The heavy bag swayed violently as Jack hammered it with maddening fury. His face turned bright red and his heart was pounding. The muscles in his back, arms and chest burned and throbbed. Somewhere deep inside his head he gave into the rage he had suppressed for over a year. He felt all of his restraint slip away and his vision went red.
Then with a loud “pop” his right wrist gave out and he fell to the ground in pain. He couldn’t feel his right arm below the elbow. He knew his wrist was sprained badly, possibly even broken. His knuckles were torn open and bleeding. He rolled onto his back and felt his right wrist with his left hand. There was no feeling in his wrist but he was checking for breaks. “That’s what you get for not wrapping your hands, Stupid” he thought. He panted with exhaustion, soaked in sweat.
He lay on the floor of the makeshift gym staring at the fluorescent lights above. “What’s wrong with me?”, he thought? Was it Anna’s weird friend who got in his head? he hadn’t been the same since. She had saved him when Thorn had him strapped into a torture chair in his bid to take over Hoffmann. She had also told Jack that she was opening his mind to new abilities, things that had always been there but he didn’t know about. But ever since then he just hadn’t been “right”. Or maybe he had and this was something different. He went over it all in his head again and again like he had during so many sleep deprived nights lately. What had changed? Was it the Equation, when that insane woman kept trying to tell him how he needed to understand? Everything went weird then. Or was it the werewolf bite he had gotten and the month of isolation and treatment he went under?
The truth was that there was no way he could tell. Trying to find one event that stood out was like asking Mick Jagger what his favorite arena was to play. “All of them”, is probably the answer you’d get. They were all so big and great that none could stand out. Jack lived a life of weird shit every day. How do you pick one possible event out of that. You can’t. That made it worse. You can’t find the answer but you can’t stop looking. The feedback loop gets stronger.
“Shit”, he thought. It was Anna. She wanted to keep talking. “Yeah?” he said weakly.
“Are you mad at me? You just left.
“You said you wanted to have kids. With me. That kind of threw me off.”
“So you came out here and beat the hell out of a heavy bag? Should I take that as a sign?”
Jack sat up slowly and looked at her. She was standing in the doorway of the barn. The sun was coming in behind her and outlined her in light. He couldn’t see her face but he knew the look. It was a mixture of understanding and exasperation.
“You look smart,” he said. “but you do dumb shit. And you have terrible taste in men.”
“What do my ex boyfriends have to do with this?”
“I was talking about me,” he barked back.
She stepped into the room and he could see her face now. She smiled wanly as she walked over to him. She was going to say something wonderful and he didn’t want to hear it.
“I chased Maddy away because she wanted kids. She was a great woman and I’m a bad guy. I mean really bad, Anna. I’ve killed people. Lot’s of them. I’ve gotten way too comfortable with that. I’m worse now than I was then. Back then I was just a mean cop. She didn’t deserve that. You don’t either.”
She knelt down next to him and reached out to touch his cheek. God, her hand felt great on his face. “I know who you are, Jack Cooper. I know what you are. You are the man that stopped me from killing Thorn when I thought my sister was dead. You didn’t let me. That would have stuck with me forever. You knew it. I have never seen you hurt anyone without cause.”
“Oh bullshit, Anna! I’ve…”
“Jack. Look at me. I have seen things. Bad things. Almost as many as you and the rest of the team. What I haven’t seen I’ve read about in your reports. I know. Despite all of that you have stayed the same guy. You always put everyone else first. We all know you’d do anything to help or save us. Jack, you chased down the Hollow Man when you thought he was going to kill me.” She smiled at him. “A girl has a hard time forgetting that.”
He hung his head and she rubbed his shoulder. What was happening to him? Part of him wanted to sink his head into her shoulder and just cry. He felt like he was coming apart. Was she the only thing holding him together? Or was it just his own sheer force of will? he had pushed his body so far beyond itself so many times. Could he be doing the same thing now with his mind? He knew what happened to his body when it was exhausted: it gave out. What happened if your psyche did the same thing? it scared the hell out of him.
Her phone rang. She looked at it and saw Sal’s number.
“Who is it?” he asked."
“It’s Sal. He can wait. I have to tell you something, Jack,” she said. “I love you. If you don’t feel the same I can accept that. I won’t like it, but it doesn’t change how I feel. I pick you, no matter what happens. And I know who and what you are.”
He took a breath. There was so much he wanted to say.
“I’ll Kill you,” in a distant voice.
“What did you say?” she said as she pulled back slightly from him.
Jack looked up at her. “I didn’t say anything yet. That wasn’t me.”
A dark silhouette filled the doorway. “I’ll kill you,” it whined. “Like you killed me”.
Jack and Anna stood as the creature shambled through the doorway and into the artificial light of the room. it was hideous and mangled. Bloated like a corpse but moving like a living person it zeroed in on them. “I’ll kill you like you killed me,” it moaned. part of it’s head was missing just above it’s left eye. It looked like a fatal gunshot wound. It had obviously been a person at one point but was now bloated and rotten beyond any recognition of who it may have been.
Jack stepped in front of Anna. “You need to get out of here and get help,” he said.
“Just shoot it.”
I don’t have a gun on me," he said through gritted teeth.
“When don’t you have a gun on you?”
The beast bolted toward them with surprising speed.