The Soul Reaper
I am the Soul Reaper, a parasite attached to
the host of a murderer, a free-living organism living outside his fevered body
and his twisted thoughts, a ghost beyond perception, a phantasm drifting amid the
ether, drinking the essences of all he kills, supping on the spirits that have
drifted from the bloodied bodies of his victims. I am a species without equal, a
leech, a vampire, a soul sucker, a psyche eater, a vitality guzzler.
Jacob Berkley’s past was a vacuum. He couldn’t remember anything past the time he signed on with the merchant vessel Eileen in Boston harbor two years before. He knew his name, how to write and read, and how to perform all the duties of an able bodied seaman. He could man the winches, hoist the anchor, and raise the mast. He could fearlessly climb to the top of the main mast, walk the deck while the ship was pitching in rough seas, and even take over the helm on occasion. But he didn’t know why. He figured he had been a mariner almost all his life.
Jacob also knew how to handle women. Whenever the Eileen docked in a port he would seek out prostitutes along the wharves, either groping them behind a building or accompanying them to their seedy flat for a quick bang. But some of the women were merely thieves. Once in Cherbourg a pretty brunette wearing a maroon silk dress with a large bustle stuck a knife between his ribs and in broken English demanded his money. Just after docking in Kiel a cute girl with thick rouge and powdered cheeks approached him outside the opera house, offering an afternoon of wild sex, but only if he paid up front. As soon he pulled a few bills out of his pocket, the girl snatched them out of his hand and raced down the street despite her ankle-length skirt. He lost her in the press. And in Copenhagen a voluptuous redhead invited him into her apartment overlooking the harbor. The minute he stepped inside someone hiding behind the door whacked him over the head. After a couple of hours he awoke in a gutter, his shore leave money missing. By the time Jacob’s ship berthed in London in August of 1888, he was ready to kill every whore he came across.
The young sailor didn’t need a plan, he knew instinctively how he was going to do it. He visited a cutlery shop called Adolphe Benz on Whitechapel High Street in the East end and bought a six-inch clasp knife and a whet stone. Although Whitechapel was a perplexing maze of alleys and back passages, squalid and dangerous, Jacob somehow was familiar with every square inch like the back of his hand. In the wee hours of August 31st, he went hunting for his first victim, traveling up a narrow cobbled street called Buck’s Row.
It didn’t take him long to find a slut. Right outside the large Board School building he discovered a woman leaning against the wall. As he approached she happened to look up and said in a slurred voice, “Hello luv, would you like to have a go?”
The woman was bland, short, graying, and past her prime. Her breath reeked with gin. Jacob didn’t answer. He punched her in the jaw as hard as he could so she wouldn’t scream, knocking out a few jaw teeth. He whipped out the knife, honed razor sharp, and sliced her deeply across the throat, careful to sidestep the spraying blood. She dropped lifelessly to the pavement. Jacob’s fury didn’t stopped there, he lifted up the woman’s petticoat and slashed her abdomen crosswise a few times. Satisfied with his grisly work, the sailor trotted off down the street until he reached Whitechapel Road where he slowed down and blended into the early morning crowd.
Beware those who die by the hand of my host. I will eat your soul before it soars to heaven, every fiber, every particle, every filament.
Jacob never bothered going back to the Eileen. He was through with being a mariner, through with being a deck hand on a ship crossing the Atlantic over and over, through with the drudgery and dreariness. He stayed on in Whitechapel, renting a room on Flower and Dean Street, working odd jobs now and again for a few shillings, enough to keep him alive.
Early on the morning of September 8th, Jacob was prowling the parish of Spitafields when he encountered a hooker strolling along Hanbury Street. She was even less attractive than the first girl he murdered, plump, wavy brown hair, shorter. But this one was sober. She also coughed a lot, probably suffering from consumption. He decided not to hit her like the first victim and instead initiated a conversation to keep the chubby woman off guard. As she kept prattling about a fight she had with another prostitute the week before and hacking between every sentence, he slipped out the knife and deftly cut her throat. He hurriedly dodged to keep from being dowsed with her arterial blood. Then, as with the other, he sliced her abdomen. This time however his bloodlust was stewing. He yanked out her intestines, draped them around each shoulder, and then uprooted her uterus with a single swipe. Although Jacob had never been taught human anatomy, he knew exactly where to locate the organs.
My hunger is deeper than the crystalline sea, deeper than the freezing breadth of space.
About two weeks later Jacob figured it was time to strike again. It had poured late that evening and after the rain stopped the wind picked up. The turbulence was perfect, he reminded himself as he crept down Berner Street. He knew if it were calm weather people would pay him more attention. Outside the International Working Men’s Educational Club he stumbled upon an average-sized man with hefty shoulders trying to drag a woman out of Dutfield’s Yard. Another character was standing outside the gate, calmly smoking a pipe. He was taller than his companion and wore a dark overcoat and a black felt hat.
Jacob crouched down and kept watching. The woman, obviously a prostitute, with a black jacket, skirt, and black crepe bonnet, screamed as the man yanked on her arms. A young passerby with a scraggly beard and distinct Semitic features came up the street on the side where Jacob was hiding. The woman’s assailant happened to glance over at the intruder, momentarily scrutinized him, and then yelled to his partner, “Lipski.” Jacob recognized the word as the London slang for Jews. The man stuck his pipe in his mouth and followed the stranger. The Jew broke and ran and his pursuer chased him. The other one let go of the woman, watched agitatedly as the pair disappeared down Berner, and finally scurried after them.
Jacob stood up and carefully approached the woman. She was short, pale, and fairly unattractive. The whores of the East End were quite unappealing when compared to the other port cities of Europe, nothing but decrepit sluts with brief, wasted lives.
“Are you all right, miss?”
“I th…th…think so,” she stuttered. She was missing her two front teeth and her breath stank with liquor.
“You’re very pretty,” he said deceitfully. “What’s your name?”
“L…Liz,” she answered. “Are y…you l…looking for some f…f…fun?”
“Sure, a couple of shillings worth.”
“Oh, t…that will g…get you v…v…very far, sir.”
Confident she had acquired a customer, Liz took out a pack of breath fresheners from the pocket of her jacket and didn’t noticed the man moving behind her. Jacob grabbed the woman by the back of a silk scarf tied around her neck, pulled out his knife, and deftly sliced her windpipe. As she dropped lifelessly to the ground, he was about to lift her dress and hack her abdomen as he had the others until he heard the clopping of a horse’s hooves.
Jacob crawled to the side of the club building and laid down, clutching the bloody knife. A man riding a cart pulled into the yard. His pony, who sensed Liz’s corpse lying in the dark, shied. The driver leaned over and discovered Liz right beneath him. He prodded her with his whip and then hopped off the cart. He struck a match to examine the body more closely but the breeze promptly snuffed it out. Nevertheless in that short dimly lit moment he could discern it was a woman, either dead or passed out drunk.
The man scurried over to the club for help. Jacob got up and trotted north, reached Commercial, then turned left heading west. He was seething. He had not been able to finish his work because of the cart driver. Why did he pull into the yard at that moment? Maybe he should have killed him too, but the stranger would probably have fought back. Jacob would have to find another victim, do her up right, carve her to the bone. He headed down Duke Street and arrived at Miter Square, a small court bounded by three tall warehouses and several modest brick homes. It was here that Jacob encountered a woman strolling tipsily past him.
“Hello. Miss,” he called out. “Out alone tonight?”
“Aren’t you a handsome one? What’s your name?”
The woman was short, unattractive, and middle-aged like the three others. How he longed to have a pretty one to hack up.
“I have many names. Pick one that you like. Some call me The Harvester. I am so very hungry.”
“Being mysterious are we? Well perhaps I can satisfy your appetite.”
As they talked Jacob could sense some men coming behind him. He was afraid they might be policemen who had been alerted about the first murder and were searching for the culprit. But they kept walking. Nevertheless under the dim street lamp the trio got a close look at Jacob, close enough to observe his fair complexion, his navy jacket, his red handkerchief, and his peaked cloth hat. Later they would tell all that to the police, not that it really mattered.
The woman, who called herself Catherine, kept blabbering, her brain stimulated by alcohol. He stealthily went back behind her, jerked out his knife, grabbed her neckerchief, wrenched her backward, and deftly severed the windpipe and carotid artery. She died immediately, blood jettisoning askew from her neck. Jacob let her body thump to the ground. He scanned both sides of the street for signs of any more passersby, and, confident he was alone, hiked up the harlot’s dress and gutted her abdominal cavity, pulling the intestines out and draping over her right shoulder. He even took time to cut a piece of gut and tuck it between her torso and left arm.
Jacob studied the dead woman’s face a moment then proceeded to hack away at the features until it was an unrecognizable mess. It was his revenge for being interrupted earlier. Satisfied with the loathsome masterpiece, the sailor dashed away across St. James’s Place. A night watchman, making his rounds only a few yards away during the entire butchery, had heard nothing.
After the double murders Jacob Berkley decided to lay low. Police combed the East End at night augmented with swarms of vigilante, making it impossible for any lone male to slip through the streets without being set upon. Each day the papers published lurid stories about the murders to attract readership. There had been killings of harlots before in the district, usually stabbings and strangulations, but the crimes were mostly ignored. What made these recent ones stand out was that they were positively gruesome, even for a place as debauched as the East End.
If Jacob struck gain, it would have to be inside someone’s home or apartment, not on the streets, convince the woman to take him to her lodging. On the early morning of November 9, with the interest in the murders waning and the police and vigilantes less numerous, Jacob ventured out into the chill. He journeyed over to Spitafields rookery, which was largely deserted, and ended up on Dorset Street, a thoroughfare filled with dozens of sub-standard homes and apartments. It was here that he literally bumped into a young woman coming the opposite way.
“Oh, I’m sorry mam.”
“No need to be,” she laughed. “Are you in a mood for some fun tonight?”
“What would three shillings get me?”
“A couple of hours in my apartment. Do you want a go?”
“Of course,” Jacob replied, smiling warmly.
He followed her to her cramped apartment on Miller’s Court. As soon as he stepped through the door, he whirled around to make sure no one was hiding on the other side.
“What’s wrong, luv?”
“Nothing, just nervous. I haven’t done this before?”
“This is your first time with a woman?” she asked incredulously.
“Oh no, Just my first time paying.”
“You’re a queer one,” the woman said, laughing again. “My name is Mary Kelly. What’s yours? Or do want to tell me?”
“I’ve used thousands of names with thousands of faces.”
Mary shrugged with disinterest, took off her jacket, and tossed it over the back of a chair. She was much younger than the other four and reasonably attractive, but she still wasn’t pretty and was somewhat overweight. The tart laid down on her bed, pulled her skirt, and pulled down her undergarments to reveal a large reddish bush. Jacob wasn’t aroused. He pulled out his clasp knife from his back pocket, opened the blade, and advanced toward Mary. The woman’s eyes protruded with shock and she managed to weakly yell “Oh, murder” before he fatally slashed her throat.
The sailor feverishly
went to work, ripping out her intestines, uterus, liver, spleen, and kidneys;
sawing off her sizeable breasts; and mutilating her plump face, transforming
the woman’s body into a portrait from hell. The only recognizable part of poor
Mary were her eyes which remained wide opened, staring out the window. After an
hour of this butchery, Jacob left the apartment and vanished forever down
Dorset Street. The murdering orgy of Jack the Ripper, as the press had dubbed
him, was over at last.
I am the Soul Reaper, a parasite who is its own host, riding along on its killing excursions, living on the inside and the outside of a transient shape, a parasite feeding on another, both a life taker and a spirit sucker. I have existed since the dawn of consciousness and I will exist past its end, always returning in one form or another, incapable of being stopped.
There were more murderers like Jacob Berkeley being produced as the century rolled over into another. A derelict named Vladimir randomly bludgeoned seven people, men and women, in Odessa with a steel pipe during the snowy weeks of February 1897. In June of 1903 a British soldier named Allister Crandall stabbed four of his bunkmates while they slept inside their tent at an outpost near Bombay. In September 1909 a lame Mexican peddler named Jesus Sanchez limped into a bank in Mexico City and shot all the patrons dead without wasting a round. In May 1913 an old Japanese woman named Asa Tadahisa peddling fish in downtown Osaka went berserk, grabbed a meat cleaver, and chopped up several school children. And on it went just as it had since humans built the first communities, a stranger materializing out of the void, blending into the environs, slaughtering randomly, and stepping back again.
When war came, the killings proliferated a hundred fold. No more slipping through dark alleys to pounce on unwary pedestrians. It was now death wholesale, death not with a knife but with bolt-action rifles, machine guns, flame throwers, and hand grenades. The battlefields—Tannbenburg, the Marne, Ypres, Isonzo, Hill 60-- were feeding grounds as fecund as decaying meat was to maggots.
Early In 1916 an eighteen-year-old German named Jarmann Kiefer from Saxony joined the 106th Regiment, one of three units belonging to the 58th Divison of Fritz von Below’s 2nd Army. He couldn’t tell any of his comrades about his past because he simply didn’t remember. Deep under the layers of his human consciousness, however, he knew who he was and why he had joined the army. The regimental doctors simply wrote off his mental state as temporary amnesia and left it alone. Although everyone considered him odd they marveled at his marching, his astounding marksmanship, and his ability to speedily strip a rifle and reassemble it.
Jarmann was indoctrinated into war that March near the fortress of Verdun and watched as his unit was battered nearly every day by French cannon as the men tried to advance against the deeply-entrenched lines, lines that would not buckle. Many of the boys he had trained with were either obliterated by shells or shredded by machine guns. Jarmann burned for revenge, a chance to close within killing range of the enemy. Within a month, the exhausted remnants of the 58th were ordered behind the Somme, a tranquil sector, to regroup. But Jarmann knew his time was coming.
On June 24th the British pounded this soft front with every caliber of artillery they possessed, a barrage that went on for a mind-numbing week. Jarmann and his comrades were entombed deep inside their dugouts during the entire bombardment. While everyone else wept and screamed, clawing the walls to hide themselves even deeper inside the earth, the young Saxon nonchalantly waited it out.
On the morning of July 1 the rain of fiery metal ceased and there was absolute silence except for faint strains of birdsong. Jarmann ventured out of his dugout and studied the smoky horizon. He took a Maxim MG08/15 machine gun that was propped atop a layer of sandbags on the edge of a trench parapet, a belt of ammo already fed into it, and strolled out into the pockmarked landscape. It was almost too heavy to lift. The cordite from the exploding shells burned his eyes and his tongue. He laid down on the barren earth, set up the Maxim on its bipod, and awaited the enemy. Fifteen minutes later scattered groups of British fusiliers appeared, marching casually toward the German trenches. Some were joking.
Jarman squeezed the trigger and laughed, a laugh that skyrocketed above the mechanical clatter of the machine gun, the barrel glowing red hot as he fired unrelentingly. “I am the Soul reaper!” he screamed as the bullets zipped into the stunned infantrymen. They had been told by their commanders that the enemy had been thoroughly neutralized and there would be no opposition, now they were openly walking into a massacre.
“I eat your spirits as they fly out of your mangled bodies. You will never walk through the gates of heaven, never! It’s a feast of souls, a feast, do you hear me? And I am so hungry…so very damn hungry!”
I am the Soul Reaper, a being who is both God and Satan, creating only to destroy. I am the aggregate of all your fears, all your nightmares.
On the freezing night of March 11, 1985, a young slender black man named Thomas McKinney stood inside a copse of pine trees adjacent to the interstate. He carefully studied each vehicle as it whizzed past. He had just been fired from his job at the convenience store outside Marietta, Georgia, for swearing at a customer and he was bubbling with resentment.
During his month-long employment, Thomas had been constantly badgered by the impatient, insensitive, and greedy shoppers, people who needled him about being too slow ringing them up, who complained about items being out of stock, or who whined about prices being too high. When a chubby woman with a buzz cut, a dirty tee shirt, smoker’s breath, and thick lens glasses refused to show him any ID after writing a check, he blew up and ordered her to get the hell out. She duly called the district office and Thomas was terminated the next day.
Now he was going to get payback and he knew precisely how to do it. He bought an Anschutz .22 long rifle, a night vision riflescope, and a box of shells from a black market dealer and picked out some perfect vantage points beside the highway. The young man had never picked up a gun before, but he knew intuitively how to load and fire one.
Thomas unslung the rifle, aimed through the scope, and waited for the next vehicle. A Toyota Camry came cruising by and he quickly caught the driver’s head inside the crosshairs and shot. Glass, blood, brains, and skull spewed out the other side. The Camry slowed down and rolled over toward the median. A van rushing down the inner lane swerved hard to avoid hitting it.
Two nights later Thomas would set up a sniper position a couple of miles to the east. Three nights later he would double back and strike a mile west from where he had been standing. After that he would disappear forever just like Jacob Berkley and all the rest, his malignant acts done.
“Man, I just love the taste of these souls,” Thomas said to himself, licking his lips. He hustled down a dark trail that served as a perfect escape route, the .22 slung back over his shoulder.
“Don’t ever mess with the Soul Reaper, motherfuckers,” he yelled to the world as he made his easy getaway.
“Oh, man, I’m hungry…so damn fucking hungry.”t writing here ...