Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Lost Books of Victor Frankenstein (Monster/Frankenstein) Chapter 2

The man called himself Sabin, but Henry could never bring himself to call his would-be employer by that name.  He would have chosen the much more brusque "Monster," not necessarily by choice, but because that's what everyone else called him, certainly behind his back, all Henry's fellow students in the program in the archives department at the university.  As he understood it, this was the only university to have such a program, and it was  at the insistence of Sabin, who had cultivated tenure long outside the memory of the current faculty.  As to how old Sabin was, Henry couldn't begin to guess.  His features were inscrutable, and at any rate hidden behind a thick beard and an unruly head of hair, both graying noticeably and masking wrinkled skin, but there was a youthfulness to Sabin's movements that was hard to reconcile, as if he were still in the spring of life and finding it just as fascinating as the day he was born.

Henry sat opposite Sabin at a long table strewn about with every manner of books nestled between them and the notebooks Henry juggled as he attempted to follow Sabin's by-now usual labyrinthine logic.  The enigmatic department head was both demanding and compassionate toward Henry, and had been since the day they met, ostensibly by accident but in hindsight, just as clearly, via some calculated design.  Sabin immediately began discussing a particular set of books, none of which represented now at the table, a secret library, he'd said, the lost books of Victor Frankenstein.  He'd called them that with a distinct hint of menace in his voice, or one of hate.  Henry didn't have the guts to ask why.

The more Sabin shared with him, the more he seemed to retreat from Henry, as if imparting something terrible that both liberated and diminished him.  He became increasingly remote even as they spent more time together.  He hovered over Henry in that secret library, filled with perhaps a hundred volumes, all of them hand-written, by the same hand, presumably Victor Frankenstein's, who was some obscure ancestor of Henry's, someone the family never talked about, someone who clearly had done something remarkable with his life, but whose accomplishment was subsequently, deliberately forgotten.

What was it?  The more Henry read in the books, which he had begun to think of as journals despite every indication that they had been published, retaining their hand-written quality as if in tribute, the harder he found it to find out.  Because the words changed.  He'd discovered this by accident, in an attempt one day to reference something he'd read previously, to confirm some emerging insight that had since escaped him.  Not only had the words changed, but they were no longer remotely what he'd read, as if introducing an entirely new subject.

Needless to say, he was baffled.  Sitting before Sabin, he wanted badly to ask for an explanation, but he knew one would hardly be forthcoming, not from this man, not from the Monster.  He found both his riddles to share an elusive quality that he wanted nothing more to do with, so that he would sooner resign from the program than continue, except he knew this was something of a last chance for him, that he had burnt all his bridges already, and what was worse, he felt compelled to persist.  Powerless, really, to do anything else.

He opened a book at random, and it was a random book, too, and sat staring at Sabin instead of it.  Sabin stared back with his tired eyes.  The eyes were the one element of the Monster that betrayed something real about him. 

"You must tell me something," he implored.

"The books speak for themselves," Sabin replied, meaninglessly.

"They're filled with nonsense," Henry protested.

"Nonsense has its own logic," Sabin insisted.  "Yours is to discover it.  And then it won't seem like nonsense anymore.  At any rate, we're not being productive today.  You are free to go.  Enjoy the rest of your day.  The books will be waiting for you when you're ready, as always."

Henry had no choice but to acquiesce.  He gathered the worthless books in front of him, nodded at Sabin idiotically, and left.  Where he was going he had no idea. 

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