Jakob and I were skating on the river. I can remember it clearly. I was teasing him that if he could beat me to the bridge, he'd get a kiss. The other girls say I picked a bad beau; they call him a fat whale and wonder why I didn't go after a strong, rugged boy like they did. I had three reasons. First, he's the son of a baker and likely to open his own bakery some day; if we married my children would never go hungry (plus, he makes the most delicious cakes you ever tasted!). Second, I find his soft, round body more fun to cuddle than one of those angular, rough boys. No, we haven't gone much further than cuddling; I don't want to have to get sent off to a convent like happened to my friend Greta's cousin. And third, and most importantly for this part of my story, when a girl is in better shape than her boyfriend, she's the one in control of whether he can catch her when he chases.
So on that fateful day, I'd decided that my Jakob was going to get to kiss me, and maybe warm his fingers inside my blouse. His hands are buttery-soft, and more gentle than even I am with my goats. So I turned and taunted him a little, and then pretended to trip on a patch of rough ice to slow myself down. But I pretended a little too well, and tripped for real in the wrong direction. Off balance, I was sent speeding down right past my rendezvous and under the bridge.
When I managed to make myself stop, I realized I was in trouble. The ice where I'd ended up was thinner, and it was starting to crack. Jakob came toward me, but he was too heavy and it just started cracking more as he got closer. I told him to go back and try to find help. He didn't want to leave me; he spent a couple minutes frantically looking around for a tree branch or a rope or something he could reach me with. But there was nothing around us but snow and stones, so he very reluctantly left me.
I remembered what I'd been taught, and laid down on the ice and spread myself out and slowly began inching my way toward the riverbank. I dragged myself an excruciating few inches, and I could almost stretch my fingers enough to touch one of the stones sticking out of the ice. I must have leaned a little too heavily on my knee, because a spider's web of cracks erupted from beneath it, and I barely had time to notice it before I was suddenly in the river. The water was so cold that I went numb almost immediately. All my woolen layers that had just been keeping me warm were suddenly soaked full of frigid water and making me sink. I was having trouble keeping my head above water. Despite the ice on top, the river beneath was still flowing very rapidly, and I was swept by the current. I'm not exactly sure what happened next. I just remember feeling trapped, and struggling to breathe in a cold, wet, dark place.
I sent a silent prayer to Heaven, promising that if I somehow survived this ordeal, I would be a better person. And then everything went black.
I woke up in intense pain. It felt like my whole body was on fire, and there was a bright light, and a sharp smell. I didn't understand how the cold, wet darkness had suddenly been replaced with its opposite, but my mind was mainly focused on the pain. I screamed and couldn't hear myself; somewhere close an animal was letting out a deep, low bellow that seemed to contain as much despair as I was feeling. I wasn't sure exactly what manner of beast it was; it wasn't quite a wolf and wasn't quite a bull.
The pain subsided, and the bright light left my eyes. I didn't see anything I recognized, just some odd metal shapes in front of a stone wall. I tried to turn my head to look around, but my neck was held tightly. Likewise, I could neither sit up nor move my arms and legs because something had strapped them down. All I knew was that I was lying on some kind of flat hard surface.
Somewhere below me and to the left, a man's voice was laughing. He cried out gleefully, "It's alive!" Off to the right a second voice cackled.
I shouted out to get his attention, but that animal howled again at the same time. The vibration I sensed gave me a horrible feeling. I repeated my call, and heard that same bestial noise. Somehow, I was the one making that sound. My voice was all wrong, and I didn't know why. Perhaps I was dreaming, but if so this was a nightmare. I attempted to will myself awake, but it didn't work.
I heard a mechanical rumble and a metallic ratcheting, and the slab or table to which I had been clamped slowly moved downward. When it stopped moving, the man on the left approached and came into my view. He was tall and gaunt, with a high forehead. I vaguely recognized him from somewhere. He wore a leather apron and long rubberized gloves, like a butcher. He looked into my terrified eyes and smiled. "I did it!" Then he turned away and said, "Ygor, bring the spanners."
The person he was talking to moved with shuffling footsteps. "Yes, Baron." That explained how I had recognized the first man. He was Baron Victor Frankenstein, a nobleman whose castle wasn't very far from our village. Ygor came closer and I saw that he was a deformed little hunchback.
They used some tools on each side of my neck and then removed the large iron strap that had been holding me down. I tried to raise my head, but the baron placed his hand on my face and said sternly, "Stay," like he was commanding a dog. His hand didn't cover much of my forehead. It was odd; he'd never seemed small to me before.
He repeated his command as the rest of the straps came off, forcing me to lie still and wait. I wasn't even allowed to raise my arms. When they finally finished, the baron stepped back and said to me, "Now, my Creation, you may arise!"
I sat up and moved my head around to get a good look at the place. The room was filled with machines and equipment that I didn't recognize, with sparking wires and bubbling beakers and whirring cogs everywhere. It was so bizarre that I didn't even look at myself right away, but then I did and the nightmare got worse.
I was grotesque. My skin was a pallid greenish gray, and its surface was crisscrossed with long scars sewn together with thick stitches. Here and there were patches of bristly black hair. Everything seemed too large. If I brought my hand to my eyes, it was much bigger than it should have been, but it looked about the right size at the end of my arm. It was like I'd been magnified in a carnival mirror. For some reason, it took me the longest to notice the worst part. I was naked on the slab, but looking down revealed that my chest was broad but smooth, with no soft breasts beneath my tiny black nipples. And looking further down I saw between my legs some parts that I'd only had a passing familiarity with before. I was now a male.
The baron had done this to me somehow. I tried to ask him what had happened, but all I did was moan. I knew what words were, but I was having difficulty remembering what words I wanted to say and exactly how to make them. He looked at me without even noticing my confusion. He ordered Ygor to fetch my clothes and show me to my room, and then left.
Some of the clothes he gave me weren't all that different from things I'd worn before, but I had a lot of difficulty working the laces on my trousers. His laughing at me got me so annoyed I tried to slap him, but he was too nimble and ducked. Eventually I got completely dressed. My things didn't fit very well, and most had as many extra seams and patches as the flesh they were covering, and my boots looked they they'd been made by an amateur cobbler. But at least most of me was covered. It was easier to forget my situation without that you-know-what staring up at me.
Ygor led me out of the laboratory, through a passage, down a staircase and along a hallway to a door. He said it was "my room," and when I went in he quickly closed the heavy door and I heard him slide a bar in place. I was trapped in a small stone cell, with a tiny slit of a window near the ceiling. I had a thin pile of straw for a bed, and a small wooden stool as my chair or table. I'd been provided with a hunk of moldy bread and a jug of water as my meal, but my last piece of furniture was a bucket that I didn't even want to think about using so I chose not to partake. I lay on the straw and wept myself to sleep.
Over the next few weeks, the routine was the same. I'd be left alone in my cell all day, and then Ygor would come fetch me shortly after nightfall. (I couldn't see anything out my window, but I was grateful that it at least showed me the passage of days.) The baron would then give me some kind of test, to measure my strength or determine how many instructions I could remember to a complicated task. And when he had enough data to play with for that day, I'd get sent back to my room.
In my time alone, I slowly worked on my language. So one day I was finally able to ask Baron Frankenstein, "What me?" Fortunately for me he was enough of an egotist that he loved praising himself for his genius. So as he described his experiment I learned what I was. Apparently, he'd studied natural philosophy at university and got the notion to attempt to create a living creature from nonliving material. He'd managed to create some of my parts from scratch, using the chemical elements that make up everything in nature, but for other parts it was easier to use pieces taken from animals, and for the really complex organs he was able to procure dead human bodies and use their parts.
He didn't say exactly, but since I remember being Abigail I figured that I must have died after I fell in the river, and he got my corpse and used whatever organ houses my identity in making his Creature. I wished there was some way I could tell my family that I'm not gone completely. I also wondered what happened to my soul. Did it go to Heaven when I died, or have I still got it since I still think I'm me?
The Baron's tests got easier over time. I was very clumsy at first, but as I grew more used to the size of my new body, I tripped less and remembered to duck at nearly every doorway. I even got the hang of unlacing my trousers and using that thing down there when I needed to make water, but it still felt wrong.
I worked out in my head the layout of the building. Since my window got sunlight, I knew it had to be on an outside wall, and there was a door off the upper passageway that seemed like it had to be on that same wall. So one evening after I'd been sent back to my cell, I waited for what I felt was two hours, and then I threw myself at the door of my room. The door was strong, but I guessed from how I'd done on the baron's tests that I was stronger.
I was right. The door splintered enough that I could move the bar on the other side out of the way and open it. I hurried up the stairs and over to the door I hoped led to freedom. It also easily opened, and I had guessed correctly. I saw stars for the first time with these eyes. I had to go down a couple of steps and I was on the ground, and ran.
Looking back, I saw that I'd been living in a dungeon of the baron's castle. The forest wasn't far, and I was soon comfortably hidden. I crept into the underbrush and slept.
I wandered around in the forest for a few days, foraging what I could. I found some edible plants, and followed a game trail to a stream with fresh water. I had the shock of my second life when I saw my reflection in the water as I knelt to drink. My visage was even more grotesque than my body. My head was misshapen, nearly squared-off on top, and my forehead protruded. More of those seams ran along my face, and it looked like some of them had been held together with metal staples. And there were metal bolts sticking out on either side of my neck.
I was deeply saddened. The baron may have been proud of his creation, but it looked like he'd fallen very short of the mark in trying to create a human being. I was more some kind of inhuman monster. I considered going back to the castle and letting them do whatever they wanted to me; nothing really mattered any more.
But then in my wandering I heard something beautiful. I followed the sound and as it grew louder I could hear more clearly that it was the Ave Maria being played on a violin. It moved me so much that I realized that it must have been a sign from God to show that I really did have a soul, to be able to have such a reaction.
As stealthily as I could, I crept closer and discovered that the music was coming from a small hut stuck out here in the woods. I slipped to the window and tried not to be seen as I peeked at the virtuoso. As luck would have it, I didn't need to be that careful. The musician was a blind man in monk's robes, a blind hermit living a pious life alone in the forest.
He didn't see me, but he heard my giant feet snap a twig, and sensed my presence. I reluctantly let him know I was there. I wanted to tell him his playing was transcendently beautiful, but the best I could say was, "Music good."
He invited me into his home to share his meager meal, and I realized how hungry I was. I felt sorry that I couldn't be more of a conversationalist for him, but he appreciated my company anyway. And I also realized how lonely I had become.
I stayed with the old man for quite a while, helping him with his chores and trying not to be a burden. But one morning he didn't wake up. The Lord had called him to Heaven. I gave him a simple grave, and tried my best at saying a prayer over the body. I made an attempt at playing a dirge for him on his fiddle, but I gripped it too tightly and it splintered in my hands. I thought about trying to live by myself in his hut, but the time I'd spent with him had made me crave the company of others. I decided to go home.
I wasn't quite to the village when I heard a familiar sound, the bleating of goats. I slipped from tree to tree to get a better look. I saw that it was Frieda out with her flock in a meadow nearby. I remembered that she had a habit of falling asleep on duty, and hoped luck was with me. It was. She was lying in the grass, her blonde curls a natural pillow, her eyes closed, her breath softly snoring. I knew she'd be afraid of me, so I placed one hand on her mouth before I woke her. "No scream," I said. She'd spook the goats and they might hurt themselves.
Her eyes snapped open and I could see the terror in them. "No scream," I repeated.
What was I going to do? How could I tell her who I really was, and would she believe me? Remembering the violin, I worried that I might be pushing her mouth too hard. I looked to see that she was still breathing, and watched her chest continue to rise and fall. Frieda had always preferred blouses that revealed a bit of her bosom at the neckline, and this one was no exception. I'd always been jealous of her figure, and that was even truer in my new shape.
But something happened as I watched her, and as I breathed in her soft scent. I had a painful sensation, like I needed to make water but not exactly. Frieda's eyes changed expression, and I followed their glance down at me. That thing down there, which like the rest of me was larger than a person's should be, was getting even bigger.
I had to loosen my laces so my trousers wouldn't tear, so I shifted the position of the hand that was holding Frieda down. She seized the opportunity of my attention being elsewhere and bit down on my finger. I roared and pulled my hand away from her. She got up and tried to run away. I tried to grab her, but only got hold of a handful of her blouse, and it tore as she slipped away. That just gave me a better view, plus I managed to get a better hand on her when she tried to cover herself. Before I had time to realize what I was doing I ended up with my hands on her, her blouse completely open and my trousers undone. I fear what might have happened next if I hadn’t been tripped by one of her larger goats. (The flock had panicked when I yelled.)
When my wits recovered, I shamefully ran away. I hated the body I was stuck in and the things it wanted to do.
I needed to remember who I was. There was one person I needed to see. I went to the bakery and hid in the shadows by the back door and waited. The aroma of fresh bread was excruciating for my empty stomach, but I couldn't risk being seen. I waited until I saw my Jakob go out, and followed him from a distance until I could get him alone.
I noticed that he carried a bunch of fresh flowers, which made be angry. He'd gotten a new girl so soon after losing me? He was supposed to be pining for me romantically forever. That wasn't fair! He headed down by the river toward the end of town, which made me wonder what kind of girl would need such a sneaky meeting. Could his new girlfriend be already taken by another?
His pace slowed, and it seemed like he wasn't very happy to be seeing his sweetheart. He walked along the riverbank near the bridge, and I saw he was sobbing. He kissed a flower and threw it in the river, and said something.
I realized where he was, and suddenly forgave him for all the trespasses I'd imagined. I needed to get closer to better hear.
Sure enough, he'd gotten the flowers for me. He was visiting the spot where he'd lost me. I heard him mutter between tears, "I'll always love you, Abby."
It was so sweet I couldn't help myself. I was sobbing myself, and let out a heavy sigh. He heard me and looked up to see me, the monster. He shrieked and tried to run away from me.
He picked the wrong direction to run. His foot hit a wet stone on the bank and slipped out from under him. He lost his balance and fell in the river.
I knew my Jakob was not a swimmer, so I ran to save him. That was a bad move on my part. He saw a monster coming toward him and waded out deeper. There was a sudden drop off and the river bottom disappeared beneath his feet. The current grabbed him.
The baron may have done a good job at making my body strong and sturdy, but it lacks sorely in swiftness, and it has no buoyancy at all. There was no way I was going to catch Jakob to save him.
As my luck would have it, right then a couple workmen were passing by and saw us. One shouted out, "that monster just tried to drown the baker boy."
Faster than I would have liked, I soon found myself being chased by an ever growing mob of villagers. I couldn't tell, but I hoped that at least some of them were off trying to rescue Jakob.
I regretted what had happened, but I didn't have the words to explain how it had been an accident. And it didn't look like those people wanted to listen. I ran, seeking shelter in the forest once again, but I heard barking and knew the dogs would be able to track the scent of the dead things I'd been made from.
There was only one hiding place where my scent would blend in. I snuck into the cemetery outside the village and blasphemously opened a crypt (The stone slab sealing the entrance was easy for me to move) to sleep among other dead things.
I couldn't go on like this. This body was just not right for me. But there was only one person who could help me. I waited a day and in the dark of the night I made my way back to Castle Frankenstein.
I went back in through the door I'd used to leave, and surprised Ygor in the laboratory. "Get Baron," I told him.
Frankenstein was very annoyed with me when he returned. He told me about how all the villagers were in an uproar over "the trouble I'd caused," and he said that he was almost ready to turn me over to them.
I told him that the problem was that I didn't fit as a male, and the body he'd made for me was just too big and hard to control, but if he put me in a female body instead I would have a much easier time. At least that was what I tried to tell him. What I said was, "Me bad man. You make me woman, me good."
He looked at me with his brow furrowed. He said, "A woman, eh? Interesting idea. I suppose I could, but you have to promise not to run away again."
I promised. I said, "Me no run."
So for a couple months, I became the willing servant of the baron, doing all manner of menial physical labor for him. Every so often I got a peek at what they were up to in the laboratory, and that gave me hope.
Then the fateful night arrived. The body was ready. He brought me to the lab and pulled a sheet off the body on the slab. It was just as naked as mine had been, but there the similarity ended. It was as lovely as I was hideous. Its skin was flawless alabaster and as hairless as a high-class courtesan's. Like me, it had been built on a larger scale, but somehow everything looked perfectly proportional. Its breasts were large, but well-shaped and begged to be squeezed. It had tantalizingly rounded hips and long legs that tapered into feet that seemed cute even at their size. The body had the face of an angel, with full lips, strong cheekbones, and a slightly upturned nose. The scalp was covered by a tight cap, and I wondered what color the hair was beneath it.
The baron could tell that I was impressed. "Beautiful, isn't she? And I assure you the other side is just as nice. She's a callipygian goddess as though carved in Grecian marble. I think I outdid myself. You, my friend, were a first draft, a prototype. I wonder if the Almighty had a similar situation when his second Creation also came out more attractive than the first? I did everything better with her. Since I wasn't as anxious to see if it would work, I was able to take the time to use much smaller, tighter stitches. You can barely see them, even if you know where to look. I relocated her electrodes to the back of the neck, so they should be less noticeable than yours. And I kept up the quality on the inside. I know how rough you can be with your things, so I made sure to reinforce her pelvic bones with steel. And her cleft was designed with enough depth to take you at full maximum."
What he'd said at the end there confused me. "She not me?"
He didn't understand my question, either. "It is amazing, I know. But I actually did use the same techniques that created you for making your mate. You shouldn't feel self-conscious about your appearance. Since she was literally made for you, I'm sure you'll be compatible. Opposites attract and all that."
Oh, no! I thought I'd asked him to make a woman of me, but instead he made a woman for me. Not what I wanted at all. Although the more I looked at the vision of beauty before me, the more a certain part of me liked the idea. I tried rephrasing my request. "Me want go in she."
That came out all wrong and the baron just looked at me disgustedly. "Not yet, old chap. Please wait until the body is warm. Although I do appreciate the sentiment, and maybe I'll have a go or three at her myself before I pass her off to you. Droit de seigneur and all that, you know?"
I didn't know what to say; even more than usual. Fortunately, Ygor came in the room and broke the silence for me. "Master, the storm is approaching. Should we raise the platform?"
The baron nodded and then had me turn the wheel that pulled the chains attached to the slab. He grinned and laughed, a familiar gleam in his eye. "You know, you played more of a part in her creation than you realize. That boy you drowned provided a brain that fit her skull perfectly."
My jaw dropped. Too many horrible things had just been revealed for me to process. My creator, who was forcing me to live in this ugly, oversized body with all the wrong parts on it, was also going to force my Jakob to live as the wrong sex? And he was planning to force himself upon the woman my love would become? And then I, the hideous monster, was also supposed to violate her? This was too wrong.
I was better off before I'd met the baron. I should have been left at the bottom of that river. And so help me, beautiful prison or not, my Jakob did not deserve the same fate. I channeled all the hate and anger I'd been repressing while I'd thought the baron was working on helping me, and embraced my monstrosity. I shouted out, "No!" with all my voice, and then slammed my fist into the machines, sending sparks flying, and proceeded to smash every bit of equipment I could reach. Some fluid spilled and a spark caught it and it started a small fire. I did my best to encourage it to grow, throwing every flammable object I could find upon the flame. I threw a punch at Ygor and he crumpled. The baron had to choose between salvaging his masterpiece and escaping the room alive. He took the coward's route.
The walls started falling down around me, and I welcomed Oblivion. I had died and lived in Hell, and whatever awaited me could not possibly be worse.
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