Short Story

My Cell Mate

A creative adaptation of the Jekyll and Hyde story, to explore the Christian experience of living as a new creation.

I was pure, and I walked myself home that night, unaccompanied by the delights that I morbidly deny myself during the daylight hours.  I stopped, only for an instant so the tram could devour some more of its future laid clearly before it, when I lost my rhythm of step, and I noticed a beaten man neither slumped nor sitting on the kerb, which was clearly his own as the clues led me to believe that this was his home, and I didn’t even take of my shoes when I invaded his trust, as I asked him who beat him with their fist.
He didn’t look at me and mumbled something about just after dusk.  I tried to help the poor man, but he just continued to gather his belongings and put the scattered change back into his fallen cup.

He lit a cigarette, so I started to leave but just at that moment he called out “sometimes I think maybe I should give up this habit and then I could eat.”  I replied, “hey man I hear you, I’ve got problems too, but words won’t fill your cup.”  He said, “If we can only speak and words are all you have then I can make do with your spoken story.”

I looked back on my path; back up to the Jewish quarter to make sure no one could overhear me.  And as I stood there, I opened-up to the man and tried to give him my sight so that he might see, why, my actions were justified to free myself from my past darkness in the knowledge that I was once blind.  I told the man that in these recent reflective years I had noticed the duplicity of life, and that this wasn’t just a multiple of action but a division of the mind, two sides, Jekyll and Hyde.  Not so much Good or Evil, but high and low.  Neither a lesser part of me but the latter the one I was less willing to show to my peers.

I told the man, “I have aged and matured in this life of concealment, so that the people who know me know an idea which is indeed very distant to my own truth.  You see my true honesty is that I’ve had my life paid for and lived before M-E.  The fact that my industrious nature equalled a promising future was a law that was not securely fastened to either part of me.  I was lost in self-suppression, although the thing that came before anything was myself, and I became my own obsession.  The lessons I taught life in my period of experimentation went far beyond my dull expectations for I discovered my truest nature whether or not God intended it.  And I took back my life through ditching my blind benevolence and instead being selfish.

And he said, “Wow man, sounds like you’ve got it all figured out, because what the world needs is people that have come to life.  But to me, the words are pointing in, and you’re not taking ownership over any part of your own skin if, that’s what you were trying to accomplish, all you’re showing is how much you can’t take any more of this life.

You see, I think you’ve made a mistake in thinking you’re unique in your situation, because all men in history have faced what you’re facing.  Your achievement is really nothing because the outcome has already been explored, people have tried and tested your methods, and they’ve always left them wanting more and more.  Life is far too common for you to claim that you’ve discovered anything new.

Having to suppress thoughts and desires is a daily obligation that we all have to do more times than we would choose in a life without free will and just lies.  It’s as if you’ve seen the green fields but fallen off the bridge that leads to that other side.  You talk about your truest nature, but can I ask you what makes humans alive and set apart from everything?  Is it not that Godly power, whether or not to decide to give in or overcome, our animal link?

I’ve been where you are now, in your position.  I was caught in the same snare in thinking I was being strong or taking charge of life, but I was just condemning myself to a life long sentence in my own habitual prison.  The reason why you’re still asking questions is because you’re trying to find strength in giving in.

“Have you such a voluntary blindness as to mistake those paradoxical twins as things that can somehow overlap in the middle?  Are not your dreams of finding this new self, just tactics from fear of making tough decisions?  Is it not the stronger man who goes through life and tries, than the man who goes through life looking for an eternal escape and then only finds one when he dies?”

The words that he spoke seemed to ring true with me, although I had already convinced myself that he was completely unbalanced, and he was just judging situations in which he couldn’t possibly have been.  How could he know, about the feeling of being an entirely new species of self that even the constellations with all their ages of knowledge do not yet know?  The temptation of a discovery so singular and profound is a weight any man could not wish upon another, whether foe or friend.  I gave in, and so did he according to him, but that’s human nature not human error.

I said to the man, “you speak in ideals and in words that are trying to make too much sense in a world that is not real.  To have all these values and wisdom please tell me, and don’t get up, how does it feel?  I’m sorry, obviously your life’s been hard, and you’ve had some rough times, but what I’m trying to say is fix your own problems with your words before you comment on mine.”

To my surprise he didn’t take any offence to what I said, and just nodded in a thoughtful affirmation as if he genuinely valued my words instead.  And he looked directly into my face with a look which will stay forever etched in my memory, that struck not the higher or the lower or either half but the very heart of me.  It was a look, that could’ve been the epiphany of sincerity and for that moment only human eyes took on the secondary sense, of touch.  An overwhelming feeling of doubt and being naked came over me, and so I ordered a taxi to come pick the man up and take him to hospital, so he could be checked out and I would have some sort of tangible excuse to leave.  I paid the driver and went to close the door, but the beaten man stopped me and asked if I had time to listen just once more, and without reason for urgency I agreed to let him talk.  He said “It’s the truth that all men across the ages know something of what you’ve discovered, you see I’m not very good with words, I confuse them, and I suppose I could’ve said it better.  But, there’s a book I once read that puts it exactly how I wanted to say it, it’s entitled Romans and you’ll find the words I needed in the chapter seven.”

It was said the next day that the man died later in hospital, but he gave a description to the police who are looking for the murderer and believe he’s still in the capital.  In the next few weeks they brought me in often for questioning, and asked me how much time I spent with the old man and what was our relationship?  I tried to explain to them that we were just two men who met in the night, we both shared our problems and he taught me about life.  But, for some reason they couldn’t understand and even though I didn’t match the profile, they put me on the stand.  The lawyers called me completely unbalanced, evil and sick, but this didn’t matter because I matched the forensics.  Without hesitation the judge gave me life, and on my way out I thanked him because I didn’t want to die.

And now, I share the story of the look on the old mans face, I share it with you, and only you, my cell mate.

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