Not since Jack the Ripper has a serial killer held London in its hands as this one. Each morning edition splashed with the latest gory details of the murder, with every tea house conversation rife with suppositions about the meanings of the delicate murals created with the victim’s blood. At first the nation was taken with terror, but as time wore on, that terror was replaced by intrigue and bred amateur detectives in their hundreds.
The first murder will always be remembered as the most graceful. The victim lay peacefully upon white sheets, each crease in the wedding dress she wore perfectly smoothed out. Her hands had been placed upon her chest and her lips pursed in a contented smile. The very fact that she had been murdered seemed to amuse her, and that smile had been burnt into the minds of all who saw her.
The voices of the newspaper boys permeated the stillness of the morning as a darkness descended upon the streets, entering the hearts of the people as the story roused curiosity, gossip, and fear.
The papers had sensationalised the murder, fearing that they would never see such an occurrence again. Secret meanings were attached to the care attended upon the body of this young girl, scouring books and mythology for an understanding of the murals carefully painted with the victim’s blood.
Intricate patterns flowed across the walls, describing untamed forests, unscaleable mountains and lakes of fire. The female population shuddered collectively as each envisioned themselves in her position; the men took up arms as vigilante bravado spread with each drink downed to accompany the gossip that continued in the taverns.
For Mother, holed up inside her little home on the outskirts of the city, these portents could only signal the end of everything. Staring outside for hours on end, she waited, hoping to know her enemy as either man or devil before being consigned to the oblivion she was so sure awaited us all.
I approached her carefully, unsure as to how all this gore had affected her mentally. My fear was unfounded as she turned to remind me, as always, to pray.
The second murder took place on the eve of the new moon. The victim dressed exquisitely in the robes of the nobility lay prone against a wall with an oriental fan clutched tentatively in her left hand. The murals loomed over her as a macabre backdrop to this latest murder. The stolen blood swirled around itself in a vortex, each curl carrying a menagerie of animals walking towards the centre where a man sat cross-legged.
Many animals were recognisable; others strange creatures only found in the imaginations of the insane with a penchant for hellish creation. The police announced the work of an occult serial killer, and public fear reached its peak as the women hid and the men belittled the killer to quell the rising terror residing behind their strong words.
Back home Mother’s fear heightened.
‘They will come for me!’ she cried, begging the god she believed would protect us, if only we requested it.
For hours she pleaded, leaving me afraid to move lest I break her trance. As dusk settled upon the rooftops of the neighbouring houses she stopped, turning to me to once again remind me to pray.
The mural that accompanied the third murder was a grim rendition of civilisation; a multitude of houses, churches and even a castle were beautifully rendered in the now familiar bloody medium. It was like no place anyone had ever seen, curiously arousing in many the dream of travel. The victim was hung from the roof, dressed in a revealing nightgown and supported by ropes bound to the wooden rafters – forever flying above the city staining the ground below.
When officials considered the nature of the women’s attire they asserted that the killer was a man obsessed with the very things that define femininity. Of the murals there was no interpretation adequate enough, nor were there enough witnesses willing to discuss this obscenity due to the inclusion of a near naked woman.
As the city waited with baited breath for the next killing a letter arrived at the police station. The letter told them the murders were almost over, and its contents held the entire city’s population captive as the days dragged on without news. No longer did fear force people inside as darkness fell, it was as if they wanted to witness this final monstrosity first hand. The thought that they could be the last victim did not occur to them as they trawled the streets attacking any and all who looked at them askance. Chaos reigned as the foolish masses ignored the letter’s sage advice. It had told them that tonight was the night to hold your loved ones and consider your sins. To understand that god will forgive you if only you ask.
The letter told them all to pray.
The killings stopped at the fourth, for Mother’s work was complete. As I kneeled facing the walls, I prayed, as I was always instructed to do. With a careful hand mother drew the landscape of heaven upon the walls. She drew the clouds, the sun and the omnipresent form of the god she promised will save us all. The girl whimpers softly, gasping as Mother lets her blood into the old chamber pot. The herbal concoction is strong enough that the girl is barely aware of her predicament, lying naked across the bed as her veins are drained of life.
We waited as the blood turned dark, for the people to come.
The papers announced our capture, and the murals revealed their secrets: the ascent of life to redemption. I never understood the true meaning behind this, nor will I ever, for our execution date is today and the baying crowd awaits my dear mother at the gallows.
The chains around her wrists and ankles drag noisily across the prison floor; I can hear her approaching my cell as she is marched to the oblivion she knew was coming. At the exit, before the light of day enshrouded her form, she turned to me, serenity etched across her face as she whispered:
“You must pray”
And I did.