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Winners: Jennifer Chance - The Silenced Bird

The popularity of Victorian England has exploded in recent years, and Jennifer sought to explore the dark and depraved mind of one of it's most famous denizens here. Fiction can show the worst parts of us, and there's no shame in the enjoyment of them.

Shortlist - Open Prose Competition

The Silenced Bird

Jennifer Chance

The day had not yet started - the sun had not made its journey out of green pastures into the dark London sky - but there was already the issue of the body. It lay there on the front lawn of a family called the Bradfords, naked and arranged in unflattering angles. Its right hand was placed over the head, its left by the hip, its legs stretched apart as if the corpse had become a ballerina in death. The eyes were opened and full of the sky, moving with every twinkle of a star - and seemed so vivid that one would have to question whether they still held life beneath their glare.

But Jack knew that could not be - that the woman was dead - because he was always a little more meticulous than the mainstream crook, and it would be damaging to his reputation if he allowed his victims to run free.

Moonlight glimmered on broken glass, casting a halo around the corpse’s head. He cocked his head sideways, gazing at his masterpiece. Yes, killing is an art. The best of them all. He had tried to create with a brush, with a pen, but it was incomparable to the lure of inciting terror. Death is not greatly appreciated, but that is only because human beings are too fond of the nice and warm to see where true genius lies; which is in the darkest recesses of their minds where thoughts like those that led him to kill ruled in every man. Everybody could be an artist, if they only allowed themselves that freedom.

He would leave the body here, Jack decided. Sure, he normally discarded them on open streets, but he wanted something different this time. He wanted to spread the terror further - to make the posh feel insecure even in the safety of their petite dollhouses. To let them feel the same fear that envelops the prostitutes of Whitechapel. Also, there was the possibility of the body being discovered sooner, and he yearned to hear the screams when the maid or a random postman would come upon it by accident. It was like church bells to a Protestant - fulfilling to the mind and soul. And he needed it as much as he needed to drink and sleep and eat.

Gently, without so much as disturbing the grass by the street, he got to his feet and walked away. His eyes landed on a small opening between the house and the next. He smiled. He had found his spot. Did people know their killers lurked close by as they discovered the true horror of a loved one dead? No, they didn’t. If they did, they would be more careful about the ground they tread.

It would be so easy for them to find him - to locate the famous Ripper and put him behind bars once and for all - if they weren’t so deluded with horror and tears to notice that he was watching them from the darkness. If they weren’t too busy wailing and fainting, they might hear the gentle laughter of a man whose hands were very dirty indeed. He squeezed himself into the miniature alley. Bricks were jutting out in the most random of places, as if longing to touch a lover from the other side.

A door opened then; Jack could hear the squeaks of the bolts. He peered over the wall and found a woman. He saw only her back, but it was enough to show her exotic beauty - red flowing hair, skin as white and frail as porcelain dolls, and a gait that would fit a queen. Her curves hid beneath an oversized nightdress, and he knew she was a girl not too familiar with pride.

Her body went stiff for a second. Then, a mug dropped from her hand and met the ground with a loud clang. It was coming. He breathed slowly, waiting for the scream. The second best part of any murder. But there was only... silence.

He moved forward surreptitiously; the sparse foliage around his hiding spot rustled in annoyance. She had already turned away. Her eyes were grey - like a storm before it hits - and her cheeks were red with fear. But her lips trembled not. And the taciturnity! Unbelievable, irritable. She was a bird without a voice. And a bird without a voice was the same as a dead bird, and she was just that. A beautiful shell with no pearl. It was too much to bear.

He knew what he wanted. He wanted her next. He wanted see her break apart in his hands. He wanted to hear her scream and beg for mercy while his knife dangles by her face. Because when a mute bird sings, even the forest grows silent to listen.

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