The Truth Comes Out
Ricky whimpers the whole time he is in the trunk of the SUV. He curls up into a ball and squeezes his eyes shut, trying to wake himself up from this nightmare. But those images still toss around in his mind like leaves in a hurricane. The man in front is shouting on his cell phone, every other word a profanity. "Did you finish the flipping job?" he demands. Only he does not say "flipping." "...Good. He was a pain in the ace anyways." He does not say "ace." "...We can do just as well without Knudsen, you hear? Now, if anybody else gives you trouble, kill 'em. I don't care how, just kill them and take them to the ditch!" He spits one more curse at the person on the other side before slamming his phone shut.
Why did Ricky follow the scary man into the forest? If he had not, he would not be here right now, and his mommy and daddy -
He shudders. He tries telling himself that they will find him, that they will take him home and hug him tight and tell him not to be afraid anymore. But those gunshots echo still through his head. All the adults were still alive when Ricky was dragged away, but there is no way of knowing if any of them are alive now or not. Tears escape through his closed eyelids. He just wants to go home.
He staggers through the forest, desperate to get away. Groan. His arm still bloody hurts. But that is what happens when someone shoots at you when you are running away.
I'm a coward, he thinks. I should've left when I heard about the plan. Then I wouldn't have had to watch my friend die, and I wouldn't have to be in this mess. He stops to rest at a tree, clutching his arm and breathing heavily, crazed thoughts buzzing around his mind. What will he do now? Who can he turn to? Will the boss still come for him, as he threatened? He needs to warn someone, anyone, of the Black Circle - but who? Anyone with the authority to do anything will label him insane, and anyone insane enough to believe him will be too scared to help. Grrrr, there has gotta be a way to get people's attention. This has been going on long enough. His very nerves excited, he continues further into the forest. If he hurries, maybe -
Crunch. He freezes. What was that? He scans the area, but he sees nothing. Of course, it' i nighttime, but still, the moonlight does not show anything. He shuffles backwards, rustling some leaves. He curses himself in his mind. Anyone out here could hear him move. He takes more steps backwards, his eyes darting around, terror pumping through his blood. The forest is so still, so silent, so -
He backs up into something. He gasps and turns around - right when a girl gasps and turns around. Both their eyes grow big and they both scream.
The girl tries to run away, but she trips over a tree root. She stares up at him and, shielding herself with her hands, cries, "Don't kill me! Don't kill me!"
"I'm not going to kill you," he tells her - but then a thought pops up. "Unless you're working for the Black Circle. You're not, are you?" He says this last part gruffly and leans closer to the girl.
Naturally, she scoots backwards. "No! No! I don't want anything to do with them!"
"Good." He straightens. "Neither do I."
She stares at him. "Then why are you dressed like one of them?"
He curses aloud. He forgot to take off the stupid mask. Immediately, he pulls it off and throws it away. "Sorry about that," he says. "I forgot I was wearing it."
Is it a trick of the moonlight, or is she staring at him quizzically? "How could you forget you're wearing a mask?"
"Boss' orders." He wipes some sweat off his forehead. "We have to wear our uniforms all the time, so we get used to 'em."
She looks him over: black hoodie, dark pants and shoes, and the mask he wore is solid white with black eyes and lips. "What kind of uniform is that?"
"Look, girl, I don't have time for all this," he says, his voice rising. As he turns away from her, he adds, "I have to get out of here before they find me and do to me what they did to Eric Knudsen."
"You know Eric Knudsen?" she says, standing up.
The tone of surprise in her voice makes him stop and say over his shoulder, "He was my friend. We grew up together."
After a moment, she asks, "Was Eric part of the Black Circle, too?"
"Yeah, but he didn't like it. None of us do. Well, sure, at first, some of us liked the thrill and the danger and the illegality, but then the boss changed all that. He's completely deranged. He did things, terrible things. You don't know what it was like witnessing that again and again!" As he is saying this, his voice gets louder and louder, and he steps closer and closer to her. She keeps the distance between them by stepping back, glancing over her shoulder every now and then to make sure she does not trip.
"Okay, okay! I get it!" she tells him. "Calm down!"
He stops coming towards her, but he paces, continuing, "But Eric saw through them right from the beginning. He tried to warn the rest of us. I was his friend! I should've listened to him!"
She watches him pace. Her initial thought is, Man, the guy's weird. He needs to see a doctor. But as she listens to him rant, she hears the desperation in his voice, the terror of dark secrets waiting to be released.
"But the boss threatened to kill anyone who talked to anybody about what we were doing. Eric, of course, had to go behind the boss' back, posting Photoshopped pictures and links and anything to spread the word about the Slender Man and the danger we were all in. He even tried leaving some pages in the forest, warning people about the Black Circle. But the boss found out, and had everything taken down - everything, except two pictures on the Something Awful forum."
Everything starts to click together. The girl itches to text something to her cousin, but she waits patiently for the man to be done.
He paces, then stops, paces, then stops, as he finishes his confession. "The boss tortured Eric, but wouldn't kill him yet, saying that he could still be of some use. By then, the Slender Man became well-known all throughout the internet, and there were videos, pictures, games, stories. The boss encouraged fear of the Slender Man by hacking into Eric's account and telling people to spread the word. He also staged various murders and massacres and made it look like the Slender Man did it. And all those who crossed him or were unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time all ended up like the others: brutally murdered and thrown in a ditch!"
"I've seen that ditch." She has no idea why she blurted that out.
He shuts up and stares at her. "You've seen it? And you're still alive? How?!"
She tells him, "It all started when my friend Karie met this one Slender. They both fell in love, and I would sometimes help them meet up with each other. But somehow, one of her drawings of the Slender became public, and people started rioting."
The man winces and shudders. "I remember that," he says grimly. "I was there. We were told to make as much chaos as we could. The boss then caught the girl and used her as bait."
"Lily and I tried finding a way to free Karie, but everyone was too caught up in the whole mob scene, and there was always someone from your group blocking us from ever getting to her." Her gaze falls. "By the time we could get to her, she'd already..."
"I'm sorry," he says quietly. "I never wanted any of this to happen."
"Then why did you let it happen?" She cannot help but glare at the man.
He glances at a tree, at his feet, at the oddly-shaped rock by the bush, anywhere but the girl's eyes. "I, uh, well-"
He is cut off by a buzzing sound. She takes out a phone from her pocket and opens the text she just got. Casting a suspicious glance at him, she puts her phone to sleep and shoves it back in her pocket. "Look, it was really, er, nice hearing all this, but I should really be going." She turns and starts walking deeper into the forest.
"Maybe I could come with you," he says, jogging alongside her.
"No, thanks," she replies, picking up her speed.
"Just until we're out of the forest," he says, becoming desperate, "and then you won't hear from me again."
"I don't think so." She rounds a bush.
"Please!" He hurries in front of her, making her stop. "I don't wanna be by myself in the woods at night. It's scary."
She gives him the strangest look. "You're a grown man who's an ex-Black Circle member, and you're scared of some silly woods?"
Both of them jump at the gunshot. "Oh, no," he moans, his eyes wide. He grabs the girl's hand and drags her behind him as he takes off through the trees.
"What, are you insane?" she hisses at him, trying to tug her hand out of his grip. "Let me go!"
"We have to get away from them!" he whisper-shouts back to her. "We need to find a hiding spot!"
She can think of one, but she would rather he did not come with her. Nevertheless, she says, "I know a place."
"You do? Great! Where?"
The gunshots are getting closer, and they can now hear voices shouting in the distance.
He turns to her and says, "It's the Black Circle. They're after me!"
"Why? Because you left?"
"Yes." He pushes up the left sleeve of his black hoodie to reveal a shallow, yet bloody, wound where a bullet grazed his arm. "When I told them I was gonna leave, they shot at me. I took off into the forest, and then I met you."
The look on her face shows she believes him now. The voices are getting louder and clearer, and they can now faintly hear swearing.
"Follow me," she says, making her way through the forest. He follows close behind. They keep traveling and walking.
She gasps and stumbles back into him. It was so dark she almost stepped right into the ditch with the decaying, mutilated bodies. She edges around the ditch and shows him the radio tower.
"Who puts a radio tower in the middle of a forest?" he asks.
"I dunno, but this place was a life saver," she says, walking up to the ladder. "Literally." They manage to climb up and shut and lock the door just in time - a group of Black Circle members trump into the burnt clearing under the tower. The two hold their breaths as they watch the members glance about before taking off in another direction. They both sigh at the same time. "That was close," she says, leaning against the wall. She looks at him and holds out her hand. "By the way, my name is BirdieCurlz, but you can just call me Birdie."
He cautiously stares at her hand before reaching out and giving it a small shake. "I'm Christopher Robin, but everyone calls me CR."