I was right back where I’d been two years ago. Yesterday I’d had a boyfriend who wanted to marry me and now he was dead, and Jack was once again turning my life into the nightmare I thought I’d escaped. It just goes to show, you can never escape your demons. No matter how far you think you’ve gone, they always seem to come back and bite you in the arse when you least expect it. Especially when that demon is Jack.
But this time around it wasn’t just my life and sanity hanging in the balance. This time around on the merry-go-round, I had Michael to worry about as well. And then there was Carol. Having survived two years with Jack – how much more could she possibly take? Could I help her? Did I even want to help her? Another question that nagged at my brainstem and made me feel like a terrible human being was, why was she still alive? Jack was usually in such a rush to dispatch his victims. What was so different about Carol? Was she stronger than I gave her credit for or was there something else going on?
I looked at Michael, who in turn stared at me. He stared at me as though I were a complete stranger.
“What?” I asked him with a shrug.
“Who are you?”
“Michael, sit down.” I patted the seat on the couch next to me.
“I … I don’t belong here. I don’t know what to do with this,” Michael said as he gestured towards Jack and a screaming Carol. “I’m not like you, I can’t shut that out.”
“Nobody belongs here, and I’m not shutting anything out or being cold and insensitive to what she’s going through, but I’m also not going to panic and give Jack what he wants.”
Michael visibly deflated. He crumpled into himself as he walked towards me and took the seat next to me.
“What does he want?” he asked in a small voice. It was the voice of a scared little boy, not of a self-assured psychiatrist. Being faced with Jack would do that to the most stable person.
“Good question. It varies from day to day but in general, he wants you to scream.”
“Yes, that’s part of it, and the other is he wants you to be mind-numbingly afraid. The more scared you are, the happier he is.”
“I can’t be here. I can’t do this. None of this is possible.” He hyperventilated. “I’m not crazy. This simply has to be a nightmare. It just isn’t possible.”
“Carol and I aren’t crazy either. This isn’t a nightmare. And you’re right, this shouldn’t be possible, but it is happening, and you’re stuck here until Jack gets bored. So you have a choice, you can either freak-out, or you can help me figure a way out.”
Carol’s screaming thankfully stopped. The silence was followed by a hard smacking sound. I hated admitting it, but Carol was tough. Anybody else would have begged for it to end by now. I wondered if she was aware that no matter what she did, she would always be Jack’s plaything. That we were all Jack’s playthings.
A hard slap on her cheek prevented her from enjoying the magnificent, numbing darkness for any length of time. At least he’d stopped dousing her with ice-cold water.
“Wakey, wakey little one,” Jack said with a smile. “We’ve got lots to do today.”
Bile rose up from the pit of Carol’s stomach, and she spewed it all over Jack’s foot. Her reward was a slap on the other cheek.
“If you’re going to hurl, have the decency to keep it to yourself.” He stood up and walked around the room, tapping his finger against his lower lip. “Now, what are we going to do to keep Sarah and the good doctor entertained. Maybe some audience participation?”
Dr Brink looked about ready to make a run for it. Coward.
“This is your game, Jack,” was all Sarah had to say on the subject. The bitch probably wouldn’t have anything against a little torture. Carol would have taken full advantage if the roles were reversed.
“I guess audience participation can wait for a little bit. She’s not completely warmed up yet.” He stopped pacing in front of her, crossed his arms and looked at her with his head cocked to the left. “How do you feel about scorpions?”
The question surprised her. It shouldn’t have, but Jack had never asked her before how she felt about anything. He usually just went ahead with whatever he was going to do.
It started off with just one, big and black, with small pincers and a mean-looking tail. It tickled as it walked up her leg. Her heartbeat a steady thump-thump in her chest. If she kept still and didn’t freak out, it might not sting her. She could handle it.
Her wrist no longer hurt as much; in fact, it felt like her hand hadn’t been sawn off. Trying not to move too much or upset the scorpion, Carol took a tentative peek at her wrist. Her hand was back. There was no pool of blood, no scarring. It looked as though it never happened. She released a loud whoop and giggled happily to herself.
“Happy, are we?” Jack said with a grin, showing off his sharp yellow teeth.
Her heart sank. She’d made a colossal mistake, and Jack was going to take full advantage. She’d allowed herself to feel relieved. She’d allowed herself to feel hope.
Hundreds of scorpions came out of the floor. All vying for a spot on her body. They climbed all over her and over each other, fighting for dominance. Every time one of them stung her, it felt as though her body was on fire. Each sting held the promise of a death that wouldn’t come, no matter how much she begged for it.
Michael couldn’t watch. Scorpions freaked him out. Carol’s screams had gone from loud, eardrum-splitting screeches, to low, guttural grunts. He couldn’t decide which was worse. Her body did a weird jerk, almost a bounce or a shiver, whenever one of the scorpions stung her.
“You see that?” Jack asked, pointing a triumphant finger down at Carol. “Every time one of them stings her, she feels a soul death. It’s an excruciating pain, and utter hopelessness, all rolled into one little sting. It’s perfect in its simplicity.”
“So, Jack?” Sarah said, with a strange vacant look on her face. She looked almost peaceful, which was impossible with Carol’s screams echoing around the room. “Which movie did you steal the idea from?”
“One of the James Bond movies. You know – the one with Pierce Brosnan. Madonna sang some crappy song for it. You know the one I’m talking about, right? With the scorpions in the beginning? Well, I’ve put my own spin on it.”
“That’s not very original of you,” Sarah said, without any emotion.
“You try being original after a few hundred years in this business,” Jack said, as he crossed his arms over his chest.
“I didn’t know demons watched movies,” Michael said, looking from Sarah to Jack and back again.
“I can’t say what other demons do, but I love movies. Can’t get enough of them.” A smile spread across Jack’s face. “Remember when we went to watch that movie together?”
“That’s not exactly how I would put it, but anyway,” Sarah replied.
“That was such a fun date. We really should do it again sometime.”
“Yes, I had so much fun watching you eat Gina’s popcorn.”
“Do I detect a note of sarcasm?”
“I don’t know, do you?”
“Now, now, my love, there’s no need to be that way.”
Sarah raised an eyebrow and sighed. It took Michael a few seconds to realise that something had changed. It took him another few seconds to realise that Carol had stopped screaming. All was quiet.
“Damn,” Jack said. “Look what you made me do. I forgot all about our little Carol. I’m going to have to start from scratch.”
“Please, no more,” Carol begged.
“Well, you know what you have to do to make it stop. All you have to do is put that gun of yours to your temple and pull the trigger. Then everything will be over. Go on. Just say you want it to end.” Jack smiled. It was almost sincere.
“You’re lying,” Carol whispered so softly that Michael had to lean forward to hear her. “This will never stop. You’ll keep doing this to me. Just like you do to Kevin and Uncle Martin.”
“Your uncle Martin was damned. I had nothing to do with it. Besides, he’s a willing participant in our games.”
“I don’t believe you,” Carol said through her tears.
“Well, my dear, that is your problem,” Jack said with a sigh. “Shall we continue?”
Michael’s stomach twisted as Jack’s latest game unfolded. A carving knife appeared in his hand and Carol’s screams once again reverberated through the cabin.