Yesterday it was the Transit of Venus, the day that Venus passes across the sun; the day that the “brightest star”, the Morning Star, eclipses the sun.
It was the day that the Slender Man died.
I have a secret I had been keeping from everyone here in Slender Falls. Well not everyone, just most people. No I’m not a proxy or something. No, but I have been an unwilling agent of Red Jack since he abducted me all those many months ago. He didn’t make me kill anyone or anything like that, I haven’t been leaving a secret trail of corpses is my wake. Well the Fears tend to evaporate when you cut them from the world. No I reported what had happened to the Department like a good officer. Then Doctor Promethean went off and built a death trap to capture and kill the Slender Man. A death trap called “Slender Falls”.
When the wards went down I was out overseeing the change of security detail like I said. Team Red, a security force brought in to “bring us up to numbers”. My wife and family safely waiting for me inside JW’s. The wards fell right on queue. As the alarms sounded the security forces enacted their orders like good little soldiers. A select few of the guests, namely those that we’d noticed had an adverse reaction to the wards once within them were rounded up and brought to the centre of town. You see the rules I gave for the wards were true, but the wards themselves were double edged. Once within them if you broke any of the conditions then you couldn’t leave. A calculated risk but one that paid off. You see these select few had either entered without knowing what they were or were turned once inside. They were proxies, or intended to harm their fellow runners or were basically here under false pretenses. None of them had time to escape.
As the true runners either fled to the bunkers or took up defensive positions these few were brought to the town centre hooded and masked with those cute Guy Fawkes masks that are so popular. I at least owed them that much. I then ordered their execution. The new members of my security forces did so with obvious glee while I forced myself to watch my handiwork despite wanting to vomit. More than two dozen throats were slit and the town centre painted with their spilt humours. My new security team; Red Jack’s people; giggled while they worked.
Over on the hills that were the spoil heaps from the town’s former mining industry figures appeared. The guest of honour and friends. The Slender Man had come at last to Slender Falls. He had not come alone. Proxies of all stripes gathered with him while Keelie and Zandra named the other Fears standing amongst upon the hill with their own servants. A gas-masked figure surrounded by robed cultists, “the Adversary”, Keelie said, I disagreed.
“I’ve met him, he was taller and a lot more, scarlet.”
“This is a lesser manifestation dubbed the Archangel. He shall not be a problem to defeat.” The same was true of the large, monstrous, black hound.
“That dog don’t give a fuck,” I observed.
Pale children gathered before the pack, frost forming upon the ground before them. “The Cold Child and servants,” Zandra identified. I ordered the flame throwers towards them and by flame throwers I mean Hellion and Phoenix. Around the feet of our gathered foes bugs and beasties swarmed while off to one side stood a figure in the garb of Elizabethan Plague Doctor.
A silent order was given and the mob rushed down the hillside towards the old mine buildings that stood on the apparently defenceless perimeter. One by one the auras of the Department’s gathered Benedanti sparked into life, like a scene from an action movie with a far too large special effects budget . Arcane forces rarely seen within the material world were made manifest and battle was joined. They had trained for this moment, apparently developing a martial arts style based upon the Dragon Ball cartoons, the Matrix and the Jedi from the Star Wars films. A massed cry of “Kame-Hame-Ha!” echoed across the town and esoteric pseudo-energies coruscated through the attacker’s ranks. Then the defenders, wielding light-sabre like blades of pure will, leaped forward as one, achieving speeds so great that they might as well have been teleporting. But of course even with the wards gone no one, nor thing, could teleport within the boundary of Slender Falls.
The battle wasn’t without loss on our side; some numpty about to overrun by the Intrusion turned a large swathe of it into chocolate instead of withdrawing as planned. This immediately caused that area of the battlefield to turn dark as the reality bending effect of the Fears was briefly snuffed out across it. A few proxies got a couple of lucky shots off before the shift of the battle restored the affected Benedanti’s abilities.
Hellion and Phoenix flew above them, held aloft by wings of fire, hurling infernal flames and celestial fires upon the Cold Boy and his thralls. Once the icy infants were nicely melting in the unquenchable empyrean fires of Heaven and Hell the burning angel and her infernal counterpart flew above the battlefield raining flames upon the rest of our foes.
Mina stalked towards the Plague Doctor, a syringe of her own immortal blood in hand. I knew Doctor Promethean was interested to know what effect such a potent panacea would have upon a creature composed entirely of disease. Alas he was as vulnerable to the creature’s power as I. I hoped Mina was going to take notes otherwise I’d never hear the end of it.
Apparently the Archangel briefly assumed the form of Darth Vader as the Benedanti closed in. I later learned that his last words were reportedly “Strike me down with all your anger and your gonads to the dark side will be complete.” Trying to read the thoughts of geeks on a power-rush will do that to you.
The Slender Man evidently had second thoughts as the power of the Benedanti appeared across the battlefield and his allies began to fall. Alas for him he was by now deep within the teleportation blocking field that, despite the fall of the wards, was functioning quite well. Unable to retreat as the Benedanti surrounded him and his cohort he was funneled towards the centre of town and towards his eventual fate.
It was time, so I drew a needle from the lining of my coat and said the words that had been passed to me many moons ago. “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.” There was a moment of silence before one of Red Jack’s people cried out in pain and surprise as they literally turned inside out beside me, spraying their organs across the crossroads. Then there stood Red Jack in all his gory gothic glory.
“Arm yourself,” I said to Red Jack and gestured towards the sword embedded in the stone. “Caladmae’r,” I answered his unvoiced question, “a sword that can cut that which the wielder hates from the world. Muster enough hatred and any foe can be defeated.” He gripped the sword and I permitted him to draw it.
Since the security forces had direct orders not to engage the Slender Man, the proxies running before him reached the centre of town unhindered. Here Jack’s people went to work, slaughtering the proxies with aplomb. Of course there were more proxies than rippers but given the skillsets of both parties it was hardly surprising that once the last proxy fell only Jack and I were left standing, a ring of dead encircling the boulder at the town’s centre. My ‘omni-tool’ flickered into existence on my left hand and I grasped my walking staff with my right. I’d loaned Caladcholg to Mina and was somewhat regretting it.
Then the Slender Man was upon us, striding along the road upon four pseudopods that formed from his back like, well like the legs of a spider. Red Jack grinned and launched himself towards his foe. More of the Slender Man’s tentacles sprouted from his body and lanced towards Jack, only to evaporate like smoke as they met Caladmae’r. They battled like this for a while, tentacles versus blade and I knew that they were toying with each other, each sublimely confident in their ability to defeat the other. I knew this because Red Jack had prearranged with us how he wanted to kill his self-ordained nemesis. Jack nodded at me and I knew it was the signal to do my part in this battle. I hesitated for a moment too long for Jack and he snarled at me. “I didn’t help you lobotomized that slut in Battle Mountain for nothing,” he said, “Use your staff.” I grasped the staff, formed from the limbs of a wooden mannequin; the body of the Wooden Girl; and reached out with its power, ensnaring the Slender Man with invisible puppet strings. I tugged on them, pulling him towards the boulder in the centre of the crossroads. He became aware of me, of course, and I felt his power reach out for me. This was the lesson the Wooden Girl learned in her last moments; just because you can control a person’s limbs does not mean you control their mind. I had mentally commanded Caladmae’r to remove her mind, even though my body was briefly not under my control. It had been Jack who had loaned me the willpower to do so along with Zandra and Keelie.
But I’m not one to fall for my own traps. Zandra and Keelie filled my mind as they plucked the labyrinth away before it could form. I grinned and tugged harder on the strings. Slender Man’s legs folded under him and he fell with his back against the stone. Jack stood over him and began to sing. Yes, sing.“Now the end is near and so you face the final curtain. My friend I’ll say it clear, I’ll state my case of which you’re certain.” He danced a little around the prone Fear, making little movements with his hands as he did so. “You’ve lived a life that’s full, you traveled each and every highway, and more, much more than this. You did it my way!”
I felt the Slender Man fighting to regain control of his limbs and it was only with aid of my Raven mentors that I held him down, wrapping more threads around him to literally bind him to the boulder. “Regrets you’ve had a few, But then again too few to mention. You did what you had to do and saw it through without exemption.” I was getting little flashes of imagery, little visions of events from the Slender Man’s existence upon the multiple Earths. “You planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway, and more, much more than this, you did it my way! Yes there were times, I’m sure you knew, when You bit off more than You could chew. But through it all when there was doubt, you ate it up and spat it out. You faced it all and you stood tall and did it my way!” With a creeping certainty I realised what Red Jack was doing. “To think you did all that and may I say not in a shy way. Oh no, oh no, not you, you did it my way.” It was a sacrifice. Red Jack was going to sacrifice Slender Man to himself. He was planning to execute the Slender Man and claim his, well soul for want of a better word, for himself. “For what is a God? What has he got, if not himself then he has not. To say the things he truly feels, and not the words of one who kneels. The record shows you took the blows and did it my way!” Or at least that was his intent. Was that even possible? “Yes it was my way!” He plunged Caladmae’r into the Slender Man’s chest, where his heart would be were he a man and a burst of energy, or something, erupted outwards from it. I was thrown from my feet and the staff was hurled from my grip to land a good dozen meters from me. Raw fictions roared from the impaled Fear in a fountain that reached for the sky, impacting upon the upper limit of the anti teleportation field and fell back to Earth. At the centre of all this the Slender Man’s remains became a raging inferno.
Red Jack pulled Caladmae’r from Slender Man’s burning body. For a brief moment I caught a glimpse of some shattered something buried deep within and then it was gone. “The world is mine!” Red Jack exulted.
“Not quite” I said, pulling myself back to my feet, “The world is not part of our agreement.” But Jack wasn’t listening.
“An age of slaughter unlike any other; the seas and ground red with blood, the blood of more than seven billion lives…”
“Jack!” I warned. He turned and lashed out with Caladmae’r, hurling me to the ground once more.
“Caladmoore, he said mangling the name, “A sword that cuts one’s enemies from the world, a cunning artifice indeed. I will thank that slut Niniane as I eat her womb.” He leered down at me raising my own brother sword above my chest. “Any last words?” he asked.
“Just two,” I snarled. “Tyger, Tyger…”
In geostationary orbit above us, Eos, the orbital particle beam system Doctor Promethean had built as part of Operation: Slender Falls, sat. It had been primed by my previous quote from Macbeth, relayed through my yPhone. Now it heard my quote from Blake and completed its programming.
“Blake” Jack observed, “Cute.” he plunged Caladmae’r into my heart.
“…burning bright, in the forest of the night…” I coughed up my life blood and lay silent.
“…What immortal hand or eye dare frame thy fearful symmetry.” Red Jack completed the quote and leered down at me. “Was that what you were trying to say?” Above him the sky ignited.
The particle beam lanced down into the very heart of Slender Falls. We all died. Red Jack and I, the surviving runners, Benedanti and security teams. Everyone. Red Jack would later reform in the depths of his Red Chapel beneath London and JW’s is dimensionally transcendental so it survived mostly intact. But everyone else, they died. The Anti-Fictions carried in the beam even eliminated anything that was fictionally active. Including any surviving fragments of the Intrusion. Everybody died. The sound circled the Earth three times. The fireball vapourised the town and some of the surrounding forest. The shock wave radiated out over a mile more, tearing trees from their roots and tossing them like overgrown spears. Slender Falls was erased from the face of the world as if it had never existed.
First there was bright light, then there was nothing, then there was.