Survive him, Thrive with him.

Claire Mathews had a particulary normal life; good friends, nice education. The only things thatmade her different was her paranoid friends, and complicated family life.
She never really experienced more than her little secluded box of life and comfort.
In an eventful short period of time, that little box is stretched far and wide, opening up past what her mind can comprehend and bringing her 'normal' life to a screeching halt. She wasn't Claire Mathews anymore, and she wasn't the same girl who did all her homework and kissed her mother goodnight over the telephone.
What happened? A certain man of myth decided to knock on her door.
A certain man with surprising news and a shocking, if not believable, story to tell.
A certain man with no face.

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8. Chapter eight

My head hurt.

 

That was the only thing I could think of, the throbbing pain on the upper right side of my head. I wince and roll over, onto my stomach. The sharp, rough texture of whatever I was laying in digging into my skin and I snap my eyes open, squeaking and falling off the thick branch I was perched in.

 

Something catches me and prevents my fall, lifting me up like a doll and carefully setting me down on the branch again, a tendril of some sort. I follow the black tentacle to a black body with a white face, my blood suddenly running cold.

 

Slenderman.

 

"Uh...hello." I hoarsely greet, clearing my throat. Slenderman remains silent, staring at me. He was less menacing in the light, seeming a bit more normal and less murderous.

 

Why was I not afraid?

 

He said he wasn't going to kill me, I won.

 

I won.

 

For the first time, somebody won his game. He didn't kill me, but I wasn't exactly back home, was I? Maybe someone has won in the past, but no one ever knew.

 

It's funny how easily I became a believer, how quick that happened.

 

"Hello." Slenderman replies eventually, his voice lighter than what it was last night.

 

"What happened?" I ask, balancing on the branch, my body level with his head.

 

"They ran away." He simply states.

 

"So much for friendship." I mumble, lifting one leg off of the branch to dangle by my arms, the ground a lot farther away than I though. When I drop, my knees hit the dirt with the rough landing and my hands sink into old leaves, my favorite smell. I wipe my knees off as I stand, slowly turning around to face the Slenderman.

 

"What now?" I ask, looking around and seeing a clear trail through the woods, part of the silo seen. I look at what I was sleeping in, the scary tree from before. It didn't look so scary anymore in daylight, just bare.

 

"You go home." Slenderman replies softly. I actually didn't want to go home so much. I still wasn't sure when my father was coming back, and, who knows, he could be back right now. I'd be coming home to a lit firework of death.

 

"What about you?" I ask, wondering what he was going to do about his game being broken.

 

"You don't want to go home." He says, reading my mind. I felt him there, I literally felt something looking at my thoughts. It was unnerving.

 

"Your father isn't home." He continues looking through my mind. I take a step back and feel him retract, sensing my unease probably.

 

"One less thing to worry about." I mutter, tightening the bloody sweatshirt around my waist.

 

"You aren't afraid of me?" Slenderman asks, cocking his head to the side.

 

"You haven't shown any hostile actions towards me, and you can't hurt me. I won." I reply. Slenderman suddenly appears closer to me, making me jump back in surprise.

 

"Just because you won the game doesn't mean I couldn't kill you." He warns. I straighten my body out and look him where his eyes should be.

 

"Then why haven't you?" I boldly ask.

 

This time, Slenderman floats back a few steps, stopping the conversation.

 

"You need to tell your infernal friend that you are alive." He simply says, changing the subject. I back off and nod my head, looking at the ground.

 

I feel like I upset him in some way, and now I felt upset myself. The more I was around him, the less he seemed like the monster the guys made him out to be.

 

"Why do you kill people?" I quietly ask, looking back up at him. He doesn't answer, but holds out a flower. I stare at it's color for several minutes before carefully taking it from his hand, a sense of achievement comes from Slenderman as I twirl the flower in my hands, gently smelling it's beautiful fragrance.

 

A lavender colored rose. I didn't even know that these were even a thing.

 

"Thank you." I say and look up, but Slenderman is gone. Even when I spin in idiotic circles I can't find him, and sigh.

 

All there was left to do was get home.

 

-------------

 

I pick up my paintings, looking over the forest one. The black rectangle looked so much like Slenderman that I brought up more paint, filling in the rest of him to make a crisp suit and tie combo, a white face staring at the viewer with unseen eyes.

 

He showed me a kindness. I felt like I should give him something.

 

The lavender rose he gave me was tucked in my ear, the perfect decoration until I got home and filled the only vase we had, sticking it inside and smiling at it. I hoped it lasted long, because it was such a beautiful color, and, despite my paintings, it was the only thing really brightening up the man-themed house.

 

Dirt colored walls, mud stained carpets. This all came from my dad, and the more I looker at it, the more I started to panic. If he came back and the home wasn't clean, he would flip.

 

I scurry downstairs and grab the vacuum from the closet, grabbing the handle and lifting it up the stairs. I struggle with the cord for a few seconds until I plug it in and push on the bottom to level the head with the ground.

 

I go to turn on the light and feel something tickle across the back of my hand, making me turn around to see what it was. I jump out of my skin and hit the wall with my surprise, hand pressed on my beating chest when Slenderman suddenly is behind me.

 

"Oh God, don't do that!" I pant, pressing my back against the wall and watching him, my heart beat slowing down. My hand grabs the vacuum again and I flip the switch, turning it on and pushing it around on the carpet, going slow over the stain patches to get rid of them easily.

 

When I turn off the vacuum, Slenderman was looking at my painting of him, his picture still drying.

 

"D-d-do you like it?" I nervously ask, hoping that making pictures of him wouldn't bring his eternal wrath, or something like that. Slenderman turns his head to me.

 

"I do." He replies, a tendril lifting the painting up. His head cocks to the side slowly as if in thought.

 

"You don't want to be known as real, do you?" I ask, more confident.

 

"No." He simply states, turning his head around and looking at the rose on the kitchen counter, his head turning back to face me.

 

"You kept it." He says, like he didn't believe I would.

 

"Yes, you gave it to me. It should be special, right? Plus it's in a color I didn't know existed for roses, and my favorite color." I stammer awkwardly.

 

The doorbell rings and Slenderman disappears, startling me for a moment until the doorbell rings another four times, all at once.

 

"Chill out!" I yell and leave the vacuum as it is, going down the the entryway and swinging open the door.

 

"OH MY GOD!"

 

"You're alive!"

 

The guys freak out on my front step, Jacob completely melting on the concrete. Derek looked like he was about to faint while Will just places his hands on his head, still freaking out. Bryan breathlessly stood there, pale faced.

 

"Calm down!" I order and they immediately fall silent.

 

"Claire, you are my god." Bryan whispers.

 

He doesn't want to be known.

 

"What are you talking about? Jacob, are these your friends?" I ask, faking my ignorance. They said Slenderman could mess with your mind, does memory loss count?

 

My shoulder suddenly gets cold, but warms up again. In the corner of my eye I see a pale white hand resting on the fabric of my t-shirt. He was behind me, watching me.

 

"What?! How could you not remember-" Will gets cut off by his brother, yet no one notices Slenderman. Can he choose who he wants to see him?

 

I'm not going to question it.

 

"He takes away memory." Bryan hisses through clenched teeth.

 

"That's why no one has ever won, because even if they did, they don't remember!" Derek exclaims.

 

"Um, guys? Do you want to, like, tell me your names or...come in?" I ask, opening the door further. They slowly walk in, like I was a mental patient who had to be treated with caution and dramatic smiles.

 

"What are you doing?" Jacob asks.

 

"Vacuuming. I don't know when my dad is coming back, so-"

 

"Guys! Look!" Will exclaims, pointing at the painting of Slenderman in the forest.

 

"Him! Do you know who that is?!" Derek asks enthusiastically.

 

"It's just some guy I started to paint. I'm not sure what I'm going to do for the face, though." I pretend to ponder out loud.

 

"Then why is the skin so pale?" Bryan asks.

 

"Maybe I didn't have an idea what race he will be." I cover.

 

"Okay, what do you remember about last night?" Jacob asks.

 

"I remember...I remember adding the man to my painting, then stopping by at your house. Your mom was home and I didn't see your bike so I just came back and watched a movie." I say, my mind spinning while trying to come up a good lie.

 

"What movie?" Bryan asks, leaning in.

 

"The human centipede." I blurt. He instantly leans back with a horrified face.

 

"She still remembers the terror from last night." Will comments.

 

"Okay, Claire. We are going to show you something that might shock you. This entire video was taken by you, and is entirely real. We'll explain details along the way." Jacob explains, taking his phone out.

 

How did he keep the video chat?!

 

"You don't believe in the Slender man, right?" Derek asks and I roll my eyes.

 

"Don't start this again." I groan and Jacob walks over to my tv, plugging something up. Slenderman stood next to the TV, watching all of us.

 

"Uh, I don't think that works." I stutter, walking over to stop Jacob, but the picture suddenly flashes on screen. It was the start of the video, an image of the tree and the first note. I flinch at the sight and they take notice.

 

"See! She reacts!" Will exclaims, pointing.

 

"Shh! Returning memories hurt!" Derek scolds.

 

"No, her mind is taking notice of the familiarity, and noticing how it fits in the spot of her stolen memories." Bryan corrects.

 

"I'm flinching because I just watched the human centipede, and this looks like the start to a horror movie!" I yell and they fall silent again, like I still had power over them for being their 'god.'

 

"Sadly, this kind of is." Jacob comments.

 

"But you're the main character, and you survived." Derek adds. I huff and roll my eyes as the tv keeps playing, Slenderman still standing there. I don't even look at the screen, I look at the tall faceless man watching my innocent friends, probably trying to figure out how he will kill them.

 

God no. They may be obsessed with proving you exist, but leave them alone!

 

I hear their screams on the camera as Slenderman appears in the distance, but I don't react as much as they do.

 

"We've watched this all night and it still scares me." Bryan whispers.

 

"How does this not scare you?" Will asks.

 

"Shh!" Derek hisses.

 

The video plays on and I get to see what I missed before, when I closed my eyes. The guys make sure I know this and I see why they were always tense at that point, because in almost every shot that I looked back, or to the side, he was standing there. The real life guys tense at every moment he appears on camera, jumping when Slenderman spins me around and was about to kill me, my eyes closed. "You were a genius." Derek whispers, intently watching the video.

 

I fall to the ground in the video and the camera moves, showing a shot on me with my eyes closed, Slenderman leaning in to my face, inches away before backing off and letting me struggle to crawl away, the phone returning to my shirt.

 

As the movie ends with darkness and an abundance of static, I stand up and turn the tv off, crossing my arms and facing the guys. I feel Slenderman right behind me, gauging what I do.

 

"Why?" I simply ask.

 

"Your memories!"

 

"This really happened!"

 

"No! Just stop. I know you wanted me to go with, and I know I chickened out, but that doesn't give you the right to say that some mythological man with no face made me play a game in the woods of finding papers, and then took my memory when I supposedly won." I scold.

 

"We're not kidding!" Will defends. I throw my hands up into the air and walk into the kitchen.

 

"I'm not going to deal with it. Does anyone want toast?" I ask, pulling a loaf of bread from the bread box, spotting the mold and throwing it out.

 

"Does anyone want to order pizza for breakfast?" I correct myself.

 

"We'll make you believe, even if we have to go again." Jacob promises.

 

"I'll take that as a yes." I reply, picking up my phone and typing in the pizza place number. I still feel Slenderman's eyes on me as the man picks up, static breaking his voice.

 

"Hello? Hello?" I ask and look at the phone, confused. Derek takes it from me, the guys in the dining room now, a counter away from me, and brings it to his ear.

 

"Hello?" He asks. Slenderman disappears from next to me and the phone straightens out.

 

"You guys, he's in the room." Bryan croaks. They all pale and glance around nervously, still not noticing that Slenderman appeared in the corner between the wall and the dinner table. I watch him as I order pizza, Jacob following my eyes, but probably only seeing an empty spot.

 

"Claire, what do you see?" He asks, sounding serious enough.

 

"What? Sorry I was zoning out." I cover, taking my eyes away from Slenderman.

 

"He's protecting her, because she won." Will states.

 

"You guys, just stop. Your paranoid, and you don't make sense. There is no such thing as the Slender man." I conclude, leaning on the counter.

 

"There is, and we are going to return to the site to prove it to you, even if one of us dies." Jacob promises.

 

"Why are you so serious about this?" I ask.

 

"Because this happened; you saw the Slender man. You touched the Slender man. You beat the Slender man. And because of that, he took away your memories, even after you believed in him. You believed once, and we will make sure you believe again." Jacob explains, earning a few yeahs from the guys.

 

"I want to know what touching him feels like." Bryan pipes in, eyes landing on the rose.

 

Crap.

 

"Where did you get that?" He asks, taking a few steps forward to look at it closer.

 

"I went shopping and saw it in the flower store. Pretty amazing, right?" I lie.

 

"How long ago?" Bryan asks.

 

"Two days." I reply.

 

"It seems to fresh." He mutters.

 

"Says the guy who knows just about everything about an urban myth." I respond sharply, crossing my arms.

 

"I'm just a fan boy." He defends, putting his arms up in surrender.

 

"Whatever. Do you guys want anything to drink?" I ask, turning to the fridge.

 

"What do you have?" Will asks.

 

"Water, iced tea, hot chocolate. That's it." I list.

 

"I'll take water." Jacob replies.

 

"Water." Bryan adds.

 

"Iced tea." Will responds.

 

"Okay. Derek?" I ask, but before he says anything, a wicked smile crosses his face.

 

"If you don't know who we are, how do you know my name?" He asks, taking a step closer. The rest of the guys get the same expression.

 

"I don't know, maybe Jacob said it before. Do you want ice with your tea, Walter?" I ask Will casually.

 

"No no no, don't play stupid with us. Your mind knows small details like our names, think harder." Will demands.

 

"You got the W correct." Bryan adds.

 

"What's my name?" Will asks.

 

"He said W, so I'm guessing it's something that starts with a W. How about Wyatt?" I ask, playing the ignorant girl.

 

"No." Will replies.

 

"What about my name?" Bryan asks.

 

"You guys, this is getting stupid. I don't like name games. When the pizza gets here, I would like it if you just took it, and left." I say, drawing the line.

 

Slenderman disappears from the corner and I feel him behind me. The guys pale and start backing up.

 

"What?" I ask, turning around to look at Slenderman, his tendrils lifting the knives from the holder. As they rise to the air, Bryan screams and runs down the stairs, bolting out of the house without another word.

 

"What does this mean?" Derek asks, fleeing when a knife suddenly lodges itself into an apple in the fruit basket. They scatter in fear, screaming nonsense as they run out the door and down the street. I feel Slenderman's touch and my shoulder and turn my head, spotting his white hand resting on me.

 

"Was that a little rash?" I ask.

 

"You were taking to long. Though, I must say that you're a good liar." He comments, taking his hand away and disappearing again. The house now felt empty, if not haunted in some way.

 

I could still feel Slenderman watching me.
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