Tale of the Jack ’O Lantern
Myk Pilgrim © Copyright September 2014
Jack was a bastard, a real bastard as the story goes.
An Irishman of the old country, he liked nothing better than trickery, drinking and gambling and all the things that follow trickery, drinking and gambling - if you catch my meaning.
On the day of Jack's appointed death the Devil came to the bar to collect what was owed him.
Thinking quickly, Jack asked if he could at least finish his drink before being dragged off to hell for all eternity. Scratch being a fellow of good humour obliged him for as we all know forever is a very very long time indeed.
They spoke while they drank, until at last the Irishman began to question the validity of the Devil’s power. Jack dared the Devil, goaded him to prove by his might by transforming into a silver coin. Satan being a creature of considerable pride and never one to be belittled by a mortal instantly shifted form. Jack watched the shining Devil coin as it spun on the counter.
Then before it had even had the chance to fall flat he snatched it up in a scarred hand.
He smirked at the cross shaped scar which held the Angel locked within his grasp,
he ordered another drink as he mocked the Devil’s stupidity, then another and another.
After a time, Lucifer agreed to give Jack another year of life.
In exchange for his freedom, he would return to collect his soul the following Halloween.
Jack squandered his year, swearing that he would repent his evils only on his deathbed
and outwit the Devil one final time.
When Lucifer returned, Jack challenged him to a game of dice.
The devil who has never passed up the opportunity to play dice, very quickly took the game,
despite the fact that the dice were of Jack's own design.
But as Scratch loomed to collect his winnings, Jack threw the dice again.
They yielded two threes and landed in such a way as to make a T cross on the table.
The Christ-sign crippled the angel for a second time forcing him to grant the
conniving Irishmen yet another year of life.
Cursing and bitter in his defeat Satan vanished in a cloud of sulphurous smoke.
Jack was never the kind of man to waste an opportunity.
He lived hard that year and gambled harder, he indulged himself in any vice that would have him and forced himself on those that would not.
Yet despite all his trickery, Jack dropped dead without warning.
In the seeping blackness of the netherworld, the Devil was nowhere to be seen.
Jack was alone in the dark.
After a seeming eternity navigating his way through the creeping dark of the spirit realm, Jack saw a light and followed it to the gates of Paradise. No sooner had he arrived than the the Angel in attendance had shooed him away. It chased him back into the dark poking at the dead Irishman with a flaming sword. Jack screamed in pain as he fled back into the shadows every step in the swirling pitch unsettling yet more blackness. The creatures that dwell within the shades following him hungry and silent.
Jack heard the weeping and wailing long before he saw the Infernal gate.
Lucifer smiled a smile such as Jack had never seen as he too refused him entry.
Jack cried but he had no tears. He shrieked and he begged, although it did nothing to slow the heavy darkness which was fast closing in around him hungrily.
“What will I do? How can I see? Please my Lord Morningstar, please help me , please, please, please”
Bored with the begging the Dark Angel threw a burning coal at him.
Taken by surprise, Jack caught it in both hands. The ember hissed.
It seared away the flesh on his fingers. It burnt through bone before it crashed onto the ground.
Lucifer laughed as Jack writhed and cursed him.
Things circling in the dark also issued coughing chuckles that echoed like snapping bone.
Eventually Satan, tired of the spectacle and withdrew back to his charge of the circles beyond the gate. The things in the dark again grew silent.
Jack’s eyes could not see them scuttling all around him but he felt their gaze.
Unable to cry, Jack scrambled blind through the thick shadows for the longest time.
His aching fingers eventually finding something round growing in the dirt. He knew it by smell.
Shattering a finger tip, he used the freshly sheared bone to hollow the turnip out.
Jack carved the holes of a face into its flesh so that he would not feel so alone.
Then he tipped the damned coal inside.
Jack has wandered the dark space between ever since,
with a throat that cannot drink, belly that cannot eat and lips that cannot kiss,
although it has never stopped him from trying.
read Out of the woods
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Tale of the Jack 'O Lantern