used to heat as much as I am to cold by this point, but he refuses to let me leave.  I guess it makes sense as you can always bundle up a little more when it's cold, but heatstroke will kill you.

But what I'm here to talk about is this weird thing he can do.  He had mentioned something about experiments with Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and I decided to ask him about it.

He has a better explanation up on his blog but here are the basics the best I understood them: there are these things he calls dimensional patches that spring up whenever Fears like the Slender Man try to brute-force their way here from their original dimensions.  I think it might also result in dimensional bleeding or something along those lines but I'm not quite sure what the connection is.  But there's a lot of energy from the Fears' dimensions that leaks through in these patches, and apparently that energy can be channeled.  Raggedy told me that he could manifest the powers of the Yu-Gi-Oh! card there.  Make them come to life somehow.

I was skeptical of course.  Who wouldn't be?  But he showed me a few days later.  We went to an old cemetery surrounded by a bunch of trees where one of these patches was.  He pulled out a Yu-Gi-Oh! duel disk and I stayed skeptical right up to the point that he actually started summoning monsters with it.  He had me try after he went but it didn't work for me.  I guess I'm just not special like that but that's okay.  I'm doing fine just how I am.

Right after that we had to leave.  We could only stay about six minutes because the effects of the place started taking their toll on me.  I started feeling really shaky and my vision started swimming a bit and my nose started to bleed.  Raggedy says that it's normal for that to happen.  Apparently he can last for about nine now, even though he only used to be able to last about seven.  From what I've gathered it wasn't giving me memory problems though.  Raggedy apparently had memory problems.  I still feel like I let him down, though.

There was one thing I didn't tell Raggedy about though.  I probably should have mentioned it to him so that he didn't have to find out from the blog, but I wasn't sure if it was real or a hallucination.  I could have sworn that as we left, I saw someone in the branches of one of trees surrounding the cemetery.  They disappeared behind the trunk as soon as I saw them, but I was sure I saw someone up in the trees.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Training and Learning

Sorry for the radio silence everyone.

I'm still staying with Raggedyman for the moment.  If you haven't already seen, let me explain what I've been up to.  Raggedy's convinced that I need to learn how to fight, and he's been training me.  A lot of this stuff is pretty important I guess.  Stuff like pushups and situps and daily runs.  I've spent a lot of time walking but I'm not really in running shape. 

He's also trying to get me to learn some self-defense and basic fighting techniques, though.  That's something I'm not as enthusiastic about.  We sort of had a bit of an argument during one of the training sessions the other day.  He hit me harder than I had expected and then told me I was weak and I ended up losing my temper and attacking him.  I don't know, I guess I just really got frustrated over the whole thing.  I'm not a fighter.  I never have been.  I've just never needed to be, and I'm not really comfortable with violence.  I'm not entirely a pacifist but Lily was.  She was convinced that almost anything that could lead to violent conflict could be talked through.  I guess her thoughts have rubbed off on me some.  Even if I don't feel the same way, I'm still not comfortable with violence.

I talked to Raggedy about that and after some convincing he agreed to back off of that training some.  We shook hands and made up after that.  It's not like either of us can afford to hold a grudge.  Neither of us have many friends left in the world.

The training is part of the reason I've been so quiet.  The other is that I'm doing a lot of learning.  I missed a lot of things when I first stopped reading the blogs, and some recent events when my internet card died.  There's Dimensional Bleeding, the Path of Black Leaves, a lot of proxies to watch out for, and quite possibly the biggest of all, the Fears.  Apparently there are more things like the Slender Man, and until recently, I knew absolutely nothing about them.  I have a lot of research to do.  Raggedy's helping out with that some, too.

Most importantly, while I'm catching up on the past I need to know about the present.  Specifically who all is still around.  Anyone who's still running, anyone who's not a proxy, anyone who might be an ally of some sort...if you're out there, let me know.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Temporary Shelter

I've been e-mailing back and forth with Chris, AKA Raggedyman for a while now.  He's offered me shelter in the past but hasn't been able to until now because of issues on his end.  Now though he has some free time and I'm able to visit him.

I've been hitching a ride towards Houston, which is his general location.  For both of our sakes I'm not going to get more specific.

Raggedy (or Chris, I'm still not sure what I should be calling him) is a pretty cool guy.  He's kind of tall and he has a bit more muscle than me (though not much) and he definitely has more combat skills but I still feel pretty comfortable around him.  He's not menacing.  Just another guy like me.  And he's really into anime and manga so we have a lot to talk about.  In fact, the first thing he did was grab my attention by calling me "Battosai."  It really made me smile after I realized that it was him but I really wish he had chosen a less dramatic way of introducing himself.  I was really close to starting to whack him with Lily.

"Not Battosai," I told him once I confirmed it was him and my heartbeat slowed back down a bit.  "Just Rurouni."

He grinned.  "Sorry for the scare but I couldn't resist."  He's got a really distinct and powerful voice, and between that and his flair for the dramatic, I think he was probably showing off some.  "It's good to see you made it here in one piece. I was worried that these sudden storms we got were gonna knock you for a loop."  He put his arm around my shoulders to guide me to his car, which was really weird and kind of uncomfortable for me.  It's been a long time since I've had any sort of physical contact with anyone who isn't trying to kill me, and I'm not really use to people touching me anyway.  "Welcome to Texas, the bipolar state. Where you can get heat, rain, and snow all in one week, and I am not exaggerating there. And you might get shot too. have you been holding up?"

We chatted about our lives and situations and shared some of our stories on the drive back to his apartment.  Nothing really important or anything, but it was nice being able to just casually talk with a normal person again.  And he is a normal person, or at least as normal as any of us can be.  Average height, average build, brown hair...the only real unusual thing about him visually is his eyes.  I've never seen someone with gray eyes before.  They look kind of different depending on the lighting too, which is really cool.  But he's got normal, geeky interests.

Raggedy's apartment is pretty empty, and all he has beyond the essentials are a computer and old TV with a PS3.  The few things he does have sitting around are all anime and JRPG figurines, but there aren't many of those, either..  He does have a lot of collectable card game things though--mostly Yu-Gi-Oh! cards.  "Oh, those?" he asked when he saw me looking at them.  "Yeah, I use them for some dimensional bleeding experiments."  I wasn't sure what he meant, since I never really picked up on what dimensional bleeding is, but he told me he'd show me if I stuck around for a few days. 

Whatever he's talking about, I'm hoping I can help him out to repay him some.  I feel really guilty staying with him.  He's letting me use his shower, his bed, his computer, and he's feeding me on top of that.  I think I was probably showering for an hour or more.  It's been so long since I've been able to wash up like that and feel so clean.  That's the biggest highlight of this so far.  Hotel showers are okay and everything, but the shampoo and soap just aren't of any good quality.  But with all he's done for me, I can't help but feel bad.  He's telling me that just the company is payment enough, but I'm getting his company too, and it's been so long since I've had company that I feel like I'm getting more out of that, too.

Of course, it'd be rude not to take advantage of Chris's hospitality.  So I think I'm going to take a nice long nap and see if I can help him out with that dimensional bleeding thing later on.