When Anjali jay opened her eyes, the first thing that hit her mind was the dryness of the room around her. It seemed to have been blown with the dust stored out of an old vaccum cleaner’s bag. The dust seemed so fine and powdery that it almost choked her with every breath that she took. It was an odd smell. It made her feel weak and tiresome again and again. As does the human mind and body does in any situation, her own did the same to adjust to the environment of dust around it. The next thing that she noted was how badly her neck hurt. The lower joints in her neck were aching so much for her to even look up and take a look at her surroundings.
Slowly she pulled herself to lift her head. The conditioned and perfumed hair of hers strayed in front of her eyes and obscured her view. But she could clearly make out what was around her. It was an old room. Dilapidated. The wall papers were hanging half way out of the wall, begging to be torn out. The room was almost entirely dark save for the lone gap between the door and the floor which allowed a burst of white light to pass between them. It was this light that illuminated everything around her, enabling her to see.
She had never been in this room before, not even seen it from the outside. ‘What am I doing her?’ Her mind questioned. She tried to remember what happened. All that she remembered was that after class, she was walking back to her room. Then she had felt a hand clamp over her mouth and nose. She felt a pad was being held again her nose. A strange and tinkling feeling enveloped her body before she had passed out. Her mind knitted together the incident with her current scenario. Involuntarily, she said ‘Kidnapped?’
Even before the sound from the uttered words had internally reached her own ears, her brain had already directed her heart to increase her pulse rate. Testosterone levels were now increasing within her body, surging her with emergency energy. ‘GET UP! ESCAPE!’ her mind screamed and she tried to move out of her current position towards the door. But she realized she was not able to move her hands and legs as freely as they generally would. It was then that she realized that she was tied to the chair. They looked like large flat silver straps and they ran around the middle of her both her arms and legs. The straps were holding her back to the metal chair that she was seated in. Then she realized that they were not straps but duct tape. ‘Someone has taped me with duct tape’ her mind reasoned.
She studied herself. Her hands were free to move. And so were her feet. However her arms and legs had been tightly bound with duct tape. Even a slight bulge from her current position was not possible. She was still wearing the same tight navy jeans that she had worn at the time of her kidnapping. Her white shirt was ruffled but was otherwise unharmed. No other indications of sexual assault were present. Then she noticed that she had been duct-taped around her waist as well. But the person who tied her up was humane enough to let the tape a bit loose so that she could breathe freely.
She gave a tug at her arm and feet once again, trying to loosen them up a bit. But to of no avail the duct tape refused to let go even of a micrometer of its hold on her. Had she been awake during the time she was put in the current state of entrapment, she would have breathed in and held the air in her lungs and clenched her fists. This would have saved her some space between her arms and waist that later on she would have used to free herself up. She was a smart woman. But being tied up in an unconscious state, all those were not possible now.
After a few minutes of desperate attempts to break away from her chair, she realized that it was not going to be possible. She turned her attention to survey her surroundings once again. To her right she noticed an old table with no draws on it. It looked as old and as decadent as the room itself. The legs were rotting and its surface was covered with the same dust that covered the floors. About five feet above her head hung an old single hold lamp that had no bulb in it. There was a window to the right. She had not noticed it previously because it had been paneled from the outside. Despite the paneling, the window had been painted black to prevent any light from streaming inside.
To her far left there stood another table. It was too far way and she was partially blinded by the incoming light to figure out its state. Just opposite to the on the other side of the door was a badly stained wash basin. The tap had been rotted out from years of no use. She noticed that the waste pipe that ran from the bottom of the basin to the ground was still intact. It stood out sorely among the other things that were in the room. Upon squinting her eyes she was almost sure that the drain pipe had been recently replaced or atleast fixed. Apart from these things there was nothing else in the room, save for the comfortable metal chair she was now sitting on. The chair was clearly not a part of the environment. Like the drain pipe it was new. Even more eerie was the fact that it seemed soft and comfortable to sit in.
Too many questions but no answers. She was going to get her questions answered.
It was impossible for her to determine what time of the day it was. She was beginning to understand how those prisoners at
They stopped immediately to her right. She slowly opened her eyes. Her hair was still falling before her face. It partially screened her view. But what she saw was undeniably clear. Beyond the shanty door that guarded her prison was another one that was half open. An overhead light bulb burned with such furious intensity that it almost seemed like the sun itself. The room ahead looked much the same almost as shabby as the one that she was seated in, although from her point of view she guessed that was all there was to see in it. The door that guarded the other room looked much the same.
Out of the corner of her eyes she saw that to her right stood her captor. The captor was preoccupied with something on the old table. He wore a long black overcoat that hung to his knees. The vacancy of the overcoat below the knees betrayed that he wore black pants below them. All these observations did not take more than a second for her to make. She rolled her eyes back towards the open front door again. The door to the second room was half open and in that gap she saw a spiral case of stairs that ran downwards.
Her captor turned and she shut her ayes again. Her heart was wildly beating. She had trouble in concealing and slowing down her now heavy breathing. Her mind was screaming repeatedly ‘ESCAPE’.
‘Hello, my dear’ said a soft voice. She was so surprised by that soft and golden voice that she forgot to feign unconsciousness and looked right to whence the voice came from. He was standing before the table, an aged man. His face seemed to have been cast from some wealthy painting that adorns plush living rooms. Strong veins of aristocracy and wealth showed. There was a prominent vein that pulsed on the left of his forehead. He wore gold rimmed glasses. The spark on the gold frame told that they were not ordinary. They were of real gold. The receding hair line was made of silver gray hair. The face was slightly wrinkled. He wore a jet black over coat. English cut and clearly up market. He was smiling down at her.
‘Hungry?’ he asked. She tried to open her mouth and reply ‘Yes’. It was only then that she realized her mouth had been duct taped as well.
‘Oh! I forgot! Only a little inconvenient, I presume’ he continued with a slight exclamation and out of his overcoat came a little switch knife. When he flicked it open, she saw that the knife had been replaced by a razor sharp scalpel shaped blade. She pursed her lips while he expertly slit the tape with the blade.
The man took a ceramic plate from the table. On it were three club sandwiches. On the table stood a glass of milk. ‘My hands’ she gestured, expecting to be cut from her bonds so that she may eat. But the man smiled and shook his head. He instead took a sandwich in his hand and fed it to her. She was amazed when realized that enough room had been slit for her to eat properly. She chomped down the sandwich hungrily, it came with turkey and potato salad.
Her meal complete, she was fed her glass of milk as well. Not a word was spoken. She figured she would have a round of explanation from the old man after the meal. It did come as she expected. But it was different. Right after the last drop of milk went down her throat, the tape came prominently over her mouth once again. It was then she realized how strong the man was. Looks seemed to deceive in this regard. The right hand that held her face, as the left taped her mouth, had an intense grip, something many would never believe as that of the old man who now stood in front of her. After seeing her captor for the first time, she had automatically assumed that he must have had a hired hand, who in turn must have kidnapped her. Now that very assumption seemed to be faux. ‘Idiot’ she scolded herself. ‘Next time he slits the tape on the mouth, ask questions first. If he does not acknowledge, refuse to eat’
The old man went over to wash his hands in the wash. The empty plate and the glass of milk stood on the rickety old table once again. She waited until he turned around. He turned around and then flicked his fingers and hands to rid himself of the wetness they had now possessed.
‘My name is Jack’. He started. There was that golden, polite voice again. It seemed to her that the voice was wildly out of place. It did not seem right that the old man had such a voice.
He was staring almost right ahead of him directly into Anjali’s face. He was staring so much that she couldn’t fathom if he was staring at her or through her.
Her thoughts were interrupted as he continued to speak.
‘This is my absolute inspiration!’ He spoke at her face.
‘Tell me miss do you like Halloween?’
It took some time for her to realize what he was asking her.
‘Halloween? Why the hell is he asking me about Halloween?’
Seeing her perplexed expression, Jack put forth the question again, ‘Miss, do you like Halloween or not? ’
She slowly nodded yes to his question.
‘Good! Good! We will be having a great time together! ’ He sounded almost childlike in his expressions. The joy in the voice seemed genuine.
Then the rambling started.
‘You see, the world sees Halloween as just a time for kids. Little brats, dragging bags with chocolates and candy bars, and still asking for more. Many do not give importance to it as they should be giving. Dressing up children in those awful abominable costumes, what are they thinking? Halloween is not a play. It is for serious art. What has art come to? Look at those god awful things that they place on their footsteps on Halloween! Are they supposed to be Jack O’Lanterns? Unacceptable! Jack is a hero! The man who tricked the Devil Himself! Have you heard of anyone fooling Lucifer and getting away with it? Jack did it! He made the Devil look like a simpleton, the common moron that you see everyday on the streets….’ He paused.
He was slightly out of breath from the endless talk.
‘Do you understand what I am saying Ms. Anjali? I know you have been here, in this country, for quite some time to understand what Halloween is…’
Anjali, by now, was getting groggy. The full stomach after an arduous hunger and that full glass of milk were making her sleepy. Her hands and legs were now wooden from hours of being clamped down in the same position. She was not able to feel her feet, legs or her hands. The old man’s golden voice was ringing in her ears like a lullaby.
She was conscious enough to make out the words, ‘Do you understand’ from his rantings. She bobbed her head once again. All she could figure out about her captor at this point was that he seemed to be an old lonely man, with considerable humanness and lack of external contact. He was clearly no danger to her, although slightly psychotic. She was under the impression that he probably kidnapped her just to have someone to talk to. She was sure that she could convince him to release her.
Satisfied that his subject was still listening, Jack continued to talk.
‘As I was saying, you see Halloween is a time for art...’
He was pacing across her chair as he was speaking. That was all she could remember before dozing off.
When Anjali opened her eyes again, it was due to the nasal sense. This time it was a powerful lemony odor that woke her. It smelled just like vikron, only much stronger. It made her feel nauseated. Vikron was the standard disinfectant that her hospital used. During the past two years she had come to hate that smell. It was in part actually a physical realization of her hate for her working environment. Now that very smell seemed to permeate through her. She felt as if the fumes were oozing out of every pore of her body.
When she opened her eyes, she was staring at the ceiling at the worn out lamp holder dangling above her head. Her neck felt stiff. She felt the cold of the metal chair below her neck running in a straight line. It was then she found that her neck had been strapped to the chair too. She was now clamped to the chair in her legs, hands and neck. Totally immovable. Her hopes of escape and release immediately vaporized. The thick soft wad of band that held her to the chair was forcing her to face upwards all the time. From the lower part of her eye, she was able to see a strong light being focused over her. It shone over the front of her body. She heard the old man before her. He must have been sitting, for she was not able to see him. He was humming a little tune to himself and was doing something that she was not able to see.
Every minute seemed to be an hour for her at this peculiar position. She tried to move her arms and legs once again, but the bonds seemed stronger than before. There was a sigh from Jack. He seemed to stop from whatever he was doing and sat back, for now, she was able to see a tuft of the grey hair. Her movements and efforts became more and more furious and violent with every tug. Finally she relented. She was breathing heavily now. Sweat was pouring from her eyebrows and into her eyes. It made her feel inconvenient.
Jack finally spoke, ‘Are you done?’ It was the same soft and polite voice. There was no hint of anger in his voice that seemed to indicate any irritation at her attempts to escape.
‘If you sit still my dear, I can finish this faster. It takes heavy concentration and mental stress to do this job. It’s a fine piece of art when finished. Look I will show you!!’
He got up from his chair and moved away from her. She presumed that he must have gone to the room in front of her. She resumed her attempts at tugging and pulling. A few moments later he came back and stood looming above her. She was able to smell the scent of a costly Joy’s perfume. He brought what seemed to be a small cut paper in from of her face.
‘Look’ He told her.
Upon closer inspection, she found it to be a photograph. The background was all black. But the middle of the photograph was enlarged and she was able to see a single index finger. The nail on the finger was very peculiar. There were a series of line criss crossing on it. They looked as if they had been etched on the nails. It took a moment for her to realize. When she did she saw a beautiful geometric pattern evolve from before her eyes. They seemed to stand out in three dimension showing a geometric flower in bloom.
‘So this is what I am here for?’ She questioned herself.
‘You see how beautiful it is? Do you know how hard it is for me to produce such a design? And I must say I am working on one of the most beautiful designs for you’. He smiled.
‘But why does he have to bind me up in this position for this?’ She puzzled. ‘no, there is something fishy with this.’
She began to struggle against her bonds once again.
‘Please dear, do not force me to turn on the anesthetic’ Jack pleaded.
She paused for a moment to peer into the eyes of her captor. Then once again, defying him, she started to struggle to get free.
‘Alright, if that’s what you want….’ He said and moved away from her.
She heard him move something near her.
There was a mechanical noise to her right. It was followed by a hand moving before her eyes. When she finally realized, that he was to administer ether to her, she started to struggle again. The strong hand came over her face once again. It prevented her from moving her face even for an inch. With the other hand, Jack brought the naso-oral mask (which covered her nose and mouth). Gripping it firmly again her, he freed his other hand from her face and turned on the knob.
Anjali was able to hear the slow hiss of ether flowing into the mask and found that ether’s characteristic smell was overpowering the smell of vikron finally. Then she blacked out.
Anjali awoke after what was to her an indeterminate amount of time. Her mouth was wide open. She felt something inside it and her throat hurt. She was able to feel that something hard was running from her mouth through her throat. As an impulse, she tried to move her hands and touch and feel what was in her mouth. Surprisingly, she was able to move her left hand. She immediately ran her fingers over mouth. She felt a plasticized touch.
‘It’s a plastic tube’ she determined. She had used a lot of them at the Hospital. She sensed that Jack was not around her. By instinct, she knew she should not be awake. She knew she had woken up too early. She felt around the collar on her neck. She tried to remember the neck collars she administered on her patients in the hospital. Fate was on her side. She felt the release catch of the collar at exactly the place she assumed it would be: to the right of hers. It needed a little twist and jerk movement to release the patient from its hold. She tried to do the same. It was hard to do it. Its one thing to release and put on collars for patients, but trying to release one which was on her was hard. The second time she pulled harder and it became tighter. It hurt her throat and she winced in pain. By now she had tears in her eyes. The third time she gave a gentle twist and tug motion and she immediately felt relief around her throat.
A moment later, the collar, sprung open and she immediately straightened her neck. A sharp dagger of pain hit her in the back of her neck. It was from the hours of being clamped down in the same posture. She now saw that a translucent white tube was running from her mouth to a hoisted plastic medical bag. The bag contained what looked like an orange liquid. Obviously he had been trying to feed her while she was unconscious. The regulation valve had been closed so that, the flow of liquid had stopped. She slowly started to pull the plastic tube out of her mouth. As she did so, she was able to feel the end of the tube move inside her food pipe and finally out of her mouth. She threw down the tube and it hit the floor board with a tap.
She was seeing the front of the room in many hours now. The old rickety table that was to her right was now in front of her. On it were laid numerous metallic objects. There was a small cushioned stool that was in front to her left. Adjacent to her left stood the hoisted plastic medical bag that stood on a medical stand used for Intra Venial saline injection purpose. Old Jack seemed no more to be in her surroundings. The door to the front of the room was open again. There was a desktop reading lamp shining on her left side of her body. It too stood on the old table.
She turned her attention to the table once more. She was now able to recognize the instruments on top of the desk immediately. To her horror, she realized that they were what she used on her patients during surgery. There were electrocauters, curettes, forceps, calipers and even a motorized bone cutter along with an assortment of bowls, scalpels, scissors and knives.
It was then she realized that her right hand was covered in a black cloth. All this time she had not noticed it for it was under the shadow of the lamp itself. With trembling hands, she proceeded to remove the cloth from her right hand.
Underneath the cloth, she was relieved to see the natural colour of her hands. After the sight of the instruments, she had believed something worse would now lie under the cloth. She tried to move her right hands up and down, but was not able to. Some thing about her hand was not right. She was not able to feel it. With a thumping heart, she tried to grab the reading lamp. It slipped under her sweaty palm. She caught hold of it once again by its neck and slowly moved it over her right hand to focus the beam.
She almost fainted after seeing her right hand at close quarters under the beam of light. There were cuts made all over her fingers. The cuts all resembled a distorted trapezium in shape, only that they were more curved than straight. Still shaking with the shock, she ripped the duct tape that was holding her right hand in place to the chair. She was not able to move the entire right hand and it dropped heavily towards the floor. She proceeded to clutch her right hand with her left and move it between the lamp and her face for closer inspection.
The light from the lamp shone through her fingers, and cast beautiful shadows across her face. Rays from the lamp shone trough the gaps in her fingers. There were no bones inside the fingers where they should have been. The rays had nothing to stop them. Each finger had the same design. The cuts on the fingers had been made such that instead of the fingers standing up like pillars, they now showed a helical structure that resembled the DNA of the human gene. The insides of the fingers had been hollowed out and the fingers stood straight even without them. The nail at the end of each finger was still in place thought complex geometric shapes criss crossed them, just as Jack had show her in the photo. There were no finger tips. The finger tips had been cut exactly to a circle.
Anjali was still not able to feel any pain. Tears were now continuously running down her face. With care, she laid her right hand on top of the table with the help of her left. The fingers were now wooden like to touch. There was a gloss of shine over her fingers that looked like lacquer. This glossy covering seemed to hold the finger, or whatever left of it, in place without the finger bones, and not drop down.
A minute of uncontrolled weeping followed. Then suddenly her intelligence kicked in.
‘Escape’ her heart screamed.
She ripped off the duct tapes that held her legs. It took a minute or two before she could stand up. But blood started to flow to her legs once more. Her movement initially was difficult following days of strapped posture. Her knees felt weak and wobbly. But her strength and stability improved with every step she tried to take. She went on to gather a handful of scalpels and knives from the table with her left hand. All she wanted was to escape safely and call the cops.
Then she accidentally set her sights on the bowl sitting in the middle of the table. Inside this bowl were the rosy white pieces and bits which she then realized to be the bits of bone from her fingers. She had never been thrown off by the sights of human parts, but when she looked up all that changed.
It was the first time she had seen the back of the room. Behind the chair where she was bound only a moment ago, were three large glass cases. Inside each glass case stood a woman. Two were Caucasian and one African-American. They all stood still and wore the same set of clothes: a white top and a white skirt. She moved closer to investigate. She saw that they had all partially closed eyes through which shone a mild yellow light. Their hair had been done beautifully. Their hands had been carved in a way similar to how her right hand had been carved. The palms had slits in them through which the same yellow light shone through. Then she realized that each inch of the women’s body had been carved up, save for the scalp. The electronic yellow light shone from within the bodies, through every hole in the human body: through the cut fingers, the palms, the hands, the nose, the ear, the eyes and the mouths. The entire body had been hollowed out, and their skins preserved artificially. They stood like three fairies that were ready to bless her. They had all been carved up by Jack.
Suddenly she understood everything. When he said ‘This is my Inspiration’, he was not looking at her face. He had been looking at these dead women. They were his inspiration! By art he had meant human art! When he dismissed and threw away pumpkin carving, he had took up human carving! When he was praising Jack the Wanderer, he was praising himself! Worse! He was enacting the part of Jack himself, taking up an art so repelling that even the Devil himself would disown him.
She threw down the scalpels and knifes and grabbed the largest metallic catheter and a knife on the table. The catheter shone with the spark of a razor edge, which it was, over the reading lamp. She had now turned her priority of calling the cops to killing Jack.
Then was the familiar tune of Jack whistling coming up the stairs from the other room. She quickly moved to the other room. The roof on the other room was rather low than what she had thought.
Anjali crossed the room in five furious strides. She took her position next to the old door by the stairs. The door had hinges on the left hand side, so if Jack was to open it, it would open to the left, thus providing a non-obstructing view for her to strike him down. It was the first time she had seen the outsides of her room in which she was kept captive. On the other side of the room stood a glass casing exactly similar to the one that she saw the three women in. She realized it was meant for her. The whistling was getting louder by the second. The footsteps finally reached the other side of the door. The old man was unlatching the door.
The next second was when everything happened. First the door flew open. Jack took a step forward. His eyes were still gazing in front of him through the open doorway in front of him and into the next room. He then realized that the metal chair in front of him where Anjali should have been seated was now empty.
Anjali had been readying herself for this moment. She held the catheter and the knife in such way as she would hold a hypodermic needle to inject adrenaline inside a patient’s heart. She had done it many time over in the emergency ward. She had brought back numerous lives of cocaine addicts and powerball addicts, with that single doze of adrenaline which was delivered directly to the heart puncturing through the chest plate.
She was now going to take one.
The next split second, Jack had sensed that Anjali was standing to his side, and attempted to swing his arm blindly to that side in an effort to stop her from doing any harm. Anjali was much wilier. She had been lying in the half prone position and thus avoided the powerful blow from Jack, which had missed its mark and landed directly into the hard wooden wall splintering it.
Jack was now all open to Anjali. She rocketed up and utilized that motion to further propel the catheter and knife in her left hand. The catheter was the first and most accurate to find its mark. While the knife had landed roughly in the same region, the catheter had found the surgeon’s precision. It first pierced thorough the layer of white silk shirt, then the skin and then through the chest plate and finally into the heart. The knife followed closely later to puncture the heart right next to the catheter.
Jack had felt a thump in his chest and immediately fell to the ground following a sharp spike of pain in his heart. Anjali was looking at her captor through wild eyes now. With every beat that jack’s heart took, blood was spraying through the end of the Catheter that now jutted from his chest.
Anjali never saw the Artist again, even when the cops asked her to confirm him in the Morgue.