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Jack the Lad Edit

Jack was normal once. Before he came to Kingsmouth. Born in Londonderry, Ireland in 1889, he was a happy boy even in a country that suffered the aftermath of the great famine. From his early teens he made his living singing and playing the fiddle. He knew all the most-loved tunes and sang them beautifully. Jack the Lad, they called him, as he wandered the roads from Londonderry to Galway and onwards to Dublin. With a silver tongue, boyish good looks and the voice of an angel, he charmed his way up a girl's skirt in every town or village he visited and later drank dark ale with the men till the early morning hours.

But at the turn of the century, Ireland was a poor, famished land. The young man wanted to see new shores, so like hundreds of thousands before him, Jack left Ireland and sailed to America. He fancied making his way in New York, and landed on Ellis Island in 1907.

Things didn't work out the way he'd hoped in New York. After an unfortunate incident involving the daughter of a powerful banker, Jack was forced to hit the road in a hurry. Leaving everything he had behind, he travelled north, and eventually ended up in foggy, cold New England where they had no ear or taste for music. But penniless as he was, he had little choice but to take a regular job and earn a living outside of his music. Nineteen years old, he ended up working as a farmhand for Archie Henderson in Kingsmouth.

Henderson was a strange character at the best of times, a cantankerous man who lived with his young daughter. Only a few years earlier, something had wrecked the family and left the man alone to care for his one remaining child. Jack never knew the details of the tragedy - the old man kept his distance, which suited Jack just fine. He lived in the barn, playing his fiddle and singing his songs in the long evenings.

Summer of 1910 came round and Jack was working the fields. Almost every day, Henderson's daughter Samantha would bring him a sandwich and cold lemonade when the sun was burning mid-day. Ah, Samantha. Barely sixteen and sweeter than the taste of honey. With red hair and fair skin, the girl reminded him so much of Ireland. He liked the look of her; it had been a long time since Jack enjoyed the company of a girl at night.

For weeks, Jack and Samantha exchanged only smiles and polite words until one day she ran out of the house after an argument with her father. He followed her to the woods and calmed her crying. They sat together on a log while Jack played his fiddle and told amusing stories from his life in Ireland. She laughed and threw back her hair, just like all the girls he had sweet-talked back home. It took some doing, but soon she gave up her lips for a kiss, then another.

The two young sweethearts stole away as often as they dared. They both knew their relationship could never be known. He was a poor kid with nothing to his name and few prospects while she was the only daughter of a well-off farmer. And sure enough, her father did not approve when he found out and fired Jack on the spot. They were told in no uncertain terms that their relationship would stop or they'd face the wrath of more serious consequences.

But for all the warnings, Jack felt possessed by a feeling he was unfamiliar with. All the girls he had charmed into bed before were nothing more than a good time. This was different. In dreary New England, thousands of miles from home, Jack had fallen in love. He didn't care about the old man's bleating and continued seeing Samantha as much as he could. She snuck from the house for secret meetings behind the barn, up on the hayloft, out in the fields.

Jack and Samantha were young and happy and, as summer waned, they grew bolder and more careless - until a warm evening in late September, when they lay down on the good earth of the barley field. They never saw it charge as they lay there naked in a passionate embrace. It was neither human nor animal, but a hulking mass of straw and rags.

Jack couldn't keep them away, and had to watch as the shadowy shapes hacked at Samantha with farm tools and sledge hammers. Her small frame was broken and cut; finally the screaming stopped and the creatures slipped away. Jack scrambled to the lifeless body of his beloved, but it was all too clear she was gone from this world.

Archie Henderson came hurling from the house, alarmed by his daughter's cries for help. He saw the corpse of his last remaining child in Jack's arms and stared wild-eyed at the boy. Still lying on the ground, Jack looked up and witnessed the rage in Henderson's face. He got to his feet and ran, the crazed old man quick on his heels. As he reached the pumpkin patch north of the farm, he stumbled and slammed his face into the cool dirt. Immediately, Henderson was on him, kicking him hard in the ribs so he wouldn't get away.

From his lips came words in a language Jack was unfamiliar with. His voice rose to a crescendo of bitterness and hate. The air shimmered as he stood towering over him. The dark earth and the ripe pumpkins rose from the ground. Jack, terrified, had never seen anything like it. At first, Henderson's words, older than continents, warmed Jack's body - then he felt himself change.

Terrific pain ran like hot iron through his body. His blood boiled, his skin burst. The only colour was red. Bones cracked and his skull split; his entire being convulsed. When he lay motionless between the pumpkins Henderson stopped his chants, spat at him and told him that he was condemned to eternal life as the freak he was. Then he turned around and left him.

Still in unbelievable pain, Jack was sure he was about to die. But he didn't. He eventually lifted himself and made for the creek. There, in the still water, he saw his new reflection for the first time. Gone were his blue eyes and his fair skin, his handsome smile and golden hair. Gone was the youth of a boy whose entire life was in front of him. Instead, his broken body was unrecognisable, and his head resembled that of a pumpkin. All he could see was a distorted image of a jack-o'-lantern.

He screamed.

After the initial shock, Jack wandered aimlessly for days, unable to cry through his grotesque features, unable to express the great sorrow that anguished him. He couldn't believe that the curse Henderson had placed on him was supposed to keep him alive in this horrific way. He wanted nothing else than to die, but even that was denied him. Jack had lost everything. His life, his love - even his human features were gone forever. It was inevitable that his psyche would change too, that laughter and happiness be buried. There was no room for that now. His mind became harrowed by the teeth of rancor. He recalled his pain and the old man's contempt. Jack resolved to get revenge.

No longer human, but an undying creature sustained by the occult presence in New England, Jack spent weeks learning to control his new body. Although it seemed he was fragile, made of stick and root and taut pumpkin skin, he was not. He was strong, resilient, and grew more powerful.

As he learned to control the dark powers infused in him, his hatred grew stronger; the memory of his life was all but forgotten, transformed into fury and contempt. His only goal was to kill old man Henderson. But, when he was ready to return to the farm and claim his vengeance, he was met with disappointment. Henderson was already dead, and the farm abandoned and left to demons the old mage had created or summoned.

The final crowing laugh still belonged to Jack. The magic Henderson had used to curse him had not only extended his life, it had offered him its power too. In his desire to quench his blood thirst on whatever unhappy person might cross his way, Jack created the will-o'-wisps, horrid and obscene creatures tethered to his command.

He entered an allegiance with the unfamiliar revenants, demonic beings that Henderson had summoned to Kingsmouth. These creatures, whose purpose is to feed on human misery, saw in Jack a leader who could enable a future disaster, the very goal of their existence. Finally he was content. Finally he could get his revenge. Not on Henderson, but on any passerby.

As decades have gone by, both he and his army of wandering death have grown stronger, more powerful and more corrupt. Jack still lurks in the forests and the fields, ready to inflict pain and death on whoever gets in his way. No path is truly safe.

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