Free Short Fiction

Free Short Fiction: Raising Shelley

lightningface

Raising Shelley

A dreary day it was not. Delightsome light from the sun’s bright rays seemed directed upon me, and lighted my path. Within my view were all of the most precious things of the world: gentle children rolling in the grass; beautiful women strolling along dressed in their finest and most colorful apparel; birds of every song among the leaves of the greenest trees.

Indeed, the world had cause to celebrate around me. A rat, perhaps a not-too-far distant relative of Victor’s own rat, had performed a most intricate dance within the musty confines of my laboratory. Having thus made accomplishments I had gone out to celebrate and perambulate.

Yes! The world seemed so very much alive, as did that rat, though for ten full minutes it had been as dead as the sawdust which lined the bottom of its cage. It had lain within its tempered steel cage emitting no wave of discernible life, no automatic electric response to indicate heartbeat or brain activity. That rat was truly deceased.

We had succeeded, my solitary lab partner and I. We had succeeded and gained triumph and glory for all mankind. My one partner, that one in a million, that most courageous of souls who stood by me, believed in me where tens of thousands mocked, he who supplied the catalyst to my energy, should be raised among men to a higher station. He was brilliant. His brilliant light shone through the fogged mockery that is science like a lighthouse on the shore. Without fear or apathy he tore through the unknown, and together we discovered this most elusive of treasures—the secret of life!

Thus the day led me on the sun-brightened path, to wander, to wonder, to enjoy that very gift which was given to me—the life—ah what a melody it brings to the ears, what joyous sights it delivers to the eyes! With the knowledge to restore this gift unto those who have already gone before, I determined then upon my walk through the bright and shining park, to bestow it upon that beautiful dead, that eloquent silent, that one who had stirred the fire in my veins. Yes, Mary, indeed that same passionate Mary who related her story of Victor and the “monster” so long ago, who enlivened and inspired the countless many subsequent.

So on we worked, my toady and I, first with dogs, then pigs, and on to chimps, we killed and cured, cured and killed, perfecting our tools and sharpening our scientific wits. Each instance, we brought the animals farther along the scale, from recently-deceased to vulture-picked bone-dry carrion. Yet after each success, we were able to see the similarities in all living things; from plants to animals to bacteria, each with similar proteins at their base. We produced collapse and its reversal.

The whole scene is but a single memory to me, as if reflected in a rippling pool, where every convolution and reticulation brings yet another animal down, and another ascends from that misrepresented doom.

All that came before her is blurred, as many days become one in the fickle stores of the mind.

One might suppose that my toady and I were in love with her by the tender fashion which we so caringly exhumed those beautiful bones, then rearranged them when secured back in the laboratory. The method by which we worked was unknown to me, for I, like my adroit assistant, did not take my eyes from our third party—Mary. Her bones were prepared by such able hands that the work was quick, though certainly not as swift as an animal whose death we had facilitated for the purpose of reviving mere minutes later. It took Mary three nights to fully awaken from her ever-too-long sleep.

The night in which she awoke fully had promised to be auspicious, though I realized that my anxious desires might have negative effects upon my spirits, if the slightest detail was found amiss. My expectations were certainly high.

As our conquest began to show signs of life, first a heartbeat, then brain function, and immediately thereafter the slightest twitching of the index finger of her right hand, I began to see a possible flaw in my plan. The eyes began to open and we saw the sliver of a glimpse into her soul. The emotion that lay within seemed ferocious, as if with some small amount of energy this being could tear planets apart.

Æons seemed to stretch before me as I witnessed the tempered rising of this long-dead creature. Yet she, who had given us Victor’s tale, was vital to any further discovery within the medium of human creation. Her head tilted upon the slab, the shroud sloughed away and both my assistant and I struggled to keep it on her. We did not want any indecent views to taint this first meeting, and as yet we had only seen her bones.

It is nearly impossible to describe the thrill of emotions that shuddered through me when she reached out and grabbed the covering by her own power and pulled it around herself, or the stammering of my own mind when she first spoke. It is a weakness of our language that emotions like these do not fit into any definitions. Words that presently exist all fall short of the mark. How does one describe the utterly horrible vision of ethereal realms within the glossy orbs of an alien being? Was she not one of my own—a human, of bipedal locomotion?

This I considered, pondered, mulled over, until she spoke. When that guttural, masculine croak was expelled from her barely formed lips, my very spirit cowered within its covering. My mind too, recoiled to safer depths, though this state of introspective evasion did not prohibit me from latching on to her first two words:

“Who dares…?”

My assistant too seemed to be withdrawn, but his mental stupor was obviously not as deep as mine. He spoke, “I am Edgar Cervantes, and this is your rescuer, Doctor Modine…”

His discourse was cut short by that abysmal voice saying, “You have disturbed my final rest. You have robbed my grave. For what purpose? Why have you summoned me hither? To mock me? To flaunt a newly learned power—that very power which I and men of my time could only dream of wielding?”

Au contraire ma sœur,” my assistant argued, “your return was our primary goal. Second was the desire to converse with our predecessor, you, the vanguard of our science.”

“Please do not lie to me thus, sir,” she claimed, her voice growing more effeminate with every breath, “for mine eyes perceive evidences of your deceit.”

“Madam,” I beseeched her, “your claims cut me to the core, for I only now have been able to find my voice, having lost it at my fascination with your effervescent grace. I plead: what evidences are these that make you distrust us so? Tell us what, with this environment, is wrong, and we shall immediately make it right.”

“You state your primary purpose was to raise me up from ashes, but then if you were prepared for me, where are the accoutrements that surely you must have gathered for my return? Where then are the women’s garments? Surely you did not want to converse with me while in this state of undress? You, after all, are two men, and so perhaps do not understand my discomfort—and yet somehow I think that you do.”

“Madam,” I pleaded, “you have caught us in a major faux pas. Give me the benefit of your doubt; I will procure the items that you need…”

“Sir,” she scorned, “it is your duty. Make haste.”

Grabbing my assistant’s shoulder, I dragged him close and whispered my plea to him, “Go, find some sort of attire for our…guest.”

“But…” he meant to argue that he hardly knew where to go, or what size she might be, for as yet she was still growing. Deep down within himself he summoned that determination that is the most beautiful attribute of his character. He gritted his teeth and shot out of the lab.

No sooner had he left than our dearest Mary began issuing commands. “While your assistant is away you will remember to maintain a polite distance, or I shall have to fight you with my every tooth and nail. Perhaps you could invent some business on the opposite side of the room. Certainly you don’t desire to stand around like some imbecile without any business to attend to whatsoever.”

“Madam, you are my guest. I am at your service. Though it is true I erred in preparation for your liveliness, I shall attempt to amend my short-sightedness by preparing for you now. There is food in the kitchen below. While my assistant is retrieving clothing for you, I will fetch you something to treat your appetite and your thirst.”

“Do not be gone long,” she demanded. “I believe your assistant, Edgar, is quite capable and will return soon. Though I trust him a sight more than I do you, I still would not want to be alone with him.”

Ignoring her less-than-subtle insults, I bid her a farewell that I promised would be brief.

Once below, I hurriedly flung together small tidbits and snacks that I hoped might please her new, yet long-empty stomach. I had not given any thought to my own needs in multiple hard-working hours, and it was long since I had fed myself. While staring at this swiftly prepared arrangement of apprehensible morsels, I shot two crackers in my mouth and began chewing. A creak, as of floorboards, came from above and I looked to the staircase behind me, expecting to see, I don’t rightly know what, certainly not Mary descending the stairs, wearing nothing but her reincarnation, but expecting to see someone. There was no one.

It was then that my able assistant came crashing through the kitchen door from outside, and his sudden entrance startled the crackers down my windpipe. For maddening moments I choked on my meager meal. Fortunately he was not so impaired. He blurted about his clothing acquisitions; he had scored plenty. While he spoke we both heard another creaking, this time at the front of the building. Edgar stopped his excited yammering and we both went to investigate. We looked through the short hall to the front and saw nothing. The rooms there were dark, as they usually are at night. The place was quiet.

Edgar and I looked at each other, still listening, neither of us talking. He shrugged his shoulders, and I nodded in agreement.

I broke the silence, “Let us take our guest her clothes and this small meal. I hope she will accept it and allow us some small manner of friendship.”

This time Edgar nodded and we made our way up the staircase, past our laboratory to the small room where we had raised Missus Shelley. I with my plate, and Edgar with his large bundle of women’s clothes, entered the room. Here we set expectations to find our newly formed friend, but she had escaped while we were both occupied. Signs of her leaving were there for us to discover, and these signs were manifested in the form of vacancies. There was the vacant area where Edgar had left a pair of shoes. Another vacancy lay open on a coat hook where I had once hung a lab coat. A final and discouraging vacancy was there on the table where we had moments before watched the life enter the body.

Edgar and I heard a noise! There in the street! We rushed to the window and flung it open. There, running, looking like the ghost that she would have been days ago, was Mary in my white lab coat. Her voice was an exuberant cackle. She was effervescent and mad. She had been given life again and was intent to maximize it, to whirl it down the boulevard like a forceful gust of unleashed wind.

So it was that Edgar and I began our chase. We thought nothing of automobiles, though we each had one. Edgar even had a motorcycle which might have proved quite useful in such a chase. These convenient modern tools were gone from our minds. Instead we gave chase on foot, and as men of science we had little talent at such physical exertion. Ours were talents of the mind, though not in fight and flight scenarios and we soon found ourselves witless and winded.

Still we would not give up on our reanimated idol. She may have been insane and frantic, but we certainly felt a pride in her that could only be described as pride in creation. She ran through the Italian neighborhoods and they did not give her a moment’s attention. Then she ran through the Chinese market and they all wanted to halt her progress and sell her items of foreign make. It appeared then that she would slow and perhaps allow us to catch her in the process of shopping, but she caught sight of us drawing closer and took her new form in a straight line away so that we had to speed off again. At that time we were not of an energy to do anything that might be considered “speedy”, and that is how she managed to evade us.

We lost sight of her at once. Her escape was so rapid that we could not divine whether she had gone toward the monorail train station or toward the park. Either direction would, as in any large metropolis, afford her even more options, so it was then that my mind began to despair.

Edgar voiced the same sentiment by saying, “We shall lose her the same day we found her.”

“Shall we split up then?” I tried to be sensible.

“It is all we can do,” Edgar said.

“No,” said I, suddenly coming to a more social place in my brain, “we can ask…” And so I did. I asked first a lady, who was rather smartly dressed and coming from the train station, “Did you happen to see a woman in men’s running shoes and a lab smock running that way?” She shook her head and walked on, obviously uncomfortable talking to two heavily-breathing men at night.

Edgar tried next, speaking to a tall gentleman coming from the same direction. He asked, “Have you seen a seventeenth century woman running your way?”

As could probably be expected, the man gave Edgar a countenance full of apprehension and pity. I thought for a moment that the man might expectorate on us, but he was kind enough to keep it contained.

I tried another, this time with more tact, and a fair amount of layman’s dialect. The man coming our way was a heavy fellow, short and muscular, with a curly mustache beneath his nose. He wore coveralls that were stained from a long day of work, and boots that plodded wearily on the sidewalk. I did not approach him, calling out to him instead. “Hello sir, could I ask you if you saw a woman running that way? She would have been wearing a long, white shirt—“

“—and men’s shoes,” he cut in. “She appeared quite out of her element.”

“Certainly that,” Edgar announced as we raced off toward the park, leaving the helpful man behind.

The South Central Park was a sprawling affair, with woods and hills, trails and walkways, playgrounds and mowed fields. A river bifurcated the park unequally, though all was accessible by bridges, evenly spaced, and sufficiently spanned across the languid waters.

We two knew that our task was not an easy one. There were many places one could go within the park, as well as innumerable places to exit the park. Our only hope resided in the knowledge that someone had seen our newly born Mary running this direction. I happened to glance at Edgar as we ran. His face could not conceal his feelings. Instead it revealed them to all the world. He had the crease of worry at his brow, the tension of determination at his eyes, and the clenched teeth of a man who does the majority of his work at a desk. I could only guess that my own face was as unpleasant to be seen. My state was surely also one of worry, determination, and fatigue.

Before long we came upon a hill of thoughtful landscaping. It was adorned with paths leading to its highest point, upon which sat a bench. From the bench, a number of people could sit and overlook much of the park, the highway beyond, and some of the surrounding city. At that time, our person of interest was there resting herself. She faced the vista I described, and so was not paying attention to Edgar and I coming up behind her. We approached cautiously and slowly, as if she were a rare animal of the wild.

At some point in our approach we both were overcome with the sense that we should stop. The feeling was one of motherly instinct, though I can’t say that I have ever been a mother, nor can Edgar probably. Nevertheless, we both stopped in our tracks and listened. Our dear Mary was performing susurrations that intrigued us, though we could not understand or draw upon that portion of her monologue on account of her quietness. She did not remain quiet long, and soon was wailing. This we understood. It cut me to my heart.

“O Percy,” came her loud lament, “to what end this new torment? Was our initial separation not punishment enough? O, what evil was done in complicity or solitude to warrant this shared diabolical divorce? What hell is this? To what world have I been reborn? Perhaps this is but a manifestation of dementia. How may I be awakened? How can this demented state be so very intricately imagined? Wake me, my beloved Percy, from this fevered dream. Find me, in this corporeal nightmare. Join me and end this abhorrent loneliness! Hear my pleas: Wake me! Find me! Join me! Oooooh!”

There she trailed off in that plaintive sound until she was quiet again, with only small sobs and sighs to break her silence.

Edgar and I became undecided. We stared at each other in a valiant attempt to divine one another’s thoughts. The attempt may have been in vain, yet it cannot be denied that we acted in unison. We stepped in our creeping predatory way until we had her flanked, I on her left and Edgar on her right. Though we had the same notion, to grab her and contain her, we did not have any plans on how to retain her should we manage to lay hands on her. As it was, we did not need any such plans. She caught sight of one of us and darted away as swiftly as a hunted doe.

This time, for whichever reason may be applied, whether it be desperation or fear, we were able to match her pace. She raced on and we chased after. It was to be a test of endurance. Ah, but we had built her well. Or rather, she was formed well, because she had energy to spare. We chased her through the vast emptiness of that castle-like church which occupies a full city block in the middle of uptown. We chased her through the cemetery behind the church, and on to more lighted but no less morbid places.

She passed along outside the hospital, weaving around cars and ambulances lined up in the emergency lane. Her cackling laughter returned. A few patrons heard her and caught sight of her dressed in my lab coat. They must have wondered about the quality of care they might obtain from such a facility. Then what, I wondered, did they think when Edgar and I trotted by, trailing the mad woman with our obviously out of shape forms and our rasping breaths?

Beyond the hospital is the market district and we nearly lost her there as she dodged and weaved through the farmer’s kiosks. For some reason, unknown to us, Mary doubled back and headed toward the hospital. She completely fooled us with that maneuver. It was infuriating and frustrating to have her spin on her heels and pass between us, easily within grabbing distance, and yet neither of us was swift enough of mind or body to actually extend an arm or grasping hand. Even more infuriating was the fact that she knew she had pulled one over on us and cackled at our dismay.

My wind was gone; her laughter had defeated me. I had to bend over and rest with my hands on my knees. I faced the ground and breathed at it as if it was my enemy. Meanwhile, Edgar and Mary were still on the move. It was of universal importance that I continue the chase, so I summoned what strength I had left and jogged after them.

From a distance, I saw Mary go inside the building. She had been inside the church and had quickly learned how to operate our modern doors. Now she was getting faster. By the time Edgar got there, she had disappeared inside the maze of corridors and rooms that was the hospital.

By the time I got there, Edgar was having his own loss of energy and confidence. He panted wildly.

“Which direction?” I asked, as briefly and simply as I could.

“You,” he said, pointing down the corridor to the left. “Me,” he said, as he stood up and took a pained skipping step down the right corridor.

Hurrying as fast as I could, I noticed that the hall had no less than ten other hallways leading off to the right. At the end of the hall was a set of double doors, and who knew how many more halls and rooms and corridors and stairs beyond that. I wondered at the soundness of our decision to split our search. Should I have gone with Edgar so that we might scour the building more efficiently? Or should we be enlisting help from within the hospital? Our trouble there would be in describing exactly who she was to they who might catch her.

As I trotted along, I came upon a hall with the door to the stairs and the elevator doors. This was the worst possible scenario, I knew. There were far too many options for this bird in flight. She would soon be uncatchable. It was then that I caught my own direction of thought and applied it to my quarry. Where would she go? What would her 16th and 17th century mind think of this building? She would not know how to operate an elevator, unless by chance she watched someone do it.

It was the stairs. It had to be. As I entered inside, I heard running feet above me. This gave me new confidence, but not energy. I determined to take the electromechanical conveyance of my day, so I left the stairs and took the next elevator going up. There happened to be a man on it, but he excused my frantic pressing of all the buttons on the board when I told him, “One of the patients has escaped.”

“Oh,” the man said calmly, as if he knew exactly what I was talking about and it was a common occurrence.

At each level, I stuck my head out and listened for running feet. I truly expected to hear nothing, as was the case, for the first few floors. I did hear an intercom announcement for “Code blue,” and though I certainly could not respond, I realized one option I had not utilized.

My fellow rider exited at the fourth floor. At the fifth I removed one of my shoes and set it between the elevator doors to keep them from closing. I then trotted to the stairs, opened the doors and poked my head in to listen. There were indeed footfalls within the stairwell, but they were above me. Back to the elevator I ran, squeezing myself in through the doors bouncing off of my well-placed shoe. I kicked my shoe, only picking it up when the doors had closed again.

At the next two levels I did not bother with listening. Instead I repeatedly tapped the button to close the doors. On eight I tried my shoe trick again. There was still the sound of someone on the stairs. Was she going to the roof? Was there roof access from the stairs? I had been in many buildings where there was no roof access for the public. Regardless, I needed to be faster and I cursed my frantic actions. Why hadn’t I only pushed the upper floors and taken the stairs back down? Would I not have caught her as she ran upward? She might have run directly into my arms. Ah, but our imaginations are wicked things. I pushed that thought out of my mind. It was not to be, so why dwell upon it?

It was then that I realized there were only four more floors and then the roof. Determined to catch her, I kept at my practice of closing the doors at each new level. At twelve I leapt off and grabbed for the door to the stairs. Once inside I heard a rattle of metal above me. I cautiously walked up the few stairs located there. Between the roof and me were two landings and a dozen stairs. No more running was to be heard. The chase had ended and the capture or ambush would be next. Would she ambush me if there was no door to the roof?

I stayed to the outside of the stairs to keep from being seen too easily. At the first landing I could see a bottom corner of the door to the roof. There did not appear to be anyone standing near it. From the intercom I heard an announcement to all hospital personnel to be on the lookout for a woman wearing a long white coat most likely running through the building.

Edgar.

He must have had some of the same thoughts as I, though I commended him on acting on those thoughts. I hoped that I was off Mary’s trail and that the intercom announcement would work. Perhaps they would catch her in an unoccupied room somewhere below. Possibly they would catch her hiding in a closet or cowering in another stairwell. These were my hopeful thoughts.

As I rounded the corner, I knew that hope was only wonderful as long as there was no terror in the alternative. The roof door was slightly open still and a cable tie lay on the steps, ripped from its placement around the door’s crash bar. Another cable tie, also ripped, hung limply and uselessly from the crash bar. I took these signs as indication of an impossibly strong woman passing this way.

With fearful eyes I peered through the crack of the open door. She was not within sight of the slivered view. Perhaps she did lay in wait, stifling her breath and coiling down in preparation to pounce. I did not know it; nor could I know if she was at the edge of the roof ready to take a fatal dive. Instead of kicking my way onto the roof or attempting to be covert, I casually went through the door, as if I had every reason in the world to be there.

It was perhaps the best move I had made all night.

Within three quick paces from the door, Mary crouched, appearing to have the intent of taking that dive should she sense any urgency in the step of her pursuers. From me she saw neither threat nor fear. I gave her my calmest confidence.

Approaching in the same manner, without rushed worry or stealthy walk, I began talking to her, trying to convey trust-worthiness.

“It’s alright. It’s okay,” I breathed. I was still winded from running. “Whatever you feel we have been neglecting to give you—I will give.”

“Give me Percy!” she shouted. Her voice had shed its gravelly bass tone. It was more effeminate, and therefore incomprehensibly powerful. I began to shake. I was not prepared for what I heard, though I did make promises to her womanly demands without considering them first.

My thoughtless words flowed forth. “I will. We will. Oh yes, madam. We can do that. We can bring him to you. It would be as easy as…well, as easy as bringing you to life.”

“Percy!?” came a familiar voice from behind me. It was Edgar. He helped me come to my senses. I spun to look at him and saw that he was accompanied by a security guard. Edgar and the security guard began flanking Mary, leaving me in the center, as Edgar voiced his distaste with my agreement.

“We will not bring back Percy! Do you not see the inherent problems with this first experiment?” He addressed me and indicated Mary with a waving hand. “Should we duplicate those with another? Should we unleash twice the madness on a society as unprepared to handle it as our Mary is to coexist with that society?”

Mary had heard enough. She grew belligerent then, saying, “If you shall not bring me a companion then I shall…”

And the literary time-bomb erupted on all of our heads, with the exception of the security guard, who looked as if he was uncertain which of us had the greatest need of psychiatry.

Mary did him a favor toward his uncertainty and began wailing again, with her face aimed at the sky. “O Percy! I am in HELL! Canst thou not grant me redemption from this damnation? Or is this the retribution for my imagined and inscribed terrors? If it is so, O that I had never written the volume to frighten generations of men and children ‘til the end of time. And when will be the end of mine?”

Edgar now changed his stance. “No, Mary. This is no hell, and you are not here as a form of punishment. You are here because of the thoughtless pride of two men, who should have been intelligent enough to know better.”

I nodded in agreement and added, “The novel you wrote was our inspiration as certainly as it was inspiring to many millions of others. How many men over the years have caught Modern Prometheus’ fire in their minds and speculated on revelatory sciences? How many who heard the philosophies in your thoughtful novel, came by new undiscovered truth? No, Mary, you did no wrong by writing.”

“Wait,” the security guard broke in to our conversation, “you talking about Frankenstein? That is a great book. Gives me the heebies just thinking about it.”

“Exactly,” I said, glad to have a third positive voice. I thought perhaps we had a chance in talking her down from the dangerous rooftop. “We are saying that exactly. There is a frisson that is enjoyed by all who read your novel, Mary. That is what our friend is saying. Frisson cannot be generated by unqualified creations. Only the greatest can achieve such results.”

Eyeing Edgar suspiciously, she asked, “You are converted to my needs then?”

“Absolutely not,” Edgar said tactlessly.

Our quarry took two steps toward the roof edge. Sanity was not a trait visible in her eyes. She was most likely beyond our help at that point, though we persisted in trying to keep her.

Edgar’s attempts were rougher than I probably would have done. He warned her, “Unmake yourself—we’ll only make you again.”

She glowered at him and her distaste was all too evident in her voice. “You would keep me alive, but not bring Percy to me?” Her voice was a demanding, and commanding, hypnotic sound. I’m sure that I would have kowtowed to her every desire at that moment.

The security guard was made of the same cloth as I, because he said to Edgar, “Why not bring Percy to her?”

“This woman you see before you was not living yesterday.” Edgar began relating our story. I wondered at how much could be believed. “She has not been given any sustenance and yet she is strong and swift. We have meddled with powers we do not understand. She detailed this potential mistake in her novel, and we circumvented that intelligence with our childish pride, creating her despite our knowledge. To make another like her would be to bring an uncontained terror to this Earth.”

“Truly stated,” said Mary. “Yet, you have missed one vital element of that story.”

Edgar had time to say, “What is thaaat?” The last word trailed off in his surprise, for Mary had lunged at him and grabbed him at the shirt collar. She then dragged him kicking helplessly to the roof edge. With her incredible strength, she spun him about like a toy and lifted him over the edge, holding him there by one of his legs.

He was very still, though loudly protesting, “No, no, no!” I could see that he did not want to test her strength that night by wriggling as a worm on a hook. Instead, he curled into a fetal tightness, as much as he could while dangling upside-down.

Mary spoke to me. “Would you also make me again if I was unmade?”

“No, madam, and neither shall he.” I tried to make promises for my overly zealous partner. She saw through the attempt.

“He speaks for himself,” she said. “I trust him as much as I know him. Can you reanimate me on your own? If I drop him, will you still be able to continue your experimental evils?”

I shook my head and noticed her eyes flicking toward the security guard, or at least to where he had once been. Looking the same direction, I noticed his absence and wondered at why he had made such a cowardly departure. My friend Edgar had his life at stake, and this “protector of society” had fled from the danger.

“Mary, please,” I said, making my own protection for my friend, “if you will bring him back to the roof, I can promise you freedom from your torment.”

“My head grows weary of all these promises, and my arm grows tired from holding this man. Shall I drop him?”

Edgar repeated himself, “No, no, no!”

“Your arm grows tired?” I wondered at this revelation, for as yet she had not shown the slightest sign of fatigue. My analytical mind raced. “May I ask you Mary, if you feel as though you could hold both of us over the precipice?”

“Certainly not,” she claimed.

“How much longer can you hold him out there?” I asked, sincerely concerned for her as well as Edgar.

“I must drop him,” she said, and she did exactly that, though she swung him as well, so that his face smacked against the raised edge of the roof before his legs flopped to the rubber membrane of the rooftop. He cried out at the abuse. I watched him do a half push-up. Quitting that unqualified attempt, he merely rolled onto his back and put a hand to his face to slow the bleeding at his lip. There he rested, the dim light in his eyes testimony to his resignation.

Mary however, was less than resigned. There was fire in her eyes. She began asking me questions. “Why do I feel this way?”

“Your body has undergone great strain in the past hour.”

“What does it mean?” she asked. I felt then that she had some insight into my soul. Could she hear my concerned thoughts, or was I projecting them in my body language? Could I lie to her? Could I disguise my body language? I decided that truth was the best policy in this case as in all others.

“I believe it means the process is nearing its end.”

At these words my prostrate friend brought his attention to me. I caught his eye and told him, “She has stopped growing.”

I turned to Mary again. “What this means, Mary, is that both Edgar and I have made many mistakes in the past three days. One of which is the neglect of a final step in your regrowth. We forgot to infuse your rapidly growing cells with repressor proteins. In short, we gave you a deathless life. Cells that do not die will consume themselves, unfortunately, in their lust for life. I am sorry. It was an extreme pleasure to have met you.”

Edgar sat himself up, showing concern on his face, as well as relief.

Mary was less relieved. “I feel ill. It feels as if the fire of life is being quenched within me. It is a disarming flood…somewhat familiar to me.”

We watched helplessly, Edgar and I, as Mary began to be consumed from within by the very powers we had given her to bring her to life. We watched helplessly as the security guard returned with more staff members, and more security guards, some of them carrying implements of destruction, others carrying implements of aid. None of these things or people could do Mary any good. The best outcome for her now was to let her internal chemistries perform their final act of mercy.

I saw one well-meaning nurse step forward with an AED only to be halted by Edgar’s wisely outstretched hand. He began talking to the nurse, describing what was really happening. I couldn’t be sure if the nurse was comprehending all that Edgar was describing because his back was turned to me. I could only see Edgar’s face as he talked to the young man.

The nurse took in the new information and then bent down to talk to Mary. By then, she had been brought low by her infirmities. She was sitting on the rooftop. Her fresh and effervescent color was being washed away and replaced by a pallid tone. I regretted having to watch this, but not the next event. The nurse had convinced her to let him and two others carry her in their arms down the stairs to the next level. By this gentle conveyance they brought her to a comfortable chair. There she rested as one who has finished a harrowing race.

She requested my presence…and Edgar’s.

“Thank you,” she said.

“For what?” Edgar and I wondered in synchronicity.

“For being so forgetful,” she mocked.

“We shall not reiterate,” Edgar seemed to promise, though I wasn’t sure his answer was specific enough. It had the sense of being insincere and ambiguous.

I simply said, “You’re welcome,” as if I could do anything to control my forgetfulness.

“Do not bring me back again,” she demanded.

“We will not,” I agreed, though I wasn’t sure I heard Edgar say anything. Did he say the same words as me and at the same instant? We did that often enough, it may have happened at that moment.

Her eyes fluttered involuntarily and then closed. She appeared so very tired. She was still breathing, and the moment was maddening for me. Why had I brought her to this world only to have her slip away again? What justice was there in this whole affair? Could she not have had a small amount of joy within her short new life? I blamed myself for her disordered hours among us. And now nurses and doctors and guards were jostling each other about, casting demands between them, trying to push Edgar and I out of the way, though we would not budge. She was family to us, even if only in our minds. We remained where we were, attentive to her every change.

Many tempestuous notions rolled through my brain as I saw her undoing. I knew we should never have meddled with life. It was a precious gift and worth respecting. Through our neglect we had not only introduced new life to this woman, but we had re-introduced her to death. How many deaths does one person deserve? I did not believe Mary deserved more than one passage through death, yet I had forced a second upon her. Should I have carried on with her plan to bring back Percy, would I have undone him as well?

The world will never know, because Edgar and I agreed to never divulge to anyone how it was accomplished. We eventually agreed to go our separate ways and pursue our separate studies. We divided our laboratory and disassembled it. We also felt obliged to allow Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley to be returned to her resting place with a solemn agreement to never disturb her long sleep again.

As far as this story goes, there she remains.

 

Raising Shelley by Kurt Gailey, offered to the masses on the birthday of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, and written in the style of her novel Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus

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