The girl stopped walking along the dust-beaten path she had been aimlessly treading while singing to herself in the early morning, and looked around to see who had addressed her. The voice was indiscernible as that of a male or a female, so she did not quite know how to respond to the statement, whether to run from a strange man or to greet a lady on the road. Before she could bring herself to answer the call, however, it came about again.
“Pardon. Up here.”
It was only then that the girl looked up and noticed him, or to be more precise, it, for the creature who had addressed her was none other than a cat—a dusty, gray and brown feline with mussed fur which looked as if it had not been cared for in a very long time, and whiskers which looked as if they stretched on for miles.
The cat, possibly in a futile attempt to look respectable in lieu of his ragged and ghastly appearance, was neatly perched underneath the shade of the trees upon a brick wall which separated a house from the side of the Welsh country road the girl had been traveling on.
“Did you address me, Sir?” she asked the cat, walking slowly towards it as she scrutinized the details of its features and traits.
“Yes, Miss. I did,” the cat answered respectfully. The next few moments went about in silence, as neither said anything; the girl was trying to figure out why the creature had called her over, while the cat was waiting for a further response to its statement.
During this time, the cat took the opportunity to look over the girl; she was slightly tall for a child of her age, which could be no more than eleven, and she possessed, at least to the cat, the most peculiar hair—a shade which all at once looked red, ash blonde, and dark chestnut, and complemented her blue eyes and fair skin quite beautifully. Despite all this, the girl looked… poor? No, poor was not the word; she resembled more the people of a slightly lesser rank, like those of the now emerging middle class in England, in spite of her emerging beauty which the cat was sure would cause many men in her future to go down on their knees and beg to be her husband. It was this girl that brought the conversation back up again.
“Sir... may I call you Sir?” she asked somewhat timidly.
“That would be quite alright, Miss…”
“Kelly, Sir. Mary Jane Kelly. Might I ask, whom would you be, Sir?”
“I would be Jacques Déchirer, Miss Kelly.” As the cat said this, Mary could have sworn on the sick bed of her mother (God help her) that she saw in that moment a gleam of something awful in his dark, golden eyes, but she would pass it off as a trick of the light for years, until it was too late to stop the chaos.
“Alright, Mr. Déchirer. I hope I don’t seem intrusive, but would you care to tell me why you have called me over here?”
“Well, my dear child… you are a child, are you not?”
“Yes, Sir. I am ten years of age.”
“Yes, very good. Anyway, Miss Kelly, I asked you over here to this wall I sit upon in hopes that you would be able to provide me with company and conversation for a moment or two. I ask for just a small portion of your time, as it does get awfully lonely up here, watching the people go about their business on this road every day, not giving me so much as a second glance, not to mention a measly scrap of food.”
“Oh, that does sound dreadful, Mr. Déchirer,” Mary answered, truly quite sad for the cat’s predicament, “If you wish, I can stay here and talk with you for awhile.”
“Would you?” Jacques answered, his torn ears perking up.
“I have nowhere I must be at this moment, Mr. Déchirer. I would be happy to oblige and spend some time with you.” With this, Mary sat herself down cross-legged upon the dust-covered road, not minding that her pale blue dress was getting dirty in the process.
“Now, Miss Kelly, I do believe if we are to talk, we must be on friendly terms. Therefore, I propose we address each other by our first names. Unless, of course, you find such actions offensive.”
“Oh, no, not at all, Mr. Déchirer—I mean, Jacques.”
“Very good, Mary, very good.” He perched himself upon the wall so as to be a bit more comfortable, and settled down for what looked to Mary to be a long conversation. “Now, Mary, what shall we talk about? Shall we discuss the sky, or perhaps even the birds? Maybe we can talk about the flowers, or the bees, or even…”
“How about the social underpinnings of today? Or literature and the arts? I’ve just finished reading this book someone lent me, Thomas Hardy’s fabulous novel, A Pair Of Blue Eyes, and I was desperately looking for someone to talk with about—”
“I did not expect a girl of your age to know of such topics, Mary; that is why I did not bring them up,” Jacques answered, truly looking surprised that the girl had such an apparently vast knowledge of such subjects. This girl was becoming more and more intriguing to him, causing an apparent urge within him to possess her—not for pleasure of a sexual nature, oh no, but for the pleasure of having complete power over someone so innocent and charming, and yet so completely intellectual, as well. He waited to see what she would say next.
“Oh, it’s nothing really. My family just gets by in terms of money, but I’ve been told a great many times that I have a scholarly and artistic air about me; I don’t believe things such as that are necessarily true, though.”
“Ah, you are quite modest, Mary. Why, just from my small exchange with you at this moment, I can see you are not a typical, naïve little girl. I am glad you are interested in such subjects. In fact, I am relieved. I am much too sick of these imbeciles in the world who think they know everything when in fact they know nothing at all about the world and its ways. The year is 1873, after all; more people should be interested in their society, their world!” Jacques unsheathed his sharp, deadly nails in and out of his paws as he spoke, in what seemed to Mary to be suppressed rage mixed with a desire to kill; but it lasted only a second, and so she let the moment pass.
“Is anything the matter, Jacques?”
“Oh, no, my dear. Let us resume our discussion. Now, why, Miss Mary, do you insist that such wonderfully praised traits as you have stated before do not belong to a person such as yourself?” The girl was quiet for a moment as she looked down at her feet, in a childish sort of way—the only action thus far that convinced Jacques that he was still in fact talking to a child—and, after taking a deep breath, glanced back up and recommenced talking.
“I have six brothers and a sister, Jacques, and a family such as mine, with only one parent working, and especially in the area of iron works, can only make so much money each year.”
“Ah, I see, my child”, the cat nodded his head in understanding, closing his eyes for effect. “However, there are many in this world, dear Mary, who have made a name for themselves out of nothing but the fruits of their labour in this day and age.”
“I know what you say is true, Jacques,” Mary said empathetically, with a forced, small smile which could make the whole world weep if only the people could see it. “However, I do believe my fate is trapped by who I am and where I come from. I do deeply wish, though, that I could obtain all the knowledge there is on this planet. I want to be known throughout every land, Jacques. I don’t want to be just another person who has lived their life and then dies. No, I feel like there’s something more in this world I can do, something to make a difference. After all, what is a person who is born into this Earth whose purpose is solely to die away into oblivion once their time has come to an end?” With this, the cat stretched himself out even more upon the sill of the wall and, having opened his eyes a few moments ago, closed them once more, still giving off an air of listening intently to whatever the young girl had to say.
“If you wish to make a difference, why not simply commit acts of extraordinary magnitude which shall indefinitely bring about happiness and joy within the hearts and minds of the people in this world such as yourself?”
“Whatever could you possibly be talking about, Jacques?”
“Why, dear Mary, I talk of ridding the world of the filthy, the impure, the wretched, the uncouth, and most importantly, the unwanted.” The girl stared silently at the cat with a creeping look of uncomfortable fear slowly placing itself upon her fair face. “Oh, come now, Mary, a girl of your caliber should be able to figure out what I am recommending that you do.”
“I do indeed, Jacques, and I don’t like it,” was the grim response he received.
“I say, Mary dear, that you take my advice. After all, this world is filled to the brim with people leading wasteful lives, and the few who deserve happiness do not ever receive it. By doing as I say, you would be returning the status quo back to its intended level.”
“Oh, Jacques, I do not believe all people in this world behave in such a way as you describe!”
“Really, my dear Mary? Look around you; I see the filth and trash of this world all from the comfort and view of my wall here. I do believe that if anyone were to pass judgment on today’s society correctly and justly, it should be me. I see everything up here.”
“With all due respect, Jacques, who are you to pass judgment upon the people of this world?”
“My dear Mary, anyone may pass judgment upon the world, but most do not. It is people such as myself who have the courage to act upon those judgments.” The girl thought upon this notion for a moment.
“I do see your point, Jacques, but still… what of the people who are driven to become so-called “filth” of this world? What then?”
“Ah, that is the true paradox of it all, Mary my dear,” replied the cat, now smiling contentedly as if he just finished off the last few remains of a great, fat mouse, “What do we do with these people who choose a life of fornication and depravity?” Jacques looked down upon the girl, who, while still at least ten times the size of the cat, felt lowly and insignificant in the face of this looming and calculating creature. The girl, scared out of her wits by the words that poured out of the creature’s mouth, nonetheless kept a stiff composure, not answering the question her conversation companion had posed to her. “Why, we flush them out of society like the sewage they are.”
“And by ‘flush’, I can only assume you mean mur-… well… to exterminate them in a menacing and judgmental way?”
“That’s one interpretation of what I mean, dear Mary.” The girl could only slowly open her already immense eyes in disbelief and stare shocked at the cat she had assumed to be a gentleman (or gentlecat, for she was not sure) who had now shown his true colours, and appeared before her not as a sincere creature in need of companionship, but a sick, twisted individual in need of help. She rose hastily from the dusty road to leave.
“I think I have heard far too much of such things for my liking, Mr. Déchirer,” Mary said, resolutely walking away from any further contact with the horrid creature.
“Mary,” her previous “companion” spoke to her before she left within his earshot, “I have seen the world for what it is. People die within this country and others all the time. And what do people like you think of such things? Nothing. No respect for the people who have made something of themselves in their lives. They live and die. That is all. That is all we ever do.
“You could make a difference. You could cleanse the world of the people who, thanks to all the industrial and social changes, have not in fact thrived upon their new freedoms and liberties, but have taken advantage of them for their own benefits. I have seen that side of the world, Mary. I tried to make you see it, too. I’ve tried to push you in the direction of making this world a better place. There is good in this world and there is evil in this world and evil must be punished. Retribution is sweet, Mary. Remember that in your later life, for, when the time comes, I am sure that you will see what I have shown you and told you today as the ultimate truth of this world. There is still time, Mary. You can still take up my offer, for someone has to do the job I speak of.” A few moments went by in silence before Mary firmly turned around to look at the cat one last time, seeming to hold back tears (of pain, sorrow, discomfort, or something else, the other could not tell).
“Jacques Déchirer,” she started, looking as if she were choosing her words extremely carefully, “This world may be a horrible place at times and may even look like it’s headed to Hell, but in reality, it is people like you who make it that way!
“As for me, I will never resort to what you say is the ‘right’ thing to do. Not ever! So, you can go find someone else to impose your views upon, for I shall never give in. And you shall see someday, Mr. Déchirer; you shall see someday just how wrong you are about this world, that I can promise you. And I shall be the one to show you. No matter what it takes, I shall show you that even someone such as myself, whom you apparently hold in such high esteem, can still be worth something even when at the lowest band of a pole.”
With that, Mary Jane Kelly walked—or more like marched—back home. The cat, meanwhile, just smiled evilly to himself as he changed back into his human visage which came quite handy whenever he wished to hide within the real world which he so despised.
“In that case, dear Mary,” he said to himself as he made a mental note of the girl’s name and physical features, “I shall have to do your job for you; and rest assured, you shall be both the first and last to know what acts I shall commit.” With that, he vanished almost into thin air as he walked away in the opposite direction, now knowing full well his plan of action.
It was late afternoon when Mary Jane Kelly left the creature who would subconsciously play an important and dreadful part in her innocent life from that point on. It was late afternoon when Jacques Déchirer, possessing some skill as a surgeon from his army days, knew what he had to do. It was late afternoon when the mayhem began.