April 15, 1838
I killed my father again last night.
It was the same dream as always, my father and myself pursuing and pursued till I no longer knew who he was, who I was; indeed, if there were any difference between us.
In the dream my father chases me over a stretch of the Arctic, as he did in the weeks before his death. Once more I flee from his wrath and at the same time lure him on. I drive the sled dogs wildly. As the dogs pant, their spittle freezes and is swept backward by the wind to hail needles against my face. Fog rises from the ice and clings thickly to the dogs: I am pulled along by white devils from Hell.
Devil. Was that not his very first word upon seeing me rise up? What had he wanted from his labors that I proved so poor a substitute?
In the dream, as in life, he chases me endlessly. As it cracks wide, the ice beneath us roars like a wounded behemoth. Huge white blocks are shoved upward in nightmare architecture. At last I abandon the sled and cross the broken ice on foot. Greater and greater are the blocks I must climb, the gaps I must leap. Black water laps at the edges of ice. My father is nearby. I hear him mutter "fiend" and "abomination." His face appears, framed by white mist; it mirrors my own horror and hatred. I reach out. My fingers curl around his throat, as his reach out to mine. He laughs. I wonder if my face shows the same delight. That is all I remember before waking. I know that I have killed him. I do not know if he has killed me.
It has taken me these ten years to be able to recognize that Victor Frankenstein was my father. If he had lived, might he have learned to call me his son?
Walton is coming. I feel it in my scarred flesh like an old rheumatic who aches at the coming rain. He is close by, but not here in Rome, not yet. How much time do I have?
I have been here in Rome so long now I almost dare think of it as home. The dream is a warning that I must never grow comfortable. Rome must be like any other city, simply one more place where Walton will track me down.
Sometimes a city such as Rome makes me remember I am only a distant witness to life, and I wonder if I should have done as I had said long ago and rid the world of my unnatural presence. Was it cowardice that stopped me? Can I be so human as to claim that defect? No matter. I did not do it. Although I be a created thing, an artificial man, I cling to my existence.
My premonition spoke true: Walton has found me again. I flee Rome tonight.
I am safe for the moment, having taken shelter in one of the catacombs just outside the city. Tonight I shall slip away and travel north. From there I will decide my next destination. For now, I sit watch among my dead brothers. The candlelight flickers over their noble skulls and is swallowed by the blackness of their eyes. If the ratlike scratching of my pen disturbs them, they voice not their complaint. Once I was like them, peaceful and still, the life that animated my bones long forgotten and blown to dust. Then my father, seeking a frame upon which to hang his evil art, claimed me as his own.
How many lives had I lived before being brought together as I am? As many lives as parts? Was I man, woman, animal? My two hands, my two feet, are so mismatched they clearly come from four separate people. My brain, my heart, each had separate hopes and ambitions. What had I seen? What did I know? Do I know it still even now?
How uncannily Boethius wrote:
For neither doth he wholly know, Nor neither doth he all forget.
My father robbed me of more than he knew, orphaning each part of me of its past.
Enough! With Walton on my scent, I must make new plans.
I had foolishly thought myself safe in Rome and had settled among the dark alleys of that city within a city, the Vatican. My face was always covered with the hood of my cloak. To hide my true height, I remained at all times crouched, knees bent as I sat on my haunches, and even walked thus, my body twisted and stooped like a hunchback's; the girth created by my shoulders and knees and elbows made it appear as if a head had been stuck on top of a boulder. My dead limbs could hold the position for hours. Only in Saint Peter's did I rise up to stand. My dimensions were more suited to the grandeur of the basilica than the dwarfish men who had constructed it. I spent my nights there; by day I sat on the steps out front and begged alms, a dented cup before me with a few coins in it.
For what? The coarseness of my body allows me to thrive on the meanest food: in the countryside, roots, nuts, berries, an occasional animal; in the city, the refuse of others. A slice of fresh warm bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil, the taste of which the poorest Roman knows intimately, is to me ambrosia.
No, it was sustenance of another sort I found upon those steps: I glutted myself on the sight of Rome's women as they hurried to market or strolled to an assignation. How easily I was swept up by their beauty.
Just last week, while I was begging in St. Peter's Square, a woman ran by. Although she was clearly distressed, her face and form were so exquisite I had to gaze on her awhile longer. Her complexion was pale and her hair, fair; I imagined her not a native but a visitor from a Nordic clime, come here, perhaps, for the sake of true love. I wondered how a virtuous and refined lady came to be wandering the streets of Rome alone. What possible complaint was so ignoble as to sully those graceful features? I fancied that only I could alleviate her suffering, if she would but let me.
Such is thy beauty, how Should my heart know To frame thy praise and taste thy godly pleasure? Take not thy image hence.
At a discreet distance I followed the blonde woman to a street where potted plants adorned window sills and gave each house a cheerful air. At one such place she stopped and rapped sharply on the door. A servant answered. Immediately my beautiful lady accused the girl of stealing a plum when she had accompanied her mistress to the blonde woman's house yesterday. Bright spots of anger mottled her queenly face, her eyes grew ugly, and, like a rabid dog, foam gathered in the corners of her lips. She struck the servant forcefully; the girl would have fallen if she had not held on to the door frame.
"No!" I cried, rushing forward.
Excerpted from Frankenstein's Monster by Susan Heyboer O'Keefe. Copyright © 2010 by Susan Heyboer O'Keefe. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.