I keep the gun to my head. And for a brief moment I imagine myself pulling the trigger. What must it feel like? I would have release. I could sleep without the nightmares. I could sleep!
My smile fades, suddenly.
“Yes! That’s it, Dan!” he breathes. “I see what you’re thinking and you will not feel a god damn thing. But if I reach you before you pull the trigger, I swear you will feel more pain that you’ve ever felt in your sorry life. So use the gun!”
“I think I will.” I pull the gun away from my head, my hand falling to my side. I see the Jacks’ eyes widen as he looked to my right, but not at the gun. He stared at the figure standing by my side. The figure of a boy with matted brown hair, long strands caked across his forehead and face. He was thick with dirt. But his pale blue eyes shone through. His head reached my shoulders, and he looked up at me with a glimmer of a smile. Thats the Jack I remember.
But behind him, a crowd of hands made of dirt hold onto him like a chain. They hold his ankles and his wrists; they hold onto his waist and neck, too. Its as though he is attached to the soil that makes up the wall around us.
I raised the pistol towards the old man. “You don’t have me anymore. You have no control,” I said.
“I killed you!” he told the young boy. “I stabbed you in the heart! You’re a God Damn deadman!”
I glanced at the boy. “Carl? You’re Carl, aren’t you?”
“Hello, Daniel. I’m sorry you’re here, but its all him, you understand.”
“So, he takes your body, you take his.”
“I woke this way, Daniel. I was trapped, hiding in the walls, in the dirt. I listened, but I was too weak to act. I tried to warn you, though. The ghost at the top of the stairs? You remember that?”
“That was you?” I said.
Jack interupted, “I can kill you again, Carl.”
Carl said, “yes, you can try, but you will fail. You will always fail, Jack. Because you simply don’t understand.” He pulled at the hands, chains that had him locked to the foundations of the house, and he lifted them, showing them to Jack. “I am bound to this house; there is no release, neither in body nor mind. All that you have achieved is making me a prisoner of my own home, but you will not kill me.”
Jack said, “I will try.”
“But for what reason?” Carl asked. “You saw into the mirror. You have the power now, not I.”
“Because you brought me into this house. You made me curious!”
“I did no such thing!”
“You made me curious, old man, so you made me come inside!” Jack yelled. “It’s all your fault, so I will kill you, just as I killed that bastard of a brother of mine, and that bitch of a mother. Just as I’ll kill you, Daniel.” He was waving his arms out of irritation, then he stopped and stared at me, and pointed with his long thin finger. “Just as I’ll kill you!” Jack turned and slowly walked away.
“Just as you murdered Father Thomas,” I put in.
Jack chuckled as though this amused him. He said, “I still have you old man.”
I was relieved. I knew I couldn’t have killed Ben and his Mother. And Jack had just confirmed it.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” I said, although I knew I was lying to myself. Jack couldn’t be saved; I feared he was too far gone.
“The gun, Daniel,” Carl said, through gritted dirt filled teeth. “The gun. Use it.”
“But…whats the point?”
Carl jolted violently into the dirt wall. He hit his back against the mud and gave out an audible grunt. There was a real panic in his eyes, a dread that he was going back to the place where he loathed so much.
He said, “he’s got me. They’re taking me back, Daniel. Use the damn gun.”
I raised it towards Jack. When he was at the top on the stairs, he turned, the swinging light above his head giving the illusion that he was more gaunt than the truth told. He grinned at Carl.
“Goodbye, old man,” Jack said, the hands taking him deeper in the mud.
“Use it!” Carl said, before there was only his arms left, reaching out for a rescue that would never happen.
“So, are you really going to use it, Dan? I don’t believe you will, do you? I think we’ve come to that conclusion now. I can feel that you’re stronger. You have yourself back. I must admit, though, I didn’t see that one coming. But I will get you back; I will own you. I will have you!”
“Maybe so. The longer I stop in this house, the more of me you’ll take, feeding, making you stronger. But if I kill you now…”
Jack laughed. “Kill me? I can’t die?”
“Perhaps not, but maybe I’ll buy some time.”
“Maybe you will. I’ll allow you that, at least, but it won’t be much that you’ll be able to do anything with. Because you’ll leave this house and I’ll still feed off your pain.”
He was right. I could kill him, put a bullet in the back of his head, and I could escape. But he’ll start to take from me again. He’ll begin all over again and steal away my soul. And pretty soon he’ll have most of me again, until that day when he keeps on taking and he takes too much. I may as well be dead. Because they’ll be nothing of me left.
I shouted at him. “You can read my thoughts, Jack? You tell me what’s going to happen? If you feel so confident then surely you know how it’s going to end.”
He looked over his shoulder and gave a sinister grin. “I know you’ll finish here, in this house. And that tell me all I need to know.”
“And do you see yourself there, too?” I asked.
Jack opened his mouth, and was about to say something, but couldn’t. It was as though I had hurt him by what I’d said. I wondered what he was hiding from me. There was something he wasn’t telling me. Perhaps he couldn’t say because he didn’t know for sure.
“Nothing matters anymore, anyway. If I die, then I die. One way or another its got to end.” I held up the gun, aimed it at the back of Jacks head.
“Do it!” Jack told me. “It makes no god damn difference.” He continued walking, and was just about to leave the basement.
“Fuck you! And fuck this house!”
…it was his demise…
I can’t remember pulling the trigger, only that the sound whistled through my ears like a finger around the rim of a glass. The side of Jacks head exploded, spraying blood and brains over the basement door. The hole in his head was scorched. I pulled the trigger again and again. Jack collapsed in the doorway. When the whistling finally ceased, I found myself still squeezing the trigger. Click! Click! Click!
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