"I can explain everything that's happened," Jack said.
"Thank God," I said.
"Just Jack, if you don't mind," Jack said. "You see, it's a chain."
"What?" I stepped back.
Jack smiled. "Not a real chain. No, this is more of a metaphorical chain. A chain of thought. Do you know what a meme is?"
The sudden question startled me. "Um, yes," I said. "It's like an internet joke that goes viral-"
"No, no," Jack said. "It's an idea. It's an idea that spreads like a virus. An image, a song, a phrase." He emphasized the last word. "A phrase like, say, 'Ferratus, his fetters freshly forged.'"
I looked at him confused. "That's a meme?" I asked. "It doesn't even make sense."
"Ideas rarely have to make sense," Jack said. "But it is an idea. One that digs into your mind, burrows into your thoughts, and spreads its little maggot ideas outwards from there. One that implants an urge in your head, an urge to fight, to kill." Jack smiled again and I felt sick. "And like a virus, it spread from person to person, creating a chain."
"Where did it come from?" I asked.
"It was written on the wall of a cell," Jack said. "And a little boy read it one day and it become etched in his mind, locked away until one day it surfaced. Don't you remember, Jacob?"
"What?" I said. "How do you know my name?"
"Didn't you wonder how you keep getting all those emails when nobody knew your email address?" Jack said. "Didn't you check where they were all coming from? Go on then. Look."
I went back to my apartment and got my laptop, then opened up my email. I had tons of new "Ferratus" - I stopped deleting them when I stopped checking my email. I looked at the sender on one. And then the next one. And the next. I looked at the sender for all of them.
They were all me. I sent them to myself.
I rushed back outside. Jack was still there, still smiling.
"You caused it," Jack said. "You spread it. That's why you're still here, still unaffected. You're an asymptomatic carrier of the idea. Like Typhoid Mary."
"Why?" I asked, almost unable to form words. "Why me?"
Jack said two words, just two words and I held my hand over my mouth, for fear that I might scream.