Fucking people, with their eldritch abominations.
The last few days have been bad. We were trying to get the full scale of the scope of Mastermind's operation, and everything started clicking into place. We found some abandoned papers in the abandoned apartment which lead us to a gutted office building.
The office was a thin place. It had seen this kind of thing before. Someone had meddled too hard, and too fast, and a war had erupted. Burn marks from fire brought from beyond the veil, hacked walls from fists and blades that defied physics, it was all pretty standard to me.
Nick though? He'd been here before. He was the one who'd caused it. After years of not knowing whether or not what he'd seen and done was real, and having no way to prove it, he'd grown used to the idea that he'd never know the truth. He finally made peace with knowing he'd never see The Presence's physical body, that he'd never meet Mastermind in person, and that he'd never ever have proof that the conspiracy he thought had existed was real.
I pitied him. He could not die a warrior's death. Now he was trapped, knowing he could have fixed this and failed.
We explored the dark, bloodstained and devastated offices, finding scattered remains of papers throughout. While Nick was wandering around like an alcoholic, I was looking through progress reports, statistics, and casualty numbers. This was where Mastermind's organization was born. This was where it should have died.
Nick dropped to his knees when he found the cages. There was one that looked like it had been sheared in half. He stood there in front of it, and began crying.
I gave him some space. I never thought I'd be here either. He saw where his loved one turned into something else, something twisted and foul. I lost my loved ones long before he did, but I didn't think I'd ever see someone else doing what I did.
Maiden told you how I left my "family." Knowing I could never go back was like what Nick was going through in that building. It took me years of counseling and an honest-to-god decent father figure to get me back on track. Nick had so many years where he just had to pretend it never happened, it must have hit him like a train wreck.
Then I heard it.
Papers shuffling from the stairwell we arrived from. I couldn't see anything in that direction, but I felt it. The same thing I felt when people were dying at Hope.
I ran to Nick, and tried to pull him up off the floor. He wouldn't move.
I shouted, "Damn it Nick, The Slender thing is here, we've got to go!"
He whispered, "Leave me here. Let me die."
I slapped him. He was shocked, but not moving. I could feel it getting closer.
He said, "Even if I get all the allies I can find, and even if we survive long enough to kill the bastard, what's the point? If we destroy Mastermind, what's left protecting the world? I'm done. I've got nothing left, Ellen. I'm done."
I lifted him bodily off the floor and slammed him against one of the intact cages.
I have a Voice. It affects people when I use it just right.
I screamed in his face, "Maybe there IS something left. You won't fucking know unless you try, now MOVE. I know you can see him, and I know this isn't how you want me to die."
He stared, he didn't get it.
I screamed in his face, "I will fucking die here with you, do you want me to be a corpse?"
For better or for worse, I said that. My old rival is the only thing I have left from my past. It's one last thing, and I just don't want to lose it yet.
He started moving. I could feel it after us, and the stories are true, you know? I don't think you can outrun it if it doesn't want you to. Except that I confused it. After all, I'm not afraid of the unknown. I've lived and trained to be as ready as possible for anything. It makes sense that I can't see it, I'm not it's food.
Nick though? Nick was plagued with fears and doubts about his lost love and a world that might just be in his imagination for the last few years. He's like a Slendy-buffet, if you believe in the whole "Fears can only target people who are susceptible to them thing."
Of course, The thing could probably tear me in half for being between him and it, and I know it's done that to people unrelated to all of this on several occasions. I've determined that the reason I pulled him along was that I was crazy. We'll leave it at that.
Down the stairs we went. I'm busy dropping wards and traps and the thing's plowing through they like they're paper. Well, they WERE paper, but spirits aren't supposed to be able to treat wards like that.
We hit the bottom of the stairs, and the doors were wide open...except for the massive brick wall.
That bastard. Fucking Barry. He'd bricked off our damn exit. We saw him wave to us, and put in the last brick at the height of his mask. So the THING is at the top of the stairs, and Nick is running like a madman, and I'm wondering "What the fuck is he thinking?!"
So then we jump into the brick wall, and I realized EXACTLY what he was thinking. He was thinking: "If Barry's setting the last brick in now, the cement can't possibly be dry yet."
We crashed through a pile of bricks and cement, and he drew his little bag from his side. I drew a knife from in my coat. We were ready for a fight.
I don't know if he's mentioned his little bag. It's black, and covered in old runes. I asked him what was in it once.
His exact response was: "There are things in this world man was not meant to know. Some of them are in this bag."
I knew it was behind us. And he turned around as he stood with that bag and...
Boom. I was blinded. Nick was thirty feet behind me in the street, and there was no sign the bricks or cement had ever been anywhere near the building. Nick slowly picked himself up. His knuckles were bleeding. Whenever I encounter this THING, I always find myself feeling inadequate. I can't see it, I don't know what magic works on it, and the magic that does is usually what I don't use. I need to find something that WORKS in this scenario.
I didn't feel it around us though. That was a start. Nick looked like he'd been put through the ringer though.
"Nick, are you okay?"
He said, "Nope! It's all real! All of it. I didn't save the day, I made it possible for Mastermind to take over the goddamn world. I'm the goddamn reason the world's going to hell in a handbasket-"
I cut in, "You AREN'T. You couldn't have-"
"-I COULD have just violently killed things and kept this from ever happening. But I didn't. And now here we are. TELL me that this could have been averted by me being a goody-two-shoes, I dare you."
"Honestly Nick, I would have killed all the sons of bitches I fought when this started. But that's me. You don't WANT to be me."
"Maybe I do, Ellen. Maybe that's exactly what I need to be. Maybe it's time to stop scaling up as the problem does, stop acting like a wonderful person, and start KILLING THE FUCK OUT OF EVERYTHING!"
That's when I punched him in the face. Nick rolled with it, and came back up in a defensive stance. He looked shocked.
I said, "And does killing the fuck out of everything actually FIX the fucking problem?"
Nick looked away. He rubbed the side of his face where I decked him.
"No. No it doesn't."
I said, "Good. Now lets get out of here before IT shows up again."
How did I become the voice of reason? In conclusion, I hate you all, and the faceless enemy you've made. He is a many-tentacled piece of invisible shit, and he's making our lives MUCH more complicated. Mastermind is a big enough problem as it is without THIS shit going on.