Picking up where I left off: after Reaper attacked me, a group of three people passed by. And sure enough, just like Last mentioned in his note, I knew them when I saw them. There was a man and two kids. The man was in his 20's or 30's and was a pretty big guy. Tall with a lot of muscle. He was unshaven with long wild hair and wore tattered clothes, making him look a lot like a homeless guy. But it was the two kids who caught my attention. They were both fourteen--barely more than kids. The girl was actually the one who caught my eye, since she was making a lot of noise. The part that stood out most, though, was that she and the boy both wore light hoodies with the operator symbol drawn on the back.
I approached them from behind. These kids obviously had no clue what they were doing. I put a hand on the boy's shoulder as I got close and he screamed and nearly jumped out of his skin. I realized that this was probably my only chance to actually use this line.
"Come with me if you want to live."
The two followed me into a side alley. I saw that the girl wore headphones. "Take those out, I told her." She stared at me, not wanting to take my advice but not knowing how to explain why. "It's okay. I'm on your side. I know you're runners. Not that you could make it any more obvious."
She looked at me again. "If I don't take them out I can't hear him coming...."
"Unless you're running from the Choir or it's successfully alerted you to his presence, take them out." She gave me a blank stare when I mentioned the Choir, so I'm guessing she's not familiar with any other Fears. "Sometimes it's only audio and video recordings that react, not technology itself. That, and it won't react to proxies. All you're doing is dulling one of your senses."
She took the headphones out at that. I turned to the boy.
"You too. Take those hoodies off. People still don't know whether or not the Operator Symbol attracts or repels the Slender Man, and you should never put something that might draw the Slender Man on your body."
"But...M, and Omega...."
"And Redlight? Three people who take that seriously. One was taking guesses at rules, one didn't believe in the Slender Man, and one's a proxy. All you're doing is attracting attention to yourselves." I paused and thought some more. "Also, that can't be comfortable in this weather." The two started tentatively removing the hoodies.
"So who are you, mister?" the girl asked.
"Kenny. Kenny Mortel. Who are you guys?"
"I'm Ryan," the boy said. He was a fairly tall, lanky kid with a mop of brown curly hair on top of his head that made him look even taller. His face still looked young, though.
"I'm Jenny," said the girl. Thin girl, long blonde hair, blue eyes...face absolutely radiating energy. She gestured to the big man. "And that's Silent Bob."
"What happened to Jay?" I asked. Jenny gave me a blank look. Silent Bob didn't react at all.
"He doesn't really say anything," Ryan said. "He just follows us around. He's...kind of strange." I glanced at Silent Bob. He didn't react. It was like he hadn't even heard what Ryan had said. "But he's dependable."
I looked them over. "Where are you guys staying tonight, then?"
Ryan and Jenny exchanged a glance. "We really didn't have anywhere in particular."
I pulled the paper Benjamin had given me out of my pocket and glanced at the address. "Do you trust me enough to follow me? I'm not sure, but I think I may have somewhere to stay lined up."
They agreed to come with me, and we shared stories as we walked. Jenny and Ryan had fairly standard stories: they got into Marble Hornets, started looking at more of the mythos, grew paranoid, things happened. They lost friends. They went on the run. It's a story we've all heard before. It's a story most of us have told before.
They seem to have an interesting dynamic. Jenny's talkative and usually the first to share, but it's pretty obvious that Ryan's the leader of the three. And Bob--he doesn't say anything. He reacts to basic commands or requests, but he just sort of stares off into space otherwise. It's almost like he's a proxy, though I highly doubt that. According to Ryan, they met him when the two were spray-painting operator symbols somewhere (another terrible idea; I chided them for that too) and he came up behind them and just started watching them. He followed them fairly closely for a bit after that and they were understandably freaked out, but after they were jumped by some proxies, he suddenly went from a zombie to a beast, driving them off single-handedly. "He's never tried attacking us," Ryan said. "I think it's pretty safe to say that he's on our side."
The address ended up being to a cheap motel. Last has an absolutely uncanny way of setting things up absolutely perfectly. I have no clue how he does it. I decided I'd get two adjoining rooms in my name, because what else what good is my parents' money if I don't use it to help people out where I can?
"Ah, Mr. Kenny Mortel?" the man behind the desk said when I gave him my name. "You actually have two rooms reserved already. A man told me you'd be by. Name of...Sanosuke Sagara? Weird name, right? The guy didn't look Chinese."
Of course. Last would pick a dumb alias like that.
We had a bit of trouble figuring out whose room Jenny would stay in, which we hadn't really thought about beforehand. Ultimately, we decided that Jenny and Ryan would share a room, while I would share with Silent Bob. I can't admit to liking the sleeping arrangements considering that Bob's more than a little creepy, but Jenny was even more terrified of him than I was and we didn't think it'd really be appropriate for me to be sharing a room with a fourteen-year-old girl.
The night was fairly uneventful, though Bob doesn't snore. That's normally a good thing, but it means I found myself wondering if he even sleeps. He lay down on the bed when we entered the room, clasped his hands and rested them on his stomach, and then just lay like that for the rest of the night. Didn't slip under the covers, didn't shift around at all--just lay like a statue all night.
Had a dream that night. Lily survived, and I was the one who died. And she ran. There was a proxy after her and she ran from him, but then she stopped and turned around and joined him instead. I have dreams like that sometimes. And they always hurt. I always wake up crying. Partially because it hurts to lose her and it takes a bit to separate the dream from reality. Partially because I've already lost her, and once the dream fades, no matter how painful it was, she's gone.
Silent Bob was still lying in that exact same position when I awoke. His eyes were open so he was awake, I think. "Come on, Bob, let's go," I told him. He stood and followed me out of the room.
Jenny and Ryan came down a few minutes later. "Sorry," Ryan told me. "I couldn't get her to wake up."
Jenny pouted. "Beds are comfy and it's been so long since I've slept in a good one."
"She was going on last night about how she must taste delicious because the bed was eating her."
"My mind was nightblogging!"
Ryan shook his head and turned to me. "Thanks for that. Which way are you headed?"
I shrugged. "Which way are you headed? I don't have any particular destination in mind, and if you want, I can probably travel with you guys for a while. Safety in numbers, right?"
Relief passed over his face. "Thank you so much," he said. "It'd be great to have some new company."
We spent the entire day on foot. The downside to traveling in groups is that while there are enough people willing to pick up one scrawny hitchhiker, there aren't many people who have the room and desire to pick up a scrawny hitchhiker, two teens, and a hobo who looks like he could lift the car with one hand. Still, we weren't far from a decent-sized city and we managed to make good enough time that we got there in the evening and get a warm meal. Thank god for the dollar menu.
We were outside that evening, walking around and trying to find a decent place to set up camp when Bob suddenly perked up and his entire demeanor changed. His face darkened and his eyes went from their normal unfocused and glazed-over state to narrowed slits. He stood and started moving with purpose instead of just following us as he normally did.
"What's happening?" I asked. "What's he doing? What's going on?"
Ryan looked at him, instantly growing worried. "Kenny, we have to go, now."
"Where's he going? Can we cut him off somehow?"
He shook his head. "Not after him, away from him. As far away as we can. There...there must be a proxy nearby. You don't want to be close enough to see or hear it."
"But we can't leave him!"
"He can take care of himself," Jenny pleaded. "He'll find his way back! He always does!"
I took a look at Bob's retreating figure. He had started to move faster. "I...I have to know what's going on. I'm sorry. If we're being followed, I want to see who's responsible."
Ryan looked at me, then at Jenny. "Jenny, go. Meet back here in half an hour."
Her eyes widened and mouth dropped some. "No! Ryan! You can't!"
"I have to keep an eye on Kenny." He shot me a look. "I thought that you weren't supposed to be stupid. You really want to risk getting in Silent Bob's path?"
I shrugged sheepishly. "I try not to be, but when I am, I make it count."
Jenny gave Ryan a quick hug. "Come back safely." Then she bolted off in the opposite direction.
"Come on," I said. "Let's try to catch up to him."
We took off after Silent Bob. He wasn't a particularly fast guy, but he had a good head start on us. By the time we finally caught up to him, he had tracked down a pair of proxies.
There was a bigger guy and a smaller guy. Looked very much like a brain and brawn pair, like they had been lifted from a TV show or something. The smaller guy was scrambling away, but Silent Bob had the bigger guy pinned against the wall, one meaty hand around his throat. He was pummeling the man's face over and over. The man's arms were twitching, but he didn't have the strength to defend himself anymore. Eventually, the man went limp, at which point Bob let him slip to the ground and started kicking him.
"Stop!" I yelled reflexively. Ryan glared at me, which I guess he should have since it felt like I was applying for a Darwin Award. Still, Silent Bob looked up in surprise. "You're going to kill him!" Surprise turned to confusion. "I...you don't need to do that. You've sent a message. Let him be."
I knew that the proxy was an enemy. That it probably wasn't a good idea to leave him alive. But...I'm dumb like that. I don't want to let anyone die. Not even them...especially after seeing that not all of them are bad. I was hoping that Silent Bob would leave him, and that the man's partner would be able to get him medical attention. And, to my surprise, Silent Bob backed off. I could hear Ryan exhale heavily beside me. I felt a hand on my shoulder a second later and turned to see him bracing himself to steady his legs.
"C'mon," I said. "Let's go find Jenny."
Things have been uneventful since then. We're still in the same city, though we've been moving around in it. No trouble with proxies so far. Then again, considering what Silent Bob is like...it's not them that I'm most worried about at the moment.