This is what happens when you let yourself get too paranoid: You land up feeling like you're a goddamn nutjob. Like all of this really is just some hallucination that burns us through before burning us up in nightmares that don't exist, running from a monster that isn't real. You get so caught up in the life. The fears. Your plans. His plans. Who's doing what where and why and for whom to get at what and destroy who to ultimately end Him. Only to end themselves in the process. Just the stories alone are enough to make your head spin.
You forget to remember that the ground is very much there. Gravity is still quite the bitch. Money is still a requirement of life. And, guess what? Sleep tends to be a good thing. Nightmares or no.
You forget that there are literally billions of people who don't even know what a Proxy is and, if you walked up to them and asked about a Bleeding Tree or a Faceless Man, they'd probably inform you that there's a Dealer two blocks in such-in-such direction that goes by the name of Larry. He'd be able to "hook ya up."
So is Corey a Runner?
But he is a runner of another kind. He just likes to split when the bills start piling up too much for his taste. I wouldn't call him an asshole, really. He's actually really nice. He's just so cheap he squeaks. Whatever tricks he uses though, they seem to work well for him. His new apartment isn't exactly a hole in the wall. Not luxurious, but certainly above the basics considering the location. Nice place, all in all.
So our suspicions on him being one of the haunted? Unfounded and merely kindling for stress.
However. There are then incidences in which paranoia is, in my opinion, rather justified. Like, for example, missing time. A lot of it, but dappled. A few hours here. Half-hours there. I thought... it was September 5th. Valerie was the same way. I don't have to tell you what went on this past weekend to correct us. It is now September 12th. I called Corey back, who we had found and spoken to, and apparently it was actually the 6th that we were at his place. Not the first, as we had thought. And the ninth? Apparently that's the date I bitch ranted at Elaine for her stupid shit with a certain proxy bastard we all know and loath. I thought it was the 2nd. The day AFTER coming back from Corey's. I had intended to update then but... my temper wasn't in the mood to. Today, we've packed up our shit and are moving North. We've obviously stayed here far too long and I'm getting more irritated and more worried by the day.
Or would that be three days?
Honestly. I'm barely making sense of what happened when. All I know for sure is that I thought that, at max, a week had passed since I last updated here. In that week, we somehow lost seven days. Maybe a little less. We can't figure out which hours went missing where but... they have to be there. Or not be there, as the case may be. We know we lost the last few days since my comment on Elaine's blog. Over forty-eight hours gone. Just like that.
Valerie doesn't see the harm in it.
Bloody hell, she's worrying me. I try to keep an eye on her the best I can but... I know she's not telling me everything that's been bugging her. I don't push the subject much cause, well... I don't have any right to.
So... on the road again. Below is the transcript of our visit with Corey. Between the two of us, we remember how things went, plus we had the recorder. After all, for us... this was only a few days ago.
He had been playing WoW when we showed up. Answered the door with his headset around his neck. I have to admit, he wasn't as weedy as I remember him being all those years ago. I got the red hair part right though. He hesitantly asked if there was something he could help us with. AKA: Get to the point, I'm about the level up. So I got right to it.
"You're [Corey Insertlastnamehere], right?" Like I said before, Corey isn't his real name. "You probably don't remember me, but I'm Michelle Lapierre. This is my friend, Valerie. I'd like to talk to you about my brother, Steven. You two were friends before he died, right? Steven Lapierre?"
There was a defined moment of silence before his jaw went a bit slack. "You... wait, what? Michelle?! My family told me you were dead!"
He looked extremely awkward at that point. "Uh... r-right. I... I heard about the farm. About... well, you know. I, uh... 'I'm sorry for your loss' doesn't really seem to cut it, eh... oh!" He stepped to one side. "Come on in. You two look beat over. Sorry about the mess... can I get you anything? Beer? Coke? Water? Little short on food right now... I got some pizza leftovers?"
Was it a mess? Not really. No more than I'd keep my place if I had one. After we each snagged a drink, we sat down around his living room/gaming battle station and, once I prompted him, he explained how much he had heard from across the border. I had the recorder set on the table. It had been on since we knocked on the door. I told him I had a lousy memory. He hadn't minded. When he was done his view on the situation, he offered a slight smile to me, arms resting on his knees.
"I'd always planned on swinging back around to see you guys. I spent more time at your farm than I did at my own place... but after Steve it was just..." he shook his head. "I couldn't believe it when I heard. Armed arsonists. I mean... is that what kids do for kicks today? Like, I used to set mailboxes on fire when I was a kid. Hell, all your brothers did too! I'm sure you did it yourself. It was almost seen as a rite of passage in our area. But to pull guns when you catch them at it? And a barn? Mother of God..."
I bit back a rant and pushed on. "Yeah, well... something has come up lately. Something about Steven. I was wondering if you could help me with that. I was only eight at the time, so I don't really remember what happened. ...Do you?"
He gave a bit of a laugh, leaning back in his chair. "Do I? How could I forget? Steven was my best friend. My first best friend - all the way up through Elementary School. You don't watch someone change like he did and then just forget it. Even fourteen years later."
My stomach twisted on me at that minute. 'Cause I knew then and there that, if asked in the right way, Corey could answer so much for me. It actually made me feel a bit choked. Making me wonder if I really wanted to know any of this or not... not that I really had a choice. Too late to hit rewind.
I guess Val saw I'd hit a bit of a bump, so she spoke up for me. "Changed how?"
"Oh, man, how didn't he change? All growing up, he was the laid-back one. The one that would keep everyone else grounded. A fun guy. Always out and doing things. Exploring whatever he could find. He hated being inside and landed up hauling the rest of his friends all across Hell's half acre because of it. Me especially. I mean... we grew up together. We even did the local canoe races together. Each year, we'd go like crazy asses at that dam... and I think we only made it ONCE out of all the years. Every other year we took a swim - I can still remember how cold that water is early spring...
"But uh... it was just... small changes at first. Little things. I remember him getting gradually more and more distracted. Always looking over his shoulder. Real jumpy. Tap him on the shoulder and he'd go through the roof, you know? Always got defensive when you asked him about it. I tried to get him to talk to me, but he'd just tell me he was fine. To not worry about it." He gave a bit of a sad smile. "But what is a friend if not someone who knows how to get you to spill the beans when needed? I got him to crack eventually. He said someone was following him. Naturally, I wanted to get the police involved but... he said he was handling it. That someone was helping him with it already."
I frowned. "Helping him? How? Who?"
"No idea with the 'how'. Steve always just said he was helping. His name was Robert. I met him a few times... and I didn't like him any of those times. The guy left a bad taste in the mouth. Like he was just... bad news all the way around. Steve trusted him though. Even as he just got worse and worse... he kept telling me it was alright. They had a plan. Robert was helping and they had a plan." He scoffed. "Whatever that plan was... it got Steve killed. He had just... disappeared for months... and then they found him in a river practically on the other side of the province. I knew Robert had killed him. Right down to my soul, I knew it. I told the police about him but... they couldn't do anything. Not enough to go on. Hell, I never even got a last name...
"I sorta... still blame myself for that. If I had bothered to figure out who the bastard was who was hanging out with my best friend all the time, I could have helped the police find the asshole. I could have helped Steven rest in peace knowing the murdering fuck is locked up... but I didn't. Because I was jealous." He laughed a bit then. "I was a sixteen year old kid... jealous right down to my core cause I thought my best friend was replacing me. It took a lot of years before I could admit that..."
Valerie chipped in at this point. "Admitting it at all shows maturity that most others don't have, [Corey]. But maybe we can do something... Can you give a physical description? I know it's been a while..."
He thought for a bit before shaking his head. "No, I'm sorry, I... I could never see him all that well anyway. He was always wearing some stupid hoodie." He looked between us. "Are... the police reopening the case?" He suddenly looked more awake. "Wait. The attack on your farm. They're not thinking...?"
"Nah, nothing like that." I waved it over. "It's just... me. Just some details that came up recently and I really needed to find some answers. Unfortunately, Steven can't give them to me, so I was hoping you could. Anything else you remember? At all? Anything stick out as strange or weird? Was there anything Steven would... talk about? Almost obsess about?"
Corey closed his eyes for a bit, obviously thinking. "Well... I don't know how much good it'll do you... but I do remember him writing a lot. He had this one book that he hauled with him everywhere he went by the end. Never saw him without it. I don't know what was in it cause he never let me see but... that... that was an obsession."
"Any idea what happened to it?"
"No idea. It wasn't exactly something I paid much attention to."
I gritted my teeth, trying to think.
Then I heard Valerie. "Was there anywhere he liked to go a lot? Especially near the end?"
We literally watched a light go off in Corey's head. "Actually... there was one place. Our old tree-house. I don't even know how many days we wasted in that thing battling against Stormtroopers and other armies of ultimate evil that slunk around that patch of bush. I know for a fact that he went there a lot when things were bad at home or if he just needed to get away from the farm for a while. If no one could find him, I could always find him there. Especially as he... got further into whatever it was he was dealing with." He looked at me. "It's possible the journal could be there. It was a long time ago, so I don't know how much of the thing is left but... I know the bush is still there. For now, anyway."
I smirked. "Alright then. Looks like we got our next destination. Any chance you could give us directions to your old stronghold?"
He smiled again. "Sure. Don't know how much good it'll do you, but sure." He stood, going to get a piece of paper to draw a... more visual map to go along with the recording. After that, we decided it was time to go. We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses and left. I thanked him for everything. He was a bigger help than he will ever know... and I hope it stays that way.
We're heading for the border now. My stomach won't stop doing loops.
I'm going home.
PS - Elaine and Morningstar, you're both still idiots.