The Nightmare Before Christmas Fan Fiction ❯ Roots ❯ We Hate Each Other, Don't We? ( Chapter 6 )
"There's got to be a way out of here!" Squanto barked, kicking a small stone.
Jack sat back miserably, alone. Oogie was off near the woods, also alone. The rest of the Holiday leaders were trying desperately to find a way out of the area that they were in. The forest wasn't good. They could only go so far in before it seemed to loop them around and sent them back the way they came. The caves that they'd come in through were gone, and even if they weren't, who knows how far they would have to climb, up a sheer surface mind you, to get out.
"There's none that I can see," Eros grumbled.
"What do we do?" Sandy asked softly.
"I don't know! Maybe we could follow the river and—" Bunny said thoughtfully.
"No, not about getting out. About them. They haven't spoken since we found out. They barely move, and Jack hasn't eaten. It's been four days," the Christmas leader said, staring at his friend in concern.
"Oh…I don't know," Sam said with a shake of his head. "I don't know how to help that sort of problem."
"Maybe somebody should go talk to Oogie Boogie?" Bunny asked, tilting his head.
"Hey, I might be the love person, but I don't love him! Not happening."
"I negotiated with the white man, but that creature is not reasonable. I refuse."
"Not gonna do it, laddy. I ain't got the luck ta do it."
"Well, don't look at me! I meant one of you! I'm just a rabbit!"
"I'd rather blow myself up with a firecracker."
Everybody looked to Sandy, who swallowed. "I'll do it for Jack. Only for Jack, you hear?"
They nodded, and Sandy hesitantly made his way over to the bogeyman. He stood behind him for a full minute before reaching out.
"What the hell do you want, Sandy?"
Sandy's hand froze in midair. "I…I wanted to…to ch-check on you. You've been awfully quiet, and you haven't really moved back over there."
"…I don't like fire."
"Ridiculous. The fire's not even lit right now."
Oogie looked back over his shoulder then grunted. "So what?"
"So? Oogie, Jack needs you. He does. Look at him. He won't even eat. There's more that you're not telling us."
Oogie snorted. "Fine, I'll get Jack to eat."
He pushed off the tree and walked over to Jack. Jack didn't even look at him.
"You need to eat something."
"Eat, Jack." Another pause. "Did you tell him to eat?"
"Oogie, that won't work. He's not listening to anybody."
"Are you two fighting?" Sam asked gently.
"No. And that's the damn problem."
They blinked, not understanding.
"How is that a problem?" Eros asked.
"Are you kidding me?!" Oogie demanded. "How do you not understand? When we're not here, we're constantly at each other's throats! I've tried to hurt him! To make him hurt like I do, so that maybe he'll understand! And he ignores me! Ignores me like I don't even exist most of the time! We hate each other, and—"
Oogie stopped talking, and he and Jack looked at Eros.
"You are wrong."
"About what?" Oogie growled.
"Hating each other."
"But we do…don't we?" Jack asked, looking at Oogie, who stared back at him blankly. They both refocused on Eros as the love being began talking again.
"You think I might just know love. I've been around for a while, though, and I know hate, too. I know when hate is real, and when it isn't. Your hate for each other isn't real. My educated guess is that you're both deeply wounded by perceived wrongs. You stopped communicating and hurt each other. Love of all kinds requires communication to stay full and alive. Your brotherly love is the strongest I have seen in many, many moons. This place brings out the best in that love.
"Notice also that Santa does not hate Oogie here, either, and he was almost killed twice by him. Now, we do not understand you, Oogie, so we've been avoiding you, but we don't hate you. Santa's hate for you was real. Trust me on that. But it's muted now, growing fainter by the day. Just talking to you has diminished it even more. Once we leave this place, we need to work on our friendships. We have never been more open, more friendly, more understanding of each other. This must continue. We need to be open to talking about uncomfortable things. Like…Halloween…"
Jack snickered at Oogie's blank look. "They don't like Behemoth. Or the Vampire Brothers. Or Ethan. Or Bertha and Ned. Or the demons. Or—"
"So they don't like anybody in Halloween Town?" Oogie asked dryly.
"It's not that we don't like them," Squanto said slowly.
"They just scare the hell out of us," Bunny admitted quickly.
"That's the whole point of Halloween Town, Bunny," Oogie said in amusement. "Scary is fun in our minds. You should give it a chance."
"Well…" Sam muttered.
"Come now. Jack's given all of your Holidays a chance. He helps you every single year, anytime you need an extra hand or two. Maybe he'll even let you use his whole body." There was a burst of laughter from the others. "Back on point, he's never not helped you unless he had a damn good reason. When you're behind schedule, and your Holiday is a week away, who do you call?"
"Jack, o' course," Patrick said with a smile. "The lad's got such a good way of plantin' four-leafed clovers."
"Yeah, he paints the prettiest eggs," Bunny sighed. "And he's great at making chocolate."
"Yep, the boy's great at cooking. He's got a good nose…or whatever he uses to smell," Squanto said fondly. "My wife loves him, though she thinks he looks funny."
"He's great at wrapping presents and stuffing stockings, and his woodcarving skills are impeccable. He can carve anything I need in record time," Sandy said with a nod.
"Jack is one of the most emotional individuals I have ever known," Eros said thoughtfully. "He is passionate about so much, and that translates wonderfully into the arrows he makes. Some of the most passionate love made is after I shoot a husband or wife with one of his arrows."
Sam nodded. "He's great with gunpowder, and even if there's an accident, everything blown off just reattaches."
There was another round of laughter, and they turned to Jack to find a rather red faced creature.
"I-it's nothing, really. I promise. I just wanted to help."
Oogie translated and the other Holiday leaders shook their heads.
"It's not nothing, Jack," Sandy said kindly. "It's incredible that you can help us every time we need it and still have time for your own Holiday. Oogie's right. We need to help you with your Holiday, too."
"That would be nice, I guess. If you can do scary."
"Scary? Like spider bite scary?" Eros asked helpfully.
"Um…no. Like ax murderer jumping out of the dark closet scary." They stared at him, paling.
"What he forgot to mention is that the ax murderer is actually your best friend dressed up and drenched in fake blood," Oogie snickered. "Jack doesn't do death."
Jack twitched at the word blood and began scratching his chest. He hadn't cut in four days and it was suddenly a very pressing need. He swallowed.
Oogie looked down at him and split his seems, the bugs pushing the knife out. Jack took it, stripping his shirt off rapidly. The Holiday leaders quickly backed up and saw a short way away from the Halloween denizens.
"Jack!" Oogie snapped as the boy began to bring the knife down. Jack looked up, looking irritated and desperate. "Slowly. You go fast, you cut deeper than you mean to. You've done it before."
Jack nodded, focusing on making a slow, shallow cut along the crook of his elbow. He moaned in delight at the spasm of pain. The Holiday leaders stared as he cut along his collarbone.
"Oogie?" Sandy asked, sounding strange.
"Yes?" Oogie didn't look at him, watching Jack closely.
"How did he get into that sort of thing?"
"Do you mind if I tell them about your past?" Oogie asked in Gaelic.
Jack paused to look at him, the blade not even a centimeter above his skin. "Do you think it to be wise?"
Oogie shrugged. "If Eros is right about this place, you'll have no better time to tell them. They're more likely to understand here while you're a human than back in Halloween Town when you're a bone man."
"Fine. Tell them," Jack muttered, slicing into his wrist.
"Well?" Sandy asked, staring curiously. "What did he say?"
"He said I can tell you," Oogie replied. "But if he stops me from saying something, there's nothing I can do about that."
"Fine. Now, how did Jack get into cutting?"
The bogeyman sat back and seemingly ignored the question. "Jack was born in Scotland over two thousand years ago, hence why he speaks pure Gaelic, and not even modern Gaelic, though in his other form he has kept up with the times. Rumors in the village said that his mother was raped by a demon, and not a friendly one like the ones in Halloween Town. Some of the rumors said that the demon impregnated her himself, while others say it possessed a man and he raped her until she conceived. All we know is that it was a short pregnancy by human standards.
"Six months and six days later, and in the sixth hour, Jack was born. His mother did not survive the birth. It was violent and bloody. The midwives reported that he came clawing his way out. He didn't come screaming into the world. He came howling like a demon, scaring the midwives out of the tent. Nobody would go in there until midday. His mother had breastfed him once then died. The name Jack was spelled out in her blood. That is what they called him."
Oogie shifted and watched as Jack slit above his collarbone. He knew that Jack was pretending to ignore the words. But there was very little that ever escaped Jack's notice. The knife raised higher, and the bogeyman growled low in his throat.
"I'll take it away, Jack."
Jack looked up and snarled, eyes gleaming in anger. The Holiday leaders scooted back a little at the hellish look in that usually friendly face. Oogie held out a point, eyeholes narrowing. Jack flinched, holding the blade to his bloody chest.
"So…" Sandy said after a pause. "Jack was born."
Oogie settled back again, humming. "Well, Jack was different from the other children in the village. He was obsessed with fire. He could start a fire in the pouring rain, but the villagers…they didn't care. They couldn't just kill him. No, that went against their beliefs. But they could not stand Jack at all. He ate insects, He played with fire. He dabbled in witchcraft. Or they thought he did anyway. He woke up most nights at the witching hour and went to walk in the fields that surrounded the village. He'd be gone for days. Jack told me that the villagers would get hopeful, and be awfully disappointed when he returned."
"But what about the cutting?"
Oogie was silent for a minute, watching Jack again. Jack was currently licking blood off the knife. When the others started grumbling impatiently, he continued.
"Jack liked pain since the moment he was born. He didn't think to inflict it on himself until he was seven. That's when he first took a knife to his wrist. In his own words, 'It was at that moment that I knew I could never give up the incredible sensation that that knife gave me.' He was hooked.
"Now the villagers tried to beat the strangeness out of Jack. They really did. He didn't need to cut himself half the time because he was bruised and bloodied from bullies or from an adult beating him. But life moved on, and Jack grew. He was taller and stronger than everybody in his village by the time he was thirteen. And still he got stranger. He would leave the village for days, then weeks, at a time. But he always came back.
"By the time Jack was eighteen, he was ready to leave forever, but he didn't know where to go. So one day, he packed up his meager belongings and set out to the west. His wandering life had given him the skills to go out and live on his own. He could hunt and fish for food, he could build fires from seemingly nothing, and he had plenty of smarts to make it through the predator filled nights. He lived for about a year like that before it happened."
"It?" Patrick asked nervously.
"On the night of Samhain, the night of his nineteenth birthday, something attacked him. He fought like a madman. Jack told me that he knows he broke a few bones, but the creature was bigger than him, and stronger." Oogie paused, shaking his head. "I've asked Jack several times what it felt like, but he can't really describe it."
"What's it?" Sam asked.
"…What did he say?" Sandy asked, stating the question they all wanted the answer to.
Jack spoke up from where he was playing with the knife. "It's like the biggest exhale of your life, and all your fear and worry disappears as a wave of peace and darkness surrounds you. People say there's a light, but I was surrounded by comfortable blackness until I woke up."
"You…woke up?" Sandy asked in confusion. "But you were dead!"
"All of the citizens of Halloween Town are either demons, or they're dead. They woke up, too."
"I…I guess that's true," Squanto said with a nod.
There was silence for a few minutes. They noticed that Jack seemed to be done maiming himself for the moment. Blood stained his chest from at least fifteen cuts, while his arms sported at least five each. Oogie picked up the water pitcher and handed it to Jack.
"Wash it, please."
Jack frowned, but did so, handing the knife back without complaint. He had been allowed more cuts than usual because of the long period of no cutting. Oogie patted his head.
"Now go wash off."
Jack obeyed, and the Holiday leaders sat there in silence, contemplating what Oogie had told them. The boy came back—he was a boy by all of their standards, at only nineteen years of age—and settled down in Oogie's lap, leaning back tiredly.
"You haven't been sleeping well," Oogie surmised.
"Yeah. I'm exhausted."
"Relax," Oogie said softly. "I'll keep you warm."
"Mm…" Jack murmured as he fell asleep. Still they were silent until Sandy shifted.
"So Jack is dead right now?"
"Then why are you so concerned about him dying again from blood loss?"
Oogie frowned. "Because I don't know if he'll wake up again or if he'll really be dead."
"Oh." Sandy yawned. "Well, I'm going to take a nap. We'll figure a way out of here later. We've got to get back. Jack's right. Something's wrong."
The others nodded. For the first time, Oogie felt relaxed enough with these Holiday leaders that he fell asleep before they did. Oh yes, life was nice here. Why would they ever want to leave? Oogie swallowed guiltily. She certainly didn't want them to leave. He should tell his friend about her. But to admit to Jack what he'd done? Jack would hate him forever. And Oogie couldn't take it. He hoped desperately that there was no way out.