The Life I Hyde: a tale of what is to come





Under the glow of the lantern beside his bedside, the boy’s face was lit on one side, while the other was wreathed in shadow. It was a winter’s night that made the bones feel as though they were cased in ice and, as the fog began to crawl along the cobbled sets of Edinburgh’s streets outside, the boy’s nanny turned up the lamp.

Robert Louis Stevenson lay with his head on a soft pillow, curled up in the covers of his bed. His nanny was sitting on the chair next to him, reading from a large volume. They both sat illuminated by the soft throb of the gaslight, listening to those old tales as well as the distant sounds of the cities night-time agents.

  “From the book of Romans.” she spoke softly, as Stevenson shifted in his bed. “God’s anger is shown from heaven against all the evil and wrong things people do. By their own lives they hide the truth. God shows his anger because some knowledge has been made clear to them.”

Outside the footfalls of a late traveller could be heard crossing Heriot Row where the Stevenson’s lived. The elegant houses sat in the affluent New Town where fires burned late into the night, warming the rooms of the occupants within. Over the bridges, and under the cover of the Edinburgh fog, lay wicked lights burning in the dark recesses of Old Town.

“Yes, God has shown himself to them,” his nanny continued, glancing up from the book to catch the young boy yawning quietly, “There are things about him that people cannot see.”

  She closed the book with a soft thud and smiled in the boy’s direction. “Not really tales for a night like this, are they, young Robert?”

 He looked at her quizzically before shaking his head to see what she would say next. Instead she lifted herself up out of the chair and walked across the room, before slotting the Bible with others upon the bookshelf. “Such humdrum and wary tales are for Sunday afternoons spent in the pews. Not for an exciting and dark night in a warm bed. Tonight is a night for haunted traps to wander the streets; strange sights and mysteries in the fog. Don’t you think?”

  “Are you going tell me a different kind of tale, then?” He asked, with half of his voice enthralled, the other more than a little anxious of what his nanny could conjure.

  “I’ve been warned off such stories, Robert, your parents tell me you have vivid dreams.”

  “Yes. But my nightmares will fade when I get older and your stories will seem less frightening.”

 The nanny seemed to stand by the window, looking out into city beyond. She turned and smiled at him.

  “Very well, then.”

Robert pulled the covers up to his throat and twisted his toes, making sure his feet were surrounded in the sheets. She sat on the chair next to his bed. “Perhaps a wee one”, she said, before turning up the lantern once more.

“I once knew a woman; a beautiful and sad woman; who could read your future.” The Stevenson nanny leaned in, and her gentle voice was all that could be heard inside the quiet bedroom. Shadows flickered on the wallpaper, comforting and grave in the same breath.

“She told me that the future is a place full of secret lives. All manner of noble folk and lady alike will have hidden depths, and the motives of men will be unclear and complex.”

The young boy’s eyes appeared wide in the half-dark of his bedchamber. His nanny smelled of bath oils and old books. “She spoke of a group that would draw together, themselves holding secrets aplenty; a collective of bizarre agents with a mission for the new world. They consisted of a broken toy soldier, a ghost, a lady of the night; a troubled count, a man who dreamed of insects, a gypsy from the east and a scholar.  The woman who could read the future did not understand why she was drawn to such individuals, but she understood that they would each have their part to play in what was to come.” 

The nanny looked out of the great window of Robert’s room then. She stared at the tendril clouds that rolled over the sky, and the lights of the city, and the blade-like moon that hung above it all. The nanny looked sad, as Robert drifted off into slumber. Whether he was to endure dreams or nightmares was yet to be discovered.

“She believed that this troupe of misfits would inspire others to follow,” she whispered. ‘Though inspire them to do what she would not tell me.”


The End of the Guerilla Poets.


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