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  • by Mackenzie O'Rear

Chapter 10 - Hidden Wilds of London

Edited by Brien Bigelow

Illustrations by Lucas Marra

Maria stood in the middle of the hallway, the blueprints hidden in the folds of her dress. It was her father leading the officers of Scotland Yard, brandishing his old service revolver, and when he came to the sight of his daughter, his expression became you confused.

‘Maria?’ he said, surprised. ‘What are you doing here?’ This was even better than Maria could have hoped for. Manipulating her father had always been easy, especially when he was convinced she was your average Victorian woman prone to hysterics. She smiled at him.

‘Father! There you are,’ she said, sweetly. She walked over to him and threw her arms around him. ‘I’ve been looking all over for you. We simply must discuss the place settings.’

‘The what?’ he asked, dumbfounded.

‘The place settings for the wedding,’ she lied. ‘They simply aren’t the right colour. And we must discuss seating arrangements. You know cousin Mortimer simply cannot stand aunt Emilia.’ She let go of her father, as the officers began to disperse, clearly annoyed for what appeared to be a false alarm.

‘My dear,’ said her father. ‘Couldn’t you have asked me at home?’

‘Certainly, you aren’t serious?’she asked. The looks he was making were giving away everything to her. ‘You’re rarely home these days. So I came looking for you. Should I have tried Veritas first?’

‘No!’ he said, surprised at the forwardness. ‘It’s just that are you sure this important?’

‘It’s my wedding, father,’ she said, frowning. It was time for the final strike. ‘I thought that was important?’

‘Of course, it is! Of course, it is!’ he boomed. She had him. ‘How could be so foolish. I’m so very sorry, my dear. You’re completely right, I have been neglecting my duties as a father of the bride!’

‘All is forgiven, father,’ she took his arm in his. ‘Now let’s go home. I’m sure these brave men would like to do the same.’

‘Quite right, quite right,’ he responded, looking at the angry faces of Scotland Yard. ‘My deepest apologies, men. Expect a considerable contribution in the morning.’ Maria guided her father through the hallway when something dawned on her.

‘How did you know there was an intruder, father?’ she asked. ‘That’s an awful lot of men.’

‘Oh, um…’ he said, seemingly stumping for an excuse. ‘Someone saw you. An orderly, I believe. Must have mistaken you for someone else.’

‘I see,’ she replied, unconvinced. ‘Well, I suppose I would do the same.’ She let out a laugh, as if it were some big joke, as her father joined in.

‘Indeed, indeed,’ he said. ‘Now let’s go home.’ They exited the asylum, and Maria was relieved to see neither Vincent or Corrine had been seen, as there was sure to have been a stir if they had been.

The journey home had been an arduous task for Maria. She wanted more than anything to drop all pretense and lay bare everything she knew. Vincent, Richard’s hunting, the creatures under the asylum. She wanted to scream in rage at him but held it all back behind her false smile. Acting that way would get her no closer to helping Vincent. In fact, she believed it would only cause them to send her away. She would have to play the part of the doting daughter and nervous bride until everything could be pieced together.

The sun was just beginning to rise as the carriage pulled up to the estate. A lavish building that had been the family home for generations, though any sign of its ancient stature had long since been covered up and renovated as time marched on. Even the ivy had been methodically grown up the side of the building, just to give it that extra sense of authentication.

Her father helped her out of the carriage and escorted her to the large wooden door, emblazoned with their family crest. A doorman opened it for them, and they were ushered into the entrance hall, where many wedding decorations had slowly taken over despite beginning their campaign somewhere in one of the drawing rooms upstairs. Maria made for the stairs when her father stopped her.

‘Didn’t you wish to discuss…Oh, what was now?’ he asked her. ‘Place settings and some guff about cousin Marilyn or something?’

‘Mortimer,’ she replied. ‘And I’m afraid I’ve exhausted myself. I need my rest. You do understand, don’t you father?’ She batted her eyes at him, trying to lower his guard.

‘Oh! Of course. How silly of me, how silly of me?’ He mumbled. ‘You get your rest, darling, and I promise I will be here when you awaken.’

‘Thank you, father,’ she said, running over to him and pecking him on the cheek. ‘I also want you to try another fitting for your suit later.’ Her father’s eyes widened. Maria knew he had been sneaking extra helpings from the kitchen and thus would never be able to fit into something that was tailored for him weeks ago. He would have to sneak away and have it fitted again, giving her ample time to think.

‘Of course, dear,’ he said, nervously patting his waistline. ‘I’ll take care of everything.’She smiled at him and bounded up the stairs, stopping at the top to listen, as her father scrambled beneath her. She watched in the shadows, as he left with his suit, desperate to hide his midnight excursions into the kitchen.

When she was sure she wouldn’t be interrupted, she made for her room, where she reached under her bed. It lay among various patterns and lists, like a leaf hidden in a forest, where no one would notice it.

She opened it and began to write down all the information she had gathered from the night’s events, from the monsters to Corrine’s resurrection. Somehow all these things were connected in ways she couldn’t yet understand. It all came down to the mysterious Marlowe, who always seemed to be in the background. Corrine had vaguely mentioned him in passing as the patron of her resurrection, though she never met him herself. She had heard his name spoken by her. parents. Vincent was being hunted on Marlowe’s orders after being treated by him. Her father had known him since medical school and shared the blueprints of the asylum with him. She needed to know more about this man who hid in the shadows, manipulating the events that had plagued the city.

Maria began to explore all the ways she could learn about Marlowe. She had considered trying to find the strange man who had accosted her with blue fire, but there didn’t seem to be anything that indicated a connection. She had no idea where Vincent had fled or what he called home, only that he was somewhere in the city. The same could be said of Corrine, who had fled with him, and the names of Frederick and Father Grigori meant nothing to her.

It soon became obvious there was one person she was close to who was in league with Marlowe. She would be spending time with Richard soon, but getting anything out of him would prove troublesome. She couldn’t risk exposing what she knew without proving she was not his side. But how to gain his confidence? If you were to ask her a month ago, she would have claimed to already have it, but now that had been proven false. No. She would need to convince him she belonged to him, and it was beginning to creep up her spine she knew exactly how she would do it. An idea she once fantasised about that now made her pause when she considered her fiance’s actions.

Maria decided, though, for her Watson, she would go to the ends of the earth. She just wasn’t sure if she’d be able to live with herself thereafter.

The paranoia of London was against them. An Irishman walking around with someone who looked like Sarah drew enough attention to be concerned, but with everyone looking over their shoulder, for a vampire, it only made things worse.

They wanted desperately to blame someone. To put a face to their nightmares, and everywhere the strange duo went, they seemed to fit the ever-changing description. Even when sticking to the back alleys of London, the vagabonds and scoundrels seemed to eye them with mistrust, as if they were waiting for any sign to confirm their suspicions and call the authorities.

They had been lucky to steal the clothes; for Sarah, who had refused to part with her bandages. ‘They are sacred,’ she told Finn. ‘Part of the ritual that binds my soul to my flesh.’ Leaving them behind was no longer an option, then, only hiding them under whatever they could find. She had settled for a pair of baggy trousers and a matching shirt, having long lost the want for pretty dresses she had had before her death.

Sarah didn’t eat, either. She didn’t have the need to; with her stomach was contained in one of the jars. In fact, she didn’t need to do most of what had once made her human. She rarely slept, only seeming to do so out of routine, instead choosing to spend the long night watching over her feral companion. As for the cold, Finn ran hotter than a normal human, so it never bothered him like it used to, but Sarah didn't seem to feel it.

What concerned Finn the most was Sarah looked at the world. He rarely saw her blink as she seemed to stare into the crowded streets of London. She was looking for someone, and when Finn had asked whom, she would only reply with ‘Father.’

It was during those times in her deep concentration she would unconsciously trace the thin scar across her neck she had tried so hard to hide under her bandages and clothes. Finn had only seen it in passing, and remembered her words when they first met: ‘My revenge will have to wait.’

He tried not to dwell on it too much, as he had his own problems to deal with. Sarah could keep Martha at bay, but that didn’t stop him from seeing her. She would appear among the crowds, staring at him with so much hatred. She would dart between the shadows of buildings, always keeping her distance, but never letting him forget she was there. It was her whispering that was the worst. Finn could never make out what she was saying, but he could feel the venom that dripped from every word.

When he asked Sarah if she could do anything, she would look at him with her unblinking eyes and flash her most comforting smile. She placed her hand on his cheek and told him the same thing as always: ‘When you are ready, Finn, you will do what is necessary.’

Sometimes she would sing to him to drown out Martha. Old songs from Africa her mother had taught her before she came to London. Finn couldn’t understand the language, but it was soothing and comfortable. It reminded him of his own mother, who passed away when he was a child. She sang with the same comforting tone Sarah did, and if he closed his eyes it brought him back to the few happy memories he had.

Nights were the most difficult. Sarah had a way of dealing with the wolf, keeping it docile. But the problem was, moving a giant wolf around London had become too much of a problem. Sarah would lead him to some deserted area or outskirts of the city, the streets abandoned at night, where they would hide. The only problem with this was that the wolf was restless. It wanted to run free and uninhibited in the world. Even with Sarah’s bizarre abilities, Finn feared it couldn’t last.

His memories of those nights were clearer than ever, without the quicksilver in his body subduing the wolf. The autumn moon glistening all around him. The millions of scents that filled his snout. It scared him he might actually begin to enjoy it. There was something intoxicating about being the wolf he couldn’t quite understand, nor did he want to. What was worse was Sarah seemed to be encouraging it. She spoke to the wolf as if it were Finn, stroking the fur and patting it on the head.

‘We aren’t the same,’ said Finn. ‘I’m not a monster.’

‘No, you’re not,’ said Sarah. ‘But you should ask yourself where the wolf comes from.’

As usual, Finn was baffled by this. Sarah would often spout things like that, mostly in her search for the others.

There was still no luck when it came down to finding these mysterious figures that called out to Sarah. She only knew they had to find them, or something terrible would happen to London. There was a vague shadow somewhere in the city that haunted them. Finn began to see it as a large game of cat and mouse, and he didn’t like the idea of being the mouse.

The feeling time was running out began to hang thick in the air, and it would soon all come to head. One night Sarah walked alongside the wolf through the empty streets. Something had caught the wolf’s attention and he bounded ahead.

‘Finn!’ called out Sarah. ‘Come back!’ She ran after him, but there was no chance that she would ever match his speed. She soon came to a stop, unaware of where she was in the seemingly empty streets.

‘Finn!’ She called. ‘Where are you?’ Her voice echoed around her when a figure emerged from the shadows.

‘Now now, miss,’ said a thin man with a pale face. ‘No need to fret.’

‘Who are you?’ asked Sarah. ‘What do you want?’

‘That’s no way to talk to a new friend,’ he replied. ‘I was told a pretty thing like you was walking around, and, lo and behold, that strange bloke was right.’

‘Who?’ said Sarah, backing away.

‘So many questions,’ said the man, pulling out a knife. Sarah stared at it and it dawned on her what he was after. She stood up straight.

‘You come near me,’ warned Sarah, ‘And no one can save you from the hell I will toss you into.’

‘Oooh, scary,’ said the man, approaching her. ‘But I think I’ll take my chances.’ He lunged at her, but before either of them could react, the wolf crashed into him out of nowhere. The man screamed as the wolf began to tear him apart, limb from limb. The sun slowly began to rise, as the sound attracted the nearby residents of the buildings who stuck their heads out of the windows.

‘What’s going on?’ asked a woman. ‘Who’s making that racket?’ As the first light hit the wolf, the change began to reverse itself. Soon Finn sat over the corpse of the assailant, half-naked and covered in blood. He looked around and saw Sarah.

‘What happened?’ he asked.

‘A little bit of evil has been removed from the world,’ she replied. ‘But we must leave now.’ She walked over to him and grabbed his arm, but before they could move, a figure appeared on the street. It pointed at them.

‘Vampire!’ yelled Jack with glee. “He’s killed someone and he’s got a girl with him!” Soon all the heads turned to where he had pointed, seeing the Irishman covered in blood. They all began to panic and run for their doors.

“You,” said Finn, accusingly. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘Just having a bit of fun,’ said Jack. ‘I see you made a new friend.’ He bowed to Sarah, who stared at him.

‘A trickster,’whispered Sarah. ‘So very odd to see one in the modern world.’

‘I’m honored then,’ said Jack, walking over to the dead man. ‘I’m glad the gentleman found you. He was a bit thick.’ Jack kicked the corpse. Finn was about to lunge for him when Sarah stopped him.

‘We need to go,’ said Sarah as the people began to filter out of their homes, armed with anything they could get their hands on. ‘Now.’ Finn nodded. He took one last look at Jack who smiled at him before vanishing.

They held onto one another, as they ran without direction. Their safe havens were disappearing with the morning light. One truth soon became apparent, and they exchanged the sentiment with a single look. This city had become too dangerous for them. Even without those they searched for, it was time to leave London.

It hurt both Vincent and Corrine to admit it, but it was the only course of action they needed to steal onto a boat as soon as they were able. But before anything was to happen, Corrine insisted he visit Maria at once and explain it to her. Vincent had suspected she wasn’t just doing this out of kindness, though he did appreciate the push. He could see it in Corrine’s eyes, and he knew she was thinking of Gregory. He may have been ready to say goodbye, but she certainly wasn’t, and he knew all too well how that felt.

‘Tell her goodbye from me,’ said Corrine. ‘And if you were going to say anything else to her, now would be the time.’ He only nodded at her before walking out the door and onto the crowded streets of London.

It was refreshing to be among a crowd again, despite never really liking them before. He looked around nervously to see if anyone was looking at him, but the people of London seemed more preoccupied with their own business and finishing it before it got too dark.

He darted around them and began to stick to the side streets, figuring the fewer chances he gave people to see his pale visage the better. Then there was the matter of avoiding his reflection in shop windows, as well as hiding his lack of shadow. The side streets were simply his best bet.

Once or twice he came across some of the seedier people of London, the kind that would mug him if he had been his old self. Now though, he gave off an air of something to be afraid of, and it seemed to do the job of keeping them away. More than once a cat or a dog would come up to him, and he would have to avoid drawing a whole pack.

It was a miracle when he arrived at Maria’s family estate without any major incident. The sun was nearly gone when he closed his eyes and listened for her heartbeat. His eyes opened in a panic. Maria was in her room, and her heart was racing like nothing he had ever heard. She was in trouble.

With all the quickness he could muster in the daylight, he scaled the buildings and scanned the windows until he saw hers. That was when his heart sank.

Inside, Maria and Richard were kissing passionately, his hands unlacing her dress while she reached for his belt. Even the hunger had not hurt as much as what he was feeling now. Vincent stared into the window, his entire being breaking apart at the seams. He knew they were engaged and in love, but he had never wanted to think about what they did behind closed doors. Now it was staring at him, point blank. He turned to leave when a bullet hit him square in the chest, and in his weakened state, he fell off the roof and onto the ground.

Presented by Lake Arrowhead Repertory Theatre Company

Victorian Nightmares 2018

All Rights Reserved

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