Thursday, March 27, 2014

Story 26: What Happened to Ernest Frankenstein?

          (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.
          Do 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.
          Victor's 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.
          After 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.
           The 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. 

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