- by Mackenzie O'Rear
Chapter Five - Divine Fire
Edited by Brien Bigelow
Illustrations by Lucas Marra
‘If you’re in need of money,’ said Marlowe, ‘I’m afraid I can’t help you there.’
‘No. Its not that,’ whispered Blake. ‘It’s this.’ Blake laid the tome out open on Marlowe’s desk, and he began to peruse it.
‘This is…’ said Marlowe, his eyes growing wide. ‘How did you get this?’
‘You’re not the only one with connections,’ said Blake. ‘It’s incomplete.’ Marlowe flipped through the pages to reveal where several had been torn out.
‘How did this happen?’ asked Marlowe.
‘That is why I need your help,’ replied Blake. ‘I used the book. Pierced it together and…and…’
‘You brought back an accent,’said Marlowe.
‘No,’ Blake said. ‘She was only a year dead. She awoke before I could take the proper precautions and absconded with those pages.’
‘Well who was the man?’
‘Does it matter?’
‘No…but if this works…’
‘It does work,’ interrupted Blake. ‘Now will you help me or not?’ Marlowe closed the tome and looked sternly at Blake.
Sir Gregory placed a hand on her cheek. The only piece of her that had remained intact had been her beautiful face that had miraculously survived the accident. Once full of life and warmth, she was now cold to the touch. Her light, once ruby red lips were now a dull grey. He had tried to convince himself she was sleeping, she would wake up any moment and make him feel how lucky he was to have her.
It was over in an instant. A spooked horse was all it took to end the life of Lady Corrine De Marine. She had been walking with her husband, Sir Gregory, in the park, enjoying the fresh air and admiring the glistening of the sun on the nearby pond, when a child had fallen nearby. The poor little thing had scraped his knee, and was crying for his mother.
Ever the big heart, Corrine began to walk over to him to give what comfort she could. A big smile and perhaps a treat would be the best bandage for his wounded knee, she thought. Her husband watched with a smile as she crossed the cobblestone path.
Then it happened. The sound of her scream filled the air before it was silenced, overtaken by the sound of shattering bone and torn ligaments. What lay on the ground was no longer Sir Gregory’s wife, but a mangled pile of flesh and blood.
‘No,’ he had whispered. He had tried his best to believe that what he had witnessed was a cruel trick of his imagination. Surely his Corrine was alive and just around the corner, waiting to greet him with a smile.
This was not the case. Lady Corrine was dead, and what was left of her had been laid on a cold table in the city morgue. Most of her lower body had been ripped from her in the accident, as well as an arm and a few of her fingers.
If it hadn’t been for her kindness and loving heart, he felt he would still be reliving the countless battles he had fought. Quietly going mad, as the faces of the slain haunted him. But then she came to him, out of the blue, and it was as if the world had regained the color it had lost on the battlefield. Her warm smile had healed the wounds of his soul, and her love gave him the courage to face his demons.
But now she was gone, and he was alone. It was then fate intervened. The doctor walked in and saw the grieving man, and with him an opportunity.
‘She was my everything.’
‘If you could bring her back…said the doctor. ‘If there were a chance…’
‘I’d do it without question,’ replied Sir Gregory. The doctor Smiled and placed a hand on the grieving man’s shoulder.
‘I believe I can help you,’ said the doctor.
‘Impossible,’ said Sir Gregory. ‘She is gone forever.’
‘Forever does not mean what it used to. We are working on something…Something amazing. But we cannot do it without your Corrine.’
The people of London were afraid. Day after day, more people seemed to disappear from their beloved city as the dangers were growing. Article after article had been printed, telling them to beware of the vampire that was now stalking their streets. To wear crosses for protection and to never go out at night.
Some had scoffed at this idea, naturally. They were still young and couldn’t remember when similar incidents occurred nearly a decade ago. A man who could breathe blue fire from his mouth, who could soar through the air in a single leap, hunting down young girls for nefarious purposes. One had even gone mad from her experience, and resides in the asylum to this day.
Then there were the gasmen. Horrible monsters, dressed as plague doctors from medieval Europe, using modern devices to distribute sedatives to their victims before absconding with them, never to be seen again. Some claim that they’ve returned, and that if you’re unlucky enough, you can see them in the graveyards digging up the bodies like a common Resurrectionist.
Yes, the vampire was nothing new to the mysterious streets of London. He was simply the latest. People had seen him all over town, where he would descend from above, snatching rats off the streets and draining their blood with his shining fangs. The damage he had caused was certainly real. Carriages being thrown about like they were children’s playthings. It took a whole day for the cabbies to round up their horses.
And now there was talk of a young woman, clothed in bandages, riding a giant wolf through the streets, terrorizing passersby. They said the pair could be seen sneaking through the back alleys of London for whatever reason, but even that seemed too fantastical. People had to draw a line somewhere.
The rats of London began to act strangely as well. Large groups of them could be seen travelling together toward some unknown destination. They all but vanished from the slums and households. They no longer feared the stray cat or dog that would have happily made a meal of them not too long ago. Something was calling them, even if it wasn’t readily apparent.
It seemed there was only safety in the light, as the people of London went about their business in close groups. Families would huddle close, rarely leaving the house alone. Even the prostitutes rebelled against their pimps, unless the pimps stood out there with them, armed with a flintlock.
Paranoia was beginning to take hold. Every neighbor began to look like a vampire while every shadow held a fire breathing phantom. It became commonplace to trust no one outside the family, to fear every knock at the door. Occasionally, someone would mistake another person as the intended monster, only to murder an innocent person in cold blood. The bodies would be discovered in the morning and blamed on the monsters they had been warned about. People would find their justifications, seeing bite marks that were never there to begin with, and the sins of their killers would vanish in the fervour.
The London fog, which used to be so common, now felt heavy and foreboding. People would rush home at the first sign of the streetlights going out, giving the impression the city was abandoned.
Something else ruled London at night now, and all the people had bowed to its will, never knowing how carefully orchestrated it had all been. They were suddenly all soldiers fighting in a war they didn’t realise they were part of. Gears in a massive machine that, when turned, would snap its jaws shut over its prey.
The orchestrators of such sat calmly by their fires, smoking opium and waiting. Their agents reaching far and wide, watching over their grand designs. It was the calm before the storm, and only time would tell if London would survive the fallout.
Sir Gregory starred at him in disbelief.
‘Lies,’ he said. ‘I don’t know what you’re selling, but I want no part of it.” He began to walk away when the doctor stopped him.
‘I’m telling the truth,’ he said. ‘What have you got to lose?’ Sir Gregory had thought about the hope the doctor was offering him. Could he bear to lose Corrine again if the man was lying? But what if he wasn’t…
‘I promise you,’ said the doctor,’ we can help you. We can help her. All you have to do is say yes.’
‘What does it involve?’ asked Sir Gregory. The doctor smiled.
‘There is a young doctor working for me,’ said the doctor. ‘Are you familiar with the Baron and his experiments?’
‘I am,’ whispered Sir Gregory. ‘I’ve seen his demonstrations with electricity and cadavers.’
‘That was only the first step,’ said the doctor. ‘What he is working on now is beyond anything the modern world is ready to believe. Which is why we need proof.’
‘Why Corrine?’ asked Sir Gregory. ‘Why not any other number of dead?’
‘She is freshly deceased, which helps,’ said the doctor. ‘And getting the necessary supplies is harder than it used to be, what with all manner of strange creatures about.’ Sir Gregory thought about this. It had made sense to him, but something was nagging at him in the back of his head.
‘Will it still be she?” he asked. ‘Will it be my Corrine?’
‘Theoretically, as long as the brain is intact,’ said the doctor. ‘She’ll be exactly as you knew her. But we won’t know until we try.’
‘Very well,’ said Sir Gregory. ‘Bring back my Corrine.’
‘Wonderful,’ smiled the doctor. ‘You be on your way. I will take care of the rest.’
Sir Gregory nodded before taking one last look at his beloved. He then left with a tiny thread of hope growing inside him.
The doctor watched him go and smiled to himself. A majority of what Frederick and Father Grigori required had been obtained, and with little time to spare. The storm was fast approaching, and the two had insisted the doctor provide them with the necessary ingredients and tools. It was a small price to pay if this succeeded.
He walked over to Corrine’s corpse and examined her. They would need to procure some replacement parts, but that would be less of a problem with the majority of her body intact.
All was going according to plan. The experiment would succeed, he could feel it. An answer was hidden among all the plagues unleashed on London, and he would find it.
Edited by Brien Bigelow
Illustrations by Lucas Marra
Presented by Lake Arrowhead Repertory Theatre Company
Victorian Nightmares 2018
All Rights Reserved