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.