MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN:
THE WORM OF HILLSTADT

by Chris Nigro



From the musings of Victor Frankenstein II

Outside Hillstadt, Bavaria

April, 1838

Though it has taken me a considerable length of time to make my way back to the world of men, I have a steadfast desire to keep my word to Captain Hannover. For I do not want to spend the rest of my nigh-eternal existence away from the eyes of all other sentient beings, when I am of such strength and mind that I may be of tremendous boon to the human race. Perhaps in the past decades, my emotional maturity was measurable to the level of a waif, and therefore not capable of the complex understanding of man’s ignorance towards those not as beautiful as the majority. Nevertheless, I am now well on my way to solving this debacle of mine, as I shall once again attempt to befriend the human race. More power to them should they accept my hand; woe to any who would dare threaten my existence again.

As I make my way to the outer limits of what appears to be a small town, I notice that the surrounding lands are saturated with marshes. A large swampy region is clearly visible to me though it lies about sixty yards distant. Since it is now past midnight, no one runs to greet me. That is good; the less I have to face at any one time, the better off I shall be. The blind man named DeLacey cannot be the only kind soul to exist on this world amongst the human species. There must be those as blind to prejudice as he was of sight. As I walk through the dew-soaked grass, I encounter no sounds save for the wet sloshing noise of my sandals upon the soil, the incessant chirping of crickets and the occasional howl of a distant wolf. Finally, after nearly twenty minutes of walking, I come across a small, shambled hut. Outside, just visible in the glow of a kerosene lamp, there stands a lone figure digging what appears to be a solitary grave. Beside him lies that which shall presumably occupy the foreboding sepulcher: an apparent human corpse, enveloped from head to toe in cloth. The man, a medium sized, bearded gent about thirty-six years of age, is digging quite swiftly, as if to be done with the task as quickly as possible. He’s weeping nearly uncontrollably, tears glistening off his ruby red face in the moonlight, as if that who he is laying to rest was very close to him. Touched by the melancholy scene before me, I instinctively approach the gaunt stranger, hoping that I may offer some condolence to his grief.

“Good sir,” I say, as gently as I can muster, “do you need a shoulder to cry upon this moment?”

He turns slowly. “Who might you be, stranger?”

Upon seeing my horrific visage and enormous height illuminated before him by the starlight, the sorrowful man flashes of look of sheer terror, and begins to raise his shovel in a defensive position.

“By the glory of God, what kind of beast might you be? Lord, ‘ave tender mercy upon us all!”

He then swings his makeshift weapon at me, a move I easily stop with my left hand. With the right, I grab the man by the throat and lift him effortlessly into the air. Though I sympathize with this gent immensely, I shall not be rejected this night!

“Good sir, be calm. Though my appearance and strength may be inhuman, my soul is as sensitive as that of any man alive. I am here to help, to render my assistance, not to add to your woes. So please talk to me; however, do not tempt my wrath, for it can be quite unforgiving.”

With this said, the gent simply looks at me, grasps his ailing throat, coughs and hacks up a wad of mucous and begins to speak, albeit reasonably this time.

“I...do not know who you are, but rest assured I didn’t mean to react in such a hostile fashion. My name is August Trebane, though my friends simply call me Augie. The body there is that of my young wife of three weeks; her name was Edie. She fell victim...to the worm.” He begins sobbing a deluge once more.

“Worm? Is this some sort of disease, Augie?”

“No, ‘tis a horrible serpentine creature who lives within the swampy marshes. No one knows its true origin, though perhaps it is one of the last of the legendary serpent dragons of olden times, or perhaps it is one of Satan’s grimy pets that crawled up from the pits of perdition to create a Hell on Earth. Whatever it might be, it has held our little town in fear for months since it appeared. Most of us stay indoors at night, for it occasionally crawls ashore during these hours, and brutally mutilates one of us townsfolk whom it may happen upon. My wife went to the tree in the back to acquire some sap earlier, and failed to return. When I went out to see what was keeping her, I found her like this: her fair form ripped to pieces. Further, I saw the worm’s ugly brown body slithering away into the darkness, its complicity in the brutal death of my lovely Edie quite obvious. Why did this happen, stranger? Did God abandon us to this denizen of Hell?”

“I...cannot answer that, Augie. Sometimes, the capricious whims of fate can be merciless upon our lives, and God can seem spiteful and cruel. I, more than many, am aware of this facet of life. Nevertheless, when it appears that your life is at an end, hope can appear, sometimes in unexpected forms. Allow me to be that hope, Augie. If you will accept me into your community, and vouch for me to the others here, I shall hunt this worm down and kill it with my bare hands, and you as well as your fellow townsfolk shall all be free of the terror. Is this an acceptable offer?”

“You mean, you avenge my Edie? Rid us of the worm? My good man, if you can do this, I shall accept you into my home. Just allow me to acquire the lamp, and we shall be off. But tell me, stranger...what do I call you?”

“You may call me by my chosen name: Victor.”

“Then, Victor, let us be off, and let vengeance be ours.”

*****

Augie insists on leading the trail, as he knows these marshes better than I. Still, I worry, for he is but mortal and thus vulnerable to an easy death. I do not want to lose my new friend so soon. As we pull through the knee deep, murky waters, I see the pinpoint glow of several fireflies, the occasional leap of a frog and a few fleeting bats...but no serpent. I am hoping that this creature doesn’t turn out to be a phantasm of Augie’s psyche, and that he…heaven forefend…turns out to be the true culprit of his wife’s murder. Then again, what would he have to gain by leading me here? It is not like he can kill me. As we progress further into the swamp, I suddenly hear a mild sloshing sound behind me. As I turn to face the cause of that sound, I see that it is nothing more than a large, brown log. Just then, however, I am startled as the apparent log produces two huge glowing eyes, each burning a fiery red. With a movement swifter than the scurrying of a rodent under siege, the “log” leaps out of the water and envelops me. The beast is at least four meters in length, a dull brown with a scaly hide and brutal fangs that penetrate deep within my shoulder.

“Victor, ‘tis the worm! Stand still, and I shall strike it with the lamp!”

“No, Augie, stand back! I shall deal with this cretinous abomination myself!”

As the snaky beast hisses and tightens its squirmy grip like the tentacle of some hellish octopus, I grasp its jaws, which are embedded within my shoulder blade. Despite a valiant effort on its part to keep its razor keen teeth impaled within my flesh, the strength in my twelve fingers eventually prevails and the beast’s jaw breaks with a horrific cracking sound, not unlike that of a huge twig snapping. A thick fountain of greenish blood oozes from the worm’s fractured jawbone, splattering me in the face and staining my clothes a ghoulish emerald. The beast then slides lifeless into the briny abyss that presumably spawned it. Breathing strenuously after the difficult ordeal, I look back at Augie.

“The worm is slain, my friend. Let us return to the cabin now, shall we?”

“Yes. I shall be forever grateful, Victor, as will the entire town of Hillstadt.”

“That, my friend, has yet to be determined, though one can always hope.”

“Yes, my friend. One always can, and one always should.”

My new friend and I trudge clumsily out of the swamp’s fetid waters, both eager to return to town and petition the people there to accept a most unusual stranger into their midst. Shall I be accepted at long last?

This I strongly doubt if extensive past experience is to be my guide, though it most certainly remains to be seen.

END