By: Jordan Smith

"Michael! Time for school," Linda screamed up stairs to her ten-year-old son.

I awoke from the same petrifying nightmare I have had for the past week.

I'm walking home from my dad's house to my mom's late at night when I get the feeling that I'm being followed. I turn to look but see nothing. A flood of relief surges through me, so I turn back to continue walking and he's there. I first notice his arms; tentacle-like as the trail almost to the asphalt. He is tall and slender, at least seven feet tall. As I get to his face I scream; where he should have eyes there is only the shadow of an indentation where they should be. Just as the tentacle-like arms slither around me I awake.

Stupid nightmare, I think. But it was only a nightmare, nothing more. I am going to get up and go to school, then go to my dad's until 7pm. That is my schedule, and had been for the past two years, and nothing has yet to happen. So why am I getting nightmares now?

When I get to school I notice the haunted looks that haunt some of the other kids in my grade. It's only because Halloween is in 10 days, we're just all freaked out because of last year. And I continued my day as normally as I possibly could.

As I eat dinner at dad's house I start thinking about the slender man that's been haunting my dreams, and wondering if what happened last year to this day will happen again this year. 21 kids taken on the 21st. They weren't all from the same school, county or even state. But they were all 10 years old. They say they caught the monster that did it, though every 10 year old is scared.

"Hey Dad, can you give me a ride home tonight?" even though it's a minute away I don't want to risk it.

"Why, you've never wanted one before," Dad replies annoyed. Seriously does he not remember what happened last year?

"I just don't want to today," I say quietly.

"Fine, whatever, just don't make it a habit," he replies tiredly, "but don't let it become a habit." Gosh he makes it sound like its some great burden. Butit doesn't matter, I got what I wanted.

This dream was different, just your everyday falling dream. But that was okay. It was okay until I woke up with the man from my haunting dreams standing over me.

Unsure whether it was a dream or reality, I lost his only opportunity to scream. Just like in my dream I became tethered to his tentacles. No way to escape; head covered, arms trapped, and moving my legs were futile. At some point I gave up and fell asleep.

I awake in the dark, and find that I am in a frigid suspended cage that screams at the slightest movement. I wasn't alone either. There were other sounds similar to my own cages cry. As if cued, we all started to sob, longing for our freedom and families. It was so dark, oh so very dark. Out of nowhere I hear the boom of a generator turn on. Slowly, as if it were protesting, a blood-red light flickers on. I had no idea how fitting the lights were 'till a few hours later.

Jimmy was the first. He was in my class. I remembered the sound of his screams form when we were younger and he fell and broke his collarbone. Slenderman came in through a door close to the place I forcibly inhabited. All at once it became deafeningly silent. Sickly I thought of the Christmas story my dad would read. "'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse"— how fitting. With straining ears we heard a squeak of a door followed by a scream. Others started to scream as well; screaming for him and for their own lives.

Once Slenderman took them they never came back. I didn't know the next five people. But I screamed and cried for their lives as if I did.

We were all fed. But I didn't notice if it tasted good or if it was terrible. Whatever it was I didn't notice. I have felt sick to my stomach since I first encountered Slenderman. It was the fifth meal when another person was taken. She was a girl and she didn't go without a fight. She kicked and screamed and tried to bite. But resistance like that just gets you killed more quickly.

Soon there was only one other kid and myself left. We knew our ends were close.

"What's your name," I asked just above a whisper.

"Kara. You," she asks softly.

"Michael. Are you scared?"

"No, I've accepted what my fate is," Kara says confidently

"Well I am. I want to see my family again." I say this as a tear wells up in my eyes.

"One day you will." After that we were quiet; no talking or moving.

Again we hear the squeak of the door and see Slenderman glide through. He opens my cage first and slides my tray of rations through. He leaves my cage door open as he goes to take Kara from her cage. As I watch in agony I notice Kara look intently from me to the door, as Slenderman is removing her from her cage I nimbly jump from my cage and head to the door. Slenderman, now dealing with the frantic frails of Kara, doesn't notice my escape until I am running through the door. In the moment I step through the door way I feel as if I just waltzed through the door and into an ancient battle. There are swords, tables and random body parts everywhere. Everything covered in blood. I am still running avoiding the pieces of the fallen to the next door. I stop just short of the door as Kara's head bounces off it. He is close now, the tip of his tentacle arms only close enough to stroke my back. I open the door and hear the sound of beeps, cars maybe, and the sound of sirens. I'm near a road! Maybe someone will see me. Maybe I still have a chance! My eyes have adjusted to the sudden bright light, and I see only the desert. I still hear the distant sound of the traffic. My heart is racing, beating faster than I am running. I am so scared. Everything is gone now, the sound of traffic, the bright desert, everything. I feel like I was just slapped.

My eyes adjust to this new bright light, different than the first. I didn't make it, I failed. In my mind I know I failed, but my body didn't get the message. It is still desperately trying to escape. My arms are bound and I know I am not dead. Not yet at least. I feel something poke into my arm, a needle. This must be why I never heard them scream.

I am falling again in my dream. Awake again, I see my mother asleep in a chair with my little baby brother, Jimmy, asleep on my mom's chest in a room that doesn't look familiar. My dad is awake and quickly comes to my side. "Michael? Can you hear me," he asks worriedly

"Yes, wh-"

"You're in the hospital, you were talking to the walls and screaming, it was like you weren't really here," he interrupts and answers my unfinished question.

"I don't understand I was taken! I watched Slenderman take kids an-" I was interrupted again

"NO! That didn't happen, and there is no Slenderman," dad replied. He's angry now. "You are very ill and hopefully your new medicine will help". Distantly I hear my mother rouse and walk out the door. I am in a stunned silence. How could she just leave me? When she comes back she isn't alone. She is with a kind lady who introduces herself as Dr. Kara Patterson.

She tells me that I am here because I had a hallucination. I want to say something, but she doesn't give me time to respond. I see mom start to cry and she squeezes her new baby in her arms, my dad puts his arm over hers and drops his head.

"Your symptoms," she begins slowly, choosing her words carefully, "line up with those of a paranoid schizophrenic."

Her words echo in my mind. "So it wasn't real?" I can't believe it wasn't real. Everything felt so real. I want to believe she's lying but why would she, and I knew in my heart she wasn't. She was a doctor she has no reason.

After a minute of awkward silence Dr. Kara asks my parents to leave so she can ask me more personal questions about my so-called episode. They gave only mild objections, but they left. Just as the door closed behind them I saw a flicker in the corner of my eye. And in the corner of the room I see him standing there in the shadows. Dr. Kara, noticing my reaction turns to where I am looking and asks in a sickly sweet voice "Would you like to finish him off now?"