The rain was strange that night. It came infrequently, in short tapping sounds upon the bedroom window. Despite the rain’s strange quietness, it woke Emma.
She stared at the darkened ceiling of her room, feeling her stomach rise and fall with her slow, even breathing. She sighed. Drowsily, Emma pushed herself to sit upon the edge of her bed. Her bare feet touched the cold floor as she stood and hiked up her nightgown ever so slightly with slow fingers. Each step towards her bedroom’s window was passive and delicate in an attempt to stop the floorboards from creaking, which she achieved with some success. With her other hand, she reached to open the window. The whistle of the wind and the hum of a dreaming London always helped her sleep. Moonlight made her thin fingers turn white as she reached for the window’s latch when she paused. There was no rain.
Then a small rock bounced against her window.
Having been knocked out of her tired stupor, Emma rushes to the window and threw it open. She looked down. Standing just a few feet below, rearing back to throw another pebble, was her fiancé, and love of her life, Henry Jekyll.
“Henry!” She called, trying not to laugh. “What on earth are you doing down there?”
He jumped, clearly not expecting her to appear at that particular moment.
“I needed to speak with you!” He called back up.
Emma leaned on her windowsill, her head tilted in amusement. She felt like Juliet.
“Why didn’t you just come in?”
“I needed to speak with you privately.” Henry amended his last statement. “Just…get dressed and come down.”
A sigh escaped her lips. Not of frustration or distress, one of longing. The type of sigh you can only give when the one you care about above all does something incredibly ridiculous. The kind of sigh that can only lead to the utterance of one phrase.
“I love you.”
Emma only caught a glimpse of Henry’s face lighting up in pink and red before she pulled back inside. She dressed as quickly as she could manage, throwing on a pale blouse and simple blue skirt that swept across her feet. She barely put her hair up and rather scandalously, in her mind, didn’t bother with a corset. Besides, she was just meeting Henry. She was getting married to the man in six weeks. Only after a few minutes later, she appeared outside.
When Henry saw Emma, like a beautiful apparition in the moonlight, he rushed to her and caught her in an embrace. She ran a hand across his cheek, coaxing his lips to hers. His kiss felt like the first breath of autumn. Henry pulled away, unable to pull his mouth out of a smile.
“Emma,” He said. “I need your help with my experiment.”
She giggled, slightly perplexed.
“What do you mean?” She asked. “Your proposal was rejected, you don’t have a subject.”
“I know that.” Henry took a few steps from her. “But, I do have a subject.”
Emma placed her hands together. Her stomach knotted with dread.
“Henry, you’re frightening me. What do you mean you have a subject.”
“I’m going to use myself, Emma.” He looked back at her.
That’s what she was afraid he was going to say. She padded forward, clinging onto his arm.
“You can’t be serious…” She said. She rested her head on his shoulder in a fruitless pleading gesture.
“What else am I to do?” Henry pressed his hand over hers reassuringly. He kissed her gently on the cheek. “But I can’t do it myself, I need a witness. I need you.”
It took her a long time to speak again. Emma clung to Henry’s arm, letting the cold wind of the night pass over her skin. She held his arm a little tighter and took in a sharp breath like she was ready to plunge off a cliff into a raging ocean.
“I’ll do it, Henry,” Emma said. “But why come all this way to get me? Why not just get John or Poole to do it?”
Henry turned to look at her, gently taking her hands in his.
“Emma, I’m going to be spending the rest of my life with you.” He said. “If I am to become altered in some way by this, I need you to be there.”
“Oh, my darling, I doubt you’ll change that much. You’re already perfect in my eyes.”
The laboratory was never a place Emma was fond of. She would never tell Henry, of course. It was frigid and not particularly well lit and the surgical tools, strange apparatuses and now-empty animal cages that decorated the relatively small room gave her the creeps. Her least favorite aspect of the room, however, was how much time Henry spent toiling away inside. It wasn’t healthy, spending hours, sometimes entire days at a time locked within its confines. Emma supported Henry’s work, no matter what anyone said about it, it was the extreme lengths he went to complete it which worried her.
Emma watched, holding Henry’s journal and a pen at the ready, as he mixed his formula. The process involved several different liquids and powders, none of which Emma knew the name of, much less how to pronounce, all to produce five centiliters of blood-red fluid. Henry raised the hypodermic syringe the formula resided in aloft. He looked back at Emma.
“It’s a thing of beauty, isn’t it?” He asked.
“It’s a bit strange to me.” She said.
“No matter,” He said as he rolled up his left sleeve. There was something frantic in his voice. “This is the moment.”
Despite his visibly shaking fingers, in one swift movement, Henry plunged the straight iron of the syringe’s needle into the vein right in between the end of his forearm and the beginning of his bicep.
He injected the formula.
A pause. The air felt so cold that it burned. A single point of black ink bled into the white paper as Emma held the pen to its surface in anticipation.
“So,” She began. “How do you feel.”
Henry stood still. Very still. More still than Emma had ever seen him in fact. His eyes searched the room as his mind searched for the right words.
“Warm. Very warm.” He finally said. “Like there’s this heat spreading through my veins.”
Emma quickly wrote his statement down. Just as she finished, Henry stumbled back, catching himself on the table.
“No, no, I’m fine.” He waved his hand, smiling a very strange smile. “Just a bit lightheaded.”
Emma watched with bemusement as Henry began to laugh. He placed his head his hand, his whole body shaking ever so slightly from this sudden onslaught of glee.
“A slight feeling of euphoria.” He could barely speak the words.
Delirious laughter echoed through the laboratory. Emma quickly stepped over to the table, putting the journal and pen aside, and grabbing her fiancé by the shoulders.
“Henry? Are you alright?”
As slowly as he lifted his head, his laughter died down. Yet Henry could not remove the grin from his face.
“No noticeable behavioral differences.” He barely managed to keep the laughter down once more.
Emma smiled and sighed, removing her hands from his shoulders and retrieving the journal again. She quickly wrote down the few coherent things he had mentioned.
“Now, the die is cast.” She said, flicking out one last letter.
“I suppose it is,” Henry said, placing his hands on his waist. “We just have to wait. But I’m right.”
Emma covered her hand with her mouth and smiled. She’d got him on one of his little monologues.
“I know I am.” He continued. “But only time can prove my theory now. Prove it to all those fools who didn’t believe me.”
His breathing was ragged.
“I’ll prove it to them. I’ll show them.” He thrust his hand forward as if gesturing to some unseen audience. His smile was full of pride. “I’ll show the world I—“
Henry’s hand dropped. His whole body seemed to go limp from some shock. He stumbled again, and again caught himself against the table. But worst of all, the pride was gone, he looked terrified.
“Henry?” Emma asked, somewhere between horror and good spirits. She felt her own feet stumbling backward. “Is something wrong?”
“Oh, God... What’s this?” He barely choked out. A question to the air. His chest rose and fell at an alarming speed with each hyperventilated breath.
Emma was shaking. She clutched the journal so tightly her knuckles turned white and her nails dug into the black leather of the cover.
“Emma,” He barely stammered. “Some-Something is happening, I can’t explain it!”
Henry’s head suddenly whipped downward. He clutched his face in his hand and desperately gripped to the table with the other. Before his face disappeared, Emma could’ve sworn there was a change in it. Some horrible, near undetectable change.
She couldn’t speak. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t look away.
“There’s something inside me!” He cried out. His voice was strangled. Each word was pushed from his throat with painful effort, and each word was louder and more frantic than the last.
“Emma, it’s driving me insane—“
Henry could barely finish that last word before his voice twisted from barely coherent words to loudest, most agonized scream Emma had ever heard. Both Henry and the journal clattered to the floor. He writhed, his whole body contorting in agony with each cry of anguish. Henry’s voice itself was contorted as well. It began to rasp, seeming to drop deeper as he cried out. Emma wanted to help him. More than anything she wanted to cover her ears and scream, loud enough to drown him out. But she couldn’t. She was paralyzed. Suddenly, Emma felt her eyes playing tricks on her.
Was Henry’s body changing?
She couldn’t bear it. She couldn’t bear to look at that horrible prodigy. Tears came bursting forth from Emma’s eyes as she shielded them with her shaking arms. Her mind was completely submerged in terror.
And then it all stopped.
No more crying out, no more desperate gasps, just silence. Silence and this ever so quiet ragged, rasping breathing.
Slowly, Emma lowered her arms, only to see Henry, no, someone like Henry, standing with his back turned to her. His back was near bent, hunched over the table, as the stared into the mirror just on the opposite side. Emma gasped, tripping backward. He suddenly straightened his posture. He heard her.
With a slow, sweeping movement, his claw-like hand pointed to the journal and pen on the floor. He flicked his wrist upward, wordlessly indicating for her to pick it up. She did, frantically flipping through the pages. The pen rattled in her hand.
“Midnight…” He said. His voice was too low, too deep, too gruff to be Henry’s. He rolled back shoulders. His shoulders were broader than Henry’s, too. “And all’s well.” He added a sing-song tone to his voice.
This creature that stood before Emma ran his hands through his undone hair, laughing breathlessly. Calmly, he turned to face Emma, leering and looming over her like some abominable shadow. And finally, when she saw his face, another dagger of fear was driven through her heart.
His face was some gruesome parody of her beloved’s features. Limp strands of hair cast a shadow across his sunken cheekbones, pale lips and dark, merciless eyes. He looked down at his hands, stretching his fingers and savoring the sensation before finally, to her dismay, casting his gaze upon Emma again. His eyes searched for words again, a leering smile pulled his lips.
And once more, laughter echoed throughout the room.
After the experiment goes awry, Emma tries to wrap her head around who or what her fiancé has become.
bro it's been like two months. anyways whoever spots the monster high reference first gets a kiss on the forehead.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Isn’t this incredible?”
An unusual question. One of several that was running through Emma’s mind at that moment. Most of them were frantic and had about a million different answers or possible outcomes. None of the outcomes she could conjure seemed any better than the current situation. The most prominent, however, should have had a simple and clear answer. But it didn’t.
Who was the man standing before her?
The man before her, who held her just below the shoulders and pulled her close, waiting for a reply, had been Henry Jekyll a moment ago. But before her very eyes, he had suddenly just transformed into what could only be described as a monster of a man. Thankfully, he seemed only slightly less threatening than before. The way he smiled was excitable, a little frantic, like how Henry’s was sometimes. His eyes were frantic too, but not the sweet way Henry’s were. They had been so cold before. And still, the way he held her, Emma felt like he could crush her in an instant if he so pleased.
Finally, she was able to produce a sound.
“That’s...” Her voice shook. “That’s one way to put it.”
Suddenly, he did the one thing that Emma had been expecting, or rather, dreading. He kissed her, before rather selfishly dropping her so he could continue examining himself in the mirror. She stumbled, but regained her footing, placing a hand over her mouth. It wasn’t the same kiss. It couldn’t be. Could it?
“Henry, I think you should be taking this a little more seriously.” She said. “I mean, look at yourself!”
It felt wrong to call him that, but “Henry” turned from the mirror, looking slightly offended.
“You don’t understand.” He sneered. His expression softened, but it was still serious and cold.
“Emma, I’ve never felt like this before. I’ve never felt this...alive.” He smiled. There was the fear again. “With this wonderful desire to destroy and maim and to engage terrible pleasure I so choose.”
"Please.” Emma reached out to him with a shaking hand. “Whatever this is, it isn’t you Henry, you have to—”
“Don’t call me that!” He shouted; his face twisted into a terrible snarl. Emma snapped her hand back in an instant. Henry would’ve never shouted at her.
“I won’t.” She clenched her jaw, anger beginning to quash her fear. “Because you’re not him.”
“Then why do you keep acting like I am?” He said. His voice became fatally soft.
They stood incredibly still for a long time. Emma studied his face, trying to see if there was anything left of Henry in him. There must be. There had to be. And then there was the terrifying prospect that Henry was gone forever, lost to whatever monster he had made himself. What was she to tell John or her father? That Henry has mysteriously disappeared only six weeks before their wedding? Or the truth?
Eventually, Not-Henry, as Emma had begun to call him in her mind, huffed, blowing an errant strand of hair from his face. He slinked away from her and over to the coat rack by the laboratory’s door.
“Where do you think you’re going?” She asked.
“Out.” He snapped as he yanked a dark cloak off the rack.
“Well, not without me then.” Emma placed her hands on her hips.
He looked her up and down. “In that?” He scoffed, smirking as he pulled the cloak on. “You’ll freeze.”
“No, I won’t.” She stepped right up to him, still angry enough to forget being afraid of him. “You won’t let me.”
“And how do you know that?” Not-Henry raised an eyebrow as he popped the cloak’s collar upward.
“Because you were my fiancé once.” She said simply. “And I know he’s still in there.”
Not-Henry rolled his eyes and grunted in something like disgust. He opened the door, still looking very unamused.
“After you,” He sighed before swiveling his head back to her. “Darling.”
While Emma would never admit it, it was freezing outside. At least she could prepare herself, it was past midnight during the beginning of autumn in London, but it didn’t help her nerves. Neither did the fact that Not-Henry had become very decidedly quiet, and that they had been wandering for more than half an hour even though he had a look in his eyes that he knew where he was going. Emma wasn’t really in the mood for light conversation either, she was still processing. She wasn’t exactly sure where they were either. They were somewhere in Camden, she thought, and maybe in the sunlight, it might have looked kinder and cozier, but in the darkness, it was not a place she, or Henry for that matter, would have wanted to be caught dead in. Tonight seemed the first night for a lot of things. Finally, she gave a sharp breath.
“If I can’t call you Henry,” She said. He bristled at her sudden comment and snarled. “What shall I call you, then?”
Not-Henry paused for a moment, staring transfixed at nothing in particular. It was obvious he hadn’t given it much thought. She could have sworn his eyes almost glowed in the dark. He huffed, like a dragon producing smoke, and continued forward.
“How about something like, um, Hugo?” She asked, continuing behind him. “Or Harlan. Holt’s a lovely name as well, and—”
“If you suggest one more “H” name, I’m leaving you out here.” He said without looking back.
“You have to choose something.” She scoffed. “How about William? Or Thomas, or Edward—”
He stopped again, turning back to look at her over his shoulder. Still, his smile left her with a sinister chill, but one she was beginning to become accustomed to.
“I actually like the sound of that.” He said. “Edward... Edward Hyde.”
Emma raised her eyebrows, smiling slyly. “Are you just saying that because we passed Hyde Park on the way here?”
His smile dropped into a scowl again. He turned away.
“Hyde is an “H” name, you know.” She snickered.
“Shut up.” He said. Despite the fact his back was turned, she could from his voice that he was a little amused.
“Well, it’s nice to formally meet you, Edward.”
For the third time, the newly named Edward Hyde stopped in his tracks. His shoulders lowered. Emma didn’t realize how tense he actually was until now. He turned to face her. His eyes were soft and wide and most definitely glowing in the moonlight. Finally, some relief washed over Emma, because for the first time, something in his eyes truly reminded her of Henry, but she would never say that. She didn’t want to upset him again, especially when they seemed to finally be getting along. Edward opened his mouth to speak, then shut it again.
“We’re almost there.”
It was also a relief to know that Hyde really did know where he was going. They had only to pass one more block until they reached their destination. The building was, like the others on the street, indistinct the darkness, and Emma could only just make out the words on its sign.
The Red Rat.
As they stood before the entrance, Hyde held out his arm in clearly a very joking manner for Emma to hold, but he still seemed disappointed when she politely refused. She entered after him, and the moment she set foot inside she realized this was truly a place she, nor Henry, would ever want to be caught dead or alive in. She was even more appalled by the terrible excitement in Hyde’s eyes and was once again hit over the head with the realization that this man was not her fiancé, for she knew in an instant what this place was.
It was a brothel.
there's also. kind of a downton abbey reference in there. god what's wrong with me.