Warning: This work has been rated 16+.
Sarah Serenity Meadows walked down the silent empty street. In one hand was a heavy suitcase and in the other was a paper with a set of instructions written on them. So far all the instructions had done was lead her farther and farther down a dark and unwelcoming street. There were gas lamps but all of them were unlit, save one lone lamp. She decided to put down her luggage and rest on it in the glow of the lamp.
She had the grace and poise of a nun, the hands of a servant, and the clothing of a widow, though she was not. Her rusty orange hair was in a tight braided knot that could only be achieved from strict practice. If you would to call her beautiful, you’d be a liar; for she was not a beautiful woman. However, you could have compared her to a marble statue, but not in a way that implied perfection or godliness, but in a stone faced and rigid way. On the other hand, you could not call her ugly either. She was at that perfect balance between beauty and ugliness, in other words; she was plain. As plain as parchment and as thin and stiff as a pen. Although she was as skinny as a rail, one look at her and you knew not even winds capable of tossing mountains could sway her.
Perhaps it was her flat protruding forehead that made her seem so solid. Or maybe it was the thin miniature mouth chiseled below a small rounded nose. It could’ve been her currently scowling and confused arched eyebrows. But most likely it was her eyes that gave the impression of solidity; they were as dark as midnight and sharper than a knife. A single look of even the slightest bit of contempt or ill will from her and you could feel your very soul freezing in fear. Despite being born with such a threatening gaze, she never felt any hatred towards her fellow man. So to avoid a misconception and to keep attention off herself, she always kept her head down and stared at the floor. This generally made most people think of her as shy, weak, or timid, at times she could be those things, but for the most part she was just reclusive and sought solitude.
For a young woman of twenty-four, this was peculiar. It was generally accepted that women of her age should be seeking sutors or marrying, if not already. She did not experience frequent intimate encounters with men. Most of them considered her to be an unnoticeable part of the background, she was fine with this. It was not in her nature to seek out attention but rather to offer support and care. Which was probably why she entered into servitude. She had been lucky enough to receive schooling and had the opportunity to use her education and become a teacher, or perhaps a governess. But she feared her gaze may frighten children and she was so inexperienced with them. Even when she was a child she could not relate well to them. Because of that she had earned the name scary Sarah or secluded Sarah, for she had indeed been very secluded and lonely. Even the adults often thought she was being rude to them by giving them an angry stare.
She stood up and read over the note one last time. Somewhere along the way she had made a wrong turn or maybe she misread a street name, either way this was clearly not the neighborhood of any respectable family. It was getting to be very late and if she could not find her new workplace, she should at least find an inn to stay at for the night. She had been given a new position by her former employer to man she knew little about. Her old master had called her into his office one day without warning. She had walked into the large windowless office expecting criticism, for he had not been a kind employer. It was then he informed her of the position.
“Miss Meadows,” her employer had greeted her curtly. “Please have a seat.” She had sat down in an enormous red chair. It had been a dark dreary saturday evening. The office had been equally dreary, with all it’s unread books and musty expensive furniture.
“You called for me, sir.”
“Yes, I have good news, I’m moving you to London.” She had not been pleased by the news. Her life there had been routine, quiet, and comfortable. She had woken up at four each day and started the fires before anyone had risen. It had been her duty to wake the other servants at their allotted times and make sure everything was ready when the master and his family woke. Breakfast was served at six-thirty each morning with no delay and fresh flowers always decorated the tables, which she chose and placed herself. You would always wake up to a warm sweet smelling house when she was on the job. They did not even need a governess because she taught the master’s three young children as well. As she thought the children didn’t like her much, but their fear of her made them excellent little workers.
Having worked there for nearly three years she had hoped that her services had been a little more valued. At the very least her employer would have to hire two more servants and a governess to fill her shoes. Over the years she had found her master to be impatient, slightly greedy, but overall, not without brains or compassion. He knew full well the amount of work she did and paid her and extra five pounds more than any other servant. If this was something he had decided then she would obey. Still, she did not like change...
“But London is very far away and have I not served you well?” she asked. There was a slight suppressed plea to her voice but it would take a very skilled ear to detect it, her master was not such a man.
“The trip will be long, yes, but I’m sure you will manage. You’ll have to leave soon if you plan on reaching the station in time for the first train to London by foot. The man I’m setting you up with is an acquaintance of mine. He has not been feeling like himself as of late and remains tied down to his house.”
This was the polite way of saving someone had gone mad. Admitting to something as obscene as having relations with a mentally unstable person was shameful and simply not done. So she was to be sent to care for a mad man; after all her years of faithful servitude and this was how she was to be sent off. In her years as a servant, she had grown accustomed to being sent to care for insufferable men and those considered unfit for society. They knew that she would do her duty and not complain or leave. And every time she was sent away to a new unseamly employer, she always left behind a respectable member of society. Some people thought her to be a sort of miracle worker but it was nothing but careful patience and understanding. Had she been a beautiful woman she might have had to worry about some of them trying to marry her, none of them ever saw her in such away. Often they did not even realize she was helping them.
“How long will I stay, sir.”
“Until he is feeling well again, naturally. What kind of man would I be if I gave him a servant and took her away? As a good servant, you must stay with him at all times, and you must keep him in his house to ensure a full recovery.”
Essentially she was being sent to make sure that high society no longer had to bother with the mad man anymore. She was to care for him and make sure he stayed in his house where he belonged. Her pay would probably grow larger but what use would it be when she had to stay in a house and never leave it. On the bright side she would have a lot of time to herself, but depending on the size of the house, her work might increase even more. The chance of risking people finding out about the madman was probably too great to risk hiring more than one servant. She had most likely been chosen for her ability to do the work of two or three servants and because she didn’t disobey or ask questions.
“I shall start packing immediately,” she said submissively. Her master took little notice to her, for he was already back to his mundane work.
She respectfully bowed and left the office. The walk from the grand office to her little room was a thoughtless almost dreamlike one. She floated to her room feeling down and pondered the necessities she should take and what should stay.
The other servants were trying to look inconspicuous as they did their work suspiciously close to the office doors. They whispered gossip when they thought she was out of earshot and watched her out of the corner of their eyes. Being called to the masters office was rare and practically unheard of for her. No doubt one of them had been listening intently enough to pick up snatches of the conversation. It would not take long for the news to circulate throughout the household.
She entered her room and retrieved her leather suitcase from under the bed. It didn’t take her long to pack her meager belongings and few valued possessions. All her dresses, which were few, were more or less the same shades of grey or black. The most precious thing she owned was a thick yellowing diary, with three thick straps and locks to guard its knowledge, two wallet pouches filled with her life’s savings, and a sketchbook filled with questionable drawings. One to record her past, one to safeguard her future, and one to entertain her present. So long as she had those three things her life was bearable.
After everything she owned was neatly packed away she put on her cloak and glided out of her room. The other servants and her co-workers watched her leave. They nodded and bowed in respect when she passed them. She was a respected and fair authority figure to them, someone who stood up against the master as their protector but worked them to the bone. In general, all people who fell under her care, came out a better person. None of them would write though, she had distanced herself too much from them. She had their highest respect and admiration but none of their friendship. It had been offered to her at times but she was seldom good at being a friend or socialization in general. The best thing for her was to be in her room, reading books or sketching designs. But it was better this way, better to not have any attachments.
Before opening the door to leave she glanced at the place that had served as her home for the last three years. It was a grand old house where she had being able to live out her private little life with little disturbance. The people were kind and respectable, or they soon learned to be when they worked under her, and the pay had been good. Sad eyes fixed themselves on her. They all knew that she was being turned out to work for a lunatic; gossip was worth its weight in gold here. They also knew life would be harder without her but at the moment they did not think of themselves, only the sad fate that had befallen their leader.
She gave them a reassuring nod and walked out the door. From the house it would be a two hour walk to the station, in chilly february weather. The cold did not affect her, she merely walked in a daze. The train ride was long and she had to switch trains several times. When she finally arrived in London it was sunday already and in the middle of the afternoon, though you could not tell by the gray foreboding skies.
She had spent much time in London previously; it was where she got her first serving job and spent most of her childhood here. She never cared for it much, with it’s busy streets, gray buildings, and constantly cloudy skies. For the most part it was a familiar place to her, but she soon found that she did not know all its part. Thats when she found herself standing alone under a streetlight.
It had been hours since she departed from the train and her luck had not changed. The erie streets made her uneasy and she was eager to leave the haunted building behind. Before leaving the light, she crossed herself and said a small prayer for safety and guidance.
A faint groan echoed through the chilly night air. The sound caused her to stop dead and search the darkness. A figure stumbled through the black and grabbed the walls for support. She picked up her suitcase and approached the man cautiously. A drunk? A sick man? Someone dangerous perhaps? He was too absorbed in trying to stay up right to notice her.
“Are you well?” she asked. The man looked up at her, his face was contorted with fear and his eyes were bloodshot and wild. Sweat poured down his face in pools and soaked his collar. He appeared to be a respectable man, wealthy looking even, though at the moment he looked as if he passed through hell itself. His arms reached out and latched onto her shoulders like a desperate child.
“He’s here,” the man gasped.
“You are ill,” she informed him with concern. She wrapped her free arm around him for support and tried to steer him.
“I am not ill, I’m being chased, chased by the devil,” he said in a delirium. Suddenly he seized with fear. “You! You will not leave me? I beg of you not to leave me,” he said as he fell to his knees and clutched the hem of her dress. She stroked his face in a calming manner, his face was burning hot, definitely sick.
“I shall not leave you but I can assure you that what you have seen is nothing but a dream, conjured up by fever.” As she spoke she helped him to his feet. “Come, we must-” He squeezed her shoulders painfully and she gasped sharply.
“He is real! Could a dream have pierced my skin?” The man pulled back his jacket to reveal the blood stained shirt underneath. She had barely time to react before he was shaking her violently and begging her. “You must protect me from him, you mustn’t leave me, you cannot leave me.”
“Please sir, you are hurting me.” She tried to pry his sweaty hands off her but they were like iron shackles.
“I hear him, I hear him coming, the devil, the reaper, the angel who carries death on his wings!” The man let go of her and ran desperately for his life. She glanced fretfully at the pitch black darkness behind her and chase after the man. His fear seemed to seep over her like sap and she grew even more nervous by his erratic behavior and of the dark. Surely the man was mad with illness! That could be the only explanation. While being a god fearing woman, she was a rational one above all else. It was at times like this that she had to keep her head and assure herself that there was no monster chasing after them.
“Sir, you are sick, you require assistance.”
“Kill him, save me from him, don’t let him find me!” the man cried.
“Sir, he doesn't-” Something small and silver danced through the air, it flew right past her cheek, towards the man.
“Sir!” she shouted in warning.
“Help me! Stop hi-” his shouts for help were cut short by a piercing scream. There was a loud thud and the street became dead silent. Finally the man had stopped ranting.
“Sir?” she asked in almost a whisper. Only silence replied. “Sir!” she cried. She ran to him in a frightful panic and found him lifeless on the ground, a blade lodged in his back. She turned him over and shook his shoulders. “Sir? Sir? You must get up, we cannot stay here,” she said urgently. The darkness behind her refused to yield any of its secrets. Distant and barely audible footsteps approached them. Each footstep sent shivers down her spine and chilled the blood in her veins. She slung one of the man’s arms over her shoulder and shifted his weight onto her.
“Come on, sir,” she said as she lifted him up with difficulty. She dug down and summoned up the depth of her strength to carry the man. Something out in the darkness was watching them and hunting them. Maybe it was the devil, maybe it was death coming to claim them, maybe they were both mad with illness. The man suddenly jolted to life and pulled at her clothes and bunned hair.
“Protect me, shield me,” he shouted in fear. He tried to maneuver her so that she faced the darkness and acted as a human shield.
“Sir, you must calm down,” she pleaded. In the midst of all the mans mad blubbering and her own pleading, she heard a cold voice say,
“Just die.” Another blade twirled through the air and smacked into the back of the man’s neck. He gasped and tried to say something. Blood filled his mouth and he managed to choke out one single word.
“Devil.” He slipped out of her hold and fell on the ground, dead. She knelt down and shook him but this time it was obvious he’d never get back up.
“Sir?” A small pool of blood formed at the base of his neck. She back away from the body and glanced behind her. At the edge of the light she could barely make out the outline of a tall figure. He was trying to deliberately not step into the light but she could make out blonde hair and angelic features. “Oh dear lord,” she whispered.
“Hardly,” the angel of death said. She fainted.