THE SLENDER MAN

TIM TUCKER

It was the most exciting game the children had ever played.

The children rocketed this way and that across freshly mowed lawns, screaming at each other, laughing, flying hand in hand, more excitement that they had ever known in their young lives. Above, bulbous, fluffy clouds swam languidly across the blue sky and the wind whispered through the trees.

It was a perfectly normal scene that was held together by only a tremulous layer of sanity.

Morgan ran into her kitchen, all strawberry blond hair and sweat. Even at nine years old she was loud and strong and assertive. Her mother, Mrs. Geyser, barely saw her as she rummaged through cupboards and stashed cleaning supplies and tools into her bookbag.

"What in the world are you doing Morgan?"

"Playing the funnest game ever!" gasped Morgan.

"Stop and catch your breath young lady." said her mother.

"Mom I'm fine!" gasped Morgan. "Can I take these things? Pretty please?"

"Ok, but be careful. And don't break anything!" said Mrs. Geyser.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" cried Morgan as she bolted for the door.

"What's the name of the game?" Mrs. Geyser asked her fleeing child.

"Take Over!" said Morgan and slammed the door behind her.

In almost every lawn on the street children carried plastic piping, card board, aerosol spray, baking soda, electrical components, and fertilizer. This was a special kind of scavenger hunt, one that only attracted the attention of the younger children. The older ones thought the activity was too childish and returned to their games of baseball and basketball. Meanwhile the adults came and went about their business, unaware of the industrious little children and their game of Take Over.

"This goes here, and that goes in this one," said Morgan, instructing the other children with their assorted tubing and copper wiring. "You have to make sure they're even, and bring that over here. No! Here stupid! Get back I'll fix it myself!" Her face wrinkled in concentration as she worked at the copper cables. "Like this! Ta-dah!"

"Yayyyy!" cried the children.

One of the neighborhood boys, twelve year old Joe Knudson wheeled up on his bike.

"What you guys doing?" He asked.

"Go away," said Morgan, staring straight at him.

"I wanna play too!" he pleaded

"You can't!"

"Why not?"

"You're too old," sneered Morgan. "Go play with your balls!"

The children snickered.

Another older boy rolled up on his bike. "Hey Joe! Leave them little punks to their game, let's go have fun!"

Joe's face melted into a mask of longing. "But I wanna play too!"

"Listen to your boyfriend," teased Morgan. "Or better yet go play with his balls!"

The children cackled with laughter.

"Come on Joe, forget these sissies and their toys!" They biked off slowly, Joe looking back all down the street.

Morgan was already focused back to her work. She made a kind of device with her tubing and copper wiring and baking soda, holding it up for the other children who ooh'ed and ah'ed at her invention. She appointed another little girl with a notebook and pencil to jot down notes in hasty scribbles, her commands rising and falling in the late afternoon air.

In a thousand other cities just like this one across North America children gathered equipment in preparation for the Take Over.. Like worker ants in a colony, like busy bees in a hive, there was no desertion of task among the children, everyone toiling away under the tides of warm Spring air.

From her bedroom window Morgan's mother gazed down at the children. Her daughter seemed to be in deep conversation with someone near the hedge of bushes, though there was no one there.

Mrs. Geyser smiled and shook her head. They'll tire themselves out eventually, rest well and be back to school by Monday, bless their little hearts.

Morgan's friend, the little girl with the brunette locks – what was her name Anissa? Took notes as Morgan asked the hedge bush a question.

Mrs. Geyser listened.

"He says we need intessins!" Said Morgan.

"What's a intessin?" asked Anissa with difficulty.

"It's like the warm gooey stuff inside of you."

"How you spell it?" asked Anissa.

"I-N-T-" spelled Morgan slowly, then snapped, "Oh how am I s'posed to know!? You're taking the notes!" She went to the next word. "Kidney," she said.

"I haven't got intessin down yet!" said Anissa.

"Well hurry stupid!" cried Morgan.

Mrs. Geyser leaned out of the bedroom window. "I-N-T-E-S-T-I-N-E," she spelled down to Anissa.

"Thanks Mrs. Geyser!" said Anissa.

"Any time," said Morgan's mother and went back to folding her laundry.

Sometime later during lunch Morgan gulped down her apple juice in one go and was almost at the door when her mother slapped the table.

"You sit right back down young lady," she commanded. "The soups not even ready yet and you're trying to run out the door!"

Morgan fidgeted all the while her mother boiled her soup, deposited it into a bowl, and took out a pack of crackers.

"Awww mom I'm not even hungry, can't I go back outside? It's important!"

"Everything's a matter of life and death when you're a kid, I know how it is."

Morgan tore away at the still hot soup.

"Slow down, you'll burn your tongue." Mrs. Geyser warned.

"Can't, Slendy's waiting on me." said Morgan.

"Slendy? That's an odd name, who is he?"

"You don't know him," said Morgan evasively.

"Is he a new boy at school?" asked Mrs. Geyser.

Morgan shrugged. "something like that."

"Well, maybe I would like to meet this Slendy."

"You can't! Slendy doesn't really like to meet new people."

"Is he shy?"

"Yes. No. Kinda. Jeez mom you're going to make me late for the Take Over!"

"What exactly are you kids Taking Over?"

Morgan groaned and rolled her eyes in pure exasperation. "The World of course!" she said, brandishing her spoon as if it were a sword.

"The world...uh huh." said Mrs. Geyser with a wink.

"You don't believe me! None of the parents ever do!" snapped Morgan.

"No, no! I believe you sweetie!" said Mrs. Geyser. "So is Slendy helping you on your quest for world domination?"

"Not really helping, but he wants to use us as...ah dang! What'sa name? Prock-sies?"

"Proxies?"

"Yeah, that's it! Proxies! Slendy says it's the only way to surprise the enemy!"

"I'm sure no one would ever expect that!" Laughed Mrs. Geyser. "This Slendy, where does he come from?"

"He says he comes from another dimshun."

"Dimshun?"

"Yeah, the fourth one."

"Oh, you mean dimension?"

"That's the word! He says it's real dark and lonely in his dimshun, so he came to ours to play."

"You mean to Take Over?"

Morgan stared into her half eaten bowl of soup. "We're just playing." she grumbled.

Mrs. Geyser began to clean up. "Well I won't keep you from Slendy any longer. It's getting late and if you want to have your Take Over before it gets dark you better hurry!"

"Slendy says it's best to play in the dark."

Mrs. Geyser raised an eyebrow. "Oh he did, did he?"

"Uh huh, he says that's when no one will see you coming!"

"Well, mom says be back by eight o'clock."

Morgan went to the door. "All of the kids who are old enough to stay out late don't believe in Slendy, they're just as bad as the grown ups! They can't be part of the Take Over..."

"So what are you going to do with them?"

Morgan shrugged coolly. "The same thing we're going to do to everyone else."

She opened the door and stopped.

"Mom?"

"Yes?"

"What's innocence?"

Mrs. Geyser looked her daughter in the eyes and smiled. "That's what you have as a child sweetheart. Don't lose it too fast."

"Oh, ok. Thanks for lunch mom!"

And with that she was out the door, slamming it behind her with great force.

At five o'clock Mrs. Geyser called her sister in Columbus while busying herself around the house.

"Hey Mary, how are things going?"

"Oh just great," her sisters sing-song voice drifted from the receiver. "I got the kids running me and my cleaning supplies dry with their little Take Over."

Mrs. Geyser laughed. "are you're kids playing that silly game too?"

"What kids aren't playing that game is the real question. It's been blowing up all over Facebook and Twitter, nothing but Take Over this and Slendy that. I swear it's like Pokemon all over again!"

"Morgan's says she's been talking to a boy named Slendy."

"Yeah my Kyle has a little man-crush on him, bless his heart. He won't stop drawing pictures of him, he almost has enough to make himself a scrapbook."

"So what's this Slendy look like?"

"Like an overrated stick figure. Real long and lanky guy in all black, kinda looks like what's-his-name from that movie Nightmare Before Christmas."

"Jack Skellington?"

"Yeah that's the one, except this Slendy doesn't seem to have a face. Kinda creepy if you ask me."

A pregnant pause punctuated the line.

"No face," Mrs. Geyser mused. "How does he talk to the kids then?"

"Honestly Marie you're sounding just like the kids! Were we this impressionable when we were little?"

"Well we had G.I. Joe and Pink Floyd, not faceless inter-dimensional stick men."

Mary laughed. "yeah the good ol' days. I'm surprised we didn't turn out to be dykes!"

They chit chatted for a little while longer before saying their goodbyes and getting back to their separate lives. The day drowsed by and the setting sun cast elongated shadows across the green lawns. Mrs. Geyser was almost finished preparing dinner when she heard the girl crying from outside. Mrs. Geyser went to the front door and saw Anissa running up the walk with Morgan trailing behind her. Anissa threw herself in Mrs. Geyser's arms and she saw the source of the girls cries; a bruised and bloody lip.

"Morgan! Did you hit Anissa?" Mrs. Geyser asked sternly.

"No! Honest I didn't! She was just being a little scaredy cat, tried to run away and fell!"

"Scared of what? Give me a straight answer or you're grounded for the rest of Spring Break!"

"She's scared of the Take Over! Me and Slendy tried to tell her that everything's going to be ok but she's too much of a wimp to keep playing!"

"Morgan," Mrs. Geyser said slowly. "It's not that serious. Apologize to your friend now."

"She's not my friend," Morgan said coldly, staring a hole through the little girls back. "And she can't be part of the Take Over either!"

"I think you had enough playtime for today, go to your room."

"But mommmm..."

"Now Morgan!"

With an intensity that Mrs. Geyser had never seen before in her daughter Morgan stalked up the porch and headed into the house.

Mrs. Geyser turned her attention to Anissa and grimaced when she saw the trickle of blood flowing down the young girls chin.

"You poor thing! Come in, I'll get you cleaned up." Anissa shook her brunette locks violently and squirmed from Mrs. Geyser's grasp.

"I'm fine! Really. I'm not scared, I still wanna play Take Over! I wanna play!"

"Anissa honey, you're bleeding."

The little girls head twitched.

"You hear that? Slendy's calling me!" Anissa bolted down the walkway towards the empty street where no one waited on her.

Mrs. Geyser stood there, dumbstruck, for several moments before shaking her head and quietly going inside. Children, children and their strange ways. Do they honestly believe in their fantasy of make believe, or more importantly can they separate the world of pretend from reality?

Time crept by.

Mrs. Geyser sipped on a beer to calm her frayed nerves and reclined in her electronic massaging chair. Besides the hum of the chair a curious silence deepened throughout the house, not even Morgan stirred in her bedroom. Mrs. Geyser switched on the radio and was greeted by local news.

"...at Children's Memorial Hospital a reporting a bizarre spike in sudden behavioral deficiencies among pre pubescent children just days after what witnesses...panic attacks...schools..." The radio cackled in and out with static before emitting only cold, dead white noise. Mrs. Geyser sat up in her chair, which had also stopped working and took in the new found silence with the tiniest inkling of dread that she could not quite put her finger on.

The scream.

A piercing wail of pure, bloody murder from outside shattered the profound silence. Mrs. Geyser ran to the front door, outside down the walk, and saw Mrs. Johnson from across the street on her knees screaming in terror. She followed the woman's gaze to the throng of children playing soccer in the street and...

...Morgan, in the midst of it all, shouting, laughing, having an absolute blast disobeying her mother.

"Morgan!" Mrs. Geyser cried, marching towards the children. Oh you're going to get it now young lady!

Morgan raised the ball high and delivered a powerful kick to it, sending it sailing through the early evening air. Mrs. Geyser watched it with a sense of numb horror as the ball reached its zenith, the brunette locks flowing from its wake like the tail of a comet, before the decapitated head of seven year old Anissa landed on the street with a sickening thud.

The children screamed with delight as Mrs. Geyser tried to make sense of the absolutely senseless, realized it was impossible and involuntarily her own scream escaped from her mouth.

"Morgan...oh no baby no, no, NO!"

A blue SUV hummed down the street and stopped before the gang of children.

Mr. Geyser.

"Frank! Oh my God Frank!" Mrs. Geyser shouted through her tears. "The kids...they...they..."

Morgan waved to her father and held up what looked like a remote control.

"Everyone hit the deck!" she cried. The children scuttled for cover as Mrs. Geyser made a feeble lurch towards her husbands car.

The explosions shook the very earth.

All down the street dented hatchbacks and luxury sports cars exploded into grisly fireballs. Mrs. Geyser was engulfed in flames next to her station wagon and the blue SUV erupted in a devastating blaze.

Mrs. Geyser felt the explosions as much as she saw and heard them, dull concussions which deafened her ears and sent her reeling backwards, tripping up the stairs onto the porch. Through the flames, dozen of tiny shadows scampered through the gathering darkness towards her home, shouting with joy as if they were playing some sort of twisted game.

In a way, they were.

Mrs. Geyser ran into the house, shrieking, babbling incoherently, as all of her suspicion and fear spilled out of her and tore her to pieces.

She tumbled into the attic, slammed the door and locked it. Downstairs, footsteps came into the house, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, feet running into the house.

And then the heavy footsteps. Very heavy footsteps coming up the stairs along with the muted giggling of children. Mrs. Geyser sobbed against the door and cursed her logic and sensibility, her failure of recognizing the Take Over as more than just mere child's play, and her own helplessness, as she was trapped in the attic.

The vibrating phone threatened to shake Mrs. Geyser apart but she composed herself long enough to take the device out of her pocket and press the 'TALK' key.

"Marie...oh my God Marie are you there?" her sisters anguished voice floated from the phone. "It's Kyle, I haven't been able to find him all day and when I went into his room...oh God Marie, his drawings, his drawings were done in blood! Blood everywhere and I can't find my little boy! I don't know what to do!"

Mrs. Geyser huddled in the corner of the attic, the phone pressed against her face, listening, barely able to breathe, unable to help her sister, unable to help herself.

"Mom?" cried Morgan from directly below the attic. "Are you up there?"

The hesitation. The silence.

Footsteps both light and heavy ascended the attic stairs.

The attic door burst open.

"Found ya'!" Morgan cried. The children mobbed into the attic, laughing, shouting, gnashing and hissing. At the entrance Mrs. Geyser could have sworn she saw an elongated, grotesque shadow watching with no eyes and a face as pale as a skull but within seconds she was descended upon with scissors, pencils, knives, and broken glass.

"Get her intessins! The intessins!" The children cried, stabbing and slicing away at her belly and through her haze of unimaginable pain thoughts of peaceful days swelled up in the dam of Mrs. Geyser's mind.

Morgan grabbed a handful of her mothers hair and yanked her head back, exposing the soft, vulnerable region of her jugular. She held up her mothers pearing knife, the same one that Mrs. Geyser had got from her mother, the one with the pearl handle and when she felt the blade carve into her neck the walls of her dam crumbled around her, spilling away her sanity and blood.

Morgan stop, oh my God stop please stop oh God that tickles!