When the letter arrived from Dexter Montague, an old friend I had barely spoken with since the summer after we graduated from college, I felt apprehension, dread, a churning in the gut. Any communiqué from Montague after all these months could only be portentous. The small vellum envelope was thin, apparently containing only the briefest of missives.
Get a grip, I scolded myself. He must be getting married or something like that. The kind of event that requires you look up all your old acquaintances. Even those you have not spoken to for good reason. Certainly this letter has nothing to do with . . .
Ripping it open, I discovered my worst fear realized. The message was only a few scribbled words, a cryptic message that could carry no meaning to any other reader but its intended audience. Its subject most assuredly was that.
It is loose.
I hope this has not reached you too late.
I am at the cabin.
If you have not already heard of my death, please come.
I could catch the next train to Knoxville but unless progress had moved further into the Appalachian forest than I was aware of, the last part of the journey would be on horseback. I packed one change of clothes and was gone as quickly as possible.
We wanted to play God but instead became madmen more akin to His Enemy. The cabin Dexter referred to rested deep in the forest, a hidden fortress perfect for the covert research and experiments we embarked on the summer after graduation. Where Victor Frankenstein (Henry and Wolf) and Herbert West had failed, we were determined to succeed. Our mentor, Professor Eisenstein planted the seeds in our young minds, hoping to join us a month or so later.
Our theories proved true, our experiment seemed an apparent success, until we came to discern the evil nature of the blasphemous creature we constructed.
Eisenstein suffered a heart attack soon after reaching the cabin and we assumed he would consider it an honor donating his brain to the cause. But when we injected our serum into our patchwork man, he erupted in violence. The monster possessed none of the professor’s rational thought or congenial personality. It was merely a brute intent on murder and mayhem. The other test mammals had remained docile on resurrection. Apparently some aspect unique to Mankind made human rebirth an anomaly doomed to failure.
So despite our smugness, we were no more successful than our predecessors. With tremendous adversity but steadfast valor we managed to trap the thing and hurl it to the bottom of a well. Having filled the well with dirt and debris, and capping that with concrete, the creature’s escape seemed impossible. My best guess as to the Providence that freed the creature was some damn fool blasting dynamite. Whatever the catalyst, it didn’t matter how long it was buried down there. Once resurrected, it would never truly die.
I reached the cabin late the next afternoon. Relieved it was not yet dark, for the creature was much stealthier at night, I knocked three times on the door to receive no answer. I found the spare key hidden in the garden bed beneath the front window as in the days of our mutual residence there and let myself inside.
Other than a small bathroom off to the far left as one entered, the humble dwelling was a kitchen, living room and sleeping area all in one crowded space. The months I lived there with Dexter we took turns sleeping on the futon or the floor. We didn’t sleep much anyway, spending all the hours we could conducting our research. There was another building about the same size behind it where we performed the actual experiments.
It stood in the bathroom doorway, glaring at me with eyes that proved I was too late. Denial rose within me. This could not be. Yet there it was—a six foot five inch high collage of body parts as hideous as ever, but with a new horror added to the conglomerate.
The few lucid conversations possible with the monster always became arguments concerning its desire for a new brain. “Maybe,” it said, grasping at straws. “Another brain would be a better match.”
Trying to reason with it, we told him, “we gave you the brain of a dear friend, a pacifist, and a brilliant mind. A better brain could not be imagined. There must be another part of human nature. Something not part of our anatomy that drives your violent nature.”
We even conducted an experiment to prove our theory. Dexter distracted the monster and I decapitated it from behind. In a grotesque display, the headless body kept walking and nearly strangled me to death before it finally went limp.
Yet even after we reattached its head, and debriefed the results, it would not drop the subject. Its own severed head, it explained, lived long enough to witness much of the continued life in its torso. But even that was not enough for it to relent. It still craved a new brain and slaughtered eight villagers and carried them to the cabin before we finally took action.
The creature had taken matters into its own hands. The crudely attached head upon its body lolled about, the stitches coming loose and oozing blood. The beast ripped off its own head and sewed on the replacement but in great haste and without the skills of a surgeon.
The monster flailed about, arms pounding the air in anger and frustration. It roared in a guttural voice, made more horrific by the rasping of its ruined throat. The pitiful eyes gaped at me. Pleading with me. I had arrived too late to save my friend and comrade in damnation.
Moments later, Dexter’s head fell from the creature’s body.
In my terror and cowardice I fled. It has been three days since I witnessed that abomination. I must go back and make sure our creation perished but have not the fortitude.
George Wilhite has been an aficionado of the horror genre since his youth, discovering Poe and Lovecraft at an early age while also spending many summer nights at drive-in theaters watching the contemporary scene unfold. He is the author of the short fiction collection On the Verge of Madness.You can learn more about Wilhite at: www.authorsden.com/georgewilhite.