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a smothering hell

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Opium. It is a tool, the weapon of the damned and the lost. He does not enjoy the effect of being supine and defenceless in public, but there are some discomforts that are designed to be ignored, and the usefulness of the haze is far too vital for this to cause an impediment. So it is, then, that he can be found in a smoky back room more often than in his own home; so it is that he sometimes knows the men he hunts by more than reputation. It is how the nightmares find him, when he has hidden from them long enough.

He sees them all again when his eyes close; he dreams in pale watercolour that is marred with red. They never speak to him, though their eyes open and watch him as he floats in their midst. He sees details larger than they are when he sees them in his world, where he breathes and tastes sour death passing over his tongue.
He sees Victoria, after she dies, and he chases her image until it leads him to darkness, where the memories end.

The ones who come before are less vivid; they are fleeting, and rarely do they serve more purpose than to create unease until they are found. He does not seek them out; he can't ask them to help him. He tried, the first time, and he got no answer save what he already knew.
The ones who follow are clearer. He sees them void of the chaos that precedes him; they are pristine, and he fancies that the feel of blood on his hands follows him into waking reality. He can look and touch, and he sees and feels. It's easier to focus when there are no sounds to block out, no horses and no people and no carts, just his breathing and the sound of decay.

These are ones who come before; too late to find them, close enough for him to know that he has seen them before he dons his hat and gloves, and before the scenes are unveiled in their sharp, clear relief. He is immune to their brokenness; he remembers, and he's just that side of hazy that he does not know the difference. It only matters that he can see, and join them back together so that they make sense. He would be noble if he could say that it was what they wanted, or he was giving them piece, but he does it to merely quiet his mind, to find oblivion within the despair that surrounds and stifles him.

She is small and fragile, not the type he expected to survive; he would have thought, all things being the way they are, that she'd be the first, if she'd lived that long. Her strength is in the way she haunts him, though she was not from a dream; he thinks of her with a warmth he thought was dormant, perhaps lost. If that was the kind of comfort that would have eased his torment, he would have sought her.

There is a panic, which makes his job quite difficult; he is not alone, but while he sets in wait for his plans to bring out the killer from the shadows, there are men looking at letters and running down leads he could tell them are useless if only they would ask, if they weren't afraid.
He avoids questions and orders and stays as close to ground as he dares; he wants to be undisturbed, where those with the power to stop him cannot see which way he is looking and the shadow his dreams hint at weakening.
He wants to see her again.

He expected something different - that she would inspire something just with a touch, perhaps, but he can still hear the city crowding around them and the flow of warm, acrid air brushes his skin where her fingers don't. He has no illusions here; he cannot change the future by telling himself that it is in his mind.
Her tongue is dry on his lips; it is unfamiliar how his hand fits around the curve of her hip, and the cloth there catches on his roughened palm. It could last, if he wanted; he could hide her away, and let the one who wants her search without finding.

The fear and madness on the streets helps him, in a way; nobody is looking when he pieces it together. This part usually pleases him; this time he is only satisfied that there will be an end, whether he brings it about or no.
He is almost out of time; he needs to dream, to rest, but there is always a sense of pressure in the back of his mind that forces him on.

He is sure now that these are not his hands he sees that touch her so irreverently and without care. It bothers him, even here, that he couldn't be certain, and this distracts him; for that he is grateful.
He has never liked this, though it benefits him to see, and this he wishes he could wake from. Her blood spills easily but unevenly, and her tissue peels cleanly from the bone beneath. It doesn't last; she stops breathing, stops pushing at him with her bruised hands. He wants to close his eyes as the knife slides through her again, and as she is laid out in the way he knows he will find her, when he is freed from this hell.

He has not kept low enough; they found him before he could pull the curtain on them, and they move to hide their crimes and what's been done, leaving him with nothing but a trail gone to ice from lack of traversing. He suffers from aimlessness now; he doesn't know what he is searching for, but he hears of insanity and wonders if it is restful for those sent into it.
He cannot find her and he remembers seeing her laid out, decorated in red and brown; he looked in the wrong place as she fled, and he can't touch her. They took that away from him too, though she kept what she could.

Opium. It is a tool that is no longer with uses, save only one. He sees her in his dreams, knowing that it could have been his hands, if things had been only a little different, and they could have shared the darkness he seeks alone, far from where he lost her.