After everything you went through… you took the money.
Feeling like he’s still curled in a ball in the passenger seat of Mister Sir’s car, Jonathan wakes strapped to the metal table. He looks at his arms lying flat beside him, his legs flattened and strapped down due south, yet still he feels bunched up, feels like his joints are bent, feels the body heat soaked into the leather seats against his face.
‘This must be what phantom limb syndrome is like,’ Jonathan Knox thinks to himself, ‘except worse, because the reverend is doing this to me. Reverend Campbell, the preacherman with the slimy hands.’
“Before we go on, Jonathan,” says the preacherman in question, “I must know outright… this, eh, this Mister Sir… did he ever… erm…”
“Did he ever what? ” Jonathan spits… no, wait, that’s just the drool on his face. Mister Sir was none too thrilled about that. Made Jonathan wipe the seat down before he even got out of the car.
“Touch you,” the preacherman says from his position outside of Jonathan’s point of view. “Inappropriately, I mean, like–”
“How dare you,” Jonathan mutters under his breath, disgusted light years beyond the point of reconciliation. “You… you’re supposed to be a reverend, a preacherman! You’re supposed to be innocent and holy, how could you make such an accusation?!”
“Should I take that as a yes, then?” he asks. “If so then we can put an end to this right now, I belie–”
“What is this, Reverend Campbell?” Jonathan Knox demands without donning his words with a metal coat of accusation. “You have me strapped to a table in some basement… or is this just your bedroom back behind the church? ” and thus the armor slips on. “And now you’re talking about me getting touched inappropriately. What, did you bring me back here for a little priestly one-on-one? Is this some sort of confession, Father? Punish me, for I have not sinned? ”
Reverend Campbell sighs. Jonathan hears a shifting of meaty weight followed by feet – slimy, squelching feet – crossing the metal room towards him. Then, from right behind him, Campbell growls, “Let me explain something to you, Jonathan Knox.”
“Fine,” Jonathan Knox says venomously, then recoils when the spittle lands back down on his face. “Do your worst, you preaching scum.”
Cold, slimy hands press against Jonathan’s face, the fingers digging into his cheeks and stretching his lips back to expose his teeth. His entire body falls into a state of calm; even the phantom curl smooths out.
“This confession, if calling it that pleases you, is for your benefit more than it is for mine. I brought you here, yes, but you came back to my church and placed listening devices in my private office. Had you not returned after that first night, none of this would be happening, but you did, and so it is. I could have killed you, Jonathan. Could have cut your throat and devoured you as the life faded from your eyes, but I did not. I chose to strap you down and revisit key moments in your childhood in order to better understand your past traumas, in order to better understand you. So you may be wondering – why did I do this? Why am I bothering with you?”
Jonathan was not wondering any of that, actually. Jonathan was – and is – not wondering anything at all. His mind is blank to the point that saliva is pooling in his gaping mouth, and he’s totally aware of it. He can’t seem to do anything about it, but Jonathan is totally aware of what’s happening to him, like he’s a ghost trapped in an unfeeling robotic shell with dead batteries covered in acid and corrosion.
“I hate you, Jonathan Knox. I have hated you ever since that first night I met you, and when I saw you back in my church the next day after ranting and raving like a lunatic, I hated you even more. When I knocked you out I was planning on ending your life and dumping what was left of your body deep in the woods, but then I went into my office. Then I found the bugs, Jonathan, and do you know what went through my mind when I found those disgusting little listening bugs?”
If only Jonathan Knox could shake his head no, but alas, the preacherman has it gripped tightly between his slick and slimy hands.
“Rage, Jonathan Knox. A vehement, furious kind of rage which gave me urges to decapitate and dismember you, to obliterate you bodily and free this planet from the scourge that is your existence, but there was something else, too. A curiosity. A creature so intrinsically broken as you must have a reason for being broken, Jonathan. All these cracks… you just had to be dropped on your head at some point in your life.
“And so you see, Jonathan Knox, although I am not a preacherman, I am still many things. I’m gifted in a way, Jonathan, an empath of sorts, and I have the ability to heal others of their trauma, to make them whole again no matter how small of a fragment of their true self remains in them. There’s not much character left of you, Jonathan Knox, but I can restore you. I can bring you back to full form like a starfish, but first we must visit the heart of your trauma. You must relive the difficult parts so I may rid you of them, and so I ask you again: were you sexually assaulted as a child? Because, quite frankly, a disturbing number of the inhabitants of Wuester whose minds I’ve peered into have experienced that – have committed that – and if I have to sit here and watch a full fucking snuff film involving a child with more hair on its head than present across its entire body, I would just as soon end your life now and prepare you for consumption.
“So do not lie to me, Jonathan Knox,” said as if he has a choice. “Were you touched inappropriately as a child?”
‘No,’ Jonathan says in his mind, as the muscles in his face are too stiff and rigid for him to talk. ‘Mister Sir never touched me, he was a kind and gracious guardian.’
“Good,” the reverend says, and does Jonathan detect a hint of gratitude in his voice? Yes, he does, right above the disappointment. “Good. Earli–”
‘He did lock me in a closet, though,’ Jonathan reveals. ‘Lots of times. Sometimes for days on end.’
Campbell says nothing. His fingers relax, returning to Jonathan Knox the use of his face. “That’s what you were referring to earlier, wasn’t it?” Neil sounds tired. “When you claimed your eavesdropping habit saved your life.”
“Yes,” Jonathan coughs when he’s finished gagging after swallowing a fat mouthful of tepid saliva. “He was always very good to me, except when he locked me in the closet. On those days he wouldn’t talk to me, he wouldn’t even look at me. I would wake up and he would be in the doorway; as soon as I said something or moved he would come in, grab me by the wrist, and drag me through the house to an open closet door in the main hallway, just down from the living room. It locked from the outside, didn’t even have a knob on the inside, and he’d throw me against the back wall and slam the door in my face and I would cry and scream but the closet door was thick, and the walls were thick, too. Soundproof. Then, when it was finally time for me to come out, he would be all smiley and act like it never happened. It was the worst thing to ever happen to me, worse even than my parents’ house burning down because at least that only happened once. I was locked in that same closet dozens of times during the years I was living with Mister Sir, the psychological torture was harrowing… I don’t think I’ve ever been the same since all that…”
Another sigh, defeated and accepting of that defeat. “All right, Jonathan. All right. After you escaped from… that, where did your life go? How did you come to live in Wuester, New Jersey?”
Jonathan thinks for a moment, letting his nose do the breathing. “I was recruited by a top-secret branch of the government. I was really young, hardly even a teenager, but they took me in regardless. They said my young age was useful, that I could sneak into small spaces a grown man just couldn’t manage. I worked for them almost all my life, and then…”
Jonathan trails off into ambiguity.
“And then what? ” snarls Reverend Campbell with no patience whatsoever. He then begins to growl under his breath, which Jonathan takes as a cue to keep going.
“Well… and then I was released with a big chunk of money, a chunk of money I’ve been living off ever since.”
“Why didn’t you just say that? Why did you trail off?”
“The reason I was released from the government job, Reverend Campbell. It has to do with Mister Sir and the day I escaped, the most traumatic day of my life, the day where I learned the truth about the man who took me in after my parents died. I can’t tell you until we go back to the past.”
The reverend sighs the sigh of all sighs and takes his hands off Jonathan’s face, allowing the man’s nerves to breathe again.
“All right, Jonathan. We’re going to revisit that day, and then we’re through. Then this… what did you call it? Confession, that’s it. After we revisit the day you escaped Mister Sir this confession will be over, you will tell me whatever else you feel the need to tell me about, and then I will temporarily purge your consciousness clean so the true healing–… well, so what’s coming next for you may arrive.” The reverend places his fat, slimy fingertips on Jonathan’s temples. “Are you ready?”
“No, not ye–”
Jonathan Knox’s eyes roll back into his skull. He’s hurled violently into his past as though he was thrown there, landing hard with a crash against the solid back wall of a soundproof closet.
Hello Commons, this has been the sixth subchapter of the fourth chapter of Under the Hood: The Imprisonment of Jonathan Knox, a novel about a man who likes to eavesdrop on his neighbors.
Under the Hood: The Imprisonment of Jonathan Knox is the second book in the W-2222 series, a series of books which take place in Universe W-2222.
Under the Hood: The Imprisonment of Jonathan Knox is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
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