All Within

All Within

“Leave me alone! Just go forever. Or kill me; better.”  Blurted Rick. “Our alliance has ruined my life.”

A scornful laughter reverberated. He closed his ears tightly. That didn’t help. It got louder and louder.  

“There’s no escape from my talons. You’re trapped for ever. We are tangled and tied to each other, eternally. You are the incidental host. Powerless you are; helpless you shall remain.”  Hyde, the tyrant, showed no mercy.   

***

“Preliminary investigation says cardiac arrest, but we’re waiting for the autopsy report. No forced entry. Nothings missing from the house. No signs of struggle. No history of illness. “Sergeant Muller spoke over the phone. “Their only son Rick, age 16, is in shock. He wasn’t home last night. No alibis.”  After a brief silence, he spoke, “Right, will keep you posted.” 

Muller walked over to Rick. “Hey! I’m Sergeant Muller.” He sat beside Rick and continued. “I’m so sorry, son. I can  understand what you are going through. Do you have any relatives whom we can contact?” 

Grief stricken, Rick didn’t utter a single word. He sat like a frozen vegetable; colourless and motionless. 

Muller didn’t push further. In a hushed tone, he explained something to his colleague who nodded in agreement. He then walked back to Rick. “Son, we will take you to the care home. It’s safe there, and you’ll have company too. You can move back once the investigations are over. In the meantime, we will look for your kinfolks. Ok?”

Nothing could stir Rick. He was like the unresponsive boulder by the seaside. No matter how much the waves whiplash it, it remains unshaken. What none knew was that it was not grief that congealed his senses, but the aftershock of his own sinister deed. Afterall, it was he who invited the devil.

Despite a thorough search, the cops couldn’t trace any of his extended family members. So the court restricted him from leaving the care home without adult supervision. He was too upset to argue, but Hyde came to his rescue. 

“Let’s get you out of this stingy place. I have a master plan.” Hyde had a strange smile on his face.  

“I’m not falling for your bait. Not again. My parents are gone. It’s all my mistake. I’ve lost everything. I don’t need you anymore. Just go, and don’t come back, ever. Do you get it?”  Rick broke into tears.  

“You need me more than ever now. I can’t leave. I surfaced ‘cause you needed me. We’ve been best friends, right?  I saved you from every trouble; kept you safe. How can you forget everything?” Hyde tried to convince.

“Yes, and I had to pay the price for all your misdeeds. I got suspended from school for beating the bullies; got grounded for injuring those scumbags. And then, my parents…” Rick couldn’t hold his tears any longer. “You kept enjoying at my expense, but I gained nothing. Nothing but desolation.”

Hyde moved closer. “We need each other. You, to survive; me, to exist. I feel protective of you. What happened to your parents was just…” 

“Stop! Enough! I’m orphaned and lonely; our camaraderie destroyed my life. Each time I tried to befriend someone, you scared them away. My parents…they loved me so much, but they fell prey to your jealousy.” Rick was enraged. “You are sick; over possessive. I can’t take this anymore. You must go.” 

“Sometimes, we need to sacrifice for others sake. In return, it strengthens the bond between the sacrificer and the receiver. I’m born out of your needs. You can’t survive without me. Don’t you get it?”  Hyde was adamant.

Rick was eighteen by the time he got to move out of the care home. His parents case was long closed. There was no evidence of foul play. The reports stated the cause of death as Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome.’ 

More than the deed, it’s the guilt that kills us, slowly. Rick was going through an immense mental torment. He spent sleepless nights in the house he grew up. Hallucinations, shadows, voices… forced him to succumb in fear. 

He’s my saviour, and my destroyer too. His embrace didn’t comfort, but choked me. I realised it eventually. I need to break free from this toxic pact and live a healthy life. I’ll do all it takes; seek counselling…whatever. I’ll tell them to erase his traces from my memory. Only then can I live a normal life. It’ll be  my atonement.

Hyde had his plans though. The more Rick ignored him, the more desperate he became. His identity was at stake. He had no intension to part ways with Rick. Strangely, circumstances, didn’t allow him to leave too. 

***

Rick’s first step towards a new beginning, started with self-care. He consulted a counselor and was attending the sessions regularly. He went back to college, joined the basketball team and worked for the local church. Sports is a great healer. It’ll help me to concentrate in my studies and socialize a bit too. It’s time I start afresh.

Usually, life allows us to play our game. But at times it takes over and act whimsical, while we wonder. And then, despite our efforts, we fail to take charge. We either excel or shatter, depending on our experiences then. 

Rick was to join the victory party of his basketball team, but he requested to be excused. “Sorry boys, tomorrow is our congregation day. The pastor strictly told us to reach early. Can’t take chances on matters of the church.” 

“Oh, c’mon Rick. This was planned long before, right? Don’t do this to us. We can’t celebrate without the star of the match. It’s not fair. You can’t ditch us like this.” The captain insisted and the rest of the team joined in. 

I can’t. One wrong step, and my efforts will be blown to smithereens. It’s better to stay away than to make way for Hyde’s return. Before Rick could say further, they lifted him up and screamed in unison. ‘Say yes! Say yes!’  

“Alright, alright! I’ll join you guys.” Rick didn’t want to hurt their sentiments. I’ll skip drinking and leave early. 

If we are destined for doom, our will and watchful steps don’t really matter. Rick and his friends were enjoying the party when suddenly, a bunch of boys barged in. They started creating a fuss inside the tavern. Rick felt restless. I must leave, now. He muttered something to the captain and walked towards the exit. 

Right then, a burly guy blocked his way. He called out to the other boys. “Woo, woo, woo! Look who’s here. The champ!” He started clapping and the others joined in. 

A heated discussion followed by a fracas left a few injured; including Rick. Hyde was right. We can’t part ways. The fiend devastates my life, yet I need him to protect me. What an irony! Having a manic bestie at your rescue is both a blessing and a curse. To save one, kill the rest. Alas, I invite my own doom; willingly or by obligation.

***

Rick’s harsh past was like a venomous serpent. Years back, he buried it deep, to stop it from toxicating his future. It wasn’t an easy task, but he did it- to save himself. He was in his mid-twenties and was pursuing his life’s plans diligently. It was all going fine, until that evening when he had to summon Hyde, for help.

“Hey, Ricky boy! Where are you off to?” A voice called out. 

“Hey! I’m heading home.” Rick smiled and waved at five familiar faces. Faces he have been seeing for the past two months at his new workplace. “See you guys on Monday. Have a great weekend, all of you.” 

“What’s the rush? It’s Friday night. Join us. Let’s have some fun. We got some real good stuff here.” Said one. 

“Thanks, but I got some work to finish at home. Let’s catch up some other day.”  Rick tried to move away, but they zeroed in. He felt vulnerable; like a deer surrounded by a bunch of hounds. 

“C’mon, don’t be a spoil sport. You don’t wanna dishearten your friends, do you?” Two sturdy boys held him tightly and forced some drink into his mouth. 

He tried to break free. He requested them to let him go, but it fell into deaf ears. They laughed. All of them. Rick took a shufti of the area. The parking lot was strangely quiet. The calm before the storm. No. Not again.

The beasts kept bullying their prey. The tortured kill tried to escape, but his efforts went in vain. When it’s the question of survival, our basic instinct compels us to think of our safety over others. We don’t mind having the devil come to our rescue then.

Arrgh! I’m left with no choice. They are not going to stop; unless stopped. Now I need to seek help from the one I despise. I don’t want another massacre, but…people…They  simply don’t get it. They compel me to invite doom.

“It’s over.” Hyde had a smile of pleasure on his face. “You’re safe now. See, it was just a matter of few minutes. With me around, you needn’t worry, ever. You need me. You need my help. That’s the ultimate truth. Accept it.”  

Rick held his head and sat in despair. His colleagues were gone. The place that was reverberating with laughter a while ago, now stood silent; as if it witnessed a baleful incident. I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! He burst into sobs.

Next morning’s newspaper headline was screaming of the previous nights carnage. Rick was too shaken. What if the cops question me? I left office right after them. Was there a CCTV? Should I skip work today? No…it might raise suspicions. Hyde… What have you done! Damn it! They were my colleagues. No… I need to  go.

***

“Sir, I need to discuss a very old case. Can I come in, now?” Muller sounded anxious. A second later, he was inside the office of Sergeant Dennis. He placed a file on the table and requested Dennis to go through.

“Holy God! You mean to say…” Dennis looked shocked.

Muller nodded. “I was assigned to this case, around five years back. The couple was found dead in their own house. Cardiac arrest. Rick, their only son wasn’t home then; no alibis. The reports showed no trace of foul play. I pursued the case for some time, unofficially. Two people dying of the same cause, at a gap of fifteen minutes… looked odd to me. But it was a dead end.”

Dennis was listening attentively. Muller continued. “Eight boys, from a local basketball team, was found dead near a tavern. No witnesses. Rick’s team was celebrating their victory party when these boys from the rival team arrived. As per the manager, the two groups had a brawl but left the venue after police intervention.”

 “Coincidence or fault in the investigation process? What’s your conclusion, Muller?” Dennis enquired. 

“There’s more,” Muller showed him the newspaper cuttings. “Last week, bodies of five young men was found from a garbage van. Coincidence-Rick works at the same office. The case was filed at a different police station.” 

“And we don’t have a single witness or clue? Can’t we call him for a routine inquiry? I’m sure we’ll find something if we dig deeper.” Dennis knew from his experience that there was more than what it is in the papers. 

“I need your permission to investigate this case, unofficially. I’ll crosscheck the details. Will keep updating you. I have a hunch, that this investigation will not lead me to a dead end.”  Muller was determined.

Dennis agreed. “Fine, go ahead Muller. Dig as deep as you need to. Let me know if you want any help.” 

Three months later, Muller landed at Sergeant Dennis’s office. He showed the case files. “This might shock you. The boy is suffering from a mental condition. In medical terms, they call it Dissociative Personality Disorder.” 

“And…”  Dennis couldn’t hold his horses.

Muller sat straight. “I did some research and got hold of some interesting information. He was undergoing therapy until two years back. When I spoke to the doctor, she said the condition is not totally curable. Something like cancer. The roots remain and there’s always a chance of it to sprout afresh. Our guy was doing fine and stopped therapy at the doctors advise. She said, some incident must’ve triggered its return.” 

“What do you mean by ‘It?’  Whose return?”  asked Dennis. 

Muller explained about the condition in details. “It’s Hyde, the other personality. Rick had a rough childhood. From getting bullied at school, to getting beaten by his parents at home, he experienced it all. Eventually, Hyde was born. While Rick is meek and weak; Hyde is brave and strong. Hyde shows up only when Rick is in trouble. But strangely, Rick requested the therapist to help him to get rid of his imaginary friend cum saviour. He said he was burdened with guilt.”

“I’ve handled numerous cases in my service, but this is something new for me. Did he confess anything during his sessions?” asked Dennis. 

Sergeant Muller pointed at both the files. “Sir, both the case files are related to Rick. One is about his medical condition, family history, merit results, etc. The other is of the crimes committed by Hyde. And yes, he did confess during the sessions. The doctor handed me the recordings after I assured her to keep it confidential.”

“Is it enough proof to book him with murder charges?” Dennis wanted to be sure.  

“Let’s meet at your place tonight. I’ll carry the tapes. It’s a sensitive case. We need to act wisely.” Suggested  Muller.

The tape of the last session was about to end. Rick’s words echoed in their mind; tugged at their heartstrings.. They couldn’t move for quite a while. Hyde’s anger and Rick’s affliction left them puzzled. A familiar voice broke their reverie.

As Dennis turned to check, something hard hit his head. Thud! He fell on the floor. Muller was shocked to see the intruder. I never spoke of this to anyone. How did he find this place? My coat..gun… Shit, I left it in the hall.

“Rick…Hyde, you don’t want to do this. Trust me, we had no intention to harm you. In fact we were to planning to help you out. Rick…you know me. We met before, remember? You can’t allow Hyde to commit another mistake. Hyde, look, your actions will put Rick into trouble. He’s already suffering so much. Don’t you love him? Do you like to see him suffering like this? Stop… don’t do it. Please. I can help you. We can be friends.”

Hyde was too powerful; indomitable and obstinate. His eyes were fixed on Muller; his steps- careful and steady.

“Rick, you need to talk to your mate. You have to get hold of your life. You are no less than Hyde. Don’t let him do this. The burden will be on you, right? We can be friends, trust me. You, me and Hyde. We will find a way, I promise. Sergeant Dennis needs a doctor. C’mon, Be the saviour you always wanted to be. Rick…”

All of a sudden, the look on Hyde’s face softened a bit. He pulled a chair for himself and gestured Muller to sit on the floor. Hyde stiffened his grip on the iron rod, like a batsman, ready for his next shot. Rage and calm were playing hide and seek on his face. Muller waited for the right moment. How could he possibly know about this?

“Don’t stress your brain, officer. You discovered my truth. Now it’s my turn to disclose a few facts.” 

Muller was confused of the speaker’s identity. Is it Rick or Hyde? How to be sure? Sounds like Hyde though

“You know what officer…no one helps Rick, but me. So it really doesn’t matter what you want. He is mine and I belong to him. No one can separate us; not even Rick. We have been co-existing since Rick was a kid. I’ve been by him, thick and thin. I had to slay his parents to save his life. They were heartless, cruel, and would’ve killed the poor boy someday. Then those guys from the basketball team, his office colleagues…. They were bullying Rick. What would you do if your loved one is victimized? I know what you’d do. I did exactly that. Punished the bad to save the good. Rick cannot live without  Hyde. And Hyde needs Rick to exist.” 

Muller listened quietly. Let him speak his heart out. It might help him to calm down. Rick might get the courage to turn up. It’ll be easier to talk to him. But how long will he take to surface? Dennis…will he survive? God… 

“Wondering how I came to know about this meeting?”  Hyde walked up to Dennis and poked him with the rod. “Poor uncle Den. He died too early. But what a traitor. He was living on Rick’s fortunes and promised never to open his mouth. He shouldn’t have allowed you to dig the past. I knew everything from the start. Long back, I put a chip in the old man’s cigar case; his closest buddy.”

Muller had the shock of his lifetime. Everything made sense to him. No clues, no witnesses…clean reports… What else…  

“Officer, you’ve been nice to Rick once. But I can’t take chances. I can’t let you get away. You know more than enough. That therapist is gone too. She shouldn’t have broken her oath. You’ll left me with no choice. He can’t live in the jail and I can’t lose him to psychotherapy. It’s all for Rick; it’s all for friendship.”

Muller closed his eyes and uttered his prayers. Next moment, he was lying in a pool of blood. 

Humpty Dumpty, had a great fall… Fits of laughter mixed with feeble sobs ricocheted, piercing the silence of the deadly night.
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