1871 – East London
Charles huddled into his scarf as he walked down the narrow cobblestone street. As pretty as the snow was, he could do with less of it. His thick wool scarf had practically frozen to his face in the 10 minutes since leaving the pub, and he wasn’t even halfway home yet.
He knew the area of London well. Wapping. It wasn’t the side you wanted to be on in the daytime, much less at night. But the beer was cheap and it wasn’t too far of a walk from his closet-sized apartment. Unfortunately, it also meant that establishments were few and far between.
He passed countless old buildings and warehouses. The wind whipped into his eyes as he turned down an alley. Anything to get away from the brunt of it. He leaned against the brick building and took a few breaths. It took him a minute to see that the door to the building was ajar. Perhaps it was abandoned.
The door creaked as he pushed it in. The building looked like an old storeroom, though there was little in it. Cobwebs and dust surrounded everything he could make out. Large amphorae stood against one wall and moldy furniture and broken beams lay scattered throughout the area. He tried one of the chairs. It held. This place would serve nicely until he warmed back up. He noticed a metal sign under his foot. He brushed off the thick sawdust with his boot.
‘The Froggit & Froggit Co.’
Whatever it was, it looked like it either moved or shut down. No sooner had he dropped the old sign down that Charles heard footsteps approaching outside. He jumped up and hid amongst the large amphorae. Maybe the place wasn’t abandoned after all.
The door creaked back open. He huddled into himself and held his breath. Someone entered the building. No, several people. He heard hushed voices, though he couldn’t make out any faces. Black cloaks with abnormally large hoods concealed the new arrivals from his view. They proceeded quietly to the other end of the storeroom.
There, among some large statues and pieces of broken wood was a doorway on what appeared to be a heavily slanted wall. They opened it and headed inside. He hadn’t even noticed it upon his arrival.
Charles rushed out of the shadows as soon as the cloaked figures retreated. The rush of adrenaline had warmed him up rather quickly and he was ready to head out. He made his way for the exit and proceeded to open the door. And that’s when he realized the visitors had locked it behind them. His stomach sank a bit as he looked around. He tries to force the door but it was no use. His efforts made quite a bit of noise, all of which seemed to echo and expand among the lifeless expanse around him.
He had no choice, he would have to head to the other side and hope for another exit.
He made his way slowly. The floorboards creaked with every step. He was nearly at the other doorway when he realized it wasn’t attached to a slanted wall at all. The warehouse opened into a much larger structure. The small area he sat in had only been the entrance. The warehouse itself was very large, rising up several stories. A few plain windows broke the seemingly endless expanse of brick rising up to the ceiling. But there, in the middle of the cavernous building, stood a large wooden pyramid.
The slanted wall he saw was merely one face of the structure. An elaborate double door stood open where the cloaked figures had entered. Charles dared not follow, nor even approach. A flickering of firelight escaped from within. He walked around the pyramid instead, hoping to spot some back door to the warehouse. Whatever the pyramid was, it clearly didn’t belong in a dusty old building in Wapping. It was huge, its wood clean, polished, and painted. It looked new compared to the dilapidated surroundings it sat in.
With no escape route, Charles huddled in a corner of the warehouse, the abundance of old junk keeping him well out of sight. All he had to do was wait. His head still spun from the beer and his sense of time was impaired. It wasn’t long before he began to doze off.
He opened his eyes a few minutes later. Had it only been a few minutes? Something had woken him. Then he heard the sound of singing. The voices seemed faint and far away, but the chanting was unmistakable. The hymn flowed out through the open pyramid doors. It was beautiful, like the sirens of ancient Greece. They stopped and began again several times, as if the singers were practicing their song, while Charles drifted in and out of consciousness.
Hours passed before Charles awoke. He slowly opened his eyes. His mind was still swimming with the memories of beautiful hymns and he felt very relaxed amid the strange surroundings. But all of that went away when he felt a kick on his boot. He quickly turned and looked up to see a group of men and women, dressed entirely in black. Their heads were shaven clean minus a single shock of hair which hung like a ponytail. They looked down menacingly at him, and it was only then that he noticed the large curved blades which they held in their hands.