Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Man Who Doesn't Exist

“The devil? Satan? Are you serious? Who believes that crap anymore?”

Jordan felt self-conscious and vulnerable when it came to the faith of his forefathers, a faith that he knew had become increasingly defunct and outmoded in the early 21st century. Aleister was unrelenting in his criticism, not merely because of Jordan’s belief in “Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness,” as Aleister mockingly phrased the issue, but religious faith in general. His obvious contempt for Jordan’s belief in the existence of the Devil was only a means to an end; Aleister would not rest until his friend would give up any vestige of "ridiculous fideism."

“Did you ever stop to ponder, my dear friend,” Aleister continued, “whether the devil, capital D, your Devil, the one you fear lurks behind every sinister act—Mr. Beelzebub, if you like, yes, the very same Evil One enunciated and nourished from the feathered, dripping pens of ancient scribes and later fostered by horror flicks and gothic novels—is really just a man in the garb of a devil? Have you ever thought upon it?”

Jordan didn’t like this line of questioning from his friend, and he certainly was uncomfortable with having his spiritual interior turned inside out. Is it so wrong to believe in the possibility that Satan exists? After all, humans, in the West at any rate, have believed in his power, and trembled at the thought of it, for centuries. Were they so benighted? Nonetheless, Jordan was embarrassed to hold such a view in today’s world. He looked around nervously as he sipped his Coke, but fortunately, nobody at the diner seemed to take notice of Aleister’s rant.

Belief in the devil, and its corresponding belief in an omnipotent God-Creator to keep satanic influence throughout the world in check, is not unheard of in today’s skeptical world, for as his friend Aleister so aptly pointed out, popular media keeps alive such fanaticism for its entertainment value. Jordan’s preoccupation with the Devil’s existence—and not seemingly an interaction with or involvement in “Satanism” as such—bordered on an obsession. Certainly Aleister thought so.

“Look, I’m just saying that…”

“Go on,” responded Aleister in an exasperated tone as he rolled his eyes.

“Evil exists in the world, does it not?”

“Well, Nietzsche says we should move ‘beyond good and evil.’ That is, what we call evil is just a cultural construct.  Morality, broadly speaking, is a scheme by which the Haves suppress the Have-Nots.”

“I don’t believe that. I mean…”

“Say no more, my boy.”  Aleister reached for a box of Marlboros from his breast pocket and carefully drew out a smoke.  “I’m not saying that I don’t think evil exists. Yes, yes, if the Holocaust and the torture of children aren’t evil, well, I don’t know what is."  He sniffed and licked the cigarette before lighting it.  "If I wanted to play the Devil's Advocate, thoughand yes, pun totally intendedI'd say that, still, morality is a construct that stems from our Darwinian survival instincts rather than any theological pissing contest between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.  I will agree  that the word evil has an important meaning for human existence, but please don’t entangle it in some theological labyrinth of your own making. And the devil no less? Come now!”

“Is it so wrong to believe that there could be an intelligence behind evil in the world?”

“Conspiracy theorist are we, Jordan? One world government operated by the Anti-Christ and his minions? Or should I say her minions? After all, if Satan or God exists, she’s probably a whore who needs to be subdued quite forcefully.” Aleister grinned from ear to ear.

“What you should consider, I think, is that….”

Aleister interrupted Jordan again, as he was wont to do. “I know what you’re going to say, my friend. What?  I’ve already succumbed to the wiles of the Devil through my disbelief in him?”

As it turns out, Jordan was in fact going there.  Aleister often seemed to possess a window onto Jordan's soul.

“Your expression tells me I’m right about that. That’s the oldest trick in the book, no? The negation of evidence is proof!  Humph!  Jordan, you disappoint me. I know you’re a smart guy."  Aleister likely had in mind Jordan's degree in chemical engineering and his eidetic memorythe former landing him a prestigious research position with Protec, a massive pharmaceutical company, and the latter giving him fingertip reference to every biblical passage on Satan, the anti-Christ and demonic possession.  "I see your nose in a big dusty book almost every time we meet,” he added.

Aleister shifted gears slightly. “I do worry about you sometimes, Jordan.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“I think you fill your head with too much trash.”

Jordan shrugged his shoulders. “I’m a deep thinker, what can I say?”

“Yes you are.”  Aleister paused to puff his cigarette for dramatic effect, letting black smoke swirl above them.  “But you need to get out more.  See the world.  You'll find that life is too complex for your facile belief in ghosts and goblins.”

“I've seen more things than you realize.  Anyway, you don’t really know me!”

“I beg to differ. Say what you will.  I know you quite well, Jordan Moore.”

After what must have been about five minutes of awkward silence, Jordan took a last gulp of his soda and walked out of the diner. He didn’t appreciate Aleister’s comments, but found mild solace in being certain nobody had overheard their conversation. It was nearly 5 pm, and he had some errands to attend to, one of which involved a trip to Wal-Mart to buy electrical tape, bleach, and plastic garbage bags.

In trying to understand Jordan’s impressionable mind, and especially his preoccupation with dark spiritual forces in the world, we’d have to turn to his evangelical grandmother who raised him from the age of 8 to 13 until an incident with a cat sent him to a boys’ home.  His parents had raised him in the Reformed faith before they got a divorce.  But Emma, his father's mother, watched over the youth when his father had a stroke and his mother was long gone, both geographically and mentally.

He had a lot on his mind lately, and few friends or acquaintances with whom to unburden his troubled heart. Aleister provided a critical ear to Jordan’s guarded queries about spiritual matters, but his friend’s unrelenting cynicism and supercilious grin always seemed to get him upset not long into one of their many conversations. His girlfriend Kelsey didn’t share his interest in demonic possession and almost broke up with him when he brought home a Ouija board.

His coworkers in the R&D lab, Scott and Miles, weren’t really interested in anything Jordan had to say apart from work. That was Jordan’s take on the matter anyway, for he internalized everything to such an extent that he often felt smarted if people weren’t overjoyed with his presence. An outside observer would perhaps see that his co-workers had extended the hand of friendship only to be bitten by Jordan’s cold eyes and awkward demeanor.

One day, Jordan finally acted out a thought, the deepest thought, in his head—the one he had kept carefully concealed throughout his teenage years, buried in recesses and folds along with his now-deceased mother and despised father. His first victim happened to be his only male victim, a boy much like Jordan, living up the street in his childhood neighborhood. A boyhood prank tinged perhaps with homoerotic overtones, Jordan tied him up with cords in the woods behind his dad's home.  Rage and curiosity got the better of him, however, and he savagely bludgeoned the poor boy one hundred times.  There was as much science as magic to the unraveling of Jordan’s murderous thoughts, for while they seemed to emerge ex nihilo like a raven appearing suddenly in a window sill—to use the poetic language of Jordan’s nameless friend, whom we have called Aleister for the sake of convenience—he would codify, categorize, and compartmentalize his memories so as to pull out a mental file at any time and take delight in savoring again and again the macabre contents.

Rape was not enough for Jordan; it never was. More often than not, sexual sadists evolve when it comes to their crimes—that is, their actions, for the seeds of their depraved desires are planted in their mind early on, before they wield that murderous knife, even before they collect and store their instruments of torture. Jordan’s second incarnated thought was the rape  of a teenage girl followed by murder.  It was not prefaced with misdemeanors like peeking into neighbors' windows, indecent exposure to a child, or attempted rape. Usually sexual sadists start out as peeping toms. Maybe they torture or have sex with animals. Eventually, their depraved lust and sadistic odyssey turn to rape and murder and torture.  Apart from the murder of that boy behind his dad's home, Jordan never took baby steps as a killer.

As he mutilated his female victims, Jordan would record their horrific cries so as to play them back over and over while he masturbated later in the safe confines of his living room.  Not merely pain, but more so humiliation and degradation brought him sexual and emotional fulfillment.

Yes, he would feel guilt the next day and almost forget that he was a monster, at least in the eyes of "society."  But before long he would put on his headphones and listen on his iPod rapturously to the shrieks of his captives begging for a merciful death.  He disposed of most of the bodies by cutting off the limbs and head, placing them in a doubled-up garbage bag, and dumping them in a sinkhole near his stepbrother's ranch.  Before he deposed of the bodies in this fashion, however, he would keep his latest victim's corpse in the trunk of his car for days.  One on occasion, Jordan, as he would later tell investigators, walked outside to his car, opened the trunk, and looked at the garbage bag.  The mere sight of the bag, coupled with the odor, gave him an erection "to high heaven."  He didn't even have to open it.

How he was able to compartmentalize these two lives is a question that only psychiatrists and crime scene profilers can make a stab at.  On the one hand, Jordan's devotion to his research won him accolades from peers and generous raises from his employer.  He could be testy when the company made decisions that he didn't agree with, and he was generally ill-suited for administrative changes or the inside-the-box thinking of his lab assistants; yet nobody questioned his ability to deliver the goods.  On the other hand, he spent many nights seeking ways to satisfy his hunger for sexual release through the humiliation and mutilation of young women.  It's as if Jordan could turn off the dark side of himself when he was at work, with his girlfriend, or at the Friday night Bible study he would occasionally attend.  It's as if Jordan the Sexual Sadist didn't even exist.

Almost two years to the day after the conversation between Jordan and Aleister in the diner, a Pike County deputy sheriff pulled Jordan over just outside of Bowling Green, Missouri, about an hour's drive from his home in St. Peters.  What was supposed to be a routine stop for a burnt-out tail light on Jordan's Ford Escort ended with an arrest.  The officer became suspicious when he spotted a mask, scissors and electrical tape on the floor of the backseat.  He called it in and found out about a break-in that had occurred within a couple of hours.

Even as three squad cars surrounded his vehicle about ten minutes later, Jordan couldn't get his latest victim off his mind.  The woman escaped his clutches with only minor bodily injuries (and a lifetime of psychological damage) when her husband and brother-in-law returned home and caught the masked intruder in flagrante delicto.   Jordan ran out the backdoor and into the darkness.  Despite the interruption, Jordan had already stored the woman in his deep database and was fantasizing what he had intended to do: make an incision with his Swiss Army knife into her throat.

As Jordan sat in a jail cell, detectives unbeknownst to him were matching his DNA to nine crime scenes throughout the Midwest.  Wanting to have ammunition against Jordan during interrogation, they had taken a sample of his saliva off his coffee mug after his arrest.

Amazingly, Jordan had gone under the radar for years and had no police record.  Had it not been for his tail light, coupled with his carelessness borne perhaps from an increasing sense of invincibility, the man whom the media called the Midwest Monster would still be committing his evil acts.

Jordan was thinking about the mistakes that led him to this jail cell when the man we've heretofore called Aleister walked in to continue their long-running, intermittent conversation.

"What's this all about, Jordan?"

"You're asking me?  I have no idea."

"Are you sure about that?"

"How bad can it be if they allow me a visitor, huh?"

Aleister looked at his caged friend and shook his head.  While expressing incredulity at Jordan's words, he reached for his pack of cigarettes, slowly pulled one out, and sniffed it.  This time, Aleister's fingers seemed disproportionately long and thin and his fingertips sharp and pointy.  Perhaps Jordan's proclivity to see devils in every dark corner skewed his vision.

"Tell me, my friend, do you still believe in the Devil?"

"Of course I do!  And only the power of God can prevail against him and protect me.  There's victory in the blood of Jesus!"

"Sure, why not?"  Aleister couldn't hold back his disdain.  "You really believe that, don't you?"

Jordan became angry at Aleister's snide remark.  Already taken aback by Aleister's appearance, or at least Jordan's perception of his appearance, he raised his voice.  "It's not about belief, but about reality.  Damn your atheistic cynicism.  I'm sick of it!  You can go to hell!"

"Go to hell," Aleister repeated softly with his trademark grin.

As the two men argued, deputies and a crime scene investigator walked toward Jordan's cell to see what the commotion was all about.  As they rounded the corner they saw only one man behind bars, Jordan, quite animated and vociferous.  "I'm sorry, officers, are we being too loud?" he responded.  The officers looked at each other, made a face as if to say What the hell?, and returned to their coffee.  Just because they didn't see Aleister, however, doesn't mean that he doesn't exist.