Contributor: David Elliott

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Jacqueline could remember the moment of her birth. . .

Unlike every other member of the human race, she could remember being torn away from the womb, moving from darkness into blinding light; a recollection as vivid as it was horrific. She could recall her eyes adjusting to the new environment, seeing the woman bathed in blood, and having the immediate insight, despite being only a few minutes old, that she had suffered, that she had died giving her life, that she was her mother.

Other people, to Jacqueline’s surprise, seemed to have the luxury of permanent amnesia when it came to birth; a heavy veil drawn across their subconscious, shrouding the memories in darkness, preserving their sanity, perhaps, for the somewhat less traumatic life event of death. But not Jacqueline. Her memories were as sharp as the tools in her Father’s surgical kit; those fascinating tools that preserved life, but also brought death; tools that had kept hearts beating within the breasts of royalty, circulating blue blood throughout the regal veins, but were somehow unable to save her mother. Her poor, unfortunate, beautiful mother. . .

Sleep was no longer a part of Jacqueline’s life. Sleep brought dreams, and the dreams were disturbing. It was better to walk, better to wander through the dimly lit streets and try to outpace the memories, try not to remember the event she’d never be able to forget. Despite the crime, despite the sights, sounds, and smells she’d encounter during these hours, it was always better than the alternative. Nothing could be as terrifying as sleep. It was a thing of the past, a childish habit she’d had to overcome. She was constantly nauseous, hallucinating with alarming regularity, but that was nothing. It was a small price to pay, to keep the dreams away. Without the dreams, she would keep her sanity. Without the sleep, Jacqueline’s grip on reality would hold. If she kept on walking, everything would be fine.

She could even cope with the other women abroad at that time, impure women, sinful women, women who weren’t deserving of the gift of life, who had squandered that gift, made a mockery of it. But her mother had died. She’d died, while whores continued to live. Her beautiful mother, her body a mass of mutilations; a mother she’d never know, lying perfectly still, body frozen in a rigor of agony; her flesh cut away, her organs defiled, her belly ripped open so that Jacqueline might live. She was an angel, far above any of these earth bound demons.

And, as she walked she would hear her mother’s voice. Mummy would speak to her, call her by name. Not Jacqueline, of course. Mummy would call her the other name, the name she should have had, an appropriate name, according to her father, for the sex she should have been.

‘Jack.’ Mummy would whisper in her ear. ‘I love you, Jack.’

Yes, if she kept on walking everything would be fine. And, in its own way, Whitechapel could be quite beautiful at night.

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David Elliott is a writer and musician, living in Cheshire, UK. His short fiction has appeared in Twisted Tongue, MicroHorror, Flashes in the Dark, Whispers of Wickedness, and Delivered.
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