Title: The Strange Case of Dr. Jackman and the Dead Victorian
Author: Zath Chauvert
Summary: BBC's "Jekyll." Thanks to a chance encounter, Henry Jekyll is no longer the man that he used to be. For starters, he used to be dead.
Rating: T - If you didn't have any problem watching the uncut episodes of "Jekyll" on DVD, then you should be fine reading this story.
Feedback: Yes, please! Any and all feedback, positive or negative, would be greatly appreciated. You're welcome to tell me that my story sucks as long as you also tell me why it sucks. Also, this hasn't been betaed, so feel free to point out any horribly jarring Americanisms or spelling/grammar mistakes that you happen to spot.
Disclaimer: The characters and world depicted in this story are not mine. I claim no ownership of any person, place, or corporate entity that you recognize from the source material. They belong to Steven Moffat, the BBC, and probably a bunch of other British people. I'm just playing in their sandbox in an attempt to fill the "Jekyll" shaped hole left in my heart by the fact that the BBC doesn't seem particularly keen on doing a second series. Henry Jekyll himself was created by Robert Louis Stevenson, but Moffat and James Nesbitt reinterpreted him, so they should get credit too.
Author's Note: Do not read this story if you haven't seen the BBC's "Jekyll," Instead, you should go buy the DVDs, watch them, and then come back here. Trust me, it's a fun way to spend six hours, and unless you've seen the entire series you'll have absolutely no idea what the heck is going on or who most of the characters are. Being familiar with the novel, the musical, or one of the movies is not going to be enough. From this point onward, beware of spoilers for the whole series. This is your last warning. Run if you want to live. For people who have seen the series, I hope that you have fun reading this. I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with it in the long-term. I don't even know yet whether the ending will be happy or not, but I'm having fun getting there.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jackman and the Dead Victorian
By Zath Chauvert
To be, or not to be--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep--
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to--'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished: to die, to sleep--
It took until 1997 to successfully clone a sheep. You really imagine that in 1965, we were able to clone a dead Victorian?
Chapter 1: Perchance To Dream
In the beginning, there was nothing. Then, Dr. Henry Jekyll awoke into another nightmare, disoriented as always. Something felt even more wrong than usual, something he should have been able to name but couldn't. The scenario was new, but for all its strangeness, the nightmare itself was not surprising. He had gotten used to such occurrences. Nightmares were all he had left. So what was wrong then? Had he forgotten something important? No, that was impossible. He couldn't forget anything important when nothing was important anymore.
After Alice died, he had just let go, let Hyde take over completely. Without Alice Cameron, he no longer had any reason to continue his struggle against the monster, no longer had a reason to live. Alice had given up on the world, so he did the same. Unfortunately, he hadn't quite managed to die, either, which led to his current predicament. After that night, Jekyll had never again taken control, hadn't even tried, but something strange had started happening. Before, he had experienced nothing but blackness while Hyde was in control. The time had passed like a dreamless sleep that brought no rest. But now, in the days or weeks that followed Alice's death (the tiny remaining fragment of Henry Jekyll could only guess at how much time was passing, when he bothered to wonder at all) Hyde actually seemed to be trying to bring him back to the surface.
Jekyll had fought against that, of course. Whatever Edward Hyde was trying so desperately to escape from, he would just have to stand and face it like a man. Jekyll had no reason to help him. Only one of them could disappear at a time. Hyde hadn't taken that option when it had been offered to him, and now that he wanted it, Jekyll had already become too entrenched in his self-imposed oblivion to simply be pulled back into reality on the whim of a spoiled brat. Whatever the problem was, it wasn't any of Jekyll's concern. Nothing was his concern anymore. The body that housed him still had a heartbeat, but Henry Jekyll was dead to the world and planned to remain that way forevermore.
Hyde kept trying. He couldn't quite force Jekyll back into the dominant position, but Hyde could drag him into bizarre shared dreams in an attempt to argue his case, make his demands, and sometimes just rant incoherently. Thus, the nightmares began. Henry Jekyll's remaining existence became a series of grotesque visions occasionally punctuated by nothingness. In truth, it was just like the last several years of his life, ever since Hyde had emerged from whatever hell he had previously resided in. The nightmares were stranger than real life had been, but not enough to make Jekyll take notice. Many of the scenes that played out before him had something to do with Alice. Jekyll ignored them all. He didn't care what Hyde had to say about her, no matter how much he clawed at him, threatened, or begged. Alice was dead, and nothing would change that, not even a monster suddenly learning the meaning of remorse.
This continued for an unknown number of repetitions until the darkness parted one night and Jekyll found himself in a dream that almost felt like it could have been real. He was in what looked to be his laboratory, though he had never seen the place from floor level before and couldn't move properly in order to stand and view it from his usual vantage point. Even from the floor, he could see that the place was in disarray, far more so than it ever became during the normal course of his work. Books and papers were scattered all around, many torn to shreds. Broken glass, both from his equipment and from the cabinet doors that lined the walls, was also everywhere. In places, the woodwork had been smashed to splinters. On the whole, it was an ungodly mess.
"It's all for you, Jekyll. Happy now?" Jekyll felt his mouth form the words even though he wasn't the one speaking them, and he knew instinctively that he and Hyde were experiencing this together with an equality they had never achieved in real life. Both of them were seeing the blood and the mess at the same time through the same pair of eyes. Both of them were feeling the same all-encompassing, unrelenting pain. It was vaguely interesting as far as new perspectives went, but that was all.
Despite the agony, Jekyll observed everything with the calm detachment of one who had long ago chosen death over life and not once thereafter regretted his decision. Why should he care what happened to a body that wasn't his anymore? He could watch the destruction without being moved by it. The burning in his mouth, throat, and guts, along with the violent convulsions everywhere else, made Jekyll certain that poison was to blame for the situation. In addition to the overpowering system-wide physical distress, his left hand was cut to ribbons by broken glass. He couldn't open his clenched fist to look at it, but he knew anyway from the pooling blood and the fact that one of the pieces had forced itself all the way through and out the back of his hand. Judging by the curvature and thickness of the glass, he had been holding one of his best 250ml beakers and crushed it when the convulsions started. The cuts in his hand were burning the same way that his throat was, so the poison must have been self-administered.
Though he had no interest in the reasoning behind this particular display, Jekyll did have to wonder what it was exactly that Hyde had supposedly taken in order to produce such an effect. The Beast had seemed to be immune to most of the toxins he had encountered, even those that killed ordinary men in minutes. Then again, this was a dream. It was entirely possible that no such compound existed in real life. The agent of destruction was probably just as imaginary as its results were. And yet, now that Jekyll thought about it, he noticed something lingering in the air, detectable even through the scents of blood, bile, and other less pleasant bodily odors. He could smell a particular volatile ether that he had become quite familiar with as well as several more exotic chemical ingredients that he had collected over the years, which, when combined together, reacted to form a singularly nasty compound.
Realization dawned, and Jekyll had no choice but to laugh. It was the Potion. Hyde had brewed and consumed a batch of the Potion. Who could have guessed that the stuff would ever be useful for anything outside of the trap that Jekyll had set for those who wished to learn his secrets? It was too bad that there was no way Stevenson would ever learn of this. Even though he couldn't make use of it in his novel, he would have appreciated the irony.
Hyde seemed upset that Jekyll was finding nothing but humor in the situation, which only amused Jekyll further. Oh, how the tables had turned. Besides, how else was he supposed to react to this after everything else that Hyde had done? He didn't care if Hyde wanted to be more dramatic than usual, especially not if he was going to be so dramatic that he obscured whatever point he wanted to make. Jekyll was not about to award him higher marks for having put in extra effort.
Instead, he watched dispassionately for a few moments more as the convulsions grew worse. Then he slipped free of it all, leaving Hyde to howl his frustration as Jekyll once again escaped back into the safety of the abyss. Just as the scene faded away completely, he thought he might have heard Poole calling from the other side of the laboratory door. It wasn't the sort of detail that Hyde usually thought to include in a dream. It gave Jekyll further hope that maybe he had just witnessed reality instead of simply another nightmare, hope that maybe he could finally be allowed to rest in peace.
Oblivion swallowed him whole.
There was nothing. There was absolutely nothing at all, not even a tiny fragment of thought left behind in the darkness to wonder if this was death. Nothing.
Then, it was like lightning struck his brain, and Dr. Henry Jekyll awoke into another nightmare, already certain that something was wrong, more wrong than usual, possibly more wrong than it had ever been before, though he couldn't say why. There was something important he needed to know. Perhaps it was something he already knew. And there was something else, too. Something was whispering to him, nagging him from everywhere and nowhere, just beyond the edges of his perception. He couldn't focus his thoughts enough to figure out what was the matter.
This was worse than coming back to himself after one of Hyde's long nights of debauchery. His head hurt. His mind hurt. What was Hyde trying to do to him this time? Was Hyde even the one doing it? Jekyll felt a strange emptiness inside, as if a chronic pain had unexpectedly been removed, only to be replaced by numbness instead of wellness or normalcy. There was that faint whisper of something, slightly louder than it had been just a moment before, but it wasn't Him. It was as if Hyde wasn't there anymore. That idea was ridiculous, of course, because who else could be responsible for creating a tableau like this? But however many times he told himself it was impossible, the feeling that something was missing refused to go away.
Jekyll didn't recognize his surroundings or the stained short-sleeved pajamas he was wearing. He was in an unfamiliar bed, surrounded by strange translucent curtains. The cool, damp air smelled musty, and the light was unnaturally harsh. The setting of the nightmare was new to him, but they were back to the theme of Alice, of that much he was certain. He knew she was nearby. He knew that if only he could focus, he'd be able to find her. She was dead; she would always be dead, but still he needed to find her. Something about this dream was affecting him in ways that none of the others had ever managed to achieve before, not even the one he thought might have been real. This nightmare obviously wasn't real, but he couldn't resist its hold on him. He was compelled to play along with it, even though he knew it would only end in disappointment or worse.
He could almost hear the echo of Alice's voice, could almost feel the lingering warmth of her hand laid lightly against his cheek, as if she had departed from his side only a moment ago. And with the sudden clarity of a dream, he knew that she had been there only a moment ago, bending over him, touching his face, and speaking to him. He shouldn't have been able to remember this. He knew that he hadn't been awake yet to see it, but he remembered it anyway, regardless of the memory's impossibility.
"Run if you want to live," she had wept into his ear. "Run if you want to live." Alice had sounded so worried when she spoke, but then she had screamed and staggered away from him, disappearing backwards through the curtain, leaving him to awaken alone. The look of horror on her face had been just like the first time Hyde cornered her and forced her to watch him change back into the man who loved her. Jekyll's heart ached at the thought of it. His only comfort was the fading sensation of her skin against his own and the memory of her voice. Or was it a memory? No, he could still hear her from somewhere beyond the curtain. "Run if you want to live."
"Run," another woman's voice said, "if you want to live."
"Run if you want to live? Run if you want to live!" Alice cried in response.
What was happening? Jekyll struggled out of the bed and into a vertical position. His joints were stiff, nearly immobile, as if he had been lying in one position for far far too long. Once he was standing, the chilly floor felt disturbingly real against his bare feet. He staggered towards the curtain, almost falling in the process. It didn't surprise him to discover how weak he was. In these dreams Hyde always made a point of reinforcing the idea of his strength versus Jekyll's weakness, but Jekyll always won in the end by refusing to participate. Hyde couldn't win if Jekyll wouldn't play the game, and there were no threats he could make that would force Jekyll to play, because there was nothing Hyde could do to him that he had not done already.
Strangely, now that Jekyll was playing along with a dream, Hyde was nowhere to be found. Usually he would have made an appearance by now, in one form or another. There was no sign of him. There was only the whispering in the back of Jekyll's mind, but he would have recognized its source if it had originated from the fiend that he had grown to know so well. In fact, the whispering was still getting louder. He could make out the words now, and they were very familiar, though the voice was not.
"Run if you want to live."
Jekyll finally managed to push his way past the curtain to find Alice on the other side, less than a half dozen yards away, talking to an old woman. Both of them were wearing trousers, but compared to everything else so far, they were the most normal thing in this hallucination.
"RUN IF YOU WANT TO LIVE."
It wasn't a whisper anymore. It was a roar, seeming to come from all directions at once, even from inside. The words carried the dual tone of both a warning and a threat, blended together into an absolute command. He tried to tell whatever it was that he didn't want to live, that he was already as dead as he could manage, so it should leave him alone, but he only had one feeble human voice against what seemed to be a force of nature. He might as well have tried asking an approaching storm to turn around and go elsewhere. He could only hope that, like a storm, it would eventually pass.
"RUN IF YOU WANT TO LIVE."
He shuffled forward unsteadily. He wanted, no, needed to go to Alice, to tell her one more time how much he loved her, to tell her how sorry he was for failing her. He took another step. Had the light started flickering, or was his vision failing? It didn't matter. He was drowning under the cacophony. Only a few more steps to go and he'd be there, but he couldn't continue. So close, and yet so far. Oh, Alice. The noise poured down on him, engulfed him, and buried his battered mind without effort. Anything resembling coherent thought ceased to exist, swept aside and trampled by the incessant barrage. He didn't lose consciousness; it was taken from him. Nothing remained but the chanting of the six words that were the beginning and the end of the world.
"RUN IF YOU WANT TO LIVE."
There was no telling what happened after that. Jekyll wasn't there to see it. He didn't exist anymore.
"RUN IF YOU WANT TO LIVE. RUN IF YOU WANT TO LIVE. RUN IF YOU WANT TO LIVE"
And then the voice stopped. It stopped dead. Jekyll would have appreciated the sudden silence, had he been aware enough to notice, but he had gone elsewhere. It was peaceful. Sadly, it didn't last. The nightmare wasn't finished with him yet. That was the most surprising part. Some unknown amount of time later, Henry Jekyll reluctantly drifted back into a semblance of consciousness and found himself on the floor only a few steps away from where he last remembered standing. He was lying in an awkward crumpled heap like a marionette whose strings had been cut, and an assortment of new pains, especially in his kneecaps and left shoulder, told him that it had not been a gentle descent. He climbed to his feet and looked around. Alice and the other woman were gone, but that was to be expected. Of course Alice was gone. She was dead. Maybe the other woman had been dead too. At least the voice in his head was also gone. It was amazing how much more coherent everything seemed now that the noise had stopped gnawing at his mind. The situation made no more sense than it had before, but he was able to focus again, so he had some hope of eventually solving the puzzle.
Unfortunately, the feeling of wrongness remained. Determined to find its source, Jekyll made a more thorough examination of his surroundings. The central area contained only himself, a small chair, and a battered desk with something vaguely resembling a lamp on top of it. The desk's drawers were all locked. One wall of the room was blank save for a door while the other three walls were hidden by the same strange curtains that had surrounded his bed. Even up close he was unable to recognize what sort of material they were meant to be. Now that it was quiet, Jekyll could hear faint sounds of movement coming from behind some of the curtains. He pulled one aside and found a man who looked like a battered and sickly version of himself. The man stared blankly into the distance, never blinking. Only the slow movement of one hand prevented Jekyll from thinking that he might be dead. Whoever he was, he wasn't important. Jekyll let the curtain fall back into place and looked behind the next.
This one hid a man who looked more like Hyde, or at least Jekyll believed that he did. By the nature of their relationship, he had been incapable of ever truly meeting Hyde face to face, so all Jekyll knew of him was the face that he wore in their dreams. It seemed to match the description of Hyde that Alice had given him, so he was willing to accept it as an accurate representation, but he could never be entirely certain. But despite resembling Hyde, it wasn't really him. Jekyll had grown very adept at identifying Hyde in these sorts of dreams, even when he chose to disguise himself with someone else's face. Like the one before, Jekyll let this curtain fall closed again.
Slowly, he made his way around the room. He was still weak and sore, but at least his joints were loosening with use. Aside from the single empty bed that he himself had vacated, every curtain revealed another man. Some resembled Jekyll, some Hyde. Some were strange mixtures of the two. All of them were wrong in some way, some through apparent illness, and some through hideous deformity that must have been present from birth. Mismatched pieces, misshapen parts, contorted postures, lumps, scars, sores, fangs: it was a pathetic collection of monsters. Strangely, none of them were the real Hyde. None of them rose up to taunt or question or plead with him. They all either slept or stared blankly. The place seemed to be some sort of plague hospital or asylum. It was Hyde's most ambitious display of theatrics yet, but if he was hoping to evoke pity with this new ploy, he had failed by overstepping the mark and falling into bathos. Besides, he was years too late, having long ago destroyed any sympathy Jekyll might have ever had for him.
By now, Jekyll had had more than enough of this farce. Disgusted, he tried to pull himself free from the dream as he usually did, but the illusion would not release its grip on him. However, there was always one other way for Jekyll to escape back into a deeper, dreamless sleep. No matter how creative Hyde got while spinning a nightmare, he never bothered to build a world beyond the immediate requirements of the scene. There might be a small handful of other rooms in the immediate vicinity, but beyond them there would be nothing. All Jekyll needed to do was start walking and continue until he found an unfinished edge where he could step across into the void. It shouldn't take long. He turned his back on the whole thing and headed for the door. The feeling of wrongness followed him.
Once through the door, Jekyll found himself at one end of a long, low hallway. It was darker than the room he had just left, colder too. There were several other doors nearby and, at the far end of the hall, what appeared to be a set of stairs. At the moment, distance was Jekyll's only friend. The further he got from his starting point, the greater his chance was of finding an escape route, so he headed for the stairs. Water dripped from the ceiling, ran down the walls, and puddled on the floor. It only took a few steps before his feet were freezing and the cuffs of his pajamas were soaked. As he neared the stairs, Jekyll noticed that, in addition to the puddles of water, there were increasing quantities of fresh blood spattered all over the floor and, in one place, smeared liberally down the wall. This was the sort of set-dressing that was more in keeping with Hyde's usual style. He did his best not to step in any but otherwise ignored it.
The stairs, at least, were mostly dry. The only way to go was up, so Jekyll began to climb. The stairs seemed to go on forever, with each new door opening onto similar long hallways. He spared each one only a glance before continuing upward. At first, only the decreasing numbers painted on the walls gave any suggestion of progress. However, the hallways eventually began growing brighter, cleaner, drier. There were never any people. His legs ached and his heart pounded, but he pressed onward. Then the countdown reached zero and the stairs ended with one final door, which opened to reveal the main entryway of a large house of some sort. Jekyll leaned against the doorframe as he tried to catch his breath and gain his bearings. A new set of stairs wrapped upwards around a wide central space, revealing several more floors overhead. Hallways stretched away to either side of him. Best of all though was the tall pair of heavy double doors that stood open with bright light pouring out of them. At the sight of it, he pushed himself into motion again. He was almost free.
Heedless of physical discomfort, Henry Jekyll hurried towards his goal, breathing a sigh of relief as he stepped over the threshold and into the light. Oblivion was not waiting to claim him on the other side. Instead, while he was blinded by the light, there was an unseen doormat, which caught his foot as he went past, nearly sending him sprawling. By sheer luck, he managed to regain his balance before he fell down the wide stone stairs that were suddenly in front of him. Soon, Jekyll's eyes adjusted to the pure morning sunshine enough to let him stare at his surroundings with a mixture of equal parts wonder and dread. The whole world, all of God's creation, spread away in every direction. Dew-covered lawns punctuated by decorative shrubs and trees gave way to fields that extended to the far horizon. Birds sang in ten thousand different voices. The sun was warm on his face even as a cold breeze that smelled of autumn cut through the thin fabric of his garments and chilled him to the bone. He could search forever, but he was never going to find an unfinished edge of the world that led back to the comforting void. There were none to find.
Denial, his last defense, broke and fell away, forcing Jekyll to finally put a name to the sense of wrongness that had dogged him since he first awakened in that strange underground room. It was "life." He was alive. Somehow, he had been dragged from his hiding place in darkest pits of his mind and was once again the unwilling master of his own body. Somehow, this impossibly strange dream, this inexplicable madness, was in fact reality. He didn't know how it had happened, but it had happened all the same.
It also explained why he hadn't been able to find Hyde anywhere, why he couldn't even feel his presence. Edward Hyde had won again, taking what he wanted and leaving Henry Jekyll to deal with the aftermath. This time, he had stolen Jekyll's death. Jekyll wanted to laugh and scream at the same time and had to clamp his jaw shut to stay quiet, out of fear that once he started he would never be able to stop again. He wrapped his arms around himself and rocked on his heels as if doing so would help to hold back the mad wailing that was threatening to tear its way out of him. It wasn't long before he was shaking in a manner that had very little to do with the temperature of the morning air. His heartbeat seemed to be getting louder. The noise of it began to drown out the birdsong. He may have been hyperventilating too.
There was no telling how long it all lasted. Slowly, fatigue overpowered hysteria, leaving behind a false sense of calm. He was vaguely aware of the fact that at some point he had sunk down to sit on the steps. Soon, even that position required too much effort to maintain, so he lay himself down on the cold stone with one arm resting on his chest and the other draped across his eyes to block out the sun. His face was wet, though he couldn't remember crying. He was exhausted, both physically and mentally. He couldn't stay awake anymore. He didn't want to, not even when he heard the crunch of footsteps approaching along the gravel driveway that wrapped around the mansion. He had enough curiosity left in him to lift his arm from his eyes and raise his head to see who was coming, but that was all. Not even the sight of himself walking hand in hand with his own beloved Alice Cameron was enough to hold his attention. He knew that he should care. He was sure that he would care later, but right now he simply couldn't muster the effort that was necessary to do so. He let his head fall back to its previous resting place.
He drowsily listened as the footsteps grew closer. The desire to sleep was overwhelming. It was the only form of escape that was still available to him, so Jekyll let himself drift away. As his eyelids slid closed, he heard the footsteps come to a stop next to him. There was the briefest of pauses, and then his doppelganger spoke. The man's accent was wrong. He sounded Irish, of all things. But accent aside, his words echoed Jekyll's own thoughts perfectly, right down to the moan of despair.
"Jesus, what now?"
And with that, sleep drew Henry Jekyll into its full embrace. It was mercifully deep and dreamless.
(to be continued)