Dust floated into the air as my body slammed down against the floor, disturbing the eerie stillness of the bake house. I kept my eyes shut tightly for a few more seconds, not breathing, just listening for sounds. The air was thin here, instead of hard and palpable as was when the voice sang to me. I quietly let out a breath, fearing to make any noise. My face was pressed against something sticky and wet, and the fluid smelt like rust. I dragged the back of my hand over my face as I slowly lifted it off of the ground.
I dared myself to open my eyes. I wish I hadn't. At first it was dark, and my body trembled not only from fear but from the shaky impact of my body meeting the floor. A sharp sting of pain flashed through my wrist and I grabbed it with my other hand, yelping in surprise. I sat back on my legs, the denim on my knees and shins slowly getting soaked with some suspiciously dirty liquid. I wrinkled my nose in distaste, moving away from the spot.
I was now directly underneath the trapdoor tunnel. I stared up at my room, wondering how I was going to get back up there. Not that I could even see it, everything was so black. I put up my wounded hand in front of my face; despite how pale my skin was, my hand was invisible, swallowed by the darkness. I willed myself to stand up, groaning as I propped my body up using my palms to push off against the floor. I felt my way against the wall, for there had to be another way out of this chilling, Godforsaken place.
There was a tiny spark in the distance. So small that at first, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. But then there was another. And another. And another. Until it finally grew larger, and continued to flicker and dilate as the bright glow of orange and yellow was finally large enough to light the room. Fire. It flashed and flickered as I squinted at the source. A lofty, sinister stove stood in the middle of the room, connected to large pipes that probably deposited the smoke through that chimney I had seen outside earlier today.
I threw a hand to cover my eyes as my pupils shrunk from the sudden light. I dropped my other hand my jeans, continuing to squint as my fingertips brushed against the denim of my lower thighs. They came back sticky and red. Panicking, I snapped my head back at the wet, sticky spot which I had fallen in. A dark, crimson puddle of blood oozed between the cracks of the cobblestones, trickling down the wall of the shaft which I fell through.
I hurriedly threw both my wounded hand and my normal one over my mouth, chocking down the ear-splitting scream and replacing it with a sob. What was going on here? At that very moment I wanted to rush back to Heathrow and hop on the very next plane back to California. Two pairs of rhythmic footsteps echoed throughout the bake house and I pressed my body up against the wall, hiding in the shadows, grateful for my dark hair and the dark outfit I chose to wear today.
They were male and female, judging by the soft click clicks of one, and the hard thud thuds of the other pair. "'Don't I know you?' she said." The deep, mournful voice that had sang to me just minutes earlier now quoted someone of importance to him, or so I guessed.
A female voice that sounded too much like Miranda's cried to him, desperate for the man to listen. "I was only thinkin' o' you!"
Suddenly, the soft quality of the man's voice hardened as he accused his partner. "You lied to me!"
The woman, desperate and frightened, pleaded with him in return. "No, no, not lied at all!" She stuttered, the clicks of her footsteps stumbling. "No I never lied!"
I could see their shadows now, and I winced as they stepped into the circle of light. I cowered further in the corner, refusing to blink and refusing to breathe. I swallowed down another gasp, my mouth full of sawdust and a strange taste in the back of my throat. They were the same people that I had seen earlier today, standing in the window of Miranda's bakery. Questions began racing through my mind. Who were they? What were they?
Terror gripped my heart with its icy, steel fingers. The man was soaked in blood from head to toe. Whose blood was it? Miranda's! Ohmigod if he found me, there's no doubt that he would kill me too. The streak of white in his hair almost blended in with the black, dyed a deep crimson by his victim's blood. Tears welled up in my eyes as I mourned for my aunt. It took a while for my brain to produce any logic. The woman looked like Miranda – only she wasn't. She was the spitting bloody image of my aunt, but she was not Miranda.
"Something happened here." Echoed the gloomy voice of my aunt, deep in my head. "Something not very nice."
Adrenaline electrocuted my body, my breathing became shallow, my blood raced through my veins and my pulse quickened. This was not the logic I had expected. Something not very nice. They weren't real. I was schizophrenic. What the hell? This was not logic! Something not very nice. I don't believe in ghosts. I don't. These people were not shadows of the past, they were reinactors that just happened to murder people as a side job. Something not very nice. I was never very good at convincing myself.
The look on the man's face was one of cruel betrayal and tortured disbelief. "Lucy…" He whispered, but it felt as loud as a shout to the gods on top of a mountain.
"Said she took the poison, she did!" The woman continued to protest, her voice slipping as she panicingly tugged on his arm, urging him to listen to her defense. "Never said she died!"
Ah, word play.
The man was now on his knees in front of a large bundle of fabric, just a few short yards away from me, and his blood-stained back blocked my view. "I have come home again…"
The woman kept her distance, craning her neck to stare at what he was looking at. "Poor thing!" She called to him, not sounding the least bit sorry. "She lived but it left her weak in the head. All she did for months was just lie there in bed."
The man's hand gently touched the bundle, crying a woman's name in a mournful whisper. "Lucy…"
"Should've been in a hospital!" The woman continued to defend herself, but I doubt the man was listening. "Wound up in Bedlam instead." She took one tiny, tentative step towards him and the bundle. "Poor thing!"
I can't understand anything! When I had fallen, it was dark, somebody was screaming my name, and there were no bundles anywhere. But I remember blood… "Oh my God!" The man's voice rose and broke, but then he moved away.
I ohmygodded with him. A dirty, broken woman lay at his feet, covered in blood. Suddenly I felt sick. I wanted really bad to throw up, for I had been sitting in her blood just moments before. Oh my god… The woman interrupted me. "Better you think she was dead!" She cried. "Yes, I lied 'cause I love you!"
I think that her feelings were irrelevant to him right now. It wasn't the right way to do this. He was…suddenly everything clicked…going to kill her. But Miranda had said that this had already happened, so why was I watching the rerun? Ghosts? No! I don't believe in ghosts. It was useless to deny something you can see, it just confuses you more and the only thing you accomplish is lying to yourself. I flattened my back against the wall, not wanting a single strip of light to shine on me.
"Lucy…" The man – Sweeney Todd? no, that's impossible – continued to whisper, completely ignoring the woman's declaration.
"I'd be twice the wife she was!" She advertized, her eyes split with pain and worry. "I love you!"
"What have I done!" The man – I refused to use his name, I was still in denial – rose to his feet so sharply that both I and the woman flinched.
The woman. Miranda Lovett. Angel Lovett. Nellie Lovett. It was all coming together in a macabre, diabolical way. It made sense but then again, it didn't. This couldn't be my family member. And this couldn't be the real Sweeney. They had died so long ago. It – "Could that thing have cared for you like I did!"
Wrong move. Oh, so wrong. Please Mrs. Lovett, don't make him hate you any more than he already does. Please, Mrs. Lovett, he'll kill you!
He turned on her, and I recoiled at how sharp, and how terrifying his movements were. "Mrs. Lovett! You're a bloody wonder!" I bit my lip, wrinkling my forehead in worry. This was not going well. "Eminently practical and yet…appropriate as always!" There was a dark, malicious smile on his earthy face as he advanced towards her slowly, while she took small steps back, brown eyes wide with fear. "As you've said repeatedly, there's little point in dwelling on the past!"
I was worried for her, this woman who – in a way – caused death to another. But I was also afraid for him, but why? He was a cold-blooded murderer. "Now come here, my love…" He taunted, gesturing sarcastically to her. "Not a thing to fear, my love…what's dead, is dead!"
"Do you mean it?" She asked naively, tentatively taking a step towards him to meet him half way. No, Mrs. Lovett! I felt like I was watching a soap opera, a terrifying, blood curdling one that scared me more than Paranormal Activity did. "Everything I did, I swear, I thought was only for the best!" Though he was staring right at her, he didn't seem to be listening. "Believe me! Can we still be married?"
It was their bad romance, unreciprocated love, between a murderer and a murderess. I continued to contemplate all the possible meanings of the phrase 'silent as the grave' as their musical voices blended together, one soprano and the other bass. "The history of the world, my pet…"
Mrs. Lovett put a hand on his chest affectionately, beaming at him. "Oh Mr. Todd! Oh Mr. Todd! Leave it to me!
"…is learn forgiveness and try to forget!" When he finished, he took her into his arms and started spinning her around the room. An odd way of communicating, to be sure, but I was convinced that they both had simply gone mad.
"By the sea, Mr. Todd!" She sang about some inside story that I didn't understand. "We'll be comfy-cozy. By the sea, Mr. Todd! Where there's no one nosy!"
He ignored her completely, and as of now, I was brave enough to step an inch forward, still in my shadowed sanctuary, however. "And life is for the alive, my dear. So let's keep living it!"
"Just keep living it!"
The neared the open stove.
"REALLY LIVING IT!"
With one last, liquid movement, he lifted Mrs. Lovett and threw her in to the fire.
Oh my God, he just threw a woman into the fire!
I shut my eyes but I could not shut my ears. She screamed so loudly, so terribly that it broke into my very soul and chilled my blood, freezing it in my arteries. I clasped both hands over my mouth and sobbed; closing and opening my eyes, as if expecting this to go away. The definition of insanity was doing the same thing and expecting a different result. But there was still hope in me that all of this was just a bad dream.
My knees wobbled and I sank to the floor disgracefully, my shins once again soaking in Lucy's red fluid – still warm. I opened my eyes and peaked through my laced fingers. I froze. He was watching me. I scrambled up immediately, searching for a place to hide, but it was too late, he was advancing towards me at lightning speed. I yelped and pressed my body once again against the underground stone wall. He was inches in front of me now, his eyes holding that murderous gleam that he had held when he threw Nellie in the fire…her screams had turned to a sickening silence by now.
"Please don't kill me." I begged, my eyes blurred with tears of fear.
In return, his hand zapped out and gripped my by the throat, so hard that I could not breathe, and the fire behind him slowly began to die out into blackness. He grinned humorlessly at me, his black eyes shiny with hate. He cocked his head slowly. "Do you fear death, Angel Lovett?"
I screamed and thrashed my body against him, not bothering to wonder how he knew my name. He continued to grin, slowly releasing me and letting me drop to the floor. I screamed and kicked as the fire died out and there was only darkness. I could no longer hear his breathing. It was silence but I continued to writhe on the floor, hoping that someone would come find me and rescue me. There was a banging against metal as something was moved, and then two thin hands gripped my shoulders and shook me hard.
I raked my nails against his skin, kicking his torso, screaming all the while. "Open your eyes, love." A calm, feminine voice ordered.
Trembling, I opened my eyes. It was morning, light streamed in through the grimy, rain-streaked window, and I was on the hard bunk bed in my attic room. A thin film of sweat covered my entire body, and my dark hair was plastered across my forehead and the side of my face. My chest rose with my shallow, rapid breathing, and I clutched at my forehead, trying to stifle the pounding headache that I hoped wasn't a premature migraine.
Had this all been just a horrible nightmare? No, it couldn't be, it felt too real! I scanned the area to the foot of my bed, surprised to find Aunt Miranda sitting there, her pale heart-shaped face framed by a mess of brown curls. She cocked her head at me and stared. "'ow are you feelin', love?" She asked.
You're not dead?
I'm not dead!
"I…I…." Knowing that I was still in too much of a shock to speak, she took over, nodding.
She walked around the foot of the bed and came to stand in front of me, lifting me up under the arms and speaking in a low, comforting manner. "Come on, you great, useless thing."
Thank you. So kind of you to put it that way.
I sighed and let her tow me out the door, down the stairs, through the entrance of her pie shop, and deposit me in a leather booth. She walked away from me at that moment, rummaging through the cupboards and taking out two shot glasses and some kind of dirty looking bottle which I doubt did not contain at least a small percentage of alcohol. She approached me and slammed the bottle on the table, the glasses clinking as she set them down in a more gentle manner.
"I'm too young to drink." I reflexed immediately, stopping the bottle in her hands, inches away from my shot.
She paused and put her knuckles to her hips. "Not in the UK you ain't."
She had a point. I watched as she poured the contents of the bottle out of its neck, a golden-brown liquid splashing the bottom of the small glass. "One for me, one for you." She said in a sing-song voice.
I wrapped my knuckles against the wooden table, still clutching my head. "What happened?"
Miranda reached out and turned on the radio, rolling the dial to the softest sound. The radio station had chosen to play Lady Gaga's Bad Romance at that precise moment. I tried to ignore it. "So?"
"I want your love, and I want your revenge."
Miranda looked me square in the eye, her cup of something-illegal-for-me now empty. "Drink it." She ordered. "It's gin." As if that made it okay.
I did what she told me, chocking as the fiery liquid burned my esophagus. "Well?" I asked, wiping my mouth. Why must I have to pry everything out of her?
"I found you in the bake house, love; we need to nail some boards over that spot later today." She explained nonchalantly, pouring herself another glass.
"I want your love, I don't wanna be friends."
I traced the brim of my own glass with my fingertips. I was so utterly confused. "Miranda, tell me, living here – have you ever experienced things?"
She looked up, raising one shapely eyebrow. "Things?" She repeated.
"Yes." I gestured in the direction of the bake house stairs. "Things."
She leaned forward, her voice barely above a harsh whisper. "What kind of things?"
I shrugged. "Strange things. Things out of the ordinary." I leaned over the table dramatically. "Paranormal."
"Caught in a bad romance…"
I reached for the radio dial and turned it off. Miranda frowned. "That's Lady Gaga!"
"I thought you Yankees like her?" Not right now, Ms. Lovett, please focus.
I waited for her to get back on task. "Please, Miranda, paranormal."
She leaned back against the leather seat of the booth, hugging the bottle of gin to her chest and smiling delicately, as if hiding a secret. "Why?"
I started to gesture wildly. "Last night I heard a voice – singing- a beautiful voice…some barber. I fell through the vault and into someone's blood! I saw Mrs. Lovett!" Ohmigod, I'm going to get myself committed.
Miranda looked amused, but I stormed on forward. "And a man, he killed his wife – they were dancing! (He and Mrs. Lovett, I mean.) And then he…HE THREW HER IN THE STOVE! He killed her!"
Miranda's expression darkened and she spoke in a way that made me wonder what she was hiding. "Stop that nonsense, love."
I blinked at her, my eyes sore. "You don't believe me?"
Why would any sane person believe that? She gave me a soft smile. "Of course I believe you." By the look she gave me, I wasn't convinced. "But you must understand, my dear, you fell. You hit your head. You had a bad dream. That was all it was. A bad dream. Nothing more, nothing less."
I shook my head violently as she rose out of her seat. "Go upstairs and get some rest, love. I have to go pick up a few supplies, but I'll be back in time for dinner." She was already reaching for her purse, inching towards the door. "Get some rest." With that, she was gone.
I sat back in the leather booth, exhaling deeply. Maybe she was right. What if it was just a dream? But it felt so real! I saw him with my own two eyes. I listened to his voice. I saw him murder her! I stared at the half-empty bottle of gin that she had left on the table, an idea forming in my fried brain. I was going to go down there and see for myself if it was just a dream, some horrific design in my mind.
Just a dream. Just a dream.
I dropped my hands to my knees, but brought them back immediately, frowning at the coarseness of the denim. I stood up to get a better look at them. Sure enough, they were caked in last night's rusty, dried fluid.
Sorry for the wait. But a big thanks to , OwnWords, Writer103010, NN, 3, Skywhisper, Sapphire Skyle, VictorieEvans, MilkyyCookies, Erica Lovett, and Nameless for reviewing. They are very much appreciated. :) I hope y'all liked this, please review. Thank you. :)