Each of the stars burned cold in the night sky. Deep black clouds smothered their gentle light and relentlessly taunted the moon. The clouds hid her beauty and revealed it in fragments. Her long white gown reflected in the heavy drops of rain. Far below them, Edward Paine ran through the city streets, his way lighted intermittently with the soft burning lanterns of houses.
Behind him a cane clacked on the cobble stones, followed by heavy iron footsteps. He turned the corner at the end of the lane, and the threw himself into the door way. The door rattled on it’s aging hinges, and he sank into the darkness below him. Sweat caressed his face and dipped into the hollows of his cheeks. His teeth clattered in his jaw and he forced himself to set it, then held his breath. There was a deep moment of silence. Shattered by the coo of an owl. His next breath came out as a wheeze as he sucked viciously and hungrily at the air around the door frame.
“Edward, my boy, come closer, you must see this.” The voice of his uncle was soft, accented by his Swedish origin, his words broken in short whispers. The fragile little boy clambered down from the large arm chair which was adorned in thick heavy furs. Edward’s feet landed softly on the ground. He extended a small arm behind him and like a viper, his fingers bit into one of the furs. He pulled it from the chair and it trailed the two steps to his uncle.
Edwards heavy black eyes looked up at his uncle, his pupils were flame blue against the abyss. The older man took his face in his left hand and with his right thumb and forefinger, pulled his eyelids apart, and leaned in close. His own eyes focused through his glasses sternly on the deep black, then darted to the flame blue.
“They have become far less black, there are now slight hues of brown, it must be working!” A venomous smile gathered on his lips. Edward forced a half convincing smile in return.
“The glint, it seems the glint in your eyes when you smile is lacking, it must be a side effect.”
“What did you want me to see?” Edward said ignoring the comment of his uncle and taking a decisive step back from the man.
“Ah yes, pass me your hand, now clench a fist and tighten the muscles in your forearm. Very good. You see this syringe? It is based in on the model by Mr Alexander Wood and Charles Pravaz. I am going to inject you with this” he held up a small glass jar, inside was a blue-red solution. He pulled Edward’s small arm toward him, his grip felt as though it would literally crush the pale white bones. He pushed the needle into the muscle of the boy’s arm.
Behind him an iron key turned in a lock and the door slowly began to shift. Light burst through the opening and into the darkness, it reached from it’s source but was obliterated in seconds. Edward flung himself from the doorway and onto the cobble stone street, he hit the ground hard and the clacking of the cane began again. The iron foot flashed in his vision. In seconds he had picked himself up and disappeared toward the end of the street.
The rain burned as it landed on his skin. The seasons had begun to turn and night was now bitter cold. Edward stole a glance upwards at the torrent that spun from the shadows of heaven. The clacking reverberated in his skull he’s coming, he’s coming, he’s coming, he’s coming. He’ll hurt her, I have to run! As he ran the thought gathered momentum, and his uncles voice curled his blood, the dictator screams of secrecy and submission, pain and torment.
Edward placed a bloodied and purple hand on the door handle. The lantern above him cast his shadow onto the cobble stone road. It had stopped raining and he now shivered uncontrollably, he had been waiting, patiently waiting, for the past hour. The clacking had come, passed him, then returned. It lingered, sounding only inches away. No voice, no breath, only the steel tipped cane on the stone of the roadway. It had returned and disappeared every few seconds for an hour.
Now, Edward found himself snuggled deep into the night and blanketed with rain drops which felt as though they froze on his skin. Uncertainty held his hand and he turned the door handle, then stepped into the house. Dust laden matches sat at peace near funeral pyre-like candle. He stumbled in the darkness, lit it. Gathered around it were well ordered furniture. Sitting as though it were warming the palms of its hands around the small flame. A book sat on the table the gold letters of its title drew Edward forth. With a damp hand he picked the hardcover of Crime & Punishment up and slowly he leafed through the pages. With each turn he felt the nightmares prick back through the tips of his fingers.
With his hand holding tightly onto his favourite piece of fur, Edward stepped quietly down the stairs. His uncle was already awake and the morning sun filtered in through the curtains and the grime on the windows.
“You’re awake already, my boy!” the Swedish accent layered over his words in the early hours of the morning and Edward found himself straining to understand. He stood silently.
“What is it that you are doing awake?” his uncle was an intelligent man, however he still stumbled over his English mannerisms. This time, Edward responded.
“I couldn’t sleep. There are too many monsters in my dreams. They want to hurt me, but I’ve never hurt any of them.” His bottom lip quivered and he stood, both in awe of and afraid of his uncle. The man had never raised his voice, but Edward had never grown to trust him.
“Come, and sit here.” He motioned to the seat opposite him “I’ll read you a story, and this will hopefully take your mind off it. It is the story of a murder, told through the eyes of the murderer.” And so he began to read the book to the little boy. The translation was clumsy and his accent hard to manage, but out of respect and appreciation, Edward sat and clutched onto his fur, his eye fixed on the old man, his thoughts, fixed on the words as they staggered drunken into the early morning air. For an hour he read and at the closure of a chapter, looked upon the boy. Who had pulled his feet beneath him and nuzzled into the back of the large arm chair.
“That’s my boy, sleep, and keep the nightmares at bay, they will stop soon, I promise you that.”
The old man took a heavy blanket from the sofa beside him, and draped it over Edward. He closed the book and softly placed it on the table. The small boy stirred;
“Rest child.” He said in a whisper before moving passed the arm chair and to the flight of stairs.
At the top of the stairs he pressed his palms to the wooden door and pushed it open. His niece lay before him, curled into a ball on her bed. He smiled, and walked to his bedroom gathered two vials of liquid, one blue, the other an almost pink red.
Edward stood in his house of horrors, each second a waking nightmare as he placed Crime & Punishment backdown onto the dust before him, then stood in the silence. Intently he listened. The rain pattered on the roof which leaked onto the floor at the end of the room. A horse in the distance. The rats in the ceiling. Satisfied that his uncle was not present, he walked toward the staircase relying solely on memory. His hand trembled as it landed on the banister. The cane clacked onto the pavement. His breath froze in his lungs. Edward flung himself backwards and used his hand to twist his body which crashed into the unforgiving stair.
Black eyes wide with anticipation Now, it’s now or never the clacking came closer, clack, clack, clack. A thunderous knock on the front door erupted from the stillness of the night. With eyes squeezed shut he was on his feet. Half way up the staircase. Now at the top. The man’s voice wailing in his ears, not words but screams, incessant screams. He stole a glance of the stair as he darted into the one of the three upstairs rooms. A shadow flickered. The candle drowned. His heart struggled against the thin skin over his breast bone.
“Edward, Edward” the words seeped into his mind and permeated his skull. But the eyes, the eyes were always so gentle. He pressed his hands to his ears and allowed himself to slide down the wall. His knees to his chest, he rocked slowly with the draft through the broken window caressing the cold and battered flesh of his legs. With the utmost care he turned his head to the door frame, the black eyes stared into an even deeper night. Clack, clack, clack. Edward clenched his fist. Clack, clack, clack.
He pulled himself to his feet, and pressed his back to the wall, then edged around the corner. Clack, clack, clack. The night was still. He darted across the hall into the little girl’s room. All was silent, and he stood in the center. With his eyes closed he navigated his memories. Following them he stepped to the girl’s bed. Edward’s hands felt for the mattress, but discovered only a decaying a bed. His eyes burst open and frantically he ran his hands up and down the wooden slats. I must be lost, yes, yes, I’m lost. This is the wrong room!
Clack, clack, clack, clack. He bit down on his lip, I must save her, I must save her, I must! His thoughts had become determined and focused. With a shaky foot he stepped back into the hall way. A small drop of blood ran down his chin. In the centre of the hallway he now stood. Eyes focussed toward the staircase, fist clenched, feet set firmly. Another thunderous knock on the downstairs door as the wind lashed the house and the door battered against its hinges. The rain now came down in a deafening torrent and his stomach began to turn. He held fast as what sounded like a footstep landed on the bottom of the stair and progressed forward.
Edward vomited. Curled over in the hall he reached. Then vomited again. Clack, clack. He turned and fled down the corridor, to the next room in the house. The hinges on the door had decayed, and as he pushed it, it collapsed forward. In the heart of his room, his mind was calm and once again their was silence. He reached out his left room arm and found the wall, then traced the perimeter of the room. It was empty. Edward walked until he returned to the door frame, stepped forward and sat down in the centre of the room.
The abandoned house was failing against the weather. Window shutters thumped against their frames and the rain leaked through the holes in the ceiling that was inhabited by rats. Edward sat in the empty room, in the largely empty house, that for the most part had been pillaged once they had left. His stomach aching, he rose to his feet with single minded determination there is one room left, she must be here. I can save her. He repeated the thought again I can save her, I can save her. Then he began to mutter the words to himself. Broken whispers. Full words. Complete sentence. Increased volume. Increased volume. Edward started up and moved toward the final bedroom in the house. His eyes fixed on its location in his memories.
“I am sorry, sweet girl.” The old man stood over the little girl, who rested soundly in her bed. He placed the vials and syringe onto the night stand and walked toward the window, then separated the curtains enough to light her face. She was much older than Edward, though he had always been protective of her. At fourteen her face glowed exquisitely in the sun light and her uncle hesitated. The man’s fingers stretched out toward her eye lids. The procedure had become routine, yet his fingers trembled. Modern science, for the mean time, had failed him. With a forefinger on her top eyelid, and thumb on her bottom, he opened her eye. It rolled, black, into the back of her head.
“Modern science may have failed you my dear girl, but I promised you, and I promised your parents that I would not fail you. Can you imagine how poor Edward would feel if something were to happen to you? It isn’t even something I want to consider. He loves you, as if you were his own sister. He would protect you, but the poor boy, he isn’t as strong as he would like to be.” The man reached down and tenderly touched the girls cheek, then kissed her softly on the lips and turned toward his medicinal kit.
Open on the floor before him was the case. In the bottom of which lay a syringe and strapped to the top held secure in pockets of velvet, were the vials. Half were pink, half were green, and one was a light green with pink swirls. Thirteen in total. He took the mixed vial and uncorked the lid. Then slowly, he slipped the tip of the needle into the vial and sucked the contents into the mechanism in his hand. The old man, with the needle in his left hand, used the right to pull back the little girl’s bedspread, then moved her night clothes to below her small breasts. With the needle now in his right hand he moved his left across her stomach. Beneath his finger tips he could feel the tiny bumps and holes, partially healed injection wounds. When he found a spot of smooth skin, he pinched together the flesh on her stomach. Between his forefinger and thumb, then pulled the skin out towards him.
Edward stepped through the door of the room. Unlike the rest of the house, it was laid perfectly as it had been left. The squatters had not stepped foot passed the door way. He was the first, and the dust was his guide. Light had begun to filter through the holes in the roof in the other rooms, yet he had shut his eyes as he stepped through. Partly out of deep seeded respect – it had taken all his determination not to knock upon entry. And partly, through fear of what he might find.
The clacking of the cane on the stone had long since subsided but was not far from his mind. He took two steps forward and then reached out to the right. Edward’s hand landed on a tall wooded dresser, the top layer an inch thick in dust he lifted his hand from the top, and left only a faint hand print.
“Are you there? Old man, are you there?” Edward could feel the atmosphere change and cling to his shoulders “Uncle Alexander? Are you there?” His words did not echo, but simply dropped dead against the early morning air. Edward advanced, but did not dare open his eyes. The schematics of the building had burned their impressions on to his mind, and, this room, was the one he recognised easiest. Quietly he moved across the room, his feet so light on the ground that the old floorboards remained deep in their century long slumber. Within paces he was standing beside the bed of his uncle “I know you are there uncle Alexander.”
He opened his eyes and looked toward the depths, naught could be seen, not his own hand, not his reflection in the mirror across from him. Behind him the light of day had become further penetrating. His heart beat. All the room was still. His heart beat again. His organs tensed. A third beat. His hatred and fear having amassed in the centre of his chest throughout the course of the night, exploded and ripped throughout him. The surge of power, of anger, made his black eyes gleam. Edward reached out to the mirror on the wall, his fingers felt around the edges before he clasped it tightly and tore it down. Then in one movement, spun and cast it into the depths of the room. It exploded as it collided with the floor. Small pieces of glass rained down like snowflakes in a cemetery.
Around him, the room lay decimated. In the darkness his eyes had located one object. The object of all his desires, the bringer of his pain and anguish. His Uncle. Both hands lashed at the air like bear claws and latched hard onto the golden urn. Edward held it in front of his face and hesitated for just a moment. Before his hatred lurched back into control and he flung the Urn directly at the wall in front of him. The sun now trickled in from the other room.
Ash lay heaped onto the floor, fragments of the urn mixed among it.
“Uncle…Uncle Alexander…” he stood over the heap.
Edward fell to his knees, and with both hands, he scooped the ash and held it beneath is lips. He could smell it.
“Sister!” he screamed. Shocked back into life. The tears fell from his eyes and he let the ash fall into a heap.
“Sister?” his fingers raked the floor boards and the ash separated in waves.
“He won’t hurt you, I promise!”
He collapsed into the ash.