They Called Me...
by E. B. Fischadler
The psychiatrist had no idea just who it was sitting in the chair opposite. All he knew was that this man, larger than anyone he had ever seen, had been brought to this hospital several weeks ago from the remote Canadian North with a tale that suggested he was psychotic.
When the man was discovered, he was filthy, smelly, dressed in thick fur with long, wild hair and a thick beard. At first he had been mildly combative but now, showered, clean-shaven, and dressed in a hospital johnny, he sat calmly waiting for the psychiatrist to begin.
“Please tell me about yourself,” said the psychiatrist.
“I still recall my early life, a century ago on another continent. I was ugly then, in a different way but apparently just as horrible to behold then as I am now. Even my maker, Victor Frankenstein, rejected me. He considered me a demon of his creation.
“But who is the demon? Is it Frankenstein, who discovered the secret of life and condemned me to wander the Earth eternally? Or is it I, striking fear in everyone I meet, doomed to a long life with no companionship? Yes, I am the monster, though you do not recognize me as such.”
“You say you are a monster?”
“All my life, all I ever wanted was friendship, normal human companionship. Yet for so many years everyone who saw me ran in abject terror or tried to kill me.”
“Who tried to kill you?”
“My creator, for one.”
“God tried to kill you?”
“I told you, I am the monster. Of all living beings in creation, I am the one not created by God. I was created by a man: Frankenstein.”
“You are Frankenstein’s monster?”
“Yes. I know it’s hard to accept.”
“But that’s just a novel!”
“Do you believe a teenage girl could create such a thing? Have you read the book?”
“Well, no. But everyone knows the story.”
“Then you know that Victor Frankenstein created me, gave me life, then spent the rest of his life trying to kill me.”
“He gave you life, then tried to kill you?”
“Frankenstein swore to kill me, pursuing me to the very end of the earth, the North Pole. There, the feeble human Frankenstein died of exposure to the elements, while I, his sturdy creation, live on as you see me now. I had no desire to live on; everyone I met was either afraid of me or sought to kill me. Yet I was condemned to live even to the present, and who knows how much longer.”
“Indeed. What happened after Frankenstein died?”
“I stayed a while in the arctic. Time passes differently there than in my native Germany. I was not aware that the sun does not set for six months. Nor that when it finally does, another six months passes before it returns. I had a very confused sense of time. I drifted on the floating polar ice for a very long time.”
“Is that how you came to Canada?”
“Tiring of fights with polar bears and a diet of bear meat and seals, I resolved to travel. Following the sun, I made my way generally south, into the forests of what is now Canada. When I first arrived, no white man lived there. The land was populated by simpler people, more in touch with the earth and its beings. When I first saw these people, I went to great trouble to hide myself. I stayed at higher elevations, deep in the forest and watched.
“Observing the ways of these peoples, I learned to feed myself on the wild fruit and animals that were so plentiful. I replaced my clothing, long since in tatters, with skins from those animals. I had no need of warmth, for I do not feel the cold as intensely as does man, but some innate drive made me want to cover my nakedness. Did I do so to identify myself more as a human and less as an animal? I was neither, but felt a great longing for contact with the people I observed.”
“Of course, you must have been very lonely. Did you ever reach out to them?”
“The day came when I could tolerate isolation no longer. I resolved to reveal myself to a pair of men who were searching for firewood. They were armed, but I hoped they would not be aggressive. At the least, I hoped by my superior size and strength to survive any attack.
When I stepped out from hiding, both stopped what they were doing. They pointed at me and exclaimed in a language I did not know. I could see curiosity and confusion in their eyes.”
“And what happened?”
“Fortunately, they took me for neither food nor foe. After a few minutes, I stepped back and walked away, not wanting to frighten them by approaching. Over the next few months, I had several such similar encounters. I did not dare approach their village, though I often watched it from hiding. I feared that their women or children would be afraid of me. I couldn’t take being a demon again, pursued like a wild animal.”
“Of course not. But these were not the same people who feared you.”
“Not at all. Sometime later, they reached out to me. I had set up a lean-to some distance from the village. I don’t know if they saw the smoke from my fires or merely stumbled upon it in the course of hunting or scavenging. One day, returning from wood gathering, I found a dead rabbit, skinned and dressed in front of my lean-to. Clearly, no animal predator would do this. It appeared no scavengers had touched it; the people who made this present must have done so very recently or perhaps they were nearby, guarding the present.
Similar gifts appeared at my lean-to several times afterward. In addition to game there was corn, tobacco, and beads. I realized the people were not too afraid to approach my lean-to yet were still afraid to approach me in person. I had kept my distance for some time, but eventually decided this was a sign that I could make contact.”
“And did you?”
“As before, I hid near a path often used by their hunters. It seemed they always travelled in small groups. As two approached, I stepped out into the path. The men stopped and regarded me, not with fear or hatred, but with curiosity.
“The men spoke to one another in a language completely unlike my native German. The tone of their voice and gestures were non-threatening, and I replied. They clearly could not understand what I was saying, but over time, they learned a few words of German, and I learned a few words of their language.”
“Your command of English is admirable. You say you are a native speaker of German?”
“Yes, but I learned French from a blind man in Germany and English from books he gave me. I must say, it’s so very good to be conversing with someone like yourself. I missed intelligent conversation.”
“So you did have at least one friend.”
“That man was blind. Our friendship was all too brief. Once his family saw me, they drove me away. I never saw him again, never had another friend.”
“Did you ever go to the village of the natives in Canada?”
“Much to my amazement, the hunters I mentioned before motioned for me to follow, and led me back to their village. What a sight we must have been as we entered! I could see the amazement in the eyes of the women, children and elders. But there was no fear. It seemed they accepted me as another human, though I appeared anything but. Did they think me a friendly, intelligent animal? Did they think I was one of their spirit relatives? I never quite learned.”
“But you were accepted. You seem to have found the companionship you craved.”
“By a tacit consent it came that I stayed at my dwelling rather than move closer to the village. It had been many years since I lived around people and it would take me a long time to adjust to doing so again. Still, the people continued to give me presents.
“For my part, when I killed a large animal such as an elk or bear, I would bring it to the village and we would all share in it. The people seemed grateful for the food, and I was grateful of the company and respect for my need of privacy.
“After many years of happy existence with the natives, a new type of people began to appear in the area. I have come to understand that where we lived was of no interest to miners or developers. These new people were sportsmen and tourists.
“I stayed well away from the sportsmen, having observed them shooting bear and elk. What would they make of me, and would they shoot me as a game animal? Fortunately, there were not many of them, and I could easily keep my distance.
“The tourists were another matter. I tried as hard as I could to avoid them, but they were so interested in the people I had befriended that there were often tourists in and around their village. They were armed with a weapon I failed to understand at the time, but which turned out to be a camera. Though I never saw one kill, the camera scared me as much as the sportsmen’s weapons.
“On the rare occasions when a tourist spotted me, they would lift the camera as if to sight, and then it would flash with an intense light. At the time, I didn’t know what the light was, but as it reminded me of fire, my greatest fear, the light was terrifying.”
“So you avoided them as well?”
“As more and more of these tourists came to the North, it was inevitable that I should encounter them more often. All my horrible memories of the early years came back as the tourists would scream and flash that light at me. I was never harmed as the bright light flashed again and again, but each time they saw me, the tourists were clearly terrified.”
“Did you try to leave?”
“No, having found people who accepted me, I was loathe to leave. I chose to stay. Eventually, the event occurred which brought me here. I was walking back to my lean-to from the direction opposite the village. The tourists so scared me that I did not go to the village anymore.
“Suddenly, I saw several flashes, felt something grab my leg, pull it up, and I fell to the ground. Several men swarmed over me and wrapped me in a net. Try as I might, I could not escape. After several weeks’ travel and some time in this hospital, I was sent here to tell you my story. You do believe me, don’t you?”
“Of course I do. And at last you have a name other than ‘monster’. What did the native people call you?”
Copyright © 2014 by E. B. Fischadler