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A Perfect Form (illuminated)

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ere I am, imprisoned with this creature I have made. I see no way out," Frankenstein writes. Candlelight spills over one shoulder, the only light in the room. He sits hunched over a journal, unconsciously elegant in spite of his rumpled clothes and careless hair.

He'd started the journal with high hopes of the creature's continued progress, but no more. Frankenstein's grand experiment is failing, and he finds the tone of his scientific record changing as it does, reflecting his hopelessness. There is no one for him to confide in. The mastermind of the experiment had died before seeing it through. Henry Clerval's brilliant, egotistical brain resides within the rotting skull of the beast he'd conceptualized.  

Only yesterday Victor, non-believer though he is, found himself desperate enough to speak of the experiment with a cleric. To no avail, of course, and the things he confessed to doing were likely reported to the authorities. He finds that he cares very little.

Frankenstein examines the creature, sleeping restlessly before him on a makeshift mattress lying on the stone floor. The wavering light of the candle is kind, warming and softening the deformity of its features. Softens but never completely hides: the creature is devolving at an alarming rate (his creature, Victor reminds himself—he must take blame of its existence wholly upon his shoulders for continuing the quest after Clerval died). The creature's once-fine, intelligent brow has crooked and thickened; its mandible juts in a manner that causes the teeth to protrude on occasion from between the generous lips.

Frankenstein looks closer. There is a swelling in the skin just below the arch of cheekbone, and Victor is morbidly assured of the inevitable degradation into yet another rotting sore on its once smooth skin.

Victor stands and picks up a tall, stoppered bottle filled with yellow-orange liquid from the table behind him. The creature moans softly and arches from the blanket, suffering through yet another nightmare. It sleeps twice as much as any other man, crying out nightly with the dreams plaguing its short existence.

Victor considers the acid in the bottle, then shudders and places it where he found it. It's not the creature he hates.

To his shame, he doubts the creature knows it.    

He reaches for his coat, rummaging inside one of the inner pockets for a bottle of brandy, uncaps it and takes a long swig.

Only a few days ago Victor was proud parent to the burgeoning intelligence, beauty and strength the creature displayed, so much so that he'd proclaimed it a monument to his brother, William, who'd drowned only a short time before. The monument is crumbling, and Frankenstein can no longer deny it. The process is reversing itself.

The creature thrashes and awakens, blinking into the candlelight. "Victor," it calls, floundering upon the blanket.

Frankenstein nods.

"Victor," the monster repeats. Its eyes are wide and fearful. Its lip trembles.

"I'm right here," Victor says. "Calm yourself. You were dreaming."

"Lost. I was lost. You didn't come. You didn't call for me." The creature looks at him. "I have … no name."

"You are made of many, one of whom I have known before." Victor shakes his head. "I cannot name you."

The creature stares at him, uncomprehending misery on his face. Victor upends the bottle of brandy, swallowing until he can drink no more. He wipes his mouth, coughing, then leans forward compulsively. His breathing quickens. He doesn't dare ask out loud, so he whispers. "Henry, are you in there?"

Something falls over the Creature's face, older and terrified and completely self-aware. It opens its mouth to speak.

Frankenstein scrambles back, dropping the bottle. It shatters, brandy spreading over the floor. "Don't, I beg of you, don't speak."

The monster points to its chest, bewildered. "Henry?"

"No, no! I didn't mean to ask." Victor falls into a chair, burying his face in his hands.

The creature crawls from its bed and kneels beside him. "Victor?" it whispers. Victor drops his hands. The creature brushes Victor's hair back, then pulls one of Victor's hands in its own and clutches it.

Victor returns the grip. It's only the creature looking out at him again, no more and no less, and its hands are cold, always so cold. Victor rubs the hand between his own, unthinking. "Don't speak. A name, then …perhaps your name is Prince?" he asks gently.

The monster smiles uncertainly. He and Victor attended an opera, once. Victor said the people there had imagined the stranger in their midst as a foreign prince.     

Victor forces himself to hold the creature's gaze and acknowledge the devotion he finds there. It's nearly unbearable, knowing he'll never have to earn it. He smiles back, daring to touch its cheek.

The creature leans into it, closing his eyes. "They thought I was a prince. Strangers. Not you."

Victor's other hand waves in the air, but he keeps the first upon the monster's cheek. It seems to bring it comfort. "Oh well, a great dandy, then. I called you that, do you remember? Perhaps that is your name. "

"Great … dandy," the monster muses doubtfully, opening its eyes, and despite everything, Victor laughs.

The creature recaptures Frankenstein's hand as soon as it stills. "Brother?" it offers. The countess at the opera had mistaken the monster for Victor's brother.  

The laughter vanishes from Victor's face. "He is dead. There is no other." He tries to pull his hand away.

The monster clutches it, refusing to let go. "Who am I, Victor?" it implores gently.

Frankenstein stills himself, watching the creature relax again. He wants another drink, but there is none; he wants a gun for himself or the creature. He wishes for belief in a higher power. There is nothing—only the ruination of this thing he brought to life playing out in slow, torturous progression, and he forced to watch. 

He can't look anymore, turning away from what he wrought, but not abandoning it. Not yet. "You are mine, made of perfect form," Victor says in a trembling whisper. "You shall teach us how to live. You shall bring happiness everywhere you go, like the most divine music."

"Like Figaro," the monster says, low and blissful.

"Yes. Like Figaro."

"But … Victor, what is my name?"

Frankenstein tenses, beginning to rise from the chair. "Enough of these games."

"Who am I, damn you!" the creature cries, echoing perfectly the curse Victor flung at it before they fled the boarding home. The monster stands, towering over him.

"Do not ask again, I cannot name you! You are an abomination, a legacy that mocks intent," Victor shouts. "A failed experiment bringing misery at every turn!"

The monster leaps up and strides around the room, looking for a mirror. It's impossible: Victor smashes them first, wherever they go. He hasn't cleaned up the pieces, however, not while the whole cottage lies filled with debris. The creature finds a broken piece large enough to suffice. He stares at himself for long moments. Wearily, Victor watches, slumping back in the chair. He doesn't try to stop it.

"No, no, no," the creature repeats. It begins to wail. It scrabbles amongst the glass shards, keening, finally finding what it wants. It stands and stabs itself in the chest, in its side, slicing and hacking at its own flesh. 

Victor rushes to him. The creature pushes him violently aside, stabbing itself again and again. No matter how deep the cuts, no matter how desperately it tries, it doesn't stop breathing.

It doesn't die.

It runs out of the huge, neglected cottage and over the heath toward the cliffs. Victor follows quickly, but the creature is strong and preternaturally fast. He gains no ground upon it.

"Stop, please!" Victor shouts.

The monster stops, a puppet unwillingly jerked short upon its strings. It turns.

They stare at each other: the creature with its violently blood-smeared shirt, unkempt hair and despairing, disfigured face; and Victor, full of wild grief, utter weariness and secret, shameful hope that all this will somehow end.

Victor opens his mouth and nothing at all comes out.

The creature nods, something near contempt on its face. It spins, running toward the cliffs. It leaps from the edge into the water below.

And though Victor can't possibly realize, it still doesn't die.

 

 

 

rankenstein marries Elizabeth. So much has happened since the day at the cliffs. Polidori brought the creature, still alive, to Victor on his wedding day, and threatened to reveal Victor's secrets to everyone if he didn't cooperate. Victor was forced to leave Elizabeth on their wedding night to help Polidori complete a new creation: Prima. This time, the creator does not fail, thanks to Polidori's knowledge. Prima is beautiful and perfect, feral and dangerous.

After Victor's task is accomplished, the Frankensteins travel, coming home four months later with a baby on the way. During their absence, Elizabeth's mother has welcomed Prima into her home as a guest. Prima is to be properly introduced into society while her guardian, Polidori, travels.

It is an extremely unpleasant shock for Victor to find Prima involved in their lives. Soon Elizabeth, too, discovers that she dislikes Prima intensely.

And Prima wants Victor, much like his first creation. She employs all the tricks she can muster, claiming ill health and one evening passing out at dinner, very nearly into her food. Frankenstein is obliged to carry her to her room. He places her none too gently upon the bed.

"You saw that lady faint at the concert last night. An excellent imitation," he observes impatiently, leaning against a bedpost.

Prima begins to smile, eyes still closed, and then giggle, to all appearances a charming young woman playing a prank. An angel, Elizabeth's mother calls her.

The angel grasps at Frankenstein's lapel and drags him on top of her. She is extraordinary strong and beautiful beyond compare.

Frankenstein has always followed those who lead with a strong hand, even to his own destruction. He kisses her back, loathing himself.

Prima takes advantage of her supposed delicate health to press Victor at every opportunity. She shuts herself and Victor in his and Elizabeth's bedroom, regardless of the risk.

"I'll say I fainted outside your door. You came out into the hall to tend to me and brought me in here," she says, lying on her back on the wide, soft bed, arms up and around his neck like smothering vines.  

"Get out of my room." Victor pulls stiffly away. She pulls him down again, pressing her mouth to his. His remains motionless against her. It enrages Prima. She lunges up, biting his lip. A drop of blood falls upon the quilt and sinks in.

"Leave, or so help me I'll find where Polidori's hiding and leave you at his feet." Victor wipes his mouth.  

Prima's eyes narrow. "If you displease Polidori, you'll regret it."

"I already do," he replies wearily. "Out."

Prima gathers her skirts and rushes away, eyes spitting fire. She slams the door loudly. Victor collapses upon the bed.

The closet door opens, a quiet click in the silence. Frankenstein's first creation steps out, dark and dirty against the clean, airy room. Its condition has worsened, yet it moves swiftly to the bedside with a terrible, ruined grace.

"Why is she here?" Its body and clothes reek. Its face has erupted in boils.

"Why are you?"  A great weariness descends upon Victor. He leans against the headboard.  

"I escaped Polidori's servants. They'll be after me soon."

"Then why come here?" Victor asked.

"Where else would I go?"

Victor can't meet the creature's eyes.

It points after Prima. "Her name was Agatha when she was still alive. She was kind." Its language skills have advanced remarkably since the last time they've spoken.

"She is neither kind nor alive, now."  

"Why is she with you in your room?" The creature waves an arm vehemently.

"I loathe her," Frankenstein says.

"So I see." Folding its arms, the creature leans against the wall. Its nostrils flare.  

Victor laughs. "You've learned sarcasm. Well said, but I mean it. Take her with you, if you want—I won't try and stop you."

"You could not stop me, no matter if you tried."

Frankenstein shakes his head. "I said I wouldn't. There's nothing for you here."

"But you are here."

"Surely that can't matter to you any longer," he says, knowing the answer. He's always known. He rubs a hand over his forehead. "We were never … I was never yours, you know."

"You're wrong." The creature watches him gravely. "You will always be mine."

Victor bows his head. "Do you have a name yet?" he asks softly.

The creature shrugs. "I remember what you said, having first set eyes upon me. I tell myself you named me then."

"And what was that?" Victor tries to sound nonchalant but his voice shakes, giving him away.

"Beautiful," the creature says. He and Victor stare at each other, wordless.

The silence stretches out until the creature shows him undeserved mercy. It leaves, the door falling shut behind him.

Victor stands. He stares at the doorway, then drops his head into his hands and sobs.

 

 

 

Endnote for those who want to know about the end of the movie but haven't seen it:

Prima dies by the creature's hand. Afterward, Polidori plots the creature's demise, but Victor, in a moment of horrified pity, saves its life. The creature follows the Frankensteins aboard ship, taking the lives of Elizabeth and their unborn child.

The ship travels far from civilization until it is trapped by the frozen northern waters, with only Frankenstein and the monster still alive amongst the passengers. Victor follows the creature from the ship to the crevices of a huge iceberg. He shouts, asking if he's been punished enough, and then tells the creature he knows he's done wrong. He asks for forgiveness.

The ice cracks, rumbling. The creature looks at Victor, saying, "Bravo!" Victor laughs. "Rest," the creature says, just before the ice comes down on their heads.