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.