24 (The Staring)

John tells me there are certain people that are more animal than man. In most situations, he says, you’d never know the difference.

“Perhaps they’re a little too much. The signs seem insignificant though and in this culture, we often prize the ruthless. It starts off with competition. You watch, he’ll get carried away. He cheats, pushes the guy out of the way to win the race, kind of deal. Or maybe it’s the absence of rules that punctuates his inability to stay in line. I don’t know. With Jackson, it was the staring.

If anyone else noticed it, nobody said anything. He stared at people like they were prey. Like construction workers with pretty women. Leering would be too obvious though – this was something you felt more than you saw.

The first time I really couldn’t deny it, was when we saw the body. It was the first time I had seen anyone almost dead in front of me. I’m pretty sure it was the first time for him too. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the man died, but he hadn’t yet. He was more gone than not, which is I guess why I thought of him as a body instead of a person. There was blood and something else. Lumps. I looked away. I didn’t really want to know what they were. Organs maybe? Huge clots of blood? Later on the lumps would become larger and larger so that to this day I’m not convinced they weren’t boulders.

But he just stared. If there had been a stick around, I’m sure he would have poked the man. I remember watching him watching and feeling how still everything had become. Except for the body of course. The body was everywhere. I think cold air cracks the sharpness of a voice because it stung deeply.

After seeing him there, I kept an eye out. Jackson watched everyone with the same detachment. It was a mix between intense curiosity and vacancy.

Maybe a week later I noticed him walking behind one of the guys. He was a beat too close. If you got distracted, you’d forget about the whole thing all together. Just one of those stupid observations, like birds. But it was the way that his feet moved in exactly the same time that made me realize he had stuffed his body completely into his eyes. He made no sound. His presence was hidden. The only thing encroaching upon this guy’s space, was Jackson’s vision. Which the guy couldn’t see.

I watched them for about ten minutes until I noticed the guy’s hand wrap around the back of his neck. He could feel it too. It was the sense that something bodiless was penetrating, but understanding how was too complicated. He kept touching his neck for the next three miles, but he never looked back. Sometimes people don’t want to know.”

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