Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have been right tipsy tonight. No, not drunk, as my typing clearly indicates (by the way, fuck you if you commented on my last drunk post. I don't have to fucking impress you people), but not above the influence either. Drunk enough to receive my visitor.
My visitor is special. He is not on the good side or the evil side. He does not take sides. In fact, quite technically, he does not exist. He is a figment of my imagination. I am well aware that he is a figment, even under the influence, but it's in incredibly bad taste to call your guest imaginary, you know what I mean? Give him at least the dignity of being real.
He doesn't always appear to me when I'm drunk, but on this night he decided to make a visit anyway. This night, I was lost in a bottle of Jack I had been saving for the right occasion that still had not come but fuck it it's alcohol in all honesty does it really need a special occasion? Three or four shots rapid-fire and I was already feeling close to being a stumbler. I remember the days where I drank not to get drunk. I think I preferred that more.
He decided to come when I went to the bathroom to try and keep myself awake. I splashed some water and stared down, lost in thought, when his voice suddenly made me aware of his presence.
“How much longer are you going to be avoiding the problem?”
I groaned, knowing exactly who it was and what he was going to say.
“Not tonight, Eric,” I said. “I'm not in the mood.”
I look up at the mirror to see Eric Riley- or rather, my mind's perception of Eric Riley- standing behind me against the wall with his arms folded. He looked like he did when I always knew him, instead of looking like he did the last time I saw him; short hair, clean shaven, wearing work clothes. The only difference between the Eric I knew and the Eric I saw die was the hole in the stomach of his shirt and the spread of blood around it. His red badge.
“What night are you in the mood?” he asked me. “Every other night I show up, you never want to hear what I have to say.”
“Maybe that's the hint, maybe I don't want to hear you say it.”
“You already know it. I'm you, remember? I'm just reiterating a point.”
“And what point is that?”
He sighed. “What are you doing, man? Drinking yourself to death at night, trying to play the hero during the day? Looking for some other thing to chase after while trying to avoid the main problem for as long as you can? That's not you.”
“Not me?” I snorted. “How do you know what's me? I don't even know me anymore, and I AM me.”
“Maybe not, but my question stands.”
I slam my hand on the counter and turn to face him. “I don't need to hear this.”
“I think you do.”
“Yeah, and who the fuck are you to say it?”
“I'm the guy you left to die on the floor of a warehouse while you went to play the hero.”
“Oh don't start that shit again, Eric, I told you, I went to get help, if I didn't call for the ambulance you would have bled out-”
“I bled out anyway.”
“And that's not my fault.”
“You went in there to kill Conaghan, you went in there to take him on. You went there to try and even a score and avenge Lizzie-”
“I went in there to save you!”
“Then why didn't you?”
It's at this point that the strain becomes too much for my throat and I suffer another coughing fit. I open the cabinets and grab my medicine, and take a quick gulp to alleviate the pain. I put it back and pause to let the medicine work its magic.
“Don't throw that bullshit at me like I wasn't fucking there,” I croaked at him.
“All I know is, I left that building in a body bag,” he said back. “Do you even know how you got out of there? Because I know a lot of other people sure don't.”
“You know how I got out; dragged out on my hands and knees with a fucking tentacle wrapped around my throat.” I coughed again, my throat taking a beating. “I wish I had gotten your position.”
“Oh, here we go with the death stuff again. Haven't heard that twenty times before.”
I got up and turned to him. “I don't have to put up with this.”
I walked out of the bathroom and closed the door, though I knew he'd be right back out in the kitchen waiting for me. Sure enough, I step through the door and there he is leaning against the counter, giving me that “what's wrong with you” look.
“Go away,” I said, sitting back down and pouring myself another shot.
“Why are you so insistent on dying?” he asked, ignoring my demands. “You've made it this far. Why not make it to old age, away from all this?”
I snorted. “You know as well as I do that there's no escaping this line of business. It's keep on fighting until either he dies or we do.”
“What about Redlight?”
I groaned. “Here we go. Didn't see this coming.”
“You know what I am. I'm the part of your mind that doubts that stronger-than-man persona you emulate off every orifice, doubts that part of you that everyone else seems to be fixated on. And right now, that part of you is wondering why you didn't take Redlight up on his offer-”
“Oh, what fucking offer?” I demanded, glaring at him. “Erase my memories? Give me a new identity? Because that's had a GREAT fucking track record, right? Robert got his mind wiped, and guess what? He's still fucking here. Nessa had to get her mind wiped twice. She's probably dead now. Redlight's offer is bullshit.”
“But you encouraged Nessa to take it.”
“I told her not to look for answers. She was free to do whatever she wanted.”
“But you're not?”
I shook my head, more to clear it than agree with him. “I have to stop it. Before more people die.”
“I think more people have died because of you being there than you trying to help,” came the angry retort. “Damien died following your theories. Zero died praising your name. Who's going to be next? Danny? Ava? Reach? How about Celeste-”
I threw the bottle of Jack, missing his head by a fraction of an inch as it smashed against the wall. Glass littered the counter as the whiskey spilled across the floor, leaving a murky brown puddle. We were overcome with silence for a moment, staring at each other. Finally I turned away, rubbing my eyes.
“I can't...I can't give this up. I have to keep trying. And I don't really understand why sometimes, why I do it. But good or bad, I gotta see this to the end.”
“...Because no one else has made it this far.”
“You won't kill Slender Man, Zeke. That's not your place to do it.”
“I know.” I sighed. “But I have to try anyway. At least give whoever is supposed to stop him a fair chance.”
“...would forgetting all this really be that bad?”
I slam my eyes shut. Memories of my childhood, of high school, of the academy, of my job before my last case...they were my memories. My life. To forget would mean they never happened. Would mean I never happened. They were more or less all I had, at this point. But mostly...
“If I forget me, I forget everything that happened. I forget you, I forget Conaghan, I forget those kids that I'm no closer to finding now than I was a year ago...” I gulped down my last drink. “I forget Lizzie...and I can't do that. I can't just let that go.”
“Maybe...that's not such a bad thing...”
I rub my forehead. “I just...I can't, alright? How can you really ask me to forget everyone? Huh?”
When I got no answer, I looked up to acknowledge him, which I had tried not to do the entire time he had been there, but he was gone. Sunken back into the confines of my mind.
Definitely one of my more enjoyable visits.
That's where Damien was located.
I might not post for a while. God knows I'm not going to get another free plane ticket. Driving is gonna take a while, and then finding the exact town and getting my bearings there.
Try not to let everything go to Hell while I'm gone, okay?