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Let Us Try to Be Human

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He had beautiful eyes, that much was certain. As Victor held the lit wick in front of the Creature’s eyes, he watched the yellow- no, the golden pupils follow the dancing flame back and forth. Aside from the blood vessels that had ruptured around his irises, giving them a red and stained look, the eyes seemed to be working. The basic motor responses, at least, seemed to be working. Victor observed slight twitches in his muscles, but no major movement yet. He expected it might take days, even weeks for his creation to be fully able to-

But the man instantly sat straight up and unhinged a blood-curdling scream. Victor’s heart froze and he stumbled back and dropped the candlestick. All prior giddiness of success that filled him was quickly draining and being replaced with mortal terror. He watched as his creation struggled to find purchase on the slick mortician’s table. He kept trying to stand, or even crawl, only to have his uncoordinated limbs slide out from under him, still screaming all the while.

‘He’ll fall,’ Victor thought.

But he didn’t. He awkwardly slid from the table, knocking over several shelves in the process. Glasses shattered and wood splintered. Thunder cracked and boomed; it was chaos. The Creature turned and stared directly at Victor. Victor could see that the Creature was trying to get to him, and every nerve in his body was telling him to run in the other direction, but he was also frozen in terror. And suddenly the man was upon him, grasping at his shirtsleeves with cold and bloody hands. He grabbed at Victor in any way he could, still wailing his sorrowful wail. 

‘He’s terrified. Poor thing…’ Victor wasn’t sure where this voice came from, but he decided to listen to it.

“Stop…” Victor said. It was also too quiet; there was no way the Creature heard him over his own screaming.

The man dragged Victor to the ground, where suddenly the man was lying across his legs. Victor couldn’t move.

“Stop! STOP!” Victor cried, grabbing the man’s shoulders.

The Creature seemed startled by this noise, and at first wailed louder. Trying not to panic, but not knowing what else to do, Victor hugged the Creature’s head to his chest. The man cried, but did not resist, as Victor held him this way for several minutes.

“Shh, shh. It’s alright. You’re alright.”

Victor didn’t know what he’d do next if this didn’t work, and tried to remember where he kept his sedatives, but to his relief, the Creature’s screams turned to quiet crying, and from crying to little fearful noises.

“There, there. Calm down. This all must be frightening to you.”

Realizing that he himself was crying, Victor brushed at the dampness on his cheeks. The man was trembling now, whether from fear or cold, Victor didn’t know. Both, he assumed. He looked down into his creation’s wide, bloodshot eyes. His black lips were twitching, like he might resume his crying fits. Victor looked to the man’s chest and collar bone, where blood and fluids were leaking between the seams of his stitching.

“That needs tending…” Victor muttered.

The Creature stirred at the sound of his voice and gave a small grunt.

“Alright. Let us stand, shall we?”

Victor shakily began to move, at which the Creature panicked slightly at the thought of being left behind, but Victor shushed him and carefully guided the man to his feet. The pale form stood there, hunched over and shivering like a drowned rat. He continued to let out little sounds of discomfort and fear, but he stared at his creator expectantly. Victor fumbled for the candle he’d dropped as well as a new match from the box. The noise of the strike and sudden spark of light startled the Creature, but he kept quiet. Victor reached out a spare hand and touched the man’s shoulder.

“You’re cold,” his voice trembled. “T-that’s to be expected. What’s say we find you a blanket?”

The Creature said nothing but allowed Frankenstein to walk him to a cot in the corner of the room. Victor sat him down and pulled a brown woolen blanket over his quivering shoulders.

“It’s not perfect, I know, but I’ve clothes for you. We’ll dress you soon enough. But in the meantime, your skin wants cleaning.”

After assuring the Creature that he’d return, he set the candle on a nearby table. He seemed entranced by the dancing flame. Victor fetched a rag and a bowl of room temperature water. He placed it on the table and sat with the man on the bed. He wrung the towel over the dish, the splashing of the liquid getting the Creature’s attention. Victor held the rag next to the man’s face, and he flinched instantly.

“It’s alright. It’s just water. Won’t hurt you,” Victor soothed, placing the rag at the man’s shivering temple.

Frankenstein gentle brushed the cloth over the man’s face, cleaning quite a bit of the blood and fluids in the process. He paid special attention to the long, lightning-esque scar that ran down the man’s face. The man reached a hand up and traced it with his finger, frowning in the process.

“I’m sorry about that, doubly so if it pains you. It’s more prominent than I would have hoped, but perhaps it will heal in time. Then again, I had to practically rebuild your skull, so it could be worse,” Victor muttered.

Once his face was mostly clean, Victor moved the rag to his sternum, being as gentle as possible on the stitching around his chest. Once that was clean, he moved to his back, then his arms, and so on until the Creature was almost spotless. Aside from some whimpering during the process, the Creature mostly allowed Victor to clean him without resistance. Victor wrung out the rag again and gave his own arms and face a decent rub down as well.

“There, now, that must feel a bit better. Though I’m sure your nerves are more than overstimulated. As are your other senses, no doubt.”

The Creature regarded Victor with a few blinks but voiced no more sounds. Victor nodded resolutely.

“You need sleep. So do I, for that matter. It’s been,” he blinked and chuckled incredulously, “days, probably.”  

With no resistance, the man allowed Victor to lay him supine on the small cot. He curled his legs against his chest, given that he was too big for the bed, but seemed otherwise comfortable. Victor adjusted the blanket again and turned to leave. The Creature immediately grabbed Victor’s arm and whimpered anxiously.

“Bed,” Victor gestured to the door, which led to his personal apartment outside of his lab, “sleep.”

But the man whimpered again and looked like he might actually start crying again. He tried at first to shush him, but eventually Victor sighed resignedly.

“Alright,” he nodded, “one moment.”

He managed to pull himself from the man’s grip, hurrying away to his apartment. As he left, he heard the Creature crying again, and his heart ached.

‘He doesn’t understand object permanence,’ he thought.

In the apartment, he flew to his bed and hastily gathered a pillow and the thick comforter and rushed back to the lab. Once he was in the Creature’s sight, the man stopped crying almost immediately.

“There, see? I came back,” Victor said, and softly petted the Creature’s forehead. “I’ll always come back.”

The man once again lay his head down on the pillow, as Victor proceeded to spread the comforter on the floor next to the cot. After removing his shoes and waistcoat, he allowed himself to collapse on the ground. The Creature peeked over the edge, making sure Victor was still there. He stretched a hand towards him, and Frankenstein clasped it. The manic energy of the entire evening finally leaving him, Victor sunk into a hard sleep.

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Day streamed through the windows and peeped through the cracks in the walls of the Victor’s laboratory. Victor could feel the pulsing of a headache coming on, as it usually did when a night of sleep followed several days of manic wakefulness. He groaned and rolled onto his back, feeling quite sore from sleeping on the ground. His eyes blinked open and saw immediately that the Creature was standing above him, watching him curiously. He unwillingly loosened a cry of surprise, which sent the poor fellow stumbling back and into a bookshelf, which fortunately stayed standing.

“Sorry,” Victor scrambled to his feet, the Creature whimpering again, “you startled me. But I’m alright. No harm done!”

Victor tried to give him a calm smile, which the Creature’s lips twitched in an attempt to mirror. Victor chuckled in amazement, and slowly approached the man and held his shoulders. He was still wrapped in the blanket from the night prior, but he was otherwise quite nude.

“Clothing,” Victor nodded, “and then breakfast. You’re probably hungry. I know I am.”

The Creature’s lips smacked unconsciously, as if there were a subconscious understanding of the word “hungry.” Victor found and clothed the Creature with garments his father had once sent him. They were much too large for Victor, but were still rather small on the Creature, with the pant legs showing quite a bit of his ankles. He remained barefoot, as Victor had no shoes to match his larger feet. But as the Creature sat at the small table, he hardly seemed to notice the clothes, instead focusing more on the frenzied movements of his creator.

“Your first meal should be special but something simple. Eggs…or bread, maybe cheese. With some coffee. No, it should be mild,” Victor muttered, pacing back and forth. The man was watching him all the while.

He eventually decided on plain scrambled eggs and a bit of toast, and after a moment, he set the steaming plate in front of the Creature. The Creature reached his hand toward the food, but Victor pulled it back.

“No. Hot,” Victor shook his head, and then sat down across from him. He pointed to the plate. “Hot food.”

The Creature drooled slightly. “Hot.”

Victor blinked in surprise, smiling. “Words. Already. How extraordinary,” he mused. “Probably more mimicry than anything else, but…”

“Hot,” he said again, realizing that vocalization pleased his creator.

Victor took up a nearby spoon and scooped a small pile of eggs into it. Indicating for the Creature to open his mouth, he fed him the eggs and waited. After a moment, Victor mimed the chewing motion, and the Creature mimicked him, his eyes widening at the sensation of food. He swallowed, nodding and grunting happily. “Hot!”

Victor chuckled, “No, no. Food,” he pointed to the eggs, “Food.”

“Food…hot…” said the Creature.

“Good,” nodded Victor, and scooped up some more eggs. “That’s the way.”

When the plate was half empty, the Creature’s attention began to wander. His hands roved over the many objects that cluttered the table at which they sat. One was a colorful block with letters and pictures, and he grasped it eagerly. Victor had dug it out of his old childhood objects, hoping to provide some sort of stimulus for his creation. As he fumbled with the toy, Victor dug through the books and papers on the table. The Creature finally looked up and tugged on one of Victor’s shirtsleeves.

“Food,” he said. Victor sat back down and scooped up more eggs, but the Creature resisted. He pointed to Victor. “Food.”

“No, ah, I’m…my name is Victor,” he tapped his own chest, “Victor.”

After a moment of processing, the Creature said “Vic-tor,” tapped the same spot on himself, and gave a small grin.

“Close enough,” Victor smirked.

As the Creature turned back to the block, Victor paged through a nearby book of Shakespearian tragedies. “You probably need a name. How about I list a few, and you let me know which you like? I hope you don’t mind something from The Bard.”

The Creature continued to play with the block.

“Prospero?” Victor said.

The Creature was nonplussed. Victor continued flipping pages.

“Ferdinand? Gonzalo? Stephano?”

Each name garnered no reaction, but Victor was not deterred.  

“Caliban?”

At this, the Creature looked up and blinked rapidly.

“Caliban?” Victor tried again.

He grunted happily. Victor put the book aside and grabbed a nearby slate and some chalk. He sat next to the Creature and began writing.

“C-A-L-I-” Victor vocalized.

The man followed with his eyes. When Victor finished, the Creature said, “Caliban.”

“A bit unconventional, but then again, you’re a rather unconventional fellow,” Victor smiled. “It suits you.”

“Caliban,” he patted his own chest, and then the doctor’s, “Victor.”

“That’s right. You’re getting it. It will take time, as will everything.”

Victor dug back in the pile for his notebook, flipped it open, and began jotting down notes. He kept eyeing Caliban curiously as he proceeded to pull the plate of food towards himself. Not being able to make heads or tails of the spoon, he began picking up bits of egg with his bare hands and passing them between his teeth.

“I suppose table manners take time as well…” Victor sighed. Caliban grunted happily, and continued with his eggs, unfazed by Victors words.   

Victor went back to writing, taking a piece of toast from the plate and munching as he did. Caliban again lost interest in the plate of eggs and glanced around the open space of the lab. He soon stood from his seat, to Victor’s surprise, and stumbled to one of the nearby shelves. Victor cringed in apprehension, expecting more wreckage soon to come, but instead Caliban looked above the shelf, trying to see out the window.

“You’re drawn to light,” Victor said, though Caliban took no notice, “I saw how fascinated you were with the candle last night. You like brightness.”

Caliban continued to stare unheeded, his eyes wide and shining with curiosity. Victor joined him at the window. Caliban pointed, striking the glass and startling himself, but then continued to tap. Victor looked where he was pointing.

“The sun? So rarely you should see it here. Must be a good day,” he chuckled.

“Sun,” Caliban repeated, smiling.

And if by just speaking of it and it becoming embarrassed, the sun was covered by the clouds once more. Caliban looked confused, tapping on the glass fervently. He frowned.

“Ah, gone again.” Victor murmured to himself, “Even so my sun one early morn did shine/With all triumphant splendour on my brow/But out, alack, he was but one hour mine/The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now.”

Caliban looked at him with curiosity and excitement. His golden eyes seemed to glow.

“Poetry. Shakespeare, again. Weakness of mine. Afraid you’ll hear quite a bit of it if you live around me long enough.”

“Poetry,” Caliban beamed.

“You like that word,” Victor smirked. “Perhaps you were a writer? A professor?”

He hoped one of these professions might strike a chord, but Caliban was unchanged as ever. Victor sighed. 

“We’ll keep trying. We’ve plenty of time together.”

Victor returned to his seat at the table, leaving Caliban to his own devices. He watched as the Creature turned from the window to the shelf beneath it. He clumsily grabbed at one of the books, Victor assumed it was the first one he laid eyes on, and he brought it to the table.

Victor chuckled as he read the cover, “Percy Shelley? More poetry?”

“Victor,” Caliban nodded.

“Very well. Come sit, then.”

Caliban shuffled to the table and dragged his chair next to Victor’s. He sat, leaning his head on the doctor’s shoulder, much to Victor’s surprise. Not accustomed to such affection, Victor awkwardly patted his head, but didn’t push him away. So there Caliban stayed.

“Alright. Let us begin…”