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The Devil Within

Chapter Text

Jack needed to get away from everything, so here he was, lost in the middle of nowhere.

It’d been a particularly rough year, his life falling apart at the seams. So the first thing he did was pack up everything he owned and set off on the open road to find an entirely new place to start all over. Problem was, there was nothing for miles and dusk was fast approaching. He’d just driven off away from nearby civilization, hoping to find somewhere, anywhere to stay. He could stay in his car for a few nights if he had to, but Jack would rather find somewhere, and quick.

There was something oddly calming about driving on the open road, only nature for miles. It was peaceful, a feeling he hadn’t felt in quite a long time. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt like this, calm and actually somewhat happy.

Before long, the sun had set and the stars were coming into focus. He could drive for a while longer before he had to pull over, but Jack decided to go ahead and do so, suddenly feeling very tired. Fog started to settle across the road, and Jack suddenly became nervous. He brushed it off as just being tired, reclining the driver’s seat and hooking up his phone, and trying to drift off to sleep. Before long, he managed to fall asleep, not noticing the figure in the fog, watching him.

Jack knew he was dreaming, but it seemed so real.

He was in the middle of the road, the choking fog settling in around him, only the sounds of cicadas around him. The moon was full, hiding amongst a stray cloud or two. His car was nowhere in sight, only him and the expanse of the road. He wandered for what seemed like forever until everything went silent and the sky went black, no trace of the moon or stars. Jack could feel a cold chill go down his spine, the feeling of being watched settling in. He turned around to check, only to see nothing. But just as he thought he was alone, something stirred out of the corner of his eye.

A thick black tendril slithered across the ground, emerging from the fog behind him. Jack recoiled back, seeing more of them come from every direction. It wasn’t long before they reached him, several of them wrapping around his legs. Jack screamed, wishing that someone would hear him. But it was only him out here, nobody else for miles. He thrashed as they dragged him towards the fog, trying to free himself. He could feel the air leave his body as the fog closed in, feeling like he couldn’t breathe. It was as if the fog itself was choking him now, tears forming in his eyes. But just as soon as it started, everything stopped, the tendrils finally releasing Jack. Suddenly, there was a voice in the distance, something else appearing in the fog.

“I’ve been waiting for you, Jack. The time is almost here,” the voice was low and menacing, yet calming at the same time. Then Jack saw the red eyes in the distance. A towering black wolf emerged, its eyes blood red, teeth bared.

“Come find me, little one,” the voice laughed, the wolf snarling as it leapt towards him. Jack screamed, cowering in fear as the wolf descended upon him. Then it was over in a flash, Jack waking up, panting and sweating. He bolted straight up in the car, looking around to see if there was anything was there. He didn’t know what the hell that dream was, but he still felt uneasy. The fog had lifted a bit, the sounds of nature once again echoing outside.

Jack glanced at his phone, seeing that it was just a few hours away from dawn. He decided to go ahead and drive, hoping that he’d find somewhere by then.

The next few hours were uneventful, Jack deciding to to put some music on blast, ignoring the sinking feeling in his stomach.

As dawn approached, he saw a faded sign in the distance, marking the limits of a town whose name he couldn’t even begin to pronounce. Jack quickly plugged the name into his GPS, puzzled as he saw that nothing came up. Apparently wherever this place was, it wasn’t on any map that he could see. He shrugged, chalking it up to some kind of glitch.

It wasn’t long before he started to see buildings in the distance, small houses dotting the way. Eventually he ended up in what seemed like a downtown area, nobody in sight. Then again, it was barely just past dawn so of course nobody would be out. Jack saw a small inn down the road, pulling into the nearly empty parking lot. As he got out and gathered his bags, a cold chill came over him. Everything seemed so lifeless around him, not a single person in sight. Some of the streetlights were flickering, which gave Jack a bad feeling. But he brushed it off, finally entering the building.

He was greeted by a man who couldn’t have been much older than him, with a smile on his face. Jack noted that he was very cute, and a wash of shame fell over him. He couldn’t think about things like that right now. Instead, he had to focus on getting a place to stay for a while, however long it took for him to work through his issues.

“What brings you here?” the man smiled, arms crossed on the desk in front of him.

“I just need a place to stay for a while,” Jack mumbled, suddenly feeling very tired. Jack tried to give him money, but he man refused it.

“Don’t worry, it’s on the house. We don’t get many long term visitors. It’s fine,” he man’s smile was gentle as he handed Jack a key, leading him to the stairs.

“The name’s Mark, by the way. I own the place,” Mark extended his hand, and Jack shook it, wondering just why this guy was so nice. He led Jack up to his new room, talking about video games on the way. When they got there, Mark opened the door, bidding Jack farewell and telling him to come downstairs if he needed anything. As the door shut behind him, Jack noticed that the room seemed a little outdated, still nice but dated a bit. There were several older gaming systems which he was thankful for since he had to sell all of his to pay for the move.

Jack unpacked his things, settling into the bed and falling fast asleep.

He was dreaming again, only this time he was in a graveyard, that same fog falling over the area. He wolf was back, only this time it was calm, laying on the ground and staring at him.

“I see you’ve made it here safely. Just as planned,” that same voice from before rang out.

“Who are you?” Jack said, his voice trembling as the wolf stood up, getting closer to him.

“You’ll find out soon enough,” that same laugh filled jack’s ears again, everything going black.

Jack woke up, feeling uneasy. He got up and looked outside, seeing that it was probably midday already. There was a knock at his door, jolting Jack out of his thoughts.

“Have a good sleep?” Mark smiled.

“Had some weird dreams again,” Jack said. “I keep seeing this huge black wolf wig red eyes and he talks to me.”

Mark paused for a moment before he spoke.

“That’s a local cryptid around here. How did you see him in your dreams?”

“I saw it while I was sleeping on the side of the road. It told me to come find it,” Jack was shaking now, recalling the first dream.

“It’s probably nothing. It’s not like it’s real or anything. It’s basically just a local tall tale,” Mark laughed awkwardly, looking down at the floor before speaking up again.

“I think it’s about time to go get lunch. Want to join me?” Mark questioned, holding open the door for Jack. Jack smiled, blushing a bit and mentally kicking himself for accepting the invite. Whatever was going on, Jack would get to the bottom of it.

As he stepped out of the room, the wolf watched from below on the streets, waiting and biding his time.

Chapter Text

It was around midday now, and Jack couldn’t have felt more awkward.

He’d accepted Mark’s invite to lunch, and now he was kicking himself for doing so. Mark seemed nice enough, but there just seemed to be something slightly off about him. It wasn’t anything bad, just strange. Jack figured that it was nothing, hoping that the feeling of nausea and unease would go away soon. On the way to the restaurant, Jack couldn’t help but feel like he was being watched. He decided to ignore it, focusing on Mark.

When they sat down, there were only a handful of other people there, and Jack thought it was strange. It should’ve been the lunch rush, but it was almost empty. After they ordered, Mark spoke up.

“So what brings you here? It’s not every day that we get anyone new here,” Mark’s voice was gentle and sweet and Jack felt so at ease around him. But still, the strange feeling persisted.

“I know you said that you needed a place to stay, but I wanna know why you’re really here. It’s not like this place is easy to find.”

“To be honest, this place just came out of nowhere. I was in the middle of nowhere and then it just appeared. I needed somewhere to start over,” Jack was nervous, trying not to crack under the pressure. “I figured this would be a good place for that.”

“Don’t worry, I think you’ll like it here. It’s pretty quiet and nothing really happens here but it’s nice and calm. It’s just a good place to get away from everyone,” Mark smiled, locking eyes with Jack. Jack felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up as he looked into Mark’s eyes. Something wasn’t right, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

“It just seems pretty weird here. I’ve barely seen anyone and I keep getting these weird feelings wherever I go,” Jack sighed, looking down at the table instead. Out of the corner of his eye, Jack could see Mark frowning slightly.

“It’ll pass, it always does. You’re just not used to being here,” that didn’t reassure Jack at all and soon enough, Mark changed the conversation to something else. Even after their food came, Mark was still talking about the things he enjoyed, and how he loved running the inn and meeting passing travelers.

“Most people don’t stay long. They just stay here for a day or two and then they’re gone. It’s nice to have someone like you around,” and there was that weird smile again. Jack liked Mark, but he couldn’t get over the slight unease he felt whenever Mark was around him. Mark really must not talk to many people, Jack thought to himself. He seemed nice and kind enough, but there was still that nagging feeling of something being off. They ate in silence, and after they were finished, Mark spoke.

“You probably wanna go explore, right? There’s a nice wooded area around here that’s really calm. I can take you there,” Mark was already in the car and Jack knew he had to go along with it. The ride was silent, the town starting to get a little busier as they rode through. It wasn’t long before they were parked outside a graveyard, and Jack got nervous. He could see the woods on the other side, Mark getting out and leading him into the graveyard.

“I like to come out here sometimes and just enjoy nature,” Mark was standing underneath a massive tree, staring into the distance. Jack knew something was wrong, but he didn’t know what. That’s when he heard something above him. There was a large group of crows in the branches above him, all with bright red eyes, and they were staring right at him. Jack stumbled back a bit, back hitting the tree as a few flew away. When he was about to ask Mark about it, he turned and nobody was there. Mark’s car was still there, but he was nowhere to be seen.

Jack started to walk through the graveyard, alone with his own thoughts. It was suspicious that Mark had suddenly vanished, almost like he hadn’t been there at all. He desperately wanted to leave, but he knew he’d have to find Mark first. Jack looked at the headstones as he walked, noticing that there were quite a few death dates dated to around 1995. He assumed it was nothing, walking into the forest. There were small markers all over the forest floor, and Jack assumed they were for memorial reasons. There were notes stapled on the trees, a few of them dated more recently. They were clearly meant in memoriam, some of them mentioning ‘the incident.’ Jack decided to file that away for later to do some research as he went deeper into the woods. Eventually there was nothing around him, the notes and stones stopping. There was however, a makeshift shrine in the heart of the woods.

Jack stepped up to it, reading the faded inscription.

“In memory of the three thousand lost,” Jack’s blood ran cold as he read it aloud, chills going down his spine. Something awful obviously happened here, and Jack was more curious than ever. But just as he was about to turn around, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Jack jumped, yelling as he fell to the ground.

“Sorry about that, I didn’t want to disturb you. I haven’t seen you around here before, are you new here?” the man had to be around Jack’s age, woh blonde hair and wearing a light jacket.

“Yeah, I just got here yesterday. What’s this about?” Jack questioned as he stood up, gesturing towards the memorial.

“Oh,” the man’s voice was solemn, his eyes meeting Jack’s. “Something happened here a long time ago that we’re not supposed to talk about. I’m Robin by the way,” Robin extended his hand, and Jack shook it as he thought about what he’d said. He got the same feeling about Robin that he had when he’d been around Mark, and now Jack knew something was up. If nobody was going to tell him, he’d find out himself.

“Have you a seen a guy named Mark around here? I rode here with him but he just vanished,” Jack looked around, hoping that maybe Mark was around here.

“Yeah! I saw him out near his car. He said he was looking for you. I’ll take you to him,” Robin sounded excited and Jack wondered why. As they walked, Robin talked about the history of the town and how he’d lived here his whole life. When Jack asked him why there weren’t many people around, Robin just shrugged and said they might just be on vacation somewhere else. That explanation seemed like bullshit to Jack, but he went along with it. It wasn’t long before Jack could see Mark, standing out by his car.

“Looks like you wandered off without me,” Mark laughed, waving at Robin.

“You two know each other?” Jack was confused.

“Yeah! We’re good friends,” Mark explained. “Haven’t really talked to him in a while though.” Jack let them talk to each for a few minutes, seeing them laugh together and smile. Jack hoped he’d find someone like that eventually. Soon enough, Robin bid him farewell and they were driving back to the inn. Jack was silent as they drove, honking about what he saw. Something had happened and obviously nobody was eager to talk about it.

It wasn’t long before hey we’re back at the inn, and it was already dark. Jack said goodnight to Mark, going back to his room for the night. As he laid in bed, Jack thought of all kinds of things the disaster could’ve been.

He could tell he was dreaming again.

Jack was back in the graveyard, that same fog hanging in the air. He could feel something grab his ankle, and he screamed and kicked at it until he saw what it was. There were zombies rising out of the ground as Jack kicked himself free, running blindly into the woods. The crows swarmed above him cawing as Jack ran. Eventually, he outran the zombies, ending up back at the shrine.

“Welcome back, little one,” Jack heard that familiar smooth voice, not knowing where it was coming from.

“Soon we’ll meet. Then you’ll see,” Jack saw a giant pith black deer with bright red eyes lumbering through the fog towards him, its antlers massive and awe inspiring.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Jack asked, bracing himself on the shrine.

“All in due time, my child,” the deer laughed, getting closer to Jack. It bowed its head, wanting Jack to touch it. Jack did, and immediately his vision was filled with images of bodies, disfigured and bloody, the town leveled and gone. The only thing left was a man in a black suit, his back facing towards Jack. His hands were gray, and his laugh was ominous. Jack stumbled back, falling on the ground.

“It’ll all make sense soon,” the deer settled on the ground, laying down it’s head.

“Now, awaken.”

Jack woke up in a cold sweat, the rain pounding on the window outside. It was the middle of the night and Jack couldn’t go back to sleep. There had to be something to his dreams, but he didn’t know what.

After what seemed like hours, Jack finally fell asleep again, not noticing that the door was cracked, Mark standing and smiling on the other side.

Chapter Text

The last two months had been a whirlwind for Jack.

He’d ended up in a sleepy, eerie little town, living out of an inn run by a weird yet charming guy. Things still felt off whenever he walked around town, but the feeling of unease started to settle down whenever he was with Mark or Robin. Speaking of Mark, he’d been flirting awfully hard with Jack lately and he didn’t mind, but it was starting to get weird. He understood that Mark liked him, but he still couldn’t get over that awful feeling.

In the time since Jack had arrived, he’d been trying to do some research, but nothing was coming up. Not on the internet, or even the local library. Everything seemed to stop at 1995, the date he’d seen on the headstones. Nothing was making sense at this point, and he didn’t know what to do.

He’d asked Mark and Robin, but neither of them would answer him. They seemed to talk in riddles, never quite giving Jack an answer. One thing he did find out though was that the people here had an urban legend. A man with gray skin, wearing a suit and able to shapeshift. Chills had run down Jack’s spine when he read that, thinking back to the man he saw in his dreams. He’d already seen the wolf that Mark had been hesitant to talk about, and now he was seeing something else that didn’t exist. Jack didn’t know what all of this meant, but he was definitely scared. This man was said to appear in times of great distress, a warning to everyone that things were about to take a turn for the worse. He was an ill omen, also appearing to those who were about to die. Jack wondered if he was in danger now that he’d seen him. Luckily it was only in a dream, not in real life. But still, Jack worried.

Nobody would talk to Jack about this man, and when Jack brought it up to Mark and Robin, they’d gone pale and started freaking out. It seemed like everyone was afraid of this entity, not daring to speak its name. But Javan was determined to figure it out.

The locals had been nice enough to him, welcoming him with open arms. But still, that feeling of dread persisted. He’d spent many a night playing games with Mark, talking about the most trivial of things and he actually enjoyed it.

Then came Halloween before he knew it, and with it came a grand festival. The locals celebrated it in the traditional sense, lighting lanterns and visiting the graves of their loved ones. Mark had explained to Jack that they treated it like a holy day, making offerings to the spirits that bled over into our plane of existence. Jack was understandably confused, but still he went along with it. The town square was decorated in lights and carved pumpkins, and Jack was actually excited. Normally he would just go to a bar and use Halloween as an excuse to drink, but tonight he was going to actually enjoy himself. There was also going to be a Halloween ball that night, and Mark had already asked Jack to be his date. Jack foolishly said yes, hoping that this would get Mark off his back. Unfortunately, it just made the flirting worse and Jack was already tired of him. Sure he liked Mark, but he was definitely being pushy. Luckily he left Jack alone for a while in order to prepare for the ball.

Suddenly, a feeling of exhaustion came over Jack, and he didn’t know why. He felt drained, almost like he was in a trance. Something was telling him to look outside the window, so as he got up, he heard voices all around him.

When he peered out of the window, he saw the man in his dreams, his back turned to Jack. Jack felt fear overcome him, but he couldn’t move. Just as the man started to turn towards Jack, he vanished, a voice ringing out clear as day.

“Come find me, my dear. I’ll be waiting.”

Jack finally felt like he could breathe again, immediately moving to sit on the bed, head in his hands as his heavy breathing filled the room. This time it wasn’t a dream, and now Jack was scared. Did this mean he was about to die like the legends said? Or was something big about to happen? He wasn’t sure, but he knew he couldn’t tell Mark or Robin. He knew he shouldn’t think about it too much, so instead he decided to rest in order to get his mind off of everything.

It wasn’t long before Mark was knocking on his door dressed in his finest clothes, telling him that it was time to go. When they got there, the hall was adorned in lights and themed decorations, Mark holding his hand as they walked in together. As they danced together, Jack realized that he actually had a bit of a crush on Mark, as weird and odd as he was. He felt a warmth blossom in his heart as he tucked his head into the crook of Mark’s neck, smiling. For just this one moment, all of his fears and troubles were gone.

The ball was winding down, and next came the trip to the graveyard to honor the dead. When they got there, Robin greeted them, a lit lantern in his hand. He handed Jack and Mark one, their hands still intertwined. They walked past the many groups of people sitting at the graves, chatting and saying their prayers. They were headed towards the shrine in the woods, as Jack noticed even more notes and items on the trees.

Jack could feel that something was wrong immediately as they reached the shrine. But when he looked to Mark to ask him, he was nowhere to be seen, and neither was Robin. Jack could’ve sworn he’d been with them just seconds ago. The darkness around him closed in, inhumanly dark and oppressive. There was a familiar laugh in the distance, and then reality itself was falling apart. The trees disappeared, red and blue glitches painting the edges of the darkness. Jack closed his eyes, clinging to the shrine as everything went dark.

When he opened his eyes, his was in a rundown mansion, the house being reclaimed by nature. There were old bloodstains on the floor, and Jack was terrified and confused, running for the door. But when he tried to open it, it wouldn’t budge. He frantically tried again and again, but to no avail.

“There’s no use in trying, you’re stuck in here with me,” Jack jumped at the familiar voice, a sense of dread filling his body. When he turned around, he gasped.

It was the man from his dreams, only he looked exactly like Mark, his skin gray and this time in a white suit.

“I’ve taken the form of someone close to you so you wouldn’t be afraid,” the man said, tilting his head and smiling with too many teeth.

“Who are you and why am I here? What did you do to Mark and Robin?” There was fear in Jack’s voice, backing up against the door to get away from him.

“You may simply call me Dark. I’ve brought you here because we were destined to meet,” Dark paused, smiling. “Your friends are just fine. Or at least, as fine as they can be.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Just please, let me go!” Jack yelled, his hair standing on end at the sound of Dark’s voice. All it took was one blink, and then Dark was right in front of him. His hand cradling Jack’s chin.

“My sweet little lamb, there’s so much you don’t know. It’s almost cute how clueless you are. You can’t even see the truth that’s staring you right in the face,” Dark cooed, his eyes going pitch black. Jack recoiled from his touch, shivering at the look in Dark’s eyes.

“Nothing is as it seems, my dear. There’s more to your fears about this place. You just need to figure it out, and I’ll be glad to help you,” before Jack could react, Dark closed the distance between them, bringing his lips to Jack’s.

Images of death and destruction flooded Jack’s mind, buildings destroyed and bodies in the streets. He saw Mark and Robin, dead torn apart, blood staining the ground, their eyes wide open.

Jack broke the kiss, violently pushing Dark away from him.

“What the fuck was that about? What are you doing to them?” Jack cried out, curling in on himself as he sank to the floor, crying.

“Don’t cry little one, I hate to see you sad. That has already come to pass, and I wouldn’t hurt them further,” Dark was in front of him again, looking down on Jack with what looked like pity in his eyes.

“But they’re not dead, they’re alive. I don’t understand,” Jack sniffled, Dark reaching his hand out to him. Jack reluctantly took his hand, being pulled to his feet and brought in close.

“All will be revealed in due time, my dear. For now though, I have to let you go. But I’ll always be watching, and you’ll never be alone,” Dark whispered, that same sinister smile on his face, his eyes black again.

The next thing Jack knew, he was back at the shrine, Mark and Robin running up to him.

“Are you okay? We’ve been looking for you for like an hour,” Robin was concerned and Mark ran up to Jack, embracing him in a hug.

“I thought something happened to you,” Mark cried, stepping back and taking Jack’s hand. Jack couldn’t look at Mark without thinking of Dark and that kiss. He knew they wouldn’t believe him, so he came up with a solid excuse, saying that he was just exploring. Both of them have each other a strange look, clearly not believing Jack’s story.

It was near midnight by the time Jack got back to the inn, and all he wanted to do was sleep. He heard a tapping on the window, and looked out to see what it was. It was a black crow, red eyes staring into Jack’s soul.

“I’ll always be watching,” Jack heard Dark’s voice, figuring that this is what he meant. He waved to the crow, going over to the bed and finally falling asleep.

What he didn’t see was Dark, looming over him, laughing as the clock struck midnight.