A/N: This is a short story based on events surrounding a character I played in a Fear Mythos ARG. Specifically, it was a what-if scenario looking at what happened after she ended up going missing… well, Slender-taken, I suppose I should say. This story is rather serious. The ARG… well, the ARG was not quite so serious. And it had great music. But well, that's for another time.

For context, the protagonist here and her colleagues have somehow found themselves wrapped up in a Fear war, and the stakes have just been significantly raised. There were some Fears taking these humans' side to end the fight before disaster – for both Fear and Human alike – struck. Others were neutral, while still others wanted nothing to do with the humans. The protagonist of this story was Slender-stalked for several days, and eventually taken… but for good reason. This is what happens after that. For that reason there are some elements that are taken from various Slenderman stories, and the being in question is adapted to how it behaved in the ARG. I hope you enjoy this short little tale.


Aftermath

All was quiet. Almost a deathly quiet gripped everything, save the slight soft rustle of the canopy in a wind with no temperature, neither warm nor cold. A dark sky, colored an oddly dim shade of grey, covered all; the thin, eerie trees swayed ever so slightly. No animals lived in this forest, no life was present here, nothing gave sound on which to grab earhold.

It was not a void, however. Not quite.

The woman sniffled softly as she sat on the cold, loamy ground, her brunette hair covering her face as tears streamed down. Normally her face was warm and soft, a kind face now marred with worry and indescribable fear.

Three people died tonight. One of them was her friend. All killed by obsessive-compulsive Shadow Creatures – Nightlanders, someone had called them – all boxed up and folded up and mutilated beyond recognition. And it was all because she didn't think fast enough. She should have been quicker on her feet. She should have called the right beings for help, she had the power, if only she could have remembered the way the tune went… How did it go again? She didn't know, she had been too busy panicking at the time.

Things spiraled further downward from there. In the aftermath, It came for her, a final haunting after days of stalking and paranoia. A final harbinger of entrapment. Its cryptic words had haunted her for days now, and tonight… tonight, she had finally run out of options. Finally run out of places to hide. It wasn't as if she could have escaped anyway – It surely would have found her and insisted she go with It nonetheless. She had been living under a death sentence from the very day It had first spoken to her. She still remembered Its words, now a wound freshly torn open again.

The. Branches. Take. You.

She remembered everything from tonight, and she hoped, always would – it was probably the last memory she'd ever get to have. Despair had gripped her as the webcam light began to flicker, and the image onscreen skipped and tore. She had time only to wave a final goodbye to what few remaining friends she had left before the camera ceased to function entirely.

And then It arrived, as suddenly as if turning on a lightswitch. It was just… there, standing eerily still in the corner of her bedroom, the lights flickering in confusion at the strange thing in the room. She remembered clearly the feeling of crushing dread that gripped her with sick fingers, mixing oddly with a great sense of awe upon seeing It there, actually standing in her bedroom not five feet from her. She had always thought It was merely a horror story, a feverish urban fantasy…

It was much thinner than any story made It out to be. Much taller as well, with an incredibly powerful and commanding aura that left her speechless and reduced her to the state of a scared little girl. Then the nausea set in, the nausea and the dizziness. The Sickness. Of course it couldn't just be painless, being Taken, could it?

The stare, however… the stare was what scared her the most, the Stare Without Eyes. It gazed directly into her every thought and doubt, reading them as easily as an open notebook, seeing everything of her.

She did not dare move, instead staring back at It, golden brown eyes scrutinizing her newfound keeper through the numbing hum of energy It gave off. It was like staring down death itself – indescribably horrific, yet somehow… comforting to her.

She thought she would faint from the lightheadedness; it all seemed like a strange nightmare, a fever dream. And as she stumbled to her feet from the bed, moving not of her own accord, she swore something resonated in her head, a not-voice, an indescribable echo of words…

/nomoretime. cometome./

She did not remember how she came to take Its hand. She only recalled a sudden awareness that she had done so, and that she no longer stood in her bedroom… or anywhere at all.

The reality of what she had done hit her when she saw the black leaves sweeping past her feet and the vast, infinite stretches of dark forest ahead of her, behind her, all around her. It had vanished entirely from view once It noticed that she had begun to cry, leaving her stranded here, alone and on her knees in a place between places.

Why had she thought that following It here was a good idea, again? Nothing good would come of this. She was a dead woman now; she'd surely end up flayed and gutted, or devoured alive… or worse yet, forced into servitude to It, her mind no longer her own. But she was marked by It, she'd had no choice in the matter… had she?

If only things had been different…

The worst part… the worst part was knowing that she'd never know, she thought as she curled forlornly against the base of a birch tree. She would never get to know what had happened to her friends, or what would happen to them. Being a Slenderseries protagonist really, really sucked. Doubly so when a Fear war was raging on top of all that. And now, she'd never know the end of the story, never know the alternative to what she could have done… never…

Her sorrow turned to frustration, and she threw a pebble at an old oak in anger. Why her? Why did it have to be her in this situation, what did she ever do to deserve this? What did she do to deserve yet more questions and an eternity of wondering what the answers might be?

/nomore. ask./

The sudden echo of not-words caught her off-guard, making her attention snap upward, eyes darting fearfully around the alien forest.

It took her approximately five seconds to pick out the odd, slender figure hiding amidst the trees, watching her intently. She yelped in fear and recoiled back against the tree as she realized how very, very close It was to her.

She barely blinked, and It was suddenly next to her, Its head inclined in curiosity as It observed her cowering form.

"O-oh God, no," she whimpered, fresh tears spilling to the ground. "N-no, please no, I-I don't wanna die… I-I'm not ready yet, I…"

The slender being said nothing and kneeled down to her slightly, still towering over her with intimidating height and an uncomfortable closeness.

/human. fragile. diesoyoung./

At that, she began to sob uncontrollably, horror striking her heart and twisting the blade. Her breath came ragged and panicked. This was it. She was done for; It was going to stick her through a tree branch and leave her there like a bug pinned to a corkboard. She was going to die.

Her eyes clamped shut, and her muscles tensed as she accepted the inevitable…

Something brushed her face, wiping at the tears that slid from her eyes. Something cold and bark-textured, yet oddly familiar in form… fingers? Branches?

/unnecessary. inhale. exhale./

She shivered under the unnatural chill of the being's touch, cracking a single eye open. Why wasn't she feeling nauseous as Hell? It was right there in front of her. Had It done something to prevent the Sickness? Was it the influence of this place, wherever it was?

Underneath her dread, a soft sense of comfort blanketed her. But she knew better than to trust that. Such a tactic was, after all, how It ensnared many of Its victims…

"How in the Hell is crying unnecessary," she murmured morosely, "When I've lost one of my friends and the universe is about to go to Hell in a handbasket?"

/remain. inabunker./

"Yeah, well, that doesn't do a damn bit of good for the others, does it?" she sniffled, her despair quickly becoming anger. "They're all going to fucking die back there, and I could still be there to help them if you hadn't barged in with your cryptic bullshit, and –"

The being's limbs suddenly seemed to multiply, branching out in twos, then threes of what It previously had, all of them vine-like and black, all of them thrashing irritably.

/ididnothavetospareyou./

The not-words hit her like an electrical shock as she cowered from the incensed, black-suited being. Spare her?

It… It was trying to save her?

It all began to make sense to her, the messages, the cryptic sayings… all were warnings. Hints towards disaster. And out of all the people in that group, out of any of them… It chose to spare her.

It wasn't taking her to her death. It was taking her to safety.

"You… saved my life," she murmured, taken aback at what she was saying. This thing killed people, why on earth would it save her life? And why only her?

/fragile. onlyone. cantake./

"I… don't understand," she said, wiping at the remaining tears on her face and staring upwards at the being in confusion. "I'm… I'm not important at all, I'm probably nothing to you. I'm just a human after all, there's six billion more of us in the world. Why would you ever choose me?"

It paused, seeming to consider Its response as It drew itself back to Its full height. Astonishingly and frighteningly graceful, she thought, observing its oddly fluid motions as she waited for a response.

Finally, It turned to her, Its eyeless gaze once more seeing straight through into her core, holding with intense focus.

/decipherme. womenandchildrenfirst./

And suddenly, she understood everything, and suddenly, the tears once more began to flow like burst dams. It had been trying to protect not only everyone, but the one person who could decipher what was really going on. The one person who could see through the confusion and deceit. It was warning them all to flee before things got worse. And it was just as afraid of death as she was, afraid of death at the hands of five beings of equal to greater power than Itself. This was all It knew to do, Its last effort to at least try to stand for those that could understand… almost like… almost like a…

Knight.

"Der Ritter," she whispered, and Its attention snapped inscrutably to her. "Is there… Isn't there anything more we can do… to help them?"

/nomoretime. timehasstopped./

The realization hit her like a brick to the head.

"But that's just it, isn't it, though?" she responded, the slow, dawning light illuminating all corners of her mind at once. "Time has stopped. And if time is stopped, that means that no new events can happen. The war can't progress while time is stopped!"

She jumped to her feet and began to pace, mind working like intricate clockwork. She was the riddle-solver of the group, after all…

"Of course, I should have known. You did that, you were buying us all more time... and thanks to you, there's still time to stop this," she murmured. "We can stop this. You're a powerful enough being, the Fear of the Unknown is a strong and undeniable Fear… and now… well, now you have all the time in the world, haven't you?"

It stood eerily still as ever, considering a moment… and for the briefest second, she swore that It shuddered like a tree in the wind.

/dangerous. inhale. exhale. breathe./

"Yes, it is," she admitted sheepishly. "It's very risky, but sitting here and cowering in a bunker won't do anything. I'm not gonna let anyone or anything that helped me or my friends die. And I'm sure as Hell not going to watch my friends suffer while I'm relatively alright. We have to do something, Tall One. Not even you can run away from your problems forever."

This is so weird, she thought vaguely, her eyes never leaving the being's blank-canvas face. Am I seriously consoling an eldritch abomination right now? Really?

The being did not move.

She did.

"… I know you can do something," she said, starting towards It despite knowing how terrible an idea it would normally be. "There's always something. You wrecked that triplepony stalker guy's shit when he got creepy with me in the chat. You've wrecked a thousand people's shit even worse than that, and surely you've fought other creatures before. You've taken down armies of trained marines, for God's sake. There's not a damn thing that's stopping you right now except yourself."

/somefights. unnecessary. inhale. exhale. stopbreathing./

"Some," she said, now staring directly up at It, close enough in proximity to touch It if she so wished. "Some, but not all."

It gazed down at her with no eyes, Its blank and empty face somehow reflecting a keen, intelligent awareness. She did not budge an inch despite the dread she knew gripped them both. Not another word was uttered. Not another sound, not another motion.

Somewhere high above, the black-leaved canopy rustled in the wind with no temperature.