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I was at his mercy, that was the only thing I could be sure of at that moment in time.
As I struggled helplessly in his grasp, realizing with a sinking heart that I was a doomed man, I had one final, absurd desire: to see the face of my attacker. This, however, proved to be as difficult as escaping his grasp.
I used my remaining strength to take in my attacker's appearance. Tall, thin, donning what seemed to be a suit- he appeared a normal man, though his limbs were quite disproportional to his body. But when my gaze settled on his face, or lack thereof, I knew this wasn't just a man.
My eyes met what would've been his, should he have had any. I suddenly felt a strange sense of resolve, of fearlessness. Content is the closest word I can think of to describe it; more of an acceptance of defeat than anything else. This contentedness was the final thing my mind processed before I was taken beyond.
Where I was taken to, I will never know for sure. I had the impression of being dragged away, away from reality, though my attacker's grasp never faltered. My surroundings became blurred, fuzzy, as though being viewed through wax paper. As my surroundings disappeared completely, I felt as though I was being dragged through some ocean of molasses, a thick void of unknown substance that gave way as I moved through it. All was dark.
Time passed. A minute, an hour, a year, I'm not positive. And then-could it be true?-Yes! My attacker released me! In my excitement, I failed to notice my surroundings had once again changed completely. It was still pitch black. After a few moments I noted, with a bit of embarrassment, that this was because my eyes were tightly shut. After building up a bit of confidence, I opened my eyes the tiniest bit.
A blinding light flooded in, stinging my then dark-adjusted eyes. After letting them adapt to the great light that now surrounded me, I opened my eyes completely. As the world slowly came into view, I realized I was lying face down on a hard, gritty, flat surface. I rolled onto my back with a great deal of effort and gazed up at the sky. All seemed normal; a bright blue, if a bit hazy, sky filled my view. I slowly turned my head to one side, feeling a crackling in my neck vertebrae, which had no doubt been unused for quite a while. This brought no pain, though.
I examined the ground I now laid upon. Pale, hard-packed, dry, sun-baked soil. Cracks spiderwebbed all across the soil, giving it the appearance of been through a drought. As my mind struggled to process what was going on, I gained the strength to sit up. More crackling in my joints. How long had I been motionless? I looked off into the horizon. The flat, whitish soil extended for miles in all directions-not another physical feature in sight, water, hills, ditches-nothing. Just a vast expanse of desert.
I felt no hunger, no thirst. Strange, I thought; I should be starving, considering how long I might've been unconscious. That thought was followed by a flood of questions. HOW did I get here? WHERE is here? WHY was I attacked in the first place? These three stood out more than the others in my mind at that moment.
I suddenly heard a faint scuffle of shoes behind me. Fearing the worst, I slowly turned to face the noise. I then realized I wasn't alone in this wasteland; my attacker was here with me.
As chills swept up and down my spine, I noticed my attacker looked quite different, though it was most certainly still him. His limbs had shifted into proportion, he appeared a bit shorter, and where there was once a blank mask, the handsome, groomed, smirking face of a man about forty had appeared. He stared at me with a soft, almost sympathetic expression.
I struggled to force my tensed up throat to speak. All that emerged was a choked gargle. The man's smirk grew a bit wider. After a moment, he spoke in a somewhat deep, accent-less voice.
"I realize you must have an endless amount of questions. They always do. Take your time, choose your first. I will answer to the best of my ability. There's absolutely no rush."
I laid back down, and drew in a few deep breaths. After a few seconds spent clearing my throat, I mustered barely a whisper, a croak of some sort. My first question, the most obvious one in my mind, escaped my lips.
"W-who are you?"
The man was silent for a moments, as though pondering this quite simple query. He spoke again, in the same soft tone as before.
"I honestly don't have a true name, or title. Those who have seen me have given me a few names, most of which I find quite amusing. Der Grossman, that one was given to me quite a while ago. A popular one now seems to be Slenderman."
My next question seemed fairly logical.
"Where are we?"
The man's smirk faltered at this question, but eventually he answered.
"Unfortunately, I do not possess an answer to this question. As a matter of fact, nobody knows where we are. Nobody, that is, except you. Though you might not realize it, you are the only being in this universe who knows where we are right now. You see, it's quite simple; we aren't in any arbitrary location that can be found on a map. No satellite could photograph us. This, all of this," the man took a moment to gesture about the vast wasteland that surrounded us, "does not exist. Not in the physical realm, at least."
Despite my utter confusion, I sighed. This cryptic answer gave me no helpful information. I ventured further.
"What do you mean? This is all in my head? A dream?"
The man chuckled, a somehow wise chuckle, akin to that of a schoolteacher explaining a new concept to a slow student.
"Yes, and no. You are correct in stating that this is all in your head, but this is no dream. Your language, sadly, doesn't possess a word to describe exactly what this is. Among my... associates, we call it anasachi, which has no real translation to any of your race's language. The best way to describe this is a deep sleep, a coma of some sort; anyone viewing your limp body in the physical realm will find it merely a shell, a "vegetable" as it's sometimes referred to as by your kind. Unresponsive to outside stimuli. All your brainpower has been directed inward, to create the world we are speaking in now."
At that moment, the reality of my situation hit me like a heavy punch to the gut. I'm in a coma, and I will be for who knows how long. I'm trapped in my own mind with this man, this monster, my attacker. I took a few moments to regroup and steady myself.
"Why did you attack me? Why...why did you bring me here?"
The man chuckled his wise chuckle again. He took a few steps towards me, and I had to muster forth an enormous will to refrain from scooting backwards, away from him. He knelt down beside me, mere inches from my face.
"I never attacked you, per se. You see, the human mind is a wonderful organ. Capable of working out complex equations, running dramatic scenarios, imaging fantastic possibilities. But there are certain... aspects of the human brain that evolution has forced into dormancy, for the well being of the species. These regions haven't been activated for many, many years. When I 'attacked' you, I took the liberty of... awakening these parts of your mind. And now, here we are."
The man stood and turned his back to me, taking a few steps forward. He folded his hands behind his back, and spoke his next words without turning to face me.
"Why did I attack you... there are many answers to that particular question. I've been watching you for quite a while, evaluating you. Eventually, I saw you as a prime... subject, for my ultimate agenda. I doubt you can perceive what this agenda's final goal is, but I will tell you that step one is to reactivate the regions of the human mind that have lain dormant. I know that for many humans, doing so will result in immediate death, or at the very least, a steep descent into utter madness. But a few individuals, such as yourself, possess an extraordinary form of mental willpower. I have experimented with children for such an attribute, as their minds are much more moldable and less tainted than that of an adult. All these trials have resulted in catastrophic failure, so I turned to adults, and consequently you."
The man paused and turned back to face me. He stepped forward and extended a hand, offering me help up. I gazed at this hand for a long time. It finally occurred to me that if this man wanted to harm me any further, he would have done so already.
I clasped my hand onto his, and without any sign of effort that generally comes with pulling a fully grown man to his feet, he hoisted me up. He laid a steadying hand on my shoulder. He spoke once more, his voice gaining a stoic firmness. His eyes locked with mine, an almost reassuring action, despite the circumstances.
"I don't know where we are; I don't know how you are to escape this place. I assure you, though, there is a way out, and you have the will to find it. Once you do escape this psychological wasteland you have constructed, and return your consciousness to the physical world, you will find yourself a much stronger man. I will find you once more. Hopefully under more... civilized circumstances than our first encounter. And you, with your newly freed mindset, will help me create more like you. A new... a better human being."
He lowered his hand from my shoulder, straightened the tie of his suit, and turned around.
"I wish you... the best of luck. Here's to you succeeding where countless others have failed."
He nodded once over his shoulder to me, and walked away. Away, into the void of barren land, until he disappeared from view. I couldn't find the words to speak to him until he was gone.
I looked once again to my surroundings. Nothing of significance in sight, no clue as to where to begin searching for an escape. One phrase of his echoed in my mind.
There is a way out, and you have the will to find it.
I began to walk.