It's really weird to be just sitting around watching television with someone you absolutely hate. Which is even weirder for me because I have this 'defect' or whatever where I can't seem to hold a grudge against anyone for any prolonged length of time. (Like, seriously, some two weeks ago I'd have stabbed WhiteCrow on sight. Today, I barely even care. I might even buy him a drink if he asked nice.) Yet since the moment I met this fucker I have hated him with a passion and it just seems like it's growing and I'm not even sure why anymore. Obviously he's a dick, but I know plenty of those and that doesn't stop me from cooling my jets after a while. So just what have I forgotten that's really crawling up under my skin about this guy?
Well, at the very least, I know why I'm upset with him right now. So lets break the silence already... "I'm not stupid you know."
"Is that so?" He changes the channel, barely even looks at me.
I just scowled at him, "I can piece two and two together, jackass. It was obvious you wanted something from me from the start, it was just a matter of figuring out what. I may not remember you, but I still KNOW you, and even if I didn't, you've made it pretty clear that you don't really want a damn thing to do with me. So why put up with me at all unless you had some ulterior motive? This is all just for show. You never had anything to prove to me, you're just trying to keep me safe and under watch until I remember what you're after."
He mutes the channel, setting the remote down, then crosses his fingers as he lays his hands upon his lap, never once looking at me. "Go on."
I growled at that. I didn't even need to explain, he knew where I was going. But I felt like wasting my breath. "I've kept some things to myself until I could come to grips with them, but I think the picture's pretty clear by now. The way you talked about me in my visions, the things I've seen myself doing in them, the kind of people I have no problems speaking to today... You think I haven't figured it out? You think I don't know??"
There's this smile creeping along his face, but he doesn't say a word, so I just keep talking. "So if I look at it that way... if I make the right comparisons... then it doesn't take much digging does it? I can damn near pinpoint the moment you took interest in me again. Three different people told me it was important and I didn't listen to them, but sure enough it came back to bite me in the ass. It's that damned Book, isn't it?! That whole stupid dream and everything in it was real! And you know I'm the only one who knows where the book is now!"
There's this moment of silence during which his smile reaches its peak and he startings slowly clapping. "Bravo, bravo, you've figured it out." He pushes himself out of his chair and begins walking towards a window. "But only so much, correct? You still don't know what the book is or why it's important, do you?"
My eyes are following him around the room, but I keep my seat. Can't freak out, not yet. "I've got some theories, but no facts. So just spill it. What's the deal with this stupid dream book?"
His tone changed a bit, but I could still tell he was smiling, even if I couldn't see his face. "It's complicated," he explained, "but if you'd like the cliff notes version, it's an ancient compendium of collected knowledge regarding our mutual tall friend. An 'Encyclopedia Slenderia' if you will."
"That's a stupid name."
"Now now, you'll hurt people's feelings saying things like that. Besides, it's not the name of the book that's important, it's what's inside. Knowledge. Vital information that could lead us to the downfall of He That Is. We need only harness it."
"So why didn't we? I found it, I must have brought it back."
After a while, Third glanced back and me, pointing a finger in my direction. "You remember the end of the dream? You said you couldn't use the book after you had obtained it, but you didn't know why. The knowledge was locked away from you somehow."
"I vaguely recall something like this..." Obviously I've looked it up again since this conversation, so... yeah, I said that, but I was kind of scratching my head at the time of question. I don't normally read my own blog. "So what was the deal then?"
"Nothing supernatural, if that's what you were expecting... but simply put, the entirety of the book was written by hand, in German. That's why you couldn't read it. I was at a similar loss, though I suspect Redlight could have deciphered it given enough time... Unfortunately, he had more pressing matters to attend to, this was our puzzle to solve. And that's where your friend [Onewinged] came into the picture. Having been born and initially raised in Germany, he was familiar enough with the language to begin translating it for us. It was a slow process but-
"Whoa whoa, wait. [Onewinged] was German??"
He gave me the oddest look at that. Head tilted, eyebrow raised, the works. "I'm not sure whether I should be attributing that one to memory loss or to you being hopelessly oblivious... his parents were in the military, remember? They traveled for a while on assignment. He was still basically- You've launched me completely off topic. Where the hell was I?"
"Fine, sorry. Something about the book being translated. So then what? Did we find a way to kill the Slender Man?"
His expression pretty much goes back to normal/annoyed now. "Is the Slender Man dead?"
"Well there you go then." And back to smug. Awesome.
"So did we find Anything??" I'm so close to just yelling at him at this point, I'm sick of talking in circles.
"Yes and no. Much of what we translated simply related tales of the monster's exploits over the course of recorded history, but filtered among them were guidelines for dealing with him in various situations. Solutions for evading similar fates and methods of counteraction. You'll be amused to learn how correct M was in regards to certain details... even back then. Still, is wasn't much to go by. Little by little we seemed to be getting close to something substantial, but each time I felt we were on to something, the translations would fall apart. I eventually came to realize that [Onewinged] was intentionally sabotaging his work in order to hide information from me, fearing, I suspect, that it would fall into the hands of Redlight and be used against Runners. I knew the two of you didn't trust me given my allegiances, but this manner of betrayal was truly disheartening. Such a cruel way to treat a friend, is it not?"
"I can't help but feel like you probably deserved it, but... yeah, maybe a dick move. Should I apologize?"
"I wouldn't. You'll just take it back when I tell you that I resolved the matter by stealing the book for myself."
"Yeah... that would do it."
"You can't really blame me, you left me no choice. If [Onewinged] refused to cooperate, then I needed to find someone else to perform the translation. I'd simply wait for Redlight to return to me, then we could locate a more willing accomplice. Unfortunately, you managed to catch me in the act. I believe that's about the point where your little vision posts pick up."
"Right, you were tied up. So I guess that means I took the book back and hid it from you?"
"Then you got loose and wiped my memory... but then you couldn't find the book." Now it was my turn to put on the smug grin. "Well, that certainly worked out for you, now didn't it?"
"A... minor... miscalculation on my part..." He was still smiling but I caught the brief flicker of irritation that swept over his face when I said that. "but to err is human. I never said I was perfect. Regardless, I was able to press on and continue my studies without the aide of the book even after you two left me for dead. The loss merely slowed me down."
"But you could still use the book to further your studies... and when I showed up on the radar again and started spouting some nonsense about a book... well, that caught your interest, now didn't it? Then my memory started coming back and you figured it was only a matter of time before I connected the dots back to it. So now you're just waiting for me to remember where I hid it so I can tell you where it is?"
He nodded, "Correct again."
"Well then you may as well kick me out the door right now. Because even if I did remember where it was, I would never tell you."
He began walking back towards me, "Is that so? I thought you might say something like that. So I'm prepared to offer you a Deal..."
It felt like the air had changed. Just the mention of that word, in that way, and suddenly it felt like I was being smothered by it. "What kind of deal?"
He removed something from his pocket and laid in on a table next to my chair. A syringe, sickly fluids tossing about within it. "A New Deal, Same as the Old Deal." He began circling me as he explained. For once my eyes didn't follow him, they were transfixed on the object in front of me. "What you're looking at is a perfected modification of the original 'Cure' serum. Just one dose and all of this goes away. You climb back out of the rabbit hole with no memory of your experience. The nightmares, the visions, the horrors, all of it gone. The tall man will lose his grip on you completely, you'll be free of him for good. I'll have my contacts relocate you, give you a new life someplace quiet. Maybe even get you a military contract or something to work on robots or whatever... something to keep you busy and entertained. All your previous associations and activities will be covered up. Your blog will be wiped, the works. None of this will have ever happened."
He snapped his fingers, grabbed my attention back to his stupid smiling face leaned down to meet mine. "All you have to do... is get me The Book."
He picked up the syringe once more. I could have taken it then, but I didn't. I let him take it away... I hesitated too long. It was too good an offer. I knew there had to be a catch but then... there didn't have to be at all. He wanted nothing to do with me. This would get me out of his hair permanently and he wouldn't have to get his precious fingers dirty to do it. It was an offer I couldn't refuse and he knew it. He fucking knew it. So I just sat there... dumbfounded. Like an idiot. And watched him exit the room.
"I'll give you some time to think about it."