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
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.
"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--
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?