James whirls around, but he still does not see the killer. His heart thumps harder as he hurries away from the spot he occupied. The farther he gets from the spot, the less he can feel the booms. He keeps running until they are all gone. He slows to a stop, sighs, and would lean against a tree in relief if they were not all burning right now. Where are they? he wonders. He left the boulder nearly fifteen minutes ago, but he still has not found anyone. Not a page or familiar aura at all.
Something rubs against his leg.
He gasps and jumps. Looking down at his leg, he is very surprised to see a familiar feline. "Mittens!" he cries, scooping up the cat. "How on earth did you get here?"
In response, she rubs her head against him.
James then notices dark smudges on her. He touches one of the spots and rubs the dark substance between his pale fingers. "Motor oil?"
Mittens gives him a tired look.
"You snuck into the killer's van? All the way here?"
"Well, at least you're safe now," he says, hugging her tight to him. Glancing around, he deems it safe enough to walk forward. He sends out a Slender-thought, Can anyone hear me? Silence. Please, someone, tell me you're safe!
Voices. He can hear voices coming from beyond the flames.
"Hello?" he softly calls out.
Nothing but the roaring fire for a while. Just when he is about to label himself insane, he hears, "Hello?"
The voices are too low, and the fire too loud, to make out what they are saying.
"Who's there?" James calls out a little louder.
James instinctively teleports away, as the bullet just missed him and hit the tree behind him. Mitten's claws dig into his suit and skin, but he only holds her closer and presses on. How did he not hear a boom? Slenders always feel booms whenever there is an enemy nearby.
Unless that was not an enemy, or the killer shot from far-range. Right now, he just focuses on getting away. He dodges burning tree after falling limb.
He freezes, not so much from the command as the voice. Margareta! Dear God, you're alive!
I'm hiding in the branches overhead. Some haven't been touched by the fire yet.
He looks up, but there is so much smoke he cannot see very well. I'll take your word for it. Can you see anyone else?
I saw Victor and Lily head into the radio tower, and some other humans made it there, too. James, you're not gonna believe who I just saw.
The killer. I know. Just leave him to me.
No, not that. I saw -
Instinctively, James ducks down, pressing the cat closer to him. She squirms a little, but he maintains a hold on her. Margareta, are you safe?
Of course I'm safe. Are you?
So far, yeah.
The branch I'm on is breaking. James, before I fall, I have to tell you about the ad-whoa!
Oh, God. He stumbles through the flames, desperate to find her. He has no idea how high up she was, but if she fell a long way, she could be unconscious - or worse. Even worse would be if the killer got to her first. His mind is racing with thoughts of Margareta: is she safe, where is she, what was she about to tell him. The "ad?" Who the heck are the "ad?"
He freezes when the bullet hits the tree in front of him. The fire roars for a few seconds before he hears, "At long last. I finally have you, Slender Man."
James holds his breath while stroking Mittens' head in quick, short strokes.
"Turn around, Slender Man. I want you to see me when I shoot you."
He remains rooted in place.
"I said, turn around!"
Slowly, James shuffles around to meet the killer's red glare. His eyes are wild, and he is pointing a gun at James' chest. The killer notices Mittens, and he lets out a dark, psychotic laugh. "A cat? The great, scary, elusive Slender Man...has a little cat?" He throws his head back and lets out a loud, manic laugh again - but then he glares. "You and your friends have caused me enough trouble, Slender Man. And after tonight-" he cocks his gun, "-no one will dare mess with me again."
Both James and the killer jump. He never pulled the trigger. "What did you do?" he seethes.
"I didn't do anything," James says. He then remembers the gunshot from earlier. A boom did not accompany the shot, which meant either it was not an enemy or the killer shot far-range. Is there someone else in the forest who can help him?
He hears voices again.
The killer growls, peering over his shoulder. "Them again," he hisses.
"Them?" Who else is here? James does not wait to find out, just teleports away. He can still see the killer, but there are several yards between them. The killer turns back around and curses when he finds the Slender gone. He searches all around, his red eyes settling on James' dark, tall form. Oh, crud. He turns and runs, teleporting away when the bullet barely misses him.
Margareta! Please answer me! All he hears is the roaring fire. He starts to get a sinking feeling in his stomach, but he ignores it. No, she's not gone. She's not. She just fell off a branch, so she's probably sore. When she's ready, she'll get back to me.
Minutes tick by, and still no word or sign from Margareta. Or Harry, Trevor, and Ricky. He has not run into the killer again, though he can hear the distant gunshots. After a few minutes of pushing through the burning forest, the initial excitement of facing the killer has worn off, a numb fear remaining. He tells himself to keep going, keep going, but he starts to wonder what the point of all this is. After all, the forest is only so big, he is bound to run into the killer again. He could wait for all the trees to burn down, but that would only make him more scared, plus a bit guilty, since forests are pretty much the only shelter for Slenders.
Legs mechanically moving, James lets his mind wander. Margareta, where are you? Are you alive? What were you trying to tell me, "the ad?" Can it help me? I wish I could see you again, hold you one last time. I love you so much, Margareta...
I love you, too.
James stops dead in his tracks, his heart pounding. Margareta?
Aw, how sweet, Harry's voice thinks.
That reminded me of the last time Karie and I were together.
James cannot believe this. Victor, you too? How did-
Be careful what you think, Victor says. We all heard you going on about Margareta.
James and Margareta, Harry adds in a sing-song tone, sitting in a tree...well, not one in this forest.
Margareta, James interrupts, are you okay?
I'm fine now, but my head still hurts from when I fell.
His heart sinks. I'm so sorry.
She replies, There was nothing you could've done.
Still. I should've been there.
Victor interrupts, Enough mushy talk. We need to find the killer and get rid of him.
James asks, Should we bring him to the "prison?"
I don't think so, Victor voices. The prison's more to keep miscreants away from people until we know they won't try to hurt anyone again - or if they're really bad, keep them there for the rest of their lives. But the killer won't stop until every Slender is slaughtered, and if we left him in the prison, he might find a way out, even with the guards surrounding that place. We have to finish him off.
But you can't just kill him! Harry's quick to add. Sure, he's a bad guy, but we can't hurt a living being! Oh, wait!...Phew, never mind. Thought Trevor was gonna trip over a burning branch for a second there. But he's okay. Hee hee.
Hesitantly, James thinks, Harry's right. The killer wants everyone to think that Slenders are vicious, murderous killers. Though the world will be better off without him, I will not become the monster he thinks I am. There has to be another way to get rid of him.
The killer literally jumps into James' path and shoots. James cries out and clutches his left arm, dropping Mittens in the process. She hisses and hurries off, disappearing into the flames.
He lifts his head to see the killer, who glares at his gun. He keeps pressing the trigger, but there are only clicks. The gun is empty. Growling, he tosses it to the side, pulls out a dagger from somewhere along his belt. He charges.
On instinct, James lashes out a tentacle, hitting the killer square in the chest. The cult leader rebounds quickly, slicing at the tentacle with the dagger.
James gives a shout and withdraws his tentacle. No one has ever attacked a Slender's tentacles before, and he has to say, it bloody hurts. He cannot retract his limb back into his body like this. What would happen to the rest of him?
The killer wastes no time in giving a deranged cry as he lunges for the Slender. James thrusts his right hand out - the dagger plunges into his wrist and forearm.
Again, James cries out. He kicks the killer back and with another tentacle yanks out the dagger, groaning when it comes out. The wounds hurt immensely, and though he has not lost much blood yet, he does not want to lose any more; he is going to need all of his strength to get through this final battle. Where's the healer clan when you need them?
The Black Circle murderer charges again, this time dodging the flailing extra limbs and jumping onto James. The two fall to the ground, the monster's hand around James' throat. James tries to throw him off, but he cannot move his arms without pain shooting through, and his remaining tentacles have a hard time pushing the monster off and end up just flailing around. It would not be so bad if he was not in so much pain, or if he could just breathe. But it is easy to strangle a Slender - no one knows why, it has been like that for thousands of years. It just has something to do with them being faceless.
To add insult to injury, the serial killer smirks at the struggling Slender. That smile, those narrowed eyes, basically that whole creepy expression makes James' blood go cold. His head feels light, his vision darkens...
"Ahhh!" the killer rolls off of James, clutching his arm.
James inhales deeply, coughs a couple times.
"Are you alright, Mister Slenderman?" someone asks.
He turns his head to the side - no way. That is impossible. The cult leader attacked them. He left them for dead. What -
"How are you still alive?" the killer growls.
Tommy's mother steps forward, keeping her gun aimed on the monster. "You didn't manage to kill all of us. And that Splendor fellow came by after you kidnapped Ricky and brought us to some 'mender' clan."
"The healers!" James gasps.
Lily's father jumps out from behind a tree and puts the killer into a choke-hold. "My wife is dead, thanks to you!" he snarls, not caring that his grip is too tight. "The Slenders couldn't save her, said her wounds were too fatal. Now, I'll never see her again!"
Someone lifts James up from behind, and he cranes his neck around to see Peter's mother. "Keep calm, I'm a doctor," she says, and proceeds to bind up all his injuries. They still hurt, but at least he does not have to worry about blood loss or infection.
"How are you still alive?" James asks them. "Peter got a call from the killer, and he said that he hurt you bad."
Without taking her stare off of the killer, Tommy's mom answers, "He shot at us, but fortunately he didn't bother killing us on the spot. He left us to suffer, but when he left, that's when the fellow in the polka-dot suit came and saved us. He then left to save Ricky, but we never heard from either of them."
"I got a text," Peter's mom continues, "from my niece, BirdieCurlz, saying she heard we were attacked and asking if we were okay. I found out she was hiding in this forest, and three of us snuck away to help her get out...only she texted us that everyone was coming here and that the killer was after everyone."
"So we came here," Lily's father picks up, "to keep them all safe and kill his idiot." He nods his head to the killer, whose face is starting to turn purple. "The ones we left behind were going to call the police, so they can come and get him."
The killer's eyes widen when he hears "police." He elbows Mr. Fiztgerald in the gut, loosening the choke-hold enough for him to break free and slam the good guy into a tree. Tommy's mother shoots, but the killer vanishes into the flames, and Mr. Fitzgerald crumples to the ground with a moan, unconscious.
James coughs again and rolls onto his side. "Mister Slenderman," Peter's mom says, keeping a hold on his shoulder, "you really shouldn't move around right now."
He says as if through gritted teeth, "I have to stop him."
Tommy's mom lowers her gun and comes over. "I know we need to stop that-" James cringes at the nasty word she spits, "-but we need to find the kids and get out of here. My squad's coming here, they'll be here soon."
"I'm a police officer." She takes a badge out of her pocket and shows him, the metal flashing in the light of the fire.
James jumps from the distress call so much it scares the humans. "Harry!" he says, crawling to his feet. "That was Harry! He's in trouble! Something could've happened to him, Ricky, or Trevor!"
"Ricky's here?" Peter's mom says, her eyes wide with hope. "He's alive?"
"He might not be if I don't get there now." He straightens, gets lightheaded for a moment. When the fuzziness clears, he looks down at the women. "Thank you for all you've done, but I have to end this now."
They both frown, but they nod their consent. "Just bring my little boy back to me," Peter's mom says. "And my big boy."
If James had a face, he would flash a kind smile at them. "I will do my very best." He then teleports to where he thinks the distress call came from.
Again, if he had a face, his eyes would be wide and his jaw dropped - for there, standing in a ring of fire, is Harry, holding the trembling little Ricky in his arms. The boy buries his face in the Slender's colorful jacket, and Harry looks around with frightful eyes. Harry then sees James, and he sighs in relief. "James! It's you! Please help us!"
"Can't you just teleport out?"
"But we saw the killer! And there's fire everywhere!"
It is true: the ring of fire is just growing in height and width, making James keep stepping backwards, even as he is talking. He looks all around, but does not see any safe patches of land.
Wait! The branches! Margareta said there were some higher ones that weren't burning yet. "Harry, try the branches!" he shouts.
"What?" Harry's voice calls back through the roar of the fire.
"Try the branches!"
"What?" His voice is almost silenced by the deafening flames.
The branches! James thinks.
Oh, okay! When he cannot see any shadows past the flames, James knows they are all gone.
Wait, was Trevor with them? Harry, are you all safe?
Ricky and I are, but I don't know about Trevor.
That sends the Slender in a panic. "Trevor!" he nearly screams, braving the fire trying to get to that one patch in the middle of the ring. If it is still there. "Trevor!" He does not see or hear anything. Taking a deep breath, he teleports to that one patch, which has shrunk significantly. He tucks in his limbs and sucks in his gut to make himself thinner, but it is just like with humans: a completely and utterly useless tactic. He looks all around him and sees the land slope down one side. Harry, what happened to Trevor?
Harry replies, I felt a boom, but I couldn't see anyone. But Trevor must've heard something and he told us to get down - right when we saw the killer. I grabbed Ricky, but Trevor fell down the slope, and the killer vanished into the flames. Oh, now I really wish I had some ice cream!
James mentally rolled his eyes. You and your darn ice cream! You said Trevor fell down the side?
He looks down the slope, but cannot find any human shapes. You and Ricky both find the other humans and Victor. I'll meet up with you later. James teleports from one small flame-free patch to the next, ignoring the beads of sweat trailing down his pale face. "Trevor!" he cries again. He makes it down to the base of the slope. There! In front of that tree!
A banged-up walking stick.
Oh, no. "Trevor!"
The Slender's heart races. He found him. He turns around to see his friend.
The killer sneers, one hand twisting Trevor's injured arm behind his back, the other holding the dagger to the boy's throat.