Nightmare Before Christmas Fan Fiction ❯ Black and Red ❯ Firebug ( Chapter 8 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Jack grimaced. The fight with Oogie had left his upper arm cracked. He might be able to fall to pieces and still be fine, but crack a bone and it really hurt. The other leaders were whispering amongst themselves as Dr. Finkelstein made a cast for Jack's arm. He encased the humerus and the shoulder bone, wrapping a cloth around Jack's neck for him to cradle his hand in.

"Many thanks, doctor."

"You still have the three healing potions?"

"Of course," Jack said with a nod.

"Then you are to take one a day. If you don't get much better, come and get me and I'll reset the bone again. If you're getting better, but are out of the potion, come over and I'll make you some more. Now here's one for you to take now."

Dr. Finkelstein handed the Pumpkin King a glowing blue potion after popping the cork out. Jack downed it quickly. He didn't cough, though the potion burned fiercely on the way down to…wherever it went.

"Sally, get Jack home safe. He needs rest. The rest of you, I can't tell you to leave him alone, but don't stress him out. Stress makes his bones crack easier."

"Hey, only if they're already cracked," Jack argued as he stood.

They were soon settled in Jack's room. Jack thought about getting into his nightgown for a good nap, but looked at his arm distastefully.

"I hate cracked bones," he said. "It's so difficult to change clothes."

"I'm sorry, Jack," Patrick said.

Jack shrugged. "Can't be helped. Looks as if I'm going in just my shirt for awhile."

"Jack," Sandy said softly. "May I ask you something?"

"Certainly."

"How did you do that?"

"Oh, Oogie hit me really hard—"

"No, no, not the cracked bone."

Jack blinked. "Then what?"

"How did you…"

Jack frowned. What were they hinting at? Patrick finally jumped in.

"Ya used clovers fer luck," he said. "And ya were dressed in green and black."

"You used hate arrows and were dressed in pink and red and black," Eros said.

"You brought exploding eggs out of nowhere," Bunny said. "And were dressed in pale colors. And black."

"Need we go on?" Sandy asked.

"I don't understand what you're getting at."

"How did you, the Pumpkin King, use our powers?" Squanto asked.

"Oh. I'm a Holiday leader. The powers are interchangeable."

"They are?"

"Well, I can use all of yours. I assume it goes all the way around."

"How did ya find this out, Jack?" Patrick asked.

"I experimented a bit," Jack replied. "The more I knew about your Holidays, the more I helped you, the easier it became to use them."

"What's your power?" Eros asked.

Jack held out his good hand and a flame appeared over it. "Fire."

They looked nervous. "Why does yours have to be so dangerous?"

"What about exploding eggs isn't dangerous?" Jack asked dryly, sitting down on his bed and taking his shoes off. "I mean, the concussive force alone can damage nerves, or even shock the heart and nervous system into stopping, and then there's the shell shrapnel."

"Well, that's one other thing," Bunny said.

"How about hate arrows? Hate is a very potent emotion. It leads to murder."

"Okay, that's another," Eros muttered.

"And Sandy, you could call forth a blizzard if you wanted to. Snow is very cold, and then there are the icicles," Jack said. "Did you know that an icicle is the perfect murder weapon? It melts away so there are no fingerprints and no weapon to test."

"Okay, that's three others…" Sandy said slowly.

"And them Sam basically uses dynamite as his—" Jack attempted to continue.

"Alright!" Squanto snapped. "They're all dangerous. We get that!"

"Mine's not," Patrick said smugly.

"Depends on what you're trying to be lucky about," Jack replied pointedly.

They stood there and stared at Jack as he stared at them. Jack brought his hand back up and a flame hovered above it. He changed its color and shape several times before settling it back on an orange-yellow glow.

"Hold out your hand."

None of them moved for a moment then Sandy hesitantly held out his hand. Jack reached over and dumped the flame into the Christmas leader's palm. Sandy flinched, but the fire did not touch him.

"There you are, Sandy!" Jack said with a laugh. "Now watch this." He paused and grew serious. "Did you know that Halloween originated as a celebration called Samhain in Celtic lands?"

The fire suddenly leaped up and turned red and green. They yelped, and Sandy leaned closer to it.

"How did that even work?"

"Humans have a saying. Knowledge is power. I know that's true for me. I knew as much about fire as I could learn about it when I was human. And the more I learned about it after I died and turned into the Pumpkin King, the more powerful I became."

"Jack?" Sally asked, looking shy; up until this point she has been sitting quietly on the bed.

Jack stiffened. "Sally?"

"Please Jack. The others have told us about their pasts. Can't you tell us a little? Or not even them, just me?"

The fire suddenly exploded upward and Sandy jerked his hand back, crying out in surprise. The heat became unbearable for five seconds then everything disappeared and Jack looked tired.

"You want to know, fine. What is it you want to know?"

There was a pause and they slowly approached again. Sally spoke first though.

"What was your name?"

"Jack None. My mother stumbled into the village with no husband, and she was pregnant. She had me then died within three days of arriving, and she was delirious for those three days. She became sane enough to name me Jack and died with me in her arms. It was the culture of my village that I not have a last name until I came into my craft, which I never did."

"How did you get your last name?" Sandy asked.

"The doctor, Sandy. He didn't know what to call me, and we hadn't decided on bone man yet, so he started calling me a 'skellington.' When other people started to come to what would become Halloween Town, he introduced me as Jack Skellington, and it stuck."

"Jack, just to clear something up," Sandy said suddenly, holding up a hand.

"Yes, Sandy?"

"My name isn't Sandy. It's Santa."

"I know. I like Sandy better. It's what I first knew you as."

"What?" Eros asked.

"Sandy Claws," Jack said, curling the fingers on his unhindered hand in like it had claws.

"Oh…that explains that comment."

"What comment?" Squanto asked.

"'Why you have hands!'" Sandy said, mimicking Jack. "'You don't have claws at all."

"What can I say?" Jack said after the laughter had died down. "I saw his shadow and it looked like he had claws. When I heard his name, I mistook it for 'Sandy Claws.' I think it's an honest mistake, all things considering."

"Indeed," Sandy said. "You can call me Sandy, but only if you keep talking about your past."

Jack grimaced. "What do you want to know?"

"You said that you were different once. What did you mean?"

Jack went quiet, looking down. His voice came out very weak when he finally spoke.

"I never was normal. I was too pale, and the sun didn't burn or darken my skin. I didn't freckle either. Everybody thought my human eyes were creepy." Jack paused to swallow. "What they really didn't like was my obsession with fire. As a child, I never burned anything down…you know, on purpose…but I always wanted to be around fire. If it wasn't fire, it was pain. I would cut myself and experiment with pain. I must admit, I would hurt people to see their reactions."

"Jack…" Sally said softly, but Jack continued.

"And if it wasn't pain, it was outright death and blood and gore. I could skin and gut any animal faster than anybody else in the village. Sometimes I would go out and kill a deer or rabbit with my bow out where nobody could see me just to slowly dissect it. Sometimes they wouldn't be dead and I'd watch their insides work until they bled out.

"The first time I was caught, I managed to explain it. I can't really remember what came out of my mouth. The second time was a fiasco. They beat me for it. The third time they switched me. The fourth time…it just got worse from there. But I grew older and soon was considered too old to be switched or beaten."

Jack sighed shakily. "But the obsessions grew worse. They began calling me Firebug because I would purposefully set things on fire. I began building bonfires. My arms and legs were scarred over and constantly sported cuts. I tortured an animal at least once a week just to get the thrill that came with it. I never killed a human. Ever. But I thought about it. A lot. And I might have tortured animals, but the humans tortured me. They mocked me and beat me, and hurt me with knives, asking me if I'd had enough pain yet. The adults didn't help at all."

There was another pause, during which Sally wrapped her arm around Jack. "I should mention that my village was very superstitious. A plague hit our village, killing a few hundred. I was fascinated by the symptoms of the sickness and was constantly around those who were sick. Almost everybody else who was around them also got sick. I was not one of them. One day, there was a frenzy and the adults blindfolded me, tied my hands, and beat me viciously then led me deep into the forest to die. They accused me of bringing the sickness.

"They left me with no weapons, nothing to defend myself. I was naked and bloody with nothing to eat. I managed to get my hands free and tore the blindfold off. I had no idea where to go. I suffered through starvation and freezing cold nights and sweltering days. It was the closest thing to hell that I've ever experienced. I managed to catch one meal, and sparked a fire with all the knowledge that I had. I cleaned, cooked, and ate every bit of that animal. That was the last meal I had as a human. I didn't know what to do. I finally decided that I wanted to die, and what better way than to do it by the very obsession that had gotten me beaten."

"You mean you…" Sandy started, but trailed off.

"I built a huge bonfire in a clearing. I picked up some dry kindling and stepped through the fire and into the space I'd left in the middle. I lit the kindling then put it in my lap." Jack paused. "All my life, I'd played with fire, but not once did I ever get burned. The fire licked at me, and I expected pain, but it didn't hurt. It was nice and warm and comforting, even as I saw my skin blistering and burning. I cried, but not because I felt pain from the flames. It was from the pain of not fitting in, not having anybody to relate to, not having a single friend in my long, lonely life.

"I burned and burned and burned until the wood was spent. I swept aside the ashes and lay down. I hadn't died. By some curse, I was still alive. I cried again, laying there and wishing I would feel some physical pain to counter my emotional agony. Then came a beetle. I stared at it and it stared at me. It finally came forward and bit me. A prick of pain hit me and I wanted more, but I didn't know how to encourage him. I didn't have to. And he was soon joined by a swarm of bugs of all different shapes and sizes."

Jack took a deep breath. "You saw what the bugs did to me. They ate me down to my bones. It's the most painful thing I've ever endured, but that first time it was what I needed to stay sane. When I woke up, for I had fallen asleep after the endeavor, I felt different. I sat up and saw…well, this," he said gesturing at himself. "Only without the clothes. I was also somewhere strange. It wasn't the forest I had fallen asleep in. It was here, only without Halloween Town. I didn't know what to think. My only companions for about a year were the bugs. They wouldn't leave me alone. Clothes appeared one day and I put them on. Burlap appeared, too, and I got an idea. Almost as soon as the idea came into my head, a needle and thread appeared. And I made Oogie. The bugs went into the outline I had made with a single gesture from me.

"Suddenly I had a companion. One who didn't beat me and despise me. He was curious about everything, and I taught him how to walk and talk and function as the closest thing to normal that we had in our strange world. We talked about everything and I found that having a friend was very nice."

Jack turned to Sally. "The doctor came about a year later, but he looked very different than he does now. He could walk freely, without the need for a potion. Like all the residents of Halloween Town besides myself, he couldn't remember the specifics of his life before his death while he was awake. He knew he was a doctor, he knew science, and he was fascinated by the fact that I was a bone man and that Oogie had been made by my hands and was filled with bugs. But that's when the rift between myself and my first friend began.

"The doctor was constantly asking my advice in this new world, treating me like his leader. Oogie didn't like that. He thought we should be treated as equals. After all, I had only been in that world for a month before he'd been made. Dr. Finkelstein told Oogie plainly that I was the leader, and nothing would change that. 'There's a sense around Jack that you just don't have, Oogie,' he said. Thus began our rivalry. The rift's had two thousand years to grow, and it hurts so badly. I miss the old Oogie."

"Wait a second!" Sandy gasped. "You're over two thousand years old?!"

"Yes."

They just stared at him, unable to believe that he was that old.

"I'm only a thousand," Sandy said finally. "I just didn't know that you were so old."

"I've seen many a Samhain rise and fall," Jack said softly. "Well over two thousand of them." He paused. "Well, that's my story. I know you must be disgusted and disturbed."

"The torturing of animals and arson and pain and death is disturbing, but it's all in the past…right?" Bunny asked.

"Yes. I never felt the need to torture another animal or hurt myself again. But the preoccupation with fire turned into a wonderful power."

Jack suddenly yawned and looked exhausted. Sandy blinked.

"Now, I think that's enough of that. We shall leave you to rest. Have a good evening Jack, Sally."

Sally changed into a nightgown once they had left and pressed against Jack, mindful of his arm.

"How old were you, Jack, when you became the Pumpkin King?"

"Nineteen. I was born on the same day that I died."

"What day was that?"

"Samhain." He noticed her confusion and clarified. "October 31, Sally. I was born on that day, and I died on that day. I am the very embodiment of Halloween. Or All Hallows Eve. Or Samhain. It all depends on the time period as to what you call it. I think Halloween's going to stick for a long time, though."

Sally hummed. "Jack? I love you. Your past doesn't change that."

"I appreciate it, Sally. I really do. But please don't tell anybody. Oogie doesn't tell people because it would lead to them revealing how much his life depends on me. And the doctor's the only other person besides you and the Holiday leaders that I've told. He doesn't tell people because I've asked him not to. I don't want them to see what I've done and judge me for it. I want them to take me as I am now."

"I understand, Jack. Now, let's sleep. You really need it."

Sally kissed Jack gently and flipped off the lights, so that the fireplace provided the only light in the room. She fell asleep quickly, but Jack did a little thinking. They hadn't rejected him, but he knew that they would have more questions. For the first time, Jack thought he could handle that. He felt that they would help him, not hurt him. He smiled. His Holiday was a hit. He was married to the girl of his dreams. And now he would get to teach his gift of fire to the others. Jack drifted off to sleep, looking forward to the coming days. Life was good, better than it had ever been before. And it could only get better.


Chapter 7
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