Sunday, March 25, 2012



I trusted you! I gave you a chance! I asked this one singular thing of you and you said you would do it and YOU LIED! YOU LIED TO ME!


What now, Drew? Did you think this was just some roleplay for you to play out?! Did you think that writing about something is the same as doing it? Did you think that my desperate phone call for your help was part of some game?!?!

It wasn't a game, Andrew! It's real and those murders are real and Spencer is real and the Bleeding Tree is real and that faceless inhuman monster that killed my best friend because you thought I was playing when I said she needed help is more real than you can imagine!!!! You lied you lied you LIED TO ME and SHE'S DEAD BECAUSE YOU THOUGHT IT WASN'T REAL. YOU THOUGHT IT WAS A GAME WE WERE PLAYING AND YOU DIDN'T HELP HER!

This is just like before. I asked you for your help and you promised you'd give it and you told me it was given BUT YOU LIED!!

You're useless you're horrible you're a LIAR you can't do even the simplest of things you're nothing nothing nothing I HATE YOU! YOU LIED! SHE'S DEAD BECAUSE YOU LIED!!!!!!!!!!!

oh god she's really dead


It's my fault. I wasn't there when you needed me most.

oh god please no. I'm so sorry...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Brief Update

I've been considering looking for/buying(/possibly stealing?) - a largish chunk of jade. Considering the documented positive effects they've had in the past, I've always wondered what would happen if I could convince a proxy to hold onto one for a significant amount of time. Michelle is nothing if not willing to experiment with me, so I figured, why not?

Primarily, though, I've been wondering what to do about Michelle's arm. It's not getting any better. In fact, it's really just getting worse. The roots keep coming back, more of them every day. And the knife wounds from cutting them out still won't heal. I'm barely staving off infection, but I don't dare do more. The arm still functions, but I'm starting to worry about bloodflow. The flesh is much too cold.

However, an odd little opportunity presented itself the other day. Apparently Spencer had noticed my ongoing conversation with Rafael about herbal remedies, and offered to deliver the ingredients to us. As a peace offering, he said. So we agreed to meet up. And since we don't exactly have an address for Spence to deliver the goods to, we called Drew to let him know we'll be visiting again. Why Drew? Because he's about the only person who's address I don't mind giving out to a potentially dangerous stranger.

Seriously, fuck that guy.

I made Michelle be the one to actually call him though. She has far fewer issues with him than me. She keeps telling me that I should chill out about it, since he is being nice and letting us use his house, and I guess she's right. The problem is, even though it takes me forever to build up a proper grudge, once it's built, it's there forever. >_<

Eh, whatever. Maybe I should practice what I preach a little more. It has been 5 years.

It'll be nice to sleep in a bed again, at least. Living out of your car is a novelty at first, but it seriously makes your back ache after a while. Another thing I've been considering using some of our remaining funds to buy a small mattress for us to sleep on in the trunk, now that supplies are dwindling and there's more room. I mean, we're much poorer than we started out, but we're not broke yet. And it'd fit if we folded down the back seat... Bluh, think about this another time.

I really do think (read: desperately hope) the herbs will work though. My going theory (read: justification) is that the Bleeding Tree is a perversion of the natural order and, since what I do could also be considered such a perversion, trying to put out fire with a flamethrower (or a matchstick in my case) isn't going to help matters any. So maybe something that is natural would have more of an effect?

God I hope so. We're kinda running low on options here.

Anyway, we're expecting to meet up within the next couple of days. Spencer and Michelle will have their promised "coffee date", and since Michelle's already insisted that she doesn't want me present for that, I'll just have my own talk with Spence afterward. Technically, this'll be the first time we actually meet, so it should be interesting.

Spencer has... well, he's helped me through a lot of tough times. I want to do the same for him, if I can.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

No More Secrets

There are times when I honestly forget why I'm doing this. Why I'm here. I mean, we just established that it's completely voluntary and always has been. It's just... argh. Fuckin' complicated bullshit, driving me and everyone else crazy. Especially Michelle, as I found out when she finally cornered me the other day.

Many important things were said. Things which, like Michelle said, should have been said a long time ago.

That story I told you all the other day? About the first time I saw Him, the first time people died because I was too preoccupied with saving my own skin to even notice anyone else... I told it to Nightscream too. And s/he knew instantly what was so unbelievably fucked up about the situation, and about my entire life since. Those kids depended on me, trusted me, and I was unbelievably selfish. I pretended to be their friend, and then abandoned them when they needed me most.

I did the exact thing that I hate most in the world. I thought maybe I could make up for it, but I can't. Nothing will change that moment. Nothing will bring them back.

And now, years later, I still haven't learned. I've been using Michelle that way too. She needs me for maintenance of her own sanity, and I've been exploiting that need in order to gain physical protection for myself. It's not right and I kind of hate myself for it. Only without the kind of.


Manipulating someone doesn't always have to be to a bad end. We all use our parents just the same - for shelter, for affection, for money - but that doesn't make us love them any less. And it doesn't lessen their love for us either, because they don't mind. The use of others is implicitly acknowledged and understood by all parties, and everyone is okay with it.

And Michelle's okay with me too. Because she's doing the exact same thing, and has been since the beginning.

I use Michelle for protection. She uses me to keep to keep her proxy nature in check and keep her instincts pointed in the right direction. I... god, it sounds so animalistic like that, but these really were her words, not mine.

And in that sense, she's using me even further - using my sense of culpability to keep me alive, so that I can continue to be her anchor, her reminder, and... yes, Nightscream... her handler. 

Mutual give and take, I guess. Even though neither of us realized it was mutual for the longest time because, surprise surprise, we both tend to keep things to ourselves. And when you're traveling together under unfriendly circumstances, keeping secrets is something you absolutely cannot do. So... yeah. No more of that.

And in light of this "no more secrets" policy, I feel obligated to tell you all that this revelation doesn't actually change anything. There's still only one way to pay for what I did to those three children, and the rest of the kids as well, and the teachers, and Bashawn, and everyone who's ever come off the worse for having known me. I'm not panicked about it anymore, but... it'll still happen eventually.

This is not, in fact, all that different from how many others in this community live. It's not even that different from how many people in the world live.

So yeah, Gargoyle, I guess you could say our dear Jester did have some idea of... at least my personality, if not my true intentions. But nothing was ever a lie, if you think about it. Yeah, I forget why I'm here sometimes. Sometimes I get selfish again, start thinking that maybe I've held on long enough. But I will not abandon the people who count on me, if anyone still thinks I'm worth counting on. I won't make the same mistake twice.

Dying by itself solves nothing. You all know that. I know that. That was never the point.

The point... was to make my death mean something.

So don't misunderstand me. It'll still end at some point. I'll still make it end at some point if I have to. But if, in the process, I can do something right for a change...

That's all I ever wanted.

And if you really want to know, that's the real reason I accepted. Sages die eventually. All of them. But they always die doing what's right. Helping people. Maybe saving some lives if they're lucky.

So... if that's really what you think... if that's really what you need of me... then I'll give this Sage business one last shot.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Give Me A Reason

Real fucking smooth, Michelle.

So I went outside for a while. So what? It's not like I have much to worry about besides a proxy who's probably half dead with asphyxiation by now anyway (I should know). And it's not like the Man Himself can get me, right? We've proven that beyond a shadow of a fucking doubt, haven't we?!

I've said it a thousand times: My one and only goal in making my presence known was and has always been to help as many people as I can before I die.

Before I die.

No one noticed. I was so sure I had slipped up somewhere, so sure that someone would say something. Ask me what the hell I was thinking, coming in here.

Because ask yourself - why would anyone voluntarily put themselves into this situation?

Why would anyone


put themselves in this situation if they had reasonable surety that they would not be pursued?

A deathwish is the only reason I can think of.

But apparently I'm better at hiding things than I thought.

(I think Rachel got it. Early on, back when we first started talking. Rachel understood.

And she probably knew better than to ask.)

Every night, so many images flash behind my eyes. It's been so, so long since I've been able to listen to the silence in my mind without pain. Longer than you think.

In just a few short months, it will officially be three years since the day I should have died. Three years of stolen time. Time I stole from three-year-old kids.

Does that mean my time is almost up?




All three of them were reported missing, and no bodies were ever found, but I saw. I watched. I stood there and watched as

Brian was always big for his age, and generally played by himself. I never payed much attention to him because he was so quiet, but there was no denying his artwork was impressive, as was his intelligence. I remember he always brought books with him to nap time, because he never seemed to sleep peacefully and wanted something to occupy the down time.

Tamarr, in comparison, was one of the loudest children I've ever known. During role call, he would shout his name at the top of his lungs, daily announcing himself to the world, demanding all that it has to offer, as though he was constantly terrified he would be ignored if he didn't. He was always getting into trouble, that Tamarr. And yet, when he slept, his entire face changed, from something fiercely determined to something... so much more peaceful.

McKenzie... was mine. All the employees in my program were assigned one or two children that were their distinct responsibility. A big brother system. She often drew pictures as well, not because she particularly enjoyed it, but because she liked needed the praise it brought her. Her parents were always too busy with her rambunctious baby brother, and that fact made her constantly angry at... everything. And I couldn't believe it. Only 4 years old and angry at the world. How is something like that even possible?

When Brian started drawing pictures of a man in a suit, a man I was certain couldn't be his father, who wore overalls every day I saw him, I only asked a little bit about it.

"Who's that?"

"The man."

"What man?"

"The man."

"He's an interesting looking man... Are you going to give him a face?"

"He doesn't have a face."

"Really? Why not?"

"Well, he has a face, but he doesn't like you to look at it."

"Hmm... His arms are interesting too. Really super long. I like them."

"He likes them too."

"Do you like them?"

Brian simply shrugged, and I didn't ask any more about it. Imaginary friends are, after all, to be expected in children his age.

But, I hear you cry, Ryuu, this could not possibly have been your fault! And you're right. New victims are marked all the time, and, in a place like Camden, children go missing every day. Certainly those three fit the bill for Our Mutual Friend's usual prey.

What was my fault... was what happened months and months later. Nearly half a year of steadily increasing anti-social behavior from all three of them, but especially Brian. Half a year of tantrums and time-outs and refusing to eat or sleep.

Half a year of no one doing anything about this.

Brian had gone missing. No one knew how, but he wasn't there when we counted heads after recess. The teachers looked all over the building, and when that failed to yield results, police officers were summoned.

While the teachers were busy with that, I and my coworkers were given charge of the students. I had McKenzie and Tamarr with me, and we were reading a book in a shady corner of the school yard. After a while, I noticed that they had suddenly gotten unusually quiet. They weren't looking at me anymore. they were looking behind me.

I turned around, and there was Brian, walking down the middle of the street.

I called his name, but he didn't seem to hear me. He just kept walking.

I turned and called for a teacher, but none were in sight, and my coworkers couldn't seem to hear me either. They suddenly seemed unimaginably far away, as though through the wrong end of a telescope.

I didn't want to lose sight of Brian, but I knew I couldn't just leave Tamarr and McKenzie unsupervised... So I took their hands, one in each of mine, and brought them with me.

Brian wasn't more than 15 feet away from us. Barely yet around the corner into the alley way where the school dumpsters are kept. It should have been fine.

Surprise surprise... it wasn't.

When we turned the corner to catch up to Brian... He was there.

It was the first time I had seen Him. The first time I felt that hand reaching right down inside of me and ripping my chest open. Everything inside me turning numb and cold, like ice. Freezing me from the inside out. I couldn't move. I couldn't think. Everything about Him tore at me... it was the first time in my life that I'd felt that degree of pain. To live a life of taking in the feelings of others... and then take in His presence alone...

I don't know how long we stood like that for. All I know is that, at some point, I looked down at McKenzie, and she opened her mouth without speaking, and said in a voice that wasn't hers,

"Let go of my hand, Miss Valerie. I want to play with the Man."

I let go of her hand like it was suddenly white-hot.

She and Tamarr both stepped forward to join Brian. But Tamarr... god I remember this so vividly... as he was walking, he looked back at me. There were tears streaming down his face, he looked terrified, and his eyes were begging, pleading with me to please, please, do something! Help me! And at the same time, every experience I'd ever had, every feeling both my own and every emotion I've felt for someone else... it swelled up. Flooding over me until it felt like I was drowning in this enormous wave that was about to


I didn't think, I only reacted. I squeezed my eyes shut and clapped my hands over my ears. But right at that moment, it was like my eyes and ears had opened up for the first time in my life, and I saw what was truly happening. Too many arms with too many segments, and a gaping, grinning opening that cut itself across the white like a freshly-opened wound. Tendrils of darkness pulling them closer as they struggled, screamed, cried for their mommies and daddies to save them, for me to stop this--

they trusted me

It was only for a second, because I instantly uncovered my ears, and that action cut off their pleas for help like the strike of a guillotine.

I opened my eyes, and I was alone in the alleyway. All three of my children were gone.

I let them go. I left them there. And ever since, I've become increasingly aware that that is what I do.

I am much more calculating than I pretend to be. I keep secrets if I think it is in my best interest. All I ever do is take advantage of others.

I deliberately keep my best friend Michelle dependent on me so that I may continue to be protected by her.
I am a hopeless coward who needs protection to survive.

I have started to resent Nick for being gone for so long.

I haven't spoken to Kay in months and months because I can't stand knowing that she resents me.

My name is Valerie Simmons, and I kind of hate myself.

My name is Valerie Simmons, and I am responsible, both indirectly and directly, for 51 dead children and at least 6 dead adults, to this day. Possibly more.

I write shitty advice posts to pretend I actually give something back, and let me live with myself for one more day.

I seek out more and more stories of people trapped by this thing in an attempt to find people who need something from me, because I selfishly think that's enough. But I also don't follow up on the situations of the people I try to help because deep down, I don't even want to.

And worst of all, I don't even have the guts to allow myself the punishment I deserve.

Against all odds, against all sense... I am still afraid to die.

...I've never even had a particular fondness for children. I wanted to be a clinical therapist specializing in personality disorders. I only took the job at the school because it was convenient, it paid work study and gave me credit hours, and because Bashawn convinced me to do it. He was the one who actually cared about the kids. Not me.

And now, here I am, sitting here under the protection of my best friend, who by all rights should hate me for using her like this. She's the only reason I'm alive today, and I can't talk to her, I can't even look at her.

So I'll ask again:

What kind of person deliberately makes herself known to a creature she could have easily stayed invisible to for the rest of her life?

Well... what kind of person brings a loaded gun with a single shot to a deserted island?

I am running out of reasons to be useful.

I am running out of people to care about.

Worse of all, I am running out of fear.

What would you have me do?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012



No point in keeping it a secret, I suppose.

I was beaten.

I played the game just like Nightscream wanted me to, and I lost.

And I couldn't even tell you where reality stopped and the game began, because I was there from the beginning. Like I always am. Emotions just... go away for the duration. It's not until after the fact that I finally feel what I was supposed to have felt then.

When I escaped from Morningstar, the panic I should have felt didn't come until that night, when I was lying awake in bed.

When I escaped from Christian, I didn't tremble with impotent rage until after I was already an hour down the highway, practically across the border.

But with Nightscream... I got taken completely by surprise. I never planned for that eventuality because it never occurred to me that it was a possibility. We weren't seeking anything. We weren't a threat to anyone. All we were doing was surviving, living from place to place.

Some people carry grudges, I guess. And not even against me, as it turned out.

Nightscream is... different than I pictured him, I guess. Or her. I always imagined the person as male, given the way s/he writes, but it was actually impossible to tell one way or another. The voice was generic, so were the clothes, and I couldn't actually see the face - for someone who sounds as suave as they do in text, Nightscream actually dresses like your standard proxy lunatic. Mask, hood, etc. Maybe s/he enjoys the irony, I don't know.

Nightscream was with me the entire time. At first I yelled and flailed and cried like I knew s/he wanted me to, keeping my defenses up as high and as strong as they would go. I tried to look around, find anything that I could use. Sometimes s/he turned the music off and talked to me for a while. I talked back because I wanted Nightscream interested in me - interest would keep me alive - but also because I was interested in Nightscream. It's such a rare thing when a proxy will speak coherently, with full reasoning faculties, and even rarer that someone like that is even interested in conversing. And, frankly, I had a lot of questions.

I'm almost scared of how fascinating s/he was, honestly.

But then the torture would start up again, and more often than not, my guard had slipped during the interval, struggling to put it back up against the handicaps placed on me. Against the very rhythms of my body, which I was suddenly acutely aware of, and that fought against me too. I couldn't steady my breathing to steady my mind, I couldn't breathe at all, I

I'm not going to talk about what happened. I'm NOT going to talk about what happened.

But... whatever it is that I'm not talking about... should sound familiar to you by now. There's only so much of a pounding a mind can take before it shuts itself off. That was my final defense mechanism last time, although it was taken to its logical extreme during the months I was... out of it. This was closer to the weeks just before I left home. Only it was still slightly different, because this time I had a target to focus the remainder of my thoughts on. That's something that happens automatically too, honestly, though I don't know why. I don't know why, when my own self is all but erased - even if the erasure is temporary, or even if it's voluntary - I sort of... fall into someone else.

I looked for an advantage. Anything. But Nightscream is nothing if not open and secure with his/her identity... and I guess I kind of respect him/her for that. But all those little weaknesses that I would normally exploit - Morningstar's impulsiveness, Christian's disconnectedness, Bashawn's generosity Michelle's obedience Brian's innocence - none of that existed in Nightscream. So... I brought to bear the one thing I thought maybe would work: Nightscream's manipulativeness.

So the next time s/he put his/her little game on pause and we started to talk... I asked him/her more about his/her life as a proxy. I asked about the benefits of the job - the security, the travel, the immunity from the law. I asked about the sense of absolute contentment s/he goes to sleep with every night.

I indicated, slowly and carefully, that maybe joining Him wouldn't be such a bad thing.

I knew Nightscream wouldn't be able to pass it up. I mean... bar be it for me to abuse my title, but a fact is a fact - when a Sage goes down, community morale goes through the floor. This is something that Nightscream very much wants, especially after how long s/he's mocked me for being the so-called Hope Bearer.

It wasn't hard. Fighting exhaustion, keeping my head on straight enough to continue talking, that was hard. But we actually wound up sincerely agreeing on a lot of points.

We both know that nobody does anything they don't want to do.

We both know that lying is often the kinder option, even though truth is desperately necessary.

And above all... we both know full-well how to be self-serving, manipulative pricks.

When Michelle came for me, like everyone knew she would, there was this huge commotion outside. Nightscream paused in our conversation to check it out. The music had already been off for a good while. When I got up and followed, s/he didn't stop me, like I knew s/he wouldn't. I was shaking, soaked, barely able to stand, and merely a few kind words away from agreeing with absolutely everything Nightscream said. It was a virtual impossibility at that point that s/he would stop me from coming along.

Just outside the doors, in the lobby, we saw them: Michelle trying to get in, and a man in a black coat trying to stop her.

I saw Nightscream grin. S/he had told me that Michelle was his/her real target. Not for any business-related reason, but just because Morningstar had asked him/her to.

Morningstar, whom Michelle believed she was fighting just outside the door. I could hear them talking, hear her call him "Twinkle", hear him chuckle at her in response. It might have sounded affectionate if they weren't both carrying knives.

Nightscream moved forward. I knew what s/he was going to do - s/he was going after Michelle - and I reacted. But... fuck, s/he knew I was going to do that. The move was bait, just like I was bait. S/he whipped me around, shoved my bad arm up backwards, whipped out a knife to my throat, and there was nothing I could do about it after a day and a half treading water with no food and no sleep and concentrating so hard on not breaking I might burst.

But I would be an even bigger idiot than I seemed to be if I hadn't expected Nightscream to see through me. If I couldn't peg a regular mental weakness on him/her, then there was no way s/he'd fall for something as transparent as a fake defection. I mean, I hoped s/he might, but I sort of knew s/he wouldn't.

So I put someone else's weakness to use instead: I yelled for Michelle to save me.

That was always the plan, the point is always to keep her focused, pointed in... in the most constructive direction, if not always the right one. She thought she was fighting Morningstar, or maybe Morningstar's ghost, but I could see it was clearly someone else. The only one who couldn't was her. So I had to get her away from him, away from his voice in her head, away from the increasingly large possibility that she'd do something we'd all regret.

And it worked, like I knew it would. As soon as Michelle heard my voice, as soon as she saw me being held at knifepoint, she was up in an instant, all her attention focused on getting me out of danger. That was where I wanted her attention to be. She ran towards us, knife in hand, eyes clearer than I've seen them in weeks...

And then the fake Morningstar got up. And he was faster. And he placed himself between Michelle and her only goal. 

Just... it's wrong. It's so wrong, what happened. And it's probably my fault.

The illusion faded once the deed was done, and Michelle knew instantly that she had made a mistake. Her mind... just... continuous record-scratches, screeching, whynowhynononono

I heard Nightscream chuckling in my ear.

It was all I could do to keep from following that dark spiral. I was barely keeping my own darkness at bay, full of ice and silence and horribly fulfilled promises.

Because there was something else I had sensed in Nightscream. Something damp and ragged and harsh, deep in his lungs. Nightscream was sick. S/he coughed a significant amount during my captivity, and tried to play it off as a cold, but I remembered. I could taste the spark of nervousness each time s/he cleared his/her throat. I knew there was more to it than that.

I reached in. I pulled. Fluid where there shouldn't be fluid sloshing around as the trachea contracted, gag reflex tickled just a little bit, stomach acid burning and choking further, and, oh look! Were those bloody tears and gashes in the tubes of the bronchial tree I saw?

Oh yes, I could do it. I could manipulate any which way I chose, for good or for ill. I was desperate. I was angry. I was literally and necessarily out of my own mind.

Nightscream staggered, and s/he wasn't laughing anymore. I tried to pull free, and got shallowly slashed a few times, but s/he was still stronger than me, and I was suddenly on the ground with Nightscream pulling a gun on me. Bastard knew where the pain was coming from, didn't take a genius to figure it out. But I pulled harder, and it wasn't long before s/he was on the ground with me, wheezing and groaning and hacking up blood.

And then I was suddenly on my feet, Michelle pulling me away. Focused again, as long as I was there. Unlike me - that took all of what little energy I had left, maybe more. I did hear gunshots. One of them went through Michelle's bad arm, we realized later, but but it missed the bone, so it really didn't do much more damage than she's already done to herself. Keep moving, through the doors, and we were out.

Michelle had our car. Neither of us were in any real shape to drive, but she wound up insisting on driving anyway, which I guess was okay.

No one followed us.

I don't think anyone could follow us.

I know what Nightscream wanted from me.