The Legend of Jack-o-Lantern
Every Halloween boys and girls across the land share in a strange tradition. Moms and dads spend countless hours carving and cleaning,doing their very best to prove their art is the best. Some simply visit party and discount stores, hoping to avoid the work but get the reward. As the kids put on their costumes,become their ghosts and ghouls,a strange and funny item is placed at their door step. Small orange and glowing for all it is worth,the jack-o-lantern is placed at the front of the house. Some say it is to ward away the undead, others to ward away the devil himself. What if I told you there was a REAL reason that pumpkin is there?
Centuries ago there was a very vile and cruel man. Every night he would walk the streets of London,looking for his next victim. One after another,a working girl would be found dead…her throat sliced ever so finely. The police were baffled, the citizens were too…in fact all of London was a buzz about the killings. He taunted the authorities with letters of enigmatic purpose and scope,further confusing and frustrating them. In the end, the killer known as “Jack the Ripper” was never to be found. Well, never to be found by the so called men of good will. On one foggy Friday night,washing up after his last kill, Jack received a visitor. Out of a dead silence, the door began to knock loudly. “Now who pray tell could this be so late at night?” He thought. Fearing it may be the police, thinking his magic had finally failed him…Jack made for the window.
Sliding down the pipes that ran along his building,they now took both him and the slow dripping water from the roof to the ground below. With feet firmly planted, he began to run flat out for as far as his lungs could take it. Being a man of forty two, he still had a few miles on him.
“Why do you run from me Jack, I only wish to congratulate you on a job well done.” A familiar voice said.
Spinning round Jack found a familiar face, that of the “friend” who had allowed him to carry out his kills so stealthily. It was not that long ago that they met,as Jack sat and pondered the depravity of those women. His thoughts were saturated with plans of death and public out cry, ridding the streets of those godless women who harrased him daily on his way to work. Sitting alone on the park bench, he prayed so hard for an answer to come…until finally it did. Along came a man of regal stature, this was clear in his appearance and stride. He smoked the finest pipe and seemed to be well versed in the world, something that was a nice change from the morons Jack had gotten so used to. Their conversation lead to Jacks wishes,as if the man knew exactly what jack wanted before he ever said a word. In a strange way it seemed as if this fellow was able to look right into his mind and pull those thoughts right out.
‘So you wish to be able to kill unseen,go and come as you please…all in the name of saving fair London from the plight of its sexual depravity? ” The man had said.
“Yes” Jack started “It is for London that I wish these deeds be true.”
Jack remembered how the man smiled,it was honest in it’s creepy sort of fashion. Standing not two feet before Jack,the man had never even really come close,so how was it that he managed tod get that suitcase so close to him? Pointing with his right hand,which sported a strange symbol of sorts, the man instructed Jack…
” Open that case honest Jack, inside you will find everything you need to carry out your plan. In side you will find a long gentleman’s jacket that will make you invisible to anyone who may be looking,the fog will come to aide if prying eyes should ever become an issue. The top hat within will give you control over the minds of anyone you contact,be it in person or in writing…use it to seduce your prey and confuse their protectors. Finally you will find a blade of the sharpest kind, no skin or bone will ever deny you.” The strange man finished.
Sure enough, Jack came to find that all these things were true. During his first outting, he found a woman so immoral and unclean. Approaching her was not easy as the prying eyes of lust full customers were always watching. Just like that, the fog came. Historians would tell it was some of the worst London had ever seen, a person could get lost in this mist if they were not familiar to their surroundings.
“Oh my” the street walker began “where did the horrible fog come from?”
Jack took his new opportunity and said ” Well my dear girl, I guess I brought it with me.”
“Come now handsome,why would you do a thing like that?” She asked, figuring if she played along a warm meal may be hers tonight.
“So that I could be alone with you my dear.”
Smiling confidently, she knew this one was hers. “Oh did you now?” “Was there something I can do for you?”
“Oh yes” Jack started while pulling the blade from his right pocket “You can die!!!”
Although the streets were full that night, and everyone heard her final scream…not one single man or woman could see her killer,or even her murder for that matter. Just as quickly as it arrived, the fog began to lift. Patrons of both genders watched in shock as the poor woman’s body came into view, her throat laid wide open. Blood drained to her side,fresh and rosey read. That night he wrote a letter, with his trusty hat firmly on his head. Addressing the authorities he sent them words of very little meaning. Their true purpose was magic,as they were enchanted with confusion…not even the best of Scotland Yard would be able to follow his trail.
Now with a long list of kills under belt,some of which the police never even found, Jack had decided to retire. He did find it fitting that his benefactor came to say goodbye.
“Hello my friend,what brings you to me once again?” Jack asked, taking a seat on an old wooden stoop.
“Well that is a complicated subject to be sure, so lets start with congratulations.” The man said proudly.
“Well thank you, I suppose you have come for your belongings.” Said Jack again.
“Yes, can’t have those falling into un just hands can we?” The man said while taking hold of the suitcase. “Tell me Jack,how do you feel?”
“What do you mean sir?”
Stepping closer, once again peering into Jack’s soul, the man asked once again…this time as if to insinuate.
“Now that you have taken so many lives,with so much blood on your hands,how do you feel?”
Jack knew right then, his mysterious handler knew the secret that Jack had been harboring for some time now. Ever since that first night,since the blood touched his blade and the screams filled his dreams…something dark had crept into his soul. Getting rid of one sin, he had created another deep within himself. With each new life he took, a notion began to form. Every news article written spurned him to committ another act of voilence.Toward the end, he discovered something quiet disturbing. His moral crusade against the lustful and the depraved, had turned him into a cold blooded killer…and he loved every minute of it.
It was this realization that drove him to retirement, he knew that was the only way to save his soul. Now here he was faced with the realization that his secret was out. Looking the man square in the face, Jack began…
“Yes it’s true, I have changed.” “I am no longer the moral crusader I started out to be, my soul will be damned and there is nothing I can do about that. In death,I shall pay for my crimes in the pits of hell.”
“What if that were not the case?” “What if you could satisfy your lust for killing, and never pay the penalty?” The man asked, Jack could see a new offer was on his mind.
“So tell me then, how can this be?” “Does the lord not have dominion over my soul once I pass?
“Yes dear Jack he does, but first you have to pass for him to have said dominion.”
Jack became excited at the man’s new offer. Could it be he could allow Jack eternal passage on the sea of life? Could he be allowed to mame and kill as his soul required, and never repay it’s bounty?
“What do I have to do?” Jack asked anxiously.
“It’s very simple Jack, all you have to do is say yes to the question you have not heard.” The man said in jest.
“As I said, there is a question that you must answer. If you answer yes, then all that you seek will be yours.”
“And I am not allowed to know what this question is sir?” Jack asked again, this time feeling a bit cautious.
“No my friend you are not. I am trusting you with a great power, the gift of immortality, all I ask in return is that you trust my question.” The stranger asked so enigmaticaly.
Jack thought long and hard on the situation. True this was in in deed a strange deal to be sure, answering yes to a question he did not know. But there was something eating at him from the inside, a burning desire that must be satisfied. Here was the man who had allowed him to carry out his life’s work without asking anything in return. Everything he said his gifts would do they did. Now here he was with another deal, another gift and this one was far greater than the last. Weighing all the options, he felt that yes was the right answer…he felt his benefactor could truly be trusted.
“Yes my good man, the answer is yes!” Jack happily answered.
There were several things that let Jack know he had made a mistake. First there was the diabolical laugh the stranger released as the heavens became full of cloud and lightning. As the wind began to blow and the Earth began to rumble, Jack felt his very face begin to change. Rushing over to a near by window, he saught his reflection…but what he gazed upon was not him. His skin had turned that of a strange orange, it had become course to the touch. Jack watched as his once average and unassuming features became horrific and crude. To his shock and disbelief, his head was now like that of a pumpkin!
“What have you done to me!?” Jack screamed.
“My dear fellow, I simply carried out the terms of our agreement.” The man said sternly.
“The question…what was the question!?” Jack asked, now terrified to hear.
“Would you Jack of London, Jack the Ripper, give me your soul to become a creature of the night…to live for eternity and to kill under the terms in which I set?” “You my friend answered yes!”
“And your terms sir, what are they?”
“My terms are this. I will transport you to the new world, to America. There you will find more than enough country and empty lands in which to hide. For most of the year you will watch in secret, stalking your prey until the designated time to kill.”
“When, when is the hour that I can satisfy my lust for blood?” Jack asked.
“All hallows eve, or as it is now coming to be called…Halloween.” ” Once a year the veil between the living and the dead becomes thin, and the two are closer together than ever. Traditions have risen that the people dress as beings like you, so you will be able to walk freely. On this unholy night, you can enter any house you please…as long as they do not host a pumpkin carved with your face on it’s steps.”
“Only once a year, this is the deal you have made me?” Jack asked again, feeling dissapointed and low.
“No, this is the deal you have agreed to.” “From this day on, you will no longer be Jack the Ripper…” the man began “…I shall call you Jack-o-Lantern”
“Lantern, why that name?”
“You will see.” The man said laughing under his breath.
“Please sir, tell me your name.” Jack asked, hoping that a name may one day lead him to discover how to undo this deed.
“I go by many names in many lands, but my Favorite comes from the land of Norns.” “I am called Loki, God of Mischieve!”
With that the skies became full of lighting and chaos, it mezmorized Jack in such a way that he never saw Loki vanish! Here he was, no longer a man…no longer a citizen of the world. For the prize of immortality, he was now cursed to walk the planet forever as this nightmarish thing. Looking into the window once again, seeing that demonic pumpking staring back at him…Jack began to weep.
“What have I become?” Jack mumbled to himself.
“I understand you need a ride sir?” A voice called out to him.
Turning quick, he found that he was no longer standing in the alley way where he once lived…but now he faced the waters on the london shore. There he found a man in a small row boat, just big enough for the two of them. This man was elderly and seemed to be more dead than alive,maybe that’s why he didn’t seem to flinch at Jack’s appearance.
“Yes I guess I do.” Jack said, walking over to the boat. “Do I owe you anything for the ride?”
“No sir…” the corpse gentleman began while helping Jack to his heat “he has taken care of everything.”
Riding behing his elderly crew of one, Jack looked back as London vanished slowly from site. He knew in his heart that he would never see her streets again. Looking around, the fog began to surround him. It reminded him of all those nights, hunting and slaying…how he missed it so. Though it would be under these strange and definitely cruel terms, he couldn’t wait to kill again. Vanishing into the mist, everything went silent. Only the small bit of candle light that sat at the captain’s feet gave any clue as to his surroundings. In fact, the captain was about all he could see. In what seemed like only an hours journey, land began to appear on the horizon. Still night and very cold, Jack began to wonder if they had gone the wrong way.
“My good man, can you tell me where we are?” Jack asked.
“We have arrived sir.” The captain answered, his voice old and shaking.
“That’s impossible, we have only been traveling an hours time.”
“In the fog, time holds no sway. We have arrived.” The captain finished.
Soon he exited the boat and made his way into the woods that were to his front. These were new lands to him, and he did not know his way. Where were the new colonies he had heard of? How was he supposed to find his prey? Soon he began to hear noises in the distance, as the moonlight seemed to guide him…Jack decided to take a chance. To his surprise there was a great colony, hundreds of homes and as many people roaming about. Watching he found they were dressed in strange garb and wore ghostly masks on their faces. It was then that he realized the time, his benefactor had delivered him at just the right time.
“Yes Jack, tonight is our night.” He said to himself, his mind had slowly become unhinged.
Making his way slowly, sneaking behind trees and hiding as best he could, Jack found something disheartening. It seemed that every house had a pumpkin on it’s doorstep, each one carved with faces that resembled his! How could this be? He had only arrived, with not one murder to his name they could not possibly know about him or especially how to ward him off! That’s when it dawned on him, this was the punchline to Loki’s great joke! The god of mischiev had come before him, told the people of a great and supernatural tale. Now grown ups and children alike knew his secret, whether they believed it or not. Paying closer attention, Jack saw essence of his name sake…as each pumpkin was filled with a candle, making it a lantern of sorts.
“Jack-o-Lantern…” He mumbled to himself. “God of Mischieve in deed.”