Friday, July 15, 2011
Cognitive psychology places great reliance on schema theory when trying to understand how we perceive our world. Schemata are…I think of them as the structural framework for inferential understanding of the world around us, and a tool for categorisation and organisation of knowledge. For instance…say a small child had a pet dog…a Jack Russell, perhaps. This child develops an understanding of what a dog is according to what they know: It has four legs, quite small, so on and so forth.
Then, say, the child sees a beagle and through her previous understanding of what a dog is, assimilates this new dog into her definition and expands the framework of what a dog can be.
Then, say, the child sees a cat. The cat also fits her understanding of what a dog is, so when she is told that this is an entirely different sort of animal, she adjusts her schema for what a dog is, and creates a new mental framework to understand this concept of ‘cat’.
These are the building blocks of how we as humans, understand and interact with our reality. It is how we make assumptions, and use previous information to approach new problems: even if something has not been encountered previously, by consulting previous frameworks, one may infer a solution to this problem.
But what happens to a man when something completely incongruent with his pre-existing schemata is thrust upon him? What happens when there is no frame of reference for what he encounters in the slightest? A new schemata is created, but what if the features by which he must associate to this new anomaly are just as incongruent with his understanding of the world?
He can try to reject this new information. Repress it. Shove it away, devise alternate, contrived explanations for what occurred. He can be unable to reconcile his mind and his reality and (though this term always strikes me as so unintuitive-ly vague and useless considering our current understanding of the process by which one develops mental illness, according to the diathesis-stress model) ‘go insane’.
Or he can make some tough calls, adjust his way of thinking, and after a while…after a long, long while…he can accept the reality of his situation.
Though none of this went through my mind as I sat there with my shut-down ears, as the room got darker and darker.
The first thing I noticed was the window shaking. It wasn’t obvious at first, in fact; I’m surprised I noticed it when I did. It shook as the sky outside darkened, moody clouds swirling overhead and the faintest idea of a sunrise behind, bathing the room in scarcely burning incandescent yellow. I closed my eyes for a moment, but found that the near-total sensory deprivation was uncomfortable, so I re-opened them and watched the clouds for longer, spinning and curling hypnotically in the glow, as the window shuddered, then liquidated, droplets of glass playing with the yellow light and sparkling as they rained down to the floor, splattering onto the hardwood floor, shattering and sprinkling.
The door slammed open, and two of the masked men entered, walking in from the golden light, looking for all the world as if they were walking through honey. The snakelike ropes were ripped away from me, hissing away in protest as I was grabbed, not un-gently, by both arms and frogmarched out the door, onto a…rather anticlimactic porch area. I appeared to be in a rather cozy beach house, in one of many rooms overlooking the choppy sea, which swirled and got more violent, a mirror image of the black clouds above.
He was there, with his red, weeping eyes, though something looked somewhat different. He had rejected his hood in favour of a rather wide, straight brimmed hat, and his face looked…fuller…real-er? No, it was still a mask, white and imposing, but it seemed as if it had melded with his skin, ceramic tissue, almost, but not quite human.
Needless to say, I did not feel particularly at ease. The Crying Man continued to speak, pointing up at the clouds and tapping my head with a…playful? finger . I flinched slightly from this gesture, and he stopped speaking, tilting his head curiously. I pointed to my ears and shrugged. He took this in stride, clicking his fingers and whispering something to one of the other masked men (his face looked oddly…full of expression as well.) He left, only to return moments later with a notepad and pen, which he wrote on and showed me.
“Look, He is coming."
Their leader pointed once again to the sky, and I looked. There wasn’t much to see, just swirling, billowing clouds, preparing themselves to release rain…god, they were black, and the golden light disappeared leaving only dank, insidious grey, and one section, just a bit off the beach, seemed darker than the rest…
He kept scribbling, as I glanced back up at the sky, tendrils of deep black creeping and spiralling through the rest of the clouds, spreading and infecting like a cancer, sprouting more of that solid black in a rough approximation of a circle around the original pupil. It looked for all the world like a bloodshot eye, looking down, staring at us, as we stared back with fear and anticipation. I did not know what was to come, but my imagination was working overtime. The Crying Man tapped me on the shoulder, and pointed to his pad.
”He comes with the wind.”
The pupil began to seep blackness, at first what looked like a mere drop, then more until it began to gush inky shadow into the ocean, as the breeze from the ocean whipped up into a gale-force storm, carrying the ocean spray. I tasted salt, and my eyes stung, as the black rift in the sky drained of its shadow. I watched, transfixed, my mind screaming, but my mouth was not responding, instead opting to hang open in dumbfounded curiosity. The sky was lighter now, with the shadowy miasma collecting on the surface of the water, yet the hole in the clouds still remained, an ugly, swirling rift, with tiny dots of piercing white staring from the mists beyond.
I didn’t have time to process it any further before the clouds closed in and consumed it, a distant memory, as if a dream.
It was deathly cold, I remember that. Like brazing a blizzard, as the wind hit us unrelentingly, carrying about half the ocean with it. And the wind only got rougher and rougher, so much so that I physically had to crouch down, trying to minimize my surface area to avoid having the warmth sapped right out of me. I was shivering, practically convulsing as the masked men followed my lead, sitting down and watching the show through their protection. I closed my eyes, not seeing, not hearing, just feeling, like I was being drowned, beaten, frozen…
After what felt like a couple of hours, or a couple of seconds (time seemed to not pass the way it generally did…well, it did pass, but it passed completely separate to the reality we were placed in. Temporal reality was a memory, a reminiscence of what should, and generally did, matter, completely trivialized in the face of that boiling blackness on the shoreline), the wind cut off, as if someone up on high had flicked a switch. I suddenly felt very warm, though as I opened my eyes, I could not figure out why. The wind had stopped, and had been replaced instead by a thick fog, sitting dense in the air, immutable as a boulder.
All I could see was the porch the four of us were standing on, and that shapeless tar, floating to shore on a perfectly still tide, right on the far edge of the mist, beyond which there was nothing. It was still almost featureless, just pure, deepest black, shimmering velvet.
And then it changed.
The inky liquid writhed and bucked, separating and congealing into a mass of flailing cilia, which wrapped and twirled around each other chaotically, into stringy, solidifying tentacles which spiralled upwards and upwards, some growing spindly and spider-like, others fattening and lapping at the sand like jet-black tongues. I looked around at my captors and saw one of the subordinates trying to keep the other restrained, who was trying to claw his way out. Their leader looked on with his arms crossed. After a struggle, he stamped heavily onto the other man’s foot and broke free, flinging himself across the balcony and landing on his knees in the sand, scrambling up and running full pelt towards the amorphous mass. The Crying Man wheeled on me. I could tell he was saying something to me, but I did not know what. He looked around for the pad of paper and wrote in short, abrupt lettering.
”I am in control.”
And his body language certainly made him seem so, standing strong and turning to watch as his worker reached the blackness, the rising tentacles welcoming him in a loving embrace. He ripped off his mask, and I saw sandy gold hair and blue eyes for a brief moment, before he was entirely concealed from view, and the tentacles ground in tighter, occasionally popping as something broke on the inside, and red began to ooze from the gaps between them and drip into the shallow water, staining the damp sand…
I feel sick now, but I felt a hell of a lot worse back then. But I couldn’t move, all I could do was watch.
The tentacles rolled in on themselves, changing, melding together, frothing the maroon tides as they twisted upwards into a vague cylinder, as the crunching sound continued, turning into a sound like nails on a chalkboard, curling up to about nine feet above the water.
My sense of hearing had faded in again, and I wanted it gone.
Flicking, tasting the air like a sea anemone, as the sludge floating on the ocean was all but assimilated. Then with a sickening slurp, from the centre of the cylinder emerged a small white, calcified bump, a single, glowing white tooth of bone, except it was no tooth, it was a head…
And then He stood before us, in all His glory, swathed in a black cloak.
And I don’t know what to do.
I ran. I did not know where I was going, but I ran down the beach, tears of fear in my eyes as I tried to get somewhere, anywhere but here.
The Crying Man watched, but did not move.
His head was stationary as a chitinous white emerged from his chest and his cloak grew more streamlined, a mimicry of that which the masked leader wore.
The kid’s mask floated into shore, covered in sand and watery blood.
Nobody touched it.
Nobody did anything.
The winds were completely calm.
Friday, June 17, 2011
I woke up, my muscles screaming with tension, my mouth dry and salty with caked blood, sounds of the ocean rushing through my ears. I was in a small white room with Spartan decorating: a window overlooking a dirty little beach and a single wooden chair, which naturally, I was strapped to. I tried to stand up, but my legs were tucked neatly between the seat and the bracing support between the two front legs, each one individually tied. I’m…moderately lithe, but I’m no Houdini, and these guys had really thought this out: I didn’t bother trying to escape. Call it learned helplessness: I felt like one of Seligman and Maier’s dogs, trapped in a harness, waiting for the shock. Apparently this thought manifested itself in action; I could hear myself whimper a little. Shut up, that’s not going to help either. I looked around the room further, noting only one piece of decoration: a single artist’s easel with a white canvas and…that symbol on it, from the basement all that time ago. Though it was a little different this time. I made the connection: It was the Crying Man’s eye. Big Brother is watching.
I contemplated my available actions, and decided that there was no point waiting around: this was an inescapable situation. At least on my own. So I tried to change it up a little. Let’s see if he really IS watching.
I shifted my weight forward in the chair a little, prepared myself, then flung my body back, knocking the chair clean over and knocking my head on the hard wood floor: a clatter on the outside, but in my mind it sounded like a sickening ‘crunch’. Ignoring the beating pain, I swung around to the left, trying to prop myself up on one side, facing the eye. I didn’t have a master plan here, I just wanted to test my boundaries. I eventually manage, and found that while my legs were still securely bound, I could slip one shoulder back down through the ropes, and then the other, until they were constricting my neck. I tried to pull my arms away, but this pulled the ropes around my neck tighter, like a noose, until I couldn’t breathe particularly clearly. I laughed a little at my own ineptitude, but then the laughter slipped away as it dawned on me that I was seriously in trouble, in this tangle of rope; if I moved my arms any more, I’d run the risk of cutting off breathing entirely…
Then the masked men came in, practically barging their way through the door with their shoulders. My fucking saviours. They grabbed the ropes around my neck and pulled my chair to its feet, de-restricting my airways at the same time. The ropes on my arms slipped off. I coughed briefly, then winked at the painting of the eye. Not that I expected it to wink back or anything, I was just glad my theory had panned out, but realized that the conclusions I could make from my test…were just as troubling. He wants you alive.
Why does he want you alive?
”Doctor, if you cannot be conscious for more than a minute without trying to kill yourself, are you certain you should be a practicing counsellor?” That cold feminine voice was back. I looked up, massaging my throat, and there he was, business suit looking rather immaculate. “What friend ties another friend up?” I asked, defiance clear in my eyes despite my rampant headache and my mouth tasting like shit. “Curious way of showing your friendship, buddy.”
”I apologise, it was for your own protection. The driver hates you very much, it is not your fault. Roël can be silly sometimes, he is young. He does not speak much anymore, otherwise I would make him say sorry.” I blinked, having not heard that name in a long while. “When did Roël stop speaking?”
”Oh, sometime around his initiation. The first one we’ve ever had in this city, in fact. He made…a sacrifice, shall we say? Jason and himself were our first fresh recruits.”
Another familiar name. Troubling. I didn’t speak.
”You are wondering why you are here, yes?”
”Do you have unicorn magic? However could you have guessed that?” I tried to be the sarcastic wall, though that might not have turned out as well as I could have hoped.
”Doctor, there are things beyond the mind. Beyond your mind, beyond my mind. Slivers of another reality, manifest in our world. Another, darker reality, one which none of us could possibly comprehend, let alone exist in a semi-natural state.”
”We still talking about unicorns here? I really hope we are.” I was trying to cut down all his melodramatic posturing, and my mind was still a little off, I make no apologies for any of my actions.
Not that it did any good.
”I posit that you already know about some of these…slivers, so to speak. You have done enough research into it, judging from your little blog. Change your password sometime, by the way. ‘bandura7’, while elegant, was easy to guess.”
“We were talking about slivers, not my internet security.” I consciously put on a poker face, reticent. Let’s play a game, you fuck. “You are talking about those blogs?”
”Yes, yes. These, incidents shall we say, these anomalies in our dimension…while each possessing some similarity, always have an element of difference to them. A mouth. Different clothing. Different, modus operandi. Different symbolism. Why is that?”
”Dramatic licence, I suppose.”
”You’ve hit the nail on the head, haven’t you Rivers? Dramatic licence.” He clapped politely, his hooded head still staring intently at me. “…You have a headache, do you not?'”
”Get the good Doctor some asprin.” He clicked, and one of his masked men left the room, only to come back a few moments later with two white pills and a glass of water. I took them both from him gladly, and took the pills.
Not likely. I watched Marble Hornets, didn’t I? I stashed them beneath my tongue, and took a long drink of water. I only planned to take a sip, but it made my mouth feel so much cleaner, hydrating and cooling my throbbing tongue, so I finished the entire glass. I passed it back to the masked servant and wiped my mouth, spitting out the pills into my hand as it glided past.
”I will then posit to you a new theory. Soon, the Storm will come. We have been awaiting it since the New Year. Our events have been set in motion long ago, and now…He comes with the wind.” The Crying Man motioned towards the window, at the darkening sky. “Our reality and His will draw close, just for a second…long enough for a sliver of an idea to emerge. And emerge it will, unformed and fluid. Our perception will solidify it…And because of the rituals we have put in place, the storm will bypass us. We will be in control.”
”Patient’s thought patterns move along lines rather than through logical flow; he is under the delusion that he is a supervillain summoning a dark God into the world. Schizophrenia? I believe so.”
”Psychoanalyse me all you want, doctor. When the house shakes and distorts by His power…you will see the truth in my words.”
”I doubt it.”
”The bigger the skeptic, the stronger the shift in perception when they are proved to be well and truly out of their depth.” He tapped me on the head softly, and then left the room, once again leaving me alone.
I settled down and waited. No matter what happened…the swiftness of the response meant I would not be able to escape until they wanted me to. I looked down at the pills in my hand, noting that they were most definitely not asprin. They looked more like a brand of dopamine antagonists I had had prescribed to a patient of mine a few years back, though I was hardly going to taste-test them and find out. I threw them to the floor in disgust.
And the sky darkened just a bit more
and the sounds of the ocean slipped away, leaving only silence.
Deafening, screeching silence.
I cleared my throat, if only to give myself something to hear.
I tapped my ears experimentally…my sense of hearing had completely faded away.
Sigmund Freud, during his clinical work in Vienna at the turn of the century, found a common theme running throughout many of his patients. In the socially repressed Viennese, 19th century society, he had patients come to him with seemingly biological symptoms, with no apparent biological causes. It had been known as ‘hysteria’ since before Christ, but it wasn’t until Freud that a connection was made between these apparently physical symptoms, and the mind. He called it ‘conversion disorder’, due to his theoretical reasoning that these physical symptoms were not organic at all: but were, in fact, anxieties, distresses and unfulfilled drives converted and manifest in physical symptoms: ‘switching off’ a part of the physical body to protect it from this overarching, repressed anxiety.
I’m not the biggest believer in everything Freud did, and all of his theories, but for the life of me, considering what came next, I can only assume my swirling, dark Id was preparing itself for what was to come, discarding the senses which I would not need, distorting my hearing because what I would be hearing otherwise was just too unfathomable to accept.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
It’s a strange feeling, that horrible realization, of that one simple fact.
You are being followed.
You try to forget it, you provide every logical counter-argument you possibly can. You’re jumpy. You had a rough couple of days. Get home, have a nice glass of vino, just calm down.
Yet still it persists, the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, a shiver of fear goes down your spine, your pace quickens. And suddenly it doesn’t matter whether it’s real or not, every innocent noise, every twig snapping, every breeze of wind disturbing the trees, takes on a sinister unnaturalness. Your senses get clearer, alert, ready, waiting for any sign of danger so you can fight or flee.
And on the 15th of April, that night…I wish I’d fled faster.
The day started normally enough. None of the doom and gloom I’ve been alluding to since my, reluctant hiatus ended. It was a brisk Spring day, as they generally are, with the light reflected in the misty dew on the ground as I walked from my apartment over to the precinct. I generally do like to walk, rather than drive; it’s not too long away, and in this instant gratification world…we need more times where we can just unwind, put one foot in front of the other, and relax. (Plus, gas prices these days, what up? Yes, as always, I am bringing you the best in topical humor; you should hear what I have to say about airline food, it’s a doozy.) It was a bright day, and…well, I find myself always drawn back to remembering that walk to work on that day, it was just so…naive. And free. The last moment I can remember like that. Uncomplicated, expected…normal.
Normality flew out the window with the client I had waiting at my desk when I walked into the PD, however. “You forgotten about me, mate?”
I had not forgotten about him, the journalist: Mister Lance Franklin. Since our last meeting, we had been keeping online correspondence, e-mails and Skype mostly, revolving around a compiled article regarding the Slender Man Mythos. We had....mostly worked out our differences, though to be honest, this was because he had decided to stop baiting me, and had decided he needed my help. While at the start, I was…less than approving of his original idea: a scathing appraisal of the police department for not looking at the generic signallers of the Mythos, after our minor disagreement around this (as arguments on the internet tend to pan out, I was called a ‘fascist’ and I retaliated with something along the lines of “you anarchic, convict fuck”) we decided that we could work together on something purely to bring attention to the stories as an emerging frontier in new media; an entirely communal concept, loosely banded together as a cohesive whole.
“No, I haven’t forgotten about you. I’ve got the research you asked for right here.” I reached into my desk (shooing him out of my chair in the process, directing him sharply to the couch) and pulled out a manila folder with a fair amount of writing analysing the conventions of the genre. I’d show it to you guys, but you’ve already seen it: I lifted the vast majority of it directly from my blog posts, cut out any sensitive information, and compiled it under the rough guise of a thesis. It pays to recycle. And it’s not ‘re-using’ so to speak, it’s about being efficient. “I trust this will serve your purposes, Lance.”
”Lance? We’re on first name privileges now, Matthew?” The journalist’s eyes widened, and he mimed a melodramatic faint, face down on my couch. “This is the happiest day of my life.” Except at this point, he was still becoming familiar with my cushions, so it came across more as “’S iv meh ‘appies ‘ay o’ I ‘ive.”
“Names aren’t important, it’s how one distinguishes the time to use which name. First names, last names, nicknames, impersonal references…choosing to use any one of these says something about the relationship. Us, considering we are now working as equals in the same field, are most definitely on first name privileges.” I replied, as he sat himself up and looked at me incredulously. “Is that some honest-to-god homebrew psychology I hear? You just make this shit up as you go along, don’t you mate, or do they actually teach you fluff like that in shrink school?”
“Yes, I make it all up. You caught me. That’s also how I got through all my assignments, my Masters and my Doctorate. What, have you never been to university?”
He laughed, accepting my sarcasm with a wave of his hand. “Well, I’m glad to have this information. I’ve done some asking around, going to do a couple of online interviews with some of these blogger college students, so on and so forth. With your talentless hack Arts degree analysis and my immense skill at writing, this could be a damn good article. I mean, it’s hardly front page material, it doesn’t offer the incisive social commentary and exposé on police inaction that it COULD have, but hey, we’ll get a page. Maybe after the funnies.” I smiled, letting the insults wash past me. “So, when do we talk about my payment?” I didn’t hold out much hope for this, nor did I care that much; I hadn’t done much work for this, and it wasn’t as if I was strapped for cash.
“I’ll see what I can work out for this article, and any other followup studies you and I may compile on in the future. Seriously though, mate: thanks for this, I’d be buggered without your help,” he said, earnestly of all things, standing up and moving to the door with the folder. I was taken-aback, though I managed to keep that under lock and key. “You’re welcome, Mr. Franklin. Anything else I could help you with? Perhaps we can get a start on treating that vibrant narcissistic personality disorder that you’ve got going on there, though I will warn you, you’re going to be on the clock for that. Gotta put food on the table, don’t you know?” He grinned his trademark beam again, (the kind that made you feel dirty just to witness), and tapped two fingers on the door before turning the handle. It made a satisfying wooden, ‘thock-thock’ sound. “She’ll be right, mate. Seeya around!”
Once he left, the room went back to normal for a grand total of ten minutes. I spent this time contemplating whether or not a psychologist should have his walls painted the dull orange that mine were. By the time I had come to a completely biased conclusion (yes, yes we should), it was time for my first appointment of the day, who I thought was Detective Morrow, but no, Detective White came bursting through my door on the hour. “Can I help you, ma’am?” I asked sardonically, earning myself a dirty gaze for my troubles. “Detective Morrow’s sick. I thought I might get my appointment out of the way now so I can get back to doing work around people who aren’t a massive smartass with a degree and a douchy face.”
What is it about my non-professional relationships and this wise-cracking war of words I always seem to get myself into? Putting on some facade of urbane cruelty, to distance yourself from the fact you might actually care about people. Do I inspire this in people? I don’t know how to feel about that. It does make for interesting conversations, though.
”Because I can definitely handle you this early in the morning. Least you could’ve done would be to buy me a coffee.” I retorted, sitting at my desk and looking for a pencil. White paced the room for a moment in silence, then spoke up. “I’m fine, Doc: clear me and I’ll let you get back to staring at your walls.”
I wondered how she knew I was doing that, but I also noticed a tinge of something in her voice; a throaty catch, quite subtle, but definitely there, and not usual. “I could do that, or you could tell me why you’re so eager to get out of here.” I glanced upwards, to see what sort of a reaction that would garner.
Jess bit her lip for a moment, then sort of fell into the couch. “I’m worried, okay? I’m worried, and I’m annoyed. And it’s because of that case. How the fuck could I not be annoyed? That bastard’s gone quiet, he could be in fucking Florida sipping on a piña colada in the sun. And the world will still be spinning. He’ll get away with it, just like that.”
”That’s not the way the world works.” I said, talking out of my ass as I walked over to the couch, sitting next to Jess. She wasn’t talking to me as a psychologist, she was talking to me as a friend. She didn’t want analysis, she wanted someone to go through this with. “People get theirs. It’s karma, really. One day, he’ll slip up; he’s clearly got some choice antisocial tendencies, and now he has a taste for it. He’ll slip up, and someone will nab him.” Or so we could hope. It worried me too, but…The world will still be spinning, as she said.
“God, I hope you’re right, Matt. I really do.” She paused to think for a couple of moments, before apparently driving it from her mind, and brightening up slightly. “We still on for dinner tonight?”
”Absolutely! I’ll grab my car and drive past your place at 7. We’ll grab sushi.”
”Hey, at least I’m a healthy pussy.”
”Are you sure you’re a dude, Rivers?”
”Want to find out?”
She punched me, I flinched a little, and we both laughed. Life goes on.
It was 6:30PM. Not even that late, the sun was barely down. I pulled my coat around me further. It was a cold dusk, and I smelled rain on the approach. Down the main road for a while, then a left, cutting through a local park. Well, what passed as a ‘park’ in my neighbourhood. It was barely a nature strip, it was roughly 50% tree, and 25% pathway. High walls on one side, interrupted periodically by gates into the houses beyond, extending down a long, long path to the middle of suburbia. The sounds of traffic lessened and lessened as I walked down the path, leaving only my footsteps and the wind. That rustling, murderous wind, setting my nerves on edge. I focused on the sound of my own breath, willing myself to calm down. It’s nothing, you’re projecting your own insecurities onto the world around you.
I heard a shuffle behind me, and almost gave myself whiplash to see who it was. Nobody, just some kid. Alabaster skin, a backpack and a hoodie, which he was in the process of pulling up to protect himself from the wind. Yet my mind was still screaming for respite. I turned around and deliberately slowed my pace, breathing rhythmically, pushing the fear from my mind.
Then I heard the rusty ‘squeak’ of a gate in front of me, and the fear came flooding back. Another person walked out from one of the archways on the side of the path and started walking in the same direction as me, a fair distance in front. Nothing to worry about, he didn’t even take a second glance at you. You’re a fully grown man for God’s sake. Is Jess right? Did you lose your balls somewhere?
It was only when I heard a second gate open, behind me, that I started to give my mind some credit. A man wearing a hoodie, completely concealing his face emerged from the shadows, walking briskly towards me, brushing past the kid. I started walking briskly forward, trying to catch up with the guy in front of me, but suddenly he turned around, face completely covered in a neutral white mask, personalized only with red circles encapsulating his eyes. I faltered in my pace, felt a shot of adrenaline course through my system, weighed up the situation, and broke into a dash, making a beeline for the guy in the mask. I don’t think he suspected I would choose ‘fight’ over ‘flight’, so he wasn’t prepared for the shoulder barge I gave him, knocking him over with a satisfying ‘thump’. He was far from beaten, though, and swung around, grabbing my leg and pulling me down to the ground with him. I bit my tongue as I went down and my jaw cracked on the pavement, feeling salty blood fill my mouth. “Bastard,” I spat, kicking him in the side of his head with my free foot, once, twice, finally causing him to let go with a groan of pain.
However, by this time, the other one…no, the other two had caught up to me. It was all I could do to scramble to my feet as they reached down to grab me. I managed to dodge their grasp and unleashed a swift, yet clumsy kick in one of their general directions. It connected with their side, though it didn’t seem to make a persuasive argument: He shrugged it off as his friend tried to flank me. I was having none of that, though, and spun around, sprinting like I had rarely had the occasion to before. I was expecting them to shout something, anything, but our chase scene was silent but for the pounding of our feet, and the rabid beating of my heart in my ears. If I get to the end of the path, I’m on a suburban street. Hardly the most cinematic location to have a merry old chase, but damnit, it’s wider than this death trap, I might even be able to hide.
I saw the end of the path, and I gunned it, only managing to slow down halfway onto the middle of the road. There were no cars coming…no wait, there. A Lexus SUV, the noble explorer of the suburban jungle, coming down the road. Comforting. That’s probably the best chance I’m going to have. I made the international signal for “I need a fucking ride” with my thumb, and praised the goodness of humanity as the driver slowed down. I looked behind me, my pursuers (all three of them, as it were) were a ways off, still pelting towards me. I couldn’t waste any time. I pulled open the passenger seat door and jumped in. “Thank you so much these three fucking PSYCHOS are out there and can you please drive drive DRIVE” I blurted as we moved off, and the doors locked, and I put my seatbelt on, and I wondered why the driver of the vehicle looked so terrified…
And then I wondered who was in the back seat. I turned to look over my shoulder at the cougher and felt my heart sink. A particularly well-dressed man, wearing a retro style pinstripe suit, looking for all the world like a Mafia Don if it was not for the odd hooded cape he was wearing, and the porcelain white mask he wore on his face. The mouth was covered with a strange little black box, which looked far too intricate and technological to have been a part of the simple mask, which had two tiny little red lines extending down from his eyeholes (which appeared entirely blank in this light), wavering like a heartbeat, then petering out.
Crying blood. I had seen this mask before.
“Good evening, Doctor.” The voice I heard was, not a man’s voice. I surmised that the black box was a vocoder of some description. It was cool, electronic and quite feminine-sounding.
“…Good evening.” I said warily.
”We have much to talk about, you do realise.”
”I very much doubt that.”
She…he, tutted, indicating the negative quite emphatically. “Look…we got off on the wrong foot. The pile of organs thing, the concussion…It was all very distasteful, and I did not intend for you to see that. Here, let’s be friends. Some call me The Crying Man.” He offered a hand to shake. I took it warily and shook as firm as I could manage in a surreal situation like this. “Good, we are now friends.” He said. “Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for you and the driver.”
I felt a cold, metallic sting on my neck, heard an electronic ‘buzz’, then my nervous system exploded into the pain of a million volts flowing through my system. I convulsed back into an upright position, quite possibly actually giving myself whiplash this time, and shuddered uncontrollably, my teeth clamping onto my tongue again, losing control of several bodily functions which I do not care to describe. As this happened, my seat was slowly being lowered back into a lying down position, until for the second time, I felt my vision fade as I looked up at The Crying Man, who was coolly appreciating the scene. “Don’t want you to hurt yourself sitting up so uncomfortably. And I wish you hadn’t done that, these are very nice seats. But we are friends, and friends look out for each other, do we not? I will pay for the seat, you just go to sleep, it’s all going to be fine…”
But I was well on the way already. To sleep, perchance to dream.
Friday, June 10, 2011
“I need a cigarette.”
“Not in the fucking office you don’t, Doctor.” Jess was growing her hair out since we left the force. It suited her, but while we’re nominally working, I would never say it to her. Not to mention our uneasy friendship was becoming more and more strained now that our checkups and stakeouts had advanced to a 24/7 ‘job’. Well, the job of living under the same roof.
I should probably explain, but…Christ it’s a long story. Don’t worry, you’ll hear it eventually. After our, exit from the precinct, we pooled resources, sold off assets and set up office in the same building. It was a sensible decision, considering we’d both just left our regular, state paid jobs for the perils and pitfalls of self-employment…not to mention in our particular services. A licenced psychology practitioner across what we described as a ‘hall’ (but could also be described as an indoor alleyway or a maintenance tunnel, depending on how kind we were feeling in the morning) from an unlicensed private detective. (well, ‘security investigator’. Who takes Private Eyes seriously these days, it just conjures up the image of a chap smoking a pipe in a funny hat.) I’m good at my job, but the location was not ideal, and I’d had to call in a damn load of favors from my college buddies to get any clientele in. Thankfully, I have a friend based out of Kandahar Province at the moment, who is sending the returned PTSD cases my way for ‘follow-up checks’. It’s similar to the old work, but I won’t talk too much about that except perhaps in passing: This blog was once a way to deal with the stress of what I do at work, but now, it’s about what I do in my free time.
Jess’ business is going…surprisingly well too. Monetarily at least. It’s a far cry from police work, or the illustrious cases of Holmes or Poirot. Hell, it’s a far cry from Marlowe and Sam Spade, too, though marginally more seedy. We don’t get any Maltese Falcons there; the largest market for the, ‘security investigation’ business these days is spited divorcees, looking for anything they can use against their once loved ones in court. It’s a type of justice, or so I tell her, but it’s not what she wants to be doing, and not what she should be doing. But it pays the bills, better than police work on most occasions. And who knows, it’s early days yet, she might find a case that appeals to her.
But for now, the case that appeals to her is our case, which started…god, it’s not even two months ago. It feels like fucking years.
Anyhow. I’ve, digressed somewhat.
“Well maybe if you would’ve let us get a place with a balcony, I wouldn’t have to smoke in the office.”
“Well maybe if you didn’t get yourself a shiny new addiction during your little crazy time, I wouldn’t have to bitch you out!”
It was a fair point, but with the events that happened to us, both of us picked up some bad habits to cope, and we both knew it. I would bring to light the minibar full of Russian Standard which Jess had insisted on, but I didn’t want to escalate this into a full-scale civil dispute. Which I wouldn’t win. Jess still had her gun, and all I had was my charming good looks and modest personality. I excused myself and went across to my own office, opening a window and letting a chill breeze sweep through, sending an involuntary shiver down my spine. It reminded me of that day, looking out into the sunset and seeing only burning, boiling death, and feeling only revulsion, utter, surging revulsion.
The killings hadn’t stopped. The, ‘Slender Killings’. They’d paused for a moment, just a blink of an eye, comparatively. And then one day, they began again.
And that time, that day, I was there to see it.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Have you ever had that feeling, right after you wake up, be it after a good dream or…well, more commonly, after a terrible nightmare…where you’re not sure if it has quite ended? The twilight zone of the unconscious, where the swirling Id sublimates its insecurities, its unspeakable desires, into visions and hallucinations which plague you even when the birds are singing, the trees are mildly shaking off the morning dew in the calm breeze, and all you can do is lie there, stuck in a moment, paralysed with fear, regret, and the ineffable horror that is your own mind, churning like a whirlwind, going on and on and on until you feel sick to your stomach and the bile rises and you clench your eyes because it’s all you can do and the lights flicker and the curtains waft and the room spins so cold so cold and the Storm approaches...
I’ve been living for days at a time in that twilight zone lately, and nothing seems to help.
…I should backtrack, and explain what has happened, what…kept me from updates on my situation, the situation of…that case, the situation of Detective White…Well, Jessamyn White.
I will say now, though…neither myself, nor her, are at the Precinct anymore, as advisors or otherwise. Due to… extenuating circumstances. Completely, horrifyingly out of our control, fragile Man that we as a species are. Fragile, cruel Man, and fragile, cruel me.
It…was a decision I made, to leave the police’s employment. I still don’t know how I feel about it. But on the bright side, my conscience is now clear regarding talking about the Slender Man intrigue…and believe me, there is much to discuss about that. The past month has been…eventful, to put things mildly.
Stay tuned. It’s full steam ahead from here on in.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Detective White and I have been talking the case only very irregularly...and both of us are concerned the trail's gone cold. Hell...I think even the Captain knows it has. She's been moved onto another case, leaving this one on a temporary hiatus. Our meetings have gone back to the typical doctor/client routine, the regular checkups, the ritual monotony of a real job.
We're much closer nowadays, though, and she's no longer the uptight angry girl she was at the start of this case. We are...oh, screw it. We're friends.
I don't know why that seems so abnormal to me, but it is: I've always been on the fringes in the force. Nobody really wants to hang out after-hours with their shrink, and I've accepted that. I've never been lonely or anything like that, because I've always seen it as just work. The life I lead, to fund my real life. But I guess being on the other side of the fence, seeing what they do, has made me realize, it's more than just a job, for them. It has to be. And while there is a certain balance to be had, that can't be achieved by cutting the lives of those you help, away from living for yourself. You begin to live for those people.
I think Detective White has taken that to an extreme. Her personal life revolves around her work life, and is intimately connected. Despite acting cool and aloof to her compatriots at the force, she cares deeply about every life that comes into contact with hers, the widows, the orphans, the lovers left bereaved. And I think that gets to her so much that she can't see her life as being important in the face of that loss. She is consumed by the want to re-establish an equilibrium.
So I'm...helping her help herself, I guess.
I blew off one of my regular social occasions with my old college friends the other night to go on what I described to them as an...urgent intervention with a key patient of mine.
In reality? I took Jess to the movies. We saw 'Just Go With It', which was...odd for me, I haven't seen an Adam Sandler film since Happy Gilmore, and I swear, that man does not age. I thought he was kind of a man-child back then, too. Me and Jess didn't watch much of the movie; we got in late, and spent most of it wondering aloud to each other what happened to Jennifer Aniston's career since Friends ended, and eventually came to the consensus: "Nothing."
Don't go see 'Just Go With It'. Just by the way. It's pretty bad.
It was a fun night, really. We grabbed a bite to eat after that at a sushi train near the station, and just talked. Work didn't come into the conversation all night, and it was... therapeutic for me. And for her. I guess. I don't know. I hope it was, anyway. She didn't have that look of...imperativeness about her, she just seemed like...herself, with no obligation to the community. She even laughed, her eyes catching the light and shining it back at her surroundings with a twinkle of vivid, green life as she did it…God, I’m getting carried away here. I’m clearly much lonelier than I thought I was, if I wax poetic about a single moment at a seedy sushi joint.
She did look stunning, though.
…I think this might be the first…actual blog post of this entire venture. No work, no intrigue…just a lovely night with a lovely lady. And…after my, experiences in the field, it seems we share some of the same…quirks. We were walking back to my car down a dimly lit sidestreet.
”Thanks for inviting me out tonight, Matt. It’s been a long time.”
”Oh, same here, same here. Last time I went to see a movie…Hell, I don’t even remember it.”
”Last time I went with my niece, the 3D glasses were these green and red paper thingies.”
”…And what are they now?”
”I don’t see ANY movies, let alone 3D ones.”
”Oh good, there’s someone out there who’s as boring as me!”
”Oh, come now, you’re not boring. Anything but.”
The conversation lapsed for a few seconds, just long enough for both of us to hear the wind blowing through the trees, and a soft but unmistakable third set of footsteps directly behind us.
A chill went down my spine, my pulse quickened. I smelled flesh, decomposing, squirming. I saw his face, the man who did this, the blood streaming from his eyes, as I looked up at him, powerless, helpless, as the bile rose up in my chest and the tears welling up from my screaming eyes, the ammonia stabbing, tearing, scouring…
Me and the detective whirled around simultaneously, eyes wide and teeth clenched…only to see nothing there. Nobody. He’d disappeared. He’d never been there in the first place. I experimentally tapped my foot on the pavement, hearing the sound echo back with a sense of relief. I smiled ruefully. “We’ve been too tightly wound lately.”
She grinned playfully, her hair in her face. “We have the right to be paranoid.”
”I suppose we do.”
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
I don’t think the children understood the gravity of what had occurred. They were all very young, the other members of that Sunday school. The oldest would’ve been about 11. The oldest of the, others was about the same age.
Sometimes I think I don’t quite understand the gravity of the situation, myself. I feel like I should be tearing out my hair, sobbing, screaming at the world. Making some sort of a gesture, something to let those who’ve passed know that I care. Not only the most recent death…All of them. Those we’ve named, those we’ve found, those who have vanished without a trace.
All I have is this dull ache in the corners of my consciousness, this knowledge that there is something inherently wrong with the world. And I don’t know if I’ll ever escape from that knowledge. I look back to last year and think about how naïve I was. How little I knew about the other side of the fence, the people who I spent my days diagnosing and treating. Now, I know fully well that there is no fence. People are fragile; it’s one of the hallmark traits of humanity. Fragility, yet resilience in the face of that.
These children, all of them, they were taken before their time. And the only thing I could do about it, was try my best to make sense of it.
The day following the investigation of the crime scene, I’d organized to speak to several other members of the church group, with their parent’s consent. Not many of them were very willing speakers; particularly the older ones, who had enough of a grasp on the situation.
The youngest one however: Timmy Malone. 6 years of age. A blond, sunny little kid…he didn’t understand, and in that, he became the most useful part of my investigation. I’m not the best with children, and I was not altogether there, but it didn’t seem to matter. He spoke a lot.
“So, tell me about your Sunday school.”
”My teacher is Mister Smith. He is nice and smiles a lot and talks about God.”
”What about the kids in your class?”
”There are a lot of people! There is John, and Samir, and…”
”Has there been anything strange about your lessons?”
”No!” That would’ve been far too easy. Of course.
”Tell me about the church.”
”It’s really big! The windows have all the colors of the rainbow, and at lunchtime, the bell goes ‘bonnng’…The Crying Man says that a monster lives up there and rings the bell, but I think he just saw that on TV.”
From the mouth of babes.
”Who is the Crying Man?”
”He lives at the church. He doesn’t like the sun, he says it hurts his eyes. Did you know that it’s a biiiig ball of fire a million miles away? The Crying Man told me that! He said it was another world, one with a lot of little boys and girls that have been very bad.”
”I don’t think that’s true…What else has the Crying Man told you?”
”The Crying Man is really nice, but he is very upset. People don’t like them, and he doesn’t like them. He wants them to all drown.”
”In forty days and forty nights of rain! Like the story of Noah. Mister Smith told us about that. I think the Crying Man heard him. He hears a lot of things in the church. He told me that Samir and Michael were saying bad things about me when I was outside playing with Heidi and Mark. He said I shouldn’t be friends with them anymore.”
”…Has the Crying Man ever hurt you, or touched you in a way that made you feel uncomfortable?” Standard procedure, which I fell back on while I was trying to process what I was hearing.
”He’s really nice! He wouldn’t hurt any good boys or girls, he said. He said only the bad ones would drown, and the good ones would be able to come with him when he went to talk to Jesus.”
”Has Mister Smith ever heard about the Crying Man?”
”No, the Crying Man told me to never talk to Mister Smith about him, otherwise he would have to go live somewhere else! And mommy and daddy couldn’t know, because they would tell Mister Smith. Promise you won’t tell him, Mister Doctor! Please?”
”Why didn’t you tell me this when I asked if something strange was going on at your church?”
”He’s not strange, the Crying Man says everyone else is strange. He wears a mask to stop them making fun of him.”
I didn’t tell “Mister Smith”, but I did tell the police department who requested his utmost cooperation in whatever they had to do.
And so, in layman’s terms…we raided the church. Under cover of darkness, a group of Homicide detectives burst in through the doors and scoured the building with flashlights. And it was only when we made it up to the bell tower that we found something. Forensics later pushed that something up to ‘something, a straight, black hair and a fingerprint’. It wasn’t much, at least, not for the police, but even just the piece of paper gave me renewed hope, and…something in my mind clicked just looking at it. Rather, what was written on it.
”IX – RITUAL OF THE MIND”
This isn’t a game for the police. This is a game between us and them.
I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X. Ready or not, here I come.