“Art is the Essence of the Soul.”
The cobbles crunch, subtle, yet prominent. The peace once felt, long gone in this place. The love once craved. Lost. The air chills to the spine. The heart pumps vile blood of regret and disgust through me. My body carries not a man, but a soulless mind. A mind so lost. So lost in itself that it cannot stop seeing, hearing, reliving the things once seen. All too long ago, on the estate, the family manor atop the hill looking over the endless barley fields. All the pleasantries lost. Nothing but these thoughts remain. Consuming all else. Destroying what was. All I have now is the escape of this city. Its beggars, harlots, criminals, scum. I lose myself in this world. Hide away the thoughts. Lock up the voices.
"'Scuse me sir, spare-ah penny for a poor ol' beggar" whimpers like this are almost constant in this vile town. A town that once was a bustling city, yet now not even the plagued rats want to live in this pit. The vulgar hole consumes so many, the lives all who live within. No chance of escaping, always tainted, always the same. I was pure when I came here. That doesn't stop the piercing eyes of the tainted scouring, prodding, probing at any sign of faulter. Their eyes, those prying eyes all tell me the same thing, like they all want me to have been the one. The feeling of thousands of eyes piercing through my very being. Every glint, snarl, roll of their eyes pushing me ever closer. The edge fast approaching.
"Take it out, take it away" my mind roars to me. "Forget them, they're barely even human." My eyes wander down, the wool work on my slippers had slightly faded. The gaps in the cobbles are packed tight with horse dung. Disgusting. "Why can't these things learn some self-decency? laying in dung!" To keep the nightmarish thoughts out my mind rambles, rants and raves, tells me things, reminds me of others. It does this in a voice not far from my own. It tells me to behave, to be calm, to be brave. The Thames flow near, the slow slosh of the chop pounds at my head. A noise so subtle breaking my veil. Something so many consider so peaceful, not me, it is pounding like a miner swinging his little pickaxe into my fragile skull. I can't stay near the flowing water, the pain, the suffering, the memories it brings. Keep it away.
Moving with haste to escape the pounding, the factories creep closer. How the chimney sweepers cry. Covered in the pasty black soot. Nearing closer to death with every breath of the thick substance. Their childlike lungs blackened with tar. Not to live beyond fifteen. Doomed from the beginning. This town, this place is the bringer of death, no one can survive this place unscathed. The way it alters, the way it moulds a man is unlike anything else. One can lose everything, yet still be worsened by this vile pit.
Passing the factories, my feet beginning to ache, a busting street meets my eyes. Thousands of men covered in filth, harlots selling themselves to passers-by. A river a disgust flows down this lane. An ocean of horrors, torments and trials. I keep myself locked up. My mind is fighting it back. It tries ever so hard.
The thoughts of that night. The red glow. The screams. Everything known up to that point suddenly, swiftly escaping me. Leaving my grasp. However it started. Whatever ignited the blaze? The raging inferno. Whoever the cause, I cannot let it be me. I did not put this on myself. I did not condemn myself to this hell in which I now reside. The life I currently live was not put upon myself. I can't let those thoughts develop inside me. I cannot. Will not. Won't. The passers-by stare me down. All of them prodding my very being. All of them judging the actions of my past. None of them knowing the truth of what was. The lies that had been told. None of them know. None of them could. Would I, placed in their position know any better? I cannot blame them. They are but mere dwellers of this town.
My thick coat thumped as it dropped on the cobble. The tool by my side glistening in the light. This moment. This time. Now. Locked still in the centre of the river of filth. The dying men hurry past. The weak children scurry beneath me. In this moment, no one is staring. The perfect moment. Peace will be had. Nothing will stop it. No object for these prying eyes to invoke fear. No misguided prejudice. This is where it stops. The victim no more.
Griping the glistening dagger, blade so sharp, so flawless. Still, their eyes adrift. Rolling in my fingers. The pure blade points towards my abdomen. The shining metal shows the world the image of a previous man, no longer here, a man without the marks of weakness, marks of woe. A man unscathed by this place. One push. No one looks. No one stares. The peace once felt, returned in this moment. The cobbles crunch, subtle, yet prominent.