Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Anniversary & The End

Last Tuesday was the anniversary of Rose's disappearance. It's difficult to imagine now that she has been gone from my life for that long. I thought about posting here, but instead I decided to take some time and really think about it.

I still miss her. I miss her like hell, actually. She was the joy of my life for a long while. She and I helped each other with everything. We talked about boys. We supported each other. She helped me through the ordeals with Angel.

And when she needed me, I failed. If I'd had faith in her, if I'd believed her when she said something was wrong, would she still have been taken?

I suppose it's useless to ask now, when all I have of her is the ghost in my dreams.

It was a gruelling ten-hour drive from Maryland to Massachusetts, which we made in a practical caravan, my car in front and my dad with his truck and all my stuff behind. He insisted on helping me move, saying that I couldn't expect to drive back and forth like I did for Ocean City.

The Haven will be left in Violet's hands for the time being. She'll be keeping me in touch with all the goings-on. There is no one more qualified to guard it.

As for me, I'm three weeks into my classes at Miskatonic and loving every minute. My professors are mostly fantastic, and the people in the dorms even more so. My own roommate, Lisa, and I don't really see eye to eye, but that's more of a personality difference.

Then there's Soren. He lives two floors down from me and he's in my acting class. We were paired up for one of the small projects so far and we really hit it off, as it were. He's got a fantastic sense of humor that's just like mine, and he loves movies like me. He's an excellent listener and seems really interested in what I say, and I'm fascinated by all the things he has to bring to conversation.

My life is back on track ... except for the incident before I left for school, things are pretty normal. Because of that, I've made a decision.

I'm not going to be posting here anymore.

I hate looking at my archive and being reminded of everything that's happened in the last year. I don't want to keep reliving it like it's part of some sick fantasy. I want to start anew. Even if I can't forget ... that doesn't mean I want to remember.

I can't look back just because my past taps me on the shoulder or grabs my attention in my dreams. I need to look forward.

Then again, I do love having you guys to talk to. And sometimes I feel like there's some higher being forcing me to keep coming back and writing down what I think and feel -- call it my own personal obsessive compulsion.

So I'll be making a new blog. A new blog for a new life. Other than examining my aunt's book, I won't let anything hold me back from living.

Here's to a better year, you guys.

I think it's gonna be fantastic.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Moving Up to MiskU Today

I'm making this post from my phone in the car, so it'll have to be pretty brief.

Firstly, the Gray Haven will be left in Violet's care for the time being. I'll still be in touch with her every day.

Second, something happened last week that I can't remember. Zeke has left and he won't tell me what it was, but Vi says they all thought I was going to die.

She tried to convince me to stay, but I don't care if I have the Black Plague; I feel fine now, and I'm going to college just like I goddamn planned.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

In Which I Explain the Last Month in a Disappointingly Short Manner

“I got you something.”


“I got you something,” I said a bit louder.

“Yeah, I heard that, what is it?” he growled impatiently. He's always so patient and polite in the morning, after all. We were standing at the counter, where I was stirring my tea.

I took the little necklace out of my pocket. It was on a cord rather than a chain.

“There's a little place on the Boardwalk where you can carve your own jewelry using these templates,” I said, feeling suddenly like I needed to explain myself. “Nothing big, just amber or topaz or something like that, and they have these special weird tools for it.”

I placed the necklace on the counter. The little cross, short and squared and thick, clicked quietly on the granite.

For a moment, he looked at it, sipping his coffee; I could practically see his groggy morning gears at work as he tried to decipher what to make of it.

“I'm not religious,” he said.

“I know that,” I said. “But I figured you could use it like a Constant, like me and Vi.”

“Like your rosary?”

My fingertips played absently at the wooden beads around my neck. “I guess so, yeah.”

“Hm.” He sipped his coffee again. “Why a cross?”

“It was the easiest template,” I lied. The well-shaped cross seemed to attest to the fact; the sides were all even, all meticulously cut. “It was this or a bunny rabbit, Strahm.”

“Had enough rabbits for one lifetime, thanks,” he said.

Why had I really done a cross? I've given it some thought. Maybe I wanted him to believe in something, anything. Maybe I just wanted him to think of me from time to time.

“Just put some faith in it. It's worked for me and Vi,” I said. “He's stayed away from us, for the most part.”

He lowered his voice so that Violet and Riley, seated out on the balcony, wouldn't hear him. “You don't know that. He's stayed away from you, but we can see that there are...other...factors with that. Violet won't say whether he's stayed away from her or not. She won't say anything about the two months of dead communication between you two.”

I blinked. “She'll tell us in good time.”

“I certainly hope so.”

I fidgeted with the rim of my tea mug. “Just...try it.”

“No guarantees I'll wear it.”



He picked it up off of the counter and put it in his pocket, heading down the hall to his room. Stung, I rolled my eyes and went to the couch – which, with my laptop and various random nonsense on the coffee table around it, has become something like my office since I've started writing for this local magazine. Fortunately for me, I seem to have gotten the rather awesome job of writing about tourist destinations, researching their specifics and interviewing their proprietors, who are, naturally, eager to get on the good side of press.

Honestly, I'd already begun putting mental significance into the cross even as I'd made it, using those stupid-friendly tools in the hot stuffy shop on the Boardwalk. I tried to make each step have more faith and protection than the last, like when saints made their relics. I don't know if it'll make any difference, nor do I even know if Zeke has bothered with it at all; I haven't seen him wear it, and that happened three weeks ago.

Luckily for us, that's about the most exciting thing that's happened in the last month.

The reason I haven't updated between when the Delmonts left and now is that, quite frankly, I haven't had any reason to do so. As it turns out, it wasn't just my phone's camera that was borked; it was the whole stupid phone, and I've been trying to make do with it until such a time as I can get a new one. This means no pictures of Aunt Michelle's diary yet; but, I think there may be a way for me to take a video of looking through it and post it to something like YouTube.

I'm trying to keep myself from getting too caught up and looking through the entire thing in one go, but it's hard. It's like how I felt with Rose's notebook, but the opposite; I'm drawn to Aunt Michelle's journal, in a way that's almost mesmerizing.

I could summarize the first few pages, but I feel like it wouldn't do them justice, so I'm going to wait until I can do a video or get some photos up.

I may also start using my Twitter account again. It's a good way to give short updates in the time between posts, although all I'm really doing at the moment is writing for the magazine and packing up to go to college.

It's terribly odd – despite things being more peaceful than ever, there's some kind of unrest growing. It's not anything noticeable, but I can feel it deep down; something in me is on the alert. I think it may actually be because things have been so quiet. The first week was a welcome reprieve; the second, a sign for better things; the third, a mysterious lull.

Now we're in the fourth, and it's gone beyond quiet. It's the proverbial too quiet. No news from Wren, no blips on our radar. FBI haven't come round. I pack for Miskatonic, and then I step out and stare at the beach, searching for threats only to find none to be seen.

But there's that unrest. Something is biding its time. I can feel my guard slipping down even as I try to stay alert. Maybe I'm falling into a trap. Or maybe I'm okay, and just paranoid.

I can hardly know.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Package, a Birthday, a Departure

Firstly, I'm sorry that I've taken so long to update you guys. I wish I had a proper excuse -- long breaks typically mean that something awful has happened, and I know you must have been worries -- but I'm afraid that I really don't have one. The delay was mostly caused by the kind of complacent laziness that happens when all is going well and pleasant distractions abound. To occupy free time, I've gotten a small freelance job for a local paper for the remainder of the summer. The rest of my time has been spent buried in Aunt Michelle's final gift.

Let's go back to the Thursday before last.

First, Zeke arrived back at the Haven on Thursday night, not so long after my post concerning the attack. Violet and Riley had been sitting on the couch in the living room watching television, and I was in my room, pacing. Cathy and Tony had been in their room all day, and Ava was in the shower. I think everyone just needed some time to think things through.

I was at my door almost immediately when the front door clicked and unlocked, but Violet was to her feet and walking over in a split second. She stopped near the kitchen counter as, slowly, the door opened.

The moment Zeke walked through, I discovered I'd been holding my breath, because I let it out and breathed again. He looked tired, and a bit dirty. He was holding a package in his hand. He nodded at Vi as he passed her and walked into the kitchen, where he laid the light brown box down on the counter.

"Hi," I ventured to say.

He looked up at me, tried for a smile. "Hey," he said. Then he walked over and stood sort of beside and sort of in front of me, and held out his hand.

I rolled my eyes and extended my left arm, letting him unwrap the bandage and inspect the damage. The bullet itself had really barely touched me; the cut, deep as it was (and held together by butterfly stitches), was mainly caused by the superheated air surrounding it as it had passed. After checking it over for a few moments, he rewrapped the bandage and let my arm fall again.

"Should be all right," he concluded gruffly.

"Nice to see you again, too, Ezekiel," I said, bristling with sarcasm. "Not like we were worried about you or anything. Where's your dog?"

"On the hunt," he said, without asking who I meant.

"So he's not sticking around?"

"No, he'll be away for a while."

I must have looked incredibly smug, because he laughed and shook his head and said, "You two."

We stood quietly for a few seconds in the doorway as I suddenly became very conscious of Violet and Riley staring at us. I jerked my head back, and Zeke stepped into my room.

"Are you going to tell me what happened?" I asked, as I closed the door.

"Still debating it, actually."


"Okay," he said. "Maybe you should sit down."

"I'll stand. You sit."

He surprised me by not arguing, instead sitting dutifully down on the bed.

"Speak." I said. He began the tale as I paced back and forth.

They'd found Keaton, to be sure, and had a standoff with him in a very conveniently empty office building. Wren went vaguely insane, and then the tall bastard himself showed up. Listening, I slowly felt my muscles tightening, my jaw clenching subconsciously.

By the time he was done, I wasn't pacing anymore.

And yes, there was a...slight argument. Just a little one. Zeke fights; it's what he does.

But I will not be insulted. From now on I would have him and everyone else know this: I run the Gray Haven. I defend it, I say who comes and who goes, and this can and will extend to when I am at Miskatonic. I have final say. And if there are mistakes, then they will be my mistakes. No one else will make them for me.

No one; not even Crazy Zeke Bastard Strahm. The next time he goes out looking for something, I'll be going with him, and he can't do anything to stop me.

Right. Now that that's out of the way.

The package that Zeke had laid on the table was addressed to me. It had no return address on the envelope, but the letter inside said that Aunt Michelle wished it to be sent to me at the proper time, and it was signed cordially with Scott Monaghan's name and a request to give him a call before opening the small box.

I called him the evening of the next day. He picked up after two rings.

"Scott Monaghan."

"Yes, Mr. Monaghan," I said, suddenly rather anxious. "I'm calling because I've received the package you sent."

"Ah, I see," he said. "Well, I was merely following your aunt's instructions. But I can put some context into the things in the package, and some advice. I was there when your aunt made them."

"I...see," I said, even though I didn't.

"Have you opened it yet?"

"No. Your letter said not to."

"That's good. You've got very good self-control for someone so curious, Celie," he said.

"Well, I guess I just want to do things right the first time. Might not get another," I said with a small laugh to make it sound like a joke. If he laughed on the other end, I didn't hear it.

"Do you have it with you?"

"Yes, it's sitting in front of me now. Shall I open it?"

"Please do."

I fumbled with the tape a little, but got the box open. Reaching around the little blue packing peanuts in the box, I eventually pulled out a book. It was well-worn and beaten, and the cover sported generic romantic sepia images of Paris. A little more rooting around in the box revealed a small box, containing a necklace, and nothing else.

"Okay. It's a...journal and a necklace," I said.

"It's your aunt's journal and necklace," he said. "It arrived at your house yesterday, July the seventh, exactly twenty-four years from when she started it."


"Do you see the tape on the pages?"

"I can see some of it, yeah."

"That's where she put her research."

"Research...into what?" I asked.

"Add that question to the list. Why is the Haven so well-hidden? Why does it have a panic room with a phone that can call only nine other numbers?"

I paused and blinked; I had seen the phone in the panic room, but I hadn't noticed that particular limitation before.

"I think you already know the answer to these questions, Celie," he said. "You're a bright girl."

There was a silence. A long silence.

"Aunt Michelle knew," I said.

"More than any of us," he said. "She held the knowledge, and knew that she must pass it on someday, to someone worthy."

"Which was me?"

"Which was you."

"Why? Why not you?"

"I was with her when she discovered these things. I helped her set up the seven safehouses and I was by her side when she couldn't tell up from down in this world. Twenty-four years is an awfully long time to be haunted."

"So I'm meant to read this book?"

"Yes," he said. "If you don't, you'll be wasting a great source of knowledge."

"I've had some bad experiences involving notebooks before," I said.

"I know. But trust in this book. Trust Michelle."

"I will."

"A word to the wise, though," he said. "You will find things in this book that are...strange, even fantastic for your mind to behold. Pace yourself. Make sure that you come to terms with each part and understand all implications before moving on to the next. That is vital."

"I will," I said.

"Very good," he said. "You can call me if ever you don't understand anything or there are missing pieces, as there are bound to be."

"What about the necklace?"

"Ah, that," he said. "That is something Michelle picked up in England on her travels."

"What is the symbol on it?"

"What does it look like?"

"Er..." I stammered, confused; was this necklace like an ink blot, where different people saw different things? No, I decided. There's only one thing there. "Three rabbits, chasing each other in a circle."

"Hares," he corrected patiently. "The symbol is called the Three Hares. Do you notice anything strange about them?"

Another pause as I examined the pendant. It's medium-sized, about an inch across. "Umm..."

Suddenly, it leaped out at me, from the center of the symbol. "There are only three ears."

"That's right," he said. "They each share their ears with the other. It's a very old visual puzzle, dating back to medieval China. Each can be viewed correctly, by itself; it's only when you try to see them as a whole that something becomes wrong."

"What does it mean?" I asked.

"A lot of things have been attached to it over the years," he said. "Many churches in England and France use it in their motifs, often next to the Green Man. But no one has been able to say for sure what the original from China was meant to signify. The most popular theory is that it's a hieroglyph of the phrase 'to be.'"

"So why did Aunt Michelle have it?"

"That is for you to find out for yourself, in the book."

"Okay. Thank you, Mr. Monaghan."

"Please, it's just Scott. We're practically family."

"Okay. I'll speak with you soon, then."

"All right, Celie. Good evening."


Fortunately, there are no mental warnings involving this book; I don't feel the inherent hatred toward it that I do toward Rose's diary. Instead, only that feeling that I know so well, that all journalists feel: a certain curiosity, a hunger for knowledge.

I've gotten through the first few pages, but I'm holding off so that I can take some pictures and show you guys as I go. Right now my camera is kind of borked, so I'll have to find or borrow another one.

As for the necklace, after a quick Google search, I wasn't able to find the exact design, but I found something similar. The necklace looks like this, only without the backing, so that between the hares there is only empty space:

It's quite pretty, but I really don't understand what it has to do with Aunt Michelle.

On a rather sad note, the Delmonts left a few days after my call with Scott. They didn't say too much about their reasons, and I didn't want to ask. I've decided to make that sort of a rule: don't ask why people come here, don't ask why they leave. They'll tell you if they want to tell you. I assumed that it's because of their daughter, at least in part.

With them and Wren gone, that just leaves five of us here: Violet, Riley, Zeke, Ava, and me. We survive, and we prosper, for now at least.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Happy birthday, Zeke.

Things have happened. I've gotten a very ... special package.

Full update tomorrow.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Attack and Its Aftermath

Things have happened.

I suppose I was expecting this from the minute we arrived here, but it still took me by surprise, the way it happened. I was expecting Agents, sociopaths, led by that bastard Redlight. Instead I got a crazed little girl and her two bodyguards.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

On Monday night, while Riley was out at the store, most of us were still in the apartment after having gone out to see the fireworks. It was me, Violet, Ava, Tony, and Cathy. Things were just winding down; it was quite late, and Vi was just taking out some trash. I sat down and contemplated cleaning my gun, since I’d been at the range earlier, and as usual, I hadn’t completely unloaded it (I know, I know, bad Celie, shame shame), instead leaving one round in the chamber and one in the magazine in case of emergencies.

I can’t say exactly what happened in the hallway and on the stairs -- from what Violet said, they did in fact speak to each other before they went down the stairs -- but by the time I heard the loud scream and crash, I’d already suspected that all wasn’t well. I didn’t hesitate for a second -- I grabbed the holster on the counter and took the pistol out of it, tossing the straps to the floor.

I yanked the door open and headed for the stairs. Once I was there, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Violet was lying in a crumpled, twisted heap at the landing between the sixth and seventh floors; for one terrifying moment, I thought the worst before I saw that she was breathing, but certainly unconscious.

Standing over her, shaking and staring up at me, was a little girl, maybe twelve at the most. She looked frightened, but when she looked up and saw me, suddenly she became enraged. She moved to rush forward up the stairs at me; automatically, I raised my weapon.

“You’re Celeste,” she said.


“You have to die.”

“Not now. You can leave,” I said.

For a couple of seconds, she looked like she was considering the possibility. She seemed to be losing composure.

Something like a growl came from her and she said, “I came here to kill you!”

“Change of plans,” I said. Retightening my grip on the gun, I said, “You’re going to go back to your master, and you’re going to tell him that the Gray Haven is defended again.”

My voice got stronger as I ventured to add, “And tell him that the Witness defends it.”

Panic crossed her face for a second, but then it relaxed and  became something like a grotesque smirk; her face was far too pained, far too corrupted with malice for her to show any real pleasure at anything. I started to feel that sensation in the pit of my stomach, that wrongness.

“You don’t think I came alone, do you?”

Now it was my turn to panic.

“Ava!” I called, not taking my eyes off of this little girl. “Cathy! Tony!”

It was only a few seconds before I heard their footsteps in the hallway and felt their presence behind me. In hindsight, it must have been quite a sight to come in to; I was in my shorts and pajama tank top, holding a gun pointed at a crazed preteen.

Then something happened that I didn’t expect. Cathy ran forward, looking like she wanted to hug the creature.

“Cynthia!” she gasped. “My little girl!”

“Wait!” I shouted, much louder and bolder than I’d intended because of the echo in the stairwell. “She’s not alo--”

No sooner had I gotten through half the sentence than two fully-grown young men stepped around the corner, having hidden on the other side of the steps for who knows how long. Cathy, panicked, scrambled back up the stairs and out of reach before they’d even gotten fully around the corner.

For a fraction of a second, the girl called Cynthia hesitated and almost cried out to her mother. Cathy had mentioned her daughter before -- in passing, prompting sympathetic looks from Ava -- but I had thought it would be rude to press her for details. Her daughter, barely eleven, was a proxy?

Now my attention had to be turned to the two men, wide-eyed and obviously deranged. They had the same air as Mary-Ann Compton had when I’d seen her; they were content in their insanity. They didn’t hide it, nor did they think it detrimental. Their confidence scared me.

Tony pushed Cathy back and shot Ava a look that said Think of your child. It was just me and him in this standoff. But he was still injured, as was I, even though my arm wasn’t in its proper sling at the time; could we take on two healthy twentysomethings in a fight?

No, I decided. Not in a fair one.

I felt suddenly that I heard my father’s voice. No such thing as a fair fight, he was saying. No such thing. Rules of combat are a fallacy.

Anything to defend the Haven, the Runners, my friends, my family.

The men had evidently had enough standing around. One of them made a slight motion as though to come forward -- without thinking, I aimed the gun upward.

The shot rang out, and darkness flooded the room. The proxies charged anyway.

It’s difficult to say how long the light was out, or what happened in the total darkness of the windowless landing between the stairways. The emergency light was on the wall, in case the bulb in the hanging one blew out and left it dark; it was an archaic-looking bulb in a barred dome, and it was uncertain how long it would take before the system kicked in.

In the struggle, I lost my gun. I could hear Cathy and Ava retreating up the hallway and Tony’s grunts and roars as he took on, from what I could tell, the bigger of the two.

Both sides got good hits in. Both sides took damage. I have a hell of a bruise on my elbow, and another on my hipbone.

Suddenly there was I cry -- I think from Cynthia -- and the two men retreated. Confused, thinking something bigger was coming, I backed up as well. One flicker of light, then another. Then the backup kicked in fully, and I immediately wished that it hadn’t.

Little Cynthia, two crazed men behind her, held my pistol in her small, shaking hands. She was crying; I don’t think she expected this kind of confrontation, or any kind of confrontation. She trained the gun on me.

“Why wouldn’t you just die?!” she shouted, her tiny voice magnified by the echo. “You ruined everything! I hate you!

She pulled the trigger.

Anyone experienced enough in firearms will tell you that pistols are not known for their accuracy. It takes an awful lot of practice and patience with timing to hit a target. Cynthia was maybe five yards from me, because we’d wandered about halfway back up the stairs in the scuffle. Her hands were not nearly big enough for my gun, small as it is. And she was shaking badly.

Does that mean I wasn’t relieved when the bullet whizzed past and cut only the outside of my arm instead of plunging into my chest? Not bloody likely.

The kick from the gun had obviously scared her; she was crying harder now. She steeled herself and tried to shoot again, only to produce little more than an empty clicking noise. There was no more ammunition left. She no longer had the advantage. The gun fell to the floor, and she ran. The proxies looked unsure at first, and then followed her.

I didn’t waste time; I was bleeding from the arm, yes, but Violet was unconscious and obviously in need of serious help. Tony carried her inside and laid her on the couch while Cathy called the local hospital to see what we should do, and whether we would need to take her in.

Ava, meanwhile, fussed over my arm while I tried with my other hand to get on my phone to call Riley; it was better if he didn’t come home to see it and freak out.

In hindsight, we made a right good team; as soon as I gave them each a task (except Ava, who took up the cause of nursing me all by herself, much to my dismay), they went to it and before long, things were back under control. I watched at the door window as Cynthia and the two men ran for the small patch of woods, twisted trees gnarled by the ocean wind. What mattered was that they were away now, and probably not going to come back soon.

Now it was time to call Zeke and let him know. As I chose him in my contacts, my finger froze over the call button. Was he able to talk? Where was he? Could something have --

Ava reached over me and hit the button, interrupting my worry session before it got out of hand.

He picked up after three rings.

“I’m busy,” he growled. My face flushed; well, we’re kind of busy too, stupid.

“Zeke,” I said, calming myself. “Cynthia Delmont was just here. She attacked us --”

“Celeste? You’re breaking up.”

I checked the signal on my phone; it was fine.

“Goddammit, just get back here, and hurry,” I said.

“Celeste? Hey!”

The phone cut off. He must have been in an area with bad service.

The last two days have been rather busy. But under the constant advice from the doctors at the hospital, Violet has been getting better by leaps and bounds, and said today that her headache is nearly gone. The aid in the panic room sort of saved our skins, otherwise we would have really had to go to the hospital.

It’s been quiet for the last two days. Zeke hasn’t been back, but he called again yesterday and I was able to explain. He should be in sometime this afternoon.

I can’t believe I threatened that little girl. What’s wrong with me? At the time it felt like the thing to do…I must have looked like a monster to Tony and Cathy, looking almost ready to shoot their daughter. Would I have done that? Could I have shot an eleven-year-old to save my friends, to save the Haven?

I suppose I’ll never know. I don’t think I want to.

And in any case, it’s all back to normal now. Riley was distraught for some time, but once Vi woke up and calmed him down, he was pretty fine. That boy is strong, much stronger than I’d ever given him credit for before. And faithful; I’m happy that he’s here, sharing our work.

The fight goes on. And so does the Show.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Feathers & Focus

A few days ago, Zeke and Wren told me about a plan they had to find Keaton. Zeke said he wasn't sure whether it would work, but even if it didn't, then it couldn't hurt to generally look around. They left Friday, and haven't been back yet.

I'm worried about them. I know their plan, but I don't know all the details and...well, I'm afraid that they're going to run into him. As far as which "him" I'm referring to...well, take your pick. The answer is all of the above.

So to calm my nerves and have a bit of fun, Violet, Ava, Cathy and I sent Tony out to The Greene Turtle, the sports bar, and had a girls' night. It felt bizarre -- almost like PBT back in the old days, but now with two other women, who I never would have known without the events of the last ten months. But bizarre in a good way. In an almost normal way.

We all needed it, to bring us back down to a level we could comprehend. Ava just went through hell in the Magna, lost Reach. I'm still wearing a sling from my attack, although the wounds are healing up quickly. Cathy has been through things that a mother should never have to be put through.

And Vi. She still won't tell me any details of exactly what she did, or what happened to her while she was away. But she's so different from the girl I'd laughed with over sushi last September. She was shy then, timid, even, more content to spend time with her paints than with people if only for the fear that they wouldn't understand her. Now, that sense is still there, but with an edge. A conscious detachment. Riley has been preparing to come down with us, although it would require some shuffling around; once he gets here, we'll be at maximum capacity.

If I'm only just starting to get  to the soldier's mentality, then I can tell that Violet is already there. I see it every day. I just wish I knew what has pushed her there.

During our girls' night, we talked about trivial things. Movies we liked, music we didn't. We gossiped and chirped like old hens and painted our nails like training-bra preteens. We watched The Young Victoria and gushed over the beautiful dresses (and Prince Albert) together.

About halfway through the evening, Ava produced something she'd found in a shop on the Boardwalk: a full hair feather kit. It's become a trend nowadays for girls to put these thin, colorful feathers into their hair, the classier, earthier alternative to gaudy tinsel.

We took turns choosing our colors and clamping them to a tiny strand on each of our respective heads. I got three; Violet, ever the daredevil, got four. Ava stuck with three as well, and Cathy chose two. I chose a green-and-black stripe, a yellow-and-black, and a solid white. The green is much longer than the other two, but I think it gives it a nice layered look.

Cathy went before me; as I got ready and made the final choice on my colors, Ava glanced over and said, "So what will these mean, Celie?"

"What?" I said with a laugh.

"You're building a right meaningful wardrobe. What do these mean?"

"She's right," Vi said with a wicked grin. "It'd be anticlimactic if these just meant, 'look, we think feathers are pretty.'"

"Ah, well," I joked. "Gotta stay dramatic and all that."

We laughed. I bit my lip and picked up the green feather. "This one is for family. It's green because I'm full-blooded Irish, and it's long..." I glanced at the girls. "...because I keep adding to my family."

Ava smiled; Cathy gave a small "aw!"

I picked up the yellow and black and stared at it for a good few minutes. "Emily Dickinson said that Hope is the little yellow bird that perches in the soul. So this one is hope."

The white one was last. I was still thinking and looking at it when Cathy got up, her feathers all put in. The girls looked at me. "Meaning or no, we've gotta put them in," Cathy said with a laugh.

I sat down and let her start, choosing a place to put them quite close and up front, so that they hang down next to my face. The whole process doesn't take more than ten minutes; the feathers are attached to a small strand of hair by a bead that sits flat against the head.

As it fell at last, complete, and Cathy beamed at her good work, I said, "Me."

"What?" Vi said.

"The white one stands for Self. The last time I forgot who I was..." I couldn't find the words; I didn't feel myself reaching up absently to touch the back of my neck until Cathy interrupted its path and took my hand, holding it tight.

I had been the last to get mine put in. We spent the rest of the night determining the meaning of each of our feathers, specific to each woman, qualities and virtues that we admired or wanted to keep close to ourselves. Violet's meant tranquility (blue and black), strength (solid yellow), creativity (solid purple), and resistance (red and black).

I know what Cathy's and Ava's mean, but I'm not sure whether they want me broadcasting it.

And speaking of broadcasts...a project was recently begun involving Maduin, better known as the Jester. After some correspondence, we came to the conclusion that it would be good for there to be a central source where Runners could get information on their friends and loved ones in a quick, easy way, safe from proxies. The result is called The Show, and I'll say no more about it here.

Now that I've wasted at least a page detailing the stylistic choices of the hunted, I should probably go into what this post is really meant to be about.

If we are to have any sort of organization -- and I do believe that organization may be the key here -- we're going to need to shift our target.

Trying to defeat the Slender Man directly has simply not worked. It's been detrimental for most, and suicidal for many more. We need to switch our attention if we want to get anywhere; we need to start defending from proxies first, then him.

Wars are not won by going straight for the general; first, ground must be gained and kept. So far, all I've seen are people losing ground, mostly not to him but to his soldiers. From what I've researched, I've theorized that while he is dangerous -- you don't need to tell me twice for me to know that he is dangerous -- there are certain things he can't do. Whether this is by choice, or coincidence, or just his pure alien nature, I don't know. He needs servants to do the things that may be a bit too nuanced to our world for him to do himself.

That is where Redlight and the proxies come in. Redlight, as far as I can tell, doesn't have a higher authority than the tall bastard himself. Under him is an unknown number of proxies. For some reason, most of them latch onto one Runner or another; maybe the reason is personal, but due to the fact that it happens so often, I'm more inclined to think it's a requirement, or some sort of rite-of-passage. Give someone to the Slender Man, move up in rank? Maybe.

In the end, what we need to focus on is defense. As far as a good holdout, the Gray Haven is physically very well-fortified. We're not going to hunt proxies; as I just said, it seems more like they'll come to us if we need to fight them. All we need to do is keep them from getting in, which I think we can do. I think we can.

At the same time, most of my observations are just theories. It's impossible to know for sure whether or not they hold true.

But it's a start.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Ava arrived a bit sooner than I'd planned, but I certainly didn't mind when she sent me a text message saying that she and the Delmonts were on their way. I helped them bring their things up the elevator and into the apartment. Now there's a grand total of seven people and a dog staying here. Sometimes things get rather crowded, but mostly it's quite pleasant.

When I lived with my father, I always had to watch what I said. I don't know what I'd do if one of my family found out about what we're going through -- if some theories are right, exposing them would be disastrous. One slip, and I could be endangering their lives.

Here, there's nothing holding us back. It's not like any of us don't know what it is we're fighting. We can dig in, keep each other safe, and most importantly, be open. When one of us says, "It's a bad day," everyone else knows that they're not talking about minor trifles or a headache.

When people know what's wrong, and know how to handle it, it's easier to heal.

Ava and Violet have gotten on famously since they've met. Vi has never been the loud type, unless she's angry, but her dry, quiet remarks mirror Ava's wit beautifully. Zeke and Wren don't make many appearances; they mostly keep to their rooms or the balcony, and I think they may be plotting something. Tony and Cathy share their habits.

We could be a sitcom, I swear. Seven misfits, and a dog. We could fight crime.

Last night, I left the Gray Haven at midnight. Ocean City is far south enough in Maryland that it escapes most of the harsh, unpredictable weather of up north in the woods; the sky was clear, the wind just strong enough to ripple my sundress. We're very close to the Boardwalk, so I wandered down along the battered wooden planks, crowds of new high school graduates passing me, paying me no mind except for one or two boys with their friends who shot me half-drunken lascivious looks. I didn't really mind.

I took my iPod from my purse and put the headphones on as I wandered away and onto the cool sand of the beach. Taking my sandals off and stowing them in my purse, I walked along the threshold where the tide was slowly creeping up. Every now and again a big wave would come and soak my feet to the ankle.

Eventually, it got to the point where there weren't any other people out on the beach. Maybe that was unsafe, going out alone. But did anything compare to looking out at the ocean, gaze steady, feet sure, while the sand slowly melted with the waves around me?

My iPod was on shuffle. Over the headphones came the small, warm sound of a ukelele.

"I got troubles, oh, but not today,
They're gonna wash away, they're gonna wash away.
And I have sins, lord, but not today,
They're gonna wash away, they're gonna wash away --"

I felt someone step up beside me, too close to be a stranger. I looked over only to confirm it, but I already knew it was just him; sometimes being followed is as much a protective measure as a predatory one. I unplugged my iPod and hit play again, so that the music came out over the little speaker inside. I looked up at him; he was shaking his head, with a smile that said, You goof. You complete goof.

I laughed -- really laughed, out loud, the way people are supposed to laugh, giddy from the ocean and the beauty. A big wave came and water brushed the bottom hem of my dress; I yelped, stumbling backward, then spun and turned it into something almost like a dance.

Zeke laughed. I furrowed my eyebrows in a playful pout, dropped my purse in the sand, I ran back over to him, grabbing his hand and dragging him into my idiotic dance. With a smile, he corrected my hands, tried to guide my feet, spun me around.

Freedom, I realized. Aunt Michelle has given me so many things, but her greatest gift was freedom.

"Oh, I been cryin', oh, I been cryin'.
No, no more cryin',
No, no more cryin' here.

I got troubles, oh, but not today,
'Cause they're gonna wash away,
This old world is gonna take them away."

Saturday, June 11, 2011


My sentences were punctuated by loud sniffles and coughs as I picked up the phone.

"Hey, bitchface."

"Hey, pukey," Vi's voice came from the other end of the phone loud and clear. "What's up?"

"Still pukey." Sniffle. "What about you?"

"About halfway back from Salisbury. Traffic's a nightmare."

"You shouldn't talk while driving." Cough.

"You sound like you shouldn't be talking, period."

"Fuck off." The glasses clattered against the blender as I poured in the ice and bananas.

"What are you doing?"

Having poured those in, I then reached for the Nyquil. "Making a smoothie."

"You're sick as a dog. Make Zeke make you a smoothie."

"Like Zeke knows what to do with a blender." Sniffle. "Besides, it's my special smoothie."

"Oooh. What flavor?"

I glanced at the label on the Nyquil bottle. "Looks like...strawberry. And banana."

In went the Nyquil.

The moving process was slow and tedious -- a three-hour drive each way makes moving something of a hassle when the ever-so-smart-and-manly males in your life don't want to rent a U-haul. And so, I was probably the only one uncovered in all our collective junk as I sat in the driver's seat with Violet, Zeke, Wren, and either Nikki or Milo, depending on who was willing to help that day, all piled into the car and we talked, bickered, ranted and joked our way back and forth, two trips a day, both of the two days.

On our first trip down, Violet drove. As we approached the city coming down through Delaware, my scent glands suddenly felt a familiar twang.

"Do you smell that?" I said, suddenly, jerking Wren out of a nap against the window in the backseat. I bit my lip. I moved some stuff off of my lap and sat up straighter. "That's not salt -- it's rotting seaweed and other decaying organic matter -- I don't care -- that's the best thing in the world -- that's the ocean!"

I may have gotten a little excited. I looked back at Zeke; he looked caught between confusion and a smile.

Ocean City traffic is always a beast in the summer -- but at least we caught it a week before Senior Week began and the graduating high schoolers flocked down from the entire Mid-Atlantic Region.

Before our last trip down -- the one we wouldn't be coming back from -- I walked through my father's house and reflected one last time. He walked out from the hall and said he would miss me when I was gone. We sat at the kitchen table and had a good long talk. It was obvious that he didn't want me to leave, but I knew I couldn't stay there any longer.

That was Sunday. It was right around morning Saturday when I first started sneezing and coughing, and then about noon last Thursday when my stomach decided that food was way too mainstream for it and that it had to stick it to the one keeping it down (which would be me, naturally).

Violet and Zeke, ever the loving nurses that they are, have kept me either in bed or on the couch and forbade me from touching my computer until today, which is the first day that my symptoms have actually subsided noticeably. Wren, on the other hand, has continued to insist that excessive projectile vomit builds character. I do not like that man.

Fortunately, now we can actually get some work and unpacking done. Eventually, we'll have this place up and running, get a few of the glitches off of the security system, and explore what Aunt Michelle was so adamant about leaving to me.

And I have plans -- oh, do I have plans. Soon, everything will be clear for our first Runner to come and stay here: Ava Conquest. And I've had a bit of correspondence with Maduin the Jester involving plans for a method of communication that's safe from the prying eyes of proxies.

A few more Nyquil smoothies and I'll be right as rain.

Now let's get to it.

Friday, May 27, 2011


How does a few days' extra hospital stay become a week? Why, I'm so glad you asked.

Firstly, it was all started when fucking Zeke brought in that criminal, that ass, to "help" us. Admittedly, my reaction got...rather out of hand, but at the time, I only thought that Zeke had called Wren in -- not that he had already gotten there, and all behind my back.

Zeke has been stepping lightly around me lately. I never thought I'd say this, but I think he's a little scared. I don't usually scream when I'm angry, ever, but he just really surprised me at that moment.

Wren, on the other hand, is grating on my last nerve and it's only been a week. I suppose it's just how I react to being around people who are just like me, but I cannot stand that man. He and I are mirror images of each other -- red hair, porcelain complexion, bright eyes. He's thinner than I am, and obviously older. He could be Desmond, if Des was a redhead.

From the minute he got here, he just started and wouldn't stop. He's always making these snide remarks and calling me odd, offhand nicknames. Never just one, either; each time he has a different one. It's maddening. Fortunately, besides being exceedingly annoying, he hasn't done anything sneaky. The minute he does, I won't need to yell for Zeke. I'll shoot him myself.

Where was I? Oh, yes. How a few days becomes a week.

My archetypal Wicked Stepmother, feigning to care ever so deeply, kept the doctors from releasing me on the grounds that she was afraid my stitches would break again -- what with me being such a rambunctious young thing and all. I'm pretty sure even the fucking doctors saw through her ruse. Milo and Nikki straight-up told me that she was calling up some sketchy lawyer friends of hers to see if there was any way she could legally seize control of the inheritance of a legally adult stepchild still living in her husband's house. Judging by the fact that I have been served with exactly no papers saying so, I'm guessing that she hasn't had much result.

I left the hospital Tuesday morning, and I've been staying mostly to my room since getting home. I've been having Vi help me with packing -- because of my arm and my stitches, I can't lift very much, so I've been kind of directing her with packing.

This area is too small to have any hotels, so Zeke and Wren are staying in the closest thing -- a bed and breakfast just on the other side of Rocks. I certainly don't mind the idea of Wren staying far the hell away from me, although I would have liked Zeke to be closer. At least I know that he's not far away if I need him.

Yesterday, we drove the three hours down to Ocean City with Mr. Monaghan and looked at what he and my aunt had once called The Gray Haven. The name wasn't just appropriate because it was near the water -- the apartment building, like most of the big buildings and hotels close to the beach or inlet, was ten stories of dark gray stone. We went inside and rode what looked like a very old, frail elevator up seven stories until it stopped with a jolt and we stepped out. Mr. Monaghan showed me the odds and ends of the building; the building is shaped in a U, and a lot of the hallways to the apartments were actually sort of balconies.

Finally, we came to number 713, the true Gray Haven. And the place...it's beautiful. All whites and blues and granite countertops and a gorgeous view outward at the ocean. It's not empty, but the furniture is sparse, minimalist, leaving plenty of room for customization if I should want to bring my own stuff down (whether that was intentional or not, who knows). It's a bit small, but it feels open. Scenery-pornographic.

Mr. Monaghan showed us the panic room, too. All I can say is, it certainly looks secure. It's a tiny space, but it's well-stocked. And the surveillance isn't even noticeable, but it comes through very clear through the monitors on one wall of the square room.

There are three bedrooms. The master bedroom (what will be my bedroom, I suppose) is a beautiful space with a huge bed and big windows, and its own door to the balcony off of the living room. The other two are both in the hallway; the one on the left holds a double bed, the other, bunk beds.

But I really fell in love with the kitchen and bathroom. Well -- not so much the bathroom as the bathtub. My god, that bathtub. It's big and all soaky and has jets. Yeah, it's one of those. And the kitchen is all black granite and silver fixtures, contrasting the white and blue gorgeously.

If this apartment is anything to go by, then Aunt Michelle and Mr. Monaghan really were the best at what they did.

On the drive back, Violet and I talked while Zeke and Wren (I couldn't convince Zeke to make him stay behind) sat mostly silent. We discussed the logistics of moving, the plan once we were there, and how long it would be until we could get it set up for Ava, and eventually, more Runners, to come.

"I'm not babysitting," Zeke said.

"Nobody said you'd be babysitting, Zeke," I said, only half jokingly; he still really wasn't in a position to be snarking at me.

"I know that, I'm just saying that I'm not dealing with any punkasses trying to start any--"

"You know, those are the people you're fighting for --"

"Both of you!" Violet snapped. "The kids don't like it when Mommy and Daddy fight. Now shut the hell up."

We didn't have anything to say to that.

For now, I'm still here. Angel, the few times I've seen her when I've left my room, has been icy and aloof. I'm leaving and she's staying; I suppose she's convincing herself that this is a victory for her. I don't care. The only thing I regret is that Milo is still in school so I can't take him with me. And as far as my father...well, he married the bitch. I guess that means the joke's on him.

I suppose this is momentous -- my last night in my father's house. We'll be moving the vast majority of stuff and ourselves down to the Haven tomorrow morning.

I'm flooded with memories. I've lived in this house since we moved here seven years ago. I went through middle and high school here. When my "friends" decided I was the weak one out and turned on me, turned me into the kind of pariah that only preteens can make each other, I came here for refuge, hidden in the woods and fields of rural Harford County. My dad saw me crying once and sat with me for a long while and told me that it would all eventually pass. I didn't believe him then, but I guess he was right. It all passes.

I remember Thanksgiving 2009, the year before Dad married Angel. We had our big family pile into this house and have a big dinner together. Everyone had a job; mine was bartender. I made sure everyone's glasses were filled, whether it be with wine or juice for the kids. After everything was done, Desmond, Melanie, Nikki, Milo and I went Black Friday shopping with my mom and eventually had another Thanksgiving with her, at her house.

I remember how every dent and whole in our walls was made, most of it from the last year. I remember the screaming. She never hit us, but I remember that she-wolf abusing my father and my siblings. I remember watching as this house sunk into hell.

Now it's high time I find my way back to the light.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My stitches broke open.

It's nothing big, but it means I'll be in here for another couple of days; they just want to make sure that they'll hold this time.

A real post will be coming soon, either from me or Zeke. Everything's fine. More or less.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hospital Stay (Repost)

[EDIT 5/14/11: I'm reposting this since Blogger appears to have somehow gotten its shit even more wrecked than mine. The original post was made this past Wednesday; since then, not much has changed, although I'm set to leave the hospital on Monday or Tuesday, and have been doing a certain bit of reading at Violet's request. I'll have a full update for you guys soon.]

I'd like to start off this post by saying just one thing:

Admittedly, that was a bad idea.

Now, I'll have to move on, because a lot has happened in the last week and Violet only just let me have my computer back.

The physical therapists have been in every couple of hours to re-teach me how to walk and move without jarring myself or making my wounds any worse.

Zeke arrived here last week, when I was just sort of waking up. He and Violet have been with me nearly round the clock when my dad and stepmother aren't here. My mom also comes in often, and she doesn't react to the two of them with suspicion. I think I might be starting to understand why.

As strange as it sounds, I think I recognized him before he started to speak. When I saw him come in with Violet, my half-awake brain almost thought it was Riley with her -- but that was ridiculous. Riley has hair down to his shoulders, and it's brown. Zeke's is black, and slicked back. He has a round face and he'd shaved to come in. He's actually shorter than I thought he'd be.

He had them leave and sat in the chair next to me. Vi stood at the foot of the bed. Zeke looked at me for a long moment before he said, "What did I tell you monkeys about jumping on the bed?"

So I said, "Go to hell, Zeke."

He smiled. It was a really pleasant moment, and like most pleasant moments lately, it faded into silence.

He took a deep breath.

"Let me see."

I wasn't awake enough to put together words at such a statement. But I felt my eyes burn as I shook my head, as much as I could without the pain.

"Celeste. Let me see."

I bit my lip. "No."

"I brought this," Vi said, loudly, to change the subject. She came to the other side of me and placed the metal and wooden beads in my hand. "You left your rosary when you left. Your jacket and stuff is in my car, too, for when they let you out of this place."

I looked down; Jesus and Saint Jude looked back up at me from the Crucifix and medal. I got the feeling that they didn't approve of what I'd done, either. Then again, I'm a Catholic, so it could just be natural.


I turned back to Zeke. He was still looking right through me. I knew he wouldn't let up.

"Zeke, don't make me."

"I'm sorry," he said.

I knew I'd already lost this argument. I knew the routine from the nurses coming in to change the bandages; I gathered the hospital gown around me and slowly, tenderly, maneuvered myself onto my stomach. My hair was down and covering it, so I moved it out of the way as I put my face into the pillow, unable to turn it very far. The sheets covered me up to the start of my hips, but my entire back was visible.

Despite not being able to see, I could tell that it was Violet's tiny, delicate hands that gently worked at the tape and pulled up the bandages. From the few times I've glimpsed it with mirrors, I know that the stitches are the exact opposite of attractive. The pillow hid the tears; this wasn't the first thing I'd want anyone to see of me, let alone Zeke.

"Jesus Christ, Celeste..." he hissed through his teeth. Slowly, gently, his fingertip touched the very center of the symbol.

I flinched so hard that I screamed into the pillow. I hadn't been expecting his touch, and couldn't see him reach for me. I started really crying -- more from embarrassment than any pain. He put a comforting hand onto my bare back. He felt cool and reassuring against my warm skin. Eventually, I calmed down, and he put the bandage back over it and let me turn back around.

Then he asked me questions. He asked more or less normal cop things; where I was when the encounter happened, and what Practical Cat looked like. He didn't ask me to go into detail. I think he didn't want to push too far again.
After two days of full consciousness, I finally convinced Violet to give me my phone to make a call. I waited until everyone was either out or asleep. I didn't go into my contacts; I'd promised that no one else would have access to the number that I now dialed from memory. A European number. After three rings, there was a click.

"Mm?" came the voice from the other line.

"Ava? It's me," I said.

"Celie? Wh --" Avalesca Conquest cut off for a moment, and when she spoke again, I could hear her narrowed eyes in her voice. "Are you even well enough to be using the phone?"

I shifted in my hospital bed. "Probably not. But you said when I was awake. I'm awake now."

"Fair point," she said. "How are you feeling?"

"Like hell," I said. "But the physical therapist says that nothing vital was damaged. I should be able to function almost normally within a couple of weeks, except for wearing this stupid sling. And the sooner I can get out of here and get to work, the better." I hesitated. "How are...how are you faring?"

Ava paused on the other end of the line. I could hear her false start a few times.

"I--it's hard and...odd. It's like after Ray's...d-death, I'm being reset. Emotionally."

"I think I understand what you mean, almost," I said. "My brother, when he was a Marine, used to call it a 'soldier mentality.' It's what helped them cope with seeing so much death. Who knows? Maybe we're becoming soldiers ourselves in a way."

She barked a laugh before sighing.

"What are your plans for Pussybrained Cunt?" she said. I laughed.

"Now, is that the Cat, or my stepmother? Because those words could refer to both."

She snickered. "Cat. But...tell me about your stepbitch after."

"Fair enough," I said. "Well, the Cat is, naturally, nowhere to be found again. The sheriff's department is hot on his trail for now, but that won't last. It's weird...after what happened...I'm not sure if I want them to get him. I don't want them to have to fight him. And...and I never want to see him ever again...even though I know I will."

She sighed again. "Oh, god, honey. I really -- I'm so sorry. If I could hug you and not break you, I would."

I smiled. "I know. If anybody understands, it's you."

Ava made a noise somewhere halfway between a "hrgh" and a "mm."

There was a bit of a pause. Then I said, "Zeke is here."


"I guess he's everything I imagined him to be. He got my dad and Angel to leave us and Vi alone within the first five minutes he got here."

She didn't sound amused. "Well. Good for him. He try anything?"

"What...what do you mean, try anything?"

She "hnrgh'd" again.

"Have you forgotten the rant before you went gallivanting off to kill yourself?" she asked. "And don't tell me you weren't. That was a bloody suicide mission, Celie."

I couldn't argue with that. "What's your point?"

"You're going to tell me that part of your decision to run off wasn't based on the fact that you were pissed at Zeke?"

"It was...it was based on a lot of things, I guess. But if I wasn't angry at Zeke at the beginning, I certainly was by the time I left the house."

"Mmm," she said. "How're you doing mentally?"

"I'm...better, I guess," I said. "Like you said, I guess I'm resetting, too. And that's good. I know what I have to do now, where I have to be."

I took a deep breath.

"Ava, I have something I need to tell you. Something I need to ask you, too."

"Shoot," she said.

I took a long pause, organizing what I'd been planning to say for the last two days in my head.

"I'm not sure if you remember me mentioning Scott Monaghan," I said. "He was Aunt Michelle's good friend and her partner. He came in the other night to show me details about the Ocean City place. He said that Michelle named the houses they'd kept according to a Lord of the Rings motif, since she was a lit major and he was her favorite author. Since it's a pretty place by the ocean, they used to call this place the Gray Haven. It's...it's an appropriate name to say the least, Ava. The place has three bedrooms, sleeps a total of eight at a time. It's on the seventh floor of its building, with no way up except the stairs or elevator unless you count the balcony. And...and here's where it gets a little odd.

"It has a panic room. It's a tiny place to use in case of emergencies, undetectable at first, stocked with medical supplies and stuff. And monitors. There's surveillance hidden around the place. I have no idea why they would feel like the need a panic room in the place -- it seems like it would be wasted space. But that's not the point.

"The point is that it would make the perfect safehouse.

"And...well...Ava, you're still reeling from everything that's happened. You can't stay where you are; it'll destroy you. I'll be leaving to live at the Gray Haven as soon as I get out of the hospital, because I can't stay here, either. Zeke and Violet and I are going to get the place set up, but then you could come here. You could stay with me. We could look after each other."

Ava stammered. "...It...I-- ..."

"It's okay if you need some time to think," I said. "But I just...I feel like this is the way I could finally help the fight. I could give them some semblance of safety, even if it's just for a night or two while they're passing through. The Gray Haven is the perfect place for us to start to build a real resistance.

"It's time to try defying gravity, Ava. Nobody can hold us down except ourselves. Together we'll be the greatest team there's ever been."

I stayed quiet as I could practically hear her thinking.

"I--" she began. "I can't just leave Egypt, Celie...I mean, there's so much that I could --" She cut off suddenly. "Actually, that's a lie. I've done all I can in the Magna. I'm running out of money and patience. I'm scared for my child's life.

"Give me a day or two, I'll get back to you. I have something I need to get before I decide."

"I understand," I said. "We still need to get down there and get the place ready, so take all the time you need."

We both paused and took a breath as the tension started to ease a little. I'd made my offer; there wasn't much left to say.

I heard the smirk as she said, "...Did you quote Wicked at me?"

I blinked.

"Maybe a little. Did it work."

"Not really," she snickered. "Are you sure the concussion's worn off?"

We laughed, but a noise outside drew my attention. "I have to go. Don't panic, it's just my mom coming to visit. Take your time and think about everything. Let me know your decision. I'll talk to you soon."

"Love you, hun," she said. "Be safe. I will get back to you."

"Love you too," I said. "Keep alert, watch your back. Bye, Ava."

"Bye, Celie. Don't take any shit from Strahm."

"Oh, I won't," I laughed, and hesitantly hung up the phone.

For the last day or two, I've been making plans. Scheming is probably the better word. Violet has agreed to begin some of my packing for me until I get out of here. I've made the announcement that I'm leaving to everyone, while they were all here. Angel looked like she was going to explode, but she didn't dare say anything in front of my mother, Violet, and "Detective Eric Riley."

Of course...leaving them also means I'm leaving the friends I've made. Detective Goldman, and Father Kelly. But it's the Twenty-First Century; I'll be able to still keep in touch with them.

Now there will be even more friends to make. I have Zeke and Vi already.

And according to a comment left on Zeke's last post, I'll have Ava too.

And if everything goes to plan, there'll be many more after that.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Message from Violet

It is a ten-hour drive from Kansas to Maryland. I made it in eight to get to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center to see my best friend.

You know. The one I left in your care.

Let me explain.

Around 11:00 last night, Celie's father saw her storm out of the house -- all attempts to stop her failed, and she ran.

From what I've been able to gather from (the still only semi-conscious) Celie, she ran from the house and made her way through Rocks, alone, until she came to a local playground and fishing hole called Friends Park. She then called out Practical Cat, who, after some time, revealed himself to her.

The two had some kind of verbal exchange, but she wouldn't say very much about it other than what is stated below.

Celie pulled her gun and fired off three shots before the Cat was able to disarm her. The defensive wounds on her wrists and one broken toe suggest that she put up a hell of a fight, but in the end, she was defeated.

Okay, that's an understatement.

And you all deserve to know the truth, because it's partially your fucking fault.

He beat the ever-loving hell out of her.

I don't think there's a single part of her body that isn't cut or bruised. Her shoulder was dislocated. The nurse here said that when they brought her in, she was covered head to toe in blood, most of it her own.

Would you like to know the best part?

Zeke, you especially listen up.

He marked her.

At some point, he got her onto her stomach, straddled her back, and carved that fucking symbol into the back of her neck. That little spot right where her two shoulders meet. The doctors say if he'd cut an eighth of an inch deeper, he could have hit her spine and killed her.

In fact, it was her screams at he cut her that alerted the people living nearby -- because they thought a fucking animal was being slaughtered.

And do you know what he said while he was doing it? I'll tell you, because she's been fucking repeating it in her sleep:

"You're mine. Why can't you understand? You don't belong to anybody but me. You're mine."

And now, dear readers, I want a fucking explanation.

I told you to look after her. I told you to keep your eye on her because she would try to convince you everything was okay.

Her brother tells me she's been chain smoking like a fiend. She's been drinking herself silly. She's been snapping at people out of turn and not leaving her room for days at a time except to go to work.

How did somebody not fucking notice this girl going in a downward spiral?!

Maybe I should've made it clearer to you: Celie will not seek help on her own. It's practically the fucking first rule of Celie.

And now none of it matters, because she's in the hospital, beaten and marked.

And yes, I do blame you. No, I do not give a shit if you disagree. Celie loves you guys more than anything. I do not share that affection.

And as for you, Ezekiel Fucking Strahm. What the hell was that last night? "Herp derp, I promised to do everything I could to protect this girl, lemme go right ahead and insult the fuck out of her, THAT'LL CALM HER DOWN!"

If you feel like you're to blame for this, Zeke, it's because you are.

I'll keep you guys updated on her condition. Just know that she's stable for now.

And know that they say the scar on her neck will never go away.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Fuck Everything

Do you know what I was doing a year ago?

I was ready to graduate high school. They told us our lives would begin and we would take the world by storm. We'd be successful and talented and brilliant. Angel was still sweet and not fucking insane. I was ready to take on the world with Rose right there at my side, and Violet on the other.

Now they're both gone. Aunt Michelle is dead and Rose is worse than dead and Vi is miles and miles away. She's moved on from Chicago and is somewhere around Kentucky. I can't even know exactly where.

The reading of the will was this morning, and I was outed as receiving even more inheritance than Aunt Michelle told me. The place in Ocean City, the fund for its upkeep and the taxes on it. But also a sizable trust fund that looks like it was started just before I was born. It doesn't have any legal stipulations -- I can use it for whatever I wish, according to the law -- but one note in her will said: "To assist in furthering her education and enlightenment."

I was right. Angel did exactly what I knew she would. They called me down not long ago and said they needed to have a serious talk with me about something. I've been sipping at my little hip flask of whiskey since noon; I didn't have the will to refuse.

Sure enough, thhey tried to get me to give it up. Not just part of it, either. They wanted me to give up everything. Well, I say they -- really, it was that near-eldritch cunt using my father as a mouthpiece. I won't bother writing down the exact conversation. They pretended it was for my own good. I'm too young, they said, to be ready for this responsibility.

I was fully ready to sit it out the exact way I have for my entire life: Keep my mouth shut, don't make any sudden movements. Pretend I'm a little porcelain doll. I was ready to let it slide off. But then, she spoke up, and she said:

"Quite frankly, it was a less-than-intelligent move on Michelle's part to leave it to you --"

The little porcelain doll in me shattered.

"Why is that, Angel?" I said. I looked up from my hands on my lap at them. "Is it because I'm so stupid and naive, or she was plotting something and using me? Because obviously, when a woman does something, it's usually specifically to make things more difficult for you, isn't it?"

"Excuse me--"

"I've been excusing you for way too goddamn long."

I lost my cool, and I don't give a shit. Eventually, the argument rose from the table and we stood, and I said things I've been wanting to say for a long, long time. I'm sure she did as well -- no one has ever spoken to me the way she did, so blatantly belligerent and hurtful. Right in front of my father, she called me every name under the sun, from a lazy and ungrateful daughter to a criminal slut.

She's certainly one to talk.

After the argument, I stormed up the stairs and found something that was, naturally, exactly what I needed in this shit.

A note. Sitting prettily on my pillow and addressed to Little fucking Mouse.

It was simple enough to not even warrant a picture:

"i'm ever so sorry about Michelle's tragic demise. i hope that you find solace in her gifts.

Practical Cat"

You know what? No

He doesn't fucking get to say her name. He doesn't even get to know she exists. Ever.

I'm fucking tired of this. I'm tired of feeling like I need to watch my back. I'm tired of not even feeling safe at home. I'm tired of hearing the house make noises at night and wondering if maybe, just maybe, it's Angel, finally gone crazy and killing the whole family. I'm tired of those sorts of things that keep me up at night. I'm tired of my room being messy because I don't ever want to leave it if I don't have to. I'm tired of fucking Zeke and how he's so fucking stupid and won't listen to me. I'm tired of not being able to tell anyone about what's happening to me. I'm tired of drinking until I can't feel because I don't dream when I pass out and the hangover is better than those goddamn nightmares and that goddamn feeling. I'm tired of my voice getting scratchy because I'm smoking too much.

I'm tired of feeling helpless.

So I'm fucking done. I know he's got his eye on me. He's probably watching right now. I haven't seen his boss in a while, but damned if I don't know he's still tailing me. I can turn this. I can use it. I have a gun, and I have pepper spray, and if he gets past those I can kick the fucker in the head.

This can't wait. I'm getting my jacket now.

I'm going to find Practical Cat. I'm going to call him out.

And I'm gonna kill the bastard.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Firstly, thank you all for your thoughts. It means a lot.

Last Thursday when I saw her, she gave me her hat, the same one I'd given to her years ago. I protested, saying it was a gift, but she just rolled her eyes and said, "Yeah, and it took me losing my hair to finally wear the stupid thing. After all, why do you wear that jacket?"

I shifted slightly in the jacket that once belonged to my best friend. "I don't know."

"It makes you feel safe, doesn't it?" she said. "It makes you feel like she's with you even if she's not. Now you can wear this, and I'll be with you too. I'll always be with you, Celie."

I blinked back tears and said, "I know."

The services for Aunt Michelle were held in the last two days. Her viewing was yesterday, and the funeral and wake were today. For the last week, most of my mom's family and some of my dad's have been pouring into the city, along with a lot of people I've never met before; people she'd met through work, I guess.

I feel...heavy. Every part of me feels like it takes conscious effort to move. For the last week or so I've been accepting condolences, greeting family and friends as they come into town for the services.

The funeral today was...especially jarring. We held it up in the country rather than in the city, at Saint Ignatius. There has been a tornado warning all day, so every now and again, a siren would blast out, interrupting the service. About a year ago, the county decided to switch the siren from its former setting, Vaguely Creepy, over to its current one, Gut-Fuckingly Horrifying, so every now and again Father Kelly would stop and we'd all have to listen to the siren start low, go up, and stay up for a good minute or two before going back down again.

It sounded again as we went up to pay our respects at the end. Nikki was right beside me and it went off just as I came up to the casket. For a moment, I was almost lost in that horrid sound, dazed, until she nudged me and I walked back down on legs that didn't feel like my own.

Spring is lovely here; for a month or so, the entire area seems covered in bright green and colorful flowers. The wind was wicked strong and the clouds were the kind of gray that makes everything somehow seem brighter rather than darker, washing out a lot of the color of the grass and flowers. Loose pink and white petals whipped through the place from a large cherry blossom tree in the corner of the cemetery, and every now and again a few drops of rain would fall.

As people were heading out for the wake at my Aunt Karen's house, I couldn't move. Soon enough, it was just me standing there as it started raining harder. The wind picked up and the siren blared out again, but I couldn't move. For what seemed like hours, I listened to that siren. It sounded like a live thing, screaming. If the Slender Man could speak, his voice would sound like that. Hell is that noise. It shouldn't have anything to do with Aunt Michelle -- not one thing, not even playing at the same time as her funeral.

"Celie." Nikki materialized beside me and touched my arm. I noticed that the rain had picked up even more. "Come on. You'll catch your death."

Nikki has really never thought too much about her phrasing.

The wake was pleasant enough, although exhausting. An entire house full of people who thought they knew the whole story, but didn't. About halfway through, I realized I was one of them. I'm realizing more and more than when I think I know the whole story, I don't.

The reading of her last will and testament will be held tomorrow morning, because everyone who attended the funeral and is mentioned in it will still be in town. I met her attorney -- and, it turns out, her business partner and longtime friend -- at her viewing, where he introduced himself as Scott Monaghan. He looked about as old as Aunt Michelle, late forties or early fifties. Gray speckled his black hair and goatee, and he was large in a jolly sort of manner, which was only reinforced by his deep, booming voice.

Mr. Monaghan told me that he was well aware of how fond Aunt Michelle was of me, and that he would do anything in his power to make sure that her wishes were filled out.

"I assume you know what I'm talking about?" he said. I nodded, almost sure that he meant the promises she'd had me make.

At the wake tonight, we drank dessert sherry -- customary for a mournful event -- and he told me about some of their adventures.

"Well, I met Michelle while we were still in college," he said. "At a lacrosse match, of all things. I hear that your brother is into lacrosse, isn't he?"

"He really is," I said. "He wants to go to Syracuse to play, but he would have to get his grades up."

"Well, with a school like that, of course," he said. "Anyway. Michelle and I became thick as thieves pretty quickly. I went off to law school as she started traveling, and eventually we entered into real estate and investing together. Did she ever tell you about the first time she saw Paris?"

I shook my head.

"Well, we took the plane from BWI with a stopover in Heathrow, and by the time we reached France, the sun had set. It was a beautiful clear spring night -- you could see all the stars above, and all the lights in the city below. And then we saw the Eiffel Tower, over a miniature ocean of light that was Paris. Michelle started crying and I asked her, 'What's wrong, what's wrong?' Do you know what she said?

"She said, 'I will never love a man as much as I love Paris right now, at first sight.'"

I was enthralled. Mr. Monaghan is a fantastic storyteller, and kept my mind off of the gloominess of the event with tales that sounded as wondrous as they did far-fetched (one involving a doctor, a soccer match inside a pub, and a screwdriver). Maybe he was even where Aunt Michelle got her own gift of gab -- and, indirectly, where I got mine.

When I asked him why we'd never met before, he got a sort of faraway look and said, "Well, we have met before, but you were just a tiny thing. At some point, Michelle and I decided that it would be better if we distanced ourselves personally speaking. The business can be a bit of a rumor mill sometimes."

"I see," I said, even though I had the feeling that I really didn't.

We only just arrived home from the wake not long ago, and already I'm nervous about tomorrow. I know, more or less, what Aunt Michelle left me -- she told me so herself -- and I have an idea of what to do with it, how to use it to help the fight. But that's for another time. Right now it's only an idea.

What will people say, when they hear that I've been given an inheritance? I tense up just thinking about how Angel may react. Aunt Michelle told me not to give up what's mine...but is it really mine in the first place?

I know it's early, but I need to get some sleep. I feel so heavy that it hurts to even type.

I don't know if I've told you lately, but I love you guys. Stay safe. I don't want to lose you, too.

After all, lately, I seem to be losing everyone.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ma was there, and Nikki and Milo. I was there, too. It was like she was ready. I can't talk about this right now. I can't find the words. And I have a funeral to help plan.

She died this morning.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Un-Reveal.

I'm trying to think of a way to say all the things I need to say in this post. Just get ready for it to take a while.

For those who don't know (in fact, I've only just realized that you couldn't know), Ava Conquest and I have been exchanging emails and chatting and such quite often for the last couple of months -- you know...when it was possible. She's been a real comfort to me, and a good friend who fully understands the situation.

A week or two ago, Zeke posted an entry to his blog, and I commented on it. Ava was very angry about Zeke's actions (the post recorded his experiences in the red building), and said so. We engaged in conversation and...well, in case you don't feel like looking it up, here is the exchange (I've taken out some line breaks for the sake of space and comprehension):


Me: Ava, you wouldn't even tell us WHAT we weren't supposed to do -- now you're angry that we did it?

Ava: Celie. It was the Catch-22 to end all Catch-22s. Tell you and damn you. Not tell you and HOPE TO HELL you picked up on my animosity. Celie, please, are you SAFE from that woman?

Me: You mean Mary-Ann Compton? She's in Sheppard Pratt, Ava, she's not getting out of there anytime soon. Not that she's violent or anything in the first place. She's not dangerous, just creepy as hell. You've got to mean her, right? Who else could you mean?


Me: What...what are you talking about? I live with the bitch. I can keep away from her, but my bedroom door is my best protection. Why? Ava, why do I need to be safe from my stepmom?

Ava: Celie, I love you, you're the closest thing I have to a best-girl-friend. I'd email you if I could, but FUCK MY INBOX. She's not SAFE, Celie. And I have a feeling that she will SERIOUSLY fuck shit up if you don't GTFO ASAP. And that door will not save you.

Me: Where am I supposed to go? To my mom's? She barely has room for herself. If I can find a place before the fall, then I'll get out. But I barely make enough as it is. I'll figure things out, okay? And besides, if I'm not out before the fall then it doesn't matter, because I'll be at college, six states away from her. Don't worry about Angel. She's crazy...but I don't think she's violent. Yet.

To be honest, this freaked me out more than the visit with Mary-Ann Compton. I didn't know what to do about it. I don't feel safe in this house as is, and now this warning. And Zeke has been told that the proxies are getting more aggressive, more confident. And they're marking their victims. Maybe they're mocking the idea that the symbol keeps him away? Maybe they're planning something bigger? I don't know. I'm not sure I should know, although my immediate instinct is, as always, to investigate.

Now for the next part. This might be a little harder.

91.9 percent of Americans receive no inheritance. None. I've looked it up.

Today, I went to see Aunt Michelle, like I have every day for quite a few weeks now. I wish I could say she's still as good at conversation as she was a month ago, but she isn't. Sometimes we only talk for twenty minutes before she has to rest, and I stay with her while she sleeps until I have to go. Fortunately, those are only the bad days. On good days, she can keep up with me for my entire visit.

She's fading fast and we all know it -- her most of all. Maybe that's why she told me all she had to tell me today.

The visit started off as it always has; she was sitting up in her adjustable bed in her room, reading. I came in, said hi, we talked about how work and things were going. She asked about when I would set up my housing information with Miskatonic, what the student forums were like, whether I'd already met any nice people who'd be going to school with me (incidentally, there is one person I've already kind of made friends with). After we finished talking, she looked at me strangely for a few minutes. Like she was suddenly really really happy about something, but also very sad about it. If that sounds like it doesn't make sense, then that's too bad.

"Celie," she said. "You know, when you were born, we didn't think you'd make it."

I'd heard this story before. I was born two months early after my parents had been in a car accident on I-95; the actual damage wasn't bad, but the stress from the crash sent my mom into labor and they couldn't get her out of it at the hospital, so there I was, a December baby instead of February. I kept quiet; I didn't want to interrupt.

"Your mom gave you the middle name Victoria because she knew you'd beat the odds," Aunt Michelle said. "And I knew it was right for you. Your name was queenly."

I smiled a little. I'd heard this before too --Victoria, after mom and Aunt Michelle's favorite queen.

She paused for a minute and looked at me. "You've come so far from there."

"Well, yeah," I said. "I'm older now."

"We never expected to see you kids grow..." her voice trailed off for a moment. "...grow up so fast."

She reached over to her bedside table and sipped the glass of water sitting there.

"You've been wearing that jacket a lot more often lately," she said, gesturing to what I was wearing -- Rose's jacket, the gray one. "I guess you've gotten over your qualms about it."

"Well...it's kind of weird, but I guess I have," I said, not really thinking. "I guess it's sort of a safety thing --"

I nearly jumped out of my chair. The realization was like a physical slap.


Aunt Michelle laughed so hard she started coughing. I waited until she calmed down.

"How did you --"

"I read your blog, stupid," she said. "Believe it or not, I'm not too old to use a computer."

I blinked. My throat was too closed with shock to speak.

"You don't have to look so surprised by it," she said.

"No!" I nearly shouted. The smile faded from her face as I ranted, "No, no! You can't know. Nobody's supposed to know, but especially not you! You can't even know what this -- about -- him -- and -- Rose --"

She'd struck me speechless. She watched me calmly for several minutes as I sputtered and faded, trying to make sense of exactly why I didn't want her reading this blog. I was trying to say that she was just too inherently good to be aware of anything as evil as the Slender Man, but any attempt at spitting it out just sounded silly in my head.

"Celie," she said, cutting me off. "Celie. My Celie."

She looked at me in that way again.

"I am so. Proud. Of you," she said, emphasizing each part.

"I...what?" I said.

"You heard me," she said. "In fact, it's about damn time you heard it from somebody."

One of the interestingly annoying things about me: I don't cry when people say negative things about me. Not when my dad yells at me, not when Angel screams and bitches me out, not when anybody else insults me or says awful things. I didn't bat an eye when I was scared when Keaton questioned me or when Mary-Ann Compton freaked me out. But for some reason, any time somebody says something positive about me, I'm caught completely off guard and start gushing tears. And I wasn't expecting her to say anything like this.

"You are everything your mother and I hoped you'd be, Celie. You and Nikki and Milo are the most amazing souls. You never should have happened, but you did, and all three of you are talented, and smart, and completely your own, even so young," she said. I grabbed a tissue from my purse and she ignored my pathetic sniffling. "You mom and I didn't deserve to have such amazing things in our lives. But now Nikki and Milo don't ever have to know, because you're so strong, and I know you'll stay strong. With your inheritance, you'll know exactly how special you are. There'll be poems and songs, baby girl. If I had the strength, I'd write them myself."

"Wait," I croaked. I blinked several times and got a hold of myself. "What did you just say?"

We stared at each other for a long, long moment.

"Celie, I'm so sorry," she said. "There's something I need to tell you."

"A lot of people seem to need to tell me things lately," I said, thinking about Ava and Mary-Ann Compton.

Aunt Michelle took a slow breath.

"When I die -- don't argue, lass, just listen -- when I'm dead, you'll be summoned to a reading of my will. It's very specific as to what I want done, trust me. I've left a lot of things to a lot of people, and you're one of them. Do you remember the little condo in Ocean City where you went for a few summers on vacation?"

"Umm...a little," I said.

I did remember, vaguely. The Ocean City place was one of Aunt Michelle's first aquisitions. Mostly, I remember staying once when I was little and going to a beach bonfire one night. My dad played a guitar for a group of strangers around a driftwood flame like we were all good friends. He doesn't play anymore. I don't think he remembers how.

I was so caught up in trying to remember that almost didn't catch it when she said, "I'm leaving it to you."

I blinked. "What?"

"You heard me," she said again. "I know how much you love the ocean, and I've made preparations. But you have to follow a few rules, Celie. Call it making me a few promises."

"What?" I said again.

"First, and maybe most important," she said. "Don't let anybody take it from you. I've left you the apartment, but also everything in it. And it is rightfully yours. Don't let them guilt you, don't let them convince you you're too young. I've set up a fund specifically so that you don't have to worry about the taxes or upkeep until you're out of college, so they don't have a single excuse. I left this to you."

"O...okay," I said. I wasn't sure what else to say.

"Promise me, Celie."

"I promise."

"Second," she said. "You're going to learn some things. And you're going to be angry at them."

"What things?"

"In good time," she said. "But rest assured, you'll know. And you won't like it. But try not to let them come between you and your mother. She did what she could. You can be angry at her, but just don't let it end you two. She loves you, Celie. One day you might understand how much."

"I don't understand."

"I know," she said. "But that's all right."

We sat in silence for a little while. For a moment I thought she'd fallen asleep.

"When she left your father, she wasn't abandoning you, you know."

I looked at the floor to try to hide the tears of mixed shock and surprise that were suddenly in my eyes.

"I know," I lied.

"Good." She took another slow breath. "You have the advantage of not being alone. Don't waste it, Celie. Help whoever you can. But don't be afraid to ask them for help, too."

"I won't," I said.

"You don't know how much hope you bring."

"How do I bring hope?" I said, suddenly finding my voice through the shock and emotions. "I can't do anything! I'm a stupid teenage girl! How can I change anything?"

"You'll find out. Soon enough," she said. Then she added, after seeing me open my mouth, "And I know -- you want to know. Your desire to know things is what makes you who you are. But don't let it get away with you."

"Fine," I said. I didn't feel like arguing with her.

Eventually, I had to leave. She made me promise again that I wouldn't do anything stupid. I told her I love her. I came home. I haven't told anyone in my family about what happened; just Violet, and now you guys. I don't know how to do it.

After thinking about it for a good portion of the night tonight, I feel really angry about this. Am I supposed to just sit back and let information come to me? I can't do that. I've never been able to do that. It's why I'm a journalist.

And there are lives at stake here. People could be dying -- people have died already -- and I'm supposed to just stay here and just...just....be?!

I love my Aunt Michelle. But I can't do that. A good journalist doesn't do that.

She knows something I don't. She knows about him, obviously, and I think she may have before she read my blog. Does she know about Zeke? About Ava? About Zero and Ulryc and Lucien?

The last few weeks have been hell. I don't know if Practical Cat is still around, and I'm always looking over my shoulder. I can't feel safe at home with Angel. I'm constantly worried about my friends, and especially Vi and Ava and even Zeke -- the latter of whom seems to not want to listen to me about anything. I feel like I've been too passive a player in this big game.

If I'm not a Runner, I'm technically a Fighter. And if I'm a Fighter, then what the fuck am I actually doing to help the fight?

I won't pester Aunt Michelle for her knowledge. I wouldn't do that to her.

But it's time to get productive.

Friday, April 8, 2011


I have quite a few bits of news for this portion of the week. Luckily, they're types of good news -- a welcome change from last week -- but unfortunately they each have their own bit of bad news.

For example, the kickass news is that using the flexibility gained by doing his hard-ass stretches, I successfully kicked Michael Goldman, third degree black belt, right in his stupid head. Twice. (Granted, he was bending down a little at the time.)

The bad news is, that's not what I meant to do. Or what we'd been practicing. Or even a part of what he'd been teaching me at all. It was just kind of a reaction...twice. After our session today, he discussed with me whether I really thought martial arts was my "thing," and suggested that we eventually stop the lessons.

I can only assume that this is at least a little bit of a result of me being so rubbish at this that when I finally did land a good hit, it was practically a freaking accident.

(They were good hits, though -- he's got bruises and everything. That's for making me so sore all the time and giving me bruises, you jerk!)

Slightly-scary-but-also-kind-of-kickass news is that my father decided to go through it and spoke to Sheriff Thomson about getting me a gun for defense. I've already been safety-certified in firearms, so as a result of the sheriff's connections, I'm now the owner of a Beretta Px4 Storm, a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol that also happens to be the same type issued to the state police. And, like most things meant to intimidate criminals, it is a big, black, scary fucking gun.

Okay, so it's not that big -- as far as handguns go, it's actually in the medium-to-small range, and it fits my tiny, tiny hands very well. But to a small human, it's a big gun.

I can't carry it in public yet, because the paperwork hasn't cleared for my permit, but Detective Goldman says it shouldn't be a problem; if a crazed hillbilly out in the mountains in Garrett County can carry a rifle to protect his barn from aliens, Jews, and smart people, then a noticeably frail and uncoordinated (hey!) teenage girl about to go to school all by herself in need of protection will certainly get through.

Which leads me to a problem -- this would be the bad news to go along with this, and it's actually kind of a long story.

See, once my permit clears, I actually need a method by which to carry this big (okay, small) badass gun. It comes with a holster, but it fits onto a belt and the State Police are a bit "no me gusta" when it comes to carrying your pistol out in the open, wild-west style. As a joke (she's very anti-gun, and, you know...anti-my-father), my mother got me an honest-to-god thigh holster, saying that if my dad wants me to carry a gun, I may as well make it sexy. Cue several spy jokes and an impromptu singing of that secret-agent-man song.

I laughed it off at the time, but honestly, I don't have any other holster and I cannot describe how uncomfortable the idea of keeping a gun in my purse, even with the safety on and in the hip holster, makes me.

I could go out and get another kind of holster, but I don't know of any other kinds that are really subtle -- because I do not want to advertise that I'm packing heat, not when rumor has it that the proxies are gaining confidence and aggression. Practical Cat may be down, but something tells me he's not out, and just in case he's not, I want to look like the least threat as possible. Most other holsters are designed for middle-aged men, either fitting into the waistbands of pants or making it easy to tuck a shirt in over them. An ankle holster is one option, but I want something that's a quick draw as well.

And I have tons of foofy skirts, the kind with plenty of drape to cover anything under them. And I've noticed that if I wear a pair of jean shorts under them, I can still wear the thigh strap, and it sits right where my hand naturally falls -- no discomfort from being in a skirt, no worrying about anyone seeing my lady bits if the wind blows the wrong way. One flick of fabric, and I get the drop on anyone who gets any ideas. I have to be honest; gag gift or no, I'm warming to the idea of this thing.

So Special Agent Keaton, meet Secret Agent McLachlan.