Life is relentless. There are times when, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t catch a break.
It was early in the morning, maybe 3? Arkady said around 3. I was peacefully asleep for the first time in days, as my insomnia had become a bit more pronounced since the incident at the grotto. Arkady was saying something about Moonlight Sonata. I supposed at the time it was my fault. I’d been listening to some of his classical music from time to time because quite frankly my nerves can’t handle anything remotely spooky. So I figured I had just somehow encouraged him with my mild interest in the music of yore. I flipped him off, said something incoherent, and went back to sleep.
I woke up maybe a few hours later, for no real reason. A shame, really. I felt like I’d only gotten a few short hours of sleep. I stretched and climbed out of bed. The first thing I noticed was that Arkady had gone. His mattress was empty, and half of his weapons were missing. Maybe if I hadn’t been so damn tired I would have put more thought into it, but my half-zombified mind just didn’t want to work. For all I knew, Arkady was off hunting slenderproxies, or doing some scouting of new locations, or maybe he saw a squirrel in the front yard and decided it needed to be taught a lesson. Didn’t matter to me at the time. I needed coffee. So I set the coffee maker and walked back into my room, where I noticed something sort of interesting. For some reason, my digital alarm clock has showing all 8’s. The thing was clearly broken, but I had no idea whatsoever what had caused it. Rather than fidget with the damn thing I just decided to look outside and get a general idea of how late it was. Maybe I had overslept, and that’s why I’d felt so tired. So I pulled aside the curtain. Nothing but fog as far as the eye could see.
I closed the blinds. Arkady was gone. I had no weapons, but I still had the sigils I’d made, including the new alchemical sigil. I grabbed a different cloth and wrote the sigil on it, with a binding hexagram over it. I switched out of my PJs into my regular clothes, donned my boots, and decided that this time waiting wasn’t going to do me any good. He had been in my house once before, so it certainly didn’t afford me any real protection. And Arkady may still have been out there somewhere.
Stepping out into the fog brought back unpleasant memories. The air was cold and damp. I could see my breath with every exhalation, as the warm mist dissolved into the great white expanse in front of me. The waning moon hung above, glowing a sickly yellow down on the landscape and faintly illuminating the night sky. The fog was so thick that I could barely see more than a few feet out. Buildings were obscured by it, so after walking a few minutes in the dark I no longer had any idea of where I was supposed to be. I say “supposed to be” because I was under no illusion that I was walking a straight line between two points. I kept alert, listening for tentacles as I stumbled along.
After a while, the fog started swirling, moving like a river current further into the shadows. I decided to follow suit, since there was nothing I could do to fight this until I could lay eyes on the Slender One. Why prolong the inevitable? I stared out into the churning sea of white for a moment, deciding I needed to compose myself before continuing on. Mental fortitude would be necessary if I were to encounter the Slender One.
Somewhere behind me, I heard something move. It was faint, a shuffle of leaves and grass. Heavy footsteps. I tightened my grip on the rag, my knuckles turning white from the pressure. I turned around. And there he was. Not the Slender One, but perhaps just as disturbing.
It was Porfiry.
This didn't seem right. Not at all. Arkady and I both watched this miserable wretch burn in the fire the Slender One had created. But there he stood before me. His eyes were hollowed out, empty sockets. His face was badly scarred with burn marks, those I recognized from my sigil and those I assume came from burning down that house. But this time I had something else planned.
Porfiry lumbered toward me awkwardly, then broke into a sprint I was not at all expecting. It was amazing, the change from stumbling blithering doll dragged along by strings to...whatever the Hell Porfiry had become in his second death. He ran towards me at full speed and knocked me down, tackling me into the ground. He fell ontop of me and raised his arm, ready to bring it down on my head. My back ached, my head reeled, but I had enough sense to latch onto the rag with the alchemy sigil and bring it up for him to see. And...he stopped. He stared at the symbol absentmindedly, his head tilted slightly. He seemed fascinated...at least as much as someone with no eyes can be. And I knew I had the bastard.
I called out the Keys to the Abyss and wove the spell. There was a quiet lull, and Porfiry began to scream. Or rather, did something like a scream. They don't really have a word for whatever the fuck he did, but he did it. It echoed and reverberated throughout the foggy night like the howl of a werewolf. I focused on the spell. Porfiry fell off me and staggered backwards, hunched over and realing in pain from the weight of some force. My force.
I picked myself up as I continued the incantation. It took a moment, but Porfiry finally realized what was happening. He raised himself up to get a good look at me, and I began to see what damage I had wrought. His ribs seemed to have been wrenched outward and had been burst out of his chest. The ivory tendrils of his rib cage glistened under the foul looking greenish-black blood that poured out from the fresh wounds. I watched as they pulled further and further out, splitting skin as they traveled outward. There was an almost satisfying crack as they did so. Porfiry clutched his bleeding chest with one hand and lurched towards me slowly, no doubt eager to make the incantation stop. I moved backward slowly, continuing the incantation as I tried to maintain my focus and fight down the revulsion that had my stomach turning knots whenever I looked at his innards struggling to spill out.
Unfortunately for me, it seemed that the damage his rebellious body parts were doing also seemed to enrage him. The more I watched his soft, possibly dead tissue rip under the strain of his bones, the more furiously he clawed towards me, the more clumsily and angrily he stumbled at me. He inched his way closer as I gradually lost focus on the spell, his steps coming closer while I could barely keep my backwards pace and continue the assault. His filthy blood spilled all over the ground. Underneath his skin I could see his organs moving ever so slightly, his exposed lungs a sickly pinkish-grey. They expanded tensely, perhaps from the pain I had inflicted upon him. He was perhaps five feet away from me when I realized I couldn't possibly cause him enough pain or kill him before he got to me. And the anger... the fury of his approach was enough to tell me I needed to make my escape. So I turned and ran, Porfiry's foosteps behind me. I ran indiscriminately, my assailent not too far behind me, until I finally came upon a shadow in the clearing. As I ran towards it I could make out the general shape. It was an enormous church, stone and certainly not something I remember ever seeing in Austin. There was stained glass all around the outside, various depictions of religious symbols that were way too insigificant to notice given I was about to be mauled by a lunatic who seemed to think having exposed innards were more of an irritation than a life-threatening condition.
So...a church? Well, what the Hell right?
I ran towards the door and stepped inside, trying desperately to close the door behind me. Porfiry slammed his body against the door, knocking me back a bit. But I still had control of the door, even if I could feel his weight against it. One of his arms reached through the door as I closed it. Rag in hand, I pressed it against his flesh and watched steam arise as it burned through his skin. I started the incantation once again, focusing on his arm. It slowly wrenched backwards against the rotation of his elbow joint. Again, Porfiry's screams resounded and reverberated throughout the church. His arm continued to bend backward, as if an invisible spirit were bending it in ways it wasn't supposed to be bent. And then there was the snapping sound. His elbow cracked, and the arm bent backwards ninety degrees. I continued the incantation, and the arm slowly rotated on its broken elbow joint. I screamed the incantation, adrenaline pumping through me as I watched the limb contort in ways the human arm was not meant to contort.
But that adrenaline quickly turned to fear as, somehow, Porfiry managed to regain enough control of his broken and battered arm to bend it against his will and grab hold of my arm. And he squeezed. The pain was unbelievable. His inhuman grip tightened against all rational understanding of human anatomy, his backwards and broken limb crushing my own through an opening in the door. My incantation dissolved in incoherent screams and I lost my footing against the door. I felt the full force of Porfiry's body slam against the door once more, pushing me back and knocking me on my ass. I staggered back on my hands and feet as the infuriated Porfiry stepped through the door, his limp and cripped arm hanging loosely and contorting oddly under his control. He raised it up, his elbow cracking as further bones broke in this disgusting display of absolute power. He closed his hand again and again while he walked towards me, as if to say that what I had accomplished meant nothing to him.
Porfiry dropped his arm and lunged at me. Unsure of what to do, I raised the rag at him and decided to try the incantation once more, but Porfiry stopped a foot or two away from me. For a second I thought he might have been entranced by the sigil, but I was mistaken. I was mistaken because I had not anticipated direct intervention. I saw that Porfiry wasn't looking at me, but at the front of the church. I turned my head slowly, for the first time that night less afraid of Porfiry and terrified of whatever was behind me. In front of the altar stood the fully formed fiend himself. His eyeless gaze had fallen upon me in the middle of the pews. I stumbled over the invocation as my concentration slipped. I simply couldn’t stop staring at him. I don’t think I have ever really gotten such a good look at him before. Seeing him at the fire was nothing in comparison to this.
The invocation fell flat, and there was silence. Nothing but silence. He stood there watched, perhaps mocking me or maybe studying me. My arms at my side, my sigil wrapped around my limp hand, and suddenly I found myself walking towards him. I don’t really know what I was thinking. I don’t know if it was him or me that commanded my legs to move. Maybe he wanted me to come to him, or maybe I just decided I was tired of playing games and just wanted to rip open a new orifice in that stupid empty face of his, just to have the pleasure of ramming that alchemical symbol down his throat before he finally did me in.
The reasoning or the result I’ll never know. As I moved in my trance I heard a loud crash which immediately drew my attention away from the Slender One. Arkady had smashed his way through the glass window holding a burning Molotov cocktail whose bottle seemed suspiciously familiar. He hurled the bottle at the Slender One, who caught on fire. I heard a shriek behind me, and turned to see Porfiry hurl himself onto the ground seconds before he seemingly faded out of existence. I looked back up at the Slender One. Despite the fire burning across his skin, he seemed completely unfazed. Arkady grabbed me by the wrist and dragged me out as I stared at the Slender One. The fire on his skin burst out around the ground with unnatural hunger, devouring the felt carpet and spreading across the whole of the structure. Jesus, the crucifix, and the rest of the statues burst into flames as black tendrils crept up them, slowly spreading the flames further and further.
I don’t remember much after that. It was the last image I saw, that of a pale-skinned Jesus bursting into flames, before I realized that I had blacked out. I don’t know how long I had been out, but I awoke back in my bed. Arkady and I discussed what happened. It looks like I have more work to do. The good news is that this experience may have shed some more light on the Slender One’s behavior. It’s possible that I may be able to refine my technique in dealing with him. But I don’t know if I can continue working at this pace. Every time I get closer to the answer, I come closer to death.
But please don’t get the wrong impression. I don’t fear death. I fear dying without knowing.
The story you read is only half of what happened. Specifically, my half. Arkady has also recollected his experience and written about it here.
Love Under Will