It is often the mark of a good story that it begins in media res; rather than following a slow, shuddering and unguided procession towards an unknown destination or goal. Perhaps it is just the storyteller in me, but allow me to do just that.
Let your mind fly to the New England countryside, to the rolling hills of Vermont. The trees are still green but if it aids you to romanticize their leaves to a rusty red, then, by all means do so, but know that, in doing so, you are hiding from the truth for comfort and that such a thing is never healthy, especially not in the shadow of the foe that we face. But more of him later.
As you fly over this beautiful expanse, you spot a rather illustrious house, a grand, three-story affair; the creamy red brick lined with dark green veins of ivy. You home in on the house like a missile, crashing through a downstairs window to find a warm, cozy library with high shelves stacked with books so valuable that, sold in an auction, they would pay for eight years in any college or university within a one hundred-mile radius.
In the middle of this cathedral of literature, in a luxuriously-outfitted armchair by a roaring fire, a laptop on his lap, is a middle-aged man of about forty years, though he could pass for any age ten years either side. His hair is grey and close-cut, almost non-existent. He has a distinctly European look about him; a Slavic frown and an Irish smile, but if he told you that his family has been in the States since the War of Independence, you wouldn’t bat an eyelid. He is, in fact, almost completely unremarkable in appearance, but for one highly noticeable physical flaw.
As you watch, he reaches into the shadows by his fireplace and produces a folded wheelchair, awkwardly pulling it over to his resting place, though he has done it a thousand times and more before. He hefts it over to the other side of his chair and unfolds it, making sure the whole structure is secure, before putting his laptop on the small table in front of him and, with glorious effort, though he would never show it on his face, heaves himself over the arm of the armchair into its wheeled companion.
His name is Marcus Prendergast and though he has never worked a day in his life, he has undertaken some of the greatest work imaginable in the name of mankind, and failed. You see, he fought, as many of you have, as many of you are, and as many of you yet will, against an evil of such proportions as to be inconceivable to the majority of people. An evil known by many names.
“Oh!” Marcus thinks, as he types on his laptop. “The names I have heard in my time. So many; too many!”
The Tall One. The Thin Man. The Slender Man. The Gentleman. Tall, Pale and Faceless. The Thin White Duke.
Whatever you decide to call him is of little import, Marcus thinks. But Marcus thinks a lot of things and a lot of them have been very wrong, tragically wrong, one might even say. So don’t take Marcus’s word for it. Don’t take Marcus’s word for anything. The only word you should ever trust from Marcus is;