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Our Time Is Up: An Epilog To Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
I had become accustomed to the tepid air of an early spring evening brushing against my face, but this evening was a regression into darker times as the chill of raindrops pricked my hard and worn face. Tonight I was almost glad to put on my black, oversized trench coat, black cap, and tattered, grey scarf; my usual disguise, allowing me to enter, unnoticed, into the human world. I pass a few humans on the twisted streets of Vienna on my way to a doctor who is willing to see me. Her name is Clara Lament, a student of doctor Sigmund Freud. Maybe she has offered to treat me because we are both outsiders to society: she a female doctor; and I, a foul fiend. The wind is now pushing the water harder against my already cold face as I press on through the discomfort. For many years now, I have endured more pain than this bit of rain.
I approach the address, Sinistre Strasse 13. The building is grey stone, now darkened from the steady water drops. A warm light is emitted from under the door, which is small and painted black, its edges worn down enough that I can see the grain of the original wood from under its darkened complexion. A brass knocker lies heavily at the center, looking out of place on the little door. The handle fits perfectly in my monstrous, old hand as I lift it up to knock, and wait to be allowed in.
A delicate voice follows the heavy knock. I can make out her faint, timid words, “Who is it?” as her light footsteps approach the door.
I clear my throat and respond, “It is your new patient.” Though my voice is deep and calm, emotions of concern run frantically through my mind. I decide it is best not to take off my disguise for fear of being turned away.
The door opens and Dr. Lament is in front of me. She stands tensely erect in the doorway; her little figure so delicate that I feel I could break her in half. She takes a deep breath and asks me to come inside, my large body now looming over her. I crouch through the door, my misshapen form too large to fit easily. As I enter, the fire flickers from the cold draft that follows me in. I try to stand up straight, but the ceiling forces me to hunch down. Dr. Lament sits down in her large, leather chair, never taking her eyes off of me. Behind her there is a large bookcase, full of well-used leather-bound volumes and a few odd pieces of primitive sculpture. A worn, oriental carpet covers the wood floor. “Please lie down on the couch and we can begin our session.” I look over at the tattered, leather couch, worrying that my oversized body might break it. Carefully I position myself, trying to distribute my weight evenly. I am relieved to feel supported, but I can no longer see the doctor as she is seated behind me.
I decide to begin right away, for fear of losing time. “It wasn’t fair,” I begin, “my entire life, if you can call it that, has been cruelly unjust.” I cannot see Dr. Lament’s eyes but I sense her unease abating and sympathy for me creeping in. “My creator, my father, he…” I pause in reflection; “he turned me out into the world when I was just born. He gave me this large, inhuman exterior, forgetting that I was but an infant, his infant for whom he should have felt love and responsibility, but did not. My earliest memories of him are filled with his hate and disgust at his newly formed creation.” I hear Dr. Lament’s chair squeak as her body stiffens with fear at the word “inhuman.” Silence fills the room. I look up; a primitive sculpture with a tense, strange expression stares at me from the bookcase. Dr. Lament waits, holding her breath, for me to continue.
“He gave me nothing, not even a name, to make me feel wanted, or like I was someone. He disregarded me, and whatever feelings I could have, dismissing me as a hideous and wretched creature.” My voice begins to crack, and for the first time in many years my vision becomes slightly dampened.
“Please go on,” Dr. Lament says gently, and I imagine her body softening as sympathy arises.
I sigh, trying to restrain my emotions as I begin to reflect on my darkest night. “All I ever wanted was a companion. I did not think this too extravagant a request. And he promised to make me a female whom I could love and who would love me in return. All I wanted was to not be alone… he promised me… HE PROMISED ME.” I raise me voice as the old feelings of rage reemerge, and I cannot help but sit upright and whirl around, looking at one whose race has caused me so much pain. My body tenses in wrath; my eyes open wide staring at her intensely. The doctor falls back deeper into her chair, and although she attempts to retain her professional composure, it is clear that she seeks to put a distance between us. I regain control of myself, “Forgive me,” I apologize slouching back onto the couch, looking back down at the hands which have taken many innocent lives, I know they can take yet another tonight, but my mind cannot fathom it.
“I saw her. She was almost completed, her body almost as misshapen, as horrid as mine. But there was a beauty to her, for I knew she would love me. I wanted her; I wanted a family; I wanted to be loved. And he, he was the true monster,” I clench the couch, releasing my anger, my nails digging into the upholstery, “for he saw me gleaming with joy at the prospect of a mate, a lover, and he… he started to shred her right before my eyes. We had an agreement… he made a promise…” Overcome with anger once again, I jerk my hulking body upright and turn back towards the doctor, and in that moment my hat is dislodged from my head and my scarf slips down to reveal my monstrous face. Dr. Lament stares aghast, but she makes no sound, not screaming in horror as others have. Perhaps her profession teaches her that true monstrosity lurks within the human unconscious, and that an ugly form is only external. I throw myself back down on the couch; tears begin to roll down my face. Another silence fills the room; the only sounds are the rain and my heavy, choppy breath.
“I’m sorry for what I did to him. I failed to defy the expectations humans had for the hideous creature you see before you. He was the monster, but I fell to his level through anger and took revenge, killing his love as he did mine. No one deserves to be alone; I wish I had been able to die and escape this horrid world as he did. My plan was to continue north into the frozen tundra and there, meet my death. But, the world is even crueler than I knew. I am not human and it appears I cannot die. For over 100 years I have wandered the earth alone. Only a chance meeting with a stranger led me to your door, and perhaps a way to escape the misery and anger I have known my whole life. Death is the easy way out of this unjust…”
“I’m sorry but our time is up,” Dr. Lament cuts off my last words, a sense of relief in her voice. I push my disfigured body off the little, leather couch, now indented from my weight. Dr. Lament rises as well, following me to the door, making sure to keep her distance. I thank her as she opens the door for me back into the real world, now dark, as the night has set in. I thank her, saying that I look forward to our next meeting. She nods her head slowly, her professional curiosity outweighing her fear. The door closes behind me and I continue on my way through the now empty streets of Vienna.