Mark Andrew Holmes
"How much farther is it?" Kayla asked.
"A long way," Madison replied. "I don't know exactly."
Nicole suppressed a snicker.
The three thirteen-year-olds' sneakers made dull plops in the dirt road as they walked through the forest. Pines, firs, cedars
and assorted vines, herbs and shrubs grew densely along the edges of the road. The sun was not up yet; they were far away from the nearest city and the stars were out in all their glory on the moonless night. A soft-to-moderate intermittent breeze rustled the trees and undergrowth, sending fallen leaves and twigs skittering across the road. The air smelled of moisture, damp soil and conifer resin.
For some reason, Nicole found herself thinking of a short story she’d studied in English class, “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge,” by a nineteenth-century guy named Ambrose Bierce. During the Civil War, an Alabama plantation owner had tried to set fire to a railroad bridge, only Union soldiers had set a trap for him, and they tied his hands and hanged him from the bridge. But the rope broke, and he freed his hands when he fell into the water, and he dodged the bullets they shot at him and he started walking home, along a wild forest road, with brilliant stars overhead, just like she and Madison and Kayla were walking now. And he got home, and his wife was waiting for him, but just as he hugged her—BAM! He was dead; it had all been one big hallucination—he’d never left the bridge; he was hanging from it.
Why am I thinking about this? What does this thing have to do with anything?
Madison felt cold and scared. The butcher knife in a sheath clipped to her belt, hidden under her trench coat, felt alarmingly loose on her belt, and she didn't dare reach down to adjust it.
Slenderman had told her he needed a sacrifice, a big one. So she and Nicole had brought their friend Kayla. They'd invited her to a sleepover after planning her murder together for weeks. Madison would personally wield the knife.
It broke her heart to have to do this, but if she didn't, Slenderman would go for her whole family. That was what he'd said.
God help me.
Not much further now.
Give me the strength, please, to—
There was a rustling and a thumping up ahead, and other sounds, sounds as if something was crashing through the undergrowth, and heavy whistly breathing like The Predator as it lay dying, and flashes of silent ghostly greenish phosphorescent light like promethium, first intermittent, then more rapid, almost strobing, as whatever was creating the light and sound grew closer.
Something was stumbling through the vegetation, lurching and colliding with the trees and kicking aside the undergrowth, uprooting the bushes and other smaller plants as it went, sending them flying in all directions in a shower.
It emerged from the forest onto the road.
The girls' grandparents would have thought the creature looked something like Gumby: it was humanoid, impossibly tall, with legs twice the length of its torso and spindly flexible arms that went nearly all the way to its feet, dangling at its sides, jiggling and swaying listlessly like strands of tinsel. Its fingers were wormlike tentacles. It was dressed in a black business suit with jacket and trousers, neatly pressed; white shirt, blue necktie, white socks and black shoes whose high polish reflected the spectral brilliant light emanating from its body like a lake reflecting moonlight. A black derby hat perched on top of its head, and as it reached a hand up from its ankle to doff the hat in a macabre gesture of courtesy, the horrified girls saw that the upper end of its body, or the top of its head, was a rounded, shiny, featureless stub. Its head—the creature’s head grew directly from its body with no discernible neck. It had no nose, no mouth, no ears, no hair, just an amorphous shifting area of azure light emanating from the upper half of its face of the same eerie radioactive quality as the chlorotic green light which shone from its skin.
A sudden icy wind blew up from the north, roaring through the foliage, hitting the girls’ left sides and blowing their hair around their faces, making them stagger. The creature was strangely unaffected by the wind; it tottered toward them, but the wind did not buffet it. Its hat, which the creature had replaced on its head, stayed on its head as if glued there; its tie did not flap; its clothes did not ripple.
The sickly light poured out of its body from head to toe, filtering chatoyantly through the dense fabric of its clothes.
The chorus from a Ministry song started repeating itself inside Kayla’s head: The light pours out of me/The light pours out of me---
Madison yanked the knife out of its sheath and ran at Nicole's back.
"Slenderman, we bring th--" she screamed, her voice barely audible above the wind.
The creature shot its free hand out with liquid lightning speed like Spider-Man, the appendage extending with a sort of mucilaginous elasticity, to grab Madison; its fingers grasped her throat, wrapped completely around her neck, several times, and then the creature yanked its hand towards itself with an awful fluid grace.
There was a horrid sound like a raw turkey being ripped apart. Madison's head went one way and the rest of her body the other. Her neck spouted blood in fountains from severed blood vessels as her body stumbled forward blindly, much like a decapitated chicken's. A heavy stench of feces suddenly thickened the air.
Kayla and Nicole shrieked, the shrieks wracking their bodies, going on it seemed endlessly, spasms of agony going through them like electric shocks. Their mouths opened and closed spasmodically like the mouths of landed fishes. They gasped convulsively between screams. Cold sweat sprang from their pores, trickling down their faces and torsos. Urine spilled down the insides of their legs into their shoes and the smell of excrement intensified, mixing with the yellow stench of fear, as their own sphincters let go.
Madison's head disappeared into the monster's face and then there was a terrible sound like somebody munching on ice. The monster commenced to tear Madison's corpse apart like a roast chicken and slurp down her remains through its mouthless face like a child slurping down spaghetti. It paused for a moment.
"Go," came a deep, soft voice that seemed to issue from everywhere around them. "The sacrifice has been made. I am pleased with it."
Then it resumed eating.
Suddenly Kayla and Madison realized they were running madly down the road away from the monster, still shrieking.
And Nicole knew she could never tell Kayla the truth.
Would Slenderman come for her, too?
God, she hoped not.