Closer

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Jackson Clancy, a thirty-year-old IT security guy who resides in Seattle, Washington, experiences something supernatural that may change his life forever.

 

CLOSER

a novella by Cael Roraback

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

It was Monday. Jackson Clancy’s least favorite day of the week. Everybody’s for that matter. Jackson turned off his alarm clock, yawned, and climbed out of bed. He was the type of man to pick his set of clothes the day before so that always saved him time in the morning. Been doing it since the sixth grade.

He hopped in the shower, enjoying every second of the hot water hitting his back. Jackson envisioned his goals for the day. He worked at an IT company called “Trustbrain”. Every single person in the office detested that name. It was stupid sounding, but it was what it was. Jackson worked in the security department of Trustbrain; essentially protecting the company from hackers, keeping the company safe.

After his shower, with his towel wrapped around his waist, he stood in front of the bathroom mirror and dried his hair, proceeding to run his wooden comb through it, styling it to what he called ‘perfection’. Clancy was six feet tall exactly, broad-shouldered, barrel-chested, and rocked a nice stubble (which all women admired). His hair was brown and thick which was short, but not buzz cut short. Since he was sixteen, he was consistent at the gym and kept a healthy diet, now paying off at age thirty.

His outfit for today was a black dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, blue jeans and black socks. Sometimes, he rocked a tie, other times he didn’t.

Jackson was loved by nearly everybody at work, church, parties, everywhere. Women would approach him and start talking to him, usually about the most random things as an excuse to have a conversation with him. He was a popular, good-looking man who owned every room he set foot in. Jackson felt blessed to live a life as good as this.

Stepping out his front door, he got in his red 2000 Ford Mustang his older sister, Courtney, bought him for his eighteenth birthday. He loved the hell out of that car.

Seattle traffic was always atrocious. Angry people honking and the rain raining holy hell on everybody’s windshields didn’t help. Jackson had a nice view of Seattle’s skyscrapers on the way to work, however. On occasion, the Space Needle in the distance would catch his eye and distract him. He’s caught women staring at him through the windows of their cars and he would flash them a warm smile, leaving them blushing. Every single morning, he would listen to the radio on his way to Trustbrain so he could know what was going on and for some background noise to fill his car.

Jackson pulled into the underground garage and stepped out of his car, ready to conquer another day. The elevator beeped and he rode it up to the main lobby where he bought breakfast in the small cafeteria Trustbrain had. Three scoops of scrambled eggs, four pieces of crispy bacon, and two pieces of sourdough toast was his breakfast for today. As soon as he finished, he rode the elevator up to floor twelve, where he worked.

“Morning, Miranda,” Jackson said to Miranda, a woman sitting in a cubicle not too far from his he knew for a fact was into him. “Hi, Jackson,” she blushed. His best friend, Ray Ellis, who sat in the cubicle next to him, greeted him. “Hey, look who it is! Man of the hour.”

Ray Ellis was Jackson’s friend from childhood. They met all the way back in kindergarten. The two of them were registered in the same class and they hit it off on the first day of school. In second grade, they drew comics and one of them were called Bob and Bill. It was about these two friends who lived in a house full of gold. Stupid, silly stuff like that. Ray was a tad bit shorter than Jackson, had short, straight, black hair. He was a skinny man.

“Good morning to you, too,” Jackson grinned. “Ready for yet another day?”

“Always.”

Jackson pulled out his office chair and sat down, scooting into his desk space. His boss, Andrew, entered his cubicle. “Hey, Jackson,” he greeted him. “I just want to let you know that you’ve been doing a very solid job lately and I’m proud of you. You’re a phenomenal worker, I never see you complain. Keep it up, yeah?”

“Thank you, Andrew,” Jackson smiled. “I aim to please.” Andrew patted him on the shoulder and left. Jackson turned back around, feeling fantastic. He got the vibe that Andrew wasn’t fond of Jackson for the longest time, but that seemed to be untrue.

Workdays passed rather quickly for Jackson. He tried not looking at the clock at all unless he had a meeting, or he had to check when his break or lunch hit. Despite this being a boring, old, gloomy Monday, his shift ended before he knew it and he drove home.

Jackson stepped out of his car and before he walked through his front door, he trudged to his mailbox to check for mail. There were a few magazines and some bills inside. He grabbed them and walked back towards his house but when nearly to his door, he dropped a magazine and turned around, bending down to pick it up but something stopped him. In the middle of the street, shined a very bright light. It was oval-shaped and was nearly blinding to the naked eye. The light wasn’t small, it was rather huge, like human sized. “What in the world?” Jackson murmured to himself. He dropped his mail and slowly approached it, nervous. He was about six feet away from it when it vanished into thin air. Shuddering, Jackson picked up his mail and walked back towards his house, constantly looking back to see if it would reappear but it didn’t.

He threw the mail on his coffee table and dialed his mother’s number to tell her about what he saw. He peered out the front window with a view of the street while the phone was ringing, hoping she would pick up. “Hey, Jackson,” his mother, Monica said, sounding exhausted. “What’s new?”

“H-hey, Mom,” Jackson stuttered, not sure exactly how to word this. “I…saw something…supernatural. This is going to sound insane, but I wasn’t hallucinating this. I was getting my mail just now when I saw this light shining in the street. It looked to shine as tall as me…or you-it was human sized, okay? The light was oval-shaped, and it was extremely bright. Like you’d need sunglasses to look at it, you get me? I walked towards it, but it disappeared into literally nothing. How is that even possible? I’m currently staring at the street as I’m talking to you to see if it’s still there but it’s not…there.”

“What?” Monica asked, laughing. “The hell are you talking about? We all know that’s impossible because your schizophrenia test came out as negative. You were seventeen when you got that test. Look, honey. I’m no doctor, but you’re just tired. Get some sleep, you didn’t see anything. Love you.”

“No! Wait, don’t hang up!” Jackson cried. It was too late. He lowered the phone from his ear and stood there, shaking his head and sighing. “Damn it, Mom.”

His next person to contact was Courtney. He prayed she would pick up. “Please, please, please,” Jackson said, still looking out the window.

“Hey, little brother! What’s up?” Courtney asked. She sounded very happy to hear from him. They haven’t spoken to each other in a while. “Hey, Courtney,” Jackson said, hoping she’d be the one to listen. “I just called Mom and she didn’t buy it.”

“Buy what now?” Courtney demanded, sounding concerned. “Wait, I’ll tell you,” Jackson said impatiently. “You need to hear me out. I saw this light in the street just five to ten minutes ago. It was super bright and was shaped like an oval, kind of tall, too. I walked towards it, but it just vanished out of nowhere, like a ghost…or something. Please understand. I hope you do.”

“And Mom didn’t listen?” She asked. “Yes!” Jackson exclaimed. “She thought I was seeing things, but I know I wasn’t. And you remember my schizophrenia test, right? Came out as negative.”

“Well, no wonder she didn’t believe you,” Courtney giggled. “You sound like an absolute lunatic.”

“What?” Jackson gasped. “No, listen to me. Please don’t hang up on me. I’m scared, okay? What if this light means something bad will happen to me?”

“You’re fine,” Courtney said. “How much sleep do you get per night? This isn’t brought up enough.”

Jackson was furious with her. “Seriously? Quit making this a joke, it’s not! Something bad might happen to me, don’t you even care?

Courtney hesitated before responding. “Listen, Jackson. I do care about you, okay? And I’m not trying to piss you off when I say this, but you’re sounding pret-ty damn crazy right now and I don’t know what else to say about this light you’re seeing, okay? Do I look like a psychiatrist to you?”

THIS ISN’T FUNNY!!” Jackson screamed into the phone. “I’m not seeing things, I’m not losing my mind, you hear?”

“Calm down, stop yelling,” Courtney said with a slightly pissed off tone. “I have to go, getting up early tomorrow. Love you, goodnight.”

“Love you too,” Jackson murmured. He set his phone down on the coffee table, grabbed a couch pillow, and screamed as loud as he could. He didn’t sleep well that night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

Beep! Beep! Beep! Jackson groaned and shut off his alarm, dreading getting out of bed, but he also looked forward to getting a good workout in. Ever since he was a teenager, he began hitting the gym with his dad. His dad inspired him, and he wanted to follow in his footsteps. Jackson would ride in his dad’s big pickup truck that he never got sick of sitting in. She was massive, had heated seats, and was a huge upgrade from their previous vehicle. The two of them would try to sweat their asses off at least four days a week, sometimes five if they weren’t too occupied.

Today was Leg Day, his least favorite day. But he didn’t give up. Working out became a lifestyle for him. Simply put, Jackson was a happier person when he exercised. Endorphins and all.

Jackson finished his workout and drove home, focusing on getting ready for work. Sometimes, he didn’t know how he had the will to wake up insanely early to work out before an eight-hour shift, but he never gave up. Besides, the gym was nearly empty at five in the morning.

Jackson took the elevator up to his floor and sat in his cubicle, sighing. “Here we go,” muttered to himself. Ray walked over and greeted him. “Morning, dumbass.”

“Good morning to you too, Ray.”

Ray was leaning against his cubicle wall with his arms crossed. “You free Saturday? I’m planning on getting drunk at Sarah’s. You in?”

“Sure, I’m down,” Jackson replied with a grin on his face. I’m not getting drunk, though. That’s all you’re good at, anyway,” he joked. Ray hit him lightly on the shoulder. “Sounds like a plan. I’ll be there at around six-ish. I know you’ll be there. See you around.” He left and trudged back to his cubicle. Jackson’s morning improved knowing he was going to hang out with his friend. Both men had a bad history of drinking too much at bars. They were kicked out of a bar in California while on a road trip. Sarah’s was their go to bar for having a couple beers and talking. Jackson was a heavy drinker years ago but he toned it down. Ray was the opposite; he would down three beers every time they met. If he was really up for it, he would order four and that would result in very strange behavior. His lust for alcohol was one of his flaws and Jackson wished Ray would stop drinking alcohol, but Ray was a grown man and could make his own decisions.

Work was work and quitting time arrived. Jackson drove home, listening to the radio as he usually did and pulled into his driveway, expecting to see the light in the street again, but it wasn’t there. While walking to his front door, he walked backwards, facing the street, nervous that it would show up. Thank God. He didn’t want anything to do with that light anymore. It made him uneasy.

Saturday: the day Jackson and Ray were looking forward to. Jackson hopped in his Mustang and headed for Sarah’s, hoping Ray wouldn’t be as drunk as a sailor.

Ray waved him over. “What’s up?” Jackson asked him as he sat down at the counter, lightly hitting him on the shoulder as a way of greeting him. “Evening, Jackson,” Ray said. “Appreciate you coming here to get drunk with me.”

Jackson sighed. “C’mon, man. You already know I don’t believe in starting fights and swearing at the bartender. Drink less, you’ll thank me.”

The bartender appeared in front of them. “What can I get started for you guys tonight?”

“I’ll take a shot of whiskey,” Jackson ordered. “One for him, too.” Ray scowled at him. “You got it,” the bartender replied, smiling. She poured the two men their glasses and Jackson thanked her, smiling in return.

“Not trying to be your mother, Ray,” Jackson told him. “Friends got to look out for one another, yeah?”

“Sure, man,” Ray leaned on the counter, rubbing his eyes. “You make a good argument.”

Jackson opened his mouth to ask how his Saturday was treating him, but he completely forgot to tell him about the light. “Hey, um,” Jackson started. He didn’t know where to start. Ray looked at him confusingly. “On Monday night, when I got home, I saw this light shining in the street. A very bright one.”

Jackson Clancy flooded Ray’s head with the whole story, not leaving one part out. Ray’s eyes were wide. He set the shot glass down on the counter. “That’s…impossible, man. I know you’re not a schizophrenic, but that’s something you see in a movie. This is real life, Jack.”

“No, no, no!” Jackson slammed his fist on the wooden counter, infuriated. People all over the bar stared at the two of them. Ray’s face was red hot.

“I told my mother, I told my sister, and now I told you! Not one of you believed me. Why? Why can’t you understand? Why is nobody listening to what I’m saying? Your head isn’t that thick now, isn’t it?” He got up and walked out, leaving Ray hurt and alone.

When Jackson would usually hurt someone’s feelings, he would be aware shortly after and apologize, resolving the situation. This time, he didn’t. He was tired of people not believing a single word he said. The next morning was a new day and happened to be Jackson’s favorite day: Sunday. He was a man of God and has been since he could sit still during sermons. His parents raised him very religiously but in his early twenties, he wanted to spread his wings. Jackson still went to church but didn’t follow all the principles his mother and father taught him. Don’t hang out with those kids, Jackson. They’ll only stray you further from God.

Jackson reached for the front doorknob as he was leaving for church but jumped back in utter surprise when he heard a loud knock. Jackson opened it, hoping it was just a package. He lost count how many times Mormons have shown up. To his surprise, stood a beautiful woman holding a bible in her hand. She had long, blonde hair, eyes as blue as the ocean, and wore an attractive smile. She was wearing a white summer dress with high heels. “Hey,” she spoke. “Can I talk to you about someone?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

 

Jackson was paralyzed. He had never seen a more beautiful girl in his life. And she was standing right in front of him, talking to him. “You’re not a Mormon, right?” He demanded, feeling a bit guilty as that question sounded a bit rude.

She shook her head, grinning. “No. Christian. Baptized and just trying to spread the word about Jesus to as many people as I can. I’m assuming you’re a Christian, too?” The girl had a thick southern accent.

“How can you tell?”

The girl pointed at the wall behind him. “I see your little cross hanging on the wall.”

Jackson giggled. “Guilty as charged. Yes, I’ve been going to church my whole life. You know Highlake Church?”

She nodded. “Yeah, I’ve driven by that place. Looks too big for me, I prefer smaller churches. Easier to meet people that way and it’s like you’re visiting your own family every Sunday.”

Jackson smirked. “You’re not wrong about that, I used to go to a small church with my dad who passed away years ago. Sister, too. She’s…still alive. It was my old man who passed on.”

The girl’s eyes looked at the floor and focused back into Jackson’s eyes. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Thanks,” Jackson said, shuffling his feet. “Suicide. Family problems, you get the point. Happened a very long time ago, but I miss him to this day. I wish he was in heaven.”

There was a short, awkward silence, and the woman broke it. “I’m Madison. It’s nice to meet you.” She reached out her hand.

“Jackson.” They shook hands and Jackson decided to ask her something a little strange but rather hospitable. “You want to come inside? I can make us some coffee.”

Madison nodded, smiling warmly. “I’d like that, thank you!” She stepped inside his home and took off her high heels. “It’s hot out,” she said. “Hope I’m not dragging sweat on your floor,” she chuckled.

“You’re fine, don’t worry about it,” Jackson replied, walking to the kitchen. “What kind do you prefer? Dark or light?” He turned on the coffeemaker and reached into his cabinet for two mugs. “Dark is my favorite. I never get sick of black coffee. It’s what I grew up drinking,” Madison said.

“Ditto,” Jackson replied, inserting the tiny coffee cup into the machine. He lifted the top of the machine and slowly poured water into it, shutting it and pressing the brew button. While waiting for the coffee, he wanted to get to know her. “Where are you from, Madison?”

She leaned against the counter. “I was born in Ithaca, New York, and lived there until age twenty-two. You?”

“Ithaca?” Jackson’s eyes bulged. “Strange name. I was born in Wichita. You know, Kansas. Nothing but fields and…well…fields,” he joked. The two of them sat on the couch when their coffee was ready and talked for a solid two hours. He could easily tell she was into him. Madison was constantly looking at his lips and playing with her hair. They hit it off instantly and Jackson couldn’t have been happier. He’s been looking for a woman to get to know for too long and he found her.

“Look, I hate interrupting,” Madison said, standing up and tucking her bible under her arm. “But I have to get back to work. It was so fun meeting you. Let me get your phone number. Let’s get together again soon. I believe meeting you wasn’t just a coincidence.” She smiled and entered Jackson’s phone number into her phone when he revealed it to her. “Hey,” Jackson said when both were at the door. He wanted to say something romantic, but it was too soon. “God bless.” He shut the door and slumped himself on the couch, realizing he just missed the entire church sermon, but he was just happy he met Madison.

There was a very anticipated movie called Locked that released a week ago and Jackson wanted to see it very badly. Jackson trotted over to his car and ignited the engine. The movie was about a man locked in a meat freezer by a psychopath and the whole movie (supposedly) was him trying to escape before freezing to death. Jackson Clancy was a huge drama genre fan. Horror, too. Comedies never captured his interest, however. On the way to the movie theater, he couldn’t stop thinking about Madison. Her long, blonde hair, her huge blue eyes, and her smile. He’s been alone for so long and has been longing to settle down with someone. He hoped to God she was the one.

The parking lot was shockingly empty, despite a lot of people at Trustbrain telling each other how excited they were for this flick. He found a spot not too far away from the theater entrance and headed for the booth to purchase a ticket. After doing so, he entered and gave the usher his ticket. “Down the hall, second theater on the left,” he said. “Appreciate it, man,” Jackson said as he left for his theater.

The previews were still playing on the screen, which for some reason, only hyped Jackson even more for the movie. C’mon, just start the damn movie already! The lights on the walls dimmed and the movie began. Half an hour passed, and Jackson was enjoying himself. He was on the edge of the seat, but all immersion was broken when the light suddenly appeared in the corner next to the screen. “Damn it!” Jackson cried. The people sitting next to him turned heads, his face growing red hot. Ignoring the light proved difficult. The shine was nearly blinding, almost hurting his eyes. He was tempted to approach it to see what would happen; if it would vanish again or not, but the movie was his focus. Jackson covered his left eye with the palm of his hand, but he didn’t want to hold it there for the rest of the movie. “Screw this,” he muttered. Jackson left the theater.

It was night. Frustrated and confused, Jackson unlocked his car and got in. He didn’t know what to think. Jackson thought he would only see the light that one time in the street. A strange, one-time “hallucination”. But he was wrong.

Jackson was driving on a quiet road, away from the skyscrapers. Almost home. He signaled and turned into his neighborhood. The streetlights displayed a warm circle under the posts that Jackson felt somewhat safe under. It was a full moon tonight. He spotted a figure standing in front of his house on the sidewalk. As he came closer, he realized it was a man. He was wearing a baggy hoodie, sweatpants, and was wearing black boots. He looked about fifty, if not sixty. His head was tilted upwards, looking directly at the night sky. He was pointing at the sky and laughing. Disturbed, Jackson parked his Ford on the curb in between his and his neighbor’s house. Slamming the car door, he said: “Hey, man. You okay?”

The man didn’t respond. He was still pointing at the sky and laughing. “Dude, I’m talking to you. What are you doing out here? Why are you pointing at the sky?”

No answer. The man kept doing what he was doing, as if he was completely oblivious to Jackson’s presence. Jackson didn’t know what to say next, so he went inside, thinking he must’ve been on drugs and was just losing it.

In his bed, all cozy and ready to drift off, he heard laughing. The same laugh from the old man outside earlier. He tore off his blankets, feeling the cold hit him like a bullet and with one hand, grabbed part of the curtain, enough for one eye to peek out. There he was, in the same exact spot, gazing at the midnight sky and laughing, arm still raised, pointing.

Jackson’s alarm went off. Monday: the best day of the week. The first thought that entered his exhausted mind was the old man from last night. He took a second peek from his window, but he was gone. Nothing in his head could imagine why he was doing that. Despite his exit, Jackson shuddered. Breakfast was eggs with oatmeal, his favorite meal to prepare in the morning. Showered, teeth brushed, clothed, he was ready for yet another day. As soon as the elevator to his floor took him up, he thought of telling Miranda about the light. She was (by far) the sweetest person in the office according to Jackson. He figured she’d believe what he was saying but he didn’t want to have to explain all of it a fourth time. Jackson didn’t want to be known as the loon of Trustbrain.

Hours later, he was called to join a meeting from his boss, Andrew. Jackson strutted to the conference room, praying that this meeting would wrap up quickly. Andrew stood up and grabbed a marker from the long table where everyone sat. “Appreciate all of you joining me in here,” Andrew began. Each word spoken by the man felt like an eternity. The light and the old man were the only things floating in Clancy’s mind. The questions asked by his co-workers extended the meeting by five minutes per question and that only made Jackson’s blood boil even more. If there was a gun on the table, he’d be the first to grab it. He imagined himself blowing his brains out and everyone gasping as his brains scattered all over the table.

“Thanks for your time, guys,” Andrew sighed. “Now scat,” he joked. It was time to go back to work. Jackson had a hard time comprehending that with what he’s seen stuck in his brain. The rest of his day was quite possibly the worst day at Trustbrain.

Jackson was going eighty on the highway (a little too fast), but he didn’t care. He was drained and needed sleep. It was December and that meant Seattle glistened. Green, red, white, and blue lights covered many buildings, and (of course), the Space Needle. Rain pattered and pattered. So much rain that Jackson had to turn his windshield wipers to the highest setting. He was squinting as it helped him see better when his focus was interrupted by a glow. The Space Needle was visible in the horizon. At the very top, was the light. It’s never shined this bright before. “Aah!” His eyes stung like hell, and he couldn’t open them. His muscles struggled but his eyelids wouldn’t give in. Before he knew it, he rear ended the car in front of him and flew out the windshield and landed on his back on the soaked concrete. Pain shot up every inch of his body, ears ringing. His vision slowly returned and there were shards of glass buried in his hands. Lightly, he touched his face and winced as he felt more glass shards submerged in his cheeks. Striving to move his head, he managed to look at his legs and gulped in horror as his left leg wasn’t attached to his body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

 

“C’mon, Jackson,” Dad said. “You want to lean right into that stock. Lean forward and don’t even lay a finger on the trigger until you’re ready to fire, yeah?”

Jackson nodded. He leaned into the stock and held his breath, further stabilizing his aim. Index finger on the trigger, he fired, feeling the intense kick of the .22 rifle. Dad smiled. “Let’s go see where that last round hit. Hand me my rifle.” He took it from the boy, and both walked across the desert to take a look at their paper target. Jackson and his father weren’t too surprised to see that Jackson’s shot didn’t even make it in the circle.

“You’re getting better!” Dad exclaimed. “Last time, you didn’t even hit the target, this time you did. Good job, Jackson. For an eleven-year-old, you’re a good shot!”

Jackson, with his oversized baseball cap and buck teeth, looked up at his father and grinned. “Thanks, Dad. I love shooting guns with you. You’re like, the best teacher ever. You know so much about guns.”

Dad chuckled. “I’m not so sure about that. I have made some mistakes in my earlier years of my experience with firearms. Thank you anyway, that means a lot. Let’s head back to the truck, put the rifle back in its bag and go back home.”

“Okay, Dad.”

Before strolling back to the truck, Dad looked down at his .22 and stared into his son’s eyes. “You want to hold it and put it back in the bag?”

“Really?” Jackson asked, eyes bulging. He would feel like a soldier in World War II, patrolling, or perhaps marching back to base holding that rifle. Just imagining that gave him the chills. “Yeah, but I need you to be very careful. What’s the most important rule?”

“No fingers on the trigger until you’re ready to fire,” Jackson replied, a huge smile on his face.

“Correct, good job.” Dad handed him the .22 and they walked back to the truck. The boy’s arms weakened with each step. “Dad,” Jackson quickly changed his mind. “It’s a little heavy-” The sound of the rifle was like a clap of thunder. The boy was on the ground, wailing and holding his right leg with both hands. “It burns!”

Dad spun around as soon as the gun went off and dropped to his knees, cradling his son. “Did you shoot your leg?!”

An intense, burning sensation filled Jackson’s leg. The boy tripped and shot himself with the rifle. He couldn’t utter a word. “Apply pressure to it!” Dad cried. “I’m dialing 911!”

 

 

 

Jackson awoke in a hospital bed. Hardly able to move his head, he scanned the room. He was clothed in a hospital gown. “Mom, his eyes! They’re open!” Courtney exclaimed. Their mother set the magazine down, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Praise God!”

Courtney and Mom were on each side of his bed. Both hands were hung up above his stomach, resting in straps. They were stitched up. His legs lay flat on the bed. A prosthetic leg was installed where his left leg used to be. “O-o-oh my g-gosh…” Jackson huffed. “My leg! What the hell happened?!”

Mom leaned in and very lightly, rested a hand on Jackson’s right leg. “You got in a terrible car accident last night. You were on the news.”

Those words shocked him. “I got into an accident? I don’t recall that.”

“Of course you don’t,” Courtney said. “You’re in a hospital bed with your left leg gone.” Mom glared at her daughter. “Don’t say that Court. Your little brother just went through something traumatizing.”

“He doesn’t even remember it!”

“Shut up!” Mom yelled. She looked back into her son’s eyes. “Now I know this is a pretty big pill to swallow, but your left leg is being preserved in a pathology lab, where it’s safe. Do you want to take it home?”

Hearing those words come out of his mother’s mouth was something he never thought he’d hear. “No…thanks.” An awkward silence ensued. “Okay,” Mom said, folding her hands in her lap. “Whatever you say, honey. Your sister and I are just happy to see you conscious. Our jaws dropped to the floor when we entered the room for the first time and saw your prosthetic leg. Do you like it? How does it feel? You can try moving it around if you want, only if you’re gentle. Doctor said it’s okay.”

Jackson studied his new leg and grimaced. “I don’t know how to feel about this. How am I going to sleep every night with this pole attached to me?”

A second, even shorter awkward silence followed his question. “I don’t know,” Courtney said, scratching her head. “But you’ll adapt to it, I know you will.” A tidal wave of dread swept over Jackson as he realized that he would be stuck with a cold, annoying, prosthetic leg for the rest of his life.

“Where’s my phone, car keys, and wallet?” Jackson demanded, panicked. “Did they take those?”

“We’re holding onto them for you,” Mom reassured him. “You can’t use your hands anyway for a while it seems so there’s no point. Don’t fret, you’ll heal. Just rest, okay?”

“What happened to my car?” Jackson asked. That was the most important thing he owned. “It’s in the shop being repaired,” Mom said with a wide grin, hoping that would restore some faith in him. And here’s the good news. I’m paying for half of the damages. The hospital bill, unfortunately, is all on you.”

Jackson sighed heavily, stressed out and energy depleted. “You guys can go if you want. Some time by myself to think is just what I need. The nurses will take good care of me. It’s Seattle; we have the best doctors here. I appreciate and love you guys.”

Courtney and Mom smiled. “You sure we can’t get you anything?” His sister asked. Eyes closed, Jackson replied: “I’m okay, really. I want to get some shuteye. I already know I’m going to have to adjust to this room. This will be my home for quite some time.”

Jackson was right about that. It was his new home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5

 

The next two months consisted of Jackson laying in the hospital bed, bored out of his mind. He assumed he would see the light, but not once did it appear. His room didn’t have a TV, windows, nothing to possibly entertain him. Before his mother left, she placed his personal belongings on a small table beside him so he could grab them by the time he departed from the hospital. Nurses were in and out of his room every ten or so minutes. The food served to him pleased him. Perhaps the only positive thing about being stuck in that bed. Constant beeping from the machines all throughout the hospital drove him insane. Every single day in that place, he thought of Madison. The frustration brewing inside of him only increased knowing Madison most likely thought he lost interest in her and wanted to move on, considering he hasn’t called or texted her in one month. One hour felt like five.

After the first month, his hands were free from those straps, and he could use his phone to communicate to her. “Damn!” He felt a sharp pain in his left hand as he swiped up on his phone to unlock it. Jackson dialed her number and almost shook with excitement, impatiently waiting for her to pick up. “Hey!” She exclaimed. “It’s been a million years. I’m surprised I got a call from you. What’s up?”

Jackson had so much to tell her. “Madison, it’s so good to hear your voice. Let me explain what happened. I got into a very bad car accident a month ago. I’ve been stuck in this hospital bed ever since. And I…I lost my left leg.”

He heard her gasp over the phone. “Holy crap,” she said. “Your leg? You lost it in the accident?”

“Yeah, I’m still processing all of it. My left leg is a prosthetic one now. Stuck with this till the day I die.”

“I’m so sorry,” Madison replied. “Once you get out of that place, you come over and I’ll make you a nice dinner, okay?”

Jackson felt honored and slightly guilty from her words. “You don’t have to do that, Madison. I’m flattered, but it’s okay.”

“I insist! Just say yes, yeah?”

He was desperate to see her, and this would’ve been a wasted opportunity if he declined; he just knew it. “Sure, I’ll give you a call once I get out of here. This is very sweet of you to do, Madison. Thank you for offering me this.”

Madison laughed nervously. “Oh, you’re very welcome, baby.”

Did she just call me…? He couldn’t fathom it. This was too good to be true. “I have to go,” she said. “Rest well.” She hung up. Slowly, he lowered the phone from his ear and set it back on the side table. At this very moment, Jackson wished he could throw himself from this bed and dance around, jumping up and down, celebrating that a woman he hardly knew called him “baby”. An enormous wave of ecstasy drowned him. It was a date.

By the time Jackson was ready to leave the hospital, his hands were one hundred percent healed and ready to use again. There were tiny aches and pains here and there, but he could grab, pull, and stretch his fingers without cussing.

A nurse helped him onto a wheelchair, still in his hospital gown, eager to take a shower and wear normal clothes. His mother called him earlier that day and let him know his car was fully repaired and was sitting out front. Jackson missed that car to death. He was pushed to the Ford and couldn’t help but grin as he sat in it. “Thank you,” he told the nurse, still wearing that stupid grin. He was out. He was free.

He drove out of the parking lot and parked in another lot near the hospital, pulling out his phone to call Madison. She picked up rather fast, which caught him off guard. “Guess who’s out of the hospital?” He spoke. “Jackson!” She cried. “When can you come over for dinner?”

“Tonight! What’re you making?”

“It’s a surprise.” Whatever it was, he was looking forward to it, even if it contained squash, which he detested since he was a kid.

Arriving home for the first time in two painfully long months didn’t feel real. As if he was dead and came back to life to pay a visit to his old house, he used to live in. Parked in the driveway, he looked through the rearview mirror at that spot in the middle of the street and thought about the light, if he would see it again. Judging by not seeing the light once while being in the hospital, Jackson implied it was gone for good. Two months later, he was still seething with rage from the fact that he never got to finish watching Locked.

“Well,” Jackson muttered, pulling the car door handle, “Here goes nothing.” The first step with his new leg felt unnatural, as if there wasn’t a prosthetic leg in him at all. It didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t pleasant, either. Jackson shut the door of the Ford and awkwardly made his way to his front door.

His home was just as he left it. The first thing his eyes laid on was his little cross hung on the wall. Madison noticed it, too. The same pile of dishes in the sink were still there. He felt dirtier than a hog bathing in mud. Showering with relaxing, hot water was the priority right now. Jackson recalled a nurse telling him he was able to remove his prosthetic leg but there was no question. Jackson wanted to grow used to this new leg as quick as possible, and seeing his stump would freak him out, aware that one of the most valuable human body parts wouldn’t make a return.

“Thank God this thing is waterproof,” he said to himself. He turned on the water and stood there, waiting for it to get hot like a boy patiently waiting in the lunch line. Jackson entered the shower and gave a huge sigh of relief as the water pattered against his chest. Despite his new leg, showering has never felt so satisfying.

He dressed himself and threw himself on the sofa, turning on the TV. College football was normally the only thing he ever chose to watch but he liked staying informed. He switched the channel to a news channel he watched as a kid. His father was the man who would always discuss politics with everybody. In Jackson’s childhood home, the news channel would be the first program you’d see when you turn on the TV. Jackson’s dad influenced the boy quite a lot.

Displayed on the screen, a reporter was giving information about a shooting that happened in Tuscon, Arizona in a supermarket parking lot. Cop cars and ambulances could be seen in the background. “Six people were killed in the shooting,” said the reporter. “Thirteen others were injured, and one person was injured while fleeing.” In the background, a man was standing with his arms at his sides. Something about him was oddly familiar. It was the same man Jackson witnessed standing outside his house. Dressed in the same baggy hoodie, sweatpants, and boots, he stood there, motionless like a statue. The old man was staring right into the camera lens, as if he knew Jackson was watching this report. The man’s gaze was hauntingly intense, like his eyeballs were ten seconds from exploding out of his sockets. Jackson was very unsettled by this and turned off the TV, panting from anxiety.

It was almost five o’clock. Clancy showered a second time, enjoying every second of it, and got dressed for his “date” with Madison. He put on a red and black flannel with the sleeves rolled up, black jeans, and black boots because he thought he’d look masculine with those combined with his flannel. Madison texted him her address and he drove to her house in Tacoma. It was a forty-minute drive from his house. The February cold was brutal, almost more brutal than December’s. He had the heat on the entire drive there. The snow falling blew past him and other cars, making Jackson feel like he was going through hyperspace. His GPS displayed the ETA and to his delight, Madison’s house was just six minutes away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6

 

Madison’s house still had Christmas decorations, regardless of February almost coming to an end. Jackson parked his car on a nearby curb and walked to her door, adjusting to the prosthetic leg. He knocked and she answered. “Hey!” She exclaimed. Madison’s eyes focused on his left leg. “Oh, wow. You really did lose your leg…”

Jackson nodded, not sure if he should smile back or keep a straight face. “Yep, still getting used to it.”

She motioned him to come inside and so he did. “Dinner is meatloaf. My mom’s recipe. I know you’ll love it.”

He slid off his shoes and followed her into the dining room. “Sit. I’ll bring it out for you, and we’ll talk,” Madison said beaming with joy. She just doesn’t stop smiling, does she? He pulled out a chair and plopped himself down, scooting in.

“You wait right here,” she ordered, entering the kitchen. “I can smell it from here!” Jackson exclaimed, nervously chuckling. “That means I did a good job, didn’t I?” She kidded. Jackson watched her take the meatloaf out of the oven. It was calling his name. “Dinner is served!” Madison said, setting the meatloaf in the center of the table. “I’ll cut you a slice,” she offered. “Thanks, Madison, for doing this, seriously. Your hospitality is not going unnoticed, I hope you know that,” Jackson told her, gazing into her blue eyes. She blushed. “You are so sweet,” she said as she scooted in her chair. “Take a bite. I need to see your reaction.” She rested her hands on her cheeks, staring dreamily at him. Jackson stared back at her while slowly raising a fork with a piece of meatloaf on it to his mouth. His eyes lit up. “Wow, that’s good. What’d you add to this?”

“Thyme,” she said. “I’m happy you like it. So, what’s going on with you? How does it feel to rejoin society?”

Jackson’s brain froze. He never brought up the light. Should I tell her? What if she doesn’t believe me? Screw it. He took a sip of water she provided for him, staring at the table for a few seconds before opening his mouth to speak. “I’ve told three people, but they didn’t believe me. I’m hoping you will.”

“Told them what?”

“I’ve been seeing something. And this thing won’t stop following me.”

Madison blinked. “Jackson, you’re being vague. What exactly are you seeing?”

“I’m seeing a very bright light. It’s human sized and is in the shape of an oval. I first saw it in the middle of the street about two and a half or maybe even three months ago. I had just arrived home after finishing my shift at work. I dropped my mail I was holding and approached the light, but it disappeared into thin air. I saw it again at the movie theater. It was shining in the corner, and it was so distracting that I couldn’t finish the damn movie. I told my big sis, my mom, and my friend. Not one of them believed me. However, I haven’t seen the light once in two months, so fingers crossed that it’s gone for good. Oh yeah, and I was tested negative for schizophrenia years ago.”

Madison was stunned and didn’t say a word for a long ten seconds before coming to a conclusion. “An angel. God probably sent this angel as a sign. I do believe you, Jackson. But this strange light you’re seeing is most likely an angel or God himself. I’m not sure exactly.”

“An angel? God?” Jackson blinked. “How can you be so sure?”

Madison ran her hands through her hair and looked at the wall behind him and back at Jackson. “What else would it be? I mean, think about it. If you weren’t aware, there have been people who died and went to heaven for a brief moment but were revived soon after. Those people told stories to friends and family of how they sat on Jesus’ lap and God ordered them to return to Earth as it wasn’t their time. This bright light you’re seeing could be a…a... a Jesus thing. I’m no theologian, but I’m trusting my gut on this, Jackson.”

He finished chewing and set his fork down on the plate. “Maybe…” He stared blankly. “Maybe you’re right about this.”

He finished eating and told her about the strange old man. “I’ve also been seeing this weird old guy. I came home from that same movie at the theater, and he was standing in front of my house. The weirdo was pointing at the sky, laughing, like he was possessed or something. I heard him giggling when I was trying to sleep, too. Freaked me the hell out. Saw him on the news in the background, too. The guy was staring into the news camera lens with a very extreme look, like he was upset with me.”

“Hold on, what?” Madison questioned, squinting. “What was his deal?”

“I don’t know,” Jackson replied, raising his eyebrows in stress and confusion. “It’s like he knew who I was. He knows where I live. Next time I see him, I’m calling the police, though. I’m putting a stop to this the first chance I get. Don’t know if he’s simply pranking me but it’s messing with my head, and I can’t take it anymore.”

Madison scooted out of her chair and went to him, rubbing his shoulder. “I’m here for you,” she said, giving him a kiss on the cheek. Instantly, goosebumps appeared on his arms. “Thank you for the southern hospitality,” Jackson smiled, gazing into Madison’s eyes. “Texas? South Carolina? Tennessee? Where are you from?”

She stopped rubbing his shoulder and straightened her back. “First one. Frisco, Texas.”

“I have family in Texas, but not Frisco,” Jackson said. “I love that state. Perfect mix of hot and humid.”

“Spot on,” Madison retorted.

Jackson got up from his chair and hugged her. “I’m going to head home. I can’t thank you enough for that meatloaf. It was phenomenal.”

She flashed him a warm grin when they stopped embracing. “Anytime.”

7

 

 

Jackson opened his fridge to snack on something. Nearly empty. He checked his cupboard and got the same result. “Son of a bitch.”

He drove to the grocery store and purchased a plastic box containing spinach, a bag of red grapes, four packages of raw ribeye, two bags of frozen broccoli, nine granola bars, and eleven red apples. He tried his absolute best to maintain a healthy diet. On his way out, he passed a man, recognizing him. Quickly turning around, Jackson said: “Hey!”

The man spun around, alerted but grinned when he saw him. “Jackson! What happened to your leg?” It was Mr. Greenseed, Jackson’s freshman year English teacher. He always remained Jackson’s favorite teacher out of all he’s had throughout his four high school years. Mr. Greenseed stood an average height, wore black-framed eyeglasses, and rocked a bushy, gray mustache that was brown back when Jackson was his student.

“Lost it in a car accident.” Jackson said. Both men bent down to set their groceries on the ground and walked up to each other. “How’s teaching?” He wanted to change the subject. Talking about his prosthetic leg made him uneasy.

“Not bad, thanks,” Mr. Greenseed said. “Thinking of retiring next year. I’m getting too old for this crap.”

Jackson gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder. “Hey, you do you, man.”

Mr. Greenseed nodded, his hands on his hips. “I suppose you’re right. I’ll be dead in a few years, anyway…just kidding.”

Mr. Greenseed started talking about a certain troublemaker in his class when the light emerged right next to him, catching Jackson off guard. “GO AWAY!!” Jackson screamed as loud as his vocal cords let him. Mr. Greenseed jumped back in fright; eyes wide. He picked up his groceries and quickly left for his car. “Wait, Mr. Greenseed,” Jackson cried. “I-I-I wasn’t talking to you. Somethi-someone else!” Mr. Greenseed didn’t look back. Jackson watched him stuff his groceries in the trunk and drive away. He stood there in total embarrassment and guilt. “I’m sorry,” he murmured. People who witnessed the scene were staring and some even glaring at Jackson. A woman holding her child’s hand scowled at him. “Your parents didn’t teach you any manners, did they?”

“No, no. I saw the light…” His voice trailed off, leaving the woman puzzled. She entered the store with her daughter and Jackson picked up his groceries.

At home, Jackson sat on his sofa and chose to call Madison. Fortunately, she answered right before it went to voicemail. “Madison, hey,” Jackson said. “Something pretty embarrassing happened today.”

“What? What happened?”

“I saw my old high school teacher and we talked for a bit but that stupid light appeared next to him and without thinking, I yelled for it to go away. It was a loud yell. He got the hell out of there. He wouldn’t listen to me explaining that I saw the light. He hates me now. It was honestly the most humiliating moment of my life.”

“I’m so sorry, Jackson,” Madison said into the phone.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said. You know, the light possibly being an angel sent by God or God himself. If that’s true, why would this light cause me so much pain? It’s done nothing but drive me insane. I couldn’t enjoy my movie, it made my teacher storm off, making me look like a prick. What’s next for me? I blow my brains out from insanity? I don’t want to go to hell!”

Madison didn’t say anything for a few seconds, worrying him. “I…I don’t know what to say. Just don’t lose faith, yeah?”

Jackson scoffed. “Thanks, that helps. I feel much better now.”

Hurt, Madison hung up. Jackson removed the phone from his ear and set it down on the couch, burying his face in his hands. He leaned back on the sofa and kicked an empty mug off the coffee table in frustration. It shattered into pieces. “SHIT!”

Once a month, Jackson visited his dad at the cemetery his family buried him in. That night, he chose to pay a visit to him. Dressed appropriately for the cold weather, Jackson trudged through the thick snow to his father’s grave. It was dusk. It was obvious to society that being alone in a cemetery at night was not desired. Jackson especially did not like being alone in a place like this. He was surrounded by dead people. That’s what truly frightened him.

His father’s gravestone came into view, and he knelt in front of it, resting one hand on the corner of the gravestone. “I miss you, Dad. I think about you every day. You would be so proud of me. If only you weren’t in hell, maybe you’d hear me right now.” It felt odd saying that, but it was the truth. His dad was burning in hell right now. A very painful thought to Jackson and his family. “I met this woman about two months ago. We hit it off, but she hates me now. I screwed up and it’s over. I already know she’ll never speak to me again.”

Jackson jumped out of his skin when his phone started ringing. Sighing, he dug it out of his coat pocket and his phone screen displayed a number he didn’t recognize. He hesitated and then answered. “Hello?”

“Do you admire it?” The voice came from a man with a very raspy voice. He sounded intoxicated. “What?” Jackson was perplexed and disturbed at the same time. “Who’s this?” The man hung up, leaving Jackson more confused than he already was. Jackson’s eyes bulged when the light immediately shined over the gravestone. “No!” Jackson cried. “Not here!” He turned and booked it for his car. He turned the ignition and drove away from that cemetery, praying it wouldn’t follow him to wherever he headed next.

Jackson didn’t feel like going home, so he went to Sarah’s to drink something that would calm his mind. The disturbed man sat at the bar counter and ordered a margarita. The female bartender smiled warmly at him. “Hey, how are you?” She greeted. Jackson looked into her eyes but didn’t answer. He stared at her with a dead look, looking like a husk of a man. The bartender cleared her throat and struck up a conversation with another man sitting a few stools down from Jackson. He thought about calling Madison to apologize to her, but he knew she’d go back into insisting the light was a positive thing. He wasn’t falling for that. Jackson understood that the light was trying to ruin his life.

He downed the shot of margarita and ordered another one. He didn’t want to get drunk but getting buzzed was acceptable to him. His first time getting buzzed took place when he was eighteen years old. His mother let him drink a beer for the first time and the young man abhorred the taste, but he committed to finishing the entire bottle, hoping it would have an effect on him, which it certainly did. Jackson’s head felt fuzzy and the urge to laugh consumed him. Courtney was an underage drinker and got in lots of trouble but turned her life around by the time she hit thirty, she was fully sober and stopped getting into mischief.

Jackson left Sarah’s and went home, dozing off in his bed, coat and shoes on and everything. He was transported into a dream. He was living in a big, beautiful house with a white picket fence surrounding it. Jackson was relaxing on the couch with a cup of coffee in his hand. He glanced at his hand and on his ring finger was a black wedding ring. Jackson overheard Madison laughing in some other room in the house. A golden retriever came running up to him, wagging his tail and panting. Jackson set the mug down on a coffee table, leaning forward, and scratched the dog behind the ears. “That’s a good boy.”

Madison came down the stairs, holding their daughter’s hand. His wife was wearing a sundress with a flower in her hair. Madison pointed at her husband. “Rachel, who’s that? Who’s that?” The toddler exclaimed: “Daddy!” Life was good. He had a wife, a daughter, a dog, a wonderful house, and joy. He was a happily married man. Rachel ran and jumped into Jackson’s lap. “Hey, goofball!” Jackson said to his daughter, grinning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8

 

Jackson awoke, drenched in sweat. The light was shining brightly at the foot of his bed. “No! No!” He cried. It was showing up more and more. It was only getting worse for him. Jackson hopped out of bed and approached it, expecting it to disappear, but it didn’t. “What?” He reached his arm out to touch it, but his arm went right through. He walked into it, passing through its aura. Why isn’t it disappearing? He was helpless. There wasn’t anything he could do about the light. It wasn’t going away.

He turned and looked at his alarm clock. He was an hour late for work. Dread filled him. He tore off his clothes from last night and ran into the bathroom to take a two-minute-long shower. He dressed himself and skipped breakfast. Frantically, he rummaged through his pockets for his car keys, but he must’ve left them inside. They laid on his nightstand where he placed them last night. The light remained at the foot of his bed.

He gaped as the light was now in front of his car. “Now it’s there?!” He questioned in disbelief. Trying his utter best to ignore it, he sped off to Trustbrain, feeling miserable as ever.

The elevator door opened and right in the center of the elevator floor was the light. He rode the elevator up to his floor and sat down in his cubicle, trying to forget all about his troubles. The light was now in his cubicle. It was everywhere. Miranda greeted him when Jackson trudged past her, but he didn’t say it back. Andrew tapped on his cubicle wall. “Why are you late?” He demanded. “You’re very good at showing up on time. I just checked my watch and you’re about an hour and a half late. You’re better than that, Jackson.”

“Excuse me?” Jackson said in a stern tone, standing up from his office chair to face his boss. “I’m having a very hard time right now. A rough two months in fact. But you wouldn’t know that. All you care about is how hard all of us work. You and everybody else don’t care and even understand the hell I’m living in. You know, I would tell you what I’ve been seeing but you would think I’m crazy.”

Andrew was stunned from Jackson’s response. He’s never seen him stand up for himself like this. He wore a smile to work every day and was nice to him. “Jackson,” he started. “How much sleep are you getting per night?”

Jackson sighed and dramatically threw his arms in the air. “I knew you’d say something stupid and ignorant like that. Do you not see what I’m seeing?” He waved his hands in front of the light. “Look at this! Look at this! This light won’t stop following me! I’m going to blow my brains out, you hear me?!”

Andrew stepped back. “I’m going to call someone for you. You clearly need help of some kind. Do you have a therapist, Jackson?”

“Go to hell,” Jackson said through gritted teeth. “Woah, woah,” Andrew said. “Harsh words like that are uncalled for. You do not speak to me like that, understand?”

Jackson glared at his boss, not replying. Andrew took out his phone from his pants pocket. “Look, I’m calling my therapist. Scheduling you an appointment. Or would you prefer a psychiatrist?”

Jackson dove for his boss, punching and scratching at his face, snarling. “JUST LISTEN TO ME YOU PATHETIC IMBECILE!!” Ray was the first one to run over and tear Jackson from Andrew. “Jackson!” Ray cried. “What’s going on? What the hell are you doing?”

Andrew scrambled to his feet. “Get the hell out. Clear your desk and never come back. You’re gone.”

Ruffled, Jackson got to his feet and stood there like an idiot, realizing he just lost his job. He was the imbecile. The fight gathered a relatively large crowd. Humiliated, he walked out, not even clearing his desk space.

 

THREE MONTHS LATER

 

Jackson was unrecognizable. No job, no income, only suffering. Every time Jackson blinked, the light appeared closer to him than it was before. There was no escape. His home was a wreck, as if a tornado passed through it. Jackson had punched holes in his walls, shattered his bathroom mirror, and even shattered every window in his house, leaving him freezing. He stopped going to the gym, so all his muscle mass was depleted. Years of hard work, all gone. He got around five hours of sleep per night, he didn’t shower, he wore the same clothes for days on end; he stunk. He would’ve passed as a homeless man. Jackson quit shaving and grew a neckbeard. Not a single woman admired him. When he was in public, people would keep their distance because he smelled so bad. He ignored all calls from his family. He didn’t talk to anyone but himself. Madison never contacted him once, not since he treated her like garbage. He moved on and he was sure she did, too.

Jackson spent his days on the sofa, unable to do anything other than just sit there, entirely dead inside. The light haunted him twenty-four seven. There was never a minute without it by his side. It acted as a tattoo; stuck on him forever. He was a ghost.

Eventually, he gave up on going insane because he had already reached the limit. Jackson Clancy thought a lot about suicide.

Jackson was startled when someone knocked loudly on his door. Part of him wanted to see what was on the other side of the door but the other half said “no”. He got up from the sofa and opened it, flabbergasted to see Madison standing there with a woman with a notebook in her arms. Madison appeared shocked to see him as a broken man. “Hey, Jackson. Can I come in?”

Despite her return, he strongly disliked her. “Come in.” He shut the door behind them, and the women plopped themselves down on the sofa, Jackson standing in front of them, arms crossed. “Who’s this?”

Madison took a deep breath. “I hired a grief counselor for you, Jackson. It seems life hasn’t been so nice to you for the past few months. But don’t you worry, she’s here to listen to you. Please, sit down with us and tell her what’s really going on with you.”

“Is this some kind of joke?” Jackson erupted. “Gosh, your brain still isn’t able to comprehend what I told you a few months ago, isn’t it?”

Madison frowned. “Excuse me? Listen, we are here to help. Let it all out.”

Jackson grabbed the TV mounted on the wall and with all his might, tore it off its hinges and threw it down on the floor. “FOR THE LAST TIME, I AM NOT CRAZY!! ALL I’M ASKING IS FOR YOU TO BELIEVE ME! IT’S NOT AN ANGEL, NOR GOD! IT’S A DEMON, SOMETHING SINISTER AND I DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH LONGER I’M GOING TO LAST!!”

Jackson had never roared like that before. The grief counselor was white as a ghost. “J-Jackson,” Madison stood up and walked up to him. “Stop yelling, you’re scaring us. I’m here. I care about you.”

“Get the hell away from me!” Jackson cried. She came in to hug him. “GET AWAY!” He shoved her away and she stumbled, hitting her head on the corner of the coffee table. Blood trickled out of her head, staining the carpet. Her eyes were lifeless. Not one word was uttered for an uncomfortably long fifteen seconds. “Oh…shit. Shit, shit, shit!” Jackson cried out, tears streaming down his cheeks. The grief counselor stared at Madison’s body before running out to her car, leaving Jackson alone with Madison. He crept down and lowered his head to her chest to listen for a heartbeat. Silence. Madison Jones was dead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

 

His jaw was on the floor. “Oh…my…gosh.” He backed himself into a corner and sat down, rocking himself. She was gone and there was nothing he could do but weep. He could hear the tires screeching as the grief counselor sped away from the scene, leaving him alone in his shame. He sat there, staring at Madison’s corpse in utter sadness. The guilty man never knew one act could cause so much damage. He dug through his pocket and dialed 911.

“911, what is your emergency?” The dispatcher asked. Jackson’s eyes bulged and slowly removed the phone from his ear. “Hello? Are you there? What’s your emergency?” Jackson hung up the phone and threw it on the kitchen floor, smashing it into pieces.

Jackson wanted to hide her. Stow her away somewhere where nobody would find her. Not one person could find out about this. Word had probably gotten around Seattle that a man named Jackson Clancy attacked his boss and got fired from his job. It was probably already in the paper. Society wouldn’t even have to question who the suspect would be. In his garage, a shovel leaned against the wall. He entered the garage, picking it up and he returned to Madison. With one arm, he carried the shovel, and with the other he dragged her corpse to his back door. With the shovel arm, he managed to turn the knob.

He was the luckiest man in the world to have a fence surrounding his house. Despite nobody seeing him with a corpse, he remained vigilant, always looking around him to be sure a neighbor wasn’t looking through their window at him dragging a dead body with a shovel in the other hand. He scanned his backyard for a burial spot. A tall tree was grown into the ground in the corner of the backyard. In front of it, yes. Jackson approached the tree, looking around suspiciously and set her down behind him. He started digging.

Jackson picked her up and lowered the girl into the hole, sighing with anguish and filling it afterwards. He looked at her grave and sniffled. “I’m so sorry.”

Jackson needed a bath. A hot one. He filled the tub with water and took a washcloth from the hallway closet with him. Once the bathtub was greatly filled, he stepped in and took a few breaths, barely enduring all the heat from the nearly scalding hot water. He dipped the washcloth in the hot water and lay it over his face, suffocating himself. He had it over his face for about fifteen seconds. “Blurspsh!” He grabbed it and threw it in the water.

He drained the tub and dried himself with a towel he hung on the rack. Jackson went into his bedroom to dress himself and saw something on the wall. Above his dresser, scribbled in dark red in all capitals wrote I AM HE. “The hell…?” Jackson was questioning his sanity. He swiped some of the red off the wall with his index finger and licked it. It was blood. “I am He” was a quote from the Bible that Jackson recognized from the book of John, verse 18:6. Jesus told Judas, his betrayer, he was in fact God.

Jackson gaped in awe of the words on his wall. “S-she was right.” Madison was right all along. It turned out that the light shining wherever he went was Jesus Christ himself. A few giggles escaped from his throat. Those giggles turned into explosive laughter. His legs gave in, and he collapsed on the carpet, laughing until he struggled to breathe. The suffering was over. The Son of Man was by his side; there to keep him company; to guide him into eternal bliss.

In a hurry, Jackson got dressed and ran out his backdoor to Madison’s grave. With his bare hands, he frantically dug out all the dirt covering her body and dragged her out of the hole, back into his house.

He reached his room and Jackson dropped her on the carpet in his room. He pointed at the writing. “Look! I shouldn’t have doubted you, Madison! You were right! No more pain for Jackson Clancy! Freedom from here on out!”

Her lips moved. “Kill those who don’t believe. Slaughter every last one of them. They don’t see, but we do,” she whispered. Her eyes still lifeless.

“Yes,” Jackson’s smile faded, obeying. “I want to please you.” He left here in his room and went to his gun safe stored in his garage. Jackson unlocked the safe and grabbed his .22 pistol he bought a few years ago. He snatched three extra magazines and once he was all set, he lay the magazines and pistol on the kitchen table. Jackson needed to wear something thick to conceal his gun. He skimmed through his bedroom closet and took a big, black winter coat off the hanger and put it on. He stuffed the pistol into his right coat pocket and to his luck, the three small magazines fit in his left coat pocket. Jackson Clancy went outside and drove to his mom’s.

Monica Clancy lived on Capitol Hill, Jackson’s least favorite district in all of Seattle. Her apartment was small and organized. Homeless surrounded Monica and her neighbors’ places. Courtney and Jackson would visit her on occasion, but the two liked being away from her due to her treatment. She always babied Jackson and his sister. She would have panic attacks from time to time. One time, she had a panic attack at the mall when Jackson and Courtney were teenagers, leaving them embarrassed beyond words. It was safe to say that they were there for a while.

Jackson parked in her driveway and walked up to her front door, his pistol still in his pocket, loaded and ready to fire.

He knocked on her door loudly. He heard a muffled “coming” from her. Footsteps followed and she opened the door. “Hey, Jackson! Come inside!” He stood there for a few seconds, not smiling neither giving her a warm hug. Jackson entered however when she turned around and walked to her kitchen. He shut the door behind him and locked it.

“You want something to eat, honey?” Mom asked.

Jackson was in the kitchen with his mother. “No, I’m alright,” he replied. “But I need to show you something.” Without hesitation, he took out his .22 and shot her in the chest at point-blank range. She jerked and fell to the floor, lying on her back, putting pressure on her wound. Her eyes nearly bulged out of her head, and she was looking up at her son. “J-Jackson?” Scowling at his mother, Jackson fired a shot straight into her forehead, killing her instantly. He returned the gun to his pocket and left, heading for his sister’s house.

Courtney lived just a few minutes away from her mother’s. To Jackson’s convenience, he drove there and planned to do the same thing to his sister.

Courtney Clancy lived in a house, not an apartment. She kept it somewhat messy, hoarding here and there. Jackson parked in the driveway and checked his magazine to see how many bullets he had left. Eight. Shoving it back into the pistol, he slammed the car door and walked up to Courtney’s front door, knocking. No answer. He knocked again, louder this time and he heard footsteps getting closer and closer. The door swung open, and her sister stood there.

“Heya, Jackson!” Courtney exclaimed. “How’s the new leg?”

Jackson stared blankly into her big brown eyes. “You gonna answer or what?” She demanded, placing her hands on her hips. Swiftly, Jackson reached his hand into his coat pocket and pointed the .22 at her head. Courtney gasped and slowly stepped back, her hands in the air. “Jackson! What’re you doing?”

“Shut up,” Jackson told her in a stern manner, entering her house. “You had this coming, Courtney. So did Mom.” Courtney looked shocked. “Wait, Mom?” Jackson fired a shot straight into her neck. She jerked and held her throat, gurgling blood and collapsing on her knees before she was motionless.

He stared at his sister with zero remorse. Jackson left the scene and headed for Trustbrain to commit his final killings.

Kill those who don’t believe, the light said. They don’t know what I’m capable of, but you do. I’m giving you that power to punish them, Jackson. Kill them all. Jackson’s eyes focused on the road. He was nearly there. Andrew of all the people there was the one he wanted to kill the most. Andrew was the one who fired him. Jackson looked in the rearview mirror at the light shining in the backseat and chuckled, thinking about all the lives he was about to end.

Jackson parked on the side of the road and entered the lobby. Everybody was staring at him as he made his way to the elevator, but he didn’t care. This was his last stop.

He stepped into the elevator. A plump, older woman was in there with him, keeping her distance from him. Ding! The elevator doors opened, and she got out of there quickly. Armed and ready, Jackson took a deep breath and stepped out of the elevator, accepting the outcome of this massacre. He could rest easy knowing everybody on this floor would be dead.

 

 

 

 

10

 

Miranda was the first person to lay eyes on him. She opened her mouth to say something but her attempt to speak was interrupted by a loud BANG! Right in the head. She jerked back and fell out of her chair. Screams echoed all throughout the office. Glaring, Jackson shot every single person that was in his sight. Ray shouted Jackson’s name and bravely, stopped him in his tracks. “Wait! Stop! Don’t do thi-” Jackson ended his best friend’s life right there. Andrew was Jackson’s main, main target. The man who fired him was at the top of his kill list. Jackson eventually found Andrew hiding under his desk, curled in a ball, shaking in fear with his hands covering his ears. Jackson didn’t hesitate when he pulled the trigger.

“Somebody call the police!” Jackson heard a man shout. In full panic mode, Jackson raised the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Click! He was out of ammo. He was thrown to the ground when a man tackled him, grabbing the pistol and throwing it away from them, out of reach. The man pinned Jackson’s arms behind his back. “I got him!” The man cried. “They better get here fast!”

Jackson struggled and struggled but it was no use. Laying on his stomach, he raised his head and saw cops running towards him. “Prepare the cuffs!” One of the officers yelled. Jackson felt his arms being moved for him as handcuffs locked his arms in place. The man who tackled him kicked him in the head, muffling Jackson’s hearing. “We got him, we got him!” An officer exclaimed angrily, shoving him back. It was over. They got Jackson.

Jackson was led to the elevator where he rode it down to the lobby with several cops in there with him. The walk to the police car was a proud moment for Jackson. He didn’t look down in shame, he looked straight ahead, scowling. He completed his task. Employees couldn’t take their eyes off their former coworker in handcuffs. Jackson didn’t utter a word.

Clancy was thrown in the back of the police car. Two cops sat in the front. The driver turned the key and the car started. Jackson leaned forward, resting his head against the metal cage window. “They deserved it, you know. Every single one of them.”

“Shut it,” the officer in the passenger seat ordered. Jackson obeyed and leaned back in his seat. He looked at the light next to him and smirked.

Jackson Clancy was held in solitary confinement for six months until his trial came up. Not a day in that tiny cell made him depressed and crazy. The light was there to keep him company. Soon enough, with Jackson’s name in the paper, Madison’s, Monica’s and Courtney’s bodies were found. All of Seattle knew who killed them. Jackson was walked to the courtroom dressed in a suit. His eyes scanned the giant room and was surprised to see Madison sitting with the courtroom audience. She was wearing a white dress. She looked at Jackson and flashed him a warm smile. He nodded his head at her and smiled back.

Jackson was given the chance to speak and what he said was: “I committed no crime. I don’t know what all of you see in me. I’m not the monster you think I am. You want to know what I did? I spared them from living out the rest of their miserable lives. And besides, nobody would listen to me, so I had no choice. God told me to do this.”

Jackson Clancy was sentenced to three life sentences in prison with no possibility of parole. He spent his days sitting in his cell, doing nothing all day. At night, he’d hum “Amazing Grace” to himself to help him drift off. Five years in prison, Jackson was welcomed with a new cellmate. His name was Tom Woodson.

Woodson was an average-sized man with tattoos covering his body. His head was shaved, and he was quite possibly, the grumpiest man Jackson had ever encountered. Tom was sentenced to thirty-six years in prison for the murder of a four-year-old girl. Woodson and Jackson never spoke to one another, as Tom was too weirded out by Jackson and Jackson himself was too intimidated by Tom. Very quickly, Tom grew sick of hearing Clancy hum himself to sleep every single night. One night, Tom had enough and pulled Jackson out of his corner and in the center of the cell, hitting him in the face with all his strength until Jackson wasn’t moving anymore.

Jackson Clancy was pronounced dead on October 22nd, 2017. His corpse was taken and cremated soon after the incident. The light stopped shining beside him as soon as Clancy took his last breath. It vanished into thin air and was never seen by anybody until the world came to an end on July 8th, 4028.

 

 

Author’s Note

 

Closer was (so far), the most ambitious book I’ve written. My last book, In the Sky, was also fun to write but this one was special. I didn’t rush this. Everything flowed naturally. I started the outline and official book for this in my senior year of high school if I can remember correctly. I typed it on my school-issued laptop, not my personal computer. By the end of the year, when they had us turn our laptops in, I forgot to email the script and the in-progress story to my personal email so I could continue working on this at home on my computer. What do you think happened next? Yes, I lost about twenty pages of the script and about twelve pages of the story. Not a huge loss per se, now that I made it to the end and finished what I started. It was absolutely devastating when I realized I lost it all, but a few months later, I decided to go for it. I began writing the outline and when I was finally done, I began writing the story, which felt so rewarding.

Two movies inspired me to write this. I’ll give you a hint for each: “You’ll float too”, and “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” If those two quotes weren’t obvious enough, then I’ll reveal them. Stephen King, a total genius and master storyteller wrote a book (adapted into movies) called It. It centered around kids and some adults too being terrorized by an ancient entity that often appeared as a clown to lure children in so they could be devoured. That’s my first inspiration, and don’t worry, I’ll explain the correlation. The second quote came from my all-time favorite movie as a teenager (maybe it changed by the time you’re reading this, but most likely not. Joker was art and it’ll stick with me forever). Well, I just gave it away. Yup, Joker. The movie all about a man whose life became worse and worse until he started descending into madness. That right there was the click in my brain. Yes, I want to make a character study book. A story about a man who starts seeing this mysterious light. I wanted to write it in a way that it would have power over him, and his life would change drastically due to it appearing practically everywhere he went, only driving him more and more insane. I found and still find that concept today very, very interesting.

Now, how did It’s Pennywise the Dancing Clown connect to my story? You might’ve already figured it out but the whole point of the light was for it to have such an effect on Jackson and seeing it more and more often certainly didn’t help his life improve. The light acts as the clown, both entities disturbing the characters in both books. The giant, black sphere in In the Sky was similar to Pennywise, or It, if you will, but I wanted to make the light more similar to It; controlling Jackson and making him lose himself just like Arthur Fleck (Joker) lost himself in Joker. I wanted the reader to see and study the transformation of Jackson Clancy, a man who was loved by everybody, who over time, became a broken man who murdered, hurt others, and had complete faith in the light, essentially being its prisoner.

Originally, I planned for this book to be about 100-120 pages long, but I scrapped that idea and chose to make it shorter. So, 60-something pages felt right. Probably the biggest question the reader’s asking themselves is: Is the light actually God?

I won’t say if it is or not. Whether the light is God, or the Devil is all up to the reader. The light could easily be perceived as Satan himself due to it controlling Jackson, making him do very evil things, but at the same time, I am He was scribbled on Jackson’s bedroom wall, which was in fact a quote straight out of Jesus Christ’s mouth from the Bible. I will never reveal what the light really is or where it originated from. The readers can use their imaginations on this one. Sometimes, it’s better to have a mystery than have answers.

I created Madison Jones, Jackson’s love interest, from a real person. When I was eighteen, I believe, we got a knock at the door and these two Mormon girls stood there. One of them had Madison’s exact look: long, blonde hair and blue eyes. Little did I know that girl would be the inspiration for Madison. Jackson Clancy on the other hand, came straight from my mind. He was never based off a real person. I just wanted this book to center around a good-looking, successful, friendly man whose life took a dark turn, showing that just an eerie light can ruin your life. By the time I’m writing this sentence, I’m only nineteen years old. When I’m fifty, I’ll look back on Closer as being one of my favorite books I’ve ever written. I can thank Stephen King and Todd Phillips for inspiring me to create this sixty-page character study drama.


Submitted: November 11, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Cael Roraback. All rights reserved.

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