And it's whispered that soon, if we all call a tune, then the piper will lead us to reason.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In which I text people

This morning I woke up to find a vulture circling my house.

That's not some fancy metaphor. There was literally a vulture literally circling my house. I watched it for a few hours until it flew off.

I don't know why, but I shot a text to IX.
"Everything alright?"
Rather than doing the usual cryptic flier on my car thing, he actually replied.
"Fuckin peachy." (his spelling, not mine.)

Me: So, is everyone fine?
IX: Me and VII are. Noctis got VIII. Haven't heard from IV or II.
Me: Noctis "got" him?
IX: He's fine, just going to some juvenile work program. We'll break him out soon.
Me: You know what happened to the other two, don't you.
IX: No.
Me: So, what exactly happened.
IX: Nothing and everything.
Me: way to be cryptic.
IX: E.T. Phoned home, but someone else was on the line.
Me: The guys in the jogging outfits?
IX: Those where just remora.
Me: Remora?
IX: Like sharks.
Now, while most kids my age were into dinosaurs, I was really into sharks. Maybe it had something to do with living near the ocean my whole life, but every book I could find on them, I would take home and read as soon as possible. Anybody who's ever seen a nature documentary which discusses Selachimorpha in any way shape or form will notice that sharks always seem to have a cloud of fish groupies that follow them anywhere.
Me: Like fish people?
IX: No, like parasites. Moochers. They gather in places where Slenderfag shows up and try and see if they can feed of the scraps he leave behind.
Me: So you were trying to contact Slenderman
IX: No, we were trying to catch one of those little parasite shits and have him find Slenderfag for us.
Me: But something went wrong.
IX: There were a lot of them. Like when you leave a sandwich out, and when you come back it's covered in cockroaches.
Me: Nice.
IX: And Noc-tits had to show up and fuck everything up.
Me: I talked to one of them
IX: Yeah. It's spelled Gwyn-ap-nudd, by the way. He's a douche.
Me: Right.
IX: Bring a mask with you. Everywhere.
Me: Why?
IX: They can't see you if you wear the mask.
Me: Noctis?
IX: No, you dumb fuck! The parasites.
Me: Oh.
After a few hours of silence, I decided to try again.
Me: So, about Noctis.
IX: Yeah.
Me: If I wanted to talk to them, where do I start?
IX: They come to you, not the other way around.
Me: You used to be part of Noctis
IX: So
Me: You could tell me where their hide out is.
30 minuets later...
IX: Right now, they're probably based somewhere near you.
Me: Ok, where do I start looking?
IX: Churches, Gvt bldings, hospitals. Look close, they'll want to keep surveillance on you 24/7.
Me: There's a church across the street from my house.
IX: I know. One's been bumming around there. You'll run into him again.
Me: Gwyn?
IX: No, different guy. Already mentioned him in your blog.
Me: Who?
I didn't get a reply.

So, Noctis, consider this me calling for an appointment. Monday sound good? 4:00?

Jesus christ, this is asinine.

Monday, November 7, 2011

In which the night chases me.

I had gone through Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and part of Animals when we finally stopped. The door opened, and I was instantly hit with the smell of Eucalyptus Trees. We were parked near a small grove of them. Farmers often plant Eucalyptus along the road to stop soot and wind from wrecking their crops, and sure enough, we were right on the edge of farm country. The fog had thinned enough for me to see acre upon acre of orange groves and strawberry patches and garlic fields and more stretching off on one side of the road. On the other side, was dark, damp wilderness.
Three guesses as to which direction we went.
And so we walked into the darkness along a small muddy path into the hills, each of us carrying something. I got stuck with a large, heavy bucket of white paint. The rest had paintbrushes, spray cans, and even several large boxes of Kosher Salt.
It was dark. Unbelievably dark, in fact. And yet, in the small patches of light available, I could see shapes moving. Small and quick. I could hear them rustle in the tall, dry grass. Rabbits and mice, of course, but tell that to the me of four days ago. Not to mention, where there’s rabbits and mice, there are bound to be rattlesnakes.
Despite the cold, I was soaked with sweat. At least my labor was keeping me from freezing to death in the fog. I hadn’t packed a very light coat, after all, it’s California, but something about this place just kept me on the verge of shivering.
It was well after midnight when I saw the barn emerge from the mist. Like a great whale skeleton, all that was left where the steel beams hold up the tin roof. I finally knew where we were. Just about everyone in Orange County has heard of the Scary Dairy, the burnt down old dairy farm run by inmates at a former mental hospital. Most everyone spends at least one Halloween here, hoping to find the ghosts of former patients or conduct séances. It’s just, when VII told me IV and Bunnyman’s story, I just didn’t think they were talking about THIS specific burnt down dairy farm. The story I heard was that one of the patients went postal and burned the place to the ground, and that his spirit still haunts the grounds. Naturally, I don’t believe in ghosts. I was more afraid of the gang members and tweekers who also frequented this place, as evidenced by the copious graffiti covering the crumbling buildings. We walked to the adobe like structure just beyond the barn.
IX gave the order for us to form a circle. He took out his Swiss Army knife, poked his finger with it, and said for all of us to hear, “To Reason, to The Black Sun, and to The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.” He held out his finger, and let a solitary drop of blood fall to the ground. He passed the knife on to VII.
“To Reason, to The Black Sun, and to The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.” He pricked his finger, gave his blood, and passed on the knife to VIII.
VIII, instead of pricking his finger, ran the blade slowly against his palm. He silently passed the Knife to VI. He cut his hand, and passed the knife to II, who also cut her hand. Then, they both joined their hands together, blood mixing with blood. The knife never came to me, thank god. I don’t much like the sight of my own blood.
“Fire with water” IX announced. He handed me a box of salt and told me to make a circle around VI and II. “Earth and air.” VIII and VII stepped into the circle of salt. IX dug into the pocket of his Metallica hoodie, and pulled out an egg, and a mercury thermometer.
I should probably mention that it was about this point when I noticed that II and VI were taking off their clothes. Yeah, freaky Pagan cultist stuff, I know. VII and VIII had their backs turned, but there I was, front row view to the whole show. They left their masks on, but still, poor VI looked like he was going to die of hypothermia. He had no muscle mass to speak of, and his arms where covered in blotches that I assumed where probably from Heroin use. II, on the other hand was just pale and the kind of slender you’d expect a Tolkien elf to be. I also realized that this was the first time I had ever seen a naked woman (in person, I mean.) and my mind went back to IX’s joke about me being the “Virgin Sacrifice” needless to say, it really stung. Anyway, I felt uncomfortable, a fifth wheel gone flat.
“Anything else?” I asked.
“You can whitewash the buildings,” he said as he handed me a paintbrush and a spray can. “Spray the Glyph on when you’re done.”
I went to my duty. Every so often peaking back over my shoulder to see what was going on. The four in the circle started to chant. I don’t know what language it was, it didn’t sound Latin, or Greek, or anything I’d ever heard. It was sharp, guttural, and gave me kind of an uneasy feeling in my gut. IX sprinkled salt in several other patterns. I could see triangles, squares, Greek and Hebrew letters, and more still that I never got a clear look at. Probably for the best though. What the hell am I saying? I don’t believe in this crap! I went back to my errand like one of Tom Sawyer’s unwitting victims until I felt had painted over enough gang signs. I waited for the paint to dry, still kind of ashamed to actually watch the ritual, and I took the can of black spray paint, and I made a circle. “That’s me,” I thought, “A zero.” Next came the X through the middle. When I saw it completed, I had this sense of foreboding. That’s me, crossed out, exed through. That’s when I felt the bright, hot white pointed at my direction.
I turned around, all five of them silhouetted in a bright spotlight, bright enough that it hurt to look at. IX, VII, and VIII dropped to the ground and began to scatter the salt. II and VI picked up bits and pieces of their clothes, lying in a pile on the ground and ran. After a moment’s hesitation, I booked it too, the sound of dogs barking at my back. I ran and I ran into the dark, my lungs filling with cold air, so cold that it hurt, so cold that it felt like I was drowning. The barking got louder, and louder, and louder.
I stumbled, I ran with all the grace of a marionette tangled in its own strings, and I dived into a sage bush, thorns cutting at my skin. I heard footsteps. My pursuer ran past. I inched out of the twigs. It was human. Long blond hair that I had seen once before. On Halloween, in fact, being loaded into an ambulance. I don’t know what made me do it, and if I could go back in time, I would have punched myself in the face for doing it, but when I saw him, I took of my mask and shouted, “Over here!”
He turned around, puzzled. A line of stitches ran along his forehead. He looked at me, and shouted, “What are you, stupid? Put your mask back on!”
Ok, I though, it’s a start.
“Are you Noctis?”
“Yeah, put your mask back on, before I put it on you myself.”
I complied. “Do you have a name.”
“Gwin Opneeth” he said (at least, I think so. I’ll have to look up the spelling later)
“I need to talk to you.”
“Not now. Look, just get out of here.”
“No.” I said. Once again, I don’t know why. Maybe I was just sick of being left in the dark. Maybe I was just sick of being Zero, waiting for the day I’d get an X through me too, and I would have said this to Mr. Gwin, if my thoughts hadn’t been railroaded by a loud, screeching sound.
All bravery and bravado left me. My legs where jelly, my entrails were cold water, and everything seemed darker. Gwin gave a whistle, and a pair of dogs bounded up to him. “I’ll distract them.” He said.
Them? Jesus Christ!
I ran. I didn’t know I could run so fast or so far on such short breath. I would fall, and I would get back up again only to run more. Nose running, eyes watering, and sweat flowing like a cascade, I am blind and alone in the dark. My hands brush up against something sticky.
“Oh god, Blood!” I think, but when I clear the sweat from my eyes, I find it’s just paint. And there’s a trail of the stuff, half trampled in the mud, but still fresh. I follow, sprinting, and gasping the whole way until, at last, I run into the cold, white, metal body of the van. I feel secure, safe, and absolutely frigid.
I open the door, and huddled like a small, broken toy, is II, wearing nothing but a t-shirt, shivering and sobbing. What else could I do but give her my jacket.
And it’s just the two of us, silent and alone. And it takes me a good whole minute to realize that she’s not even wearing her mask anymore. Her face is covered in mud, except for the small canyons carved by her tears. “She’s pretty.” I think. Then I remember that I’m probably going to die here. I take my mask off, put my arm around her, and spend the next hour letting her cry on my shoulder.
When I heard the footsteps, I was afraid, sure, but at the same time, I felt, I don’t know, ready. I didn’t mind that there was so much I wanted to still do, so much I wanted to see and experience, but at the same time well, I thought about the Serenity Prayer. And I’m not religious by any stretch of the imagination, but this little diddy always, I don’t know, gave me some sort of comfort:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Luckily, those footsteps where more of a saving grace than an omen of doom. IX and VII hopped in the van, started the engine, and without a word we were on the road. And we drove, silent but for II’s sobbing. Down the 101 down through LA to the parking garage.
The sun had not yet risen, the fog had become frost, and I was more than eager to get back in my car, crank the heater, go home to my bed, pull the covers over my head and tell myself that this whole thing was just some awful dream.
“Move fast,” said IX as they killed the motor.
“What?” I said, half groggy. VII opened the back door, and II and I crawled out. I ran to my car, jumped inside, turned on the lights and the heater, and put it in drive. I was done, no more, time to go home. And yet, Caught in my headlights, there he was, the dude in the grey hoodie. Except, this time, it was dudes in grey hoodies. Plural! And that’s all I could see, the baggy grey clothes.
And there was a scream. I knew that voice. It was II.
The Van flew past and out of the parking garage, I followed, and so did the grey men. I could see them in my rearview mirror, and they looked normal enough. I went down the deserted road at a brisk 30 miles per hour. Where they gaining on me? No, couldn’t be. I floored the accelerator, and looked again. Arms aren’t supposed to move like that, are they? I turned my rearview around so I wouldn’t be tempted to look back. I was going at least 70 now, residential streets, mind you! Then, THUNK! As if something just struck the back of my car. I didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to stop, I turned, I changed lanes, I got myself completely lost. It wasn’t until the sun was starting to rise that I dared to look. I pulled into a parking lot. On the back of my car was a ring of small scratches.
I’ve been typing this almost 6 hours. The librarian’s starting to look at me a little funny. I guess this is where I sign off, but I will be back, because I’m still alive. I don’t know how, but I’m still alive.

In which I get some real exposition.

This post is being typed up on a computer in my local public library, simply because I've been too scared to go home for almost half a week. The story I gave to my parents is that I felt like visiting a friend up north for the weekend. The actual reason why I've spent the last four days sleeping with my car with all the lights on is a bit longer and… well, here goes nothing.
November 2nd was a hot day, and in Southern California, hot days often mean foggy nights, and that night was no exception. 7:00 came, I grabbed a Japanese style fox mask that my friend had given me in high school (the one I’m wearing in my Avatar), and I set out for the meeting place: where the 5 freeway meets the 91. It’s a very surreal place, like a giant forest of thick concrete pillars supporting a complex tangle of cement and asphalt veins. So complex, so organic, and yet inorganic all at once. At night, of course, there are hundreds of floodlights illuminating traffic signs and killing all shadows and hiding spots for vagrants and criminals alike. In the fog, however, the light just reflects off itself, and everything becomes a blur of yellow, as if the world is being projected through an amber lens.
I found a parking lot near a Circle K, and waited. 8:00, nobody. I wondered if I had done what I was supposed to. Part of me wanted to go home; part of me was mad about wasted gas and wanted me to at least wait until I got some sort of answer. At this point, the fog was just beginning to thin out, and I was near enough to Disneyland to possibly at least catch the firework show. I’m kind of ashamed to admit that was my main motivation for staying, but hey, I really like fireworks!
Sadly, the fog was still thick enough so that all I could see were the occasional glimpses of a bright flash of red, green, or purple. I could hear the Bang-Bang of the grand finale; see the silhouette of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle illuminated by white hot sparks, when I realized that I was no longer alone in the parking lot. Needless to say, there were strange things afoot at this Circle K.
A figure in the mist, and no, it wasn’t tall and lanky. Well, at least not exceptionally so. I could only see a shape and a bit of color, but it certainly looked like a person, one wearing a baggy, grey sweatshirt. It stared at me, I stared at it, and I don’t know how long this lasted until my Chariot finally arrived.
It was a white panel van, the kind you expect to contain men with comb-overs and mustaches who have a perchance for promising “free candy” to unsuspecting tykes. One of the headlights was smashed and the bumper bent out of place and the whole front end looked kind of like a winking smiley face. IX was in the passenger’s seat, and behind the wheel was the dude in the Plague Doctor mask that I saw on Halloween. The doctor rolled down his window and said in a very calm voice, “It’s not safe here anymore, follow us.”
I got in my car, and I followed. I kept an eye out for the dude in grey, but he seemed more interested in the complex knot that the freeway formed.
We went up the 5 a ways, then exited, got back on, exited again, left turn, right turn, back to left, etc. etc. I had no idea where the hell I was, and I had no idea what the hell Mr. Plague Doctor was doing until I remembered that my dad used to do this same sort of thing when he still was suffering from his paranoid delusions. We were trying to shake off a tail.
When we did stop, I was too afraid to get out of my car. We had pulled into a parking garage, but something about this place didn’t sit right with me. For miles around was construction yard after construction yard. Half built structures and equipment cast odd shadows. The parking garage itself wasn’t even illuminated; I don’t even think it was finished. From the outside it looked like half a building, it’s slopping, disorienting floors more H.P. Lovecraft than Frank Lloyd Wright. IX jumped out of the van and busied himself with swapping out the license plates. The driver introduced himself.
VII: I’m VII (VIE-ee). So you’re David.”
Me: Yeah, so…
VII: So, glad you could make it.
Me: Is it just you two?
VII: II, VI (Vie), and VIII are in the back. We’re going to get going as soon as IX finishes changing the plates.
Me: Where we going?
IX: Walls have ears.
What walls? I thought to myself. Well, if I knew everything about what was going on it wouldn’t be an adventure. I opened the door, and jumped on in the back. I recognized II, but not the dude she was cuddling with. He wore camo print clothing and a fox mask. VIII was lying down on the metal floor of the van nestled between two five gallon buckets of white paint.
Me: Hey, long time no see.  
II: Hello.
Me: (to VI) so, you’re VI?
VI, instead of responding whispered into II’s ear.
II: That’s right.
Me: VIII’s looking tired.
II: He had a long day.
VII and IX jump back in the cab.
VII: Meds, everyone
II pulls out a small, Ziploc bag filled with small marzipan skulls. IX hands her a small, Swiss army knife. She gives everyone, me included, a skull.
VII: Carve your name on it, then eat it.
II: Don’t let anyone see your face.
Me: So, what would I be called, “EX” or just “Ten”
IX: You are “Oh,” as in Zero, because that’s what you are.
I stay silent. I carve a as big a 0 into my marzipan skull as I can, then slip it under my mask. Even VIII gets up long enough to ingest his. Then the van starts to lurch its way out of the garage and onto the street.
Me: How far?
VII: two hours, maybe three, depending on the traffic.
Me: That’s a long drive. So, what’s on the agenda tonight?
VII: Standard Ritual, IX wanted to bring you along.
Me: Awww, that’s so sweet of you.
IX: We needed a virgin sacrifice.
I’d probably laugh, but I’m not exactly sure if he’s joking.
VII: Actually, it’s nothing too crazy, but we do need an extra set of hands. I(bunny) and IV can’t take traveling too well, III has a job, and V’s doing some stupid protest thing.
Me: So, what’s up with Bunny and IV, they sound like they’ve got emphysema or something?
VII: Something like that. IV was a fireman like forty years ago or something.
Me: And Bunny?
VII: IV rescued him out of a fire.
Me: How many guesses do I get as to what caused that fire?
VII: Just one. Yeah, He was there. It was at a mental hospital. [Bunny] was there because he kept telling people that a tall man in black was following him. They did all sorts of things to him, electroshock, medicines, stuff like that. And he was rescued by The Piper.
Me: He burned the whole thing down?
VII: just the barn. There was a dairy farm on the property that the inmates were allowed to work at. [Bunny] was in the barn when it caught fire. IV responded to the call, and they both got trapped in there.
Me: But they made it out.
IX: Noctis pulled them out. They were unconscious and had inhaled a lot of smoke.
VII: [Bunny] went on to become a teacher, one of his students, that would be II, told him about Black Sun.
Me: Really, what’s your story?
II: not now.
VII: Anyways IV was homeless for a while, but whenever he was near a computer, he’d post about The Piper. IX found those posts and tracked him down.
Me: And what are your stories?
VII: Broken home, called by the piper, and had my chance stolen by the Noctis.
Me: So you actually believe that he’s some sort of pied piper?
VII: not always, when I first found out about Noctis, I actually joined them.
Me: You were part of Noctis?
VII: Yeah, me and IX-
IX: Shut the fuck up!
Awkward silence ensues.
Me: Who are Noctis?
VII: What do you know already?
Me: They like coats, they have code names, and they’re in cahoots with the government.
VII: Custodes Noctis is an old group. Really old. Like probably had a hand in most major historical events old.
Me: So Slenderman’s old too.
VII: Kind of. The Piper, we think, has always existed in some form or another.
Me: But now, he’s a skinny dude in a suit.
VII: yeah.
Me: So, what came first, Victor Surge’s post, or the Slenderman we all know today?
VII: We don’t actually know. The older members, III, I, and IV all say that when they were kids he looked different, but when they try to draw it or describe it, it just comes out looking like a faceless dude in a suit, like always.
Me: But he does have a face.
VII: yes he does, but it’s the same thing, I know he has a face, I can still remember what it was like to look into his eyes, but when I try to remember what it looks like, nothing!
Me: And that doesn’t strike you as the least bit unsettling?
VII: to be honest, no. Look, do you remember being born?
Me: no.
VII: of course not, or anything of early childhood. You know those memories are there, but you can’t just draw on them.
Me: so?
VII: so, what is it that The Piper promises? Eternal childhood of course.
Me: That doesn’t sound so great.
VII: Does it? I think it sounds wonderful.
Me: I didn’t exactly have the best childhood.
VII: Neither did I, or any of us for that matter. But think about how much worse adulthood is. Forgive me if I sound like V here, but when it all comes down to it, all you get for staying behind is the prospect that you get to work nine to five for the rest of your life for shit you can barely afford because someone says you want it bad enough.
When he put it like that, I couldn’t help but think that yeah, maybe he did have a point. Maybe sometimes the stranger with candy really just wants to give you a tootsie pop after all. We spend our lives being scared little animals that we don’t see that the lion chasing us just has a thorn in his paw.
I turned on my iPod, popped in my earphones and listened to some Pink Floyd…

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

In which I get a summons.

Happy Dia de lost Muertos, everyone.

So, I spent my Halloween volunteering at some spiffy neighborhood-wide maze thing. It was fairytale themed this year, and I was supposed to play Beast from Beauty and the beast. In other words, I was wrapped in a shag carpet, and had to prance around and snarl at people for about eight hours.

And guess who decided to stop by! Good ol' IX! I was given instructions not to interact with the guests, and I'm sure they couldn't recognize me in my get up, so I took a moment to follow him. He met up with V, a large dude in a horse mask who I think is VIII (but don't hold me to it), and another dude wearing some sort of Plague Doctor masks (the white ones with the long beak-like noses).

Anyway, they lingered around long after they had gotten a glimpse at all the exhibits, and they stood around one of the darkened ones (a fuse had blown in the house that was supposed to give it power) trying their hardest not to look suspicious (which they were failing miserably at.) As the crowd thinned, VIII pulled something out from under his shirt. From where I was at, it looked like a piece of tar paper. The other two laid it on the ground right in the middle of the street just as another wave of pedestrians washed over them.

I couldn't find them again after that, but an hour later I heard an ambulance siren. After winding my way thought the crowd as best as I could, I finally came to where the flashing red lights were. The paramedics where busy trying to wheel some poor schmuck into the the ambulance, but he was struggling and screaming as best as he could. "No, I don't need help! I don't need medical attention!" etc. He was tall and lanky, he had long hair, long limbs, and a long, red gash running down his forehead.

I found one of my fellow volunteers, and asked if she saw what happened, and she said, "Three guys were trying to tag the wall Humpty Dumpty falls off of, and someone passing by tried to stop them, but the kids just threw the spray can at his head and ran off. Then when someone tried to call the paramedics for him, he freaked out and the police got involved."

I asked if she saw what the kids looked like, and she said, "One of them had a horse head mask on, but I didn't see what the other two looked like."

The rest of the night went by uneventfully. I changed out of my costume (now more like a lump of sweat-soaked tufts of fluff than a shag carpet) and headed back to my car. There was one of those little fliers that I had grown to detest stuck on the windshield.

"Dia de lost muertos
Where the 91 hits the 5
I'm sure you're sick of all this mystery bullshit too.
Bring a mask. Must be stolen, made, or given. Not bought.
'Two riders where approaching, and the wind began to howl.'

I am sick of it. I'm going to get as many answers as I can out of that douchebag tonight, so-help-me-god, and I'm going to write about it in this blog sometime between tomorrow or next year.
Seriously, I suck at this whole "Update schedule" thing.