Armitage - Chapter 8 - The Inhuman Truth (Part 1 of 3)
London, 1888, the city was in the grip of the killings of the infamous Jack the Ripper, and I, a simple chemist, was trying to go about my daily life as best I could without reflecting too deeply on the terror that stalked our streets. Fear had a name but no face as “Gentleman Jack”, as he had become known in certain circles, preyed on the denizens of the night with both brutality and seeming impunity. The police were baffled, the press hounding them for results on both sides of the Atlantic, but little did I know that the events of my life would easily foreshadow the gruesome Whitechapel murders, had any of the details become public, or indeed been in the slightest bit believable. But it is true, all of it, and I find myself unable to withhold the truth any longer, even though my revealing it puts me in the gravest of danger. I do not care, for the truth must be known, I can only hope that whoever may be reading these words will take them seriously and give them the attention they deserve, for far more may be at stake than any of us realise.
I am a vampire you see, and have been for many years. Believe me, I know how utterly insane that sounds but I swear on my dear Catherine’s life that it is the God’s honest truth. I did not believe it either, like you I merely considered vampires to be the stuff of legend, simple peasant folklore taking on a life of its own, but I was wrong, very wrong, and I paid the price for my ignorance, a price that haunts me still and will never leave me, no matter what I try.
My tale, if you can call it that, begins in that fateful year in London when the whole of the city was living in the corner of its eyes, waiting for the Ripper to strike again. Mary Ann Nichols and Annie Chapman had both met their fates at the hands of the Ripper at this time, but it would not be long before the three remaining victims would fall foul to his knife and his wroth. I, like many other Londoners of the time, kept up with the Ripper case through the newspapers and whatever gossip filtered into my small shop in Mayfair, as well as my gentleman’s club, where the killings were being frequently discussed over the usual port and cigars. We followed the case, but we never thought it would touch us in the more affluent areas of the city, but I was unaware that what awaited me was far worse than the heinous Ripper killings.
I remember the day I met him, the one who made me what I am, like it was yesterday. I had been working as a chemist in the district of Mayfair for several years and for myself and my family life was good. It was early September, so the warmth of summer had not completely left the air, and I enjoyed pleasant strolls in the late afternoon/early evening sunshine as I made my way to my gentleman’s club a few streets along from my shop. I was looking forward to a relaxing drink and a read of the day’s newspaper, possibly followed by a quick game of billiards before it would be time to take myself home for dinner, but as soon as I entered the lounge I knew something was different. He was new to the club, yet he stood by the unlit fireplace as if a regular, and he carried himself in such a manner that did not so much speak of an air of confidence but more stated his knowledge of the world’s awareness of said confidence, needless to say he intrigued me. Being the genial sort of fellow that I was I gave my hat and coat to the attendant and made my way over to him, extending my hand as I introduced myself, this was my first mistake. Were I able to go back to that moment I would have avoided the newcomer at all costs, I would have continued on home and not ventured to the club that evening, perhaps saving my soul, perhaps saving their lives. Regret is a terrible thing, and for many years it has been my sole companion, perhaps this is why I feel compelled to put my anguish into words, not for monetary gain but to attempt to alleviate some of the burden that has pressed down upon me over the decades, and of course to warn future generations of the evil that I encountered, of the evil that I became.
The newcomer was polite and friendly, if somewhat aloof, but I found we got along famously. We talked at length over a glass or two of port and even played a few hands of gin rummy, something he seemed to excel at, as I lost spectacularly at each hand. When I happened to glance at the clock on the mantle I found, to my surprise, that it was a quarter to nine, much later than I usually stayed at the club and, looking about, I saw that the world outside had grown dark. I apologised for taking up so much of the stranger’s time and excused myself, retrieved my hat and coat and exited the club. All the way home I wondered how we could have talked for so long without me being aware of it, and the more I thought on it the more I realised how little I actually knew about this newcomer to the club. I tried with no success to remember the man’s name, I felt sure he had given it to me but my mind felt fuzzy and I just could not recollect it. I thought perhaps I had drunk too much port but I made it a rule never to have more than two glasses so it could not have been that. All that I could remember was that the newcomer had recently returned to London after extensive travels abroad and that the conversation, or what I could remember of it, had centred mostly on myself. I recalled telling him about Catherine, and our daughter Isabelle, and my shop a few streets away, but aside from his recent travels, even of which I did not find out very much, I knew next to nothing about this man, whereas he seemed to have left the club that night with a wealth of information concerning myself. This was, of course, all part of his diabolical plot that, now, involved me, although I was still unaware of it.
I had not given the stranger much thought since our first encounter at the gentleman’s club that night, although I had a fine time of it explaining to Catherine why I was so late getting home. She was a patient and understanding woman but the fact that I could not remember much of the evening put in her mind the notion that I had indulged in somewhat too much port, and in the absence of a more satisfactory explanation I conceded that this must have been the case and ensured her that it would not happen again. Weeks passed and autumn ushered out any lingering elements of summer, turning the evenings dark and cold, and it was on one blustery Wednesday evening in late October that while closing up the shop for the night he just happened to pass by. At the time I thought it mere coincidence, but now, with what I know, I understand that nothing was happening by chance, everything was going according to his plan, and without my even knowing it I was playing directly into his hands. We walked and talked together for a while, discussing, among other things, the Ripper case, something he always seemed keen to hear my views on, and by the time we had reached my house I had found that I had invited him to dinner. In recollection this was most uncharacteristic of me, as was observed by both my wife and our cook, but whatever had made me forget the man’s name had also fogged my mind to the point where I did not recall inviting him to dinner, only that I found myself standing on my doorstep introducing the enigmatic stranger to Catherine and informing her that he would be joining us for dinner. I could tell that my announcement had startled and somewhat annoyed Catherine, but she was nothing if not polite, so she smiled through the inconvenience and invited the stranger into our home.
This was the biggest mistake of all.