Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Jekyll and Hyde: A Different Look

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For a long time, I've wanted to write my own take on The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeCurrently, I'm too wrapped up in my own stories to take the time for a full novel, but I was taken by the inspiration for this "excerpt from a novel I may someday write". 
As a preface, I will say that for this adaptation, I have taken elements from the original novella, as well as from the musical version and my own imagination in order to create a (hopefully) fresh look at this classic story.
So, without further ado, I give you my exploration of the Jekyll and Hyde story.
* * *
His heart thudding, Utterson stopped before the front steps, feeling a sweat gather on his brow. The large townhouse seemed to tower over him, its normally cheerful brick walls looming like an ominous warning. There was a deep sense of wrongness about this whole situation that made his heart within him feel cold and withered.
Swallowing, Utterson shook his head and clenched his fists in resolve. Enough of this ludicrous fear and futile fretting. What good would it do him to turn back now, when his friend needed him most? After all these months of hounding Jekyll for answers, would he really turn away now that he had received a genuine plea for help? And what of Elena? Could he go home now and tell his sister that he had been too much a coward to help her fiance? Never!
Utterson closed his eyes and breathed deeply. Steeling his nerves, he marched firmly up the steps and opened the door, not even bothering to knock. He knew for a fact that Poole had not been called to work for more than a week.
“Henry, I've come.”
Silence. Not a sound greeted him as he stepped into the foyer. All around him, darkness hung like a shroud over the once lively household. A film of dust lay over the dark wooden floors, and the portraits on the wall hung crooked. The walls of the hallway leading to the sitting room were stained with muddy hand prints and what looked like- to Utterson's horror- blood.
“Henry?” he called again, his own voice sounding strangely panicked in his ears. Cursing his lack of control, Utterson pushed himself further into the house, dreading what he might find.
The entire house was in disarray. Papers were scattered everywhere, with messy, fragmented writings scrawled across in no particular order. Moldy food sat on the table, and a glass goblet had been upset and never cleaned. The wine lay in a dried puddle on the floor. Utterson quickened his pace, desperate now to find his friend.
“Answer me, Henry! Where are you?”
He reached the library, the big oak doors shut tightly. Praying they would not be locked, Utterson tried the handles. To his immense relief, the doors opened. Forcing himself to stay calm, he pushed into the library, preparing himself for the worst.
A fire crackled on the hearth, casting flickering shadows against the tall shelves.  A man sat sprawled across the armchair before the fire, and Utterson felt relief wash over him.
“Henry, thank God!” he breathed, coming closer. But his heart skipped a beat as the figure rose and turned to face him.
His form was like Henry's, and he was wearing Henry's robe, but it was not him. This man was pale, and his dark hair hung around his face like a hood. Though in the right light he might have been called handsome, to Utterson he seemed almost deformed by some innate wickedness radiating forth from him. In his eyes there was a cruel and desperate light.
“You... I know who you are!” Utterson whispered, his voice laced with contempt.
The figure tilted his head backward, looking down his nose at the lawyer.
“Do you, now?” he asked in amusement. “And just who am I, do you suppose?”
“You are Edward Hyde, wanted murderer and betrayer of my dearest friend.”
Hyde grimaced, then laughed. “Is that what you think? Ah, you hurt me, James. A murderer I may be: but I have never betrayed Henry Jekyll. Not once.”
Smirking, Hyde picked up a poker and stirred the fire. Utterson swallowed, eyeing the sharp utensil glinting in the light. Hyde's use of his first name unsettled him more than he cared to admit. He forced himself to breath calmly. It wouldn't do if he allowed himself to become overwrought. Was this not the opportunity he had been waiting for all this time? Here was the man himself, standing before him.
“If you were the loyal friend to Henry that you claim to be, you would not affect him as you do. For weeks I have watched him agonize over your actions, pouring money and time into covering up your misdeeds, risking his position and his relationships all for your sake. I'm no fool, Hyde. I see what's happening. I've guessed your secret!”
Hyde stiffened momentarily, and his fingers twitched. “Have you? Tell me, I'm curious! What is my secret?”
Seeing the man's barely perceptible discomfort, Utterson felt the briefest moment of pleasure. Matching Hyde's smirk, he shook his head. “Oh, come now, it's not that hard. I see your resemblance to him- almost the same man, at first glance. My guess is you're a close relative of his- possibly a brother- illegitimate, of course. The result of some indiscretion on his father's part, no doubt. Now you've come to extort him in exchange for silence on his family's disgrace.”
Incredibly, Hyde seemed rather relieved by this conclusion. He shrugged in the most unperturbed way and left the poker leaning against the fireplace, moving across the room to lean on the lab table.
Utterson squinted. Was it his imagination, or had he detected a slight limp in Hyde's gait?
“Oh, James... if that's true, then why bother your head about this? Henry knows full well that the only way out of blackmail is to tell the truth. He's perfectly capable of taking care of himself you know.”
“Obviously not- this has gone on far enough. Henry called me here today asking for help, and I intend to give it wholeheartedly.”
As soon as the words left Utterson's lips, Hyde's eyes snapped up. “He called you? Then you have it!” He advanced on Utterson, who jerked back in spite of himself.
“I must admit, I didn't expect it to be you. I thought it might be that fool butler. But no, I suppose you are his friend. Well, be quick about it then! Give me the formula!”
The frenzied look snapping and crackling in Hyde's eyes set Utterson's blood pounding in his veins. Contempt and anger getting the best of him at last, Utterson drew himself up to his full height, looking down at the man by a full inch.
“Not until you tell me what you have done to Henry Jekyll,” he stated calmly, his voice as even and cold as a steel blade.
Hyde's eyes widened. “What have I done to him?” he half shrieked, half laughed. “Wrong question, man! What has he done to me?”
Casting off the dressing robe, Hyde held his arms wide, revealing a white shirt stained with blood. Utterson felt his own blood drain from his face.
Hyde cackled, tears gleaming in his crazed eyes. “You know, your friend isn't nearly so perfect as you believe him to be! But if you care for him at all, you'll give me that formula now.”
Utterson's lip curled. “Never. You're not getting anything from him.”
Before he had a chance to put up a hand to defend himself, Hyde grabbed him by the collar, shaking him roughly.
“Drat you, James, give me the formula! Henry told you to bring it here! He asked you to trust him- can't you do that just this once? Give me the formula! His life depends on it!”
Something in the desperation of Hyde's tone caught Utterson's attention. The man that stood before him was a fiend and a murderer yes, but somehow his concern for Jekyll seemed genuine.
Releasing Utterson's collar, Hyde threw his hands in the air and backed away, glowering at him under dark brows. His voice trembled in a tremendous effort for control. “Please. If you have any regard for Henry Jekyll at all, give me the formula, right now. If you do, I promise to give you the truth.”
Utterson blinked, assessing him. Slowly reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the formula, sparkling green in the crystal vial.
Hyde seized it in claw-like fingers and bounded toward the lab table. Deftly, he gathered several other vials and poured their contents together into a metal bowl and started a flame beneath it.
Utterson frowned, confused. “What is this? What in Heaven's name are you doing?”
“You wanted the truth didn't you?” Hyde snapped, not taking his eyes from the concoction. Tiny bubbles surged to the surface, and he quickly turned off the flame. Fanning a hand over the bowl, he grabbed a syringe and drew out a full dose of the concoction.
Raising his eyes to Uttereson, he tilted his chin and sneered. “Well, here you are, then. The ugly truth. Be careful what you wish for.”
So saying, he stabbed the needle into his arm, grimacing in pain. The syringe clattered to the floor, and he groaned. Convulsing, he clutched the table for support. Coughs wracked his body.
Utterson watched in horror as Hyde collapsed to the ground, writhing and groaning like a dying animal through clenched teeth.
Then suddenly, his voice changed. It rose in pitch, now a low tenor. The cries became less animal-like more sane, more human. With one last shudder, he relaxed and was still.
Utterson hardly dared to move. Then, slowly, Hyde raised his face to him--
--but it wasn't Hyde.
It was Henry Jekyll.
Utterson fell to his knees.
“James?” Henry murmured. Regret and shame twisted his agonized face. “Good grief, he showed you, didn't he?”
With trembling arms, Henry pushed himself up to his knees, moving slowly and carefully. His shoulders sagged, and he wore a look of utter defeat.
Utterson watched him, frozen in shock. Words stuck in his throat, and he shook his head in disbelief.
Henry gathered his loose hair and tied it behind his neck, seemingly at a loss for words as well. At last, he sighed.
“Well, now you know, my friend. I cannot hide any more...” he glanced up at Utterson and noted his deathly pallor. Concern flared up in his eyes, and he rose and held out his hand.
“Good heavens, James- are you alright?”
Utterson stumbled backward before he could stop himself. His mind rebelled against his eyes; he saw Henry Jekyll, but his intellect screamed that it was Hyde, it had to be! Had the abominable murderer not stood before him but thirty seconds ago?
The moment of revulsion did not escape Henry's eyes. He stopped, pain etched on his face. He slowly held up his hands in a disarming gesture.
“It's alright,” he murmured pleadingly. “It's me, truly. I'm you're friend- you need never fear me...”
Utterson shook his head quickly, straightening his jacket and waving his hand dismissively. “Nonsense-” he managed to choke out, “not afraid, Heavens, no!” the pathetic attempt at nonchalance left him strangely close to laughter, despite the nightmarish circumstance.
“But you are afraid,” Henry said sadly. “I knew you would be. I tried to warn you... even as Hyde, I tried to warn you.”
“Afraid! I am horrified!” Utterson scoffed. He shook his head and rubbed his temples. “Forgive me, Henry. I don't mean to be harsh. Please, help me understand. What have I seen? Who are you? What's happened to you?”
Henry was silent, refusing to meet his eyes. At last, he stirred. “It began several months ago,” he said haltingly. “I was conducting a series of experiments attempting to study the dual nature of man. The side that desires goodness and honor, and the side that craves sinful pleasure.”
He rubbed his face and slouched down into an armchair. Utterson eased himself down into the seat opposite.
“I was making progress too, wonderful progress! Bit by bit I was uncovering the secrets of the inner workings of the human heart. I wanted to create a formula that would effectively suppress the wickedness inside, and allow the inner goodness to shine through. One night, I was certain that I had it. Every ingredient, every process through which I put the formula, was perfect.”
Even now, Utterson could hear the joy and passion in Henry's voice. For a moment, the old Jekyll showed through- young and free and full of dreams.
And then that joy faded as he continued the tale.
“But I was mistaken. So gravely mistaken,” he sighed. “I was impatient, and desperate to test the formula, and I thought, what better subject than myself? So I did it. Alone in this very study, I infused myself with this blasted formula, and thus my sorrows began.”
Suddenly restless, Henry jumped out of the chair and began to pace, growing more agitated by the second. “Somehow the formula went wrong. Instead of suppressing my darker nature, it freed it! I suddenly found myself without inhibitions, without conscience. Instantly, I was consumed by the desire for all forbidden things. I saw no reason why I should hold back, and so I went out and indulged- in everything I could imagine! That night, I felt as I had never felt before, and I knew I needed a new name. I called myself Edward Hyde.”
All the energy seemed to drain from him, and he seemed years older. “And there you have it- the story of my greatest shame and guilt.”
Utterson swallowed. He began to understand. He could not claim to know science, and in no way could he conceive how this disaster had happened, but at least he now knew the facts. As long as he had facts, Utterson knew he could survive. Rising up, Utterson approached Henry cautiously.
“Henry... it isn't your fault. There was no way you could have known what would happen.”
“Don't you understand, it is my fault!” Henry whirled on him sharply. “I am to blame! It wasn't just one night! Didn't you hear me? I indulged. I found enjoyment in that freedom as Hyde. Or at least, what I thought was freedom. Only now I have come to understand- wehave come to understand- that this wretched life is bondage. We are enthralled to our desires and passions and wickedness. There is no freedom in sin, there is only slavery.”
“But isn't it Hyde's doing? Is it not his fantasies that you fulfill as him?” Utterson asked, hoping it was only Henry's guilt speaking.
But Henry shook his head in anguish. “No, James. I once thought so too- but I know now it is a lie. We call ourselves different names, but... deep down, Hyde is me. All he has ever done is the things I have considered myself, in my darkest moments. I would never act on them because I know right from wrong. But as Hyde, I have no such qualms. He is the worst of me, that's all there is to it.”
Silence fell on the room, both men lost for words. Utterson hardly knew what to think, let alone what to do.
Turning his back on Utterson, Henry crossed the room and gazed out the window. “Do you understand now why I pushed you away? Why I pushed Elena away?”
Utterson felt a sudden lump in his throat. What would he tell Elena? He had sworn to her that he would save Henry for her... but now? Impossible, it seemed.
As if reading Utterson's thoughts, Henry turned. “Elena must know nothing of this, I beg you. If she knew, she would come to me, and that must never happen. If I saw her again in all of her beauty, I am sure that Hyde would surface, and I-” he stopped and clapped a hand over his mouth, eyes wide in horror. “I can't bear to think what might happen. Don't let her come to me, James. Keep her safe, please! Keep her away.”
Utterson nodded. “Of course. For her sake and yours, she will not know of this. I swear it.”
Henry nodded, his relief evident. “Thank you. Thank you.”
He sank down to the floor and put his head in his hands.
“She was right, you know,” he murmured. “I always disagreed with her, but I see now that she was right. There is no inherent goodness in man. Goodness and morality is a learned thing, given to us only by the grace of God. Underneath, we are but wretched fiends who can only dream of righteousness.”
He lay his head back, and Utterson's heart ached with pity.
“All I can do now is beg the Lord for forgiveness. I have exhausted all my efforts. I don't know what to do. The formula is running out, and after it has gone, I know that Hyde will win. Only God can save me now.”
Utterson nodded. “Then in God's name, let it be so. I won't rest, Henry. I will do all that I can, you have my word.”
Henry smiled tearfully. “I know you will. Now go, and send Elena my love.”
“I will.”
Reluctantly, Utterson tore himself away, shutting the doors tight behind him. Ah! Elena... his poor sister. What was to be done now?
* * *

-Emmarayn Redding

(DISClAIMER:  Picture does not belong to me.  It was pulled from a random Google Search.  All credit goes to the photographer/artist.)


  1. I like this, Elethia. And I'd like to read more of it if I could (though this is a quite complete story in its own right)!

    1. Thanks, Sarah! Though I agree with you that this wraps up pretty well by itself, I'd like to write more sometime. I'm thinking of starting a scene in which Hyde finally abandons all caution and goes to see Elena himself.

  2. Marvelous! I love your use of rhetorical questions early on to get the reader thinking. This is my favorite line: "Or at least, what I thought was freedom. Only now I have come to understand- wehave come to understand- that this wretched life is bondage. We are enthralled to our desires and passions and wickedness. There is no freedom in sin, there is only slavery.” Really nice job :D

    1. Thanks! I hoped those rhetorical questions would read well. They're one of the markers I use to communicate that it's Utterson's perspective.
      That quote is really the whole point of this story. Jekyll and Hyde lends very well to that particular Biblical principle. :) I'm glad you liked it!

  3. Oh my goodness, this is amazing! I was going to head to bed, but now I think I'm going to be up for a while thinking about this. If there's ever more to it, I'd love to read it. ^.^

    *sigh* I haven't read Jekyll and Hyde in a long while...I'll definitely be revisiting it soon. :D

    By the way, I found this blog from a post on The Writer's Window. Your book of fairy tales looks and sounds so interesting!

    1. Thank you! I'm really glad you like it. Hope it didn't deprive you of too much sleep, though! ;D
      Jekyll and Hyde is definitely a great book. Much shorter than I expected, but still very good. It always surprises me that Utterson is not featured in many of the new adaptations. Speaking of Utterson, I just realized that his first name is actually Gabriel, not James. I guess if I ever re-write this for a novel, I'll have to change it, because Gabriel is cooler than James. XD

      From Writer's Window, eh? That's great! It's really nice to have you here. Thank you very much!