When Frank came to the door he looked
surprised to say the least. There was a large wet stain on the floor where
he had cleaned the carpet.
"If you had arrived a little sooner he wouldn't have had time to clear
away the contents of my stomach," said Jack quietly.
"You never could hold your liquor Jack dear," hissed Frank.
Jack remained calm, didn't rise to innuendo because he was sure that the shadows
were not that far away. Then there was the company to consider. The police
listened to both sides of the story before they shook their heads.
"Difficult," one sighed.
"How?" asked Jack.
"Two consenting adults, no independent witnesses."
"I didn't consent, he was holding a knife to my throat." Jack made
an exaggerated gesture, wiped his neck and semi dried blood stuck to his finger.
"Don't look at me," said Frank defiantly. "I never even noticed,
unless it was my fingernails, he does wriggle so."
"Look," said the older officer. "This isn't going anywhere,
to take a case to court we have to be able to prove without a shadow of a
doubt that no consent was given. That is hard enough when a woman is involved,
with gay rape the courts just don't want to know." Perhaps because it
would raise public awareness. Mainly to the fact it was largely ignored.
"You are saying I have to just forget what this bastard has done to me?"
"Sorry, but that is about the size of it."
"I'm not happy, but I will say one thing. If it turns out that I have
an STD, heaven forbid HIV, this creep is going to make the front page of every
national newspaper as the thinnest film of paste ever seen on a main road.
As a journalist I'm tempted to lay all this into the open anyway. If you haven't
the imagination to work that out I'll tie him to the back of my car and drive
until there isn't anything left."
"You shouldn't have said that sir."
"I know, but as you don't give a shit about the fact a serious crime
has been committed you can live with it." Jack turned and walked outside.
The uniformed figures didn't attempt to offer further advice or suggest a
way he could ease his distress. It would have been nice to imagine they were
at least reprimanding Frank, unlikely. A cup of tea; maybe. It had started
to rain heavily again, maybe it would wash away some of the shame. As he climbed
back into the van he wondered if the police would stop him after a hundred
yards and breathalyse him because of Frank's offhand remark.
Maybe he could drive through the front of the house after the figures of authority
left. Running Frank down in his own living room he would probably get off
without prison time. A domestic involving accidental death with a vehicle.
Only the Devil would be smiling and he had to return the van by five that
afternoon. Preferably without any damage. So, it always came back to ownership
of his immortal soul.
It would have been rewarding to butcher Frank slowly, only if he was currency
in a high stakes game he would be playing into the wrong hands. God could
throw a lifebelt when he was apparently drowning; only what the Devil was
doing was more than demeaning. Clearly, that was the intention. Their methods
were somewhat unfairly biased. By morning Jack didn't particularly care if
either player was ahead, he had suffered enough. Living close to the sea;
well water if you know the area, meant there was a chandler nearby, six metres
of good quality rope wasn't expensive. As a child he had been fascinated by
knots, a hangman's noose was not difficult to tie. It was very tempting when
the assistant asked how much to say, just enough to hang myself', but
he thought better of it. Jack went into the woods than ran along the top of
the hill above Weston. Well away from the road or any apparent footpath Jack
looked for a suitable tree, Oak would have been good. Yew too as they are
often associated with death. Still the problem was going to be a suitable
snatch, it would mean he needed to climb up and fall from a suitable height.
If he didn't get it right he would choke to death slowly, his tongue gradually
swelling to fill his mouth, not appealing. Eventually he found a leafless
Beech tree that was easy enough to climb. Tossing the rope over the branch
above he tied off one end to the stout bough he was standing on then stood
up and tightened the noose around his neck. Briefly he wondered if he should
telephone anyone. Well his parents would not approve, the police wouldn't
give a damn and he couldn't think of anyone else. As a parting gift he wrote
a text. If you go down to the woods today you are sure of a big surprise.
It stops at eleven.' After selecting Julia and pressing send he put the mobile
back in his pocket, laughed loudly and jumped.
It was a strange sensation, the rope almost burned as it tightened around
his neck, he felt his feet flick up with the tension and there was a loud
crack. Jack never imagined bones could make that much noise as he fell headlong
into the undergrowth, red filling his eyes. It was a little difficult to breathe,
illogical to say the least as he should have been dead rather quickly. Then
again he was struggling to understand why he was lying face down in the understory
when his feet should have been a good three feet above the earth.
Perhaps he would have been if the tree wasn't. The higher branch had been
rotten, unable to take his weight. Maybe he had a sore neck but surprisingly
his vertebrae remained intact, weird when he had felt the snatch that should
have severed his spinal cord instantly. Rolling onto his back he laughed even
louder. That wasn't easy with the rope tight around his throat so he started
Jack loosened the noose, almost fuming as he took it off, and tossed it to
one side. Wiping his face there was no blood. When he glanced down he discovered
the colour was a brightly coloured toadstool. Scarlet; that usually meant
highly toxic, Fly Algaric came to mind, lethal in small doses. So maybe, having
grown bored the Devil now wanted him dead, just not quickly. Obviously it
was important that he suffered excruciating pain. Best not disappoint the
evil creature then. Picking all he could see he headed back to the car confident
that he could bow out on twelve. It was a pity that he didn't even like mushrooms,
or eggs that much, as an omelette seemed a logical choice. On the way back
he received a text, probably Julia so he ignored it.
Jack was on a roll, enthusiastic about his limited future. Fried onions and
toadstools with melted cheese. While it was cooking Jack checked his phone.
Maybe I'm being slow as if that text made any sense you won't answer.
I hope you haven't done anything stupid on my account.'
Jack had a few minutes to spare.
No, I was raped by a man and the police all but laughed. Hangman's Beech
was rotten so I'm trying a different approach. Sorry but I won't see you this
time either, guaranteed. 12 and out, which probably made the game cricket.'
Pressing send' the condemned man sat down to a hearty meal. Then he
went into the lounge and had a large gin to take the strange taste away. That
was when the shadows broke out of peripheral vision.
Maybe eating toadstool surprise hadn't been such a good idea, as Jack began
to scream the black spectres swirled ever closer. Jack's whole body was consumed
by fire; a vice seemed to begin to crush his head and his intestines felt
as though they were being macerated. The black ghosts found voices, cackling
laughter filled his ears. But the pain; like nothing he could have imagined.
On a scale of one to ten, fifty. Eventually, when tears had distorted vision
and his head and legs were getting sore from hitting furniture as he convulsed,
ebony fingers locked around his eyes, dug into his skull and seemed to drag
his soul from a tormented shell. Jack saw his body writhing beneath him, still
convulsing, as he was carried outside. The spirit guides seemed to have purpose,
at least it wasn't down.
Not just then anyway.
Frank was in the Pig and Whistle with his mates, laughing like he had won
"You should have seen his face when the police told him there wasn't
a hope in hell of going to court."
"You are a mean bastard Frank."
"Yes maybe, but I haven't found a better way to get straight guys to
undress in my house."
"That must be three now," laughed a friend.
"Yea, the other two just slithered away. At least this last schmuck had
"Just so long as he doesn't cotton on that there never was anything wrong
with your bike."
"At least this time I got it home. When I get picked up by car I have
to remember where I left it."
Jack's spectral hands closed around Frank's throat only that was all they
were, invisible plasma.
"Frank, are you alright, you've gone all white?"
"Shit, I just felt really weird, like a finger of ice cutting right through
"Maybe the guy just topped himself and was saying goodbye." Very
good, go to the top of the class.
"Then I had better buy the next round so the barman is a reliable witness."
Jack tried to get inside Frank's head, but although the evil slime ball occasionally
shivered and looked from side to side anxiously it was hopeless. Maybe it
would take time to learn a new skill. Jack's faceless friends moved aimlessly
around the room, their meaningless voices cutting into Jack's head. Maybe
they were East European; that was why it sounded like gibberish. After all
they could have been giving him explicit instructions how to rip Frank's soul
out through his eyes. It was obvious they were playing the part of Marley's
ghost, an educational exercise. Maybe one was even Marley! Only Jack didn't
see the point, if he wasn't already dead it would be minutes rather than hours.
Maybe it was just to show him the error of his ways. That he should have grabbed
the knife and killed Frank rather than calling the police.
Sure, it was making Jack angry, especially because of his attacker's callous
light hearted attitude, but what was the point? Jack tried to think logically,
what had drawn them into Frank's house if he wasn't likely to die? Maybe they
absorbed psychic energy in some way. Maybe they normally fed on people's fear!
Well, that made sense, because even after his unusual dinner he wasn't frightened,
there was no fear of death. That suggested they came and laughed at his stupidity,
maybe got something of a buzz from his pain but were after more. So, if that
was the case he needed to scare Frank witless, let the black guests dine on
Eventually Frank staggered home alone, stripped naked and collapsed into bed.
Even as a spirit entity Jack had been loathe to follow him into the bedroom,
he didn't particularly want to see any man naked. When the drunken figure
started to snore Jack tried again, maybe Frank had left the door to his mind
unlocked. There had to be a reason his spirit had been allowed to linger.
Jack wanted Frank to suffer and that alone seemed to conjure up dream images
in Frank's head. The sight of Jack sitting on the end of the bed, dressed
in black and holding a rather large knife certainly had that effect. Clearly
when he was asleep his consciousness could not prevent access.
"Hello Frank, I was passing so I thought I would surprise you."
Jack rose and almost instantly had the tip of the blade pressing into Frank's
neck. "How does this feel?"
Frank was cross eyed trying to see the weapon so he did not notice that Jack's
other hand had slipped beneath the sheet. However, when it clamped around
his balls and began to crush them he realised that the knife was little more
than a distraction. Frank's scream was enough to wake the dead. Only they
were already in the room, probably eager for a little light entertainment.
It was about then that Jack realised Frank could see the black silhouettes
hovering nearby as his eyes were constantly flashing between Jack and the
currently silent ghouls. They seemed to have more vitality, so maybe he was
right. Fear was the key. Though whether the lack of it had helped keep Jack
alive on the odd occasion was unlikely.
So, perhaps it was essentially sheer terror, rather than a near death experience
that made them more readily visible, under those conditions it wasn't restricted
to his tortured soul. Either that or as the drama was evolving inside subconscious
thought they too had more substantial access to the mind. It didn't really
matter, it just added to the rapist's distress.
Serious dread was causing the poor man to sweat profusely, his hands trying
to prise away Jack's fingers. A cold sensation against his knuckles confused
him briefly. Frank realised that it was the edge of the knife just a little
too late as Jack sliced through the scrotum and cut tissue completely free.
"I'd like to see you get an erection now," laughed Jack, making
a display of dropping the testes to the carpet and stamping on them, grinding
the mashed tissue into the fabric.
Frank desperately swung his legs onto the floor, hands cradled around useless
equipment spraying blood freely onto everything nearby. Two black spectres
swirled around his head wailing as though it was Death's second option on
laughter. Terrified he stood up and ran across the room, diving headlong out
of the window in a desperate bid to escape.
Only as Frank moved Jack was somehow forced to follow. Floating through the
air amidst a rain of glass shards and fragments of the wooden window frame,
it seemed so real. Mainly because the nightmare had broken the safety mechanism
that prevents the body mimicking the dream moves, not that Jack had realised.
It was happening in and outside the unfortunate man's head. Probably the intense
pain when the knife cut away delicate tissue.