Grace's Journal hasn't changed since she ran away from home, taking one she'd gotten the year before. The binding is cheap and purple, splattered with pink and white dots and emblazoned with the head and neck of a unicorn. The unicorn's cartoonish pink hair, blue eyes, and rainbow horn are eerily offset by the bloodstains and waterlogged quality of the book itself.
On the first cover page, a blank for a name is filled in with "Grace Richardson". Grace's handwriting can be observed to improve from uncertain scrawls to careful notes and recollections. A few dog-eared pages are scattered throughout with the sorts of logs you'd expect to see in a Book of Shadows, while the margins occasionally show bled-ink doodles up until a certain point. The book is kept in a waterproof bag of its own.
Living in the woods kinda sucks. My friend has been helping me know what to eat and what not to eat, and stuff like that, and we've been catching small things to eat which I really hated at first cause it's gross and I feel bad for the animals but my friend says I have to eat cause I'm still a human. I'm learning how to pay attention more to what I can catch and what I can't, but sometimes even when I find something, I freeze up... my friend gives me a nudge. She's telling me right now that it's okay to be nervous. She said that she'll take care of me. She said you don't have to write that down, Grace. Oh. Sorry. She said
My friend introduced me to her cat. She asked me to get a ball of yarn, and we were able to get one from the store cause we made sure it was when there wasn't a lot of people around and we sat in the river (which took a bit but we found somewhere shallow so I wasn't so scared) and everything so we didn't smell bad and people didn't go wow what's that smell, and look over at me. But I put the yarn in my bag and walked out behind a family, and after all that we got back to the woods and she guided me around shaking the yarn and calling for her cat, who actually came! He's all ashy, and ghosty like her, and his name is Horatio. She said Horatio is a good kitty and he'll be helpful for us if we have to do more dangerous things. Maybe he can scratch people? My friend can talk to him, but I can't. She tells me what he says, and sometimes we bring him out to play. Thank you for listening Dear Diary.
We're back in Jersey. Horatio has been coming around more often, catching us things to eat in adition to what we can catch. After we'd caught what we needed for the next day or two (we learned that things get... gross after too long of being dead), we were playing with Horatio, a game I called Copycat. My friend says Horatio doesn't like that. I do it anyway. So the game is that whatever Horatio does, I do, right? Well Horatio was batting at a beetle in the air and I did the same thing, and I didn't FEEL myself touch the beetle but it came down. Horatio looked at me and I looked back at him, and he went into the bushes to get another beetle, put it in front of us, and meowed a bunch- my friend translated, he was telling us to try again. So we did! We brushed the beetle away without touching it, and I felt woozy the same way as I do when we call Horatio- I think it's my friend getting tired.
We gave ourselves time to rest between our trials for this, so it took awhile, but I watched carefully: what happens is my friend moves her hand faster than mine, on her own, which still kinda worries us, cause I don't want to be separate from her and she doesn't wanna be separate from me. But we're pretty, pretty sure it's fine.
Also, we got new books. If we go in the library when old Miss Gallagher is there and nobody else, nobody bothers us. Miss Gallagher can't see well enough to be freaked out by us, but she does clean her glasses a lot, cause I guess we look like a smudge. We got books on all the ghost type stuff we can, not like, Goosebumps, but the ones that look more like enci encyk encyclope dias. We're doing our best to remember everything useful.
We're getting better at this. Not necessarily the "games", like the liar in the top hat said, but living in the woods. Remember the beetle thing? We learned to grab bigger animals with it, and our normal traps get things more often instead of falling apart. I'm learning how the animals work, like what squirrels are from deeper in the forest and all jumpy, and which ones have been living closer to the city, more used to humans. We've gotten more books from Miss Gallagher, and we can read them faster... I figured out how to use an index and an appendix. It would feel a lot better, but...
I'm running out of the money I had when I was walking home from school a few months ago. I don't want to steal from people, even though my friend says she knows a bit about it, cause she knows a bit about everything after being around here for so long. I stopped risking getting candy in busy stores, but I can still pass outside the vending machines on the street, and pick up funyuns or snickers. I miss Mr. Goodbars, they aren't popular enough to put in the machines...
What else? We decided to catch a raccoon and try to keep it. One of the ones that digs in the garbage and lives in the city. It hissed at us a few times, but we had Cheetos and I guess it really liked Cheetos, cause we got him to follow us back to a place we set up some blankets and bags where we keep our food. We got him to stay for awhile, but when we woke up, he was gone. I should have given him a yarn collar.
I didn’t get time to write about what happened in between games this time. I needed to walk home from the fundraiser, and that’s what I started on doing… so was walking and there was a piece of trash, a candy wrapper? I think a Snickers. It was shiny, so I watched it go across the road and when I looked back up, there was a guy walking with me. And again, not a regular one. I said normal too much for the writing I did for the fundraiser itself. Right, the guy:
He looked like an actor from the 90s, including the black and white screen. He was a gentleman, kinda like those people too. Frank Sinata or something? It was nice to meet someone who didn’t feel kinda crazy or violent. No top hats or guns or anything.
So this guy, he was super nice, and he went back and he bought me funnel cake! Which I think makes him my favorite person I’ve met here so far. He told me he had a job, which I guess I should have expected but it was super soon after the other one which was new. It ended up being saving another little girl, but more on that later. We walked for awhile and he dropped me off near this kinda fenced in clearing, and wiped some cake off my face with a glove on, and told me to be safe and that something was important I think. I guess I should stop there.
Comatoes, or commatose, or comatose? That’s what Mister Doc said I was. I think I may have woken up and fallen back asleep. I don’t remember much… Horatio said he watched over us when he could; there were some points where I saw empty rooms, sometimes there were people there. I remember a man seeing me wake up once, walking towards me, but I fell asleep again before he got there. There were needles in my arms, the little bags and the wires like the ivys on Grandma last year. I was… in a hospital dress, and I didn’t see that it was blue until I woke up completely.
When I did, I got my clothes and my stuff from a locker. I was blurry for the most part, for awhile, but I WAS walking. I met up with Mister Doc, and we needed to get to London, which I think is near England. Buuut Mister Doc and I can’t really get anywhere on planes, can’t walk or drive there- but I had this card from that guy on the bus with the fair game, remember? The bussiness card. The one that says The Talent. We found a phone and we called him. He sounded all surprised we did, but we explained and he was really helpful- he brought us to London for free, said he wouldn’t bring us back, but I mean, that’s fine? Probably a lot better for me since nobody knows me there, and I think London is maybe bigger.
I made my way to a national park close to London. I had to find a tourist center place and looked for pamphlets until I could find where one was: Surrey Hills Area of National Beauty or whatever. It's really nice here, I'm in the woods like in Jersey, but the air's cleaner and there's more trees and more places to explore. Still having trouble catching squirrels, but...
I'm getting better at being sneaky. I got a big jacket, my friend doesn't really like it and I don't either but we can't go out without it if we don't want to freak people out. We get protein bars, candy, water, stuff like that. The way we can move things without touching them helps for distractions, like we'll knock over things so the store people go and pick them up and then our big jacket's got big pockets for stuff. We sneak out after big groups of families, stand behind them in line sometimes to pretend that's where we belong.
We haven't been able to find a library yet. Haven't looked much in the first place. We've been more busy trying to figure out how to survive out here, and it takes awhile to get ourselves out of the woods and to the stores, but I do like walking in the woods. Maybe it's cause of my friend and her tree, but the plants here always feel extra nice to be around. I have noticed I'm kinda off balance since being in the coma, though. I hope I feel better soon.
I found a ponytail holder on the walk home. It was dirty and pink. I think another girl dropped it. The thing about ponytails is that it’s not smart for me to wear them. My hair is long and messy. It helps us hide, it goes in front of our eyes and on the sides of our face to add cover with the hood so that it’s harder for people to notice my friend. My hair was all stringy and wet in my face, which like I said before, was cold but it was more… solid? So that helped. We washed the ponytail holder off in a water fountain outside and held it so that it dried on the way back to Surrey Hills.
When we got deep enough in the forest (cause if you walk around far enough, you don’t gotta pay to get in, cause there’s a spot I found where the security cameras don’t see you) I was putting the ponytail in my hair since we were hidden and I got distracted and stepped in a hole, which I think is the dumbest way I’ve gotten hurt. I stopped, sighed all deep, and turned around to walk back into town… I was thinking I’d get a first aid kit.
About an hour later I come back to Surrey Hills with my first aid kit and I get to where we were set up. I left some of my yarn in the trees to get me back to it. And THEN I realize that there’s nothing in the stupid first aid kit to even help my ankle, and I read the little book in it and all it says is to stay off it and elevator or whatever. So now I’m sitting with Horatio on our lap, I couldn’t climb a tree so I’m on the ground with a bunch of leaves and stuff piled under my leg, and I’ve been reading the first aid book and writing this and what I told you about the old lady in Soho.
I’m going to send Horatio out to try and get a bird soon. I’m not even sure if he can… my friend says he can do it, never mind then. Good kitty.
(-There's a drawing of Horatio at the bottom of the page, holding a bird in his mouth with x's over the eyes.-)
I think that gold coin Mister Edgar got us to keep… the chance to keep? let us keep miiight have made me a little obsessed with shiny things. I had a rock collection back home, and bottlecaps and puffballs and googly eyes and some nuts, the little circle ones. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for awhile after I got back to Surrey. So I’ve been spending awhile exploring, looking for things to make another collection.
But then I realized I needed a place to PUT all the stuff cause I found more bottlecaps and some newspaper but I ran out of room in my pockets. And then I realized I need a place to put ME. So we kept exploring… there’s this old broken down stone building that looks like nobody’s been in it forever. I made a circle out of rocks and put my other stuff in it, and my blanket, and took a bunch of leaves and moss and stuff and made a nest for Horatio. He said it looks like a bird nest but he likes it anyway, I can tell.
This place doesn’t really have much of a roof. When it rains I sit in this one corner- my friend says south east- and I wait it out unless I feel like I need a shower, but mostly I just use baby wipes I got from a lady at the park. She looked like she could afford more… I smell weird all the time now, but I’m clean. And I have my rocks. And people don’t bother me out here.
Also, I’ve been borrowing apples from the farmers market stuff to eat with the candy bars. (They’re protein bars, but I pretend they’re candy). I used to eat apples a lot after school- now they remind me of that when I eat them. But yesterday I thought about it too much I guess and got pretty… sad? I try not to think about it most of the time, but I feel secretly kinda bad about Horatio’s bed even though he sleeps with me most of the time if he’s out then and I used to have this fish named Harry and he didn’t have a bed but it still reminded me of him and I miss MY bed and Quest bars are really gross and definitely not Snickers and I feel so bad watching the bees be mad in the rain, I wanna make friends with them but they don't like me and (-The text here is too scratched out to read-)
The apple started glowing and crackling on the inside when I got worked up. I ate it and it fixed the headache I gave myself crying, and I had some blood on my hands from squeezing with my nails too hard. When I scrubbed the blood off, there weren’t any cuts underneath. I’m tired of writing for now… I need to go to bed.
(- There’s a sketch of a building at the bottom of the page. Grace has added grass, flowers, rain, and an angry bee. -)
I got the sleeping thing under control. I think I tried too hard the first time. I don’t… think I was there, at first. But now, when I try again calmer, I’m still here just not all the way, so we can play hide and seek, and we hide from everyone else. Once we got it under control it was a lot easier to get things, y’know like food and stuff from stores or picking up money from the sidewalks. We can get more snickers, and did I tell you everything’s sweeter than in New Jersey? All the candy. I don’t need to eat so much anymore because I get all full faster from the British people food. I guess I’m British people too? I don’t talk any different I don’t think.
I’ve been watching people. I can only disappear for a minute, we timed it, but that makes it easier to get into more b places that’re easier to hide in. Like in the tops of trees or behind things or in bushes. I had a couple dogs bark at me, but their people pulled them away cause they couldn’t see me. I’ve never really watched people when they couldn’t see me. I used to do it sometimes on the bus or just w walking home. But now they don’t know there’s a kid here and they say more, they don’t look over at me, right? I got some sunglasses to cover my eyes when I hide at night, cause I realized they kinda glow a little, which made me feel weird at first but then pretty cool, like a superhero, but not all my friends are superheroes, and I don’t think I really am either cause nobody knows who I am. I think if I was a superhero I’d be Danny Phantom. (-There’s a drawing of a smiley face and herself with a ghost tail in the right margin-) Except there’s two of us and one of us is the phantom and one of us is like human Danny.
Anyway, people are kinda interesting. I counted how many people almost sat on the bird poop on the bench but went through like the exact same motions of “oh, there’s bird poop” and sat to the left of it. Or the right. Their right, our left. And some people just sat on it but only one person ever got told they had bird poop on their pants. I should stop talking about bird poop pants. I watch the birds too. I can tell the difference between ravens and crows really easy now. (-There’s a drawing of a raven and a crow with dots at the bottom in the left margin.-)
After leaving Simon Chatmon in the White Ronin hospital, Grace pays visits to the gravesites she remembers passing on the way in: the ones prepared for the fallen. She starts with Widow. Grace is frail and physically weak, but the earth is freshly turned and she has as much time as she wants. It’s about midnight when she’s finally pressed against the 6 foot walls of dirt, filthy with matted hair sticking to her forehead. Nikita “Widow” Stryker lays peaceful at the bottom, buried according to Japanese tradition. Kimono crossed right-over-left, six coins to cross the Rivers, and her important possessions sitting with her. Widow is just as beautiful, pale, and cold as she was in life, marred as she is by her fatal injuries.
Grace retrieves Sally from Widow’s kimono, apologizing the entire time, and clutches the doll.
“…Sally, how did she die?”
A mechanical click comes from Sally as her voice-box begins to work. The bloody, cracked porcelain doll speaks: “Crushed by a spiked ceiling.”
Grace begins to shake from more than the exhaustion in her limbs. She touches the base of her throat. “Can you help me talk to Miss Widow?,” she tries. And when the doll replies, “No,” she winces and shrinks into herself. That space above Widow… Grace could almost feel her presence, but Sally was too rigid, Grace felt awful being so close to a conversation but restricted by whatever force kept Sally like this.
And the tugging, the pushing on her mind… The Spirit had already opened the pathway into Grace’s brain for new souls. Her head throbbed and ached now that she was holding the doll, trying to will a deeper connection. She swallows a million more questions for an expert on the dead, and sighs. “Okay, thank you anyway, Sally.”
The girl looks up and hikes her foot into an indentation on the steep slope she dug herself to the casket. She bites her lip, turns back around, and the words spill out on something like instinct: “And Miss Widow, if you can hear me, I’m so sorry you couldn’t come out the other side with us. You seemed so nice,” her voice breaks on the last word, and she slips back down to tip-toe carefully closer to the body and hold Sally up again. “Miss Widow, will you be okay?”
The answer comes, “I am home,” and Grace breathes a shuddering sigh of relief.
“Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Care for Sally. Tell Aria.”
She tilts her head and tries to remember anyone with that name… “Who’s Aria? And I promise I’ll care for Sally.”
She tilts her head further. “Where is she?”
“I’ll ask others.”
The presence seems to dissipate. Grace sighs, less distraught now, and hoists herself out of the grave. She locks eyes with a man from the White Ronin castle as soon as she gets up. He stares at her, gives a small bow, and looks away with the expression of someone having an existential crisis. But Grace isn’t done crawling around damp graves yet- she needs to talk to Hank Lazarus, or Chuck Chesterton, as she knew him.
The early spring Okinawa wind blows and chills the sweat from Grace’s skin. But within Grace’s mind, and sheltered from this wind, is a small gray environment. A swingset, a four-poster bed sunk into the ground with a blanket fort built above it, a few belongings, and a bookshelf (containing, among trinkets, a cat with glowing yellow eyes) sit in a clearing surrounded by apple trees. The air smells something like strawberries and cinnamon; sweet and comforting with an odd sort of numb sense. In the middle, Grace is sprawled out with Sally laid on top of her. She breathes heavy, trying to catch her breath and rest a bit before the next grave, and stares at the doll on her chest. The Spirit sits calmly independent of Grace a few feet away, leaned back but not laying in the field. She pays more attention than Grace does to the sound of rustling apple tree leaves.
“Sally. I know you can hear me.” The words ring out in the field, coming from everywhere at once. Her tone resembles that sort of convinced longing a child has talking to a pet or stuffed animal, waiting for a response. “I know that you’re special, but I don’t know anything else much about you. Miss Widow trusted you, but I didn’t get to talk to her much before… I’m sorry if you want to go back to her, I just need you to tell me.” Grace solemnly closes her eyes again and leans back in the desaturated grass. “Maybe you just need some time to get used to me. You’re welcome to visit…”
“… When my friend and I started working, uhm, together-“ she lifts her hands and gestures with them to demonstrate a clasp- “we made this… place, I’m not sure if you can see it, we made this place to be more like our house. Well, it’s not really a house but you know what I mean, it’s our place to stay. I think it’s a mix of her head and mine, maybe, it’s just our sort of… more laid-out brain, and maybe you could join us like when she joined me. I feel *something* from you, but I can’t figure out what it is, which is why I’m trying so hard…”
Grace loses track of the time she lays on the gray grass for. Outside, in the real world, the grass is dark and wet, and mosquitoes and ants have begun to get curious about the little body on the ground. She scrunches her face a bit and wills herself to ignore their bites. Then, in an act of subconscious desperation, Grace summons the power she’s been imbued with from coming out of the Trials alive. And inside her head, there’s a *crack* at the edge of the apple tree forest.
As Sally Ingleton is accepted into Grace’s mindscape, the girl’s breathing slows and begins to sync with a pulsing red glow from hers, and now the doll’s, eyes. She settles deeper into the damp earth and the bugs are instinctually repelled from their claim. Grace’s eyes flutter open in the mindscape and lock with grey-blue ones from the direction the sound of the snapping branch came. A malnourished teenage girl with a wool tank top and jeans stares at Grace through a curtain of straight blonde hair, tensed and shaking like a leaf. Grace stares wide-eyed back a beat and looks away with a short gasp.
“You’re a person.”
Another branch snaps.
“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, so I won’t look over again.”
“I hope we can be friends.”
The grass rustles a bit more, and when Grace finally looks over, she can see Sally’s legs bent and skinny arms wrapped around them from behind one of the trees. Grace shifts her perspective out of the mindscape and rises, rejuvenated, from the grass.
Some time later, the second grave is hollowed out to the pried-open casket and Grace is panting, though… slower now. Hank is laid to rest in the same manner as Widow, though his pallor is much more noticeable, having lost his usual drunken rosiness.
“Okay Sally, one more time, please, and then I’ll leave you alone for the night… Sally, how did he die?”
The “jolt” is easier to see this time. There’s a glowing sort of blur around Hank’s physical form to denote the waking of his spiritual one, fading and flickering in and out of the physical world’s sight. Hank’s face blurs in a way not unlike Grace’s when The Spirit’s expression deviates from hers. The translucent mouth gapes open in a gasp, and begins to move. Sally picks up in a monotone voice after a few panicked sentences:
“— - —_ -… __-== holding onto a rope above a pit of spikes, and my hand getting sweaty…” Fading in and out between Sally’s clear speech is a jumbled mix of Hank’s real voice and her repetitions.
Grace glances down at Sally with a budding appreciation, a coaxing, perhaps. Belief. “I’m sorry, Mister Chuck, I wanted to check on you and Miss Widow said to take care of Sally.”
“… -_==-_ finally bit the bullet then, huh?” Hank’s face blurs into something like distress. His mouth moves; noises come through Sally’s voice box that lift in pitch at the end like questions. Grace continues on her best guess:
“You and Miss Widow were the only ones who didn’t make it.” She shifts, and grave dirt cascades around her, catching on her eyelashes, making her cough. “Mister Simon lost an arm. The last challenge was a fight, but the rest of us were all together for it.”
Hank lets out a resigning sigh. “G=_-, I’m glad.” Spectral tears begin welling up in the corners of his soon-to-be rotting eyes. “I guess I didn’t have too much to do with your livin’, I was a bit too busy dyin’ myself, but goddamn, it still feels good…” the ghost blurs and glows violently; it doesn’t take the snippets of heart-wrenching noises coming from Sally to see that Hank is sobbing. Yet, the look on his face is more content than pain. As ectoplasmic pitiful tears splash down onto the physical Hank’s corpse, Grace steps gingerly around it and does her best to hug the Spirit. A cold feeling envelops her, but she persists.
“Aw, Mister Chuck…” She sighs. “I’m not sure if this is actually working, but I think it should. I think you and Miss Widow were the nicest people to me I ever met.”
Hank’s expression falters. “=… -, nice of you to say, _. . I’m not. Chuck may have been nice, but my real name is Hank Lazarus, and I-“ There’s a sound like a death rattle- “was a monster. =— - _- without taking anyone with me.”
She’s silent for awhile, but keeps her hold on him with a willfully set jaw. “I don’t believe you. I believe you that your name is Mister Hank Lazarus, but I don’t believe you that you’re a monster.”
He laughs a pained, hollow, echoing laugh. "If you're truly still alive and this isn't just how Hell works, you can look me up. I deserved what happened to m=, — _ =_ _ —t, the only question is why it took so damn long."
She crosses her arms. “I don’t have a phone.”
"Hey, I'm dead, me neither."
“Mister Hank, you can think you’re a monster,” says the at-best-11 year old voice, “but I think whatever you did was a mistake. I don’t think monsters ever feel bad about what they do, but you definitely do cause you’ve been crying a lot, and I don’t think monsters cry about the bad things they did.”
Hank’s ghost looks pained, scrunching his face in on itself. "I just cry a lot because I'm almost always drunk. Never drunk enough to make the pain go away, but that's no more than I deserved." He sniffles, and opens his eyes. "Shit, kid, even dead I'm a mess. You better go, I don't wanna burden you with any of this."
“Nope.” She hugs him harder. “And you don’t smell like alcohol anymore cause you’re a ghost.”
"God, I hope they make ghost whiskey." The comment comes through Sally like a whisper. He accepts the hug awkwardly and pats Grace on the head, hitting The Spirit more solidly than Grace. "I appreciate what you're trying to do, kid. Too late for me, though. Maybe if I hadn't died, I coulda done some good and maybe made up for what I done, but hell, I had 30 years to do that and never did shit about it so I probably woulda just drunk myself into a stupor like always. Those Japanese fellas just did what I never had the courage to do myself." He smiles, but it feels like it’s forced. "I'll be okay kid, really. As much as I can given the circumstances, anyway."
“I don’t know what happens after this, or where you were before. But you’ll probably be with Miss Widow, and other people, but you’ll have good company. I asked her the same thing- is there anything I can do for you after I go?” Grace tilts her head.
"-__ Tell the press that I'm dead. Maybe the news will provide some comfort to the people I harmed."
She nods solemnly. “G’bye, Mister Hank.”
"Bye kid. You're a good egg, keep it up eh?" He tries to mess up her hair, and again, gets The Spirit’s already floaty hair. The Spirit smiles wider than Hank’s ever seen from her. She gives the final message before Hank’s spirit rests again: “We’ll try our best. Thank you, and… rest well.”
(-This page has dirty fingerprints along the edges and smears of dried mud.-)
I figured out I don’t like the desert. There’s no cover, it’s all dry and hot and everybody can see you no matter where they are cause it’s all flat. The only way you could get hidden is behind a cactus but they’re spiky, or I guess you could dig in the sand but that takes a long time and I think scorpions live there, plus you’d get sand in your eyes. So I was really happy to get back to the trees, and that’s where I am right now, in a tree. (-There’s a drawing of a tree in the margins-)
It’s been awhile since my last… game? Mission? The trees are awesome, but I found this sorta hole in the side of a hill that I thought might be nice to dig out, but my hands aren’t enough. Now there’s dirt all in my nails and trying to bite them off like I usually do is gross. I’m getting tired of hating the dirt so much… I feel itchy all the time. I don’t know of anywhere I can go take a shower, there’s a river and that helps a little but it’s like it gets worse every time.
I don’t understand the newspapers I find. They talk about old guys I don’t know that I guess are supposed to be important. I’m glad I’m not out there in the city, really… everything is so complicated and I don’t get why anyone does anything. There are too many people to keep track of. I like knowing who I’m with.
Mister Jules called me. He said he had things to do back in Egypt again, and wanted me to help because I know things about Shub-Niggurath and Ha. I’m just kinda waiting now, but he sent me a plane ticket (somehow?) and a card to call him, and I ended up getting a phone. I’ve never needed one before but I grabbed a unicorn charm for it too. It was too loud, though, so now it’s in my bag with my other stuff.
Mister Jules gave me a lot of money, and I don’t really know how money works so I have like 500 of it to this guy outside the ASDA place which I think is like Walmart to buy me a shovel, and it worked! I had on my jacket and everything and it was dark out, and he looked distracted already. I said thank you and he had I guess noticed the rest of the money I had and asked what I was gonna do with it, and I thought about it and said I’d give it to him if he went and bought a bunch of other stuff like Snickers and oh my gosh, unicorn stuffed animals and would help me move it all back to Surrey. Oh! And a satchel for Sally. That took awhile of convincing, but he helped me anyway, and I gave him the money and I haven’t seen him since then.
Digging is hard. But I don’t have anything else to do, and nobody comes all the way out here. The unicorns got kinda rained on but they’re all friends with Cherry now, and Cherry’s used to rain and water (remember the broken bridge?), so I think Cherry’s helping them get used to it.
Also, the dirt doesn’t bother me so much anymore. I remembered a song that calms me down. Everything that freaked me out about dirt felt like a big storm in my head, I hated it but thinking about storms reminded me of the song that’s supposed to make storms go away, and it worked. I got the dirt out from under my nails.
(-There’s a drawing of a rain cloud with an x over it below the entry.-)
I’m almost done with the hole. It’s cold in there, but I got blankets. It’s comfy. And I don’t have to be as worried… I mean, like I said, no one comes here, I’m not worried. But having a sorta door made out of branches is nice. I’m moving all the unicorns in. There’s a really big one named Addison that’s the best for hugging, she’s got a pink horn and rainbow hoofs hooves and she’s super soft.
( On the back of the page: )
I feel stronger. I’ve won 10 missions by now. My best friend says we’re doing good. I’m almost positive these are helping us, I feel closer to her every time we get learn how to do things. She says she feels the same.
Mister Cameron asked me to help him with a fear of open spaces instead of snakes. I don’t understand why he would WANT to be scared of snakes, I like snakes more than I hate open spaces, but I guess it’s his brain, not mine. But guess what guess what guess what? I wanted to fly like Mister Cameron, and you know how when you really think about something, you dream about it? I dreamt I was way up in the clouds with the birds from London, and there was a rainbow, and my friends were there, and Horatio had angel wings, and I was flying, and when I woke up, I was! I was in the air in the hotel room! Mister Cameron was either really sleepy or he was sad about something, but I could tell he was trying to be nice to me about it… I couldn’t sleep after that so I made him some coffee and eggs. The first time I think I put too much coffee powder cause it overflowed but I cleaned it all up and made a better pot. The eggs were okay, I might have gotten a little shell in them but I figured out how to not!
(-There’s a drawing of a pan with cracked eggs next to it. None of the cracks on the eggs line up, even at a cursory glance.-)
Mister Jules said Egypt would be awhile while he figured things out, like who he wanted to bring. I asked him to bring me back to Surrey Hills while we waited, to make sure nobody found my hole in the hill. He put me in a helicopter… on the way there, I had a weird dream about hang gliders.
Back in Surrey, again. More and more people have caught glimpses of me, and I’ve had to hide from the police a few times. I saw a man with binoculars way off one time when I was grabbing eggs from a pigeon’s nest, looking right at me. He brought out a camera, and I hid. I climbed down the tree and moved away to make him leave. He seemed disappointed…
Another time, a bunch of drunk teenagers came near one of the ruins I like, talking about urban legends. Bloody Mary (there’s not even a bathroom out here), the Big Grey Man (hmm), someone hit his friend because he said something about the Loch Ness Monster, and then one of them started talking about me. ME. I have to get better at hiding… I don’t think they had a name for me, just “the girl in the woods.” I feel like Bigfoot. It’s not that I don’t like scaring mean people sometimes, but it’s weird knowing people are trying to watch me. I’m glad my place in the hill is a little farther away from where I usually hung out.
Speaking of lakes and monsters, I fixed my fear of water. I’ve been scared of it since the first Contract, and really, I don’t know why. It’s annoying being hesitant every time I get near the rivers or lakes. I like the rain. It cleans everything, I mean, now that I have a good shelter I can keep what I want to keep keep dry what I want to keep dry, and at least get the dirt off my clothes and sometimes the unicorns.
We stopped at a hospital for Mister Cham, but he decided not to go in. I think he focused his win towards healing up. I’m getting better at healing people, and I tried to joke with Mister Cham that I test it by falling out of trees on purpose, but he just doesn’t seem like he likes jokes.
Mister Cham is nice, but he always seems sad or upset about something. I guess he misses being a full angel, and I was kinda nervous around him, especially after the quills from the Sin Eater saying I was bad, but he hasn’t hurt me. He actually built up my shelter, with a door and lights and a few more unicorns and water storage. It’s so nice of him, I don’t really know how to say thank you, but I’ve been helping his fears more, so maybe that’s how he wants to pay me back. And he never complains when I get eggshells in breakfast when I try to make some.
His leg is healing weird. It was all small and red like a baby and it just keeps getting bigger, I guess it’ll stop when it’s the right size. Maybe it helped him when he went to the st wait, how did he get the stuff he got? Hold on.
Okay, Mister Cham says he got the door from a construction site. I guess nobody will miss it, it was already getting taken down. It’s all dirty and the paint is cracked so it’s perfect, it blends in with the grass and stuff around it, and we put up branches to help. Not flower though, those would die too fast. And I don’t like disturbing the flowers.
(-Stray lines from where the paper tore on the previous page decorate the margins.-)
I’m sorry about the last page, I didn’t mean to tear the paper so much. I guess I was still freaked out and angry about that Contract.
We figured it out. We figured it out we figured it out we figured it out we figured it out we figured it out !!!!!!!!!!!
We didn’t understand at first, I just woke up and… I mean, my friend, she never sleeps unless she needs to rest after using her energy. We were so upset over my eye… when we woke up, I didn’t get it, but we could see like normal. Diary? We did it. We merged.
Not completely, just at the eye. My friend can’t move her eye from where mine would be, and it works just like my old one. Our eyes are both red, so it doesn’t look that different unless you shine a light in it (ow), but I can see all the way to my brains. They’re red and pink and white, maybe not brains, just my skin behind our eye, I don’t know. We checked ourselves out- the protective symbol from the creature is still there in white, scar tissue I guess. I kinda like it.
But… that mean the only way for us to stay together is for me to get hurt like that?
Getting that hurt sucks. And my friend doesn’t want me to be hurt.
Maybe it’s good. It could keep me from being so scared of getting hurt. I’m not going to start cutting my limbs off to make us merge faster, but… getting my limbs cut off might not be so bad.
I shouldn’t laugh about it, but I thought about giving my cut off limbs to Mister Benny. But, being serious, I want to keep my friends even though we figured out what we’ve been wanting to figure out. It’s not like I can just go back to a normal life, and I don’t want to. I like going on Contracts, I like seeing what my friend and I can do, I like progressing.
We’re going to keep going on Contracts. It shouldn’t be hard to get hurt… but we’re not gonna let it be something stupid.
Awhile back, I said we needed to have trained up some armor. I know it may look counterproductive to start that after saying we wanted me to get hurt, but I don’t wanna be stupid about it, like I said, and I don’t wanna get hurt in stupid ways. Plus, I’ll be more of a liability if I’m just hurt by small things.
It’s not really armor armor, my friend just trained up her reflexes. She’s a lot faster than I can be, and we kinda just spent time… safely? hurting ourselves to get it. Mister Cham has throws stuff at us, and we fall out of trees. She swats the stuff and puts her arms out to help me land better. It’s really helpful, she just gets tired quick. I think we’ll get better at it over time.
The fireflies started coming out. We won’t go train with them, they’re too pretty to hurt. We like watching them from on top of the hill. I think it’s the same as us liking shiny things, I mean, I do more than my friend or Sally does, but they like them, too. Horatio always wants to go bat at the fireflies to we have to keep him in our lap and pet him a bunch so he doesn’t move because he’s too distracted purring. And then we can watch the fireflies move. I don’t have anything else I need to be doing, I don’t even get hungry, so we can just… watch.
(-The bottom of the page and margins are filled with empty circles with wings and “glow” lines around them: fireflies.-)
Like I said, nobody brought me back. Which is usually fine, I can sneak onto planes easy, but… after the game, I left to the woods to figure out where I am and let Horatio look around the town for things. But I’m in a cave right now because I found a huge building with the symbol for the place Doctor Bright came from on it. Remember, who I said I’d bite because he muzzled me? I didn’t know they had a building like that, all big and gray with guards walking around and fences. I’m waiting for Horatio, I left tracks in the snow from the hill I built to where I am now, but I’m kinda scared to have done that… I don’t know how heavily guarded this world is. I’m not risking a plane for now. I’m going to find a cemetery later and Sally and I are gonna ask around to figure out more about what’s here.
(-There’s a drawing of the symbol for the SCP Foundation in the margins, as well as Doctor Bright with a pointed tail and two sets of horns.-)
Horatio came back with a mouse and a half eaten Payday bar, and he smells like cigarettes and skunk. I didn’t even know he COULD smell. I let him go get his energy back up while I do this.
I got to the cemetery, and there’s no shovels. So I put on my burqa and got one at Dollar General. People looked at me weird, but not AS weird as they would if they could see underneath… it’s a little funny. But I should have bought something for who I go talk to… okay, my friend says there’s nothing in there they’d like anyway.
Let me explain why I was eating squirrels. And why my handwriting got kinda worse.
So the cemetery had this girl named Gabby who was a teenager and she was really confused about why I was there and talking to her and how and she didn’t have a whole lot of information on this world I’m in but she said there was this place that no one could none of the other souls could reach far enough to explore but the humans acted weird around it and I wanted to explore it for her and also for myself, to say thank you. So I got there and it felt really weird walking in and there were fireflies that were red and purple but I guess that’s just what happens around cemeteries for famous dead people that tried to be immortal. They apparently don’t mind me hanging out here despite the stupid stupid stupid thing I did, and I’m doing that right now with Guido, the dinosaur. So in this cemetery there’s a big mausoleum in the middle of all the graves for like, Christopher Columbus and Nicholas Flamel and Sir Francis Bacon. And Count Saint Germain and Tithonus and Sir Galahad and Aribert Heim. Inside that big mausoleum there’s a stone tomb, that I moved the top of and there was a staircase and I went down the staircase with my flashlight and found ANOTHER tomb except this one was onyx and there are big statues of all the Olympians (but not Hades, Hestia instead) pointing at it.
So I thought it was Hades at first. And I knew it would be stupid to open it. But I also felt stupid going back to Gabby and saying it was kinda scary so I didn’t wanna touch it and I still didn’t know what to tell her on what was in it. So I opened it just a little. But it opened the rest on its own and there were a lot of really bad things in it. Keres. It was Pandora’s Box, like, THAT Pandora’s Box, and I opened it and I’m super dumb for it and Hope came out and she’s a little blue butterfly and she lives in my head now and all the statues are disappointed and I told Hope I’d help put the keres back and so she landed on my hand and now I have this huge gauntlet that’s kinda pretty but feels so weird and it was burned into my hand, it felt like the Sin Eater’s quills, and I can feel it making me want to go out and do things but having everyone else kind of keeps me balanced. But I blacked out, and kind of like the Sin Eater too, I remember remembering all the not nice things I’ve done. I think Hope and I have a different idea of what’s bad, though, which is weird to think about. Maybe everyone has a different definition of bad.
But the keres are pure bad, I know that at least. I felt it when they came out of the box. It’s not Hope telling me that, either. But after the gauntlet came on, I blacked out for what I know was a long time- Gabby seemed kinda sorry for me and said she thinks it had been about two weeks. I was hungrier than I’d ever been, and all I could the first thing I found was a nest of baby squirrels, so I just ate those. And when I was finishing them, Mister Talent came up, and said it was about the time when I’d start eating baby squirrels, and that’s when the elevator showed up.
Right now, I’m letting Guido run around the cemetery to explore while I get all my thoughts together. Everyone is worried, especially Sally, but she gets worried easy all the time. I don’t even know where to start…
(-This page has dirty, muddy fingerprints on it.-)
I’ve been trying to ask Guido questions, but it takes him so LONG to talk. I’m really used to just knowing what my friends are saying, or other people just talk. I know it isn’t HIS fault he can’t talk out loud, though. He’s a dinosaur… a really small dinosaur.
I’m gonna ask him questions.
He’s just eating the stick. I gave him one because he used something to write on the tower but he just wants to play, which is pretty cute, but not what I was expecting and I don’t think dinosaurs eat sticks but I guess since he’s a dinosaur he would know better than me about what dinosaurs eat. But don’t they he said he’s 3!
Temporal revivification ???
Weird. I have to look that up next time I get a way to.
Diplodocus carnegii (Guido) said time displaced? Doctor Conroy sucks
Doctor Conroy is good, Doctor Bright is bad (knew that)
Guido can tell when things are weird with time? He can sense something called Temporal Radiation.
Guido says he’s that old. But he also says that he hatched three years ago. So the dinosaur… I mean, I guess dinosaurs are that old? I can’t think about a number that big really well. 153,691,074… does that include the three? I think it does. How does he remember that much? I barely remember how old I am… how long have I been doing this?
I can’t remember. I think it’s been a couple years, but it’s hard to tell… I remember things I got, and time passing, but really I wouldn’t know Christmas had passed if I didn’t see the lights in Marcellus. I must have missed them in Surrey ? Do people celebrate
I guess it doesn’t matter if I know or not. I know I’m younger than pretty much everyone I’ve met, and that it’s weird to have kids on these. Everyone’s adults and mostly guys… it’s weird BEING a little kid here. But I got here just like everyone else, and people still act like I’m the same person I was when I started. Or before that.
I guess it can be a good thing. People don’t get I guess that I can do things unless they know me a little. And being a surprise helps me being kind of scary. And I like being scary, like I said! Maybe it’s the same thing? Like being scary and being a kid? I don’t know anyone who’s the kind of scary we are… I remember Mister John I think his name was who said he had a lot of ghosts in a ring or something? But he wasn’t scary and his ghosts weren’t his friends.
I don’t need to know how old I am, I guess- my friend doesn’t know how old she is, or her name. Sally doesn’t remember her age either, but if I think about it, I can’t think of any reason I need to know. It’s not like I’m getting a drivers lisence or anything? Or going to school or getting a job or going to college or getting a house or watching adult movies all the other things people need to know your age for !
(-The doodles at the bottom of the page are: An apple, cemetery gates, Guido, and a car.-)
After the lizard blew up, we crashed a car but there were a bunch of cars left so we got another one- I think Mister D knows how to start cars without keys and I think I saw someone do that once but not in a long time, and I think I should learn how to do that too because it seems useful.
But we got a new car and we left and it was fine, but we had to give Miss Mildred and Mister Arthur and Mister D back to the Foundation and Miss Mildred was so okay with it I couldn’t get really mad even though I wanted to. The Foundation (I found out they were called that from Mister Arthur) said that if I didn’t get everything done I had to go with them, too, but I would have just run…
Why couldn’t they just take care of everything themselves? Contracts are getting more difficult, like I said. But I hate when it seems pointless even when it’s just a test or something because people who might be good are dying. I can’t tell if they care or not. I guess they don’t.
So I’m still writing from Mister Jules’s house and I haven’t explained why yet. Mister Jules needed my help with the Egypt thing still and wanted me to come back with him, so I said that I would but I wanted him to help me help Guido. Because Mister Jules is an adult and has a house and money and knows people, so he got this vet that wouldn’t tell anyone, somehow… we brought Guido to the vet to get his chip out, and I helped that poor guy Doctor Murphy with the surgery even though he didn’t know how to operate on dinosaurs, which I guess no one does.
It was stressful doing that, I guess is a way to say it. I hadn’t gotten any time to rest, but Guido needed that chip out, so I lied to Doctor Murphy. But it turned out okay. Guido got his chip out and we put it on a train to go wherever. And now he’s sleeping in one of the bedrooms and he has a nest made out of blankets and I’m sitting at Miss Ale
Oh, right. Miss Alexandra’s grave. That’s where I am right now. You remember her from the White Ronin thing? I guess her and Mister Jules were friends… I wonder what she thinks of being dead. Her tombstone’s a big chess piece, the castle I think. Or the rook, but the rook’s also a bird and it confuses me for some reason because I mix birds with horses but nothing else is a building. I wouldn’t be very good at chess with all the people to keep track of. But I can keep track of the people I know.
Oh! And I think Guido’s vet trip stressed me out enough that I got some sort of new ability related to that. I felt that sort of kinetic energy leave spread out during the surgery, so I’m gonna get in one of the bedrooms and see if I can figure it out… my friend and I usually can after awhile if we don’t already know.
We got rid of Sara’s needle mark in my chest! It was like cauterizing. It took awhile but and I thought we would ALWAYS have that, but I think this means we can do it for other people and that makes SENSE because we wanted Guido to not have any scars and okay we get it a little better now!
One more thing I forgot: Mister Jules is teaching us how to drive. He also gave us a phone with a unicorn charm on it! I guess he has a lot of money… most of the rich people we’ve met have been awful, so I’m glad he isn’t.
(-The drawings at the bottom of the page are: Guido again, the SCP Foundation logo with an x over it, some sort of blob, and fire.-)
It’s weird that I don’t like living in houses anymore. I’ve slept places on jobs before, but never stayed in a house. I didn’t realize I wouldn’t SCRATCH It’s too busy. There are too many people, and the air is harder to breathe, and it’s loud, all the time. I’m not used to THEIR voices.
So Shizuko let me take some blankets and build a place for myself in the back yard. It’s not exactly the same, people are closer, but it’s better than in the house sharing a room with people. I have my stuff here, but I won’t set it up, because I should be leaving soon- just a month, Mister Sammuel said.
I do like one thing here that I couldn’t get as easily if I was in the woods. It’s called taiyaki. It’s like a pastry, shaped like a fish… but junk food. And I don’t usually get hot food.
(-There’s a small doodle of taiyaki in the margin.-)
I’ve been using my phone from Mister Jules to find stuff on Yōkai, since I’m in Japan. Using the phone isn’t the same as the computers in the library. I wonder if Miss Gallagher is still alive… probably, it can’t have been too long and she never got sick or anything. But anyway, the kanji for Yōkai kinda means “suspicious calamity”, or “attractive mystery”. I thought about it awhile and it seems like they could be fun? So I looked up if there were friendly ones and I found someone called amabie, and now I kinda want to actually find her. I’m gonna make a note to look at later: she’s like a mer…bird? She lives in the sea.
(-Amabie is drawn at the bottom of the page. It’s some sort of three-finned mermaid with the top body of a bird, long hair, and a smile.-)
We were all brought back to Shizuko’s house again. My fort is still here, it’s nice of Shizuko’s dad to not have taken it down. I talked to him for awhile last month… he takes this all surprisingly well. I kind of doubt it’s just that Japanese parents are more likely to be fine with their kids going on deadly missions to unlock their powers. But if he’s gonna know a little, he should know a lot. It’s not REALLY my business but I had to see how he’d react. He asked questions, and I answered honestly. Mostly about the Contracts, and once about my parents being worried. I just laughed at him, which doesn’t really answer anything, but I think he might have still gotten it. A little.
I also talked to Viper for awhile. It was confusing. I like watching Viper during the jobs, because they’re useful- did I tell you about the boat? We couldn’t figure out transportation, so Viper stretched out their arms and held Jeremy under the car so he could use his bubbles to make the whole thing fly. The dust in the air and that we’d taken from the factories helped, and maybe him being so young too. I figured out where I’d seen the spear before, too. Remember those awful pumpkin-headed things on the job with Mister Eden and Mister Connor? I think something else happened there that needed to be taken care of. It’s the spear Mister Eden had, and Viper wields it well. Like I said, they’re useful. And capable. When we talked, they said I was in love with them, and I still don’t know if that’s true. But they taught me a lot of sign language, and I know that’s good. I don’t really know what love is in the first place. I get red and confused, which doesn’t seem right… and I don’t like talking about this anymore.
My name is Obedience Bratcher, and I am Grace’s best friend. We have shared this body for what we can best estimate to be five years, and they have been, undoubtedly, the best five years of my life and death.
I was born in 1682, in a small village near what I hear has since become Tinton Falls, New Jersey. I lived for eleven years with my mother, my father, and my grandmother. When I died, the Salem Witch Trials had not yet begun… my burning was preemptive, but never heard of. I was still alive when they carried me away, though they never knew that and never will (unless Satan devises such punishment as to bring guilt into their hearts in Hell) and my burial was secret. I did not finally pass until the suffocation came.
After that, I spent the time possessing the seed that grew above my grave, growing with it over the years. It grew as I did; the first while was a fruitless, shambling existence, but as I calmed, the seed and I grew, and when we hit the surface, I began to learn. I forgot my name somewhere in the centuries… it was unimportant, and still is, but remembering has unlocked recollections I suppose are ultimately preferable to have. I was Obedience Bratcher, and then we were the apple tree.
I watched the world change from fields to metal and plastic. I had no mouth nor muscles in the physical world; in my angriest moments I could shake the beautiful boughs of my tree, and once dropped an apple onto the head of a particularly horrible man, but that was the extent of my movement.
Grace Richardson was not my first friend, even after death, but she tells me I was hers. She tells me that before we joined, she hadn’t known a true friendship. I am glad, even though the circumstances that led her to me were not desirable, that we are able to be as we are.
The last name Cyanide was our own creation. It is difficult sometimes to choose which to go by, Richardson or Cyanide- but Cyanide’s resilience is what we need, and so it is what we chose, and so it is what we are. She is… sort of… Grace Richardson, and I am Obedience Bratcher in the same degree, but we are Grace Cyanide.