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Samuel Ward was having a nightmare as he tossed and turned in his sleep. It wasn’t a nightmare which fit into the semblance of normalcy if nightmares themselves could be called "normal". It wasn’t a nightmare in the traditional sense but a perverse dream that mirrored reality in such macabre detail that one could forever wander its grounds and never suspect that the ground they walked upon was composed entirely of their own subconscious. In this mock reality he found himself standing before a large crowd of people, men and women, old and young, rich and poor bustled in the street. Confused as he did not remember how he got there he called out to the passersby but they did not hear him. After spending what he thought was an eternity shouting in vain he growled in frustration and reached out to grab the nearest person he could find, a little girl walking with her mother.
“Hold on a minute, I know you can hear me! I just…” He stopped dead in his tracks as his hand passed through the little girl’s arm. Confused and dazed by this sudden turn of events he stood there as the crowd walked around and through him as if he were a ghost. “I must be dreaming,” he muttered to himself. Before he could do anything else the crowd faded away. Samuel could see a figure standing fifty feet in front of him on the wet, dirty road. The shape of the figure which was unmistakably a man’s was taller than any normal soul. The figure’s tall form was covered in a large black cloak which wrapped around him so that only his large black boots and head were visible, the man’s face was concealed in a white mask resembling the face of a mannequin and long stringy black hair which hung over his mask like a stringy black curtain.
Samuel was nearly overcome with a sense of dread at the appearance of the figure, he was about to walk away when a voice echoed in his head, “I have chosen you, Samuel Ward. Your time has come,” the voice said.
“Who are you? My time has come for what?” Samuel called out to the figure who could only have been the owner of the voice he just heard.
“You will know,” the figure’s reply echoed in Samuel’s head as the figure slowly turned and walked away.
Samuel was about to go after him when the whole place melted away and he found himself standing in a dimly lit room. The figure was gone now and as Samuel’s eyes adjusted to the light he could see a man whose clouded eyes were wild as he sat in the chair near a desk. The man’s appearance was disheveled and unkempt, the bristles of his beard glistened in the light. The man stared through Samuel as if he was unable to see him even as he stood only five feet from him. The man muttered incessantly to himself, “He’s coming. Nowhere to run… Nowhere to hide… No refuge to save me…. Jack is coming. The thing with the dead eyes.” The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a knife, the blade shimmered in the light. He held it close to his eyes, as if he was staring at his reflection on the blade. “Death is coming. He is close; there is only one escape… One that leads to damnation… It’s no use,” he twisted the blade in his hand.
Samuel was cautiously inching towards him when the man suddenly lunged from his chair and with surprising speed, gripped Samuel by the scruff of his shirt.
“You have seen him too!” the man shouted, his eyes wide with fear.
“This is just a nightmare… Who have I seen?” Samuel sputtered while trying desperately to break the man’s grip.
“He goes by many names. To you he was the man who hides himself behind a pale white mask. He is the one called Jack,” the man replied, gripping Samuel’s shirt tighter.
“This is insane! What does he want with me?”
“Everything… Don’t you see he wants everything that you are and everything that you will become; he wants your life as well as your soul… But most of all, he wants you to fear!” the man said, shaking Samuel with frenzied panic. Before Samuel had time to question the man on the meaning of this, the man’s eyes suddenly widened in terror.
“I’ve said too much… He’s coming!” the man said with a shudder as he let go of Samuel who stumbled backwards and fell to the floor. He only stayed there for a second until the realization suddenly dawned on him. The Masked Man whom the man had called Jack, both his and the man’s tormentor was coming. Seeing the realization on Samuel’s face, the man’s glazed eyes fixated on Samuel’s.
Understanding the man’s words Samuel quickly got to his feet and scrambled to the nearest place he could find; the closet. Shutting the door, Samuel peeked through the small gap between as he stared into the room.
A sudden noise made the man shrink back in fear and Samuel was overcome with a sense of dread. Following the man’s terrified gaze Samuel was able to see the source of the man’s terror. The Masked Man towered over him, his face still hidden behind the pale white mask, a quick move by the figure sent Samuel sprawling against the wall knocking the breath out of him. The wild eyed man was shaking uncontrollably now, his eyes wide in terror, “Please!” he moaned, “Don’t kill me! Have merc─” The man’s words were cut off as the figure who the man called Jack seized the man by the throat with long skeletal fingers. Samuel watched, paralyzed in horror as the man was lifted off the ground by the throat. Samuel tried to scream as the man squirmed in the figure’s grasp but he found that he was unable to. Jack held the man in the air as the man desperately gasped for air, bringing the man close to his masked face, Jack cocked from side to side observing the man’s weakening struggle. Samuel watched in horror as Jack’s long skeletal fingers tightened around the man’s throat.
The man’s body immediately went limp in Jack’s grip. Tilting his head from side to side as if observing the man’s limp form, Jack’s eyes slowly looked over towards a horrified Samuel staring at him through his pale white mask. Jack and the dead man suddenly faded away and the floor crumbled from underneath him, leaving him falling into darkness.
The stench was unbearable as Samuel came to. It was the unmistakable smell of death, his eyes watered from it as he heaved violently. When his eyes had somewhat adjusted to the darkness he could see that he was in a vast cavern deep underground, the dripping of water echoed throughout the cavern as it splashed into a puddle nearby. Wiping his mouth which stung from vomit, Samuel tore part of his shirt making a makeshift mask out of it to make the stench more bearable; he cautiously walked towards a small beam of light that illuminated the ground in front of him.
The noise echoed in the cavern and Jack suddenly stood thirty yards ahead of him, in his hands Jack carried the body of the wild eyed ma. Jack stood there for a moment, and then Jack suddenly tossed the man’s body down at what appeared to be a large pit. The hairs on Samuel’s neck stood on end as he heard the body land with a sickening thud. Then Jack was gone, disappeared into the shadows. Samuel fought the curiosity that ate at him, reasoning that Jack was still here hiding in the shadows. But as the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat, and after a few minutes of hesitation Samuel cautiously walked forward. Being careful as to not trip and fall into some hidden crevice he moved forward, when he reached the mouth of the pit the stench there was unbearable even while breathing through his shirt. Tears ran down Samuel’s face as he squinted to see the obvious, then suddenly a light illuminated the pit and what Samuel saw made him scream in terror.
Piled by the hundreds in the pit were the bodies of countless people, some whose faces were horrifically contorted from decomposition while others were just a pile of bones. What Samuel had mistaken for water was actually blood dripping from several bodies that were impaled upon stalactites on the roof of the cavern. The body of the wild eyed man lay sprawled on the top of the pile, his eyes glazed over in death, blood oozed from his gutted form. Samuel screamed in terror as his eyes took in every horrific detail, every new horror brought fresh screams from his mouth. Then he felt it, the familiar feeling of dread crept on him, he knew that Jack was behind him as he turned to run but long skeletal hands grabbed him by the throat and he was violently turned around so that his face was inches from Jack’s masked face. Hysterical, Samuel beat at Jack’s arms with fevered energy but Jack’s grip around Samuel’s neck never weakened. In a last desperate attempt to loosen the grip that was slowly depriving him of air, he reached out his hand and ripped Jack’s mask off his face. The sight that appeared underneath the lying mask sent him further into terror.
There are countless horrors that are spoken in hushed tones throughout the world, tales of demons, monsters, and specters that are meant to frighten all of those who hear it. Jack’s name is one of those names that are spoken in whispers. He is neither a spirit, nor a demon, nor anything that mortal man can possibly comprehend. For the face that Samuel saw was far worse, the only feature that existed on Jack’s pale face was two large, black, unblinking eyes. Jack cocked his head to the side as if observing Samuel’s terror, lifting up its other arm, Jack’s long skeletal fingers brushed against Samuel’s face. He cried out in terror for the very touch was ice cold, no warmth came from it.
“Now do you see?!” Jack’s voice echoed in his head.
A sickening ripping sounded as Samuel’s eyes widened in terror, the skin where Jack’s mouth should be was being stretched and ripped apart as an unholy maw opened on its face. The mouth was filled with long, thin, needle-like teeth that could easily bite a man in half, a long snake-like tongue darted from Jack’s open mouth as it licked Samuel’s terrified face sending fresh new waves of terror in Samuel. He didn’t have time to scream as Jack’s fanged maw lunged towards his face.
Samuel woke up screaming, his sheets soaked with sweat, shaking feverishly he sat up. It was all just a horrible nightmare, one that he finally woke up from. Relaxing somewhat, he wringed his fingers through his hair, and breathed a sigh of relief. Samuel stepped out of the bed and turned on the light near his nightstand. The light illuminated the tall cloaked form of Jack, and in the small corners of his mind Samuel Ward finally understood Jack’s cryptic comment. It was his time to die. He understood this even as Jack lunged towards him.