Let it not be said I renege on my promises (or at least let it not be said that I did so today) what follows in an excerpt of my first serious attempt at a serious novel. Seriously.
Yesterday’s post, where I introduced the Victorian murder-mystery ‘Mistyree’, via all the (terrible) illustrations I did for it, and forewarned of the overwritten navel-gazing contained therein, can be found here: https://racheliliffe.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/some-mystyree-illustrations/
Well, I say all–as you can see there was one left, the illustration for the scene that follows. (don’t ask why the bookcase juts out so far from the wall, nor why Nicky has a picture of some origami on his wall: suffice it to say my deficiencies as an artist are innumerable). Nothing apart from a few paragraph breaks where it got really bad has been changed since it was written in 2007…
Excerpt from ‘Mistyree’
CONTEXT: Following the wedding of the MC (Nicky)’s younger brother, (minor gentlemen, both), a series of gruesome and bizarre murders take place in the local village. After being stabbed by a random thief and rescued (though unconscious at the time) by a man whom it is deduced by the detective on the case (who I called ‘Holmes’ as a joke) was probably the murderer, Nicky awakens weeks later to find a mutilated corpse has been placed in his bed in the night…
I looked at her again, and this time tried to see her as a whole. I didn’t recognise her at all, I couldn’t think that she had once been an entity I had shared time with at some point, that some part of my life had been killed with her. I felt more alive when I looked at her. Was that why he did it?
But her, her on the bed—she who had once moved and no longer did—what was she? How could she fit in my perception of the world? Her presence did not seem to change anything in me, I was frightened yes, but still me. What did this body mean? She looked so… so odd, being a body which did not live, a type of human being which I had never seen before and never could have imagined even with my unusual mind.
The right words did not exist to tell my thoughts, to make an argument of any coherency to process properly this incident. I calmed down further and realised I was sitting on the floor again. I couldn’t see her body properly, but saw her blood—even when I closed my eyes that red imprint remained.
At that point a maid came in to open the curtains. Unfortunately it was not Li, she was with Inspector Holmes at the time, but it seemed Mother had seen fit to send some poor servant up to inquire as to why I was not at breakfast. I was not sure myself, and wondered whether I had overslept, or had simply been transfixed by my lifeless companion too much to move for hours.
She screamed at what she saw—the bed, the girl, me, and backed out of the room still screaming. I watched her as I reminded myself that I was fine and could wait until later to exhibit the proper reaction to this happening. She hit the opposite wall of the corridor with an audible thump and never stopped screaming. She sounded hysterical, but even so, somewhat false, as though acting a part in a play. Perhaps such a reaction would always seem false to me, having no other genuine reaction to compare with.
I heard voices outside the room. “What’s happening!? What’s happening!?” A man’s voice cried out—George, I realised in a few moments. This unexpected situation had made my thoughts slower than usual. More than one man was hurrying up the stairs however, and it was Inspector Holmes who ran into my room first, followed closely by my brother.
“Dear God.” Said Holmes, his face turning pale before my very eyes. George turned away almost immediately and covered his mouth with his hand, retching. The maid’s screams continued but sounded raspier as she lost her voice from too much screaming. Eventually her screams turned to sobs and I watched her huddling outside my room. None of them seemed to have noticed me yet.
“George,” Said Holmes forcefully, grabbing my brother’s shoulders and staring at him. I could see that Holmes was just as thrown by the new development, but he held it together well. “George, listen to me.”
“No, no, this is not supposed to happen,” Said George, shaking his head like a small child, “This does not happen to me, not to me, not to my family,” He said.
“George, listen!” Snapped Holmes.
“No, no, not these things, these things do not happen,”
“George!” Holmes roared, shaking him firmly.
George was silent for a moment, “It’s like a nightmare…” He whimpered.
I was confused at my brother’s reaction. George never seemed the type to go to pieces in a crisis. Hadn’t he taken charge the first time? Perhaps it was actually seeing the body that alarmed him so. Although I realised that everyone had the potential to slip into the persona that he was now adopting, I still felt at odds by it. The reactions that entity on the bed provoked, it seemed, were just as disorienting as the body itself.
“I know, George,” Said Holmes, not unkindly, “But listen to me. You take that poor girl downstairs,” He meant the maid, “and do not let anyone else enter the room apart from Doctor Dudley, do you understand!?”
George whimpered a bit but Holmes merely shook him again, “Do you understand?” He asked. George hesitated, then nodded and staggered to the door of my bedroom. I turned my head to watch him leave, he and the sobbing girl grasping at each other for support. I thought of Homer, at least, I think it was Homer, and Odysseus grasping at his wife like a drowning swimmer. Funny that such a thing should have come to my mind at that moment.
When I couldn’t hear him anymore, I turned my head again to look at Holmes. His back was facing me and having caught his bearings he was examining the entity. I wondered if he’d even seen me. I suddenly wanted him to notice me more than anything, and tried to make some sound to grab his attention. No sound would come. It seems silly that I wanted to take his attention away from her, but that was how it was.
Holmes sighed and shook his head. He moved very little and I felt my mind start to wonder to other things. George would have been telling the others, I wondered what their faces would look like when he did. Shocked? Devastated? Exasperated? Well father might be, this was the fifth body and still no leads.
The slight shaking of the floor that one only feels when one is not thinking of anything warned me of the next approaching figures. Two of them—who had accompanied Dudley? I guessed who, and lo and behold accompanying the good doctor was my dear Xanatos, pale and worried. He relaxed somewhat upon seeing me in safety, then changed his mood to horrified when he saw the stains covering me.
“Nicky!” He breathed and dropped to my side. Dudley coughed heavily as he came in.
“Blast! Another one, eh?” He complained, “When you catch this diseased demon I swear I’ll kill him myself!”
Five times over? I wondered.
“Look at the pattern of blood.” Holmes said, ignoring Dudley’s comment, “He’s killed her here. Slit her throat right on this bed, he’s never done that before.”
“Getting braver?” Asked Dudley.
“No,” Holmes replied, his face screwed up in concentration, “No, this one never had any fear.”
Xanatos interrupted them as he rubbed my uninjured shoulder gently, “Doctor, could you please see to Nicky?” His hand on my shoulder was not particularly comforting, but I knew he had meant it to be and that was comforting. “I do not believe he’s injured, but he’s certainly—”
“My God!” Cried Dudley, “You were here? What did you see?”
I tried to answer him and found I could not move.
“Mr. Attfield?” Asked Holmes.
“I…” I managed ‘I’ but couldn’t get anything else out.
“See to him, John.” Said Holmes.
Dudley didn’t move. “Well what’s he doing here anyway? How did he get covered in blood—it’s obviously not his!”
“This is his room!” Hissed Xanatos. He saw what they were implying before I did, and he didn’t like it. Rather sweet of him, I thought.
Dudley stared, mystified. Holmes wore much the same expression but managed to voice what by this point we were all wondering. “This man,” He meant the murderer, “Took the poor girl into this room and slit her throat over the bed,” He paused, “While Mr. Attfield was sleeping on it? And then he just put her on the bed and left and you didn’t hear or see anything?”
Dudley started to walk towards me as I tried to remember how to talk. “Uh… I… w-was… I was a-asleep,” I began shaking. Dudley knelt down next to me, bones cracking with old age. He then sniffed at my face, which I thought rather odd.
“More than asleep.” He said with a humourless laugh, “Chloroform.” But the suspicion in his eyes didn’t waver. “Then again, Wat and I have seen killings staged more elaborately than this.”
“What!?” Xanatos spat out, moving so that he was diverting Dudley’s attention from me, “I suppose you don’t know how utterly ridiculous you sound?” He said.
Dudley sneered, “This is his room.” He said. “What other place to start but—”
“John!” Holmes interrupted. “I’ll admit the situation could be argued either way. Just get Mr. Attfield to another room and clean him up, I’ll ask him questions later.” He paused, then added as an afterthought, “Make sure he doesn’t go anywhere. This one has far more to do with our murderer than I’d like.”
“What on earth do you think you’re talking about, sir!?” Xanatos growled. “If you knew for one second—”
“Xanatos?” I said, lifting my arm up to grab his sleeve, “I think my legs aren’t working properly.” I wasn’t lying, they were twitching without my control, but not moving when I wanted them to. Xan looked concerned and reached for me, lifting me up, miraculously without jarring my shoulder.
“Arthur’s room is closest,” He said bitterly. “I’m sure he won’t mind.”
I nodded and wished that everyone would leave immediately. I caught another glimpse of the body as Xan carried me out. How cold she looked. I wanted to give her a blanket or something. Then I saw something else I immediately reminded myself to remember for later—it may have interested Holmes, after all. Kuka and Imily were sitting on my desk on the other side of the room, free of bloodstains and definitely not where I had left them. I could only catch a glimpse of them however, before we stumbled further down the corridor to Art’s room.
Art was elsewhere, probably riding a horse or something, and I was disappointed, because I’d have loved to see the expression on his face if he had to deal with me covered in blood again. Xanatos put me down on the bed and went into the adjoining chamber. I lay down and thought of nothing in particular for a few moments, before I suddenly remembered that I was covered in the blood of a dead girl.
Then it struck me—why had the killer left her in my bed? This was the second time he’d shown a strange sort of interest in me and I couldn’t understand it. I found myself very interesting, but everyone else either pretended I didn’t exist or pretended I was someone else (except on certain occasions of course). Had he just picked me at random?
Or was he genuinely paying me attention?
I was somewhat excited at the prospect. I didn’t like a lot of attention from other people, which was fortunate because I didn’t get much, but sometimes I did feel momentarily…left out. I would much rather be left alone, and could see myself living perfectly well without any sort of human company (provided someone left me some food once and a while) and yet this prospective interest our killer had in me of all people was in turn of interest to me.
It was flattering, of all things, and not in a sycophantic way like the people I saw or imagined I saw in Hell, but something far more subtle than that. But I felt I’d probably got it completely wrong and he wasn’t interested in me at all—after all I didn’t conform to his preferred type of victim and I wasn’t part of the force assembled to catch him. One would think he was far more interested in Holmes, his arch-nemesis or whatever he saw the detective as. I knew that Holmes was certainly focussed on him.
And me? Well, this whole time I’d mostly been thinking about myself and my own idiosyncrasies. Even now I was self-analysing, wondering what it was in me that he could possibly find interesting rather than what it was in him that could be interested in me.
I hadn’t really given him the thought he was due, just compared him with myself, used him as a way to try and further understand myself, never tried to understand him because I had never been able to understand anyone. Perhaps he was trying to attract my attention. So who was he? He didn’t think or act like normal people, that was clear enough, and neither did he think or act like me.
Category One: Normal People. Category Two: Me. Category Three: Murderers. No, some normal people could be murderers as well. Evil? Well, for lack of a better word I supposed, even if it did not exactly describe this person. But evil was supposed to be hated, if one was ‘good’ or mostly good, and loved if one was ‘evil’, and vice versa. I couldn’t seem to feel either about either, as I had explained to the vision of Lucifer, though I could usually tell the difference—the difference according to society as a whole, I realised.
Seeing as how I didn’t seem to feel either of them, they probably didn’t exist for me. But the murderer had to be termed something, and as Holmes insisted he was not insane, I had no other recourse but to call him evil. Evil was simply not necessarily a negative element to me, merely a different one. Had I contradicted myself? Did I say earlier I preferred good, or something to that effect? Hmm…I suppose I could still prefer good and not have an all-out hatred of evil.
An evil person, the first I’d ever come across. How to quantify him, was the question. Perhaps I was the first un-normal person he’d ever come across too, and that was why he was interested in me?