A Night in Crimson

Dark, rainy streets are illuminated by a flash of electric blue light. Big Ben rings out the quarter ‘till, a nervous call into the smoggy gloom of old London. A black, cast-iron lamppost dimly illuminates the intersection of Daventry and Ashmill, its orange light casting glowing shadows all around the nooks and corners in the nearby brick buildings. Standing underneath the lamppost is a black figure in a flowing, black overcoat, a dimly showing satin vest, and a glint of a deep red shirt. A long, well-used surgeon’s blade twirls around, flashing in the lamplight, seemingly restless in the hands of its owner. The rain patters on his outer garments, almost washing away a guilty aura. An eerie sound comes from under the shadows of his old and wet top hat; something human in nature, but perverted and almost animal. A second cry bursts from the man ringing loud and clear through the London night, his tall, gaunt body throwing itself forward like a marionette caught in a sharp wind. A screaming laugh, maniacal and twisted, like that of a man who knows he has been damned but can do nothing against it bursts through the street, like a storm riding a cruel north current.

Another bright flash lights the street, complementing the twisted laughter like blood compliments a cut. The light quickly fades, and the spot under the lamppost is empty, the dry spot where the man stood, slowly melding into the rest of the sidewalk. Down a dark, muddy alley, the man sprints, his mind racing, heart pounding, mouth guzzling air like a drowning beast, gasping for air. As he runs, he mouths his nickname, his broken mind echoing the yells and screams that haunted his combat surgeries. The malformed mouths that said ‘not the Reaper’ cursed the young surgeon, his mind forever branded with the disfigured word… “Ripper.”

Jack… Jack… Jack…” he mumbles to himself, gasping between each mention of the horrifying name. He dashes out of the alleyway, coat streaming behind him like a pack werewolves following the full moon. “JACK!” he laughs, almost screaming to the world his agony and despair. His blood begins to boil, his brain already working at a fever pitch. His eyes begin to go red, drenching the brick buildings, cobblestone streets, lampposts and trees in a crimson red–the color of roses and blood, his favorite pair. He reels, in a damned ecstasy, as he loses his mind to the madness, relieving him of the pain of the memories

But suddenly, he stops, his eyes reaching out of the pool of darkness, and latch onto a two-story flat to his right. His frantic race slows to a stop, as he stares in a stupefied wonder at the house’s second story. A figure with an apple-red dress and a sits in the large bay-window on the second story. His face softens, as if recognizing a long-lost friend, and his lips curve upward in a faint smile. “Catherine…” he whispers to himself, his mind straining to before his tragic past. He slowly walks toward the house, brushing the rain off of his face. He takes the three wet steps leading up the the door. Pausing, he looks at the knocker, a gargoyle with some semblance to a lion. “This sentinel is not quite on duty tonight is he…” He laughs. The lock gives way quite easily under the deft hands of the master. A silent spirit, he slips into the house, making no more noise than a smoke drifting over the earth.

He hangs his dripping hat on the entry way coat hanger, and closes the door as quietly as he opened it. A quick glance around the entryway reveals a grandfather clock, a hallway, and a red carpeted stairway. At the top of the stairway is a faint light, and a gentle hum. A soft, sweet voice, beautiful like a rose… a fresh red rose. “It is her,” he says. Almost in a trance, the wraith mounts the stairs, seduced entirely by the sheer perfection of her wondrous voice. He reaches the top and rounds the corner. Aided by the luscious red carpet, he walks across the upper hallway, silently and effortlessly, drawing ever close to the warmly lit room. And then he sees her. Her voice matches her looks; she is absolutely flawless. Her let down hair is almost like a waterfall, a beautiful golden stream flowing down her curved, slender back. She is wearing a red dress–that bright, apple red that caught his attention in the first place. She is sitting on her bay-window seat, staring intently at Big Ben, her gaze fixed on the bright, round panel. He glides over, placing his head right behind her, hovering over her shoulder. The two watch the minute hand tick to the minute before midnight.

“Beautiful night, isn’t it my dear?” he says quietly. She gasps and slowly turns her head to look upon the voice.

“James… It’s you… I thought… that you died in the war!” she exclaims as her eyes tear up. She throws her arms around him.

“But Catherine, my dear,” he replies, his maniacal mind roaring back at the mention of the war, the memories of all the deaths stealing control of him. “James is dead. I’m Jack.” He takes a step back, setting her down on the window seat again, blood dripping from the freshly used knife in his right hand. “I’m the blood-artist, the virtuoso of death… And you are my canvas on this glorious night.” He pulls the crimson rose out from his lapel and lays it on her lap. “Your beauty is nothing a true artist can overlook.”

Suddenly his mind snaps back, the realization of what he just did hits him like a hammer-strike to the chest. “No… Forgive me… I… I am a… m…murderer… NOOO!!” The blood from her throat slowly drips down her chest, falling just like the tears falling from Jack’s eyes. Big Ben tolls midnight, its mournful cry washing over Old London, melding with the screams of the accursed madman. Tolling its long twelve strokes, it announces the death of the twelfth victim of Jack the Ripper.

-<< The Strawberry Spirit >>-


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