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- The last moments I recall I have likened to the bursting of a bulb - a series of flickering mnemonic illuminations rising in quantity and clarity until a final brilliant moment of perfect recollection, and thereafter a blistering sore of revulsion and a whipcrack fall into tarry shadow. My memories since have been lit but with a candle, the wick of which burns lower each day, time distorted into gnarled wax grotesqueries by the guttering fire of my mind. I know that soon I will again enter that obliviate state of perfect darkness, and whether I thereafter find peace I care not.
- What concerns me now is the recording of that ultimate instant of realisation - in the hope that by so doing I may excise it from what remains of my fevered brain, and thus hopefully hasten my final rest.
- Vast gaps of void open up like yawning tears in the fabric of my life. Of my parents there is but a suggestion of sorts, a nebulous collection of aggregated sentiments and textures, a disaparate but somehow comforting mass. Of childhood aside from this there is but emptiness. I have to yet to come to a conclusion regarding certain dreams I am plagued by of late, and whether they are in truth some distorted recollection of these same lost days.
- Clarity is restored somewhat around the days of my education, although details such as the house of learning in question or the years spent there have been erased. I perceive this period as a great swathe of blurred, impressionistic scenes occasionally focusing into pin sharp detail.
- In these brief pockets of lucidity I recall an acquaintance I would later come to acknowledge as a dear friend.
- He rose from among the ranks of the idle aristocracy, and though possessed of a prodigious mental capacity and a fearful ability with philosophical conundrums he was given to vast periods of ennui, in which the weight of his wealth would waste away at his soul. For days on end a certain emaciated quality would grasp him, lending a dull effect to his every action. This period would usually also herald his equally self-destructive narcotic indulgences, and he acquired a number of unsavoury contacts from which he was wont to procure ever more exotic substances. I recall he took a gruesome pleasure in witnessing my distaste at such actions, and I fear it may have merely galvanised his habit, enticing him to engage in ever deeper debaucheries to provoke my moralising ire, which seemed to be a drug of much greater potency from his perspective. He would spend long hours doubled in palsied fits of laughter over my latest outburst.
- Worryingly his long disaffected fugues began to increase exponentially in frequency, and required ever greater doses of hedonistic indulgence to vanquish. He took to long periods of absence on "Medical Leave" from his academic dedications and would, I am told, plunge headfirst into the fabled Limehouse rookeries, there to bargain, barter and battle for but the merest whiff of the Dragon my erstwhile companion sought -
- It was during one of these debauched sojourns that I received an urgent communique (In what form escapes me, but whether it was telegram, letter or word of mouth matters not at this juncture) from an individual claiming to be a debtor of my associate, requesting an appointment at Trafalgar the next day to settle the matter with a cash transaction. He warned me that were the time and place not met it might very well be a considerable length of time before such an opportunity to meet rose once more due to a series of unfortunate events that had lead to his forced departure from the country. My friend was merely the latest in a sequence of fulfilled debts and unfinished business he was attending to prior to his exile.
- My colleague was nothing if not unpredictable in the length of his little narcotic voyages, and having only departed the day before I feared he might very well not reappear for several more, or even a full week or so, thus rendering the rendezvous impossible. I wouldn't have bothered to seek him out, as I did, but the sum involved was not inconsiderable and the urgent nature of the message lent a certain imperative to the affair.
- After a few inquiries I began to trace him across the London landscape. Here again is a fog of uneasy dread that obscures sections of my urban quest - a tumourous glut of memory remains, a mass of shifting imagery and the impression of claustrophobia. Buildings like sickened patients rise above me and knot fingers of smoke together, weaving a vast net of carbon despair - A gallery of disembodied faces hang before me in a parade of sallow flesh and rheumed eyes. Grim vignettes - a crooked man battered by time, draped in calcified rags and fingers stiffened shut around the grimed neck of a laudanum bottle, shuddering in a spattering of ice water. A rictus grin below two wet eyes is attached to an ambulant set of clothes, peddling dubious wares. I recall grasping at collars, folding banknotes into tangled fingers and the endless pounding of the street beneath me.
- A cat idly wanders into the street and is crushed by a cart.
- It is oddly enough at this point that sanity prevails and my mind's eye clears once more from the urban fugue that precedes it. I recall averting my gaze from the crumpled mass of the cat and towards the object of my mission - the location to which I have traced my errant associate.
- By contrast to the anaemic monochrome of the brittle ice and the accumulated filth of the street, what lay before me burnt in vivid hues like a rosy welt crossing the alabaster skin of the city. It seemed to boil and shimmer in my vision - little more than a scarlet rag draped across a rigid doorway of jaundiced yellow, fever heat and delirious fumes emanating from within. Outside stood a gaunt, resigned figure dressed in traditional Mandarin wear, yet quite clearly of european extraction. He rolled a small wad of scummy herbs between his fingers and chewed on it leisurely.
- A shaft of flickering light at his waist coalesced into a knife as I approached, one which immediately raised in my direction. The yellowed slush and snow beneath me licked at my boots as I stood in anticipation of a questioning.
- Instead, the figure merely dragged one glaucous eye over my finely tailored outfit (Albeit spattered with the detritus of the Limehouse streets) and my silvery cane and seemed satisfied. Sheathing his steel thorn once more in his greasy silk sash he bared his teeth and drew the creases of his face into an expression I can only assume to have been a smile. He gestured with one grimy finger to the door, and with another drew aside the crimson barrier that separated the glacial air from the narcotic fog within.
- Immediately there was a hissing from the den, and a great cloud of maddening vapour gushed forth and swallowed me. I had the impression of palsied lunatics and shivering lights, guttering against a swirling mass of opium smog. The place was a drywall cavern, whitewashed walls stained with coiling phantoms of yellowy smoke, the ceiling a bristling with dangling lanterns fashioned from paper in the Oriental style. Mounds of glimmering fabric swathed cushions and curled like shrouds around the myriad prone bodies of the clientele, each thrashing in the coils of the dragon, each one crowned by a vaporous halo of indigo smoke, eyes witness to the movements of heavenly spheres and body drawn ever tighter into it's own convulsive fit. A couple seemed to register my entrance and turned with bulging eyes to me. Disturbingly, one seemed to bear a flicker of recognition, as though I were some estranged friend returned from distant shores - I had never seen the man before, and for that matter was thoroughly perturbed by the fashion when face seemed to peel open like a grotesque wrapper, and when a series of barks and guttural enunciations emerged it was at this point I began to entertain the notion he might very well be attempting speech which would of course have been impossible for an individual such as himself whose throat was clearly writhing of it's own accord like a serpent and ensnaring his neighbour
- I broke eye contact and immediately sought some manner of porter or employee of the establishment. I espied a figure similar to the grim sentinel outside and made queries about my friend. I recall asking specifically for him by name (I have long since forgotten it, unfortunately) and receiving a bemused look in return. Realising that the clients would of course be loathe to reveal their identities in such a fashion I relented, asking instead for a gentlemen of average height possessed of black hair, roman profile and a taste for scarlet waistcoats. I mentioned also a singular habit of his - the wearing of a small silver signet ring emblazoned with the likeness of an ape's grinning face. At this the porter seemed to react, and without speech gently pulled me by the hand (At the time, I thought, a curiously intimate gesture, especially as he seemed to grip my wrist) through the prone bodies. Their limp wrists spasmodically grasped at me, and I had the sense of wandering through a field of cadaverous growths, a grim harvest of addled patrons sprouting from a fertile soil of luxurious padding and sparks of burning incense. The thousand eyes rested on me, each projecting an almost tangible beam of that blistering gaze that the addict is reknowned for. My guide was warped by the dimming light as we strode into the heady blackness at the furthest end of the den, and I perceived a certain distortion of proportion, a lengthening of his arms and a simian tilt to his head, a clucking of the tongue and a wisp of sulphur. Then there was a small hiss and a snap, and a candle gasped into existence, cutting through the clustered shadows and redefining the borders of reality. Once more my guide took on a human shape, albeit a degenerate and sordid one.
- Now at the very end of the narcotic cavern and ensconced in a sphere of flickering light, my companion began to fidget in his silken pockets for a small and filthy twist of metal I later realised must have been a key of sorts. He began to then tap against the wall with it (I must mention at this juncture that the wall beside us appeared at least to be another plain plaster expanse with no discerning characteristics) until he seemed to catch at some intangible indentation. This prompted a series of metallic chatterings followed by a crack and a cloud of white dust.
- The wall collapsed inwards, and I was roughly shoved through, my jacket torn from my shoulders as my cane was snapped away. The wall seemed to gape and shudder like the mouth of some reluctant patient forced to ingest bitter tonics, and I was swallowed up, the shadows beyond licking at me with a mass of blackened tongues. I tumbled onwards and inwards into the tarry dark, arms curling around my frame as I collided with the marble beneath. Impossible cold permeated every fibre of my being, and tears spattered freely onto the barely perceptible shine of the slabs I had come to rest upon.
- Whatever strange mechanism had opened the portal to this twilight realm immediately coughed into life once more and began the process of sealing itself behind me.
- Defying the agonised shiverings of my bones I rose and went to finding some form of light or possibly even egress, already anticipating a fearful escape through the same hazy den I had just left. I might very well have succeeded in this endeavour had I not been distracted by the faint sound of a spitting match and then a glimmer from the shadows ahead as a candle appeared like a luminous phantom in the cosmic darkness. Soon a number of others seemed to pierce this expanse of void, scattered like stars across some celestial canvas.
- Oh but what revolting stars they were that illuminated such a scene
- The phosphorous eyes the -
- The cadaver stretched across the blackened limbs the twisting of the neck the soft lamb's skin flesh The needle teeth. The whispering pipe. The crimson smoke.
- A heretic Pieta, a prone body lain across the lap of another, but one of skeletal nature and unnatrual origin I can see the end of memory approaching but a thorny tangle of broken limbs and crimson
- I have spoken before of the final moment of pure clarity in my memory, the cursed second of realisation and revulsion. In the glare of that crystalline horror I am rendered insensible. I shall not describe it. I refuse. I will not stride into the epicentre of this calamity. I was not responsible. My friend lies soundly in his grave and no man will ever extract from me the details of his death, and I care not whether the noose descends over my neck for an unjust conviction,and I cough out my final words to a crowd of atavisic voyeurs.
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