Chapter 5 "Meeting Jack"
While I wash your soft, flawless back and gaze at your few freckles, the sounds of the running water gives me flashbacks of watching blood going down the gutters of an old wooden table in a concrete basement. Body parts... strewn about the floor... and medical chemicals, brain and intestinal fluids... I forget that I smell shampoo and soap, and instead, I smell everything I see, including sweat and decomposing bodies. I’m remembering who changed my life, who I was before, and why I am the way I am now.
I was reborn...
Over one hundred years ago, I worked at a bank as a bank teller, I had a wife named Martha and two children; one was named Francine and the other—Christopher. They meant so much to me at the time. But now the thought of having this sort of closeness with anyone doesn’t compute properly in my head.
Martha and I would always argue over the strangest things. She was paranoid about every little thing and depressed all the time. Stupid bitch. I didn’t understand why. I couldn’t grasp what was happening to her. Coworkers told me to take her to the doctor. I dismissed everything they said, thinking it would be a waste of money. I was sure this was something maybe I could help her snap out of if she really tried and let me in. I wasn’t wise enough to understand I shouldn’t have cared so much.
Our fights became even worse when her parents died in a house fire. She was so distraught by the news she wanted to constantly contact the ‘other side’. She performed many séances, and tried to involve the children, but I disagreed with all of that. She didn’t see the wrong in it that I did.
She nagged me to the point I became a severe stress case; falling deeper, and deeper, down the hole of depression. Every time I looked at her, I’d have certain thoughts humans think are ‘unhealthy’; I wanted to kill her—but I wanted to take my time doing it just so I could see the disbelief in her as she left this world. I should have. But there was this other part of me, begging me to hold back. Why? Why did this side exist? Why did I think I couldn’t kill her? My conscience told me I would be caught by the police and get locked away. Francine and Christopher would be at the mercy of the state. I worried about this. I imagined there was another way...
I started going out for a drink every now and then. Sometimes I would go during lunch break, and other times just after I got off work. It became a habit after a while. But one day, I had a little too much to drink.
I went back to work and the boss saw me treating the customers and coworkers... inappropriately. They could smell the hard liquor on my breath, my eyes were a little glassy and I skipped over my feet a couple times. I remember at some point I was angry enough I almost strangled someone for gossiping about my family just a couple days before. The boss booted me out the door and said ‘Never come back here, you understand me! YOU’RE GONE!’ I should’ve gone back to kill that son of a bitch, but I didn’t.
I stood outside for a few minutes thinking I wasn’t about to go home after what happened. I didn’t want to hear Martha. So I went back to the bar.
Sometimes when I think about it, it feels like it only happened just days ago.
I sat at the bar counter and ordered a glass of scotch. “You goin’ to be here a while Gabe?” The bartender, Johnny McCormick asked as he grabbed my glass off a shelf behind him. I waved two fingers with a smile, “You don’t wanna to know what happened to me earlier, but maybe I could tell ya... Boy, I’m sure Martha isn’t goin’ to be happy!” He took the scotch and began pouring it. I didn’t realize why he was looking past me for the longest time until a man walked up and sat beside me; he wore a black tailcoat suit with a golden pocket watch clipped to his vest. His black shoes were so shiny it could’ve blinded everyone in the building.
He placed his hat on the counter and told Johnny to pour him a glass of scotch too. I watched him as he spoke with a British accent. Johnny nodded and politely said, “Coming right up sir.” I was curious as to why someone like him would be at the bar at this time of day. He appeared to be a man with much higher standards than anyone else in this place.
Johnny handed him his drink and the man raised his glass before taking a sip. Everything about him was so alien to me. I’ve seen all kinds of people but this one stood out in some way I couldn’t understand at all, and because of that, I felt a little more annoyed.
I turned so I could face him completely with my arm resting on the back of my chair, and I smiled at him, “You from ’round here?”
Momentarily, he put his glass down, clearing his throat. “Why no sir,” he looked at me, and in that moment we made eye contact, something happened to me; I had a feeling similar to what it’s like to meet someone far beyond special; someone who has done many amazing things in their life—some truly miraculous things. There was a sort of light in his eyes and smile that made me think maybe I was looking into the eyes of someone who was about to change my life in some strange way—forever. I’ve never had that feeling before.
He said, “I’m from London.”
My foggy mind scattered.
All I could think was; the rich folk there can be bizarre sometimes, can’t they...
I think he must have known I was thinking that too, because he laughed. Then he extended his hand, “My name is Jack Ryper; pleasure to meet you good sir.”
I observed him and shook it, “Likewise. I’m Gabriel Penn. Interesting name you have, sir.” He nodded and took his drink to give a toast to that. I did the same and sipped from mine.
“You... seem a little unwell. Would you mind if I asked why?” he said. I puffed out a sigh down at the counter, “Well I was just fired from my job at the bank. I was one of the best employees there. Nearly ten years of working and this happens to me. Here I have one or two drinks and then he fires me!” I shook my head, “I haven’t told my wife yet.”
“Ahh... that’s unfortunate.”
“Yeah, well now I have to think of something else to do.”
He sat quietly, thinking, watching me drink.
I finished the scotch with one last gulp and asked for another. He was tending to another customer at the other end of the counter. I know I was loud enough for him to hear me, but he didn’t seem to notice. I called him over again. He glimpsed over in my direction, yet his conversation still continued. I took it he was much more interested in talking with that scum down there than with a good friend like me. I stared him down with a death glare; I felt completely insulted. Betrayed.
Jack tapped me on the shoulder, “I have better drinks at home, my fine fellow. Would you like to try some? You don’t have to return home any time soon now, do you?” I looked at his hand, then at him. “Well... as a matter of fact, that does sound like a great idea Mr. Ryper!” He smiled at me, and I tipped my glass back to get the last drop of it, then I slammed it down on the counter and rose from my seat.
“Gabriel?” Your shaky voice brings me back to reality. Your head is turned; you feel like you should look at me to see why I’m so quiet, but you’re scared to move even an inch. I don’t say anything. I reach my hands around your waist and breathe in your scent, pulling you against me. Finally, I say, “You remind me of my past... I’m not sure if that’s good or not.” Ohh Addison, I love how you shake so much under my touch. I love when your mind goes berserk every time I speak. You have such little control over your body and it drives you crazy. I love it.
You’re about to ask ’how do I remind you of your past?’, though the words just can’t seem to make it past your sweet lips. So I make it easy for you... darling. “My ex-wife was very naughty... She drove me a little out of my mind... It seems almost all women are like this.” You suck in a breath of air as I squeeze you tighter and continue saying; “You do the same, but it’s just... a bit different.”
I loosen my grip and hum comfortably, “You don’t make me want to kill you in the same way. You’re just too perfect.” It gets quiet for a moment and then you make a sound as if you’re trying to hold back a sob. I rest my cheek on your shoulder, staring ahead at the wall. “Don’t cry sweetie... People live longer when they’re perfect...” I place small kisses from your shoulder, up to your neck and then I pull your face around. “Look at me.” Ahh, those gorgeous eyes blinking so fearfully at me again. I run my thumb over your lip and grin. “Let’s go eat now. Whaddya say?” Your pupils dilate a little. You almost forget to nod. Calm down sweetheart.
I sit back, waving my hand toward the door, “Get up and go get your clothes. I’ll be right behind you.” You slap your hand on the side of the tub and step out in a hurry. While snatching a towel off the rack on the wall, you refuse to look at me and make a fast exit. I scoff and rub my mouth, then I get out of the tub and let the water out.
Walking into my room, I see you’re moving too quick to put your clothes on properly. You’ve put on gray sweatpants... What a disgrace. I dry off and throw the towel on the bed. “Here, let me help.” I calmly approach you and take your black t-shirt. This is a regular shirt. Not a V-neck.
I look up at you, “So I make you want to dress like a grandma, huh? I didn’t think you owned anything like this. You were quite the slut before we got together.” I throw it down, “Let’s choose something acceptable, shall we?” You frown sadly as I start looking through your dresser. “Let’s see. No. Too long... Too long... Too loose... Gag...” I find a pair of light blue short shorts. “That’s what I’m talking about! Now we need a shirt.” I grab a white halter top. “Now we’re getting somewhere.” I give the shirt and shorts to you and then kneel slowly, taking the waist of your pants and sliding them down your legs. When I look up at you, your head is turned. Addison, you’re shaking again. I take the shorts from you and position them at your feet. “Put your legs through these.” You bite your thumbnail, tears streaming down your face. I tilt my head, “...Put your legs through these Addison. Now.” You finally look at me and do as you’re told. I stand up and take your shirt, “Good girl. Now, your arms—raise them a little.” You nervously lift them and I put the shirt on you, then you turn and pull your hair out of the way for me to tie the back.
Once I’m finished, I slap your ass and walk over to get my clothes. “Now find those red converse shoes I saw you wear a couple days ago.” You can’t believe I saw that. Oh yes I did sweetheart. I watch you all the time. I need to see what you’re doing 24/7.
“...Alright.” You stiffly go over to the bed and look underneath for them. I briefly smile and then gather my pants and put them on.
I think back on when we were in the tub and how my mind wandered off into my past. It’s interesting when even the smallest things trigger you to remember certain things. I should be upset that you ruined it for me Addison, but I won’t get angry... No—not this time. I’ll behave myself. The memories are coming back now...
Jack’s house was just on the outskirts of town. It was a nice two-story white house. Both outside and inside were really well-decorated. But I did realize he was alone, which was quite bizarre at the time—especially for a man his age.
As we walked through his foyer and down a hallway, I saw books piled on a table and two chairs. He told me he was a surgeon and those were his journals, notes and study books.
“How long have you been a surgeon? How old are you?” I asked. He gave me an odd look, then replied, “Twenty years. I’m forty two.” I thought about that for a few seconds. I wondered, as I admired his house, how much money he made. Twenty years of slicing people apart and stitching them back together? What else did he know how to do?
He took me into the kitchen and opened a large cabinet. There were many drinks in there. I was impressed and immediately thirstier than before. He laughed and grabbed a fancy bottle. “This fine drop o’ the pure here was imported from London.” He raised it and read the label to me, but I don’t remember what he said. I know that it was stronger than anything I’ve ever tasted before though.
The thought of how much money he made came back to me. First, I asked him, “What do you have to do to become a surgeon?” As he poured the liquor into our glasses, he shook his head, “Oh, many many years of studying.” It looked and smelled delicious. I couldn’t wait to get a taste of it. He gave me my glass, “I went to college for it back home. After that, when I came here... the more complicated procedures I’ve performed, I’ve mostly mastered through trial and error. Sadly, I don’t know of any colleges around here to help you.” I took the glass with a hard expression.
“I’m certain by the time you are finished with college, you will be of old age.” He said, as if in passing.
“I’m thirty four.” My voice was sharp. He went silent and looked at me from head to toe. I took a gulp of the liquor as he stood with contemplation, soon tapping his fingers on the counter. He was dead set on watching how I swished the drink around in my mouth and swallowed it. I squinted at its strength, but regained my composure soon after with a long sigh.
He asked me a question; “Do you have any experience in the medical field whatsoever?”
“No. None at all. But I am good at customer service and doing what I’m told.”
"Are you now? ...You say you need work, am I correct?”
“Yes sir, you most certainly are.”
He placed his hand flat on the counter and a sort of humor shined in his eyes. He was beginning to smile in a way it’s almost like he was locking onto a target. “Well it just so happens I am in need of an assistant... Would you be interested in giving me a hand during my procedures?” At that time, I was fascinated by his generosity. I imagined how life would be if I had that job. Maybe life would turn around. Martha would finally get her shit together and I could possibly be happy again. The kids wouldn’t look at me like I’m some kind of monster anymore, either. They hated when we fought and they hated when I was drunk. But, really, imagining ever being happy again... Me? Happy? Huh.
I had almost completely forgotten what happiness is. I only knew what I hated and what saddened me. Why... when I thought of it even more, I realized Martha caused all of this. Then I became seriously conflicted between wanting to fix our family, or... just leaving everything behind. I didn’t want to lose what was mine.
I used to believe that even the strongest man cries when he loses what’s most important to him; when everything is wrong in his life. Truth is, the world doesn’t have time for tears. It never stops turning for anyone.
Even though I had anger building in me from all these thoughts coming at me like vicious attacks, I began to smile.
I smiled at him.
“Yes sir, that sounds like a great idea. Tell me what you need me to do.” He was looking at me like he knew exactly what I was thinking. It was a relief to see so much understanding in his eyes. Though, he did ask me, “You seem quite sure of yourself, even if I haven’t told you what I would pay you.”
I raised my glass, “Well... I would like to know the details of the job first.” He admired that.
Slapping the counter, he said, “Jolly good! Follow me downstairs.” I finished my drink and went with him out of the kitchen, through a hallway and into a back room that led down into the basement.
It felt stuffy and smelled like death and chemicals. There was a long wooden table in the middle of the room with gutters cut into both sides of it, and shelves on a few walls that had jars with brains, small body parts, and organs soaking in them. There were baby body parts. I was a little unnerved, but I told myself this is what he does for a living. I had to accept it.
The floor was a little wet. He explained that he had recently finished cleaning. I nodded as I looked at everything. The sight and smells were turning my stomach inside out. I don’t even recognize this person that I was. This weak man... who thought in these ridiculous ways and doubled over after something so small happening... he was not me.
Jack placed his hand on my shoulder, “Are you alright, lad?” I turned to him and suddenly, I threw up everything I drank. He stepped back with his arms raised. I stumbled over to the sink and threw up violently, not seeing the surgical instruments in there. I could hear him start laughing while he took his jacket off. “Ohh yes, as I expected...” He approached me while folding it over his arm. I coughed and tried catching my breath, trying to apologize for what I did. “Nonsense, mate. I was the fool for showing you here after you had a few drinks. Here, come and sit down.” He grabbed my arm and helped me over to a chair, then he gave me a basin. “So, the details.” He said, as if asking if I were still interested. I nodded at him.
He cleared his throat, “Alright Mr. Penn... What I will need you to do is stand by as I perform surgeries; make sure the patient is comfortable, doesn’t bleed too much, and give me any instrument I ask for. That sounds easy enough, right? Do you understand?”
“Yes sir... That’s it?”
“Don’t be fooled, my friend; you will need a good bit of training. But yes indeed, that is all!”
“Right... How much money will you pay me?”
“If you can do the job, I will pay you seven dollars a month.” I was amazed at the amount. My bank job paid three dollars a month. This was a miracle! A miracle. Yeah...
I reached my hand out to shake his, “It’s a deal. I’m ready to start my training.” He shook it and smiled again, “Good. You will come back tomorrow and begin your training then. You need to relax a while.” I wiped my mouth and waved two fingers in agreement. “Yeah, you’re right. Of course I do.” Once I agreed to work for him, the questioning look he had immediately switched to something only a deeply possessive person would have. I didn’t see it then, but I understand it completely now.
That night, Martha didn’t talk to me at all. It was... a little unexpected, actually. The children were quieter than usual, too. By the way they behaved, I was sure they didn’t want to have anything to do with me. I was positive she said something to them. I was positive that she had demonized me so many times before it scarred them for good. I really wanted to know what went on in their little heads whenever they saw me. What kind of monster I was...
I would stand in their doorway, staring straight at them as they played together. They didn’t like me watching them, and they didn’t understand why I did it either. I was only trying to understand what it was about me they began to fear and hate so much. I never got my answer from them.
Early the next morning, I wrote the news about my new job on a note and put it on my pillow next to Martha. I stood over her for a few minutes, thinking about how hard it was to sleep next to her. How did I do it? I started zoning out.
I could see myself going out to get an axe from the shed, and then I’d drag it slowly on the way back inside. When I’d stop at her side of the bed, she would wake up and scream as I stared and slightly tilted my head, thinking of what pleasure I was about to get out of this. And then, I just start going down on her neck and face, quickly, violently, passionately. Several times, I’d hit her like this. There’s so much strength, so much energy rushing down from my head, heart, through my arms, and into that axe. The kids would rush in and try to stop me, and I’d have to kill them too—to put them out of their misery. They hated me, Martha was a horrible mother, and they were ungrateful little brats anyway. All my anchors would be lifted. I’d change into clean clothes and go on my way to Jack’s house like it never happened.
I snapped out of it when she turned over in the bed. I saw I wasn’t holding an axe and the children were still in their room. I felt a teardrop roll down my cheek. A drop of guilt. What a weak man. Now, I wish I could’ve followed what this other voice was telling me. It made so much more sense.
I remember smiling briefly at her, realizing exactly what I felt like doing and trying to understand whether it was right or wrong. I left the house quietly and went out to the shed.
I opened the secret compartment in the floor to grab a bottle of whiskey, and when I stood up again, I glanced at the axe against the wall. My imagination took me away yet again; I thought of tracing my fingers over the blood on the sharp edge of it and a new urge was beginning to surface. I wondered... what would it be like to lick the blood and rub it all over my face, arms and chest? My flesh and blood in another body... returning to my body. Thinking about that made me theorize an answer to everything they did. They were spoiled, hateful and unloving creatures. But, my blood is unspoiled, honest, and everything that is... what they should have been. What most people should be.
This is why I needed it on me—so I can fix them.
But just then, I turned my head away from the axe. These thoughts were making me breathe faster. I didn’t know I would be so aroused by something like this. I was right though. I’m always right.
I opened the bottle of whiskey and drank it on the way to Jack’s house. During the walk, I had a difficult time trying to reason out what had happened to me. I didn’t know who I was anymore. If fact, nobody knew me anymore.
I tossed the bottle away just before arriving at his place. He welcomed me in with a slap on the back and led me to the basement, at the same time mentioning the whiskey on my breath. He understood I had a drinking problem and was willing to help me overcome it. Again, his generosity really surprised me. He was the kindest man I’d ever met. I couldn’t figure out why he was so nice and giving toward me.