No matter where we walked, Sky and I always seemed to be getting closer to the top of the skyscraper. Even walking down the stairs somehow made us get higher up. The more floors we climbed, the weirder stuff got. I’ve started hearing what sounds like people whispering all around me, and the fog sometimes seems to be reaching for us with smoky hands. And there are points where the office floors are so covered in branches and water that it almost feels like we’re walking through a forest.
When we went through one door that should have led back to the stairwell, we instead found ourselves in a long hallway. Apart from the door at the end, the hallway was completely empty. It didn’t have a single one of the swamp like features that fill the rest of the place. We went through the door, and came out in Truth’s office.
It was remarkably unchanged from since the last time I’d been in there. Like the hallway we’d come from, it hadn’t undergone the transformation like the rest of the building had. Not that I could make a comparison at the time, because when I turned around to check, the door we’d come through had vanished. There was no sign of Truth in the room, but the big painting of Yggdrasil that had been behind his desk was off the wall, revealing a large metal door that had been covered by it. The door looked really heavy and secure, but it had been left open a crack. With nothing else to do, I pulled the door open the rest of the way, and looked inside.
That resulted in me getting two guns pointed at my face. Holding them were two of Truth’s guards, and sitting behind them was Truth.
T: “Well this is an unexpected turn of events. Bring them inside.”
The guards grabbed Sky and me, and pulled us through the door. Unlike the richly decorated office, this room resembled a bunker, with gray concrete walls and extremely utilitarian looking bunks. There was a small kitchen to one side, and a very Spartan looking bathroom in the corner. It was clearly a place designed purely for survival.
T: “Hello, Sky and… Diana, was it? I can’t say I was expecting anyone to arrive here.”
*Sky glowered at him*
T: “Oh come now Sky, is that any way to greet your grandfather?”
*I’ll just say that I didn’t see that coming. I probably stood there with my jaw open for several seconds as I processed what I’d heard. Sky continued to glower.*
T: “I suppose I can’t expect much. Still, the two of you coming here has thrown what plans I had off. A little courtesy would be nice.”
D: “W… what is this place?”
T: “A safe room I built into my office so that I could wait out emergencies in safety. Although I never expected it would be used in this kind of emergency.”’
D: “So you’ve been here the whole time?”
T: “Yes. I had expected this situation to resolve itself quickly. But I made that prediction without realizing that Sky would discover a surprisingly competent guardian.” *He gestured at me.* “It looks like now we have to kill you and then throw her back out to the Slender Man before any of this will be fixed.”
*I froze when I heard him say that. Why am I suddenly meeting all these people who are so casual about killing me? I almost miss those psycho proxies who at least were clearly crazy.*
D: “Wait wait wait why? Can’t you just talk to the Boss or something?”
*Truth seemed surprised when I said that. He started laughing a little crazily, which seemed to make his guards a little uncomfortable. Eventually he stopped.*
T: “I apologize about that. Being cramped up in here for days puts one on edge. I’m just a little surprised that after everything that’s happened, you still haven’t given up on any of those proxy beliefs of yours. You even called it ‘the Boss.’ Fascinating.”
D: “What are you talking about?”
*Truth sat down on one of the beds and folded his fingers together.*
T: “It’s a little cliché to say that I should tell you since you’re about to die, but it looks like that’s the situation we actually are in here. It would be rude of me to kill one of my employees without an explanation, at least.” *He motioned at the guards, who stepped between me and the door.* “How about I tell you a story. I know Sky used to be a fan of stories; perhaps this will help keep her entertained until we need to throw her out. Years ago, there was a businessman. He’d achieved some success in his life, leading companies to profit and so forth, but beyond that he was no different than any other CEO in corporate America. But there are some things you hear when you move amongst the rich and powerful. Secrets that don’t get leaked to the common people until later. One of these secrets he heard was about a faceless creature in a suit who stole people away. An interesting rumor, but not one that the man felt mattered to him. Even if it was true, there was no way for him to profit off such a creature. So he left that matter alone.
Until one holiday season, when his family came to visit. It seemed that his granddaughter had made a new imaginary friend since their last visit. A tall man, in a suit and without a face. Her parents were concerned about how obsessed she seemed to have become with this friend, but the man recognized this imaginary friend of her immediately. And so he questioned her, and when the holidays were over and her family returned home, he continued his own research of her friend. Now, keep in mind that this part of the story takes place several years ago. He couldn’t just do a quick search on the internet and get all the results he needed. The man had to dig deep, using the connections he’d built up in the government and in the shadier sides of business to their full extent. And what he found exhilarated him.
Not only had he discovered unquestionable proof that the Slender Man existed, but he began to get inspiration for the possible implications of that. When it was just a rumor, there was no profit to be found. But now, he had discovered a whole new source of money and power. In those early days, there was still a lot of confusion regarding the Slender Man. There were no researchers, or ‘Scribes’, or whatever it is we’re calling them now. There was no community to protect each other. There was only a series of mysterious incidents and several scared and desperate individuals with no means of contacting each other.
And if there is one thing the man had learned from his time working in business, it is the weakness of individuals. Groups can be fired up, inspired by each other to take a stand. Mob mentality at its finest. But individuals? Individuals just want to be left alone. They want to be able to live normal, boring lives without having to constantly be afraid. And when they are put in such desperate situations, they will try anything in order to escape. And the most common method of escape is collaboration. If you can’t beat them, join them. But how were these people supposed to collaborate with the Slender Man? It was a monster. Why would it even need collaborators? It didn’t care about human beings. It killed, stalked, spared, all at random. There was no way to communicate with it. How could they possibly serve such a thing?”
*Truth stood up, got a glass of water from the sink, and took a few sips.*
The man, being the experienced corporate man he was, saw an unmet demand for a service, and decided the only thing he could do would be to provide that service. It was a stroke of genius, if I may brag. ‘Oracles.’ Why not just claim to have been granted the power to communicate with it, and use that claim to establish authority over all would be collaborators? Of course, such a claim would require proof. But fortunately for this man, he just happened to be related to a girl whom the Slender Man had taken uncharacteristic interest in. He could use information provided from her as evidence of the ‘gifts’ he had been granted by the Slender Man.
It began on a small scale, of course. Just a few dozen would-be collaborators taken into the fold, spreading the word of their ‘Father.’ But it grew from there. Once the core set of believers was established, there was no need for the man to continue to prove himself. With a properly established bureaucracy, the majority of recruits need not ever even come into contact with the leadership. He was able to bring in several of his friends from his corporate days, like minded businessmen, who used what he had established as a base to expand through the country. When the man’s granddaughter disappeared for several years, she wasn’t even needed. The entire project had begun to grow organically. And best of all, the Slender Man’s chaotic nature made almost anything justifiable. If it killed someone who had thought they were working for it, that was just excused as the proxy having displeased they’re master in some way humans could not comprehend. It was like being a priest of old, telling the people that an eclipse was a sign that the gods wanted more gold in the temples.
And it was such a successful strategy, too. We brought in more money than we could have ever dreamed of working in business. And our influence….” *He laughed.* “After a senator’s son was taken by Slender Man, we could make almost any demand we wanted from the American government. No more need to waste time or money lobbying! We even had branches in several foreign countries. When I found my granddaughter in Arizona, I thought I had discovered a chance for even greater opportunities.”
*Truth paused to look around the room.*
T: “That plan didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. This was my fault, really. At this point my best strategy would have just been to keep up the status quo, and avoid drawing Slender Man’s attention as much as possible. Let my employees deal with him while I remained safe. So long as I’ve stayed out of his way, he hasn’t seemed to care what I do in his name. But that’s just hindsight.” *He sat back down on the bed.* “So there it is. Thank you for this opportunity, really. I don’t often get the chance to brag about how I came to this position. But I’m sure you now understand why negotiations aren’t going to be any use. My best strategy is just to give Slender Man what he wants, and eliminate all the people who are preventing him from getting it.” *He looked at Sky for a moment, and then frowned, puzzled.* “This is usually the part of my speech where she would start ranting nonsense. Did you train her to be silent while you were climbing this building?”
I didn’t have an answer to that. I didn’t have an answer to anything I’d just heard. I thought he had to be lying. He’d come up with this crazy story for some reason I couldn’t figure out yet. It had to be a lie, because if it wasn’t, what did it mean for all this time I’ve spent as a proxy? What did it mean for those sacrifices I made, thinking I was saving my life?
I think Truth was hoping for a shocked response out of us, because he waited for several moments before saying anything else. But I wasn’t capable of putting enough thoughts together to say anything, and Sky just continued to glower silently at him. He sighed disappointedly, and waved at the guards.
T: “Alright, kill her.”
I closed my eyes, expecting a gunshot that would end everything. Nothing happened. I opened my eyes and turned around to see what was stopping them. Both guards had expressions of pain and surprise stuck on their faces, and one even had blood trickling from his mouth. The guards fell forward, revealing each had a knife in their back. And behind them was Arkady.
A: “Fucking hell, you like to talk even more than I do! I could have burned down this whole place and you wouldn’t have noticed you were on fire until you stopped to take a breath!”*He waved at Sky and me* “Hey there. If you don’t mind, I’m going to saw this talkative guy’s head off.”
Now it was Truth’s turn to be absolutely speechless. He kept starting syllables of words, but they kept trailing off into a squeak of fear. Arkady grabbed a knife in one of the guards, and tugged at it, but it stayed stuck in. Arkady pulled at it a few more times, still not getting it out.
A: “Okay maybe I shouldn’t have stabbed them so deep…. Just, just wait there, I’ll get with you in a moment…. I mean, yeah I could just break your neck, but I said I was going to saw your head off…. Damn I stabbed this guy really hard….”
While Arkady was trying to get his knife back, fog began to creep in from the corners of the room. At first, all of us were too distracted by the spectacle of Arkady’s struggle. When it did become obvious, it had filled the room up to my calves. The lights started to flicker on and off. And when they came back on, Slender Man was in the room, standing just to Truth’s left.
When Truth saw Slender Man, he screamed. He tried running away, but the room was too small for him to get very far from Slender Man. It twisted its whole upper torso around to keep watching Truth as he scrambled against the farthest wall he could reach.
T: “Oh god… oh god oh god oh god oh god….” *Slender Man turned the rest of his body around so he was completely facing Truth.* “T-the girl! She’s right there! Just take her! You can have her! I don’t care about her, just take her and leave!” *Tentacles grew out of Slender Man’s sides, which started to reach toward Truth.* “No… please, don’t…. I’m sorry! I was wrong! I’ll leave the organization! I’ll never claim to work in your name! I’ll take it all apart! I’ll, I’ll… I’ll work for you for real! I’ll do whatever you want me to! Just don’t… don’t….” *The tentacles moved around Truth, just inches away from touching him. He walked toward the Slender Man, pleading for his life. When he reached it, the tentacles wrapped around him completely. And then, Truth was…gone. The tentacles retracted back into Slender Man, but there was no sign of Truth.
A hand grabbed my shoulder and I heard Arkady whisper,
A: “I don’t want to critique this ‘Stand still like an idiot’ strategy you’ve got going, but I would really recommend running now.”
His grip on me tightened and he pulled me and Sky along as he ran out of the room. The swamp had spread to Truth’s office as well, but the door leading out had reappeared. Arkady turned the handle, but it seemed jammed on something.
A: “Damn. Keep an eye out in case Slendy comes for us while I try to get this open.”
D: “You said you were planning to kill us once we got up here!”
A: “Yeah, I did, and if you really want I can go back to that plan. Otherwise, stop whining about being rescued and keep watch!”
*As Arkady started slamming his shoulder against the door, Sky was laughing to herself.*
S: “He’s dead! He’s finally dead! I knew he was going to die, and he did!”
A: “See, why can’t you be more like her. Look at that positive attitude she’s got going.” *Just as he said that, Arkady broke open the door.* “Alright, good, everyone through now!”
I sprinted through, looking back once to see Slender Man slowly walking out of the safe room. I lost sight of him after we turned a corner, and we kept running for another half hour just to be safe. We’re taking a break now. I’m using it as chance to listen to what I’ve recorded and try to comprehend it all by typing it up. I’m still not sure what to think. I might just hold off on conclusions until we get out.
Because that’s the plan now. Arkady, Sky, and I are going to be running to the bottom floor as fast as we can, then try to get outside. Maybe it won’t work. But at least it feels better to be doing something positive in here.