Darkness and Job’s couch. I was asleep, and though lightning and rain raged out beyond the door, I was safe. Safe from homelessness, safe from starvation. But barely. Job had opened his house to me, had lent me succor from the streets. But I could not work. I was too far gone for that. I could not live with Bekah. We had run our course of love and had dissolved. We were friends but nothing more. I had Job, and he had my back. For now.
If he grew tired of my darkness, if he grew tired of my dissociative disorder, he could toss me from his couch and I would be lost. But I was safe from the diabolical storm, for now.
I awoke in a blanket of sheer terror. He was back. I had not seen him in a few months, had not dealt with this horror for so long, but I could see him two rooms away watching me. Through the living room I lay in, through the kitchen that waited beyond it, through the back hall he stood in.
Tall and angular, bent and twisted, he stared with no eyes and he was coming closer.
There was a lamp behind me. It was too far away. There was a door ten feet to the right. I could never make it. The storm outside beckoned me. “Come to the crashes of lightning. Come to a possible death, but do not stay there. Do not sit idle. He is coming. He will tell you. He will whisper with his cylindrical tongue, and he will shatter your mind with his horror.”
The lightning crashed, flashing blinding unreliable light, and he was at the kitchen door. Darkness, and I could not see his form. He was part of darkness, part of the night.
Lightning, and he was in the middle of the kitchen. I moaned. It was a mournful sound, the sound of pure misery, a sound that begged for any reprieve, a sound of hopelessness and utter loss. Darkness again, and I could feel his footfalls on the carpet as he stepped into the living room.
That scared me more than a little. I could feel his bare feet on the carpet. They were large and covered in pustules. He stepped and now the storm was for him. He had sucked its will into his, for the lightning crashed and he was at the foot of the couch. I kicked back. He had me this time. He had won our race. He had me pinned as sure as a rapist. He had me helpless as sure as a murderer. I kicked back and screamed. I clawed at my face and begged for death. Don’t let him touch me. Don’t let him embrace me. Darkness again and I could only stare wide-eyed into the black, waiting for the monster, waiting for his touch.
Lightning again, and there he stood. He hovered over me, one hand on the back of the couch as he leaned, one hand reaching for my head. Impossibly long fingers splayed out, like a player holding a basketball with one hand, as he struggled to palm my skull.
I passed out. I voided my pants. I dropped into a pit of black as the gulf yawned out before me. He had me. He was taking me back to that house, back to that basement, back to that man. Insanity followed.
I remember standing over the couch. I remember licking the cushion as I fought to taste a thing that had just been there. I remember the storm raging out its indignation.
I remember going out into it. Out the front door. Off the covered porch and into the rain. The sky screamed. The air cried. There was a strike of anger as the lightning crashed in hate, thunder right on its heels. The sky flashed hot and I was screaming. My face to the sky, my thick hair pasted over my eyes. I opened my arms to the heavens and I screamed.
The next day I was in therapy. I told Steven everything, all I could remember at the time. I saved back the part about shitting my pants. I confessed to being touched, though my skin crawled to do it, and I shook uncontrollably.
“He is another,” Steven said with finality. It was the handing down of a sentence. It was a gavel fall. “He is an ego state and has been reaching for you for years. He is too horrible for you to accept, and you have tossed him from your body. Jack is you.”
“How do I run?” I asked.
Steven laughed, though for the life of me, I could not see why. “You don’t. You find him. You seek him out and you let him have time. You embrace him and you let him embrace you. He is in pain. He is alone, and he needs you, needs to be heard. Needs to be you.”
I trudged home and told them all, knowing what would come of it. I told Regina, Job, Chanel and Bekah. I told them all the facts that Steven had laid out for us, and I told them that what he wanted was impossible. I could not let Jack in. Did not want to see him take my body.
“You have to. We will talk to him. I want to meet him,” Regina said. “I have questions. This is good news.”
Regina walked away, turning to Job. “How do we get him out? What are you going to say?”
Bekah walked to me. She took my face in her warm hands and she looked me in the eye. I turned my gaze away. “Look at me,” she said softly.
I managed to do it.
“We are here. We can help as much as we can. But that is not as important as this. You are stronger than you think, and you can handle even this. You have Assassin, you have Guardian. You have Shadow.”
“They are terrified of him, too.”
“You have Zombie,” she whispered. “He can help. You are not alone. Not here,” she motioned to the room, “or here.” She touched my forehead.
They sat, the room dark, the music low. They sat and I stood in the middle of the living room. A gasp and a twitch.
And the master of all fear was upon us. A gasp and a twitch and Jack was home.
He told of our need, when very young, to handle pure naked fear, mind-crumbling fear, and he said he had been there. When the worst event, the basement, strapped to the hot water heater had come for us, he had been there. And what he saw had brought him, had created him, had twisted him. He told us all he was immune to fear.
He was a fear eater. And it had made of him a monster.