We Belong Dead

We Belong Dead


"Don't touch that lever—
you'll blow us all to atoms!"
—Dr. Pretorius, Bride of

There had been no humanity in young Frankenstein’s brief transplant existence—only a clamor of irate panicky stitched-together vital organs screaming at the very end. Only his brain was silent—remaining still and virgin as the dead youth on the slab in the morgue who’d suddenly found himself hung.

Young Frankenstein entered a trance—remembering himself one last time. Repeating to himself—“We belong dead.” His brain was already fried anyway—it had already died once at the four-quarters where the hangman’s noose had done its trick. Now it was entering the final phases of its last incarnation—barbecued dead meat. Just like Pretorius and the others.

In the end there was nothing left behind—no comet’s tail or fairytale ending. “We belong dead.” It was time for the shadows to lengthen over the ruins—a time for the tethered kites to drift off with the storm, nervously in the darkness like gnat swarms.

Frankenstein leaning back against the castle walls—feeling weak in the knees. Worrying about this moment—all year long. So that now the Bride’s rejection didn’t really mean anything anymore—it had all become tedious to him. A long boring nightmare—of clones and clowns. Ignorant villagers—and mobs with torches. There was no hope for him—amongst these humans.

The lever vaporized—but there was time enough for all the various and sundry organs in Frankenstein’s patched-together body to gasp one last time. Seeing their past existences once so important to both themselves and previous owners—the livers, bladders, lungs, legs, arms, fingers—all of them experiencing a spit-second déjà vu flashback.

A flashback worthy of Miss Proust taking tea in her cork-lined bedroom. Just enough for a brief decadent shock—fading like an afterimage of an eclipse—on somebody’s dying burned-out retina.

Such nostalgia was much too brief—to make young Frankenstein melancholy. For he knew this was no special occasion like Jonah being vomited up—whole again, alive and quiveringly human, by the whale.

Quick footsteps… Frankenstein remembering Valerie Hobson—leaping to her death from the window in the tall turret of the watchtower down to the hard dark rocks below. She screamed all the way down—“Lord have mercy!”

Young Frankenstein remembered the laboratory crashing down over them all—squishing them into gooey strawberry jam in between tons of wrecked granite debris. He remembered looking at the heap of books on the Baron’s desk—yawning with boredom and ennui at all the research and scholarship that had gone into creating his sewn-together miserable body of dead meat and high expectations.

He remembered the look of disgust on Elsa Lanchester’s twisted snotty-looking face—how she hated him from first sight!!! Once she got a good look at what her romantic monster’s honeymoon was going to be like—she jerked her head away in horror.

He remembered. Electricity. The stifling heat of the laboratory—all the machines giving off incredibly hot temperatures and ozone-smelling voltages. The whirr of the static-electro devices—zapping and arching upward and downward. Lightening and electricity—pumping it down into his neck-bolts riveting him to the operating table in shocking pain.

To be reborn through high voltage—was to suffer the agony and ecstasy of flashing electrical pain zapping through one’s whole nervous system. It was like sticking your wet tongue—deep into a light socket. The shocking pain—so exquisitely excruciating.

Frankenstein remembered thinking about effete limp-wristed Pretorius: “I should have strangled him in his sleep.” Nelly Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon) and fey Percy Shelley (Douglas Walton)—they were bad enough. But screamy Una O’Connor as hysterical fruitcake Minnie the Housekeeper simply drove him mad.

Elsa Lanchester would get the starring role as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley—as well as the role of the lovely but persnickety Bride. Little does anyone know that she stole the manuscript from Percy Shelley’s desk after he drowned—publishing it under her own name, thus insuring herself immortality in the annals of literary history. After all, it was Mary’s gracious bow to Mommy Dearest—following in her astute prim feminist path. Few have read both draft & final copy.

And then there were all the other despairing organs of the Creature. Which gave Frankenstein little time for leisure to contemplate the scene that, in a phrase, he would instantly hate—“passing before one’s eyes.” His eyes weren’t his eyes—so how could he see anything anyway? Even though he did see—and hated what he saw. He felt all his uneasy commandeered organs suddenly realizing that the end was near. Each organ had its own scream…

It’s worth noting what Frankenstein did remember—his previous existence as a human being. He remembered his first lover—and how she irritated him. Enough to commit murder—while in the middle of some unembarrassed carnality in a graveyard one night. He banged her head against a tombstone—he really didn’t mean to murder her.

Young Frankenstein also remembered his wife—whom he had loved before she exhausted him with her predictability. They were all sullen deader than doornail entities now—just like him. The only difference being he’d had his Night of the Living Dead for awhile—thanks to Baron von Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorius. Was it worth it—to be living dead?

Young Frankenstein could remember all the hell-kites above the castle in the storm—sucking up lightening and energy. The feeling he had when they broke his neck—spraining it and making him go spastic at the end of that tight ratty rope for 15 minutes or so. That’s what made him a poor brain donor candidate for the experiment—even though Igor had no way of knowing this when he stole the brain in the bottle from the morgue. A petulant brain—a petulant boy.

After his spinal cord snapped, young Frankenstein had felt like he was in slow-motion—pathetically sluggish, full of a dull glacial slowness, compared with the castle explosion and flashing lights around him. Lightening and thunder—reverberating in the night.

Frankenstein’s brain, that is, the brain among all the other body parts and organs that had come together for a time—it felt itself freed from the Creature at long last. There’s nothing worse than being a captive brain in a living dead man’s body—full of demanding resurrected fully-conscious similar organs constantly fighting amongst themselves for supremacy.

It came down to a hanged man’s brain to mediate the situation. “We’re all dead meat,” Frankenstein said. Colin Clive nodded. So did the lovely bride…

“Oh, bravo,” Pretorius said. “Dead meat.” He turned to Elizabeth von Frankenstein next to him. “Great script, eh?” She looked at him with drowning eyes.

The stern, brass-plated lever waited patiently. Boris was inching it downward slowly—only a few seconds were left before the tower would explode into a million smithereens. The explosion smashed Frankenstein’s skull and ploughed through his brain and exited behind his right ear—scattering shards of bone into the cerebral cortex, the corpus callosum, back toward the basal ganglia, and against the wall.

But before all this occurred, there was a snap of his neck—sending off a painful crackling chain of pain, fractured bones and nerves and muscles back just behind his neck. Because of the peculiar nature of this flashback—the pain traced its way back in time, inching its way backwards before Igor got his hands on him and he ended up in Castle Frankenstein.
—for Tobias Wolff

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