Slenderman freaks me the hell out.
I’m not sure what it is, exactly, about the notion of the Internet-invented urban legend. There’s just something about him. Primarily it is, perhaps, that he’s an infiltrator; that he appears at will, bends the laws of reality, and pursues relentlessly his victims. Also he has no face. And he’s like some kind of weird spider thing.
Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’re not familiar, the Slenderman is that guy up there — a creature invented for a contest on the forums at SomethingAwful.com. He’s a creature of sorts, faceless, who seems to have dominion over children and apparently abducts them. Some or all of the rules of the creature are subject to change depending on which interpretation you’re talking about, and at this point there have been a few. Still, there seem to be a few steadfast elements: the Slenderman is tall, man-shaped although not a man, and keyed on sight. If you see the Slenderman, he will hunt you down. Your fate is sealed.
Something about the concept of the creature spooks me in that delightful way that few things do. I’m something of an avid horror fan (to a degree — I’ll read or watch just about everything, but I still have no desire to embark on Human Centipede or Teeth, because seriously), with a soft spot for creatures, and the Slenderman is the first to affect me in any serious way since my original exposure to Dan O’Bannon and H.R. Geiger’s Alien (which I’ve written about previously). So roughly…16 years. Or maybe more like 18. How the hell old am I again?
Some of the more solid facts about Slenderman: he seems to short out electrical equipment in his presence; he may inspire madness; he has the ability to mesmerize children; he resembles a man in a business suit as means of camouflage; he seems to prefer the woods. Just about everything you’d ever want to know about the evolution of the character has been captured here. I highly recommend reading it, and then looking up all related videos on YouTube.
Thinking about it analytically, among the things that make the Slenderman so chilling is his approximation to being human while lacking primary elements of human anatomy. Compare Slenderman to the “xenomorph” (a name I hate — any alien is technically a xenomorph [rough Latin: “strange shape”], not just those of the Alien franchise) and the first similarity is the missing eyes. Not a loss of eyes, but a lack of eyes. Perception without vision. That’s so fundamentally opposed to the human understanding of the world as to be frightening. How do you relate to a creature with no eyes? How do you anticipate or avoid something that obviously perceives the world in a wholly different way from the way you do?
Second similarity: long, tendril-like limbs. The Slenderman gets his name for his impossible proportions — he’s several feet taller than a man and not built like one, with long arms and long legs. The xenomorph, too, takes on those proportions; taller, lankier, thinner. Again I wonder if the animal portions of our brains hones in on attributes that allow a thing to best us in combat. A creature taller than you and thinner is likely more agile in many ways, outreaches you, possibly outruns you. Cuts off your escape routes. Takes hold of you before your can get away.
Similarity the third: silent hunting, hiding in plain sight. Ridley Scott established the alien’s proclivity for tucking itself into tight spaces when it was inactive in order to remain camouflaged; from these locations, ambush attacks are launched. The worst thing that can happen to you is to catch sight of the Slenderman in the distance, where he’s always standing, Michael Myers-like, observing. Motionless. Actin’ all spooky. Because once you’ve seen him, you cannot unsee him. He’s coming for your ass. But just the idea that he’s in the area is frightening. In the above photos, he’s not always noticed right away, which gives him a stalking “there but not there” quality.
If you’re into games at all and you haven’t heard of Slender, a quick project made by one Mark J. Hadley, you need to play it immediately (caveat: if you like horror games). The little game is more a test of the Unity Engine than it is a fully realized project, but Hadley has really hit a horror cord here, combining phenomenal atmosphere and sound design with the Slenderman. The whole thing is beautifully executed, even if it lasts maybe 20 minutes. Check out the trailer below; download the game for free here. I also wrote some thoughts about it for Game Front and what the hell makes it so scary.
I also recently got a chance to talk to a pair of guys working on a Half-Life 2 mod with another team based on the Slenderman mythos. They’re calling their game Slender: Source, having been inspired by Hadley’s Slender, but with an angle toward multiplayer with four people in the game at once. It sounds screwy and what I’ve seen so far suggests it’ll be dripping atmosphere as well. I’ll obviously post that interview when I publish it; meantime, here are some details.
But enough about Slenderman; howsabout some fiction?
I thought I’d leave you for the weekend with a bit of original fiction that I’ve already spread around, but then again, what the hell.
About a month ago, Nick and I were interviewed by the awesome Chuck Wendig, author of Blackbirds (a book which I’ll be posting about sometime soon) and proprietor of terribleminds.com, a great site if you’re looking for writing advice, fiction, or vulgar but creative language. You can read our full interview here. I’m pretty proud of it. I thought it was pretty funny. I don’t think anyone read it.
As part of the interview, Chuck asked us to tell a story. Seeing as Nick and I have actually led some pretty boring Midwestern lives — or at lest, nothing came to mind — I whipped up a time travel short story pretty much out of nowhere. I’ve placed it in a PDF for your convenience and also to save space. If your virus scan software says it could be evil, well, it isn’t. Except that it might suck, I guess.
The story is called “Winky Finger” and it’s about a bumbling time traveler. That’s all I’ll give you.
Download “Winky Finger” from the QUAN+UM Archives. There I’ve also got another goofy time travel story, entitled “50 Shades of Radioactive Green.” It’s a parody on 50 Shades of Grey. It’s completely safe for work, I promise.
One last thing: I published a somewhat crappy Facebook author page after much grappling with Facebook’s crappy author page-making tools. However, if you feel compelled to tell people you “Like” me (but not “like-like” me — I’m engaged, you know), you can access it here. I’ll be adding to it.