by Josh Curtiss
An orphan has a run in with the the notorious Mr. Hyde.
| It was a cold, rainy day outside in the small town of Cheshire, England. A young boy by the name of Edmond Whifster sat inside his room in a wooden rocking chair near the far right corner. He peered out the tiny, round window longingly, listening to the sheets of rain clatter against it and watching the carriages cruise up and down the cobblestone streets. Edmond lived with what remained of his broken family. He had two sisters, Lucille and Emily, and three brothers, Laramie, Jonathan, and Paul. Edmond himself was the age of fifteen, the oldest amongst them. He had taken on the responsibility of looking after his siblings after the tragedy three years ago. His parents and two older brothers had been mugged and shot late one night on their way back home from the theater they had attended. Edmond had only been twelve at the time, and after bouncing around from place to place for two years, he and his siblings had finally landed in the orphanage where they now resided. All of a sudden the door burst open and the orphanage's caretaker, a middle-aged woman named Margeret Jekyll, strolled in.
"Time for bed little ones." She said enthusiastically, and then strutted back out, easing the door shut behind her.
Simultaneously all the children groaned, but remembering the consequences that would befall them if the disobeyed, they all climbed into their beds. After bidding each other goodnight, they snuffed out the candles that lit up their room and fell asleep to the sound of rain pattering against the windows
Edmond awoke in the middle of the night to a strange sound. He sat up in his bed, the wooden headboard creaking as he did so, and rubbed the tiredness out of his bloodshot eyes. Yawning loudly, he yanked the lined comforter off from over him, rising and leaving the safety and warmth of his bed. The hardwood floor chilled his bare feet as he stood, and he immediately regretted his decision. He glanced around the room, but since the candles were no longer ablaze, he couldn't see a single thing through the enveloping darkness. The noise sounded again, this time reverberating throughout the small room. It was a miracle it had not roused the other children from their light sleep. It was then that Edmond finally realized what it was; a scream. It was bloodcurdling, and sent a shiver down Edmond's spine and caused the fine hairs on the back of his neck to stand on end. As Edmond stood their, contemplating on what to do with the current situation, the scream sounded for a third time, only this time muffled, as though a rag had been stuffed into the victim's mouth. Edmond was terrified, and he stood there trembling for a moment, but his curiosity overcame his fear. He reached out into the darkness, fumbling for the doorknob. He finally laid his hand upon it and hesitantly turned it. It screeched as it turned, but Edmond ignored it and finished. Then, cracking the door open, he peered out into the vast hallway. Surprisingly all the candles in the hallway were still lit, and Edmond winced as the brightness stung his eyes. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he saw that the hallway was completely deserted. The scream resounded again and it was even fainter this time, causing Edmond to have to strain his ears to decipher which direction it had originated. Finally he concluded it had come form the left, and he eased the door the rest of the way open and stepped gingerly into the hallway. The hallway was even chillier than in his room, and he shivered, rubbing his arms for warmth, before starting off toward the source of the sound. The person screamed many more times, consistently growing louder as he proceeded toward it. The entire time Edmond kept expecting someone else to hear the screams, to come and investigate just as he was, but no one did. Finally, Edmond came to a halt right in front of the caretaker's storage room. He tried to steady his heavy breathing, but it was a failed effort. What he felt at this instant was pure, genuine fear. He pressed his ear firmly against the door, listening for the scream. After what seemed like an eternity, he heard the scream one last time. This time it was louder than any previous, and died off abruptly. Bracing himself for the worse, Edmond grasped the handle and flung the door open. The carnage that lay in front of him was by far the most disturbing thing he had ever witnessed. In the center of the small storage room, Margaret lay face down on the hardwood floor in a pool of crimson blood, a large butcher's knife protruding from her back. The stench of death hung in the air, and Edmond couldn't stop himself. His stomach churned and, leaning over, he heaved and finally vomited to the side. Straightening back up, he wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his nightgown. Battling the instinct inside him to warned him to run and get help, he walked forward and knelt beside Margeret's dead body. Tugging the bloodstained butcher's knife from Margeret, he rolled her body over and gasped. Her throat had been slit, and multiple stab wounds covered her small, frail body. Her eyes were still open, staring lifelessly up at the ceiling. A feeling of intense anger rushed over Edmond. He rose to his feet, the knife held aloft in his right hand, and called out into the darkness.
"Who did this!" he hollered. "Show yourself!"
At that, a brute of a man emerged from the shadows. The surge of courage he had gotten just moments ago vanished, replaced with a feeling of unadulterated terror. This was no ordinary man. At least seven feet tall, he stood with a slight hunch to his back. His body rippled with muscle and his skin had a sickeningly pale complexion. His white cotton shirt barely fit his thick torso, and it was torn and spattered with Margeret's blood. An evil grin stretched across his face, revealing a mouthful of yellow teeth.
"Such courage for such a small lad." The large man said in a deep voice.
He started advancing toward Edmond, who stumbled backward, fumbling with the knife. This elicited a chuckle from the man. Edmond, knowing he had to do something, regained his wits and lunged at the man with the knife, who sidestepped the attempt. He swiped at Edmond with one of his thick arms, and the blow caught Edmond directly in the ribs, sending him soaring through the air and colliding with the wall behind him. Edmond crumpled to the floor clenching his side, which ached with excruciating pain. He rolled on the floor in agony as the man approached him. Stooping down and wrapping one of his monstrous hands around Edmond's neck, the man hoisted Edmond into the air and pinned him against the wall, swatting the knife away with his free hand.
"You foolish little boy!" The man growled in Edmond's face.
His breath stunk of raw meat, making Edmond feel nauseous again. As he glared at Edmond, his dark eyes shone with a look of sadistic joy. Edmond's face started to darken with a lack of oxygen as he struggled to breath, and he flung his arms out desperately. Miraculously, one of his fists struck the brute in the side of the face. Caught off guard, the man dropped Edmond, who seized the moment of confusion to his advantage. Grabbing the butcher's knife from the ground, he thrust it upward, driving it deep into the brute's chest. The man stumbled back in shock, holding the bleeding wound in his chest, then fell to the ground beside where Margeret's body lay. As Edmond stood watching the man die, the man started to change, his brutish form shrinking into that of an average, middle-aged man. This new man met Edmond's gaze.
"I'm so sorry." he stuttered with his final breath, before going completely still as death overtook him.
Edmond stood wide-eyed for a moment before sinking to the ground, his back up against the wall. He buried his face in his hands and sobbed. He wished that all of this could just be a nightmare, but somehow he knew it was all real. It took him a while to regain his dignity, but when he finally did he stood and surveyed the room. His gaze first crossed over the body of the man, who looked oddly familiar, then the body of poor Margeret, and lastly to the far right of the room, where something caught his eye. He got closer and knelt to examine the object. It was small glass vial, the kind scientists or doctors would use. The cork was missing, and though the contents were gone as well, a small amount of an unidentifiable purple liquid remained at the bottom. Edmond tried to make sense of it all, but his tired mind couldn't process it. Rising to his feet, he limped to the door, and glancing over his shoulder one last time around the room, he started off back down the hall. After a long and painful walk, during which he concluded that he had surely broken at least two of his ribs, he arrived at his room, the door still ajar. He eased back in as silently as he could, shutting the door quietly behind him, and sank into his bed, drifting off into a restless sleep.
Edmond awoke once again, only this time to an assortment of curious faces. He reluctantly sat up and eyed them suspiciously. He was still exhausted from the exertions of the previous night, and his entire body ached.
"There's something we need to tell you, Edmond." Lucille, the older of his two sisters, whispered. Her voice was faint and her eyes were red and swollen from crying.
"What is it?" Edmond did his best to betray no hint that he was already aware of the horrid events that had taken place.
"It's Margeret. She's..." But Lucille was unable to finish the sentence as the tears returned and poured down her face.
"She's dead. Murdered." Jonathan, who was only a year younger than Edmond, somberly finished.
All the emotions of the previous night resurfaced and Edmond did his best to keep his composure. Reading the faces of his family members, Edmond could tell that the Margeret's death had brought back the painful feelings and memories regarding the death their parents and siblings, so he forced himself to remain strong on their behalf.
"Tell him the rest." Emily, the youngest of the family, insisted quietly.
"Her husband's body was discovered along with her." Jonathan continued. "No one remembers him arriving last night, but he must have been visiting Margeret when they were both murdered."
Edmond's surprise was genuine this time. The man had looked familiar, at least after he had reverted back to a normal appearance, but it had never occurred to Edmond that the hideous beast who had murdered Margeret had been her own husband. He had met her husband on a few occasions, and he had seemed quite the gentleman, and the way he and Margeret looked at each other, anyone could tell they were deeply in love. In addition, Edmond still couldn't comprehend how someone could be an average man one moment, and then a monstrous being the next. His mind kept conjuring up the image of the near empty vial, and he knew that it had something to do with this bizarre occurrence. As Edmond pondered how anything like this could be possible, there was a light knock on the door to their room. After a small pause, the owner of the orphanage, Mr. Hattingen, eased the door open.
"Edmond?" he gently asked. "May I speak with you in my office?"
"Yes, sir." Edmond replied. "I just need to get myself dressed first."
Edmond averted his gaze. He knew he couldn't confide in Mr. Hattingen the events of the previous night, Mr. Hattingen would try to get him psychiatric aid, but he felt terrible having to lie to such a nice man.
"Very well. I will be waiting right outside the door when you are ready." Mr. Hattingen excused himself.
Gingerly rising from his bed, the floorboards creaking as he did so, he hobbled over to his wardrobe, and changed out of his dirty nightgown into attire more adequate for his visit with Mr. Hattingen. Once fully prepared, Edmond headed for the door, giving a short farewell to his siblings, and joining Mr. Hattingen in the hallway.
"Right this way." Mr. Hattingen stated, then started off down the vast hallway.
Edmond followed closely behind, trying to conceal his limp as to not raise any unwanted questions. After walking a short distance down the hall, Mr. Hattingen lead him down a winding staircase and into a door on the left, leading into his office. Mr. Hattingen made his way to his large desk located near the far back wall and seated himself in the plush, leather armchair behind it. He beckoned Edmond toward one of the smaller armchair in front of the desk, and Edmond sat down in the one on the right.
Clearing his throat, Mr. Hattingen started."So, Edmond, I wanted to check in with you, see how you are feeling. I know how close you and Margeret were."
It was true. Edmond thought back to when he had first met Margeret, a few months after the death of his parents and brothers. He had been desperately searching for a place for him as well as his siblings to stay after their parents had died, but all his efforts had failed, so in a final attempt at seeking shelter he had shown up on the orphanage's doorstep with his family. When Margeret had answered the door, he had informed her of the tragedy and inquired if his family could stay there. Margeret had known that the orphanage had been currently full, but out of sheer kindness and generosity had willingly gave up her own room so they could have a place to stay, instead living in what had also been her storage room, which, coincidentally, was where the strange and morbid events of the previous night had taken place. Remembering this took its toll on Edmond, and before he knew it the tears he had been trying to restrain arrived, and he sat there sobbing. Mr. Hattingen rose and walked over to Edmond, placing a comforting hand on his quaking shoulder. He just stood there patiently, letting Edmond get it all out. When the tears finally ceased, Edmond sat there, his breathing still coming in quick, shallow gasps. The fact that Mr. Hattingen was genuinely concerned and cared made Edmond feel even worse having to withhold the truth from him. Mr. Hattingen gave him a final, gentle pat before returning to his chair.
"Well Edmond, you can return to your room." Mr. Hattingen stated softly. "I just wanted to convey my utmost apologies. It's truly tragic Mrs. Jekyll had to die in such a terrible way; she was a valuable asset to this orphanage and will be missed. And her husband also, Mr. Hyde. He was quite a brilliant scientist."