Am I imagining this? Its 3am which means I thankfully have another three and half hours before I need to get up for work. But what is that sound? I press the snooze button on my alarm clock and check my phone to see if my son has somehow changed my alarm tone, but there’s nothing.
Why is there an ice cream van roaming the streets at night? Oh and great, now my son is awake and talking to himself about what ice cream he is going to buy. I hear him get out of bed and make his way downstairs, I’ll give him a minute before I follow him. The door is locked, I know this because I check the front and back door about 10 times every night before I go up to bed, plus the keys are hanging up on the wall out of reach of children.
Aww how cute, he’s talking to his imaginary friend. Apparently, his friend is going to have a 99, although back in their day, a 99 was 99p. Strange that my son would know something like this, but I guess it’s amazing what they pick up.
He’s asking his friend to open the door for him. This is when his plan is going to come unstuck. I’ll get up and put him to bed.
What the hell was that?! I hear the sound of the key turning in the lock and the front door opening. I launch myself out of bed and sprint to the top of the stairs. Looking down I see my son looking at me over his shoulder. He turns to leave, I dart down the stairs but I’m blocked by the door slamming shut in front of me. I attempt to open the door but it’s locked. How is this possible? I purposely installed a mortice lock because I wanted to avoid being locked out whilst I was gardening or something. How did it lock on its own? I bang on the door to my son, hoping to wake him. I can only see a distorted image of him through the frosted glass as he moves further away from the house. I move to the window, desperately trying to keep him in my sight. I can’t unlock my windows, why can’t I unlock them! I’ve had these open hundreds of times! Something is fighting against me. Stopping me from reaching my son. Fear engulfs my entire body. I scream at the top of my lungs trying to wake him from his trance.
I search my living room for anything I could use to break through the double glazing but because we baby proofed the house to keep my son out of harm’s way, there is nothing I can use. The beating in my heart gets stronger and stronger, I’m increasingly aware that the longer I take to break free from this prison, the further away my son is. Fear floods my senses, like a dear in headlights I’m unable to move, I can only watch as my son reaches the end of our garden.
I try to re-assure myself that this isn’t the end, I will escape this confinement that only minutes ago I called our home. I will find my boy! I will fulfil the promise I made him the day he was bought into my life that I will keep him safe. I feel myself gaining control of my body again. I dash upstairs and try the main bedroom window using more strength than necessary to open it almost pulling it off the hinges.
I’m halfway out when I see him. This cannot be real, I must be dreaming, I’ve seen him before, throughout my childhood, The Slender Man! The first time was at a park when I was playing football with my friends. The ball was kicked into the woods that ran parallel with the field. My visibility was limited as I ventured in to collect the ball as the thick foliage blocked out a lot of the natural light from the sun. The plain white ball stood out from the moss-covered ground. As I reached down to pick it up I heard the chilling sound of a twig breaking in front of me. Afraid to move I lifted me head expecting to see a vicious beast drooling and snarling at me, ready to have me for their dinner. What I saw was something more terrifying. Tall and thin with unnaturally long tentacle-like arms that could extend to inhuman lengths in order to induce fear and ensnare his prey. His face is pale, white and featureless, like it had been wrapped in a type of gauze or cloth. With no expression on his face I was kept in a state of unease, wondering if or when he was going to attack me. We stare at each other for what felt like an eternity, until he turned and disappeared into the shadows.
He never attacked me, but from that moment I would see him every day, standing in the distance, feeding off my fear of him and ruining my childhood. The day of my 18th birthday, as I was blowing out my candles to the traditional sound of Happy Birthday, I saw him, stood at the back of our garden. I was an adult now and I was not going to be ruled by fear anymore. I excused myself from my family and made my way to confront this monster and let him know that I was no longer going to live in his shadow. I marched over to him and called him out from behind the tree. He appeared, towering over me like a school bully trying to intimidate an innocent child. The speech I had rehearsed on my way to him disappeared like waves washing away writing in the sand. He outstretched his arm, placing me into a hypnotic state. Tendrils appeared from his fingers, snaking their way to me, attaching themselves to my temples, sucking the lifeforce out of me like a vacuum. Darkness surrounded me like a sheet being lowered over my head. I convinced myself that I was going to die, my foolish ill-conceived plan meant that I would not be able to tell my family how much I loved them. This was the end.
I woke up on the soaking wet lawn to the sight of my mother leaning over me, gently tapping my face in an attempt to bring me back to reality. My father was in the kitchen on the phone to the emergency services trying to convince them that I had not passed out because I was pissed as I had only had a couple of ciders. After that day I was given the all clear, not just from the hospital, but from the Slender Man. I never saw him again; until now. Now he was back to continue his mental torture on me. On my 18th birthday, I had convinced myself that it was all in my head, like an imaginary friend, but evil. Why would he have spent all that time and energy tormenting me only to disappear without a trace? But maybe I wasn’t as nutritious to him as I used to be. As you get older and your brain develops, you start to rationalise what once scared you. But a child cannot understand that there is an explanation for what is happening, it’s either scary or not scary. If the Slender Man feeds off fear, then a child must be a buffet to him.
Regardless of who he is and what he wants, he will not take my son! He will not do to him what he did to me for all those years! I break myself free from the house and jump down from the porch onto the front lawn. I can just about see my son in the distance. The weight of the fear has left me like removing a rucksack full of rocks. I am blinkered to what’s going on around me. My only concern is to protect my son from this monster. It doesn’t take me long to catch up to them. I pick up my son like a loose rugby ball and turn to escape but I am once again restrained by the Slender Man’s hold, his tendrils are replaced with dagger tips that pierce through my limbs like a knife through butter. He lifts me into a crucifix position as if to humiliate me, for no saviour can save my son from this evil. The familiar feeling of being powerless consumes my body and the fear re-appears as I realise I am going to lose my son.
I threaten the monster, promising him that I will kill him if he even looks at my son, my aggressive tone does nothing to dissuade him. My threats quickly turn to begging as I plead to the Slender Man to take me instead, trying to appeal to his humane side, if he had one, but nothing; The loss of blood starts to take its toll on me as I feel the world and my son disappear from my view.
I don’t know how long I have been unconscious. I wake to the familiar tone of my alarm clock. Had it been a nightmare all along? Surely it was. My son will be in his room playing with his action figures. My wife will be back from her parents and will be in the kitchen getting the breakfast ready. She has always been better than me at getting up in the mornings. I’ll get up and take him downstairs and we will decide what the plan of action will be today. I slowly open my eyes, preparing myself for the overpowering glare from the low-lying sun.
I am not in my bed, this is not my bed and I am not in my house. This is a hospital room; the beeping is a heartrate monitor and my wife is sobbing with her head in her hands. I call out to her, expecting her to embrace me but what I receive are quick fire questions. ‘What was I doing when he disappeared?’ ‘Why did I leave the door unlocked?’ ‘How could I let this happen to our son?’ The police arrived shortly after, they had their own questions for me. I tell them everything but they appear unconvinced, they put it down to some sort of PTSD and reassure me that in time I will remember what really happened.
Whatever happens next, I know I have failed him. The Slender Man returned to suck the last bit of fear from me before he moved on to his next course. The promise I made my son the day he was born means nothing unless I can find a way to get him back. I look out the window and I see him, the Slender Man, taunting me. He turns and walks away. I will follow him, but not to confront him. I pray that he will lead me to his lair where I will find my son.
Time to move.