Silicon County: An Interactive Story (Ongoing)

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  • 03-13

    Lana

    Admittedly, the sex hadn’t been that great. Lana couldn’t hold it against Thomas: he was inexperienced; as a former chaplain, he fit a certain stereotype in that regard. But if this went on—and she hoped it would—she knew that, hey, the sex would get better. She laid awake afterwards, flirting with possibilities long after Thomas had dropped off to sleep. Like a fear hatched at night, the darkness lended her fantasies a life of their own. Her drowsiness complimented them, kept away the hammer of reality. She could believe in them. She could hold their warm glow to her chest and pretend that nothing existed to endanger them.

    When Thomas started whimpering, acidic fear dissolved her thoughts and the night poured in. “Thomas?” she whispered. He kept on. She sat up and switched on the lamp. She saw the tears flowing down his face to the bed. Yet she hesitated to touch him. She was scared to wake him, and wasn’t that a backwards thing to be scared of? She touched him and spoke softly to him as she rocked his shoulder, saying, “Wake up, Thomas. It’s Lana. It’s just a dream. Wake up, it’s asking you to wake up,” the strength with which she pushed increasing and the volume of her voice rising as he continued to fail to wake until she was shorting at him in panic, “Thomas, wake the fuck up, wake up, please,” and nothing came from him but his quivering lip and crying and that goddamn puppy-like whimper, nothing she did had any effect. “Oh god, Thomas, wake up.”

    For the next hour she paced around her apartment, trying again here and there to wake him, nothing working, wanting to dial the phone, call someone, a doctor, maybe sleep specialist if she could find one in the phone book or on her laptop, but each time refraining. Finally she sat in a chair beside the bed and tried to think.

    In her apathy, the thing came at her. Or out of her.

    Her desperation filled like balloon until it burst and when it did something like calmness wrapped around her. It was that other part of her, the part so close to her own nature that to acknowledge it was in some way to condemn herself to hell for what it—and she—had done. It feared Thomas; why else had it been hiding these last few weeks, when usually it couldn’t resist turning something inside out every few days?

    Animals, mostly.

    People, too.

    She shut her eyes and found faces carved into her eyelids. All blurry. An indefinite number. She tried to focus on them, but as the other part of herself rose to the surface, it forced her eyes open to gaze upon Thomas in bed, still crying, still slightly shaking under the covers. She knew it didn’t like lingering on its kills. A sadist, excited by pain and what it could do with a knife and flesh, yet it troubled the thing within her to recall their faces. Of the pair, she supposed she was the masochist: she got the guilt and kept as if it were her due and burden to bear; she didn’t got off to it, though; it wasn’t a sex thing with either of them.

    She worried it might strike Thomas, now, while he was vulnerable. Its intent, however, was to examine him. It was antsy and blood-hungry, but still cowed by fear of the man. She couldn’t understand why it was scared of him. Perhaps he had something inside himself, like she did; something worse, maybe. The thing in her had been sickened by the idea of fucking him—which, in Lana’s mind, had only made her want him more—but it hadn’t stopped her, perhaps afraid to provoke whatever inhabited Thomas, perhaps at the mercy of morbid curiosity, perhaps searching for chinks in the man’s armor. In any case, they’d fucked while the thing had watched, a voyeur.

    The thing eased back, still watching and ticking away at its calculations. With it receding, so was the calm. Panic slipped back into her like a bird, some large black-feathered thing, that had left only briefly. What to do? How to approach this?

    Every now and then, Thomas mumbled something. Most of it was incoherent—some “W” word, sounded like kinda “wool,” kept repeating—but now something more than an approximation made it through. She heard the word “fah-fah-father” spoken in Thomas’s stuttering sob and it clicked into place in Lana’s head. Of course.

    A few hours till morning. If he didn’t wake by then, she would get help. But she thought, maybe, she could help him. So she began to console him in a long monologue broken only by his frightened mumbles and hitching sobs. “You’re okay, Thomas. You father can’t hurt you. It’s not your fault that he killed your mother, that he killed himself. You’re not to blame.” Repeating things, and keeping her voice loud and clear. “You’re okay and you’re not to blame.” The monologue kept wanting to become a confession. Oh, I like you more than what’s safe. I’d say the three bigs words if I knew why they want to spring from my throat like bile I can’t hold in. But she kept it inside. Who knew what he heard, what he comprehended as he dreamed, what he would remember when he woke up. So the truth died unbirthed. Maybe you feel the same way. Maybe. But if you really knew me I’d disgust you, wouldn’t I? I really fucking like you and I doubt there’s anything you could reveal to change that but if you knew, if you knew, this would all end, wouldn’t? I can’t let you go—

    Because something inside her told her that the universe was cold and infinite and empty and that you’d have to be suicidal to let go of the hand of your lover and turn your back to their warmth to face all that darkness alone.

    Clive

    “Wake up. Goddammit, please wake up.”

    “It’s cold,” he mumbled.

    “Wake up, Clive.” She shook him. He felt it as if from a great distance. He was still in that wasteland of ice and snow.

    “It’s so cold. And so… fucking… white.”

    “You’re scaring me, Clive.”

    He opened his eyes and the relief he felt at the sight of Melissa brought a sigh to his lips. His arms went around her and he held tight as possible until she wriggle a bit of his grasp to breathe properly. “It was endless. Far as I could see.”

    “You shivering. Like, like you freezing to death, Clive.” And he still was, though he couldn’t have guessed why: under the blankets and with thermostat up and Melissa body heat he felt like he was in an oven that was just getting hot. He kicked off the blanket before he cooked. But held fast to his wife.

    “I was freezing,” he explained. “I left the that other world, the mercury woods. I entered new place. I didn’t know if I was going to wake up. I woke from the other dreams, but this one was different. It was the proper one, apparently. The real deal. I stepped through the threshold and didn’t know if I could step back out again.” Then he remembered—his daughter; it was like someone cleared his head of the haze of panic so he could focus on what really mattered to me. “I saw her— No, I saw someone or something who looked like her but it was how she’s gonna look, when we find her. Rachel. Our little girl. She’s all grown up. Our girl’s an adult, wherever she is.”

    “Oh, Cliff.” She kissed him on the cheek. “Do you know where she is?”

    “No.” The fact came in like a cold wind to steal all the warmth from his revelation. “She’s neither here nor there. She’s not dead or alive. Apparently, she’s in someplace like purgatory.”

    “We’ll find her.”

    “You bet your everything we will.” And he held close again and ran through her hair and smelled the scent of her shampoo, so much life here, and in the nighttime, in his dream, he would have to leave it all behind to wander that white frost bitten desolation. And he would do it. He would suffer worse to bring their daughter home. And in that part of him that was growing brighter, he knew this to be a preordained truth of his reality. Things would get worse. There was suffering ahead.

    But with Melissa beside him, it was bearable.

    Tyler

    “He awakes!”

    Mitch was standing before the stove in an apron. Until Tyler had entered the kitchen, the man had been humming, yet it was more of a low rumble.

    “Have a seat,” the grizzled-looking sheriff said. “We shall break our fasts in just a moment.” He returned to his cooking and resumed growling that tune. Something old.

    Tyler straddled one of the dining room chairs. Though it embarrassed to be served by someone else, he was hungry enough to swallow his pride—or just plain embarrassment—and accept the old man’s hospitality. His head was muddled, the process of spending night and day fully awake having sapped his energy, but not tiring him in the traditional way. No, this wasn’t physical fatigue; it was mental, or maybe emotional.

    Oh, his host didn’t really help things, though Mitch couldn’t be blamed for that. Lame—that’s what Mitch was. He was always nice, sure, never unkind or unaccommodating, but every effort he made to relate to Tyler and every joke just sort of caused Tyler to cringe. The man laid the table with plates for himself and Tyler, each laden with two eggs-in-a-basket and an unhealthy helping of syrup. Since Tyler had arrived breakfast had consisted mostly of sugar, lunch and dinner mostly of meat and carbohydrates. Did the sheriff always eat like this, or was it just because he thought Tyler would prefer it? If the former, how the hell was the sheriff still alive?

    Breakfast passed in silence, occasionally interrupted by the sheriff’s attempts at making small talk. Tyler nodded along, mostly, making no greater contributions than “yeah,” or “un-huh.” He dreaded that the sheriff would bring up how Tyler had been avoiding him in the mornings since the sheriff had put him up in the guest room on Friday, leaving the house before his host was awake. In fact, that had been Tyler’s goal this morning. He had spent the night awake, and left his room early, only to find the sheriff one step ahead of him this day.

    But the topic of his avoiding Mitch didn’t come up during breakfast and it didn’t come up afterward as he helped dry and put away the dishes, nor did it come up when he came back from the quest room with his school things. They said their goodbyes, and that worrisome topic, unbrooched, remained a source of dread as he escaped through the front door.

    The cold bite through his jeans and jacket. He pulled the latter tighter. Meanwhile, his gaze wandered confine of the yard. There was tree from which a worn tire swing hung from a branch. Maybe, once, it had been sturdy; now it wasn’t so trustworthy. The house, four acres of unmaintained fields, and a barn that had been left to ruin constituted the old ranch. Of the three, the house was in the best shape, but with its flaking paint and dirty exterior walls, that wasn’t saying much. He recalled the tour the sheriff had taken him on as he crossed the yard and glanced at the barn. The doors had fallen in, and looked as if they would fall completely should someone mess with them. The sheriff had mentioned that livestock hadn’t housed since the property had passed into his hands. The animals had no longer been sold to some farm in Marla.

    Through one gate and down the driveway, Tyler walked. Barbed wire fences flanked either side of him, guarding against fields of frozen grass, and beyond, the treeline. There was snow on the ground, a thin blanket, but thickening with time. He passed through one last gate and over the rusted cattle grate, then started down a deteriorating stretch of blacktop. Soon the road passed into the woods, and he felt surrounded by the naked trees. It was army of twisted sentinels, reduced to skeletons by the lost battle of autumn. The sheriff had offered to drive him to the bus stop—hell, he had offered to make the drive to school. Yet Tyler had declined, much as he disliked the lonesomeness. If he didn’t return to the woods, how would he undo his curse? He liked sleep, and the prospects which lay the way of eternal consciousness made him sick. He had to wonder if Clifford the big dumb black dog was even out there. Or had it moved on and left him to his fate?

    He walked on, the day ahead of him and not looking that great from his perspective.

    Theodore

    He inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly, then again, and again, until he had steadied his breath. He untangled himself from the blanket, tossed it onto the bed, and got to his feet. He sat on the bed with his head in his hands, a dull throb pulsing in his skull. Not broken, he told himself. Only beaten down. He would serve the lion, but ever the while, he would search for an out. Maybe he had an ally in the Crane Wife, and whoever the lion meant by her cur. However, the enemy of his enemy wasn’t necessarily his friend. He would have to tread with care.

    It was already past noon, thank you kindly, your highness, you dark god. Well, He had the rest of the day to get this done. He went and threw on clothes and shoes and grabbed his car keys. He had to indulge the lion. He had to get the girl. He had to tip the first domino.

    End of Chapter Three

    I'm closing the chapter here because it feels like a good place to close, even though it hasn't reached much of a climax like the previous two. It's actually almost the same length. Things will move along faster in Chapter Four, and it should be produced faster, too. I want to finish up Silicon (and Monument, too, although I'm okay my taking time with that story) because I have another novel that I wanna take a crack at and I think it will be all around better for me if I hold off on it until I at least get Silicon out of the way. There's still a lot of ground cover, and it will be lot easier to get through if I don't distract myself by writing anything longer short stories while I chip away at it. I'm getting back into the story of Silicon. It wasn't that hard because it's got a lot I like. So, this part. We got to know Lana, maybe a little too intimately, in her first PoV. She will be a main PoV for the rest of the story, alongside the others. I'm toying with the idea of playing out some of Clive's story from Melissa's preservative, since I'd like to develop her more. Tyler... well, Tyler's at a better than when we last left him, which I believe was in a Sheriff car following his father's arrest for the murder of his brother, Michael; his story will continue with him at school and explain why he ended up at Mitch's house rather than, say, with Sam's family, her father being a Sheriff's officer. Now, Theodore. Theodore's not having such a good time, but at least he has a goal. He'll return next chapter to knock over that domino. If you're foggy about anything that happened earlier in the story, just ask. I'll answer in a reply or within the coming parts. If it's something I can't answer, because of spoilers, there's still no harm in asking.

  • O my goodness, Loquid's theory about Lana being untrustworthy might have been right all along. Apparently, she may be a crazy maniac. Actually, it is more likely she has some sort of split personality disorder. I wonder if she has this because of natural or supernatural reasons.

    NoHopeLeft posted: »

    03-13 Lana Admittedly, the sex hadn’t been that great. Lana couldn’t hold it against Thomas: he was inexperienced; as a form

  • Oh please, tell me that my earlier barely serious theory about Lana being in some capacity involved with something evil did not accidentally came close to the truth! I wasn't even serious back then, I just made a half-joking attempt to avoid having to focus at Luke as the most obvious suspect and now it seems I actually wasn't too wrong. Why do I keep being right about stuff like that D: I'd much prefer being wrong about all the awful things and right about good things happening! Albeit, admittedly, there seems to be a twist. The way I take this, Lana has some sort of a split personality and the one we've seen so far, the true Lana, seems to actually be this fairly decent person. But there also seems to be something else within her, if it is a split personality or sporadic bouts of being possessed by something malevolent, that remains to be seen. The former sounds more rational, but in this story, the latter is surely in the realms of possible. The fact that whatever it is seems to hesitate around Thomas doesn't actually support either option. It could be that Lana's feelings for Thomas help keep this darker side of her personality in check, or that it actually is a conscious and not quite natural being who is afraid of Thomas' close connection to the Prince of Wolves. If it is the latter, there is a connection between Lana and these beings after all, but it doesn't seem to be one she is aware of. I surely hope it's that way, because that can be treated. If it is a split personality, that means she is, unfortunately, the kind of person that'd still get locked up in our society, as it is heavily implied this other side is extremely dangerous and downright murderous. If it's sort of like an evil spirit or demon, she can get rid of it however. But argh, I am not sure how to think about Lana now, aside from the fact that I adore her relationship with Thomas and she is creeping the hell out of me after this reveal.

    Meanwhile, moving on from creepy and somewhat adorable to not creepy and fully adorable, if certainly tragic, Clive and Melissa. Ah, I never thought I'd ever feel this much for Clive when I submitted the three Carson's, but him being the only one for the time being was actually a pretty brilliant move in retrospect. Once more I realize how little we know about the situation. While I have no doubt that restoring Rachel and Alexander is quite a strong possibility, I have no idea what this will do with Melissa. Will there be something like the proper timeline and her children returning means her having to die? And she doesn't even know it. After all, they only ever gained a good look at Rachel and the figure on the photos Clive saw was too blurry for him to realize that it is his son and not his wife. I do wonder if this will come up eventually, or if Clive succeeds at restoring his children only to then realize that it will come at a cost.

    And while I cannot say too much about Tyler's part here, I actually do need a bit of a reminder: Does he feel exhaustion? Like, he's been awake for days now, is he feeling tired, or is the lack of sleep not affecting him at all in a physical way. Because if it is affecting him, he might run out of time. One way or the other, they do have to find a way to deal with this, as quick as possible. I am actually not sure if I ever made this theory before, though I likely have, but it seems that something, probably the one behind Clifford, does not want Tyler to sleep, in order to keep him out of the influence of the other god beings. This could either be a benevolent thing, to keep him safe from, say the King of Lions, or it is something more malicious, aiming to make him a less influenced thrall.

    But all in all, this is a wonderful part, just as expected! You know or can probably guess how happy I am to see a new Silicon part! Nothing has changed, I remain just as excited as ever, with each new twist and revelation being something I try to place into the puzzle. For real, I cannot wait for the next part, even if I must also admit that my excitement for Monument has never really slowed down either, so whatever story will receive the next part, no doubt I'll like it =)

    NoHopeLeft posted: »

    03-13 Lana Admittedly, the sex hadn’t been that great. Lana couldn’t hold it against Thomas: he was inexperienced; as a form

  • While I have no doubt that restoring Rachel and Alexander is quite a strong possibility, I have no idea what this will do with Melissa. Will there be something like the proper timeline and her children returning means her having to die?

    You may have forgotten, but I promised you a while ago that you wouldn't have to choose between Rachel and Alex or Melissa, and that's a promise I'm keeping. So, you don't have to worry about that, but you should still worry a little, because I'm kind of slowly this into a dark fantasy story and that's not always good for the well-being of the characters.

    And while I cannot say too much about Tyler's part here, I actually do need a bit of a reminder: Does he feel exhaustion?

    He doesn't feel physical exhaustion. He's experiencing mental fatigue. Because even if we didn't need to physically sleep, doesn't it kind of keep us sane? Imagine every day of your life running together. Hours of night you don't know to do with. No way to unplug. Especially if there's something—such as the re-remembered murder of his brother—that you want to escape, if only a little while. Those are the possibilities Tyler's facing. He's okay for the moment, but he's afraid of what it'll do to him in the long term.

    But all in all, this is a wonderful part, just as expected! You know or can probably guess how happy I am to see a new Silicon part! Nothing has changed, I remain just as excited as ever, with each new twist and revelation being something I try to place into the puzzle. For real, I cannot wait for the next part, even if I must also admit that my excitement for Monument has never really slowed down either, so whatever story will receive the next part, no doubt I'll like it =)

    It means so much to me that you're still with me, after all the delays and breaks and stretches of silence. We're nearly at, let's say, the tipping point. Soon, things will get a little crazy. We're going to get more fantasy elements, and see more of the Divine Dream. It's either going to be awesome or horrifying or somewhere in between.

    Oh please, tell me that my earlier barely serious theory about Lana being in some capacity involved with something evil did not ac

  • I want to tell you, but I'm going to keep my cards close to my chest on this. More will be revealed and understood as we follow Lana's perspective.

    O my goodness, Loquid's theory about Lana being untrustworthy might have been right all along. Apparently, she may be a crazy mani

  • It's back! Silicon is back! :D

    So happy to see this story again. I believe in Lana, she's so precious and I love her. Too bad Thomas can't satisfy her. :p don't have much to say about Tyler and Clive but I'm excited to see where things go. :)

    NoHopeLeft posted: »

    03-13 Lana Admittedly, the sex hadn’t been that great. Lana couldn’t hold it against Thomas: he was inexperienced; as a form

  • 04-01


    An Agent of the Lion:

    Pittman.

    A voice in his cells. A tone carved from bone. The next words like a lashing.

    Wake up now.

    Wade Pittman opened his eyes. The white hospital room greeted him, stark and sterile. An empty chair. A folded newspaper. His restraints: three wide black lines across his body. The slow drip, drip, drip, of the IV feeding him liquid sleep to keep him sedated, but it might as well have been inert. Alterations had been made. New glands in his body were producing neutralizers. Maybe they would kill him like cancer—living beings weren’t suited for such spontaneous change—but that wasn’t his concern. His mind had been torn to shreds by his encounter with the monster in the woods and stitched together again for one purpose.

    Kill the monster.

    The restraints turned into ash and tumbled down into folds of the blanket as he sat up. He swung his legs off the bed and stood, no matter the missing toes lost to frostbite, no matter the days without moving, no matter the damage sustained when Mitch had hit him with the car. He hid to one side of the door frame and waited a few minutes for his warden to return. Henry stepped through the door holding a protein bar and sipping from a cup of coffee. He had time to register that the bed was empty before Pittman’s bandaged fist struck out. The man went out like a snuffed flame, and Pittman had a few broken bones for it. The pain was great, but meaningless. He had been cradled in the paw of the world; he had taken communion through its tongue. What was pain next to such greatness? The food and drink fell to the floor and the coffee spilled everywhere but Pittman caught the deputy, closed the door with his foot, and dragged the man to the bed. Ten minutes later, he emerged wearing the man’s uniform, dusted with ash and peppered with nose blood, and closed the door behind him.


    Tyler:

    In the cafeteria, Tyler sat with Sam and Kayla for lunch. They had a table to themselves far back in the corner, where they could talk out of earshot, the clamor of the room going to further conceal their meeting. Not that anyone was really interested in what they talked about. The hype of Tyler’s encounter with Clifford had basically keeled over following the arrest of his father. Now more people were inclined to believe he’d made it up. They left him alone. No one felt much like picking at his scabs, though they festered either way. He attended classes as if in a trace, listening to what the teachers said without hearing much, and his grades suffered for it. At school, he retreated into a shell. Only his friends could coax him out of it, and only when they talked about Clifford.

    He couldn’t decide whether they were helping search for the big dumb dog because they believed it could be found or because they worried enough about him to humor him. Still, they were his scouts, his only allies. Chewing on a spoonful of tasteless food, he asked, “Anything?”

    Some days, Sam had roamed the woods with Tyler. When that wasn’t possible, she had gone by herself. “I’ve found fuck all,” she said.

    “Same,” Kayla mumbled. Being blind, she had turned to making inquiries via the phone. Calls to the Wisconsin Fish and Wildlife Service. To local hunters. To state parks. Which had yielded nothing, as of yet.

    “How does a fucking monster get within city limits and get seen by only one person?” Sam said.

    “The woods are big,” Kayla said. “For every acre of developed land, there’s ten at least full of nothing but plants and animals.”

    “Still. How?”

    No one pays attention, was Tyler’s immediate reply, but the connotations were ugly—he didn’t want them to think he resented them for not seeing his father for what he was, didn’t want to even think that was true—so he only shrugged. He picked apart his food and mumbled, “I can’t take it anymore.”

    “We’ll find Clifford,” Sam said. An empty promise, but clearly she was sincere.

    “How are you holding up at the Sheriff’s?” Kayla asked.

    “I’m antsy,” he said. “I wanna do stuff, occupy myself, but I gotta keep quiet so the Sheriff doesn’t start wondering.”

    “You have anything to read?” Kayla was curious about anyone’s book, even though she couldn’t read any of them. She said they told you a lot about a person.

    “Westerns. Nothing published after the 1970. Cringey, dated stuff. And cookbooks. Jesus Christ, so many goddamn cookbooks.”

    “You’ve got your phone,” Sam said.

    “Limited data. And the Sheriff doesn’t have wifi.”

    “Look, I can lend you mine.”

    “No. I can’t stare at my phone all night. I can’t fill that time with videos games or reading or homework. Not night after night. Not for another month and not for another year and not for the rest of my life. That’s fucking crazy. That’s fucking madness.”

    Sam had looked away when he’d begun his short rant. Kayla had turned her face down as well. Oh, he felt like an idiot. All the stress was making him short with people. His friends wanted to help him. They cared about him. He rested his head in his hands and massaged his scalp. “I’m sorry.”

    “It’s okay,” Kayla said.

    Sam only nodded to that. She was, he knew, a little miffed he didn’t take up her father’s offer to stay with them. But he’d asked if to stay with Mitch in the hopes the more secluded setting would put him closer to Clifford. The good that had done him.

    “If you’re pissed off at me,” he said to Sam, “I don’t blame you.”

    “You’re not there yet. Yet.” She gave him a smile, but it betrayed how tired she felt—of all this, not just his bitching. “Let’s head to the diner after school. We’ve haven’t been that way in a while. Might be that something’s changed.”

    “It’s worth a shot.” At this point, what wasn’t?


    Melissa:

    Melissa drove, and Clive did his thing.

    She didn’t pretend to comprehend her husband’s visions—he described them as a wide bubble of another reality, or a possibly reality, imposed over the real world, whatever that looked like—and neither, Clive admitted, did he understand them. His visions were like the contractions of a pregnant women without all the pain. Since the night of the party, where he had glimpsed the little girl he’d named Rachel, the time between visions had shortened. Now, when he was awake, they came every hour and lasted about five minutes. Melissa spent that time driving, and Clive spent it on watch for Rachel. If she showed up, Melissa would follow her with Clive’s directions and hope she led them to the next step.

    She had called in a substitute teacher to cover for her the next week, and pertinent as their search was, she dreaded someone would call it into question. Frankly, it would be hard to defend herself or her husband. She’d been turning excuses over in her mind the last few days. Say, someone asked, What are you doing? She didn’t have anything better than well, we’ve lived in Hawley a long time, but we’ve never really explored it. And suppose someone she knew from work asked why this was worth calling in a substitute? Clive’s heart has been worrying the two of us. It felt important that we do this while we can. What if time runs out?

    What if time runs out.

    Her excuses were closer to the truth than she was comfortable with. At the very least, she hoped that would make them believable.

    They waited in a fast food joint’s parking lot in Clive’s red truck. They were coming up to the hour since Clive’s last vision—fifty-one minutes, to be exact—when Clive pressed himself into his seat and began to squirm a little. “It’s back,” he said.

    Melissa nodded. She started the truck and got them on the highway. Her eyes kept flicking over to him as she watched the the road. His eyes were wild, somewhat mad, as they darted over a place she couldn’t see. He frequently turned to look out the side windows, out the back. Melissa tried to focus on driving. She turned right on the highway, heading east to Marla.

    “Would she be riding her bike on the highway?” Melissa said. She half expected Clive to not hear her.

    “Take to the streets,” he mumbled. His expression had become more desperate with each minute that passed.

    She took to them. Residential houses streamed by on either side with winter-wilted grass and naked trees and cars parked in the streets. From her peripheral, she saw a mailbox with the silhouettes of a family painted on and it tugged something in her, or it tugged nothing—it made some abscess within tremble with loss.

    Suddenly, Clive untensed and he settled into his seat and she knew, without having to be told, that the vision had left him. “What now?” she asked him.

    “I don’t know,” he said. “This isn’t working. Hawley isn’t big, but it’s big enough.”

    Melissa tapped her fingers on the steering wheel one at a time, in rhythm, then stopped. They drifted forward along the street. “I got it. Rachel’s a little girl. At least the version of her you’re seeing, right? So what do you little girls do?”

    “Play dolls?”

    “They go to school. And they come home from school.”

    “Oh. You’re saying we…”

    “Go to the middle school. Hope your vision comes when the students are let out. If we see her, we follow her.” And whenever she goes, maybe it’s the answer to bringing her home to us. The daughter I never gave birth to. The daughter I never got the chance to love. This thought, it seemed almost too apt, as if contained meaning beyond herself. Her mouth had gone dry. What happened to her? she wondered. What happened to me?

    Something happened to me. What?

    She grasped at the thought, but its surface was water, and it was like she was in it, unable to hold the truth in her hands, as it kept running out between her fingers, and still unable to hold on despite being submerged.

    Then her thinking collapsed, as if she’d been sleepily wondering about something and had lost the trail of thought and was unable to pick it back up again. She left out a sigh and got the truck back to the highway. This time, at the intersection, she went north, toward the school.

    As she drove, she took Clive’s hand and squeezed it, thinking, I won’t let go, I won’t ever let go, thinking about him, but also about Rachel. Where had this desperation come from? From those thoughts that she’d lost? It was like she was clinging to a slick cliff face, just to stay out of the dark waters below. Her hold was so precarious. Like she could just… slip.

  • Wait, wait, this time I believe I need a bit of a recap on the status of Wade Pittman. See, I was absolutely convinced that he was dead or presumed dead, so him being here in this hospital room surprises me a bit. Could you remind me what happened to him last time we saw him? It seems he was found and picked up by the police, but I cannot remember what happened exactly.

    In any way, this changes quite a lot, my confusion about Pittman's presence aside. The title confirms it, he is working for the King of Lions. While it seems he hasn't received any special powers, he is so single-mindedly focussed on his goal that he can do stuff like completely ignoring pain. It definitely makes him terrifying and I suppose it means he is capable of feats one would consider superhuman, simply because he has no regards for his own well-being. I'd be the last person claiming that he doesn't deserve any bit of it, but the way the King of Lions treats his subject here makes him definitely the most openly villainous of these strange entities, at least from a human standpoint. It has been hinted at before, but this outright confirms it. Now the question remains, what sort of a monster is Pittman set to kill? Clifford comes to mind, probably due to being a literal monster, but there are other possibilities. Surely, whomever Pittman will try to kill is an enemy of the King of Lions and the title "monster" indicates that the target has to be monstrous in some way. Unfortunately, there is another possibility that comes to mind and it is Lana. While Lana herself is anything but monstrous, there is this implied darkness in her, either a split personality or something supernatural, and her narrative makes it clear that this darkness is at least very capable of monstrous actions. Who knows how a being such as the King of Lions would regard this, he could very well consider this darkness a monster by definition, though Clifford seems a bit more likely.

    And Melissa! Ah, I am really excited how you fleshed her out, especially as she has been the last character I'd ever expect to be explored when I originally submitted the characters. Her part has been a treat because of this, but it also reinforced my belief that she is a key player in whatever they have to do to get Rachel and Alex back. And I am certain that they are about to get a breakthrough, it really feels like this is not too far away, or at least that is what I desperately hope. At the same time, I'm sure retrieving Rachel and Alex will start further problems and I doubt that'll be the end of it. Though it seems Melissa is aware that something isn't right with her life, which is why I believe that she is a key player in setting things straight again. It's a small miracle that she believes Clive's ramblings, but it is a good thing, since we know he is right. Now, you said that I won't have to choose between getting Rachel and Alex back and keeping Melissa. This part brought up a rather dark possibility to it. Maybe I don't have to choose because it won't be my choice to make. This part convinced me that the only one who can truly restore them is Melissa herself. So maybe it will be a choice she has to make for herself, without it being up for a vote. Of course, a lot is very unclear here, but Melissa's narrative kinda hints that her whole existence is as unnatural as Rachel and Alex' disappearance. Maybe getting them back won't mean that she has to die, but it's clear that the situation isn't right and she feels it. Getting them back could mean her end and it'll be crushing, but at the same time, I want nothing more than to see them back to normal, so that would be a price I'd pay with a heavy heart. Even better if it is her choice. In any way, I feel like she herself is about to make a breakthrough, probably with the help of Clive and these entities from the Divine Dream. I cannot fully remember if it was the Prince of Wolves or the Crane's Wife who was actively working to bring them back, maybe both have an interest in seeing them restored, but I suppose their assistance will be crucial.

    Actually, I just had to search back for the full title of the Crane's Wife, as I only remember her being introduced as Crane before we got the full name and I noticed something interesting. The King of Lions said something about a girl that is under the Crane's Wife's influence and whom Theodore is supposed to protect. Well, I do have this crazy theory that this girl could be Lana. No real reason for this beyond the fact that this would tie into my theory about this darkness in her being the result of someone's influence. While Crane struck me as one of the more well-intentioned entities, it's a fact that we know nothing about her beyond a name and the actions of her knight. This knight is a woman as well and is likely not Lana (as she is implied to have no idea about it all), so she is another possibility, but I suppose it is a viable theory at this current moment.

    I also read the part from March again, where we first met Theodore and got introduced to the King of Lions in proper and I noticed that the part starts with a snippet from a work written by a certain Amber Page. At the time, the presence of the King of Lions was too exciting and I kinda ignored this snippet, because it felt like I just read it for the first time. Beyond the background information on Theodore it offered (and which I cannot believe I legitimately ignored in my comment), I found the author quite interesting. Page, as in, Luke Page? You know, the antichrist himself. Can't say I still hate him with such a passion after two years have passed and the story has been rebooted, but I remember him, oh yes and I am actually quite curious what his role will be this time. More importantly, I remember you still have some sort of a plan with him (and I think you implied I would feel different about him this time) and I noticed he hasn't even been mentioned so far, even if the Page family has been mentioned and this Amber woman could very well be his mother. Now, crazy theory, but I also wondered why Rachel and Alex weren't mentioned in Clive's parts until the reveal that they have been literally erased from existence. So, my theory is, what if the same happened to Luke? Can't say I miss him, but it would explain why he has not been mentioned so far. If that is true, it would imply that these entities have meddled with more than just the Carsons' lives, but that they have done the same with other people, for whatever reason.

    NoHopeLeft posted: »

    04-01 An Agent of the Lion: Pittman. A voice in his cells. A tone carved from bone. The next words like a lashing. W

  • edited June 2018

    Wait, wait, this time I believe I need a bit of a recap on the status of Wade Pittman. See, I was absolutely convinced that he was dead or presumed dead, so him being here in this hospital room surprises me a bit. Could you remind me what happened to him last time we saw him? It seems he was found and picked up by the police, but I cannot remember what happened exactly.

    Pittman recap (let me know if there's anything else that's foggy): His first appearance occurs in chapter 1, where he is drinking at the same bar as Thomas and Lana. Later, it is learned that he spiked Lana's drink, which Thomas drunk. Lana goes home, and Thomas starts driving to visit his family's lake house, on the way succumbing to the drug and passing out. When Thomas returns to the scene of the crash with the sheriff Mitch, they find Thomas's car—front bumper wrapped around a tree, windshield shattered—and a copious amount of blood, so much that it still remains despite the rain. Pittman's car is also there, abandoned on the road's shoulder. Here Pittman enters missing status. A few days (I think?) later, in chapter 3, while driving to the Gavins' cable to arrest Tyler's father, a figure runs out in found of Mitch, who Mitch hits. It's Pittman, back again, down to a pair of boxers and socks, covered in mud and blood, living despite the collision and a case of frostbite. Where was he? What happened to him?—a gap in our information, though it is mentioned through a brief part of the King of Lions that something has driven Pittman insane. In the ash-covered version of Silicon County—where the Postlude to Fire was set—the king uses Pittman's orb thingy to basically program Pittman to a specific task. Then, in the hospital, we get a piece with Henry that reconfirms that Pittman has lost his mind, explaining that Pittman fought the hospital staff and had to be sedated and restrained. Before we leave off for the time being, Pittman gets a tiny tiny part explaining that a physiological change is occurring within Pittman—the king's doing—which will make the sedative useless. And that beings us to his most recent part.

    Now the question remains, what sort of a monster is Pittman set to kill? Clifford comes to mind, probably due to being a literal monster, but there are other possibilities. Surely, whomever Pittman will try to kill is an enemy of the King of Lions and the title "monster" indicates that the target has to be monstrous in some way. Unfortunately, there is another possibility that comes to mind and it is Lana. While Lana herself is anything but monstrous, there is this implied darkness in her, either a split personality or something supernatural, and her narrative makes it clear that this darkness is at least very capable of monstrous actions. Who knows how a being such as the King of Lions would regard this, he could very well consider this darkness a monster by definition, though Clifford seems a bit more likely.

    That Clifford is the target is a strong possibility. Lana, too. There's another candidate: Daniel, whose actions are well and truly monstrous. Though given what we know about the king, is it likely the king would take offense to Daniel? No, not really. But there's another possibility. The king is not human. Maybe his definition of monstrous differs wildly from our own, and what he would think of as monstrous, we'd think of as, adorable, or, good-natured. Anyway, time will tell.

    Been gearing up for this for a while now. Hehe. Can't wait to blow the lid off it.

    Now, you said that I won't have to choose between getting Rachel and Alex back and keeping Melissa. This part brought up a rather dark possibility to it. Maybe I don't have to choose because it won't be my choice to make.

    I try to reassure you and you undermine it with your speculation lol. But hey, that possibilities is open to speculation in my original comment. I afraid I can't go into greater detail with this promise, as it would set the future a little too clearly. But rest assured, though I've had my moments of devilry in the past, I am not the kind of person who would try to convince you of a nice happy outcome, only to stab you in the kidney.

    I cannot fully remember if it was the Prince of Wolves or the Crane's Wife who was actively working to bring them back, maybe both have an interest in seeing them restored, but I suppose their assistance will be crucial.

    The prince was doing some snooping, trying to figure out where Rachel and Alex, the missing dreamers, went. It's in his best interest that they're returned, and it's in the interest of his ally and superior, the Crane Wife.

    Actually, I just had to search back for the full title of the Crane's Wife, as I only remember her being introduced as Crane before we got the full name and I noticed something interesting. The King of Lions said something about a girl that is under the Crane's Wife's influence and whom Theodore is supposed to protect. Well, I do have this crazy theory that this girl could be Lana. No real reason for this beyond the fact that this would tie into my theory about this darkness in her being the result of someone's influence. While Crane struck me as one of the more well-intentioned entities, it's a fact that we know nothing about her beyond a name and the actions of her knight. This knight is a woman as well and is likely not Lana (as she is implied to have no idea about it all), so she is another possibility, but I suppose it is a viable theory at this current moment.

    Definitely viable.

    And it's good that you brought up our lack of knowledge when it comes to the Crane Wife. We don't know the terms of the lion and crane's war, we don't know the stakes. Until that time, the crane should really be treated with as much caution as Theodore is treating the lion. Just because she hasn't been directly manipulating agents doesn't mean she's any better, morally speaking. Though it could mean that. It also definitely means she's far more subtle, and depending on her motives, that could make her a bigger threat.

    I also read the part from March again, where we first met Theodore and got introduced to the King of Lions in proper and I noticed that the part starts with a snippet from a work written by a certain Amber Page. At the time, the presence of the King of Lions was too exciting and I kinda ignored this snippet, because it felt like I just read it for the first time. Beyond the background information on Theodore it offered (and which I cannot believe I legitimately ignored in my comment), I found the author quite interesting. Page, as in, Luke Page? You know, the antichrist himself. Can't say I still hate him with such a passion after two years have passed and the story has been rebooted, but I remember him, oh yes and I am actually quite curious what his role will be this time. More importantly, I remember you still have some sort of a plan with him (and I think you implied I would feel different about him this time) and I noticed he hasn't even been mentioned so far, even if the Page family has been mentioned and this Amber woman could very well be his mother. Now, crazy theory, but I also wondered why Rachel and Alex weren't mentioned in Clive's parts until the reveal that they have been literally erased from existence. So, my theory is, what if the same happened to Luke? Can't say I miss him, but it would explain why he has not been mentioned so far. If that is true, it would imply that these entities have meddled with more than just the Carsons' lives, but that they have done the same with other people, for whatever reason.

    In case you forgot, Amber and Ed Page have both appeared in person in the story, in Clive's parts. Friends of Clive and Melissa, actually. Although, the kind of friends whose presence kind of wears on you after a while and you need breaks from. The fact that Luke has not been mentioned at all, not even offhandedly, is very, very suspicious, indeed.

    Wait, wait, this time I believe I need a bit of a recap on the status of Wade Pittman. See, I was absolutely convinced that he was

  • Tyler definitely isn't in a good place right now. He's easily irritated and any humor he attempts comes across as forced. Has me really worried about his mental state. I'm also really curious about Amanda. How she's doing since Daniel was arrested and if she and Tyler are still in contact. I'm worried about their relationship. Can't wait to find out.

    NoHopeLeft posted: »

    04-01 An Agent of the Lion: Pittman. A voice in his cells. A tone carved from bone. The next words like a lashing. W

  • Pittman recap (let me know if there's anything else that's foggy): His first appearance occurs in chapter 1, where he is drinking at the same bar as Thomas and Lana. Later, it is learned that he spiked Lana's drink, which Thomas drunk. Lana goes home, and Thomas starts driving to visit his family's lake house, on the way succumbing to the drug and passing out. When Thomas returns to the scene of the crash with the sheriff Mitch, they find Thomas's car—front bumper wrapped around a tree, windshield shattered—and a copious amount of blood, so much that it still remains despite the rain. Pittman's car is also there, abandoned on the road's shoulder. Here Pittman enters missing status. A few days (I think?) later, in chapter 3, while driving to the Gavins' cable to arrest Tyler's father, a figure runs out in found of Mitch, who Mitch hits. It's Pittman, back again, down to a pair of boxers and socks, covered in mud and blood, living despite the collision and a case of frostbite. Where was he? What happened to him?—a gap in our information, though it is mentioned through a brief part of the King of Lions that something has driven Pittman insane. In the ash-covered version of Silicon County—where the Postlude to Fire was set—the king uses Pittman's orb thingy to basically program Pittman to a specific task. Then, in the hospital, we get a piece with Henry that reconfirms that Pittman has lost his mind, explaining that Pittman fought the hospital staff and had to be sedated and restrained. Before we leave off for the time being, Pittman gets a tiny tiny part explaining that a physiological change is occurring within Pittman—the king's doing—which will make the sedative useless. And that beings us to his most recent part.

    Ah, thank you for the recap! For the time being, there's nothing else I'd consider foggy, at least nothing major, but if anything comes up in the future parts, I will definitely mention it. Here, I remembered everything up to Pittman being missing and I actually considered him dead, not remembering that he was found later on. I think this is a sign that I should reread some parts of the story, because I think this is more than just a small detail that can be forgotten and actually an important plot-point.

    That Clifford is the target is a strong possibility. Lana, too. There's another candidate: Daniel, whose actions are well and truly monstrous. Though given what we know about the king, is it likely the king would take offense to Daniel? No, not really. But there's another possibility. The king is not human. Maybe his definition of monstrous differs wildly from our own, and what he would think of as monstrous, we'd think of as, adorable, or, good-natured. Anyway, time will tell.

    Well, I do not think the king would consider Daniel to be all that monstrous, so I would personally rule him out at this point, but what you say here is a thought I had myself in the meantime. The King of Lions is decidedly inhuman in his entire being, this includes his moral values and what we consider monstrous (and to be honest, even then I would not say that Daniel is an outright monster, he might be a terrible father and person but he still has traits that make him human) might be considered perfectly normal by the king. The way I see it, there are two possibilities here. He either uses the term "monster" to make Pittman fully realize whom he is supposed to kill, with the term being a literal description. That would pretty much rule out anyone but Clifford in my book, who is literally a monster in the classical sense. Or he uses the term to describe someone he considers to be monstrous by his own perception, which would open up a lot more possibilities and with our limited knowledge on the king, we can't exactly be certain on what he would consider monstrous. I doubt it'll be as simple as him considering an adorable, good-natured person a monster, because then the term would be far too broad. That alone could imply about half a dozen named characters in the story and probably countless people in the entire world. So, I think this "monster" has something that makes them stand out and be monstrous from the king's perspective, albeit I do believe that they are anything but a monster from our standpoint. And aside from Clifford and Lana, I had two additional candidates here. The first would be Tyler, actually. While he is not even the slightest bit a monster, I had to think about how the King of Lions might view him. As little as we know about these entities, we know they are beings of the Divine Dream. I have to wonder, how would the King of Lions view someone who is as cut off from the dream as Tyler? Maybe this is a trait he considers unnatural, monstrous even, because he might not even be capable to fully grasp the existence of someone who is unable to be influenced the Divine Dream at all. Given how powerful the King of Lions is implied to be inside the Divine Dream, I can only imagine how unnerving it must be to have all this power and to still be unable to influence Tyler. The other option I thought about is Melissa. Her narrative seemed to hint at it, there is something unnatural about her current existence. She was dead, but something effectively rewrote reality to bring her back. And so far we don't know anything about what this means for her. Perhaps the mere fact that she is alive is something the king considers to be monstrous. At the same time, I feel like he is currently the most likely candidate to be responsible for this meddling, given that his two biggest rivals both work to bring Rachel and Alex back.

    I try to reassure you and you undermine it with your speculation lol. But hey, that possibilities is open to speculation in my original comment. I afraid I can't go into greater detail with this promise, as it would set the future a little too clearly. But rest assured, though I've had my moments of devilry in the past, I am not the kind of person who would try to convince you of a nice happy outcome, only to stab you in the kidney.

    Ah, Hope, you do know me for more than three years now. Have I ever taken anything at face value? Ever at all? Me undermining even outright confirmations of good things happening is something dating back all the way to the early days of Monument. Admittedly, most of this habit actually comes from Monument, where the tense moments are so truly tense that I find myself downright unable to not speculate into any direction even when you imply that I am unnecessarily concerned :D And to be fair, I remember you more or less confirming that the ending to that story will have a certain share of positive and negative aspects to it. By comparison, Silicon is still in its relatively early stages and I can't yet say which direction it will take. Especially this whole Carson situation is a big mystery still and how bringing back Rachel and Alex will influence Melissa. The thing is, bringing them back would most likely bring back the influence they had on the world. We see this in Clive's visions, there are differences to his live, his house and surroundings and there are other people who have been influenced by their existence, even outside of the Carson family. People who are friends with Rachel and Alex, or Rachel's boyfriend (whom I just realized, after checking her backstory, is also named Thomas and I hope that won't be too confusing) all of whom, in return, had their lives altered when the Carson siblings were taken out of the equation. Will bringing them back restore the world to a state in which they left their marks, where they have a life and people who remember them? Or will they be thrown into this particular branch, where they pretty much never existed at all? And if it is the former, what will happen to Melissa? Can they even be fully restored if the consequences of their existence won't be restored? That is perhaps the most important question I have at the moment. Or maybe there is actually a way to have the best of both worlds, with Rachel and Alex restored and actually reinserted into the world instead of just being thrown into a place they have never affected at all and which, in return, won't exactly be their reality, while Melissa doesn't necessarily has to die again.

    And it's good that you brought up our lack of knowledge when it comes to the Crane Wife. We don't know the terms of the lion and crane's war, we don't know the stakes. Until that time, the crane should really be treated with as much caution as Theodore is treating the lion. Just because she hasn't been directly manipulating agents doesn't mean she's any better, morally speaking. Though it could mean that. It also definitely means she's far more subtle, and depending on her motives, that could make her a bigger threat.

    Aye, I very much agree here. I consider the Prince of Wolves shady at best and treat him with caution, so I think the same can only be considered reasonable with the Crane Wife. To little is known about her so far and the only thing we know is that her methods seem somewhat more agreeable than the outright violence the King of Lions uses or the very direct manipulation the Prince of Wolves seems to enjoy. She definitely is the most subtle of the three entities we have been introduced to so far, but this doesn't have to be a good thing in the end. At worst, it means her true motives will remain hidden until it is too late.

    In case you forgot, Amber and Ed Page have both appeared in person in the story, in Clive's parts. Friends of Clive and Melissa, actually. Although, the kind of friends whose presence kind of wears on you after a while and you need breaks from. The fact that Luke has not been mentioned at all, not even offhandedly, is very, very suspicious, indeed.

    Now that you mention it, I remember them! Actually, I am pretty sure I already had this thought when they appeared, that something must have happened to Luke as well. And if it is not just Rachel and Alex, I think it is reasonable to assume that it won't just stop with Luke either. I doubt it is only these three who are missing, even if Rachel and Alex, as the Dreamers, are apparently the most important who have been erased. I doubt the Prince of Wolves or the Crane Wife would even care about anyone else who is missing. At the same time, restoring Rachel and Alex could very well restore all these other people, Luke and whomever else is still missing. This brings up my question from above, as the world will change even more dramatically with all these people and the effects of their actions being reinserted into it.

    NoHopeLeft posted: »

    Wait, wait, this time I believe I need a bit of a recap on the status of Wade Pittman. See, I was absolutely convinced that he was

  • edited October 2018

    Hey! With Telltale closing down, the future of the forum is in flux—but not to worry! Others have set up a new forum for the various stories here, including Silicon County and my other story, Monument. Follow this link to the board for Silicon: http://creators-haven.boards.net/thread/38/chapter-teeth-grass?page=1&scrollTo=630

    04-02


    An Agent of the Lion:

    Pittman had forgotten to take the deputy’s keys, but it was of no consequence. The moment he touched the door handle, the lock turned into ash and trickled out onto the pavement. He climbed inside, and the cruiser started for him. He got it rolling, the bones of his broken hand grinding as he worked the steering wheel and the shift. He had been blessed. Objects fell into place for him, or else fell apart when they opposed him. A tiny, damaged part of his mind flickered with a question: how he would fare against bullets? His old self would have felt excitement at this prospect, certainly. It had been a fantasy. To be invulnerable to bullets. He would’ve raged war on the banks, maybe the state, maybe the whole goddamn country. The naked, migrant, bulletproof god, walking America’s highways, taking what he wanted, no one to stop him, probably erect and ready to fuck, too. It would have been sweet. He would have gone at it until the America was a wasteland.

    You are a bastard, aren’t you?

    That voice. The lion. His king. It wasn’t a condemnation, exactly, but all the same, it expressed a smug sort of disgust. It was like when a ruler watched gladiators destroy one another. It was fun to watch, not only because of the violence, but also because the ruler could take the moral high ground, for the gladiators were the worst of the worst. Rapists and pedophiles and murderers. A couple of bastards, cutting each other down. That was what Pittman was to the king. Disposable. A dog for the fight. To be thrown at the enemy. The lion would not mourn him when he died. If enough of his old self had remained, if he’d had his old rat-like intelligence, Pittman might have rebelled against this mission. As it stood, however, his mission was his only imperative. It took precedence over bodily harm, his instinct for self-preservation having been extinguished. His mind was too damaged from the monster’s attack, and the lion had seen no benefit in repairing it all. It had only repaired the necessary parts, the parts Pittman needed. He would complete his mission, he’d kill the monster, he’d shake up the game board, as the lion had ordered, or he’d die trying.


    When we wonder how killers are made, we usually look for something specific. An event with enough power and trauma to mould someone’s future. A foul upbringing of abuse that embittered them. A figure who once suffered and is now taking out their anger on another. Untreated mental health problems. The like. Some, perhaps, would say it's in some people’s nature. Bad seeds and what not. On that point, I must agree to disagree: no one is born evil. Theodore Deerman is not evil; he’s human, monstrous once and perhaps will be monstrous again, but human. He has suffered an abundance of evil, and each event, in some small way, has attributed to his creation. Add everything up and you get the man he is today, the boy he was.

    His trauma’s started early. In England, he was born to a prostitute, most likely impregnated by one of her clientele. A broken condom, perhaps. It is unknown if even she knew who the father was, and in any case, Theodore was raised by his mother alone. She tried to do right by him. A large number of job applications highlight her attempts (and failure) to find more wholesome work in the wake of Theodore’s birth. She lacked an education, which complicated matters. Eventually, she was left with no choice but to keep prostituting herself to provide for her son.

    It would lead to her death.

    She loved her son deeply, by all accounts. She was in the process of obtaining government aid, and possibly contemplating giving her beloved child up, when tragedy struck. A client murdered her. Seven stabbed wounds. A defiled corpse.

    And Theodore, age three, witness to it all.

    He was rendered mute, traumatized, and emotionally stunted. While police worked to bring about justice, Theodore found himself Liverpool-based special care facility for the next three years. There, he got a weak grasp on his education and made little progress in rehabilitation. The child therapists were unable to coax young Theodore into speaking of the night of his mother’s murder.

    The serial killer responsible for his mother’s grisly murder would not walk free for long. Geographical profiling and DNA evidence lead to the killer’s arrest. Theodore, a year since the trauma unfolded, was in no state to testify at the killer’s trail. There was, however, no shortage of witnesses to the killer’s crimes. He was found guilty on multiple accounts of rape and manslaughter and necrophilia and was sentenced to life in a prison in northern England.

    Theodore would never share his personal account of his mother’s murder. “I don’t even remember,” he tells me now, twenty years after the fact. “I must have blocked it out.” A frown comes over his face. “It’s a relief, really. I have no interest in drudging it up.”

    While he was living in the care facility, no one ever laid claim to the young boy. This is because his mother, at the time, had been living under an assumed name, which Theodore shared. The fake name would complicate the search for relatives for years to come, and he would be placed with foster parents, which would only worsen his mental health.

    Excerpt from CONSIDER THE ANIMALS, an article by Amber Page

    Theodore:

    Theodore went outside and shielded his eyes against the afternoon light even though it was cloudy and he stood very still on the porch, feeling the chill of the air, hoping it would slow down his heart. It didn’t. This was how it would be from now on, his body: like walking on the edge of a great abyss, pushed by circumstance ever closer to the void, ever closer to tumbling into that pit.

    Get a grip. The lion wasn’t the devil. Hades would’ve been an improvement, but it wasn’t that ever.

    No. No assurances there. It could be the devil, for all he knew. Could be the whole fucking pantheon.

    The ranch lay around him, any comfort it could bring undermined by the task bouncing around in his brain. The driveway was gravel, and in it sat two cars. One was a shitty volkswagen that had taken them to church on Sundays, his aunt into town for groceries, and his cousin and him to school. The other was a truck with a hitch that was always tugging along a trailer, which he used to haul feed and to transports cows when they needed transporting. He ran a dairy. It had been his aunt and uncle’s, but his uncle had died of cancer and his aunt couldn’t run herself, didn’t really want to, wanted to get her daughter out of Silicon County, so his aunt had given it to him when he got out of the asylum. Self-employed, now. The owner of his own, mediocre dairy. Considering what he’d done, it wasn’t half-bad place.

    He’d drifted for so long in the UK, from house to house, family to family. His mother’s murder and his stay with the abusive Pattersons had destroyed his image of humanity before it’d had time to grow. He knew of man’s dark side, and little else. The kindness of the social workers was tempered by that knowledge. So he was caution when his mother’s brother finally tracked him down and took him to America to live with his aunt. The barriers he’d put in place didn’t fall so much as slowly unfurl, like the petals of a flower. He began to talk a little more, when before he’d been almost mute. He came to love them. It was just the three of them for a few years, then his cousin was born, and he loved her, too. His aunt and uncle had found him too late (age six) for him to think of them as his parents, but his cousin might as well have been his sister. He’d had happiness.

    That was before his cousin was raped. Before he’d put on a mask and killed and partially ate her rapist. After that, their love for him had fled. He’d still loved them, but after the violence he’d committed, they couldn’t reciperate that love. Which had been worse. He’d been alone, lost. He’d been placed in a mental hospital at twenty-one following his trial.

    He was twenty-seven now. He’d been free for the last year. In those seven years, he’d seen his aunt three times: once at the trial, twice in the hospital; she’d had a lawyer met with him to pass the dairy to him. His cousin, he’d not seen once.

    Happiness. He wasn’t happy. Nor was he content. He was hungry for something besides food, and sometimes he was hungry even when his stomach was full.

    He had never gotten the taste of human flesh out of his mouth. It had lodged somewhere in his head, in his taste buds.

    Sometimes, he got cravings.

    Volkswagen or truck. He kept them both up to shape. Mostly, he drove the volkswagen around town. The truck still had the trailer hitched. Today he chose the truck just so he could have something to do with his hands while he took off the trailer. It distracted him, but five minutes later, when he was done, his task still lay before him. He got in.

    Hands tight on the steering wheel, white they were so tight. And his breathing, it hitched whenever he tried to exhale. He was really going to do this. Really going to. What would happen after, exactly, he wasn’t completely sure, and that made it worse, so much worse. He had little bits of information that didn’t add up to much, yet the half-picture they seemed to form was terrifying.

    The girl’s name was Charity Collingswood. The lion had told him the name. He’d found her easily enough in the phone book. A few weeks ago, he had followed her. He’d watched from the volkswagen as she’d broken into an abandoned house and he had lingered after she’d left. Within a minute smoke had begun to pour through a broken window pane and then he’d gotten the hell out of there.

    She was an arsonist. The arsonist. Theodore had read about her exploits in the paper before the lion had even been given his mission. Before the house, it had been tires, found burning up in the junkyard and stinking up the air with fumes. A mailbox, then. A brush in a park. Most provoking had been the the contents of a trashcan, set aflame outside the city offices. That one the sheriff’s office had taken personally, like it was a threat. She was giving the sheriff’s office and the fire department headaches. They suspected a single teenager, some poor disturbed smuck. Boy, would they have been be shocked to know they were looking for an eleven-year-old girl. And disturbed or not, the lion had a use for her skills. And skilled she was. Her brush was the match. Her paints, the tongues of fire. Her canvas...

    The county was going to go up in flames.

    He felt weakened, physically drained, by that thought. Hundreds, possibly thousands could die. No saint, was he, but he didn’t savor the idea of that. But oh, that wasn’t the half of it. If only it was that simple: if only the lion had found something offensive about the land, the people, which had therefore called for its destruction. That couldn’t have been it. That wasn’t it, he was sure. While it was true that the lion did not seem endeared to Silicon County, the lion was not the county’s enemy. Neither was the crane. They were rivals in whatever war was ongoing, the lion and the crane. Silicon County was just the battlefield. Perhaps it could have been anywhere. Theodore knew nothing that would contradict the assumption that the presence of the entities was random.

    That meant they were just unlucky to be in the crossfire. He didn’t like this. The county’s lack of luck—if it was truly a matter of poor luck—seemed to diminish it. A country populated by insignificant people. Unfortunates. Pawns.

    That it should happen here, of all places, was unimportant. It simply was—was happening here, was happening to those who lived there. And they would have to deal with it.

    He got the truck moving. Oh, they were gonna get fucked, and he was doing the fucking, part of it. Fucking himself, too. His mouth twisted into smile, like a fissure cracking open in ice under glacial pressure. He was breaking up and he felt like crying.

    He’d slept through breakfast. He’d skipped lunch. He felt an old hunger dig claws into his gut, and tried to ignore it as he drove to town.


    Lana:

    Lana climbed out of Russell’s car—which they had borrowed for this little trip—and got her first unobscured look at the lake house. It stood bleak and plain near the gravel shore, a sort of gray weathered color, like a piece of driftwood on stilts. She looked over to her left, where Thomas was leaning on the opened driver’s side door, watching her instead of the house, watching her reaction.

    “It’s pretty,” she said.

    A slow nod, was his only reply.

    She hoped that he would talk about it. He’d woken up breathless and had sob into her shoulder for ten minutes, inconsolable, then had gotten in the shower. Cleaning the nightmare off him, scrubbing off its residue. He had emerged a hour later, the bathroom foggy with steam, a distance in his demeanor.

    His eyes moved past her, and she followed his gaze to a little island out on the lake. “My dog’s buried out there.”

    “Was it a good dog?”

    “The best. You ever had a dog?”

    “No.” She remembered a dead dog, half-decomposed roadkill that had migrated down to the creek and had come to a stop behind her father’s house, that she’d taken apart in fascination before sending the pieces downstream. Another, much later, when she’d lived in Ohio: a mutt she’d lured in off the street with pepperoni into her apartment. She felt bad, remembering it. Not sick, just bad, evil. “Never wanted one.”

    “Not everyone’s a dog person. Cat’s are okay, in my book—”

    “Let’s go inside,” she said, to drop the subject and get them moving.

    They climbed up a dozen unpainted grey stairs. Solid; no creaks. Thomas slid a key into the lock and the door moaned open. It was dusty inside, and dark. A pair of formless children’s shoes set in the entryway. Work boots. A plethora of multicolored, sun-faded flip flops. A raincoat, laying on the floor like a discarded condom.

    “This was home to you,” Lana said.

    “Emphasis on was.”

    “Do you want to leave?”

    “Yes. Can’t, though.”

    “Legal stuff?”

    “I can get that done some other time. I just need to reach…”

    “Peace?”

    “Yeah.”

    What compelled her to say what she next, Lana did not know; perhaps it was her own closeness to death. “It’ll probably always be out of reach.” The next instant, she felt regret for her harsh words.

    Thomas was quiet, then, “That’s a new take.”

    “I’m sorry.”

    “Don’t be. Don’t be.” He rubbed his eyes. They were still puffy from that morning. “Everyone’s told me to find solace in God. Praying for me, they’ve said. I’m in their thoughts. No one has—” he choked “—called grief what it is. Insurmountable. Infinite. And this… this situation—” how else to sum it up? father kills mother and then himself, and Thomas, their son, the only one left to pick up the pieces ”—it’s confused. It’s fucked.”

    He was crying again. Not sobbing, not breathless and terrified. Just crying. Lana chose to reach out, and hold him, there, in the entry hall of the husk of a past life. Anchoring him to her. Letting his tears pepper her shoulder. For how long, no telling.

    Then, Thomas’s whisper, unsteady, in her ear: “I’m been dreaming a lot, lately.”

    Just as softly: “‘Bout what?”

    “Stuff you wouldn’t believe.”

    “You’ve been holding in a lot.”

    “Too much, too long.”

    “I’d listen.”

    “Promise not to think I’m crazy?”

    “That won’t happen.” So steadfast was she in her assertion, that Thomas had no trouble getting the first words out, and the rest were like water in a reservoir: once the leak had sprung, there was no stopping the flow.

    The picture Thomas painted was convoluted. Dreams within dreams. The vein of an alien dreamworld, tapped at night. An adversary of whom little was known. Suspicious allies. Other, unwitting players: an old writer, the teen who had been in the news, and more. And a mounting feeling: some kind of dread.

    What kind of dread?—Lana’s only interruption.

    Thomas took a long time in answering. It was hard, he said, to put to words. The feeling was, that if they lost this fight, they would lose everything.

    Lana believed everything, but of everything she heard, she believed this the most truly. She felt the same dread.

    It seemed to be in the air.

    Like a faint incense.

    Like smoke.


    Tyler

    “You little bitch,” Sam said. “Don’t storm off before I explain.”

    Tempting, to pedal off. Tyler had come to the diner after school, as planned, only to find Sam and Kayla keeping the company of strangers. That alone was not what upset him. The fact that there were paranormal investigators was.

    There were two of them, precisely. A man and a woman. The man, he was white and short and kinda slim and wearing a bulky jacket over a dress shirt and tie, the jacket perhaps to make him look bigger. His hair was sandy blonde, and too well combed, with too much gel, to look handsome. Early thirties, probably. He had stood from the booth first, had practically jumped up from it, to shake Tyler’s hand. And that hand was still extended, wobbling a little, perhaps tired from waning enthusiasm and staying outstretched so long.

    Tyler was still contemplating walking out when the man spoke. The British accent was a surprise.

    “We aren’t here to televise you, Tyler,” the man said. The hand still waited, hopeful. “It’s only right that you know we came to film a segment based around your encounter. But that’s off the table. What with… everything… by which I mean… uh, matters of… family.” He swallowed nervously on the last word. He suddenly turned his back on Tyler and paced away, perhaps embrassessed.

    The woman sighed and filled the man’s absence. “I’m Morina,” she said. Another accent: Italian? Her complexion was bronze. Maybe. She looked to be in her forties. “That’s Mark. As he so eloquently put it, we’re not here to exploit you. We’re here because—”

    “They believe you,” Sam put in.

    Morina smiled. “Exactly. And Sam, she told us you really want to find your monster again. Like, desperately.”

    Tyler shuffled his feet, glanced at Sam. He said, under his breath, “Guess you could say that.”

    “We want to help.”

    “Why?” That was the ultimate question. If it wasn't for their show, and if it wasn’t for money, why would they offer their personal time and service?

    Morina gestured to the booth. Sam sat down quickly, and Morina slid in across from her. Mark sat next to Morina and that made Tyler the only one standing. Sam’s mom, Marsha, was taking orders at the other end of the room but she saw him standing there by himself and raised an eyebrow. He smiled at her to let her know everything was fine and took his seat.

    “When I was twelve,” Mark said across the table from him, “I was on the deck of my family’s yacht—”

    “A family yacht?” Tyler said. “Mister deep pockets over here. Old money. Welcome to Silicon County, home of the downtrodden and poor, land of the—”

    While Mark merely frowned at him, Sam kicked his leg hard enough for him to wince; don’t be a shithead, that said. It hurt enough to shut him up. “Anyway...” Mark went on, awkwardly drawing out the word. “My parents, they’re below deck. I’m the only up there. And there’s nothing for miles around. Dark and cloudy, no stars. Nothing but the lights of the yacht. And I walk up and look over the side of the ship just to, to take it all in. The darkness and the desolation, all that water. And what do I see? Flickering on and off under the slow waves? A light. It flickers for a while, and I’m just fucking—” he searches for the word, phantamining with a hand “—mesmerized. I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life. My twelve-year-old mind is blown. Well, more lights flicker on and off, and there’s about six of them, all arranged in this circular pattern. And what should happen? They rise. Up, out of the water. It’s so dark, I can’t see if there’s a body that the lights are connected to. But it, it goes away. Into the sky. Past the clouds.” And on this, this last word, he sounded like a ruin: “Gone.”

    “So,” Tyler said cautiously, as he had just realized that he might be in the company of crazies. Drug users. Cultists. Something. Shit. Thanks a lot, Sam. “So you saw a UFO.”

    “Yeah,” Mark said, settling back into the booth. “I saw a UFO. Hell, maybe not an alien, I don’t know, but… an unidentified flying object. I saw that. And no one, no one at all, believed me. They said I had made it up.”

    “You didn’t make it up.”

    “No more than you did.”

    “You see, though,” Tyler said, “I have proof. What do you have?”

    Mark’s brow knitted in frustration and his face turned red. Before he could speak, before their little meeting could dissolve, Morina spoke up. “You have something close to proof,” she corrected. “But the cast of the print, the bloody shirt with the teeth holes? Those can be faked. Maybe it’s deer’s blood. Or a stray’s.”

    “The Sheriffs have sent it to be analyze,” Tyler said, as if it might add more credibility where credibility seemed to be rapidly waning.

    “And you’ll know, soon enough, what whose blood it is.” Morina smiled at Marsha as she approached. They each put in an order.

    “I see you’ve made new friends, Sam,” Marsha said to her daughter. “A little odd, if I’m being honest. They’re… how old?”

    “Mom,” Sam said, groaning, “they’re gonna help us find Tyler’s monster.”

    “Oh, how nice of them! Well, your orders are on the house. They’ll be out shortly.” And she went to the next table, smiling to the people sitting there but with the faintest wilt of disquiet at the corners that perhaps only Sam and Tyler, who were looking over their shoulders at Marsha, noticed.

    “What I’m saying is,” Morina continued, bringing them back to the conversation, “there’s plenty of doubt to your encounter. And where there’s doubt, people are less inclined to take you seriously. Nothing can confirm beyond reasonable doubt what happened to you. But me, and Mark, and Kate and Dave—you’ll want to meet them, I’m sure; in fact, I’m positive—the four of us will always take your word seriously. We’ve been called liars and cons too many times not to.”

    Tyler, surprising even himself, wasn’t done being a shithead. “No one has called me a liar or a con. That makes me think that, hey, maybe there’s some truth to what they say about you.”

    “You know why they don’t tell you their doubts,” Mark said.

    The jab was painful, but Tyler guessed that he deserved it. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “I fucking know.”

    Dead little brother. Suppressed memories. Big deal, right? Well, it was a low blow for an adult to make. Evidently, Morina thought so, too, because she kind of jerked in her seat and suddenly Mark choked on air and clutched his side. “Dick,” she hissed. “Say you’re sorry.”

    “I’m sorry,” Mark said, tears prickling from his eyes. “Genuinely.”

    “You better fucking be,” Sam said defensively.

    “It’s fine,” Tyler said. Whether it was genuine or not, Tyler didn’t care much. That kind of surprised him. “You got a story to tell?” Tyler asked Morina. “Lights in the sky? Sly shapes moving between the trees? Don’t tell me: giant footprints in the snow on the Himalayas.”

    She shook her head, smiling after her exasperation over Mark. “None of the above.”

    “Do tell, then. What, besides Mister UFO-man over here, are you bringing to the table? To get me to agree to your”

    “Mark here’s an expert on UFOs, yeah. Kate’s our leader, sort of the jack-of-all-trades, but particular expertise is folklore. Dave’s our Cryptozoologist. You know what that means?”

    “Bigfoot and friends.”

    “Basically,” Morina agreed.

    “And what are you?”

    Marsha interrupted them then with food and drinks and they smiled and thanked her but when she’d left the sombrity of Morina’s hesitation to answer came over them again.

    “What are you?” Tyler repeated.

    “A psychic.” She cleared her throat as if to relieve the ridiculousness of that answer. “I’m a medium, if want get into the specifics.”

    “You talk… to the dead.”

    “To something, yes. Most likely the deceased. You can’t know for sure what, though.”

    This sentence unsettled Tyler. “That’s—” He stopped. He had to laugh to hide the pallor of dread that had crept over him. “Frankly, that’s crazy. I’m sorry. You’ve been nice—” and he eyed Mark to imply that, no, that doesn’t include you “—but that’s a little much, even for me.”

    “Hey, it’s fine!” Morina was chipper for someone who’d been told they weren’t believed. “I’m used to it. In fact, I’m used to worse. So that’s, uh, what’s on the table. We’ve all had encounters of our own with the unexplainable. We want to help you, Tyler, because maybe we can validate ourselves with your story. That goes far, far beyond money, or fame—”

    “But you still want recognition. A kind of fame.”

    “Perceptive. And wise.” Tyler felt awkward to be acknowledged like that. Morina continued, a slow speaking voice lending the words gravity: “But fundamentally, at our cores, we just want to be believed. Will you let us help you? We have idea to help that you weren’t have thought of. Modes of search you wouldn’t have dream of. Bear in mind, even if I’m lying about abilities, we have resources that you don’t have. Well?”

    “They’re your best shot,” Sam told Tyler. She’d been oddly quiet as she’d tried to let the investigators convince him themselves. “C’mon. It’s up to you.” She sighed. “I’m respect your choice, dumb as it might be.”

    It would, truly, be stupid to turn them down completely. He couldn’t do that. He had few choices, few hopes. But that didn’t mean that he had to spill over secret. Like the markings on his back. The sleeplessness they’d caused. It was personal stuff, hard to part with. But he’d managed with Sam, and though telling hadn’t helped the problem, it had made him feel better. And now that he thought, it might be nice to let adults worry about it. It was lot for a couple of teenagers to handle.

    [Accept their help, but withhold information.]

    [Accept their help and hold back nothing.]

  • [Accept their help, but withold information.] They're strangers so I don't think they can be trusted just yet.

    Another great chapter! Really enjoyed it and have a lot of thoughts. A lot of it was unsettling. Particularly Lana's rather dark thoughts and behavior. She's starting to scare me, but I still love her. And Tyler, obviously I love anything involving Tyler. He's especially aggressive and moody. I love it but makes me sad at the same time. Still wondering what's going on with Amanda! :smiley:

    Sorry I've been so inactive lately. I'm hoping to catch up on Monument soon and eventually I'll move over to Creators Haven.

    NoHopeLeft posted: »

    Hey! With Telltale closing down, the future of the forum is in flux—but not to worry! Others have set up a new forum for the vario

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