How do you escape your past?

The title “Escape from Spiderhead” implies a physical escape from the research/prison complex where Jeff is held. Yet, in a physical form, he never leaves. His body remains in Spiderhead after his suicide- none of his fellow inmates escape either. Therefore, what exactly does Jeff escape? To answer this question, we must assess a) what Jeff wanted to escape and b) who (or what) was narrating the story during its last moments. In regards to the first problem, the answer appears simple: he wants to leave Spiderhead physically so that Rachel will not be Darkenfloxxed. However, will Rachel not just be Darkenfloxxed with Rogan or Keith narrating her experience on Veraluce instead of Jeff? With this in mind, it becomes clear that Jeff truly wishes to escape killing, both in his past and present. On page 76, Jeff describes, “It was like all I had to do to be a killer again was to sit there and wait.” He then regretfully recalls his first murder of Mike Appel in detail. In Jeff’s mind, even if he isn’t actively killing Rachel, his complacency will render him a murderer once again, just as he was when he actively killed Mike Appel. Though Rachel will be Darkenfloxxed with or without Jeff, he wants to escape his complacency in her death, and by extension, his violent past. This desire is confirmed when we assess who escapes Spiderhead and how they do it. After Jeff kills himself, he transcends his physical form and leaves Spiderhead, sailing “right through the roof.” Additionally, some benevolent figure asks him if he wants to go back into his body, to which he refuses, and he joins a flock of birds, and “flew among them, they did not recognize me as something apart from them…”. All of these confirm that he does not have a physical human form and that his body was left behind in his death. However, the ending suggests that his body was not the only part of the narrator that remained in Spiderhead. Jeff implies that the murder in his past is “the ultimate, unwashable transgression”; there is no way for Jeff to escape his wrongdoing. This appears to contrast the ending, where the narrator articulates, “and I was happy, so happy, because for the first time in years, and forevermore, I had not killed, and never will.” How could the narrator, Jeff, have escaped his past if murder is unescapable? The narrator at the end of the story is not Jeff at all. Notice that he never refers to Jeff at the end of the story; he states, “This is all me now”, implying that he and the Jeff that was in Spiderhead are now separate. The narrator not only leaves behind his physical form when Jeff dies- he ceases to exist as Jeff, and therefore absolves himself of Jeff’s past. In this way, the narrator has never killed and never will, because though Jeff never escapes, his conscious does.

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