Another gradual de-anon from the kink meme for me. This time I'm doing something a little unusual, putting up three or four parts of the story at once, so that this'll only be about four sections long instead of 12 like it was on the meme.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Slender Man mythos, I recommend TV Tropes and the YouTube channel "MarbleHornets" as a way to look into this interesting phenomenon. General warning, the Marble Hornets videos in particular are considered quite frightening by some and this is, generally speaking, a horror story, so be prepared to be frightened.
Disclaimer: I do not own Hetalia, nor the Slender Man mythos. I am also not responsible for any loss of sleep that results from reading this fic.
He began with a story. His kind always did.
When Alfred had been very small, too small to even roam his own lands, someone – he didn't remember who, only that her voice was both familiar and warm – had warned him of the power in stories. She said that the creatures who stalked their woods and nightmares, who preyed upon their people and felled even the fiercest of warriors, once existed only within the minds of men. Skinwalkers, Wendigo, the snake men of the sky, all were born this way, capturing imagination until they could steal an existence for themselves. This, she warned, was why storytelling was as much a responsibility as a form of entertainment.
Arthur was never so cautious. He told stories on a whim, when Alfred was bored or anxious or about to go to sleep. Alfred was young then, though not as young as he had been, and he loved Arthur's stories, but the frequency and carelessness frightened him.
Arthur was quick to dismiss such notions whenever they arose. Creatures created stories, he said, not the other way around. Simply talking about an imaginary thing would not make it reality, no matter how fiercely the teller believed. Such worries were nothing but a silly native superstition.
He said this so often – even consulting the answer with his own mysterious fairies, who were supposedly bound to their ancient Old World homes – that Alfred began to believe him. In time, he forgot.
It would be many centuries before he knew the power of stories again; but by that time, it was already too late.
He had come into the world.
Part One: Arrival
For Alfred, the story began with a movie, a forest and his least-favorite time of the year.
The forest was lush and evergreen despite the thick layer of snow, as could be expected from the Great White North itself. It was a lovely sight, but when he arrived Alfred could admire it for a moment before an icy wind chilled him right to the bone.
"Ah, dammit!" he moaned, wringing his mitten-clad hands. "Why is it always so cold here?"
Matthew rolled his eyes as he hoisted open the trunk of their suburban. "It isn't that bad."
"Oh sure, you can say that."
"Well you were the one who wanted to come here in the first place.
Alfred huffed, but didn't try to deny what he knew to be true. He shifted the leather satchel at his side and unveiled an expensive, high-end digital video camera – his latest of many. Matthew was one of the few people familiar with Alfred's personal investments in the film world, and the only one besides Eduard – Alfred's trusted technical editor – who knew that car chases and explosions were not the only sort of cinema to catch his eye.
In truth, Alfred had a soft spot for nature documentaries and had even won an award, under a pseudonym, for an artistic piece on one of his deserts, blossoming after a rare storm. The dreadful winter months had inspired him to film the emergence of spring. Calling in a favor from his twin brought them here.
Alfred booted up the camera, checked that its memory and back-up cards were in place (they were) and turned its lens on the forest. What he saw there, once the focus was set, brought a smile to his face. "This place is gorgeous, Mattie."
"Figured you'd like it. There hasn't been any logging or hunting up here for ages, especially not so close to the border and that national park of yours."
Alfred nodded absently, taking a panning shot of the tree line. There were only a few bare shrubs here around the cabin, but out there, life was sleeping beneath the cold blanket of winter. There was only a few more weeks left to that dreadful time. Soon, it would all be waking up…
He stopped. There was something off with the video.
"Hey, Mattie?" he called to his brother. "I thought you said there wasn't another cabin for miles up here."
"Then who's that?"
Matthew let the suitcase he dragged from the car thump against the ground and turned to where his brother was pointing. He frowned. "Who's who? There's nobody there."
Alfred blinked, looked over the camera and checked again. He could have sworn that he'd seen a tall man in a black suit standing among the trees, watching them. But now, he zoomed in and out of the spot and only saw the scraggily trunks.
"Ah…never mind. Must have been a trick of the light."
"Must have. Help me get the luggage in, we have to air out the cabin. You can play with your camera later."
Alfred pouted. "It's not playing."
"Filming then. Come on."
With a shrug, Alfred took one last panning shot of the tree line and booted down the camera. On the edge of his vision, he thought he saw something move; but when he looked there was nothing there. Must have been a trick of the wind.
Part Two: Watcher
Well after the sun went down, Alfred sat at the kitchen table, scowling at his laptop. It just didn't make any sense.
"This place is gorgeous, Mattie." "Figured you'd like it. There hasn't been an– screeeeeeeechpoppapoppabrrscreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech."
"Figured you'd like it. There hasn't been an– screeeeeeeechpoppapoppabrrscreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech."
Every time he played back that afternoon's video clip, it was always the same thing. The picture leapt about, jerking and discoloring from frame to frame, and the sound dissolved into inexplicable distortion. There was no possible reason for it. Matthew's cabin had its own generator, since the power lines didn't run out this far, but they hadn't even opened the door when he'd taken this shot, let alone turn the thing on, so it couldn't have been electrical interference. And it couldn't be that something was broken, because it picked up again as normal just as Mattie started to talk about bringing the luggage in. It was bizarre.
Alfred frowned at the frozen frame, trying to see the trees through the distortion and color. It was no use. The whole segment was a loss.
Matthew stuck his head over the banister and frowned at his brother. "Hey Al. Are you coming to bed or not?"
"Yeah, sorry Mattie," Alfred said sheepishly, erasing the memory card and all its ruined footage. "I'll be right there."
He whipped the card clean, booted down his laptop and carried the camera upstairs to his room, where the charger was waiting. Matthew leaned against the door of his own room across the hall, holding Kumajiro like a doll. "I'm going to have to go into town tomorrow. We only brought enough food for tonight, so we'll need to stock up."
"Fine by me. Do you mind if I stay here?" Alfred brandished the lifeless camera with a grin. "I'd like to start filming for real as soon as I can."
Matthew shrugged, digging into his pocket. "Sure. Just don't wander off too far, the doors only open if you have the key."
He tossed said key, heavy and iron, to Alfred with an underhand lob. Alfred caught it one-handed. "Even when you're leaving the place?"
"That's a little twisted, Matt."
"It's an old house. That's the best security system I could afford back then."
Alfred chuckled, pocked the key and wished his brother goodnight. Each retired to their own rooms, changed into their nightclothes and turned out the lights. As they drifted to sleep, a cool silence fell across the cabin, only the wind to be heard for miles around.
For about an hour or so, there was peace. Then, something scraped across Alfred's window.
The sound was soft, a squeal in the night, but it was so close that it startled his from his dreams. Alfred blinked into the dark, decided he was imagining things and rolled over. Through the thick glass, he could see only the moon, fuzzy around the edges without Texas to bring his vision into focus. He watched for a moment, then let his eyes close again and drifted back to sleep.
It came again, high and keening, like a nail against the glass. Alfred opened his eyes and spotted a dark figure, blocking out the moon.
He jumped and scrambled for his glasses. The moon immediately came into focus, but nothing else – there was nothing there.
Alfred got out of bed and went to the window. It was a single pain that did not open, welded shut after a clumsy repair job generations ago. Though the moon was bright and full in the sky. Alfred could not see the ground as more than a grey blur. The nearest tree was almost thirty feet away.
Alfred frowned, an uncomfortable squirm rising in his stomach. He was certain that he'd heard something, and he couldn't figure out what, but he had a hunch of how to find out.
He set up his camera and went back to an uncomfortable, restless sleep.
( - )
First thing the next morning, Alfred took his camera downstairs and checked the footage. He hadn't heard the scraping again during the night, but he couldn't shake the anxiety that kept him lying awake. The lack of sleep was grating on his already frazzled nerves.
Loading the footage seemed to take forever. Once that was finally done, it took another age to fast-forward through hours of him not-sleeping without event.
Suddenly, the image jumped.
Alfred rewound and played the video again, this time at normal speed. The time stamp read 2:37 am. From then until 2:39, everything was normal.
Then the sound began again.
The video leapt and twisted like a roller coaster car. Its frames were pulled and stretched, distorting the color before suddenly setting, for a split moment, on the normal scene. The sound distortion continued.
There was someone in the window.
Alfred's breath caught in his throat. He paused the video on that frame and triple-checked his eyes. There was a man in a suit standing at his second-story window. And Alfred couldn't see his face.