10 April 1912

When I come on board the ship I pay little heed to her splendour; nor to the gaily–strewn lines of coloured electric lights, nor to the polished brass of the crew’s jacket uniforms, nor to the crowds at the dock in Southampton, waving handkerchiefs and pushing and shoving for a better look; nor to my fellow passengers. I keep my eyes open only for signs of pursuit; specifically, for signs of the Law.

The ship is named the Titanic. I purchased a second–class ticket in London the day before and travelled down to Southampton by train. I had packed hurriedly. I do not know how far behind me the officers are. I know only that they will come. He made sure of that, in his last excursion. The corpses he left were a mockery, body parts ripped, exposed ribcages and lungs stretched like Indian rubber, he had turned murder into a sculpture, a form of grotesque art. The Japanese would call such a thing as he a yōkai, a monster, otherworldly and weird. Or perhaps a kaiju. I admire the Japanese for their mastery of the science of monstrosity, of what in our Latin would be called the lusus naturae. I have corresponded with a Dr Yamane, of Tokyo, for some time, but had of course destroyed all correspondence when I escaped from London.

And yet I cannot leave him behind. I had packed hurriedly. A simple change of clothes. I had not dressed like a gentleman. But I carry, along with my portmanteau, also my doctor’s black medical bag; it defines me more than I could ever define myself otherwise; it is as much a part of me as my toes, or my navel, or my eyes; and inside the bag I carry him, all that is left of him: one bottle, that is all, and the rest were all smashed up to shards back in London, back in the house where the bodies are.

I present my ticket to the steward. There is no suspicion in his eyes. He smiles courteously, professionally, already not seeing me as he turns to the ones behind me; and then I am on board. Perhaps infected by the other passengers’ gaiety, perhaps just relieved at my soon–to–be escape, I stand with them on the deck, against the railings, shouting and waving at the people we are soon to leave behind. My heart beats faster; my palms sweat; I am eager for us to depart, for our transatlantic journey to begin. I long for escape.

At last it happens. The horn sounds and the gangplanks are raised and we are off! I sigh with relief; I had not realised how tense I had been. But fear had taken its hold on me, in all the long years of living with him; his presence in my life had made me fearful; the day he would get careless, or go too far, and leave me to be captured.

No longer!

England is a cesspit of corruption. It is too small, too confining. It looks not to the future, but to the past, it is rigid and unyielding. It is time for me to look elsewhere, to the New World; where a scientist may work in peace, where there is space to grow… and where he, too, could roam more freely, for it is a vast land and people may disappear there more easily; and never be seen again. Yes, he could be controlled, there. But for now he is dormant within me. He will not emerge on this voyage. Not unless I will it.

A near–accident. Our huge bulk causes waves in the harbour. We nearly drown two smaller ship: The SS City of New York and the Oceanic. I watch them rise on the waves, thinking of the size and power of theTitanic, like the power that I, myself, hold within me. It is a power all human beings have; yet I alone have found the means of liberating it. Only in Japan, perhaps, is there science greater than mine — but that land is far and their experiments have taken them in a different direction to my own. No, I am confident in my heart, my potion is unique; and I, a true original.

The passage out goes without a further hitch. The two smaller ship are not harmed, and I feel neither satisfaction nor disappointment. I stand on the deck and watch the harbour recede from view for a long time. I watch England grow smaller in the distance. I cannot wait for it to disappear.

 

11 April 1912

Cork.

How I loathe the Irish!

The docks swarm with these Irishmen and their equally squalid women. They come on board, several obviously drunk and singing riotously. I stand on the deck and smoke a cigar. A man of middle years and a somewhat stooped posture engages me in conversation. “You are a doctor?” he says, on noticing my black bag (I do not dare part with it. These Irishmen may steal a doctor’s bag as easily as they would slit a man’s throat!). “Yes, yes,” I say, “what is it to you?”

Instead of taking offense he chuckles good–naturedly. “I myself am in the medical profession,” he says. I say, “Oh?” and roll the cigar in my mouth. “Yes,” he says, “I am a purveyor of the snake oil cure, are you familiar with that panacea?”

Enhydris chinensis,” I say. “It is a medicine of the Chinese people, is it not?” I do not tell him I had studied it intensively, my research has increasingly taken me to study the obscure and arcane sciences of the East. “Yes,” he says, “it is a marvellous medicine, a cure–all.”

I make a dismissive gesture and his moustache quivers at that. “Do you not agree, Sir?” he says. I tap my cigar and watch the ash blow in the wind. Will the ship never leave? I am unsafe as long as we are in these European waters. Have the bodies been found yet? Has Hyde been implicated? He is well known to the police. “Excuse me,” I say. “I meant no offense.”

His good humour returns. He gives me his calling card and asks me to call on him once in New York, promising me a bulk discount on his stock. It is of the utmost benefit to any doctor, he assures me. I am glad to be rid of him. At long last the ship departs. There are thousands of us on board.

 

12 April 1912

At last, the open sea!

The ocean is calm. The weather is mild. A sense of wild freedom grips me. The New World beckons! I have successfully avoided pursuit, capture. In New York I could start again, and the name of Jekyll will be forgotten. I pat my bag, thinking of the bottle it holds. Already I am craving it. In America I will make more of the potion. He wants to get out, I can feel him, pushing.

 

13 April 1912

A cold front. Strong winds and high waves. Nevertheless I brave the deck. I find being confined below excruciating, the press of people is repulsive to me. I take in the sea air but my attempts to light a cigar prove futile.

Last night I tossed and turned, the need burning inside me. I could feel Edward leering inside me, pushing to be let out. I find myself regarding women with Hyde’s eyes, with his hunger. I see men and think of the blood coursing through them, and of the glint of knives. More than two decades ago when my experiments had just begun, he and I were sloppy. Jack, they had called him then. I had less control of the formula then. The cold air revives me. Anticipation of the New World soothes me. I feel as though I have been given a second chance.

 

14 April 1912

The sea is very calm, but there is a chill in the air. It is a fine morning. I have spoken to no–one. It is a lonely life, sometimes. But I have him for company, always. The presence of the bottle in my bag reassures me. It will not be long now.

 

14 April 1912

An ungodly crash!

I had just been climbing up to the deck when the entire ship groaned and creaked as if hit by some vast and monstrous hammer. I fell but found my balance. My black bag was with me and I assured myself the sample inside was intact. I hurried up the stairs, finding the decks in a confusion of people. What could this mean?

“Sir?” I hear an officer speak near me, and I find myself pushed to the front, and realise the man resplendent in magnificent uniform further ahead is the Captain. “Sir? We’ve hit something!”

“It is an iceberg?” the Captain says, his manner outwardly calm. “No, Sir,” the officer says. “It isn’t an iceberg. It’s a —”

Someone screams. It is a high–pitched scream, but I cannot tell if it is made by a man or a woman. “Look up! Look at that — that thing!”

As if on cue, the ship’s powerful spotlights come on at once, piercing the night, momentarily blinding me. I hear a terrible sound, a roar as of a thousand engines cranking up to their utmost power and beyond their breaking point.

“It’s a… it’s a —!”

My God, I think, awed. How could anyone mistake this for an iceberg?

It towers over the ship, and the Titanic looks like a toy in comparison. An enormous, beautiful monstrosity, like a cross between a gorilla and a whale: it opens its mouth and roars, and a lizard’s giant claws land with a deafening roar on the deck of the Titanic, splintering wood and cutting deep into the underlying levels. I hear screams, and see a man’s head explode like a wet red balloon, where the monster had crashed it in its wake.

“It’s a —!”

“It’s a daikaiju,” I say, though they do not hear me. I breathe out. A giant kaiju! The scientist in me is enthralled. The beast within me is hungry. Hyde responds to the creature like a drunk, he bangs against the walls of his prison, to be let out. Screams rise into the air. The monster, angered or afraid, lashes again at the ship. Its powerful tail slams into the side of the ship and the deck tilts alarmingly. Bodies fly through the air. “Abandon ship! Abandon ship!” Panic takes over the Titanic. “To the life boats!” A press of bodies as the people down below attempt to climb up to the open deck, to find escape. They shove and push each other in their panic. I see a woman trampled underfoot. I, too, try to make my way to the life boats, but the swell of people is too strong, and I am old; and panic rises in me as I am side–lined, pushed, shoved, hurt, and all the while the beast roars above our heads, lashing with talons and tale at the Titanic, ripping it slowly apart.

“To the boats!” And there they go, while, unbelievably, the ship’s orchestra plays on, at least until the beast, annoyed, perhaps, by the noise, slashes at them with its claws and the music stops abruptly with a clatter of panicked notes. The ship tilts: we are sinking. I hear the boats dropping into the waters, hear a gunshot ring out as officers attempt to control the manic passengers. “Children and women first!”

And something breaks in me. Something that has no name, no label I could easily affix to it, like to a specimen bottle, or a beaker of potion. I can escape, I realise, and yet…

“Doctor!” I hear the cry. “We need a doctor! Please, help!”

A woman lying on the deck, holding an injured child in her arms. Her face is panicked. There is blood on the deck.

I still tightly hold my black medicine bag. Now I open it. All of a doctor’s requirements are there. I could help them…

I reach inside and find the bottle.

The potion. My life’s work.

I could help the child, I think. Or I could let out Mr Hyde.

I stare at the bottle in my hands. To swallow its contents would liberate me, would Hyde me, would allow me to fight my way to the life boats, and to escape, to live.

I had lived half my life a monster, I realise; and that had led to my eventual ruin, and my disgrace, and finally my exile.

I look up at that titanic being towering over the ship. It is frightened, I think. Monstrous, yes: but also beautiful.  And I am glad I have lived long enough to see one.

I look at it for a long moment, and then I look at the bottle in my hands.

“Please! Help him!”

I could live, a monster, I realise; or I could die a man.

I stretch my arm as far back as it would go, then back, in one smooth motion, and throw the bottle as hard and as fast as I can into the roiling sea.


More from Lavie Tidhar:

Lavie TidharLavie Tidhar is the World Fantasy Award winning author of Osama, of The Bookman Histories trilogy and many other works. He won the British Fantasy Award for Best Novella, for Gorel & The Pot–Bellied God, and a BSFA Award for his non–fiction. He grew up on a kibbutz in Israel and in South Africa but currently resides in London. His 2013 novels are the just–released Martian Sands from PS Publishing and forthcoming The Violent Century, from Hodder & Stoughton.

3 Comments

  1. Amazing story Lavie always delivers. Great punchline

    • Nice original story. My view, the writing style needs tons of work. Unless he meant to write poorly.

  2. I am afraid kaiju and yokai (in the opening) are misused in this sense. They might call the character bakemono, but niether of the others. If you ever have need of assistance with the Japanese language, please feel free to contact me. Kindest regards.

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