Barnes & Noble.com
Lee Murphy Author
A re-imagining of the Frankenstein saga as told first-person by the world's most famous lab assistant.
"The cold does not bother me the way it does most people. I believe it is because I am part animal..." Thus begins the story of Ygor. In the latter part of the 17th century he lives in a small village in the mountains, an outcast from the main of society as he was born with severe deformities, which throughout his life had been credited to some errant sin on the part of his mother.
Ygor never knew his parents, as he was raised in an orphanage by Abbot Bacon, who comes to Ygor at the beginning of the novel with an offer. A doctor from another country has purchased an old ruin of a castle deep in the mountains which was owned by the church. The abbot asks Ygor to go there and make the place habitable by the time the doctor arrives in the spring. Because Ygor has the physical strength equal to several normal men, he manages to make the castle suitable for the mysterious doctor, who bought the place so he could carry out his work without interference from outsiders.
The doctor finally arrives at the castle, a mysterious, moody individual who loosens up as he drinks from the bottles of wine he has brought with him and he explains to Ygor his plan for resurrecting human life from dead bodies. During the next four years the two men work together building the machines that will ultimately realize the doctor's mad dream. But it is not an easy journey, as the doctor is bi-polar, alcoholic, and given to bouts of psychosis. His abuses upon Ygor are readily accepted and always forgiven, for Ygor's life has been one filled with abuse and neglect. It is Ygor, however, who is the catalyst for the ultimate failure or success of the doctor's venture.
This novel is based very loosely upon the idea of Frankensetin, which serves as more of a background. The story within the pages of this book are completely original. While the emphasis is on character, there are still a great many horror elements which will not leave any fan of the genre disappointed.
It was about midway through the spring and I had been at the castle an hundred and sixty-seven days. The doctor still had not arrived, but I had made the castle as ready for him as was possible. I cannot say I did not enjoy having this place to myself, especially as I now had the entire structure memorized and no longer became lost in those tunnels and chambers which ran inside the barrier wall and throughout the castle-proper.
One thing I had thought to do as I packed my belongings for the trip out to the castle was to bring some seeds so I might plant a garden if the opportunity presented itself. As it was, I was quite fortunate to find an area beside the great hall where the soil was reasonably fertile and exposed to a great deal of sunlight throughout most the day. I planted some radishes, turnips, cabbage, pumpkins, and even some flowers. While it was hardly a crop, it would begin a steady line of produce for years to come.
The weather was quite warm and flowers were blooming on the hill below the back of the castle. Animals were in abundance and butterflies came up to the roof and flew about me as I played my flute. I loved how the stonewalls reflected the sound back at me and made it sound so much larger than when I played it back in my cottage.
I was putting the finishing touches to a table I had built (I had constructed a few pieces of furniture for various rooms in the castle, primarily the banquet hall and the loft which overlooked the great hall), when I looked out at the mountains behind the castle and movement caught my eye: a man riding upon a horse. He was still a ways out, but I was certain he was headed for the castle. As I ran down the stairs to greet him I came to realize the true enormity of this place. So focused had I been upon my individual tasks I never considered the castle in its entirety, and it seemed as though it would be forever before I reached the bottom level.
I came out from the great hall as he rode into the courtyard dressed in black with a flowing cloak and riding upon a black horse. They looked like two parts of one creature. The man was immense: tall and powerful, like those statues inside the great hall, sturdy of build with wide shoulders and long, gray hair which flowed beyond the collar of his black cloak. On his shiny black boots I saw a small symbol in white:
His horse was magnificent, much like himself, but it made me nervous. This horse was not friendly like the horse from the village. This horse frightened me, almost like it was a wolf disguised as a horse.
From atop his mount he looked at the castle, his face expressing nothing to me to indicate satisfaction or displeasure. “Would you be the doctor?” I asked him, but he did not answer. “Abbot Bacon charged me to come here and make this place habitable for you.” The man seemed not to notice me. He turned his horse this way and that, all the while looking at the castle.
Finally he stopped and looked down at me. He seemed to find me a curiosity. I suppose that should not have been a surprise considering what I look like, but I wondered if he was going to hit me. He climbed down from his horse and gestured to a large wooden crate mounted behind the saddle. “Take that inside.” I took the crate from the horse and it was tremendously heavy, being constructed of wood and metal and probably filled to its capacity with whatever it contained. I followed him into the castle and he opened the crate when I set it on the floor. Inside were many glass bottles filled with dark liquid. “You are never, under any circumstances, to touch these.” He looked around and was immediately taken with the great hall, which was the largest room in the castle. Pleased with its size he examined every facet, paying particular attention to the repairs which looked different from the original materials used in the castle’s construction. He said, “You did all this yourself?”
“Yes, I did. If it is not to your liking—“
“No, no. I am really quite amazed. I had assumed you were a cripple, yet these blocks and timbers… No, this should do quite nicely.” He pulled something from a pocket on his cloak. It was two round pieces of glass held together in a peculiar metal frame. He set them upon his face and they made his eyes grow very large. He looked at me and said, “There is great work to be done which I alone cannot carry-out. Your strength will be an asset to me.”
It made me happy this man was not afraid of me. I said, “I took special care to make this room presentable, as I am sure this is where you will want to entertain your guests…”
“My work requires isolation,” he said. “There will be no guests. In another few weeks my provisions are going to arrive and we shall begin work in earnest.” I wondered about the nature of his work, but I also had a feeling of this man I should not ask questions. He said, “I need a smooth, clean surface upon which to write. I would like that wall coated with mortar.” He pointed to the long wall opposite the row of giant statues. “And I would like a scaffolding from which I can reach every level of the wall with ease. Can you do that?”
“I will begin with the first light,” I said.
We walked through the castle, but the doctor did not speak as I followed him. He seemed pleased with the state of the castle, although he pointed out some modifications he desired in various places. I showed him his bedchamber, explaining I was without the means to prepare a proper bed or furnishings, but he had a bedroll among his belongings and indicated that would be sufficient until his own furnishings arrived.
“This has been a very long day for me,” he said. “Your Abbot Bacon informs me there is plenty of game in these mountains to meet my nutritional requirements. Are you capable of preparing meals?”
“Yes,” I said. “I have been preparing meals most of my life.”
“Very well,” he said. “I would like to dine as soon as possible.”
I prepared a haunch of meat and roasted it in the kitchen. Keeping a small portion for myself, I presented it to the doctor who was seated at the table I had built in the banquet hall. It was dark outside, so he had lit a candle upon the table. He was drinking from one of the bottles from his crate and I set the meal before him. He studied it, looking displeased. “I suppose I daren’t ask what this was before you so skillfully prepared it? I am a surgeon. Simple butchery is beneath my abilities, but perhaps it would behoove us both if I were to take some time to explain to you the basic process.” I did not understand half of what he was saying, but I got the clear distinction he was not happy with the meal.
He finally plucked a shred of meat from the haunch and put it in his mouth. He chewed like an animal and the juice ran down his chin. I only paid notice to this because when I was a boy growing up under Abbot Bacon’s care such behavior would have been grounds for a beating and three days without a meal. The abbot called it “fasting to repent of my sins.” The doctor took a drink from his bottle then said, “Most surprising, I must say. Clearly the preparation is simplistic, yet I appreciate the flavor.”
“I made a gravy from the blood,” I told the doctor. “I know something about the plants that grow here so I was able to use them to season the meat.”
The doctor ate the entire haunch without interruption, after which he released a belch and tossed the bare bone upon the floor. He took another drink from his bottle, then said, “Remove your clothes and stand over there.” He pointed to the center of the room where he had set up a ring of candles. I did not understand his request, but felt I should do as he asked because I would have liked to stay here and be of help to him in his work. I dropped my tunic on the floor and looked at him. “The rest,” he said. I removed my boots and my pants, and stood naked in the middle of the circle of candles. He got up from the table and walked around me, looking at me. I almost felt like he was a wolf and I was an animal he had targeted for killing. As he walked around I kept turning and he said, “Stay still.” I stopped moving and he kept walking around me, just looking at me. “You are an atrocity,” he said. I did not know what that word meant, but it was the first time somebody had described me without saying it was because of my, or my mother’s, sins. I was certain his word had something to do with being part animal. “From which eye do you see?” I shrugged. I did not know what he meant. I could see from both eyes. “Your eyes, they go in different directions. How are you able to see?”
Again, I did not understand his question. I said, “I can see.” That seemed to tell him what he wanted to know and he kept walking around me.
As he circled me he carried that bottle with him and he kept drinking. I noticed he became less sure of his steps, but managed to stay upon his feet. “I should like very much to take measurements of your head. It looks… odd…” This went on for hours, but I remained still. I could close my mind while still keeping my eyes open and this also seemed to intrigue the doctor. “Your torso is asymmetrical to the extreme. The most substantial differentiation being between your arms. I would be most interested in learning the cause of this deformity.”
I was not sure what he was asking, but I felt compelled to answer. “I have been told because of my mother’s sins I was born different than other people.”
He stopped when I said this and he stared at me. I thought perhaps I had said something to anger him and expected to receive a slap across my face. He did not slap me and said, “No. No, no, no! You are not a product of sin. Not yours nor anybody else’s! What you are is an example for mankind… an example created by God, a reminder to show human beings His immense power!
“I will labor all the days of my life and even when I do finally succeed in bringing my New Man to life; my admittedly pale imitation hewn together from God’s table scraps, it still will be a feat unparalleled in the eyes of the world!” He gestured with his hands, pointing that bottle at me and said, “Yet, God… God Himself reminds us with a mere… smudge of His thumb… that He can create the most vile abominations the human eye can ever fear to behold! Reminding us, yet again, of the true perfection of His creation: man.” I did not understand a thing he had just said. Maybe it meant I really was part animal.
This went on late into the evening, then I had to help him to his bedchamber where he crawled upon his bedroll and immediately fell to sleep. I did not really understand this change in him, as he seemed much weaker than when he had arrived and nothing of what he said made any more sense. I extinguished the candles in the banquet hall and went to my place on the roof for sleep.
When I opened my eyes I heard the doctor shouting for me. He may have been angry. He sounded angry, but I did not know him well enough to be certain. His shouting got louder and soon he was standing over me. I could not see his face because the sun was directly behind him, but I could see his breath coming out like frozen smoke and he said to me, “Where is my horse?”
I looked up at him, trying to cover my eyes from the glare of the sun. “I do not understand…”
“MY HORSE!” He kicked me. He was wearing those shiny boots and it hurt my leg, but I was worried he would scratch his boots.
I stumbled from my bearskin and tried to explain, “Yes, your horse, I understand now. It was late and you were hungry. There was no way I could possibly catch anything, so I assumed since you were here there was no further need for the horse…” He kicked me again, this time to my stomach and I dropped to the floor. The pain was tremendous, but I learned from the abbot it was far better not to make any sound and accept the beating with “grace and dignity,” were the words the abbot used. Yet my silence seemed only to make the doctor angrier.
“You stupid, ignorant bastard! That horse was an Arabian and worth far more than your useless hide!” I did not know what to say—not that I could say anything at all, as the kick to my stomach forced the air from me and I was not able to breathe. He kicked my face and I saw bright lights as he continued to scream at me. I wanted to roll into a ball to protect myself, but I had also been taught that would only insure a greater beating, so I forced myself to lie still and allow him to keep kicking me.
He finally stepped back, but I was afraid to look at him for fear of another beating. He said, “I would like my breakfast and it had better not be any more of my horse…” He went back into the castle and I was left with a difficult problem. All I had available to feed him was what was left of the horse and I hated to see that go to waste.
Good fortune was with me I must say, as I was able to catch two game hens. I prepared one for the doctor’s breakfast and would keep the second for his dinner. I needed to take meals into serious consideration now, so I decided I would go out and set more traps. This was good because it would keep me away from the castle and away from the doctor’s fury. He was right, of course, to be wrought with me. I think of how stupid I was by killing that horse without first asking him. I did not like that horse. I could sense it was not a friendly animal, but it was not mine to kill.
I set more traps in the woods. Most of these were for small game such as birds and squirrels. I thought it might be nice, though, if I could land something more substantial, such as a deer. So I dug a pit just deep enough to cause a deer to stumble, then I pinned back a large branch just above the pit which would break the deer’s neck.
After that I cut some trees to provide wood for the scaffold the doctor wanted. I was also going to need it in order to put a mortar skin over the blocks of that wall. I made excellent progress on the scaffold that day despite the tremendous pain I still suffered from the doctor’s beating. The doctor only came around once to check on it. Whether he was pleased with it he did not say, nor did he scold me, so I assumed it was adequate for his needs.
I finished working on the scaffold as the sun began to descend for the night and it was time to prepare his dinner. I roasted the second game hen and served it to him. “Apologies,” I said. “I am certain by tomorrow my traps will have procured heartier game and the meals will be more substantial. I also saw some trout in the brook downstream from the waterfall.”
He took a drink from another one of the bottles from his crate, then he said, “This will be fine. My work requires certain sacrifices be made.” He was much calmer than he had been this morning and for that I was grateful. I hoped if I did not blunder things again I could prove to him my value as a servant, and maybe even as a friend.
He tore a leg from the bird and devoured it in that same animal way he devoured the haunch from the horse, then he looked at me and I lowered my head, hoping he would not again become enraged with me. He said, “Have you eaten?”
I shrugged. I was still very nervous. I had done so much to cause this man trouble in the short time he had been here. “I have much to do. I take meals when I can, but my duty is to your comfort.”
“Hmm.” He took his knife and cut the game hen down the middle, splitting it in half. He placed one half upon the table beside him. “Here. Eat.”
“Thank you, Doctor.”
“Do you like wine?” I had never tasted it, and before I could answer he took one of the candles which had become hollowed-out like a cup and poured some of the drink from his bottle into it. “Eat. Drink.” I took a sip of the wine. It was red and looked like blood, but it tasted strange and made my mouth feel peculiar. I did not say anything for fear of angering him, but I would have preferred water.
We ate in silence for several minutes and neither of us looked at the other. Finally the doctor said, “That horse was a gift to me from Amir Talal. That is the Arabic equivalent of royalty in this part of the world. Not that I would expect you to grasp that concept. Suffice to say, he was a very powerful and influential man whose friendship I highly valued, as he did mine.
“I remember the last time I was there, one of his wives had been caught for her infidelities with another man and was going to be beheaded. It was a fascinating experience. I, having been a surgeon for the most part of my life and having dissected hundreds of bodies, both animal and human, had never been witness to an execution, particularly by decapitation.
“Hundreds of people gathered around the place of execution; men, women, even children. She was adorned in a bright gown with a veil and jewels, as though she was going to her wedding rather than her demise.
“It was her eyes I remember best. They were green, which is rare for a person from that part of the world. Startling in their beauty. I must say, I was inspired by her dignity. She showed absolutely no fear as she knelt upon the ground and lowered her head, exposing her neck for the swordsman.”
I thought, if she did not show any fear it was probably so the swordsman would not make the beating worse, as Abbot Bacon had taught me.
“The executioner strode in and raised his sword on high. He looked to the woman’s husband, who nodded his approval and he sliced off her head.”
I did not realize until now what the doctor was talking about. I started shaking as he told me of the woman having her head cut off, something I had only seen that done to animals. I wondered if they were going to eat her.
“But something happened that day to forever change my life,” the doctor said, continuing with his story. “When her head fell to the ground I could see her face. I could see an expression of shock and pain when she struck the ground, much the way a person looks when they fall down and hit their head. I was amazed, wondering if there could still be life inside that severed head.”
The same thing happens with chickens all the time. I had even seen their bodies run around without their heads, so I did not understand why this surprised him. But I was certainly nobody to question his knowledge.
“And that is why I have come to this remote place, where I can carry out my work unhindered by prying eyes. I have escaped two death sentences, yet there are those who would still come for me and end my life. Not despite my genius, but because of it!” He took another drink from his bottle then poured more for me, which I accepted but tried not to drink too much. “There is much about me which you could not possibly begin to fathom being of your limited experience,” he said. “I am not of this time nor of this world. I am of the future, only born of this time and place to act as a vanguard of all mankind’s destiny.”
I did not understand much of what he was telling me, except he was from the future. I believed him. He reached into his pocket and took out a small leather pouch. Once again I saw his movements had become awkward, as though he did not have as much control over himself as he had earlier. “Look at these…” He opened his hand and poured several red stones into it. I had never seen anything like these before. They almost looked like glass, but were shaped like rocks.
“They look like blood,” I said.
He smiled and put them back into the pouch. “They are rubies. A very special crystal from which I will draw the force of life and bring my creation to fruition. So, I suppose in a way it is blood; blood culled from the rocks of the Earth. God made life from the clay of the Earth and I will do the same with these.” I did not understand what he meant by his creation, but I remembered what he had said before about his “New Man” and I had to wonder if that was what he was talking about.
He lifted the bird from his plate by its wing and said, “You saw this bird die. You killed it yourself, yes?”
“What if I were to tell you, in a very few years from now I will be able to take this bird and bring it back to life?”
I felt terrible for doing so, but I could not restrain myself from laughing. I could not get the picture out of my head of this cooked and partly-eaten little bird flopping around upon the floor after having been brought back to life. And why would anybody want to bring this thing—which was really not a bird anymore—back to life? It seemed cruel.
The doctor was looking at me much the way Abbot Bacon would look at me when I displeased him and the whole thing no longer seemed funny to me. “I should expect no less than mockery from one so ignorant as yourself. I have been laughed at, scorned, threatened with death, and run out of my own country by far better than you!” He took another long drink which emptied the bottle, then he threw it against the wall, smashing the glass to pieces. “I was not speaking literally of this particular bird!” He threw the rest of his bird against the wall and it dropped among the pieces from the broken bottle. He said, “I am talking about being able to resurrect life from the dead!” He got up from the table and got very close to my face. I dared not move for fear he would strike me. He said, “Mankind is a savage race. Waging wars upon one-another at the cost of thousands of human lives. Then more lives destroyed when the families of those killed have to continue without their loved ones who died—and for what?
“People do not understand the necessity of the things I am required to do. Things they find repulsive.” He was becoming angry as he told me these things, then he stepped back and spread his arms wide. Wearing his large eyes on his face, his look scared me. “Imagine an army of men resurrected from the dead going into battle. No longer will viable young men have to abandon their homes and families only to face pointless slaughter.”
I considered what he was saying and asked him, “What if you simply resurrected the ones who die in the war so they can go home to their families?”