by E. B. Fischadler
The first time he saw one of the metal pieces on the floor, Victor Frenchstone didn’t give it much thought; he just picked it up and threw it into the trash. After he found what must have been the tenth or eleventh that week, he began to take notice of them.
He had no clear idea what they were nor where they came from. He considered whether they might have been part of his pants zipper or clasp, but dismissed that idea when he noticed some pieces in his bed; there was no such attachment on his pyjamas. Besides, if these things were in the bed, why hadn’t he felt them? His pants all seemed intact; he checked zippers and clasps, and none seemed to be missing.
The pieces were about an inch long, made of shiny metal like that used in zippers and clasps. Most were shaped somewhat like a clasp, although several reminded him of a big staple. His neighbor Steven had a father who was a tailor. Perhaps he might know what these were. Victor gave him one.
When he saw Steven two days later, Steven told Victor that his father seriously doubted they were from any of his apparel. He said they were indeed shiny like some zippers and shaped remotely like some clasps he had seem on high-end clothing, but the pieces were made of a much stronger, higher quality metal than he had ever seen used in the garment industry.
He was friendly with some of the technicians at work. Perhaps they might have some idea about the mysterious objects. The next day, he picked up three from the floor next to his bed and made a point of showing them to Tony, a mechanical technician.
“Hmm,” said Tony as he examined the pieces, “let’s look at them under a magnifier.”
He placed each clip in turn under the magnifier and, after a few minutes, remarked, “Highly polished. The three items seem very consistent. I wonder if they are some component of a high-tech system.”
But what system could that be? Although he worked in an engineering firm, Victor Frenchstone’s work was entirely on computers and paper. The mechanical detailers actually specified and handled parts for the various systems the company designed. There was no opportunity for him to come across these parts at work.
Intrigued by the pieces, Tony had run some tests.
“High quality stainless, almost like surgical steel,” he said over the phone. “Have you been in a hospital lately?”
The answer was no. In fact, Victor couldn’t recall ever having been to a doctor, nor ever needing one. There was no way he had ever undergone surgery or had mechanical devices placed in his body.
Almost as abruptly as they started appearing, the metal pieces ceased showing up in his carpet or bed. After a few weeks, he had pretty much forgotten about them, when he noticed the string.
Actually, it wasn’t quite string. He would have dismissed a string out of hand. This piece, about two inches long, seemed like a moderately stiff length of monofilament or catgut. It was thicker than thread and had a slight curve to it. He could easily straighten it out, but it seemed to remember the curve when he released it.
This string was followed by several others, a mystery reminiscent of the metal pieces just a few weeks earlier. The strings were all one or a few inches long, apparently of consistent material. They all were of similar stiffness and had a bend similar to the first string.
Victor brought these new mysteries to Tony.
“Don’t know much about string, but I’d say this resembles fishing line, say about twenty-five pound test. But fishing line is usually supple. This stuff all seems to have a set in it. Mind if I keep a few pieces?” Tony said.
A few days later, Victor ran into Tony in the hall. “Well, Vic, that stuff is some kind of mono. But it’s not fishing line. Some of the pieces seem to have something on them, looks like it dried onto them. Damnedest thing. I don’t know what they are.”
As with the metal pieces, the string stopped appearing. Being busy, Victor managed to put the matter behind him. Then, one Thursday afternoon, he ran into Tony at the coffee counter.
“Remember those metal bits you were finding in your room a while back?” Tony asked. “Well, I was at the doctor’s for a checkup and I mentioned them. Don’t know why they came up, actually, but when I sketched one, the doc says it looks like a surgical clip. I asked if I could drop one off at the office later for him to look at, and he said okay. A week later, he called me with some lab results: the thing was indeed a surgical clip. He said it’s used in abdominal surgery of some sort.”
Victor was surprised to hear this, believing he had never undergone surgery.
Victor Frenchstone’s memory seemed to him to begin in the year 1980 at about age 30. In fact, he was not even sure of his age. He was an unusually tall man, strongly built, but in no way athletic. In fact, his coordination was more like that of a small child than a man.
Over beer one night, Tony theorized that Victor’s poor coordination was due to the same trauma that caused his amnesia. Victor did have quite a few large scars, long since healed, but no other obvious physical clues to the nature of his trauma. Victor also had a great fear of doctors, though he couldn’t say why. As a result, he never had checkups and, never having been seriously ill or injured, had never been treated by any doctor.
Victor was, for the most part, a loner. He was uncomfortable around people and never let down his guard. As a result, he never let anyone get close to him, with two exceptions: Tony and Nancy.
Victor had been fortunate to meet Nancy Long, a blind woman, with whom he quickly struck up a friendship. While he had hoped for the affair to progress to marriage, Nancy held back for some reason that neither she nor Victor quite understood. Victor did associate Nancy with a foggy recollection of a long-lost someone. He had similar vague recollections of a prior love, perhaps a betrothal that somehow went wrong.
Victor was not a very attractive man, even allowing for his scars. He was not quite correctly proportioned, with an unusually pale complexion. This only contributed to his low self-esteem. Victor felt he was somehow different from other people, though he couldn’t say how or why. Apparently an orphan, he occasionally wondered about his past and took the fact that no one ever came looking for him as an indication that he was not wanted. Perhaps his parents regretted his birth.
Considering the clips and the new information from Tony’s doctor, Victor told Tony, “I wonder if this might give me a lead back to the period before my amnesia. If I had surgery, there must be a record somewhere.”
“Where would you start? You have no recollections, no records. There must be hundreds of hospitals in the country, each of those probably does hundreds of surgeries a year, and you don’t even know what kind of surgery you’ve had.”
“Could you set me up for an appointment with your doctor?”
“I suppose I could. What are you thinking?”
“Well, if nothing else, he might be able to give me some hint about the kind of surgery...”
Upon completing a preliminary examination, Dr. Sims told Victor, “I must say, you present quite a medical dilemma. There is no record of any surgery, but you have a number of scars with clear signs of suturing, too straight to be traumatic in origin. Of course, we don’t know what may have occurred in your past. I hesitate to perform anything invasive, but the tests I have run are consistent with a male well past middle age, in moderately good health. There are a few findings suggestive of past trauma, but I can’t identify what sort of trauma, if it exists.”
“What kind of surgeries might they have been?” Victor asked, framing the question with an explanation of his search for his lost prior life.
Dr. Sims replied that the extent and placement of the suturing was more consistent with trauma repair or reconstruction than any particular medical procedure.
“Look here, for example. This scar completely encircles your shoulder as if your arm was reattached there. But you have full use of the arm, which never occurs with limb reattachment. The similar scars around all your limbs and even your neck are a puzzle. It’s as though you had some severe trauma requiring massive reconstruction. If that was the case, you were fortunate to have an incredibly gifted surgeon. It’s quite baffling. What I’ve observed suggests you should be a well-documented, historically significant case.”
“Well, that should make it easy.”
“I’m not aware of any case even remotely like yours having been recorded.”
“How can that be?”
“I have no idea. I will talk to a medical historian I know at Harvard. Perhaps he can track down your case.”
With that, he presented release forms to Victor, who signed them eagerly. They parted, Doctor Sims promising to get back to Victor with whatever he learned.
“You say he found indications of prior surgeries but your scars are unlike anything he’s ever seen?”
Victor had related the details of his meeting with Doctor Sims to Tony over coffee.
“That’s what he said. What’s even stranger is that he said something to the effect that I must have been some sort of landmark medical case, but he’s never seen anything in the literature like it.”
“So what happens now?”
“He’s going to talk to some historian from Harvard. Hopefully there’s some record of my case out there, and he thinks this guy would know about it.”
“You know, I want to know about my past, but I have an uneasy feeling about it.”
“I can’t imagine what it must be like for you. Who knows who you might have been? Maybe rich or famous?”
“Or not. Maybe I was a criminal, or worse.”
“What does Nancy think about all this?”
“She’s nervous, too. I guess she’s afraid I’ll leave her for someone from my prior life.”
“Well, she never was able to commit. Maybe there’s someone out there searching for you.”
“I hope you’re right.”
The next week, Victor was called to Dr. Sims’ office. Filled with nervous anticipation, Victor jumped when the receptionist told him the Doctor would see him now.
“Yes, Victor, I did meet with Dr. Henry Clerval at Harvard. When I described your case and showed him the tests, he was quite taken aback. There is no record of a case like yours. He is completely unaware of any condition or procedure that would produce the results I obtained for you.”
Extremely disappointed, Victor’s heart sank. “Well, thanks for trying Doc.”
“I didn’t say we were licked. In fact, Dr. Clerval asked me to check on a few things. Would you mind undressing so I can examine you?”
Victor did, and Dr. Sims poked and probed. He sent Victor to a nearby radiology clinic for some x-rays and an MRI. Dr. Sims left Victor with a promise that he would have more to tell him in a few weeks’ time.
After just twelve days, Dr. Sims asked Victor to come to his office that very day. When he arrived, an unkempt gray haired man was with Dr. Sims.
“Victor, this is Dr. Henry Clerval. He wanted to meet you.”
Victor extended his hand to shake Clerval’s. Although Dr. Clerval was an average-sized man, Victor’s grip completely enveloped his.
“Quite powerful hands.”
Dr Clerval looked at Dr. Sims, his eyebrows raised.
“What... what is it?” asked Victor anxiously.
“Victor, do you know anything at all about your past?” asked Clerval.
“No, nothing at all. I do have these faint memories, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what they represent, nor if they are even real.”
“Wirklich? Weißt du irgend etwas von deine Famile?”
Much to Dr. Sims surprise, Victor answered, “Gar nichts. Haben Sie etwas gefundet?”
“So, you speak German. With a Swiss accent, no less.”
“It’s funny, occasionally I seem to understand a little German, but I have no idea where I might have learned it.”
“From your, uh, father.”
“My father? You know my father?”
“No, I’ve never had the pleasure. But I’ve read about him.”
“Tell me about him, please. What was his name? What did he do?”
“He was a Swiss physician. The story goes that he made some major breakthrough, but it was lost to science. He is said to have died alone and desolate.”
“What was his name?”
“Interestingly, it seems you were named after him.”
“His name was Victor Frenchstone?”
“Um, not exactly. In German, it’s Frankenstein.”
Copyright © 2014 by E. B. Fischadler