Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Embassy of Shadows (Monster/Frankenstein) Chapter 1

Henry had been having that dream again.  He'd been having a variation of it for years.  Even though he'd been out of college for more than a decade, he was right back there again.  However a psychologist would have interpreted it, whatever the supposed anxiety, all Henry knew was that in the dream, in this long sequence of dreams, he was missing classes.  In real life, Henry had only ever missed one class, and it was entirely on purpose.  In the dream, in the series of them, for one reason or another, he missed not one but a whole series of them, and not just one subject but two of them, for a whole semester.  A whole semester and somehow he couldn't remember to attend those classes, even though he knew it was happening.  Never mind that he knew he had graduated, in the middle of this odd nightmare (odd indeed to call something he seemed to be fine with, or merely anxious about, a nightmare), and that there was in fact no ill-effect to missing those classes.

Was there?  Was there in fact something Henry had missed?  In real life?  The more he had this dream, in its seeming endless variations, or the mere fact that the thought kept coming back to his unconscious mind, he couldn't help but think so.

He woke up in what would have been a strange place, if he hadn't been there for the past few weeks already.  Henry referred to it as the Embassy, but his purpose there was more like schooling than diplomacy.  (Maybe that was why the dream was there again.)  He was there to gain knowledge, for a job, to attend what was in effect a series of seminars, to acquaint himself with the responsibilities of a position he had recently attained.  It was important he attend, because it was equally important that Henry retain this job, which was otherwise not something he had been good at since leaving college.  For one reason or another, he had never gotten a job relevant to what he had studied.  He could recite a litany of reasons, but none of them were important at the moment.  For now, he had to concentrate.

Or try his best, at any rate.  Except for those dreams.  They managed to get him reflecting after all, not about his troubled job history, but his personal one.  Henry was aware that there were people who made hobbies of studying their genealogy, and he had always been fascinated, too, but until recently had never taken the time to investigate his own family history.  This is to say, his mother had, and had sent him the results, just an outline, really.  He'd spent some time looking through it, looking for a particular name.  Part of the family legend, which was to say the only part of its past that had ever taken any real shape, was an ancestor with a peculiar name, from the old country, that at times Henry had struggled to remember.

Now, for convenience sake, I will take you out of this story for a moment and explain something.  This is a reality where Victor Frankenstein was not a character conjured by Mary Shelley nearly two centuries ago, but rather a real man, whose work was not publicized in the pages of a classic work of literature, but existed in the fringes of society, a memory suited to religious zealots and certain descendants.  Such as Henry, if he would only remember.

Remember is what he was in the act of doing that very moment.  The Embassy had a bookstore he was already in the habit of visiting frequently.  With the vague memory of a name, he found himself scanning the shelves, because he knew at the very least that the name was not unfamiliar in some circles, and that it had been enshrined, recently, within those circles for having achieved some note of distinction.

And there it was: Victor Frankenstein.  An odd name, Henry thought.  His own surname being Grenoville, "Frankenstein" was nothing but a relic of the past to him, something distant relatives carried with them.  The man he'd discovered was in truth a novelty, nothing more.  He paid for the book and was on his way again, hoping to accomplish whatever it was the day's events were supposed to, pesky dreams aside.

What bothered him more than dreams or half-remembered ancestors was Henry's boss, the one who had sent him to the Embassy, a man he had never met.  The man's reputation, however, was fearsome.  Those who had seen him in the flesh reported to Henry of a gruesome, fearful visage, an ugly brute hardly belied in personality with a soft wit.  Yet Henry was forced to follow this man's instructions.  He was already given to resentment.  After years of doing what he had to do to get by, Henry longed to follow his dreams.  (Different ones, you understand.)

Hardly looking where he was going, his thoughts, as always, lost in a jumble, Henry, as this rarely happened to him despite his usual state, ran into someone.  He looked up, embarrassed, ready to apologize, when he found himself staring into the very figure of his colleagues' undisputed nightmares.

"You're a...," Henry stammered.

"A monster," the man said matter-of-factly.  "That I am.  We have much to talk about, young Mr. Grenoville.  I'm afraid you'll be missing your obligations today."