Ryan, Jenny, Silent Bob, and I have been staying in this city for a bit now, moving around each day to some new location. One night, we decided to stay on a parking ramp. I figured it was at least worth trying the whole “get up high” rule M held to some more, and it was nice to have a good view of the city in the evening. There’s just something peaceful about watching the people moving through their ordinary lives around you.
“Hey, Kenny?” Jenny said as I stared over the railing. “We’re going to get something to eat. You want to come with us?”
I shook my head. “I think I’m just going to stay here for a bit.” I gave them a bit of money and told them to grab something for me. Ryan asked if he needed to convince Silent Bob to stay with me, but I told him that I could take care of myself if anything happened.
A few minutes after they left, I heard footsteps. “Hey, Kenny,” came a girl’s voice. I turned and saw her. Dressed in ripped jeans, a black t-shirt with a skull on it, leather jacket, and a silver streak dyed into her matted hair.
“What are you doing here, Magpie?”
She held up her hands. “Relax, Kenny,” she said. “I’m not here to fight. We’ve done that already.” She joined me in staring out over the railing. “Would you believe I just wanted to see you?”
“Not really, no.”
She gave that shrill cackle of hers. “Fair enough. And I guess it’s not entirely true. But I read your blog. You’re an interesting guy,” she said. “But no, that’s not the only reason I’m here. Our boss thinks that things are moving a bit too slowly. You keep jumping around and dropping off the radar, and he thinks that…well, that you might get the point anyway, so forcing you to fight all ten of us might just be redundant or overkill. It’s time you learn a bit more about just who we are. Flew me out here even though he knows how much I hate flying,” she grumbled.
“So who are you?”
“Well…we’re a group of proxies, yeah,” she said. “I guess you could technically call us that. But it’s not like we just signed off our souls. All of us—we just ran to someone stronger. You’ve noticed that we’re all themed after Fears. That’s not a coincidence.”
“There are no coincidences,” I said, echoing what she and Crimson had told me.
She grinned. “That’s right. There are no coincidences. But we all took on a persona based around a Fear that was…personal to us. All ten of us are victims.”
I mulled that over for a bit as we stared over the edge. “So what’s your story, then?”
“Well,” she said, “I lost my dad. Around a decade ago. Eleven and a half years to the day, actually.” She glanced at me as I tried to do the math in my head. “My father worked at the World Trade Center,” she said.
“Yeah. He was among the missing after the planes hit,” she said. “And my mom…she knew he was alive. I mean, she knew he was alive. ‘I can feel it, Maggie,’ she told me. ‘I can feel it in my bones.’ And we kept hope alive for weeks. Even when he should have starved or suffocated, because people have pulled off miracles like that before.”
“So did they ever find him?”
“Yeah,” she said quietly after a pause. “Yeah, they did. They found his body. And as you’ve probably guessed, he was dead. It was…it was really hard on my mother. She had so much hope and just like that, it was all gone. Then, about a month after the funeral, she…she went out late one afternoon. Told me that she was going to visit Dad. I was…I was stupid. I thought she meant she was going to visit his grave, but…she never came back.”
She was quiet for a bit again as she tried to steady her breathing. “I’m sorry,” I said.
She shook her head. “Don’t apologize. It’s not your fault. That’s just how life goes. Anyway. I was just a kid then, so I ended up in the system. Had a couple of foster homes. Some were good, some weren’t so good, but it never felt like I really belonged. I was never their kid. Just a guest in their house who would eventually leave. It got really, really tough. Then, one day a few years ago when I was feeling really, really down, walking down the sidewalk, I saw…saw this bird. This bluebird. Just the most adorable little bird ever. Like a literal bluebird of happiness.” She gave a wry chuckle. “And it kept hopping along and looking at me, like it wanted me to follow it. So I did. It flew into a building. No one seemed to notice the bird fluttering around by the ceiling. Nobody seemed to notice me following it. It took me up, up, up the stairs, aaaaall the way to the top floor. Out onto the roof. And that was when I noticed how high I had climbed. The bird hopped over to the edge and looked at me, then down. And I knew…I knew it wanted me to jump.
“So I stepped up, looked down, and thought about how easy it would be to end my terrible life. To step off the edge, fly for just a moment, and then just…stop existing. But I just…I couldn’t do it. I was still scared of dying. Of leaving this world. It was so high. How did I know I wouldn’t change my mind halfway through? So…I didn’t. I didn’t jump. The birds didn’t stop, though. There were more of them. More aggressive birds. Always trying to convince me to jump. Went on until I met our boss. He offered me the chance to join up with him. Said that the Fears kind of got territorial and that the birds—the Convocation, he called them—wouldn’t bother me anymore, or at least not nearly as much.”
“So you joined the Slender Man to avoid the Convocation.”
“Pretty much, yeah,” she said. “I hope you don’t look down on me for that.”
“So that’s what you meant about you all being victims? What about the others?”
“Well, I’m not sure about all of them since some are quiet and one guy barely speaks English. And I’d tell you about some of them. Really, I would. I mean, you may have picked up on the fact that I love to talk. I’m one of those people who does talk to hear the sound of her own voice. But unfortunately, it’s not my place to share their stories. Let’s just say that we all had reasons to be running from the Convocation. The Red Cap. The Intrusion. Et cetera.” She shrugged. “The boss? He’s the one chance we have to fight back. He’s a great guy, and he’s really all that gives us the hope we need to carry on.”
We stared over the edge, looking down at the city. “So your real name’s Maggie?” I said.
She cackled. “I tell you my life story, and that’s what you take from it?” She dangled her arms over the edge and laughed. “But yeah, just one letter off from Magpie. I’m real creative, aren’t I? Margaret Sanchez, or Maggie. Nice to meet ya.”
I smiled. “It’s nice to meet you, too.”
She gave a sigh. “Well, the big guy and the kids will probably be back soon, and I don’t want to be anywhere near that guy on the off chance that he might smell me. He’d probably pick up on my scent right away, too. I smell terrible.”
“Really, Kenny. You’re supposed to say ‘No, of course not, you smell very nice.’ Come on. Never had a girl fish for compliments before? But anyway, I’d better skedaddle.” She flashed me a grin. “You’re a good guy, Kenny. You do a lot of stupid things, but always for the right reasons. I like you. I really hope that we can be friends.”
She gave me a wave and a wink as she sauntered down the levels of the parking ramp, giving me a lot to think about.
Jenny, Ryan, and Bob came back a little later, then I started writing up this post. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be traveling with them. Maybe a while. These are the first people I’ve come across who are actual on the run. I’ll check in in a few days if anything happens. Or who knows? Maybe a few weeks if it doesn’t.