*PLEASE NOTE – HEAVY TRIGGER WARNINGS APPLY*
“He’s a cunt. No wonder nobody likes him.” “That’s not true…you don’t KNOW him.” “You can’t just walk around being a dick all the time…he needs layers.” “He HAS fucking layers. It’s not my fault most people are too self-obsessed and shallow to bother looking beneath the surface. It takes effort…which most people don’t want to give. He’s not about to suck people off just for existing…which is what feeders expect. Any easy ride. A battery. Fucked if I’m going to give them another one.”
So went the argument with my former business and life partner, who tried on many an occasion to explain to me why yet another psychic vampire got offended because Jasper had stolen their chair or sneered at them. People got turned off by someone nasty or acerbic…one had to be pleasant and inviting. One had to give people an in. One had to give people ‘points for trying.’
And when one did so and all it resulted in was a bunch of idiots infiltrating my world and annoying patrons and players? Well…one was apparently wrong for pointing it out.
Let’s not mince words here; I am well aware that Jasper can be a cunt. He’s horrid to people sometimes…to the people he loves, to the ones he hates…to people he doesn’t even know. I know it, I will never deny it…I made him that way, and with good reason.
To begin this little autopsy of my darling blue-eyed demon, a little bit of personal history. I am/was/can be generally an overly nice person. One of those ‘old reliables’ that gave a lot over the years, professionally and personally. I was the one you called when your lover cheated on you, when your friends turned on you, when someone died. I was the one holding your hand when you thought your career was over and you felt washed up. I helped old ladies across the street, I took in stray cats, I let you vent for hours when you needed to yell at the world. I sewed buttons back on costumes and cut music tracks at all hours for performer friends who didn’t know how. I gave you the dress off my back when you forgot yours and walked about in my negligee so you had something to wear. I went without gas or electricity for months so I could pay my performers properly and give them that ‘little bit extra’ for a holiday to buy some boobs.
Idiot. But a kind one. It was the way I was raised. My mother is the same.
Of course – as many who have walked the same path will tell you – sometimes you can give to the wrong people and get burned. A lot. Sometimes it can feel like all you give is not enough. And when you are down and bleeding and reaching out a hand for help it’s either slapped away or others turn on you because you’re not giving enough anymore. And you ALWAYS give…how dare you stop now!
There’s a point to this, it’s not just wailing and whingeing and venting…point being that all the frustration and anger and hurt and pain and bitterness you feel has to go SOMEWHERE. Some turn to drugs or booze, some start to self-mutilate some crack up and become violent.
Me…I created Jasper.
My beautiful little conduit for 31 years of anger and pain, unexpressed and unchanneled and bursting from my seams. I poured it all into him, into the very fabric of his being. While many who have role-played with me for years will tell you that I always short-change my characters and torture them beyond reason in this way (and they would be right), with Jasper I feel like I exceeded my own expectations and certainly went above and beyond anything I had created until that point. My emotional scars became his physical ones, my broken heart was his broken soul, my anger became his rage.
I filled him to the brim with every negative emotion, opinion and sentiment that a ‘good girl’ like me could never express.
In a strange way it allowed me to purge those demons and keep on giving. Some people say that it’s supposed to be theatre and not therapy (the great Jo Weldon said something similar about burlesque) and while I am generally inclined to agree, I do believe that in some instances it can be both.
Particularly in the case of Jasper Black and his Fundays – just ask any of our regulars. There’s a lot to be said for taking one night a week to ‘get out of your head’ and into someone else’s…and not have to give a fig about the world. It’s centring, exhilarating…and highly addictive.
But…back to Jasper. They say a magician should never reveal his secrets, that some things are better left surrounded in mystery and shadow. In the beginning, I believed this too…but my creation has grown so far beyond what he started as, the layers are so deep and so intricate that I feel it would do him a disservice to keep him hidden away.
And while you may never love or even like him, perhaps, in reading this…you will understand why I adore him beyond life – enough to allow legions of fans, friends and yes even lovers turn on me and from me rather than give him up.
In the ‘it’s either him or me’ ultimatum…it will ALWAYS be him.
A Black Prince is Born
Jasper Baelian Black was born on the 13th of August, 1982…the alleged firstborn son of rich English banker and stockbroker Jerald Black and his twelve year old daughter, Belladonna Elizabeth. It was always unclear whether the incestuous union between father and daughter was consensual or rape…but whatever the case, the rumours of his origins would leave a blemish on his life well into his adult years.
Though only a child herself, Belladonna doted on her little boy – treating him much like a doll, and Jasper in return adored her…the delicate girl-child was a magical fairy in his eyes, whose laughter and affection could chase away the darkest gloom. They would spend hours playing make believe and dancing in the gardens, and at night Belladonna would draw him close under the covers as she read Peter Pan to him in hushed tones until they fell asleep.
“We must never grow up, Cookie,” she would whisper as they drifted off (for that’s what she called him), “Promise me that we will never grow up…”
Of course he promised.
It was on Christmas Eve a couple of years later that Belladonna took her own life – leaving two year old Jasper in the care of his father and ‘grandmother,’ Jerald’s wife Olivia. Suffice it to say that Olivia despised the boy and ignored him as much as possible.
Jerald, unfortunately, did not.
There’s been much written and still little understood about those who abuse children – particularly their own – some say that it is a way for those who feel powerless to establish dominance in a crazed world, others that it is a result of mental illness, and still more that it is a part of a cycle begot by generations of the same…passed down from parent to child…
Who can say, in Jerald Black’s case, what drove him to mercilessly torture a rather helpless and sickly little boy. Perhaps he felt betrayed by Belladonna’s ‘abandonment’ and sought to make Jasper suffer for it…they’d been constantly vying for her affections for two years, had they not? Or perhaps whispers of Jerald’s obsession with his own twin sister Serendipity (who had died the same year that Olivia had ‘given birth’ to Belladonna), and the fact that Jasper was rumoured to look very much like her, may have had something more to do with it.
Whatever the justification, the result was the same. The night of Belladonna’s suicide started a cycle of physical, emotional, psychological and sexual torture in Jasper’s life at his father’s hands and whims that did not end until his 18th year.
In the beginning, his father kept the boy more or less to himself – Jasper was declared ‘too ugly, sickly and monstrous’ to go to school and was thus home schooled by both Jerald and, begrudgingly, Olivia. All the social niceties were covered…his father constantly drummed into his head that ‘the illusion of class is everything’ and as such the boy was taught how to walk, speak, behave and dress as the son of a billionaire was expected to. When Jasper stumbled, his father would make him crawl on broken glass, if he didn’t sound out his words correctly his fingers would be broken…one for each word (ditto when learning to play the piano).
Suffice it to say that he learned quickly.
There were no more stories at bedtime…though ‘cuddling’ beneath the covers became the norm. He did not lack for love – Jerald constantly told Jasper that he loved him…and that no one else ever would, or could. How could they…he was such an unattractive and unintelligent little boy…always crying and trembling, always such a disappointment. Jerald made him promise to never run away…he would never survive out there alone; truly, he knew nothing of the world.
Eventually, of course, Jerald got bored – there was only so many times you could make a child cry no matter what you did to them before the dull drone of monotony set in. To alleviate this, the ever-resourceful Mr Black Senior decided to widen the playing field by introducing a few of his friends into the mix…and at 5 years old Jasper became the plaything of a handful of Jerald’s closest friends and associates, a group that came to be known as the Circle of Seven.
The Circle shared the same sadistic tastes and tendencies as Jasper’s father…and with their resources, clout and connections they were able to introduce a few of their own ‘offerings’. Every week they would meet, seven companions and whatever tragic little morsels they could dig up – orphans, foundlings…the doomed offspring of those who owed them any manner of debt. On his own, Jerald Black had power…but allied with six of the wealthiest families in the world he was nigh untouchable. And at the centre of the fun, always, was little Jasper.
It was when he was 8 years old that the Circle devised the notion of ‘Fundays.’ Their dealings with all manner of scoundrel, conman, rapist, murderer and lech masquerading beneath the veil of dignity had convinced the Seven that the market for their little weekly ‘games’ could be wider and more lucrative than even they imagined.
The terms were struck – each member of the Circle was to give up one of their own…a child, a ‘treasure,’ as insurance against betrayal. Contracts were drawn and signed in the blood of their progeny, ‘donations’ were made to the right authorities and charities to ensure there was no interference…and the games began.
In droves, the wealthy, bored and perverted would come every week for Jerald Black’s Fundays…paying exorbitant amounts to indulge every sexual and hedonistic perversion conceivable…and some that no one had even heard of. The alcohol flowed, the drugs were handed out like candy…and the children were auctioned off at midnight. Always beautiful, they were…orphans hand-picked by the Seven, dressed in finery and jewels, bedecked like royalty…and then torn down a piece at a time. Naturally, the spawn of the Seven fetched the highest price and as the son of Funday’s founder and the only male ‘treasure,’ Jasper was the glimmering jewel in the tarnished crown.
The tragedy of course was not Jasper’s alone…hundreds of lives were destroyed during those weekly parties…human beings and animals were bartered like possessions, every manner of torture inflicted upon those who could not protect themselves. Many died at the hands of the Circle and their guests, and those who didn’t lived to wish they had.
Fundays continued every weekend until Jasper’s 16th birthday, when for reasons unknown the child was sent to an undisclosed sanatorium and incarcerated for ‘treatment’ and rehabilitation in preparation for his 18th birthday, when he would finally have access to his trust and become the legitimate beneficiary of Jerald’s fortunes.
He stayed in the sanatorium for almost three years until Jerald, impatient for progress, ordered electro-shock therapy and demanded that his son be released and brought home.
To this day little is known about the events that occurred on the night Jasper Baelian Black returned to his father’s house. By sunrise the next day, Jerald Black was dead…they found him hanging from the rafters in his study in an apparent suicide, an incoherent and beside himself Jasper curled into a ball, crying and babbling to himself beneath his father’s desk – blood tests revealed high levels of valium, cocaine, vodka and rohypnol in his system. Olivia Black, also in the room at the time, was admitted to hospital suffering severe trauma in what appeared to be a sexual assault with a broken bottle. She was later admitted to the same sanatorium that Jasper had spent most of his teenage years and remained there until she died years later.
Jerald’s funeral was one of the biggest in high society…and once the period of mourning was over Jasper found himself with a multi-billion dollar inheritance at the head of an empire.
The rest, of course, played out in the newspapers and gossip columns as the media became abuzz with questions – who was this mysterious ‘heir’ that no one had seen for years, why was he suddenly closing down some of his father’s most lucrative businesses…what madness drove him to parade about town with his family like creatures of the night, flaunting their debauched and controversial behaviour as if it was the norm? And, of course, how had Jerald Black REALLY died?
At 19, when Jasper paid an unknown prostitute $50K to ‘adopt’ her 7 year old daughter Betsy, the world was aghast. When she changed her name to Bella Jade and married Jasper years later, they were enraged…and as time passed and the web of decadent debauchery was spun tighter about the Black Family, no one could tell truth from rumours and fantasy from reality any longer. Which was the way that Jasper liked it.
The day that the Black Family Inc. bought a dingy fetish club and called ‘The Underground’ from the Katorga Family, no one bat an eyelash. To everyone but those in the know, the eccentric billionaire was just trying to get a rise out of the community by creating a den of debauchery that even the Black Family children used as their playground. But when he began to host wild parties and called them ‘Fundays,’ when the offspring and ancestors of the Circle of Seven began to seep out of the woodwork to dance once again around him…some began to suspect that there was more going on than met the eye.
Especially when the original Seven began to die or disappear…one by one.
Royal watcher and journalist the late May Bea Sunshine, an avid follower and authority on the Black Family until her death, was once heard to comment that Jasper seemed to be ‘building an army’ of worshippers.
She was half right, though it wasn’t about power or worship.
For Jasper, it was vengeance.
The Holy Trinity (plus one)
‘Patient suffers from extreme depression and high level anxiety, paranoia, severe headaches, nausea, nightmares and night terrors, schizophrenia and acute dissociative identity disorder, presumably brought about by childhood trauma. Patient seems unable to function without medication, alcohol or prescribed sedatives.’ – (Patient psychological evaluation – Jasper Black. 2013 – Dr James Bonaforte).
I’m just gonna put it out there, there’s actually four of Jasper. Having suffered horrific abuse from the age of two, he developed multiple personalities (or Dissociative Identity Disorder) as a way of coping and as such his mind fragmented into four very distinctive personas. Any one of these may be present at any one time during a Funday or Underground show…and though confusing to those not in the know, once you know their individual mannerisms, quirks and behaviours it becomes much easier to distinguish between them.
So…let’s take a look…
The first persona is the one they call Cookie (or Jasper). Eternally a child, he’s the boy who never grew up and your quintessential playboy. While he was present at his mother’s suicide and suffered quite a few years at Jerald’s hands (he tapped out at 8 years old after an unfortunate evening involving a hunting hound), Cookie does not remember very much about his childhood. He remembers his mother and has severe abandonment issues surrounding her death…but ultimately he has blocked a good chunk of trauma from his mind. As such, he is your essential ‘bad boy’ and man-child…the one who does all the drinking and the fun drugs and spends all the money, the one that charms all the women and men…the one everybody loves. He’s brazen and unforgiving with the attention span of a child with ADD, he flaps about like a Muppet and hurls ice at people, staggering about like a madman and giggling at any mischief he can cause. He is quick to smile and laugh and is eternally flamboyant both on and off the stage. He loves EVERYONE (in many cases quite physically) and is responsible for most of Jasper’s illegitimate children. Cookie doesn’t understand nor care about propriety – he speaks cockney slang in a direct affront to his father’s memory though he knows damn well how to sound out his words…and he swears, a lot. As with most children he has no filter and says the first thing that comes into his mind for good or ill, though most of the time it is delivered in such a way that one can’t help but love him for his wide-eyed honesty.
When in a good mood, he is a delight to be around and has drawn many a hapless patron into rather compromising situations with a curve of his devilish lips and a glimmer of those bright eyes. His hair is almost always hanging in his face and he can never keep his shirt tucked in for long…his trousers are always crumpled and dusty from crawling about on the stage or floor with drunken patrons and family. Though mentally about 21 years of age, Cookie has the emotional maturity of a 5 year old…and his moody tantrums are evidence of this. When angry, hurt or upset he will throw glasses, chairs…the nearest person, and stomps about making a spectacle of himself until he either breaks down crying or gets distracted by the next game and forgets why he was angry in the first place.
Of all Jasper’s personalities, Cookie is the friendliest and the one you hope comes to your birthday party – though he may just steal your limelight…and your lover, by the time he’s done.
And then we have Baelian Black.
Born on a kitchen table at 8 years old when a bloodhound was eating a little girl’s face beside him, Baelian has known nothing but torture his entire life. He has no memory of his mother and as such remembers no form of maternal connection or affection…but he pretty much remembers everything else. Categorically and in minute detail…with a photographic memory.
Created in Jasper’s mind as a defence against the Circle of Seven and the ritualistic abuse, Baelian prides himself on being reputedly emotionless, having survived by ‘switching off’ any feelings he deems as weak and unnecessary. It was Baelian who was present for the beginning of Jerald’s Fundays and Baelian who lived through most of it, remembering everything.
And it’s Baelian who is very, very pissed off.
The complete opposite in mannerisms and behaviours to Cookie, Baelian was always the child ‘wise beyond his years,’ yet where Cookie is flamboyant, Baelian is still…he keeps his hands at his sides and his posture regal as he was taught to do. His hair is constantly brushed back, those piercing eyes slowly peeling strips off every person he looks at. He rarely smiles – though he has been known to smirk on occasion, and takes his time when speaking, preferring a low and menacing purr that forces people to lean in to hear him. Like a caged animal, the promise of violence is ever-present in his eyes and of all of Jasper’s personalities he is one of the most emotionally unstable and physically violent. Baelian has no problem threatening anyone…and sees everyone as fair game if they are stupid enough to upset him. While not a misogynist he is particularly violent towards women, especially those closest to him, though he is also the most prone to provoking an attack from others in retaliation, as if he likes and expects the pain.
Broken beyond measure, Baelian Black is the mastermind behind the new Fundays, having systematically watched, memorised and categorised information on every single patron of his father’s parties and used his inheritance to hunt them down one at a time. In Baelian’s eyes, nothing matters but the destruction of his father’s legacy and he is not above sacrificing everything he owns, his family and even himself to do it. Moving people about like pieces on a chessboard, he is forever plotting out his campaign of vengeance, drawing his followers around him and binding them to his side by whatever means necessary to get what he needs from them.
That is not to say, however, that he is a sadist or a sociopath…though he would rather you believe both of him than entertain any inkling that he is human. Of all the personalities, it is Baelian who feels the most, a fact he keeps buried beneath the guise of his father’s protégé that he has fashioned himself into in order to survive and keep the world at arm’s length.
While Cookie pulls on the maternal strings, it is Baelian that holds the hearts of his family in the palm of his hand. One in his employ was overheard to comment that ‘when Baelian Black cries…the whole world stops and mourns.’ At heart, he is a shattered creature that carries the guilt of Fundays and the fact that he was not strong enough to save the children that his father and friends destroyed on his shoulders, tormented every waking moment by their screams. Baelian does not sleep, he does not allow himself to love openly, and he will not stop until he has undone the damage Jerald inflicted upon the world.
Whatever it takes.
Phew. Okay…breathe. Inhale…exhale…onwards.
Where else is there to go, after two such deliciously opposite creatures…than to another spectrum entirely? The third in the Holy Trinity, the ‘unholy spirit’ as it were, is one Belladonna Black.
Yes. Jasper has a female personality fracture named after his mother. And she is fucking HORRIBLE.
Likened to a poisonous cloud that settles over everything in her sphere, Belladonna represents the worst of the female psyche. Outwardly shallow, biting and cruel, she is a spoiled brat and Daddy’s little girl. Woven about Baelian when Jasper was 13 years of age, she is the psychotic mother…the female warrior and protector of her two ‘little brothers,’ created when both Baelian and Cookie could no longer deal with the goings on at Funday (if you’re wondering what could possibly cause Baelian’s mind to shut down, do some research on the Cherub’s Feast…it was a pearler of a party).
With her high pitched giggle and her stomping foot, her whinging voice demanding that she ‘wants it NOW’ and her catty jellyfish way of speaking, Belladonna rose in the ranks to become the ‘queen bee’ at Daddy’s parties quite quickly. When Cookie cried and Baelian fought, Belladonna revelled in being a good girl and making her father proud, convinced that she was the best daughter and that Jerald loved her most. Which, of course, he claimed to…until the day she was carted off to the sanatorium until she was ‘well.’ The betrayal has never been forgotten – though Belladonna still holds her father in the highest regard because, naturally, ‘Daddy knows best.’
A frightening creature to behold, Belladonna speaks clearly and regally, her grey eyes (drained of all Jasper’s shockingly fluorescent blue) staring straight through those in her path as if they were beneath her acknowledgment. Her every word is designed to hurt, to destroy, to bring down…and though she sings with the voice of an angel one cannot help but feel that her siren’s song is elaborately designed to steal your soul.
Thankfully, she is not around often enough to do as much damage as she could, she exists solely to protect Baelian and Cookie…and blessedly they have learned to generally cope on their own.
For which we are very, very grateful.
Or would be, were the alternative not something exceedingly darker and more dangerous.
The fourth and final ‘persona’ living in the recesses of Jasper’s mind is one Nikolai Alexei Katorga – so named after his biological father Alexei Katorga (one of the Circle of 7, recently revealed as Jasper’s true father after Alexei violently raped young Belladonna when she was 12).
Nikolai is the amalgamation of a lifetime of torture, abuse and psychological brainwashing. Nurtured by his elders to be the future heir of two great families, he is violent, ruthless, bloodthirsty and psychotic, a veritable animal in every sense of the word. With no conscience, no moral reasoning and no empathy, Nikolai has no problem whatsoever using others to his advantage (whether it be physical or psychological), and is not above cold-blooded and often brutal murder to get what he wants.
It’s unfortunate, then, that many also consider him the most charming of all of Jasper’s personality fractures, his dangerous wit and volatile nature making him a favourite with the ladies…whom he skilfully controls through a mix of fear, desire and a few subtly administered sedatives.
It’s human nature, in the end, to become obsessed with that which could destroy us.
Once Upon a Time…
‘Imagine a world where no one has to go through what we did…imagine, if we had the money and the power and the influence…if we were the ones holding all the cards…imagine what we could do…imagine if this time we could SAVE them…all of them…’
Jasper Baelian Black.
Staring out from bright but haunted blue eyes, with all the demons of hell in his head, lips curved in a coy smirk as he draws the faithful to him…making them dance like puppets as he asks the hard questions.
Why? Why can we not be who we want to be…who decides what is bad and wrong and weird? Why do THEY make all the rules…why are THEY the normal ones?
Jasper, with the face of an angel, whose body beneath those finely tailored velvet and silk suits contains more scars and cuts and bruises and cigarette burns and horrifying testaments to his past than anyone could ever imagine (328 at last count), Jasper who sleeps with the light on and has sex in the dark fully clothed, who cries in his sleep and has attempted suicide 16 times, who is forever asking ‘do you love me?’ but can hardy say the words himself.
Wonderfully, tragically, irrevocably broken Jasper Black.
One of the Underdwellers was asked once, by a thoroughly put out regular who had had enough of Baelian’s nasty rebukes and Cookie’s drunken philandering, just what they saw in the clearly fucked up billionaire playboy.
‘Why?’ they whined, ‘Why the fuck do you follow him? How could you love THAT?’
The reply, though it fell on deaf ears and was dismissed as drunken drivel, is essentially the very essence of what this character is…not just to me, but to the droves of worshippers who come to pay homage at the Shrine of Black every week.
‘Because,’ the oh-so-faithful replied, ‘He’s alive. All the fucked up shit he’s been through…and he’s still here. He’s still fighting. And if he can do it, if he can find a reason to go on after everything that’s happened…then maybe we can too. Maybe there’s hope even for us.’
Why do I love Jasper Black? Because he’s real. He doesn’t claim to be a God or perfect or better than anyone. He is beautifully, hopelessly flawed…he rises up only to fall again and again, sometimes because of others…more often than not, because of himself. He is broken beyond imagining, yet still a charming child, he loves more deeply and tragically than anyone ever should…his wide orphan eyes are forever beseeching those around him to find and fight for a better world.
Yes, we’re all fucked up, he says…but we’re here…and we’re together. And while he will never carry you, while he’ll scream and yell at you and tell you to get the fuck up before he breaks your fingers…he will never leave you behind. He won’t give you his strength, he will help you find your own.
And when you do, he will be the first to kiss you and shine those dazzling baby blues at you, and tell you that he’s oh so glad you made it…that everything will be okay now.
And you’ll believe him.
Where many a burlesque performer or MC will dazzle with sparkles and laughter, take you on a journey into a wondrous world of make- believe, Jasper keeps you firmly rooted in reality and dangles a mirror in front of your face until you HAVE to look at yourself.
And once you have cried all your tears and can gaze without fear at what you truly are, he’ll take you by the hand, whispering in your ear that you’re beautiful and it’s the world that’s fucked up.
Then, with a sly wink and grin, he’ll dare you to make a better one.
Because we deserve it.
All characters and story lines remain the property of N.Ristovski and the Underground. All character writings within the Underground are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015. Natalie Ristovski.