(The following is part one of my interview with Mary. Wren was out in the town, so it was just the two of us. The entire conversation was recorded so that I could listen to it instead of recite the entire thing from memory.)
M: Mary Irene Gallagher
S: And your role in this?
S: You. Your parents. Why you’re here now.
M: My parents were priests in a subsection of a cult organization that worships an eldritch abomination. Their role was to go around to different sections across the country and make sure they were up to par with our standards.
S: And what sort of standards needed to be met?
M: That rules and guidelines were being followed. That the leaders had a firm hand on their communities. That those communities were all devout. That the sacrifices were being made. Basic stuff.
S: And these cults are all over the country?
M: It used to be. It’s died out a lot in recent years. You’d be lucky to find a solid group of people that still believe and pray together.
S: Why’s that?
M: Hard to keep a religion going when the thing they’re worshipping keeps killing off whole communities in fits of rage.
S: So mostly gone then.
M: Some exist. The big one in Indiana held on until fairly recently. I don’t think this religion as a whole is all that big now.
S: You were involved with the Indiana cult?
M: Matthew Wilcox was an important figure in it for a long time. My parents were friendly with him and the other head priests there.
S: You knew Damien O’Connor then.
M: Might have met his parents. Can’t really remember. A lot of the names are a blur to me.
S: And how long were you with this cult?
M: I reached the position of associate pastor in two thousand and...three, I think? I ended up leaving in two thousand eight.
M: (laughs) Why not? My whole life was spent seeing children ripped from their families and lined up for slaughter. Why wouldn’t I leave?
S: You weren’t brainwashed like them…
M; My parents tried, it didn’t work. When I was a kid, yeah, I was proud of my family’s involvement. As I grew up, I realized it was a mess. I just learned to hide it really well.
S: How? And why? What happened that changed your mind?
M: I don’t know…Liz happened, I guess.
M: She was my first real friend…well, first one that I remember, anyway. The priests had intended to use her as a sacrifice in one of the rituals, so my family got close with her father. By that point, I think Slender Man had been after her for a while, you could see how bad it was effecting her. And then…
(Pause. This next part was hard for her to tell. Harder for me to hear.)
M: The night before the ritual, I was sleeping over her house. Regular preteen girl sleepover, I’m sure you’re familiar…well, maybe not. At about three in the morning, I wake up to her screaming, and I thought it was her dad at first, but I remembered he had passed out before we had…he was standing at her window, he had decided not to wait, he wanted her right then…the window was pushed open, he was reaching for her, and…I didn’t even think about it, I just…jumped in between them and said, “No. You can’t have her. She’s free.” And…I still remember him grabbing me…showing me those things…
S: What did he show you?
S: Mary. What did you see?
M: I saw…I saw…(sob) I saw him…I saw his whole existence, every moment of it, everything he had ever done, stretching back to the beginning of time…I saw his real form…
S: What do you mean? Mary, what do you mean?
(She broke down here. I stopped the tape, spent about three hours trying to calm her down.)