I don’t own a car. Biking is my only method of transportation. I was cycling to the University when a flicker of white in the corner of my vision caught my eye. I turned my head to follow it and very nearly crashed into a lamp post. I skidded to a stop, and frantically looked back and forth for whatever it was. Surprisingly, it was not a tall dark faceless man.
It was an operator symbol on the side of a shuttered warehouse, drawn in white chalk, and when I saw it absolutely everything rational in my head jumped ship. I walked, well, ran my bike towards it.
I hadn’t spent more than two seconds examining it when something cold and hard poked the back of my skull. Well, it could have been a spanner, but with every movie I’d ever watched in the back of my mind I kept very, very still.
"I told you this would work."
Male, smug, directly behind me. There was a grumble and the brief rustle of money changing hands, and then my arm was jammed up my back in quite a painful manner. I was pushed forward into the warehouse, and the door shut and clicked locked.
The only source of light was the grimy windows and the sunlight hitting a phenomenal amount of dust. I sneezed. Have you ever tried to sneeze while trying not to move? It’s nigh on impossible. I licked my lips, which were suddenly very dry.
“I know you can’t kill me, so what do you want?”
“You don’t sound very sure,” said the mentally dubbed Smugface, living up to his name. “Face the wall. Put your hands on it.”
I complied. “You’re Proxies, right? Your Boss isn’t done with me yet. I don’t think he’d be happy if I died before I was good and broken.”
"You're right." The gun moved away, and I sighed in relief. "Nice guess. Well done."
I started to turn around, and was shoved back into the wall, cold concrete making great friends with the side of my face. “Of course,” he continued conversationally, “just because we can’t kill you yet doesn’t mean we can’t beat you up a little bit.”
And then I was hit with a steel pipe. Not as heavy as the stereotypical lead, but my ribs still hated me. So did my back, and then my head. Whoever did it knew their stuff; no blood drawn, no bones broken, no unconsciousness allowed. I collapsed at some point, I think. My mind was slowly shutting down everything that wasn’t about blocking the pain, bit by bit. I was kicked over, and then they delivered a hit that left me seeing nothing but spinning black and yellow triangles.
Through the constant ringing whine I could hear Smugdouche laugh from to the left. “Hey, Bailey, how about leaving some for me.” I don’t know if ‘Bailey’ replied. I think I tried to move a little, maybe to crawl away. I got about as far as getting to my knees before a strike to the midsection utterly winded me and knocked me back on my side. That jacked up the pain a few notches. In my head a light went off, a switch was flipped, and everything snaps into utter clarity.
I'm... not proud of what happened next. A little explanation is perhaps in order.When I was a kid, my cousin and I used to roughhouse a lot. We always had to be careful about going too far, not because of any injury that could happen, but because when in sufficient pain one or the other of us would go berserk.
When that happened, the only thing to do was run, get into a room with a working lock, lean all your weight against the door, and wait until they calmed down. If you stuck around, if you thought you could talk to them or fight back, then you would quickly learn what it was like to fight someone who was no longer playing by any sorts of rules, who was trying to cause as much injury to your person as possible and to whom pain made no difference in their attempt to do this. I know my cousin was bloody terrifying like that.
In any case, as Bailey was leaning back for another swing, I grabbed his leg with all my limbs like a kid who doesn’t want to go to bed. His surprise lasted for a fraction of a second before he tried to kick me off, but I hung on like a bulldog and bit into the back of his leg, hard enough to taste blood. Keeping the pressure on, I sawed my lower jaw back and forth, chewing into the flesh as he rained blows onto my head with the pipe. He was no longer holding back, but the angle was awkward, and all it elicited was a muffled growl between the gnawing and the occasional starbursts of colour and static that filled my vision whenever he got a good hit.
Smugface, of course, was ignoring his buddy’s shouts and sounded like he was trying not to collapse from laughter. There was probably talking happening, or at least yelling on one side and snickering on the other, but as far as I was concerned at the time it might as well have been Esperanto.
Now the Achilles tendon is under a great amount of tension. When it snaps, it’s like a piano wire being cut. Bailey gave a howl as the previously taut muscle disappeared towards his right knee. I let go of his leg as he fell like a tree, wiped my stinging mouth with the back of my arm, spat blood on the concrete floor, and then pounced on him, all forty five kilograms of my weight going through my knees into his gut. Then I punched him in the throat. Then I started industrially trying to claw his eyeballs out. No, I don’t know why either.
Well, he’s a Proxy. Even winded, wheezing, blinded by blood, in intense pain from a leg that had just had the equivalent of a wound spring smash everything up in it, in a disadvantageous position and with nasty gashes in his face, he was capable of defending himself. If he’d had any kind of martial training he would have beaten me hands down, sudden attack of insanity or no. He grabbed my wrists and started pushing me up off him. I drummed my knees on his stomach and spat in his wounds, to little more than a grunt. So I went back to my weapon of choice; my teeth sank into one of his wrists and didn’t stop. He was now bleeding quite badly. Involuntarily, his grip in that hand weakened; not enough for me to wrench it away, but enough for me to be able to close in to headbutt him. Hard. His nose made a satisfying crunching sound. I bit the jagged remains of it and twisted, grinding my teeth. His instinctive reaction was for his hands to fly to his face. Not smart, but he probably wasn’t thinking very coherently by this point anyway. I took the opportunity to make a grab for the abandoned pipe. It wasn’t there.
I found out where it was when I was smacked off him by Smugface. I rolled some distance away and rose to a runner’s crouch, hissing. Smugface tossed the pipe to his off hand and drew his gun, pointing it straight at me.
I wasn’t intimidated in the slightest. That isn’t a boast, it’s a downright concern. In the fucked up state my mind was in there was nothing but feeling pain, and inflicting pain. There was no fear, and I don’t think I could even comprehend the idea of death. The gun was just an L shaped piece of metal to me.
We faced off over the groaning, slowly moving body of his friend. He was yelling something now. The words went straight over my head but I understood the tone. Back off. Back down.
I screamed at him. This was nothing like a scream of fear. It was the sound someone makes when they want to burst eardrums. It had murderous intent in it. I hunched my shoulders, stared straight into his eyes, and took a deliberate, defiant step forward. I didn’t need to bare my teeth. My face had been locked in a bloodstained rictus grin the entire time. I was doing the equivalent of a cat fluffing its fur to make itself bigger, because that’s what I thought he was doing, and I was assured I could call his bluff.
…yeah. If he hadn’t been told not to kill me, I wouldn’t be alive right now.
He stood his ground, returning my gaze. The gun didn’t waver. I screamed again, this time stepping to the side, circling him. The slightest movement of his eyes, towards the door. Weakness! Uncertainty! I sprang.
I think much of what let me tackle him was pure surprise. You have to be an absolute nutcase to charge someone with a loaded gun, and even more insane to do it if they look like they’re good with it, and he just wasn’t expecting it. Before he could react I’d twined one of my legs around one of his and bent it out from under him, exacerbating his fall. The gun went off into the ceiling, and I was leaning with all my weight onto his throat. He dropped the gun and pipe; one too long for quarters this close, the other too tricky to aim nonlethally at the speed things were going, and closed his hands around mine. It became a race to see who could strangle the other first, and even though I had a head start it was extremely close. I was passing out and little lights were popping everywhere by the time his eyes rolled back into his head.
I stood up and nudged him a little, panting and wheezing and clawing at my throat. When I’d recovered a bit more, I took a good run up and kicked him in the ribs. No response. I immediately became bored with him and looked for the door.
Between me and the door was yours Slenderly. I froze.
Looking back on it, because I sure wasn’t in any position to be noticing things then, it was odd. There was… nothing. Not a sudden awareness of his presence, the equivalent of a polite cough, not that emoticon aura, no white noise, not even the waves of fear inducing power and wrongness that usually come off him in waves. He was just a smug no faced bastard businessman with tentacles, to my perception.
I growled at him. He simply tilted his head to the side. I felt a surge of anger and my territory mine mine MINE, and screamed. It sounded more like tortured metal than anything else, strangulation having reduced my windpipe to the size of a straw, but it got the message across or so I thought. Then I snatched up the steel pipe and ran at him with it. Anyone who’s seen the Everyman HYBRID videos knows how well that went. I woke up on a garage roof in the late afternoon. It had been morning when I’d entered the warehouse.
My first thought was auuuuuugh oh god how can this many nerve endings exist, only a lot less eloquent and involving more expletives. I must have been left unconscious on the roof for some time because my entire front was a glorious skin peeling sunburn and the blood around my hands and mouth was crusted and flaking. I idly started to lick it off before my second thought, which was what the hell am I doing and why am I eating valuable samples, arrived at the station. My third thought was I hope no one’s seen me up here and called the police, I look like a psycho, which was funny in hindsight. In a not that funny way.
It took me several tries at standing up, one puking my guts out, and two close calls with the edge before I was safely on terra firma. And that is why, ladies and gentlemen, I am lying on the couch slathered in aloe vera and covered in every frozen item in the freezer, which currently only contains my first sample of Proxy blood. Let’s tally the results, shall we?
Proxy 1, ‘Smugface’: Asphyxiation, sore ribs.
Proxy 2, ‘Bailey’: Facial lacerations, heavy bruising, bleeding wrist, snapped Achilles, very broken nose, nnnnnot sure if I actually managed to get any eyes out or not, there was a lot of blood.
Me, ‘Idiot’: Concussion, headache the size of a small moon, a heavy dose of ‘why the hell did I do what I did last night’ only without the pleasure of actually having been drunk beforehand, sunburn that makes even a breeze agony, bruises absolutely everywhere, sore ribs, head wound, sore jaw, busted throat that makes anything more than a croak or squeak impossible at this stage good thing I have no one to talk to, eh?, sore wrists, sore shoulder, coughing up blood.
Slender Man, ‘Bastard’: Absolutely zip.
So really, there’s only one winner here, and it is definitively not me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to take way more ibuprofen than I should and try to get some sleep.