by Richard Geha
She hasn't answered his knock, so Thomas Bowyer, the young rentcollector, peers through the broken window. Confused, he tries to disentangle and determine what he sees. What's all that red, messy stuff everywhere . . . clumps of it? "Aww, Jesus, my God!"
She awoke with a start and cast her hand across her eyes, as though she wished not to see. She'd been dreaming of . . . of what? . . . something terrifying enough to jolt her out of sleep. Her heart pounded like a crazed animal frantic to escape a cage; she gasped, suffocating. Only darkness now, but the terror lingered, like an indelible, formless stain spilled over her mind. What had happened to her? Something about her father . . . ? No . . . or yes, maybe. . . . Something so horrifying . . . only a moment ago, and already vanished. As she calmed, she felt amazement. Dear God, how could something so shattering befall her that, within the wink of an eye, she forgot? Dear God, how many such ghastly occurrences had disappeared, disappeared but still borne inside her--gone but there? How many lost dreams like this can a body hold?
Hot and sweaty, her stomach upset, she had just awoken, and was already worn out. Oh, if she could only fall asleep for a hundred years--how heavenly that would be. How sweetly thoughts of such oblivion could summon her.
After waiting three hours for bloodhounds that never arrive, they finally bash open the door with a pickax. (They could have simply reached through the broken pane and flipped the latch, but who was thinking clearly?) She is wide apart, scattered around, as though a bomb has exploded from within her. Even for the police, so inured to bloody sights, she's too much to grasp. On the wall hangs a print of the painting, "A Hopeless Dawn." It's of a fisherman's wife, vainly awaiting word of her lost husband, who is, we must assume, also now wed to an immensity beyond annulment.
Mary Kelly heard knocking. Startled, her hand flew from her eyes, as her dear friend, Maria Harvey, entered through the unlocked door and swiftly sat down beside her. "Scoot yer bod. Ain't bed enough here to die in," she said, giggling, and commenced to caress Mary's face softly, as she would a patient. "How ya feelin', luv?"
"Sick. Hung over. Still drunk."
"Aw, bad as that, is it?"
"Last night, a thousand blocks for two pokes and neither paid me."
"Careful on the streets, Mare, Jack's still killin' us."
"Ain't Jack a-killin' me--everything else is. Think a bloke fuckin' spit a ball up me."
"Who do ya think?"
"The past couple months? Any of a hundred."
"Joe'll marry ya if you let 'im. He loves ya."
"Lay the likes o' me on 'im . . . mean as that I ain't. Better I whittle meself with a coat hanger."
"Ohh, Mare, ya sure?"
"Sure another heart's a-tickin' in me? No. Been vomitin' up me guts 'sall." Mary tilted back her head for Maria to gently stroke her throat.
"So, git us a pub, luv. A tot a rum'll settle ya quick."
"Had a nightmare. I think me da was havin' it off with me. . . ."
"Men screw us, Mare. He weren't the Ripper, was he? No . . . so he ain't so bad."
"No, he ain't so bad."
"Caught Tommy Bowyer peekin' yer windows ag'in. Stop showin' him yerself, Mare."
"No harm. 'Sides, it's nice to be seen. Puts off the rent sometimes."
"Does it now? You wicked slut! Up with ya, now," Maria exclaimed, and tweaked Mary's left nipple hard.
"Ouch! Yer bad as Jack."
Her legs stretch wide, as they would to receive a lover. But no. Her breasts have been removed and are now purple, the nipples black as raisins. Her guts are strung about, like gray, tangled snakes. Knife slashes streak her face, like hideous scribbling. She looks like a message that no one can read, or a grotesque work of art. Speculations abound. (What is the madman using her to say for him? So much of her emptied out. A plundered treasure chest. What was the madman searching for? Secrets he imagined his mother kept from him, perhaps? Secrets too profound for anyone ever to know, but he doesn't understand that? And the body parts placed about with such seeming intention, as though to mock some sort of bizarre, ancient ritual that human beings have forgotten how to decipher. Speculations. Is this some kind of mock Frankenstein surgery? Maybe he sought to make something of her, carve her, shape her, as Pygmalion did. Yes, maybe she's the work of a frustrated artist who, unable like God to make life, must, like God, take it. But the cruel author has vacated the site of his imagination's insatiable lusts, freeing all to make what they will of this forlorn, disassembled thing.) My God, she brought him here--here, where she lived! Maybe she tragically misjudged how much she wanted to die. Where's her heart gone? Did he burn it in the raging fire that he evidently set to light her disembowelment? No sign of it in the ashes. He stole it. Speculations abound. The fetus she feared she carried . . . well, no need to worry, no sign of that here, either. They photograph her. (Why? Who could recognize her? Not her own mother. Mutilated, in disarray so far beyond any semblance of herself--why, even she could not have told who she was. She shows what a man beside himself can do to a woman. The worst nightmare. A sacrificial lamb slaughtered to appease some atavistic deity.) For everyone, fear and outrage mask a sadness too profound to fathom. They take a picture of her eyes, believing these once-blue mirrors might reflect her very last vision. (Wouldn't that have been a telling sight?)
"I been with Maria all day, drinkin' round."
"That cunt!" Joe Barnett snorted.
"What am I, then? Ain't all we bitches cunts?"
"You're a fool, Mary. Lettin' yerself sink in trash."
"That'd be the likes o' you, then, wouldn't it, Joey, me luv?"
"Are you thankin' me, Mare, for all I done for ya?"
"I had a dream last night."
"You dream all the time. It ain't good. What about?"
"I forget. Dreadful luv killing me."
"Ain't luv dreadful? Killing you? Well, just keep yer cunt in at night, that's all."
"That's all? Let the Ripper kill me alive . . . that's all?"
"They haven't a clue, Kell. They ain't gonna catch 'im," Joe told her.
"'Sides, in sec he'd clean all me woes out. More than you can do."
"Yeah, well, his ain't me style, Mare."
"Been a month since he murthered one o' us. Maybe whores ain't a thrill no more."
"Stay in, Kell, I tell ya. He ain't gone nowhere."
"A body's gotta eat. 'Sides, I'm sleepin' in gutters soon. I ain't got my rent."
"No money again?"
"Dig a ha'penney outta me bum, I'll be that rich. Can ya help me, luv, jist one last time?"
"Sorry, Kell, I ain't got it. Sorry, luv."
"A bun's bakin' in me oven, Joe."
"How do you know?"
"'Cause there ain't no way to know, that's how. Toss it out. Aw, Mare, problems--they're all ya got."
"Yeah, well . . . Tomorrow I wantta see the Lord Mayor's Show--will ya take me?" Oh, it was to be a splendid parade, the new Lord Mayor with great regalia riding in the Strand to the Royal Courts of Justice.
"Course I will," Joe promised her.
"Read me about him, will ya, 'fore ya go?" She had a fearful, rageful fascination with the Ripper, and would often implore Joe to read aloud whatever the newspapers wrote about him.
"I ain't got a paper, Kell, do you?"
"No." But today the papers had little to report anyway. The police, though quite indefatigable in their efforts, were stymied, and for a month no murders had been committed. Tomorrow, however, Joe would be able to read about the next and--as it would prove--most gruesome of all the murders.
The Ripper Strikes Again!
Another Woman Brutally Slain
|November 9, 1888, the day of the Lord Mayor's Show, witnessed the most heinous of all the Whitechapel murders. A rent collector discovered the mutilated remains of Mary Jane Kelly in her small one-room abode. The victim, another from the impure class, lay naked in her blood-soaked bed, her throat cut nearly to the point of decapitation. The surface of her abdomen and thighs had been fiercely carved away, her breasts chopped off, the viscera of the abdominal cavity emptied. Body sections were scattered about, one breast beneath the head, another by the right foot; the liver, the intestines, and||the spleen were grossly eviscerated. The knife of the crazed assassin had sliced and hacked the poor woman's face practically beyond recognition. Surely, in the annals of crime, this appalling sight ranks among the most abhorrent of atrocities. Astonishingly, after seven shocking murders in five months, the massive endeavors of our police have floundered pathetically. We sorrow for the destitute women who may continue to fall pray to the Ripper's merciless blade. Nothing, apparently, will deter women such as Mary Kelly from a street-life of depravity until it's too late.|
TWO A.M.. The night was cold and damp, misty. She had been soliciting all evening. To ease her aloneness and fill the enormous silence of the night, she would occasionally hum or sing melancholy Irish songs recalled from childhood--so full of yearning and demise. ("They all have left me in sorrow here to roam. / But while life does remain / In memoriam I'll retain / This small violet I pluck'd from mother's grave.") Sometimes her voice, which was very beautiful, seemed the only sound in all Creation, the last fountain of poetry. She was fatigued and nauseous. And what would she do about that inside her--more life than she could handle? Give it away? Who wants a mouth to feed? Throw it away? It saddened her terribly to consider that probability. Everything about her life had been thrown or torn away. Toss it away, Joe had advised. She must not dwell on that now. How could her existence have become so insufferable--almost beyond worry. No money, the rent gone unpaid for a month. Christ, she suspected they'd boot her out tomorrow, like a piece of garbage. So often, not thinking afforded the best resistance to killing herself. And yet, sometimes suicide seemed to her almost blissful. "Plying yer trade in Whitechapel now . . . this is how you choose to kill yerself, is it, Mary?" Joe would shout, reproachful and painfully exasperated. She knew how unsafe all of the East End was, but the gamble of it she had to take. She had to eat, have shelter, and--to keep her spirits afloat--down a drink whenever possible. She felt a bit tipsy. During the evening, she had a few times dropped into the pubs to warm herself, and because she was pretty enough, men, as usual, had provided drinks, just for letting them tease a bit with her sexually. They were all insane, she supposed. So was she, she thought. She had to be--look at her plight. Penniless, risking life and limb in the dark and the rain, screwin' her sex to death, as Joe once yelled, utterly frustrated with her whoring. This repulsive cesspool of a life! Why, when the wind blew through the slaughterhouses, from the stench all Whitechapel seemed made of excrement. The stink even seemed to saturate her skin, and at such times she actually experienced a kind of foul oneness with the universe. Ah, well, when you had no choice, you made no choices. Tonight she must make a few pence. That was that! But in this desolate weather, hardly anyone ventured out, and those who did, in this dense fog, you could cross within an arm's reach of and not see. And sometimes the shifting, swirling fog would configure shapes as evanescent as she sometimes mistook herself to be, shapes only as substantial as her imagination cared to conceive them. So she passed in and out of the small, pale yellow circles of infrequent gaslights along the roads, her weary eyes probing for the shadows of hungry men to whom she could sell herself for practically nothing.
On Commercial Street she met George Hutchinson. He had bought her services before. She remembered that once, in a secluded alleyway, he had bent her forward, and with her hands pressed firmly against the brick wall of slaughterhouse, flung up her dress, and entered her from behind, a common position for copulation on the streets. He pretended to strangle her. This too was not uncommon for men to do. But it was very dangerous. Doubled over like that, women presented the Ripper with throats as easy to slice as a sheep's. Whenever men acted this way with her, she would imagine, amid the flow of lustful juices, that she was being murdered in a kind of ecstasy. On that occasion, George had, however, done something rather peculiar. While still embracing her in that defenseless posture, he reached around, pried open her mouth, and stuffed into it the money he owed for her favors. After she had gagged and nearly choked to death, they both laughed, because he was only being funny. He even professed to love her, and they laughed at that, too. Although she believed that he had certainly never meant to hurt her, she did, once or twice, briefly wonder whether George was Jack the Ripper. But no--he was not unkind; in fact, she liked him, and maybe he would feed her money again tonight. However, he seemed to not quite recognize her.
"Hello, George. Don't you know me?"
"Oh . . . Mary, hello. Course I do. Don't I know a beautiful woman when I see one?"
"Ah, you flatter the pants off me, don't ya?"
"I hope I do. How lovely you look. A bit spreeish, too, ain't ya, duck?"
"Come with me, George, please. I need sixpence. Take o' me what you want now and when I can, I'll pay back the six anyway. Loan me. Please."
"I can't, Mary, I'm all spent out goin' down to Romford. So, luv, can ya loan me a bit, then?"
"No, George, I can't be free tonight."
"No luck for both of us, then."
"These streets ain't for you, luv. They're the Ripper's. Let me walk ya home. Ain't a sane soul ain't sleepin' now." She studied his eyes carefully and detected not only the desire she had excited but his genuine wish to help her. This small token of kindness nearly reduced her to tears. She smiled warmly, in a manner she hoped would indicate her gratitude. But the degree of her neediness and vulnerability, now so precipitously revealed, alarmed her.
"Gotta work or die. If I be Jack's next, God wills it. Gimme a peck good-bye."He kissed her lightly on the cheek.
News of the outrage explodes like a bonfire. Thousands of spectators desert the Lord Mayor's procession and race in a frenzy to join others thronging Dorset Street. The surging crowd pressures hysterically against the police cordon, trying to attain some sight of her. Had they succeeded, she would have, like the head of Medusa, paralyzed them into a state of hopeless confusion. Late in the afternoon, a horse-drawn van transports her hollow carcass to Shoreditch Mortuary. Joe Barnett could have later read aloud the Times description of her audience: "The demeanor of the poor people was all that could be desired. Ragged caps were doffed and slatternlylooking women shed tears as the shell, covered with a ragged-looking cloth, was placed in the van." Never in a million years could she have dreamed of herself so fantastically displayed.
Stepping away from George, she knew that he desired her (naturally he did), and that he also really did want to help her. Like Joe Barnett and a few other men, he did care about her. He worried that the Ripper might attack her. Certainly tonight was hazardous, but every night was. The Ripper just made the obvious so much clearer. That's all. There never was any protection--never! Only an idiot would ever believe otherwise. If you had to work the streets, your life was for the taking any time. That painful lesson she had learned long ago.
She turned and looked back. He was still standing there, watching her. Poor George; he appeared to her so terribly alone and, in the fog, so vague, ever more a shadow thinning away. She thought that she must appear exactly that way to him as well. She felt sick, as though she might throw up. She fleetingly considered returning, taking his hand, and leading him to her room--yes, doing that, and simply allowing her world to go on and fall apart a day or two sooner than it otherwise would. Besides, by now, opportunities for tonight had grown slim. But no, she couldn't, just couldn't cave in--not just yet, not when she might squeeze one last hour from her exhausted body. One hour more, surely that she could manage. So, she'd go till she dropped. What did it matter anyhow? If God had wanted her different--well, she would be. The chilling mist sprayed delicately over her numb face. She suspected that her painted lips and rouge had smeared. She felt her life gradually dissolving.
At the mortuary, Joe Barnett can identify her only by her long, reddish brown hair and the irises of her eyes, now a hazy, dull blue.
And then, she saw him. At first indiscernible from the night, then a slight, wavering shadow slowly forming out of the dark alleyway and then moving toward her--perhaps cautiously. This approach she had often witnessed. Usually, at this hour, the men were drunk, sometimes mean, but sometimes they were shy, or undecided, even frightened. She could handle almost anything. She could, if she had to--and a few times she did--claw and fight like an alley cat. But this was always an unsettling moment for her, when these mysterious creatures materialized out of the blackness in front of her, like unpredictable phantoms. But always pretending that no trepidation existed within her, she would proceed toward these encounters with undisclosed hesitation. For some reason, this time, however, she stopped and watched as the dark, emerging figure steadily advanced toward her.
She stared at him unblinking until, near enough, he tapped her lightly on the shoulder, as though to wake, but not startle, her from a trance.
"Are you looking for something you lost, my love?" he quietly asked, in a low voice, smiling, his large black eyes peering sharply into her eyes.
"My life," she said quickly. She held her breath. Her reply seemed to arrest them both, because there was a pause. Then they each laughed. Rapidly reassured, her tension dissolved. She immediately liked men who easily laughed. Yes, he would be all right. An impulsive urge to kiss him astonished her. Instantly, he appealed to her. He was unexpectedly handsome, strong, well dressed, confident--not like those she normally unearthed past midnight. A miracle. Here she was depleted enough to collapse, a little intoxicated, unwell, disgustingly maudlin, and at the final hour, he arrived. Darkly cloaked, an angel of mercy--he had to be! He would take care of everything. He placed his right arm around her shoulders, so tenderly, as though he read her urgent longings. In his left hand, he carried a small black parcel, which she never really noticed. Anything he wanted, that would be fine with her.
"Are you free tonight, my dear?"
"For a gentleman fine as yerself, I'm available--not free," she responded, smiling invitingly, her blue eyes wide with desperate expectation.
"Ah, yes. Very well," he said, petting her throat gently. She locked her arm into his, quickly, lest he change his mind. As they started strolling down Commercial Street, distant thunder rumbled, warning of rain.
"Such cold, dark, deserted streets . . . aren't you frightened?" He spoke so quietly, she could barely hear him. That question . . . so old, so reiterated through the day, through her life: Aren't you afraid?
"Seems everyone's asked me that today."
"Friends show concern for you, then?"
"Some . . . when they can afford to. Are you concerned about me, too?" His head turned slightly away from her.
"To walk these streets . . . you're very brave." He seemed almost to be speaking to himself, or to someone else . . . over there.
"Me brave? No, I ain't brave at all. Just got no choice. That's the tall of it." How many times had she explained this, especially lately? Was it so hard to understand? The warmth of his strong body pressed against one side of her, and on the other, a coldness. Always some part of her remained exposed.
"To have no choice, is that what Hell is?" What an odd comment, she thought. Yes, he appeared to be talking more to himself than to her, or to some part of her she scarcely knew.
"It has been for me."
"It has been for you . . . yes, I can imagine."
"Shoulda killed meself long ago." There was a silence. She wondered, was she indulging in too much self-pity? Drinking frequently encouraged that in her.
"What about the Ripper?" he asked, and they looked directly at each other. Of course, the Ripper occupied everyone's attention; he was all anyone spoke of.
"The Ripper--what about him?"
"He hunts beautiful women like you." Beautiful women like her . . . for a moment that, too, sounded a trifle strange.
"All the poor bitches he butchered, I knew--none was beautiful. Beauty ain't what he hunts." Didn't everyone know that these were not attractive women?
"Some say he can't get it up, and kills us for it."
"Do you believe that?"
"I don't know. About 'im, we believe anything we like."
"Make him up."
"Make him up? Yeah, I guess so. But that knife . . . it lowers us like slaves before a king. There are so many Rippers."
"Only one I know."
"'Cept for choppin' we ladies o' the night, he probably ain't no different from you and me."
"No, I'm sure he's not."
"I been mangled lots."
"Yes, you have. But not yet like that, have you?"
"No--not yet." Again he turned away. Mary became mildly aware of an increasing uneasiness toward this stranger. He seemed to be delving into her.
"How old are you?" he asked.
"I'm real old, guv'ner, but younger than I look. Twenty-five."
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Mary Kelly. Seems you wanta know me. What's your name tonight?"
"Tonight? Will it matter who I say I am?"
"The shape I'm in--no. 'Less your name's Jack. Are you Jack the Ripper?"
"Could you believe anything I said?"
"How could I? Mother told me all men hail from the City of Lies. Oh, dear Jesus, I shoulda heeded her. We lay our bodies down; we take our chances. So, who are you?" There was another pause. "No . . . I ain't gonna know for sure till maybe it's too late, eh? Ah, well, with you, I think the wager favors me, guv. Let's call you Jack. I take me chances, luv. What's to lose 'cept what ain't worth nothin' anyhow?"
"Do you wish to die, Mary Kelly?"
"Sometimes I think I'm dead already. Sorry, Jack, you picked a corpse. No, I hope Jack don't do me, but if he does, like I say, the world's a better place."
"I see. Is there somewhere near for us out of this weather?" he inquired.
"We're almost there. You'll be quite comfortable. I'll make it good for ya, Jack. Whatever I got--take." She had heard herself utter crazy things like this before, but she really didn't understand why she was addressing this man, a perfect stranger, as though she had known him all her life. This was not the usual way she aroused men--no, not at all. What was going on between them? No, it was rather, she spoke this way precisely because she didn't know him at all. She was speaking to someone who was really no one, someone perfectly safe, to whom she could just give herself and lose nothing.
Abruptly, at the corner of Fashion and Commercial, he halted.
"Who's that?" he hissed angrily.
"There, staring at us." George Hutchinson was loitering outside the Queen's Head Pub, scrutinizing them--so obviously, even rudely, Mary thought. As they passed him, she smiled, then frowned.
"Why you eating us with your eyes, George?"
"Looking after ya, Mare, 'sall."
"Twenty years too late for that, Saint George." Then George stooped down, attempting to peer up into the face of Mary's companion, whom she now noticed had lowered his head.
"Watch yerself, Mary luv," George admonished.
"Off with you now. That's enough. Behave yerself," she scolded with bemused sternness.
A few days later, George describes him to the police and press. "The man was about five feet six inches in height, and thirty-four or thirty-five years of age, with dark complexion and dark, heavy mustache, curled up at the ends. Dark eyes and bushy eyebrows. He was wearing a long dark coat, trimmed with astrakhan, a white collar with black necktie, in which was affixed a horseshoe pin. He wore a pair of dark spats with light buttons over button boots and displayed from his waistcoat a massive gold chain. His watch chain had a big seal with a red stone hanging from it. He had no side whiskers, and his chin was clean shaven. He looked like a foreigner." Yes, and George also claimed that he carried a small, dark parcel with a strap round it. My goodness! Horseshoe pin? Light buttons? A red stone? And that strap? Is any of this phenomenal portrait believable? The eye of a camera in the dark and the mist. According to George, this man give her a red handkerchief. If Jack the Ripper hands a handkerchief to a whore, what color will it be? Precisely. George also claimed that he waited forty-five minutes outside Miller's Court. Guarding her, he was, while she was being murdered and dreaming her last dream.
"He's following us."
"He's drunk. Pay him no mind."
"If he gawks me again, he won't recognize himself."
"Aw, Jack, he means no harm." They crossed to Dorset Street, and after a short way, she stopped.
"Miller's Court. This is where you live?"
"Such as me life is, this is where I live." Her eyes welled with tears; clearly, tonight, she needed to cry. "I've lost my handkerchief," she sighed. He quickly drew from his pocket a red one and handed it to her. "Thank you, my darling," she whispered in his ear, and then kissed him long and ardently, pouring into her passion a desperation impossible to suppress. "Come inside me, Jack."
As they entered the narrow passageway into the courtyard, Mary almost recalled the dream that had eluded her all day. Something . . . someone . . . she was opening . . . her legs forced apart . . . something--then nothing. But in this the closing hour of her life, she would redream some part of it. She felt suddenly chilled, flushed, a fever was shivering through her. She hugged more tightly her companion's arm, as though she feared that she was about to fall. At some region of obscure awareness, she knew very well who this anonymity was next to her, to whom she now clung as she would to a lover. Wasn't he the savior for whom, amidst her bleakest depressions, she secretly prayed? Hadn't her whole life been preparation for this final undertaking? But why peruse too closely those dreadful subcurrents within her that now compelled her to embrace this fate that seemed so inevitable? In fact, were she to trace this inevitable pathway backward she would find herself in childhood. But no, as always, she averted her vision from such awful sights. Why wear herself out resisting the landslide of an entire life? And the poor fetus God had given her--what of that? Ah, well, a blessing she didn't deserve. Return it, for God to bestow upon a far more fitting mother. And she didn't want to be sick to her stomach anymore, not ever.
She sensed that now she was somehow making a decision of which it was beyond her means to fully grasp the consequences. She was trembling, from more than the coldness of the night and the fever ever more rapidly circulating through her blood. She was very frightened; she realized that, but at this moment, terror and excitement appeared to her strangely indistinguishable. She had once heard a priest declare that finally, in extremis, these two emotions were indeed identical. Ah, yes, of that paradox she now glimpsed the terrible truth. It did briefly occur to her to flee this dreadful drama into which she had been cast, to rush into the engulfing night screaming, "Murder! I'm murdered!" and fling her depleted body into George's waiting arms, yes, or throw herself against Joe, and once again renounce her whoring ways. But this consumed body of hers could run no further. Besides, escaping made no sense to her anymore; all the hideouts to which she had already run pretty much duplicated those she fled. None of this she thought with lucidity, but at some oblique level, it affected her powerfully enough to ordain her deadly direction tonight. She glanced back and discovered that George was still watching them. What was he doing? My God, didn't he understand that she was beyond repair? But there he was, again being sorrowfully enwrapped into the night's dismal shroud. For a second, she tried to imagine what she must look like to him, disappearing into the dark. Probably, she resembled something made of nearly nothing.
At the inquest, Mrs. Cox, another prostitute, reports that after midnight she heard Mary Kelly singing "A Violet from Mother's Grave."
He wasted not a single minute. "Take off your clothes, Mary." She did at once. "Get in bed, my dear." She did. "Spread your legs." Yes . . . all commands she'd obeyed a thousand times. Her heart hammered madly. He started a fire in the fireplace. He flung her clothes into it. A red knitted crossover, a purple linsey frock, faded and frayed, but those were the only clothes she had. Tomorrow she would have to go naked. He moved rapidly. She gazed transfixed. Helpless. Consenting. He opened the black bag. Where did that come from? But she was really not surprised. She realized she could hardly have failed to notice it. Yes, she probably spotted it during the first second of their meeting. Deciding to continue not looking at what she knew, she covered her face with the bedsheet, took a deep breath--her last--and held it. And then . . .
The pain of gagging suffocation was so severe that had it lasted beyond the three seconds that it did she would have died of that rather than the gash he cut with an expert swiftness around her bulging throat thus in a blood-burst ending almost in an eye-blink both that unbearable pain and her unbearable life leaving to his fantastic intentions only her still young but very used body and the three-month-old fetus that had been until a minute ago developing to her dismay inside it but about that small item she would not be fretting any longer and she could lie there now in the most absolute stillness of all with the assurance that he like so very many others was spreading her thighs wide apart to help her out of this fix she was in with a few shillings for a prick and who was about to eviscerate her as others had but he now oh Joe my luv you told me true keep my cunt in nights but he moved in a fashion too extreme for her to even dream so instead with three seconds left she envisioned her mother's flower garden and her father's farmland in Ireland larger than they ever were extending over acres and acres of rolling green countryside full of roses and violets she plucked all the days of spring oh an endlessly lovely space she had played within and at that moment she saw with her heart thumping her rib cage like flailing wings a phoenix from its own detritus fighting to regenerate find a loophole in this grave plot bolt get out of her disembody soar she saw the powerful hands of her father dig down into the dirt uprooting fat delicious potatoes and turnips to roll wobbling across the grassy field to hit with a shock her tender spread-eagled legs and was this the father sort of enough like him whom she had seen last night and said sweet Maria he's a-fuckin' me blind love that father now holds up for her inspection a strawberry shaped perfectly like her heart he says bleeding red juice and she watched her little hand reaching excitedly for it as he quickly pops it in his mouth making her about to cry before he quickly leans forward and kisses and licks his tongue inside her tender lips and all a-thrill with surprise she feels the strawberry being pressed hard as a rock 'tween her raw lips into her opening mouth or into a slit he is magically cutting 'tween her thighs with a paring knife and she felt split her dripping red though now years past pain but then for the longest while she would believe this is how babies are made from potatoes or strawberries father plants in her but how they are born she couldn't recall right now in her dream-state how or when it was she ever figured that out or even if she ever did so because she was terribly baffled about that she wondered with two seconds left if she might be giving birth right now assisted by the sharp instrument this Jack at work on her now had raised before her horrified eyes only a brief time ago right before she moaned like a weeping child oh please my God oh murder please don't murder me I didn't mean what I meant when I said I want to die but in a voice so muffled no one was likely to have heard her not even Saint George vague as a ghost but standing guard off a mere earshot anyway perhaps not even Jack himself heard because maybe she was already choked off and only good for voiceless words by then but in this confusion she was now really lost in a hopeless dawn she couldn't say or maybe he heard her say come inside take all of me which ain't and never was anything worth more than a butthole I'm yours but she could see as the fireplace light flickered rapidly over him like hungry hot orange yellow tongues his glowing face grimacing peculiarly expressing too many unearthly desires for her to comprehend and hadn't she thought she comprehended all the desires of men her body a-drip with them but who's seen the face of God that well? her mother asked before she died but her beautiful blue eyes with one second left took the picture that they could of him the unknown right before he put her out and set to work making her up him an artist killing to make her her blue eyes letting the unknown burn into the thin transparent film of her pupils a perfect image of as much as she could glean of him which probably wasn't all that much since it was her father who said we see as much as we understand and take the sight of her which must be simply spectacular incandescent crimson as the open window of a hearth now and oh wouldn't that peeping Tommy Bowyer always sneaking for a free piece be just dumbfounded by her now with a body as displayed as hers more than nude ravished in extremis her long fiery hair a-gleam oh quite and anyway what she saw of him her undertaker she saw for anyone skilled enough to find who was brave enough to search her remains for it to even photograph her last sight if they wished and once deep enough inside the mirror she left develop the discovery that lay so invisibly there to imagine themselves.
In this oneiric derangement, she reminded herself to tell Joe and Maria of this, the most fundamental of ravishments--Oh, yes!--as though she, among all others on the earth, had been privy to a divine revelation, as though she, among all her sisters, had survived the apocalypse. And at that precise instant, the last, she dreamed her eyes opened and, to thank him, she tried to behold the invisible being who made her the great attraction she now was. But his anonymity was too vast for her--even with all the resources of a dream--to conceive. He now transcended all apprehension. Then she was nothing to herself.
Several thousand convene for her funeral procession, mostly women weeping, some beseeching God to forgive her. On the lid of the exposed coffin rests a cross composed of heartsease, and a plaque simply inscribed: Marie Jeanette Kelly, died 9th November 1888, aged 25 years.
Richard Geha, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst in private practice. "Mary Kelly's Dream" is one of the stories in his first, book-length collection of fiction--Primal Scenes: Stories of Radical Witness. Primal Scenes is scheduled for publication at the end of 1998. Anyone wishing more information on the book, or wishing to purchase it, please contact:
Creative Arts Book Company
833 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, California 94710