(From the desk of Miss Catherine Earnshaw III)
I write to you in the hopes that someday I shall give you these letters and you shall read them and laugh. When I see you again we are sure to have a wonderful time.
My business is going very well, considering how many spiritual mediums are being proved fake by so many prying journalists. A few such spies for my beloved newspapers came in and tried to disprove my methods. I made the front page, you know. It was wondrous! I was so terribly excited to be featured in the newspaper, which as you know was such a source of joy for me during those years I was confined in my room. I only wish you could have been there to share the moment with me.
Where are you, anyhow? You simply disappeared one night and I haven't a clue what you might be up to. I do hope you return soon. I miss you terribly.
It took another three years to decipher the notes, gather the supplies I needed, and to build the machine that would turn me invisible. I managed to steal a few white rats I could use to test my imitation serum and machine. The test rats were awful, nasty little creatures who bit me about a hundred times in a week and I'd know children back at the Dodger's place who'd had their noses gnawed off by sewer rats in the middle of the night. They're terrible little creatures but even that didn't make me feel better as they writhed in pain from the blood-bleaching formula. I did not sleep easy that night, and it wasn't just because I knew that I'd have to go through what they were going through if I wanted to achieve my goal. Griffin had tested the invisibility formula on a cat. I wondered if he'd felt guilty about it, even though animals are just dumb beasts.
In the end, my rats were invisible and I had to kill them. Invisible rats outside would be absolutely terrible. The creatures became visible again when they were killed, just like Griffin had.
And then it was my turn.
I'm not a fan of medicine, as I've said before, there's just too much blood. I held the syringe full of opium and monocane up to the vein on my left arm. The needle caught the light and I hesitated. "God, that's a large thing to be stabbing into your arm," I murmured. Maybe this wasn't going to work after all; if I couldn't do this it wouldn't be done. I couldn't go out and find some doctor to help. "Hello, sir, might you be interested in turning me into the second invisible man? I'm not a fan of stabbing myself, you see." Anyone in his right mind would be off to get the police in no time and that didn't actually fit into my schedule well. It had to be done. I clenched my teeth and sunk the needle into my skin, forcing myself to watch as it hit the vein before I pushed down the plunger that shot the mixture into my blood.
For a few minutes nothing happened. I sat still on the floor, wondering if the serum would even work. My breathing slowed and I felt the drug mixture taking its effects. I relaxed back against the wall, a feeling of peace washing over me. Strange, it didn't hurt at all; maybe the effects were different on humans than they were on rats. I didn't think or worry about the scientific implications of that thought, namely that if the serum didn't cause the same side effects it also might not bleach my blood correctly. Everything was going to be fine; there was a strange tingling feeling in my fingertips and toes. I giggled as the sensation moved up into my arms, legs, torso, soon I was tingly all over. I laughed again, wiggling my fingers slowly. The feeling grew and continued to grow. The tips of my fingers started to sting. I stopped laughing. The stinging grew more painful. I clenched my teeth as the stinging moved slowly up my arms. There was a stab of pain in my chest. I gasped. My heart was on fire. I was burning from the inside out, I could feel it. The serum travelling through my veins was burning me. I dug my nails into my arms, trying as hard as I could not to scream. Screaming would reveal where I was hiding. Screaming would alert the police. Screaming would get me a date with the hangman's necktie. Screaming would kill me. But I was already dying.
So, while a more poetic man might have compared my writhing on the floor in pain from a blood-bleaching serum to the ghost-calling spasms of darling Catherine, I was more concerned with keeping myself quiet. Perhaps, if I'd been more myself I'd have thought about her and wondered what she was doing, but I hadn't seen the little bit in years and, again, I was writhing in pain as though my own blood was on fire. That kind of thing can really distract a man, you know? It's hard to get the blood boiling for a lady, no matter how lovely, when you feel as if your blood is actually boiling.
Luckily for me, I eventually passed out from the pain. I woke up the next day sore and bruised, but ultimately alright. I glanced around my dank surroundings. The abandoned shack was still, well, abandoned by the world. I dusted myself off and stumbled towards the cracked mirror in the corner. I had to make sure that the serum had worked, but how would I know?
I grinned. The blood-bleaching had obviously worked. The traces of red in my mouth and around my eyes, the slight lines of veins and arteries, and the last hint of pink in my skin had all disappeared. I could have been a stone statue if I stood still enough. That would've been entertaining. Who in their right mind would want a statue of a filthy thief like me? I laughed and struck a pose.
"Oh, monsieur," I said in my best French accent, "You think I would be zee best model for your sculpture? I don't know what to zay, I am le flattered, monsieur!"
There was only one thing left to do. I turned to the machine taking up half the room.
"Alright then, my freaky darling, here I come."
Less than an hour later I stood in front of the mirror again. Walking without seeing my own feet was going to take some getting used to. I'd had to cut my hair since the shoe polish hadn't turned invisible with me and I ran my hands over my head again. Nearly bald felt very strange, but it was still the least strange thing I'd done this day. I'd had to wash up since the layer of dirt on my skin showed off where I was about as well as if I was one of Cathy's ghosts. These clothes would have to go as well. Still, I figured I could get new clothes and make them invisible, too, which would save me the trouble of running around starkers in the London wintertime, when it came about. I glanced down at my feet, or really, where my feet were supposed to be. I wiggled my toes against the packed dirt floor. God, this was bizarre.
Now, I had noticed when I cut my hair that it was going to be difficult for me to steal things since even with my hand closed around something, you could still see it floating in midair. All my sleight of hand tricks would be next to useless if I couldn't use my own body to hide things. Even putting things in my mouth was useless. People may not have been bothered by a floating pocket watch before the invisible man's murder spree, but I doubted people had forgotten enough in just a few years that floating objects would go entirely unnoticed.
Breaking into houses would be easier, but getting out with enough loot to make it worth it would be nearly impossible. I needed a partner, someone who would be able to take my loot and carry it for me. Griffin had needed Thomas Marvel because he didn't have anyone else to turn to, any of his colleagues would have turned him in immediately. As for me, I wasn't that limited.
(From the desk of Miss Catherine Earnshaw III)
I made the newspapers again, did you happen to see? The man said I'm one of the most gifted practitioners of voluntary possession of the age. Hear that? "One of" that means there are more people like me, Rodney. Can you imagine?
In fact, he said one of his collegues had shown interest in working with me, figuring out the science of séances. Can you imagine that? Devices that could help one find ghosts or summon them. One could speak at one's own funeral, comforting your loved ones. Or really, death in itself could become meaningless!
It's a brave new world of technology, Rodney, and they're asking me to help. I only wish you were here with me, I'm certain that you could provide valuable insight and much needed support. I wish you'd come back Rodney, I'm starting to think I may never see you again and all these letters will be written for nothing.
I sat outside the door of Alfie's favorite pub. We'd grown apart since he'd got a fine upstanding job. Last time I'd seen him he had two kids already, though it only mattered as much as they'd come around begging him for money when he got it. To be honest, it was the second closest I'd ever seen to a real family and between his kids screaming and Cathy sitting quietly in her room, waiting for her own father to stop hating her, I have to say, I preferred my own childhood to these sad examples of family.
The cheering in the pub grew louder and I knew it was only a matter of time before Alfie would be kicked out into the streets. I heard his voice, singing an old drinking song at the top of his lungs, getting most of the words wrong. It faded into the rest of the voices and a few moments later he stumbled out, humming to himself and swaying a little as he walked.
I grinned, "Alfie, how about this now, old friend." He looked around, startled.
"Rodney? Where've you been, mate? Haven't seen you for years!" he paused, "Haven't seen you yet, where are you, Rodney, come on out."
"I'm right here, Alfie, I need your help with something," I tapped him on the shoulder. He whipped around and looked frightened when he didn't see me.
"Rodney… come on, this ain't funny, Rodney, what's going on?" he gasped, "You're dead, aren't you? You've come back to haunt me. Why'd you do that, Rodney, what'd I ever do to make you want to haunt me in the afterlife? Is it cause I took your sweet roll that one time a few years back and didn't tell you? Did another ghost tell you what I did? I'm so sorry about that, Rodney, please don't haunt me for the rest of my life, I can't deal with ghosts."
"Alfie, I'm not dead," I interrupted, "But thanks for telling me about that sweet roll thing, you know I punched Ralph in the face for that?"
"Well, I really wasn't going to tell you after I saw that," he flinched, "you're going to hit me now, aren't you?"
"Not right now, maybe later," I admitted, "right now, I need your help. You see, I'm invisible. I need a partner."
His eyes widened, "No, you mean like the scientist from a few years ago? The one out in Iping?"
I nodded but then remembered he couldn't see me anymore. "Yes, like that but with less murder and more money. You and I are gonna be rich, Alfie."
"Filthy rich, Rodney?"
"Filthy rich, Alfie."
We made a good team, Alfie and I, stealing all sorts of trinkets from wealthy houses in broad daylight even, if we felt like we needed a challenge. Whatever we gathered we sold to Dodger, who was still the best fence in London, even if we were too old to be part of his gang anymore. Life was great; we had enough money for food with plenty left over for entertaining ourselves. I bought clothes that were easy to slip on and off and a can of greasepaint, the kind actors use to make themselves look normal under all those lights, and a pair of dark glasses to cover my eyes. Alfie bought nothing but gin for the first few weeks but after that he would sometimes invest in supplies for his family. He even bought a doll for his daughter, Eliza. The two of us went out to see Burlesque shows because who could pass up a chance to see women in pants? Yes, yes, I know upstanding folks with tight-laced morals, such as the likes of all of you, wouldn't be caught dead in the middle of such a scandal. Well, forgive me for being low-brow and remember I was probably born in a ditch.
I still had to be careful to go out when it was dark and make sure not to open my mouth too wide, but it was nice to be able to go out and about without having to hold my breath and dodge anyone who came near me.
I even tried to go see Catherine once, through the front door and not climbing up the pipes and through the window this time. All dressed up in my new clothes, looking very fashionable for a former street urchin, the more money you have the more of it you're expected to spend on looking nice. Strange, I always thought that food was more important than appearances, but Cathy had told me there were many people who would rather starve than dress below their station, and that a few of those people actually had experience with starvation. I found it hard to believe, but while I was the expert on street life, she was the expert on fashion and rich folks. If I wanted to be a gentleman, I had to act like one, which meant fashionable clothes were something I'd have to figure out eventually.
I knocked on the door, the sound muffled by my gloves. A woman who looked about forty five years old answered. "Good day… sir." She said as though she wasn't sure if she should be calling me "sir."
"Good day to you, madam," I tipped my hat, not taking it off since it might have smudged my grease paint. She narrowed her eyes at my accent; it usually had that effect on people above me on the social ladder. "Is Catherine Earnshaw at home?"
The woman stiffened when I mentioned Cathy's name, "Miss Earnshaw grew tired of the city air and moved out to her family estate in Yorkshire."
My heart sank a little. I'd been looking forward to seeing her again. "Oh, well, in that case I'll just leave." I turned to go and heard the door slam shut behind me. As soon as it did, I turned into the alley on the side of the house. I looked around to make sure nobody was watching and slipped off my gloves, sticking them in the deep pockets of my coat. Grabbing a hold of the pipe, I scrambled up to the balcony like I always had. Cathy's room was empty, alright, so the woman hadn't been lying about her being away. I guess she had to have gone back to the moors.
I slid down the pipe to the ground and pulled my gloves back over my hands. It was too bad I didn't know where in Yorkshire her manor-house was. I missed my dear Cathy, but there was nothing for it, I'd probably never see her again.
I glared at a small rock in my path and kicked it across the street. I hadn't even told her what my plan was, hadn't bothered to go and see her when I got back into London, hadn't gotten to tell her that she looked top-notch every time I'd seen her. What could I do about it now? Not bloody much. And now I'd scuffed up my nice new shoes in the dirt. Ah well, it didn't matter if I looked like a gentleman anyways. What use is a gentleman without a lady, after all?
(From the desk of Miss Catherine Earnshaw III)
I am writing this letter knowing for a fact that it shall never reach you, for I do not know your address and it is quite possible that you do not have one. Please excuse my frankness; your company has that effect on me. It is something Mrs. Dean has told me countless times is unladylike. Why, sometimes, I even notice myself speaking with your lilt, isn't that curious? I daresay my entire family questions my moral character for it, but they can do nothing of it.
That is, it used to be they could do nothing of it.
The main purpose of this letter is to inform you that I have moved back to my family's manor house in Yorkshire, Thrushcross Grange. It is a dismal and secluded place where I hope I shall still be able to continue my career as a spiritual medium as well as continue my work in the sciences of the formerly living. In fact, it might even be a boon to my business, holding séances in such a gloomy setting. I wished to inform you of this so that you might come and visit me one day, but as the moving day approaches and you remain absent from my balcony, I do not hold the hope that I shall ever see you again.
Due to this unfortunate turn of events and the fact that I am confident this letter shall never be read by anyone, I am about to be unashamedly forward about a delicate subject. I greatly admire you, Rodney. I have been fascinated by you ever since you stumbled into my room almost ten years ago. Over time, that fascination turned to fondness and that fondness turned into a secret adoration that I have kept quiet for quite some time. If you asked me, right this moment, to marry you, I would do it without hesitation. We'd create such a scandal it would be in papers around the world that very week, and I wouldn't care a whit.
Perhaps I only feel this way since it is a purely hypothetical situation. I know for a fact that you will never ask this of me and so I can make all my claims, but I like to believe that I am being sincere. I like to believe that I would forsake everything for you. I like to believe it might have been a possibility that you could have admired me as well, that I was more than just the sickly looking girl who could talk to ghosts. However, I doubt that this could have been true.
I hope against hope that we may see each other once more, but I cannot wait forever, Rodney.
I wandered the streets completely invisible sometimes, just for the freedom of it. You had to stay away from crowds and the filthy puddles of water, but watching people going about their lives was strangely comforting. It was summertime and the sun beat down on the street. I could feel the heat reflecting off of the buildings around me. I'd found that since I became invisible, the sun didn't irritate my skin at all. It was very strange to be out in the sun without clothes and a large, ragged hat to protect me from burns. I grinned; it was funny to think of how all these people would react if they could see me, just standing there, naked, watching them.
A man in a suit passed me by, looking at his pocket watch. I reached out and tapped him on the shoulder. He jerked around, looking directly at me, or through me, really. For a moment he stuttered and glanced around, confused, but then he shrugged it off and continued on his way.
I heard the bells of some clock strike four in the afternoon. When Alfie and I weren't doing anything, this was usually when I would wander out to a park to convince people walking alone that they were mad by talking with them. I'd had some interesting conversations, but today I didn't really care. I went home instead. Actually, the rickety one-room shack where I'd built Griffin's machine wasn't really "home" but it was where I slept, ate and stored my things, so it was pretty close. I pulled the cork out of a bottle of gin and took a swig. Cheap stuff, but it was still good. I watched as the alcohol made its way down to my stomach and disappeared. Food usually took a while longer to go away, anywhere from one to three hours, but it would go away eventually. Meanwhile, I wore my jacket or tried not to look down at myself. I tell you, I've learned more about what happens in the human stomach than I ever wanted to know since I turned invisible. And it is not pretty.
There were a lot of small drawbacks like that. I couldn't go out invisibly for a while after I ate. And even then, it was best if I didn't eat very much. I had to keep myself clean of dirt, but the water I used to wash would hang on my skin for a while. If I got myself cut on something, the blood would turn visible as it got sticky and scabbed, so I had to be very careful. I also learned that other body fluids became visible once they hit the open air. So wanking in public was only for the days when I was feeling very brave or stupid.
That was another thing I hadn't thought through before becoming invisible. It was bloody hard to get laid. Thanks to Griffin, I had to be as stealthy as I could and not let anyone know about my… condition. Alfie knew, but he was my partner in crime, he had to. Any one else was untrustworthy. Anyone could turn me in to the police, especially a terrified working girl. Even in the complete dark, which rarely was the case for the back-alley jobs I could afford, I'd have to find my clothes afterwards. I'd have to find all of my clothes, not to mention making sure my grease paint didn't smear away, all in complete darkness, knowing that if anything was out of place, this lovely lady could run off screaming into the night and my gig would be up.
No matter, I had a decent life, I could figure out how to fix this problem later if it became more of an issue.
I slipped into my coat and buttoned it up. I was hungry after a long day of wandering around London on an empty stomach. Before I could tear off a chunk of bread, there was a knock at the door. I sighed and moved to put on a pair of pants, my paint, and my gloves. The knocking grew louder and whoever it was kept rattling the door, but it was locked tight. When I was done, I unlocked and opened the door.
The man standing there looked middle class. Not wealthy but not dirt poor. He wore a suit similar to the ones I'd seen Dr. Cranely wear outside of the lab. Perhaps he was also a scientist. My blood ran cold. What was a scientist doing here? He smiled at me, his moustache turning up at the corners, but I could tell he was not happy.
"Mr. Rodney Skinner?" He asked.
I frowned at him, "Who wants to know?"
"Dr. John Watson of the British Intelligence Agency. No, you've never heard of us. That's because it's a secret organization. We're here to offer you employment." He sounded bored as he absentmindedly toyed with the handle of his walking stick, as if he'd given a similar speech many times before.
"Well, that sounds lovely, but excuse me if I'm not interested." I began to close the door.
"I don't think you understand, Mr. Skinner, we know your secret. If you refuse to cooperate, we shall have to take you in by force where you will be tried for crimes against nature and the English government."
I froze, "You know? How?"
Dr. Watson sighed, "Science, of course. You were a bit of a challenge, Mr. Skinner, led me on quite a chase, I have to admit, it was actually enjoyable, but you can't hide from me," he paused, as if thinking something over, "Tell you what, I really did enjoy finding you. Let's say I give you a few minutes head start. Keep in mind; you've lost your ally. Yes, we know about Mr. Doolittle, and I must congratulate you on being able to greatly improve upon the original invisible man's plans. However, you are alone now. You won't last long. On the other hand, you could make this easier for all of us and just come with me."
"I think I'll take my chances."
He pulled out a pocket watch and glanced at it, "Five minute head start it is, then." And with that, he turned around with a military click of his heels and walked away. Five minutes. I had five minutes to get as far away from here as I could. I couldn't just leave the machine and notebooks lying around, but I also couldn't take anything with me. I stared at the bottles of gin on the floor. There was only one thing to do.
It nearly broke my heart to light my beautiful machine on fire. The design had been Griffin's but this one I'd painstakingly put together all on my own. She was a beauty, and now I had to destroy her: her and the notebooks, and all my other possessions, for that matter. I couldn't take any of it with me. I struck the match and dropped it in the damp mess. I looked down where the notebooks lay in their own puddle. On second thought, maybe the method didn't have to die. I grabbed the books and left the shack in flames. Quickly ducking into an alley way so I wouldn't call attention to myself, I searched for a place to hide the books. I continued to move through the streets, looking for somewhere safe, somewhere I could get back to them. At the same time, I had to keep moving. I didn't know how that agency man had found me, but I was absolutely terrified that he'd do it again. It didn't matter what he said about a job, I knew that no one in their right mind would allow the second invisible man to live after what the first one had done, and it didn't help that I was a criminal, no matter how harmless. If I was caught, they would not let me live.
I stashed the books in a hole in a wall in an alley, almost impossible to find unless you knew what you were looking for. The notebooks blended in with the soot covered brick. Feeling confident that the knowledge was safe where no one else could get it, I slipped out of the alleyway and went to find somewhere to hide.
(From the desk of Miss Catherine Earnshaw III)
You'll never believe what has happened to me. I cannot tell you the specifics, but the man who came to see me has given me a full time job at his agency. Perhaps you had already inferred this from my previous letters, but that is not my news. I have met someone who I think you would like greatly. He is a man of science, Mr. Darius. We are working together on a machine that will sense ethereal presence without the need for a medium's ectoplasmic emissions. So far, we have nothing, but the research is coming along quickly.
He is a strange man, sometimes I am not sure whether or not he is joking about things he says. I have been told he was married and that his wife worked in the agency as well, but she died on the job. Isn't that fascinating? And don't you laugh at me and call me morbid, Rodney, you know my philosophy on life.
Or perhaps you don't. It has been quite a long time since we have seen each other. In any case, I believe it is best to put on a good show. What does it matter if one lives a long and happy life during which nothing interesting happens?
I will not live a boring life, Rodney. I think you would understand this, if you were here. I refuse to die having contributed nothing to this world and having had no adventures. I plan on using my inventions in the field, you know. Now that paranormal research has been confirmed as actual science and we are being privately funded by the government (in secret, so keep it hush-hush, if you don't mind) more people are coming to us with evidence. And with evidence are the problems. The formerly living who are so angry that they have begun to destroy property and lives; they were just stories before now and went unchecked, but I can fix this.
Perhaps you'd write this off as the ravings of a madwoman, and perhaps I am, but I still think there's the possibility that you'd understand if you ever came back.
The weeks I spent running from the Agency and Dr. Watson was quite possibly the worst week of my life. Before I could find reliable shelter, it began to rain. I was wet, cold, and slightly visible with nowhere to go to dry off. I caught a nasty cold from being outside in the wet for days on end, huddling in the back of an alley, praying no one would see me. I couldn't find any food, although that didn't matter much since I had no where I could safely eat and digest for a couple of hours. I hadn't known hunger pains like this since before I'd joined the Dodger's group.
A week passed and my sickness got worse. I was light headed and dizzy, the air was far too hot one minute and a few minutes later I would be curled up as tightly as I could be, freezing to death. I couldn't go to a doctor, I didn't know what was wrong so I couldn't steal a cure, I couldn't even think straight half the time. Food, drink and rest were all too risky for me. Still, in the back of my mind I knew that if I didn't find a way out of this, I would die.
There's only so long one can stand that kind of physical torment when another option is available, and while I'm not one to give up life so quickly, it's amazing how the idea of a slow death from disease and dehydration can warm a man to the idea of a quick, military-style execution. If only I knew for certain that is what they would be offering me.
I wasn't fully awake when Dr. Watson finally found me again and I wasn't actually certain what he said to me. Fever does that to a man, makes everything feel like a dream where your head is stuffed with feathers, your throat is dry and the idea of eating anything makes you retch in the corner for hours on end. He made a motion with his cane and a group of men in white coats rushed over, picked me up and carried me towards a fancy-looking coach. The inside was red, deep red. I lay on the plush seat where the white-coats had set me down and stared at the ceiling. The Doctor came in and sat on the other bench. I looked over at him for a moment. My vision blurred and darkened and I fell asleep in the deep, dark red.
Does Dr. Watson even need an introduction? I didn't think so.
Actually, because I super like writing bored and lonely Watson as employed by the British Intelligence Agency I'm changing the trajectory of this fic. It's going to be a lot longer and different than I had originally planned, but ultimately, I hope it will still be good.
I certainly hope you all are enjoying this as much as I am, because that would mean you're having a great time.