(Author's note: yes, Jack is creepy. Irene doesn't call him Jack "the Creep" Osinski for nothing. I've been told by a couple of people who read the first chapter that he seems very unrealistic, but I wanted to make him a cutter who isn't just another sob story – I don't mean to sound jaded towards cutters, I understand it's a big deal, my friend used to be a cutter, but this is fiction. Once you've read this and get more of a taste of Jack's messed up brain, let me know if you agree with my preliminary reviewers! If this is the case, I'll change some things. Thanks! Enjoy! ~not Ross)

Chapter Three

You can't see past the blood on my hands

To see

That you've been aptly damned

To fail

And fail again.

~Relient K: "Forgiven"

Jack knew that Sylvia didn't like being called a "shrink," but it said so right on there on her office door in brown and gold: Ph.D. ~ Sylvia R. Hobbes ~ Psychiatrist. "Shrink" was just a "shrunken" form of the word psychiatrist.

He sat on the red synthetic velvet couch in her office. He loved the color of it, the dark red. Sylvia had stopped using a notebook to write things down during his weekly visits, which he appreciated. What he didn't appreciate was that his shrink knew him well enough to have picked up on that.

"How was the first day of school, Jack?" she asked.

"Mundane." Jack preferred one-word answers. They were that much less information to analyze. Everything he said lately was treated like evidence in a murder trial, and he was the defendant.

"What kinds of things did you do in your classes?"

Coming up on two years and she still hadn't learned that open-ended questions were a waste of time. Jack didn't need to go to a shrink, he wasn't crazy. Sylvia was a fine person – quite pretty, actually, and on some days he even enjoyed talking to her. He didn't get why his parents felt obligated to pay for him to talk to some woman who had a Ph.D. There were so many lapses in his parents' logic. "Boring stuff. Rules. Course outlines."

She nodded. Jack hated the head-nod. Nodding was what people who patronized him did. It was how they established their power without bothering to notice that Jack could out-think them by miles at a time. "What was your favorite class?"

No-brainer there. Jack had heard that Mr. Rollard was a killer teacher. "History."

"Why?" Jack could just picture Sylvia's pen getting all excited against her notebook as soon as he started to answer this question. She thought that any portion of conversation that began with "why" was a gold mine of psychological information. She should have foreseen the answer, though, if she was such a professional.

Jack invited himself to lie prostrate on the couch with his feet up in the air. "Because the teacher isn't stupid." Inwardly, he grinned, because it was so perfect. Sylvia's mission in life, as a therapist, was to not put down the views, beliefs, or perceptions of other people. She wasn't a life coach, she wasn't a priest. But Jack knew that she hated disrespectful comments. She just had to grin and bare it. It was so perfect.

Jack suspected that most therapists didn't have to deal with patients (the term people like Sylvia used for incompetent messes of human beings like she thought he was) who were smarter than them.

Sylvia's grimace was visible. "Why do you say that?"

"Because he didn't even have a syllabus, so he didn't waste time going over it. He only gave us a list of questionable content that'll be covered."

Days like this, there was no way that Sylvia could like him. "What kind of questionable content?"

Not that he was about to complain, but how did asking him questions about dirty things they'd be learning in history get her any closer to "figuring him out"? Just to annoy her, Jack started picking at the scabs on his wrist, making sure she'd notice. "Like sex trade." Actually, he didn't have any clue. He hadn't looked at the paper, and there was no way he was showing it to his parents like Mr. Rollard suggested. From what he could tell, Mr. Rollard was the kind of teacher whose suggestions were treated like 9th grade scripture.

Oh, how Jack hated that he was fourteen. 9th grade. Vomit. How old did he have to be before somebody started taking him seriously?

Bit by bit, she dragged a summary of the day out of Jack – he left out the part about that kid Eli sitting with him at lunch because that would overload every therapist sensor in poor Sylvia's brain – and their hour finished up right on time with his account of the final bell ringing. He listened tacitly to his parents talking in the car on the way home. Of course they pretended that they forgot he was listening to every word they said and analyzing them almost as zealously as they analyzed him. They were discussing the weirdest items in the daily Macy's ad that came in the morning paper, as if two rational adults who really thought no one suspect was listening would actually look through an entire Macy's ad. So maybe they weren't rational. In which case, who were they to call him the crazy one? After all, he was smart enough to avoid being analyzed, and they were not.

Ever since they started trying to unravel the mystery of Jack Osinski sometime around the middle of seventh grade, he kept his room clean and free of excessive personal information. It was exhausting trying to stay out from under the psychological microscope that they kept him under day and night, and back when he was twelve, it was downright terrifying knowing that anything he did or said could be added to a file somewhere. He'd gotten used to it.

The worst part was that he was starting to see himself through their eyes. He looked back at the wide-eyed twelve year old Jack with the stinging scratches on his wrists and saw an immature little boy. That was only two years ago. Think how they, the adults, must view him. Think how invincible he would be two years from now. He hated how objectively he could see things. It prohibited any simple, single-thread thought. But in the long run, it would come in handy, he guessed.

Cutting his wrists would be a lot easier once he started needing to shave his face. They couldn't refuse a sixteen year old boy a razor, not unless they wanted to obliterate any chance of getting a girlfriend, a social risk that his parents would never take. They'd have no choice. In the meanwhile, they'd locked the master bathroom where they kept their own razors, and Jack was forced to sequester a silver X-acto knife in the cardboard box in his closet that held artwork from elementary school. Hours of thought went into that hiding spot, and he still wasn't sure if it was the best place. There was no best place.

The X-acto knife was a sweet release, like sex to some people, Jack supposed. He scraped all the scabs away with the shining silver blade and watched, fascinated, as blood pooled in little drops on his skin. Surface tension. The color was beautiful. If he ever saw an apple that color, he'd eat it in a heartbeat, right there in the store, the juice dripping off his chin, core and all. If he ever saw a girl with lips that color, he'd drop his life on the sidewalk and kiss her so hard until one of them died. Sylvia's couch was this color. When he grew up and lived alone in his own apartment with absolutely no one to analyze his every movement, the walls would be this color – if Home Depot could even make such a color.

His breath came quick now. His neck was sweating, and the pale insides of his wrists burned. It was a far-away pain, though, it didn't matter because of the bubbling red stripes on his white skin, because he could show these to people and they would see him as the stand-out, the prodigy, that he was. They'd know how inferior they were, and the best of them with take up their razor blades and follow him. That was how he'd become this way, wasn't it? The nameless girl in black at Stork Hill in seventh grade. It was hot. He sleeves were pushed up to her elbows, and there were the cuts on her wrist. Jack latched onto the image, cleaved like peanut butter to it. How powerful she must be, he thought, to inflict that upon herself, how mentally unmatchable. So he decided to become her match.

And just look at him. Outwitting the analyzers. How this knife had helped him. How it sharpened his mind to overcome the slicing of his skin, the pain. He could do anything with his mind now. He had won. He had become the nameless girl's equal.

So maybe others could become his equal. Eli, Eli could. Eli was stupid now. but he might have instinct enough to take Jack's cuts to heart and become a follower of the nameless girl as well. That was how Jack knew how stupid everyone else in the world was, that they didn't do it as she did, that they called him crazy for following. Maybe Eli wasn't so stupid. Jack had intuition about these things, and Eli was the first person he'd eaten lunch with since November of eighth grade. He realized he needed to distance himself from the stupidity. He looked for the nameless girl, but she was elusive, a phantom, an angel. If being mentally superior meant keeping away from stupid people and being alone, so be it. The rest of them couldn't handle the isolation; he could; he liked it. One didn't become powerful and successful by having stupid friends. Eli, though, Eli… had promise.

He traced patterns with the blood that dripped from the lethal tip of the X-acto knife. The color, so beautiful. He thought of the nameless girl, as he always did when the blade was in his skin. Without her, he would be stupid.

The blood was getting sticky. He dipped a Kleenex in his water bottle and cleaned his wrists. He liked looking into the valleys of the knife's tracks. That the dry layer all over his body had life, had depth, like a human. He stared into his cuts, then wiped off the X-acto knife, returned it to its place beneath a painting of his mom from fourth grade, and started his English homework.