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Peter Jessop

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Spring Heeled Jack
By Peter Jessop
Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2012
Last edited: Sunday, June 17, 2012
This short story is rated "PG13" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Peter Jessop
· Fractured Fairy Tales Part 8 - The Brute Squad part 1
· Fractured Fairy Tales Part 7 - Prince Charming part 2
· Fractured Fairy Tales Part 6 - Prince Charming part 1
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           >> View all 37
The mysterious story of a strange creature that terrified London throughout history.

 

 

Historical Note

(Spring Heeled Jack first made his appearance in England in 1837, and again in the 1850’s, 1860’s, 1870’s and once more in 1904.  Who or what he was still remains a mystery to this day.)  

 

 

London, September 1904

 

The prostitute’s hands shook profusely as she drank from the small silver flask containing the Sherry.  Her young scruffy face pale, her eyes dry and red from the tears, her top ripped to shreds at the collar and shoulder with ugly fresh scratches on her left arm.  She was only twenty-two years of age, a Cockney from the East End and her name was Mary Davis.

            She sits on the cold, filthy, and mist covered ground of Green Dragon Alley.  In the distance Big Ben strikes the ninth hour of this deadly night.   Mary’s wounds are being attended to by the Police Physician.  She is quite distraught, almost babbling, rambling on about being attacked by a demon from hell.  Inspector Brooks of Scotland Yard stands above her taking notes by the flickering light of a lantern.

            “Gaud…it was him I tell ya,” Mary rants, “Jack…that bloody Spring Heeled Jack they talk ‘bout in the papers, with his demon eyes of flame.”

            Any other time and Brooks would have assumed she was drunk and locked her up for the night; however this was the third attack by Jack this week and on top of that, it was only a week earlier that he was handed the Jack file which had been sealed away for the last thirty years.

            “His eyes were the bloomin’ Devil I tell ya, it’s gettin’ so a girl can’t do her job anymore and what are you coppers doin’ – nothin’.”  Mary takes another swig from the flask to try and steady her nerves.

            “Is there anything else you can tell us about your attacker?”  The inspector questions.

            “Just that he bloody tried to kill me – that’s bloody all!”

            “Did you see in which direction he went after the alarm was raised?”

            “Yea…into the air – he jumped over the building.”  Mary tells them wide eyed.  Brooks tilts his head upward wondering how anybody could make such a jump.

            “Are you quite sure?”

            “Yea, course I’m bloody sure.”

            “How is her injuries doctor?”  Brooks enquires.

            “Not life threatening, but she needs to get to the hospital to have them attended to properly.”  The Police Doctor assures him.

            “He had claws he did – big sharp claws.”  Mary raves on.

            “I’ll get a constable to escort her.”  Brooks turns to a Constable standing nearby.  “Take Miss Davis to London General and don’t leave till their done.”

“Yes Governor.” 

But as the Constable goes to help the injured street hawker to her feet, another Constable arrives on the scene, out of breath.  “He’s struck again sir…not two blocks from here.”

A short time later Inspector Brooks arrives at a bench in Hyde Park where a middle-age gentleman by the name of Lawrence Wilkes has just been attacked.  But unlike Mary Davis, Mr. Wilkes shows no physical signs of trauma; however the fear in his eyes speaks volumes.

“His face was hideous,” Wilkes tells his story, “his eyes were like balls of fire, his hands had great claws and he vomited blue and white flames.”

“How long ago was this?”  Brooks asks in haste.

“No more than thirty, forty minutes ago.”  The gentleman tells him.

“Get more men,” Brooks barks at a Constable, “I want the whole park sealed off and searched.”

“Yes sir.”  The Constable jumps to it.

“May I ask what you were doing in the park at this hour, Mr. Wilkes?”

“Walking,” he tells the Inspector, “I had just spent a pleasant couple of hours at the opera when I decided to take in the air.  I fear I would have been dead but for my umbrella.”

“Your umbrella?”

“Yes, I managed to beat the fiend off with it.”  Mr. Wilkes holds up his bent umbrella.

Brooks shakes his head almost in amusement.  His eyes then espy a black stain on the ground.  He bends down to examine it and discovers that it appears to be some form of oil or grease.  He also detects the faint remnants of an odor in the air, like something burning.

“Can you smell that?”  He asks of the others.

“Yes”, Mr. Wilkes replies, “like burning oil or some such thing.  As a matter of fact I just remembered something.  Right before I was attacked I smelt that same thing.”

Two hours later, a solemn looking Inspector Brooks of Scotland Yard sat in the back of a handsome cab on his way to the station to write his report.  They had scoured all of Hyde Park and turned up nothing, no more clues and no indication of anything out of the ordinary.  The Inspector was coming up with dead ends ever since he was handed this case by the Commissioner.

Brooks has been in the police force for twenty years, starting off as a lowly constable he worked hard and showed initiative that enabled him to rise up the ranks.  His big break came five years ago when he caught the “Lime Street Butcher” and was promoted from detective to Inspector and was now within striking distance of making Chief Inspector.  At forty-three years of age Brooks had been dealing with the scum of London’s underworld for over two decades; hawkers, pimps, murderers, rapists, sneaks, blackmailers, thugs; he thought he had seen it all, that was until a week ago when Spring Heeled Jack decided to show up and he was handed that musty old folder.

Brooks once more begins to go over the history of this demonic sprite in his head, hoping that perhaps he has miss something; God knows he’s gone through the file every night for the past week.  The history of Spring Heeled Jack, a name the press gave him after his feats of speed and jumping over walls.  From out of the mists of the night he came, a leaping, bounding denizen.  At first he was just a rumor.  In fact no one took much notice when people crossing Barnes Common in south-west London reported seeing the alarming sight of a man-like creature flying through the air in great leaps across their path. 

But the reports continued until they were terrifyingly confirmed a few months later when an attack did take place.  Spring Heeled Jack first made an appearance in the 1830’s and has since made regular appearances every so many years, suddenly appearing from out of nowhere and then just as quickly disappearing for a number of years before re-appearing once again.  The last time was in 1877 when he attacked Lady St. Clair before vanishing into thin air…that is until now.

Two days ago Inspector Brooks had gone and visited Lady St. Clair, who was now a spinster, in her early fifties, looking for any new information.  She was at first hesitant to speak with him, not wanting to drag up all the old memories and nightmares.  But finally she relented.  Brooks can still vividly see the look of horror in her eyes, as they sat in her drawing room, as she began to tell him what had happened to her in her own words.

“It was a Saturday night and as usual I had spent it playing parlor games with my mother and sister, you see, Inspector, it was a ritual we did every Saturday night, sometimes our neighbors would join us.  There was always such gaiety in our home, mother always kept a smile on our faces to make up for the tragic loss of our father a year earlier.  But smiles never last.”  Lady St. Clair adds in an ominous tone of voice.

“That night, which started off with such joy in many ways ruined my life forever.  It was about a quarter to nine when I heard a violent ringing at the gate, mother and Julia, my sister was in the kitchen making tea, and so I went to investigate.”  Lady St. Clair pauses in the telling of her tale as the memory of that night still haunts her. It took several more moments for her to gather her will and continue.

“There was a man standing outside, I couldn’t make him out in the dark, but he did appear to be wearing a cloak.  I called out, asking who was there.  The person instantly replied that he was a constable and pleaded for me to bring a light, for they had caught Spring Heeled Jack, here in the lane.”

“And the voice of the constable, it sounded normal?”  Brooks questions.

“Yes, quite normal, although years later on reflection, there was something odd about it, like a hissing or metals grinding type of sound.  I can’t explain it any better.”

“That’s alright Lady St. Clair,” Brooks tells her calmly hearing the distress growing in her voice, “please continue.”

“After hearing these words I thought the stories must be true after all and I had been given the opportunity to see him arrested.  So I brought a candle and hurriedly went to the constable, who now was indeed completely covered in a thick black cloak and hood.”  Lady St. Clair falls silent.

“And then he assaulted you?”  Brooks’ words are more of a statement than a question.

“As soon as I reached him he threw off his outer garment revealing by the light of the candle a most hideous and frightful sight.  He – it…for it surely wasn’t a thing of the human world.  It spewed forth a quantity of blue and white flame at me – and its eyes were like balls of fire…Lord help me, but it was like some demon that you read about in fairy stories.”  Lady St. Clair once more falls silent, her features full of emotion.

“I’m sorry; if it’s too painful we can stop.”

“No,” she says in a firmer voice, “this monster has haunted me too long.  I’ll tell you the rest.  The other thing I can recall is that it was wearing some kind of large metal helmet with pointed ears; and its dress, which appeared to fit him very tightly, seemed to resemble shiny white oil skin, glistening like a fisherman’s rain coat when it is wet.  Then without uttering another word it darted at me, catching me by my dress and the back part of my neck.  Its claws then started ripping my clothes and scratching my skin, I could feel the metal tearing into me.”

“Metal?” Brooks interrupts with.

“Yes Inspector, Jack’s claws were made of metal, like razors.  I struggled as it began to get a firmer hold of me and started to pull me into the night to God only knows what end.  I screamed and screamed at the top of my voice.  Then as I felt myself being lifted up off the ground, my mother and sister arrived, in desperation they grabbed me and lashed out at my abductor.  The next thing I remember is falling to the wet ground in the arms of my terrified mother.  Through luck or providence they scared it away.  The last thing I saw of Spring Heeled Jack was it bounding off into the night, disappearing into the darkness, but it left behind a strange burnt type of smell.” 

“Like burning oil?”

“Yes.”  Lady St. Clair answers dabbing a handkerchief to her tear filled eyes.  “Even though it was nearly thirty years ago I still remember it as if it happened last night.  My life was changed forever; I fell into despair, too scared even to sleep, too afraid to go out of the house.  I became a wreck, even John, my fiancé, I drove away…and always in my dreams are those red burning eyes…once you see them you will never forget them…I haven’t.”

Brooks now sits at his desk looking at the blackboard that has information regarding the latest sightings of Jack.  He stares at the board trying to ascertain something – anything – a clue that will help him locate this thing.  Brooks suddenly wonders to himself when he started referring to this Jack as a thing rather than a man; because anyone who has seen him describes him as anything but a man, a demon, a monster, burning eyes, metal claws, pointed ears; and yet out of them all the descriptions were mostly the same, which gave them consistency and credence. 

Brooks rubs his temples, hoping to prevent a headache that he can feel coming on.  It was after midnight and he didn’t know what to make of the strangeness of this case anymore; but one thing was certain, his superiors took it very seriously.  Even as far back as 1837 when Jack first appeared, the authorities then were so concerned that they actually put the Duke of Wellington in charge of hunting down this public nuisance.  Even a written report from Wellington himself, that Brooks read which was in the file he was given, states how the Duke himself chased it on horseback across the Commons before losing it.  It’s also been speculated that Jack The Ripper chose the name “Jack” from Spring Heeled Jack.  But unlike the Ripper, Spring Heeled Jack hasn’t killed anyone; attacked them, and attempted to abduct them, but nothing more.

“Why?”  Brooks asks himself.  It is a question that he intends to get an answer for.

An hour later Inspector Brooks was back at Green Dragon Alley, standing in the lane way entrance where Mary Davis was assaulted earlier tonight.  Brooks doesn’t know why he came back here; all he knew was that he couldn’t sleep and that something deep within him, a hunch, told him to come here.

Brooks had come to trust his hunches, to him, a lot of detective work came down to hunches.  It was this same practice that helped him capture the “Lime Street Butcher”.  And yet he looks around and there is nothing to see, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to smell.  Brooks captures a whiff on the wind the faint burning oily smell he smelt earlier in Hyde Park. 

Removing his revolver, Brooks follows the scent down the darken lane way.  Every step the smell grows stronger.  Brooks steadies his nerves as he reaches a small dock on the bank of the Thames.  The oily smell is now very strong.  Brooks creeps out of the lane way and takes cover behind some bushels of wool.  A whining noise reaches his ears as he slowly lifts his head up to peer over the bundles of wool.  He catches his breath at the sight in front of him.

Spring Heeled Jack stood at the edge of the dock making strange beeping sounds.  For some reason Brooks gets the impression that it was sending a signal.

“Bollocks.”  He whispers.

His eyes drink in more deeply the adversary he has been hunting.  Even in the darkness Spring Heeled Jack glitters with red eyes, pointed ears and claws.

“Demon my arse.”  Brooks tells himself as he stands up from behind the crates; Spring Heeled Jack is a man in a metal suit.

“Hold it right there, don’t move, Inspector Brooks, Scotland Yard.”  The Inspector boldly boasts as he points the revolver.

Spring Heeled Jack turns as static sparkles between his ears and the air is filled with the smell of ozone.  Jack’s body lights up and the Inspector is suddenly gripped with fear.  Spring Heeled Jack is no man in a metal suit – but a metal man.

Brooks can’t comprehend what he is truly seeing. 

If the Inspector had been living several more decades into the future he would know exactly what he is looking at – a robot, a grey and silver mechanical entity not of the Earth.  It stands six foot tall and levitates above the ground as it glides quickly towards the Inspector.  What people mistook for ears is in fact antenna and as for the metal claws, they are multi-tool fingers. 

“I-n-s-p-e-c-t-o-r – B-r-o-o-k-s – S-c-o-t-l-a-n-d – Y-a-r-d – c-o-m-p-u-t-e – a-n-a-l-y-z-i-n-g.”  Spring Heeled Jack speaks in its mechanical droning voice.

Bang – Bang – Brooks instinctively fires off two rounds.  The bullets have no effect; they hit Jack’s alloyed body and bounce harmlessly off.

“H-o-s-t-i-l-e – i-n-t-e-n-t – n-e-t-u-r-a-l-i-z-e.”

One of Jack’s fingers fires a laser beam at Brooks causing the revolver to be knocked from his hand.  The Inspector tries to move but Jack is upon him within seconds.  Brooks is hurled crashing into some nearby rotting crates.  Stunned and disorientated he doesn’t know what to do.  As he slowly gathers his wits the mechanical monstrosity is once more upon him. 

Brooks is hoisted up into the air by one of the metal hands, while one of the steel fingers on the other hand scans him.

A rocket man – Brooks suddenly thinks as a memory from a book he once read by Jules Verne, which spoke of rocket men, pops into his head.

“Who…what are you?”  Brooks squeaks out, struggling to break free, but his efforts are pointless.

“M-a-r-k – IV- d-a-t-a – p-r-o-c-e-s-s – a-n-d – d-i-s-c-o-v-e-r-y – m-o-d-u-l-e – m-i-s-s-i-o-n – p-e-r-i-m-e-t-e-r-s – s-t-u-d-y – c-o-l-l-e-c-t – s-p-e-c-i-m-e-n-s.”  The android tells him.

“Collect?”  Brooks asks instantly realizing what that means.

In answer to his question the top part of one of Jack’s fingers opens revealing a sharp hypodermic needle filled with a nasty looking amber liquid.

“No!”  Brooks screams as he desperately lashes out, grabbing one of the antennas and bending it with all his might. Jack lets go and moves back several feet.  Brooks uses this time to scramble for the fallen weapon.  He grasps it and fires another shot at Jack aiming for the other antenna.

He misses.

Jack retaliates by shooting a green flame from a nozzle on his metal chest.  The Inspector dodges the attack by rolling across the ground.  The flame ignites the dock and surrounding wool crates.  Within moments the area is ablaze.

Inspector Brooks scrambles away from the deadly strikes of the robot, trying to conserve his last reaming bullets, until he can get a better shot.  But as the dock begins to collapse around him he has little time. 

With his life hanging in the balance, the Inspector charges at the metal horror latching onto the front of it.  He then fires the remaining three bullets, at point blank range, into Spring Heeled Jack’s demonic eyes.

It has an effect, but not what Brooks was expecting.

With sparks and electricity shooting from the damaged eyes, the robot suddenly fires its booster rockets and shoots at great speed up into the sky.  Brooks tries to jump off but Jack’s arms grip him like a vise.

Brooks looks on in terror at the sight of London far below him, stretching to the horizon.  They keep flying up and up, higher and higher, the robot now out of control.  Brooks begins to grow cold from the high altitude.  And still man and machine continue to rise ever upward.

 Brooks ceases to struggle and blacks out.

Sometime later he opens his eyes to find himself floating in the stratosphere – on the very edge of space.  He also sees the robot Spring Heeled Jack floating nearby, lifeless and unmoving.

Inspector Brooks knows he should be dead – but for some reason he is not.  He also shouldn’t be able to breath and yet he can.  He knows it has something to do with the mechanical beast known as Spring Heeled Jack.  Brooks also knows that he has no way of getting down and that whatever is keeping him alive cannot last.

And yet panic does not set in.

Instead he opens himself to the sights before his eyes.  The vastness of space and the stars shining brightly before him; the moon so white and so big that he feels he could just reach out and touch it.  But as much as this sight is awe inspiring it pales in comparison with the spectacle of the planet Earth beneath his very feet.

“How blue it is.”  He whispers as he gazes down upon the world from space, the first human to ever do so.

“The first rocket man.”

He smiles as he drifts off.

 

London, Present Day

 

Chief Inspector Albert Cunningham of Scotland Yard exits the office of the Police Commissioner.  He has spent the last hour in a secret discussion with not only his boss, but also the Home Secretary.  The meeting has left him shaken and uneasy.  He has been put in charge of a task force to look into a spate of recent attacks within the city of London.  Viscous attacks being contributed to some demon like monster.  As he makes his way down the deserted corridor, in his hands he carries a thick file that was given to him; a folder marked “Spring Heeled Jack”.

 

 

 

 

 

Author’s note

(When you examine the historical accounts of Spring Heeled Jack from a modern day perspective you come to the conclusion that Jack could have been an alien, or at least a robotic abductor from the annals of history.  With his standard UFO occupant appearance, vice like grip, helmeted head, and “pointed or cropped ears” corresponding to robots’ antennae.)

                      

Copyright © 2011 by Peter Jessop


 

Reader Reviews for "Spring Heeled Jack"


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Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 7/18/2012
Great story; well done, Peter!
Reviewed by Victoria Randall 7/2/2012
Very enjoyable; love the description of floating in space above the earth. It would be helpful if the verb forms were consistent: it keeps changing from past to present tense.
Reviewed by Billy Lindsay 6/20/2012
Great story.I love SHJ.So much so that I wrote a book about him. The Bones of Jack. About a chimney sweep and rat catcher who find the remains of the infamous villain and bring his legend back to life.
http://www.thebonesofjack.com


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