You’ve heard of Jack the Ripper, I assume? A man unknown yet notorious. You know nothing of this elusive creature that you call ‘Jack’ except the crimes for which he is known. Circa 1888 (though I remember it as if it were yesterday), sex workers in several areas of Your Majesty’s London were butchered like cattle. Though you never found the perpetrator, and his manhunt will continue for centuries to come, the most striking detail known is that the gruesome acts were religiously motivated. It is said that he was tasked by God Himself to rid those filthy women of the night from His precious world. Whether this is true or not I will not disclose, for this man’s legacy is a tale that will live on throughout the ages as a myth. A lesson. With that said, I’d like you to meet my final exhibit. My last display of raw imperfection whose actions will forever be in question.
The Morose family are sat around the table in their dimly lit dining room in the small Texan town of Gruene. Father and head of the table, Samuel sits by his wife, Maggie. Their daughter of 16 years, Emma faces them cross-armed with a sour frown laced on her mouth.
Before I go any further, it would be helpful for you to understand that the Christian faith was ancestral within many generations of the Morose family. So when Emma was spotted naked on the bare lap of a young man just nine days before her 16th birthday, it wasn’t surprising that the reception of such a spectacle was anything less than cataclysmic for the poor child.
I present her here, a vulnerable, open-minded rebel of her time. Intrigued by the forbidden and enticed by the consequences. The week following her dinner time intervention at the dining table, Emma and her parents hadn’t spoken a word to one another. For weeks, a stubborn silence dampened the air of the Morose household until one day, the young girl left the house and never returned. Her parents asked no questions, led no search and held no regrets; they were free of their shame.
Emma set no destination in mind. As long as she was free from the traditional shackles of her family’s beliefs, everything afterwards would fall into place. She quickly found shelter in the home of her forbidden lover, Daniel, and after days spent doing nothing but exploring the outlawed parts of his body, quickly fell in love with the charming young man. Years later Emma was with child, and Daniel wasn’t hesitant to propose marriage before she gave birth.
It had been ten years since she walked out of her family’s home and into a life of her own. Money hardly ever came easy for her but she always managed to scrape by. Daniel was no longer the handsome young man he used to be; the world of work took its toll on him; slaving away at a banking firm for a money-hungry boss who offered him empty promises of promotion and reward for the best part of a year. However, this allowed Daniel to stick by his promise he made to his beloved wife that she ‘should not have to lift a finger outside of her own home’. He worked for the man so she only worked for her child. Despite this seemingly selfless attitude towards the well being of his family, this couldn’t get them away from cruel economic struggles that followed them every step of their way.
Early Autumn saw Emma go against her will as she desperately reached out to her parents for help, to no success. She would go to the local phone booth every day in an attempt to make contact with Samuel and Maggie Morose – those who gave up on her when she was most vulnerable, yet here she was ten years later; no more well off than the day she left. After several days, she gave up hope in the never-ending dials that answered her and decided to confront them face to face.
During the two hour drive to Gruene, she felt a fear that she’d never experienced before. One that she didn’t understand – they were her parents, not her killer. Ironically, she calmed herself by breathing in a way her father taught her after waking up from nightmares as a child; this was the first time she’d even thought about them since she left, leaving all of her emotional capacity for someone who loved her. More than once she’d been tempted to turn around and ditch this whole stupid idea, maybe they were waiting for this day to come? She couldn’t bear to see the satisfaction in their aged faces once their rebellious daughter decided to take her heels out of the ground and prove to them how idiotic this whole stunt was. But she was willing to bear the shame for the good of her child, who didn’t deserve to suffer for her pride.
Upon arrival, Emma didn’t expect her old house to be abandoned. The curtains were open for all to see but the grey, dusted interior seemed to hide away from any sunlight that tried to reach it, yet the furniture looked untouched, as if waiting to be used again. From the peeling front door, the wooden back gate could be heard swinging noisily on its hinges in the soft Texan wind. A dark cloud passed above the tall house that stood silently in the evening air. Emma thought her parents had moved on with their lives, and by the state of the house they had left it in, they didn’t seem to waste any time with holding on to anything. She would have been content with this assumption, she had more questions than before she arrived, but she would have been content.
But Mrs Philips, the age old widow who lived across the street recognised Emma and told her the truth. The undeniable, irreversible truth. She stared in to the woman’s grey eyes as she was told that her parents were just a couple of the victims involved in a tragic church fire that happened almost eight years ago. They tried telling Emma, but she was nowhere to be found; living instead with a boy who promised gold and silver but only ever delivered dirt. Unbearable pangs of guilt and shame writhed through Emma’s body like a million angry serpents. Her world spun and turned dark as she lay weak on the road that she had walked upon so many times. In a different life. The woman hurried to call an ambulance but Emma, with some unknown strength, rose from the cold granite and left the street in her car; never to return.
Her drive home was dazed; how she survived the entire journey I question to this day. When she arrived home, she lay in her bed with no intention of leaving.
Emma slept for two straight days, accompanied the entire time by a terrible dream. A vision of fire and chaos. A fire that screamed horrific cries as it burned everything in sight. Cinders of wood cracked inside her ears, she felt hot flesh drip onto every inch of her skin; all while this living blaze continued to wail in agony before her. What awoke her from this night horror was the emergence of two endless holes in the centre of the flames that groaned a dull sigh inside her head; she felt it pulsate under her skin and inside her eyes. The same woman who fell asleep that night did not return. What awoke in the dead of night was a hollow shell. Her finger nails were ruined, with blood and splinters buried under the skin as she found herself on the cold floorboards.
That same night, mere hours before the morning sun emerged, the woman retrieved a shotgun from the pit of her home and buried a fury of bullets into the sleeping bodies of her husband and child, before turning it to her head and doing the same; releasing the heat that burned inside it. The family was found two days later, another extreme case of a familial murder-suicide. No motive or reasoning was found, but one. One sinister message for her actions scratched into the plaster of the bedroom walls for all to see:
“I saw the fire in His eyes.”
Emma Morose was someone who lived and died years ago, yet is not truly understood to this day. She was an insurgent to her family’s faith and this may have cost them their lives. A million thoughts crossed her mind in wake of their deaths, whether she could have saved them had she’d been there was the one that never left. Her remorse and guilt persisted; eventually manifesting itself into something physical. Emma was an innocent woman with a tragic life, her flaw was denying the power that kept her family close. Her selfishness was bound to evolve elsewhere later in life, when she was helpless. She saw the fire in the church and it set her ablaze.
I hope you hold fresh perspective. Your kind like to think you know everything about this world, this universe. That everything has meaning and reason, when some things should just be left on their own, without question or inquisition. I won’t condemn you for this though, you do this to yourselves. Just know that I will be watching.
My universe, my museum of imperfection.