Flash Fiction: Jekyll and Hyde.
The prone figure of my boss, on the stained carpet of his boarded-up office, stared up at me. His cheeks were grey. Saliva was pooling around one side of his mouth, dripping infinitely slowly towards the floor. On his frozen computer screen balanced on a pile of yellowing paper, an iTunes window was open and the cursor was on the play button.
“He’s still breathing…” whispered Paul, his hands trembling. He’d dialled the emergency services on his cracked phone, but neither of us could quite bring ourselves to press Call. Outside, the sun was shining through the cracks in the boards covering the windows and we heard children laughing. It was a world away from this tiny, musty den where he’d been holed up for weeks.
I glanced across at him, then down at the boss’ pallid face. We’d broken in. It was for the right reasons but we were still implicated in whatever this was. And the murder. And the assault.
He broke free of the moment and stepped gingerly over the broken bottles towards the door, calling the number on his phone. His voice shook as he relayed the situation from the other side of the door. The open window on the screen beckoned me. I resisted until I saw the name on the file ready to be played. Hyde.
My mind raced back six months. It was one of those ‘where were you when they shot JFK?’ Moments. Where were you when you heard about Hyde? I wish I’d have been somewhere cooler or more memorable to make this an exciting story, but I was in my classroom at the end of a barrage from the parent that every teacher wants to avoid.
“Well, what are you going to do about it?”
I sighed. I hated Parents’ Evening, especially when it involved Miss Walker, a tad under five foot of protective and misdirected maternal rage. My eyes ranged my faded walls covered with pitiful examples of essays.
“Miss Walker, can you please go through your statement again? A little slower if you can.”
“I already told you twice! Maisie was walking down the path from the school entrance to the main road and this lunatic ran towards her like a damn truck and knocked her over…then kept trampling on her and just walked away! She was screaming! It was all on CCTV!”
I knew this already. I’d seen the CCTV, having been yanked out my class by a Head of Year who seemed to think it was my problem as the girl’s form tutor. I tried to keep my face neutral despite the horrific agony in black and white I’d seen flicker on that screen.
“I’m aware of the situation, Miss Walker. I thought the incident was closed after the emergency services arrived.”
“Yeah, but yesterday I got a bank transfer for a grand from your school. The email said someone called ‘Mr Hyde’ authorised it, but it seemed dodgy…so I wanted to check with you before I spent it…”
With that, she handed me a crumpled email printed on the back of a misprinted homework. My face softened. I am generally considered the dreary, dusty and severe teacher, but I knew the Walkers were short of money since Mr Walker decided he was happier living abroad without his family. Still, I don’t ask questions and don’t judge others unless it’s directly affecting me.
The email was definitely sent from our school, but I knew there was no ‘Mr Hyde’ on staff. There was no email signature so I couldn’t tell what department he worked for. The staff photo, required to be on our emails (seemingly to make the staff targets for aggrieved parents on the walk home) didn’t look quite human. It seemed like CGI or a police e-fit. I handed the damp paper back.
“This seems genuine, Miss Walker. Could you send me a copy?”
She scurried out the room as soon as my laptop pinged. She deserved a windfall, and I hoped at least some of it would get spent on the Switch that Maisie had been telling me about for weeks.
The next day, I wandered to the finance office, two floors above my slowly degrading classroom. Over piles of mildewed paper, the elderly finance lady peered over glasses and concluded that yes, a payment was made and yes, it was authorised by Dr Jekyll. This was our new Principal who’d taken over the September before. A slim man in his sixties and a faint trace of a Caribbean accent, he was widely respected and was a great head. He always told the children about how he was on a bad path, then faith saved him, knuckled brushing his grizzled cheeks. I hurried to his office, but a post-it was stuck to his door. Office moved to the Science Block.
My gut lurched. This couldn’t be right. The rest of our school was a new site: shiny, high ceilings, lots of glass. The science building was the last of the old school to be demolished. It was a sinister block of the building, mostly boarded up, the occasional graffiti insult painted over it. It was where Year Ten went to smoke and thought we didn’t know. I gingerly knocked on the door with a printed name telling me it was where our Principal lurked, and it opened just a crack.
Jekyll peeked round the door. He seemed shaken. His face was drawn and grey.
“Sorry to disturb you, sir, but I just wanted to query this payment to..”
“Miss Walker. Yes, I know. It’s absolutely fine.” He was brusque and began to close the door.
“Can I just check Mr Hyde’s department though? I’ve never met him. Is he new?”
The door stopped closing and crept open just enough for me to see Jekyll’s torso. His shirt was sweat-stained and crumpled. A layer of grey stubble marked his face.
“Mr Hyde is a great staff member. This entire line of enquiry is above your pay grade so please concentrate on your own job.”
And, with that, the door slammed.
This played on my mind throughout my afternoon classes. As soon as the last student dashed through the door, I looked at the Hyde email again. A green dot had appeared next to his picture, showing he was logged in and available to chat. Something intangible about his picture just made me hate him. I couldn’t resist investigating, ‘seeking’ out Mr Hyde, despite my pay grade.
KJackson: Hi! This is Miss Jackson from the English Department. Are you new here?
KJackson: Oh cool! When did you start?
EHyde: This week.
It became clear this would be difficult.
KJackson: Do you want to come to the pub on Friday?
I turned on my video chat. I’m told I’m more charming face to face, within the limits of greying, sagging and office-burnt. Surprisingly, he answered. The face that appeared was pure uncanny valley: CGI, but moving like a human, with echoes of a doll and a caveman at the same time. It made my skin crawl. Objectively, he was short and slim with cropped brown hair but I had the terrifying thought that I had seen Satan on my laptop screen. I instinctive crossed my fingers for luck.
He smiled. Somehow it made everything seem a lot worse.
“Now you’ve seen my face. Are you happy now? Stop bothering me. I have work to do.”
He hung up. I was more relieved than insulted.
Months passed. At every meeting I asked about Hyde, but was ignored or shrugged at. Every chance I got, I worked him into conversation. Nothing in response. He didn’t appear online again, and I focused on the ordinary fears of the classroom. Paul, the Head of the IT department, told me he tried to book an appointment to see Jekyll about a school trip, but the Principal just shouted out the window for him to go away. Weird, yes, but Jekyll had a pressured job. Just like many other inexplicable parts of teaching, I left it alone.
I wish I could leave that window alone on the screen here in Jekyll’s office. Jekyll’s eyes gazed skyward. No-one would know.
Three months before, in the spring, I was browsing the news on my phone when a headline slammed me in the face. Theresa May had called an emergency meeting with the cabinet over the death of an MP, Sir Danvers Carew. I had no love for him since he controlled the local education authority (who paid my meagre wages), but some of my students have been buzzing about how it was one of these viral challenges like Blue Whale or Momo. Next to the PM’s worried face, a picture was released that allegedly caused his death.
It was Hyde, in all his subhuman glory.
The official line was a troll caused him to have a heart attack through a campaign of harassment, but Reddit was aglow with reports that he’d somehow died from broken ribs, pelvis…the man was basically a smoothie when his wife found him. Hyde was definitely creepy, and there was something going on at work, but that was no proof that anything untoward was happening. Until an email interrupted my fevered commute.
‘To all staff,
I am expected to be absent for some time due to personal issues. In the meantime, please direct all enquiries, via email only, to Mr Hyde…’
That was the click of the handcuffs linking me to this whole horrible scenario. Maybe I was the only one who’d spoken, albeit briefly, to Hyde. What if I was the only piece in the puzzle? I paced around for an eternity, up and down the speeding train, then stepped off and decided.
That action led me here. An office door broken by shoulders and feet slammed into it. A stunned friend with his eyes roving the door, waiting for the ambulance, sweat pouring from his brow. And me. Clicking the mouse. Watching the file.
Hello? Is this thing on? Right. Yes. If I’m lucky, you’re finding this on a hard drive clear out or something. If not, I’m probably dead but you have to know why I did it.
When I was young, I was in a gang, carrying knives, running over county lines. You name it, I did it. What’s worse, is that I enjoyed it. It took two years in prison to find faith and accept Jesus into my life, but despite all my prayers I believed that I could easily sin again. I didn’t have the strength to carry this on knowing how black my heart was.
My brother is a surgeon, you see, and together we found a way to purge the negative impulses and save them online. Isn’t the brain just another kind of computer, made of flesh and blood instead of circuits? The operation was quite simple. A socket was placed at the side of my head and just ten minutes a day with a cable purged my ‘bad side’. The folder was called ‘Hide’.
Then it changed to ‘Hyde’ without me renaming it.
Then the messages started.
God, how could I have not realised this? I just send these urges from one computer to another, acting together, a dual system. He wanted to be alive, properly. He wanted to act. He said he’d send a copy of himself to everyone and ruin me. If I just loaded his programme into myself as a vehicle occasionally he’d let me live my life.
Then the police showed up about Maisie. He’d modified the programme and hurt a child. The whole reason I did this was for them! He apologised. He sent her money from the school account. The anger and hurt I poured away each time just made him more powerful. He said he’d be gentle if I left the cable in overnight and let him have me for twelve hours at a time. He wouldn’t harm me. We were just two sides to the same man.
I’d wake up in strange places. An alleyway. Blood on my hands and this broken stick burning splinters into me. Track marks in my arm. My account emptied. He told me killing Carew was a gift for me. Carew’s department wouldn’t extend our funding, and Hyde said this solved the problem. He laughed and smiled like rigour mortis.
I had to reset the whole connection, the whole programme.
I’m hoping this video is just a precaution. An artefact I’ll throw away and laugh about. He says he won’t go easy but I’m the human! I’m smarter!
May Jesus protect me as I push this switch…
Paul was looking over my shoulder from the doorway. We stood stock still. We didn’t see Jekyll’s body twitching, the face contorting into that smile.