To the Council of the Royal Society of London, Somerset House, Strand.
Somers Town, June 1, 18—
Sirs, it is with great joy and astonishment that I received your news of my election as Fellow of the Royal Society in recognition of my contributions, however insignificant I thought them, to the longstanding quest for discovery of a Northwest Passage and my subsequent publications elucidating, to the limited extent of my meager powers, the mysteries of the magnet. To further what contributions I may make to the glorious mission of advancing mankind’s repository of natural knowledge, to which this esteemed Society is dedicated, I am at this time therefore enclosing my private papers for inclusion in the Royal Society’s library. Although the correspondence comprising the principal contents of these papers was composed in the course of my expedition of 17—, the correspondence may be of especial interest to the Fellows of the Society in connexion with the ambition of modern Prometheans to wrest from the gods the power of bestowing life itself.
Out of the most perfect sympathy with these urgent strivings, I call particular attention to the letter dated September 10, 17—, written not by my own hand, but by my estimable friend, the late Dr. Victor Frankenstein. This letter is the sole account known to survive in his hand relating to his curious adventures in pursuit of his ambition to create a human being (his journals contemporaneous to his experiments having been mislaid, confiscated and destroyed in various accidents over the course of his life). Constituting his dying testament, the letter’s credibility is beyond question, and its importance as an attestation of this singular and unique episode in human history is immeasurable. This letter came within my private papers by virtue of its discovery on the floor of the cabin in which dear Frankenstein died aboard the ship of which I served as captain. It is believed that the daemon, described in detail in the balance of the correspondence, read the letter – indeed, that clever Frankenstein intended it thus – and that the creature was thereby influenced to immolate himself on his pyre at the North Pole. In this manner, devoted Frankenstein ensured the safety of mankind even after his passage from the known world.
I ask the pardon of the venerable members of this Society for what may appear an inexcusable withholding of the critical contents of this letter. Please consider that my apparent secreting of the letter is in actuality a lag in divulgence arising from sentiment: I have not heretofore disclosed this letter to the eyes of another living being, owing to circumstances of grief. With the exception of Dr. Frankenstein’s own valiant letter (read, as aforementioned, by the daemon creature, as well as myself), none of the letters comprising my herein enclosed personal papers reached their intended addressee, my sister, the late Mrs. Saville, née Margaret Walton. In the course of my journey abroad, my sister suffered to die in childbirth, and so the packet of my unread letters awaited my return to England. To express my sorrow and loss at this cruel warp of fate is impossible. My sister raised me with the utmost attention to my wellbeing after the untimely death of our father, and my love and gratitude for her unfailing kindness and generosity were the very anchor of my existence, seeking as I did – I confess – stormy seas. I have required some many years to collect myself in the aftermath of her tragic demise.
I therefore reiterate my request for kind understanding of my delay in depositing the letters where their contents might serve to advance the welfare of mankind. This lapse was occasioned by the intensely unpleasant sensations of grief that arose within me whenever I contemplated the letters. I now find, with the passing of these years, and the happy event of my election to this excellent Society, that conditions have aligned to produce the suitable moment for entrusting the letters to the safekeeping of men whose wisdom and knowledge exceed by extensive measure my own, and whose judgment in the use of these letters for the good of mankind is impeccable.
Yours in humble service,
Robert Walton, FRS
September 10, 17—
I write with knowledge that my mortal span is approaching its endpoint, and that within the lapse of twenty-four hours no breath may further pass my lips. During these last days, I have made much of the ample opportunity to examine my past conduct; nor do I find it blameable, excepting in this respect that I previously failed to reveal for reason of having only now remembered it. That I may have forgotten it by the suppressing mechanism of guilt is a fair supposition. As it remains potent enough still to seal my lips with shame, I write now seeking expiation.
I have already related to Walton how I made the being of a gigantic stature; I believe I specified that the wretch was eight feet in height and proportionately large. Obtaining such outsized parts was a challenge that I decline to detail beyond my previous admissions of visits to charnel houses, slaughter-houses, dissecting rooms, and the like – the unhallowed damps of the grave. Also, I believe I previously referenced the torture of living animals. And, of course, the necessity of the moment: explaining the origin of the monster’s sex organ.
The understanding has dawned that I am blameable for having created the daemon with means of reproducing. In my ambition to animate with life decrepit matter devoid of the vital spark, I made a fatal error. Realizing my godly goal might have been peaceably achieved in the act of endowing with life a eunuch. Had I but brought forth a eunuch, then the fiend’s pitiable claim to my resources in the service of creating a companion for him, that he might alleviate his loneliness and find sympathy and encouragement to develop his virtues, perhaps would have found less ambivalent reply in my conscience. In the actual enactment of the miserable history of this affair, after my long procrastination gave way to efforts that carried me within sight of completion of the venture in which the wretch coerced my participation, I was undermined by his capacity for reproduction. My concern that the first result of providing him with a companion would be children, and the propagation of a race of devils who would menace humanity, caused me to destroy irretrievably the inanimate prototype of his companion on which I was toiling. In his raging revenge, he has murdered Clerval, my beloved Elizabeth, and all my remaining friends and relations. Had I but enlivened a eunuch!
My hubris fully is responsible for my lust for completeness. My pursuit of knowledge unhinged the door that closed out from my mind matters disturbing to my tranquility and enjoyment of domestic affections. Desire for knowledge flogged me ceaselessly until its drive was satiated in horror at the monster it begat. But before that moment when pleasure in the pursuit of knowledge transmogrified permanently into the unending pain of having overreached, I could not accept a creature without a sex organ.
My quest for the sex organ almost unraveled my experiment. Owing to delicacy in the vascular networks connecting the sex organ to the trunk of the body, a certain degree of compatibility is a requirement for the sex organ to be operational. Locating a sex organ proportionate to a stature of eight feet, yet compatible with the human vascular physiology, seemed at first impossible. I need not expand on the fact that numerous large animals in the menagerie in Ingolstadt suffered curious deaths by violence and mutilation to support my assertion that the sex organs of animal species were unsuitable.
It was at this juncture in my endeavors that my oldest and most intimate friend, Henry Clerval, called upon me to accompany him on a journey. Clerval’s father, I believe I have already related, was a Genevese merchant. Though Clerval’s proclivities inclined him to study, and though I entreated his father to allow Clerval to join me in Ingolstadt (and, indeed, perhaps this great tragedy would have been avoided entirely if Clerval and I had been as inseparable at Ingolstadt as we were in the Geneva of our youth), Clerval’s labours were enlisted in his father’s business. I cannot recall the details of the expedition, but Clerval’s father had engaged in some transactions in the East that had predictably become complicated, and a priceless cargo intended for Geneva had been waylaid in Kathmandu. Clerval was dispatched to extricate it, and as everyone anticipated a sewer of Oriental barbarism and infectious disease, I was prevailed upon, for the safety of my brotherly friend, to abandon my intellectual pursuits temporarily and join him on his mission.
I cannot afford here to pause and bemoan the possibilities that failed to fruition. If anything else had happened in Kathmandu, it may well have been that the temporary interruption of my vain experiment could have become permanent. I had been on the verge of surrendering to the implacable reality that a suitable sex organ could not be procured. And Clerval, for his part, avoiding both Oriental barbarism and disease, acquired in Kathmandu nothing more dangerous than a passion for the Eastern languages; he emerged no worse from his adventure than a student of Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit. Alas, the path of my maze twisted through darker scenes and led me most definitively to the monster at its center.
In my previous recitation of events, I omitted all mention of this hiatus in the Orient. Indeed, I did not recollect it, for reasons that shall shortly be pellucid. I instead propounded a timeline that portrayed my work to create a living human from lifeless materials as feverishly focused. In truth, the fever never burned so hot as it did upon my return from Kathmandu, and as I write now I have no doubt that what fired me were the very flames of Hell.
The voyage to Kathmandu was impressive only in its irritations and irrational obstacles, and I shall not dwell on such minor matters here. Nor shall I elaborate on Clerval’s business in Kathmandu, as it was boring and incomprehensible, and I was not involved. I occupied my time immersing myself in the stupendous Himalayan mountains that surround Kathmandu. These mountains bear no resemblance to the Jura Mountains, the Alps of Savoy, or the supreme and magnificent Mont Blanc, those mountains of my upbringing that embody all that is beautiful and secure and worthy of devotion. These Himalayan peaks are rather greater in stature, uncouth in their inclines and deportment, and singularly uncivil in matters of their environs and such. The snow is unrelenting. It is of a nature to suffocate a human. In contrast to the sublime views and restorative effects of traversing the mountainous regions around Geneva, the Himalayas offer an experience grotesque, ugly, and terrifying.
Know that my enrapture in the Himalayas was neither premeditated nor a reckless exposure of myself to danger. I set out innocently, my expectations in accord with my extensive mountaineering experience in Europe, and my temperament one undissuaded by poor weather. Often has been the occasion when passage through the mountain ranges in inclement conditions has acted as a tonic upon my soul. I looked upon my venture into the mountains around Kathmandu as a chance for reflection and resolution of the pressing urges to create a living human from dead flesh that had afflicted me for two years; and as a portal to peace, I welcomed it.
I do not recall how rapidly my excursion deteriorated into a death march. I may have been away three days, or seven, or less. I had no means of marking time or location. I had taken no guide because I am accustomed to traveling in the mountains in solitude, and the local guides babbled insensibly, which I deemed a hindrance to profound reflection. Quite possibly, my antipathy to a guide was an oversight. Shortly after I commenced, I was enveloped in a storm that blinded me to the path and prevented my return to Kathmandu. So briskly fell the snow, and so deeply did it accumulate, that I do not believe the hooves of my donkey touched the ground, but sank until the snow packed beneath them ceased to give way. I likewise lacked celestial navigational aids. The sun and stars were obliterated by the constant snow, which reflected light, and gave day and night the same glow of unnatural radiance. I lost my cues for sleeping and waking. The cold made prolonged sleep an intolerable risk, but obtaining rest at shorter stretches was not feasible. Almost from the beginning, I was beset by an exhaustion so damning that I knew myself incapable of waking after a brief spell, and so I feared to sleep at all.
At some point, my donkey expired. My sentiments were quite as frozen as the poor beast’s corpse. I did not indulge in grief or terror, but found myself practical: I attempted to continue moving, to save myself from the same fate. To dignify my ambulation with the word “walking” is pure vanity; I was capable of little more than clawing my way through blanketing snow, as if I was reduced to a tunneling mole.
I must have collapsed unconscious. My memory affords me only the recall of my sensations upon awakening. It was warm, most importantly, and dark. The smell of sweating animals disoriented me. I came to with the awareness that I had been in a blizzard, and I could not comprehend sweat in such close proximity to freezing. But I felt the cold nowhere about me. I was pressed against a soft matting, perhaps a nest; the texture resolved itself to my mind as some variety of fur. A pulse distinguished itself in my ear; and with lethargic wonder, I began to discern that I was being held against the abdomen of some bipedal thing that was, most extraordinarily, walking. I eventually identified a rocking sensation as having its source in the creature’s iliac crest, lifting and falling as it walked, of which I was acutely aware because the thing was carrying me on its hip, like I was a baby. But I was a grown man.
I contorted suddenly, out of fear, grabbing hold of what I realized were clumps of the thing’s belly fur, which enraged me as being unnatural. I kicked out my legs in a bid for freedom. In response, a soothing stroke traced the back of my head down my spine to my sacrum, while the creature’s other limb cradled me more securely against its hip. My protest petered in bafflement as I comprehended that I was protected from the elements by a cloak made of the skin of some animal. The skin smelled vaguely like a chamois.
As best I can recall, I very nearly went limp with hopelessness. I had been returned to a state of babehood in alien arms, but I was without means to emancipate myself. I felt intensely weak with hunger, thirst, and exhaustion, and my ordeal in the snowstorm had sapped me of motivation. I may have considered that this beast was planning to make of me a meal, but I did not feel fright at the thought. I remember thinking only that this resolution was a surprising one to the matter I had intended to ponder.
In due course, the thing stopped its locomotion. I felt a temperature change on my skin as the chamois cloak was lifted away. As if I were no more than a toddler, the creature disentangled me from my desperate grip on its side and lowered me onto a nest. I felt the cloak returned to my shoulders and pulled around me like a blanket. Throughout, my eyes were squeezed shut.
But I was surrounded with stimulating sensations. I deemed myself hallucinating: I was smelling roasting meat. I felt dry heat on my face, smelled combustion, and heard the unmistakable crackle of flames. Overwhelmed with curiosity, I opened my eyes to an unimaginable scene.
Before me was a tidy fire over which three small animals were roasting on a heated stone. Containers that appeared to be ceramic earthenware were warming on the coals that banked the fire. Above the fire, on a kind of rack constructed from thin branches, the skins of three hares were curing.
Coming after the darkness of my unconscious spell and emergence therefrom, my eyes could scarcely absorb so much light, and naturally the scene presented was not creditable. My eyes shut forcefully, and I willed myself to accept the happenstance that I was in my death spiral – that was naturally what was occurring, my consciousness was spinning out fantasies in its last moments before ceasing; for surely, were I already dead, I would not – could not – experience such sensations as these, Hell being not so pleasant, and Heaven certainly not the occasion for a cooking fire in a cave.
It was that thought that roused me, though. “A cave.” I could not deny that I was in a cave, nor could I explain why, on the limen of death, I would imagine myself in a cave. With superhuman discipline, I commanded myself patience and waited the passage of some seconds, or possibly minutes, until I was sure that even the most elongated of death spirals would have had to have resolved itself into a perspective-point of non-existence; and concluded at the lapse of that passage that, as the evidence of my senses did not support the verdict that I was dead, I was in a cave.
I again opened my eyes.
Feasting on the visual display most immediate to my body, I observed that I was wrapped in an extremely large fur. Closer inspection revealed that the fur had been compiled from the skins of many animals – indeed, that it was not a fur, but a garment. I felt immediate resistance at this discovery, requiring as it did an agent to manufacture the garment – but I could not deny the stitches binding the furs together, or what I realized was a hood and string closure at the neck. I fingered this clever string mechanism – of a design I had not seen, by means of which the hood might be closed around the face – and concluded that the string was not twine, but cured animal gut. The stitches joining the furs appeared to be of the same thread. Throughout my exploration of this greatcoat, a feeling of dread rose from my bowels like a stench off a swamp, until it enveloped my heart. I paused to query this strange misery that had sprung up like an unwelcome mist, and found it connected to a thought: construction of this garment required tools.
Desirous of dismissing this unpleasant insight, I twisted, looking about me to find the source of a draught I began to notice about my ears. Behind me, the view was very dim, as the only light source was the cooking fire. The flames cast glimmers and glows that moved in interchange with shadows, and the rock of the cave seemed also to soak in the light like a sponge. When my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I discerned the mouth of the cave to my rear – that was the source of the draught, and also the escape for the smoke of the cooking fire – but the portal had been screened by some device. Without rising for closer examination, I could not state exactly the components of the screen, but it appeared to be a frame of branches over which had been stretched an ample fur, built to mimic the shape of the mouth of the cave, but leaving a perimeter of ventilation space between the opening and the screen.
All this was most distressing to me, raising, as it did, the spectre of intelligent agency in a location that could not possibly admit such a phenomenon. I am unaccustomed to confusion, and I intensely dislike confrontation with matters that withhold the secrets of their operation. Conditions that cannot be explained are a terrible challenge to one of my training, disposition, and profession. A rational being committed to the discipline of reason and experiment cannot but resent the imposition of the unfathomable.
My distress now escalated intensely when, returning to face the fire, I encountered looming above me the most disgusting and loathsome animal. In the warmth of the fire, I could smell its glandular odors, undoubtedly the result of copious and revolting secretions. The smell was akin to that of the sweating animals that had assailed me when I first revived from unconsciousness, but at that time the smell had called to mind the not unpleasant associations of the domestic animals of my childhood. Now the stench paired with the horrifying sight of the animal in full, and I fought to restrain myself from gagging.
The animal was exceedingly large and hairy. Long, thick hair coated its entire body, but the tufts changed their composition and density about the armpits and genitals, and its lengthy, ugly face was relatively free of fur. My attention was drawn to milk, leaking from the nipples of the animal’s heavy two teats. The nipples were brown in the firelight, and the pale milk glistened on their tips. The teats lowered as the animal dropped to a crouch beside the fire and began pawing at the meat roasting on the stone. Though capable of bipedal movement, the animal also possessed forelimbs that were long and muscularly delineated. I noted that each of its paws included five digits and opposable thumbs.
These paws now thrust themselves into my face, holding out a dreadful dead thing that I momentarily realized was a whole roasted hare. This development was gruesome and chilling. The paws were enormous and hairy and clawed, greasy and steaming with meat. The hare’s eyes had cooked menacingly in their sockets, and its facial meat had retracted from its mouth during the roasting, exposing its aggressive, yellow teeth. I recoiled in horror, my face contracting around my nose, my eyes wincing shut to save me from the sight.
But with my eyes closed, my predominant sensory experience was the smell of roasted meat, and in my state – famished – I admit the smell was tantalizing. I re-opened my eyes and was instantly appalled into a state of nervous excitation so extreme that I was unable to move. Meeting my eyes were those of the animal. The eyes were larger than mine and brown. I recall the pupils seemed like globes of starless night sky and just as terrifying. Long, thick lashes, like those of a cow, rimmed the animal’s eyes. Clear liquid pooled in the corners of the eyes and balanced on the lashes, threatening to overspill in a tear.
The animal had a pronounced brow which sprouted fur, and it was moving its brow and the skin around its eyes in a manner that aped facial expression. If I had not been educated, I might have thought the animal was expressing concern for me. But, of course, I was in a desperate condition, paralyzed with fear, and suffering nervous exhaustion and profound hunger. To hallucinate the companionship of a pitying presence – even in the form of this abomination – is an understandable indicator of the extremity of my state.
The animal opened its mouth. It had full brown lips and big teeth – a mouth full of big teeth slathered with saliva – and it made a vocalization unlike any I have heard. A weakness washed over me then, and I thought I might faint. The animal was playing with me, as a cat bats a baby bird to and fro; I was being tortured in some game of this animal’s, a process of destruction that it enacted by instinct, and one that I could reason out sufficiently to identify, but how to persist through the agony? I was utterly without knowledge of this animal! I had no prior exposure to its behaviors and habits. The uncertainty of what it might do next was excruciating!
The animal made another variation of its ghastly vocalization and my agony subsided into pique. Having an animal barking its calls in one’s face is uncomfortable, and undignified, and I had a brazen thought of instilling propriety into the brute with a blow to the face, as I would deal with a misbehaving sow. But I could not find within myself the impetus to strike.
The animal made a sudden rush, thrusting its paws under the fur greatcoat, and I gasped – a hollow, voiceless ejaculation, my vocal apparatus frozen with fear, but the air knocked through my throat as if involuntarily – and then the beast withdrew. By this maneuver, it had succeeded in placing the roasted hare within my hands.
I was trembling most sorrowfully. I breathed heavily for some cycles of inhalations and exhalations, closing and opening my eyes, and swallowing repeatedly to soothe the lump in my throat. All the while, the hare was hot – almost too hot to hold – and moist in my hands, and the smell wafting up from the cooked meat was irresistible. I brought my hands to my mouth and ate.
The meat was lean, but it had a sweetness imparted (no doubt) from mountain grasses, and as I wolfed down the flesh, tearing at the muscle and sinew with my teeth, and cracking the bones to suck the marrow, a semblance of reason returned to the seat of my consciousness.
With this restored sense of confidence, I reappraised my surroundings. Peering through the flames of the cooking fire, I observed the animal at the edge of the cave, standing erect on both hind limbs, but hunched over a sling or pouch suspended by some means from the cave wall. The animal did not seem guarded or otherwise to fear my attention on it. I assessed it liberally. Truly, this animal was outsized. If it straightened its spine, it would stand some seven or eight feet high. Its cranium was huge, but misshapen – neither round nor high enough at the top. The animal was plainly some type of primate – its resemblance to a gorilla was inarguable – and it required no unusual exercise of the imagination to posit this creature as an abortion along the birth-path of creation – a thing so sickening even its creator could not love it, could not do otherwise but banish it from sight, exile it to wasteland prison snowfields where its capacity for harm is rendered inert. Undoubtedly the beast was unknown because of the remoteness and inhospitable nature of its habitat. Judging from its teats and genitals, I concluded that I had in my sights the female of the species.
As I bit and chewed and swallowed, I watched and listened to the dismaying scene unfolding. The animal was snuffling and making unpleasant, choked sounds over the pouch suspended from the cave wall. If I closed my eyes and spirited myself, by means of imagination, into the bosom of my family in Geneva, I might have identified the sounds as plaintive sobs; but of course in the present circumstances, the sounds were grating and alarming to the ear.
I then received such a shock that I stopped chewing, the tender meat turning as to sawdust in my mouth: the animal extended its forelimbs into the pouch and removed its young! This hideous pup kicked out its hairy hind limbs and made repellant vocalizations that the animal responded to with likewise beastly calls. The miniature abomination was duly placed on the teat, and the animal made motions with her paws and torso that aped the purest gestures of a loving mother, though I could not but perceive them as the direst insult to the instinctual and tender bond between mother and child.
As the animal made these rocking motions, along with clucking vocalizations that agitated me with their obvious purpose of providing comfort to the vile pup, tears flowed freely from the animal’s eyes. I resumed chewing.
When I had reduced the roasted hare to a pile of disaggregated, gnawed bones, I licked my fingers, feeling still hungry. The animal looked over at me and began its barking. I undertook as best I could to ignore its devilish sounds, but my determined efforts only brought ill fortune upon me as the creature now drew near. I froze myself with eyes closed to avoid further traumatic injury by gazing on the creature at too intimate a proximity.
The animal continued its noisemaking, and I heard besides me the movement of stones and ceramic. Curiosity overcame me, and I opened my eyes again. With one forelimb, the animal continued to cradle its pup at the teat, and with the other forelimb the animal was pushing towards me one of the earthenware containers that had been warming on the coals. The top of the container had been removed, and inside were two large eggs – possibly the eggs of a mountain goose, I could not identify them positively – nestled on a bed of mosses. All the while, the animal persisted in its barking, its crying eyes searching my person like a mastiff’s seeking the master’s approval. I struggled against my strong impulses of distaste and acknowledged the animal’s overture with a frown.
The animal retreated with her pup into the shadows of the cave beyond the cooking fire, and I fell on the eggs, cracking and peeling away their shells. The egg whites had a peculiar texture, unfamiliar, and distasteful, but their flavor was savory, and in my hunger, I was eating them without regard to particulars. On reflection, I concluded that the eggs had probably been preserved in some manner before being roasted. This thought would have been cause for agitation, reiterating as it did the unthinkable suggestion of intelligent agency in a scenario in which it was so painfully absent – but for the much more profound cause for agitation that then occurred:
The animal’s snuffling and choked sobbing noises escalated in their volume, as the animal bent over into the shadows on the opposite side of the cave, holding out the pup so that it might – I sat up attentively because my eye spied in the mottled dim the sole of a gigantic foot. Two soles. The soles were on the floor of the cave, facing the cooking fire, toes upward-pointed and lifeless.
Adjusting my position and allowing my eyes to accommodate to the flickering light, I made out the entire form of the deceased. And the animal, rising again, lifted up the pup after having lowered it for a final farewell to its sire.
Not quite daring to breathe, I watched the animal cross the cave to replace her pup in the pouch that served as its cradle. Then, with ululations falling freely from her lips, and shoulders sloping just as those of a man bearing a heavy burden might, she turned and crouched at an area in the gloom of the nether reach of the cave, picked up a trowel, and began to dig.
I was not outraged by the trowel. The evidence around me had prepared me sufficiently for the presence of tools, and I accepted the trowel, perhaps even expected to see the animal use some such item.
Nor was I discommoded by creature’s arrogance to ape a grieving mother’s burial of her mate.
Rather, the cause of my unbearable agitation – excitation so extreme that it ejected me from my anxiety into a state of unemotional, calculating calm – was the realization that, not three feet from me, lay the corpse of an eight-foot bipedal primate in possession of a penis specimen representing my most promising prospect for creation of a human with reproductive capacity.
I immediately understood that removal of the entire corpse was an impossibility. It was far too heavy for me to move any distance, and I must travel as lightly as possible, being – as I was – without decisive knowledge of how I might return from this Himalayan cave to Kathmandu. The obvious import of these understandings was the necessity of surgically removing the sex organ from the corpse on site.
My hand went automatically to my belt, where I carried an array of hunting knives. The capacious fur greatcoat hid my action from view, and fingering my knives safe from sight, I felt confident that I had the blades sufficient for the work.
Instinctively, I understood that a creature that buries its mate does not allow the body to be desecrated before burial. In my mental state prevailing previously, I would have rejected that thought as demeaning the human race by attributing the values animating its most sacred and cherished rituals to beasts. But with the advent of the unflinching and deliberate mood that took possession of my mind, I wasted no time with such sentiments and made myself ready, instead, to act as the occasion required.
Through the demonic flames of the cooking fire, I could see in the oscillating light the animal at her spadework, turning up the earth, tears running along the uncomely, leathery skin of her face, swiveling her massive head occasionally to look my way with shining eyes and brow raised inquisitively, making her gross and presumptuous vocalizations. Her outsized proportions and muscular frame gave me no pause; so long as she continued to squat as she was, digging, I should experience no undue challenge.
As I expected, she was unguarded and without fear as I shed the fur greatcoat and stood; indeed, by means of her grunts and such, I gathered she approved of my motion. With measured steps, I approached without causing her to startle or alter her course, crying, and digging, and turning to look on me, casting useless sounds in my direction.
I stopped very close behind her. Despite the distance from the fire, this nook of the cave was humid as a hothouse. I subsequently discovered that the earthen floor of the cave here was warm to the touch and soft, as well, the likely result of a nearby hot spring. The smell of the animal was strong, her milk and secretions. I looked down the length of her shapely, furred back to the cleft where her sacrum joined her pelvis, rounded and soft with hair.
She was watching me over her shoulder, making some animal call, and when invariably I failed to respond, she turned again her attention to the trench she had been digging. She used the trowel like a scoop to remove the yielding earth and lay it to one side. I saw that she must have begun digging long before her errand in the blizzard occasioned her discovery of me. A shallow impress greater than eight feet long was already well established.
Quietly, with simple, confident motions, I unsheathed my largest knife and inserted it between her ribs on her left side, between the spine and the shoulder blade. The insertion process was trying. The tenacity of her fur and the toughness of her leathery skin, along with the thickness of her layers of muscle, all conspired to resist my efforts, but with two hands and a shout of triumph, I succeeded in plunging the blade into her heart.
Her death was not instantaneous, as I had hoped. She flopped forward, emitting a bellow of such tormenting resonance that I shudder even now to recall it. Her pup immediately wailed sympathetically, and I believe it probably cried out for the remainder of its life, but I ceased to hear it. Her blood was spurting, bubbling and erupting everywhere now, and between her screaming and thrashing, I had a devil of a time removing the knife.
She managed to twist her head around to fix her dying gaze upon me. I found it bewildering. I suppose if I had seen reproach in her expression, I would have chided myself for endowing the creature with human virtues. Instinct being an insufficient basis for the experience of reproach, animals are incapable of it, but humans quite naturally imbue their inferior interlocutors with qualities that make them comprehensible. But these dying eyes bore nothing I could construe as reproach. Dismay, also, I failed to discern, though it would have been the most logical animal response – to kill or be killed is the law of nature, and even animals must experience dismay upon finding themselves on the wrong side of the law. Her eyes, though, conveyed to me only confusion.
My perplexity passed quickly, replaced by outrage. Why should she be confused? My dominance and my superiority were obvious. Why should she not expect to be killed? Why would she exempt herself from the law of nature? I began to feel in her dying confusion a judgment of me that I rejected in its entirety. I grabbed the long hairs of her skull, taking command of her head, and throwing myself onto her, vehemently pushed her face into the grave trench, mashing her confused eyes into the earth.
I straddled her torso in this way, panting out my rage, until I felt her hot blood welling onto my abdomen. Her wound continued to ejaculate blood, and I was lying directly over her gash.
I raised my chest and surveyed the back of the corpse. In the humidity, the salty tang of blood stung my nostrils. The hematic flow was slowly stemming; her carcass was draining of its blood. My hand rested on her furred arms; the flesh was still soft and warm.
I composed my mind: I had much to accomplish.
I stood and wiped blood and dirt from my abdomen with my hands. For some reason, her prone body – part of it declining into the trench, the wound exposed and bloody – instigated me, and I felt within a blood rush of Herculean strength. Though she was as heavy as a cow, I succeed in rolling her onto her back. I brushed from her eyes moist soil and closed her lids.
Then I went about my business. The male of the species was fully as grim as the female, oversized, ugly, and inconveniently furred. To ensure capture of all the many vascular connections, I removed, in addition to the sex organ, a large cube of flesh surrounding it, necessitating some tiresome sawing through of the pelvic bones and spinal column. The corpse was not excessively old – perhaps a day or so, as the decomposition process had not relaxed yet the muscles – which increased the effort required by my endeavor, but I persevered, aided by that extraordinary strength that possessed me in the aftermath of having slain the female.
At the conclusion of my surgery, I made the welcome discovery that the blizzard had subsided. In search of snow with which to pack the sex organ for transit, I once again donned the fur greatcoat. Made for a taller frame, it trailed three feet behind me as I walked to the mouth of the cave, thrust aside the screen, and stepped outside. I was greeted with the most pleasing of views: cloudless blue skies reflecting sparkling sunlight down a mountain slope that, though long, clearly made its terminus in a valley that, even from this distance, I knew could only be Kathmandu.
Returning to the cave, I was seized with ravenousness. I ate the remaining two roasted rabbits, and finished the contents of the earthenware pots, including some strange mosses preserved with salt and apparently stewed, and more eggs of the same variety I had consumed before.
I now made a careful inventory of the cave. I found and appropriated a fur sling, apparently of the same model that was serving as the cradle for the infant. Every time I stopped to listen, I heard it screaming, but the sound was irritating, so I ignored it. The fur sling functioned suitably as a carrying bag for the snow-packed sex organ. I also unearthed a cache of dried and preserved foods – I could not identify them, nuts and tubers perhaps – in the area of the cooking fire, and I claimed those, as well. I also found, to my delight, propped against the cave towards its mouth, a slab of wood, steam-bent and worked in such a way that one side was exceedingly smooth. I placed my goods on this toboggan and made a final overview of the cave before departure.
I paused at the back of the cave, where the female lay, her head in the grave trench, her hips on the cave floor, and her back arched provocatively between them. Milk leaked from her teats even now. I knelt at her side and sucked the milk dry, first from the left teat, then from the right. The nipples were hard and thick, and the fat of the teats still supple. It was a thin milk, somewhat astringent to the taste, but it was peculiarly satisfying to drink. I found my hands moving on her biceps, shoulders, and belly as I drank her milk. The muscles under my palms were tight and unyielding, but the skin was firm, and the hair was very soft, flaxen and silky. She still retained her distinctive smell, and with her milk on my lips, it seemed almost intoxicant, like the rarest perfume.
I shall not take the trouble to detail the remainder of my Oriental adventure, as all proceeded smoothly. After a bracing downhill toboggan ride, I was successfully reunited with Clerval in Kathmandu, and my invaluable prize was safely and secretly transported back to Ingolstadt, where it served the purpose I so devotedly sought.
So foolish was my devotion, it now appears to me.
The conviction has stolen upon me, now, in my dying hours, that memory has been restored to me for the purpose of redemption by enlightenment thus: that it now occurs to me that I committed the gravest of sins in pursuit of my ambition, that the ingratitude towards and murder of my savior are the original wrongs from which my abhorrent creation was born and thereby irrevocably damned. And further: that guilt of my sin has blinded me to the righteousness of my creature’s claims to exist peaceably in company with another of his kind that he might not suffer the unnaturalness of interminable loneliness, a condition cruel and intolerable to any living creature. And further still: that I alone am responsible for thusly casting my creation into Hell, but that the being of my creation must suffer that punishment nonetheless, though he be born in innocence, and for that suffering of innocence I am both responsible and damned as well. In penance, I therefore claim this monster of my creation as my child, admit my wrong in denying his rightful filial claims against me, and seek his forgiveness for what I have done and for what I ask him now to do. I ask forgiveness that my death may be a peace to me and all creatures, and that in death may my child find the peace that, being born of the most egregious sin, could not attend to his existence in life. My child, I bid you a peaceable death.
Yours in eternal service,
Dr. Victor Frankenstein
Maya Alexandri is the author of The Plague Cycle (Spuyten Duyvil 2018), a short story collection, and The Celebration Husband (TSL Publications 2015), a novel. Her short stories have been published in The Forge, The Stockholm Review of Books, Dime Show Review, The Light Ekphrastic, and many others. Her story, “Ann Noni Mini,” was nominated for a 2018 Pushcart Prize. Maya was one of the organizers of the 2016-2017 interdisciplinary arts series, Amplified Cactus, in Baltimore, Maryland. She counts among her literary mentors the novelists D.M. Thomas and Madison Smartt Bell. Maya has lived in China, India, and Kenya, and she has worked as an actor, lawyer, UN consultant, blues-rock singer, and emergency medical technician. She is currently a medical student at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra-Northwell and a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. For more information, see www.mayaalexandri.com.
WHY WE CHOSE TO PUBLISH “On the Origin of Frankenstein’s Monster’s Penis”:
Anyone who has read Mary Shelley’s original novel knows that it leaves out the details of how Victor Frankenstein constructed the creature. What we loved about this piece is that the author captures Shelley’s voice so beautifully as well as the pathos embodied in the story. These details give the story a very authentic feel, as if Shelley had written this part and left it out of the original. To accomplish that requires careful attention to detail in order to remain faithful to the original.
Having published Maya Alexandri previously, we knew her to be a talented writer, and when we read the title of this piece, we had high expectations for it. Not only did she not disappoint us, but she exceeded our expectations. We say bravo! for a job well done and an impressive piece of writing.