No Regrets

Tonight is my last night on Earth.

Tonight, I take my final chance. Tonight, I try to escape. Tonight, I try to kill it.

I hold no delusions of success. What I’m attempting tonight is the wildest of the wild cards. I don’t expect to win. But it doesn’t matter whether I win or not. My time on this mortal plane is over and I see no point in dragging it out. I have done almost everything I wanted to do with my life and those that I have not are impossible now. They have either been snatched from me by the malevolent beast against whom I ride tonight, destroyed in the madness he brings, or lost due to my own foolishness.

Tonight, I am going to die but I’m going to die at peace with myself. When I ride out tonight, I will ride out with no regrets. Gather around the campfire, children, Uncle Marcus has one last story to tell.

It was the fifth day of our expedition into the Black Forest. Until this point, we had not seen the Tree Walker. Hans, Winston and I were walking together; Benjamin had gone a ways on his own after seeing a rocky outcrop that he wanted to get a picture of. We had agreed to meet in a clearing some miles ahead that Hans referred to as a “fairy copse”. As it went, the three of us reached the copse first. While we were waiting for Benjamin, Hans told Winston and I of how, in ancient times, children were sacrificed to fairies such as the Tree Walker in copses such as the one we were sitting in. He couldn’t have timed it better; scarce seconds after he finished his tale, Winston saw it among the trees. Such fear as grabbed me then I had never known before and have never known since. Hans started muttering something in stilted and archaic German that was far beyond my limited abilities in the language. It may have been some sort of ancient prayer or spell of warding. It may have just been some very colourful cursing. It seems that even if I die with no regrets, I will still die with questions unanswered.

The Tree Walker started advancing towards slowly, as if considering what to do with us. Suddenly, tentacles erupted from its back and, just as suddenly, Winston had a fit of panic and opened fire on it with his rifle. I’ve always wondered whether that action was what sealed our fate; perhaps if Winston had remained calm, our lives wouldn’t have been left in ruin. Speculation serves me no purpose though. The only thing of which I am certain is that what seemed like simple curiousity on the Tree Walker’s part turned to open, palpable malevolence after Winston attacked it. Its tentacles melted into a thick fog that snaked along the ground until it reached Hans and started swirling around his feet, then legs, then chest and, soon enough, his entire body before finally seeping inside him. When he turned to Winston and I, we could both see that Hans was no longer in control of his actions, if he was even alive inside his own body anymore. He started advancing menacingly towards us and Winston raised his rifle to shoot him but Hans knocked it aside with his cane, sending it tumbling into the undergrowth. With a speed I hadn’t seen in him before, he lunged at the disarmed Winston and felled him like a tree. He then turned to attack me but, as fast as he was, I was faster. I dodged all but his final strike, which caught me across the chin and sent me tumbling to the ground, where I landed on my boney arse – right next to Winston’s rifle.

Hans was moving in for the kill. I swear to any deity that will hear my plea that I acted in self-defense. I grabbed the rifle, climbed to my feet and fired three bullets straight into his heart. The only thing Benjamin saw as he came within sight of the copse was the rifle in my hands and Hans falling to his knees. In his shock, he dropped his camera, which smashed on a rock, and then ran over, screaming at me, asking me what I had done. My only answer was to point at the Tree Walker, still standing, still watching. Benjamin fell silent and, for a single moment, he seemed to reach towards the monster, like a satyr beholding a god, but then his senses prevailed and he screamed for Winston and I to run before taking off himself, grabbing Hans’s cane as he went.

We ran for days. Any time we thought we’d managed to escape, the Tree Walker was there. In retrospect, I understand it was merely toying with us. It always gave us just enough time to rest. Enough time, in other words, to make the hunt interesting. We ran for the most of three days until we finally managed to escape – or rather, the Tree Walker allowed us to escape – into the snow of February, 1994. You know the story from there, more or less. I didn’t leave out anything important.

I had met Hans’s family before the expedition. They were good people. They deserved to hear the truth about the death of their father, husband, brother and son. It’s a truth I was too much of a coward to give them. In the moment that I pulled that trigger, I betrayed an innocent man. Years later, I watched that same betrayal play out a second time when I let Benjamin send Ang Jangbu plummeting to his death.

Laura died because of me. Every one of those people Benjamin had me kill died because of me. If there is a heaven, I deserve no place in it. I do not ask for forgiveness. I only ask for this final opportunity for redemption.

Tonight, I ride against the Tree Walker. An eternity ago, in May, I said that the only word you could trust from me is “Hello”. In the months since, I like to think that I’ve earned your trust, in so much as anyone can trust a man talking on the Internet about being stalked by a monster beyond the scope of the nightmares of most people. Thank you for your companionship in the past few months, however distant it has been. Thank you and goodbye.

I’m coming, my love.

The Day The Work Is Done

My home’s renewal is complete. All the damage wreaked by the Tree Walker has been repaired and, more than that, for the first time since I moved in here, the whole house is clean and ordered. Even my study. It all feels so…right. Clean. Ordered. Complete. At last, things are how they should be.

Except for the Tree Walker’s ever-looming presence but nothing’s perfect, I guess. Kiera, Laura and my child are safe though. I know it. They are beyond his reach now. Everything is almost right.

Renewal

I had the repairmen around today. Fixing up the house, the security system and the car. It feels good to get things up and running again, to restore a sense of normality, to make everything new.

I feel like a new man myself, to be honest. I am suddenly full of energy, but I have nowhere to channel it. I’ve been writing, painting and even cooking just to get rid of all this excess spunk and vigour.

Today’s a good day. Everything is falling into place.

Eyes Open

I’ve already explained this to Hannah, but I’ll reiterate it here; German folklore is a dead end. There is no valuable research to be found in that line. If she wants to keep it up as a hobby, I encourage it. Everyone needs a distraction. However, the advice I gave to her and that I will now give to all of you is this; don’t expect to find any answers. There are no answers to this.

Now, back to the ever-cheery topic of my nightmares. He sent me another one last night, which means he’s back to his old tricks instead of tearing my front door to pieces.

In this dream, I was in my old publishing office in Rutland, which had somehow found itself on top of a skyscraper. I was talking to Hannah, who had somehow become my personal assistant, when I noticed that she didn’t look right. Hannah is fairly slim and svelte but this Hannah was round. I suddenly realised that I was in a dream and started shaking the fake Hannah angrily but then the whole world went completely black and I suddenly found myself on the floor (I lost my ability to walk yet again). The whole office was empty but there was a wind blowing through it, a wind that was becoming a storm and I knew that the Tree Walker was coming for me. My first instinct was to escape by jumping out the window but I stopped myself by reminding myself I was in a dream and the Tree Walker just wanted me to jump out my bedroom window in real life. Instead, with great difficulty, I raised my arms to my face and pulled my left eye open. Suddenly I was awake. He’d managed to get me off my bed but nowhere near my window and, for the first time in a long time, I smiled genuinely. I had beaten him. Just this once, I had beaten him.

Victory was mine.

Coma White

The new and all-encompassing whiteness left only one thing in existence; me. This time, I was entirely naked, stripped down to nothing but the flesh on my bones. There was simply nothing else in the entire snow-coloured void and I began to worry that the Tree Walker had blinded me and that I was now just another lost soul, wandering around his courtyard, calling for help.

The worry passed when I saw two specks coming from each end of the horizon, specks that, as they got closer, assumed the pleasing shapes of naked women, specks which, as they got closer, became two particular and unmistakeable women; Laura and Kiera. Since I’ve never seen Kiera, I can’t say for certain that the person I saw in my coma dream was her but I feel very strongly that this was no ordinary dream and that the vision in my dream was not just my mental image of what I expected Kiera to look like. The two of them were similar in many ways; their physiques and hairstyles were near-identical, though Kiera’s breasts were somewhat more pronounced and Laura’s hips were that bit wider. The two of them began to walk around me, always perfectly opposite of each other and always getting closer. Suddenly, the whole world, this whole white world of nothing, gained a heartbeat, a thunderous drum that beat harder and harder as Kiera and Laura got closer to me. As they got closer, their bodies started to break away and decay before my eyes, but there was something beneath the flesh and bone, en ethereal light that burned brighter than white and soon I was enveloped in these two auras, one steely silver and the other faded sepia.

I cannot say for how long I was enveloped in that glow, but it was not long enough. The two lights swirled together but never mixed, like oil and vinegar. After a while, the sepia began to drift away and though I was surprised to see it go, I was more surprised to find that I was not sad to see it go. I let it go with no fight and I felt like a great burden was lifted from my shoulders. The silver light remained, however and after a few seconds, it began to reform into the full-fleshed figure of a woman, though I cannot for the life of me remember if it was Kiera or Laura. Whenever I try to remember, her face is hidden from me by blinding white light.

When the woman had reformed, I pulled her close, kissed her, then lowered her gently to the floor and made love to her. After we finished, we lay there in the white for what seemed like eternity, she in my arms and I in hers. Then, before my eyes, she grew pregnant and faded away to silver light once again, leaving behind a newborn baby. I took the baby in my arms and knew it was mine but, again, I could not identify the mother. Was it the child that died with Laura on that fatal night? Was it the child I might have had with Kiera had she lived? I can never know. All I know is that I held the child for eternity and then started crying like a baby myself when I realised that eventually, I would have to wake up and leave behind the child that fate had denied me. I called out, begging for forgiveness for whatever crime I had committed to deserve such a horrible fate, but no one answered.  I called for days and then I stopped because I felt it coming. A new speck had appeared on the horizon, one that was always in front of me, no matter where I turned. The Tree Walker came for me and when it reached me, I held my child behind me, making a shield of myself and then the Tree Walker called out his foul appendages and sunk them into me, eviscerated my body, reduced me to the dust from whence I came. But before I died and woke up, I looked over my shoulder one last time to see my child untouched and untouchable.

And that’s when I woke to a world where I could not walk, where Benjamin Vanderwaal had come back into my life and where both Kiera and Laura were dead. But what hit me most of all was that this was a world where my child was not, but was all the safer for it. And that’s when I cried.

Coma Black

It’s time for me to tell you about what happened when I was in my coma.

Are you familiar with the term “psychic landscape”? The great poet, Sylvia Plath, used them quite a bit in her poetry. The setting of her poems were often reflections of her mental state, the “dull, ruinous landscape” of Black Rook In Rainy Weather, for example.

When I was in my coma, I was conscious in such a landscape, I believe. It was a beautiful land and a terrible land and it was terrible in its beauty. I was in a vast, dark forest full of trees so tall that I wasn’t sure where their leaves ended and the night sky began. I was naked but for a loincloth, armed with a spear and knew intuitively that I was the most dangerous predator in the forest – but that didn’t stop my fear. I was able to walk in this world and, as I moved through the forest, searching for a way out, every single sound made me jump and after only a few hours, I collapsed into a horrible, shuddering heap of fear and remained there for either a second or a century. Then, I heard human voices ringing through the trees. I peered up and saw Benjamin, Hans and Winston walking cautiously through the forest. I felt an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach that suddenly erupted into murderous rage and found myself bounding the distance between Benjamin and myself, intent on slaying him. However, just as I got within range, Benjamin pulled out a handgun and my fear returned, sending me sprawling to the dirt. When I looked up at him, his eyes were glowing red. He smiled with false cheer and then he spoke to me.

“Uncouth beast, look upon my human imperfection, as the fool and the machine have before you. My imperfection that is but a step away from perfection, unlike that imperfection which is yours and beastly. You are incomplete. God left something out of you when he pulled you out of the dust on which we walk. Come with me and I will make you whole again.”

I whimpered my words; “Where are we going?” Benjamin smiled back at me.

“We are going to see God.”

With no further words, I fell in behind him. The four of us walked for days and eventually left the forest behind us. In the sharp daylight beyond, we could see the distant and crumbling spires of an ancient castle. Benjamin laughed out loud.

“This is the very house of God! Come, mortals, let us see what gods he may make of us.”

We reached the castle after another long, eventless walk. The gates to the courtyard were thirty feet high, much larger than we could hope to move on our own. Hans walked up to a panel in one of the gates and knocked. It slid back revealing a mirror. The two Hanses started talking, then arguing, with each other. Eventually, some sort of agreement was reached and the great gates parted like the Red Sea before Moses. We walked through a snow-filled courtyard around which a multitude of blind people with pure white eyes were stumbling and crying out for help. We ignored them as we entered the main hall and I beheld a terrible sight.

The whole room was the Tree Walker and the Tree Walker was the whole room. The pillars, the furniture, the very walls, were all an eternally moving mass of its many dark appendages and at the far end of the hall,it stood, its arms and legs melting in to the walls around it so that it looked like a great black cross bearing a great white head. We approached it with reverence and fear. Benjamin was the first to kneel down before it in supplication.

“Oh great and mighty God, I do beseech thee to grant three boons to my faithful followers whom I have brought before you as footsoldiers in the ancient war of destinies. Give mind to the fool, soul to the machine and strength to the beast!”

The Tree Walker seemed to consider him for a moment, tilting its head just as it did when Hannah ran screaming through the debris to save my life. Suddenly, three tentacles peeled away from the rest. The first struck Benjamin through his head, the second through his chest and the third through his crotch. With a horrible ripping sound, they pulled out his brain, heart and testicles, then with an equally horrible series of sounds, transferred them into Hans, Winston and I respectively. Bloodied and mutilated, Benjamin turned around to the gaze at the three of us in horror. Then he loosed an animal scream, tackled Hans to the ground and started smashing his head against the ground like a monkey trying to split open a coconut. After a few minutes of brutal pounding, Hans’s skull shattered against the ground and Benjamin started ripping the hole open with his bare hands. It took him only a few seconds to reclaim his brain and place it perilously back inside the gaping hole in his own head. He looked at Winston and I for a few brief seconds but merely smiled.

“Nothing but burdens. I have truly achieved perfection now. Farewell, mortals.”

Those were the last words he spoke to either of us. He strided confidently out of the hall and out of my dream. Suddenly fearful, I turned to the Tree Walker to see that its head was expanding like a balloon, pushing out the black. Panic rose in my chest and I tried to follow Benjamin out of the hall but it was all in futility; the doors were securely locked and I could only scream in terror as the great suffocating white filled everything, became everything and finally, was everything.

Here endeth the first lesson.

A Most Rough Beast

If I told you that after my post yesterday, the Tree Walker politely knocked on my door and asked if he could come in for a cup of tea, it would possibly be less strange than what actually happened.

After the last post, I thought I was done for, so I went to meet my death with dignity. I stood at the double doors leading into my foyer and waited for…something. I don’t know what I was expecting. The last thing I was expecting was for the solid oak doors to be splintered before my eyes by the Tree Walker’s flailing tentacles. I can’t remember the last time I saw it so close. It was radiating indignant rage, as if the sight of wood desecrated and turned against it had offended it deeply. Suddenly, it started advancing again and I panickedly started retreating backwards, only for one of the wheels to catch, causing it to tip over and sending me sprawling to the floor. I recovered as quickly as I could and started pulling myself along the ground with my arms, doing everything I could think of to get away from the certain death coming towards me. Everything I could think of wasn’t enough. I looked over my shoulder once to see how close it was and took the sharp tip of a shadowy tendril to the chin with enough force to send me flying through the air into a Victorian mirror, which smashed to pieces and covered me with nicks and cuts as the shards fell. I didn’t get a chance to fall, however, as another tentacle had appeared from the cloud and pinned me to the shattered remains of the mirror by my neck. The Tree Walker had never been so aggressive before, and it only got worse as it picked me up by the neck and started slamming me against walls and doorframes.

I was beginning to lose consciousness just as it turned suddenly and sent me skidding across the marble floor of the foyer. My funny bone hit off a corner and exquisite pain rocked my whole arm, jolting me awake just long enough to see Hannah stepping through the debris, shouting and screaming at the Tree Walker. Suddenly, a thick fog seemed to appear from nowhere and spew into everywhere. When it passed, a few moments later, the Tree Walker was gone and so was the last bit of energy I had. I finally succumbed to the growing darkness of my vision.

I woke up this morning achey and sore but otherwise fine. I’m still struggling to understand what happened. I’ve never seen it so hostile and angry before. Something has changed and I don’t know why.