Sometimes a creative inspiration
jolts my mind and words pour out of me, unstoppable as a flood. Other
times, more often than not times, the words are there, aching for release, but
cannot yet be set free. How will I know when the words are ready to be
unleashed upon the unsuspecting public?
I sit in the cooking room of my mind, smooth salmon-hued walls surround at all
angles. A massive black pot is before me, bubbling, churning with images
and various letters. Slowly the randomness begins to congeal into a more
tangible form. Images and letters meld into words, sentences and
paragraphs. Even as the story solidifies, it remains pliable so
ingredients may be added, subtracted, or folded into each other.
The end result of this boiling and simmering ejects from the pot, maneuvering
around the salmon room, bouncing off surrounding walls, searching for an escape
hatch. Finally this concoction zeroes in on me, pouring over my being,
daring to drown its creator in a torrent of laughter, tears, horrors, beauty,
or whatever comprises the particular story.
When I can no longer resist the story's overwhelming presence is when I know
the words are ready. They flow from me, sometimes as madly as the
inspirational jolt, but other times, more often than not times, as gentle as a
stream. So gentle that I occasionally have to give a sturdy push with my
mental pole to keep the words moving forward.
"Working late again tonight, Professor Danton?"
He turns away from the agitating illumination and locks the
laboratory door, hoping the night watchman isn't in a talkative mood. His
frame of mind of late cannot tolerate useless chatter. Especially after a
long day at the university.
"Still making up for lost time, Frank."
This simple answer, as the professor quickly discovered,
extinguishes prolonged conversation. People generally become mute when
faced with an uncomfortable topic. Frank, the night watchman, is no
exception, waving him off with a 'good-night' and a sympathetic look.
Once home, the professor visits his private bath to wash his
hands, not for the first time today. His soap-lathered fingers rinse
clean, but that does not stop him from another scrubbing. While drying,
he stares deeply into the mirror, the signs of sleep deprivation heavy on his
countenance. Even with such a reflection facing him, he convinces
himself, once again, that he is doing the right thing.
In the candlelit dining room, at the end of the long table, he
finds his wife waiting for him. No matter the hour, she has supper ready
and waiting, as if nothing is wrong, as if tragedy never occurred. The
painful irony of this behavior is it emphasizes the tragedy and how wrong it
"You mustn’t keep waiting up for me, Elizabeth."
"We are still a family, Victor, and families dine
Her sweet voice, so beautifully certain and sadly faded, grasps
his heart, daring him to confess all. As much as he longs to tell his
beloved wife the truth behind his long hours, he cannot. Not yet, but his
encounter with Frank and now Elizabeth's fragile state convinces Victor that
sooner will be better. Unfolding his napkin, he glances at the empty
place setting situated halfway between them and makes a decision.
Victor Danton walks cautiously among the dimly-lit hallways,
leading a shadowed figure hunched over and wrapped in an overcoat. Not
since the first day he brought him here have the hallways of the university
felt so endless and treacherous to him. His dark eyes are alert for the
slightest movement, his sharp ears listening for the faintest sound.
The apparent emptiness of the area could lull him into a false
sense of security. He could allow his mind to wander. Wander to his
wife sitting alone at their long dining room table. Her dark brown hair
loosely swept back, her gentle face full of beauty and sadness, waiting for him
to arrive home. Unsuspecting of his nightly activities, for it is not how
her innocent mind works. Elizabeth Danton is a trusting soul and he has
never given her a reason to distrust him, until recently.
A startling illumination stops him so near the exit that he can
nearly touch the door, "Professor Danton?"
"Good Evening, Frank."
"Evening, Professor. Is everything all right
"Everything is fine, Frank. I am assisting this
student back to his dormitory." Victor, sensing the night watchman's
doubt, leans forward and whispers, "Intoxicated."
Frank seems to be weighing the situation for an eternity before
finally replying. "I bet it is girl trouble. You remember how
it was at that age."
"Completely," Victor lies. Dusty books and
intense studying filled his university days. Elizabeth was thankfully a persistent
woman, slowly becoming fully ingrained in his mind and heart.
"Well, better get him to his room before he's dead to the
world. Need any help, Professor?"
"Thank you, Frank, but I can manage."
Victor falls into silence until they are immersed in the
safety of night, leaving behind the science building and Frank's inquiring
light. Then, with only the sound of their mingled footsteps and the
thudding of his own anxious heart in his ears, he leans close to the hunched
figure. "We shall be home soon, Henry."
He stands in the cusp of the dining room, silently watching her
candlelit stillness. She is waiting for him, endlessly patient and
understanding, seemingly lost and lonely. This gives him hope that he has
chosen the right course of action. That now is the time to repair the
jagged emotional wound from which both are suffering.
"Elizabeth, I am home."
"Victor, you are later than usual."
There is no malice or accusation in her voice, just her innate
sweetness and more than a hint of relief for his presence. He fully
enters the dining room, taking note of the empty place setting that has been
two months unused. Two months of silence regarding its emotional meaning,
its physical implication, building up to this moment.
"Why do you stand there, Victor, wavering so?"
Unaware that he had been lost in thought, he stumbles back into
the present situation. "I brought someone home to dine with us this
"Oh?" While her tone implies questioning, he can
see her countenance lighten at the thought. "Let us not continue our
rudeness, Victor. Please invite our guest in."
He nods in agreement, turns to the darkened adjacent room and
motions for the guest to enter. Their waking nightmare, their sleepless
nights, and all of his furtive comings and goings culminate into this singular
moment. A moment that all involved will remember for as long as life
From the shadows a young man of approximately 18 years of age
emerges. No longer hunched over or concealed in an overcoat, he stands
tall but walks somewhat unsteadily. His dark brown hair, once full and
long, has been cut short out of necessity, revealing a disturbingly large scar
across his forehead.
Victor's anxiously hopeful eyes flicker between the young man and
his wife. Elizabeth had stood immediately upon realization of their
mysterious guest, with comprehension slowly dawning. The wretched past
flashes in her expressive eyes and Victor sees it all along with her.
How they waited until supper was cold, wondering where on earth
Henry could be. How they initially engaged in light musings, imagining a
romantic rendezvous, maybe even a secret elopement. How their world
collapsed into a frozen moment of indescribable pain when the local constable
arrived at the door with news of their son's death.How Henry had been out riding with friends
and for an unknown reason his horse bucked, throwing him off, trampling him
"This cannot be," she whispers to her husband, not
taking her eyes off the young man.
"Oh, but it can, Elizabeth, due to old knowledge combined
with modern science," Victor explains in a matching whisper, watching his
wife stepping away from the solidity of the dining room table.
Elizabeth draws closer, fully examining the features so like her
deceased son's. There is his sturdy, kind face accentuated with full red
lips, and punctuated by impossibly deep brown eyes. She reaches out with
one hand, as if to touch the possibility before her, but draws back,
uncertainty in her eyes.
The scarred man looks at Victor, as if seeking permission or
assurance. Victor gives him a silent nod, urging this moment, this
Her uncertainty vanishes upon the deep vocal resonance and she
engulfs the son she believed lost forever. Tears overflowing, she
whispers sweet maternal promises of never letting him depart again. Henry
initially doesn't respond to this physical and emotional outpouring, only
standing with arms rigid at his sides. Soon, perhaps overwhelmed by his
mother's love, he slowly reaches around her immovable frame and embraces in
return, as tears begin sliding down his cheeks.
It takes all of Victor's strength to resist the urge to weep as
his expectations are met and exceeded. The days and weeks of repairing,
reanimating, and reeducating his beloved son, hiding him away in a disused
cellar at the university, have finally come to fruition. Thus, removing
all doubt and concern over the moral and ethical ramifications of such an
endeavor. He breathes easier, relishing his success in returning life,
not only to Henry, but to himself and Elizabeth, as well. They will be a
family once more.
A sudden and loud crack jolts Victor from his joyous thoughts.
He watches Elizabeth's limp figure slide from their son's strong arms,
cascading into a lifeless heap upon the floor. For a moment he cannot
comprehend the horror he has just witnessed, but soon it makes itself
abundantly clear and he finds himself on his knees, holding Elizabeth, calling
her name to deaf ears.
"Father, why has Mother stopped moving?"
Victor does not hear Henry's deep voice, asking in such an
innocent tone. All he hears is the thudding of his breaking heart and his
own voice beginning to mumble over and over, "What have you done?"
"What has happened to Mother?"
This time his son's voice, accompanied by a firm hand on Victor's
shoulder, reaches him, causing a violent spasm throughout his being.
Leaving his dead wife upon the floor, he stands and lunges at his
son...his creation...with all the brute force he can muster. While his
fists pound, his mind screams that his actions, no matter how noble, were wrong,
and so produced an abomination.
As his fists are restrained, Victor continues to attack, using
his body and legs against what he now sees as a monster before him.
Abruptly, as if weightless, he is hurtling backwards through the air,
striking his head upon the dining room table before crumpling onto the floor.
Continuing to breathe, he opens his eyes to a hazy shadow leaning over
him, speaking in a pitiful tone.
"I'm sorry, Father, I'm sorry."
"What have I done?" Victor barely chokes out, as he
becomes faintly aware of a warm dampness pooling around him and the smell of
smoke from an overturned candle. The hazy shadow moves away with fading,
unsteady footsteps, while a raging inferno explodes around him, filling his
dying eyes with hellish light.
Story and photo: May/June 2014 With a posthumous
thank you to Mary Shelley.
In case you missed it, here is a link to a possibly connected piece of supernatural fiction... A Grave Situation