Estimated reading time — 15 minutes
Hello. I’m Father Lucie and I’m a man of faith. I’m a man of the clergy and I believe in right and wrong, and nothing in between. I believe that a man’s soul is a precious thing; a fragile thing; and I’m self-employed in upholding that belief. I work in a private sector of the church; a sector founded and run solely by myself. The work I do is not unlike a legal conciliation service. I’m an arbitrator; I settle disputes of the soul.
I’m a SOUL man. And I’ve got a passion that burns for the job.
I’m here to share Jake Avery’s story with you, my most recent subject, for educational purposes. Everyone at some point in their life will cross paths with me or my work so it’s best learn about it now and save yourself the trouble of asking who I am, or what I’m doing barging in on your life at such an unexpected moment.
I’ll be there to help you, so remember to shut up and listen to what I have to say.
It’s probably going to be important.
Mine and Jake Avery’s story begins a while back in Jake’s hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. What happened was that Jake Avery killed somebody.
That’s the short version.
It was an accident, we all understand that, but honestly, it’s irrelevant. Jake avoided all consequences related to the accident, and this bothered people; important people. They were upset by how it all played out. And I’m not talking about the families torn up and destroyed by his mistake, God no, people a lot more important than that. When I say that Jake avoided all consequences related to the accident, I don’t mean he was found innocent in a court of law.
No, nothing that official.
Jake ran. He was scared, granted, but the upset parties I deal with weren’t concerned with his reasons, or personal qualms. They wanted justice. That’s where I came in. It was my job to help Jake to help himself. It was my job to smooth things out between him and the upset parties, as best as I could.
I’ll skip ahead a bit. Jake Avery eventually found himself in a 5×5 windowless concrete room, orange glowing in around the door, sat at a metal table on a metal chair. There’s a stink that wafts in when the letter box slot on the door slides open to deliver his food.
But we don’t talk about that.
On the metal table was a wax-sealed envelope, which he had opened, and in that envelope was a note. On the note, in decorative script, someone had written:
“Like a man, and on your own, work it out; I’ll send you home.”
I should tell you: I knew who wrote that note, but I can’t tell you why I couldn’t tell Jake that just yet. There were also two photographs that accompanied the envelope, but I’ll get into that in a moment too. It was my job to speak with Jake Avery every so often, to ask him why he was there in that room; to ask him why he was taken. He was angry at first that I couldn’t give him any clues; very angry, and would refuse to speak to me at all. He knew why he was there, he just didn’t want to admit it. Understandable, I suppose. He hadn’t even been given the chance to change out of his torn up clothes.
The first of the two photographs found in the envelope was a Mr Eric Luf’s passport photo. He was a Norwegian student living in Richmond with friends.
Jake killed him.
He was driving home from his parents’ house one misty night when he swerved to miss a Rottweiler standing in the middle of the road. The Rottweiler seemed to appear at the last moment and showed no signs of moving. Eric Luf was cycling in the opposite direction and was hit by Jake’s car; an unfortunate event no doubt.
Jake got out of his car to check on Eric only to find that Eric had been killed on impact. He was scared, understandably. Who wouldn’t have been?
The morticians report even shocked me.
What Jake did next though, is extremely vital to our story. He got back in his car and drove away. Now, Jake Avery was never caught for what he did; he hadn’t even known Eric’s name until he saw it written on the bottom of the passport photo in the envelope. The man honestly hadn’t slept a good night’s sleep since it happened.
Those terrible dreams. The ones that throw us out of our bed sticky with sweat and piss.
Eric’s shattered face with brain showing in the eye sockets visits Jake every night. But once again, my associates aren’t interested.
I would visit his 5×5 concrete room once a day. He sat at the desk with his back to the door and he always held Eric Luf’s photo in one hand, the note in the other; eyes flitting between them. My job was to approach him, and ask him the same thing every day:
“Why are you here Jake?”
He’d throw down the photo and note and respond something along the lines of “I don’t know goddammit, I already told you I don’t know! You tell me!”
At that point I’d leave the room and wait to ask him again the next day. My job wasn’t to force it out of him.
He had to figure it out on his own. He had to admit it.
‘Like a man, and on your own, work it out; I’ll send you home.’
On the fourth day however, when I visited Jake Avery’s stinking 5×5 cell, he was holding the second photograph in his hand; the one I haven’t explained to you yet. I had not yet seen him pay any attention to it. I’ll go through it quickly so I can get back to telling you what he said to me on that fourth day.
The second photograph was of a man called Eli Curf, a Romanian they think. The name was written below his face on the photo, just like Eric’s. Nobody really knows who he was, to be honest, and the body was never claimed.
I however, did know who he was.
It was on that same road that Eric died that Eli followed Jake to one cold Sunday night. Eli had bad intentions.
Very bad intentions.
Eli had been tailing Jake for about twenty minutes when Jake pulled into a gas station. Eli didn’t follow him and kept driving. He did a U-turn further up along the road and stopped under a street light on the shoulder.
Eli sat in his car facing towards the gas station and waited for the headlights of Jakes car to appear coming towards him. When they did he floored it and took off back down the road directly for Jake. Jake had no room to avoid the crash once he realized he was in trouble.
And so they crashed; man to man.
Metal to metal.
Face to pavement.
Jake survived and Eli died. It’s kind of funny when you think about it; in a tragic sort of way. Jake again, suffered little to no injury, except for a bad concussion, while Eli lay dead on the concrete at the end of a trail of his own face. Jake was lucky to be alive, really.
He stuck around for emergency services that time. I guess it was because it wasn’t his fault, technically. The men took him into the back of the ambulance, but he knew immediately that they weren’t doctors. I can tell you personally that that was obvious. I think it goes without saying that they didn’t bring him to a hospital; they brought him to me.
And now we’re back to the 5×5 concrete room that smelled like charred bodies, and back to Jake looking at the second photo; Eli’s photo; and me about to ask him the same question I’ve asked him once a day for the past four days:
“Why are you here, Jake”. But this time was different.
He dropped the photo and looked up at me, “Who are you?”
Really he wasn’t allowed to ask questions, but I decided to humour him in hope of getting an answer for my own question to come.
“I can’t tell you who we are.”
Jake brought his fist down on the desk in anger. I told him politely that if he did it again I wouldn’t hold myself back from slapping him. He regained his composure.“No. I meant who are you?”
“My name is Fr. Lucie. I’ve told you that before, Jake,” I replied. I knew that Jake knew my name; he had asked me before when he first arrived; he was asking because he thought I’d have a different answer, but I didn’t. Not right now.
With that out of the way I asked him:
“Why are you here, Jake?”
He seemed to have come to the end, and I was glad.
“Why do you want me to admit it? You know I know why I’m here, I wouldn’t be here otherwise, so why do I have to admit it to YOU!?”
I was getting somewhere now. I could feel it.
“You see Jake; your soul is in trouble. I’m here to help you. What you did to Eric Luf is inexcusable, and your confession is required by some very powerful people for you to be able to return home.”
I pointed to the note that read “Like a man, and on your own, work it out; I’ll send you home.” He looked at it for a moment and considered his options.
I wished he’d hurry up, to be honest. I wasn’t expecting him to take so long and I had others to visit.
After processing the note for a moment he came to a crossroad in his own head. He asked me:
“What do I have to do to go home?”
So I told him what he had to do.
I told him, “Jake, you need to let me into your soul to save you. I’m here to help you, I’m here to make things right for you, and the only way to do that is for you to grant me permission to your soul so I can mend what’s been broken.”
It’s mostly bullshit, but it sounds convincing and if I had told him that he needed to eat my shit he’d be lying under me — mouth open wide — before I could even squat.
All he could think about was getting out of that place at that point, and so he said without a second thought:
“Of course, just tell me what to say.”
So I told him, and he repeated almost word for word: “Fr. Lucie I killed Eric Luf. I grant you permission to my soul; to make me better and to make me a good person again.”
That was all I needed to hear. It was about time too. The hard part was over and done with and it was time to have some fun. I’d been waiting for that moment for four whole days, and boy had I been waiting. It was some good work I did on Jake too, some of my best. I deserved some leisure time.
A sort of ‘work hard; play hard’ kind of thing.
It’s what I live for.
As soon as he said the words I knew I could relax. I knew we’d worked our problem out and all parties would be happy.
“Jesus Christ, Jake, you took it out of me!”
He seemed confused, they usually do.
He said: “Do I get to go home?” Goddamn they ask the same thing every time!
“No, not just yet”, I replied; pointing at the note sitting on top of Eric Luf’s not yet collapsed face.
I dragged a chair over beside Jake; “Read it, what does it say?”
Now he seemed very confused, and he made me very angry with that stupid look on his face when he was. He picked it up with both hands, as he wouldn’t have been able to manage one, and replied.
“Like a man, and on your own, work it out; I’ll send you home.”
“Very good Jake,” I said, standing up and throwing my chair against the wall in one swift motion, “So work it out!”
I was standing over him now watching him fumble with the photos and note on the desk.
I had scared him.
I could see he was getting very stressed.
I watched him rearranging the photos pointlessly for a moment – he was afraid I would be angry if he asked me what to do – before grabbing them off of him and rearranging them as follows: Eric Luf’s name and photo to the left, the note in the middle and Eli Curf to the right of them. I stood back and folded my arms, excited to see what he’d do next.
“Work it out, Jake.”
He sat hunched over them for a moment before looking up at me like the pathetic monkey he was.
He frantically said “I don’t know what to d-”
Before he could finish I had flipped the table and everything on it across the room.
Jake Avery stayed sitting on the chair by himself and watched me jump onto the ground in front of the overturned table and photos.
He was a piece of work, I’m telling you.
I rearranged the notes and photos again on the ground in the corner of the smelly 5×5 room.
“Jake, get over here.”
Reluctantly, a clearly terrified Jake made a noise a child would make and came over to where I was kneeling. He got down on all-fours and again, stared at the photos without a clue of what he was doing. I knelt there beside him for a minute before he went to rearrange them again for no reason; just to look like he was doing something.
I slapped his hand away and picked up the first photo; Eric Luf’s photo.
I held it up in front of us and said “Now, what does it mean, Jake. Look at the letters”
He wasn’t comfortable being so close to me, I could tell. My patience wearing thin, I thought I’d help him out a bit.
“Look at the letters!” I said, before proceeding to announce each character in Eric’s name out of order.
“See Jake, look at this: E – R – I – C – L – U – F. Now, watch: L – U – C – I – F – E – R.”
He looked at me like he knew, but he didn’t.
I picked up the second photo, Eli the Romanian’s photo, and I did what I did with the last.
Holding it up in front of myself and Jake I started reciting the letters.
“E – L – I – C – U – R – F, see how that works Jake? Now watch what I do with them:
“L – U – C – I – F – E – R.”
Jake sat back against the wall with this puzzled look on his face, scanning the two photos, as if it couldn’t be true.
“What does you mean?” he asked.
I got to my feet, delighted we’d eventually gotten past that part, and took a deep breath.
“Now, do me,” I said.
As if it couldn’t have gotten any worse.
He looked at me in bewilderment. “What do you me-”
I interrupted him before he could say something stupid again; “Do my name, like the other two.”
When he didn’t get the message I grabbed Eric’s photo from his hand and with my pen I wrote on the back my name:
I gave it back and slowly he began reciting the letters; “F – R –”
“No,” I interrupted, “Skip that and go straight to the next part.”
I waited with my arms folded for him to begin, and then he did.
He recited my name: “L – U – C – I – F – E – R.”
The look on Jake’s face was priceless; hilarious. But the best was yet to come. He still had no idea. Sure he had worked out the names, but he didn’t fully understand what it meant yet.
“Well done Jake, you got it!” I said.
Still terribly confused, but happy I was not angry with him anymore, he replied:
“Do I get to go home now?”
At this point I was in stitches! I couldn’t contain myself! Jake – still terribly confused and not knowing what to do – started laughing with me. Wiping a tear from my eye I told him:
“Of course not!”
His expression changed suddenly, he was doing that face that he does. The stupid one I was telling you about
“What’s the matter, Jake?” He looked at me for a moment, waiting for me to break character and start cracking up again.
But I didn’t.
When he realized I was serious, he scrambled for the note I had written for him four days previously. He held it out and started reading:
“Like a man, and on your own, work it out; I’ll send you home.”
It’s good, isn’t it?
After reading it he looked up at me again; “You said I could go home.”
“Yes,” I replied. “I did say that.”
He thought very carefully about what he would say next, and then he attempted to read me the note again. I interrupted him halfway and finished the rhyme:
“… that’s right Jake, I’m a liar AND a poet!”
Exhausted by our conversation I had picked Jake’s chair up from where I’d thrown it against the wall and sat down on it facing him. I found my deck at the bottom of my pocket and lit a cigarette. Now he was shouting nonsense and insults at me from where he was sitting on the ground:
“What do you mean you’re a liar?! You said I could go home! I figured your damn puzzle out, just like you said!”
Jake had a whiney voice.
And yes, you’re dead right, the poor guy still didn’t get it!
I smiled at him throwing his little tantrum and waited for him to give me an opportunity to speak. I figured it would be better to let him get it all out of his system now; bottling up that kind of anger is bad for the soul.
When he quieted down for a second I told him:
“You can’t go home Jake. You don’t have one.”
That response didn’t go down well.
“What do you mean I don’t have a home?!” he demanded.
I thought about how I’d tell him, but I decided I’d just be completely blunt with him. I leaned back and got comfortable, getting ready to savour his reaction, and then I told him:
In hindsight, perhaps I shouldn’t have told him like that. It’s a hard thing for anyone to swallow.
In retrospect, maybe I should have broken it to him slowly; eased him into it a little. God, I can be so rash sometimes. People are always telling me and I’m only starting to see it!
But oh well.
What’s said was said.
Now, my dear reader; as your humble narrator I should probably explain something to you all; in case you’re as God awfully dull as Jake Avery and haven’t caught on to what’s going on yet.
There never was an Eric Luf.
He doesn’t exist.
Although don’t get too confused; Jake did actually kill someone with his car on that fateful night, it just wasn’t Mr Luf. I created Mr Luf for our story; an anagram of my own name for dramatic effect! It did work though, didn’t it? It gave a certain ‘oomph’ to the delivery, I thought.
Anyways; on that night, Jake did swerve to miss a dog and he did mow down a man on his bike. The difference is that in the real story, Jake Avery didn’t stop.
He ploughed straight through body and bike and into a ditch. A piece of fencing splintered and broke off into his chest, and that was the end of Jake.
He went somewhere else that night when reality split into what happened, and what I allowed to happen.
Just for fun!
He was carried away with a sheet over his body; dead and blood still slipping out past the fence in his chest.
But he also drove home unharmed in his car.
So, basically I allowed Jake Avery some time to think about what he had done, to see what he’d do; like a test! The past couple of weeks he’s been living in an alternate reality. Kind of like purgatory, except purgatory’s just a silly myth. During this time I was judging him; weighing his soul.
Do you see what I’m saying?
Because I can’t just take anybody’s soul, there has to be a good reason.
I like to think that taking a soul is like cooking a steak. See God, as patient as he his, likes his steaks rare. He likes his steaks pure, quick off the pan without incident.
He likes them to be as close to what they were like coming off the cow as possible.
I like mine burnt to a crisp.
Now you’re probably starting to connect the dots.
Don’t do that.
You should never do that.
You’re probably thinking that Eli Curf wasn’t real, just like Eric.
I was Eli Curf. When I had finished cooking Jake’s soul, and decided it was ready to take off the pan, I drove head first into Mr Avery, along that same road where he had killed ‘Eric Luf’. In the alternate reality where Jake was dead, they had lowered his body into his grave just that morning.
I didn’t really need to do that, to be honest; it wasn’t entirely necessary. I could have just come to him in the middle of the night and dragged him by his hair into hell, but where’s the fun in that?
You’ve all probably guessed by now too, that my real name isn’t Fr. Lucie, and I’m not a priest.
Sorry about that.
It’s just another anagram for my real name; it’s just for show. An interesting way to tell Jake. To add a bit of depth to our story. Because that’s all it is really, isn’t it. A story?
Was Jake real, or was he just another character? Am I real, or am I just a quirky story-telling device?
Am I just a fairy-tale?
I have sleepless nights thinking about that sort of thing; honestly! Someone once said that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist. But I didn’t convince anyone that I didn’t exist.
You all convinced yourselves.
I digress. When I explained all these details to Jake Avery he still didn’t believe me. Can you imagine? Jake didn’t want to believe me, but deep down I think he did. You notice when your soul is gone; it’s a feeling that’s hard to ignore. You can feel that something is missing.
I felt it. Jake felt it, even if he didn’t know it.
He was very distraught at this point in our conversation. I got up off my chair and went over to where he was sitting against the wall crying. I sat down in front of him and told him how much fun we were going to have together.
He wasn’t interested.
He spat in my face, and with that I smiled and picked him up off the floor by his throat. Two of my employees entered and I handed him over to them. They dragged him to the door, but before they left for the furnace I called to the now kicking and screaming Jake Avery.
Before I tell you what I said, I would bet your life that there was one thing that you missed; one detail you overlooked in our story.
I was so excited to tell Jake.
From the moment I met him I couldn’t wait. I could barely control myself from just blurting it out, being as rash as I am. Oh you’re going to love it too, I swear!
Eric Luf, Eli Curf, Fr Lucie, the note. It was all build-up; pawns to my joke.
Do you understand?
The build-up to the greatest punch line; the ultimate gag!
Possibly the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled? I don’t think so.
My employees held Jake at the door where I had called to him. He could feel the heat coming from the cracks now. The smell of burning flesh getting stronger. The smell of eternity.
He knew he was close.
He cried to me: “Where am I going, take me home! Who the fuck are you people!? Tell me who you are!”
He set it up perfectly! It couldn’t have been any better, not even if I had done it myself. I leaned into Jake’s ear.
I whispered to him:
“Jake, I’m the dog in the street.”
Credit To – Coffeey