Denis Meikle

Born: 1947 | Birthplace: Glasgow | Educated: Alleyn's School | Spouse: Jane | Children: Sarah, James | Resident: East Sussex

THE OTHER MR HYDE was just a piece of whimsy, written to amuse myself.


DOCTOR Jessop did not look up for a time when the next patient entered the room. He was deep in thought, still studying his copious case-notes on the last, and he had not heard the closing of the door. But within a minute, something had told him that he was no longer alone, and he casually raised his eyes to peer over the rim of his glasses. When he observed the man standing silently beside the closed door, he smiled in automatic reflex.

‘I do apologise, Mister.. I’m afraid I didn’t hear the door.’

Jessop paused for a beat, but as there was no response, he repeated the oblique request. ‘Mister-?’

The man took a small step forward. ‘Hyde,’ he said robustly. ‘-Mister Hyde.’

Jessop’s smile broadened. ‘Ah! Not the Mister Hyde I imagine?’

This time, the man remained stationary. ‘And which Mister Hyde.. would that be?’ he asked nervously.

Jessop closed the file on his lap and cast it onto the desk-top. ‘The Mister Hyde of Stevenson’s story, of course. The Hyde of Jekyll and Hyde. The alter-ego.’ He stood abruptly, and ushered the man to approach, indicating him to be seated on any one of the several leather chairs that faced the desk.

Hyde did as he was bid and took up a seat directly opposite Jessop’s. ‘I wouldn’t know,’ he said eventually. ‘My name is Edward.’

Jessop seated himself again and continued to press the joke - he still felt that it might be an ice-breaker. ‘There you are, you see? So was his. Edward Hyde..’ He allowed himself a small guffaw.

‘Whose?’ asked Hyde.

Jessop’s smile tensed a fraction. He blinked. ‘The Hyde of the story,’ he repeated.

‘What story?’

There was a momentary silence - a freeze-frame in the interaction between the two, then Jessop tapped his fingers impatiently on the desk, as if to snap the man out of his apparent reverie. ‘No matter,’ he said, continuing to smile. ‘You’re not much of a reader, I take it?’ He pulled his morning’s schedule in front of him. ‘Now, Mister Hyde-’

‘-I’m sorry if you find me obtuse. I don’t mean to be. I’m having trouble with my memory..’

It was Hyde’s turn to smile, just a small twist of the lips - but it was enough. Jessop nodded his head at what he took to be an apology for a dull mind. ‘An unusual name, that’s all..’ he mediated in finality.

‘Yes,’ Hyde concurred. ‘The one I was given.’

‘Indeed.’ Jessop glanced at the clock on the desk, to see how much of his patient’s hour had already been eaten up by the introduction alone. To his surprise, it had counted off only a minute into this appointment. He quickly switched his gaze back to Hyde and commenced to inaugurate the newcomer into the rituals of his particular brand of psychotherapy.

‘The first session with a new patient is the ‘getting to know you’ phase - his or her background, relationships, attitudes, anxieties..’ As Jessop was speaking, he was sizing up the figure opposite him. Hyde was well-built, imposing, and distinctively dressed in dark jacket and tie, his overall appearance given a blush of colour by the ruddiness of his complexion, which in its turn, gave him the air of a man who took his pleasures seriously. And often by the look of it, Jessop thought. For some inexplicable reason, Jessop felt cowed by his presence, but he quickly put this down to the fact that Hyde was so much larger than he in terms of his general build. ‘Forgive me - but this is your first time?’ Jessop was suddenly moved to enquire.

‘I think so,’ said Hyde.

‘You did.. have an appointment-?’ Jessop surprised himself by his evident vagueness on the matter.

‘I must have. I’m here, am I not?’

Jessop nodded, faintly embarrassed, and continued. ‘Well, let’s begin at the beginning then. Tell me a bit about yourself..’

Hyde hesitated for a moment, then spoke. ‘It began when I realised that I was evil,’ he said.

Such blunt self-diagnosis was not really what Jessop had intended, but he decided to let it pass. ‘Evil? - In what way?’

‘In every way, apparently. I’d always enjoyed life to the full - I smoked; I drank; I drove my car. (Sometimes, I even did them both at once..) I had sexual intercourse au naturel. I had fun.’

Jessop pouted in sympathy. ‘Small sins.. A certain irresponsibility perhaps - but evil?’

‘The point is that I felt no guilt. I did whatever I did for pleasure’s sake alone.’

‘Well, a mild sociopathic tendency then.’

‘There was more to it. Films steeped in gratuitous violence and foul language caused me no offence. People who signed over their life-savings in answer to adverts promising immortality, the cure for all known ills or a time-share villa in Puerto Banus caused me no sorrow. I laughed, in fact. People who died of self-inflicted injury or avoidable disease caused me no grief. ‘Told you so’ was my eulogy. I raged against the wishy-washy, the arty-farty, the airy-bloody-fairy.. I failed to see the virtue of a balanced argument. The very idea of charity left me cold. If a crime was committed, I felt no compassion for the victim. If a notable figure fell from grace, I felt no compunction to salute his passing with "There, but for the grace of God.."’

‘That’s quite a catalogue of hate. But rage is often impotent, and evil is a concept we no longer recognise. Were you abused as a child?’ Jessop asked.

‘Yes. I was made to watch Play Away.’

‘-And the impotence?’

‘I could still get it up, if that’s what you mean. What about you-?’

Jessop stiffened. ‘I’m trying to help you, Edward. Its not a matter of machismo.’

‘Isn’t it, though?’

Jessop’s eyes narrowed. He could sense in Hyde the desire for a contest of wills; whatever was ailing him, he did not seem to want to be cured of it. ‘You seem to have a problem with the idea of conformity,’ he suggested. ‘And by your own admission, you lack a moral conscience - I take it you are not a religious man?’

‘For me, religion was a refuge for the patronising and the powerless. I was devout only in the fact that I could see no reason to take anything on faith alone. We all have our crosses to bear..’

‘Then you were not God-fearing either?’

‘Whose God?’

‘Mm.. Classic symptoms. You bear all the hallmarks of the outsider. The man apart. You are hostile, defensive.. But that doesn’t mean that you are evil.’

‘That’s what I thought,’ Hyde concurred. ‘But then there were the voices..’

‘Ah-!’ said Jessop. He picked up his pen.

‘And the voices spoke to me,’ Hyde continued.

Jessop pulled a sheet of paper in front of him and began to write.

‘Everywhere I went. Everywhere I looked. Voices..’ said Hyde. ‘Nagging me; berating me. Telling me what to think, what to eat, what to drink, how to dress, how to behave, who to love, who to hate, and who to feel sorry for. Telling me what I was - and what I should be..’

‘And the ‘voices’ said you were evil,’ Jessop offered in confirmation.

Hyde nodded. ‘Not in so many words - but they made me think I was.. At first, they said I was thoughtless, inconsiderate, anti-social. But when I still refused to change my ways, the accusations increased: I was called chauvinist, racist, sexist, reactionary, bigot.. Finally, they charged me with the ultimate sin - they said I was a murderer. And a mass-murderer at that.’

‘Whom did they accuse you of murdering?’


Jessop was scribbling furiously. ‘-And that’s when you realised that you were evil?’

‘Yes. Evil can be the only explanation for the way I had behaved towards my fellow man.’

‘Explain,’ Jessop urged, without bothering to lift his head from his note-taking.

‘I’d killed so many, and without even knowing it - destroyed their lungs through passive smoking, deprived them of the essentials of life by carefree use of precious natural resources, stolen the air they breathed by wanton purchase of items that were not made from recyclable materials, polluted land and sea with the waste matter from my body.. In the end, I submitted to their point-of-view - it was the only way.’

Jessop stared at Hyde over the rim of his glasses. ‘I see your point now.. These were unconscionable acts. But you are not a lost cause, Edward. Self-knowledge is the first step on the road to enlightenment.’

‘But convincing me of the error of my ways was not enough for them. They wanted more..’ Hyde leaned close; he seemed to Jessop to be examining him in some detail. ‘Doctor - have we met before?’

Jessop was bemused. ‘How could we have met before? We established that this was your first appointment.’

Hyde shook his head. ‘Something.. familiar, that’s all. I get so confused.’

‘Understandable. You’re under stress-’

Jessop dropped his gaze to the file. He folded his arms and took a deep breath before returning his attention to his patient to continue with the interview. But no words came. Jessop stared at Hyde for a long moment: the man’s clothes now appeared to be greyish in colour, whereas he had gained the distinct impression that they were black. He rubbed his eyes. ‘Another.. development, you said.’

Hyde sat back in his chair. ‘I thought if I agreed with them, then they would go away and leave me alone.. The voices,’ he reminded.

‘Yes,’ Jessop affirmed, but he remained distracted by the illusion that something had altered; an illusion that had apparently been inspired - so he imagined - by the fact that only a desk-top lamp illuminated the otherwise dark room.

‘-It was not to be,’ Hyde said.

‘How so?’ Jessop encouraged.

Hyde was becoming agitated. ‘I began to experience a change. Small things at first. Where I saw stupidity, I felt empathy.. Where I saw criminality, I felt tolerance.. Where once I had condemned, I began to commiserate.. A new philosophy overtook me - there were no villains, I came to appreciate - only victims. And then it happened. I became aware that I was-’

Jessop waited. ‘You were - what?’ he asked.


‘Changing? - You mean, your personality?’

‘I mean my-’ Hyde started to tremble. ‘Sometimes I don’t remember things. Where I came from, who I am. That’s part of it, you see. The voices crowd out my own thoughts.’

‘And these voices.. are real to you?’ Jessop began to scribble again.

‘Very real,’ said Hyde. ‘As real as you..’

‘But as real as you?’ asked Jessop.

‘More real than me..’ Hyde’s eyes filled with sadness. ‘Lately, the clamour has become irresistable. And I’ve had this overwhelming compulsion-’


‘-To do good works..’

Jessop’s mouth opened, but the conversation halted in its tracks. He took stock. ‘What’s wrong with that?’ he queried, his faculties re-grouping.

‘Wrong with it? - It’s not me!’

Jessop had now begun to feel uneasy. His patient’s trauma seemed genuine enough - in the minutes that they had been talking, all the colour seemed to have drained from out of Hyde’s face, and he was currently possessed of a more sickly palor that made him appear.. lifeless, somehow. But still, something was not quite right. ‘And how does this compulsion express itself?’

‘I keep wanting to show concern. To sympathise. To desist from apportioning blame.. It’s as if I’m ceasing to be an individual in my own right - as if I’m ceasing to exist almost. Doctor, what’s happening to me?’

Jessop leaned back, and clasped his hands in front of him. His smile was reassuring. ‘It’s simple, Edward. You are suffering from paranoid delusions.. You are experiencing a crisis of identity. You feel manipulated.. You have temporarily lost your sense of right and wrong - good is evil; evil is good. You are no longer in control - you are no longer your own man.’

‘That’s just it,’ said Hyde, his tone more urgent. ‘I’ve begun to think that I’m actually becoming someone else.. Literally.’

‘Someone else? - Who, for instance?’

‘It’s too outrageous. You won’t believe it.’

‘Try me.’

‘You won’t laugh?’

‘Of course I won’t laugh.’

Hyde lowered his gaze to study his hands. ‘I think I’m turning into.. a doctor.’

Jessop spluttered. He checked the impulse to laugh just in time - Hyde’s eyes had darted back to meet his own, to catch any hint of jocularity in his expression. ‘I see,’ he said. ‘And you insist you are not aware of the singular coincidence of such a delusion?’


Jessop looked at his notes; he sensed a conspiracy in all of this. A practical joke, perpetrated by one of his colleagues to question his assumptions. ‘The notion that a.. Mister Hyde should think he is turning into a doctor,’ he answered wearily.


‘Why a doctor?’

‘Because they know what’s best for the rest of us; because they represent self-denial.’

‘And you wish to deny the self?’

‘I’m left with no choice..’

Jessop shuffled his notes together and placed them in one of the cardboard files that were lying on top of the desk. He recapped his pen. ‘We all have choice, Edward: choice is the expression of free will-’

‘But they deny choice!’ Hyde persisted. ‘They deny free will!’ He had begun to shiver; he wrapped his arms around himself and rocked from side to side. ‘I am tormented by a great terror.. I fear that soon - very soon - I will awaken from sleep, and there - in the mirror - will be a face that I no longer recognise as my own. It will be the face of a non-smoking, non-drinking, safe-driving, "safe-sex"-practising, home-owning, share-owning, self-helping, environmentally-aware vegan bisexual who is pro-life, pro-active, professional, votes liberal, runs a diesel, uses only products that are not tested on animals, drones on about what’s good and bad for us, advocates the work ethic, adheres to a code of conduct in all things, ‘respects’ his body, and spends his days in profitable labour and his nights in charitable pursuits. In short - it will be the face of a doctor.’

Jessop raised his eyes from the desk and looked at Hyde. But his thought process was temporarily interrupted by the strangest sensation that the man before him seemed to have shrunk in stature; he could now see past the top of Hyde’s head and over towards the framed diploma that hung on the opposite wall, and which hitherto had been obscured from view by the face of his patient. He assumed that Hyde must just have slipped into a more relaxing position without realising it. But if so, then he must also have moved himself backwards away from the desk - it was another illusion caused by the dim light, he concluded, and regained the argument. ‘You must give in, Edward. You must be more flexible in your opinions. Accept defeat. Learn the art of compromise. Be alert to alternative possibilities..’

‘But is there not universal truth?’

‘Ah - what is truth? Truth is merely what you - or any of us - believe it to be. Truth is a liar, employed by the unprincipled to persuade the unthinking to their cause. We should be wary of truth.’

‘Are you reading from a prepared text?’

‘Why do you ask that?’

‘You seem incapable of a straight answer.’

Jessop kept a straight face. ‘What is straight for one.. is often tangential for another,’ he said.

‘That’s gobbledegook,’ said Hyde.

‘Just a simple statement of fact,’ Jessop assured. ‘If we’ve learned anything at all, it is that there are no easy answers.’

‘Neither simple nor factual,’ countered Hyde. ‘The pinnacle of wisdom is ignorance, according to you.’

‘We must be mindful of the limits of our knowledge is all I’m saying.’

‘Don’t overreach ourselves, you mean,’ said Hyde.

Jessop started to tidy his desk again. ‘We mustn’t judge too quickly or too harshly. Everything is capable of explanation - of justification. There are often many sides to every argument; nothing is ever as it seems at first sight. You are not evil, Edward..’

‘What then? - Virtuously-challenged?’ asked Hyde.

‘I prefer socially maladjusted,’ said Jessop. ‘Nor are you turning into someone else. Or ceasing to exist. You are merely ‘coming to terms’ - adjusting - revising your preconceptions.. Corrective therapy will soon sort you out.’

‘You’re sure that’s all that’s needed.’

‘Of course.’

‘Bring me round to your way of thinking.’

‘In a manner of speaking.’

‘Nothing that semantics can’t put right.’

‘All a question of interpretation.’

‘..But if there is no truth, no concensus - if all that I believe is just a matter of perception, then how do you know which one of us is the doctor and which the patient?’

Jessop smiled indulgently. ‘I know because you are in that chair, and I am in this.’

‘I could say the same thing,’ said Hyde.

‘And you’d be wrong.’

‘Because you say so?’

‘Because I know so.’

‘That’s because you’re a doctor - an authority in your field - an "expert", if you prefer. (I do, at any rate.) You diagnose the sickness; you prescribe the cure,’ Hyde said, obviously unimpressed. ‘But for all you know, I might have turned into a doctor already. I might be the one who is interviewing you..’

Jessop was becoming irritated. ‘It should be clear to you that you can’t turn into a doctor overnight.’

‘You can in psychotherapy.’

‘I detect a note of cynicism.’

‘I’m sorry - I regressed for a moment,’ Hyde said. ‘Cynicism is unhealthy. Cynicism undermines..’

Jessop decided on a change of tack. To keep up the pretence; to amuse whoever was the puppet-master in the charade. ‘These voices - who do they belong to?’

Hyde gave out with a hollow laugh and sank lower in the chair. ‘You mean you don’t know?’ he said. ‘They belong to the pundits, the opinion-makers, the "spin-doctors". They are the voices of the do-gooders, the holier-than-thous, the appeasers, the compromisers, the soft-hearted pleaders for understanding, the politically-correct, the moral majority, the vocal minority, the vested-interest groups, the publicity-seekers, the superior, the smug, the know-it-alls, the famous-for-being-famous, the ‘libbers’, the lobbyists, the born-again, the ‘I’ve-bloody-well-seen-the-light’ sanctimonious.. The armies of the night; they are all around, and their voice is legion.’

Jessop noticed that Hyde’s face was now completely drained of colour. ‘And the man you think you’re becoming.. what is he like?’ he asked.

Hyde was staring at him, his eyes wide and full of alarm. Jessop’s gaze dropped to his patient’s midrift - for a moment, he thought he had observed the ribbing at the back of Hyde’s chair, as if the person seated there was becoming translucent. He shook his head. The man in the chair gave a strangled cry, snapping him out of his distraction.

‘I knew there was something.. familiar about you,’ Hyde croaked, his voice faltering. ‘You’re one of them, aren’t you? - He’s like you..!’ he screeched.

‘In what sense?’ asked Jessop, unnerved finally.

‘No sense at all,’ said Hyde, to the accompaniment of a frightened grin. He was fading from view - in another moment, he would be beyond Jessop’s reach.

‘I can see now - I know what I am to become,’ Hyde hissed, his voice echoing in the distance.

Jessop gripped at the arm of his chair. The man in front of him was vanishing from sight. ‘Not a doctor..’ said the apparition. ‘Not a doctor at all..’

Hyde’s mouth was all that remained - like the grin of the Cheshire Cat. The lips trembled, as if the words they formed would be their undoing.

‘-What then?’ Jessop called out it.

‘A.. non-entity,’ said the mouth - and it was gone like the rest.

Jessop looked at the empty chair. Then he switched his gaze to the clock; it was showing two minutes after the hour. He looked down at the file - and it seemed to be a copy of Country Life instead. When he again looked up, his desk was gone also. He was staring fixedly into the space that until very recently had been occupied by Edward Hyde, when the door of the room opened and a receptionist entered. ‘Mister Jessop-?’ she enquired.

‘Yes..?’ Jessop replied, a little unsurely.
       The receptionist smiled across at him. ‘The doctor will see you now,’ she said.