(City of London before the fog rolls in…OH!… WAIT!)
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Jack Horne, one of those who constantly misspells “color” has entered a prologue that leaves us in a fog. Here is the prologue to a work in process called
THE RIPPER’S TIME
by Jack Horne
‘Come along, quickly now,’ the plump tour guide called. ‘We need to get to the site where Mary Ann Nichols was murdered.’
‘Sorry,’ I wheezed, trying to speed up, my chest feeling as though it was on fire.
‘He’s walking as fast as he can, mate,’ Jo shouted. ‘Can’t you slow down? He’s just getting over a chest infection.’
The twenty or so other people on the Jack the Ripper tour had no difficulty in keeping up, not even the elderly couple or the lady with the walking stick. In the swirling fog, the shops and blocks of flats lining the street reminded me of a dirty water colour painting. I could only just make out the guide’s bald head and loud check jacket as he rounded a corner.
I blinked. The uneven pavement slabs suddenly appeared to move; it looked like they were coming up to meet me. ‘I feel sick,’ I said, leaning against a shop’s metal shutter as evil-smelling fog engulfed me. ‘It must be those antibiotics.’
‘No, I’m feeling the same. Did it look to you as if the pavement was going up and down, like waves?’ Jo’s voice was suddenly shrill. ‘Gary, look at the floor! What the hell’s going on?’
I glanced down and stared. Flagstones now replaced the pavement slabs we’d walked on seconds earlier. I touched rough stonework behind me and felt for the cold metal shutter. It wasn’t there.
My heart pounding, I fished in my denim jacket for my phone. I’d use its torch. That was gone too. And something was strange about my jacket; the material didn’t feel right.
The fog began to lift and I stared at Jo and then at our surroundings. Instead of jeans and a leather jacket, Jo was wearing a long black dress, her red hair now in a bun. The typical modern high street, just like any high street in any town, was now a filthy alleyway, with a dim gas lamp at the far end. I looked at Jo’s hugely staring dark eyes and knew I wasn’t imagining it.
‘Oh, my God, your clothes! Look what you’re wearing,’ she said.
A quick glance downwards told me that my denim had been replaced by a dark suit; my trainers were now boots.
Jo sniffed. ‘Phwaw, what’s that stench?’
‘I guess people use this area as a toilet,’ I said, grimacing as I stepped on something soft and squashed it underfoot. I didn’t need to look and wiped my boot on the flagstones. ‘Come on, let’s get out of this place.’
I turned to face dense fog and banged into what felt like a brick wall. Rubbing my shoulder and cussing, I felt for the entrance to the alleyway.
‘It’s completely blocked off,’ I said, trying to sound calmer than I felt.
‘What do you mean?‘ Jo cussed. ‘If it’s blocked, how did we get here?’
‘I dunno.’ I searched for the opening again, the sound of my own heart thundering in my ears. ‘Nope, there’s no space for us to even squeeze through.’ I pounded the wall. ‘This is a cul-de-sac…now.’
‘This can’t be real. I’m at home in bed and just dreaming you talked me into going on this stupid tour. Who cares about Jack the Ripper now anyway?’
What a birthday this was! I took a deep breath, and said, ‘Okay, love, let’s not argue, huh? All I can see is fog down here and an old gas lamp at that end. I guess we should go up there, where the light is.’
A distant clock chimed eight times. I glanced at my wrist but my watch was missing. Then the clock chimed nine times. Ten times. Eleven. Twelve. Now the eerie yellowish halo around the gas lamp was the only light.
Jo began to sob. ‘And what about the tour guide and the rest of the party? We’ll be totally lost in London at night on our own.’
We are totally lost, I thought, putting my arm round her. Out loud I said, ‘It’ll be all right, Jo. I bet we’ll meet up with them if we go up this alley. They’re probably looking for us.’
I heard footsteps and grinned with relief.
‘There, told ya, babe. I knew that tour guide couldn’t just abandon us.’
The footsteps grew louder. And then a woman screamed.