Steven hangs by the neck until he is dead. Then he hangs by his neck some more.
Jack the Ripper strolls up after dark. He takes out his knives. He whistles cheerfully as he cuts Steven down. He efficiently severs Steven’s head. He puts it in a sack. He takes it home. He attaches a Revivifier to the base of Steven’s spine. Steven wakes up.
“Hello!” Jack says. “I’m testing my Revivifier.”
“Hello, ” Steven says. He attempts to move. He has no body. He can only rock back and forth. “I am a severed head.”
“It’s a new toy, ” Jack says. “It was a present! I will call you Jack o’ the Gallows.”
“My name is Steven.”
Jack adjusts quickly to circumstances. “Then I will call you Gallows Steve. My name is Jack. Jack the Ripper.”
“Charmed. Um, am I dead?”
“Technically,” Jack says dismissively. “Technically.”
Jack sits down eagerly in front of Gallows Steve.
“We should get acquainted!” Jack says.
“Well,” says Gallows Steve. “I’m a hard-luck case. They hung me until dead, you know.”
“That’s awful,” Jack says, sympathetically. “What happened?”
“When I was young,” Steve says, “I thought that the best thing to do would be exactly what I wanted to do.”
“We all go through that stage,” Jack agrees.
“So I kind of killed a man. Then I discovered that people had a genuine interest in hunting me down and making me pay for this crime. It was a revelation to me: actions have long-term consequences! I vowed to respect the moral positions of authority figures henceforth.”
“Huh,” says Jack. “Must not have been a prostitute.”
“No,” admits Gallows Steve. “It was a tax man that I killed.”
“Taxes are important for sustaining the government. Still, it’s too bad that they hunted you down!”
“Eventually,” Steve says, “I reached a personal doctrine of enlightened self-interest. It occurred to me that all people benefit from an ordered society, even if some men must make personal sacrifices now and again to that end. However, it was too late; my past caught up to me, the lawmen hung me, and Jack the Ripper put my head on a magic stick that brought me back to life.”
“It’s scientific,” Jack says. “Not magic. It uses radiation. The manual says.”
“Ah,” says Gallows Steve. “That’s where I was wrong.”
“I kill people all the time,” Jack says, proudly.
“Yup! Prostitutes mostly.”
“That’s immoral,” says Gallows Steve. “I mean, wouldn’t you think?”
“Nah,” Jack says. “I’ll show you!”
He goes out on the street. He comes back a few hours later. He has a prostitute with him. She is gagged and looks very frightened as he kills her. Jack waits.
“See?” Gallows Steve says. “She was scared and hurt and clearly didn’t like what you were doing. Would you want to be scared and hurt and unhappy with what someone does to you?”
“Wait,” Jack says.
A minute passes. Then there are hooves on the roof and a struggling and swirling in the chimney and a laugh: “Ho Ho Ho!”
Ripper Kringle, dressed in red, appears from the chimney in a blast of smoke.
“Wow,” says Gallows Steve. “His stomach is jiggling like a bowl full of jelly.”
“Ho ho ho!” declares Ripper Kringle. “Death to loose women! I see you’ve killed another prostitute, Jack, so I’ve brought you a bag of presents!”
“Ooh!” says Jack. He is on his feet and practically jumping up and down with joy.
“Look, Jack!” says Ripper Kringle. “It’s an aegis 2000! It’s even better than your old aegis. Now you won’t get into trouble no matter what happens!”
“And a train set!”
“And a pocket nihilist!”
Jack pokes at the pocket nihilist. “I choose you?” he says.
“You aren’t even worth my time,” the nihilist declares. He curls up into a ball and goes to sleep.
“Wow!” says Jack.
“That’s all I can bring you,” says Ripper Kringle. “But remember, every day can be Ripper Day if you keep the magic in your heart!”
He flies up the chimney and is gone.
“Huh,” says Gallows Steve.
“That’s how I know that it’s moral to kill prostitutes,” Jack says. “If it weren’t moral, why would there be a Ripper Kringle?”
“Your case is sound,” admits Gallows Steve.
“Yay!” says Jack.
“Still,” mutters Steve, “the Christmas Claus seems somehow more uplifting.”