(Based on a recent book club pick)
I loved my family: no one could have had a more blessed childhood than
I had in 18th-century Geneva. My parents, though distant in age,
adored each other and their children; the two girls we had incorporated into our clan
had their beauty equaled only by their virtue; and our little brother
William was everyone's favorite.
And then, there was Victor.
not misunderstand me: I loved my brother as I loved all my relatives.
It is only that there was always something, well, how to explain: not
quite natural about him.
From a young age, he had become interested in alchemy and achieving eternal
life. Honestly! Father should have kept a tighter reign on that boy's
reading material, if anyone had asked me, but I do not begrudge the
freedoms we all enjoyed. We were allowed to frolic anywhere we
wished like well-behaved hooligans, getting ourselves into all sorts of
orderly mischief. My blood siblings were Victor and Saint William, and
our parents adopted Elizabeth, the Mother Superior, and Justine, our
social equal until she would come of age to be our servant. Elizabeth was our
sister in almost every sense of the word but everyone, her included,
expected her to marry Victor, which I found a bit distasteful and added a
disturbing layer to our childhood games; however, no one asked for my
opinion. Come to think of it, few people ever asked me about anything.
departure for university was delayed when Mother died, as mothers
nursing sick adopted girls tend to do. I do not know if her passing
significantly affected the turn his studies took while he was at school -
that die seemed to have been cast well before that tragedy could have
been used as an excuse. He wrote not once - not once! - while he was
studying in Germany. I could understand several weeks or even a few
months, but years? That was when I first started suspecting that he was
not entirely well. In the head, I mean.
Our friend, Henry Clerval,
then wrote to us that Victor had fallen ill, which naturally had us all
worried for him. We were soon distracted from that by The Saint's
martyrdom - that is to say, poor little William was found randomly
murdered. Odder still, our mother's miniature portrait that he was
wearing on a whim that day was found on Justine. The finger of the law
pointed to her and no other. I myself thought it odd that someone who
would do such a thing would then leave incriminating evidence lying
around for others to find in her possession, but no one asked me. Poor
Justine confessed so she would not burn for eternity, and was hanged for
it. On his return home during the trial, Victor was extremely upset
about the whole thing, even more than the rest of us: he beat his chest,
pulled his hair, and groaned a lot. He also spent much time walking
around and rowing on the lake. I mourned as well, then had to continue
studying for my exams.
one of his walkabouts, Victor asked Father's permission to study in
England. England! As if Germany hadn't been enough! Clerval wanted to
go with him, the better to complete his training in spreading The Word to
foreigners, so Father acquiesced. I had yet to be allowed to
join the service and see the world, yet there was Victor, on his second
international journey. Well, someone had to keep Elizabeth company
while he was gone, at any rate.
Time passed (onward, as it must), and
we received word that Clerval had met an unfortunate end and Victor had
been arrested for it. That news most assuredly set us astir, until we
received word later that Victor was proved innocent by eyewitnesses
stating that he was in the vicinity of his island laboratory with its foul stench at the time of the murder. That was certainly a relief.
inevitable then happened: after Victor came home, he and Elizabeth
married. I spent the whole ceremony holding back the feeling of
sickness as I watched them sickeningly make their sickening vows of love
and destiny and virtue and ad infinitum to each other. When we
received word later that Elizabeth had been found dead on her wedding
night, I first thought she had expired in self defense. Then I thought
Victor had finally snapped and killed the one he loved, but he claimed
that some "monster" (he always exaggerated) had murdered her. Father
gave way to the tidal wave of grief and joined Mother, who was the lucky
one out of all this, in Heaven. And then Victor disappeared, leaving
me, well and truly, alone to face the cold world.
Some time later, I
somehow came across letters written by a sailor to his sister that
detailed his meeting Victor in the middle of the Arctic, of all places.
The whole sordid story of my brother's attempt to play mother (twice) by creating a living human being from the parts of dead human beings,
his responsibility for our family members' and friend's deaths (except
for Mother's: that was all sick Elizabeth's fault), and the possibility
that his "man" was still running around wreaking havoc despite its claims
to the contrary just about killed what was left of my spirit. Having said all that, the one
act of Victor's that I absolutely could not forgive was his behaving as if his
entire family was dead when I was still alive and had to hear about all
this years later.
I think Mary Shelley forgot about me.