"Had I committed a Frankenstein-caliber crime, usurping God's position of life and death? Had I unleashed a mindless fury upon the town?"
Written for an English assignment in 2005
Requests: Read and review por favor.
Frankenstein had always fascinated me, even as a small child. Every Halloween, I would insist upon putting a green tint to my skin, enjoying the artistic array of scars where my mother's eyeliner decorated all visible parts of me. Moaning my worst, I would stagger out the front door, exasperated parent lagging behind as I approached my prey, stiff-armed and terrifying. As I grew older, the costume grew more elaborate, my acting skills more refined. I acquired rather a spooky air on that magical night, and those who had pretended fright when I was a child would step back from the door in real terror before assuring themselves as to my identity.
I continued trick-or-treating all through my trek towards my doctorate, and when I shot up from my gangling teen self to my full height of six foot three, it delighted me. I fit all the better into my role now than I had as a high school student, and I took every opportunity to display my spookiness. Haunted house? I was there. Halloween party? Wouldn't miss it for the world.
It was only Frankenstein that affected me this way. I really was never one for horror stories, but this particular character and book were not horror stories. They were art! Most people, however, thought I was just obsessed with monsters. I suppose that is why no one was particularly surprised when, after graduating from college, I took my degree, packed my belongings (including all six copies I owned of Mary Shelley's sacred novel: two first editions, one 'anniversary' edition, a signed copy, and two other copies, just for reading), and went off to live in the Andes Mountains.
"Enjoy the chupacabras," my father joked, slapping me on the back as my parents bid farewell to me at the gate of DIA.
"Frank!" my mother gasped, reprovingly. She had never understood my 'monster fixation', and certainly did not believe in encouraging it with mentions of new, perhaps more exotic, monsters..
I rolled my eyes at my father. "Dad, chupacabras don't even live in Argentina. They're Mexican vampires, not Argentinan"
"Now, be careful Jonathan!" my mother fussed. "There are all sorts of bandits, and who knows what kind of disease you could catch out there! We'll see you at Christmas, all right?"
I nodded, exchanged hugs and kisses, and grabbed my luggage. Finally, finally, I was free to explore the world on my own! Of course, I mused, checking my luggage and going through Security, I wouldn't play with raising people from the dead. I had learned my lesson about that from my favorite book. No. But I had this fascinating new idea about cardiovascular health that I was just itching to try out on the people of my new village.
By the time I got to my seat, I was so keyed up at the thought of all the challenges that lay in front of me I couldn't even read Frankenstein. Instead, I looked out the window at the cement and gleaming planes waiting to take off. The scent of adventure, excitement, and the unknown filtered through my nostrils like…well, like a skunk's stench. But I knew that this scent was much better, so much better, then the smell of some flattened animal. My blood was pumping double time through my veins, and my mind was racing through thirty different cures I could work out, twelve different ways to save a human life.
I was, in fact, so enthralled with my imagination that the woman had to speak twice in order for me to hear her. I looked up at the harassed lines of a motherly face framed by frizzing red-blond hair in time to see two slightly-wrinkled hands push a squirming ten year old into the seat next to me.
"You don't mind if Christopher sits here, do you?" she asked, glancing over her shoulder at a screeching baby and an older, lined man with hawklike features and a rumpled look to his dark brown hair. I shook my head, and she sighed in relief, already pushing a carrot-topped girl of about the same age as Christopher into the seat across from him, next to a white haired grandmother who was snoozing.
Christopher threw one, cursory look at me and turned to the girl, who I imagined must be his sister. "Betcha can't do this," he dared, sticking both fingers into his nose and wiggling his tongue.
"Can too," the girl replied, copying him, and following with a new challenge. I edged away slightly. They couldn't possibly keep this up the whole flight, could they? Pressed up against the window, as far away from the children as I could get, I eventually fell into a semi-conscious state, in which I remained until the flight attendant appeared mid-journey, offering barely palatable air fare. I roused myself enough to prod at the cardboard-like chicken adorning the Styrofoam tray and gaze torpidly at the lukewarm Coke, half listening to the conversation taking place to my left.
"Hey, do you know what my science teacher says?" the girl asked Christopher, rapidly consuming her meal.
"What?" Christopher slurred, mouth full of limp lettuce and long-dead bird.
"He says that when you sneeze, your body temper…temprey…Mom, how do you say it?"
Their mother stuck her head out from the seat two behind me. "Temporarily, Jessica."
"Yeah. He says that your body temporarily stops working! You know what that means?
Christopher shrugged. "You die?"
Jessica looked utterly thrilled, her hair surrounding her head like the halo of a divining angel. "And you come back to life," she grinned. I fantasized her blue eyes were looking directly at me, through me, and I shivered.
But I never forgot that overheard conversation.
Two years later, I was a thriving, if overworked, physician in my adopted village. The natives were friendly, the ailments few (besides the occasional cold), and I was free to work out cures with the abundant supply of local plants.
However, the day came when one of the village farmers, Roberto, came to me with horrible allergies, sneezing like mad. I gave him the usual prescription, telling him to come back in a few days if it got worse. It did, and by the time a week was out, the hulking Roberto had been reduced to a skeleton of his former self. Within two more days, his heart gave out.
I was called by a neighbor to perform the autopsy soon after Roberto died; he was a widower with no close kin, so the neighbors checked on him often. I didn't rush to the scene, thinking it would be a typical death. Maybe he had been allergic to one of the medicines I gave him, or maybe he had overdosed on a one of the illicit substances that nearby villages produced. I doubted that though, because most of those who grow, treat, and sell drugs don't use them. When I finally arrived in the one-room thatched hut that had been Roberto's home, the body was still there, undisturbed. I nodded my thanks to the neighbor, who withdrew, ashen-faced.
However, as I lowered my ear to his mouth to make sure he was dead, not just comatose, he half-sneezed. I stopped, then examined his chest. Not moving. How fascinating, I thought. I hadn't known that post-mortum nerve reflexes could work like that. It happened again.
Suddenly, my mind snapped back to that day, two years ago, on the plane. "Yeah. He says that your body temporarily stops working! You know what that means?
Christopher shrugged. "You die?"
Jessica looked utterly thrilled, her hair surrounding her head like the halo of a divining angel. "And you come back to life,"
"Quickly!" I shouted, stunning the neighbor who had been lurking in a dark corner. "Get me some pepper, or a flower! Hurry!" The women looked confused, but ran out, red skirt flashing as she did. She was back in a hurry, and I quickly grabbed the proffered ground pepper, sprinkling it over and close to Roberto's nose. He didn't even twitch. I bent down, hitting my knee against a nearby stool in my haste, blowing the pepper into his nostrils.
AAAAACHOOOOO! The sound exploded in the deathly quiet room, and Roberto jerked up. He looked rather grey about the face, and his eyes were sunken, but I was joyful and proud at saving his life. But then I stopped. Had I committed a Frankenstein-caliber crime, usurping God's position of life and death? Had I unleashed a mindless fury upon the town?
I glanced fearfully at Roberto, but he was far from mindless, speaking animatedly to the woman as if nothing had happened. I relaxed, although the women looked close to fainting.
"Its all right, " I soothed. "Just a part of my medicine." She didn't look convinced, but that was fine. She would get used to my miracles. "Come along Roberto, I want to observe you more closely." He nodded and followed me, showing only the slightest sign lack of cordination. Amazing.
As it turned out, Roberto hadn't had allergies, but a new sort of flu that swept through the village. My 'pepper cure' as it was called, was needed over twenty times, but it worked consistently. Most of the villagers grew used to it, and although some whispered 'brujo', or warlock,when I passed, it was not many. I kept those who had received the cure in my personal hut for closer observation, noting each minute detail of their lives. They were medical miracles, and I was a medical genius, if this could be proved!
Eventually, though, the villagers wanted to go back to their normal lives, but I couldn't allow that. Not when my reputation could be made by observing them. After several protests, Roberto, my first cure and the most gentle of the villagers, attempted to kill me as I slept. I was only spared by chance, and he died as I defended myself. The villagers grew surly at this news, both those under observation and not. My food somehow became bruised and full of insects, and most stopped coming to me at all.
Three more patients passed this way, and I began to think something was wrong. The villagers had, for the most part, been pacifists. Even locking them up, normally, wouldn't have instigated threats to my life! Was it something I had done? A Frankenstein-worthy mistake? I worried, and eventually took to sleeping in my bunker, which I had begun digging when Roberto first tried to kill me, coming out only to observe the remaining patients, keeping a .22 pistol with me at all times. At this point, I was in total isolation. I saw no one who did not wish me harm. I became paranoid.
One dark and steamy night as I made my way from the hut to my bunker, I heard a catlike rustle in the bushes to my left. I flattened against the side of the hut, drawing my pistol.
"Who is it?" I snapped, voice quavering a bit. My heart was racing, my mouth was dry. My eyesight seemed superimposed as a women stepped out of the bushes, manic glint in her eye and pitchfork in hand. Something sharp poked my left hand, and I looked down to see a knife, shining silver in the moonlight. I quickly stepped away from the hut, just in time to feel a bullet brush my back and hear the crack of a nearby branch snap. I shook in my boots.
"What's wrong?" I stammered as more people emerged from the forest, bushes, and from in-between huts. Although they totaled only sixteen, they were threatening enough to be a mob of trained militants armed with AK-47s. I backed towards my bunker, the smell of fear strong in my nostrils, the taste of it on my tongue.
They said nothing, only approached slowly and deliberately. I backed towards the bunker more quickly, hearing the crackle of fire, but not daring to look away to find it. I gripped the notebook in my sweating hands as I edged closer to my sanctuary, finally making a dive for the door. I made it, as the mob of infuriated patients ran forward. Turning the handle at a more rapid pace than I would have thought possible, I darted inside, slamming the bolt and padlock into place.
I sat on my meager cot, writing as I do now. It has been three hours since I dove into my hole like a rabbit with a fox on its tail, but the musty smell of my den is overwhelming my senses. My ears are buzzing as well, with the cries of the villagers as the zombies wreak havoc. I am safe in my hole, for now. After looking at my records and examining my observations closely, I have discovered the problem. It is not that those treated with my 'pepper cure' have mentally or, obviously, physically departed. The problem with the patients is that they have no morals. It seems that when they died, a part of them departed. Perhaps it was a part of their soul. Perhaps not. The world shall probably never know.
There is a burning, musty smell sneaking around. I can vaguely sense it, but cannot name it, which is quite frustrating. The smell is familiar though. The odor tentatively stretches a tendril towards me, but as I attempt to breathe it in and identify it, the tendril is withdrawn. Becoming a bit bolder, it hits me full blast, snaking its tentacles vindictively up my nose. I cough, and my head reels dizzily. Near me, in a dark corner, a rustling starts. No. I will not be drawn in by my imagination again. Alas, it seems inevitable that I will die here, and my mind is overreacting. Think. Calm down. The rustling, like leaves in a sprightly autumn wind, is growing louder and is punctuated by a slight popping noise. It seems to be made by a shape, lurking in the corner. I'm going to look, just to settle my nerves. After all, it can't possibly be a….