Beauty and the Beast
An Invisible Man Story
By John Pirillo
The smell of meat wafted on the breeze filtering along the street near the famous Thames. Sailors and Midnight Girls all turned to sniff at the air as it sifted past, remarking on how tasty it smelt and how they wished they could have some of whatever it was. No one thought for a moment that the fragrance might be something that would cause them to repel in horror were they to see the flesh burning.
A puddle of melted flesh smoked in the back alley next to Caron Street, a busy mercantile street during the day, but at night a place of predators and thieves selling their wares, or preying upon those who tried to sell them.
Carnal eyes that resembled those of a token island god taken from one of the cannibal islands south of Borneo flicked past the smoking lump. The lips on the face those horrid eyes were carved upon was sunk inwards like someone had taken a sledgehammer to it. It was appalling to look at it, and yet a mother must once have doted on that face like any other baby's face. Something had happened. Something awful. Now that face was fearsome, dreaded, and turned away from by all who felt unlucky enough to have seen it.
Such a man was not Professor Langford, who was taking his nightly walk to fortify his senses and strengthen his body, which spent way too much time in the laboratory he rented above the Thames in the district nearby.
He saw the craven looking creature who hovered in the alleyway, its eyes appearing to gloat at him as he passed, but rather than cringing, cursing, or like many taking any object at hand and casting it, or striving to drive it away, he slowed down and stopped. "Are you all right, madam?"
The poor creature looked away a moment, its horrid face lost in memories of when it was once considered the helpless sex, then turned back, eyes wet with gratitude.
In a voice equally as horrid at moments, but bitterly sweet at the same time, the soul replied. "I am now, kind sir."
Professor Langford nodded, appreciating the compliment, but still fearing something was amiss. He had an incredible intuition, else his friends at Baker Street would not have been so eager for him to join them on their various missions of salvation, rescue and remedy as they were often called, even if they often turned out to be missions of death, destruction and horror for some.
The poor creature turned its face away again to hide its fear. "Not that it is anything different from most nights."
"Yes. But this night I smell something that should not be."
"Many things should not be, yet they are."
Professor Langford turned fully to look at the soul in the alley. "What do you see?"
"To my front is a kind man with a firm, but gentle voice."
"To your rear, madam?"
"That which should not be, yet is."
"I feared as much."
Professor Langford came to the poor soul and lightly touched her shoulder. "Fear not, for I will never harm you, but you must be brave and tell me what happened."
"I cannot. For I did not see."
"No. I did not see." She replied mysteriously.
Professor Langdon swallowed hard. Something was definitely wrong. And the smell seemed to be growing worse, not less. He looked past her shoulders into the alley. "What lies there?"
"What should never have laid there, fair sir." She said reproachfully.
"How shall I know that is true, if you will not tell me what it is?"
"How can I tell you what it is, if it itself does not know any longer."
Then Professor Langford recognized what was going on. "You know Doctor Melford, don't you?"
She cringed, raising her arms before her face, revealing bruises on her wrists, and cuts on her fingers. "God help me, sir. I know him not. Please do not ask me that again."
Professor Langford stiffened. "What has happened here?"
"Should not." Professor Langford repeated her words. "But did anyway. I need to understand so I can help."
She began weeping horribly, her entire body shaking with grief. "I can not."
"You must, dear soul." He told her.
He took her against him, and even though her clothing smelled of rotting fish and old tars, he did not shudder. This was a soul in need of comfort just like his own once did. It was then that he saw the glimmer of light flickering. He gently untangled her from him, and then pressed her gently, yet firmly against the alley wall. "Please. Stay here. I fear for your safety should you move."
"I fear for my safety, should I not?" She replied, her eyes white with terror.
Then he felt it, something horrible.
And the inevitable happened. His body went invisible.
Which happened at the right moment, for something horrible was there in the alley, near the flickering. Something that had flickered at the edges of his senses, which were heightened by the invisibility formula he had taken. Something that lived neither in this world, nor the next.
"Hyde!" His mind cried out, though no words left his lips.
The energy creature glided into the open, its hideous face malicious with a smile only the devil could love or care for.
The old woman cried out in terror and tried to run, but her legs wouldn't bear her and she crumpled to the alley cobblestones, in terror for her life and her soul.
"This way, fiend!" A voice hollered at Hyde.
It looked to its left, but saw nothing, yet it leaped anyway. For the old woman was not the catch it had sought. The energy it had drained from the man whose burnt out corpse lay in the alley was not enough, but hers was even less yet, and he didn't want to have her horrid essence impinging on his own.
Professor Langdon ran towards the wharf's edge, where the waters lapped strongly, then turned and yelled. "What are you afraid of ghosts then?"
Hyde surged from the alley way and hurtled towards the wharf's edge, where Langdon stood. Langdon looked around, knowing he wasn't visible to the creature, yet had to do something or else it would inevitably sense his energy signature if it had time to relax from its attack. It was a deadly creature and very intelligent.
He espied several bags waiting to be hauled aboard a nearby cargo ship. They had skull and crossbones embossed on them. His eyes lit up, though only briefly. Enough for Hyde to orientate on him.
Hyde screeched in that horrid voice only he had, and dashed for Langdon, who ducked and lunged for the nearest bag. He grasped it, and then with a swift toss hurled it at Hyde, who was caught in his back by it. Hyde and the bag went over the edge of the wharf.
Langdon ran to the edge and looked down. Hyde screamed there like a banshee from hell. All about the wharf, sailors and tavern owners and patrons hurled from their ships and buildings to see what was happening. In the thick, frothy waters below the sack of chemicals were doing their work. Hyde and the chemicals were interacting.
Langdon crossed himself. It had been a lucky blow. He had no idea if the chemicals would work on this creature or not.
But it did. Hyde continued to scream in horror, and then terror as its energy body began to sparkle, as if lighting were striking it.
The old woman came up behind Langdon. "It is not what it should be. Never should have been. Never should be."
"Indeed." He answered, slipping a comforting arm about her shoulders.
"And not ours to determine its course of existence, whether it lives or dies. That remains for a much more powerful being to decide."
She crossed herself and allowed herself to be led from the wharf as sailors rushed to the edge, then Bobbies began scrambling past.
Professor Langdon stopped one. "I'm Professor Langdon, the Invisible Man, that thing in the water is Hyde. I'd suggest the utmost care in handling of it."
The Bobby's eyes grew as wide as moons; he gulped, and then ran to inform the others as they rushed to the scene to intervene.
The old lady smiled. "You're not invisible to me, kind sir. Your heart is as bright as the moon in the skies."
He smiled. No wonder the old woman had not cringed when he turned and the Bobby had when he was touched by him. He was, after all, the Invisible Man, just not to the blind.
"I know a very kind place where the lady who runs it would love to have your companion, dear lady."
"Who would care for one such as me?" She asked, not daring to believe her good fortune.
"The fiancée of a very fierce, yet noble lord of the realms. Lady Shareen, betrothed of the Jungle Lord, Lord Graystone."
The old lady began to tremble, but not from fear, but from joy. "You sir, are an angel from God."
He smiled. Better she think that, than fear him as so many did.
And he guided her quickly, but safely to what was sure to be her next and perhaps last home where she would at least know peace and kindness. For the blind and the elderly, deserted by their loved ones, or abandoned by their lovers, had as much right to a happy life as any other, even if they were also appallingly deformed as this sweet woman was.
"And aren't we all deformed in some way." He mused to himself, before knocking on the door that would bring Lady Shareen forth like an Angel of Light to brighten the old woman's life.