Crazy night. It’d be best if I skipped the introductory small talk and moved straight into content.
Over a week of quiet nights had passed; peaceful, but boring. I was at Setoth’s place, as usual. Around 3 in the morning, I heard musical notes coming from outside. After several seconds of listening, I identified it as Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. However, after looking out the windows, I found the area around the apartment lacking in late night musicians. A theory began to grow in my head. I asked Setoth if he could hear the music; after hurling various obscenities at me for waking him up, he confirmed that he couldn’t hear anything.
Once more, the safe course of action (ignoring the mysterious music and staying at home) was the opposite of what I did. Upon grabbing my sword and exiting the building, I could discern the direction from where the song originated. I followed it for some time; no matter how far I walked, the music always seemed to be coming from someplace nearby. After almost a mile wandering the night streets of downtown Austin, I reached the final destination. It was a bar along 6th street, but unlike the others, there were no lights or crowds of drunken students outside. Only darkness and music came from the gray walled structure. Aiming to create for myself a dramatic entrance, I strode to the door and kicked it as hard as I could.
I won’t bore you with the full details of what happened as a consequence, except to say it involve me swearing loudly and clutching my throbbing foot. After that pain died down, I got back up and pulled the door open.
Indoors was fancier than I’d expected. Fine furniture, expensive wines, and a style which called for suits and money filled the place. At the back was a stage, and upon that stage, illuminated by a spotlight, Javert was playing the piano. He was dressed in a black police uniform; rather classy looking. Soon after I entered, the song came to an end, and he looked towards me.
Javert: “It’s been a while, hasn’t it, Arkady.” He said. “I had begun to worry that someone else would take my place in pursuing you. You don’t mind if I call you by that name you’ve given yourself online? I believe it to suit you much better than the one you were given at birth.”
I didn’t answer then, instead focusing on my surroundings. Javert still had his gun, and there was no nearby cover which could stop a bullet. And the distance between us was too much for me to rush him.
J: “You’re amazingly quiet.” He continued, grinning that wide grin of his. “The last time we spoke, I had to hit you to make you stop talking.”
Arkady: “I was just surprised to see you, that’s all.” Keep him talking, I thought. You might find an opening. “This city’s out of your jurisdiction, after all.”
J: “I’m not here on police business. You still haven’t been charged with any of the crimes you’ve committed.”
A: “Then what’s with the uniform?” The very fancy uniform. Where’d he get something like that? I don’t remember them being standard issue down at the PD.
J: “It serves as a reminder of my purpose, and a symbol of the justice which I serve.”
A: “Ya know, crazy as it sounds, helping the faceless abomination kill people doesn’t strike me as something which I would call ‘justice’. It just doesn’t seem to fit.”
Prepare for a long winded rant from him now.
J: “Really, now? Is it wrong to call it justice when I pursue someone like you? You call Him a monster and an abomination, but what of yourself?” His voice turned bitter. “You’ve killed four innocent people, one of whom was a fellow officer of mine, assaulted two others, stolen a car and several wallets, and burned down an entire forest, along with several homes bordering it. Homes with people inside. Yet you show no regret for any of your actions; rather, you take pride in them, and publically boast of your exploits. You have no morals or code which you live by. You are the monster in this world. After observing you all this time, the only conclusion I can draw to form any reason behind your actions is that you are trying to outdo the character whose name you took in sheer depravity and evil. All you need to do to match him now is attempted rape and pedophilia; I don’t want to know how you plan to then surpass him.” There was no reason for him to be throwing around accusations of pedophilia around. Sure, I attempted to bribe Cynthia with offers of ice cream over on her blog, but you have to look at it in the context of the thing! “I can scarcely imagine what atrocities you would commit if you had not fixated your attention on Him. Thus far I have only managed to save one person from you; the man you stole your car from. Had I not gotten him to a hospital as soon as I’d found him, the concussion you gave him would have killed him. But it’s impossible for me to rescue all of your victims. I would be saving lives if I were to shoot you right now.”
A: “So why don’t you, hm?”
J: “Because, mad as it may sound, our God is merciful, and he has chosen to put you on the path to redemption.”
A: I paused for several seconds, unsure of what to say. “I’m sorry? Redemption?”
J: He smiled, so very smugly. Like I was a dolt asking the teacher a stupid question. “Of course. Did you think the reason you’re still alive is because of your own actions? Don’t be foolish. You said yourself, He can ‘appear behind you, wrap a tentacle around your neck, and pop off your head’ without any warning.” Well, now I know he reads my blog. “The only reason He has not done so is because He chooses not to kill you.”
A: “And? I’d always thought that was because he just liked playing with his food first.”
J: “Don’t be so crude; the reason is much more sophisticated.” So he likes to play with his food in a sophisticated manner? “Forgiving those who seem unforgivable is a tale found repeatedly in the Bible. Think of the city of Nineveh, and how it was saved from destruction when its people chose to repent.” If I remember that story correctly, there was also a guy named Jonah who got pissed off at god when the city was forgiven instead of destroyed. I KNOW YOU’RE READING THIS BLOG, JAVERT. MAYBE YOU SHOULD DO SOME SOUL SEARCHING ABOUT YOUR CAPACITY FOR FORGIVENESS RIGHT ABOUT NOW?
A: “So what, I’m a city? Why don’t I have aqueducts running all around me?” For a moment I considered throwing something at him, but I had nothing heavy enough to actually hurt him with.
J: “The city is a metaphor.” He seemed very annoyed then. Which shows that my response was a success. “It was given a choice between salvation and destruction. As are all who are judged by God.”
A: I’d been using this time to slowly inch forward. By that point, I had covered a third of the original distance between us. “Look, Javert, you’re a nice guy and all, but I’d appreciate it if you’d keep pseudo-religious overtones out of the Lovecraftian horror story I’m going through right now. Everyone knows that the Cthulhu Mythos’s best works were back before Lovecraft’s successors turned it all Judeo-Christian after all.”
J: “If you wish to ignore me, I won’t stop you. Damnation is a choice you make on your own.” Ooh, look at me, I’m Javert, and I’m all high and mighty with my moral superiority.
A: “Yeah, well, excuse me for not making the connection between the supposedly loving, compassionate god you claim to be serving and the thing in the suit which eviscerates children. How the hell is killing people en masse supposed to be merciful?”
J: “Death is only a tragedy from a human perspective, not a divine one.”
A: “The hell are you trying to say with that?”
J: “Did you ever read the Screwtape Letters?” Did he actually think he could outdo me in literary references?
A: “Yeah. Felt the ending was too depressing. I would have been happier if Screwtape's nephwew had broken the man and eaten his soul.”
J: “You have an awful tendency to misinterpret the meaning of books you read.”
A: “Yeah, well, it’s a bad HABIT.” Javert seemed unimpressed by my attempt at referential humor.
J: “The ending of the book is supposed to be a triumph, as the human dies while he is within grace, and thus enters heaven. Compare this to the children you shout about in a doomed attempt to give yourself the moral high ground; He takes them into His kingdom while they are still free of sin.”
A: “What about all those people he’s disemboweled?”
J: “Is it not natural for God to smite those who have fallen too far from grace? The cities of Sodom and Gomorra were destroyed for their wickedness.”
A: “Creating fear and paranoia.”
J: “Fear is a rational response to seeing something so terribly powerful. Think of the angels who appeared to the shepherds; they first had to reassure those humans by telling them not to be afraid.”
A: “Brainwashed proxies.”
J: “Disciples who have given themselves up in the service of Him.”
A: “You’ve put a lot of thought into this, haven’t you.”
J: “Of course. At the least, it cannot be said that I follow an incomplete theology.”
A: By that point, I was halfway across the room, and considering throwing a chair at him. “I dunno, I think I can see a pretty large hole in it. Mostly in the part where you claim that Yahweh is a friggin’ tall man-tree hybrid thing in a business suit without a face. That just doesn’t seem to say divinity to me.”
J: “He may take any form he wishes. And after seeing everything he has done, how can you deny his omnipotence? He has existed for thousands of years. He knows all that has happened, and all that will happen. Time and space are toys to Him. When faced with such a being, worship is the only correct response.”
A: “Bullshit. The only correct response is to fight against it as hard as you can. Anything less is weakness. If you see something stronger than you, you struggle against that thing, until you surpass them. You keep fighting and struggling until you have reached the top, and seized divinity for yourself. That is the only way a human should live.”
J: “You are a fool. A petulant child rebelling against their father simply out of spite. Your ‘way humans should live’ is a chaotic bloodbath fit only for sociopaths such as yourself.”
A: “And you’re a slave. I’d rather live in my bloodbath than in your peaceful, ordered world, if it meant I could be free.”
J: “Again, you prove that you are a fool. He does not seek slaves. Something as powerful as He has no use for them. What He wants are disciples, people who can be taught. His aim is not to have us toil under him eternally, but for us to be raised to his level, and become one with him once we enter his kingdom.”
A: “Referencing Screwtape again? There are authors outside of Lewis, you know.”
J: “I could say the same to you about Dosteyevksy.”Oh no he did not just say that.
A: Three fourths across the room. There was no way he wasn’t noticing I was getting closer, but he allowed me to do so anyway. “So what’s the reason for all of this? I don’t think you’d draw me all the way out here just to have a little chat. And if this is a trap, it’s an annoyingly extended one.”
J: “It is a trap. But not for you. You aren’t the only one in this city to have drawn His attention.”
A: Then realization hit me. “You wanted to get me away from Setoth.”
J: He nodded. “A more indirect plan than I’d have liked, but it is what we have been compelled to do. Shortly after we began to talk, the one you have chosen to call ‘Porfiry’ began to attack your friend.”
A: “Bullshit. Porfiry’s dead. I saw the fire burn that place down.”
J: “Arkady, have you ever heard of the tale of Lazarus?”
A very long silence descended. I’m a bit ashamed of my reaction here, to be honest, but will write it down for accuracy’s sake….
A: “Fuck. No fucking way. You can’t fucking do that! I killed him! He’s dead! You can’t fucking bring back people I fucking already killed! That’s…. That’s…. You can’t fucking do that! He can’t be alive! That’s not fucking possible!”
J: “Who are you to tell a god what is impossible?” Damn it, he looked so annoyingly triumphant then….
That felt like a good stopping point for the conversation. I pulled out my sword and tried to rush him, hoping that I could cover the distance between us before he pulled his gun out.
He didn’t even try to stop me. Just sat behind that piano, smiling. I was less than a foot away from him, about to swing at his face, when everything around me seemed to blur and twist. For several seconds, colors and shapes whirled around me, making me feel sick. Then, I blacked out.
When I woke up, I was outside Setoth’s apartment.
The front door was open, and no sign of Setoth inside. Still, I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to find him; all I would have to do would be to follow the trail of unnaturally thick fog which had settled over downtown. But first I grabbed some rags, a lighter, and a bottle of absinthe. Just in case.
After I ran into the fog, geography got…. Strange. I could barely see a few feet ahead of me, so I tried using whatever landmarks I came across to keep me grounded in my location, but I soon began to realize that the landmarks were out of order. I’d run past something from west Austin, and then a few seconds later pass a feature from east Austin. While running north. I soon gave up trying to keep track of where I was, and just followed the fog.
I was led to a large, stone church. It was a place I’d driven by several times when I was younger; the design is similar to the old Protestant churches in Germany. The lights were on inside, which let me peer through one of the stained glass windows and watch the spectacle. Setoth, Porfiry, and Slendy were there, in the aisle running down the rows of pews. Setoth looked like he was in some kind of trance, his feet slowly moving across the red carpet towards Slender Man’s growing embrace. As for Porfiry…. At least, I think it was Porfiry. Whatever it was, it wasn’t human anymore. His eyes were gone, as though they had been gouged out, and scars covered his face, making it nearly unrecognizable. His arm was twisted gruesomely, and his ribs had been pulled apart, tearing the flesh and revealing the pulsating organs underneath. He looked more like some kind of undead creature than a man given a miraculous second life.
Ignoring the vast amounts of time and money which had likely been put into the creation of such an artistic window, I smashed through it with my sword, and leaped through the hole. As soon as I landed inside the church, I lit the Molotov I’d made out of the absinthe, and threw it at Slender Man. The flames exploded around him; Porfiry screamed and suddenly vanished. Slender Man turned to face me. There was no sign that I’d harmed him at all, but it broke Setoth out of whatever hypnosis stuff he was in, and he stopped walking towards it. Still, with the initial shock he seemed to be going through when he came to, Setoth wasn’t reacting fast enough for my tastes, so I grabbed him by the arm and pulled him towards the door. After the first few steps, he began to run on his own, and we dashed towards our chance at escape.
I looked back once, and when I did, I had the realization that maybe throwing fire at the pyrokinetic creature wasn’t the best plan. The flames were spreading out from him, covering the church. The statues of Jesus and the disciples, the altar, the cross…. Everything was covered in fire. In the very center of it all, Slender Man stood, his tentacles reaching upwards; like a black tree of fire growing from the stone floor.
The two of us made it to the door, and then blacked out. We both woke up several hours later back at Setoth’s apartment. I checked the news about any churches burning down, but came up with nothing.
But I did see a familiar patrol car drive by. It slowed down as it passed, as though to say hello to us, and then drove out of sight.
And here's Setoth's view on these things. Next time, try to avoid getting chased by zombie proxies when I'm not around, Setoth.