Sunday, July 10, 2011

Burning Out and Fading Away

I woke to an odd sound this morning. I haven't heard anything like since I was a young kid; so long that it took me at least a minute to recognize it for what it was: a young girl's sobs. That I am still alive is almost too much to try to believe on its own. But this was even harder to comprehend. Sara, the girl who has been catatonic for months, who we have all given so much for... she's finally awake. She can talk, feel, move on her own... It's incredible. I think she remembers everything that's happened around her. She hasn't said much about it all but she seems to know who I am, seems to trust me. She even asked where the others were. I didn't know how to tell her they were dead. I still can't really tell that to myself. Kal and I... shit, we were friends! And he's gone now. He walked into a gate to some fucked place and he didn't come back because it exploded into a bunch of useless pretty colors. And now he's just one more dead body, one more candle snuffed out in the breeze of my life's continuance. And all I have to show for this is cuts that will eventually scar and in time fade away with the passing of my own soul. Arkady and Damien gave their lives to so the rest of us could focus on our task, and JD spent his last anger to give us a chance at actually doing it. I am the only one of us who hasn't made that sacrifice, who still clings to life at the expense of others. Hell, even Jared and Alan, who joined what they knew was a suicide mission, gave more than I have. At least some of those who joined us, Zabulon, Dante and the Sage, managed to keep alive. But of the original Operation Wintergreen, I am the only one left.

But Sara is here. Whatever Kal did... it worked. And I have a purpose again. Getting Sara back from the Thief wasn't my job. That was Kal's. Mine is getting her home. To her parents, back in Colorado where this whole fucked up thing started. I don't know what I'll do after that. Where I'll go. I do know this, though: whatever ends up happening to me, whether I find happiness or die a poor and lonely man or suffer through mediocrity for the rest of this life, I am free. I can feel it in my bones. I still jump at every elongated shadow, I still worry at the noises at night. But I know, with every fiber that is me, that we won that night. And our victory, no matter how small, no matter how Phyrric, has saved this little girl from a twisted fate. I don't know what Kal did where ever he went... But the weight of my Stalker's haunting has left my shoulders, and all of his horror has gone away.

-Michael Henry Abner


Saturday, July 9, 2011

And the Rest of Us

With no better idea of where to start, Kal, JD, Jared, Zabulon and I began to make our way toward the path that we had followed earlier while the rest of our little band set up shop in the hotel lobby to draw fire away from us. AmalgamationSage (astral projecting from where ever he really is - and so you don't get confused, his astral form is a lady with a sword) was somewhere ahead of us, searching out signs of the Thief and incapacitating a few obstacles - in this fucked up place, it seems his astral form can be as solid as our own physical bodies. Sometimes he would pop back to our little group and give us explicit directions and sometimes he would just leave markers for us to follow (they looked like little blue balls of fire; I'd make a joke but in light of all that's happened... I really don't feel like it). As time went on, the markers became more and more common. At first, we did follow the path, but it wasn't long into it before AmalgamationSage led us into the tree to the side of it. There some amount of hesitation on our part about venturing into the trees - except for Kal, who pushed on into them, seemingly immune to the fear that was inside the rest of us. I've never seen him so determined or set on something before. It was absolutely amazing.

So we walked through the trees, guided by AmalgamationSage and encouraged by the leader that had emerged in Kal. There was one tense moment where we all stopped moving as a veritable horde of our Stalker's followers flew through the trees, presumably in the direction of the hotel. Not a single one was attracted to our band of fighters though - it seems Damien's plan worked. I don't think the Thief liked this little trick of ours though. I think he had planned for his minions to do his dirty work. It wasn't long after we started moving once again that AmalgamationSage came back to us - irregular at this point in the journey. He seemed concerned.

"He saw me. He is coming."

And come he did, in an explosion of trees. The time for subtlety was apparently over and the more violent side of our Stalker was coming out once again. Branches fell around us, smaller trees were uprooted entirely - it was at once frightening and amazing.

Kal: "Sage, keep going to that gateway!"

But he stayed anyway. Brave man. But it was JD, a 12 year old boy, who actually had the nerve to charge the Thief. Screaming with a rage nestled so deep within him that all of us could feel his catharsis, he sprinted toward him, a knife in his small hand. Tentacles darted out at him which is when a rock bounced off the Thief's chest, coming from Kal. This seemed to confuse him, so the rest followed in hist footsteps and began looking for anything to throw at our Stalker. JD was able to get close and actually stab him. It didn't do much though. Suddenly, all of us rock throwers were knocked to our asses as if some concussive force had emanated from the joined trio of JD-knife-Thief. I heard groans of pain from Zabulon that suggested his broken rib had been a little bothered by this as the tentacles refocused on JD. 

Sage: "Get up, and run!"

Realizing the logic in this, Kal jumped to his feet and helped Zabulon to his own as I stood. JD was done for. But his life was going to get us around the Thief and toward the gate we were looking for. But the sight of that kid, slashing at tentacles that were sharper than his own knife, being cut to ribbons because a few moments ago he had been braver than his elders... I saw a stream of blood from the corner of my eye that came with a cessation of JD's screaming. I think his throat was cut. I didn't stop to look. None of us did. We just ran, following AmalgamationSage. And then we were in a clearing. One moment, we were in the trees, running for our lives, the next we were all standing in this clearing, as if we were waiting for something to happen. And in a way we were, as in front of us stood the gate we had been looking for. AmalgamationSage said as much and Kal seemed as if he recognized it, as if he was drawn to it. It was similar to what we had found at the end of the path the other day, but it was more structured almost, more shaped. I'm not sure how to explain the difference, but this simply felt  like a gate.

In front of the gate was our Stalker. I think he moved us here on purpose. The tentacles that held ready to strike certainly seemed to indicate something of the sort. It was Kal who ran first this time, followed shortly by Zabulon. I had a quick moment of doubt about how three barely armed men and an astral projection were going to do any damage to an abomination before I realized Kal wasn't really running at the Thief, but at the gate. I got my feet moving and made up my mind to give myself to get Kal to the gate if I had to. Three people now had already died on my account. But it didn't quite come to that. I caught up to Kal as a tentacle approached him and punched it - the skin of my knuckles burned as if they were on fire but the appendage was knocked just enough off course, though that didn't stop the attacks and I got knocked to the ground for my trouble. It was a running battle to the gate. Zab, Jared and I stayed behind Kal, trying to keep Kal from being touched by taking the blows meant for him -  and mostly we succeeded. AmalgamtionSage seemed to be the only one able to really hurt him. I doubt we would have been able to get Kal to the gate without his magick to save us from the full wrath of our Stalker. Just the same, Kal took his own share of the beating. A cut across the face, a headlong tumble across the grass. He wasn't the only one though -  all of us were bloodied before Kal made it into the gate. Somehow even AmalgamationSage was bleeding here. Zabulon was still fighting - and I use that term loosely here; fighting for us had become more self-sacrifice than anything else - despite what must have been massive pain in his rib and I had broken a few fingers in my efforts and twisted an ankle after tripping over my own feet. Jared was on the ground, immobile, his face covered in blood and his arms covered in cuts. But Kal was at the gate now. I was a few feet away from him with Zabulon while Sage was nearer to the Thief, using some kind of energy or spell. Jared was beyond them. Kal hesitated. Here, of all places, his unshakable resolve seemed in doubt. In that moment, our Stalker worked some kind of attack on AmalgamationSage - something I can only describe as a vortex slammed into him and ripped him from our pocket-world. I don't think he died, but the screaming indicated a great deal of pain. The sound must have motivated Kal, as he jumped in the gate at that moment. Time slowed. I turned my back on the gate and ran at the Thief to see death staring me in the eye in the form of a slick, oily looking tentacle Hell-bent on crushing my face; Zabulon was raising an arm to protect himself from a tentacle bent on hammering him into a pulp as he turned with me; the vortex that had taken the Sage was still swirling. Time continued to stretch until we all seemed frozen in that moment. I imagine this must be how movies feel when they are paused. Then the play button was hit. Everything went full speed and our Stalker simply disappeared. Zabulon opened his eyes now that death was no longer coming toward him. The three of us looked around the clearing, now seeming much smaller than it had before. Aside from Jared, dead on the grass, and our own battered appearances, there was no sign of any battle here. With the Thief's total lack of theatrics in his exit, we were all left with the taste of anticlimax - but it was a sweet taste.

Zabulon: "Is that a little girl?"

He was pointing at the gate as he said this. And it was a little girl. It was my little girl. It was Sara. I ran, picked her up. I discovered that she was just as much a vegetable as she had always been. But still I held her close to me, satisfied in the small movements of her chest that told me she stilled drew breath. Then, as if to makeup for the lack of a fireworks show, the gate exploded out and up. Brilliant lights and colors I couldn't name with a gun to my head shot in all directions. It was soundless, but it seemed to also take sound with it as moving of the branches in the breeze was ceased and none of us could hear the sound of our exclamations. Then the color and the wonder withdrew back into itself and we were left in the darkness of its absence. The moon and stars were nothing to what we had just beheld. But the gate was gone. The Thief was gone. And so was Kal.



Dead Man's Tale

I got back to the hotel after setting out with the group that was to take the fight to the Thief. I knew the distraction team was set up in the lobby, so I headed there. It was completely wrecked. Bodies were strewn about everywhere. Some were broken, some were charred, some were in pieces or just filled with stab wounds or shotgun shells. The walls were bowed outward and the ceiling was trashed. Arkady and Setoth were nowhere to be seen. Alan and Dante were lying in a circle of furniture in the middle of the room, both bloody and unconscious. I got them to a room and managed to wake Alan, though Dante was still out.

These are the final words and memories of Alan Hartford, given to me before he died:

"The group set up shop in the lobby of the hotel, just as planned. We had a little circle of furniture in the middle for a makeshift gun emplacement as well as a place to fall back to if needed. The idea was to distract the proxies to allow your Assault Group to stick it to Slendy. Apparently, Setoth or Damien or whatever he is - was - called was going to use some magick to draw them here. I don't pretend to understand and I don't think I need to. But whatever he did, it worked. Maybe a little too well. All I really know is after some chanting mumbo jumbo, it wasn't long before they started showing up. It wasn't too bad at first. We'd boarded up the parts of the hotel that we wouldn't be using. Fewer entrance points, easier to fight. I think that was Dante's idea, the only one of us with the sense to really bring a weapon. Arkady grumbled about it when it was first suggested, but it's what let us fight as long as we did. 

The first one went down easy. He popped in through an open door and Arkady, hiding just inside, smashed his head open with his blunt sword. I couldn't believe it at first but as the fight went on, I saw just how good a fighter he was. A bit of a talker, a bunch of book references I imagine, but damn could he fight. Probably had the highest kill count in our whole group. Though to be fair, we were keeping Dante's gun in reserve for a while until it became really necessary.

This wasn't my first fight, but it was without a doubt the worst, and probably my last. The first one I killed was a little jarring. He was mindless, unlike any of the others I've gone against. But he was strong, quick - faster than me. I think what saved me was the fact that I had a knife and brass knuckles to his fists and teeth. There were more just like him too. Vacant eyes and slack faces that felt no pain and didn't tire. I just thank God they fucking died like normal. A few stabs to the right places, a punch to break some important bones and they'd go down. The most disturbing thing about them though was that they were completely silent. No grunts, no yelling, not even heavy breath. Just the sound of our own voices and the sound of combat - wood and flesh on flesh, blood hitting the floor. I think I preferred them to the screamers though.

These were the ones who were clever. They could think and you could see it in their eyes. They weren't automatons out just to kill, but thinkers who tried to fuck your nerves to kill you quicker. When they came is when the fighting got really intense. It's when I heard the first shotgun blasts go off. I heard Setoth chanting and sometimes a man would go down without being touched, or he'd become confused enough for one of us to take him down with ease. The good thing about fighting against the mindful as opposed to the mindless is that you can fuck with them right back. The sound of the gun must have scared them because for a few minutes they became cautious - until they realized it was just Dante and the rest of us were still melee. She became a big target after that. Especially when they began bringing their own weapons. That's when everything went straight to Hell.

The barricades we'd set up around the place were meant to stop people with fists and feet. So for a while, there were only two fronts to really fight on. The front door and the back door of the lobby. There were two or three side doors though that led on to the first floor rooms. Knives and baseball bats in the hands of the proxies were scary, but not too bad. Sure, we got more knicks and scratches - and at the end, real stabs - than we had, but they were nothing to sound of a chainsaw ripping through a solid wood door. When the door was finally busted down and the big burly sonuvabitch came lumbering out with that machine of his, we all paused and took notice. Which gave just enough time and quiet for a gunshot to ring out - much quieter than Dante's. Arkady went down in the corner of my eye, yelling in some mix of rage and pain. Javert and his gang were here. Chainsaw-man was getting closer and I was forced to retreat back. From behind me I heard the sound of wood connecting solidly with bone and turned to see Setoth smacking Javert in the face with his paddle - or beatstick as he called it. Dante fired more rounds into the approaching crowd and it was impressive - but just not enough. They kept coming. I couldn't begin to tell you how many there were or how many we took out, but there were too many for us and there were bodies scattered everywhere. And on our side, Dante was the only one who hadn't really been hurt at this point.

As I got into our little furniture circle, I saw Arkady on top of Javert, beating the holy Hell out of him while Setoth flung magick around like it was candy and layed people out with his paddle. I saw people burst into flame, randomly break bones or choke. Figuring they had it covered, I turned to take the side I'd been on and got Dante to help me out. Chainsaw-man was even closer now, almost within range of a knife-throw. I heard and saw three shotgun shells get pumped into him. All they did was slow his advance. My knife stuck in his neck, but he didn't seem to mind and I was left with the brass knuckles to fend off the lesser proxies who were willing to dart by him. I remember hearing Dante call for Setoth's help and in a few moments the guy, covered in sweat and blood was next to us, shouting some weird words and throwing things into the air. Then chainsaw-man was burning, screaming, but still walking at us. 

Behind me, I could still hear Arkady raging at Javert and punching into his body - the sound of a hammer hitting wet meat - until Setoth told him he was dead, finally, and to help him with the others. But the inexorable flow of killers had slowed. With Javert dead and chainsaw-man burning, I think we had scared them. Dante was still putting rounds into him, and his face was a mash of blood and charred skin, his legs didn't seem to be working quite right, but he was still swinging his chainsaw around and Dante had to back up to keep from being wrecked to Hell. I think he still managed to knick her somewhere though because I saw a spray of blood and heard her yell as she fell to the ground. Then Arkady came from behind and jumped at the man, a knife in one hand and a pistol in the other. He knocked him over and stabbed over and over into the man's kneck while emptying the clip into his head. All while the flames began to take him too. Setoth and I pulled him back into the circle and patted the flames out. The rest of the proxies, perhaps twenty or thirty now that it was all calm, got into a circle around us. Dante had gotten back to her feet and was reloading her gun as quick as she could. I caught Setoth and Arkady exchange a glance before they began yelling all sorts of shit to piss these people off - and it worked because they all charged at once. I tried to turn to fight them off but... I was too slow. Too tired. By the time I'd gotten myself turned around, a knife was plunging into my stomach. It happened so fast I could barely tell I was falling until I hit the ground. Dante saved me from being killed right there, getting a shell into the man's head. But I was still out of the battle, down behind the furniture, and all I could do was watch. Setoth had a knife in his hand, but didn't seem as though he going to use it. Arkady was standing next to him in the middle of a circle Setoth had drawn when were setting up. Blood dripped down his scarred face and his right leg seemed nearly useless. I watched as Arkady put his hands around Setoth's. The knife began to... I don't want to say glow, but that's what it looked like. Together, they looked as though they were going to plunge the blade into Arkady. Suicide. Iwanted to stop them. But I couldn't speak. I couldn't move.

As if in slow motion, Setoth's blade punctured Arkady's chest, the two of them moving the knife together. Barely seeable against the already red-stained shirt he was wearing, small rivulets of blood began to trickle out. And then everything stopped for just a moment. Arkady was smiling - crazed and excited as if he were a kid finally going to Disney World. Setoth looked... content. The first drops of Arkady's blood hit the ground. The circle on the ground flashed brightly and then... Then it all went white and a huge noise, as though a great explosion were taking place in a small cave surrounded by waterfalls, drowned everything. When the light finally faded, the duo was gone. Dante and I were on the ground - she was breathing but knocked out and I was bleeding slowly from my side, the knife still in me. But the greatest thing... they were all dead. The whole crowd."



Friday, July 8, 2011

"One More Day Before the Storm..."

"...And the barricades of freedom!"

So many opponents outside. It started as a small group, just enough proxies to keep us penned in. But every day, more have been coming. Now it’s a crowd; no, an army. No, a HORDE. A huge mass of bodies, prepared to crush us in the most bloody and casualty heavy way possible.

Can't wait.


Tonight we launch our attack… our rescue mission. We’ve made a handful of new friends this week… good people dumb enough to waltz into this prison and sign up for our suicide mission. I’m having a hard time understanding that honestly, people we don’t even know ready to throw their lives away for four kids, a psychopath, and a vegetable of a little girl. Well whatever, I’m thankful for them and that’s about all that matters. And hey, if we get lucky in these maybe a couple of our now enlarged group will manage to escape this place too.

At least AlgSage had the good sense to leave his body somewhere safe.

Oh well. Guess it’s time to show our eldritch horror not to fuck around with a group of pissed off 20-somethings.
~ Kal Jameson

A lot of crazy shit has gone down in the last few months. Somehow, I've survived it all. Sometimes at the expense of the lives of others. I don't know if I'm going to survive this one though. I've made the Thief back down with a little trick of cleansing and I've summoned a fucking Goetic demon. I've killed a man. All things I never thought I'd be close to, much less actually experience. But still, I just can't summon the energy to believe I'll be around after all this. I've always tried to tell myself that I would make it through the next enounter. But I've already failed in my one task. I don't  have a point anymore. So I'm just going to do what the others need me to do when everything goes down. Maybe if I'm heroic enough or if I kill enough of our Stalker's soldiers I'll be redeemed or something. Maybe I won't.

I guess we'll find out.


Monday, July 4, 2011

The New Guys

When Setoth and Kal said we should ask for outside support, I was against the idea. Who out there was going to come and help us? We’re planning a suicidal, desperate attack against an untouchable god. No one else is going to be mad enough to want to join in.

Human race, I’m only going to say this once, so listen up. I am sorry, I was wrong. You have amazed me in a way I didn’t think possible.

Just look at all these people who came out to join our glorious battle! I don’t know what wonderful madness overtook them, but we’ve gotten several new members of the Operation Wintergreen crew, all ready for GLORIOUS BATTLE.

One of our very own regular commentors, Zabulon, was the first to arrive. Must have come straight from the airport. Seemed a bit disorientated when he came through that mirror gate thing which Setoth set up; I guess passing through that thing is even less pleasant than it looks. Or mayhaps it was the broken rib he had. I must give the man credit for traveling cross country with an injury like that.
Between him and Setoth, we now have two guys who look like girls in this group. I’d make a joke about that, but I feel I really don’t need to.

Dante arrived shortly afterwards, driving up from Corpus Christi. Having visited Corpus once, I can understand why she would choose to want to be in an eldritch dimension which defies all natural laws instead of staying.
But that isn’t the wonderful part. Oh no, the wonderful part is this: Dante brought a shotgun. That’s right, for the first time in any of our blogs’ history, we’ve met someone who had the forethought to bring some genuine firepower! What’re you going to do now, Javert? Oh, sure, you’ve got that little pistol thing, but we have A FRIGGIN SHOTGUN! Cannot wait to see it in action.

Course, we couldn’t stop at just two people joining in. That would have been reasonable, which is a thing we are attempting to avoid. Two more showed up roughly twenty minutes after Dante’s arrival; one Jared Brookover, and an Alan Hartford. Neither of them have blogger accounts, but they claim to have been following us. They’re the oldest here; both in mid-late twenties. Seem to be of the experienced runner variety, so I’m surprised they decided to drop the running now and join in the fight. Looks like we’re being INSPIRATIONAL here.
Sadly neither of them brought a shotgun. Which means that Dante essentially has more firepower than all the rest of us combined.

But that’s our little rag tag group of freedom fighters. All nine of us. None of us have even hit 30 years yet (hell, JD’s 12), none have any formal training in fighting, only one of us has a weapon worth a damn, our plan is one of the most suicidal I’ve ever heard (and that’s saying something), and we’re fighting an immortal god which could kill us all in an instant. Because we’re the mad ones, the ones who choose to stand above the herd of pathetic apes, and challenge the unchallengeable. Oh, many of us will die. It would take a miracle for even a single one to make it out alive. But when we die, it will be in such a way that none shall ever forget our story. The stars shall quake as we tear down the heavens themselves, and blaze ourselves a burning path of glory. There is a special seat prepared for each one of us in Valhalla, and I intend to finally claim mine.

Time to smite some gods.