A/N: Wow, my account on this site has been gathering quite a bit of dust. It's kind of painful looking at my old stuff now. D: Anyway...some of you might know me from Fanfiction, but I'm sure the majority of you have no idea who I am. No worries! Someday I'll be a bestselling novelist. Ha-ha...I wish.

This is just a snippet of the novel I've been working on; I was hoping to get some feedback. I'm really doing this just to see if I can COMPLETE a novel for once, haha. Also, I'm sure at least some of you are going to understand right away just what Eldritch abomination this little story is about. ;)

Anyway, enjoy!

Prologue

I don't know what to do.

This place is nowhere. It's cold and dark and there are no walls, and when I scream there's no echo. I'm on my last match. I've been burning pages of this book. Soon there will be no more light, and then He'll come.

Jesus Christ.

No time to burn the rest. Match is dying. So afraid. I see Him.

Stop reading this. Stop reading this. STOP REA

Part 1

March 2

It's a pretty nice day outside. The past week's been raining cats and dogs, as Ma would always say—good thing it's over. Rain's a drag.

Oh for the love of…the hell am I writing about? I don't even know. Never thought I'd start a journal with a goddamn weather report. Then again, I've never kept a journal before. Seems too much like a diary. That and my life's too dull lately…it's not like I want to remind myself of that by writing about it. Whatever. If my psych teacher wants to read about my sad existence, that's his cup of tea.

Why did I take psychology again? I guess I thought it'd be an easy credit. But now I have to write about my feelings, or my lack thereof. This is annoying.

Well, I guess I'll start with the standard introduction, then. My name's Matthew Reid. I'm twenty-two years old, six foot one and—oh, who the hell cares. I live in some shitty apartment in Springvale, Maine with Ryan, my roommate. I grew up in Boston, and I've been told I have Masshole tendencies. That's about all there is to know about me.

I don't really know what else to put down here. Today wasn't very interesting. I'll probably have to find something to talk about at some point, though. Maybe I'll open that letter I got last week. It's been sitting on the kitchen table forever and I can tell it's driving Ryan crazy, but I haven't really felt like touching it. I already know whatever I find is going to piss me off—ugh, just thinking about it pisses me off.

March 3

The letter is from my father.

There's something I haven't explained about my old man. This is personal territory and I don't want to go into detail, but back when I was a kid, he kind of booked it without any explanation. There was probably some reason behind it but I was way too young to understand, and Ma still acts all evasive about it. Not like the bastard goes to any lengths to explain himself, anyway.

He never paid child support or anything, but every few years I'll hear from him. I don't know why he bothers to call or write or any of that. I guess part of him wants to think that I still regard him as my father. Really, though, I think he's just a pretentious douchebag. Sorry, am I supposed to watch my language in this thing? I'm just telling it like it is. There are only so many words to describe that guy.

Like I said, last week I got a letter from him. I'm not too keen on opening it for obvious reasons. Even holding the damn envelope makes my hand feel dirty. My name and address is written on it in his irritatingly neat handwriting. As always, he didn't leave a return address so there's no way for me to reply. Not that I'd want to. How long's it been since the last letter? It was the summer after I got my license…shit. Six years. Before he'd contacted me every two or three, but I hadn't noticed the change until now. Like I said, I didn't miss him, so ten years could've gone by and I wouldn't have thought twice about it.

The stupid envelope is in my hands. All I have to do is open it.

…I'm going to go have a smoke instead.

March 6

I saw your note. And I know I'm not supposed to write this like I'm talking to my teacher, but whatever. If I'm not talking to you, then who am I talking to? Myself? How the hell is that supposed to be good for my state of mind?

Anyway, I'm trying. That doesn't make this any easier. Don't mean to offend, Teach, but I'm kind of uncomfortable with spilling my guts to some dude I'm not even remotely close to. Maybe it'd be different if you weren't reading this for a grade, but you are. I guess even now you're probably drawing your own conclusions about me. Maybe this kid Matt has trust issues because his daddy never hugged him, yeah? Well, that's probably it. Doesn't change anything, though.

Ah, fuck. This is stupid. I can tell you're just as curious as my roommate as to what's in that envelope. You know what? I did read it. And I was right—it did piss me off.

You might have a point. I'm too closed-off and defensive and most of the time I put up a false front. It might help if I had someone to help me sort out my own thoughts—an adult, not Ryan (he's just as clueless as I am sometimes). And I really don't believe this even as I'm writing it. I don't think you're going to do a damn thing to help me other than slap a grade on my paper; once it's a satisfactory grade, you'll stop writing those annoying little red notes in the margins and let me get on with my life.

But screw it. I'm going to tell you about the letter. It's the only slightly unusual thing that's happened to me, and I can't think of enough things to write about otherwise and me failing the class and wasting tuition money would just blow.

The letter, courtesy Jack Reid:

Matthew,

I understand that I haven't spoken to you in a long, long time. For that I apologize. You must know that if I had attempted to visit while you were still living with your mother, I would have never been allowed to approach you.

Though I must admit, that wasn't the only reason I've been hesitant to contact you. I'm afraid you must hate me after all these years. But please, reserve judgment for until after you fully understand my situation.

I'll contact you again soon.

Dad

P.S. Stay out of the woods.

It still amazes me that he has the nerve to refer to himself with a term as familiar as 'Dad'. I can't remember the last time I actually called him that. It was probably the night before he left.

Either way, it didn't take me long to realize that this was just the same old shit. Six years, and that was all he could be bothered to write. Contact me again soon? For him, 'soon' could be anywhere between two years and a decade. I'm not waiting around for him. I had enough of that when I was a kid.

I didn't know what the hell his note about the woods was supposed to mean, but I didn't really give it much thought. Or any thought, really. The letter was balled up and in the trash about twenty seconds after I first read it. I was about to extend the same courtesy to the envelope it came in, but then I noticed I had missed something. My father had sent me a picture as well.

It was an old Polaroid. Remember those instant cameras that used to be all the rage? My old man had one back when I was a kid. That thing had been a freaking dinosaur even back then, so that clue was enough to hint that this picture wasn't exactly recent.

Well, it was easy enough to draw that conclusion otherwise. My parents were in the photograph, sitting together on a bench in some park I didn't recognize. They looked a lot younger and a lot happier. It must've been taken when I was really young, because they were holding hands and smiling and that just doesn't fit in with the Mom and Dad I remember.

At first, seeing that picture almost made me want to scream. Why would my father send me a photo like that, anyway? It's almost like he was saying "Look, Matty-boy, we were doing great until your sorry ass came along."

Just as that familiar seething anger started to surface, though, I noticed something else about the picture. It just felt…off, you know? The top right corner was faded and yellowed, like it hadn't developed properly. The faded patch was over this woodsy area in the background behind my parents. I kept staring at that spot, wondering just why it felt so wrong. And then, like one of those messed up optical illusions, my perspective kind of shifted and I finally saw it.

There was a figure standing in the woods. He was tall and thin and wearing a black suit, so at first he'd blended in with the light and shadow between the trees. But now that I saw him, he stuck out like a sore thumb. Since he was in that distorted part of the picture, he just looked strange. His form was kind of hazy, especially near the shoulders. And his face was completely blurred out. It actually looked like he didn't have one. Kind of creepy. But I guess what really concerns me is why some suit was stalking my parents. Is that why my father sent me the picture? Is that what he wanted me to notice?

The back of the photo bears the caption July 1990. Over a decade ago. Beneath that, though, is my father's handwriting—All good things come to an end.

Well, I understand what that means. Don't understand much of anything else. I wish he wouldn't be so damn cryptic about this. If he wants to tell me something, he should just fucking say it already. Now there's no way for me to ask him about it, since I have no clue where he is. I'll just have to sit around and see if he sends me another letter. I hate sitting around.

March 7

Today was just a normal, boring, average day in the life of Matt. You've been harping on me to tell you what that entails. Whatever you say, bossman. I'll forgive you if you scan over the next few paragraphs and just give me an effort grade.

My first order of business upon getting up in the morning is heading over to the Springvale Dunks for a black coffee—half espresso, half dark roast. It's my morning kick in the face and I'm not a functioning human being until I get it. By now, I'm pretty sure everyone at that store knows me by name. I must be either "really strong coffee guy" or, more likely, "that dick who never takes his shades off."

As you've probably noticed, I must always have a pair of aviators affixed to my face. I like it. I feel like they make me look less approachable.

After waking up a little more, I change into my work clothes and head out to the restaurant around six or seven. Yeah, I'm a cook. Ain't the best gig, but it pays the bills. My pancakes are legendary around these parts. Well, not really, but they're pretty damn good. Everyone tells me. And by everyone, I mean Ryan. Oh, shut up.

Eight hours later, nine if we're busy, I head home. On the nights I'm not in your class (or some other equally painful subject), I'm writing in this damned thing. Then it's time for bed, and like the rest of America, I get up the next day and do it all over again.

Ryan and I both have Fridays off; that's usually when we hang out. There's this bar in Sanford that we go to that usually has some good local bands. Sometimes we head to Portland for one thing or another. Half the time we just sit on our asses at home and play Call of Duty, because we're productive members of society.

Yes, I know what you're thinking, and I do have other friends. They just aren't very reliable people. Ryan's like my brother—we've known each other since we were kids. Everyone else…I guess I just don't have much patience. I might put up a front and act like more of a jerk than I really am, but they're worse. Other people act like they're so damn nice, enough to draw you in with false hopes, and then screw you over when you finally drop your guard. At least people know what to expect from me. If someone sees how I act and decides they still want to try and make friends, kudos to them. Maybe they're worth my time. So far, I've only met one or two people like that.

…Okay, one of those people is Ryan. The other is my dog.

Well, this is depressing. I think I need another smoke.

March 8

My dog? He's a German shepherd. His name's Bandit. I've had him about…three years, now? Yeah, that sounds about right. One of my friends used to work at the shelter in North Berwick; one day I dropped by on a whim to see her.

And, well…it was like watching those sad commercials all over again. I saw Bandit in there, just a little puppy then, giving me these sad eyes. It really got to me. He was all alone, and it wasn't his fault and none of it was fair. I watched him for a long time, just thinking. Something about the situation struck a chord with me. Maybe it was because I could sympathize with that trapped, helpless feeling. I don't know.

But when I looked up, Rochelle was standing there with this huge grin, holding the adoption paperwork out to me.

Come to think of it, she wasn't so bad. Wonder how she's doing nowadays…

Anyway, my dog and I have been inseparable ever since. He's the best damn dog a person could ask for. Now I think I understand what everyone means when they say "man's best friend". I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes I just talk to him, tell him what's on my mind. He just sits there with his ears perked and acts like he completely understands. Ha, sometimes I wish we could switch roles—it's not really fair that he has to always do the listening. I wonder what he would say.

Well, enough about Bandit. Everyone probably gushes about their pet at some point. I don't understand cat people, though. I fucking hate cats. Creepy little bastards.

Ryan's home. I'm out.

March 10

Mom called today. Haven't talked to her in a month. I just…I don't know what to think. I wasn't expecting this, another fucking complication. As if I don't get enough of it from my good-for-nothing father.

I can't talk to Ryan about this, not right now. I'm too freaked out. Maybe I'm overreacting. I just hope it doesn't sound stupid on paper. Care to help me out here, Teach?

When she called, I was just getting home from work. Something about her tone set me on edge; she sounded like she was trying too hard to seem casual. Most of the time she just asks me how I'm doing, what I'm up to, the usual stuff.

After a minute or so of tense conversation, I finally said something. "Mom, are you okay?"

"Your father stopped by."

When she hit me with that, I found myself just gaping stupidly. How was I supposed to respond? He hadn't interacted with her in any way since the day he walked out. This was bizarre, like hell had frozen over or something. And the timing…just a few weeks after that letter showed up.

"I think something may be wrong," she said, her voice sounding strangely cold. "He…apologized."

"Apologized?" Again, I was floored. "Since when does he…? What happened?" At that point, I was too shocked to be angry. I couldn't even formulate an intelligent response.

Now the ice in her tone seemed to thaw a little. She was confused, maybe even distraught. That worried me. Mom and I haven't always gotten along, and we don't talk much, but that doesn't mean I don't care.

"I don't know," she admitted. "We talked. He looked…strange. Like he hadn't slept in days. Even when I was in the other room, making us some coffee, he kept—"

"You let him in? You made him coffee?" I tried to sound angry, but the incredulity was clear in my voice. This was all so hard to believe.

"It's been years, Matt!" she shot back. "I understand what you mean. I'll never forgive him for leaving us. But he was standing outside my door, looking so…it's hard to explain. I didn't think it would hurt to at least see what he wanted."

"And what was that? A quick fuck?" I asked sarcastically. Yes, I know I was too harsh. But you don't know how she is. I can't count how many times her latest dirtbag boyfriend would come knocking at the door in the middle of the—

Never mind. Either way, she didn't appreciate it.

"Watch your mouth," she said, her voice frigid once more. "You might not be living under my roof, but I'm still your mother. Do not talk to me like that. Have I ever—"

"I'm sorry, okay?" I growled, frustrated. "Just…I'm just fed up. Where does he get off, anyway? Thinking he can just show up at your doorstep like nothing happened…"

Mom quieted for a second or two, and then let out a sigh. "It wasn't like that. It seemed like…I'm not sure how to say it. But he apologized, and said he wanted to see me one last time."

"One last time? Before what?"

"I tried asking," she replied. "He refused to say. But he kept looking over his shoulder the whole time we were talking. Out the kitchen window. Almost like he thought we were being watched." Her voice took on a troubled note at this. "And then all of a sudden, he panicked and said he had to leave."

"Someone peeking in through the window?" I asked dryly.

She ignored me. "He was carrying a suitcase with him. He left in such a rush, he didn't even realize that a piece of paper fell out…"

This piqued my curiosity a little. "What was on it?"

She was quiet for a long time. The silence only made me more interested; what could it be that my mom was so hesitant to tell me? And why had my father showed up in the first place? So close to the time he'd sent me the letter…what was he trying to do?

"Honey…" she said slowly, thoughtfully. "Do you remember Agent X?"

"Huh?" This turn in the conversation left me bewildered, again. Despite this, I fought the urge to make some smartass retort. I had the feeling she might be going somewhere with it. "…Yeah, I think so. Vaguely."

Agent X was the imaginary friend I had as a kid. I called him that because he was always decked out like those guys from Men in Black. It was a pretty dim memory, though, and I couldn't fathom why Mom would be asking about it now of all times.

"I always felt so terrible," she said quietly. "Your father was never around, so you constructed this…this daydream to make up for it. I felt inadequate. But it made you happy, so I let it be. Still, though…"

That was right. A lot of the other kids I met back then had had an imaginary friend at some point, but it was always someone their own age. Someone they could relate to. I guess I made up an adult, because I was so lacking when it came to father figures. I needed someone to look up to, someone to be my hero.

"It was only for that summer we spent in the Adirondacks," Mom said. "When you told your father about Agent X, he suddenly decided to leave the very next day."

"I remember." I frowned. "I hated him for that."

"I didn't say anything at the time because he had looked so scared," she told me in a small voice.

I faltered. Scared? That was something I didn't remember. But kids don't notice things like that…I had just been so upset…

"When I saw him today, I saw that same fear." She paused for a second. "…Matt, you didn't always like Agent X, did you?"

"I…didn't always want to play. And he…" Hold on, where had that come from? Jesus.

"We went back to Boston, and you seemed to forget about him. I thought it was a phase all kids went through. But…"

"But?"

"The paper your father left behind…it was covered in drawings of a tall, faceless man in a suit. I remember all the sketches you used to make. The similarity…it's so uncanny, I just can't understand why Jack would be—"

"Wait, wait, hold on," I interrupted. "What did you say?"

"Agent X," she replied, confused. "You don't remember? It's why you called him that. The suit reminded you of a secret agent. You said he was very tall and thin, and he had no face. I always thought it was strange—the no face part. But that's not what I'm concerned about, Matt. I just don't understand why your father seemed so uneasy about the whole thing, and what those drawings were doing in his—"

"Ma," I cut her off again. "I have to go."

She didn't want to hang up. I know she realized something was up, and I had to spend the next minute or so lying to her so that I didn't have to flat-out hang up on her. She's probably going to call me again soon to figure out what the hell happened. I don't know if I'll have any answers for her.

You're a smart guy. You've made the connection by now, right? My chat with Mom unearthed a lot of old memories.

Agent X. The man in the photograph. What the fuck does it mean?

I remember now. Everything.

At the time, I couldn't have been more than five or six. We were staying in a nice little cabin out in the woods near Lake Placid. He used to show up at my window and tap on the glass to be let in. At first, all he used to do was watch me—watch and listen. I told him about all sorts of things. About my parents and how much they fought, about my toys, about what I did that particular day. He never ignored me and he never interrupted me. He was an adult, maybe even a real secret agent (I thought so back then), and yet he had all the time in the world for me.

It was great. At first.

But then…sometimes things would happen. I remember one incident where I went to sleep in my bed and woke up in the middle of the woods with no recollection of how I got there. And worse—it was one in the morning, and pitch dark out. By some miracle I made it back to our cabin and stayed awake the rest of the night, lying at the foot of my parents' bed.

I never told them about it. Mom still doesn't know.

Agent X was not always nice. When he tapped at my window and I didn't let him in, things like that would happen. Part of me hated my father when he made us all leave, but I'll be honest…part of me was relieved.

But this doesn't make sense. I recognize the man in the photograph now. It's HIM.

And the drawings. Agent X was my imaginary friend—no one else ever saw him, even when he was in plain sight. So how could my father…?

I don't know. I don't understand what the hell is up with that photo. What am I supposed to think?

This is absolutely insane...

March 13

That was disappointing. I guess it was stupid of me to hope for some useful human input. I deserve it, though. Honesty and sincerity get you nowhere in the real world. I was pretty uneasy at the time and had no one to vent to, so I turned to my journal and gave you an earnest entry, what you've claimed to want this whole time.

And now you think I'm pulling your leg. You know, Teach, if I'd wanted to make up stories, I would've just taken a creative writing class. Maybe that was where I should've gone for the easy credit.

Point is, I took Psychology. You told me to write a journal, and that's what I'm doing. How do you know everyone else isn't lying about their everyday lives? There's no way for you to prove so-and-so has a good relationship with her mom, and that she goes to the mall on Saturdays, and her boyfriend is the most faithful sonofabitch that ever walked God's green earth. Everyone's going to tell you that everything's just peachy, and it's all bullshit. No normal kid wants to tell their teacher about their personal life, their real problems. The only ones that tell the truth are the ones that need to, the ones that have no one else to turn to.

Great. Now I just went and made myself sound pathetic and needy.

Look, I just wanted someone else's rational perspective on all this. If that's too much to ask for, let me know and I'll happily keep this all to myself. You can read the same boring drivel that I'm sure everyone else is writing, and we can all pretend I'm living the high life.

By the way, you said somebody else has written about the exact same "character" as me before. Agent X is a character now? I think there might be a superhero with the name in one of those old Marvel comic books, but I didn't know about that as a kid. It was just some name I pulled out of my ass, probably. Six-year-olds do that a lot.

I want to know more about this, though. Somebody was writing in their journal about a faceless man in a suit? When was this? It can't be right. I haven't told anyone about Agent X, and someone else writing about him...that's too strange to be a coincidence.

Whatever. I need to get my mind off of this. I'll have a real entry for you next time...that is, if you'll stop calling me a liar.

March 16

Jeannie Clarke. She was a Sophomore in your class last year. Yeah, I did my research—it's not that hard to find gossips around here.

So here's what I learned, correct me if I'm wrong. This girl started writing in her journal about a guy that was stalking her. This is all hearsay, so nobody knows for sure the details about this guy (except for you), but it's generally agreed upon that he was pretty shady and he wore a suit.

At first you were more than willing to listen, but then her stories started getting a little crazy and you got skeptical. You dismissed everything she said as false, accused her of lying, and eventually failed her on the project.

I managed to get ahold of some of Jeannie's old friends. They're still really worried about her, you know that? Whether she was telling the truth or not doesn't matter. They say she was acting really strange outside of school, too. Claiming to see things that weren't there, refusing to leave her house at night, that sort of thing. She had a real problem—makes me wonder if she was schizophrenic or something. She moved away last fall, and cut all ties with everyone here. Nobody knows where she is or what she's doing now.

You're a psychology teacher. You should've been able to see right away that this girl needed help, whether her stories were true or not.

You really think she was just buying into some stupid story on the internet?

Slender Man, huh...

I don't know anything about it. I just know that Jeannie Clarke was behaving like someone that had serious issues, not some lazy girl trying to screw with you and get an easy grade.

Well, I'm done with this. I haven't heard anything from my parents since the day Mom called, so I'm just going to try and forget about it. Happy? We can go back to business as usual.

Speaking of which, I'm off to work now. Yeah, I'm living the high life, all right.

March 17

Day off. It's pretty sad that the only thing I have to do is write in this.

Ryan's at work—he repairs computers at this little electronics place out on Route 1. Does decent business, I guess. I've never been much for that techie stuff.

You know, I might be taking classes and all, but I honestly can't bring myself to believe that someday I'm going to have some bigshot job because of it. If anyone's going to go far in life, it's Ryan O' Connor. That kid's a hell of a lot more motivated than I am. We both had shitty home lives, but he never let it affect how he did in school—not like me. I'm not an idiot, but...well, let's just say that for the moment I'm happy enough that I'm a pancake pro and I make nine bucks an hour. It ain't much, but it's mine.

At least I can have the peace of mind to go to bed at a reasonable time every night. I think Ryan's been getting a little too into his work lately. Three nights in a row now, I've found him in his room, messing around on his laptop. Well, he says it's work, anyway. Last time I caught a glimpse, it looked like he was Google searching something. Hopefully he's not searching how to fix a computer...

Screw it. There's absolutely nothing interesting going on right now, so I guess I'm going to go grocery shopping.

xxx

Almost midnight.

Bandit won't stop barking for some reason.

...Where the hell is Ryan?

A/N: Any and all feedback would be appreciated. Constructive criticism, ideas, tips, anything. Hell, tell me you hate it if you want – just say why, and I'll be happy enough with that.