A tower rose up through the gloom and haze that was the normal state of Hell. A lone female watched through the bars on the windows as small shadows were herded together into a pen beneath her tower. She hated this time of year, the time when she was reminded that not only she paid for her imprisonment among these creatures, these denizens of Hell. Tears coursed down her cheeks as she watched the pitiful little parade. Those poor mortal children, cursed to live a short painful life at the hands of the demons of Hell. Those poor parents, never knowing where their children had gone, or even never knowing that their children were gone, assuming her people used their magical arts. Cursing loudly, the woman turned and grabbed a vase that sat on a small table nearby and flung it at the stone wall. The pieces shattered everywhere and pain coursed through her body.
“Now, now, Princess Linette, you should really know better than to have these little outbursts by now.” The voice that spoke in her mind was harsh, but also welcome and familiar. It was the sign that she was still alive, still a prisoner, still where she had been for the last untold centuries.
Linette began to cry in earnest now. She knew full well that she was the reason these children suffered and died and the reason that their parents would mourn their loss, whether they realized it or not. At the same time though, she had come to know this place, to belong here, to need to be here. She was afraid that she would find a way to escape and return to Faerie Land. She was afraid that she was no longer the gentle, beautiful princess that had been stolen away. She didn’t even know if she was still in her natural form. She barely remembered those days, eons ago, when she had frolicked in the fields of Faerie and led her people in joyous revels. A scream tore through the air and she sighed. She was not in Faerie, she was in Hell. So far gone was she, that the scream didn’t do anything but remind her where she was. She had long since become immune to the screams and torment of adults, but never to the screams of children.
Two little boys stood together just outside the gates to the schoolyard. Both wore hooded sweatshirts with the hoods pulled up and plain denim jeans, just slightly faded. The younger of the pair kept his eyes on the ground but the older looked out into the yard at the other children who laughed and played.
“We could join them. Learn. Improve.”
His voice was toneless, his sentences smooth with no imperfections for childish haste. The younger boy shook his head.
“They would know. We are not like them and they would know.”
“Learning would help us to better feed.”
For a long moment, they stood in silence. Then they both turned and walked towards the teacher monitoring the yard.
“Excuse me. Can we play too??”
The teacher looked down at the two children and started to say something, started to back away. Then the little boy looked up at her with his jet black, soulless eyes.
“Please, may we play?”
There are a few different classifications of dead people, and that’s the problem. Most of them, thank whatever, move on. I don’t know where they go. That’s not my job. My job is the other kinds. The never-were, the lost, the malefactors, and the desperate. That’s what I call them. The never-were are the ones I hate to meet the most. They’re a mixed bag of child spirits, some of them died young and some were just wanted so badly that they couldn’t leave. The lost at least don’t know what they are. They keep going about their lives with no idea that anything’s changed. It can get unnerving with the old ones. They don’t know how the newer buildings work and they end up going through them. The malefactors are pretty much what it says on the tin. They’re bad. If it tries to crawl into someone, kill someone, take over and destroy things, then it’s a malefactor. The scariest though, are the desperate. Malefactors do it because they have to, because evil and destruction is their nature. The desperate want to. They’re trying to find a way to cling to life in any way they can. They ride in other people’s bodies and try to reclaim who they were, they refuse to give up their past. All in all, it’s a bad time. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to tell what kind you’re dealing with. The lines blur and that’s when things get dangerous. That was probably how I ended up backed into a corner with four children smiling up at me. Their eyes weren’t black when I let them in. I know they weren’t. I know the rules. But today, it looked like the rules were being broken.
“Don’t worry. Our parents are on the way.”
I could hear the front door opening and my pulse hammered in my ears, blotting out the rest of what they said. Slow, deliberate footsteps made their way up my stairs and I turned towards the sound, dreading what I might see. My blood ran cold as I stared into my own eyes. The other me smiled slowly and walked forward, placing a hand on the shoulder of the tallest of the children.
“Now don’t worry, dear, there will be more than enough for all of us to feast.”
The ropes binding him were rough, cutting into the flesh of his wrists. Time was a fluid thing now, days and nights measured only by the scant light coming through the barred window high above his head. He had long since lost track of the date. It didn’t matter. It hadn’t mattered since his own brother had imprisoned him here so long ago. It was hard to even remember what they had fought over. Only that he lost and the wounds from that battle still burned.
All around him, he could hear the screams of other prisoners trapped in with him. They, at least, were guilty. Of that, he was sure. Their crimes were cried out for all to hear when they entered this prison. What had they said for him when he was cast into this dark place? Ah yes, guilty of the crime of challenging a higher authority and losing. How could he ever forget?
Demons weren’t hard to track, but they were hard to pin down. Locating the depravity they left in their wake was easy. The hallmarks of demonic presence in Whitechapel were plain to see, bolstered and nurtured by the poverty. It was left, though, to Daniel Voss to figure out which of the thousands of people in the city were the demons he sought and which were simply human monsters. There were so many of that latter group that it was hard to be certain. Then again, that was another sign of the presence of the creatures.
Daniel strode down the street keeping his head down. He carried a leather case that bore his tools, but far more important at this stage was the pocket watch he wore. Passed down through the generations of his family, that watch was what truly enabled Daniel and the entire Voss line to hunt demons as they did. Stopping on the corner, he checked his watch. The hands showed only the time. But wait. For just a moment, the watch face flickered red and the hands spun to guide him. One of the demons was near.
Quickly, he made a plan. It was nearly nightfall. He could identify the demonic host and then come back to deal with them once he wouldn’t be seen.
Part 1 can be found here
“Martin, never let anyone tell you that there are no demons in London.” The man lifted his son onto his lap, holding him close. “Anyone who says there isn’t is either blind or a fool.”
“Do you mean the Ripper, Papa? I heard other lads at school talking about him.”
That drew a chuckle from the man.
“Ah, that bit of business. Of course. No, my buck, I don’t mean him.” Then he considered his son carefully. “Would you like to hear the story of the man they call Jack the Ripper?”
Bouncing excitedly, the boy nodded.
“You’ll have to promise you won’t tell. Swear it.”
“On my honor, Papa. I won’t tell a soul.”
“Good lad.” The man chuckled and then nodded. “So, first thing’s first, Martin my boy. Old Leather Apron never said his name was Jack.”
“But, Papa, they said he sent a letter to Scotland Yard.”
His father chuckled quietly.
“No, no. The newspapers were the ones who had it, and they faked up the whole thing.” He took a breath. “And the real story is, I promise, wildly different from what they tell in schoolyards, my buck.”
The year was 1888 and Daniel Voss was new to London. He’d rented a small flat on the edge of Whitechapel and set up shop there. Largely, he worked as an apothecary. It was all a front, though, for his real career. Daniel Voss was a demon hunter. More importantly, he’d come here tracking his prey. Five demons had escaped the gates of Hell and he had been tasked with finding and eradicating them, no matter the cost.
The young mother looked into the yard where her two children were playing and was startled to see a four-legged creature running back and forth as the 4-year-old threw a stick for it. The 6-year-old was on the steps.
“We found a puppy, Mama!”
The creature certainly bore a…resemblance to a puppy, with four legs and a tail that wagged excitedly. But it was hard to believe that this thing shared any genetics with canine kind as it’s jaw opened much too far and revealed too many teeth and a long snaking tongue. It’s four eyes seemed to blink independently, though they all closed as her youngest scratched it behind the ears.
“Can we keep him?”
The puppy vanished in a puff of something that smelled like motor oil and lavender before appearing at her feet, front paws up on her thigh. For a long moment, woman and dog stared at each other. She rubbed her temples and then looked at the wide-eyed hopeful expressions on her children’s faces.
“We can keep him for now, but you’d better make some posters in case he has an owner looking for him.”
She looked down again and the puppy looked up at her solemnly with all four eyes. Somehow, she doubted they would hear from anyone.