How the Slenderman Ruined my Science
By Tara Roth on September 21st, 2012 (11 comments)
It’s the middle of the night and I’m in a forest. Not one of those tall redwood forests where there is practically enough room to drive a car between the massive trees. Here, there is hardly a tree over 50 years old, downed wood and low lying shrubs litter the ground and I am absolutely sure I am wading through a massive batch of poison oak. In my hands I hold a radio antenna and a small radio which emmitts periodic “boops” at regular intervals as I approach the small rodent I’m tracking. Behind me is my undergraduate minion, Tiffany, a 21 year old biology student who is learning the trade and trying to keep up as I duck, dodge and wade my way through the bracken.
The trees loom far above, only barely illuminated by the small headlamp I’m wearing and every crunching step through the bushes and dead leaves is accompanied by the quiet “Boop. Boop. Boop.”, that slowly increases in volume as the signal becomes stronger. Under a log and over the trunk of a downed tree and a pile of sticks comes into view. A woodrat house and the home of our target. I detach the antenna and the steady “Boop. Boop. Boop.”, is replaced by static. I look up at Tiffany to give her some instructions but she’s not looking at me.
She is staring at an industrial metal container 50 feet away.
The static continues. I call her name and beckon her toward me. She stumbles as if in a dream, her feet carrying her toward me while her eyes remain fixed on the container. When she does turn to face me, her eyes are wide in fear.
“Have... have you ever played the game Slender?” Seven words and suddenly a flood of memories is upon me. The flickering flashlight, the tanks, small buildings and broken down cars. Wandering through an endless pitch black forest with death on your heels. The static over the radio continues, but I don’t turn it off. Oh yes, I've played Slender, and God help us the likeness to our current situation is uncanny.
“How many animals do we have left to do?” Tiffany asks. She has begun to implode. Her arms hugging her torso, legs together and semi crouched as if she’s holding herself. I look down at the list.
“Just one. Woodrat 'Dan.' He should be in his house. It’ll be over fast.” She nods. She’s being brave but now in both of our heads, there is the Slenderman. I program the second frequency into the radio and plug the antenna back in, but the static doesn’t go away. Dan is too far away to get a signal. It’s dark, there is no moon and the stars are obscured by the low lying fog that has begun to creep in off the bay. Nothing to guide us but the circle of light on the ground from our flashlights.
“We’ll go to his house.” I say. “We can start from there.” The static accompanies us as we walk toward the container. I toy with the gain but it just increases the volume. I consider looking over my shoulder but I don’t because I am in charge and I cannot be scared.
Dan’s house is under the industrial container Tiffany has been regarding with such trepidation. It sits on the edge of a hill that descends down into slippery leaves and more forest. Standing on the edge, next to the container, I finally get a signal. Not the high pitched “boop” of before. This one is baritone, static-filled and to our ears, menacing. Dan is not at home. He is down the hill, deep into the trees, and very far away from our camp. A small sound escapes from Tiffany as I launch off down the slope. My headlamp makes a small circle on the ground below, my footsteps crunching through the leaves and over it all, the droning, raspy sound of the radio.
“Boop... Boop. Boop”
We pass piles of sticks, other woodrat homes, downed logs and pieces of industrial corrugated drainage pipes.
“Boop. Boop... Boop.”
Under a tree tilted at an angle, we slip on some damp leaves.
“Boop... Boop... Boop...”
Suddenly the signal is gone, replaced by loud static. Tiffany has come up from behind and is gripping me tightly, I fumble with the volume and then twist the antenna around to a different angle. Static. The other direction. Static.
“Where did he go?” Tiffany asks. I shake my head. I point it behind me, moving our combined bodies out of the way.
“Boop.” Singular, static, fading.
“We might have passed him.” The static melds with my voice, piercingly loud in the silent foggy forest. An animal breaks a branch further down the hill and Tiffany’s grip grows tighter.
“Can I go back to my tent?” She whispers. I’m the old, wise, hardened biologist so I huff a laugh and give my permission. She races off, her flashlight making a bobbing circle on the ground as she disappears over the hill. Alone, the static starts to fill my mind. I turn in a circle, searching for a signal but find nothing but white noise. The trees loom ever closer over me and the flashlight barely illuminates the trunks because of the creeping mist. Static and darkness. Suddenly there is a crash in the brush near me...
In my data book the following is written:
Species: Dusky-footed woodrat (Neotoma fuscipes)
Status: Weak signal, then stopped. Probably eaten by the Slenderman.
Fuck you Slenderman.
Tara is a part time writer and full time scientist living and working in San Francisco, CA.
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