Summer is such a blessing, yet I cannot help but feel the exacting unreceptive hand of autumn loom; the icy squalls ever recurrent. Take, if you will, Mary and her child; they cannot brave the cold as well as I, furthermore even I battle to brave the winter. This cabin would suffice, no more; I owed it to the susceptible brace to escort them to a new, warmer, household. I have endeavored for the good of my own probity to conjure a place where harm would not befall them; though in times like this only one city, in my entire epoch, had ever been considered endurable during the winter. Dammit, it cannot be; contrariwise it is the haze of London that presented the only place in which I could afford to house us all.
It had started, as nothing more than a passing remark, whereby Mary had articulated her trepidation; she had absconded London to eschew danger, nonetheless it seemed London was the safest probability.
“That…beast is there!” Mary whimpered. “It’ll find us, I know it will.”
“I cannot warm this cabin enough to protect you.” I barked. “We need to move into one of the flophouses, even if it is just for the winter.”
We bickered, like a husband and wife might; I felt uncomfortable doing so, yet the warmth of such a squabble, reminded me of the human contact I had once shared on a regular basis. I was human again, in my own mind, at least.
The decision was made, and the three of us sought refuge in the last place that one would advise; yet isolated in the country, if the cold did not kill us, the creature surely would. Mary had enough money to purchase our fair by train; soon we would be surrounded by the thick bustle of London and amongst those who we could hide.
We settled, eventually, into a large flophouse; the scuttling poor and the groaning unfortunate engulf us, their pain shared. In the strangest possible manner, I can see around us acts of true kindness; the poor resting on each other for support, and the communal woe, for the most part, forgotten. Mary had put her child to bed and began conversing with another widowed mother, smiling I set about the streets in search of familiar sights, though the city’s innards had morphed beyond recognition. I was a stranger in my birthplace, though it did not trouble me to think so, a new modern glow floated about the city, I enjoyed the changing form. A distant but bright optimism had taken form, we could live, nay, would live a peaceful life here in London. I could seek work as a bookkeeper once again, I could provide for Mary and her child; things had finally seemed survivable. The beast would not dare attack in the presence of so many witnesses, and if it did, then we would have a chance to make his presence known to all.
I slept better that night, in the dank, depressing flophouse, than I had in years.
Dark, unpleasant shadows floundered at my understanding whilst I began work in the nearby ammunition factory. I can only liken the sense to that of figureless footsteps that follow you down a dark alley; no manifestation, no logical reasoning, yet the strides are perceived all the same. Day after day I would feel this disagreeable agitation; while I worked, while I traveled back to the poorhouse. I know what you are thinking, the creature loomed. The resurgence of the demon had, most definitely, crossed my mind, yet I was unable to place the source of my discomfort. It was not a week ago that Mary, her child and I had taken up residence in London, and now the shadow had followed us, despite the overpopulated area. Careful eyes lay upon me, this much was certain; I would survey throughout the warehouse for an observer, and find naught but vermin and obscurities.
It was approaching the autumn 1890, the days drew in and the shadow over London had taken a perpetual stance. It reminded me of my former life, my childhood filled with many-a-cold and dark winter, yet this blackness beheld a far more sinister, manmade, aura. Smog, I believe it is called, brought with the season winds, a polluted spoor and toxic ungodliness. Though it is madness to say it, the creature’s hands were not far-flung from this effluence; it stank of the same vim I had met once before.
For reasons of composure, I have not divulged Mary of my worries; her time here has been arduous enough already. Though she enjoyed the companionship, many of the poor house’s residents, and Mary’s fond confrères, passed when the cold came through, were it not of disease, then starvation would claim them. Do not fret; I was able to provide enough food and warmth, in my own toils to save Mary of this fate, though at times I have wondered if my decision to return here was as foolish as Mary had claimed. Were it not for the false notion of safety I believe, through sheer lack of will, that we too would have perished.
Through the bleakest and most unpleasant realizations I discovered a horrifying validation for my concerns; not two days before I noticed my concern, the metropolitan police announced the suspicious disappearance of one ‘Alfonso Chavarria’. Though disappearances were all too common in the city, I did not take heed of the vanishing…initially; upon further examination I read that Chavarria was a Spanish-American priest who had voyaged to London in search of another absent apostle. Stranger still was his investigative leads; according to the report, Chavarria had been tracking down cases of mysterious disembodied attacks, strikingly similar to what I had come to experience. I recoiled, not since Mary’s appearance had I heard-tell of another victim. Had this priest become a victim himself? Concerns that I had previously disregarded resurfaced, like a distended cadaver in the Thames; something I was all too familiar with.
It was time, I’m sure of it, to warn Mary. No longer could I keep my mistrustful angsts contained, omission was offense enough without the jeopardy this departure now fronts.
“My dear, you’re back early.” Mary chirped. “I’ll have some food fixed for you.”
“Please, there is something I simply must tell you.” My illustration was inkling enough to the class of my conversational subject.
“I-I’ll hear you, but if you’re to tell me that we’ve been followed…I…”
“There was a disappearance, it’s all connected; we should lay low, keep watch at night. I can tell that it is here, but…I have been watched, I can feel it.”
Mary paused, gazing over to the crib where her child now slept. Tears of worry welled and fell, like the first of the winters snow upon her face.
“Where can we go?”
“You do not understand, it does not matter where we go; this beast will haunt us forever more, unless we do something drastic.”
“What on earth do you mean Joseph?”
“I am beginning to wonder if death, by my own hands would be a desirable substitute to the forbidding tinkering of that creature’s will.” I sat, my vision aimless; daydreaming. “A quick drop from a long rope, it would be sudden, obsolete.”
“What about us Joseph, you cannot leave my child and I to face the horror alone?”
“We could all do it, end the misery; defy the fiend's whim.”
Madness, sudden. Unwelcome. I heard my words flutter back to me, a disembodied echo; to speak of such an act is surely lunacy. Were it not, a far fewer vagrants would wander the streets of London. Though I cannot pertain to any logical diagnosis; for in that moment of hypothetical fantasy I was stripped bare of rationality and nous. Mary could see it, I’m sure, yet I pondered still, a favorable alternative, no?
“I-I cannot, there must be another way?”
To my knowledge, I had little to offer Mary in the way of comfort; my stunned silence said all that Mary needed to hear.
I held her in my arms, together we wept in the silent hovel, wishing that fate had not been so cruel. It was nothing short of foolish, however as my lips graced hers, I plunged my mind into a fleeting affection. It was insidious of me, greedy, animalistic. I could not tell you, had you asked me then, if I loved her. I was, and by all accounts remain, a mystery to Cupid’s prowess; I am a madman possessed by instincts of a distant, primal, ancestor.