Part Eight: Kalo Junction
Part Nine: Foster Got Fingered
Part Ten: Assignment Terror
Part Eleven: Pineapple Rendition
Part Twelve: The Clemens Callback
Part Thirteen: Run In With The Devil
Part Fourteen: Women And Children
Part Fifteen: The Tarantino Situation
Part Sixteen: Our Nada Who Art In Nada
…March 18th: if this had been a movie the scene would have begun with a distant shot of Colonie Village Elementary at midnight. The building was on the edge of the streetlights’ illumination. All the ordinary sounds of Central Avenue were subdued, what little traffic there was sped past with an empty whoosh.
If this had been a movie the camera would have slowly, cautiously drawn in closer. There was a scrap of police tape snagged on an old hedge and a patch of oil to mark where Clayton (REDACTED) had spent the last night of his life. A flashlight beam, my flashlight beam, panned across the tableau to reveal boarded over doors and windows; each one had a circle with X’s spray-painted on it. The brim of my new fedora was pulled down low and I had a crowbar in my other hand. After a moment I put the flashlight away and started prying at the slabs of plywood blocking the side door. I’m wasn’t the least bit cautious or quiet about it.
After a few moments of grunting and cursing the boards cracked and fell loose. That done I dropped the crowbar, it can’t help me anymore. Then I retrieved the flashlight from my pocket. My first steps into the building were careful to the point of timidity, as though I was afraid the structure would collapse around me. If this had been a movie the last thing the audience would have seen of me was the illumination from my flashlight slowly fading away…
…if you’ve been following along then you know that I’m doing this for the sake of three kids I barely know; two of which have recently threatened my life.
But I don’t hold that against them, in their place I might have done the same thing. Originally I had planned for them to join me on this little excursion-slash-exorcism but they had still been out cold on the floor of Tameka’s apartment when I started hearing sirens. No doubt it was the boys in blue coming to investigate Tameka’s futile attempt to put a cap in the ass of a meme with a body count. I’d had no choice but to run, run here, to where it all started.
As I made my way through the first floor of the school the only things I heard were my nervous breaths and the sound of debris crunching underfoot. I don’t like to think of how many abandoned structures I’ve made my way through over the years. Cellars, attics and tunnels. Oh my!
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
I was halfway to the middle of the building when I stopped dead in my tracks and switched out my flashlight. I stood there for a minute or so, just waiting and listening. Then I clicked the light on and started walking again.
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
Funny thing about burnt out structures, it always sounds the same when you’re walking through them. All the fallen sections of ceiling and cracked floor tiles, all those bits of wood and glass; it can almost fool your ears into thinking you’re walking through a fresh snowfall.
But your nose won’t let you believe that because the smell of burnt wood and plaster that has been scorched, soaked and dried is unmistakeable. I swept my flashlight through one of the classrooms, it had been emptied out and boarded over like all the others, but this one still had its chalkboard intact. Someone had written on it;
“Our nada who art in nada
nada be thy name
thy kingdom nada
thy will be nada
in nada as it is in nada.”
Of course I recognized the quote. Between this and the Mark Twain it looked like someone was trying to wring every last drop of value from their English degree.
Dead center of Colonie Village Elementary were the stairs that lead down to the basement level. The articles I’d read told me that one half of the basement was where the janitor kept his tools of the trade, and the other half had been converted into a music room. Twenty kids had been there the day of the fire; they had all escaped but most ended up being hospitalized for smoke inhalation.
The janitor hadn’t been so lucky, but before you start trying to connect the dots, he was a short, stocky man with an actual face. I headed down the basement stairs, they were nice solid concrete steps, no crumbling wood for me to go crashing through at the worst possible moment. Still though, I walked cautiously with one hand pressed against the wall. After all we can’t be too careful when we marching towards almost certain annihilation can we?
I stopped again and killed the flashlight. I was in the basement now and it was so dark that my eyes were playing tricks on me. “Who’s there?” I called out, “I can hear you!”
Actually I couldn’t hear a damn thing but if you’re going to go looking for trouble it’s always polite to make yourself easy to find.
Then it was lights back on and a quick turn to the right.
Back in the day the music room must have been the most depressing music room in the history of music rooms. It was a perfectly square, perfectly windowless brick pit. All the fire did was scorch the gray walls to a sooty black. And honestly? That probably improved it. A music room? Only if you want to raise a generation of goths and death metal aficionados.
Once my back was against the far wall I called out “Come on then. Don’t keep me waiting.”
A figure walked into the circle of my flashlight beam; hooded, slightly hunched and still wearing that fanged, googly eyed mask. “…I, yOuR pOoR sErVaNt,” Crooked Teeth spoke into its smartphone again, autotune was set to maximum, “HaVe ReVeAlEd YoU tO yOuRsElF aNd SeT yOu FrEe….”
“Why don’t you just cut the shit…” I said calmly, “…Suzie.”
The smartphone clattered to the floor, the masked figure stood perfectly still. Was it shock or anger I was seeing? I took ten steps foreword. Finally Crooked Teeth spoke, “How long have you known?”
“Not long.” I admitted, “The finger was a nice touch.”
“The Priest should have taken it… And you.”
“Was that… The Priest’s idea or yours? How much of all this was your doing?”
“The Priest of Nothing saved us from the fire,” she said, “and saved us for the smoke. We all promised.”
“No,” I said, “be honest.”
“Alright then,” Suzie looked feverish and pale. She said, “I promised them to the Priest. Seven children. One for each arm.”
I switched off the flashlight. The dull illumination from the smartphone had a sickly underwater quality to it. Was enough for her to see my expression? Did it matter? “Listen,” I said, “you were a kid when you made that promise.”
“I wasn’t a child, I was 18 years old. It was only a few months ago,” she explained, “the Priest of Nothing sent a blessing back in time, that blessing became a fire.”
A blessing back in time? That was one headache-inducing revelation I neither wanted or needed so I blew right past it. “The Slender Man is nothing but a figment of the Internet’s imagination. A high tech demon called a Nirmita. You can stop this.”
“He’s here,” she smiled.
Air wafted over my back like something rushing forward. I had heard no footsteps but I could feel a presence behind me, it made my skin prickle and my mind ache. When I blinked my eyes I heard static.
I did not, would not turn around.
“He’s here,” Suzie spoke reverently. Her eyes glimmered, her vision was focused on something at least a foot over my head.
How can you not see something but know exactly what it looks like? Even without turning around I knew every detail of the Entity. The empty face, head cocked to one side like a curious bird. The necktie the color of smoke, or maybe it was smoke. It’s suit was immaculate and a perfect fit for a body that bent and stretched and swarmed with limbs.
“Never to have lived is best…” the voice was in my head but it was not mine. It was soft as the prayer of a dying man, “…never to have drawn the breath of life, never to have looked into the eye of day.”
That was Yeats. Yeats here and Hemingway on the chalkboard upstairs. Where were these quotes coming from? Why was this monster so well read? It didn’t matter, I wouldn’t let it matter.
This time, when I pulled the pistol from my waistband it didn’t snag. I could feel long fingers curling around me but I didn’t look. I drew a bead on Suzie.
“Don’t make me do this,” I said. It was time for one last chance, one last cliche, “Don’t make me shoot you…”
…if this had been a movie the camera would have pulled slowly away from the bleak remains of Colonie Village Elementary. Seconds would have ticked by with agonizing slowness, the nearby streetlights would have flickered and dogs would have howled in the distance. Earlier there had been stars in the sky, but now the horizon was black.
If this had been a movie the scene would have ended with the sound of a single gunshot.