My pocket felt heavy, burdened somehow by the encumbrance of the knife, cold steel within. A tool, a reminder – or maybe just a comforting weight? Whatever it came to signify, it had become an integral part of my attire these days, much like my hat or my overcoat. I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t carry this damn thing with me. But I could remember the first time I killed with it.
It was a moonless night when the dying scream echoed throughout the city. A blood-curdling cry that pierced through the thick layer of fog wrapped around the heart of this Godforsaken place. I was there – on the same block even – but I did not hear it, so ensconced was I in my dreams of darkness.
But now, trudging through narrow sinewy streets, old shoes splashing up fetid rivulets of filth, I was awoken – called to action by the Demons of London’s Underbelly, as they beckoned to me with their twisted claws and howling laughter. Like a moth drawn to the flame, I followed their summoning cries, eager to smother them beneath my boot like so many of their demented brethren before.
The hint of sulfur in the air made my nose wrinkle with revulsion as I pushed open the door to The Edifice – home to the city’s most depraved and debauched. My quarry skulked within, cowering in a corner, no doubt, but still dangerous as any cornered beast.
The door slammed shut behind me, the noise thundering in the silence like a pistol shot. The lamps above seemed to flicker right on cue, casting eerie shadows upon the various occupants who turned their scarred and blemish-riddled dispositions toward me with far more than disdain.
Like a carrion crow, I picked my way through the sordid patrons and their precarious furnishings, eager to distance myself from a fate I could not escape regardless of the space I put between us. The screams of tortured souls wailed in my ears; their pleas for release met with nothing but cold indifference.
Somewhere between the bar and a rickety table laden with rotting food and fornicating rats; I came to face the object of my desire – a tall figure swathed in the corner booth, half hidden by shadows and the other half shrouded in a thick cloak. His was a silhouette that filled even the wickedest of hearts with trepidation.
From beneath his ornate cowl, two eyes glistened like the eyes of a raven. Those were eyes that held secrets, forbidden knowledge that could destroy a man’s sanity – or worse. Yet, it was not those eyes that drew me closer to this sinister figure, but rather, the item that he relinquished from his pocket – a small glass vial.
It rolled across the table and my heart hammered with dread as I recognized the elixir within: a viscous liquid so black it swallowed the light. This was it… the tincture of darkness, the vile concoction that had seduced so many poor souls into committing unspeakable acts.
The doctor – for this was he, I knew – spoke softly, his voice barely audible above the din of the room: “Drink it, my friend. Let it dissolve your fears and unleash the inner beast.”
As had become customary, my fingers traced the outline of the knife handle nestled within my coat pocket. Resist as I might, I found myself drawn towards him, pulled by an invisible force that frightened me almost as much as the vial he had produced. Even within this dank cesspool, a part of me longed to seize that glass, to imbibe the elixir’s forbidden contents and let the darkness consume me.
The doctor must have sensed my hesitation, for he calmly replied: “Your desperation brought you here, my friend. Let me share with you a sliver of the power that is mine.” A sneer grew on his lips as he added, “If you dare.”
But the words were drowned out by the burly intruder who suddenly appeared, throwing himself at me like a rag doll, bashing my skull with fists clenched tight as iron. Pain exploded in my head, and I tasted blood on my lips. I was sent sprawling to the floor and stared through a haze of agony as the brute seized the vial and drank deep of its malicious contents.
With a low growl that might have been a roar, he tossed the empty vessel aside and advanced towards me. I knew I had only moments to act. The knife was in my hand before I even realized it, the old familiar sensation of the handle’s rough edge pressing against my skin. My fingers closed around it, for better or worse.
I could not predict the trajectory of this doom-laden tale I had stumbled into; but what was certain was that standing before me was an abomination that needed vanquishing. And so, while the monster possessed by the doctor’s infernal elixir threw itself at me in a crazed frenzy, I let the knife do its bloody work.
Later, when the screams had stopped, and the room lay bathed in death’s eerie silence – permeated only by the wheeze of my own ragged breaths – I found myself kneeling upon cold stone floor. In one hand, I held the knife, sticky with blood; in the other, a glass shard from that accursed vial – tainted with just a single drop of the liquid darkness.
The doctor slunk back into the shadows, his eyes gleaming with cruel satisfaction. The howls of the night had ceased, but the blackness in my heart and the weight of that damned knife would haunt me for all eternity. For I knew that despite the victories tonight, the war was not won – nor would it ever be.
As long as there were those who craved power and those who dreamt of darkness, there would always be evil lurking in the corners of our world… and knives – like the one in my pocket – waiting to spill blood in defense of it.