I'm assuming you've read the previous post, and if not, what the hell are you doing reading this one? But for the sake of those of you who've lost time or something, Atalanta's been staying with Poe and me. I interviewed her, and then we followed her to find out what happens during "His Half," as she calls it.
First the interview.
Messenger:So, Atalanta...um...how was today? Okay? Better than most? Sleep well?
Atalanta: Considering I had a bed, yes. Thank you so much for letting me come here. Not much I can do for you in return. Need a magic briefcase?
M: Thanks for the offer, but I'd, um...I'd rather not. No offense. So, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
A: Go ahead. Don't know what else there is to say, though. I put my story on my blog.
M: Well, yes, but I'd like a few more details. You've kind of got an interesting case. Now, I know I've already asked you, but could you tell me again, for the sake of this interview, what exactly you do during "your half?"
A: Stay alive, mostly. First I find a place to sleep. Then I do that. It's hard, but I try to rest until after noon. After that, ask for directions to McDonalds. Eat something. Hang around using the laptop. Sometimes I go shopping. For clothes, if mine are too gross. Other things when I need them. If I have time, I do touristy things. Free ones, I mean. Then back to eat more crap before my time's up. I try to be outside at the end.
M: And you have no clue what happens during "his half," do you?
M: Some clues, once in a while. That dead boy... I have an idea what happened that night. Typically not enough clues to know.
M: Now, how exactly did you get involved in all of this in the first place?
A: My friend. He showed me EverymanHYBRID. I said this on the blog. He's dead. One of my golden apples.
M: And you've mentioned something about a sort of deal you cut with The Boss...would you elaborate on that a bit? He gets half of your life, and what exactly do you all get in return?
A: I keep half myself. And He won't kill anyone else I care about. That's what He would have done. Killed them one by one to get me. I don't know why. But they're safe from Him now. So am I.
M: Heh...well, I guess that's one thing we kind of have in common, isn't it?
A: Yeah. Yours is the closest I've found. Not the same, but close.
M: No, not the same. Your case is pretty unique. I...now I feel bad, having a better deal than you. I'm...I really wish you could stay here. I know that neither of us have any control over that, but...goddammit, you're just a fucking kid. This isn't right. ...Sorry about that. That's not a question. You...you don't have to say anything.
A: It's... not that bad. I don't need to be pitied. It's... Others have it worse. Joel. Do you read that one? And there are younger people too.
M: Joel? Um...sorry. I...try not to commit many names to memory. Defense mechanism, I guess. [Poe informs me that she's talking about this blog.] But anyway, you've said how you got involved, what your deal was...I guess the only thing to ask now is 'why?' Why exactly did you make the deal? Just to save the people close to you, or was there something else?
A: Why? I- They wouldn't have died except for Him wanting me. It was my fault. I was being selfish. Not wanting to lose. But I had to. I had to. He wouldn't have stopped.
M: I don't think it was selfish. It was making a sensible move to keep the people you care about safe. You're not a bad person, Atalanta. You're as much a victim as anyone else.
A: No, I mean I was selfish not going to Him after the second dream. And I know we're victims. No matter what Hakurei said. Self-righteous bi- No, don't say I said that. [Note: I guess she didn't say that or something. But if she didn't, I did, because anyone who's not going to treat us like victims is probably a self-righteous bi-.]
M: Of course not. Um...do you still want to find out what happens during his half?
A: I should. If it's terrible, though... You want to know. So you follow me, if he lets you. Then it's your call. Look at me, passing the buck. No, tell me. I should know.
M: [I nodded] Poe and I will follow you. We'll post it and let you know. Um...sorry about waking you up before. I'm sure you'll want to sleep a bit longer. But, um...before you go...out of curiosity, what's your name?
A: Right now, just Atalanta. And whatever I make up if people ask. But I was --- Ritter [First name withheld for reasons at the end of this paragraph]. I know. Ritter's supposed to be one of His names. It just means knight. Knight isn't too uncommon for a last name. My father's side was German. --- Ritter is dead, though. I don't want anyone who knew me to know what really happened. Don't want this to show up on a Google search.
M: Um, well...thank you, for sharing, I guess. I don't imagine it was easy.
A: I probably said too much. It's because I don't get to talk to people much. Not honestly."
M: Thank you.
And now we get to this part. Let's not mince words and just dive right in.
She walked out of Poe's bedroom at around nine. I asked her if she was okay, kind of called her names (all three: her handle, the fake one she uses for her e-mail, and her real name), and didn't really get any response. She just looked around the room, then headed for the door. She looked...I don't know, not fully there? Like she was sleepwalking?
Anyway, Poe and I followed her around. She headed to a hardware store, and bought a can of black spray paint and a roll of Scotch tape. We then followed her to a library, where she sat down at a computer, started typing up a document that simply contained the URL for Marble Hornets, with the subtitle "Prepare for a Scare!" She also logged into a few forums (most seemed fairly random, but I think that at least a few were related to The Boss) and typed up a few things about him. Seems like she was basically spreading the word. Also, holy shit, was she a quick typist. Maybe that was the possession (not sure if that's the right word), but damn!
Anyway, she printed off a few copies of the document, used the tape she had bought to hang them on random poles and shit next to all the "Lost Dog" signs, spray painted a few operator symbols onto the walls of back alleys (you know, the circle with the X through it from Marble Hornets) and even over some actual graffiti.
Seemed pretty tame at that point. Quite a surprise after she talked about obtaining magical briefcases or waking up over dead bodies. Looked like, well...like basic advertising. We followed her as she did things like that for about an hour. And then
Come on, let's just write this down.
I don't even really know how to describe what happened. She made her way to a deserted back alley. And then she set the briefcase down and started stretching. Just stretched for about ten minutes. Then she paced back and forth a few times, turned back to the alley, picked up the briefcase, and took off at a sprint.
That's not the weird part.
As she ran, the air around her started warping. The walls of the alley blurred, the air got colder (exactly like it does when The Boss is around), and all of a sudden, the pavement about ten feet in front of us became a dirt path, the urban city became an open field, and the buildings sort of just trailed off, like they were a painting someone had stopped working on halfway through. Lining the path were contorted, barren trees. Well, almost barren. The trees were dead, but leaves were still somehow falling from them. Black leaves were growing on and falling from the trees, all within five seconds. And Atalanta was running through the heart of it.
Now, I'm not particularly well-read. But I've heard of the Path of Black Leaves. I thought it was bullshit. No one I've met has talked about it or even claimed to see it. And yet, there it was. I knew what it was, but I had no fucking clue what it was. It's...it was the second most fucked-up thing I've ever seen.
So we had two options: go through the Very Potentially Harmful Path of Unstable Space-Time And General What-The-Fuckery, or give up on our promise to find out what exactly happens during the time that Atalanta has no control over.
I turned to Poe, who just shook her head and said "I'm not going in there."
So we chickened out. We stared into the void until it started to blur again, like a fading dream (or in this case, nightmare), then was suddenly just the back alley again. Then we just turned around and headed home. Sorry, Atalanta. I wish we could do more. And we're sorry that you have to unknowingly go where we refused to follow.
-Don't Shoot The Messenger-
EDIT: for those of you who are wondering, Atalanta's still all right. At least, as much as it's possible for her to be. So I guess you should be worrying about her, but not any more than you would otherwise worry about her.