Here is another recently written short story. I’ve used Inspiration Monday’s prompt hollow earth; however, it was also a task for my university’s Fiction Writing class, in which we had a list of questions that had to be incorporated into the text — hence the abundance of question marks. I hope you enjoy, and, as always, comments and constructive criticism are much appreciated.
Her footsteps are heard echoing down the shadowed street of stone and steel long before she appears. Her skirt is pinched between her fingers, hoisted just-so above the ground with delicate hands. She reaches the intersection of the roads and lessens her grip, allowing the heavy material to cascade around her legs. And then she waits, silent as the night.
Who is this woman? And what does this place mean to her? It is nothing more than a dusty stretch of road, squeezed conveniently between long lines of cramped buildings, all of which have their doors boarded closed to the darkness. The unforgiving moon glares down at the lonely, vulnerable woman—this is no place for her, whether she be of virtue or of wickedness.
And yet she seems unconcerned by her solitude. Was it always that way? In the suffocating silence, she could easily be the only person left in this ghostly town, but her delicate chin is lifted astutely, and her ruby red lips are pouted in a determined pose of confidence as she glances up and down the cobbled roads.
She looks almost painted against her backdrop, pretty and poised and not to be messed with. But is she sure she was right to come here? Perhaps not, if the dark, worried glint in her eyes is to be trusted. It flits through the blueness, barely-there but reoccurring, until a whisper of movement is heard across the street.
A man, cloaked in the embrace of the night, stares intently as her eyes turn to petrified storms of grey. They watch each other, unmoving, while her heart flutters like a caged dove. Is she afraid that he’ll melt back into the shadows, stalk her like Death upon his victims? Or is she afraid that he won’t, that his depthless, black eyes will continue to pin her in place?
Unnerved by his stoic, constant presence, the woman shifts back against the wall. The movement, though slight, results in a rustling of material. The noise is explosive in the deaf air, and she grasps her skirt firmly to stifle it. When she raises her eyes, nearly blackened by fear, the man is gone, with not a murmur to show he was ever there at all.
She is trapped now. Her heart continues to hammer in his absence, and the steady drumbeat urges her to run, run, run. But the empty shadows where the man once stood unsettle her more than his unblinking gaze. Is he truly gone, or has he simply moved further down the road, prepared to pounce like an alley cat upon a mouse, the instant she draws near? But if she stays, waiting in the place that they’d agreed, the man could return, laughing mockingly as he finds her pinned to the earth where he’d left her.
Such is her trepidation that she finds herself quite unaware of how much time has passed. How long has she stood here? How long since she last saw him? She stands impossibly still until the thud of her pulse fades from her ears. Her hands cease their shaking as she quietly assures herself that her watcher has, indeed, departed. But on what grounds does she believe that?
Did she realise, at the birth of this night, how dangerous her adventure would be? A woman alone in a sinful street is an easy target for any predator, particularly when her confidence has been so visibly shaken. Surely she knew she not have agreed to wait here, vulnerable in her patience. So what has she brought with her? Nothing. So assured was she that her lover would meet her, protect her, shield her from these threats, that she has come unprepared for a broken promise.
Why does it matter so much? She seems to ask herself the same question, as her fingers swipe furiously at the tears that roll unbidden down her cheeks. The rouge smears into an unsightly, blood-red stain as she takes a final look along the lengths of the road. What does she hope will happen? Perhaps her lover will appear, riding gallantly upon a steed as he declares his love and apologises, sweeps her into his arms and steals her away from the shadows and strangers of this place.
And if it doesn’t work out? Then she will return to reality, with her skirt between her fingers and her secrets locked away, never to speak of such stupidity again.
“Curse you, Jonathon,” she whispers. His name is spat like something foul, morphing her pretty lips into an ugly snarl. She angrily grabs at the material of her skirt, pinching the skin of her thighs in her haste. Her footsteps are hurried and sudden, echoing the frustrated beating of her heart.
It takes her a few moments to notice the sound of additional feet, well-polished shoes with seamless heals, clicking loudly against the stones to signify the wealth of this new arrival. Is that him coming now? She is smiling before she turns; the tiny beads of hatred that had grown within her melt away in an instant as she twirls lightly to face her beloved. “Jonathon?”
That single word was to be her last; with the speed of a practiced hand, the woman’s mouth is clamped in an icy, vice-like grip. Her muffled scream is cut short as the stranger spins her effortlessly against his chest, and draws his blade across her throat. She is gone before she can feel the pain of her life’s blood soaking into the neckline of her garment.
Her murderer releases her now, his work complete, and watches as she falls unceremoniously to the hollow earth. He is smirking like the Devil, his black, gloved hands dripping red, while the pungent aroma of death fills the air.
Come morning, her cold, distorted body will be found, and fear will once again turn the hearts of the citizens to stone. But only the unforgiving moon was witness to the killer’s departure, and the town will know that Jack the Ripper has struck again, unchallenged, unfound and unperturbed by the number of deaths that have stained his gloves.
- Love The Bad Guy