Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Siege

I did say that this has been a busy few days, but I neglected to provide any sort of explanation towards that. I suppose that I should rectify this gross lapse in my chronicling of our, for lack of a better word, adventure.

I arrived back in town without any further sign of any of the Epping AquaTarkus, or any of its brethren. At least, not until I neared the hospital. Then I became conscious of the presence of that ear-piercing shriek that Aqualung's presence produces.

It stood in the middle of an empty lot near the hospital, walking quickly towards another empty lot. Or, more precisely, it stood in the midst of one building that it had already consumed and strode towards another that would soon be taken. I can no longer remember what either of the buildings originally were.

Aqualung is devouring the city.

The hospital is now - has always been - woefully understaffed. The city outside has always been run-down and peppered with empty lots, half-finished buildings, families with nurseries that have never been home to a child, houses where the children die of starvation because they have never known parents.

And yet the hospital stands.

It is a bastion of The Archangel's power. The Howling Dark lays siege to its walls, but it cannot break them. The Archangel, for all that it might be wounded, is still proof against such overt attacks.

Sun Tzu's Art of War states that the siege is the least-efficient form of warfare. An army laying siege to a walled city will exhaust its strength, for the walls can hold indefinitely. It is the limits of the defenders, not of the fortifications, which determine the outcome. When laying siege to a city, one gambles that one's own forces can starve out the defenders before one's own reserves are depleted.

Aqualung has no limits. Even with things as the Epping AquaTarkus claims that they are, I doubt that The Archangel does either. Aqualung is gambling, then - if it is conscious enough to gamble - upon our abandoning the hospital when supplies begin to run low, in order to avoid death by starvation. This would place us once again in the open, and give it another chance to claim me, even if the others of its kind would be making the same attempt.

Eventually, we will be forced to try it. But in the meantime, we are putting what remains of my files to use. We are searching for some means of ending this without granting victory to any of these beings, Aqualung included. So far, there is nothing, but we are not going to surrender just yet.

There must be some way out of this. There must.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I must apologize for not updating this record over the past few days, particularly in light of the presence of a new reader wishing me luck in my endeavors, but things have been quite busy recently.

I suppose that I should resume narrating this tale where I left off. I last posted just before departing the city limits in order to search for the Epping AquaTarkus - or, at the least, The Camper - in the surrounding forest, as we were accosted by them not far from here. It was not much of a lead, but it was better than sitting in the hospital and feeling useless while waiting for James to recover.

I found The Camper not far from the town. The AquaTarkus, it seems, was waiting for me. Its "arms" were assembled by a small pond, seated around the edges. A few of them were standing in the center of the water in a circle. Only one of them reacted as I approached. I am sure that the AquaTarkus' choice of forms with which to communicate with me was deliberate. The child bore a striking resemblance to my son as I last saw him, tall and thin with short-cropped black hair.

"You talked to him, then," it said.

I shrugged. "Something like that, yes. I believe that it would be more accurate to say that he talked to us. He did seem to control the flow of the conversation, despite Miss Waterman's best efforts to the contrary."

The Camper-child only smiled. "Of course he did. As far as you humans go, Thaddeus River is something special."

"He is a serial killer."

"I believe he likes to be referred to as either 'a collector' or 'a liberator', depending on what form his psychosis has chosen to take on any given day. But yes, 'serial killer' is accurate."

"I do not believe that he will be doing any more killing any time soon," I answered. "Miss Waterman may have been a little overzealous in her efforts to make him cooperate, but that, at least, was a positive result."

The Camper shrugged. "He's lasted this long. I wouldn't be so quick to assume that a crazed Runner with a bat could put him out of things for more than a day or two. He's not exactly normal. But that's not the point."

"Then what was the point?" I asked. "What did Thaddeus River, a crazed lunatic and mortal, know that you, a self-described 'being of knowledge', did not? Why send me to speak to him rather than telling me these things yourself?"

The Camper grinned. "I knew you weren't a stupid one. I sent you after Thaddeus because, yes, Thaddeus knows some things I don't. Didn't." A slight laugh. "Until he talked to you. He won't talk to me."

"Then how do you know what he said?"

"I have arms everywhere." The Camper turned away and began making its way back towards the lake, motioning for me to follow. "Not all of them are human."

I refused to follow the AquaTarkus' servant any closer to the waters. I know enough not to fall for something like that. Instead I called, "That reminds me. What is 'Indisen'?"

The Camper stopped in its tracks and looked back over its shoulder at me. "Individualistic sentience. One of my arms that has escaped me."

I admit, this stunned me for a few seconds. I am not normally a man given over to wordless pauses, as I possess a vocabulary large enough to deal with almost every eventuality. This, however, left me speechless. Eventually, I mustered the focus necessary to ask for clarification.

"Exactly what I said," replied The Camper. "You're part of me. Or you were, anyway. You're one of my arms. Part of The Camper, as you'd put it."

"No, I am not."

The Camper laughed. "Not anymore, no. But that's the key, isn't it? You're Indisen. You're not part of me. You were never part of me, because you heard the silence howling."

Something seemed to click in my brain at this point, and I regained command of my faculties. "Aqualung," I said. "It erased the event which led to my assimilation. That is what Thaddeus was referring to. You cannot ever really be destroyed."

The Camper turned to face me again, grinning, and nodded. "Right."

I spent a few long seconds thinking. "But this still does not explain what you want with me. Thaddeus claimed that I am essentially proof against you, and the others like you. That Aqualung cannot erase me. That The Archangel cannot embrace me. That you cannot drown me. The Cold Boy cannot freeze me. If I am all of that, then what do I matter to any of you?"

The Camper snorted derisively. "Come on, Sullivan. You've got to be able to come up with that on your own, at least. Think about it. Also-" another grin "-you're not invincible. Just... resilient. And positioned so that none of us can move against you without the rest stepping in."

Again, I fell silent, though this time it was due to my thinking hard rather than my being too stunned to speak again. "This piece of you that I carry," I said, after a few moments, "makes me valuable."


"It makes me a prize to be won."


"Because it has the power to tip the scales of your game."


I stared. "So why should I not willingly go to one of your counterparts and offer myself up? If I reason correctly, as long as I am alive, you still have access to... whatever it is that you have inside of me, even if it lies dormant. But if one of the others claims me, then they seize this piece of you, and... well. I cannot imagine that you are too fond of that idea."

"Again correct." The Camper inclined its head. "I knew that you must have learned something locked up in there with all those files. But you should be able to figure out the answer to that question yourself as well." Another laugh. "You are a creature of knowledge yourself, Sullivan. In more ways than one. So put that mind of yours to work."

Again, I paused to think. "Because tipping the balance of the game would result in something that I consider undesirable. Having one of you gain the upper hand over the others would be still worse than letting your assorted campaigns of torment continue unchecked."

"Right again." The Camper looked pleased. "And besides, you've really only got one option anyway. That piece of me that you carry is important for more reasons than that."

I made my way over to a nearby patch of clear ground and sat down. "Then explain."

The Camper shook its head. "Stop asking for the answers, Sullivan. You already have all the information you need. Just think for a minute. I know you can."

But the answer had already occurred to me. "Aqualung. It threatens you. All of you."

The Camper nodded.

"It is not one of you. Not really. It is something other, even to you. Not alive, as Thaddeus says that you are, but the end of all life. The end of everything. And it has finally managed to create a weakness. It has separated you from a piece of your very essence."

Another nod.

"The Grand Game was always between all of you. The 'normal' ones. It was always outside, only able to affect things in the smallest of ways, when your attention was elsewhere and it bled in around the edges. But now it has hurt you. And it finally has an opening. You are already wounded. The Archangel is being torn apart as Aqualung eats through its very being. And when the Archangel falls, it all falls. You all need me. You need me to fall to one of you, rather than to Aqualung. You need the strength to shore up the defenses that Aqualung is eating through. But none of you is willing to stand aside and allow another to claim the power that I represent."

The Camper grinned. "We're cutthroat that way."

I stood again. "And you expect me to voluntarily surrender myself to you. To become a piece of The Camper and return your power to you."

A third nod. "Otherwise, you just give another one of them the power to hurt even more people, and you won't do that. You're a bitter old bastard, Sullivan, but you care. Restoring the status quo will hurt fewer people than tipping the scales."

But I had already made my decision. "No," I snapped. "Never. Or, at least, not yet. I have other matters to deal with. There may be another option."

The Camper snorted again. "There isn't. But if you want to fight me, go ahead and try. You're resilient, Sullivan. You're not invincible. And you can't fight me this close to the water."

As if in answer, the rest of the Camper turned to face me in unison, save for the group standing in the center of the lake. Those sank down, beneath the surface, out of sight. And the surface of the water began to roil.

"But you cannot fight me at all," I answered. For once, I was not afraid. "The rest of them stand against you. I cannot imagine that The Slender Man is unaware of our conversation. We are in his domain, after all, even more than we are in yours. The Cold Boy has defended me once already." I took a step forward. "Perhaps one of the others has the strength to claim me. But not you. You need my surrender. And you will not get it here. Not yet. Likely never. I can think, as you yourself are so quick to point out. I can find another option. And while I search, all of you will only continue to trip over one another in your efforts to claim me."

The Camper laughed. This time, it was not an amused sound. It was a gloating, derisive cackle. "It isn't that simple, Sullivan. You're drunk on power you don't actually have. I can take you easily now."

Here, I faltered. In truth, I was not - and still am not - entirely sure that what I was saying had any truth to it whatsoever. But I had come out into the forest to find The Camper solely because I believed that, if it could take me as easily as that, then it would have done so already. Perhaps I was - and am - wrong about how weakened it actually is. It may be as much of a threat to me as any of the others. But taking this gamble was my only chance, at this point, and so I said, "Then try."

And I closed my eyes, waiting for something to happen.

Nothing did. After a few moments, I opened my eyes just enough to make out the assembled pieces of The Camper. None of them had moved. The only thing that had changed was that, on the opposite side of the lake, barely visible in the dimness of the forest, was a tall, thin figure with no face.

And so I turned to leave. As soon as I was out of the clearing around the lake, I broke into as much of a jog as my lame leg could manage. Running with a cane is quite difficult. The best that I could do was to limp quickly. I still do not know what form the struggle between The Slender Man and the Epping AquaTarkus - if, indeed, there was one - took. I know only that I saw no sign of either as I made my way back into the city.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I apologize for taking so long to post a response to your last missive, Miss Waterman. I have had something of a busy day, and it does not appear that I will be getting the opportunity to sleep any time soon.

I trust that more details surrounding your disappearance, as well as those of Thaddeus and our only means of transport, will be forthcoming soon enough. In the meantime, I am forced to proceed on foot towards my "destination", such as it is.

Phillip has been left behind to monitor James. As much as we despised making the decision to split up our merry little band still further, we have deemed it necessary. We last came across the Epping AquaTarkus' minions in the forest just outside of this city, and the Epping AquaTarkus seems to be the only entity willing to actually speak to us (short of Thaddeus, who has, as I previously mentioned, vanished). Beyond that, it is a self-described "creature of knowledge", and it does seem to have some investment in me succeeding at... something. I am not really sure. But Phillip thinks that it would be wise for him to stay as far away from the forest as possible, due to the nature of The Slender Man, and he has been James' friend for longer than I. Hopefully his proximity, even if he cannot be there around the clock, will help to ward James from The Cold Boy's influence.

We all have various means of posting to this online journal, it seems. We can keep in touch if necessary. And, in case of an emergency, we can send out a mass call for help; we do have other Runners in the audience, after all.

I will likely be unavailable for most of tomorrow. I am pausing at the edge of town to make this post, and I do not expect that the forest will have much in the way of wireless Internet reception. Hopefully, though, this will not be my last message to you. When I resurface, I will hopefully have rather more in the way of information regarding what exactly it is that I have apparently stumbled into. I am very tired of blundering around pointlessly.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Still alive

Still fighting.

Stay safe, LB. Phil. Take care of James. More to come.

 - Christie


James has officially been admitted to medical care.

There is not much else to say, really. I brought him to the emergency room, gave my name and cell phone number (a "burner" phone, of course), and left. For tonight, there is nothing left to do but hope. Tomorrow, I will try something new.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Action and Reaction

Our continued investigation of the old house have turned up no clues as to the whereabouts of Miss Waterman or Thaddeus. We have turned the place upside-down in our efforts to find some indication of their whereabouts and status, but neither Phillip nor myself is an accomplished forensic analyst. We have given up on that bit for now.

This leaves us with two options: sit and wait for something to happen, or try to find something that we can actually do. This means either leaving the town on foot, dragging James with us all the way, or making some effort to secure medical aid for him here.

I am done reacting. Waiting only ensures that the Epping AquaTarkus will find us, or one of its fellow entities, and I am not particularly enamored of that possibility. I am not entirely certain what was meant by the use of the term "Indisen", but I am certain that it cannot be a good thing, and I do not intend to allow myself to be manipulated.

It is time to investigate the hospital. Perhaps there is someone there who is willing to help us. It is a long shot, but a slim chance is better than none. Failing that, I may be able to at least lift some antibiotics. Somehow. Anything is better than sitting around and waiting.

And, failing absolutely every other possibility, we will have James admitted into emergency care. Again, a slim chance is better than none, and I will not sacrifice him, even if refusing to do so draws the attention of the authorities.

Phillip is in agreement with me. We are off. Wish us luck.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Current Status

I suppose that, after so long, I should provide you with a status update to confirm that Phillip, James, and myself are still alive and breathing.

Phillip, James, and myself are still alive and breathing.

You will have to pardon the levity there; I have to take comedy wherever it can be found. There is precious little in the way of stress relief available to me in my current situation.

James is drifting sporadically in and out of consciousness. When he is awake, he usually inquires after the location of Miss Waterman incessantly until he lacks the strength to speak. He is running quite an impressive fever: one hundred and four point seven degrees Fahrenheit, to be precise. I would dearly love to be able to take him to a physician, for I believe him to be in sore need of professional treatment as well as some powerful antibiotics, but he has no insurance, no identification, and so on. Besides, both The Cold Boy and The Archangel are fond of hospitals. You will find many of their servants hiding among the personnel there. We cannot risk it. We can only attempt to lower his fever through liberal use of the hotel's ice machine and hope that he recovers.

I say "we" because Phillip has awakened and is recovering. There were several worrying lacerations on his abdomen when I peeled back the bandages to look, but according to him, the wounds are superficial, and I have seen no sign of infection. Granted, my medical expertise is sorely limited, but as he is upright, shows no signs of fever or weakness, and is capable of fully-lucid conversation (and acting as normal as he ever has), I see no reason to worry about him when there is so much other work to be done.

Miss Waterman is still missing. Following her somewhat overzealous treatment of Thaddeus during our interrogation, she vanished, and she has taken the car with her. Thaddeus is gone as well. I can only hope that he has not somehow managed to overpower her and steal away with our only means of transport. Some part of me believes that we dealt with him too easily. There has to be more to the story than what we have seen.

After some reconnaissance work (done, much to my chagrin, by foot due to our lack of a vehicle), we have discovered that we are in the same city that holds the abandoned house wherein we conducted our little session with Thaddeus. Phillip and myself have been back there several times, searching for clues regarding the whereabouts of Miss Waterman and Thaddeus. We found several interesting items, but none of them gave us any clue as to where the two of them might have gone. Every mirror in the house is broken, and the glass is scattered over the floor. The restraints which we placed upon Thaddeus have been removed, though the chair is still bolted to the floor, and there is no sign of them anywhere in the house. Every book in the house is entirely blank. Upstairs, there are two bedrooms: a master suite, entirely normal, and a child's bedroom, full of marionettes. I believe that I may have realized what this house was to Miss Waterman, and why she failed to mention it to us before.

Phillip and I are attempting to develop some means of procuring medical treatment - or, failing that, antibiotics - for James. As of yet, our ideas are very few and all have an exceedingly low chance of success, but I will not give up.

Miss Waterman is not here. Phillip has never been a leader. James is unconscious and appears to be dying. It is up to me to find a way out of this mess, find Miss Waterman and Thaddeus, and get us out of this mess. Or, at the very least, as far out of this mess as Runners can ever be. I am not going to let these "Fears" claim Phillip and James as well.

And, if you are reading this, Thaddeus, I will not let you have them either.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Interrogation

Thaddeus is gone, James is unconscious and likely dying, Miss Waterman has vanished, Phillip is injured, Aqualung has reappeared and taken more of my memory, and I have no idea where we are. According to my computer, it has been several days since I last visited this site.

Overall, I believe that our little interrogation session might have gone better.

Once again, I am left without any idea as to how much memory I have lost. I can only tell you what I still remember, and hope that it is enough. Fortunately, it seems that Aqualung failed to erase my transcript of the interrogation itself (though it is, of course, possible that it claimed pieces of it and has left me only with those pieces that survived), so I can still give you that, at least.

I still remember the drive to Miss Waterman's promised safe house. Or, at the very least, pieces of it. Miss Waterman acted even more tense than usual following her announcement of her intention to escort us there. Phillip and James did not seem to have so much as an inkling as to why this might be the case. They did, however, join me in questioning Miss Waterman as to why she had failed to reveal the existence of such safe houses on any prior occasion.

The only answer that she was willing to give was "There wasn't any reason to tell you, and if you knew about them someone else could have gotten it out of you." Which is fair enough, I suppose, though none of us could come up with any reason for her to be so apprehensive at the prospect of putting her safe house to use.

The house itself was run-down and, by all appearances, had lain abandoned for some time. You will have to forgive me for omitting details as to its precise location, as I am not entirely sure whether or not those same details would give away our position; I have no idea where we are presently located, or whether or not we are anywhere near the house.

In any case, the house was empty when we approached, and well off the beaten path. Despite the decrepit countenance which the old building sported, its locks were still fully-functional. Fortunately, Miss Waterman knew where the key could be found, and we were able to enter without any trouble, save that Thaddeus struggled in Phillip's grip somewhat as he was being escorted from the rear of our vehicle to the house. Phillip is several inches taller than our former prisoner, however, and a great deal heavier. And, to add to that, Phillip did not have both arms secured behind his back and had not spent the past day or so bound and gagged in the back of a van.

The inside of the house was as decayed and crumbling as its outer facade. Miss Waterman explained that she had been preparing for just such a contingency, in which we were required to extract some information from a less-than-willing subject. Unsavory, I suppose, but I can hardly blame her for thinking of it after all the time that she has spent living like this.

Still, actually seeing the lengths to which she had gone to prepare was unsettling, to say the least. The basement of the house was protected by a heavy wooden door which had been outfitted with several large, heavy padlocks and chains, and was at least partially soundproofed by merit of having a mattress essentially nailed over its opposite side. The basement itself was largely empty, save for a chair which was bolted to the floor, which we secured Thaddeus to.

The following is the transcript of our interrogation session. James typed it out, having woken up after being wounded in our efforts to apprehend the very man that we now were holding prisoner. He did not feel up to much else.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Notes on Thaddeus

Yes, hands up, all those of you who actually believed that I had given out the date for the execution of our plan. If the initial phase of this journal failed to demonstrate to you that I am perfectly willing to lie or conceal the truth in order to smooth the way for us, nothing will.

I had hoped that Thaddeus might be tricked into letting down his guard upon reading the previous entry. No such luck, I am afraid; he was ready for us. Insane he might be, but he is far from stupid.

And he is farther still from helpless. We have captured him, but James has been seriously wounded in the attempt. Phillip is attempting medical treatment, but James is the closest thing that we have to a doctor in our group, and I am sure that I do not need to remind you that it is notoriously difficult for a physician to heal themselves.

In any case, James is injured and unconscious, but, to the best of Phillip's knowledge, stable. We have restrained Thaddeus and placed him in the rear of the vehicle, behind the final row of seats. His current position could hardly be considered comfortable, but I consider it more important to keep him from getting loose and attracting attention by waving through the rear window, or simply attempting to strangle one of us, than to ensure that his restraints are not cutting off blood flow or that his position is not going to give him leg cramps.

I suppose that I should give a little background as to who Thaddeus River actually is, for those of you who care. Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, I know very little about him. I cannot imagine that he led a particularly pleasant life, for it to have produced a man so unhinged (though that may be a product of his claimed exposure to eldritch knowledge rather than his upbringing).

I do, however, know a few things about him, mostly regarding his physical attributes. Thaddeus River is of average height, hovering somewhere near the six-foot mark, and I suspect that, if he were rather more well-fed than he actually is, he would be of average build to match. Currently, however, he is little more than skin and long, lank hair stretched over a skeleton. With his tattered, stained clothing, sallow skin tone, and untrimmed facial hair, he actually bears an uncanny resemblance to Aqualung, save that he actually has a mouth and eyes.

As has already been mentioned in the comments section of an earlier post, he bears the mark of the Archangel. Specifically, the icon of the double triangles has been tattooed on each of his palms. From this, we deduce that he is a member - or, at the very least, a former member - of the Archangel's cult.

His weapon of choice is the balisong, otherwise known as the butterfly knife, and, according to Miss Waterman, he has demonstrated almost supernal skill with the weapon. He was following her for years before he arrived on my doorstep, and she bears several rather intimidating scars from near-miss battles against him. We removed no less that four knives from his person upon his capture.

There will be more to come soon. Miss Waterman is taking us to one of her safe-houses. We shall interrogate him there.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Making Plans

You will have to pardon the lack of updates regarding our plans to deal with Thaddeus. He reads this online journal as well, after all, and we are not so foolish as to ignore the words of Machiavelli: “No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.”

I am still somewhat hesitant to follow the instructions of a being like the Epping Aqua-Tarkus. To be perfectly honest, I would much rather be following the orders of any other “Fear”, if I must follow orders at all. Scylla is one of those entities that I find especially distasteful, for reasons that I am sure you can deduce on your own. And yet I see no other recourse. It is rare that any such entity takes the time to speak at all, and offering actual advice is so rare as to be practically unheard of. Besides, it was made perfectly clear that there is something more happening here, and, as Miss Waterman was quick to point out, confronting Thaddeus is likely the only way that we might discover a little more about the straits through which we are, metaphorically, attempting to sail through.

We have checked, as a group, the mirrors and reflective surfaces in the motel room. The same message is carved into them in the same manner. “AND IN THE GARDEN THE ARCHANGEL SWORD ABOVE HIS HEAD”. Even the television screen has had this etched into it. And yet my dream regarding the (lack of a) mirror has failed to repeat itself. In keeping watch over the rest, I have not noticed any particularly uneasy sleep among my compatriots (save Phillip, who, according to the others, has always suffered from these), so, for the moment, I am forced to assume that the dream that I had is to be the only one on the matter. I do not consider any of my fellow Runners to be foolish enough to withhold the news that they are having the same nightmare I myself suffered through so recently, particularly in light of our current circumstances.

According to Miss Waterman, we should be ready to move in to capture Thaddeus this Saturday evening. Hopefully we will be able to subdue him without attracting undue attention, or allowing him the opportunity to make use of his knives. Until then, I will resume my efforts to transplant the records from their paper forms to electronic ones.

Wish us luck.