The Greatest Epilogue I've Ever Written to a 5 ½ part story. Because that's not confusing at all.
We've reached the end! I've had a fantastical time writing this, and I hope you've enjoyed reading along at least half as much. I thought about writing a lovely, poignant Author's Note to close the series out, but I'm spending 18 of the next 40 hours in skill testing, so all my eloquence has skipped town for the weekend.
Also! Tuesday is my birthday. There may be something going up that day, depending on how the next few days go-slash-how my hangover is treating me. Either way, kindly send cake.
And lastly, I don't own anything but a very worn notebook.
Epilogue: that it's all just a little bit of history repeating…
Wes had no recollection of how he made it back to Dalton. He did remember crawling into bed, his mirrored reflection looking painfully disheveled, as David wearily called Thad to activate the Warbler Wellness Quarantine for of the two of them before climbing in beside him.
The Warbler Wellness Quarantine was a brilliant tactical achievement standardized by the previous year's Warbler's Council, following an unfortunate incident in which a sophomore had sneezed on Blaine two weeks before Sectionals. After Blaine's skin tone had lost its violently orange hue (apparently, rapidly consuming 174 Emergen-C packets was not without consequences—Jeff and Flint spent days sputtering apologies for encouraging such rampant stupidity) it was decided that perhaps it would be best if there were standing protocols in place dictating appropriate behavior in the face of illness, to avoid such another dire situation.
Now that Wes and David were under Quarantine, then, they were confined to their current location—Wes's room—for 48 hours. A quartet of Warblers (selected from those without solos or upcoming auditions) would be the only ones allowed to enter the premises until they were deemed decontaminated—taking turns donning face masks and gloves to deliver rehearsal notes, homework, and wholesome, nourishing meals four times per day. No other Warbler was allowed to enter within 200 feet of their location without written consent from the senior-most Warbler Authority; Thad, in this case.
Though a few of the teachers thought the system somewhat militant, it was met with approval by the majority of the Dalton faculty, including the school physicians—not a single Warbler had managed to pass on a cold or infection since its institution.
Wes briefly considered that activating the WWQ was a slight overreaction to the showdown at McKinley. When the first two Warblers to bring him rich vegetable soup and orange juice went pale at the sight of him, however, he concluded that the somewhat extreme measure was indeed justified.
24 hours after returning to the sanctuary of Dalton, both Wes and David were feeling markedly improved. David had quit twitching and reacting to every minor sound with exaggerated alarm, and was contentedly watching NOVA while Wes read through the minutes from that afternoon's Warblers meeting.
Oddly enough, neither was yet feeling recovered enough to attempt their homework assignments.
Replacing the annotated minutes in their manila folder—they had two more pre-Regionals rehearsals, and Jeff was going to nail that footwork if it killed him—Wes spotted an envelope on the tray that he had previously overlooked. A yellow post-it note was affixed to the front—"Arrived yesterday, let me know if it's serious," Thad's precise handwriting indicated.
Wes peeled the note off. The letter was addressed To Wes and David, c/o the Dalton Academy Warblers, with the school's address printed underneath. The postmark was from Los Angeles, California.
Wes didn't know anyone in Los Angeles, California, nor had he ever received a letter that didn't bear his surname on the envelope. "David, turn that off," he instructed quietly, grabbing a letter opener from his desk drawer to slit the missive open.
The letter itself was several pages long, with scribbles, crossed out sentences, and sloppy addendums in several places. David raised an eyebrow, but settled in next to Wes in order to read along as Wes read it aloud.
"Dear Wes and David," the letter began,
"I know this must seem kind of weird, getting a letter from a guy you don't know and have probably never even heard of. If it helps, I feel kind of weird writing it. My therapist thinks that it would be cathartic, though, and I guess if I'm honest, I like the idea of being able to do something helpful.
Ok, I've just read back through the last few sentences, and so far I kind of sound like a nutjob. Maybe I am. But please, just keep reading—I promise that what I have to say is worth your time. I'll start at the beginning:
Up until last year, I used to live in Lima, Ohio. I guess in hindsight, it's pretty obvious that there's something…off, about Lima, but I guess it's not as noticeable when you grow up with it. Or maybe I was just too young to realize that it wasn't exactly a typical town. Either way, things were relatively normal until the year before last. That's when I started my freshman year at William McKinley High School.
I guess your first day of high school is supposed to be exciting and nerve-wracking no matter where you go, but I'm fairly certain that most first days don't involve dozens of students getting slushies thrown at them, only for the entire school to act like it was no big thing. And I mean the entire school—none of the teachers said anything, nobody's parents complained; even the floors were back to normal after a few minutes, even though I'd never actually seen a janitor (unless you count the week and a half Mr. Schue had the job, but that's another story). I tried to talk to my parents about how freaky it all was, but they just laughed and said that it was just the same as when they went to McKinley, and that I'd be fine since I had made the football team during August tryouts.
Nobody seemed to care, or even notice, that the slushies were everywhere, or that jocks through people into dumpsters, or that the teachers were barely competent in the subjects they were supposed to be teaching. After about two weeks, one of the senior guys on the team pulled me aside, telling me that that was just the way it was at McKinley, and that if I didn't shut up and stop asking questions, people were going to start throwing drinks at me too, football player or not.
I shut up and stopped asking questions.
That didn't mean I stopped noticing things, though: the way Noah Puckerman continued to pass math, English, and history, despite the fact that he skipped all three every day to go hang out in the nurse's office. The way nearly everyone in the whole school seemed to fit some sort of high school archetype—jock, geek, slut, whatever. The way that there never seemed to be any snow on campus, even though we lived in Ohio. Nobody ever wanted to talk about it.
Eventually, I just stopped talking altogether.
Sophomore year, things got increasingly weirder. Among other things, Puck decided that I should join the Glee club with him, despite the fact that he hadn't heard me speak in over seven months. The daily insanity of the New Directions (and seriously, could Mr. Schue have picked a more unintentionally raunchy name?), compounded with the freak show that was McKinley (even worse now that I was a sophomore, and we seemed to command all the social attention in the school) started really messing with my head. I started acting out in ways that I'm not proud of, even landing myself in the hospital once with a spider in my ear.
My parents made me go talk to Ms. Pillsbury, the guidance counselor, after that one. I had to explain everything to her—no easy task, since my voice was so rusty by that point—but she just got seriously distracted every time I mentioned Mr. Schue, and then cried for three hours when I accidently bumped into her pamphlet stand. Plus, her hospital-grade disinfectant gave me a rash.
Talking to Ms. Pillsbury, however ineffective it was, helped remind me that I have a voice, and a right to be heard. Breaking a habit of silence that had been ingrained in me for so long (well over a year by that point) was difficult, though. I summoned up my courage for weeks before finally uttering a full, articulate sentence in front of all of New Directions.
Nobody reacted at all. It was just another one of those 'quirky, charming' things that 'just sorta happen' at McKinley. I didn't try again.
The last straw for me came at our Regionals competition last year, when Quinn Fabray, one of our members, went into early labor after our performance and had to be rushed to the hospital. Now, keep in mind that I have three younger siblings. I've never personally witnessed a birth, but I know that it takes hours, and that for a first time mother, a birth time of over ten hours is considered perfectly average.
Quinn had her baby and we were all back in the auditorium within two hours of her water breaking backstage.
For the rest of the year, I was in a haze. I don't remember what I did or said, just that suddenly it was June, and I didn't have to go to school. Instead, I could hang around Lima—eating at our one restaurant, or drinking coffee at our one coffee shop, or eating vegan-approved pepperoni pizza and bowling at our one bowling alley.
I may have gone a little nuts.
When the end of August came around, I freaked out. I just couldn't face going back to that school for two more years. After three days, my parents called my uncle (he's a fireman) to come break down the bathroom door and take me home with him to see my aunt, who's a psychiatrist. After talking to me, she deduced that McKinley wasn't a healthy environment for me to work through my issues, and it was decided that I would stay in LA and attend St Carmichael's Holistic School, a boarding facility that specializes in emotionally troubled, but otherwise capable, students.
I hardly keep in touch with anyone from McKinley, and nobody there knows where I really am—my paperwork all says that I transferred to Laurence Harley Men's Institute on a football scholarship. It didn't come as a shock that forging the appropriate documentation didn't take much more than a printer. I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone where I was really going—both out of embarrassment, and because I was afraid that Mr. Schue would rally the troops, and everyone would come to sing to me about the healing power of music, and encourage me to solve my problems through song.
I've been here for several months, and I'm making good progress. I miss seeing my family every day, but I know that they love me, and that St. C's is the best place for me to be right now. The faculty and students are really supportive—each teacher makes a point to call on me at least once a day, to get me used to speaking in public again, and the other students even instituted a campus-wide ban on slushies after I shared my story in group therapy.
So that's my story, and I'm sure by now you've wondered several times why I've shared it with you. Well, my older brother is a freshman at OSU, and the last time he was home for the weekend, his best friend (still a senior at McKinley) told him a hilarious story about how a couple of private school kids that his cousin knew had paid him to steal school records from Ms. Pillsbury; records most notably related to the Glee club. Given my situation, my brother was concerned that someone was trying to get to me personally, and did a little investigating. It took him a while, but he eventually got your names, your affiliation with Dalton Academy and the Warblers, and the fact that you were conducting your own investigation of Lima and McKinley.
I'm not sure what you're trying to find out, but I wrote this letter, told you my story, as a warning—please, please quit while you're ahead. The longer you spend trying to make sense of McKinley, the more complicated it becomes, and the more questions it raises, and the more it gets under your skin until finally, you've locked yourself in a bathroom for three days and your family has to break down the door to get you out. I never wanted to be a cautionary tale, but I don't want anyone else's sanity to be compromised because of Lima the way mine was. If you want to know about the Glee club specifically, this I can tell you—they're good people, for all their obliviousness and frequent bouts of poor judgment. Sure, Rachel is both delusional and self-centered, and Brittany is dumber than a particularly well-worn bag of hammers, but if you're worried about them doing anything nefarious, you don't have to be.
If you've made it this far in my letter without quitting, thank you. I have my fingers crossed for you, and I wish you both the best.
PS- If you want to get in touch with me for any reason, you can write to me at Laurence Harley c/o Ken Tanaka, the gym teacher there. He had his own McKinley-related reasons for leaving Lima, and can be trusted to redirect any communication.
The room was silent for nearly ten minutes after Wes finished the postscript. "Didn't Brittany call you Matt, when we were there yesterday?" he asked finally.
David thought about it, before nodding. "Yeah, she did," he affirmed. "Was he—I mean, this letter…wow. Do you remember seeing a Matt Rutherford in the yearbooks, or reading his name in any of the files?"
Wes shook his head. "I don't," he said slowly, "but I wasn't looking for him in particular, so it's entirely possible that I skimmed over it."
Things were quiet again for a few minutes. Then David sat up. "Wes," he asked, "why would he call Brittany dumb? And why would everyone ignore her, at McKinley, when she mentioned the name Matt?"
Wes stared. "You're seriously going to do this," he stated flatly.
David had the good grace to look slightly ashamed of himself, even in his determination. "It's just inconsistent, that's all," he explained. "Almost as if…"
He trailed off. Wes's frown deepened—he knew exactly what David wasn't saying. "No," he said, trying hard for a tone of finality. "Not possible."
David frowned back. "Not likely," he corrected, "but certainly possible. Think about it—what better way to convince us to desist than to write us a fake letter from a McKinley survivor? Nobody said anything about Matt because Brittany made him up, and they knew about it."
Wes sighed deeply. "David. Brittany's subtlety is far more nuanced than that," he argued. "If she were to write us a fake letter, she wouldn't have referenced herself in it, and she certainly wouldn't have written such a blatant falsehood—there is no way she could have expected us to believe that anyone thought she was dumb."
"Unless she knew we would think that," David countered. "We have to consider all the possibilities, Wesley."
Wes considered the possibility that David was a moron.
And he was about to say so out loud, when David let out a sudden, strangled gasp, looking highly alarmed. "David, what is it? What's wrong?" he asked, grabbing David's shoulders, which shook slightly under his hands.
David swallowed. "I'm considering the possibility that Matt is real, but not in the way we first thought," he explained, voice hoarse. "Wes—what if Brittany isn't just an evil genius? What if she's a mentally ill evil genius? What if 'Matt' is an alternate personality, created by Brittany's brilliant-but-crazy mind? Think about it—'Matt can talk now?' She would have sent the letter a day or so beforehand. And someone as fantastically intelligent as Brittany must have noticed all the McKinley-Lima insanity, and yet it doesn't seem to bother her; it plagues Matt instead."
David's eyes lit up as Wes listened warily, not without a great deal of concern. "And everyone is nice to Brittany," he continued feverishly, "even though everyone else in that school has been at the bottom of the social heap at some point. Because you can't be mean to a crazy person."
Wes felt weak-limbed. "What about Matt's brother?" he asked, and David paused momentarily.
"I'm not an expert, but if Brittany knew about the stolen files, then it stands to reason that Matt would have known as well," he reasoned slowly, "even if he didn't know how he knew." He looked at Wes expectantly.
Wes, who was at a loss. "Don't you think it sounds a bit…illogical?" he asked finally, gazing gently at David.
David was undeterred. "What about McKinley isn't illogical?" he answered back.
Wes had to admit, for all his previous comic-book caliber logic, David had made a reasonable point there.
"If your hypothesis is true—and I'm in no way saying that I'm convinced," he cautioned, "why would Matt send us a letter? And how? It's postmarked from California."
David brandished the letter. "Forging the appropriate documentation didn't take much more than a printer," he quoted solemnly. "Wes, it's all in here—so many clues just waiting for us. And as for why…"
He swallowed. "As for why," he repeated, "the only reason I can think of that Brittany or her alternate would send us a letter warning us off the case is that we're learning too much. Wes," he emphasized, grabbing Wes's arm and looking at him with wide, intense eyes, "we've been gathering information for months, and only now is someone from the other side reaching out to us. If there truly is an explanation for everything that's happening at McKinley, then we're getting close."
Wes reached for his cell phone, in order to call Thad. He was going to need some extra time in Quarantine, and potentially some migraine medication.