Earlier this week, me and my peeps Alexandra Christian, Crymsyn Hart, and Siobhan Kinkade went to the big city moving pitcher show and saw Benedict Cumberbatch and company in the NBT’s version of Frankenstein. And it was awesome! I wanted to write a full, glowing review, but honestly, enough people have done that already – just trust me; if you haven’t seen it yet, just go already. And if you’ve only seen the version with Benedict Cumberbatch as Victor Frankenstein and Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature, go back and see the other one. Seriously, there are no words to describe how awesome Cumberbatch is in that part.
But I digress. It’s Halloween, I just saw a kick-ass version of Frankenstein, and I don’t have time to write a new story at the moment, so I’m reposting this one. It originally appeared in a gorgeous coffeetable book on the art of Isabel Samaras entitled Tender Hooks, and I’ve actually featured it here before. But for anyone who hasn’t seen it and wants a short, scary read, here’s for you. Fair warning, though – it is VERY gruesome and pretty darn explicit. Read at your own risk. bwhahahahahahah
My darling sister,
I have little hope that you could believe the strange particulars of my tale even if I could tell it to you sitting at your side. In truth, I can hardly believe it myself. But I beg you, do not listen when others will tell you I am dead, that my precious Charles is dead and I have succumbed to despair. Those who would tell you such a lie are only protecting themselves, and in truth, I cannot blame them. But neither can I bear to think that you will grieve for me. Know by these lines that I live. I have found the every happiness you wished me not so long ago when you kissed me on my wedding day. My Charles is here beside me, and my heart is full of joy.
Yours ever loving,
Elizabeth leapt down from the coffin maker’s wagon almost before the horses stopped. “The hospital!” she demanded, grabbing the first British soldier she saw standing upright. “Where is the hospital?”
The young man just stared at her as if he couldn’t quite believe his eyes. “I don’t . . . who are you?”
She slapped him across the cheek. “Listen.” She took hold of his bearded chin and focused her eyes on his. “I am the wife of Captain Charles Dumont of His Majesty’s Royal Marines. He has written he was wounded. He has asked me to come quickly.” Her grip tightened. “Where is the damned hospital?”
“There.” He pointed across the ruined field to a half-demolished gatehouse. “In the cellar – use the outside steps.”
“Thank you.” She heaved the heavy carpetbag full of Charles’ notebooks in both arms like a baby and broke into a run.
The stone stairs were sticky with blood, and the charnel-house stench rising from the open doorway was appalling, but she didn’t hesitate. “Ho, Miss!” the guard at the door called as she pushed past him. “You can’t go in there!”
“Stop me, and I’ll kill you where you stand,” she muttered without slowing down. A skinny young fellow in bloodied shirtsleeves and a bloody apron over his uniform trousers was coming toward her up the narrow aisle between the stretchers, carrying a tray with a brown bottle of laudanum, a small glass, and a crystal pitcher of water. “Come with me,” she ordered. “I may have need of you.” Without pausing to see if he obeyed, she hurried along the line, looking down into each sweating, pain-twisted face. “Charles!” she called out, fighting back tears. “Darling, where are you?” The officers and foot soldiers were all mixed in together, and some were obviously already dead, but she refused to panic. She had come at once in the clothes on her back with nothing more than the notebooks; she must surely have arrived in time.
“Elizabeth!” Alistair Gray was hurrying toward her through a narrow doorway to one side, wiping his bloody hands on a towel. “In Christ’s name, why are you here?”
“Where is he?” she demanded, her legs going weak with relief. “He sent for me – I came as quickly as I could.” The look on his face made her blood run cold; she tried to shut it out. “Where is Charles?”
“Dear Elizabeth.” He tried to take the carpetbag from her arms, but she refused to loosen her grip, clutching it more tightly to her breast. “He should not have sent for you. You should not have come.”
“He is my husband; of course I should have come.” She looked up into his eyes, clenching her jaw to keep from screaming. “For the last time, Alistair, where is he?”
“Darling, Charles is dead.” Her legs gave way for a moment, making her stagger, and Alistair caught her by the arms. “Help me,” he ordered the young man carrying the laudanum. “We must get her out of here—“
“No.” She straightened up, wriggling free. “Take me to him. I don’t believe you.”
“Elizabeth, for pity—“
“He is not dead.”
“My love, I promise you, he is—“
“Take me to him!”
The fury in her tone made his face turn whiter underneath its freckles. “Very well.” He took her gently by the elbow, and this time she allowed it. “Come.”
The dead were being stored like firewood in a gardening shed, the bodies of foot soldiers stacked along one wall. Two officers had been laid head to foot on a low, marble-topped counter along the other wall below a row of windows. One of these was Charles. She let out a small, strangled sound, and the carpetbag fell from her arms.
“Elizabeth,” Alistair said, trying to take hold of her, but she pushed him away, moving forward.
“My darling . . .” She touched his face, the skin as hard and smooth as stone. “My darling, I have come.” Half-blind with tears, she ran her hands over his body, pushing back the tatters of his clothes. His head, arms, and torso were mostly intact, but one leg was little more than butchered meat and bone, and the flesh was swollen and torn over one hip, a sickening wound that smelled like blood and shit.
“He was in terrible pain,” Alistair said from behind her. “The intestines were torn, Elizabeth. I know you would have wanted to speak with him one last time, but truly, his death was a mercy.”
“He is still warm.” She lifted a dead hand to her face, kissing the palm and curving the fingers to cup her cheek. “His flesh is still pliable.”
“He has not been gone for long.” She shivered, swallowing a sob, and he put a hot, dirty hand on her shoulder. “Let me take you away from here. The troops will be pulling out soon – Nappie is nipping at our heels.”
“Was his heart damaged at all?” She caressed her husband’s face, tracing the curve of his jaw as she gazed down on his closed eyes, the dark brown lashes stark against his blue-white cheek. The eyes beneath those lids were blue. She imagined the moment when the life went out of them, when her darling one had ceased to live inside this shell she loved. “And his brain?”
“His heart no doubt sustained a certain strain as he lay dying, yes.” He knew what she was getting at; she could hear the horror in his voice. “With the brain, it would be impossible to say what damage might have occurred.”
“But all of the tissue is present,” she persisted. Letting go of Charles’ hand, she moved along the counter to examine the other dead officer. This one had lost the top half of his head, but the rest of his body seemed virtually untouched. She unbuttoned his trousers and pushed them down over his hips, making the young medic who was still attending them cry out in horror. “Their frames are of comparable size,” she said with barely a tremble. “Presumably the organs would be compatible as well.”
“Elizabeth, be quiet,” Alistair ordered. “Think what you are saying—“
“I’ve brought the notebooks.” She bent down and opened the carpetbag, pulling out the one on top and holding it out to him. “He asked me to bring them. Alistair, he knew.”
“You’re mad,” he insisted. “Mad with grief—“
“Your experiments in London were successful—“
“Successful?” he demanded, aghast. “The subjects went insane with violent rage the moment they awakened—“
“The subjects were dogs,” she pointed out. “They had no true consciousness, no soul—“
“His soul is gone!” he shouted.
“No,” she said, tears spilling down her cheeks. She was still crouched on the floor beside the carpetbag; now she reached out and took hold of his trouser leg, on her knees. “His soul is waiting for me. He will return. He could not leave me.” He was looking down at her, terror and tenderness mingled on his face in equal measure. “He sent for me, Alistair. He told me to come.”
“To say good-bye.” He fell to his knees as well. “Elizabeth, your heart is broken now, but it will mend. You will love again—“
“No.” She laid her palm against his cheek. “If you love me, you must help me now.” She stood up and went to the medic, still watching them as if he thought he must be dreaming, his tray still before him. She poured a healthy measure of laudanum into the glass and topped it off with water. “Go and prepare a surgery,” she told him. “Dr. Gray must operate.”
“No,” Alistair said, shaking his head. “You cannot ask me to do this. I will not.”
“You will.” She handed him the drug. “I will help you.” He drank deeply, and she smiled. “We will bring him back.”
Making ready was much easier than she had dared to hope. The British troops had indeed moved out within the hour and left the dead and wounded behind with only Alistair and the one skinny medic to attend them. There was no one to see them carry Charles and the other officer’s corpse into the roofless dining room that would serve as a laboratory, no one to ask questions as they assembled the equipment listed so carefully in Charles’ notebook, no one but Elizabeth to know how much of the opiate Alistair needed before he was ready to begin.
With Elizabeth standing on one side of the long dining table to mind the instruments and the medic ready at the other to do the heavy lifting, Alistair removed Charles’ ruined leg at the hip, dismantling the joint with a watchmaker’s careful precision. “The skeleton can be saved here,” he said calmly, as if he were back in London addressing his students at the RoyalAcademy. “But the flesh and organs must be replaced.”
“Sweet Jesus,” the medic groaned, closing his eyes.
“Steady on, lad,” Elizabeth ordered, refusing to acknowledge the tremor in her own voice. “We’ve only just begun.”
Three hours later, the anatomical assembly was complete. The medic lit lamps and tall torches against the gathering darkness, and Alistair mixed himself another drink, laudanum in brandy now instead of water. “You’ve done beautifully,” Elizabeth said, standing by the body that now lay on the table intact, her precious Charles with the leg and cock of a stranger. The medic had already discarded the leftover bits into one of the mass graves left open by the infantry when they marched away.
“I have done abomination,” Alistair said, his words slurred from the drug.
“Nonsense.” She caressed her husband’s cheek for a moment before she turned back to his dearest friend, determined to go on. “How do we charge the cells?”
Alistair looked as if he wanted to argue, but he smiled instead. His flesh was as pale and drawn as the man on the table’s, his eyes rimmed in red, and his smile was like the grotesque grin of a skull. “Not yet, my love,” he said, raising his glass to her. “First we must bind him down.”
The electrical apparatus was a clumsy, inelegant thing, a cage of greasy metal fittings and crystal tubes enclosing Charles on every side connected to an inner web of delicate copper wires that wrapped around his body like a shroud. Back in London, she had wept to see such a thing constructed over the corpse of a dead dog, had bitten her own fist to the bone to keep from sobbing when Charles and Alistair had switched it on. But now her eyes were dry. “Have we made it properly?” she said, studying the beautifully-drawn schematic in the notebook.
“What does it matter?” Alistair said with a bitter laugh. The mad light she had always feared in him had come into his eyes. “How can we hurt him now?”
“Just what is it we mean to do, Doctor?” the medic asked. “What is this contraption?”
“Oh come now, Sergeant, surely you’ve guessed,” Alistair said, draining his glass. “We mean to make new life.” He took Elizabeth’s hand and kissed it. “Are we not gods, after all?”
Elizabeth caught his hand as he would let her go. “Promise me you’ve built it just the way you and Charles did in London,” she said, her nails digging into his flesh.
“Oh yes.” He drew her closer, close enough to smell the brandy on his breath. “It is exactly the same. When the sergeant engages those cells, the current will surround him completely and penetrate his flesh, just as it did to those poor creatures we tortured in London. Every nerve will be charged with electricity at once, a fire in his blood, inside the marrow of his bones, a pain to raise the dead. Remember how they howled, Elizabeth?” Her lower lip trembled, and tears spilled from her eyes, but she refused to look away. “Is this what you want?”
“Yes.” Her voice was steady in spite of her tears. “I will not let him go.”
“Selfish, stupid child.” His grip was painful on her wrist, and he bent closer as if he meant to kiss her mouth. She closed her eyes and turned her face away. “The sin be on your head.” He let her go. “Not mine.”
She opened her eyes to find that he had turned away, and she whispered, “Of course.”
“Engage the cells,” he ordered the medic. The young man obeyed, though his face was white as death with fear. A high-pitched whine rose from the apparatus, and the vapor in the crystal tubes began to glow. “Guard the door,” Alistair said, shouting over the din as the metal cage began to shake. “For God’s sake, don’t let it escape.” The medic scrambled for his rifle and stationed himself at the door, his bayonet pointed at the corpse.
Elizabeth barely noticed. The spider’s web of copper had begun to spark and crackle, the body snared inside of it to twitch. As she crept closer, she could see the veins along the inside of her husband’s arms deepen in color and begin to pulse with life. “It’s happening.” His fists clenched, a voluntary movement, graceful and controlled. “It’s all right, darling,” she promised. “I’m here.” His eyes popped open, and his gaze met hers. “You’re alive.” She was laughing and crying at once, horrified by the pain she could see in his eyes but weak with relief. “You will be all right.”
“Don’t touch him!” Alistair caught hold of her arm, moving closer as well. “The current would kill you.” The sparks were reflected in the surgeon’s eyes, his expression a mixture of horror and fascination.
The body began to jerk on the table like a puppet shaken by the strings, but the apparatus was losing power, its whine losing pitch, its glow beginning to fade. “No!” Elizabeth said, rushing to the cells, but she didn’t know what to do. “Alistair, fix it – don’t let it stop!”
“The cells will only hold so much charge,” he answered, coming after her. “A man is not a dog—“
As to dispute him, Charles threw back his head and howled, the muscles in his neck contorted with the strain. His head thrashed back and forth against the table, his lips drawn back over his teeth. The medic screamed like a woman as the creature lunged against the restraints, one powerful arm coming free.
“Turn it off!” Elizabeth cried.
“Elizabeth!” Alistair shouted, appalled, as the creature groped for her, breaking through the cage of glass and metal. The surgeon dove for the controls, ripping at the wires, his hands burning as he grabbed the still-glowing copper. “Sergeant, for God’s sake, help her!”
“My lady, come back!” the medic said, rushing forward. He tried to grab hold of her with one hand as he aimed his rifle with the other, but she dodged him, pushing him away. In the same moment, the creature on the table broke free. He flung the cage that surrounded him away in a shower of sparks and breaking glass, howling and snarling like a wolf at bay. Elizabeth screamed as he caught hold of the medic and shook him like a rag doll, the rifle firing wild as he dropped it on the floor.
“Charles, no!” she screamed again as he wrapped a hand around the medic’s throat and squeezed, snapping his neck like a reed.
“Elizabeth, get back!” Alistair ordered, drawing his pistol.
“No!” She moved to grab for him, but the creature was faster. Raising a heavy section of the apparatus that had saved him in both hands, he turned on the man who had been his dearest friend and broke the metal framework over his head. Alistair staggered, the pistol falling from his grasp. “Charles!” Elizabeth cried, but she could not seem to move; her legs had turned to water. The creature raised the last broken pipe he still held and hit Alistair again, a sideswipe to his skull that sent him crashing to the floor.
“Charles.” He turned to her, panting, his face still drawn with pain. His dark brown hair was wet with sweat and falling in his eyes, and his head was lowered, his shoulders hunched – an animal at bay. “You’re safe.” Trembling, she made herself move closer. “The worst is over, darling.” He still held the broken pipe, now wet with Alistair’s blood. “You have come back to me.” He looked confused, a child lost in the dark, and she smiled, tears spilling down her cheeks. “It will be all right.” Moving slowly, she reached for the twisted web of copper still wrapped around his waist. “No one will hurt you any more.” He drew in a sharp breath as she touched him, his fist tightening around the pipe, but he didn’t move to fight her as she unwrapped the web and dropped it at their feet. “I love you so much.” She laid her palms against his chest, and he flinched, a tremor racing through him. “I love you.” She pressed her open mouth to his skin, the hard plane of muscle just over his heart. She could feel his heart beating, stronger and stronger, feel his flesh warming under her hands, and she moved closer, curling against him, making a sound between a laugh and a sob. He was alive.
He dropped the pipe and scooped her off her feet. Making a sound that was almost like words, he kissed her, his mouth rough and clumsy on hers, his tongue pushing inside, and she tasted him, meat and metal, not revolting but different, not the taste she knew but somehow like it. He carried her across the room and shoved her back against the broken plaster wall, and she felt a sharp stab of pain in her side. “Elizabeth.” His voice was thick and slurred, barely intelligible, barely human. But it was her Charles’ voice, speaking her name.
“Yes.” She caressed his cheek, framing his face in her hands. “Your own Elizabeth.” She kissed his mouth, drawing his lower lip between her teeth. She was bleeding from her side, hot and wet, but she barely noticed, barely felt the pain. He lowered his face to her shoulder, sniffing her flesh like a dog as he ripped at her clothes, baring her breasts. Hunched over her, he wrapped his arms around her, one powerful forearm under her behind to lift her up, his mouth coming down on her breast, suckling like a child. “Yes,” she repeated, faint with sudden, fiery want. His touch was as rough as his kisses, and she gasped as his hand found her cunt. He groaned low in his throat, and she felt his cock against her hip, hard and strange. She trailed her fingertips along his side, across his stomach, and finally down over his hip, trembling with fear and fascination as she traced the seam where he had been remade. He grabbed her wrist so hard she cried out, but she didn’t try to pull away. He looked down at her, awareness dawning in his deep blue eyes. He kissed her mouth again, more tenderly, more sure. She wrapped her hand around his cock and guided him inside her.
He drew his breath in sharply, closing his eyes, and his arms tightened around her. She braced her hands against his shoulders as he drove upward, pushing her up the wall, then wrapped her legs around his hips. His bare skin felt hot against hers, as hot as ever in his life, and though the cock inside of her felt strange, his rhythm was familiar, a long, slow build that carried her passion with his. She watched his face and nearly cried, the way his brow was knit in concentration was so much the way she remembered. She pressed her cheek to his, her arms around his neck. “My love . . .” He quickened his pace, shifting her closer, his hips ground to hers, and the sharp thrill of her climax broke inside her. She cried out, and he groaned, driving her harder against the wall, and she felt him come as well, the wet burst cooler than life and vaguely shocking, making her shiver. She lay her head down on his shoulder, clinging tight, and he cradled her close for a long, sweet moment. A sob escaped her as she pressed her face to his throat, her arms wrapped tightly around him. Still holding her against him, he sank to the floor, and she curled close in his lap.
“Elizabeth . . .” His voice was still strange but more tender. He cradled her jaw in his palm, turning her face up to his. He smiled down on her, haunted but alive. “Thank you.”
“My sweet darling,” she said, laughing with relief. Her face pressed to his chest, she felt his arms enfold her. She knew they were safe.
“Elizabeth.” Alistair was coming toward them, his head and neck and collar soaked with blood, his pistol aimed before him. “Get out of the way.”
“Alistair, no,” she said, trying to struggle to her feet. He was coming closer, stepping over the dead medic. “Please, stop.” Charles stood up, lifting her easily. “Wait, both of you,” she protested as he set her to one side.
“It is a monster,” Alistair was saying, his eyes bright as if with fever. “It must be destroyed.” The pistol was shaking in his hand. Charles snarled at him, taking a step forward.
“No!” she screamed, throwing herself between them. The pistol shot ripped through her, a bolt of lightening through her chest. She fell forward, clutching at Charles, an icy cold spreading inside of her, hot blood pouring from her breast.
“Dear God,” she heard Alistair say from behind her, a dull thud as the pistol hit the floor. “Forgive me . . . .” Then everything went black.
When she opened her eyes, a man was bending over her – a demon. Fire was consuming her; she was in hell. She screamed, struggling in bonds that held her down, desperate to escape. Searing, stabbing pain raced down her limbs, making them jerk without her will, and she whipped her head from side to side, gnashing her teeth in fury. How dare they? she screamed inside her head, but the words would not come; she could not make them form inside her mouth. As quickly as the thought was born, it died, lost inside a wild, animal rage.
“Peace, love,” the beautiful demon was saying, words that just barely had meaning. Just outside the range of her vision as she fought, she could hear another creature sobbing, begging for . . . . something . . . . what did this mean, forgive me? The fire was fading, the pain becoming less, but her confusion was growing. The man bending over her was unfastening her bonds, and she began to cry. “Come back to me.” He kissed her, lifting her up in his arms, kissed her eyelids and her cheeks, and suddenly she knew him.
“Charles.” Her voice was barely more than a rasp, but he heard her.
“Yes,” he said, smiling. She looked down at her chest and saw a long, jagged line of black stitches. He touched her chin and turned her face to his. “And you are Elizabeth.”