Eevee had gone into the kitchen, leaving me alone with my thoughts as I tried to absorb his words. My mother. Throughout my childhood, I'd had many opportunities to question the circumstances surrounding her death: Why was she in the woods? Did she try to defend herself? How did I escape when she didn't? These were but a few of the questions I had had for Dad, who was never able to answer them.
At first I was suspicious that he was keeping something from me – that my mother was insane, or that she had a death wish. I thought he might feel guilty for letting her alone with me when he knew she was unstable. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that there was another reason: he didn't know. He wasn't shutting me out on purpose, like he thought he was protecting me or something. He simply didn't have the answers. And so I gave up, accepting that I would never know what had happened that fateful day.
Until now. Because I had discovered someone who I never suspected before, someone who very possibly could answer all my queries and more. Eevee. How could I never have thought of it before? Eevee had always been my mother's confidant. Who better to know her secrets?
I was still trying to process the fact that my mother had been killed by Slender Man – a monster I'd never known existed – when it hit me. How did Eevee know? Had she anticipated meeting this monster and taken the time to tell him beforehand? And if so, why? I thought about what Eevee had told me about Slender Man. It eats children. She took me into the forest with her.
Suddenly, my world began to spiral. Had MoonShyne Crow'Seeker Monkeyfist died trying to feed her toddler to a tentacle monster? Could I be the offspring of a Sue gone so Anti that she Would Hurt A Child? Such was taboo in Suetopia, of course – any act or attempt to harm a child was punishable by death. It was our most sacred law, right above murder and picnicking in the forest. The only thing I could imagine that would be tolerated less than killing a child was marrying a tentacle monster, which was impossible anyway since our enemies don't have feelings other than rage and horniness. But what other explanation could there be?
"Unless she didn't know…" I whispered, letting my thoughts escape my lips. But then, how did Eevee?
I stood abruptly and dashed into the kitchen, where the turquoise cat was munching meditatively on his Fancier Than Thou Feast. "Eevee," I demanded aloud, "How do you know?"
At first he gave no indication of having heard me, and I was getting angry that he was really gonna play this game with me when he answered, "I was there in the forest, following her."
I was so shocked that my jaw popped open, and I couldn't form any of the questions I'd just had. After a few moments, he turned away from his food and faced me. Rather, he aligned his chest with mine and began to clean his paws. Normally the motion soothed me, but I wasn't in the mood right now. "What did you see?" I asked.
Continuing to lick his toes, he replied, "From my perch in the tree, I could only see so much. She didn't know I was following her, and I preferred it that way."
"Why? Why did she take me into the forest?"
"She knew who you were," he replied, "She knew you were the Chosen One, the Mary Sue that would bring an end to the war between your two sides. But your mother was a revolutionary – she wanted Mary Sues to unite with tentacle monsters rather than to destroy them. She brought you to Slender Man that night to prove your abilities, believing that you possessed the power to communicate with and influence them, but things did not go as she had planned. Slender Man was not alone in the forest, and his minions… they took your mother. They would have taken you too, but you escaped."
"But how? How did I escape? Did she sacrifice herself to try to save me? Did I go supernova and blast them all to smithereens? How did I get their blood on my face?"
"Calm yourself, child. I will explain everything. MoonShyne defended you to her last breath. When she realized she wouldn't make it past that night, she sung out an urgent-yet-beautiful melody that was an SOS to all the birds in the forest. From every direction, ravens and crows flocked into the scene and lifted you from the tentacles of a particularly ugly monster, but not before you chomped down on its arm. That's how the blood got on your face. That's how you escaped while your mother died. The black birds rescued you."
"If that's true, then why did no one see them? Why was I seen stumbling out of the woods all alone?"
"Black birds don't leave the forest."
I waited for him to continue, but he didn't. So I asked, "Why?"
"I do not know. I don't speak bird. I'm sure your mother knew, but I never cared to ask."
I sat down to soak it all in. It all made sense, mostly. Just one thing was bothering me. "Why didn't you tell me before?"
"I was waiting for the right time."
I snorted. "Oh, what? I wasn't old enough. Is that really your excuse?"
"No. It wasn't your age that hindered me; it was your willingness to accept your destiny." At last, he stopped bathing himself and locked eyes with me. "Don't deny that you despise your lot in life. I know you don't want to be the Chosen One, but you must set aside your hesitance. You are the right age, the right maturity, and the right acuity. It is time to start your training."
I went to school the next morning with Eevee's decree on my mind. Eevee would meet me at the library at 4 o'clock, which would give me plenty of time to finish school before we began. It was a moot point, however, since I wouldn't be able to concentrate on class anyway. I mean, how could Eevee expect me to think about school when my fate loomed so near?
I had had forever to prepare for this, but the thought of training was still unsettling. I guess I'd hoped that I could slip quietly away before my 19th birthday and wouldn't have to go through with it after all. But of course that was foolishness.
When I got to school, Maisey was waiting for me in Biology with a smile plastered on her thick, red lips. "Oh My Spock, Mylk! Did you watch the latest episode of I Write Sins and Sadism and Sodomy?"
"Oh. Um, no. Sorry. I was busy last night and didn't check for updates. What happened?"
Maisey squealed so loud, my ears started to ring. "Edward came out to Daemona that he WOULD HAVE A THREESOME WITH HER! With Werewolf! Ooh, I can't wait for the next episode. It's going to be a great one."
I swallowed my disgust and managed a semi-believable smile. "I can't wait either. Maybe we'll see something this time."
"Oh, I hope so. The last six times they did it, we didn't even get a below-the-belly shot. Hopefully, though, they'll listen to us this time."
"Settle down, class," Dr. Halsey announced as she swept in with her short, silver hair framing her ancient-yet-beautiful face. Her hair had that unique quality of glowing golden-blonde when she got really into a lecture. We used it as an indicator of when we should or shouldn't ask stupid questions. "Today we are talking about cyborgs and why it is a good idea to include an inhibiter chip before releasing them into the world."
I wished I hadn't had my training on my mind, because this seemed like a very interesting lecture topic. But when I left the class at the end of the period, I didn't remember a single word of it. Luckily, though, some part of me had the brains enough to take notes, so I could go over them later when I had time.
The rest of school was uneventful except that Carpe Diem nearly fell down the stairs trying to cut off a lock of my hair. Maisey pushed me out of the way just in time for my hair to be saved, causing Carpe Diem to lose her balance. But she caught herself and scurried quickly away before anyone else could see her.
At the end of last period, I gathered my books from my locker and slinked out the back gate as I did everyday on my way to the library. I almost didn't buy more food for Umbra on the way over, but passing the shop reminded me, which is good because he'd be on my back about it for the next week if I'd forgotten. I apologize if my thoughts are boring you, but I really don't want to train. I'm taking as much time as I possibly can to get to that part.
When at last I arrived at the Raven Poe library, Eevee was waiting for me at the edge of the forest. I dropped my bags off inside, fed the animals, and returned to his side.
"Are we practicing in the woods today?" I asked him, more uneasy about the training than the location.
"Only just. We'll get deeper into the woods as we train more." He led me behind the first two layers of trunks, just out of sight of the road parallel to our position. There was a red flag hanging on a branch.
"Not exactly sure what I'm supposed to do," I informed him.
"First lesson is evasion. When a tentacle monster finds you, there are two options: fight or flight. Flight is the most common response of Mary Sues, since our enemies are a terrifying sight to behold. However, flight is a good idea only when you are close to the edge of the woods, since there won't be much in the line of shelter to run to otherwise. Once you finish your training, you will be the one Mary Sue who will stand a better chance fighting than fleeing. But for now, we'll stick to evading them.
"Now, since we don't have a real tentacle monster to practice on, I will take on the image of one. I have studied their mannerisms and can imitate them rather genuinely. Follow me." Eevee trotted off into the woods, me trailing behind him until he said, "Stop. You wait here while I hide in the trees. I will give you ten seconds after I leave before I start to hunt you. Try to make it to the red flag without encountering me." That conveyed, he took off into the woods back the way we'd come.
"But you know where I'll be going," I complained, but he didn't respond.
I waited ten seconds before making my way back to the tree with the flag. I didn't know what to expect except failure, since this was a poorly designed exercise. How could I possibly avoid him if he knew where I was headed?
A sudden barrage of sticks snapping jerked me out of my thoughts in time for me to regret not paying better attention as I was violently torn from the ground and lifted into the air. The tentacle coiled tightly around my waist was turquoise, which made me pretty sure it didn't belong to a real tentacle monster. Nonetheless, I was ill-equipped to be flung into the air, and quickly barfed all over Eevee's deformed arm.
"Perfect," he grimaced in my mind, and lowered me just enough that I didn't land on my face when he dropped me. "Let's get cleaned up. Where is the nearest water spigot?"
I spat the dregs of the foulness out of my mouth. "Back at the library. I'll show you."
I stood and turned toward him, hoping to get a good look at his version of a tentacle monster, but he'd transformed into a chimpanzee so that my bile wasn't so close to his nose. He made a face that I couldn't help but chuckle at. "Look on the bright side," I teased him, "At least when I throw up in real combat, it'll give me time to escape while the monster freaks out about how gross it is."
"Tentacle monsters aren't teenage girls," he scolded me. "They won't care what kind of bodily excrement gets on them. Their sole concern is to rape, kill, and devour."
When we had finished washing off, we returned to the woods for the rest of our lesson. "Since it is clear that you don't know what you're doing, allow me to give you a few tips. Listen. Before you make a move, listen. Hear the forest around you. Clear all distractions from your mind. Keep yourself muted so that you can spot the discrepancies in your surroundings. You'll need to know the sound of the forest at rest before you can spot its trouble. Now let's give it a try."
We stood in silence. I did my best to keep my thoughts to a minimum, taking note of everything that was a natural part of it. Birds chirping, wind bristling through the leaves. These were things to expect.
"Now," Eevee continued at length, "I will go into the forest to simulate a tentacle monster. Listen for it. Get back to the flag, and this time, try to avoid getting captured." He disappeared into the trees again.
I decided to take a different approach. I climbed silently up a tree and hid among the branches. I decided to turn into a squirrel – which I could do because I'm a Mary Sue. I leapt from tree to tree until I heard that discrepancy I'd been listening for. The birds had stopped singing; the animals had stopped rustling in the brush. I knew that meant that I, as an animal, should freeze. I scurried up the tree and hid in a squirrel nest, hoping to mask my scent with theirs. I peeked out on the scene below, and there he stood. My eyes widened. I had never seen a tentacle monster – or at least I had no memory of it, since my last encounter with one was as an infant. He was globular figure with two visible tentacles protruding from what should have been his shoulders. No arms, no legs, and a face reminiscent of melting blue cheese – Eevee was, as he had said, a fearsome sight to behold. The mere bizarreness enraptured my eyes to the point that I didn't want to blink, and they started to water.
The turquoise monster stopped at the base of my tree. I backed further into the hole. I had lived with Eevee long enough to know that he could smell me this close. I waited for him to move, for him to either reach up and pluck me from my cubby or continue on. I sat there for what might have been 5 years, but it was probably shorter. Then Eevee quietly slithered away.
I waited for a few minutes until the birds returned to their singing. Then I bounded out of the tree and back to the red flag. And there it lay, draped over a branch just below my reach. I snatched it from its spot and scrambled toward the tree line. Right at the edge, he reappeared but I leapt over his head, transforming as I did into a cheetah, and raced back to the library with the flag gripped in my teeth. I tapped the library wall with my paw, then returned to human form and spat the flag into my hand, grinning smugly at my opponent.
Eevee returned to his cat form and trotted over to me. "Not bad for a beginner, but try it again with less flourish. You get too cocky and a tentacle monster will have your head."
I saluted him. "Sir, yes sir." He frowned up at me, but I was in too good a mood to care. The race had been exhilarating; the victory of outsmarting my ancient cat was enough to give me energy for as many rounds as it would take until Dad got home.
At the end of our training for the day, I went home with a new emotion I'd never thought I'd feel for my destiny: excitement.
A/N: Slender Man will make his debut in the next chapter.