Constable Tom Wilson was completely fed up with his job. Staring down at the dank, dark street ahead of him, an icy wet wind blowing in his face, he thought of all of the other career options he could have chosen. Butcher, stevedore, baker, general oddsbody. But no – he had to be a bleeding policeman, didn’t he? And this was where it had gotten him. When he had signed on with the Lambeth precinct of the London Metropolitan Police Service the previous year, he thought he’d had it all worked out. A few months of training, some routine assignments, then up through the ranks. He could just see himself as a detective at the Yard, running down dangerous criminals. Well, he’d gone through all that training, and now he was stuck here, walking a miserable beat on Clapham High Street in the middle of the night. He knew full well why he’d been stuck with this assignment. He was the new boy, the one with no say, the one they could shuffle off with the crap jobs. He shoved his hands under his armpits and jiggled his feet around a bit, just to get some blood into them. The evening was proving to be filthy, a nasty cold drizzle coming down and soaking the street. He could feel the icy water dribbling into the neck of his uniform and down his back. The gas lamps were enveloped in ghastly yellow shrouds, and the mist hung in the air, mixing with the soot to create an unbreathable miasma. The acrid smell of coal smoke was everywhere, mingling with the fog. Beyond, stood the shops and businesses of the street, cold and vacant, their proprietors long having taken off in favor of their dinners. Warm homes, warm hearths, greasy appetites. He could have cheerfully wished them all to purgatory. Beyond, the Thames flowed slowly down its ancient path, dividing the City of London in two. As he walked, he could hear his own footsteps echoing on the wet slate pavement. The condensation seemed to hang onto everything here – the stained brick walls of the buildings fairly glistened with it. Every now and then, a Hansom cab would lumber slowly down the street, the horses’ hooves clapping on the cobblestone road. Then silence once again. As he walked, he glumly noted that he was approaching Clapham Common, a lush park in the middle of this urban neighborhood. The interior of the enclosure was completely dark and foreboding, the only sound coming from the rain dripping from the leaves. Then he heard the screaming. Suddenly alert, he scanned the woods, to see the figure of a woman, running wildly through the trees. Something was hot on her trail, white and spindly, more spider than man. It loped along on all fours, gaining rapidly on her. All at once, Wilson was galvanized, and took off in pursuit of the two. He bolted over the grass, and quickly made ground on the galloping form. When he got within a couple of feet, he jumped forward and leapt on the creature’s back. It was slippery and greasy, and he had a hard time getting a grip. The thing made a low growling sound as he pushed its face into the wet sod, where it flailed around wildly. “Come on, mate,” he gasped. “You’re only making it worse.” He was wrong about that. The abomination spun around so suddenly that he had no time to react, and raked his right cheek into shreds. Screaming, he fell back, barely aware that the thing and the woman had moved in two different directions. The creature disappeared into the woods, while the woman collapsed on the grass, overcome with fatigue and terror. After that, everything went black for a while. When he opened his eyes again, there was a strange, owl-like face, with blank eyes and flowing white hair, leaning over him. The vision was speaking to him, but it took him a while to understand what it was saying. “You’ll be all right, my boy,” it told him. “We’ll get you to a hospital immediately.” Then everything went black again, and he sunk into a deep sleep.
When Wilson opened his eyes again, he could vaguely make out yellowish lights above him. As his vision cleared, he became aware that these were actually gas lights, and he was lying in a hospital bed. He felt the cool touch of freshly laundered sheets all around his body, and could barely hear the quiet mutterings of people moving about the room. Things cleared up after a while, and he understood that his bed was one of many, stretching down the long expanse of the room. Nurses were moving up and down the floor, checking charts and temperatures. Eventually, a man, evidently of some importance, walked into the room. He wore a dark jacket and waistcoat, and his hair was closely cropped, steel-grey in color. He was in the habit of checking his watch, which he regularly kept in his hand. “Well well well,” he began. “And who might you be sir, and what are you doing in my hospital?” “Constable Tom Wilson, of the Lambeth branch of the Metropolitan Police Department, sir,” he managed. “I have absolutely no idea where I am.” “As I said, you’re in my hospital. I am Sir William Cartier, director of Charing Cross Hospital. I can see no evidence of your being admitted here. Could you tell me what you’re doing in my facility?” “I shall relate as much as I can, foggy as my recollections might be,” Wilson responded. “I was walking my beat, on Clapham Common, where I perceived a young woman was being attacked. I gave chase, but was overcome in turn by the assailant.” Here, he reached up to his cheek. It was bandaged, but he still winced at the pressure. “Your wounds have been attended to,” Cartier said shortly. “Now, perhaps, you could give me some idea of how you came to be here.” “After the attack, I came to for a moment. Then I saw a face – a strange visage with blank slates where eyes should be. It looked like an owl, with a shock of white hair.” “Korvus,” Cartier muttered through clenched teeth. “Sorry?” Wilson started, but Cartier had already turned his attention to one of the nurses. “Go get Korvus, and tell him I want him down here immediately.” “But he says he’s not to be disturbed,” the nurse returned timidly. “He says he’s in the middle of important research.” “To hell with his research! I want that man down here right now! Who does he think he is, admitting patients without telling anyone?” Without another word, the nurse scurried from thse room. “You know this man, then?” Wilson asked. “Unfortunately, yes. Dr. Korvus is allowed to use our facilities for his experiments, provided that he attend to our patients on a regular basis. However, he has a rather high-handed attitude, and believes he can do whatever he wants here.” “So, what should I do?” “As it is, you’re now in our care, and it is beholden to us to aid in your recovery in whatever way we can. As you might gather, however, I am not at all pleased with the situation.” At that moment, the nurse reappeared, followed by a large man in a lab coat. He was wearing round, thick glasses, and his long white hair trailed behind him like the mane of a lion. He immediately headed for Wilson’s bed, ignoring everyone else in the room. “Ah! Awake, are you, my boy?” he enthused. “Good, good. I am Dr. Korvus. But I’m afraid you have the advantage of me. You weren’t in any condition to introduce yourself when we last met.” “Constable Wilson, of the Lambeth branch of the Metropolitan Police Service,” he responded. “I am indebted to you, sir, for helping me in a time of extreme distress.” “Yes, yes. I could do nothing else.” He reached out to take Wilson’s hand, but felt his pulse instead. “Good and steady. We should have you out of here in no time.” “And what of the woman – the one that thing was chasing?” “She has been admitted here as well. A mild case of shock, but nothing more serious. What I’m interested in is this that creature that accosted you. Could you describe it to me?” “It was thin and spindly, with dead white skin,” Wilson replied. “I tried to grab it, but there was some kind of slime on it, and I couldn’t get a grip.” “Yes, just as I suspected.” Korvus stepped back and stroked his chin. “Well, I wouldn’t worry, my boy. You seem well on the way to recovery. Should you have any other problems, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.” He handed Wilson his card, and then started to turn away. At that moment, Cartier loudly cleared his throat. “Dr. Korvus, a word with you, if I may...” “Dr. Cartier! What a pleasure to see you again!” Korvus replied, aware of the man for the first time. “How have you been keeping, old chap?” Cartier stood a moment, breathing heavily through his nose. “Dr. Korvus, we have allowed you the liberty of using our facilities for your research, but this time you’ve gone too far...” “Yes yes yes. I’m sure that’s all very interesting, but I have work to do. Some other time, eh?” With that, he turned and strode out of the room. Cartier stood behind, clenching his fists. “I swear, one of these days, I will throttle that man,” he muttered.
As Dr. Korvus had predicted, Wilson made a rapid recovery, and was out of the hospital in a couple of days. Upon his release, his uniform was returned to him, laundered and freshly pressed. He dressed, and discovered Korvus’ card, which he slipped into his jacket pocket. A nurse puttered about, changing his sheets, as he finished dressing. “Nurse? I was wondering about that girl...” “What girl would that be, sir?” “The one who was admitted with me the other night. How is she doing?” “Amelia Wainwright? She’s made a full recovery, and has already been released, sir.” Wilson pulled out his notebook, and made a quick note of the girl’s name. “Will there be anything else, sir?” “No, no,” he replied, putting the notebook back in his pocket. “Thanks for everything you’ve done for me.” “It’s only my job, sir,” she said, straightening the sheets. “Have a good afternoon, sir.” “And you.” With that, he strode out of the ward, made his way through the adjoining corridors, and exited to the street. The sun shone brightly in his eyes, and it took a few minutes to adjust himself. When his vision cleared, he saw a small, mousy man in a dark suit and bowler hat. The man approached, doffed his hat, and pulled out a notebook. “Frank Morrison, Daily Telegraph and Courier,” he offered. “You are, I presume, Constable Wilson?” “Yes, that’s right. What can I do for you?” “It’s about the other night, sir. The attack that put you in the hospital. Could I have a few words?” “Not much to it, really. A woman was being attacked on Clapham Common, and I was obliged to intervene.” The man scribbled a few notes. “And the assailant. Could you describe him?” “That would be a little difficult,” Wilson managed. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. It was naked, white, thin and slimy to the touch. That’s how it managed to get away.” “I see. And do you believe that this might have any connection to the other attacks?” Wilson stared at the man, dumbfounded. “What other attacks?” “Three in the last two days,’ the man said. “Oh, of course. Being in the hospital, you wouldn’t have known. The description of the assailant matched exactly just what you told me.” “As you said, I have really no idea. This was the first time I ever encountered anything like this.” The man put his notebook away and doffed his hat again. “Well, thank you very much, Constable Wilson. Should you think of anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact us.” “Thank you, sir. Have a good day.” With that, they parted ways. Wilson made his way back to his shabby flat, pulled off his coat, and settled into his threadbare chair. The sun was setting through the window, throwing a pale red light throughout the room. Suddenly, he felt very tired, and decided to go to bed. Even as he pulled off his clothes and settled under the sheets, a sense of dreadful foreboding overcame him, which only increased as he closed his eyes. The creature was there again, wet and white, with black holes where eyes should have been. Only this time, he wasn’t alone. There were others with him, rising out of the earth, their toothless mouths howling in voiceless reproach. Thousands upon thousands were closing in on him, clawing at him with their long, spindly fingers. He backed himself up against a wall, aware there was no escape. And behind them was something infinitely more terrible, a great hairy beast which walked like a man, but all resemblance ended there. Huge antlers jutted from its head, and its eyes glowed like hot coals. It was speaking to him, but all sound was nonsense now, replaced by a hideous shriek. There was only one thing he was sure of, and that was that there was no escape.
Wilson found himself on the floor, the sheets soaked through with sweat. His face was ground into the hard wood, and he was bound up in a fetal position. With a huge amount of difficulty, he crawled to his feet, and saw that the sun was already coming up. Work. He had to go to work. He managed to get to his feet, and staggered over to the wash table and mirror. He shuddered at his own appearance. His face was swathed in bandages, and both of his eyes were black. “Good God, Wilson,” he told himself. “You look like death warmed over.” Nevertheless, he attempted to shave, and gouged several large an ugly welts into his face in the process. Then pulled on his uniform, and tried to make himself look reasonable. He had to keep it together, he told himself as he headed out the door. It was going to be difficult, but that was what he had to do.