Names we give have power As we discovered too late For we have named the nameless one And thus have sealed our fate. Our time has come full circle, And now we have the end Of lives or story who can say As we turn the final bend. Oh Wanderer of Blazes, Will you please pass me by? I am not worth your interest So leave me here to die. As the flames close in and curl Around this frigid winter night, I pray I will not see you coming By the fire’s light. Rourke lay in the early morning twilight, unable to sleep, staring at the green canvas above him and listening to the twittering of birds. He heard Mira typing quietly on her laptop on the other side of the tent. They had bought an external battery that held a decent amount of charge to keep it and their phones running out in the wilderness. The battery was running low though. They’d have to go to a town somewhere to charge it up. Mira stopped typing and Rourke heard her close the laptop. “It’s finished,” she said to herself. Rourke pushed himself up on his elbow. “You’re done?’ Mira looked over to him, eyes red from lack of sleep and nodded. “It’s done. I’ll still have to look over the proofs when they send them to me. But the story is finished. I am ready to send it in.” Rourke scooted out of his sleeping bag. He zipped it up and began to roll it tight. “Well, good timing. We needed to go into civilization to charge the battery anyway.” “We’ll need to hit a place with free wi-fi,” Mira said. She was sliding her laptop in her duffle bag and packing in other small items, like her notepad. “And coffee. Good coffee.” Rourke laughed. “What, you don’t like percolated coffee?” “Not when you make it weaker then water,” she said, unzipping the flap at the front of the tent. Sunlight streamed in and Mira blinked against the sudden onslaught. She poked her head outside slowly, looking left and right. “No signs of tall people in business suits,” she said pulling back into the tent. “That’s good,” Rourke said, hefting his duffle bag up. “You have everything?” “Yeah,” Mira said, hefting her own duffle bag. “Let’s pull the tent down and get out of here.” Mira and Rourke ducked down and walked out of the tent. It was a decent sized tent, meant to house a family. It was camouflage colored and blended in with the foliage around it. For the past two months, Rourke and Mira had moved from campsite to campsite and state park to state park, and, occasionally, private property (which was when the camouflage came in extra handy). It was somewhat ironic, hiding from the Slender Man in the woods, but as long as they stayed near a water source like a lake or river or even a stream, they didn’t seem to have too much trouble. As long as they didn’t stay anywhere too long that is. As they walked, Mira remembered back to the end of their first week of camping. They were at a state park site, camped near a decent sized lake. It had been three in the morning and Rourke had been sound asleep. Mira, however, had had trouble sleeping ever since her encounter with the Slender Man at the hotel that ended with the entire hotel in flames. She was determined to finish her story and bring it to publication, to try and put some dent in the path of destruction this thing was weaving. As she had been typing, Mira had noticed a long thin creeping shadow in the pool of light made by her screen. With a gasp she had turned around to find a tall slender shadow just outside the tent. She had leapt forward on Rourke, shaking him awake. Which turned out to be a good thing when a tendril ripped through the tent fabric and struck where she had been sitting, splitting her laptop in two. Rourke had grabbed a knife he used for paring down sticks for the fires he made sometimes and used it to slash a hole in the other side of the tent. Pushing out, they had run through the woods to the lake, crashing into the frigid water. The thing had stood on the shore watching them until the sun came up. They had both staggered to shore, shivering, with blue lips and numb fingers and toes. Luckily, they had been able to get back to their camp and gather their things, only pausing to change into dry clothes. Even though it was the middle of summer they had cranked up the heat in Rourke’s car as they drove away from the state park. They had had to buy a new laptop for Mira and another tent. Since then they hadn’t stayed at a single site for more than three days. Mira snapped back to the present as they came up to Rourke’s cars. As they loaded their things in the back, she frowned and turned to Rourke. “Hey, Rourke,” she said. “What’s up?”he said as he shifted their duffle bags to the floor so he could squeeze the rolled up tent in. “You remember our first collective encounter with the Slender Man? When we dove in the lake behind my house?” “Yeah, it’s when I told you about how we needed to modify its story instead of negating,” Rourke said, shutting the door. “Because it’s easier.” “Well, yeah,” Mira said, opening the passenger door. She climbed in and belted herself in and waited for Rourke to do the same on the passenger side. She turned towards Rourke as he started the car. “But there was something else you said. About us not being enough.” Rourke revved the car and then let it idle as he sat back. He closed his eyes, thinking. “Yeah,” he said. “It was something Connor told me in the dream that prompted me to come check you. He said that one would not be enough. Or two.” Mira’s eyebrows knit. “I don’t understand then.” Rourke cocked his head. “Don’t understand what?” “Why water has been so affective against it,” Mira said. “I mean there is some speculation in the Slender Man mythos that it is weak to water, especially in the Marble Hornets series, but nothing definite. Nothing concrete. So how can just the two of us believing it be enough to keep it at bay?” Rourke stared ahead out the windshield for a few moments, watching the trees wave in the wind. He shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe Connor was wrong? Or maybe that speculation combined with our belief is strong enough?” “Maybe,” Mira said, sounding unconvinced. She shook her head. “I can’t think without coffee. Let’s make our brief trip into civilization before we rough it again.” “Sounds good to me,” Rourke said. He reached forward to turn on the radio. –tenth disappearance in the area.– the disembodied voice said. –When questioned, authorities would only say they were investigating all possible leads. When questioned as to whether the disappearance of the children in the area was connected to the sudden spike in child abductions nationwide, authorities had no comment. Mira and Rourke stared at the radio and Rourke shook his head. “You can’t get that story in soon enough,” he said to Mira, shifting the car into gear. Twenty miles down the road they found a small town with a coffee shop that advertised free wi-fi in the windows. Mira had ordered the largest black coffee should could and a bagel. Taking her laptop, she settled in a corner by an electrical outlet and plugged her laptop in, letting it charge. Rourke sat down across from her and surreptitiously plugged in the battery they were using to charge their equipment. “So,” Rourke said, settling down with his own coffee. “What’s your story called anyway? Did you finally decide on a name?” Mira took a long swallow of coffee, appreciating its nearly scalding heat as it slid down her throat. “Oh, so good,” she said, putting the coffee down. She was definitely going back for a refill. Rourke eyed her with amusement. “I take it that’s not the title.” Mira rolled her eyes. “No,” she said, attaching her story to an e-mail she was sending to her agent Maureen. “I called it ,The Wanderer of Blazes.” “Catchy,” Rourke said. He swirled his coffee around. “So, how will this stop that thing?” “Well, first we have to hope we can reach a fairly wide audience. If it bombs we’re back at square one,” Mira said. She lifted her cup for another gulp and drained it. “It won’t,” Rourke said, trying to sound encouraging. Mira stood up to get a refill. She patted Rourke on the shoulder as she passed. “That’s nice of you, but even great stories have bombed in their time. And I don’t think I’ve written a great story. Maybe a good one though.” Rourke settled back in his chair as Mira went for her refill. The past couple months had been harder on him they he cared to admit. He had resigned from the force when he had gone underground with Mira. He really didn’t have any other options if he wanted to disappear without a thousand following hounds. Not that his employers weren’t curious to his reasons or wouldn’t investigate. But, there had been nothing to tie him to the hotel that had gone up in flames (more like exploded really…) since Mira had made all the reservations. Aside from being available for questioning in the disappearance of Jared Holloway from his prison (and he remembered his gun in Jared’s hand as Jared turned it on himself…) he had nothing to tie him down. Mira sat back down with a new cup of coffee and checked her screen. “Good, it sent,” she said, taking a sip. “We should probably check in to civilization every couple days so I can get the proofs.” “You still haven’t told me how this story is going to help us,” Rourke said, leaning forward. Mira shut her laptop lid and set her elbows lightly on top of the shiny dark blue surface. “A few things,” she said. “One,” said, ticking the point off on her fingers, “we really establish water as a weakness in this story. Make it something that can seep into the mythos. Two, I wrote about a way in the story to pull people from whatever horrid place that thing takes them to.” She took a breath. “And three is tied to two. When we pull the people out, we force a large de-power in the thing. Since it runs on belief, once we steal the belief batteries its been running on we cut its power down to manageable levels.” “Huh,” Rourke said. He finally took a drink of his coffee as he contemplated this. “But doesn’t it run on the belief of people who aren’t currently spending eternity with it?” “Well, since I’m guessing that’s how it first came to exists, yes,” Mira said. She shrugged. “We’re not going to destroy it in one sitting though. If the book sells well, I can write another hey, maybe even get in a trilogy that ends with this thing’s permanent defeat!” “That’d be nice,” Rourke said, leaning back in his seat. “It’d be nice to get back to life again.” Mira reached across the table and grabbed his hand. “I’m sorry,” she said. “You’ve had to give up a little more than me. I can still do my work while we’re running.” “Yeah, well, just do a good job so I can go back to mine,” Rourke said gruffly, looking away from her, a thin shiny film on his eyes. Mira opened her laptop again and became engrossed in it until Rourke turned back towards her. He glanced down at the battery. “Battery’s charged,” he said, reaching down to unplug it. “We should hit a grocery store before we pick our next campsite.” The rest of the day passed quietly after he and Mira had set up camp again. A strong stream wound by the tent, rushing on its way to who knew where. Mira sat with a book in the grass by the stream, head bent over the pages. She looked up as Rourke walked restlessly out of the tent. “Would you like to read it?” she asked. “Read what?” Rourke asked, walking over to her. “That?” he said, pointing at the book in her hands. “No, my book,” Mira said, closing the one she was reading. “You’ve read bits and piece, but never the whole thing.” “I–” Rourke said. He stared at the stream for a moment and then shook his head. “No. I don’t want to know more about this thing than I have to.” Mira shrugged. “Fair enough.” “Do you have anything else?” Mira reached next to her and held up a small paperback. A dark haired mysterious man had one hand waving a gun and his arm around a blond woman with breasts so large Rourke wondered how they stayed in her half buttoned shirt. “Cheap thriller I picked up at the grocery store,” Mira said. Rourke laughed. “I’ll take it.” The proofs had finally showed up in Mira’s inbox a week and a half later. Mira spent the next couple of days glued to her laptop as she poured over her pages, looking at the marks the editors had made. “And done,” she finally announced at the end of the second day. She glanced towards the setting sun. “You wanna go in now or wait until tomorrow?” Rourke looked from the sun to Mira. He wanted this story off as quickly as possible. But he didn’t like being out at night. It wasn’t that this thing could only attack during the night, but it seemed to prefer to. And he would rather not be around other people if it decided to make an appearance. The burnt down hotel with dozens and dozens dead had taught him that lesson. “Let’s wait until tomorrow,” Rourke said. That night Mira slept well, with an actual smile on her lips. Rourke guessed it was because she had finally finished her story. She had been stressed out over it, working almost non-stop, typing, revising, and then typing again. At times he had wondered if he was going to have to start making her take tranquilizers to get at least some sleep. Rourke, however, did not sleep. A slow creeping sensation of doom had been building in him ever since Mira had finished her story. He didn’t understand it and he couldn’t shake it. All he could do was lie awake and watch and listen for anything unusual. The night crawled by slowly, each cicada buzz, each small gust of wind, setting his already frayed nerves on edge. It was with relief he saw the light of the sun start to creep into the tent. It was only then he allowed his eyes to close and he dozed for a couple hours. They had managed to creep their way across the state over the past couple weeks with their constant changing of campsites. They were in the southern tip of it now and they ended up in a small town that sat right on the border. They walked into a McDonald’s to take advantage of the free wi-fi and to get some breakfast. Rourke felt unfriendly eyes on his and Mira’s back as they walked in. He looked around curiously as they got in line behind a woman and her small boy. The woman glanced over her shoulder and almost casually reached over and pulled her boy closer. “What is everyone’s problem?” Rourke muttered as he and Mira stepped forward to order. “Oh, don’t mind them,” the young girl manning the register said, brown curls bouncing as she shook her head. “It’s just, five kids have gone missing in the past couple weeks. It’s a small town, the kind where everyone knows one another, so they’ve been eyeing daggers at any strangers passing through.” “Here too,” Mira said softly. “Well, the cops said it’s not related to the national spike, but,” the girl leaned in conspiratorially, ” I think they’re lying. I saw some guys in suits in government type cars at the station earlier. Looked like the FBI.” “Wow,” Mira breathed. Rourke and she took their order to go and set up at one of the table on the patio outside. “Glad the wi-fi reaches,” Mira said, opening her internet browser on her laptop. She looked to Rourke. “Should we try to tell someone?” she asked. Rourke looked up from his biscuit. “Tell them what?” “About all this,” Mira said waving her hands in vague circles. Rourke raised an eyebrow. “Tell them a faceless tentacled abomination is stealing these children and setting fires? With no proof, no evidence, and photos?” He shook his head. “Only if you want to spend the next couple years in jail or a psychiatric hospital.” “I just,” Mira said, typing as she spoke, “I want to protect these kids somehow.” “That’s what you’re doing by sending in that story,” Rourke said, pointing at the laptop. But even as he said it, he felt a feeling of doom rise in his chest. “Am I?” Mira asked, as if she could feel it too. She sighed. “You’re right there. Who would believe us?” She shook her head. “Nobody else has. Even people who saw it, who you tried to warn.” “Yeah,” Rourke said, folding up the rest of his sandwich and putting it back in the bag. He wasn’t feeling very hungry anymore. “Let’s start making our way to the coast,” Mira said suddenly. “Um, okay. But why?” Rourke asked, getting up. He tossed his bag into a nearby trash can. “If the story does well, we’re going to need to be near a lot of water,” Mira said. “And if it doesn’t,” she looked around her, “I just don’t want to be here anymore.” “Well, east, west, or south?” Rourke asked. “Unless you felt like heading to Canada?” Mira smiled. “No. Let’s go south. But let’s take our time. It’s going to be a couple months before the book is published.” The next two months were almost pleasant for Mira and Rourke. With the story out and awaiting publication, there was nothing to do but wait. Well, that, and keep moving so that the thing didn’t catch up with them. The Slender Man showed neither tendril nor tie the entire two months, and it bothered Rourke horribly. It made him feel worse than if it had shown up everyday. His feeling of doom grew worse as each day passed and slipped through his hands like so much sand. After two months of meandering travel, Rourke and Mira had finally ended up in Florida. Mira had taken to wandering back into civilization daily once her book hit publication. “It might not do as well as it could,” Mira said to Rourke as she sat in a donut shop with him. “Since we’ve been on the move, I wasn’t able to help promote it.” She bit her nails. “Well, it certainly would have made an impression if the Slender Man had showed up during an interview,” Rourke joked. Mira looked up from her screen with something close to relief on her face. “Well, early review are mostly positive. Good but not great. A good way to while away an afternoon. Stuff like that.” She clicked some more. “And it’s starting to show up on a lot of blogs dedicated to Slender Man stuff.” She held her hands together. “This just might work,” she squeaked excitedly. “So,” Rourke asked, “does this mean we need to be near a lot of water?” Mira closed her laptop. She took a breath. “Maybe. Ask me again in a week. And let’s keep going south, all the way down to the tip.” They rolled south, stopping at beach campgrounds as they went. It was getting to be the tail end of summer. Rourke would have thought that the campgrounds would be full, but they weren’t. He learned from a local at one of the shops they stopped at for Mira’s daily book check that the campgrounds were scarcely inhabited in the hotter months. “Just as well,” Rourke had said to himself. At the end of the week Mira had looked up from her laptop in the coffee shop they were in with a mix of determination and pride. “Look,” she said, turning the laptop to face Rourke. It was the New York Times bestsellers list. And there was The Wanderer of Blazes at number 11. Rourke felt himself smile. “That’s great, Mira!” he said and he meant it. “I think it’s time I told you how to pull the people out,” Mira said, slowly closing the laptop. She looked around the shop full of laughing teens and college aged peoples, with beads of all colors hanging in strings from the ceiling. “But not here.” “We should go set up camp anyway,” Rourke said, getting up to join her. They drove to the beach campground located the furthest south and found an isolated spot to pitch their tent. It was heading towards noon when they were finished, so they had both crawled inside with bottled water and a small fan to escape the heat. “Well,” Rourke said, fanning himself with the copy of the cheap thriller Mira had picked up a couple months ago, “what’s the plan.” Mira took in a deep slow breath and then let it out. “You aren’t going to like it.” Rourke sighed and leaned forward, still fanning himself. “Please don’t dance around the issue. How can it be any worse than what we’ve already been through.” “Well, you see,” Mira said tentatively, “you know how it was sort of able to weaken the barriers between our reality and its that time at the hotel?” “When it set everything on fire? Yeah, I remember,” Rourke said. He frowned. “I’m really not going to like this, am I?” Mira shook her head. “Well, I sort of made it that if it decided to try and pull that trick when near water, that the weakening would twofold. It could pull things in, but the those trapped with it could push back and out. Wake up out of whatever state it has them in.” Rourke stared at her. “Are you saying that to save these people, we have to purposely call the Slender Man to us and purposely piss it off enough to try and breach worlds again?” “Yeah, basically!” Mira said, cheerfully smiling wide. Her smiled faded quickly. “Oy,” Rourke said, putting his book down and rubbing his eyes. “The more water the better I take it?” “Yep,” Mira said. “That’s why we’re here. I think I can handle calling it to us and pissing it off pretty easily, though.” “Do tell,” Rourke said, looking back up even though he still felt a dull throbbing behind his eyes. “I will start writing my second story. And I will plain old try to write it out of existence. It’s why it came after me the first time. It’s has to be the main reason it’s afraid of people who know it’s ‘really real’ as Jared told you. When it comes, we’ll go in the ocean where it can’t reach us.” “And if it decides to just stand on shore and watch us like it has before?” Rourke asked, picking his book back up to fan himself. “I thought I’d, y’know, taunt it and stuff,” Mira said. Rourke laughed. “You’re going to taunt the eldritch abomination. That’s great.” He laughed again. “But I don’t have a better plan. When did you want to try?” Mira folded her hands. “I wanted to wait here a couple nights. Give it some time to catch up with us.” Rourke nodded slowly. “Okay, Mira. I trust you. I’ll do this with you.” Mira looked away. “Don’t say that. Don’t say you trust me.” “Why?” Rourke asked, genuinely surprised. Mira looked back and there were tears in her eyes. “If– if you get hurt, if it hurts you, I don’t want to think it was because you trusted me.” Rourke smiled softly. “Mira, I think it’s out to hurt me whether I trust you or not. And you for that matter.” He became serious. “Be careful. I feel like we’re reaching the end somehow.” Two nights later, Mira and Rourke sat on the most deserted beach they could find. It was rocky and the waves were choppy and was entirely unpopular, which was perfect for their purpose. “Here goes,” Mira said, beginning to scribble on her notepad. A portable lamp sat next to her giving her enough light to write by. She had opted to not use her laptop so the saltwater wouldn’t ruin it. “Keep an eye out.” Rourke merely nodded and stood up and walked a slow perimeter around where Mira sat. Ten minutes passed. Half an hour. Two hours. Mira’s lamp started to dim and she looked up from her notepad to Rourke. “Anything?” she asked. Rourke shook his head. The feeling of doom and dread were larger in him than they had ever been but there had been nothing. Not even a stray shadow. Mira sighed, looking disappointed. “I had hoped… well I didn’t relish it coming but–” “I know,” Rourke said walking back to her. He picked up the lamp as Mira stood up. “What now?” Mira looked around her. “We could just wait until it shows up. It always has eventually.” “We could,” Rourke said. “We can decide in the morning.” The only sounds their feet crunching in the sand and stones, they headed back to their camp. Rourke lay quietly in the tent listening to Mira’s slow rhythmic breathing. Everything was off. They hadn’t seen the thing in over two months. Mira had purposely invoked its personal berserk button and nothing had happened. Only, something was happening, Rourke could feel it hanging over him. He just didn’t know what. He turned restlessly over and saw the sun’s light beginning to peak through the tent. He abruptly sat up. That light was too orange and wavery to be the light of the sun. In the space of a couple of seconds he was out of the tent and looking towards the horizon inland. He stood stock still even as he heard Mira calling him and crawling out after him. She stood next to him as still as he. “What on God’s green earth?” she asked. Flames reaching so high they looked like they licked the sky were before them. Not near them. Not in their campsite. No, the flames were coming from what Rourke knew was the nearest town. The whole sky was orange with their light, like an aurora borealis of one color. They were moving steadily south, towards them. Rourke staggered over to his car and Mira followed. He turned it on and fired up the radio. Maybe a local news station could tell him what was going on. A loud screeching met his ears and he jumped back it was so loud. “Ah!” he said as he hit his head on the door. “What is it?” Mira had her hands over her ears, eyes wide. “I think it’s the emergency broadcast system!” she said. Her gaze kept flicking back to the flames that were marching ever closer. This is not a test – the voice said – this is not a test. This is the National Emergency Broadcast System. A large scale terrorist attack has set massive fires in the major metropolitan cities of the continental United States. All people living in or near such areas need to evacuate immediately. Further instructions will follow later. This is not a test– the voice began again. Mira backed away from the car, eyes wide. “No, no, no,” she was saying over and over again. “You don’t think, oh, God, Rourke, you don’t think?” It was then Rourke noticed the air around them was starting to shimmer. Just like it had at the hotel. “Later!” Rourke said, grabbing Mira’s arm and dragging her after him towards the ocean. She found her footing quickly and he let her go as they kicked off their shoes and waded in. “Out further,” he urged. “Beyond the pull.” Mira coughed out a mouthful of seawater, but kept swimming. About thirty feet from shore, Rourke felt they were far enough from the shimmer to be safe. He turned with Mira, expecting to see the whole shoreline in flames with the Slender Man dead center. He blinked. While the Slender Man was indeed standing on the shore, tendril floating above it and waving in the breeze, there were no flames. Rourke squinted. There weren’t flames, but there were impressions in air, indents, almost as if the air had become a liquid curtain that people were pushing against. Rourke and Mira gasped as people began to spill out of nowhere onto the beach. Hundreds of people, most of them children, now filled the deserted beach. But the Slender Man did not move, merely stood unmoving and turned towards Mira and Rourke. For a moment those who had appeared from nowhere were still and silent on the beach. Then, they began to stir, almost as one, and moved for the water. The adults were urging the kids into the water, helping carry the ones too small to understand what was going on. “Yes!” Mira shouted, waving towards them, bobbing in the water. “We got them out! We can stop it!” Rourke was looking at the thing though, standing on the beach, a backdrop of flames that were steadily moving forward behind it. It didn’t look very defeated. “Mira,” he began. Mira grabbed his arm and nearly dragged him under, though, as he spoke. “Rourke!” she screeched. “Look!” She pointed away from her with a trembling hand. Rourke followed where her hand was pointing. He watched, dumbfounded, as the people, the adults and children, on the beach began to deliberately walked into water over their heads. They were not resurfacing. “No, stop!” Mira cried, striking out towards them. “You’re out! We can stop it!” A wave pushed her under and she came up again sputtering. Rourke swam after, always with an eye on the thing on the beach. He saw a young man detach himself from a young woman and a few children and swim towards him and Mira. Rourke squinted. “God in heaven,” he said, as the man came abreast them. “Kurt Kent.” Mira looked at the young man. “Kurt Kent? Connor’s friend?” Kurt nodded looking from Mira to Rourke solemnly. “I just wanted to thank you for letting us get out and giving us a chance to get away before the end.” Mira stared at him open-mouthed. “The end? What do you mean?” “The end,” he said again, simply. He pointed to the sky above him. Mira and Rourke looked up. Rourke sucked in his breath. The sky looked like it was literally pulling apart at the seams. There was a gigantic rip in the dark blue above them and behind it was a deep burgundy red. What looked liked slime was dripping from it and then a thousand mouths full of sharp teeth opened and roared. Long black tendrils slipped in from the rip and began to dangle down. “How,” Mira said helplessly, only paddling enough to keep afloat. “I’m afraid it’s your fault a little bit,” Kurt said, apologetically. Mira stared at him. “Oh, this would have happened eventually I think. You just gave it a little boost.” “How did I give it a boost?” Mira screamed. She looked towards the thing on shore. Standing. Unmoving. Waiting. “You made us more important,” Kurt said, eyes boring into Mira’s. “You called us its belief batteries. Before we just gave it the belief of a regular person, albeit boosted a little because we though of nothing but it. You must important, though. Special. You amped up its power through us. And well–” He shrugged. “It doesn’t need us anymore.” “Kurt!” the young woman he had left behind called to him urgently. “Coming, Ellen!” he called backed. He turned to Rourke and Mira. “You should go too. You don’t want to be here when its done.” He swam away without looking back. Rourke put an arm around Mira and looked up at the sky. The rip was widening and quickly. The water pulled him backwards oddly and he looked behind him. The water was angling up and back into a looming darkness that was blacker than black, a black so deep his eyes could not process it. A black that hurt to look at. And the blackness was moving forward, sweeping towards them. He looked forward again. Flames and the thing waiting on the beach. “Mira,” he said, quietly. “There’s only one way out. Really out. And we need to take it quickly if you want.” He squeezed his arm around her. “I said I was with you until the end though, and I meant it.” Mira stared steadily at the Slender Man on the beach. Her eyes narrowed. “You’d like that wouldn’t you,” she hissed at it. “Well I’m not afraid of this story and where it’s taking me!” she screamed at it. It cocked its head but made no move. Mira looked up to Rourke. “This is our world,” she said. “And I will not surrender it to that thing.” “Okay,” Rourke said, holding her close, bobbing in the water. Mira wrapped her arms around him and squeezed tight. “It was a corner of darkness in our reality. Maybe we can be a corner of light in its.” They held each other fast as the blackness approached and the sky spilled open above them. The held each other not like lovers, or even like friends, but as a child holds its bear, a last shield against the darkness. “To the end,” Rourke breathed. “To the end,” Mira echoed back. Then the blackness engulfed them. The world around them fell away and they said no more.