Sunday, March 30, 2014

[OOG] Big News!

Hello, everyone! I'm Andrew A. Koerner, the primary author of Don't Shoot The Messenger!

It's been a long time since DSTM, hasn't it? In less than a month, it will have been three years since the blog began, and a month after that, it will have been two years since it's ended. It's been that long, but it feels like far less than a year. It almost feels like I'm still writing it. Maybe that's because, in some sense, I still am. More on that in a bit.

Before I get into things, I'd like to take a moment to thank all of you. All the readers, all the followers, all the commenters...every single one of your responses kept me going through this. Being able to see your immediate feedback was great, and many of you were able to influence the story in one way or another. If nothing else, you kept me going. Much of the blog was written during a particularly stressful part of my life, and your responses to it were what helped me see it through to the end. So thank you. You made it a form of release rather than a job.

Anyway as I'm sure you're aware, I attempted to continue with the universe started in DSTM, or at least pass on the title of Messenger. The character, after all, began as a tool to help out all those people who hadn't planned far enough in advance, needed a way to end the blog, decided to kill the protagonist, and then went "oh, shit" when they realized they had no good way to let people know that the protagonist had been killed. My plan was to step back and let a team continue working within that particular continuity, working only as a coordinator to allow me to work on other projects.

Those attempts...did not work out particularly well, as I'm sure you've noticed. The first person I passed the title to stopped updating, went AWOL and cut off communication with the team, and then for some reason got angry and blocked me when I was forced to go through other people in order to make contact. The second Messenger and the rest of the team fell behind or had their plots thrown off by this occurrence, and those things, along with life getting in the way (always an issue), ended up pretty much killing that continuity entirely.

However, I still wasn't done with DSTM. While I was fairly satisfied with how the story turned out, there were a few things I felt I could have done better. A restructuring of the plot to keep certain characters from being introduced last-minute. More emphasis on Poe's storyline to add a bit more understanding to her character. The ability to restructure the plot to fill in the holes left by my stream-of-consciousness make-it-up-as-I-go method of writing.

That's why I ultimately decided to work on a rewrite. This rewrite will tell the story of the New York Division as a stand-alone novel set within the mythos rather than a blog within the Slender Man Blogverse. I plan on eventually releasing the finished work as an ebook for purchase, but in the meantime, it's being published as a serial novel through my school's web paper. Check it out if you're interested! And feel free to check out some more work in the Trojan Times if you'd like. I'm sure you're not particularly interested in the local or school-specific events, but there's still plenty of enjoyable material.

Anyway, that's the status of Don't Shoot The Messenger right now! I hope you'll keep an eye on this "definitive edition" of the story!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Command

I've been working to make a lot of changes recently.  I've replaced Eternity, and Screwtape and Poe needed replacements.  I traveled the Path in hopes of guidance.  The Path is...unusual now that I've lost my sight.  I can sense things there, and I have a vague idea of what things look like.  It's like dreaming: I can't see anything, but it's like I'm accessing and acting out a memory in my mind.

It's difficult to adjust.  I've gone from being on the bottom of the rung to a high-ranking official.  Tempest isn't entirely comfortable that I outrank her now, but she's being professional about it.  There's also the fact that I'm Oracle to more than one division.  I'm going to need to learn more names, which is going to be even more difficult now that I don't have faces to put them to.  On top of that, the loss of my eyesight has changed my entire life.  Since I can't exactly do much work with computers for most of my life now, I've lost all my old income opportunities.  It's a big change, and it hasn't been easy.

I've talking to Tempest and Jacob about our courses of action.  We've needed a lot of replacements.  After all, we lost two Trackers and a Messenger, and since Eddie has been relocated, we needed a new Handler, too.  Fortunately, we've gotten everyone replaced now, and one of our new Trackers may be a familiar face to some of you.  At the same time, Muad'Dib and Holiday, respectively our Pilot and one of our Sweepers, have picked up blogging.  If you still feel the need to keep an eye on this division, they're probably your best options.

As for the position of Messenger, it's been passed on to an old friend of mine who goes by "Ratatoskr."  He has not decided to work as part of this division yet, so Jacob is not currently funding him.  However, Annabel and I had funds saved up from when we were planning to run, so I'll be paying him out of my own pocket for a while.  There is also now a blog dedicated entirely to reports, eulogies, and obituaries that I began working on in my final week as Messenger.  I'll have one of my aides fill things out a bit more.  Ratatoskr will help with filling that out, too.

I've been visiting her now that Eddie's been transferred.  TE-119H.  Not Poe.  Not Annabel.  That's all she is now.  Just an identification number.  She'll almost certainly never recover.  And it's...painful.  Painful to be around her.  I can't even forget what she looks like, due to the visions.  I'll sit with her and hold her hand but she won't even react.  She doesn't recognize me anymore.  Never will again.

Oh yes.  The visions.  There are some memories I constantly relive relive.  Failures.  Hardships.  Disasters.  The most frequent one is finding her broken, but there are other things.  Every vision is a hell for me.  And I see them all vividly, like I actually have sight again.  While the Path is a reality that feels like a memory, the visions are memories that feel like realities.

It's strange.  None of those things happened to Justice.  But they still happened to me.  I've changed who I am, and yet, I'm still the same person.  I'm not The Messenger.  I'm not even Alan.  I'm Justice now.  But I'm still the Messenger.  I'm still Alan.  And I'm still not entirely sure of my identity.

Identity.  A strange thing.  You wouldn't think it's that complex.  But with who you were, how you change, who He makes you be, and who you pretend you are, it's not an easy thing to figure out.  I guess that's our curse, though.  We can't know who we are.  Maybe we're like Caper and hide behind a mask so thick that we become a completely different person.  Maybe we're like Alex and emulate a character, hoping to follow their story ourselves.  Maybe we're like William, scraping up what little identity we can find and clinging tightly to it.  Or like Poe, Annabel, and TE-119H, unsure of who exactly we are.  Like Nee-chan, embracing a characteristic and amplifying it into a persona.  Or like me back when I was the Messenger, stupidly pretending I could remain as someone I used to be.

Who am I?  Who are you?  Who are any of us?  Can we even know?

But I'm rambling.  Forgive me, friends.  I feel a compulsion to talk.  Like I can't quite abandon this.  I know that there's no coming back here once I've said my last words.  I suppose I'm still clinging to a bit of The Messenger.  He was a troublemaker, though.  An idiot who didn't know what he was doing, unthinkingly spilling truths when so many of us speak in half-truths and lies.  I envy his naivety, but it's best for me not to cling to him any longer.

Very well.  Let's end this.  Nice and brief, now.

Goodbye, my friends.  May His whims favor you long enough that you live another day.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Justice

The Path took me somewhere today.  It's the only time it's taken me to another location.

I emerged in the church I first met Eternity in.

He was there.

I had known this, of course.  I had come dressed in a simple dark cloak, in contrast to his flashy robe, intending to mock him.  To let him know that I would be the one to end him.  His arrogance had driven the organization into the ground and I would pull it from its disrepair.

All his previous bravado was gone, however.  He still wore that purple robe over jeans and a t-shirt and looked about the same as always.  But he reacted...differently.  He was far more serious about everything.

"I've been expecting you, Alan," he said.

"So you know I'm here to kill you."

He closed his eyes and smiled, but the smile wasn't smug or sarcastic.  It was...somehow genuine.  "Yes.  Just as I intended to kill Azrael.  You know why you're here now, don't you, Alan?"

"To take your place."

"And you know why I call you Alan now?"

I nodded, pieces of a larger puzzle I had not quite been able to grasp slowly interlocking in my mind.  "Yes."

"So, Alan.  Tell me."  He looked up at me.  "What shall I call you now in my final moments?  Who are you?"

Another piece fell into place.  "I am Justice."

He nodded somberly.  "Good.  Good.  I've been waiting to hear that name for months.  You've finally found it.  Are you willing to listen to a dead man's final words?"

"Go on."

He took a deep breath and started started speaking, pacing slowly as he did.  Slowly, but with deliberation.  Not flourish.  "I'm incredibly sorry for everything.  If there was another way to do things, I would have.  But you had to break.  It was the only way.  You had to see the darker side of those close to you.  You had to lose people."

He sighed.  "You came here to kill me.  But you won't.  I didn't kill Azrael, though I wish it was that easy.  The Slender Man will come to claim me, just as he came to claim Azrael.  Just as he'll come to claim you when your successor comes.  He'll also come for something from you.  I'm sorry, Justice.  I wish it weren't so.  But you'll have to pay a price.  Some lose a limb or two.  Some lose an emotion.  But every Oracle pays a price."  He fell silent for a moment.  "I had to as well.  You have to be a broken man to be an Oracle.  You have to break yourself."

"And what price was that?" I asked him.

He was silent for a moment.  "I used to be in a situation like yours, Justice.  I was a noncombatant in all of this.  Removed from any major conflict.  And like you, when the time came, I knew what I needed to sacrifice.  I asked...I asked them to bring me a homeless person.  Someone not on our side or their side.  An innocent.  A bystander in this whole war, but someone whose absence wouldn't be missed.  They...brought me a girl.  She couldn't have been more than ten years old.  I knew I had to...I had to give up my innocence.  I had to make myself a murderer.  A monster.  And I had to...I killed her with my bare hands."  He started laughing, his hand gripping half of his face as he looked at me with one wild eye and his mad laugh's crescendo grew.  "But that's not all.  Noooooo, that wasn't all I did.  I had to make sure I was really truly broke her.  So before that, I raped her.  I raped and killed her.  By my own choice.  I hated every second of it but I forced myself to do it because I knew I had to.  And every month I killed another.  Did brutal things.  Because that's what I had to give up.  My innocence in all of this.  And you'll have to give something up too.  Something to break yourself."

I fell silent for a while.  "I've already lost plenty."

"That helps.  I lost almost nothing.  But what you've already lost won't be enough for him."

"I killed her.  Worse.  I forced her into a fate worse than death."

"As much as everyone blames you and you blame yourself, you're not the only one at fault.  There has to be something, Justice."

I paused.  "She's still alive.  But I'll never see her again.  I can't let myself."  I looked up at him.  "He'll take my sight."

He nodded.  "And you know the visions that will come with that?"

I gave a heavy sigh and nodded.  I knew what would happen if I lost my sight.  "Yes.  I know."

"Good.  That will do."  He turned so I couldn't see his face.  "I know I've failed.  It went well for a while but ultimately, I fell like we all do.  So now I have another price to pay.  It's your time now, Justice."  He began swaying slightly.  "He's...he's coming.  I can feel it.  It's time for me....  I know you'll do well, Justice.  Good luck."

And then The Boss appeared before us, stepping towards Eternity, his body swelling and swallowing the man's up.  He then turned to me, and everything faded to black.  And I struggled to regain consciousness until I revealed that I wasn't asleep or dreaming.  It was reality and my sight was gone.

I am Justice now.  I am Messenger no longer but an Oracle.  I'll need an aide now to help me with a few things, but for now, Tempest, my old Handler, has agreed to type this up for me, now that my world is dark.

I have to go for now.  I have a lot of work to do.  I'll be back, though.  There are still things unsaid, but I need to take care of some business before that is possible.

But only once.  The Messenger is gone.  His replacement should be showing up soon.  But me?  Justice?

I have no reason to have anything to do with you people anymore.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

It is Decided

This organization is a fucking mess.

Everyone is fighting and dying and the whole thing is collapsing.

I know what I must do.

Time to begin my final preparations

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Meeting Justice

I met a man.

The Path led me to a small shelter.  Just a crude hut.  I entered and saw a man sitting on a bench, dressed in a dark, hooded cloak, a small scale sitting on the table near his right hand.  He looked up as I entered, and as the light penetrated his hood I saw a blindfold across his eyes.  The blindfold read, in capital letters, "JUSTICE."

He smiled faintly, cautiously.  "Oh.  So it's you."

I looked at the man.  Something about him seemed familiar.  A sort of deja vu.  Maybe I had met him before or maybe it was one of those times where I hadn't met him yet but I knew I would.  Time on the Path doesn't make much logical sense and isn't easy to explain.

"Who are you?" I asked him.

"I am Justice" is all he said.

"Are you...?"

He nodded.  "Blind?  I am.  But on the Path, things are a bit different.  My eyes are closed, but my mind can see, like a dream.  I wouldn't call it sight, exactly.  More like remembering an event that's happening right now."

And I did not understand, but still I spoke because I knew I was supposed to.  "And what is your nature?"

"I am an Oracle," he said.

"And are you a vision, or are you on the Path?"

He smiled sadly.  "I, like you, am on the Path."

"And," I asked him, "will I ever meet you?"

He replied, "We will never again meet face to face."

"Then when are you?  Are you Oracle before or after my time?"

And he simply smiled before telling me "Neither.  I am Oracle during your time.  And I'm afraid that now our time is up, and you must go.  I know that you do not understand.  Such is so often the nature of prophecy.  But you will remember this conversation.  Be sure to write it down, for you will need it again."

And the world around me began to fade and I woke up again.  I came here and I wrote down every last word exactly.  I remember it perfectly.  The conversation is still there, safe within my mind, a memory etched in stone that feels as if it is a part of me.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Visions

I see things.

I find myself sitting alone in my room far too frequently now.  It's not like there's anyone who'd come by anymore.  Not even Nee-chan visits now, because "you're too gloomy, Messi-kun."

I sit.  That's all I do.  I sit.  I hear his voice, that alien urging in my mind that I find so unfamiliar.  And I listen.  I've given up trying to drive it out, because it's not going away.  So I listen.

And I see things.

I close my eyes, and the world fades away.  The temperature in the room drops, and I feel a slight breeze.  Not like I've left my window open, but like I've left all four walls, floor and ceiling open.  When I open them, I don't know if I'm awake or asleep, but I know that what I see is real.  I find myself on a dirt Path in an open, endless field.  The sky is Black, but it's not night.  If it were, I could see the moon and stars.  The grass is a sickly shade.  And lining the Path is a row of dead trees, on which Leaves bud, emerge, and fall, all in a matter of seconds.

Black Leaves.

And it dawns on me that I've seen this place before.  Once, months ago, I watched as a city alley became this Path, and a young athlete calling herself Atalanta ran into the heart of it.  I didn't believe it could exist then.  And I don't believe it can exist now.  Even as I stand in it, it feels like I'm awake, but dreaming.  As if what I see is not quite the reality, but an illusion forged by my own mind.

I pick up one of the Leaves.  It's soft, like velvet, but just touching it makes my head buzz and causes me to feel ill.  If I forget about the Leaves, I can barely see them, even as they're falling around me.

I left the Path once.  Only once.  As soon as I did, I felt terribly sick.  My head started spinning, and darkness started closing around me as I forced myself to stay upright.  I awoke in my apartment, sprawled on my carpet, lying in a pool of my own vomit.

So I walk.  I walk along the Path, and I see where it takes me.  The trip is never long.  Sometimes, I meet the dead.  Sometimes, I meet the living.  Sometimes I know them, sometimes I don't.  But it's never someone close to me.  And I never remember more than what I need to know--which is, most often, simply that I encountered them.  Sometimes I remember a word or two.  Sometimes it's a code or password that helps me with my job.  But more often than not, it's nothing.

Sometimes I find things.  Things I'm supposed to have.  Things I'm not supposed to have that The Boss wants me to have.  A small trinket of some sort.  Sometimes, it's something I'm not supposed to have.  It's a clue.  I don't always know what it's a clue for, but I always figure it out by my next trip into the Path.

I'll see things, and then I'll Black out, waking up in my apartment.  If there's something I was supposed to have, I'm holding it.  But it always fades back into my apartment.  Never anywhere else.  Why did The Messenger cross the Path?  Clearly not to get to the other side.

On my most recent travel, I finally found the Tree.

As I reached the peak of a hill, I saw it in the valley below.  Even from the distance, I could see dark blood oozing out of it like sap, a body on every branch.  Most bodies I recognized.  Hyde's.  Caper's.  Alex's.  Screwtape's.  Donovan's.  Kyle's.

Poe's.

...

My own.

I increased my pace, even though I wanted to turn around and run.  I've never run away.  I've never been able to.  The Path doesn't work that way.

And then I reached the foot of the Tree.  The image wavered, and for a second, the branches became arms and the Tree had a body and it was Him, it was The Boss, or maybe it wasn't, and then The Boss stood before me, separate from the Tree or maybe He wasn't.  And he looked at me and I saw His Face, he had a Face, but also had no Face, and I saw it though it wasn't there or didn't see it even though it was.

And He looked at me.  And He spoke.  Four words, spoken aloud, echoing through the air but also in my mind.

"Now Do You Understand?"

And I did.  I understood, and I still understand, even though I cannot describe or explain or put it into words.  I don't even understand what exactly it is that I understand.

But I do.  I understand.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Voices

There are voices in my head.

I know what it means.  It means I'm going crazy.  That I'm breaking down.  Only these aren't just some imaginary voices, they're his voices.  They're whispers that sound like spiders crawling through my brain and gnawing holes in my thoughts and crawling into them.

They come and go and I don't even realize when they do.  Sometimes I'll suddenly start hearing them and I'll just brush them off but sometimes I'll be sitting down staring at my computer screen and suddenly realize that I haven't touched it in an hour and then I'll realize that I can't hear anything and it's because he's there and I know he's there I can hear him, I can feel him and I'll turn around and he'll be gone.

They're gone.  They're all gone and he's all that's left.