Slender by Lizzie Hudson

Why do birds
Suddenly appear
Every time
You are near
Just like me
They long to be
Close to
You.

– The Carpenters

Kelly is writing her Glee fanfiction on the sofa. The TV is on with the volume off. It is nine.

Kelly is part of a community page for writers of fanfiction about the one gay male couple on Glee, Kurt and Blaine, Klaine. There are stories on the page about the two boys first meeting, written from both of their different perspectives. Users write imagined poems that Kurt and Blaine might have written about each other in high school, songs. There are Brokeback Mountain-esque stories set in alternate universes, about the two boys in the fifties Southern America, Tudor England, meeting in Heaven after both of their own deaths.

Kelly rarely writes Alternate Universe fanfic, it just doesn’t work for her. Most of Kelly’s
fanfiction is fairly realistic, taking place in Ohio, where Glee is set. The stories she writes all take place based on real events from the show, preferring to write around the canon and things that might have happened before and after it, than to fabricate worlds of her own.

This is what Kelly has written so far today:

CLOSE TO YOU (Part 3)
(Klaine ship/ Hurt/Comfort / Set in future / Parent dead.)
‘I just can’t believe he’s dead,’ said Kurt. ‘I’m so alone now. He was all I had left in the world. Kurt’s tears were like tiny moons on his cheek. Blaine wiped them away with his thumb and his index finger.
‘You know you’ve always got me,’ said Blaine, ‘even if we aren’t together.’
The gathering of Kurt Hummel’s family and friends would have already arrived at the church.
Burt Hummel’s coffin was in the hearse.
Kurt looked at Blaine longingly, into the deep wells of the eyes he had first looked at back at
Dalton Academy years ago. He kissed him.
Blaine kissed him back for a moment before pulling away. Kurt’s lips were as soft as they had been all those years back.
‘What are you doing?’ Blaine said ‘Kurt obviously I love you but are you sure about this?’
Kurt pulled on his shirt hungrily and longingly.
‘We’re going to be late for the funeral’ Blaine started to whisper, but his words trailed off as the two boys slipped away into a dream.

This is the third chapter. Kelly tries to update her stories every week. The times she writes them are; late at night, early in the morning, the part of the afternoon when she has picked up Alistair from school and then Leah up from school and then taken Leah to work.

The story will end with Kurt and Blaine getting back together after Blaine helps Kurt through his grief. They will realise that they have always loved each other. It has taken something as big as death to bring them together.

In a moment of passion they will miss the funeral. Kurt will say he doesn’t mind and that
funerals are all for fake and for the living and that his dad will not mind the fact that he didn’t go because it was for love. The story will finish in the garden, Kurt and Blaine watching some birds in the sky which becomes a private memorial or metaphor for Kurt’s dad and the end of his life.

They will sing a song together. Kelly will copy and paste the lyrics of the song from a website. It will fill in for an ending, it will save her having to think of a powerful enough final paragraph. They are the same great, colossal love songs that she listens to on her headphones as she writes. In that way, all that is real and not real can exist in an imaginary middle.

Leah in her room upstairs, lying in bed on her phone. She is looking at pictures of a man she knows from her after-school job. He is twenty-three and he is a baker. He is half-bearded and tall. At four every day he comes in and drops off forty homemade jam swirls. Leah has had some of them before, they are sweet, but also gross, there something sand-like about their insides, you could squeeze one inside an adult fist.

Leah thinks she is in love with this man. It is so nice to have someone finally to think about whilst applying all these notions of romantic love she’d been hearing about her whole life. He comes in at the same time every day, has a very short conversation with the manager, and slides the rolls across the counter in three large Tupperware boxes, then gets back in his car, then he is gone.

Then the red-skinned children come out of the swimming pool and adults in other cars arrive to pick them up and they buy the coffee, soup in polystyrene boxes and the fresh jam swirls. They eat them in the swimming pool cafe.

This is what Leah has learned so far about the man;
– His name is Matt.
– He used to go to her school and left it in 2011.
– He went to university in Lancaster for a bit and dropped out in 2015.
– He used to ride a BMX.
– He’s been to Prague this year and Berlin last year.
– He is engaged to a girl who is nineteen (four years older than Leah.)

In May 2014, in Wisconsin, 12-year-olds Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser stabbed their best friend Payton Leutner in some woods nearby their homes. The girls cited their reason for the stabbing as an act of sacrifice in the name of Slenderman, a supernatural figure they had heard about on a website called Creepypasta. Weier told investigators that Slenderman ‘can be anything from 6ft to 14ft tall […] can read minds and has teleportation skills.’ (1)

What they wanted to be to Slenderman was what they’d read was called one of his ‘proxies’. Weier said that ‘if you’re a proxy, supposedly you get to live in the Slender Mansion, that all the Creepypastas supposedly live in.’ She said that the mansion was in the nearby Nicolet National Park.

Kelly’s writing process for her Kurt/Blaine fanfiction normally starts with her imagining a moment – normally romantic or sexual – that feels very visual and real to her. It is about their relationship, it is about a sense of desperation and intimacy and love and panic. It is afterwards that she tries to decide on the events that came before it, painting around and into the moment.

She doesn’t write ‘smut’, it’s not porn. Some of her stories are X-Rated or appear on the pages that only 18+ readers are supposed to look at. But the fact is that to Kelly, physical intimacy is such a big part of Kurt and Blaine’s relationship. She isn’t compelled to write so much just descriptions of sex acts, but more about nakedness, skin, tears, love, desperation, passion etc. Depression, to an extent.

She’s been writing fanfiction for years now, even before Paul died, but it wasn’t until afterwards that she had really a lot of time to devote to it. Even when she is not writing now, she is thinking about writing, even in the back of her mind, when she’s having passive aggressive arguments at Slimming World or buying petrol.

And a problem with Leah’s fantasies has always been logistics.

Even when she was a child she would imagine people from TV having sex with each other or even people from two different TV shows – that is called crossover fiction. But she would think, what if they were supposed to be somewhere else that night? How would they even have met each other? Whose house were they at? (especially if they both lived with their parents – were they out?). What colour were the bed sheets, the curtains, the walls?

By the time she has gone over and over these decisions, her clothes, the light, the architecture of the daydream, something normally happens in the external world to interrupt it. If she is in bed at night, if her eyes are shut, normally it is the process of designing and planning her fantasies that sends her to sleep. It is only the ones she has thought about a lot, planned and loved for months where she is able to run them through her head almost like short episodes of TV shows, nearly sometimes in their entirety, without disruption.

Blurbs of real life pieces of Slenderman fanfiction(2)

Nebulous by ShadowWolf181
Velia Murdock was an ordinary young woman. Born into a family that treats her like a black sheep, Velia has chosen the path of a lone wolf. An outcast, she retains her careful distance, relishing any time she spends with her best friends Kate and Lauren. Still, she finds herself yearning for something more. Desire digs deep, but true fear digs even deeper.

By the fire’s light by Masterninjaize
A Fire’s light warms Most people and is a Joy to have For others. In times of Darkness Light always gave people hope. That is not the focus of this story however. The focus of this story is a Creature. Born from the Fire, Not any fire though. The Fire of ones Imagination.

Slender falls in love by DarkPrincess1452
Sarah runs into sally when all of a sudden slender shows up to take sally back home he almost took sarah on the spot she was so beautiful and sexy(Slender has a face in this).

The Hurt/Comfort genre is defined by Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse as ‘stories, which, as the name implies, revolve around a character being injured and another character comforting him.’ (2006)

Joanna Russ has criticised the plausibility of the Hurt/Comfort genre, stating that ‘If your
beloved appears at your door bleeding and battered in real life, you probably don’t feel the rush of erotic tendresse. In fact, once you’ve called for an ambulance, covered said beloved with a blanket, made sure the patient’s head is lower than the patient’s feet, and administered what medical help you can, you are far more likely to go into your bathroom and throw up. (3)

This exists: a story on the internet by a thirteen year old boy, the plot is that he was getting ready for school when Hayley Williams, the lead singer of US pop-punk band Paramore, knocked on his door and said that she was there to be his new babysitter. His parents were away for an entire weekend. Hayley Williams came to pick him up from school, and met him in the schoolyard in front of all the bullies who had laughed at him and called him gay. She held his hand in front of all of them. She told him ‘it doesn’t matter who you are.’

The thing that was very beautiful about this story was it’s sad teen writer’s complete lack of concern about the internet audience knowing that the narrator was a thinly veiled mask of himself.

Is it love that lets you do that, or passion?

Is it a total lack of embarrassment that, hate to say it, could have got him bullied in the first place? Is it being so sad that to express it on the internet is something one – you – prioritise over your own image/pride?

Previously played videos from Anissa Weier’s YouTube history

– Bunny Eats Raspberries
– Worst toaster EVER
– Wild kitten eats mouse
– Are you a psychopath?
– Are you a sociopath?
– Ylvis’ 2014 comedy single What Does The Fox Say? but with Donatello from the Ninja
Turtles
– How to make an ice cream sandwich

This is how it would happen:

Leah left her GCSE artwork folder at work. She needs it to hand in for an assessment the next day. She walks to work late at night by herself and unlocks the door and goes to get her folder and as she is coming out, she is attacked by two men who were waiting (saw the light on, through the window, saw Leah), one has a knife, they drag her to the till to get out the money.

(She has often felt very watched or under surveillance especially in the shower or turning down a different road from her friends on the way home, followed like a US crime drama blonde girl).

As she is shaking trembling getting money from the till the door bursts open it is Matt, he throws punches at the terrible burglars, they run, he holds her close, there is an awkwardness, it is dark.

Leah (nervously): ‘What the fuck why are you here’
(girlfriend fight, been sleeping in back room for a while, ‘please don’t tell anyone’)
‘Oh my god you saved my life’
(both with dispenser machine coffee, bruise on her eye)
‘Nothing it was’
(slow kiss)
‘I… shouldn’t say this
love you
a while
Feel the same
shh’

Leah plays this out in her head at night, sometimes at school, really quite often. She chooses to put it on like a film. But what is frustrating is that it is really very hard to play out the whole story without a decision based detail (how would he get away sleeping at work, whether her mum would notice her leaving the house so late at night) or a real life event (a notification on her phone, the sound of her mum walking down the stairs or her brother talking to his friends through a headset) would undoubtedly interrupt the flow. Probably, she has never got to the end of it.

And as much as she tries to start from the beginning there are parts she just likes more and plays out more frequently, almost rewinding or fast-forwarding to them – like Matt softly touching, pressing one of her bruises, the concern on his face – there’s blood on her face! – his scrunched up dark green sleeping bag. She replays certain visuals or still photos or thinks just of his voice, the light, the imaginary bruise. What the swimming pool would be like all empty at night.

The legend of Slenderman originated from an online competition on a forum in 2009; a
challenge to edit everyday photos to make them look paranormal. 26-year-old Eric Knudsen photoshopped images of a tall, tentacled figure in the background of images of groups of children.

slender1

slender2

Images from The Daily Dot (4).

The internet responded by creating its own expansive range of Slenderman images, fanfiction and folklore.

Slenderman became real.

What is interesting about Slenderman is that he isn’t painted as an entirely bad figure. Compared by Jack Zipes to the Pied Piper, there is a charm to Slenderman. He draws people in – he draws teenage girls in. Are we going to call it sex drive or death drive?

Digital folklore specialist Trevor J. Blank notes the ambiguity of Slenderman as a figure of both good and evil… ‘[he] can also be seen as a guardian angel. He is the Grim Reaper, but with a heart.’ Blank notes that in stories and images, Slenderman is shown to be rescuing children as well as killing them.

In statements to detectives, Morgan and Anissa both claimed they stabbed Payton Leutner because they were afraid that Slenderman would kill their families otherwise. Yet they also both admitted wanting to be Slenderman’s proxies, to be granted access to the mythical Slenderman Mansion.

When Leah was seven, Kelly took her and her at-the-time best friend to the circus. It was at the field by the garden centre. It was the time after her dad left when they started doing stuff all the time on the weekend.

The magician was the most memorable part. He had a young assistant with blonde hair that looked blue and minty in the light. Leah could probably draw her face clearly from memory even now. It has been a standout colourful visual memory in her life.

The magician released a rabbit from a hat. He brought a doll to life yet then the doll was her, the girl. He pretended to cut her in half, in a box, only for her to emerge back in her white dress, fully formed.

What stuck in child Leah’s mind was a moment where he touched her very lightly on the wrist, the beaming dancer faces she pulled, how she was looking at everyone but no-one.

On the way home child Leah created an elaborate story about how the magician and the woman he cuts up are in love but they have to pay a penance to the person that runs the theatre tour if they are allowed to do magic shows together; a small vial of her blood, once a month. The magician takes it so that it will hurt less. She lies down on a bed in whichever hotel or camper van they are staying in and shuts her eyes. He kisses her before he does it, reassures her that it will be over soon, that he will be gentle, before pushing a needle into her arm.

Her mum kept saying what are you thinking about, you look very deep in thought, Leah said I am just very tired. She felt that Kelly knew exactly what she was picturing and felt embarrassed, paranoid, and caught. What if there was this visual window to the inside of her brain?

And now, at lunch with her friends, when a girl at the table tells everyone she has been ‘cutting’ this is the first thing that comes to Leah’s mind.

In the swimming pool cafe, sticky handed girls cut up rows of paper dolls. Salt from crisps leaves marks on their thin paper arms.

 

Lizzie Hudson

 

(1) Beware the Slenderman. (2017), I. Taylor Brodsky.

(2) Fanfiction.net

(3) The Fanfiction Reader, Karen Hellenkson and Kristina Busse

(4) Miles Klee, How the Internet’s creepiest meme mutated from thought experiment to Hollywood blockbuster

 


 

Lizzie Hudson is a graduate of the English and Creative Writing Programme at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her work has previously appeared in Strix, Litro and On Paper: An Unofficial Love Island Poetry Anthology. She currently lives in Leeds.

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