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A little boy with a big heart



 
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Jack Whitechapel

It was quite unfortunate that Jack had never learned to whistle. He had been trying for as long as he could remember, remembering a line from some old movie he had watched with the Tall Woman at some point. ‘you know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put you juse  lips together and… blow.’ Jack put his lips together again and only succeeded in making a wet, flapping sound as air and saliva escaped them simultaneously.

The frown on the tiny boys face was as eloquent as it was affected. It would seem genuine, perhaps, to a stranger on the street if they never looked into his dark, ageless eyes and saw that no emotion touched them. Either way, he held the look for a while before turning on his heel and walking down the sidewalk.

He had to stay on the sidewalk. The Tall Woman had said it was important to always stay on the sidewalk otherwise the bad men would get you and take you away. Oh, wait, was that what happened if you went outside without holding her hand? Or, later, if you went outside at all? Yeah, if you didn’t stay on the sidewalk the cars would run you over as flat as a pancake with all kinds of blood and other yucky stuff squirting out of your ears and eyes and mouth. Yeah, so you always had to stay on the sidewalk.

 

Jack meandered on his sidewalk stroll, his legs moving in a steady, almost measured rhythm with each heel-strike coming with such precision it almost seemed as though someone had set footprints on the ground in front of him to keep each step exactly uniform. Likewise, his upper body, clad in a dark sweater of dyed wool over a white dress shirt and black tie, moved hardly at all with his arms remaining almost stationary at his sides save for a quick “one two three four, four three two one” count tap of thumb to fingers in turn.

“Excuse me,” came the slighty out of breath voice of the woman dressed in spandex and a sports bra and nothing else. “Are you lost?”

Jack stopped and looked at the woman but did not say anything. He simply met her gaze with dark eyes and stood completely still, pale face completely expressionless.

“You shouldn’t be out here by yourself, epecially at this hour! Where’s your mommy?”

On her bed where I left her when she started to stink.

“What’s your name?”

Jack stared silently at the woman. He reached out a small, thin-digited hand out toward her, maintaining his taciturn attitude. Of course, like any adult with any sort of heart, the woman placed her hand in Jack’s.

“I’m Marla, it’s nice to meet you. Do you live around here?” The woman asked in the tone reserved for speaking to small children and really old people.

Jack remained silent but started walking, tugging the woman along with him. “Where are we going?” She asked. Jack walked in silence, tugging insistently at the hand.

December 21, 2018 07:17 am

Dita Morgenstern

Four days to Christmas. Yet it didn’t feel much like Christmas to Dita. Even as the statuesque blond watched people scurry to and fro beneath the ever-pulsing, multicolored Christmas lights, laughing and speaking animatedly with one another, it still didn’t feel like Christmas. The holiday hadn’t felt like Christmas for two years now. It probably wouldn’t ever again.

Laurel gaze, sullen, brushed over those that passed too closely in front of the viewfinder and lens of her camera. Long gone was the coral and pink pigeon of interest; replaced by photos of couples, flowers, and cemeteries. Long gone was the brightness in verdant hues; replaced by a deep sadness, a dullness that, to anyone that might pay close enough attention, dampened her very soul.

Click.

A photo taken of a random couple in the happiest moment of their outing.

Click.

A man dressed as Santa standing outside a department store.

Click.

A small child mid-step dressed in a dark sweater that covered white dress shirt and black tie.

How peculiar. The thought danced through the young woman’s mind as she lowered the camera that partially covered sallow countenance. It was early evening, why was this boy walking through London, alone?

Alone? No, he wasn’t alone. A woman, scantily clad for the weather in Dita’s opinion, approached the boy and had taken his hand. They looked nothing alike and he seemed hesitant at her approach. Had she just been witness to a kidnap in progress? A skeletal hand slipped to the pocket of tweed coat but came up empty. No cell phone, no time to find a pay phone or a police officer, Dita stood from the bench she was sat upon and started to follow the pair.

If she could just maintain sight of the two, she might be able to help the child.
December 21, 2018 08:40 pm

Jack Whitechapel

The woman walked with Jack but with hesitation. “Where is your mommy?” She kept asking the same thing over and over. It was really getting annoying. Jack wasn’t sure if she just didn’t know how to say anything else. She continued to try to get him to talk. It wasn’t that Jack didn’t know how to talk. He could talk just fine. He just didn’t like to. Besides, the Tall Woman had told him a long time ago that he wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers. It was because they could take him away from her and he would never see her again.

Jack’s mind wandered as he thought of the Tall Woman. Where had she gone? It had been a long time since she had lost him on the train. It seemed like she should have found him by now. It was okay, though. Jack knew that she would find him eventually and take him to see the animals in the cages at the Zoo and drink those blue ice things that stained his tongue and gave him a headache when he drank them too fast.

“Where’s your mommy?”

She said the same thing again. Jack stopped and stared at her. They were at the edge of one of those gangway things that went in between big buildings. There were stairs leading down and there were doors on the side of the building. Jack just pointed down that way, down the stairs. He turned and started walking in that direction, pulling the lady with him.

”Is your mommy down here? Is she hurt? I think I should call the police.”

Jack stopped at the bottom of the steps and the woman stopped beside him. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a folded up red heart that he had carefully cut out of a popped balloon. It was about the size of one of his tiny palms. Maybe a little bigger.

“Trade,” he said.
”What?” She said.
“Trade,” Jack insisted again and tapped her on the chest.
”I don’t have anything to trade, sweety,” She said sadly.

The metal rod entered the woman’s stomach just above her naval. Jack’s hand gripped it firmly. She had no breath to scream. She had no strength to fight. Blood seeped out of the wound and over Jack’s slender fingers. It was a stark contrast to the paleness of his paper-white skin.

“Trade,” Jack insisted again.
The woman fell to her knees. It was getting harder for her to breathe.
Jack knelt beside her when she fell onto her side. He started working the sharpened rod up toward her ribs. He twisted and pried, trying to open the cavity.

He wasn’t trying to hurt her…

...Jack just wanted to trade.

December 21, 2018 09:17 pm

Dita Morgenstern

Thick rubber soles of Dita’s Oxfords were nearly silent against cobblestone and concrete as she followed the two at a slow but steady pace. Her plan was to follow the pair until they arrived at their destination. She would then find a phone to use and call the police. Hopefully, even with holiday traffic, the police would arrive swiftly and be able to help the boy find his way back to his mother. Until they arrived, Dita would do her best to protect the boy from the woman.

That was the plan..

As the boy and woman stopped, Dita turned to glance through a shop window, pretended she was busy with last minute shopping so as to not alert the duo that she had followed them all this way. The German girl, in reality, was gathering necessary information for her phone call- an address, a street name. Stepping into a red telephone box, a sixty pence coin deposited, skeletal fingers pressed ‘999’ quickly, laurel eyes locked on the child. When the boy and woman descended the stairwell however, the blond panicked. Releasing the phone after a rushed ‘Hurry!’, the operator still in the midst of asking what the nature of the crime was, Dita left the handset to dangle and bolted across the sidewalk to the stairwell.

..sometimes plans don’t work out quite the way you expected.

Hovering at the top of the stairwell, Dita watched in abject horror as the woman bent forward. Drops of blood quickly peppered the concrete between the two below and, as the woman sank to her knees, the only question that came to mind was ‘Is she a vampire?’. The blond knew she wasn’t strong enough to fight one off but she also couldn’t stand idly by and watch yet another child die in her presence.

A shrill ‘No!’ exploded past wan lips as tenuous physique rushed haphazardly down the stairs at the woman. It wasn’t until Dita reached the bottom that the woman’s body fell to the side to reveal the small child held a metal rod drooling ichor.

“Y-you’re alright?”

The young woman was incapable of saying anything else to the boy that attempted to pry the dying woman’s torso open. Not only was she completely shocked by the sudden revelation, Dita was terrified. What was he trying to do? Wild eyes stared at the tiny boy as sirens neared. Sirens. The police. What had she done? She couldn’t leave him there for the authorities. He would end up in an asylum somewhere, possibly be abused, or worse ..turn out like she had.

Dita needed to do something ..and quickly.

A solid push to the boy’s shoulder to move him out of the way, Dita crouched down while her other hand plunged into the crude incision. He wanted something but what? Laurel hues met the red balloon heart and she suddenly realised the desired object. The woman’s heart. A quiet grunt, Dita forced her hand further into the stranger’s chest cavity until weak pulse was in skeletal grasp. The boy was literally trying to take her heart.

A great pull, a sickening slurp, hand and heart found freedom from the vacuum like seal of the woman's torso.

“H-heart?” Mossy eyes lined with tears, Dita offered the small boy the still beating heart. “W-we have to go now, okay?”

Merry Christmas.
December 22, 2018 08:15 am

Jack Whitechapel

Jack held the fourteen inch piece of metal gripped tightly in his right hand. The woman tried to struggle against the forcible penetration but did not have the strength. The boy was small. He looked to be somewhere in the neighborhood of six or seven, but he was small for even that. How he could guide the weight of the woman down to the ground one handed was a mystery that could be explored at another time. For now, he was focused completely on his goal. He was focused completely on his Trade.

It was only a moment later when Jack removed the rod from the woman’s body and started to reach for the puckered wound on her abdomen. Footsteps approached quickly but Jack didn’t even bother to look up, so focused was he on the task at hand. He wanted to trade. Jack knew that the heart inside her body was different than the heart he held in his hand. He also knew that it was a fair trade, or he would not have tried to make it.

The only way to trade was to make it a fair one. The Tall Woman had taught him that. When she told him to wait in the Dark Place when the Strangers came to trade with her, she always took him out and gave him a treat. She said that was the trade for him being so good and not making any noise or watching what happened. Well, he usually didn’t watch what happened. He was pretty sure she couldn’t see him, though. She usually had her head turned away or covered up with something.

So, Jack was making a fair trade with this woman. A heart for a heart. He was about to shove his hand into the wound when he was shoved aside. Jack stumbled and almost fell when a Stranger came in and started digging inside the woman. Was she taking his trade? That wasn’t very nice! He was making a fair trade and she was just running up and trying to take it? Jack might have reacted to that if he hadn’t been so fascinated with what happened next. She dug straight into the wound and started ripping at it. He heard the sound of bones breaking and the sound of skin ripping. It kind of sounded like a wet sheet being torn apart.

Jack watched with interest when the Stranger ripped something out from inside. Was it his heart? Jack took a step forward with the intention of taking it from her before she could run off with it. It was wrong to steal from people and it was going to be a part of Jack’s collection. She couldn’t have it. He was trading fair for it, after all. She turned and held a large piece of weakly pulsating muscle out to him. Jack was slightly surprised but he didn’t hesitate to finish his walk over to her. He reached out his perfectly manicured hands toward the bloody mess.

Remembering something, Jack stopped halfway to grabbing the organ. He pulled out his shiny, plastic heart and smoothed it over his tiny palm. Dropping down to the ground, he shoved it deep into the open chest cavity of the downed woman. The warm insides felt interesting and Jack couldn’t help but play around for a moment within. When he pulled his hand out he turned to the Stranger and cupped his palms to accept the heart. He felt the weight and texture first. It was wonderful.

He loved it. It was so beautiful! With childish glea, he pulled the heart close to his chest and squeezed it in a tight hug. The pressure sent residual blood pouring out from either side. He stared in shock as it poured down his formerly neat and clean sweater and shirt.

A look of panic crossed Jack’s face when he saw the stain. His eyes grew even wider when he saw the blood on them and on the white sleeves of his shirt. He dropped to a crouch again and set the heart on the downed woman’s hips to keep it safe. Desperately, he started trying to scrub the crimson stains from his hands and shirt sleeves on her leggings.

That just wouldn’t do.
December 22, 2018 01:30 pm

Dita Morgenstern

Surreal didn’t quite describe the events that occurred in the first few minutes after Dita’s arrival. Not only had she knowingly ripped a woman’s heart from her chest, she was now offering it to a child. Upon his approach, the young woman watched in abject horror, yet mute fascination, as the boy placed a small plastic heart into the dead woman’s chest cavity. As if he had wanted to ..trade? And here she thought the child had been powerless against the spandex clad stranger.

How wrong she had been.

Small cupped hands, so precious in their appearance with perfectly manicured nails, extended and accepted the heart. So it was what he had wanted ..but why? Did he even realize the woman was now dead? Could the small boy with eyes like the abyss comprehend such a concept as life and death? So many questions filled vast mind as laurel eyes studied the small boy. His dress, his appearance, screamed of days past. As if he stepped out of an old black and white photo.

If he could only be a figment of Dita’s wild imagination..

So much blood. It gushed forth from severed veins and arteries as the child squeezed the heart in his excitement. Was he smiling? A wave of nausea swept over the statuesque blond to see another child covered in vitae ..even if it was not his own. She would surely go to jail if the police arrived now, wouldn’t she? Dita was covered in blood, as was the boy. The police may even think the dead woman was the one to call the authorities. Especially with Dita’s ‘record’.

..she might have been able to find some comfort in craziness rather than truth.

Teary eyes remained on the small, odd boy; unsure if he was damaged mentally by abuse or if he didn’t understand what was truly occurring. The lack of communication on his part led her to believe the former but his sudden bid for cleanliness led her to believe the latter. Regardless, Dita was determined to remove this strange child from the premises, to take him back to the Menagerie. He would be safe there. Even if the Coven was inhabited by the supernatural.

Sirens, so loud and near, tore Dita from her observations.

“We have to go now little one..” But the child was so preoccupied with his hand ‘washing’ that he didn’t seem to notice, or care, the police were near. Was he deaf? Dita stood nervously when the sirens stopped and voices could be heard yelling about the phone box, the telephone left off the hook. The police were so close, the girl’s heart started to race wildly while furtive eyes searched for a way out. The door to the building. It was the only way to escape without being seen. “We have to go or they’ll take us both away!”

Footsteps, their staccato echo, grew louder with each step taken.

A giant step towards the child. A rushed whisper across pallid lips. Flaxen locks started to whip violently as if Dita stood in gale force winds. Bony fingertips clawed at the back of the child’s woolen sweater just as an officer arrived to the top of the stairwell. There was a look of shock apparent on the man’s weathered face at the perverse scene below him.

“Step back from the child!”

The man rushed towards the boy, arms outstretched ..to save him? Could he not see the child’s hands were covered in blood? Dita lurched forward, grabbed at the heart with her free hand while the one that clutched at Jack’s sweater yanked him backwards. Away from the body. Away from the officer that seemed an arm’s length away ..who now suddenly stopped. He thought she was trying to hurt the child?

Of course he did ..because no child could kill an adult.
December 25, 2018 08:09 am

Jack Whitechapel

”John. Listen ter me.”
“Look’t me!”
“No matter whats ‘appening, ye stay away from mutton shunters. Ain’t nothin’ good they want with ye.”
“Ye listenin’ ter me, Jack?”


Jack felt himself dragged backward. He looked up to see that the three of them were no longer alone in the gangway. There were men in dark suits and hats running at them. They were saying something over and over that Jack couldn’t quite understand. He knew what these people were. Mutton Shunters. Police. They were the enemy.

”They’ll take ye away from me.
Ye’ll be put inna home fer orphans.
Ye’ll be put to the street.”

Jack felt something rare enter his narrow breast. His eyes widened and his mouth dropped open. He let out a quiet sound. It almost sounded like the fearful chirp of a bird.

”Do ye know what they do to pretty boys like ye on the street?
Do ye know what’s gonna ‘appen ter ye if’n ye talk to the mutton shunters?”


They were the Bogey Man. Jack’s monster in the dark. They were the creatures that would destroy him and take everything he knew and loved away. Loved? Jack didn’t really understand such an abstract emotion as love. He didn’t really understand emotion at all. What he did understand was this overwhelming need to flee. It was the fight or flight instinct that was ingrained in every creature young and old. He wasn’t consciously aware of this instinct.

Jack turned toward the officers and reached into his coat pocket. Among his collection, he had a straight sharp blade about six inches in length. A frozen switchblade. He attempted to rip away from Dita’s grip and charge the officers, brandishing his little weapon like he bore Excalibur itself.

December 27, 2018 09:08 pm

Dita Morgenstern

A heart in one hand, a child in the other. Laurel eyes fixate on the three officers yelling at her to release the boy. The boy who is now brandishing a switchblade and attempting to free himself of Dita’s grasp. Did he plan on attacking the men?

Confusion.
Fear.
So much fear.

Events are unfolding faster than Dita is able to process or react to ..or so it seems. Much to the young woman’s surprise, another voice enters the fold of rich baritones and tenors. Higher of pitch though, roaring at all to stop, to listen.

It is her voice.
Her pleas? Ignored.

Time slows suddenly. The police officers, still shouting for her to release the little boy, move down the stairs as if they are wading through molasses in the middle of winter. But not Dita. The amazon is moving quickly back, Jack still in her grasp, attempting to reach the door that leads into the building they stand in the shadow of.

“Keine Nachtmahr soll mich Plagen, helfe mir Vater!”

Another plea escapes the woman. But to who?

Darkness unexpectedly shrouds the the gangway with its ebony veil. Inky tendrils appear to rip open the door she cannot whilst skeletal hands are busied with child and heart. A once fearful Dita is suddenly calm, focused; the grip she has on the back of the boy’s sweater changes. Instead of clutching at the woolen fabric, a willowy arm snakes around the small boy’s torso, hoists him upwards so that she is now carrying him.

Back ..back ..she moves through the door ..and into a bathroom?

Laurel eyes wide, unsure of what has just happened, take in the neat, tiled space. Two strides leads her to the door which she locks, another stride leads the duo to a counter with multiple sinks. She sets the child down.

“Stay there okay?”

Turning on the water, in hopes that he will busy himself with washing his hands, the young woman turns to a stall and removes a small, unused, black plastic bag from a ‘trash’ receptacle and places the heart inside. Tying the bag’s end in a small, neat knot, she places it on the counter next to Jack and begins to wash her hands furiously.

“Are you hungry?”

She’s distracted suddenly by a sign written in unknown characters.

That’s not completely true.

The lettering is Cyrillic ..she just can’t read it.
December 29, 2018 11:00 pm

Jack Whitechapel

Confusion became Jack’s mind. He was being dragged around by Dita one second. She was able to overpower him easily and drag him through the doorway. Jack stumbled slightly when they crossed the threshold. His ears popped and the feeling of vertigo washed over him. He caught himself on the sink in front of him. Twin red handprints were shown incompletely on the pale porcelain. He looked around their new environment in curiosity. His eyes locked on the closed door behind them and the knife was brandished roughly in that direction. He didn’t know what to expect but somehow he knew that he wouldn’t hear the Mutton Shunters beating on the door. They were somewhere else. Jack didn’t know how he knew that or even what it really meant. Some instinct in him felt the translocation.

It was a while before the young boy turned back to the sinks and his apparent companion. He eyed the faucets until he glanced down at his hands covered in blood in different stages of drying. He then looked down at his shirt. It was dark, but he could still see the vivid stain beneath it. Panic lanced through his dark eyes. He reached to the back of his shirt and ripped it off with surprising quickness. He stood there, shirtless and pale. Without his shirt, the boy seemed even smaller. Each rib was evident pressed against paper pallor. It almost seemed like he carried no weight to him whatsoever.

Jack spread the shirt out on the floor and began to rummage through his pockets. He pulled out a bit of string. A thimble. Three emaciated eyeballs wrapped in cigarette package cellophane. Four marbles, two of them almost identical cats-eye, one green one a little larger than a dime, and a yellow one that appeared to be plastic and about half the size . A piece of jade. An agate about the size of a quarter. Seven pennies with different dates and colors. A Matchbox with three used matches in it. A lint-covered tootsie roll. Two frogs wrapped in wax paper, one of them faintly breathing and attempting to move its limbs. A thimble from a Monopoly game with red wax filled to its brim. He pulled a seven inch meat hook from his belt at the small of his back where it hooked into a custom, hardened leather loop in the belt.. A long, thin blade that once belonged to a fish filet knife which had duct tape wrapped around the handle end as a makeshift grip was snapped into a similar loop. An ice pick hung from a string. A pair of scissors was slid through a loop with the blades in his front pants pocket.

Jack knelt on the floor with his treasures and began to organize them. He started from one end and touched each object. He placed the dead frog at one end. Next to it went the meat hook. And then the green marble. He stroked each object again and placed the eyeballs next, each one carefully wrapped in more cigarette packet cellophane. The brown one went first and then the blue one and finally the pale green one. He continued this process until he was satisfied with the organization. Each object was placed with the utmost care and facing a specific direction. His final bit was the heart in its place of honor at the very end of the line.

Jack stood and threw the shirt straight into the sink and stood at the very extent of his tippy-toes. He reached out and flipped the lever into the “hot” direction. He reached into the sink and started shoving roughly at the wool garment. He scrubbed and squeezed, not caring about the water sloshing over onto the floor or squirting outward. The sink was soon filled with the pink blood-diluted-water. Within minutes, he seemed satisfied with his trivial effort in the lukewarm water. He pulled the shirt out and wrung it out as best he could. He looked at where the stain was, frowned, and put it back into the sink. He scrubbed, scuffed, and squeezed again. He reached up and, with the very tips of his fingers, managed to push the rectangle button of the soap dispenser. He couldn’t catch it in his hands so it spilled to the back of the sink where he drug it off with his palm and into the sink. Soon, suds filled it to the brim.

Jack’s stomach gave a long, loud growl at the mention of food. He turned to Dita and nodded his head. Food sounded wonderful at the moment! He didn’t make any move to walk away from the sink and his task scrubbing at the disgustingly bloody shirt.
December 30, 2018 12:06 am

Dita Morgenstern

Dita watches from the sink, the reflection in the mirror of the unusually thin boy and the obsessive compulsive organising of the treasures he carries. It is curious to say the least. What the young woman finds even more strange than this obsessive nature is the sheer amount of items he carries on his person. And the items themselves. He is a collector, it seems. Much like she was as a child, and still is. Maybe she will share the butterfly collection she possesses.

As laurel eyes study the boy intently, soap lathers into pink foam before it is washed away by cool tap water. More soap, this time for the cuff of her shirt, the sink and the small, bloody, partial hand prints he’s left. Dita is removing any evidence of the woman’s blood from her person and the bright, tiled bathroom. A bathroom that doesn’t seem to be used frequently. Maybe the two are lucky this evening with it being so close to Christmas. That and the time difference. Maybe they are even alone, wherever they may be. A business she imagines.

Stepping away to dry wet hands with a push of a button, Dita notices the little boy is content with his organising and decides it is time to wash his clothes. But what will he wear if his garments are wet? They do not have enough time to dry the clothing beneath the automatic hand dryer nor is the temperature appropriate for the child to wear damp clothing. And who knows really where they will end up next since she is completely baffled by how they arrived to the bathroom in the first place. Before she can stop him though, his shirt and sweater are both slapped roughly into the sink and her question is answered with an enthusiastic nod.

“What’s your name?” Her voice is a soft soprano but not so unkind to one’s ears. She moves from the now quiet dryer to the bathroom stall, casting a glance back to make sure the boy is still washing his clothing. The door closes and tweed jacket finds the hook.

“I’m Dita..” Verdant eyes, pale in color, peek from above the door before her sweatshirt also finds a hook.

“I think maybe it would be best to put your wet clothes in a bag and you can wear my shirt and jacket, okay?” She unbuttons the white shirt she wore beneath the thick sweatshirt and drapes it over the door.

“And then, we’ll try to find some food..” The young woman hates awkward silences so she keeps talking, taking in the boy’s slight frame, how his ribs are visible beneath thin skin. “Do you have a home? Where is your..”

The questioning stops suddenly. No, she will not ask where his mommy is. Reason dictates the child is malnourished because he has no family. Intuition warns that maybe the reason the other woman found herself impaled on a metal rod is because she asked about the boy’s mother. Instead, the sweatshirt finds its way back onto gaunt frame and soon after jacket and button down shirt are offered to the boy.

“Here you go, warm and dry. I’ll get a bag for your clothes while you put your treasures away.” Dita points to all the pockets, even the ones found inside the coat. A soft smile draws across sallow face. “Big pockets to fit all your things.”

Loose denim rustles against itself as the tall girl leaves the child to dress and pack his things. Just across the room is a large trash receptacle with yet another fresh bag. The bathroom must have been cleaned before their arrival. Returning to the sink, Dita hurriedly places the boy’s clothes into the bag, again tying the end in a neat knot, while the child readies himself for their continuing adventure.
January 04, 2019 05:19 am

Jack Whitechapel

All of the treasures. They were organized very carefully on the floor where they belonged. Each one was carefully placed in such a way that there was equal space in between them to the point where a ruler might be used to judge the distance and the variance would be negligible. Negligible enough, likely, to pass the muster of the tolerances of some aerospace manufacturing facility. Not that Jack would consciously understand or even try to reason through that concept. He would, likely, like to examine the machines in such a facility. Likely with tools that would leave expensive equipment gutted and strewn about, the internal components of the mechanical beings spread about like the entrails of so many Ripper victims in bygone years.

A name was spoken in a sweet, accented tone that was appealing to Jack’s ear. He even went so far as to close his eyes as Dita spoke, likely imagining the words in lyrics over some intricate symphony as created by one of the savants of the past. He stopped moving his hands within the basin, the warm water having already started the process of removing the protective layers of moisture from his tender skin and leaving behind wrinkled, dried dates for digits, if those dates had been leached entirely of their color and had become the color of printer paper.

Jack pulled away from the basin and moved to the hand-drier where he reached up to punch the button. Warm air felt cold against his wet flesh when it blew out like the exhaust of a jet engine over his sodden flesh. He held his hands there until the machine stopped. He punched the button again, waving his hands methodically beneath the stream of air that seemed to warm with each passing moment. Again, the blower stopped and, with the same motion, he started it a third time. He kept his hands beneath the stream, eyes riveted on them as if he was making sure that each spot was carefully coated with the molecules of air that flowed out from the spout. The blower stopped a final time and Jack turned away from it to regard the location of the angelic voice that continued to speak to fill the silence and echo hollow around the tiled room.

“Dee-tah,” Jack said, testing the syllables of her name over pale lips. “Dita,” he said again and, “Dita,” to finish off the triplicate in good order. He remained silent when she continued to speak, remaining stationary and focused on absolutely nothing of note until the stall door opened and Dita stepped out. He watched her approach with wide, curious eyes that focused on the garments she carried.

All wrong.

Too big.

And they didn’t match. He looked in distress at his clothing in the sink that he had not quite given up on yet. He could clean them and hold them beneath the drier until they dried, right? They would dry eventually if he was careful. But the stain would never go away. He knew that because he had tried before. It just meant that he had to find more clothes somewhere. He had always been perfectly content to walk into the places where they kept all of the clothes on racks and find just the right set to change into. He could usually find shoes and underwear too, though the undergarments were very strange. They always had bright pictures of little cowboys or something else equally as confusing to Jack. First of all, he didn’t really know what a cowboy was. People had ridden plenty of horses that he had seen, but they were such stinky animals and much too big. Plus they seemed not to like Jack. They always shook their heads and made awful sounds with their lips when they walked away from him. They even stood on their back legs and threatened him with their hard hooves sometimes. Plus they let their droppings just go everywhere. How could someone trust or like a creature that just pooped wherever without any regard to decency or sanitation?

Maybe his new friend Dita would take him to one of the places where they stored all of the clothing so that he could get dressed properly but, for now, he would wear her giant offerings. Jack reached out and took the offered garments and slid them onto his body where they hung like a shapeless bag or one of those smocks that people wore when trying to keep from getting dirty. He supposed that would be a good thing, right? Maybe he could keep them and wear them next time he was visiting with one of the Toms he met. They were always such nice women and they were really good at providing a fair trade. Kind of like Ma did before she traded too much and stopped being able to be a Tom. Or a Ma.

Or breathe.

Jack could not argue with the fact that he was much warmer in the larger clothes even if they were uncomfortable and the sleeves kept falling down over his tiny hands. He patted his hands around his person and found each pocket throughout the garments, even some of the small key pockets that were there for tradition more than function these days. Jack began the painstaking task of picking up his collection. Each piece was picked up and carefully examined from every angle. Specks of dust were blown or brushed off, and then they were placed in a pocket. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason with the order in which he picked up objects, nor was there sanity in what went where. The pennies were separated. The frogs were separated. But all of the marbles went in the same pocket. It took him perhaps three minutes to complete the task completely, shake out his new clothes, and turn to Dita.

“I am hungry,” he said carefully, his stomach growling to emphasize the point. “But I can not go far because mother will come and get me after she is finished working.” Jack spoke earnestly and met the woman’s eyes with each word. He paused for a thoughtful moment, considering whether to introduce himself. "John," he said, and then it seemed he was done with verbal communication when he looked away from her face and reached up to grab her hand. He dragged her with surprising strength and tenacity toward the door through which they had entered.

Yes, Dita was very nice, even for a Tom. The Toms had always been so nice to him.
January 05, 2019 04:06 am

Dita Morgenstern

The small child is drowning in her clothes, though he doesn’t look terribly out of place if they should happen upon someone. He simply looks like a child that spilled something on his garments and is wearing his mother’s clothes until they can return home. A plausible story. Especially since she holds a bag that contains his wet clothing.

Kneeling beside the child, laurel eyes study the blood stained cuff on the right sleeve of the shirt he wears; it is faint but with proper adjustments, will be hidden. Dita makes note to do so once the child is done packing his things which she watches in earnest. Curiously, it is very much different than the ritual when he first laid his treasures on the floor. There is no rhyme or reason as he gathers the items and places them into the many pockets of her blazer. Though, after much thought on the behavior, she supposes there is no necessity to gather and stow them in sequence as long as the items are displayed properly.

“I am hungry, but I can not go far because mother will come and get me after she is finished working.”

Waning attention waxes at the small boy’s sudden and accented sentence so eloquently spoken. With his obsessive compulsive behavior in displaying his trinkets, and the triplicates that followed, the young woman thought the child was possibly autistic. Which isn’t a bad thing, it simply would have made things slightly difficult requesting information from him when she searches for his parents later. Or maybe it would make it easier? The parents would most likely report him missing to the police, any special medical needs he may have listed alongside contact information. And then he gives his name, ‘John’, which will make things even easier. Dita’s face brightens, it hides the worry that the child may be returned to an abusive home.

Maybe she can..

“Me too, John.” Stomach rumbling its displeasure over lack of sustenance, her gaze fixates on the child’s dark eyes, their immeasurable depth. How does such an adorable child, thoughtful and eloquent, have such an ancient gaze? Dita’s reluctance to return the child home is increasing. Not only is he malnourished, he has killed someone. Children don’t just murder people; it has to be a learned behavior from his environment. She reflects briefly on the events that transpired minutes before, even if it seems like hours, and realizes John wasn’t the one who killed the woman ..she had. The growing lump in Dita’s throat is forced down by words and a smile. Idle hands begin to roll the sleeves of the shirt up until his hands are visible. She does the same with the jacket. “Would you like to come to my house for dinner? And then maybe I can help you back to your house.”

Maybe he can..

The child yanks Dita forward suddenly, almost topples the unusual girl. He’s so much stronger than she imagines, then again, he handled the woman in London with ease. Finding her feet, Dita takes a deep breath. The pair are hours from Paris by plane; she without enough money or passport, cannot fly ..nor can John. Maybe if she focuses on the Menagerie they will be transported there when they step through the door?

“John, what do you like to eat?” A skeletal hand reaches for the lock, turns it until there is a click. They are free to exit the bathroom. Dita attempts to focus on the Menagerie, on Dessa and Ivelisse, Bojangles and Matias.

“Do you like zoos? We have animals at my house ..lots of them.” Anxiety. A sweaty palm finds the door, pale against dark wood.

“We have a tiger, a cheetah, a wolf, a panda ..monkeys..” Anticipation. Tendrils of long, blond hair begin to thrash wildly from a phantom wind. A push of a willowy arm, the door opens, Dita steps through ..John in tow.
January 05, 2019 11:29 pm

Jack Whitechapel

During the short amount of time he had spent with this woman, Jack decided that he liked her. She was nice. He wanted to trade with her, but he did not want to trade for anything that would make her stop working. He found his eyes drifting down to her fingers. They were long and elegant in the way that a piano player’s fingers would be. Jack clinched his hand around the hand that held his, feeling the long digits beneath his much smaller ones. His hand looked so small in hers. Maybe it would not be a good idea to trade for a finger. If he did, it would not feel the same when he held her hand and he decided then and there that she was a great hand-holder. What then, could he trade? Her hair?

The thoughts continued to race through Jack’s mind. They had already traded a little, of course. She had his clothes and he had hers. It was a fair trade, he thought, but it might be a bit difficult for her to get his clothes on. She was a whole lot fatter than he was and her arms were a lot longer. Jack looked up at her again, pausing at the door on the way toward the world they had left behind. He stared at her jaw line, examined her hair, and focused for a time on her ear. His left hand flexed in hers again, his small fingers working around her longer ones. He was carefully examining them by feel, enjoying the sensation of the closeness. They weren’t the same callused, rough hands of most toms. Even the pretty ones had calluses from working at other jobs like cleaning laundry and sewing things for people.

Jack didn’t say anything about food. He didn’t know what he wanted and he really didn’t care. Eating was just one of those things he had to do to make his stomach stop making noise and stop trying to eat itself. He had gotten most of his food lately from the big box behind the store. They kept on putting piles of vegetables and meat out there. He always ate the vegetables first and probably filled up before he ate the meat because he was always told that he needed to eat his vegetables so he could grow up and be big and strong. He didn’t really think he had anything to say about food so he didn’t say anything at all. It didn’t really matter what he picked anyway, she would give him what she wanted to give him anyway. It’s what everyone always did.

Zoo?

The small boy’s eyes squinted slightly. He was trying to figure out this word. He didn’t know what a wolf or a cheetah was. He had never heard of a panda and the only time he had heard about a monkey was when he had climbed the rail of one of the stairways and one of the punters told him to “Girrof thea’ ya li’l monkey!” Jack didn’t really know what that meant but he figured it was something like a little boy. He stayed silent when they stepped through the door…

... Jack felt the world shift like it had before. Everything seemed to twist and lean crazily, sending the tiny boy reeling right and then left. He yanked against Dita’s hand to which he clung as though it were his last hope for life as he was being swallowed by a tumultuous sea.

The first thing he noticed was the noise. Two car horns honked protest, first one small, reedy one followed by a larger, more aggressive one. They hadn’t walked out onto the main street but through the side door of a large building. The entire length was stark in both color and style, showing very little in the way of architectural magnificence outside of its pure functionality. Where they stood it was dim, but not dark in those hours right at the edge of twilight when colors and shapes were distorted along with distance by the lack of natural radiation from the sun and instead replaced by the relatively low lying street lamps. The angles of the lamps cast long shadows, exaggerating the size of objects in a massively disproportionate manner and leaving the true source dwarfed into almost complete insignificance. Jack’s stomach lurched again and he fought down the need to vomit on the street. His pale face showed nothing of the struggle, though, and he stood once more, tall and erect in adult-sized clothing built for someone nearly a double to his own three and a half feet in height. He was drowning in those clothes. They were eating his form until his thin body was disguised by the wrinkles and bulges. He could be chubby, for all the clothes showed, though he was likely closer to thirty pounds than forty standing dry and without his collection strategically stowed about his person.

“Chee-tah?” Jack asked, the unfamiliar word coming awkwardly at first from his lips. “Cheetah?” he asked again. He worked his fingers around Dita’s further, stroking with his tips over hers and feeling the swirls and patterns of her unique fingerprints. They were soft and smooth, these long fingers that intrigued him. They were nice to hold and he felt that they were strong. He wished trading for a finger wouldn’t make her hand so bad to hold. Maybe he could just trade for half a finger? Jack pondered the thought carefully, weighing the options in his mind before dismissing it and circling back to an earlier subject.

“What is a Cheetah?” Came the third iteration of the question. He liked the sound of the word. It had the same sort of emphasis that her name did when she said it.

Chee-tah. Dee-tah.
Cheetah. Dita.
Cheetah. Dita.


“Does it taste good?” Jack asked, multiple thoughts on different orderly tangents finally coming together to form a single, direct cognitive concept. Dita was going to feed him. She was going to feed him at a zoo. There were Cheetahs in the zoo. It only made sense that she was offering to feed him a ‘Cheetah’, whatever that was, along with a few other things that sounded not as interesting. Except for Monkeys. He was pretty sure Monkeys was just another name for little boys who climbed.

“I have eaten Monkeys before,” the little boy said innocently when he looked up at her face and that very interesting curve of her jaw again. He liked her ear. Maybe he could trade for that…?

Jack started walking, dragging Dita with him toward the giant tower structure that dominated the skyline in the greater distance.
January 06, 2019 06:27 am

Dita Morgenstern

The small hand that grips, flexes and toys with slender fingers, is oddly comforting. John’s tiny presence calms Dita; allows the girl to focus on their intended destination of Paris and the Menagerie. Even if she can feel espresso eyes upon her, studious in their gaze, as if he is mentally carving parts off gaunt frame like a tiny butcher. The unusual girl starts to wonder if she will find her end like the dead woman at the bottom of the staircase if John is left to his own devices. It is a grim thought but not unwarranted; the child is obviously ‘different’. Attention slips for the briefest of seconds to London, forehead wrinkles from the distraction until she is again grounded by another squeeze of tiny hand. Forehead smooths, focus returns to Paris, tendrils that once whipped violently fall limp.

A shrill beep.
A deep honk.
The ochre glow of street lamps.

Laurel eyes search their immediate surroundings, for people, for a street sign or one that belongs to a business. Even at twilight, in the ever overcast atmosphere of Parisian winter, the sky is gradients of gray blanketed in sepia and rust that reflects from thousands of lamps that line narrow arteries- not the sun below the horizon. It is dark, yet not, on the semi empty street. It is a false sense of safety, these bright streets. The trees, all claws from winter, cast gruesome shadows on amber and carnelian concrete; possibly warning those that would walk at night, ‘you aren’t alone’. It would do many well to remember that about Paris. Especially with Dita and Jack there, so innocent in their appearances. But a darkness hides there, beneath the light.

‘Théâtre National de Chaillot’.
‘Musée national de la Marine’.

They are on the esplanade of the Palais de Chaillot between the theater and museum, just above the Eiffel Tower, across the Seine. Trocadero Station is behind the pair yet John pulls Dita towards the great iron structure that dominates the skyline like fiery torch. At least they are headed in the right direction, even if they are many kilometres from the Manse. It doesn’t matter though. Champs de Mars - Tour Eiffel station is near the base of the Tower which will take the duo to Invalides. A simple transfer at Invalides will carry them to the 12th arrondissement, Port Doree station, near the Parc Zoologique de Paris and the Menagerie she calls home. He still hasn’t told the girl what he wants to eat, instead he triplicates the word ‘Cheetah’. Dita is starting to enjoy these repetitions until he inquires about a cheetah’s taste. The girl is dumbfounded, silent for many moments; even more so when John admits to having eaten monkeys.

“A cheetah is a big cat, creamy yellow in color with black spots.” A glance down, she gives the boy a soft smile.

“We don’t eat cheetahs John, they’re the fastest land animal and our friends.” Does he understand the concept of friends? This is the thought that floats through innocent mind as they continue their stroll; nevermind that cheetahs would normally look at humans as prey, though the one at the Menagerie is fairly tame.

Down, down the winding path that leads the duo through Trocadero gardens at the base of Palais de Chaillot, across narrow streets and Pont d’Lena. Children like sweet things, Dita thinks while in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and stops at a street vendor to buy the boy a crepe filled with nutella to hold him over until they can reach the Manse. A right turn, a short walk later, leads the pair to the metro entrance. Dita looks to John, wonders if he is tired.

“Why did you eat a monkey, John?” Soft soprano inquires curiously, again she glances down to those glassy onyx depths. Somehow she knows he doesn’t lie; as if it is impossible for this particular child to do so. They descend a dimly lit stairwell.

“We don’t eat monkeys at the Menagerie ..we have meat from the butcher and bread from the bakeries. Fresh fruit and vegetables from the market. And cocoa.” There is that reluctance once more to return the tiny boy to his home. The child deserves better care, a loving environment.

“Maybe you could stay with me?” Dita feeds a ticket machine four euros and lets the question hang for the boy to contemplate. She could take care of him, in the same way she cares for the animals, and is sure the others at the Menagerie will assist in this feat, too.

Ticket stubs in hand, a twenty euro cent coin given to John as a token, Dita guides the pair past gates and through winding tunnels. Platform reached, skeletal fingers tighten on the boy’s hand in case he is curious enough to run off towards the tracks. She is rather fond of the child and would hate to see something happen to him. There is a strange comfort found in his companionship. Yes, Dita is quite fond of John like a sister would be of their much younger brother.

Two minutes..
January 10, 2019 03:06 am

Jack Whitechapel




The city street was just like any other city to Jack. He hadn’t been many places in the world and didn’t understand the eccentricities of different environments. He didn’t understand the human psychology involved with different people, nor did he pay much attention to the different types of architecture. He noted that the place was not near Home, but that didn’t matter much. Mother would come and get him when she was done working. She always did. Jack felt comfortable and secure with his hand in Dita’s. Her skin was warm against his and comfortable and there was something about her that seemed kindred and familiar like he had known her for his entire existence. Apparently a Cheetah was a cat. Jack thought back to all of the cats that used to run around the alleys in the streets around his home. They had slowly gone away over time and Jack didn’t know why. He could see clearly the gas lamps over the foggy streets and the punters walking around with the big hats that looked like chimneys on top of their head. Except they didn’t smoke and chimneys smoked. So they were only shaped like chimneys. They were always peeking in windows and talking to the Toms. They made trades with them and went to hide in the shadows and in houses, depending on how many Toms were in the spot.

Jack listened intently to Dita, watching her face while he followed her through the twilit streets of Paris that were illuminated by lights all over and the strange ambience of the overcast that reflected the sunlight and moonlight.

”Why did you eat a monkey, John?”

The little boy was climbing on the steep steps that perched precariously on the back side of the dark, ominous building. The streets were dim, just pre-dark and getting darker. The crowds were sporadic and dwindling and no one paid mind to two monkeys climbing up and down the stairs, trying to get the best view of the city around them by finding themselves the highest vantage point possible. The two boys were of a size, scrawny and spindly in their ragged clothes. That was where the similarities ended, though. One had straight hair the color of pale wheat while the other had curls of the brightest orange a match-tip had ever lit. One was neat and well kept in every aspect, every tear in his clothes carefully mended and not a single speck of dust out of place. The other wore clothes with more hole than cloth and seemed to have never washed his body. He was covered in soot and dirt around the skin and smelled of stale urine from where he had dribbled on his pants many times without washing or changing them.

They climbed to the very top of the steps and looked out over the foggy streets, trying to see as far as they could into the distance. Noises of people were muted and distant beneath the heavy mist, the moisture seeming to suck the sound out of the air and make it distant and muffled. Up here three stories above the cobblestones, they were completely free of the dusty, dirty streets. In the distance, a pair of alley-cats fought. The redheaded boy was exuberant and loud, the piercing cry of a bird ripping its way from his chest and echoing throughout the peaked rooftops around them. The blonde boy started to climb higher. First he put his hands on the rail and carefully pulled his knees up onto the wooden railing that was weak and rotting and about a hand in width. An adult hand, not a child hand. He started to pull himself to his feet when he felt a tug on his shirt.

“Me firs’!” The redhead yelled, pulling the blonde from the railing and causing him to stumble on the stairs. The blonde stared down at his mussed knees, his skinned palms, and thought about the grimy hands that had just gripped his shirt and transferred their filth to it. The boy pulled himself to his feet and looked up just in time to see the redhead scramble to the rail and stand high on it. He screamed out again in that annoying cry and started flapping his arms. “Oi kin fly!” He cried at the top of his lungs.

The blonde watched the redhead scamper back and forth on the rail for a moment longer. He was skipping and jumping, extremely agile and used to this sort of game. “Oi kin flyyyyyyyy!” He yelled again right before the blonde stepped forward and shoved the excited boy’s foot off its precarious perch on the rail. The redhead pinwheeled desperately and tried to drag himself back up by sheer willpower but failed and ended up tumbling down into the fog. His scream lasted until the sickening pop of his head hitting the cobblestones silenced it forever.

The blonde boy walked his way down the steps and around the corner until he found the sprawled body of the other child, his limbs bent grotesquely and his skull leaking a dark , chunky liquid from just behind his ear. The cobblestones were wet with mist and dew, and wet with the stuff coming out of the boy’s face. He was making such a mess!

“You can not fly,” the blonde said in admonishment. Just then, his stomach gave a ferocious growl of desperate hunger.


“It fell and broke. I ate it. It was hard to chew,” Jack said in answer to Dita’s question in concise, cultured syllables never learned from the slums and streets where he had spent his entire existence.

Jack walked in a curious manner. He never watched the street, but he never stepped on a single crack or blemish in the walking surface. Each step was carefully placed, avoiding detritus and miscellany that finds its way to the surface of any city streets and sidewalks when a number of people make their way through it on a regular basis. It was like people did not care about the aesthetics of the world around them when it did not specifically impact them. Jack didn’t really pay it much mind beyond the fact that he avoided it when he walked the streets, his tiny legs dancing him this way and that in a strange but, effective gait. He remained firm to Dita’s hand, vacant seeming eyes leaving her face only occasionally and never once to glance the direction they were walking. He was being guided specifically and completely by the pressure of the woman’s grip on his fingers.

The boy accepted the crepe without any sort of reluctance, staring at the strange shaped dessert looking food and held it gingerly between pincered fingers. He sniffed at it and turned it in every direction to examine its markings. He finally reached into his- Dita’s - coat pocket and moved the heart aside to drag out a piece of folded up binder paper. How he did this with one hand without messing the coat was a mystery, but he managed it. Also, he managed to wrap the paper around the crepe at which point he shoved it into the pocket on top of the heart. He graced Dita with the rare, radiant smile that made him look almost normal if it weren’t for his dark, dead eyes that regarded her easily.

The lights are on, no one is home.

Jack accepted, also, the coin. This, too, was treated in much the same way as the crepe. It was examined from every possible angle. He rubbed his fingers over it in an attempt to remove a scuff mark that he couldn’t polish out with just the texture of his prints. He rubbed and rubbed, scrubbing at the coin for many moments. Fruitless. He would work on it later. The coin was put in the breast pocket of the jacket. They walked through the tunnel and someone said something to them from his spot on the ground. Jack didn’t understand the words so he didn’t really care or look at him. Their footsteps reverberated back onto them, echoing and re-echoing to amplify their every footfall and make it sound like more people were walking than there actually were. A third set of footsteps joined the two.

Jack heard it. He didn’t look. It was like he didn’t notice. Or didn’t care. Why would he care about someone else walking? The reedy, smoke-weakened voice said something again. Jack didn’t understand the words, so he didn’t try to see who was talking.

”Dita,” he said. ”Deee-tah, Dita,” he continued the triple-speak.

They stopped at the platform and Jack looked curiously at the train tracks. He tugged at Dita’s hand until he noticed the footsteps still approaching unsteadily. The guy had one leg shorter than the other, Jack knew. He had seen it when he looked at him. It wasn’t a lot shorter, just a little bit but it was enough to make the cadence of his steps jerky and arrhythmic. The boy turned and stared up at the man, dark eyes unblinking and his hands sliding into his pockets to take comfort in the feel of his collection. He rubbed the yellow marble. He rubbed the coin. He fondled the heart. He pinched the crepe. He tickled the frog which moved weakly against its wrapping at the intrusion on its sleep.

He grabbed the handle of the meat hook.

The hollow eyed man reached out like he was going to try to grab Dita. Jack moved like no little boy should ever be able to. He jerked free from Dita’s hand, stepped on the man’s trailing calf and used it as a springboard to jump onto his back. Somehow, he had gotten the metal hook out of his clothes. He gripped the man around the chest with his legs, riding him like a bull at a rodeo, his left hand holding firm to his collar to keep himself from being thrown off. He wrapped his short arm around the now surprised and flailing man’s face and jabbed the rusted hook end of the implement deep into his eyeball and around the bony process of the lateral orbital bone and slid over the zygomatic arch. When the man jerked his head, the hook punctured through the temporalis muscle until it gleamed red-rust and protruded from his temple.

In pain, terrified, and confused, the man screamed in a wordless, animal howl and began spinning, trying to grab and throw the ‘monkey’ on his back. Jack reached up with both hands and grabbed the wooden handle of the hook. He hung desperately from this as his feet flew out wide and flailed. Three spins. Four. Five. Jack held on as tightly as he could but, alas, he was but a boy and could only manage so much. His fingers slipped off the handle and he was thrown out wide. He landed on the platform floor, tumbled twice, and fell into the shallow abyss that was the trough for the tracks… and the train which could be heard clicking and clacking toward them in the distance.


January 11, 2019 01:18 am
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