No Quarter By D. I. Jolly
Like so many others, Jack hated his job. It had been challenging for the first week and a half, but once he’d gotten into the rhythm of it, it had basically stayed the same. What made it worse, for him anyway, was that the deeper into the routine of his job that he got, the more it felt like his life seemed to follow suit. Now, after three years he knew exactly what every day was going to be like. He knew that on Monday’s he’d try cuddling with his girlfriend but she’d be too tired from work, but then on Thursday, after date night, they’d have boring, 2 glass of wine sex. Except on the third Thursday of every month when she’d bring up the subject of getting married and since he couldn’t come up with the correct answer, she’d get annoyed and sex would be cancelled. He knew that all she wanted was for him to propose, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. It wasn’t that he didn’t love her, or imagine himself spending the rest of his life with her. It was more that, getting married was too normal. So, in line with everything else in his life that he just couldn’t face it. He also knew that getting engaged, while in line with the big picture of his life, would break his daily routine and that was almost worse, and that thought depressed him even further.
Since it was actually Thursday, these thoughts were filling his mind on the walk home. He looked up at the old abandoned house that sat as the halfway point and, as usual, thought about who used to live there and what had happened to them. But on this particular Thursday, the second Thursday of the month, so at least he had sex coming, he stopped as he realised he could make out furniture through some of the gaps in the window boards. All at once an urge to change his day, change his routine came over him, and after checking left and right he walked through the little gate and up the stairs. He was surprised to find the front door wasn’t locked and suddenly a bit nervous, he stood at the open door and called in.
“Hello? Is… is anybody home?”
He waited and listened, until he decided no one was home, went inside. He’d seen something from the street that had caught his attention. He walked to the bookshelf in what must have been the main room. Where everything else was grey brown from dust, one thing stood out, one royal blue spine. From the street it looked like a weird beam of light, an optical illusion that he wanted to see up close and person. Now that he stood in front of it, he could see that it was clearly a book. He reached for and as he turned it over, he saw that it was a diary. On the first page he found the words.
Oh thank God you’ve found it, you wonderful person, you saint. God bless you for finding it. I need your help, and only you can help me. You found the book it’s a sign, you can help me, thank God.
To the side of that, in what looked like a different but similar hand writing he saw the message.
So pathetic, no one can help you, waste of fucking time.
Jack smiled, thinking it was so weird and wondered about what ‘wanna be hardcore’ teenager or strung out junkie had written it, and when. It was clearly not as old as the other things in the room, not as dusty, but it still had a fairly decent covering. As Jack read on, he found himself reading what appeared to be some kind of confession. A stream of consciousness that praised the reader, and damned the writer. Then, suddenly, the text turned into a description of crimes, of murders so detailed you knew they were real. The sick acts of a sick mind and Jack became aware of the room he was standing in, aware of a large empty house around him and his back stiffened. Not fully conscious of himself, he turned another page and found the words.
I know it’s hard to believe, I wouldn’t believe it either. So, on the next few pages is proof. You need to stop me, I can’t stop me, I’ve tried but I can’t. I need to stop, I need you to stop me and by turning the page you’re making the promise that you’ll stop me. Please, you found the book, you can stop me.
Jack stared at the words and thought to himself,
“No, no, I’m not doing this I’m just going to put the book back and go home.”
But at the same time, he also turned the page. Images of the described crimes seemed to burst from the pages and rush up into Jack’s eyes filling his vision, causing him to scream, drop the book and run for the door. Almost falling down the steps and out the gate he walked home fast feeling as though the images chased him. As he walked, he tried to focus on his usual boring thoughts, desperate to get back into the routine and forget about the house and the book. But when he arrived home his girlfriend rushed up to him.
“Oh my God Jack, what’s wrong? What happened you look awful.”
Jack rubbed his face with both hands,
“I’m fine, it’s nothing I’m fine. I just need to shower and then let’s go out, date night.”
She put a hand on his forehead and said gently.
“If you’re not feeling well, we can postpone…”
But before she could finish, he slammed a hand on the kitchen counter, which made her jump, and yelled.
Jack felt like the house and the book stood over his shoulder, and pushed on his mind. So, that he had to close his eyes and take a few long breaths before he could find words again.
“I’m, I’m sorry. I’ve had a shitty day at work, which isn’t your fault, and really what I really want is to go out with you, and have a lovely dinner, and some wine and end this day nicely with the person I love. … I didn’t mean to yell.”
He opened his eyes to look at her, and forced his shoulders to drop.
“Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?”
She smiled a little nervously, desperate to know what had happened at work that had put him on edge, but also not wanting to stoke a dying fire, said.
He smiled and went to take a shower, knowing that everything he’d just said was a lie. It had nothing to do with her, he was just desperate to get back into his routine and forget about the house and the book. But he also knew it wouldn’t work. The meal tasted bland, the wine sour, the waiting staff were annoying and the desperation to get back to normal took up so much space in his mind he could barely hear his girlfriend talk. After dinner, she wasn’t the only one who had to fake an orgasm. Instead of falling asleep in post coital contentment, Jack lay awake and tried to think about anything except the house and the book, which he attempted to do for four more days. Until finally he realised, he had to think about it, and had do something about it. He’d found evidence of serious crimes, he needed to get it to the police. He then told himself that once he did that it would be over and the thoughts couldn’t follow him anymore.
So on his way home from work he once again stopped at the house, made his way up the stairs and went into the main room to find the book exactly where he’d left it. Careful not to look at it directly he reached down and picked it up. He forced himself to look forward, rather than down, and suddenly saw a figure in the adjoining room. His heart turned to ice.
“You came back, I knew you’d come back, I knew I was right about you, that you would be the one to stop me. God bless you.”
The figure moved forward into the light and Jack saw a slightly emaciated man who could have been anywhere between 25 or 55, with a genuine but very sad smile on his face and tears running down his cheeks. Jack opened his mouth to try say something but he had no thoughts, and so therefore had no words. The other man took a few staggering breaths and continued.
“I… I’m so sorry. I, I won’t be able to help you. I can’t stop me, I’ve tried, but I can’t. You have to stop me. I won’t stop. You have to stop me. You have to stop me. Stop me. Please, stop me!”
As he yelled the last few words, he launched himself at Jack who tried to run but the man hit him and they fell. He scratched and punched and bit at Jack who could only wildly wave his arms about in a desperate attempted at protection. Until by accident Jack’s elbow caught the man on the jaw and it staggered him just long enough for Jack to pull himself free and run for the door. The man followed him down the stairs and caught him halfway across the street, giving Jack just enough time to see the oncoming car and by reflex he pulled the man in front of him and they both slammed into the windscreen, where the man stayed while Jack rolled over the top the car and landed hard on the street. Jack lay there for a few moments thinking to himself that that was it, he was now dead, because that’s what happened when you got hit by a car, you died. But slowly he began to realise that if he could think that, he was possibly not dead and so tried to move, only to hear a calm voice say.
“Wooow there buddy, take it easy. You’ve been in a serious accident, ambulance is on its way. Don’t try and move.”
Gingerly Jack opened his eyes to see a nice faced man in a bicycle helmet looking down at him.
“He, he was trying to kill me. He… has to be stopped. Police, call the, police.”
The man in the helmet looked up then back down at Jack, who continued.
“Book, evidence in the book. He was trying to kill me.”
The man in the helmet seemed to run some things over in his mind.
“Well, you did kinda run in front of his car.”
Jack’s mind went fuzzy for a moment, then cleared.
“No, no, not him the other man. The man who wrote the book.”
Again, the man in the helmet looked up toward the front of the car and leaned a bit from side to side trying to get a better view of … something, before turning back to face Jack with an even more concern.