Trevor lies on the hospital bed, wishing he has someone to talk to. The doctors already took out the bullet and cleaned up the wound before wrapping it up in bandages. They told him he will have to stay overnight. That was not the worst part: his friends cannot stay with him overnight. He put up a fight about that, but the doctors kept saying he "needed his rest" and they "couldn't risk infection." They did not want to keep patching him up.
Now, it is really late, and Trevor is still not tired yet. Everyone already left, promising to come back first thing in the morning. He already called his family to tell them he got hurt and will (hopefully) be let out tomorrow. Sigh. What now?
Trevor feels for his cell phone on the side table, flips it open, and brings it to his ear. "Hello?"
"Hey, buddy," Kevin's voice says. "You feeling any better?"
"I'm ready to get outta here!"
Chuckle. "Reckless as always. Anyway, I did some more research on the Slender Man myth, and I found something pretty interesting."
Trevor straightens up in bed. "What's that?"
"You know how it all started with that one picture on the Something Awful forums?"
"Yeah, but I don't know what it looks like," he deadpans.
"Well, anyway, I looked back at that picture - and there are four kids around Slender Man near a tree in a park."
"Didn't James meet four kids at the park that one day?"
Trevor replays James' story in his mind. The park, the tree, Charlie, Lily, Tommy, Peter - oh, God. "But I thought that picture was made up!"
Kevin says, "I thought so, too, and we're kinda right. That exact picture is not real - but the guy who made the picture was there that day."
Trevor pales. "How do you know?"
"I looked up the guy. He goes by Victor Surge, but his real name is Eric Knudsen. Lily and I looked up stuff from that fateful day, and it turns out Eric was one of the witnesses in the article. He mentioned a 'faceless monster' - that has to be James - and how he just disappeared. When he posted that picture in the forums, he was encouraging people to spread the word about the Slender Man. Seems like he wants everyone to think James is evil."
"But why?" Trevor wonders.
Sigh. "Don't know that yet, Trevor. But we're working on it. Oh, but here's something interesting: Eric disappeared. No one's heard from him in a few months."
"Whoa. What do you think happened?"
"I dunno, but it's really creepy," he whines.
Trevor feels bad for his friend. Even though Kevin likes playing the game, he has been scared of the idea of Slender Man since he first heard of it. Sure, he met James and knows the truth, but Trevor knows his friend better than anyone and knows how terrified he must be. "Hey, I'm gonna let you go. Keep me updated on anything you find out."
"Will do - guys, get down!" he hisses. Trevor hears shuffling and muffled sounds coming from the other end. Kevin's voice comes back and whispers, "Sorry, man. Gotta go!" The line dies.
Lily manages to finish her text to Tommy and Peter before having to dive under the bed. All four of them had decided to go back to Kevin and Jenna's house, where they could rest, eat, and look up anything that could be useful. She prays that the boys get the warning in time.
Muffled thuds get closer to the room. Her heart pounds harder with each thud getting louder.
The door to Jenna's bedroom slowly opens with a creak. Lily dares a glance out from under the bed, and she sees two boots enter the room. They stop in the center. No doubt the owner of those boots is searching the room for any signs of them. Kevin had seen the stranger through the window walking up to the back door of the house. They all scrambled to hide any evidence and hide themselves.
Lily carefully checks to make sure her phone is set on vibrate, then tucks it underneath her to better muffle the sound. She watches as the boots make their way to where the computer is. Good thing we turned off the search engine, she thinks. She hears clicking and clacking and knows the stranger is trying to find what their recent history is.
She feels her phone vibrate on her stomach. Dare she check her phone now? She almost does - until she hears a low grumble and sees the boots turn away from the computer and closer to the closet. Charlie.
The door opens, and she can see Charlie huddling on the ground. She cannot see his face, though she can hear his frantic breathing. "Found you, boy," the man sneers. He grabs Charlie by the collar of his shirt and lifts him up. Charlie gasps. "Thought you could 'ide from me? Oh, the boss is goin' to 'ave some fun with you, lad."
"No, no, please-" Charlie breathes.
"The boss was nice enough to give you a chance to join us. We coulda caught the Slender Man already with your help. We already caught that one lady, but we're still lookin' for that dapper fella."
Lily's heart is pounding as she slides out from under the bed as quietly as she can. Thankfully, the intruder has not turned around yet. She slowly, silently stands up.
"I-I-I don't know anything," Charlie says.
"That's not what the boss said. He said you were the monster's friend. Why else would 'e save you in the park?"
Lily jumps onto the man and wraps her arms tight around his neck. He releases Charlie and grabs at her, trying to break her grip. She keeps a strong grip, however, and he chokes. He stumbles around the room, looking for anything he can use to free him from Lily's death hold. Charlie comes up to him and punches him in the face. The man looks stunned for a moment, then he falls back onto the bed. Lily jumps off before she can be crushed under his weight, and breathes heavily.
"You alright?" she breathlessly asks Charlie.
He swallows and nods, staring at the stranger. "Yeah," he whispers.
They stay like that for a bit, but then the stranger's words register in Lily's mind. "They wanted you to join them?"
Charlie pales. "Uh, well-"
"You guys okay?" Kevin asks as he and his sister creak open the bathroom door.
"We're fine," Lily says, still looking curiously at Charlie.
"What's wrong?" Jenna asks, opening the door all the way and coming out. Kevin steps out behind her.
Lily crosses her arms and says, "Seems like Charlie's been holding out on us."
"No, Lily, it's not like that," he tries to tell her.
"What's going on? Really?" She narrows her eyes.
Charlie opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. He glances at his other friends, but they give him the same curious look. He sighs and plops down into the seat at the desk, eyes downcast. "When the Black Circle came for me, the boss said we shared a common enemy." He looks up at them. "He was talking about James. He wanted me to join them to bring James down."
"But you said no, right?" Kevin says.
Charlie looks away and scratches the back of his head. "Well, I didn't say no...but I didn't say yes either. This was before I saw James again though," he adds quickly.
"Wait," Lily says, her face scrunching up in thought. "He said they caught the lady."
"Margareta?" Kevin says, his eyes widening. "They got her?"
"And he said something about you being saved at a park," Lily notes. "What did he mean?"
Charlie thinks back to that day in the park. He found James behind the tree, he went to go bring his mom over, that one man stopped him and tried to give him something. The next thing he knew, he was being pulled back by James' tentacle arm. Did James save him from that man?
But how would the Black Circle boss know that?
"What's that?" Jenna asks, pointing at the man on the bed. Everyone gathers around and sees something sticking out of his pants pocket. Lily carefully pulls it out. It is a folded up piece of paper.
She opens it up and reads it. "It's a list of names," she says. "It has Eric Knudsen on it...And the Slender Four's on here, too."
A chill runs through Charlie's body.
Lily's face falls. "What is it?" Kevin asks.
"My sister's name is on here, too," she says. "She loved anything to do with the Slender myth. She drew a picture of a Slender once. Told me it was for her boyfriend." She hangs her head, her hair covering her face. "She was killed a few months ago."
Everyone gives her sympathetic comments, and Jenna gives her a side-hug and rubs her arm. Kevin gently takes the list from Lily and looks over it. "Uh, guys?" he says quietly. They look at him. His worried eyes stare at them as he says, "Trevor, Jenna, and me are on this list."
"What?" Charlie takes the paper from his friend and stares at the last three names on the list. No...
Muffled sounds. The four go to the window - and see Slender Man in the backyard. Along with a few of the Black Circle members. One of them has a camera, and the others are making scared poses. Slender Man positions himself behind a tree and looks out.
"What are they doing?" Kevin asks.
"It looks like they're taking a picture," Jenna says.
"But that's not the real Slender Man," Lily notices. She points at the figure. "See? He looks more the size of a human."
"You're right," Charlie comments. "And you can see more details of a face."
"It has to be a morph suit," Jenna says. "Remember those full-body costumes? And the guy just put a business suit on over it."
"But why are they taking pictures here?" Kevin wonders.
They turn around and see the intruder coming to. They quickly (and quietly) run out of the room. "Follow me," Jenna hisses, leading them to the front door. She looks through the peephole before opening the door and running out into the night, the others following behind.
They gasp and halt when James appears in front of them. "Sorry to startle you," he says. "Victor and I needed to talk to you, but those monsters showed up at the house. We weren't sure how to get close to the house without being spotted, since one of them had already made it inside. We saw you in the window and when you disappeared, we thought we'd meet you in front."
"Where is Victor?" Kevin asks.
"Behind you," a voice says.
The humans gasp and whirl around, seeing Victor standing a short ways away. He does not move.
"There's no need to be shy around them," James tells him.
Victor remains stick-straight, but glides forward a step. "I remember you," he says. "You're Karie's sister."
Lily's eyes widen. "You," she breathes. "You're the figure I saw through the smoky haze."
"You know this guy?" Charlie says, dumbfounded.
Victor reaches out a hand to Lily, but she flinches back. He withdraws his hand. "You look so much like your sister," he sighs.
Lily, uncomfortable with the comparison, hugs herself and says, "She drew a picture of you. The likeness is...remarkable."
"She was always great with art."
Jenna leans over to her younger brother and whispers, "What's going on?"
"I don't know," he answers softly. "I'm still new to this."
Charlie watches this whole scene, trying to wrap his mind around what the heck is going on. But then he recalls something. "Hey, Lily," he says, "didn't you say your sister was killed?"
Lily turns to him. "Yeah, she was."
"How does he know about her?" He motions to Victor.
James speaks up, "Victor, you said you were in love with a human. Was that human Lily's sister?"
Everyone whirls toward the front door - the stranger is standing within the door frame. He makes as if to storm out of the house, but he does a double-take at Victor and freezes in surprise. "You!" he exclaims. "I thought you died in that fire!"
"What fire?" Kevin asks.
Victor's fists clench. "I am very much alive," he says as if through gritted teeth.
The intruder makes a whining sound. "The boss said you'd die along with that girl if we burned-"
"You killed Karie?" Victor seethes, appearing in front of the man and grabbing his throat. The man's eyes bulge.
"Victor, stop!" James yells, running forward to pull the Slender away. But Victor's many tentacles are flailing wildly about, serving as a shield. The humans all huddle together, too terrified to try to stop Victor. James growls in anger - and his torso stretches until he stands twelve feet tall. He stretches out his tentacles, and they are bigger and longer, too. He wraps three around Victor and his tentacles and uses his remaining limbs to pry the two apart. Finally, Victor's pale fingers release the man, and he collapses to the ground in fear, clutching at his throat and gulping in air.
"Victor, get a hold of yourself!" James commands in a deep growl.
"Let me go!" Victor writhes around.
Lily, still with her friends, screams, "Stop! Just stop it! Please!"
Victor hears her and turns his head to face her. He calms down, but his extra limbs are still out. James shrinks back to his original size (which is still tall) and one by one, withdraws his limbs from around Victor.
The Black Circle member shakily gets to his feet. "You'll all pay," he tells them, trying to sound intimidating but instead sounding scared. "You'll all pay for this! Starting with your blind friend!" He runs away.
"Trevor!" Kevin says. "We've got to save him!"
"How?" Charlie asks. "We can't just go in there and walk out with him! The doctors will catch us!" He looks at the Slenders. "And you guys can't go in there without being spotted."
"Actually," Victor says, tapping his chin, "we can."