Of course I had never liked Halloween. In fact, I found the whole concept quite hideous. It didn’t make sense to me why a whole population of creatures would choose to celebrate death and horror. The world was already terrifying enough without cackling witches, flickering jack-o-lanterns and ghouls floating about. To me, Halloween was absolutely the worst time of year. But my reasoning for feeling this way extended beyond the sadistic merrymaking of my human neighbors.
Yes, this holiday of darkness was quite sickening to me, but the month of October was also when nature became cruel. The temperatures began to drop and soon the cold was unbearable. The sun was almost completely invisible during the day, and in the night, the icy cobblestone streets positively chilled me to the bone. The world became dark, damp. But I couldn’t escape it. Those hard, cold streets of London were where I was born and they were where I knew I’d meet my end.
I sometimes wondered whether that day was lurking right around the corner— the day the world finally resolved to destroy me. After all, it had become very clear that it didn’t want me alive. Everywhere I went, it seemed there was someone wishing death on me, or at the very least, running away at the sight of me. The rodents fled before me for obvious reasons, but even the horses that trotted down the streets were agitated by my presence. On one occasion, I sent a whole carriage of people toppling to the ground after spooking a pair of seemingly well-trained Quarter-horses. At the time, I was quite pleased. You can probably guess by now that I didn’t fancy humans much.
A variety of creatures had always despised and avoided me, including many of my own kind, but the humans had always been the worst. The people in the streets usually scurried away, some screaming or cursing, although there had actually been a few humans who had attempted to kill me. One night while I was searching for food in an alleyway behind an old tavern, a woman noticed me, then began charging in my direction. She was brandishing a butcher knife in a rather murderous fashion while shrieking, “Omen! Omen!” For some reason, this word has followed me around since the day I was born, hence my name.
It had always been difficult to accept the identity my genetics had given me. Why should the world dictate my worth based on a trait I could not control, the darkness of my fur? It was this same universe that decided to create me the way that I am. Had it changed its mind? Or rather, was I simply an accident of nature, something that really had no purpose? More than anyone else, I felt I could relate to the cockroaches and the rats, who were wiped from the earth as quickly as they came into it, killed for being alive. In this way, I sometimes regretted my rodent meals, for it was these outcasts of nature alone who could have ever understood the daily grief and desperation of my soul to feel worthy of life, to be loved by even just one other soul…
However, there had been one source of comfort in this cruel world who I could confidently say did genuinely love me: my brother, George. When George was around, life didn’t seem so bleak. He had carried on as though London was a safe and beautiful place, and I think he honestly believed that it was. I never agreed with him on that, but living day to day was still much easier with my brother’s uplifting spirit by my side. The nights were cozier with his warm fur pressed against mine. The scarce meals we did share were much more enjoyable in his amiable company. I had someone to groom me after a rain. But soon, I was utterly, deeply alone.
George disappeared during the harsh winter of last year. It was foolish of me to have ever let him leave, but upon his urgent insistence to search for food, I eventually agreed to guard our old garbage bin while he hunted. We were both bone-thin, having gone two weeks without a meal. George swore that he wouldn’t let me die, even if it meant his own demise. So he set out in search of food, braving the rainy winter streets. I was tormented knowing that I allowed it. All of a sudden, my brother was gone from my life.
With every breath in me, I knew George was the most loyal, loving, good-hearted brother I could have ever asked for. But he did lack one important quality: vigilance. George never knew how to exercise caution, he didn’t fear the world the way I did, and part of me knew this played a role in his death. It was my own stupidity of letting him leave, yes, but if it had been me out there hunting, I knew I would have been able to return safely.
From that day on, I became even more fearful of the world around me. I had no way of knowing what specifically happened to George, but in this mad town, I knew it could have been anything. Strange, horrifying things happened in London, and not just during Halloween time. Immediately following George’s disappearance, I spent day and night searching the frigid streets, yowling his name. Although George never appeared, other things did.
During my searches, I ventured through the East End of London, a part of town I would have never elected to explore for any reason other than to locate my brother. It was not a pleasant experience. Homeless humans stumbled by while mumbling obscenities. Drunken prostitutes sang loudly in the streets, waking up the townspeople who yelled angrily and threw blunt objects out their windows. Whitechapel was filthier than any other part of London that I’d seen, and instinctively I knew it was also much more dangerous. This inkling gripped me even before having been stalked by a strange creature.
Not a week after George’s disappearance, I was running through a narrow alley in Whitechapel, crying out for my brother in vain, when I found myself face-to-face with a monstrous thing. I had only just passed the dusty old window when I realized there was something watching me from inside it: a dark, misshapen figure with huge eyes of flame. It was a sight I’ll never forget, one that gave me perhaps the worst shock of my life. I felt the blood in my veins turn to ice, felt my heart sear in my chest. Whatever the thing was seemed desperate and hungry, like it wanted nothing more than to eat me for supper. Needless to say, I didn’t give myself time to guess what I had just witnessed. Without another thought, I abruptly turned around and scampered back the way I had come.
I tried for months to forget that night, to wipe the horrifying image from my memory. But every time I thought of George, I remembered the dark figure, and a chill was sent up my spine as I wondered if that horrid creature could have been the thing that finished him off. I realized this was a morbid speculation, but several terrible events occurred in London soon after, which further fueled the notion.
That August, I witnessed an act of human-on-human violence. But not just any act. It was late in the night when I was searching Buck’s Row, a particularly nasty area of Whitechapel, when I noticed two figures moving in the shadows nearby. Well, one of them was moving. The woman lying on the ground was clearly dead. Her eyes were pasted open in a wide, glazed stare and she was bleeding profusely from the neck. I was frozen in shock as her counterpart used a knife to open her torso from breast to pelvis, then proceeded to disembowel her. I remained unnoticed by the killer through the entire act, but it wasn’t long before the sight overwhelmed me and I fled with the horrid images still eating at my brain like acid.
Over the following weeks, I learned through eavesdropping and local newspapers of “Jack the Ripper,” a highly wanted serial killer who had stricken three times since his first attack, the murder I had witnessed, the murder of Mary Ann Nichols. Gruesome photographs of the four prostitutes’ bodies accompanied news stories regarding who Jack could possibly be, but I had a feeling I knew exactly who: the figure I saw in the window less than a week after George disappeared.
I would have said that my deep disgust and hatred of the human species had become completely irreversible by that time, but that would not have been the whole truth. There was a reason why I continued searching Whitechapel for clues surrounding my brother’s disappearance since January, even up to October. That reason was Doctor Bones, the Whitechapel mortician. Doctor Bones was the only human to have ever reacted positively to my presence, and he was the reason why I suddenly had the ability to eat more than once a week. I had found him—or rather, he found me—shortly after my encounter with the figure in the window, and I began been living behind the morgue in Whitechapel from that point on.
Also, because Whitechapel was where I saw the figure in the window, (and I always instinctively knew that’s what killed my brother) it had dawned on me that I should relocate to that area, where I could eat regularly by the hands of Doctor Bones while continuing to investigate George’s disappearance in the location where I was most likely to find evidence. Make no mistake, I still loathed Whitechapel just as much as I always did, but there were only two things of vital importance to me at that time: my own survival, and finding out what happened to my brother. It was my belief that both of these could be best fulfilled if I stayed in Whitechapel.
But back to what I was saying about Doctor Bones. Yes, in a way, Bones had somewhat lifted my terrible opinion of humans, but not much. Even though Bones fed me as often as I would allow it, I still questioned his motives from time to time. I never let the man touch me, even though he seemed very eager to do so. He was almost too eager, and I worried about this. No, let’s face it. I worried about the man’s level of sanity in general. It took someone who was more than a little bit dotty to dice up their own species for a living. And based on the maniacal fashion in which Bones conducted his examinations, I would have said he was completely off his rocker.
Yes, I saw what went on inside the morgue. In fact, it was required that I enter the place in order to receive meals, which was why I still didn’t eat as often as I’d liked to. I couldn’t stand the stench of death, the sight of naked humans hanging limply from hooks in the ceiling, the others that were lined up on concrete metal slabs, waiting to be peeled open and probed with metal instruments. However, I had no choice but to see it at least once or twice a week. Bones had tried to leave food outside for me many times, but others of my own kind easily overpowered me. The world was a cruel place, and survival of the fittest dictated that Omen did not deserve to live. Once the local colonies had scarfed down every crumb of food, they deliberately tipped over the water bowl, ensuring that I remained not only hungry, but also parched.
I suppose it was fortunate that Bones chose to let me inside the morgue while keeping the others out. The place was revolting, but I had to go in to survive. Besides, I usually darted for the door as soon as I was done eating. However, Bones didn’t always let me out immediately.
“Stay inside for a little while,” said the mortician. “It’s not warm in here but it’s warmer than outside!” and then I got to observe one of his bloody shows.
Bones had been the sole medical examiner in charge of the Ripper murders, but I had a difficult time admiring his search for justice. In fact, I found it paradoxical and even a bit hypocritical that Bones sliced humans in order to track down a human-slicer. But the morbidity of it all did not end there.
Eventually, the morgue was decorated for Halloween. I really thought this must have been a sick joke. Celebrating the holiday of death in such a place was positively twisted, demented even. Soon, the corpses that hung from the ceiling turned slowly in the dim lamplight while colorful cutouts of ghosts and pumpkins did the same. Hear me well: I hated humans. However, I was not unbothered by rotting flesh or the concept of death. Looking at those poor devils, I would never have chosen to mock their grim circumstances. The least one could do was show respect so their souls wouldn’t return to haunt or seek revenge. I desperately wished Bones would remove the decorations, but I doubted that he would, seeing as he wouldn’t even stop singing Halloween songs for five seconds.
Bones was undeniably a nutty bloke, and likely sick in the brain to some degree, but there had been days when I looked at him differently, like a harmless old man. I usually corrected myself straight away. Deciding whether or not to completely distrust him had been an ongoing battle for me. Bones had been different from the start: he never screamed or cursed at me, he never ran away in terror, he never tried to butcher me as he did with members of his own species. Logically, it would have been silly to suppose he would ever attempt to harm me—Bones had kept me alive for months with proper nourishment and hydration. But then I wondered… for what purpose? Out of some unconditional generosity that contained absolutely no underlying motive? Did that level of kindness even exist in such a cold world? I couldn’t bring myself to blindly accept such a wild contention, which is why I couldn’t bring myself to trust Bones completely. However, I frequently feared that I had begun trusting him on accident. On a few occasions, I found myself becoming too comfortable in his presence, and as a result, nearly allowing physical contact. But each time, the shock of the closeness instantaneously flooded my chest, and I always pulled away just before. Bones merely chuckled, “You’ll come around.” I wasn’t so sure about this.
Besides, I couldn’t be bothered with such silliness at that moment. I was trying to focus my attention on staying alive past October 31st. Many people in the streets had been muttering speculations that Jack the Ripper’s next attack may have been planned for Halloween. This idea seemed rather odd to me, but whether or not Jack was so inclined to conduct his murders in this ceremonious manner, I had chosen to protect my neck more diligently than usual. Although I knew he killed my brother nine months before, his very recent resurgence of violent activity suggested to me that he was on a roll and was looking for his next victim, which could very likely have been me. My thinking was that, so far, Jack had killed one lone cat—my brother—and four Whitechapel prostitutes; he very clearly did not appreciate late-night street prowlers…
The days passed slowly, the nights got colder, and Jack the Ripper hadn’t struck since September 30th. Everyone was on their toes, including me, but none had seen Jack or located any new victims since the previous month. And as I waited, I stayed in the morgue as much as possible, taking cover from the murderous London streets in spite of the grotesque sights and smells that accompanied me inside. Eagerly, I watched Bones tick days off of his calendar, and was filled with joy when October 31st was finally crossed out with a big ‘X.’ At last, the page was turned to November. I couldn’t believe I had managed to live past Halloween, but one thing did strike me as slightly curious: Jack the Ripper hadn’t made a move since late September. Could this possibly have meant he had had his fill of killing?
It wasn’t long before I realized this was foolish, wishful thinking. On the morning of November 9th, a fifth prostitute was found dead in her bedroom. The nature of the crime irrefutably identified Jack as the perpetrator. I noted I would be seeing this new addition later in the morgue. Until my next visit, however, I had decided to do a bit of searching, since once again, Jack the Ripper was on the move. I had been hiding for long enough; I couldn’t be a coward forever if I was to learn my brother’s fate…
It was sunset when I began to stroll the streets cautiously, knowing that Jack could be lurking around any corner. I passed Mary Jane Kelly’s home, the location of the fifth Ripper crime scene. I was disturbed to see that the bed, whose sheets were thick with dried blood, was visible from the window. I observed that the investigators were still inside, searching the room for evidence, and I was quickly reminded of my own burden. I kept walking…
But just as I resumed my search, something much more alarming caught my eye, and I felt my heart nearly bound out of my chest. A few windows past the crime scene, I saw through another window a most electrifying sight: a small, tawny cat! Immediately I suspected George, but almost a second later, the balloon of my thrill popped with a painful bang. The cat in the window was not my brother, for this cat had dark markings on its face and tail, whereas George was solid brown, and even a bit more gray in color.
After so many George-less months, one might think that the edge of my pain should have subsided by then, but that was not the case. Even such a transient event teased my heart into a state of deep sorrow and resentment. That I would have believed for one shining moment that my brother was safe! What a cruel trick, I thought to myself. After my heart moved from ecstasy to sadness to bitterness, I inched closer to the window to get a better look inside, not so much out of a true curiosity, but rather out of boredom. The scene, although not as great as an image of my brother would have been, still managed to recapture my interest fairly quickly. George’s look-a-like was in the middle of a small sitting room, lounged comfortably between two humans that sat together on a small sofa. As the cat rolled lazily onto its back, the couple stroked the furry belly—and to my deep confusion, the cat allowed it. I might have even said, in my further astonishment, based on the closed eyes and the curled paws, this stroking was a feeling most enjoyable. How such trust? How such pleasure under the grimy hands of humans, I thought, humans of Whitechapel no less? I had never been familiar with the concept of “pets,” but it had been vaguely described to me through rumors in my brief encounters with other lone strays. For many reasons, it had always been difficult to fathom such a concept, a concept that to me seemed most disagreeable and even dangerous. But looking in on this scene… I wasn’t so sure. Humans could be disgusting creatures, there was no doubt about that, but in all honestly, those of my own kind had been exceptionally cruel at times too. In that moment, I realized it was possible that I had been disproportionately fearful of humans, and had even held on to this fear a bit too ardently. And although I wouldn’t have denied that Bones was bloody mad, perhaps he harbored a similar feeling for me… a feeling of warmth or even love?
At this point, I must make a confession, and in doing so, clumsily change topics. I had always suspected the dark figure in the window to be both Jack the Ripper and my brother’s killer, and this had kept me fearful of that window, even though I was sure it was the window of the Ripper’s home. It had been weighing on my mind since that January that I may have had the address of Jack’s residence—the key to learning my brother’s fate—encased within my very skull. But in my own cowardice and desperate clinging to self-preservation, I had led myself into a sort of denial. To have thought that Jack’s own home would contain no helpful evidence! What foolishness. I was overcome with regret and yet, somehow through it all, also an accompanying surge of intense bravery. My own fear had kept me from solving George’s mystery, and now I believed it was finally time to remedy my mistake. I realized I had nothing to lose. If I died in the home of Jack the Ripper, I was merely saving myself from a life without my brother…
As I pondered all this, the sky had become much darker, and the only ones left in the cold outdoors were the prostitutes, homeless and strays. I was chilled by the familiar spookiness of Whitechapel at night, but I moved forward, down frozen cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways, towards the very spot in which I experienced the most acute shock of my entire life…
I came to the building within ten minutes, and I could already see the window from where I stood. Only a screen of blackness was visible from this distance, but I knew I must move closer, I must see into Jack’s home. Still riding a wave of confidence, I traveled at a quick canter, ignoring my icy lungs and my thundering heart. Closer and closer I came to the window, and even though my body felt to be flying at immeasurable speeds, time seemed to crawl; the window crept towards me painfully slowly, inches to the minute. Bracing myself, I came upon the building and I held my breath as I finally reached the window, the window through which I first saw Jack the Ripper. For the second time in one evening, I felt my heart nearly burst in my chest—the shock of the dark, misshapen figure glaring at me with huge, flaming eyes hit me just as profoundly as if I had been kicked in the face. But this time, I didn’t run. I faced Jack, I faced him with my own flaring eyes, my claws, my teeth, my—
I paused, heart still pounding wildly within me, and slowly backed away from the window. To my utter bewilderment, the figure did the same. Instantly, I realized… I had made a mistake. Looking a bit closer at the dusty window, I saw that it was not Jack staring back at me with huge, yellow eyes, but my own reflection. At first, I was confused as to why my body seemed to be so horribly misshapen, but I quickly understood that the glass of the window had been broken, and my image appeared distorted because of this…
This… How could this be? I was nearly speechless. This figure was merely a figment of my imagination? It had haunted me for months, for nearly a year, and now I was to believe it never existed? But it did exist! It was always real! However, it was never Jack the Ripper. Alas, it was me! It was Omen! My own self! How mad and yet, how bloody hilarious! Omen, you silly fool, I thought. You’ve endlessly tormented yourself through an image of your own body, completely blind to the dumb brain inside it. As my heart slowed, I remembered my brother, and the countless times he had tried in vain to teach me bravery…
“You should relax a little,” he used to say, “and be more trusting of others. If you choose to see the world as a beautiful and safe place, that will become your reality!”
In those moments, I would write George off as a loon. But suddenly, I understood…
Although this revelation had brought me no closer to finding George, I realized, finally, that it was okay. A strange sensation came over me… I felt free. I felt happier and more alive than I had ever felt in my life! I was not even exactly sure why, but I was sure of this: I may have never gotten to see George again, or even find out what happened to him. But if my brother was gone, truly gone forever, I was ready to accept that. My life was made immensely more joyful because of George’s presence in it, and I knew I would never take those precious moments for granted again. I had been a foolish, foolish feline and a fiend to my own mental health. I love you, George, I said to him, but if this is truly good-bye, well, then… good-bye.
At that point, I chose to give up my search, but this was not the only decision I made that night. Without even seeing my surroundings or feeling the wet air on my fur, I realized that I had arrived back at the morgue. I meowed for entry and Bones immediately arrived at the door, welcoming me inside. As Bones filled my food and water bowls, I found that he had already lifted Ms. Kelly onto the examination hook. I also observed that Jack the Ripper had saved Bones the trouble of making the ventral incision. How kind.
“This is the worst one yet!” Bones exclaimed, setting down my bowls and moving back towards the hanging corpse. “May not have been able to identify her if she hadn’t been found in her own home!”
For the first time, Bones’ excitement did not upset me, and I was able to eat my meal without feeling nauseous. The visual was far from pleasant, but I was not bothered by it. I acknowledge the sadness of the crime and of such a painful death, but I knew that Ms. Kelly had moved on and was no longer in pain. I was sure that, much like my brother’s, her soul was happy and free. Somehow, I felt as though I was joining them in this joyful liberation.
As I cleaned the last morsel of food from my bowl, I realized that Bones had arrived beside me. I merely looked up at him as he knelt down to my level, and for perhaps the hundredth time, he attempted to touch my head. However, for the first, I allowed the contact. As I was stroked and scratched, I experienced instant pleasure. What a feeling that I had been denying myself for months!
“You’re ready,” Bones said suddenly, smiling calmly down at me.
After taking a few minutes to restore order to the morgue, Bones packed up his things and moved to the far side of the examination room where a host of colorful corpses lay in a row on the concrete slabs. He leaned down behind one of them, and retrieved a small crate with a handle and a door. Bones opened it as he moved back towards me, then set the crate down on the stone floor.
“Trust me,” he said.
Without taking even a moment to contemplate my decision, I entered the crate and lay down inside, watching through the small holes as I was carried out of the morgue and down the street.
We passed gas street lamps and a variety of buildings, many streetwalkers looking on as Bones walked by, crate in hand.
Before long, I entered warmth again and my crate was laid on the ground for a second time. As I was let out and into Bones’ vast, lovely home, the first thing that caught my eye was my brother, George! I was in shock, I was in awe! I could not believe the sight! My heart surged with joy as I’ve never experienced in my life. Words escaped me as I stared at my brother, after almost a year of having believed he was dead, after a painful journey in search of him that I had thought would never end.
“You finally came around,” he said.