Title: Slender Man.
Genre: Fiction, teen, horror, mystery, paranormal, folklore, epistolary novel.
Publication Date: 2018.
Summary: One teen's search for the truth about one of the most intriguing urban legends ever—the modern Bogeyman, Slender Man—leads him down a dark, dangerous path. Lauren Bailey has disappeared. As friends at her exclusive school speculate on what happened and the police search for answers, Matt Barker dreams of trees and a black sky... and something drawing closer. Through fragments of journals, news stories, and online conversations, a figure begins to emerge—a tall, slender figure—and all divisions between fiction and delusion, between nightmare and reality, begin to fall.
My rating: 6.5/10
♥ It must be such a weird balancing act, being a therapist. I get that the whole point is to try and lead people to realize things about themselves, rather than just tell them what's wrong, but that relies on people being brave enough to look as hard at themselves as they do at other people, and I don't know how many people are really, actually, that brave. People want easy answers, and they want pills that make them feel better.
♥ The lightning struck with a noise like the end of the world. It sounded like it was close - too close - and the blaze of light was long and hurt his eyes. In the blue-white seconds before it faded, leaving dancing spots of red and yellow in font of his eyes, he saw the scale of the pace he now found himself, saw the trees stretching away in every direction, tall and old and endless. And away to his left, where the trail made a gentle turn to the left, he saw something else.
For a millisecond, he thought it was a tree. It was tall, and spindly, composed of straight lines and edges.
Then it moved...
Stephen allowed reality to come slowly, to wash over him like warm water. For long, stretched-out moments the divide between sleeping and waking was a blur of dark grey, the familiar surroundings of his bedroom bleeding into the equally familiar horror of his nightmares.
♥ The physical hardships of the war had been severe, but he understood instinctively that this was something deeper. He had no learning of medicines and ailments, but he felt that a malaise had settled into his bones during his time in the west. Perhaps the old men and women of the village had been right when they proclaimed that there was a price to be paid for taking a life. If so, Stephen owed the kind of debt that would given even a king pause for thought.
♥ Stephen watched for a little while longer, savouring the quiet contentment that had settled momentarily over the village. It wouldn't last, he knew. It never did. By mid-afternoon, when the temperature rose and so did tempers, there would be arguments that needed settling, disputes that needed resolving, and the good mood that was currently filling him would be a distant memory.
But in this moment, Stephen was content. In this moment, a thought - one that was exceptionally rare - occurred to him. He considered it, and allowed it to lodge in his mind, warming him from the inside.
This is why we went to the Borderlands, and why we waded through blood to come home.
This is what we fought for.
♥ He crossed the small room of his dwelling in his night-shirt, his bare feet padding silently across the rolled earth. Some of the village houses had floorboards, and the grand homes that surrounded the castle had intricate tiles and even marble as floors. Stephen could have afforded the same, but such things were not in his nature. He liked the hard earth beneath his feet; He had fought for this land, killed and maimed for it, and he liked to feel connected to it.
♥ There were places inside the forest - Stephen had seen them with his own eyes - where the blood in your veins ran cold and the hair on your arms stood up, even though the sun was warm overhead. Old places.
♥ That's not enough for most people. It feels like every opinion has to be taken to its absolute extreme, because otherwise you're just not really committing enough, like you're failing to show enough passion or something. In terms of school, the two acceptable positions you are allowed to hold are:
I FUCKING HATE SCHOOL
You don't engage in class, you're out of the gates ten seconds after the bell rings, you mock every after-school activity, and you generally just can't wait to leave and never look back.
I FUCKING LOVE SCHOOL
You throw yourself into every aspect of Riley life, you cry at the thought of leaving because nowhere is ever going to be quite so awesome again, you wear your Riley sweatshirt on the weekends, you know the school motto off by heart.
Both positions are bullshit, obviously.
Nobody really loves school that much and most people don't hate school that much. Like everything, it's about being tribal - about finding the people who feel roughly the same as you do and then taking that thing you all feel and extending it to the point where it defines you, because then you have camaraderie and you have some kind of fellowship or something. Because then you're not on your own.
I know full well that some of the most ra-ra Riley cheerleaders can't wait to leave and never talk to any of their so-called friends again, and I know that some of the burn-it-all-down crowd secretly obsess about their grades and are genuinely terrified of what comes next. And that's all fine, because high school is scary and bewildering and you do what you have to do to make it easier, to get through each day and get out of the bed the next morning.
I get it. Honestly, I do.
♥ The way to handle my mom - and I guess pretty much every mom - is pretty straightforward: suck it up and play nice.
♥ Even though Lauren - and everyone else - sent hundreds of texts and messages every month and even though it often feels like nobody ever stops talking, words aren't the most important thing anymore. Images are what matter.
Photos of every place you go, every single thing you eat, every drink you buy, every person you hang out with. You can go onto the social media of almost anyone I know and piece together their entire day, almost down to the minute.
♥ She makes this pretty convincing-sounding case that memes are the modern equivalent of fairy tales or myths, that get passed on and changed and told to other people until their roots are forgotten, although this is now and the internet is forever and there's no such thing as something that comes from nowhere. Everything can be traced back. It sounds good, though, even though I know for certain that when she makes the case she's just intellectualizing something she feels a tiny bit guilty for enjoying, like she has to make it into more than it is.
The truth is, she's just really into that weird horror meme corner of the internet.
♥ ..It was just the apartment, the same as it always is. It was dark. I walked through into the lounge, and the curtains were all open, which sometimes they are, because sometimes Mom can't be bothered to close them before she goes to bed, and there were lights on in all the buildings across the city and it was fine, it was all just fucking normal.
But it wasn't. I knew it wasn't, even though I couldn't see anything wrong, and I couldn't hear anything.
I could feel it. I just knew, you know? Like you do in dreams, the way some things are just certain, like there's no questioning them.
I knew I wasn't alone
..I looked. I really looked. Every corner, every shadow. I think I was thinking about Lauren's photos and I guess that's what this was. I mean it has to be what this was. It makes sense. I mean, now it makes sense. Now I'm awake.
I think I'm awake
There wasn't anything there but that didn't matter because I could feel it. Feel something. And it was watching me. I could feel it watching me, even though I couldn't see it and I couldn't hear it. I still knew it was there.
I walked out onto the terrace and it was quiet and it was really still. There were lights everywhere, but it felt like no one was out there, like the whole city was empty. It was warm. I remember that really clearly. I looked at the park, and the lights were on there too. They stay on all night, even after nobody is allowed in. There were shadows everywhere, long and thin, bleeding into the trees. And
There was something don there. Something moving.
And I know, OK? I know what I saw in Lauren's photos and I know what I read about and I know all that shit was on my mind when I fell asleep.
But it was there.
Tall, and thin, and black. Moving slowly. In the trees. Limbs like branches, all angles and narrow. Like it had too many arms. Or not arms. Something else. More like
♥ I know that. Or at least, I know he wasn't real. I know how he got invented, and I know how he grew into this thing that he is now. But here's the thing, friend. Some things that are fictions are also real. Stories can take on lives of their own. Things that are made up can still hurt you.
♥ Look, I'm going to talk in plain terms, because I don't think it does any god to ignore the obvious. So here's the thing.
I get that Slender Man isn't real, OK? I know where it came from, I know who owns the copyright. But there are things that are primal, things that are conjured up out of something real, out of something underneath the surface. People have been telling stories about the things that hide in the dark for as long as people have been ale to talk, and I don't believe they all came from nowhere. I think there are things in the world that can't be explained: sometimes I think people have seen things they can't explain and they tell stories to rationalize their experiences, and sometimes I think it works the other way around. I think that human beings can will things into being, that things that start inside someone's head can come to exist in the real world.
I'm not explaining myself very well, I know. But I think that just because Slender Man was a thing that - as far as we know - started out online doesn't mean that it isn't also real. It might already have existed, or we might have brought it to life ourselves, but when I tell you that you need to be careful, I'm deadly serious. Not everything is black and white, and not everything can be explained.
♥ Look, I get how crazy this all sounds. And I won't be offended if you don't email me again. But I believe that there are things that live in the darkness, and I believe those things have teeth.
♥ My eyes opened and I picked up my phone and there was nothing on the screen. Not just no number, but no NUMBER WITHHELD or PRIVATE NUMBER or anything. Just the noise coming out of its speakers and the little red and green circles.
I answered it and held it to my ear and for a long moment there was nothing. Then I heard something in the distance, like a rustling sound, and something else underneath. I listened and I listened and then I understood, and once I did I could hear clearly.
Wind moving through the branches of trees.
Water lapping at the edge of a lake.
I listened for a long time. I don't know how long. There was something comforting about the sounds, like they were coming from a place I knew, a place where I felt at home. It was peaceful.
Then a voice whispered in my ear and I dropped the phone because I clamped both my hands over my mouth so I didn't scream.
By the time I had calmed down enough to pick the phone back up, the line was dead. No more sounds of wind and water, and no more voice.
But I heard it. And I knew who it belonged to. She only said two words, but I heard them both clearly.
♥ And so I wish you were here, because this would be easier if I wasn't alone. I think it would be easier. But maybe that's the point, right? That none of this is meant to be easy, that the things that are hard are the things that matter.
♥ I mean, it's high enough that if I overbalance on the way over and land on my head it'll crack wide open, but I don't think that will happen. I don't think he'll let that happen. Because he's been calling me. I'm sure of that now. I didn't know for a while, and then I didn't want to know because I'm a coward and I'm scared, but I can't deny it. The dreams. The fucking birds. The blue light in all the dark. All those pages I never wrote. It's so clear, once you know how to look at it. Once you teach yourself how to see.
..Anyway. I've been thinking about all this. About everything that's happened since Lauren went missing and there's still a little bit of my brain that is sort of looking at myself from the outside, watching me creeping through Central Park in the middle of the night, and wants to know what the fuck I'm thinking. And I get it. Because it's irrational to be doing this, to have gone this far down this path. But it's only a small part now, and the rest of my head hurts, it hurts like someone has put a vice over my ears and tightened it, and I know this is crazy and I know this makes no sense but it's also the only thing that makes any sense at all. Because there are things that you have to accept when there's no other explanation. It's like how you can't see the signal going into your cellphone but you know it's there. You have to accept it, even though you don't really understand. And I didn't write those pages, and I didn't imagine those dreams, and I didn't kill those birds. And I didn't imagine Lauren's voice on my phone. I didn't imagine her asking me to help her. And I don't know, man. I think that maybe there are deep things, things that you can't explain with science, that you can't make sense of when the lights are on and you're warm and safe. I think there are wild things in the dark.
♥ There's something here with me. I can't see it - him - it - I don't know - but I know it's there because I just know, the way some things just are, the way you know things inside your bones and inside your blood. I can hear it moving. It doesn't snap branches and it's feet make no sound, but I can still hear it. I can hear the air moving around it. I can hear it existing. I want to laugh. I don't know why, because nothing's funny but I feel like if I don't laugh I'm going to start screaming and I don't think I'll ever be able to stop. Because it's watching me. I can feel it. It comes so close that I think I could reach out and touch it and part of me wants to because I think that would be the end, that something would sink into me that can't be scrubbed out and there would be black where there's red and then I don't think I would be scared anymore.
♥ And to be honest, I'm glad. Because I don't know where she was and I don't know what was happening to her while she was gone, but I find it really, really hard to believe that it was anything that she'll want to remember.
Maybe it will always eat at her, like an itch you can't scratch. Maybe she'll want more than anything to remember, and maybe it will destroy her that she can't. But I think I'll always believe she's better off.
Some things can't be recovered from. Some things persist. Some things won't ever let you go.
And that's the truth at the heart of this, the truth that I'm almost too scared to admit to myself.
This story isn't finished.
And I don't know if it ever will be.
♥ The walls of the apartment were gone. There was just darkness in every direction, and snow swirling down from a sky that wasn't there. The shadows had run together and had pulled themselves up off the ground, like something had twisted them together and lifted them up, and as I stared at them they solidified, like they had been liquid that had suddenly set.
He stood in front of me. It stood in front of me. Him.
Black that sucked in every tiny mote of light. Tall and thin with limbs that moved so slowly I couldn't even be sure I was seeing them move at all. This white space where his face should have been. No eyes, although I could tell it was looking at me. He was looking at me.
No mouth, although I could swear it was smiling.
He was still smiling at me.
I wanted to run, Ryan. I wanted to run so badly. But the snow had piled up around my legs and I was so cold, so cold that it felt like my blood was frozen solid, and I tried to tell my feet to move but nothing happened, and when nothing happened I tried to look away but my head wouldn't move either. Nothing moved. Except for him.
He leaned toward me, so slowly that it was like watching the seasons change, it was like watching tectonic plates shift. Thousands of hours. Millennia. With absolutely implacability.
At some point I started to scream. That's the last thing I remember before everything went black. The sound of my own screams.
..That's what happened. And I don't know what it meant, and I don't know if it was real or if there's something broken inside my head now, if something has come loose.
This is where I am.
This is where I live.
♥ ..And I was just lying there in the dark, staring up at the ceiling, and when the shadows on the wall of my bedroom started to move, I didn't even feel scared.
I felt relieved. Jesus. I know that sounds crazy, but it's the truth. Because when they moved, I knew what this was. And it didn't even feel bad. I don't know how else to say it.
It didn't feel bad.
The shadows ran together on the ceiling above me, and I couldn't look away and I couldn't move. I couldn't even close my eyes. I had to watch as they rolled and stretched and came together until he was there, and he was looking down at me with that face with no features, with no eyes. That white space that looks like nothing but is everything. The black tentacles and the long limbs and the angles that make it look like he's wearing a suit, that I can totally see why that's how people shopped him to look, but he isn't. There aren't any clothes there at all, no shirt and no tie and no jacket. There's just him, the shape of him. The blackness that moves. The shadows that have become solid.
There's no eyes and there's no mouth and there's nothing at all, just space and black and white, but I knew he was looking at me and I knew he was smiling down at me, and it might just have been because I couldn't move and he knew I was trapped but that wasn't how it felt. It felt like he was smiling at me because he wanted me to know something, to understand something.
It felt like he was encouraging me. Like he wanted me to do something, but he didn't want to have to make me do it. Like he wanted me to do it myself. And I stared at him and he stared down at me as the shadows snaked and twisted and I felt something come loose inside my head and I understood.
And the tentacles turned and they started to move down from the ceiling, and then I think I screamed because I stared into that white emptiness where his face should be and there was no smile anymore, there was nothing but freezing cold, the temperature of death, and I screamed as the tentacles got closer because the only thing that I could think, the one thought that was crunching through my head, was that I couldn't let them touch me. I just could not allow that to happen.
And then I woke up.
I don't think I screamed out loud. Or if I did, I don't think anyone heard. I waited a couple of minutes before I recorded this, but there's no sound in the apartment.
No. I don't think. I know.
I know what I have to do. I think I've always known, deep down. And I understood the threat. I know that the price will be if I don't, if I'm not brave enough to see this through.
♥ I'm not going to leave them anything. You write notes for the people you love when you know you're not coming back, and this is not what this is.
I know where I'm going and I know what I have to do but I'm coming back.
I confronted him once already and Lauren came back and I came back and that's what's going to happen this time too.
So I'm not leaving anything for Mom and Dad. Because this isn't some bullshit sacrifice. This isn't giving up. This is walking into the darkness and doing what has to be done because it's the right thing to do.
I'm not leaving them anything.