I don't like Mondays. I never have and I never will.
I didn't sleep too well after my post last night and ended up staying in bed until about six o'clock today. When I woke up, dad and Em were waiting for me. They wanted to know. They needed to know. But I made them wait. I wanted to make sure that when the time came to do what needed to be done, that the cover of night would work to my advantage.
When I was ready, I warned them straight away that they weren't going to believe me but I also told them that I wasn't leaving the house until I'd convinced them.
I'm in an Internet café right now. You can guess how the story ends.
Me: Okay, are you ready to hear what I have to say?
Em: I guess so. It's about time we got an explanation out of you, Ray.
Me: In my defense, I've been on a different continent. Right...I guess...it all starts with Ariana.
Dad: What all starts with Ariana?
Me: My disappearance, mam's break. The point at which the most horrifying story ever told crosses over with the story of our family.
Dad: I'm going to assume this isn't about the last family reunion.
Me: 'Fraid not, dad.
Em: Do I even want to hear this, Ray?
Me: Whether you want to or not, you need to, Em. -I clear my throat- You already know what happened to Ariana. She developed her nightmares and over the course of approximately a year, they broke her down until...she ended her life. Well, the nightmares didn't come out of nowhere. Em, do you remember that story that you used to like from that book of Irish folklore, about the foreign invader called An Fear Dubh, who brought a great plague to Ireland but was ultimately repulsed by some of Míl Espáine's descendants?
Em: Of course. How could I ever forget?
Me: An Fear Dubh was real and he was and is much more than a man.
Em: ...I'm going to have to second that, Ray.
Me: I warned you right from the start that this was going to be hard to believe.
Dad: There's a line between 'hard to believe', and buyin' into a fairy tale we tell to scare a bad kid straight.
Em: It's folklore. A bloody fairy tale.
Me: "In every story written, in every lie told, in everything we hear that is supposedly false there is an echo of truth."
Em: Next thing you'll be telling me Persephone's comings and goings really do control the seasons.
Me: Hear me out. It's a complicated issue. It doesn't help that we don't even know what he really is.
Dad: Who's we?
Me: Ariana, Mam and I aren't the only people who've had to deal with An Fear Dubh, or the Slender Man, as he's more commonly known.
Dad: "The Slender Man."
Me: Let me try and explain what he is before you go for my throat. You know when you're a kid and in the darkness of your room, you think you see something but you're not quite sure and your mind starts trying to put together a picture of what's lurking in that shadow but it can never do it, it's always a big black hole in your perception?
Em: Yeah, but how is that relevant to this Skinny Man?
Me: The Slender Man is what your mind doesn't want to see.
Dad: So you're saying this Slim Man is a boogeyman.
Em: ...A boogeyman? Seriously?
Me: No, that's what dad said, not me.
Em: -she opens her mouth to respond-
Me: Hold that thought and let me speak. Imagine a man with sickly pale skin dressed in a undertaker's suit. Imagine he's as thin as a Emma but twice as tall as me. Imagine his arms hang down below his waste and don't end in hands but in tentacles. Imagine him standing outside your bedroom window and when he turns to look at you, he has no face, just sickly pale skin stretched across a featureless skull. And imagine him raising his arms up from his sides like Christ on the cross and imagine that no matter how non-threatening this gesture is coming from a human, that simple movement is enough to stop your heart with fear. That's the Slender Man.
Dad: ... Ray, are you on cocaine?
Me: Dad, you know I'd never touch drugs.
Em: It sure sounds like you've been smoking something, though.
Dad: I-.... Y-.... yes, I do. I don't have any idea what's gotten into you.
Em: Ray, you've normally got your head on straight, but this is bloody hard to take seriously.
Me: My head's not on as straight as it used to be but that was caused by Slender Man rather than the head problems causing my belief in him. We don't have much time, so let me tell you a condensed version of the story.
(At this point, I gave them a condensed version of the section of "I Am Raymond Shaughnessy" detailing my kidnapping and brainwashing by Slender Man. There's no point in me typing it all out, you've all heard it before.)
Me: Over in America, a lot happened, I broke into a mental asylum, walked and hitchhiked the width of the country and spent some time living with a very remarkable woman called Thage who has unfortunately apparently gone missing. A lot of big and little things happened but the really, really important ones boil down to two. One, I fell in love with Ava and started going out with her. Two, the illusion broke and I remember who I really was. That's why I called you when I did, Em. That's why I never tried to get in contact with you. Because I didn't know you existed. -I start crying-
Dad: -he walks over to me and gives my shoulder a light squeeze-
Me: -I smile up at my him- Look, I'm skipping details here to try and get to what I need to say. I never wanted you two to get involved.
Em: -she leans over and gives me a hug-
Dad: Meaning we are.
Me: Yes. It was enough that he had driven Ariana, mam and I to the brink, I wanted to try and stop the spread there. That's why I told you not to look at things that mam had drawn or written. Those documents would have been like a gateway drug, but they would have led you into a world a whole lot more hellish than the world of narcotics abuse. But then you told me that you saw what she wrote on the walls in her blood. I knew it was too late then. I knew I had to tell you. He's going to come after you two next. There's no two ways about it. He's going to come after you and there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop him. If you stay here, then he will destroy our entire family. You have to run like the rest of us.
Dad: Ray, you're sure about this. -his eyes widen suddenly- Wait. You mentioned a Father Knight among your "Revenants". Surely you don't mean...?
Me: I know what you're thinking and you're right. It was Matthew Knight.
Dad: -he falls back into his chair- Bloody hell, Ray.
Me: He calls himself Eulogy in the circles I run in. He hasn't shaken the illusion like I have; he doesn't want to. I've almost had to kill him once before but I couldn't bring myself to do it. That oration he gave on seperating reality from fantasy was nothing to do with mam, it was all directed at me because he knows that my head is still fucked up trying to stick to one set of memories and rejecting the false ones. He knows that I'm afraid to hurt him because if his wounds heal instantly then I'll know that the memories that I'm working off now, the memories where you're real, I'll know that they're fake and he knows that I'm afraid to hurt him because I can't stand to lose you all again, I just can't do that. -I break down crying again-
Dad: -he gets up and hugs me tight- I'll get my and Em's stuff packed, you can help me make more sense of all this on the road.
Me: I can't go with you, dad.
Dad: What?! Why?
Me: I have to get back to Ava. She's pregnant with my child. Not to mention how much more danger you'll be in if you travel with me.
Dad: ...that's news we could've heard before the folktale come to life.
Me: I thought that the stuff relevant to your continued survival might have been more important.
Dad: Hell, Ray, you're gonna be a father!
Me: -I smile weakly- Yeah, I am.
Dad: -he claps me on the back-
Me: Thanks, dad. Somehow I don't think mam would have been quite as impressed. -I turn to my stunned sister- Em, you go get the stuff ready. You're going to need to pack a lot. Enough to last you until you can get to the mainland. Then you'll have plenty of continents to work with.
Em: -she nods silently and walks off to start packing-
Me: I'm sorry that I'm putting you through all of this, dad.
Dad: Ray, if you said that for everything you put me through, we'd be here 'til the hills around us turned to dust while you wrote up the list. -he gives me a small smile-
Me: Point taken. -I hand him a note- That's the URL of a blog called The Tutorial. It's basically a Slender Man Survival Guide. The author's rules aren't absolute but they are good guidelines, especially for someone on the periphery of the whole thing, like you and Em. Look it up on Em's iPhone when you get the chance.
Dad: -he looks at the note- ...alright. I'd better go get ready then.
Me: Yeah. I'll stay down here until you guys have left. I'll lock up once you're gone.
Not much more was said after that. Not much more needed to be said. We said our last goodbyes. I grabbed some things from the house and left it for the last time. Luckily for me, among the things I took were several bottles of alcohol. Time to drown my sorrows.