Happy Friday the 13th! Here’s a short story… “The Last”
Today is Friday the 13th, and I do have a book sale 99 Cents for “Warmth“. This story takes place immediately after the end of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and is written from the point of view of the Creature. I wrote it as an assignment for my English 85b class at Berkeley City College, and I also read it for my English 21 Cinema class. Thaolinh Tran was so kind as to videotape it, so here is a videotape of the presentation that includes the reading:
[This story takes place immediate after the ending of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”]
Revenge is all-consuming. All at once, it fed me and fed upon me, the way steam fuels a locomotive, becomes its beating heart, propelling it ever forward, but in doing so, it squanders itself. Only by devouring itself can the hot water cause the train to engage in its forcible motion. When I was consumed with revenge, mine was a heated heart exhausting itself in the pursuit of my creator, but when it was over, I found myself spent.
The heat was exhausted, and all that was left was cold.
Cold, and ice… a desolate land of ice I exiled myself to after the only father I would ever know died, never loving me, never truly knowing me. I was as cold as the icy hand of Victor Frankenstein, which I held as I sobbed inconsolably by his bedside, and as cold as the grave he returned to in the frozen ground of his family cemetery. I was cold, and alone.
Thus emptied of all remaining reason to cling to this tragic and ill-conceived life, I moved forward on heavy limbs, rickety and ill-coordinated. The snow and the ice smashed under my boot heel, and when I occasionally heard it crack, I deeply and profoundly wished with all of my heart that it would continue to do so, opening a great rift that would drag me under the sea.
Contemplating death, I wondered if one so strangely formed as myself, and with such bizarre sciences made, would drown in its icy depths. I felt the life flowing through my patchwork limbs in strange contrasting levels of sensation. Some of my skin felt the prickling tingle of the icy wind that bit it, and in other places, the skin was dull and numb. I saw through two mismatched eyes, one of which was very nearsighted. From time to time, I would close one eye so I could get a better view of what lie ahead. One of my ears was prone to a constant ringing.
My legs were uneven in length, and that caused one of my legs to drag slightly behind the others, a disability my creator surely did not intend. I imagine he did not consider the implications of using limbs and organs from donors of different ages: if he had, he might foresee the ache I felt in my sixty-six year old hip bones. Some strange animal or plant life entered my nostrils on the wind, and I sneezed. I doubted that Victor knew I was born with allergies.
My leg and hip were getting the better of me, and I was going to need to find a place to sit. Considering that I was determined to die, I was surprised to find myself looking for a cave or some nook or cranny in which I might experience warmth, and have shelter from the long arctic winter.
I stopped where I stood.
If I was determined to die, there was no need for any shelter. I should just lay my body on the ground where I stood and allow nature to take its course.
I slowly lowered my body onto its creaking knees, and then placing the palms of both hands into the snow, As I began to lower myself down onto my bottom, I looked at my hands… both tremendous in size, the one a ruddy pink with broken, yellow fingernails, the other an olive-brown kind of khaki with nails neatly groomed and manicured. These hands both belonged to other men once, but now, they were mine… cooperatively obeying my every command, even the ones that would lead to their own demise.
I felt the soft flakes of downy snow land in cold spots against my skin, and I smiled. I was filled with a vast sense of knowing, an internal warmth aflame at the core of my soul as I realized suddenly, finally, that I was a part of nature. I was a part of this nature, and it was a part of me.
When I finally hit the ground, I heard a mysterious cracking sound.
Looking down, I laughed. I was sitting on top of the sled, the very sled that carried my maker to the ship where he died. It was a last little bit of the world of man, the world that had rejected me, smashed underneath my unnatural weight.
My laughter began to slow as I became aware of the gray forms strewn about me in the snow. Some were speckled with blood, but most of the sled dogs just lay there, curled up in balls to ward of the cold. I stood up and began to walk around them, touching them… stroking their stiffening ears and patting their icy fur.
I let out a wail of grief.
Who had abandoned them here? Was it my creator who let them run free into the cold night, or was it theirs? The senseless death of the innocent creatures struck me to the core in a way the death of a man never had.
Then I noticed something odd about them. In the center, several dogs were piled close together, one upon another. Sensing that they were protecting something, or someone, I began to peel back the bodies, and as I did, the bodies became warmer, and further from death. I continued until I reached the last.
The last dog was a young mother, sheltered by the bodies of the dead. I do not know if they covered her, or if someone covered her body with them like so much cordwood. Perhaps the wind blew their bodies against her somehow… I do not know. All that I know is that she lived. When I hoisted up the last, and lifted her to my bosom, I saw below her on the ground the reason she held onto life so long…
There were three of them, three tiny puppies, frozen in the snow. I saw them and I knew that revenge was not the only thing that was all consuming. She had lived for her puppies, knowing they needed her to live. Maybe she was just an excuse that I used to give purpose to my life. I can’t tell you. But when I lifted her cold body up against my chest to warm it and she licked my icy cheek, fearless, and accepting, I knew I could not leave her there to die.
That was when I knew I had to live my life, to the last.
We live in a cave now, and I know that she doesn’t know that it is the bodies of her fallen comrades that I am feeding her as we sit by a fire fuelled with the broken bits of wood that were once a sled. She doesn’t worry about what we will do when the firewood is gone, or we run out of food. I worry for the both of us, and I live for the both of us. I have told myself, that I will have to live at least as long as she does.
After all… how would De Lacy live without me?