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They're Listening

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Eeektrees

This is going to be a long story. I don't really care if anyone reads this... I just have to get it out.

Everything... me... used to be so normal. Until, well, we'll get to all that in a minute. The horror I've experienced isn't going anywhere.

I'm nineteen. I've lived in Sprucebrook my whole life. It's a good place to live, I guess. It's in the mountains, surrounded by trees. It's not exactly the middle of nowhere, but it's not the middle of somewhere either. There isn't much to do here. It's a quiet place. At least it used to be. I would give anything to have things quiet again.

It all started the summer after I graduated high school, one year ago. Me and a couple buddies (We'll call them Erin and Sam.) had made a pact earlier in the year that we would experience everything in our town before we all had to leave for college. We were starting to realize that we'd been taking our idyllic childhood homes for granted and wanted to make sure we took advantage of it before we left for good. Erin wanted to hike some trails we'd never been on, I wanted to try everything on the local diner's menu. But Sam, Sam wanted to spend a night at the Little Bear Motel.

Everyone in Sprucebrook has heard the rumors about Little Bear Motel. It's located at the end of a dirt road near the town limits. You'd be surprised to learn of a haunted motel in such a small town, but boy, you'd be surprised. Empty now, it's been the site of several unexplained deaths. Serial killers and paranormal activities are said to occur NIGHTLY. The last guest checked in fifteen years ago and never checked out. Police found no sign of the final guest or of the owner, who lived on the property. A few years ago I drove up to it, but I never dared to get out of the car. The place has a Rose Red vibe. It's alive. It's like it knows you're there.

Naturally, I told Sam he was nuts. Sam's a bit stubborn, though, so he just said we would regret "not experiencing a real haunted house" and that it would be a great story to tell everyone at college. He said it would be fun.

He was so wrong.

It was a Friday night. Sam was incredibly enthusiastic. Erin and I, less so. We packed a backpack with some food, water, and extra batteries for our flashlights. It was still light out when we headed down the dusty dirt road. As we approached the motel, the radio went static. We were freaked out, but Sam assured us his piece-of-shit Oldsmobile was responsible for it. "It does it all the time," he said. I swear everything got a little bit darker around us. The dense trees lining the road didn't throw shadows... It was more like they were inhabited by shadows. Tall, thin, black shadows. That's the only way I can really describe it. The road down to the motel isn't that long, but the white noise on the radio and the shadows in the trees made it feel like a lifetime's drive.

We parked, grabbed our stuff, and walked up to the motel. We stood in front for a bit, marveling at the sheer creepiness of the place. The neon, Route 66-ish sign was rusted. The teal paint was peeling, and even from the outside we could smell the musty rot of the place. I nearly ran into the large wooden carving of a friendly looking bear holding a 'Welcome' sign between its paws. We swatted away the flies buzzing around the door, gritted our teeth, and went inside.

The lobby. The damn lobby. We should have walked out right then. We should have walked out when we saw the red paint on the walls. It said:

"THEY'RE LISTENING."

Over and over and over again on one of the walls.

"Probably just some kids messing around," Erin said.

She sounded like she was reassuring herself more than offering an explanation. Everything was a mess. The tacky wildlife paintings that used to hang on the walls were ripped from their hangers and scattered across the floor. The pages of old magazines littered the floor.

And then we saw the photograph. It was lying face up on the dusty counter, which strangely, unlike the rest of the room, was perfectly intact. It was faded Polaroid of a dog. Looked like a husky, by the colorations. It was staring directly at the camera. And it was smiling. With human teeth. Erin screamed when she saw it. Sam was still unfazed. "Erin, it's like you said, it's probably some kids messing around trying to scare other people," he said, without taking his eyes off the photograph. The bang of the front door being slammed shut by the wind broke his gaze and attention. We left the photograph on the counter.

We really should have turned around, went out, gone to a movie, and got on with the rest of our last summer in Sprucebrook. But we didn't.

We flicked on our flashlights and wandered cautiously down the hall. There are 36 rooms in the Little Bear Motel, and we had heard that the mysterious final guest had stayed in room 18. We decided to head there first. All the way down the hall there was:

"DON'T LOOK, DON'T LOOK, DON'T LOOK!"

Painted in the same dark red paint as the lobby. There were a few paintings and a mirror up there too. Some of the rooms' doors were opened, but I was already too scared to look into them. When we got to Room 18 it was locked. The doorknob was tarnished and the wood of the door looked... sickly. Sam, being the brawny, stupid guy he was, suddenly slammed himself against the door. It didn't budge. He tried it again. No luck.

We were started down the hall when we heard a subtle click. The door was ajar. We stood frozen.

"Just the wind," Sam said. He was the first to regain mobility and start back for Room 18.

"Sam!" Erin shrieked. She was obviously terrified. I don't think I could've said anything if I wanted to. Instead I felt a pull...like I was being led to the door on a leash. I felt hypnotized, drowsy...the way you feel when you zone out watching a movie. Erin grabbed my arm and brought me back to reality. Her fingers dug into my upper arms.

"Jesus, Erin..." I muttered.

"Sorry," she squeaked.

We walked into Room 18. There was a grimy TV and, weirdly, a Nintendo 64 in the corner. The bed was made. The last rays on sunlight filtered through the trees weakly glowed through the faded blue curtains that were closed over the window. There was nothing on the alls save for a large, plain, oval mirror. "This isn't so bad," Sam said, "you guys are such pansies." He walked right up to the mirror, looked straight into the mirror and cockily fixed his shaggy blond hair. As soon as he made eye contact with his reflection, the TV turned on.

The volume was all the way up. We all cupped our hands over our ears and tried in vain to find the volume control. The TV alternated erratically between static and color bars, the buzz getting louder every second. Erin was screaming.

"UNPLUG IT!!!" I screamed. Sam threw himself to the floor and ripped the cord out of the socket. Everything went quiet. The TV sat blank. We were stunned.

"Damn, this is getting good," Sam said.

"No, no, no, no, no," Erin murmured, "No, no, I did not sign up for this. No. I'm done. I'm leaving."

"You can't leave, not when things are heating up!" Sam said, his usual dopey, crooked smile creeping onto his face. "Besides, I have the keys. What are you going to do, wait in the dark? Outside? With all the spooooky mooonsters and ghoooosts out in the woods?"

"I don't care. I'll walk..." Erin said. She looked like she was about to cry. She ran out of the room. We ran after her.

"Erin, don't walk. Just... wait in the car. It's unlocked." I said, hoping to calm her down as she pushed through the front doors. It was almost dark. Sam's faithful grey Oldsmobile was waiting.

"I should have never done this. I'm sorry. I'll wait for you. Don't stay all night. I don't want to be out here alone for very long..." Erin said as she walked towards the passenger side of the door.

Sam had barely started the sentence "Hey, man, is there someone in my car...?" when Erin opened the door and this thing, this thing, fell out onto her. She started screaming hysterically. I was so stunned that it took me a few moments to realize it was a skeleton. A fucking skeleton popped out of Sam's Oldsmobile.

"Oh my god... Someone is messing with us." Sam said. He ran over to Erin and pulled her up and back to the door. The skeleton lay there on the ground, its cavernous sockets staring right up at us.

Erin was over. I mean, she was done. Her face was blank. She wouldn't respond to anything we were saying. We waved our hands in front of her face, clapped loudly, yelled her name. Nothing. She was done. Her system was crashed. We sat her down onto the musty yellow couch in the lobby.

"We should go," I said, even though I felt in my gut that we wouldn't be able to even if we tried.

"No, she just needs a break. She's okay," Sam said. "Erin, we'll be back, okay? Take it easy."

As we turned to leave, I glanced at one large painting of an elk that was lying on the floor. The head of the elk was missing entirely from the painting. In its place was a bloody stump. I stood staring for a moment, but eventually I could do nothing but turn away and keep walking. I felt the same hypnotic pull as earlier, something leading me on a sinister leash to Room 18. I opened my mouth to tell Sam where I was headed, but he was gone.

"Sam...?"

No reply.

I figured he must have wandered off into another room, and that he'd be out to look for me in a minute. I headed to Room 18. The door was open, like we'd left it. The TV was silent, the bed still made. I scanned the room and my eyes landed on a strange square lump under the blanket that was pulled up over the pillows. As I peeled away the quilted fabric dust flew up into my face, stinging my eyes. When the dust settled I saw that the object was a Nintendo 64 game cartridge.

I picked it up. I instantly recognized the familiar, though faded, colors of the Super Mario label. I brushed the dust off the label, smiling at the thought of something as comforting as a childhood game lying around in such a creepy place. I thought "What the heck," blew into the cartridge, and sat down on the floor in front of the TV. Remembering the static, I found the volume button, oddly located on the underbelly of the set, plugged it in and turned the volume down. I fiddled with the Nintendo, managing to plug it in. I wasn't expecting it to, but it turned on. I pushed the cartridge in... and nothing.

I took the cartridge out, blew on it again, popped it back, and there was a flash of light before the title sequence began. Except... something was off. Mario looked... sad. The audio was distorted, the picture wavy. There was a saved game. It was labeled "KEN." It was the hidden Secret Aquarium level. If you're familiar with this level, Mario is underwater and has to collect yellow oxygen coins to stay alive. In the game I was playing, there were no yellow coins. There weren't any coins at all. Mario would gradually turn blue and drown, no matter how many times I restarted the level. On the fifth try, I tried having Mario swim into one of the glass windows of the giant tank he is in. I was surprised when the window cracked. I swam into it again, and when it broke, the screen went black.

And then an unsettling realistic image of Mario's face, turning bloated and blue, appeared with the words, "You shouldn't have done that."

Suddenly the TV shut off. I pulled the cartridge out. It said... Super Mario 67. If nothing else that day had freaked me out, this pushed me over the edge. I got up and headed for the door. It slammed in my face.

"SAM!" I screamed. "SAM GET IN HERE!" I bashed my fists against the wall.

I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. As my eyes readjusted to the darkness of the room, I saw a tall, dark figure standing in the corner. He... or it... had a white face but no features. Like a shadow with a head. He was incredibly tall, and stick like. His arms seemed miles longs. And he was coming towards me. I clawed at the door, and to my horror realized I hadn't been the first to do so. Splinters dug into my fingertips and I felt the figure's icy hands reach onto my shoulder, turning me around to face it.

"Do you know what I am?" it whispered.

"DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?" it hissed. "Say it out loud"

I felt like I was watching myself from a distance, like watching a movie. A terrible, terrible movie.

"You're impossibly tall...and thin" I said, "you're skin is pale white and ice cold..."

"SAY IT" the man said.

The name...I don't know how I knew his name...it was as if the dust and the darkness had crept into my soul and spelled out the name with the torn pages on the magazines that lay scattered on the floor...

"Slenderman..." I exhaled.

The figure evaporated. Like smoke. Like a shadow. The door opened.

I nearly fell out into the hall.

"SAM! DAMMIT SAM!"

I heard his voice.

"I'm here!"

I ran as fast as I could. He wasn't there.

"Turn around!" I heard, behind me. But behind me was a wall. A wall with a mirror. I turned to face the reflective glass, and there was Sam. His long blond hair was replaced by greasy strings of black. His eyes were vacant and his face was hollow. His skin was nearly translucent. Sam was in the mirror...trapped.

"DON'T LOOK," he said.

I ran full speed down the hall into the lobby. I had nearly forgotten about Erin. She was right where I had left her, staring off into space."Erin!" I shook her shoulders. She inhaled sharply. She locked her eyes to mine and said, "THEY'RE LISTENING. THEY HEARD MY NAME. THEY HEARD MY NAME. DON'T LET THEM HEAR YOURS. THEY'RE LISTENING" She looked like she was about to say something else, but when she opened her mouth, blood poured out. Every pore in her body began gushing heme.

There was more blood than I could have ever imagined a human body carrying. It began filling up the lobby like a flood. I ran towards the door, slipping.

I reached the entrance only to find these words smeared in dark red "paint": "THE SCARIEST PART IS THAT IT'S YOU"

I looked back towards Erin's bloody face, only to see mine staring back, glistening red. I screamed. I screamed. I sounded like a wounded animal, fighting my way through the sloshing blood and staggering out into the darkness. The Oldsmobile was there. I threw myself in the driver's seat, spun around wildly to check for skeletons and found that Sam had left his backpack inside. The keys were in the front pocket. I started the car. The lights illuminated the entrance and lobby. There was no blood, no pictures on the floor...nothing.

Had it all been a dream?

Numb, I put the Oldsmobile into reverse and swung the car around. As I drove away, I looked in the rearview.

The friendly bear's sign now read, "See you again soon."

When I returned home that evening and hurriedly relayed the night's events to my parents and the police, I was puzzled to see a look of confusion, rather than horror, cross their faces.

My mother stopped me mid-sentence and said,

"Who are Erin and Sam?"

I was institutionalized at a mental health facility. I have been told by my doctors and the police that no records of any Erin or Sam attending my high school. I hear the whispers of the shadows in the halls. I see the Slender Man in the cobwebbed corners of my white room. And I beg the staff here to never say my name...because they're listening.

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