Tuesday, November 26, 2013

An Old Friend

Hey, everyone. We've all been busy with the plan we're enacting in the aftermath of Operation Alice. "Attack Order Follow My Rainbow," I think he's calling it at the moment? But we've been trying to keep our operations under wraps right now.

Well, here's something I think we're good to share now: I've met up with an old friend. You remember Raggedy? He ran into some trouble and ended up in a Florida swamp. Long story short, we came in and rescued him. I'll have the details up a bit later.

He's not in great shape right now. He has a few stab wounds he hasn't been able to treat properly and he's fighting infection from that. He's also had to deal with a lot of bugs, and we're not sure if he's picked up something from them at this point. And on top of all that, he's unshaven, and, with all due respect to the guy, his beard-growing skills aren't particularly exceptional.

We've got him in one of the runner safehouses that Last and Rogue Shadow helped set up, being treated by one of our doctors. A runner one, not a doctor one. It's hard to tell where exactly the lines are anymore. Seems like he'll be okay, but I'm still worried. He's probably one of the closest things I have to a friend these days, and I don't like seeing him like this.

Like I said, we'll be providing more details of what exactly happened in a day or two. For our group at least, it seems like there's actually going to be something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Operation Alice

Last here, distinguishing myself with a lovely shade of brown. As you may have heard, Operation Alice was a rousing success. It’s been in motion for a while now, actually, but we’ve only just recently actually pulled it off.

So you’ve heard of the Mother of Snakes, right? The Fear of yourself, basically. Not liking what you see reflected in the mirror, all that. And I wasn’t really looking forward to facing off with her since we’re largely a self-loathing bunch. What’s more, Snakemom’s got these servants called “Lilim.” And we’d have to deal with them, as well.

So I started making plans. I started talking to Crimson, but he didn’t really know how to approach the situation. We tossed a few ideas around, but we were largely at a loss.

What’s more, we’ve gotten something of a target on our back. The Four Horsemen, the Fantasy Triad, and the Magi have all been fairly active. And it’s no secret that the Magi and the Slender Man have at least a tenuous alliance, since a group associated with two of them is responsible for the deaths of two Fears. The remaining Fears have started making alliances.

The Red Cap and Choir are already working together, if you’ll recall, and they’ve been recruiting. The Dying Man has joined with them as well, as he and the Red Cap go way back. There might even be some link between them. As with all this dimensional bleeding stuff, the details vary, but there’s evidence to suggest that they were once the same Fear. And on top of that, the Mother of Snakes and the Eye have both recently forged alliances with them.

Four groups of Fears. Tensions building. Everyone could feel that there was a huge, impending shitstorm. Something was about to break, and the biggest target was on our back.

That’s when the Lilim attacked the Drones, servants of the Intrusion.

You see, there are certain perks to being allied with EAT. Awhile ago, we (we meaning EAT, naturally) managed to infect the water supply of some Lilim groups. See, EAT has the ability to possess others into a sort of hivemind, slowly spreading through their systems. They’re generally unaware of the process and they still function as themselves, but once he takes them, they’re his whenever he wants them. It took a bit of time, but we finally reached a point where enough of the Lilim were happy Campers.

When we launched our attack on the Drones, or rather, when we made the Lilim launch our attack on the Drones, it was met with huge backlash. The Horsemen don’t like being attacked, especially when there was an unspoken agreement to go after the Magi and the Slender Man. Understandably, they retaliated, all four of them, wiping out a large portion of the Lilim.

I managed to make it there to see a lot of what happened, albeit from a distance. After most of the Lilim had been taken out, the Horsemen themselves came in, all riding on giant black horses. The Archangel in the lead, clad in duster, gas mask, and bowler hat. The Plague doctor behind him in his beaked mask, cloak, and wide-brimmed hat. The giant, muscle-bound Brute, face hidden beneath a helm, and his beautiful Burning Bride, red hair and dress seeming to flicker like flames, seated behind him. And finally, completely covered in a cloak, the Intrusion. The four rode into the middle of the encampment, where a giant mirror sat, the Mother of Snakes reflected in it. She’d probably be beautiful were it not for the vertical pupils and forked tongue. Oh, and the giant snake wrapped around her. I’m not really too fond of snakes.

“You misunderstand,” she said. “That attack was never my intention—”

The Intrusion’s horse stepped forward, and the cloak collapsed, empty, as a swarm of insects sped out and into the mirror. I’ve heard that the Mother of Snakes is generally pretty well-defended in there, but the Intrusion is, well, pretty good at getting into places it’s not wanted.

“Please, no!” she shrieked as the Intrusion pulled her out of the mirror. The Archangel rode forward and its horse trampled the mirror, crushing it. The swarm reentered the cloak, where it regained a humanoid shape.

“Nowhere to run now,” the Brute said in a deep voice. He dismounted and pulled a sword from its sheath. Flames danced along the blade’s edge. “Vengeance shall be ours.”

In one clean blow, he cleft the head from her neck. The body burst into flame and shriveled up. Laughing, he remounted his horse, giving his Bride a quick kiss, and the four Horsemen rode off.

And with that, Operation Alice came to an end. The Mother of Snakes is dead. The Horsemen have struck a blow to this newly-formed alliance. The Fears are on the brink of all-out war.

We have these fuckers exactly where we want them.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Last’s Lost It

So we’ve been sort of on hold for a while. Last has been keeping us in the dark, with just an occasional nod and wink and statement that he’s working on something big. So I’ve been playing board games with Phones and hanging out with Maggie. I guess Last’s insisting we’re dating now (not happy about that), but I wouldn’t call it that. I’m not going to say we won’t end up dating, but I don’t think we are right now.

He disappeared for a few days recently. Now, however, he’s returned, cackling madly.

“Everyone!” he announced. “Operation Alice was a huge success!”

“What happened?” I asked.

“It’s a surprise! You’ll have to read about it on my blog. C’mon, everyone of legal drinking age, we’re gonna celebrate tonight!”

“You don’t have a blog!” I called after him as he danced (not a metaphor—he was literally dancing) up the stairs.

“I meant your blog, obviously!”

I kind of slunk off to my room for the night, since I knew Last wasn’t going to give me any answers and, well, I’m still only 19 and I didn’t really want to be one of the only sober people in the room. I’m sure Last would have let me drink with them, and it’s not like I never tried alcohol in high school, but…I don’t know. It’d be weird drinking with these people. I’m not actually friends with most of them.

I guess that was a bad idea, since I ended up having another dream. One of those Cold Boy/Wooden Girl/Grotesque dreams. The details aren’t important, and I don’t remember them now, but it was a knock that woke me up and saved me from a potential dream death.

“Kenny? You okay in there?”

I went to the door and opened it to find Maggie, dressed in just an oversized t-shirt.

“What time is it?” was the question I finally decided on.

“I dunno, about 2 AM, I think? You okay? Sounded like you were having a bad dream.”

“Uh, yeah. It was, um…one of those. So thanks. Uh…what are you doing up?”

“Got thirsty. That and apparently it’s supposed to prevent hangovers or something.”

“Oh. Are you…drunk right now?”

“Hmm. Not sure.” She thoughtfully poked her cheek a few times. “Well that’s not doing anything for me. Guess I’m either just tired or a little tipsy. Can I come in?”

“I guess.”

She sat down in my desk chair and swiveled it back and forth. I sat down on my bed. “I thought you weren’t having these dreams anymore,” she said.

“Not very often. I have one every now and then, but…not like tonight.”

“You’d think the party Last threw would have helped with that some.”

“I don’t know. I don’t think so, really. I mean, you guys aren’t really my friends—”

“None taken.”

“—so it’s not like I really feel comfortable around all of you. I just feel…a bit on the outside, you know?”

“I think it goes deeper than that. You have problems trusting people, Kenny. When you’re alone, you see enemies everywhere, and when you trust people as allies, you don’t trust yourself. And I guess we’re kind of to blame for that.”

“That’s still only part of it, though. With the Cold Boy and Wooden Girl working together like this…I think the Wooden Girl might really be after me too. For her own reasons. I just…I don’t feel like I’m in control anymore. I’m supposed to be some sort of hero, but Last’s the one with the plan. And I just…do what he says. Because yeah, killing the Fears is probably a good idea, but what if I don’t want to be the one who has to do that? And what if I leave? What does Last do then?”

“Rock and a hard place,” she said, nodding. “Listen, Kenny…do you trust me?”

“I…I guess. Mostly, at least.”

“Good. Because the Masks? We’ve all got your back. And as long as you trust me, or Crimson, or even Phones, I guess, you should be able to rest easy knowing we’ve got your back. And hey, if you ever feel the need to take off, seize control of your own destiny or whatever—I’ll have your back then, too. We’re friends, if nothing else. That make it better?”

“I…guess, maybe…?”

“Of course it doesn’t. It’s a promise that’s a drop of piss in an ocean. But I hope it at least helps. Think you’ll at least be able to get back to sleep?”

I sighed. “I don’t know. I think I might.”

There was a pause.

“You’re still scared, aren’t you?”


She sighed. “Here, scoot over.”


“I’ll keep an eye on you. Make sure you’re not going cold.”

“Are you sure…I mean…is this appropriate?”

“Oh madre de dios, Kenny. It’s not like I’m naked under this.”

“Yeah, but—”

She snuggled up to me, and…I don’t know. I couldn’t really complain. I thought it’d make me feel uncomfortable, but it actually really helped me calm down. After the chilling (like, literally chilling) dream, her skin felt really warm. “Just shut up and let me have this much, okay Kenny?”

For the record, I slept fine for the rest of that night.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Dates and Updates

Last again.

We’re all on a bit of vacation at the moment. By which I mean everyone but Crimson and me are on vacation, but even we’re not doing too much. We would be doing a TON of dirty work at the moment, but the Magi are very useful allies to have. All the plans we had are being accomplished a lot more efficiently at a much lower risk to us.

Crimson and I have been hammering down our course of action, and I think we’ve got a good idea of what the plan of attack is now. With the help of EAT, we’re setting our next plan into motion, but also setting a really big plan a few plans from now into motion as well. Operation Alice, a name I just now made up, comes first, but “The Plan” is in motion. Well, not the “The Plan,” but a really big, really important move.

I need to start coming up with better names to call things. I sound like an ass over here.

Anyway, despite Kenny’s whining over the Waif-chan incident, he’s bounced back well enough. In fact, he’s actually out on a date with Magpie as we speak. Well, what Magpie and I consider to be a date, at least. Kenny will insist he’s just engaging in extracurricular activities with a person who happens to be a friend. I’m not sure he understands that that’s kind of what a date is. But hey, good for them. Make sure to congratulate Kenny for finally getting around to dating a chick who isn’t dead.

That’s all for the moment, really. Just to let those of you still invested in the people killing off the beings making your lives a living hell know what we’ve been up to.


Hmm.  I should maybe try a different font or color next time just to separate my posts from Kenny’s. Oh well. Too lazy to bother with doing it this time.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

I’m Back

Hey, everyone. It’s Kenny again. And I’m…more than a little embarrassed.

It turns out that Waif-chan was the Unnamed Child. And I hadn’t even stopped to consider that possibility.

Last wasn’t happy. He’s barely spoken to me since he killed her. It’s not even like he’s mad at me. He’s mad at Crimson and Gabe. He says they should have known better. With me, he just seems…disappointed. And I think I know why. He’s worried that this might mean I can’t be this “Hero” he’s looking for.

I never asked for this, though. I never asked to be roped into a war against the Fears. I just wanted to survive. It was easier when I didn’t have people counting on me or expecting anything from me other than trying to save my own skin. I’d be angry at Last for being disappointed in me, if it weren’t for the fact that…I actually feel legitimately disappointed in myself.

“I don’t know why it bothers me,” I told Phones the other day as we played a game of chess.  He tapped the table once to let me know he had me in check. “I don’t want to do this, but…I feel like I have to, you know? It’s tough.” He never listens, but that’s maybe why I enjoy talking to him. It’s just easier to get my thoughts out that way, even if he can’t hear what I’m saying.

And that’s where I am right now. Hating myself. Hating Last. Unsure of what to do or where to go.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Unnamed Child

Last of the Last here again to fill you in on what’s happened.

So when we struck, we struck quickly.

I took Wraith aside, talked to him, and explained the situation. He actually said he was disappointed in himself for not catching it on his own. I have to admit that I wanted to be disappointed in him too, but the nameless kid’s good at working on people subtly.

We knew Gabe would be the biggest obstacle, which is why we decided to cuff him to his bed while he slept. And also yoink his meat hammers and lock him in his room. Problem solved!

The problem was keeping Magpie, Fang, Mantis, and Phones out of the way. We really didn’t have anything planned, so I couldn’t come up with a very good pretext to send them off on any sort of mission. Eventually I just decided on sending Magpie and Fang off on a food run and hoping for the best with Mantis and Phones.

Phones was easy. He had locked himself up in his room anyway. I tried persuading Mantis before we launched our assault. I explained as simply and directly as I could that Waif-chan was actually the unnamed child and that we were going to pop her ass. He smiled and nodded as if he got what we were saying.

So we went ahead and launched our attack on Kenny and Crimson. I could go into details, but the long and short of it was that we kicked their asses pretty easily.

And then Mantis started kicking ours. It turns out that we overlooked the fact that “hey, we’re going to beat this little girl’s ass” doesn’t translate to “we’re going to beat up two of our own.” So Mantis had no clue what was going on and it’s kind of hard to explain to someone who barely speaks English that no, really, there’s a totally good reason for it while they’re in the middle of going Jackie Chan on you. And Reaper, Wraith and I don’t exactly have a ton of hand-to-hand combat skill.

“I’ll hold him off,” Black said. “Reaper and Wraith have Crimson and Kenny.  We can manage between the three of us. Just kill that fuckin’ kid, okay?”

I ran for the room where Waif-chan was staying. If I could just get in there and end it quickly….

But of course it wasn’t that easy, because Gabe is a bear, and the bed and door were wooden. He snapped off the part of the bed he was cuffed to and broke the door off the hinges, just in to see me heading for the Unnamed Child’s room.

“I’ll kill you,” he growled.

“Gabe, listen! She’s the Unnamed Child! She’s a Fear, Gabe! Please, just think for a second—”

Even without the hammers, Gabe hits really hard. A single solid punch to the gut brought me to the ground. It was Phones who saved me. In a fight to the death, Gabe probably would have come out on top. Gabe is slow, but he’s strong and sturdy. But I didn’t need a hard hitter. I needed someone quick, who could distract Gabe long enough without taking a hit.

As Gabe recovered from Phones’ initial blow, Phones looked at me and pointed towards the Unnamed Child’s room. So apparently he knew exactly what was happening the whole time. Phones, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I doubted you.

Waif-chan looked up as I entered.  She smiled at me, her facial features just a bit off. The face of an adult on the body of a child, maybe. Though even that’s not quite right. Her mouth was a bit too wide. The eyes a bit big, the nose a bit flat, the teeth just a little too sharp. It was almost as if she had the facial features of a cartoon, but on a real, living being, making the whole appearance a bit surreal.

“You’ve made it this far,” she said, smiling. “What now, though? Do you really think you can kill me?”  I pulled a gun on her. She laughed. “Don’t be stupid. You can’t hurt me with that.”

“Oh, no, of course not. I mean, you’re kind of an abstract concept. Maybe you guys can kill each other if you try hard enough, but this? I know I’ve got no chance of killing you with something like a gun. But here’s the thing: I know people. I’ve got contacts in high places. Very high places. There are even some Fears I’ve had some dealings with. One in particular I’ve been a…regular customer of, shall we say? Tall, cloaked, sort of a bookish fellow?”

She frowned. “I don’t see how that helps you.”

I kept the gun leveled. “You’re the Unnamed Child. But really, that’s only a title, isn’t it? You’re abstract, and that gives you power. But you’re also tangible, meaning that you really, in some sense, exist. And that’s your weakness. Because everything that exists is something. Means something. And when one is dealing with something who knows what that something is….”  I grinned in satisfaction as her saucer-like eyes widened even further. “That’s right. This gun? This can’t hurt you. But this can.”

“No,” she said, her voice a hoarse whisper.

Fun fact about the word “unnamed.” It doesn’t quite mean the same thing as “nameless.” Names are powerful things. And even the Unnamed child has one.

I spoke it aloud.

Naming her was all it took. All the power went from her. Immediately, I heard the scuffle outside the door cease. She looked at me, no longer a Fear. Just a little girl wearing the wrong face.

I pulled the trigger.

Two down.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Balancing the Scales

The bad news is that Kenny, Crimson, and Gabe are all still taken in by Waif-chan.  The good news is that Reaper, Boston Black, and myself can all clearly see that she’s the Unnamed Child, just  because we have one very important trait in common: we fucking hate kids.

This means that Wraith, Maggie, Mantis, and Fang are all kind of confused (leaving Phones as a wild card since I’m not sure how much he even notices what’s going on around him). This basically means that they can’t see that Waif-chan is a Fear and might have trouble believing it, but they still feel comfortable around her. She’s a subtle little bitch, and that’s what’s making it hard to see which way any of the Masks will tip. Two I can trust. Three I can’t. And that still leaves about half of us completely unaccounted for.

Mantis is the one of those I’m most worried about since he barely speaks English, but everyone speaks cute adorable little kid. She can put up a much more winning argument, since the shy smiles she gives him may very well look like sunshine and rainbows instead of uncanny valley. Wraith is probably going to be easiest to convince, since I think he’s genuinely pretty apathetic towards her. No bias. I can work with that. And Maggie…I dunno. She’s a girl. Maybe she likes kids because she wants them or something? Maybe she hates them actually? Fuck, I don’t know how girl hormones work. Might be worth a shot, but I have no clue what I could predict with her.

Okay. I’ve got a plan. I know what to do. Killing her’s going to be the easy part, since I’m pretty sure I know how to do that.

It’s making sure that we don’t kill each other that’s going to be the hard part.

Monday, September 9, 2013


Hey, everyone. Last here. Kenny’s not going to be using this blog for a bit because he’s currently being a fucking idiot.

So it turns out that announcing your targets on your blog can totally backfire. We had expected some of this, but we have…a few workarounds for the problem. Mostly. It can be good to bait Fears out. Misdirect. Et cetera. But sometimes it really doesn’t work out.

Gabe brought one of his daughter’s friends along the other day. She’s apparently having some issues with an abusive family, and she’s been scared to go home. So Gabe’s temporarily taking her in.

As you might have guessed, this girl’s story is complete bullshit because she’s actually the Unnamed Child. She’s apparently decided to infiltrate our group.

She’s currently going by “Alice,” I guess. Alice Doe. If you need to give a name to blend in, you might as well choose one of the most stock names you can find. Kenny, meanwhile, has jokingly taken to calling her “Waif-chan,” idiotically removing the blatantly fake name she gave us and making her more “unnamed.” Still, she kind of is a waif, so the name’s accurate. And it’s stuck. So I guess she’s Waif-chan now.

As you may have guessed, he and Gabe, along with Crimson, are all completely taken in by Waif-chan, to the point where she’s staying in the base with us. Some of the rest of us are a bit ambivalent towards her. And she completely unnerves some of us. I saw through what she was immediately, obviously, so she completely repulses me.

I’m working on distracting everybody. Making the situation obvious. But Kenny, Crimson, and Gabe aren’t going to accept it nearly as easily. She’s got them in the palm of her hand. Kenny, timid little pacifist he is, would kill all of us to protect her. Same goes for the other two.

The good news is that, assuming no one else gets completely taken in, we could probably overpower Kenny and Crimson no problem. The bad news is that Gabe is a powerhouse, and being a single dad for years means he’s already got these inclinations. If things go bad, he will stop at nothing to protect her, and it could easily come down to a kill-or-be-killed scenario, and I can’t spare anyone at the moment.

So I’m keeping everyone busy and away from this blog as I figure out a way to break this fucking Mexican standoff the stupid kid’s forced us into. She’s a clever little shit to use her power like this; I’ll give her that.

I just hope everyone else comes to their senses quickly enough.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Past Month, Part 2

More of what I’ve been up to lately.

Crimson’s Story

Crimson’s become a pretty good friend. I felt a bit awkward around him after I found out he was gay, I guess, but I’m getting better at it. I finally decided to ask him about his story.

“So, I mean…what’s it like, exactly? You know, being, um…?”

“Being gay?” He laughed. “Well, it’s a lot like being straight, only I’m attracted to guys instead of girls.”

My face got really hot then and I looked away. He laughed harder.

“I’m sorry, Kenny, that was maybe a little rude. In reality, it’s…it’s pretty tough. For me at least. You grew up in a small town, right?”

I nodded. “Well, not that small, but not big.”

“Then you can kind of see where I’m coming from, since I grew up in a small town, too. Homosexuality just…really doesn’t touch those places a lot. Most everyone was religion and homophobic, but…it’s a weird situation. I mean, I really did love that town and most everyone there. I sometimes think “how could such loving people be so hateful?” And the thing is…I don’t think any of them even know what they believe about homosexuality. They hear ‘being gay is wrong. Being gay is a sin.’ And they just accept that. They don’t know anyone who’s gay. They don’t have any reason to challenge that belief. Being gay is just something that happens to other people. Other people they can look look at shamefully from afar.”

“So…how did they react when you came out?” I asked.

“You know…I never did. I really wish I had so that I knew. I took off as soon as I got to college. Didn’t look back. I talk to my parents every now and then, and come home for holidays when I can, but they still don’t know I’m gay. Every time I think of them, I wonder: should I tell them? Would they still love me, or would they disown me? Would my community have changed their perspective and accepted who I was? Or did I make the right choice by keeping it to myself?”

“So…is that why the Red Cap is after you?”

He gave a wry little smile. “What do you think? If you spend almost your entire life repressing part of who you are because you’re scared of what others would think? Sometimes it’s still hard to admit to myself. Sometimes I still think ‘what if I’m wrong? What if it’s just some phase?’ And I think I’m always going to feel some sort of shame over who I am, despite my best efforts.”

Cards with Phones

I was up late one night, unable to sleep, wandering around the building we’re staying in when I found Phones sitting at a table alone, playing a game of Solitaire. His face was hidden in the darkness of his oversized hood like it always was, but he apparently saw me, because he beckoned me over. I tried asking him what was up, but he just shook his head and tapped the side of his head, his finger clacking audibly against his headphones. I guess he couldn’t have heard me anyway. Then again, he probably didn’t want to. I guess the music is the only thing that keeps the Choir at bay for him. I remember when I was traveling with Wayward, she would only listen to white noise. I wonder why it’s different for Phones. Last says it’s because of dimensional bleeding. Different Choir. Different MO.

Anyway, he scooped up the cards and started dealing them out. He kept his head ducked so that I couldn’t see under his hood. I wonder why he’s so dedicated to staying anonymous like that. I started to pick them up, but he placed his gloved hand over my own and shook his head, stopping me. After he dealt the cards into two even stacks, he flipped a card over on each. Three of clubs for him, Ace of spades for me. He gave a sharp exhale and shoved the card at me, flipping two more. It wasn’t long before I realized he was trying to play War with me.

I think we ended up playing for two hours straight before I beat him. At that point, he stood, shoved a hand into his hoodie’s pocket, and gave me a thumbs-up with the other one. Then he walked off, offhandedly waving goodnight to me.

I think he really appreciated it. He can’t really read or play video games or watch movies or anything that requires reading text or listening to voices, so he doesn’t have many options. Simple games that everyone already knows. Sketching. I don’t know.

Maybe I’ll play a game with him again at some point.

The Fantasy Triad

Last’s making sure that the Cold Boy, Wooden Girl, and Grotesque don’t try killing me in my sleep again. He’s been the one keeping watch most frequently, with Mantis and Gabe filling in—those two because, frankly, they’re the only ones willing to do so who I feel comfortable enough letting them watch me sleep.

Like you might have gathered, I’m still having some issues sleeping. They still show up sometimes. Not as often, but one of those three guys has shaken me awake in the night more than once. Sometimes I remember seeing them in the dreams. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I remember dreaming, but only vaguely remember things that might be related to the Triad. Last says that it’s because they’re getting better at hiding their presence. They’re trying less overt strategies. Fortunately, since I’m prepared, my subconscious is also detecting these anomalies pretty quickly. He thinks that, were it just the Grotesque, I’d be in trouble. The Grotesque can disguise itself in dreams perfectly. It’s the Cold Boy and the Wooden Girl who are actually becoming their own undoing by taking on an aggressive role. Either way, Last says that I’m making an impressive amount of progress in terms of dream-based mental defenses and even thinks I might manage to shake myself awake in the future.


And then there’s what’s been going on with Maggie. We’ve finally had enough time to sit down and talk about things some.

“Look,” she said, “I’m going to be frank. I know you still love Lily. I know that, deep down, you’re always going to love Lily. And I don’t want to replace her. I just…you’re a really great guy, Kenny. I don’t want you to be stuck like this. Whether or not we, you know, have a chance together I don’t want to see you dwelling on the past like you are. It’s not healthy.”

“Yeah. I know.” It was weird talking to her about this stuff. She’s normally so upbeat and carefree about everything. But she was acting so…timid. Subdued. Scared, even. Scared of what I might say or do.

She was quiet for a while. “Kenny? Do you like me? And I don’t mean, you know…’do you want to start up some sort of relationship?’ I just mean…do you like me?”

“Yeah, of course. Why wouldn’t I?”

“I dunno. Because I’m annoying? Because I don’t shut up? Because I’m trying to force you to move on? Or, you know, because of that time I tried to kill you?”

“Well, you’re also easy to talk to. You’re always positive. You’ve got that memory thing going on, which is really cool. And you, uh…didn’t kill me. You weren’t seriously trying, were you?”

She grinned then, and she looked more like herself. “A little. If I’d been able to kill you, you wouldn’t really be worth liking, now would you?”

I grinned back and shoved her. “Hey, shut up!”

“It’s true. No bigger turnoff than a guy who lets you kill him on the first date.”

We joked and laughed like that a bit. “You know…I’m not mad at you for trying to get me to move on,” I told her, serious again. “It’s hard, but…I know I should. Drilling that through my head is more than anyone else is bothering to do for me.”

“Last’s training you to kill Fears.”

“Well, yeah, but…I honestly think this means more. Having Last force me into some scheme isn’t exactly making me a better person. But this? This helps. Gives me the chance to be a happier person. It’s just…the process is going to be hard.”

She put an arm around my shoulder. “Listen, bud. No matter what, I’m here for you, okay? I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but it’s not like I’ve got a lot of friends here. And you and Crimson are the closest I’ve got to fellow girls.”


“Just calling them like I see ‘em, Kenny. But seriously. If you ever just need to talk, I’m here for you.”

“Yeah, but you have, you know, ulterior motives, don’t you?”

“Well yeah, no shit. Not gonna lie, you getting over Lily is a potentially good thing for me. But I’m not going to jeopardize one of my closest friendships for that.” She gave me a smile. “Seriously, Kenny.”


So that’s where things stand here from now on. Last says that he thinks that the Unnamed Child is a good course of action and thanks you guys for your suggestions. Also, if you’re wanting to help out at all, shoot me an e-mail (since Last’s hijacked mine for business purposes—not that I was using it for all that much anyway).

Stay safe, all.

Never quit.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Past Month, Part 1

Don't worry, I'm still alive and fine.

I've been pretty silent lately. I'm sorry for that. I've been stepping away from the blog a bit to get my mind off of things. We've all been trying to get some R&R since we killed the Rake (or, more honestly, maneuvered the Rake into a position to be killed), and it's always nice to have the mental break that not blogging about the hell all our lives are provides.

Anyway, the past month has been mostly uneventful in terms of our assault on the Fears. Still, there have been thirteen people (though Gabe's usually at his own place) under the same roof for a month. There have been at least a few events worth mentioning.

The Aftermath

There's apparently been a fair amount of excitement over the fact that the Rake is dead. For some people, it's stayed dead. For others, not so much. When I mentioned that to Last, he told me to stress this the next time I wrote a post: there is absolutely no guarantee that the Rake is dead for you. Maybe it never died at all. Maybe it just died temporarily. And maybe it did die. Dimensional bleeding is really weird like that, and it can be really indiscriminate.

Anyway, in celebration, Med sent us a little gift: medallions. Thirteen medallions arrived in the mail, one for each of us. They're metal, with these holes in the middle, like a washer or some sort of Asian coin. On one side, there's something that's a sort of a take on the "three hares" design, only it has the Rake, the Black Dog, and the Manufactured Newborn instead of hares. On the other side, it reads "TRIUMPHARE TIMORE." In all honesty, I have no idea what that means, though I'm guessing it has something to do with triumph. So thanks, Med. They're beautiful.

Also, apparently our raid on the Maenad compound lead to them eventually being massacred. I feel really guilty about it. I mean, they were our enemies, and I didn't know them, and this is war now, but...it seemed unnecessary. Last doesn't share the same sentiment. "The best Maenad is a dead Maenad," he said. "That's how it goes for all of them."

"Even people working for the Slender Man? People like you and the Masks?"

"Yes. But we're different, Kenny. Never forget that. This is only temporary so that we can kill him. I don't want you to dare compare us to the rest of them again."


I finally got to meet Gabe's daughter. She came over a few days after we got back. Apparently he brings her along sometimes when Last calls a meeting and he can't get ahold of a sitter, though I think he's been bringing her more frequently for my sake. She's a cute little girl with a really rounded face and black hair. The first time she came over it was pretty long, but she must have gotten a haircut because every time since it was pretty short. I can see a bit of Gabe in her, and I wonder every time I see her what his wife must have looked like. I've been afraid to ask him, though. I get the sense it would have been a sore subject.

Apart from Gabe, Crimson and I seem to be the ones who spend the most time with her. Crimson's really good with kids. He's really fond of them, and he told me that one day, if we manage to succeed and he finds a guy he wants to spend his life with, he'd love to adopt. After seeing him with Janie, I'm sure he'd be a great father. 

She's a really big fan of animals and has all sorts of these animal toys. She really likes My Little Pony, The Littlest Pet Shop, and Pound Puppies and has a lot of toys from there. Crimson and I have played with her enough to pick up on what toys act like what. I already had a vague sense of her pony toys, but I prefer playing with the others. It was Jenny who showed my My Little Pony, and her name even sounds really similar to Janie's. It sounds stupid, refusing to play with pony toys because of that. But they remind me of Jenny, and by extension, Ryan and Dumas and everyone else I failed.

The Plan

At this point, I think I'm going to just leave you with the course of action we're going to be pursuing. Last says we're not strong enough to take down the Four Horsemen or the Fantasy Triad, and we're still using the Magi's help. He's also got plans for a lot of other Fears. Right now, the biggest options are looking like the Mother of Snakes, the Smiling Man, or the Unnamed Child. So I guess that any information anyone has on any of those three would be absolutely great.

There's more to write about the past month, so I'll see you soon.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Rake, Part 2

I shuffled over to where Fang and Alicia were already gathered. Fang was shoving some throwing blades into his waistband. Alicia was loading her pistol. She looked at me. “This might be a good time to grab your weapon or something.”

I glanced at Lily, which was still in my hand. “Uh, yeah. Okay. So what’s the plan?”

“My plan is to shoot anyhing that comes too close. Simple, really.”

Fang pointed to the grocery store a few blocks away. “Over there. Hopefully there’s a fair amount of people in there. More people, more commotion, more chance the Rake will show up.” He shook his bangs out of his eyes. “Let’s go.”

Alicia nodded. “More slaughter too. All right, let’s get going.”

Fang pulled out some flechettes as we entered, throwing them at the nearest cashier. I think they killed the guy. I’m not sure. I saw the people and froze up, ducking into the closest aisle. I heard gunfire in the aisle nearby. Alicia, probably. I don’t think any of them carried guns. Sounds of footsteps and running, then shouting and the sounds of a scuffle from a corner of the store. Someone had jumped Alicia. Yelling from further away the direction Fang had gone. I glanced around the shelves to see that he was trying to hold off two guys. He was holding his own, but just barely.

That’s when I heard the gunshot. A bag of chips a foot away from me exploded and I ducked back behind the shelves.

“I know you’re back there, kid!” the maenad called. Silence, another gunshot.  “Come on out, kid! Makes it easier for all of us!”

I froze, panicking. Alicia and Fang were both pinned down and in trouble. Someone was shooting at me. I was hiding back behind the shelves like a coward instead of helping them.

Raggedy’s words from his email came back to me then: “pick your moment.” I’m not brave or a good fighter or anything, but I knew that if there was a moment, it had to be now. I had to push through the fear.

I grabbed a few packages of food off the shelf and chucked them out of the aisle. It sounds really stupid typing it out now, but I figured it would work as a diversion at the time. I took off in the other direction, sprinting to where Alicia was. I didn’t hear footsteps. A woman had Alicia pinned to the floor. Taking a deep breath to steel myself, I brought my staff up and down on her head. She crumpled immediately, and Alicia pushed her off herself.

“Come on out, kid!” he was still on the other end of the store for whatever reason. Was he as nervous as I was? Was it part of some strategy? I don’t know. I’m not sure I want to know.

“Get down,” I whispered to her, gesturing down the aisle. “That guy’s got your gun.”

“Well fuck,” she said, already rolling towards the shelves. “Don’t just stand there, get behind some cover before he blasts your head off!”

“Fang’s got some guys pinning him down,” I said. “I’m gonna try to help him out.”

“Fine. Guess I’ll do this the fun way.” She cautiously raised herself to a crouch. “I’ll try getting my gun back.” With that, she ran off. I ran in the other direction, towards Fang. It turns out that all he really needed was a diversion, since as soon as I showed up and the others turned to face me, he dispatched them handily, pulling out a pair of knives and slitting their throats in one smooth motion. I gagged a bit at the sight, but managed to keep my lunch down. He nodded me towards the entrance, where Alicia was already waiting, the man who had grabbed her gun unconscious or dead (I don’t know which) on the floor.

“That should be good,” Fang said. He pulled the walkie talkie from his waist, radioing Last. “We’re good.”

“Great!” came the response. “Bring it on back.”

Fang nodded, turned to us. “Let’s go.”

We ran back to the gas station to meet up with Last. Maggie, Phones, Reaper, and Mantis were already back.  His face lit up when he saw us. “Second group back. The others should be back any second now….”

As if on cue, Gabe and Boston Black appeared from behind the corner, sprinting down the street. Angel followed a few seconds behind them, pistol drawn, firing at something. The Rake turned the corner behind them.

The Rake was…really grotesque looking. The worst part about it was that it looked human. It had the build of one. But it ran on all fours, had long, sharp claws, was completely naked and hairless (though I don’t think it had any sort of genitalia), and had these beady red eyes. The skin color was off, like it was rotting or something. Overall, it just looked wrong.

“I believe that’s my cue,” the Inspector said. He was calm and composed as he stepped forward, keeping a steady, unhurried pace. The Rake slowed as he approached. Gabe, Black, and Angel managed to reach us.

I had known he could confuse the Fears or something like that, but the extent of his powers surprised me when I saw them in use. One moment, it was charging at us at full speed, the next it had stopped and started wandering around, like it couldn’t even see us.

Last turned to Fang. “Okay, this is going to sound cheesy and kind of like a long shot, but we need the Black Dog now. I need you to focus on your deepest, darkest secrets. You know, the ones you’ve only told me. And then I need you to picture them getting out. Really feel the fear flow through you.”

“You’re right, it does sound cheesy. Is this what your plan hinged on?”

“Just do it, or I’ll tell them all for real.”

Fang’s face darkened. “Fine,” he said. He closed his eyes. The rest of us watched the Rake. It was stumbling around, but it looked like it was starting to regain its senses. Like it would charge at us any second.

The Black Dog showed up before it could happen, leaping out from an intersection and tackling the Rake. It pinned the creature to the ground, trying to bite at its throat. The Inspector was suddenly gone, then beside us the next moment. “Now we let nature take its course,” he said.

“That was fast,” Last told Fang.

Fang nodded. “It was easy. Too easy.” Last grunted in agreement but said nothing more.

The two beasts fought for dominance, their blood spilling on the ground as they clawed and bit.  After a minute that felt far too long, we heard a mechanical whirring.  “Aaaaand here comes the Newborn,” Last said. “Right on cue.” The Manufactured Newborn showed up a few seconds later and joined the fray. It had changed since the last time I had seen it—quite a bit, actually. While it had previously just been a small orb with four legs, it now had six, as well as a crude head.

The Black Dog grabbed it between its teeth as it approached and effortlessly tossed it aside. The Manufactured Newborn collapsed in a crumpled heap before picking itself up and scurrying off.

“Aaaaand there goes the Newborn,” said Last. “Wonderful.”

The battle raged on for a few minutes, and none of us could do anything other than stand far out of the way and watch. It was a really odd mix of extremely boring and downright terrifying. They were both taking a lot of damage, but the longer the battle wore on, the more obvious it was that the Rake was gaining the upper hand.

“You can’t do anything to help?” Last asked the Inspector.

“I would rather not be that close to the conflict,” he said.

“Doesn’t really matter which one of them dies, does it?” Fang grumbled. “One of them’s dead either way.”

That’s when the Manufactured Newborn returned. Changed. At the ends of its legs were long, metal claws, and its head had been modified to include powerful steel jaws.

“It’s learning,” Crimson mused. “It’s learning from them and modifying itself to compete.”

The Newborn latched onto the Rake from behind, digging its claws into its body to hold it and biting down on the neck with its jaws. The Rake struggled, and it looked like it was breaking free. That’s when the shot rang out. The Rake collapsed and the Black Dog and Manufactured Newborn were on it instantly, ripping it apart, destroying the body completely.

Last grabbed his walkie talkie. “Nice shot, Wraith.”

There was a pause before Wraith responded. “That wasn’t me, boss.”

“Then who…?” He looked around and swore. We all followed his line of sight. The Archangel stood on top of a roof in the distance. He lifted his sniper rifle and hoisted it over his shoulder as he turned to us. Then he tipped his bowler hat and disappeared.

Gabe tensed up. Angel Cross started screaming. “You took my ears, you bastard!” she yelled, firing at where he had been. It surprised me, considering how composed she’d been.

“So the Archangel is Angel’s archenemy,” Crimson said, half to himself, a smile tugging at his lips.

“Boss,” Gabe said, “Boss, what’s it doing here?”

“I don’t know. Awful big coincidence it showed up, huh?” He folded his arms.  “And there are no coincidences.”


And that’s the story of how we killed the Rake. Angel, Alicia, and the Inspector have left. I don’t know if the Rake has stayed dead for them, but it was still nice to feel at least something close to a victory. We all went out to celebrate afterwards, and we’ve been slow at getting back into things. I’m sorry it took so long to get it all written down.

But it’s only one Fear we’ve managed to kill. There’s still a long and dangerous road ahead, and there are a lot of worrisome questions. How we’re going to take out the other Fears, for example. Why the Archangel showed up, for another. The last time I saw him, it was when I was leaving the Hostel. He helped me out then, too. Why? What’s his motivation?

I’ll keep you guys posted as more information comes in.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Rake, Part 1

Angel Cross was the first person who started briefing us. When she spoke, it was a bit slowly and hesitantly. It must be a bit weird for her to speak and not be able to hear herself and adjust.  Anyway, she said that there are apparently servants of the Rake, called “maenads.” They’re not very well-known, to the point that Last didn’t even know they existed. In fact, he claims that they may not have existed in our universe until she mentioned them.

“I’m hoping that we can lure the Rake out by killing some maenads,” she said. “It might not care enough about them, but it’s worth trying to attract its attention.”

Last nodded at her and took over.  “There’s a colony of them about five hour’s drive away. We’re going to go in and split into groups.  Of course, even if the Rake doesn’t show up, that means that pretty much the entire colony’s going to be after us. We go in, hit a few groups, book it out, and keep them off of us until the Rake shows up. Or we have to retreat.  Angel, Boston Black, Gabe, you’re in one group. Kenny, Alicia, Fang, you’re in a second. Phones, Mantis, Reaper, Magpie, you’re the the third. Wraith, you’ve got support. Crimson, Inspector, you’re with me.”

Last adjourned the meeting after that. I browsed the internet some that night to calm my nerves. I checked my e-mail, and found this waiting for me from Raggedy:

"I have one last tip for your training before you go off into battle that I wish I had given you before. I may seem obvious but trust, it is the difference between life and death.

“Feel the battle. Feel its flow. Pick your moment. Never strike for the sake of striking them. Every blow is important. Just hurting them is pointless. All it will do is piss them off. Only strike when you know it will have an effect, whether it is dealing them a critical blow or delivering a blow that will give you enough time to get you back into your zone. That is the only way to ensure victory.

“Remember. Pick your moment.”

It helped. It really did.  I’d been freaking out about this battle, since it was the first time I’d be knowingly going into a fight. He was right: it did seem obvious. But it was what I needed to hear, and it helped calm my nerves, if even just a little bit.

We took off for the colony the next day in the “Party Bus.” Alicia sat in the seat across from me. She was dressed in weighted gloves, jean shorts, and a tight-fitting shirt that left her midriff exposed, along with a gun and knife strapped to her waist. Maggie leaned over the seat and poked my shoulder.  “You know that you’ve got about as much chance with her as I do with Crimson, right?” she murmured.

“Yes, I know, shut up.” She chuckled and sat back down.  I looked across the seat to Alicia and tried starting up conversation. After all, we’d have to fight together soon. 

“So, uh…you have much combat experience?”

She looked over at me, fairly stone-faced. She’s quiet and stoic like that most of the time, which makes Shine’s emergences all the more striking. “Depends. Some people would say my record of seventy-nine proxy kills isn’t much, but I’ve only been at it for a few months, so, meh. You?”

“Seventy—I…um…wow.  I, um…I’ve, uh, never actually killed anyone before. Most all my training is self-defense.”

“Well, I prefer not to kill anyone either. But when your hideouts are raided every week by a group of proxies…well, it’s kill or be killed, and I’d rather it’s them than me.” She let out a sigh.

“Oh. Well…I’m glad you’re on our side, I guess.” I sat back and fell silent after that. I didn’t exactly know how to feel. It seems like most people around me are so ready and willing to kill. Seventy-nine people…most serial killers don’t rack up that big of a body count. I know that all our situations are somewhere between war and self-defense, but is it necessary to kill so many? That’s not a rhetorical question. We’re going on the offensive against Fears, and there are a lot of various people serving them. Will I end up needing to kill that many people? Will I grow numb to it? The thought terrifies me.

At the same time—seventy-nine is an impressive number, and Alicia’s an impressive person to have bested that many. It seems like everyone around me is like that: some sort of superhuman, or at very least, grizzled and experienced. The Masks all have combat experience and the skills and/or wits to put them to use against the Fears, the Inspector has influence over the Fears, Wayward’s basically the MacGyver of flammables and explosives, Raggedy can do his thing with the Yu-Gi-Oh cards, Rogue Shadow can use magic, for crying out loud, and that’s without going into all of you that I haven’t met in person. You all have these amazing skills or can pull of amazing feats…and I’m just a normal guy. Not even that. I’m a stupid, scared kid. And yet Last thinks I’m going to be some sort of hero. Other people have left comments agreeing with him. But it’s just not going to happen. In what crazy fantasy am I even remotely like a hero? I’m not even deluded enough to think it about myself.

I reached into my pocket, feeling for the spearhead a proxy called Moth had given me (long story) to attach to my staff. I considered doing so, but for whatever reason, ultimately decided against, removing my hand to let it rest in its hiding place. Not today.

I turned to Benjamin (or Fang, I guess, since we were all “in character”) and tried striking up a conversation to ease my nerves.


“Trying to focus,” was all he said. I fell silent for the rest of the ride.

When we pulled up at the gas station in the small town that served as our destination, Last told us to stretch our legs, but not anywhere we would get noticed, for good cause. When the Masks are “in character,” they tend to stand out. Some more than others. Maggie and Crimson would be fine, since they just wear the sort of street clothes they always do, and Gabe, Boston Black, and Phones could probably pass, though the former two’s aversion to uniforms with sleeves and the latter’s concealment within his hoodie would draw some looks. Same thing with Alicia, Angel Cross, and the Inspector—plausible, but not improbable. But Reaper in his cloak? Mantis looks like the protagonist of a kung fu movie. Fang wears black and has one of those masks that covers the lower part of his face, making him look sort of like a ninja. And Wraith was the one that really surprised me. He normally dresses in blue jeans and a long-sleeved flannel-print shirt of some sort. Really casual, non-threatening stuff. But his persona actually looks…pretty badass. Camo bandana, dark jacket and pants, those black lines drawn under his eyes…stuff like that. That might be at least partially due to the fact that he’s apparently a sharpshooter. That was something of a shock to discover.

“What?” he said when he caught me looking, his demeanor surprisingly cocky compared to his quiet, laid-back one I’d seen earlier. “A musician can’t be interested in guns?”

I spent most of that time off the bus trying not to throw up. I think I’m okay saying that I was justified in having a minor panic attack. I just didn’t know if I was ready for what was going on.

Of course, it ended up helping that I didn’t have the time to worry, just because I didn’t have the time to overthink. There was a gunshot from inside the gas station, and Last came running out pretty quickly.

“Okay, so, um…it turns out my questions were apparently just a bit too pressing, because he sorta caught on to what we’re doing here. Long story short, I may have had to kind of kill a guy, and now there may be more guys on their way. Get your stuff together and get ready for battle, now. This operation is officially underway.”

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Three (Plus Eleven More)’s a Crowd

The third person we were waiting for turned out being a face that might be familiar to some of you: Alicia Owly, a small girl around my age. In all honesty, as surprised as we were to see her, she was equally surprised to see us.  Turns out that she’s working for EAT, who sent here here (Last doesn’t know if it’s the doing of her EAT, our EAT, both, or even the same EAT). Working for EAT. Not serving EAT. She’s very insistent about that, which Last understands.

Apparently she also has a Dying Man shard (a piece of the Dying Man, I think?) inside her, called The Shining One, or Shine. I don’t really understand how the Dying Man works, so I was really surprised when she referred to the shard as a “she.”  Crimson laughed at that, telling me to be more open-minded about it. I was more surprised to find out that Shine is apparently “friendly.” Alicia says that Shine does have some healing properties, and she herself has combat experience so she’s able to pull her own weight.

That makes fourteen of us—sixteen if you count Shine and the Manufactured Newborn, though I don’t know how much we can rely on Fears.  It’s a pretty big number, but it doesn’t seem that big when you keep in mind that we’re trying to kill the Rake.

We’ve been really redoubling our efforts the last few days. I’ve been training with pretty much all the Masks, as well as Alicia, Angel, and the Inspector.  Last announced yesterday that he, Crimson, Angel, and the Inspector had managed to come up with a plan, but also insisted that we’re not allowed to share on our blogs so that we “don’t end up blowing it.” He has a bit of a strange insistence on that, with half being not accidentally tipping our hand to our enemies, and half being what he refers to as “narrative causality.” He’s convinced that for the Core Theory to work, narrative structure is incredibly important. Not only do we need archetypes, but we need to turn our lives into a story—and revealing the plan before it’s been enacted causes it to fall apart because “the story we’re acting out resists redundancy and other such shoddy writing.”

Half of what he says makes absolutely no sense to me. It’s like he’s speaking an entirely different language.

We’re just about ready, though. We’re leaving tomorrow to go where we need to be. Fourteen of us. Fourteen people taking on the monster in the dark.

Wish us luck.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Approaching Storm

We’ve all been working on training pretty hard, so I’ve been busy. At this point, it’d probably best to keep you all updated on what we’ve been doing, though. 

The good news is that we have a few volunteers.  A few have already showed up. There’s Angel Cross, a detective who specializes in Fear-related cases, and a guy we only know as “The Inspector.”  We’ve also got a third person on his (her?) way, though the email we got was really vague, and all we know is that they’re a runner.

The Inspector was the first to arrive. We actually hadn’t been expecting him. He just knocked on the door, opened it, and greeted Boston Black, who was hanging out closes to the door.  Boston responded with something along the lines of “who the hell are you,” which is kind of what we all thought when he introduced himself to the rest of us. A man in a gray suit had just appeared at our door, let himself in (we’d had the door locked too), and made himself at home.

“Call me the Inspector,” he said.  “It’s my understanding that you intend to kill the Rake. I’m here to offer my services.”

“Might I ask how you found us?” Last asked.

“I have my secrets. It’s not important. What’s important is that I think I may be able to help. I have certain knowledge and power that may come in handy.”

He was infuriatingly vague about the specifics, but from what I’ve gathered, he can somehow teleport and may have some sort of persuasion when it comes to the Fears? Like I said, he was vague about the specifics.

Angel Cross showed up the next day. She’s a very serious-looking woman.  Blonde hair, wears some sort of blue trench coat/dress thing. She arrived a bit more traditionally and actually had the decency to let us open the door for her.  As I mentioned earlier, she’s a detective specializing in Fear-based cases. She’s a shrewd, calculating woman, and Last is really happy to have her. The only issue is that she’s actually recently deafened, so communicating with her is fairly difficult.  At least she and the Inspector are both really smart, and seem to get along well. Last is ecstatic, since with Crimson helping out, he’s got three really good heads working together.

He’s also thrilled to learn that the Rake is not too fond of Angel.  Refers to her as “the bait we needed.” I don’t know if he’s told her at all.

We also got an e-mail from Canis, mostly demanding to know our exact location, implying he’d be willing to help. Last insists we shouldn’t be working with him, though.  He says that he doesn’t trust him.  That he was just a little too interested in me.

“What exactly do you know about him?” I asked.

“That his name is Edwin Canis and that he’s a former cop.  I really don’t know any more than you do.”

“But weren’t you the one who called him when Gabe was fighting me, though? He said he got a pretty specific anonymous tip, and I have no clue who else that could be.”

“Okay, yes, and that was a stupid move. To be fair, it was before I knew that Gabe recognized him, and…” he trailed off, immediately noticing his gaffe.

“No more lies,” I said. “Who is he?”

“Someone who’s probably legitimately willing to work with us. But not someone we want to be working with. That’s the truth.”

I haven’t had any more dreams. Not the Grotesque ones, at least. Of course, it’s also gotten me paranoid (though justifiably so), so I’ve been having trouble sleeping. The nerves of what we’re about to do hasn’t helped.  Neither does the fact that Last claims this is a good thing.

“The Rake’s got links to insomnia,” he said. “So freaking out about what happens when you fall asleep could get him after you. Which is, you know, usually bad, but since it’s the Rake we’re going after actually works in our favor.”

I’m curious as to when he’s going to realize that it’s a bit insensitive to refer to us as bait to our faces.

Maggie finally approached me. I respect her for it. It could have been weeks before I had confronted her, coward that I am.  She knocked on my door, pushed it open.

“Kenny? Hey.”

“Oh. Uh…hey.”

She gestured to the bed. “Can I sit?” I nodded, and she sat down beside me.  A few long, silent seconds passed.  “I’m sorry about…you know. The other day. I overreacted.”

“Yeah. I’m sorry too. I deserved worse.”

“No, Kenny, you didn’t. I mean, you’re dense—incredibly dense, sometimes—but you’re not the only one being selfish.  I know she meant a lot to you.”

“She did. Does. But…you’re right. She’s gone. It’s just…I’m scared to move on. She was the best friend and last friend I had. Those early days of the whole…you know, stalking? We were together for those, and she was the only thing that got me through.  I know that she’d hate me moping around like this, but it’s really, really hard to move on.”

Maggie looked at me.  “Look…I’m going to be straightforward here. I really like you, Kenny. I mean, I know you maybe don’t like me. I can see why you wouldn’t. I’m some dumb girl who won’t shut up and tried to beat the crap out of you once. But I need you to know.”

There was another long silence. “I don’t hate you.”

“I never asked if you hated me.”

“It’s…I mean, I do like you. As a friend. I mean, as a friend at very least. Maybe…maybe something more. Eventually. As of right now, I don’t know. I’m confused about everything, I’m worried about what’s going to happen with the Rake, Last is telling me that I have to become some sort of ‘hero,’ I have four Fears and who knows how many human groups after me….”

“You’re not alone,” she said.  I looked at her, and she gave me a sort of “what-can-you-do” smile.  “I’ll be a friend if nothing else. I can get over a dumb crush if I have to. Just know this much: you’re not alone. If you’ll believe in us, we’ll believe in you.”

She left after that. Left me to think. I’m still confused. I’m still worried. I still don’t know what I think of Maggie, or whether I can be this hero, or how I’m going to deal with all of this. But she’s right. I’m not alone. If you’re reading this, it’s proof that none of us are. If nothing else, we at least have each other.

I’ll keep you all updated. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


"If I'm allowed to declare my one selfish wish...then I...I want to live! Take me back to sea with you!" ~Nico Robin, One Piece

"Fall seven times, stand up eight." ~Japanese Proverb

"I get knocked down, but I get up again. You're never gonna keep me down." ~Tubthumping, Chumbawumba

"Now here we stand with their blood on our hands/We fought so hard, now can we understand/I'll break the seal of this curse if I possibly can/for freedom for every man." ~Through the Fire and Flames, DragonForce
"Even now, there is hope for man." ~The Protomen

"If someone says it's wrong to have hope, I'll tell them they're wrong every single time." ~Madoka Kaname, Puella Magi Madoka Magica

 "All I need is the power to be able to protect my comrades.  So long as I can have the strength to do that, I don't care if I'm weaker than everyone in the world." ~Erza Scarlet, Fairy Tail

"If you're gonna dig, dig to pierce the heavens! Even if it's my own grave I'm digging, I'll keep going!  When I break through, it means I've won!" ~Simon the Digger, Gurren Lagann

Mark my words. This drill will open a hole in the universe! And that hole will be a path for those behind us! The dreams of those who have fallen... The hopes of those who will follow! ~Simon the Digger, Gurren Lagann

Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see? Then join in the fight that will give you the right to be free! ~Les Misérables

Monday, June 3, 2013

We're back in a suburb of Chicago, where the Masks are based.  According to Last, they're an offshoot of one of the Chicago bureaucracies.  They don't answer to the higher-ups in the bigger organization, but they still have access to vital information--and since Last leads the Masks, he can get access to pretty much any bureaucracy info he needs.  It's a great help to what we're trying to do.

I asked Last what he meant when he said that if someone were to help us kill the Rake, it might not actually die for them.  "It's complicated," he said.  "Like...okay, let's start with this. You've seen Marble Hornets, right?"

"Who involved with the Slender Man hasn't."

"And it's all true, right?"

I nodded.  "Yeah, of course."

"Who are the creators?"

"Troy Wagner and Joseph DeLage," I answered without a second thought. That's when the second thought came.  "Wait.  So...wait. It's not real?"

"Of course it is," he said.  "Some places.  It's a weird paradox.  Dimensional bleeding.  In some realities, it's true. In others, it's fictional. Some realities don't like that idea of the Slender Man, so they make it fiction.  But that story behind it--it's still true.  It still wants to come through somehow.  Details may come across differently, but the story still comes through in some form or another.  I think that almost everyone involved with the Fears deals with that.  After all, you've read blogs that are clearly fiction, right?"

"So you're saying that somewhere, all these other stories might be fiction somewhere?"

"What's with this 'other' business?  I'm sure that in some reality, your blog isn't run by you but by some dateless loser living in his parents' basement.  Or, you know, he could be some sort of prestigious professional author, but statistically speaking...."

"So everything about the Slender Man is some weird mix of truth and fiction?"

"No, it's all truth. Just...not always true for us or for other people.  All these realities are trying to remain separate, but the Slender Man is trying to bring them all together.  Sometimes they're separate when they should be together, sometimes they're together when they should be separate. That's why these Fears are so bad, Kenny.  They make reality wrong."

"So we kill them to make it right."

"That's the plan. To make ours right, at the very least."

The whole thing makes my head spin and I really don't understand it.  Sometimes I feel like Last is grasping at straws or has just gone crazy. The guy has almost no memories of himself, after all.  Sometimes I wonder what his real name is, and then I wonder if he even knows what it is anymore. He said he lost the memories of his parents. It's not a stretch to assume that his name is there as well.

I haven't had the chance to talk to Maggie at all recently after what happened about a week ago.  Part of it is that we're all really busy with preparations.  Last is locked up in his room planning and researching and pretty much everyone who's going to be involved in this upcoming battle battle is training, myself included. The other part of it is that I think we're probably avoiding each other some. What she said was harsh and hurt but gave me a lot to think about. But a lot of how I've acted has been hurtful too, and after admitting her resentment about that, I think it might be a bit before she even considers forgiveness.

So while everyone around me is making sure they're ready for this, I'm trying to do the same but failing horribly. Not only are my struggles in this...whatever's going on weighing on my mind (it's hard not to think of Lily every time I pick up my staff), but I'm really getting nervous as well. Last night I had a breakdown and ended up spending a few minutes with my head in a toilet bowl. I feel like Last, the Masks, and a lot of other people are kind of counting on me, and that's a big burden. The last time I had people counting on me, I made a bad choice and they ended up dead.  What if that happens again?  Last is telling me that I need to move past this.  That it's natural to be scared, but I need to find a purpose to help overcome it.  I need to dig deep and find some sort of drive.

I just hope I'm able to find it soon enough.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rally Round the Flag (Last of the Last)

Hey, all.  Last here.  Kenny has generously donated the use of his blog for me to put out a call.  See, we're going after the Rake, and I think we may even be able to kill it.  We've got some allies and an idea of what to do, but we have hit a little bit of a snag.

See, we don't exactly know where to find the Rake.

This puts us in a bit of an awkward situation. We can kind of do Kenny's thing and wander around for a while, only hope we run into stuff instead of the other way around.  Or, we can get help from any of you. Anyone who might know how we might encounter the Rake. Advice would be great. Actual help would be even better, though we can't guarantee that if you help us kill our Rake that your Rake will end up dead too after this is all over.  The whole dimensional bleeding thing gets weird like that, and I don't know what will and won't leak over.

Basically, this is a call to arms.  We are going to take these things down if it's the last thing we do. And "we" doesn't necessarily have to mean "me, Kenny, and the rest of the Masks."

So will you stand and fight with us?  Will you take destiny into your own hands?

Any advice or offers can be made in the comment section or sent to wanderingfromdeath@gmail.com. Anything you can give us will be much appreciated.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Belated Birthday

"What was the price the Blind Man was talking about?" I asked Last when we were on the road again.

"That?  Oh.  Old memory. From my old life. One that was probably better off gone."

"Painful memory?"

"I don't know," he said.  "I don't remember what it was anymore. Probably not. But if it was from that old life, I'm probably better off without it."

"You'd do that to yourself? Destroy a memory just for information on how to beat the Rake?"

He gave me a hard look. "This isn't the first time I've had dealings with the Blind Man. He's given me a lot of information in the past. He was even the one who gave me tips on getting here from...you know. There.  It's cost me memories every time. You know what, Kenny? The only way I know I had parents is that everyone had them. I don't know if I was raised by one or the other or both. I don't know if I had any siblings.  I don't even know how or when they died. Only that they did. And you know how I know that? Because I know, Kenny, and I will always know no matter how many memories I lose--that they're all dead. Everyone from that old life, except for me."

He continued almost without breaking stride, speaking to everyone instead of just me.  "Okay, so, we've got who I think we'll refer to as the Magi helping us out, Benjamin here acting as bait for the Black Dog--"

"Thanks, boss," Benjamin deadpanned.

"--but we're hitting a little snag, in that we kind of have no clue how to find the Rake.  So there's that.  We'll need to work on that. Kenny, I may need to borrow your blog for that.  Hey, anyone else want to use it?'  There was a chorus of mostly apathetic responses.  I raised my hand.

"Do I get a say in this? It's kind of my blog."

"We'll talk.  Anyone have any ideas?  No?  Okay, we'll keep thinking on it.  Anyone need the bathroom?"  A few hands shot up.  "Okay, great.  Boston, pull over at the next rest stop."

We pulled up to a rest stop a few minutes later and poured out of the bus, some of us heading to the bathroom, most just stretching our legs.  I checked out the visitor center.  You know, the ones that consist mostly of pamphlets for tourist attractions and a few vending machines?  Places with signs of human life, but no actual humans. It made me realize just how empty human structures feel without the humans.

I glanced up at the clock and date display and had a moment of realization.

"I missed her birthday," I said to myself.

"What now?"  Maggie was standing just off behind me, sort of shadowing me like she tends to do.

"Lily. I missed Lily's birthday.  By almost a month.  I...oh god, I've just been so busy with all this going on, I...I forgot and...she...she would have been nineteen...almost...almost a full month...."  I stammered to myself as I started panicking. I had forgotten. How could I have possibly forgotten the birthday of the girl I loved?

Maggie gave me an odd sort of stare.  "Calm down, Kenny. I mean, it's not exactly like she cares."

"What? You...you realize what you just said, right?  You don't even--"

"Kenny! Calm down!  Sometimes people get busy and they forget things. In this case...there was no reason to be reminded.  I'm sorry, Kenny. I know it sounds hard and it's harsh for you, but...it's no big deal. She's not getting any older anymore. You can't beat yourself up over this."

It didn't help.  "What, and disrespect her memory by forgetting her?  I can't do that, Maggie.  I loved her."

She gave me a blank stare for a second, then, when an expression formed, she looked...hurt.  Genuinely hurt, like my words had offended her somehow.  "No," she said, just loud enough that I could hear.  "No, you...you still do.  Oh my god.  You still love her."  Her voice rose, and she started speaking in Spanish. I couldn't understand any of it, but from her tone of voice and the way she grabbed at her head and started pacing in tight circles, I'm pretty sure that most of it was cursing.  "Oh my god," she said.  "Oh my god.  I get it now.  That's why.  That's why you're so fucking blind."  Before I could react, she grabbed Lily from my hands, walked outside, and chucked it as far as she could across the parking lot.

"Maggie!  What are you doing?"  I scrambled after it.

"Yeah, go run after it," she yelled after me.  "Go after your stupid staff.  Cling to the past. You are literally using her as a fucking crutch." She sat down on the curb and buried her face in her hands in exasperation.  "Oh, god, I can't believe I didn't see it before."  She looked up at me, venom in her eyes.  "You don't realize how selfish you are. You're blind to everyone around you because you because you're still in love with a dead girl."

She stormed into the bus at that point and refused to talk at me anymore for the rest of the day.

I...I think I get it now.  She's right.  I've been...really blind. No, that's not even the right. I've been in denial. And I...need to think. I think I may need to move on.  But I don't know if I'm ready.  I really have a lot to think about.

I'm sorry.  To Lily. To Maggie. To everyone.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Catacombs

We descended the staircase, and instantly I could tell that it wasn't part of the library.  It wasn't even part of California, or the world for that matter.  There was something in the air that tipped me off.  It's this sort of aura that all Fears have about them.

The corridors were lit by torches, sticking out of stone pillars in the wall.  Between the pillars stood bookshelves, from floor to ceiling, nine feet up, lined with dusty books.  I instinctively reached out to grab one to see what was inside, but Gabe grabbed my hand as I reached out.

"I wouldn't do that, kiddo."

Last nodded, but didn't turn back.  "You wouldn't want to do that, Kenny. The price is too steep. Try reading any of those books, you risk losing every single one of your memories."

I stayed my hand after that.  So we continued, down the spiraling corridor, the air growing colder and colder as we went.  After about ten minutes of walking, all of which was spent in solemn silence, it opened into a giant room that seemed to go on forever.  Maybe it did, as I couldn't see any walls but the one we had just come through the doorway of.  Shelves towering fifty feet high, the shelves seemingly infinitely long, and a seeming infinite number of rows loomed around us, making everything feel positively miniscule.  Coming down the aisle towards us was a man, probably about eight feet tall, shrouded in a brown cloak that hid all his features save two wrinkled old hands, which clutched a giant tome.

A voice echoed throughout the Catacombs.  "What is your business?"

"We seek any information and help to aid us in a fight against the Rake," Last said, yelling to try to match the voice's volume.

"Silence, boy," hissed the voice.  "I am right here.  I am merely blind, not deaf."

"Blind Man?" I whispered to Crimson, who was standing just off to my right.  He nodded but said nothing, continuing to stare at the cloaked man with the book.

"Er...yes, sorry," Last continued, his decibel level returning to normal.  "Will you be able to aid us in either way?"

There was a brief moment of silence as the Blind Man considered.  "Perhaps," came the voice again.  It was strange how he spoke.  The voice didn't come from the body of the Blind Man himself, but from everywhere.  Not even like there was some form of PA system, but as if the Catacombs themselves were speaking.  "But what reason have I to aid you?"

"No reason, admittedly.  But you have the means.  Your library contains all the knowledge we could ever want. Knowledge that could give us an edge against the Rake. Will you give us the knowledge we need?"

"Perhaps.  I have not yet made up my mind."

Last grinned.  "Ah! That must mean that we succeed, because if we fail, what cost is it to you to give us that knowledge?"

"You are clever, boy," the Blind Man said, "but not near as clever as you think.  You are obviously aware that I see all. The past, the present, the future--all knowledge is mine. However, you confuse what was and what is to be for what could have been and what might be.  I see that you succeed, yes.  But I also see that you fail. All words remain unwritten until they are read."

Last gave him a blank look.

"When walking in the Garden of Forking Paths, knowing where the paths lead does one no good, for others walk the paths as well. Many follow the paths they were always meant to take. Others challenge their destinies and in doing so, change these paths."

Last thought for a moment, processing the Blind Man's words and formulating his own.  "That, great seer, is why we come to you and ask your aid in defeating the Rake.  The Rake is impulsive and unpredictable. Can you truly know how he will act?"

"No, I cannot. I see.  Perhaps a partnership will prove to be valuable. If the Rake's path were erased, the Garden would see more order...."  The head of the cloaked figure tilted up slightly as he considered it, then fixed on Last.  "Will you pay the price?"

Last bit his lip.  "Am I the only one who has to pay it?"

"I am feeling...generous.  The price shall be yours alone."

Last closed his eyes, his body stiffening.  "Very well.  I'll pay the price."

The Blind Man stepped forward, and half of us took a step forward as well.  "No," Last said, holding up a hand to stop us.  "I'll be fine.  I've...I've done this before. More times than I care to remember."

"More times than you remember at all," the Blind Man replied.  The two stepped closer, until they were within arm's length of each other.  The Fear reached out and placed his hand on Last's head.  As he pulled it away, his wrinkled fingers pulled something from his forehead.  The Blind Man's book fell open in his hand, and I saw that it was a quill.  As the Blind Man wrote, the quill started to dissolve, and by the time the Blind Man closed the tome again, had disappeared entirely.

"The Rake," the Blind Man said slowly and deliberately, "is not a creature of reason. Perhaps in other pasts, presents, or futures he is keen and calculating, but as he is, he is feral. A creature of instinct. Reason and planning will not work against him. You need another creature of instinct to combat him."

"The Black Dog," Last said, his voice quiet.  The cowl shifted as the Blind Man nodded.

"Wait," came an unfamiliar voice.  It came from a small end table that I hadn't noticed before.  Had it always been there, or had it suddenly appeared?  If so, when?  The table contained nothing but a basin, but I understood where the voice came from when the Blind Man retrieved it from the table and held it at an angle where all eleven of us could see what was inside.

The water in the basin rippled on its own, and when I looked closely, I could see that they formed a sort of face.  It became more clear as the ripples spoke again and I could actually see the mouth moving.  "EAT?" I asked Crimson.  He nodded, not looking away, and held a finger to his lips.

"I wish to aid them as well," said the basin.  "I sense they will be useful allies to us, seer."  To my right, Crimson pulled a notepad out of his paper and started writing.  "Perhaps it is time for us to finish our creation and send it to aid them."

The Blind Man nodded slowly. "You are right, of course.  Very well."  He set the basin down and reached into his sleeve, extending his arm to show us the metal sphere sitting in his palm.  As we watched, four metal legs protruded from the sphere, and it skittered back and forth across the Blind Man's sizable hand.

"A newly created being," he said.  "The Leviathan and I have been working on it for some time."

"It is a being," EAT said, "that evolves on its own.  Organic lifeforms, impressive though they may be, can only make small progressions through generations. The Mason, as we call it, will have no such restriction. It can make and remake itself at will to conquer any obstacles it may face. It will prove a useful ally to you."

Last nodded, trying to hold back a grin.  "We thank you for all your help.  Between the information and your...Mason, you've provided us with plenty.  We hope to work together with you again to advance you further in the Great Game."

"Leave," was all the Blind Man said in response.

"That was the Manufactured Newborn," I hissed to Last as we turned to leave.  The staircase we had entered through, thankfully, was still there. You never know with Fears.

"Yeah, I know."

"How is that--I mean, they just finished it?  How do we already know about it, then?"

"Don't ask me; it's some sort of Schrodinger's Cat sort of thing, probably.  It exists, but it doesn't actually exist until it's manufactured?  We just...opened the metaphorical box, I guess."

I didn't realize that we were already back at the California State Library until we emerged through the door. What had taken minutes to enter had allowed us to leave in seconds.  "All words remain unwritten until they are read?"

He gave a laugh and rolled his eyes.  "Sure, something like that.  Still, wasn't expecting those three to be connected.  I thought we were just going to see the Blind Man. Now we've got his help, as well as EAT's and the Manufactured Newborn's.  That's a happy coincidence if I've ever seen one."

"There are no coincidences," I said quietly, half to myself.

He gave me a dubious look as he heard the words he himself had made sure the Masks told me.  "No," he said thoughtfully.  "No, I don't suppose there are."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Into the Library

We were all packed and ready by the day we left for the California State Library.  Boston Black pulled up in a minibus in the late morning.  "All aboard the party bus," he said, banging on the side.

We piled into the bus.  It was kind of a weird mode of transportation, but I guess when you're transporting this many people over so far of a distance, you need something fairly roomy.  I glanced over at Maggie, who ended up in the seat across from mine.  "Hey, Maggie?  Um...I guess this is kind of an awkward question, but...are you not in some sort of relationship with Crimson?  I mean, I guess I kind of had assumed you were and I shouldn't have, but you guys kind of laughed when I mentioned it on my blog.  Why exactly was it so funny?"

She gave me a look.  "You're serious?"  She started to laugh.  "Oh my god, I thought that you were mostly just joking before.  I had no idea you were really that dense."  She shook her head.  "I really don't know whether to laugh or smack you.  I mean, can I smack you?  Because you're seriously that infuriatingly dense."

"How am--ow!" She leaned across the aisle and slugged my shoulder.

Her rolled her eyes in exasperation.  "Oh, madre de dios...Kenny, Crimson's gay. I have no clue how you haven't picked up on that.  He's been flirting with you enough. I mean, I'm pretty sure everyone reading your blog's picked up on it, meaning that you're not even catching what it is you're writing down."

"Wait, what?  He has?  You mean he...?"

"He's probably not serious about it.  I mean, he knows that there's no chance of it happening, considering you're asexual."

"Huh? But...I'm straight."

She scoffed.  "Coulda fooled me.  So he seriously never told you his story?"

"I guess not, no."

"Eh, he'll let you know eventually. But let's address again how incredibly boneheaded and dense you are, shall we?"

Last came up to us at that moment, interrupting her and sparing me a tongue-lashing.  "Hey, Kenny, how'd you sleep?"

"Good.  No dreams.  Not that kind, anyway."

"What's he talking about?" Maggie asked him.

"Oh, that?  Yeah, sorry, forgot to bring it up to you guys.  Um...the Cold Boy and Wooden Girl are kind of working with the Grotesque now.  Trying to kill Kenny in his sleep."

"And you kept this from the rest of us because...?"

Last looked indignant.  "Hey, I was busy planning for this trip, okay? I didn't have time to come up with a quick solution.  On top of that, I'm not sure there even is a quick solution. It's not like we can monitor his dreams or anything."

"What about rooming with someone?" Maggie suggested.

"Good question. You a light sleeper, Mags?"

"I am, though don't you think Kenny would be a bit more comfortable with you or Crimson?"

"I guess he might, but I've got a really weird sleep schedule and I don't know how heavy or light a sleeper Crimson is."

"Guys?  I'm right here; you could just ask me."

"We'll get it figured out later," Last said.  "Kenny, get some rest. You've got those bag things under your eyes.  You gonna be awake, Mags?"

"I'll keep an eye on him, yeah."

I managed to get some sleep on the trip. I've gotten used to sleeping in moving vehicles.  I've done a lot of it in my time on the road.  It's uncomfortable, sure, but lots of places to sleep are.

I'm not going to mention when we arrived, since I don't want anyone trying to calculate the distance to the safehouse, but we eventually arrived at the California State Library.  Everyone left most of their things on the bus. A few people packed a hidden knife or two, but we went in largely unarmed and out of "character."

"We can't draw attention," Last explained.  "A group of LARPers is pretty conspicuous, and we need to be as inconspicuous as possible.  We don't want anyone following us."

"Where are we going?" I asked him.

"Libraries are institutions of knowledge," he said.  "Even when all the information is digital, there's still something about the term 'library' that's synonymous with learning and information. Because of that, you can technically get to where we need to go from any library if you know how to look, but bigger libraries make it easier."

"And where's that?"

He hushed me and just motioned for me to follow along with the rest of the Masks.  "There it is," he said, finally stopping and pointing to a set of shelves labeled "restricted section."  He picked up the pace, walking through the shelves without glancing at any of the books.  He stopped at an old-looking wooden door at the far wall and opened it.  A spiraling stone staircase was behind it, curving down and out of sight.  He pulled a flashlight out and turned it on.

"Are you ready to enter the Catacombs, Kenny?" he asked me.  "There's a very special someone we need to pay a visit."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Nightmare

I had an incredibly vivid nightmare last night.  I was walking through an evergreen forest in the snow.  The trees were decorated with all sorts of Christmas lights, and I felt...uplifted.  The air was cold, but in that brisk, refreshing way that was welcoming after the heat of California, and the spectacle of lights around me was beautiful.

I stopped in front of a huge tree, decorated not with electric lights, but with actual candles. I remember hearing a story about how the first Christmas trees would use candles, and I'd always wanted to see it done. I stared at it in awe, but as I watched, I realized that it wasn't just the candles burning anymore--it was the tree.  In fact, every tree around me had become a torch.  Despite that, the flames weren't hot.  It felt like they actually sucked the heat out of the air. The gentle snowfall came faster and faster until it became a blizzard.  I heard a familiar voice echoing all around me.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if I had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice 
Is also great

At this point, the face of the little towheaded boy appeared in the sky and giggled.

And would suffice.

"Good work, Frosty," a voice by my ear cooed.  The trees, which suddenly weren't burning anymore, started to splinter, creaking and crashing and coming together and reforming until the Wooden Girl stood behind me.  "We've got him right where we want him."  The Cold Boy giggled again.  "Think you can hide from us behind your new friends?" she purred, cocking her head in a way that implied that there was no sort of muscle and she was controlling her body from some outside source.  "Kenny, boy...you're still aaaaaall alone here within your mind."

Suddenly there was a reverse-blade katana in my hands.  I struggled against it, but I could already feel my body moving on its own, pulled by strings that weren't there, raising the sharpened edge up to my throat.  The blade sunk in as it pressed against my neck.

"Of with his head," the Wooden Girl said to me.  "In three...two...."

The next moment, I was...somewhere.  Back in the waking world, I realized after a few seconds.  Last was calling my name and shaking my shoulder.  He flipped the light on as I started thrashing.

"Thank god," he said quietly.  "I heard...weird things.  Thrashing about, moaning.  Decided I'd check on you.  So glad it was the nightmare type of thrashing and moaning."  He took another glance at me and swore.  "Jesus, Kenny!  Look at your hands.  I think you've got frostbite."  I looked at my hands.  They were red and starting to swell.  Instinctively, I reached up to touch my neck and when I brought them down, there was a bit of blood on them as well.  I held them out to show him.  Last grabbed my shoulder and pulled me out of bed, dragging me down the hall to give me first aid.

As he tended to me, I described my dream.  He shook his head when I finished.  "Oh, this is bad, Kenny.  This is really bad.  It sounds like the Cold Boy and Wooden Girl are working with the Grotesque now.  It gives you an outlet to access you that they don't normally have: your dreams.  The Cold Boy can't come after you directly in this big of a group, and the tensions of the Great Game are high enough that the two of them aren't going to try a direct assault anyway.  But this--they can use the Grotesque to get inside your mind.  And as you've probably guessed by this little game of midnight doctor, it can affect reality as well. We need to find some way to take precautions.  We were really lucky this time. The cut on your neck was just a scratch and your hands will be a little sore for a few days with no major damage done.  But we need some way to monitor you and make sure you don't inception yourself to death in the future."

"I'm sorry," I told him.

"It's cool. We didn't plan for it. Now we know, and knowing is half the battle.  Oh, hey, that reminds me.  We're heading to the state library on [date removed]."


"We're taking the Rake down. Like I said, knowing is half the battle."

"Yeah, but...a library?"

"California's not some backwoods hick state. The state library's pretty big, and you'd be surprised at how much there is on the Fears throughout history.  Also we're not really going for the library."

"Then why are we going?"

"Ah, that part's a secret.  You think you'll be okay to sleep again?"

"I hope so. At least some."

"Good.  I'll check on you every hour.  Only about four or five left in the night anyway."  He placed a hand on my shoulder.  "I'm counting on you to be strong enough to deal with them until then if they show up again.  There are a lot of people counting on you, Kenny. But a lot of people who trust you, too."

"Gee, thanks. That load will make it a bit easier to sleep."

He gave me a smile.  "Don't believe in the me that believes in you, Kenny. Believe in yourself."  He stood.  "I'm gonna get a nap in before I have to check on you again. You should try to get some as well.  It's gonna be a busy week."