"What's taking them so long?" James asks. It has been half an hour since Trevor and Kevin went inside the mine, and the others have been waiting around in the forest.
"Who knows," Charlie says with a shrug, just itching to take his smartphone out and play on it. He reminds himself, though, that electromagnetic signals hurt Slenders and grudgingly keeps himself from touching it.
They sit in a circle on the ground, James and Margareta tall and still, Charlie slouched over with his chin in his hand and the other tracing pictures in the dirt. "I sure hope they're okay," Margareta sighs.
James turns his head towards the entrance to the mine. "Should we go in there? Maybe they're in trouble."
Charlie is worried about his friends, too, but flashbacks of those "beneficial" therapy sessions come to him. Memories of windowless rooms and Gothic crosses, of a man with a stern face, of trying to tell the truth but being yelled at and roughly handled until he "confessed" he made everything up. Ever since, he has been afraid of being accused of anything bad. What if someone found out he was involved with the Black Circle? What if he was shunned from everyone he cared about? What if he was sent back to those classes? Or what if he got so involved with the Black Circle he could not get out? Besides, he has always had a fear of the dark, and the fact that the entrance to the mine is pitch black nearly sends him into a panic.
"How about this?" Margareta says, snapping Charlie from his thoughts. "If the boys don't come out within the next five minutes, we go in there and get them."
"Sounds fine to me," James says.
Charlie, avoiding looking at them, mumbles, "Yeah, sure."
Five minutes pass, and still no sign of the boys. "Alright," James says, getting to his feet. "I guess I'm going in."
"I'm coming with you," Margareta says, also standing.
Charlie shoots up. "I'll just stay here," he blurts out. When the two Slenders look at him, he blubbers, "Well, I just don't like dark places, and we really don't know anything about these guys, I mean, for all we know they could be waiting to ambush us in there and..." His voice trails off with nervousness and embarrassment. He stares at the ground.
"He does have a point," Margareta tells James. "There could be someone waiting for us inside. We don't know."
"So," James says, "one of us should stay here with Charlie."
Charlie almost breathes a sigh of relief, but stops himself. It seems rude, and a little selfish, being glad to stay behind when the two people most in danger are deciding who will take the risk and go.
"I could stay here with Charlie," Margareta says. "You know those boys better than I, and you would probably know better where and how to find them. Besides, I know this forest better than you, and if necessary, I can take him someplace safe."
"Are you sure?" James asks.
She nods. "We'll be fine."
He wraps his long arms around her in a last hug as he whispers, "Stay safe." After their embrace, he turns to Charlie, reaching out to hug him or at least pat his shoulder. Charlie flinches back. James lowers his hand sadly and turns toward the entrance to the mine. In a blink, the two can see him just within the entrance. He turns around to wave at them before walking further into the mine.
"Why are you so scared of James?" Margareta asks, facing the young adult.
"I'm not scared of him," Charlie says too quickly.
The cock of her head and the way her hands rest on her hips show Margareta is not convinced.
"Okay, okay," he says, holding up his hands. "I guess I'm a little scared of...James. It's just..."
Charlie opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. He tries again, but same result. "Ugh, never mind," he scoffs.
Margareta crosses her arms and leans against a tree, sighing. She knows Charlie is hiding something, and she wishes she can show him he has no need to be afraid of her, of any Slender for that matter. But for as long as she has lived, she knows that humans tend to judge on appearances. One look at any Slender would be enough to scare a human into doing something rash. She has heard of the Witch Trials; they certainly do not need the Slender Trials.
Boom. Margareta straightens as she feels that familiar boom go through her mind. She felt it when the men were chasing Lily, and she felt it when the cameras around the mining facility were activated.
Danger is coming.
James makes his way slowly - apprehensively - down the hallway. If he had known the area better, he would have teleported, but it is so dark in here, the only light coming from dim, dangling light bulbs dispersed across the ceiling. The hallways are not super narrow, but enough to make the Slender nervous. I wish I was back in the forest, he thinks, rubbing his arm.
Boom. He freezes. Danger is close. He can feel it.
"Don't move," he hears, "or I'll pull the trigger."
James also senses fear. But whose is it?
"Now, turn around slowly," the threatening person demands.
"Bossy," someone mutters.
"Both of you, put your hands up...Now!"
James hears a whimper and recognizes Kevin. Well, he found the boys. How is he going to get them out? Last time he saw someone with a gun, he was shot, and it took all his strength to escape. But this time, there are no healers around. If James is injured, he is on his own - and he will not be able to protect his friends. What if the man decides to shoot one of the boys? James cannot exactly walk up to a hospital and ask for help.
It is then he does something he has not done in years. He focuses hard and sends out a very strong Slender-thought,"Help!", to any Slender nearby. He has only done a distress call once, to try and find his clan. Unfortunately, distress calls can only go so far, and his clan must have been in another part of the world. Another clan had appeared and offered to take him in until he found his own clan, but he politely refused.
Not even a minute later, he senses someone appear behind him. James turns around - a Slender man wearing a knee-length black jacket, a blood red shirt, and black jeans and Converse stands a few feet away. "You called?" he says.
"Who goes there?" the dangerous person bellows.
The newcomer touches James' arm, and both of them are cloaked in shadow. Someone peers around the corner, a Black Circle member, no doubt. All he sees is a darkened hallway. He grumbles and ducks back into the hallway.
James stares at the newcomer as he lets go and the shadows vanish. "How did you do that?" he whispers.
"It's a special power my clan has," he replies. "It comes in handy in the daytime."
James nods, but then cuts to the chase. "I have two human friends in that hallway, and I need to get them out."
"Human friends?" The guy sounds surprised.
"Please just help them."
The other Slender nods and disappears in a wave of shadows. James looks down and sees two smaller shadows on the floor. Those must be his footsteps. He watches them disappear and reappear as the Slender makes his way to the hallway.
"Now, no funny business," the Black Circle member tells the boys. "I will pull the trigger."
"On a couple of unarmed boys?" Trevor says, undaunted. "How rude."
Trevor's nose itches. What's that smoky smell? It was not here a moment ago.
He hears the guy with the gun cry out in shock, grunting, "Put me down, you-" The guy is cut off.
Just like the thug outside Trevor's house.
"James?" he calls out. "Is that you?"
"What is it?" he asks.
His friend stutters, "Th-th-there's two!"
"No," he hears James say as he comes into the hallway. "Another Slender came to help."
The newcomer appears back in the hallway. "Hey there," he says.
Kevin's eyes widen. "Wh-who are you?"
"Name's Victor. Victor Slayerman."
"What are you doing here?"
Victor gestures to James. "Your friend here sent out a call for help. I happened to be close enough to hear it."
Trevor leans on his walking stick. "Thanks, Victor. Think you and James can help us out? A couple of our friends are stuck behind that door." He points too far to the left, and Kevin corrects his arm.
"Sorry, kid," Victor says, taking a step back. "I just came to help take care of the bad guy, and I did. So, see you later!" In a blink, he is gone.
"I'll get them," James says. In a flash, he is in the cell and out with the two girls. Jenna screams, but a tentacle covers her mouth.
Lily stares wide-eyed at the Slender. "No way!" she breathes. "You're the Slender Man! I saw you that one day at the park!"
"You remember me?" he asks, astounded.
"Of course I do. You were behind that tree when you created those tentacles." She gives a little smile. "That was so cool!" If James had a mouth, he would be smiling right now.
James' heart sinks. He recognizes that distress call.
Margareta and Charlie!