- by Mackenzie O'Rear
Chapter One - The Game of Life and Death
Illustrations by Lucas Marra
Written by Mackenzie O'Rear
Editied by Brien Bigelow
Moonlight shone through the bars of the dingy, dirty cell, illuminating the dirty bricks that had been used to hastily build it. A thin layer of dust permeated every inch of it, a relic of a forgotten time, buried in the middle of London, hidden in plain sight. A jail cell, used once upon a time to house the more…controversial prisoners of the medieval age, now repurposed with a single occupant in mind.
In the dark, a man lay passed out against the wall, his head lulled over to one side. He stirred until his bloodshot eyes snapped open and took in his surroundings in shocked silence. The man inched his way into the moonlight and saw his once pristine suite was now in tatters and his shoes missing. All of that became inconsequential when he saw his own skin, translucent with his veins pulsing vibrantly.
‘A dream,’ he whispered to himself. ‘It has to be a horrible dream.’ He knelt down, placing his hand down on the moonlit stone, where his shadow should have been. ‘Strange. I’ve never thought about shadows in dreams.’
‘You’re quite awake, Mr. Harrow,’ said a voice in the darkness. Marlowe emerged from the darkness, a grim expression on his face. ‘Hello, Vincent. How are you feeling?’
‘Doctor Marlowe,’ said Vincent, his voice weak. ‘What’s going on? The last thing I remember…’ In truth, he didn’t remember much of anything. He had gone into the asylum to receive a specialized treatment Marlowe had offered him. Something that was supposed to help him be more of a man. ‘Has something gone wrong with the procedure?’ Marlowe looked away, troubled.
‘Tell him, doctor,’ said a silky voice. A forge emerged from the darkness, and Vincent’s heart sank. Standing before him was Richard Williams, staring at him with a grin almost everyone felt charming, but reminded Vincent of a crocodile before a kill. ‘Better yet, let me tell him.’
‘Now Richard,’ said Marlowe. ‘This takes a certain amount of tact you lack.’ Richard flashed his smile at Vincent before leaning against the nearby wall. ‘Vincent, something indeed did go wrong. No doubt you’ve noticed certain things have changed about you.’
‘I don’t have a shadow,’ said Vincent. ‘Tell me, what treatment takes away a man’s shadow? What did you do to me?’
There was silence in the air following the question, interrupted only by Richard’s stifled giggling. He was enjoying it far too much for it to be anything other than serious. Marlowe pulled out a small vial Vincent recognised as the container for the liquid he had been injected with. He examined it in his hand. ‘This was a very rare sample. Nothing like it in the world.’
‘You said it was new,’ said Vincent. ‘A revolutionary formula.’ Marlowe hesitated as he shot a look at Richard, who raised his hands in mock surrender. It was clear whatever support Marlowe had hoped to garner from Vincent’s old ‘friend’ would not be given.
‘It…is new to the modern world,’ said Marlowe, turning back to Vincent. ‘The truth is, it is a rare form of blood.’
‘Blood?’ said Vincent. His spine shivered at the very thought of the word. ‘You injected me with blood? The research on such a thing is nowhere complete enough. What right do you have?’ As Vincent spoke, he felt a pain on his lower lip. He reached up and felt something warm, only to pull back and realise he was bleeding. Further examination revealed his canine’s teeth had grown sharp and long.
‘Fascinating,’ said Marlowe, leaning in to get a closer look. ‘Seems that legend was true after all.’ Vincent slammed against the bars and looked Marlowe in the eye.
‘What did you do to me?’ he asked, pleadingly. ‘Why am I even in here? I should be at the asylum. Surely doctor Bellefonde-!’
‘Could not help you,’ interrupted Marlowe. ‘He has no experience in this, but rest assured, we will find a cure. I promise you that. As for your incarceration…’ Richard stepped forward and placed his hand on Marlowe’s shoulder.
‘It’s not for your protection,’ he said. ‘You’ve become quite a danger, you see.’ Vincent didn’t know whom to look at, Richard or Marlowe. He wanted answers, but they seemed to be dancing round the question, trying to placate him.
‘Doctor,’ said Vincent. ‘What does he mean?’ Marlowe waved him off like the question meant nothing, just as he did when a student approached him with a question.
‘He meant nothing by it,’ said Marlowe, shooting a look at Richard Vincent could not see. ‘But as I was saying, you must remain here. We don’t know the extent of your affliction and must take precautions, as well as some samples.’ He pulled a syringe from his pocket and motioned to Vincent. ‘You do understand, don’t you?’ Vincent looked at the old man in front of him. Something about him seemed off, but there was little choice. He slowly stuck out his arm. ‘Very good. I promise, I will make this right, Vincent.’
Marlowe lowered the syringe into Vincent’s arm, sticking it right into the vein that had now shone so vibrantly against his pale skin. Vincent winced, as the crimson liquid travelled up the needle and into the glass vial. Richard laughed, but said nothing, probably silent from another look from Marlowe, or so Vincent guessed. ‘There we are,’ said Marlowe, rejecting the syringe. ‘All done.’
‘What happens next?’ asked Vincent, massaging where the needle had pierced him, only to find it had already healed. Marlowe stared at the spot hungrily, until Richard stepped forward and pulled a tray out of the shadows.
‘Now you eat,’ he said. ‘I’m afraid this is all we could provide.’ He lowered the tray to reveal a cup of water and a half loaf of bread. Once it was on the ground, he nudged it under the bars and into the cell. Vincent took the bread and sniffed it, only to recoil.
‘It smells awful,’ he said. ‘Why would you give me rotten food?’ Marlowe and Richard looked at one another.
‘I’m guessing it’s quite fresh,’ said Marlowe. ‘Baked this morning.’
‘By none other than Maria herself,’ added Richard. ‘I guess some people lack fine taste.’ Vincent felt like he was blushing, but he could tell there wasn’t enough blood to make his skin seem normal. A small thing that gave him comfort, as he pretended to look defiantly at Richard. He took a bite of bread, forcing it down. To him it tasted awful, making him want to vomit, yet he held his composure.
‘Hmm,’ said Marlowe. Vincent could tell he was still being observed by the old man like a specimen under a glass. ‘Very good. Richard will be keeping an eye on you and extracting samples as needed. I assume you will be co-operative?’ Vincent looked at Richard, who was staring at him. It made him feel like an animal in a trap, but he nodded. ‘Wonderful. take care, Vincent.’ He reached over and gave Vincent’s arm a little squeeze. ‘We’ll figure this out.’
Marlowe stood and began to leave, disappearing into the darkness. Richard was about to leave as well when Vincent spoke up.
‘You’ll tell her, won’t you?’ he asked, pleadingly. ‘Tell Maria that I’m alright?’ Richard knelt down and stared into Vincent’s eyes, unblinkingly.
‘I tell you a secret, Vincent,’ he whispered. “My fiancee doesn’t care about you. She hasn’t asked once where you are. Barely noticed that you’re gone.’
‘You’re lying,’ whispered Vincent, with all the conviction he could muster. ‘Maria wouldn’t do that.’ Richard sneered. Clearly, he wasn't used to it when his friend talked back to him, nor did he appreciate his bluff being called out.
‘Perhaps,’ he said, coldly. He stood and straightened himself out. ‘But perhaps not. Be seeing you round, Vincent. I’m sure we’re going to be good friends by the end of this.’ He flashed his shining smile at Vincent one last time before disappearing into the darkness, leaving Vincent alone in the dark. He took a look down at the bread and tried to take another bite, but found he couldn’t. What was worse was he was growing hungry without knowing what for.
Days passed. Then weeks. Vincent stayed in that dank little cell, placating Richard and his games, as he took sample after sample, always telling his little jokes. But Vincent held fast, even when the hunger was getting the best of him. Richard stopped bringing him food once it was apparent Vincent had used it only to feed the birds and nothing more, but he still grew hungry, to the point of feeling insane. He swore he could hear a thumping sound, thousands of thumping sounds from all round him, echoing inside his head. But that was nothing compared to what sounded like using water. To Vincent, it seemed as if he were surrounded by an angry ocean trying to drown him.
Vincent felt broken, unable to even try to move once the sun rose. It provided some quiet, for reasons he couldn’t understand, but it also drained him of every bit of energy he could muster. It was only on one night, when his mind was filled with the countless sounds and he let go of all conscious thoughts he learnt something.
The moon was still low, illuminating the smaller sliver of his cell. Vincent simply sat there, as his stomach rumbled, the only sign of life from his still body. He was no better than a corpse, which caused a rat to venture into his cell. It sat there, sniffing the air in the moonlight. It crept along, squeezing as it went finding the occasional breadcrumb from Vincent’s long neglected meals, nibbling them in near silence.
It looked up at Vincent’s face and froze, as a glow that could have been moonlight itself emanated from his eyes. The rat froze, entranced by the dazzle, until Vincent gave the slightest movement with his hand. A small twitch of his finger in his upturned hand caused the rat to walk forward onto it. It sniffed and nibbled Vincent’s thumb until, in one swift movement, Vincent raised the creature to his mouth and pierced it with his fangs. He did it without effortlessly, as the sad little thing went limp in his mouth, letting the blood flow down his throat, as he drained it dry until a voice laughed out in the darkness.
‘My, my,’ said Richard’s cold voice. He emerged from the shadows, and Vincent was suddenly aware of what he was doing. He spat at the rat and stood, as Richard smiled at him. ‘Now you see why you’re locked away. A dangerous animal being kept in a cage.’
‘I didn’t, started Vincent, truly at a loss for words. ‘I don’t know how…’ ‘If only Maria could see what a sight you are now,’ said Richard. ‘Just get your tests over with,’ spat Vincent, letting a bit of the rat’s blood fly from his lips and onto Richard’s jacket. He looked down at it disdainfully, as he pulled out a handkerchief and wiped it clean, which gave Vincent a small sense of satisfaction.
‘I’m actually here to tell you that we won’t be seeing one another for awhile, said Richard. ‘I am to take care of an incident. Something in Whitechapel so I won’t be gone long.’
‘How will I ever manage? asked Vincent sarcastically. If he had learnt anything in his stay in the cell, it had been some of Richard’s biting wit. ‘Truly I will mourn our time lost.’ Richard stared at him with malice in his eyes.
‘Tell your jokes, Vincent,’ he said. ‘See how long I can last.’
‘When am I getting out of here?’ asked Vincent. ‘Has Marlowe said anything? It’s been weeks.’
‘Has it?’ Richard said, adjusting his cufflinks. ‘I haven’t noticed.’ Vincent slammed into the bars, pressing his face against them and baring his fangs, sending Richard stumbling back into the wall.
‘Let me out of here. Let me see another doctor,’ he demanded. ‘I am a man, not an animal.’
‘A man?’ said Richard, picking himself as his face turned red. ‘What is a man, Vincent? A miserable pile of secrets. Don’t you see you’re not a man anymore?’ The words hit Vincent hard, taking all the wind out of his chest and letting his ears ring with his intense heartbeat.
‘There’s…there’s no cure,’ realised Vincent. ‘Is there?’ Richard smiled at him.
‘And the last horse finally crosses the finish line,’ he said. ‘But I’m not surprised. You’ve seen what you are, though. What you live on.’ Vincent could still taste the rat’s blood on his lips like the sweetest treat from the bakery. It filled him with shame. ‘You’re a menace, and if it were up to me, we would have already put you down like the animal you are.’ Vincent sat back in shock, as Richard motioned to the darkness. From it emerged what appeared to be a small man wearing what looked like a plague doctor’s attire from long ago.
‘Smith here will be taking the samples and taking notes from now on,’ said Richard. ‘Do behave yourself and do as he says, or I will be forced to make changes to your stay once I return that are far less…pleasurable.’ He let the last word hang in the air like a guillotine over Vincent’s neck as he walked away, the echoes of his footsteps disappearing with the shadows.
Smith the plague doctor looked at Vincent without a word, as he pulled out a notepad and began to scribble line after line. Vincent deduced Richard had been neglecting this particular duty, which didn’t surprise him, as he just let his head hang there. He was never a patient, but a prisoner to Marlowe and her experiments. He had been lied to and betrayed, and worst of all he might never see Maria again. Even if he did, what would she think of him now? A monster that feeds on the blood of living things. The thought sickened him.
Even at the academy, where he studied medicine, blood had been his undoing. He couldn’t stand the sight of it. But he had learnt enough there about the human body and diseases and all sorts of things. He needed to find a cure himself, but he couldn’t do it from inside the cell. The resolve filled him, and he spoke.
‘Stop,’ he said, but Smith continued to write as if he hadn’t heard a thing. Vincent filled himself with emotions of sorrow, anger, hatred, and loneliness. ‘I said STOP.’ The effect was almost instantaneous, as Smith’s hand hovered above the notepad. He looked at Vincent as though he were awaiting more orders. Vincent raised his head to meet his gaze, as the moonlight glow emanated from his eyes.
‘Do you have keys?’ he asked.
‘Yes, master,’ said Smith. That almost caught Vincent off guard, but he held his gaze.
‘Show me!’ commanded Vincent, as Smith reached into his coat pocket and withdrew a ring that held only a single, iron key. ‘Put it in the lock. And let. Me. Out.’ Smith did as he was commanded, and just like that, the cell door swung open. Vincent pointed to the inside of his now-vacant cell and Smith walked in without a word. Vincent turned the key and locked him inside before running down the hallway, reaching a door. He opened it to reveal he was in an abandoned building above London’s underground, which had explained a lot.
Before long, he was outside and breathing fresh air once more. He would need to cover his tracks before he found a place to hide. Somewhere Richard or Marlowe would never expect to find him and let him plan in peace, and just like that he knew exactly where to go. He made his way through London, ready to cause a little trouble before disappearing for good.
It had been an exceptionally long evening, with the orange glow of the sun setting the London skyline aflame. The fog was just beginning to set in, and for those like Frederick, that meant one had to move fast.
He knew he was not necessarily in danger, but that didn’t distract him from knowing about what could be lurking in the shadows. He made his way to the Gentleman’s Club simply known as Veritas with a quickened step, holding onto his briefcase, in a death grip for it contained his most valuable possession. Not the picture of his long forgotten family. Nor his own well-used and worn notebook that contained the type of forbidden knowledge one would equate with heresy. No. This treasure held a secret.
Frederick was nearly out of breath when he made it to the entrance of Veritas, and thus the doorman.
‘Good Evening, Baron Xylander,’ smiled the doorman.
“Doctor, if you would,” corrected Frederick.
‘As you wish. Your colleague has requested you join him upstairs.’
‘I am aware,’ said Frederick. ‘Thank you.’ The doorman nodded and opened the large oak slab that served as the entrance to Veritas. Frederick quickly stepped inside, and was immediately assaulted with the various fragrances of incense and smoking tobacco before his eyes had even adjusted to the dim light.
The large room was occupied with several gentlemen, all in their own groups, discussing everything from the latest treasures brought in from Egypt to what extramarital affairs in which they were currently entangled.
Frederick recognized some of them. Occultists. Scientists. Alchemists. Adventurers. All of which served the sole purpose of being useful connections to the more…ambitious members of the Club. He had always made sure to be pleasant with the other members, but to always keep them at arm’s length as well. After all, he never knew who might suddenly get the urge to join the inner circle.
He wove his way between them, making sure to greet the others when appropriate, until he reached the large, ornate staircase that led to the second floor landing. As he ascended, he could faintly make out the sounds of gambling and other illicit dealings coming from various rooms, none of which concerned or interested him.
The door he was looking for was furthest down the hall, and thus the most hidden away from prying eyes. He opened it slowly to reveal an elderly man with a thick grey beard, sitting in front of a small fireplace. An ivory chess set sat between him and an empty chair Frederick knew was for him.
‘Evening, Frederick,’ said the man. ‘How are you?’
‘William,’ replied Frederick. ‘I believe you already know the answer to that.’ Marlowe chuckled at this.
‘Come. Sit.’ Frederick made his way to the empty chair, gingerly placing his briefcase so close it was touching his foot. Marlowe smiled at this as Frederick’s quirks never failed to amuse him. ‘Care for a game?’
Frederick nodded. He had never turned down a game with Marlowe. He had also never beaten him for that matter. Frederick took took a white pawn and moved it forward. There was an unwritten rule his esteemed colleague always played black. How this rule came to be was a mystery, just as how everyone inherently knew that rule. He moved his own black pawn to match Frederick’s.
‘I presume you want to ask about the Flamel Notes?’ asked Frederick, moving another piece on the board.
‘Among other things,’ said Marlowe as he studied Frederick’s move, ‘are you having trouble with it?’
‘It’s…It’s more complicated than I anticipated.’
‘You deciphered Agrippa’s notes with no issue,’ he said, sliding another piece across the board.
‘This is more complicated. Only half of it seems to make any sense.’
‘Have you tried using any of the occult books?’ asked Marlowe. ‘Dee’s journals might prove useful.’
Frederick slammed down a piece in response. ‘The answer lies in science! If you want mysticism, go ask the Russian!’ Marlowe laughed as he responded to Frederick’s move.
‘Father Grigori is a well-respected member of the circle. I think you two would work rather well together. And besides….’
‘Besides what?’ asked Frederick, moving another piece against his opponent.
‘The answer to Flamel’s notes may lie in both,’ he smiled, moving a piece. ‘Check.’
Frederick leaned back into his chair, staring at the board. “But not yet mate.”
‘No. Not yet. Now what of your…other endeavours?’
Frederick moved a knight, a piece he never particularly favoured, to the front of the board. He had a plan. Marlowe studied the move, unsure. ‘You tell me, Marlowe.’
‘I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,’ he said, moving a bishop to block. ‘Check.’
‘Don’t think I don’t know about the break out. That bloodthirsty monster of yours has been wreaking havoc across London,’ chided Frederick, moving his queen into position.
‘You’re overreacting,’ sighed Marlowe, sliding his bishop along the board. ‘He hasn’t killed a single person. Though I will concede I don’t know why.’
‘He’s still garnering a reputation. Eating rats. Performing unimaginable feats of strength. It has made the jobs of the Resurrectionists very difficult, to say the least.’ He moved a pawn closer to his opponent’s bishop. ‘I haven’t received any fresh samples in weeks.’
Marlowe let out a long, drawn-out breath, staring at Frederick as he did so. ‘We are taking care of it,’ replied Marlowe, moving his own queen to guard his king’s flak.
‘We will control the narrative. Flush him out. Once he has no place to go, he will naturally come to us. I have already contacted someone for this very purpose. You should see it in the evening edition soon.’
‘You should just terminate him.’
‘He’s too valuable. You should see him, Frederick. Do you know how he escaped?’
‘Human error, as like as not.’
‘Hypnotism.’ Frederick’s ears perked up at that. He gazed back at Marlowe.
‘Was he a practitioner before?’
‘Not in the least. And if the legends are true…that is only the beginning of his potential.’
‘I see,’ said Fredrick, moving his queen forward. ‘Perhaps I could make do with some older samples in the meantime.’
‘That’s the spirit. And I highly recommend you talk to Father Grigori. It would prove…enlightening.’
Frederick smiled at Marlowe, his trap sprung. ‘If it will warrant your silence on the matter, I will comply. Your move.’
Marlowe smiled and looked down at the board. His brow furrowed as he studied it, seconds passing by. Frederick leaned back in his chair, adjusted his glasses, and smiled.
‘It’s stalemate.’ He looked up at Frederick, confused. ‘Neither of us can win.’
‘Precisely,’ laughed Frederick. ‘You see, I believe I finally have you figured out.’ Marlowe stared back, gritting his teeth. ‘No one can beat you, but that’s all anyone has ever tried. And if anyone is ever to feel that pleasure, they must first meet you halfway.’
‘You fancy yourself my equal now, is that it?’ asked Marlowe painfully.
‘It’s only a game, Marlowe. Cheer up,’ said Frederick standing up. ‘Better luck next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must be off. One never knows what might be lurking in the dark.’
Frederick left the room as Marlowe stared at the board, a trap perfectly set and sprung. He thought about how Frederick may prove to be more of an asset than he realized…or perhaps the opposite as someone who would need to be dealt with.
Marlowe sat up and poured himself a drink from a nearby bottle, knowing one way or another he would find out, and would be ready when he did.
If one were to travel down a particular road down London, one often traveled and thus rarely looked with any investigating eyes. A small market lined the road, selling everything from local produce and fresh fish to the latest editions of the Strand as well as Penny Dreadfuls for the more daring readers. The scent of sea air permitted the thoroughfare in a way many sailors had taken residence nearby, just to be close to the ocean they loved so dearly.
There were, however, two main features of this road opposite one another in a way that stood out as day does from night. On one side, a brand new, state-of-the-art asylum. Gleaming white in the sun, and practically glowing in the moonlight. It had been built the previous year, garnering funding from the various elites of London as well as a particular gentleman’s club which of course, wished to remain anonymous. It was a beacon of mental health that would make bedlam obsolete. Even the head of the facility, an already respected man of the community, was becoming well known not only for his own use of cutting edge techniques, but also for the impending marriage of his brilliant and beautiful daughter.
The building opposite the asylum was just that, the opposite. An abbey dating back to a medieval age, made of a deep red stone that had withstood the test of time and caved-in roofing that had not been so lucky. What once held pristine stained glass depicting various saints and their holy acts, now only held shards of that beauty, jagged and menacing. Its two most defining features were a derelict graveyard in the back, whose residents have long since been forgotten, their names faded from the graves that held them, and a bell tower that jutted from the abbey, casting a shadow even over its neighbors across the way. Some considered it an eyesore, a thing that should have been torn down long ago. But to its newest resident, it was a haven.
He could feel it clawing at the back of his head, angry with him. It wanted to leap right out of his skull and run free. To feel the wind of a cold, moonlit night. To howl its song into the ether, where every soul who heard it would tremble fear and awe without ever knowing why. But most of all, it wanted to hunt. Finn could recount every detail of the last one, seeing it right through the beast’s eyes.
An old doe that had survived the hunting season, lean and tender, found her way to a stream that glowed in the light of the full moon. She was at ease as she lowered her graceful neck to lap up the water, unaware of the predatory monster silently stalking her.
He had been following his prey for at least a mile, catching her scent some time when Finn was still in control. He was methodical that way, always working behind the scenes when she wasn’t paying attention. Hunger was always the first thing he felt when he gained control, and he wasn’t going to let such a tasty morsel loose.
Every step was coordinated, perfectly made to mask his presence. The doe looked up for only a moment to scan her immediate environment before dipping her head back down to drink. That was when the wolf pounced.
Finn could taste the fresh meat as the beast tore into the hapless creature. ‘At least it was a quick death,’ Finn thought, noting how his beast had broken the doe’s neck without the poor thing ever realizing she was ever dying. Quick and efficient, as always.
On some level, Finn was jealous of the wolf. Before the incident that had made him this way, he was a sickly person, pale and thin since the day he was born. The doctor had told his mother he would not survive the week, and he suspected his father had wished that very fate upon him, even to this day.
‘I guess I showed him,’ he said aloud. No one thought it was amusing, except maybe the beast. Finn’s body had changed. It was lean and muscular, built for isolation and survival all hidden under a large, brown trench coat. His hair had grown wild and unkempt, reaching his shoulders. A vagrant to the eyes of the Londoners who saw him, which was just what he preferred.
Finn went into town for one reason: To procure a supply of quicksilver in any form he could. Mercury pills were the easiest to get. All he had to do was tell the doctor he had a bad case of syphilis and they’d give him a prescription. When he ran out, though, he had to improvise, usually by stealing a case of the liquid form from whatever facility might be using it. A laboratory more often than not was stocked with so much of it, the employees rarely noticed a few vials of it missing.
Silver, in some form or another, helped keep the wolf out of his head. It dulled its senses and restricted its influences over Finn’s mind. Before, it was a mix of the two coming out in the form of his instincts. He would find himself stalking prey in the form of any woman he happened to find even mildly attractive or letting his rage take over when he was slighted, and it was only growing worse with each passing full moon.
Finn had found the silver trick by sheer coincidence. When he had been found by the search party next to his sister’s body, they immediately gave him mercury. It had lowered the fever, but had also quieted his mind to the strange beast that was growing inside him. When he decided to leave, one of the elders of the village had pushed the pills into his hand but refused to answer any questions. Since then, it had both helped and hindered him.
That was the biggest drawback of the substance. Taking it caused a myriad of symptoms from nausea to weakness in the limbs. The worst, however, were the hallucinations. Sometimes those were horrendous things, monsters straight out of fiction. Sometimes people he knew were mocking him or breathing on him. On occasion he would see her darting between the people of London, whispering horrible things into his ear. Even now he could feel her eyes on him, sending chills down his spine. She couldn’t be real, he would tell himself. But lately he wasn’t so sure…
In any case, he would burn through the symptoms until he transformed, with it all being purged the next day, as if he never had them. But soon he would have to take more, and the cycle would start again.
This is where Finn was now, walking into town with the same clothes he had stashed in the woods earlier. That long coat waving in the breeze as he marched with purpose down a London street to a doctor that usually took pity on him. He was hoping today the doctor would do just that and give him a refill on his vanished supply of mercury pills before he got too suspicious over his seemingly incurable case of syphilis.
He strode down the lane, avoiding eye contact while also dodging anyone he feared might bump into him and unleash the beast. His luck wouldn’t last, and when he saw them, he sighed. Two broad men stepped in front of him from behind an ally, an aura of trouble dripping from the smiles.
‘Hello, there’ said the taller of the two, tipping his bowler hat in mock politeness.’Where are you off to on this fine day?’
‘On my way to the doctor, if you must know,’ replied Finn, already aware of how this was going to end.
‘Irish, are we?’ observed the smaller, broader of the two. ‘Been awhile since we’ve seen one another, eh, Bob?’
‘Thats right, Danny,’ replied Bob. ‘Been nearly two weeks. He was a nice bloke, too. Gave us all the cash he had on him.’
‘A real saint, he was,’ laughed Danny. Finn looked at them and sighed.
‘Does it look like I have a lot of money on me?’ asked Finn, gesturing to his derelict appearance.
‘You said you were going to the doctor,’ said Danny.
‘That requires money, doesn’t it?’ said Bob.
‘Damn,’ sighed Finn. ‘I don’t suppose you’ll just leave me alone, will you?’ It was worth a shot to ask, after all. Finn was nothing, if not polite. Bob and Danny looked at one another and attacked.
Finn had learned early on the wolf’s strength was his strength. Bob had been thrown a good ten feet into a nearby brick wall, falling to the floor in a heap. Danny stared in surprise before pulling out a knife. He lunged, only to have the blade sink into Finn’s hand and come out of the other side. Danny stepped away in shock.
‘You’re him, aren't you?’ asked Danny, running back to help Bob, who was groggily standing up.
‘Am I what?’ replied Finn, pulling the knife out of his hand, watching as it healed instantly.
‘You’re the vampire,’ said Bob. ‘The one that’s been terrorizing the streets.’
‘I thought you were only supposed to come out at night’ whimpered a terrorized Danny.
‘What the hell is a vampire?’ asked Finn, not really caring for what the answer was. He wouldn’t get one either, as the two stumbled over one another to get away. Finn watched as they disappeared into the crowd, smiling.
‘That was fun,’ said Finn, knowing full well that wolf inside him wholeheartedly agreed.
Vincent sat in the darkest part of the abbey in what had been the basement, now his place of residence. He held his head in his hands, rocking back and forth, muttering to himself. His new gifts had allowed his senses to grow in ways that mirrored that of animals, which had caused him to nearly go mad. As he was now, he was trying to drown out what would appear to rushing water to the average person, but Vincent knew better. He had finally discovered it was the rush of blood in the veins of everyone that wandered by the abbey.
‘Make it stop,’ he repeated to himself. ‘Please make it stop.’ The sound of blood deafened him to all else in the world until a small mouse made its presence known. Vincent looked up from his hands to reveal his bloodshot eyes and blood stained mouth. Unlike what one would expect in this scenario, it was his own bodily fluid that had stained him as he attempted to grow accustomed to his elongated fangs.
The mouse squeaked again as it sniffed around curiously. As it made its way closer, Vincent’s eyes began to glow, freezing the mouse in its tracks. He laid a hand out flat on the ground and spoke a single word: ‘Come.’
Edited by Brien Bigelow
Illustrations by Lucas Marra
Story Editor Chuck Marra
Presented by Lake Arrowhead Repertory Theatre Company
Victorian Nightmares 2018
All Rights Reserved