14. LA MORTE FIANCÉE – Melted Snow

The monster set the wood alight and stepped into the fire. Soon to come was the end of everything: of suffering, of self-pity, and, most anticipated of all, of loneliness.

The north was frozen. White winds howled forever. Frost so icy it burned stormed cacophonous above the broken floes that filled the landscape, if one could call it that.

The only man alive fool enough to rest in such a world was Frankenstein’s monster, sewn together from cadaverous flesh a mere year ago. Such was the land in which he set himself on fire. First he set free the dogs who had pulled his sledge to this sorry apex of the world. Then he shredded his sledge to build his pyre. The body of his creator he laid far away, as if to keep him safe, to keep him as an audience, so he might watch and laugh at the suicide of his abomination.

Once the monster set the wood alight, he observed his creation, bathing in the blazing glow in posture of prayer, as if at the altar. Then he stepped in. Here lieth the monster, anticipating only release, from this searing pain, and then from pain of life. Soon to come was the end of everything; of suffering, of self-pity, and, most anticipated of all, of loneliness.

And yet the white skies turned to sapphire, and sapphire to slate. Through a shimmering crimson curtain, the monster watched the accents of the tundra shift in creeping change, all without him. Was his skin really burning? He could not discern. Curse this science-born body, impossible strength.

Regardless, he could not step out. This was his desire, his oath, and his punishment; they were one and the same. To leave the flames alive would be blasphemy on his last vestiges of human honor.

Three days later, the last embers blew out. Now the monster lieth on his knees in a pile of blackened splinters. Muscles and arteries worked and pumped beneath his wan skin, the same as ever. His greyish eyes saw morning light. This creature’s death had been a resounding failure.

“Oh!” he screamed, overcome with disgust. “I see your game, Victor! You curse me from beyond the grave with foul life! How dare you torture me with a life so atrocious as to grant me no pleasure forevermore! You truly were the genius of the age, and you have taken all your secrets with you to your frozen grave! Why, oh, why did I become so presumptuous as to dare hold your life in my own mangled hands? To burn on and on, for a three-day eternity, was only the prelude to the true penance for the crime of birth, was it not, you accursed—”

With a glance he finally noted the absence of the scientist’s body, and the presence of the sled dogs he had freed. The dogs padded closer, tongues lolling. They had waited here all along, surviving on hardy rabbits and the monster’s provisions. They seemed untroubled.

“This result is…equally unfortunate, for how can a canine troupe help me to burn?” said the monster to himself. “Although I suppose if a man, nay, creature so hated by the Fates has allowance as to superstition, if in fact mine true punishment is to survive, then survive I may by the grace of these hounds.” He raised his head to the sky. “This is my decision, as an Adam forsaken by his creator! These beasts shall help me in my new occupation of leaving the North Pole, perchance for Eden!”

The dogs rolled their eyes, despite not understanding human speech.

The monster now deeming himself Adam lurched forward onto his hands, then clambered upright. He stretched out three days’ worth of static heat and proceeded on a journey to, firstly, Victor Frankenstein’s sled, abandoned weeks prior.

One month later, the dogs had marched Adam’s stolen sled through Siberia to the outskirts of a sleepy Russian village in the dead of night. Adam unhitched the dog team and brusquely tossed the leashes into the sea of trees.

“And now I declare you animals free of my command! No beast should deign ownership of another (for I liken myself to a beast rather than a man, the latter being of finer looks and morals)! Live long, and may you chew many bones!”

One by one the dogs left him to his solitude, and eventually were adopted into various wolf packs. They became renowned among their peoples for incredible survival instincts, and most became not only alphas, but wolf legends to be howled of for centuries. Possibly even for one thousand years. They did not appear, however, in the novel Call of the Wild, for they were not wolf-dogs of the Americas.

Adam, chilly but not cold, headed into the town and its snowy Novemberscape, careful to tread light and hide his face. Not a soul was outside, but who could be watching from dark windows, the cracks in walls? It never hurt to be cautious.

He caught a whiff of something delectable and, after a solid month of hand-caught fish, the desire for varietous meals overcame him. Though subject to misery for the crime of living, stealing chances to live above his means would be his way of thumbing his nose at the heaven that was mankind as he forever prowled the side-streets.

Past a small crop of houses lied a large bag of bread outside the town’s bakery. To his delight, Adam found not a one of those loaves to be more than a few days stale! They were cold, many soaked with wet snowdust, but they were the most delicious breads Adam had ever tasted. The flavor of wheat shocked his taste buds and shook his brain—that sensation alone roused his spirit from a dark slumber. He had figuratively been asleep for a very long time now…

That night, that moment, tears poured from his dead eyes. “It is so delicious,” he sniveled through his hot breath. “Tonight, I live again.”

A lantern flickered to life inside of the baker’s house; the baker’s wife poked out the door, wooden curlers in her hair. “Hey, you freako!” she shouted in Russian. “Get out! Get out of that raccoon bread!” Adam hissed with fright and fled into the night.

Then the baker himself rushed to his wife’s side and questioned, in Russian, “Why, my dear! Whatever is the matter at this late, late hour we are currently in?”

“It was a rather disgusting man rummaging through our breads. We leave those out for random forest creatures to sloppily eat, bothering our neighbors; not for one of those heavily scarred, ratty-haired, see-muscles-through-their-skin hobos.”

The baker slapped both hands to his cheeks with terror! “That was no hobo,” he explained, in Russian. “That was a MOOONSTERRRRR!”

News of this monster sighting engulfed the continent at an alarming rate. In mere weeks, numerous hunters set out to try their hand at catching the gross man-shaped creature criss-crossing the Crimean Peninsula to make a name for themselves, but no matter the traps and no matter their mettle, with one flash of that Frankenstein face, every one of them either fled or fainted. When interviewed after a failed expedition in Thessaly, one man claimed, “I was gonna catch him. I really was. But cor blimey, he was just too blasted ugly.”

Adam’s trek through the forests and mountains of Europe came to a brief stop upon part of the Scottish isles, known as the Orkneys. It was a journey undertaken on a stolen boat, via which one may hypothetically escape a sinking ship.

He had come to sate a somewhat perverse whim. Much time had passed since his first trip to the Orkneys, the island where Victor Frankenstein had assembled his final project. This was where Victor had begun, and destroyed, Adam’s bride-to-be.

The isle was scarcely inhabited and contained barely enough pasture to feed its five-odd peoples. Three small huts dotted this space, one of which had been left untouched with the absence of Victor, former lodger.

He had renovated extensively, filling it with splendid furniture. And yet, to Adam’s amazement, the village left all the riches alone, as if minding a curse. Further, the jars and tanks of organs and limbs inside the hut had been left just as Adam had last seen them, and the same went for the womanly parts strewn all across the room: the body of the fair Frankenstein whom Victor had so violently rejected. All untouched, all of it; had even the rats avoided this dwelling?

Abominable Adam searched that hut for any possessions that might have proven useful to his current enterprise, a pale parody of his creator’s own. To his bewilderment, there in dust sat the entire collection of Victor’s notes, all the knowledge required to revive a composite corpse, to animate this patchwork maid who had never been born.

Shuddering with the possibilities and new futures swirling round his being, he carefully lifted the disembodied head of his female duplicate and wiped the dirt from her face. Her hair was wavy, flowy, and lustrously black, with a single eclectic strip of white dashing from root to tip. Her teeth were of a pearly white, her eyes watery and grey, their sockets dun. The lips, black and straight, seemed now to smile.

By no conventional means could that face be described as beauteous or at all fine. Staring into those blank eyes, however, such a one as Adam felt only adoration. This was truly the woman with the power to grant him contentment, his double, his pride, his wife. All of that so long confined to this room, frozen in time, thanks to Victor Frankenstein’s greatest act of spite!

“But never again shall I have to rely on Victor Frankenstein to grant me happiness,” declared Adam. “With myself as my witness, I, Adam, hereby declare my full intention to play…scientist!” Thunder cracked and spooked two of the local cows.

The first step in his plan to manufacture happiness was to fit himself with a scientific white longcoat and snap on surgical gloves. Then he cracked open a diary and got to memorizing the facts of these peculiar life sciences. In due time he gained an understanding of the apparati and tools in boxes around the hut, and within weeks his research was complete. Next he sewed the pieces of Victor’s second creation together, injecting her body with compounds and chemicals in their proper measures.

Then the fateful night dawned…or dusked. Small electrodes were attached to her body at vital points and junctures, and fingers of lightning danced in the Scottish clouds, preluding descent of heaven’s touch. His Eve, clad in the most gorgeous wedding gown he could steal, lied on a metal bed. Hotly anticipated hours slid by on the greased sidewalk of glee, and then the work was made complete with a sky-clap—a touch of the kite tied to the roof, a shock of aether bottled in her form.

At long, long last, the bride of Frankenstein’s design rose upright on the worktable. By the glimmer of lamplight, she opened the eyes beneath that white veil.

Adam, as he approached her, was cordial, as if greeting an exalted minister, though his feelings were tender and warm. He pulled the veil apart and beamed at her. “Welcome,” he greeted, “to the world of the liv-”

“EEYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” she screeched—and pushed him away! Then she vomited embalming fluid all over the floor, scrambled to the wall, kicked a hole through it with incredible strength, and jogged out into the Orkneyan countryside.

Oh horror of all horrors! The first reaction of the love of his life was one of utter and absolute revulsion! To him she was more gorgeous than any Mona Lisa, more comely than the most armless statue of Venus! Yet to her, he was naught but a Frankenstein’s monster!

His greyish heart wept, and sought sad comfort in painful resignation. His knees buckled, seeking only surrender. But the mind reasoned with the body to keep it from breaking, and extended a hand to the heart. Adam told himself, “No! This reaction is only natural, but it can be unlearned! She is but a babe in the wood who has as much knowledge of this world as I after mine own birth…just as skittish as a young Adam, who only learned proper speech by way of stalking an unfortunate home for months and months, who came to understand his own misfortunate appearance by way of repeated misfortunes!

“If I could only stay her course, follow her every move and watch as she matures in the way I did! Then perhaps she will come to see herself in myself, just as I see myself in her! All hope is not lost, Adam—Paradise still exists! Follow that babe!”

As he prepared to chase, the hut’s actual, non-hole door swung open, and in flew a silver cross, which landed directly upon Adam’s shoulder and bounced to the floor. Adam did not turn to face the cross-tosser; he only took a step toward Eve’s improvised exit. “Begone, villager! Myself hath none timery for gamesense!” he blathered. He took a second step, and a clove of garlic tied to a wooden stake rebounded off his powerful back.

“Curses. He is a strong one,” decided a grizzled murmur. “If silver crosses do not work, then perhaps…”

Perhaps a rifle and a silver ball, all anointed with holy water.

The round embedded itself in Adam’s flesh with a smarting bite, and he jumped, shouting, “Yippee-ki-yay!” He spun toward the door and cried, “Whosoever you be, in your attempt to slay me I hereby declare thee to be foolish fool of all fools! Leave me be! I must track down the single happiness that remains in my sorrowful existence! Now I am off, before she escapes my sight, to protect my future of love and belovedness!”

“Cease your longwindedness, vampire!”

Another silver ball was fired. This one struck wretched Adam between the eyes, infecting his vision with a persistent white flash. “My vision!” cried Adam. He could barely divine the form of his one—no, three assailants as they entered the room: Abraham Van Helsing with his gnarly rifle, Mary Wollstonecraft Goodwin Shelley, and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

“You got ‘im, I wager!” Percy cheered.

“Wait one moment, Van Helsing,” cautioned Mary. “This is no vampire! He be of human flesh, though the flesh of the undead either way!”

“I see,” said Abe V. H. “Then indeed this is the beast seen traipsing across the whole of Eurasia. I have misinterpreted the reports. This is no vampire side-hunt; it is our mancreature main-hunt.”

“But how, then, to kill this monstrosity?” Percy panicked. “We prepared for a ghoul, not an ugly, ugly, freakishly ugly abominable that’s-no-man uggo! We cannot do it, we simply can not!

Van Helsing responded by shooting Adam once again. He wailed!

“Both of you, please stand down for a moment,” requested Mary. “If this truly be the monster of Frankenstein I met one year ago, that means we have unfinished business! You disgusting untruth of a man! You gave your word that you would have yourself burned away in the northern wastes, yet here you stand, indulging in the joys of science! What excuse have you who so cling to life like a cowardly infant to his mother’s breast?”

Adam rubbed his eyes, as if that might clear away the migrainous flashes. “I recognize that somewhat mannish and sailor-like yet womanly voice…it is the voice of the lady who disguised as a man on that fateful voyage!” Now he faced her. “Were you not on that boat I came across on the day of Victor’s passing? In that case, I shall divulge to you the true history elapsed since that event, and then hastily escape to the love of my life!

“I have burned to death! I sat in a fire of my own machination for three days and again three nights, yet this flesh refuses all attempts to burn away! And so, seeing this agonizing misfortune as yet another Frankenstein curse, I clung to this unpassing life as to a witch-mother, like a child whose every joy is but a trick or trifle…every joy but this!” He flung his arm toward Eve’s passageway. “My search for meaning has—”

Mary wrenched the gun from the Van Helsing’s hands and shot Adam in the shoulder.

“Ugh! Mine connector betwixt arm and chest—”

She shot him again, in the other shoulder.

“Consarn you, why must you interrupt me at any turn of phrase?”

The trigger clicked to no avail, yet Mary, swallowed by horror and irritation, kept pulling. “Curses! This gun is out of ammunition and he simply will not! Cease! Talking!

“Not to worry, m’love!” Percy tossed another clove of garlic at Adam’s face with a thlunk.

“We’ve quite established he is no vampire, Percy dear.”

Not to worry—Abe Van Helsing now had two pistols. He lacerated Adam’s face, blasting through with bullet after bullet, until Adam finally rushed out of that hole, ammo nicking his ankle as he ran. The further he ran across the highland hills, the more his vision returned to him…the better to see his despair, to know that his bride was no longer in sight.

Face dripping blood, he raced to the opposite coast, and stopped. No boats did he spot in the dark of this eve, nor could any swimmers be heard over lapping high tide.

“I have done nothing but loose another sorry creature unto this world,” he reflected somberly. Shame took the place of infatuation in his heart. He was no noble Adam taming the wilderness with his wife. He was just another Frankenstein. And he had not outdone Victor. In fact, he newly understood, with a pang of dread sympathy, why Victor had stopped short and dared destroy his bride, though it had brought Adam’s wrath upon his head and ensured the demise of both.

His reflection halted as bullets whizzed past his head.

“Darn these guns! Why must they be so inaccurate from a distance?” complained Van Helsing.

“If the creation of a monster should be such a sin as to add to my life sentence,” Adam decreed to himself, “then these experienced hunters must be my just desserts, my last supper before true execution.”

Then he turned to the oppressors. “Fie on thee, I say! Come and chase this gross criminal! I shall raise the stakes for you, and cling to life with the very last of my strength! I hope you have made final preparations, for this is a journey that will drag us four all to the very ends of the earth!”

“I can still hear him ramble on! He’s close!”

“Oops!”

Adam swan-dove into the raging sea and began the greatest adventure never told, which spanned years and continents, and was perfect for filling a novel far, far more interesting than Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus.

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Author: Joi

I write, I draw, I do it all

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