The streets of London are rather beautiful at night, Mary Anne mused as she strolled down the darkened alley. The entire city was awash in the light of a full moon hanging low in a cloudless sky, a dull autumn chill sweeping through the neighborhoods and boroughs just enough for everyone to begin to dress warmly and begin drinking hot cider in the evening with their mead. Even the lowliest street urchins were in a chipper mood by the change in weather, and a festive cheer seemed to pervade the city.
Humming softly to herself, Mary Anne drew her shawl tighter about her shoulders and playfully blew her breath out harder than normal, smiling at the visible cloud of air that hovered for the briefest of moments before her. Her hard soled shoes clicked down the cobblestone road rhythmically as she slowly walked down Roman Road past the old cathedral, a slight smile gracing her lips as she viewed the old stone building. Many a wonderful day had been spent as a child playing in the graveyard with the other local children, games of hide and seek amidst the headstones having been so delightful. Now she viewed the old graveyard with reverence, as did any good Christian woman; she said a short Hail Mary as she passed the iron wrought fence surrounding the property, saying a prayer for those interred within their eternal wombs.
Approaching Whitechapel Road, Mary Anne softly sang an old nursery rhyme to herself as she approached the small bridge leading over one of the many inlets from the River Thames. Smiling softly to herself, she gazed up at the moon with admiration as she lazily made her way across the old brick bridge, skipping along like she had as a child.
A sharp scraping noise caused her to stop, whirling around to look back behind her from where the sound had echoed. The moonlit streets were narrow and full of thick shadows, so all she could see were ethereal reflections of what she knew to be real by day, and could only imagine at night.
“Hello?” She called out, her voice soft and meek. “Is anyone there?”
A flicker of movement caught her eye, but just as soon as she’d seen it, it’d faded back into the cover of darkness.
Backing away slowly, she turned and hastened her pace homeward, pulling her shawl tight over her frame as she hummed louder to herself, trying to drive the fear away from her mind. There was nothing there, nothing but the dark.
And the English didn’t have to fear the dark.
Her brave thoughts were shattered like glass on a street corner as a sinister chuckle echoed through the chilled air, seemingly coming from all around her. She stopped and reached down the side of her dress, unrolling her sash to pull the carving knife she stowed away for nights on which she worked, just in case one of her customers didn’t feel like paying.
Pulling the knife out, she twirled it deftly in her hand, holding it by the handle with the edge facing out like her late husband had taught her. This brought back a sense of her security, knowing that whoever was playing with her right now would probably be scared off by the glinting steel.
The chuckle grew louder, proving her wrong.
“Wot’s all this then? Little Mary has ‘erself a little knoife? ‘Ow quaint.” A sibilant baritone from behind her, causing her to whirl around, brandishing her knife at the speaker.
He stood on the side of the bridge, his thin frame accentuated by a threadbare cloak that whipped about him with the cool breeze, a pair of oversized boots and a faint scent of sulfur marking him as somewhat otherworldly to Mary Anne. Despite the darkness, and his wide-brimmed top hat, she could see two blazing coals where his eyes should be, as well as a silver set of teeth smiling cruelly in the dark.
Softly, ever so softly, he began to sing as he swayed from side to side drunkenly, his voice deep as the sea and horribly out of tune.
“Mary, Mary, quite contrary
Ever the wavering twat;
While out one night,
In the pale moonlight,
She met a stranger with candy;
‘To whom do you seek,’
She asked ever so meek
His laughter nothing short of a chorus
‘Why it’s you, dear whore,
So sing no more,
For come the morn
You’ll be spare pieces.”
That was all Mary Anne needed to hear as she turned and began sprinting away, running through the streets towards the brothel she called home, a place she knew she could be safe. The rapid clacking of her own footfalls was punctuated by a dull and repetitive thump, the sound of someone dropping something heavy one the ground every few seconds.
She turned to dart down Abney Alley, a road she knew well from her many nights walking the streets; with all its small nooks and crannies she could easily slip past this lunatic without him ever being the wiser.
Her dreams were moot sadly as she felt twin slams peg her just beneath the shoulder blades, throwing her to the ground, knocking her head against the stone wall of the alley as she tumbled down.
Head swimming and blood pooling from her mouth, Mary Anne gasped as she realized she’d fallen on her knife, wedging it deep into her side. A cold rush washed over her body as her dark velvet clothes became a deeper shade of red as her blood began to spill out of her. She reached for the blade but cried in agony as a strong hand grasped the handle, twisting the blade into her side viciously.
Screaming into the night, her vision turned white as she felt an iron grip press around her throat, capturing her shriek midway with a sickening gurgle. Opening her eyes, she peered into the brilliant burning coals just inches from her face.
“You lot ‘ave had it easy these past few years,” The madman said with a snarl, twisting the knife further into her side, “But now that ole Jackie boy is back on the scene, he’ll be makin’ sure all you little whores scream!”
Mary Anne tried to scream, she truly did, but the cold grip on her throat only tightened as the blade sank deeper into her flesh, his fingertips pushing at the end of the handle to force the knife into her bloodied flesh, his gloved hands caked with her innards and gore as she bled out around him. Her final moments of consciousness were filled with the sight of those red hot coals, and the scent of sulfur and copper filling the air as the life was snuffed from her frame for good.
Author's Note: This originally appeared in Demonic Visions Two, as a story that I thought was a tad weak. I mean to remedy that now that it's been a while since the story has been print. Who know? Maybe I'll submit the follow-up to a new Demonic Visions!