An essay by an anonymous narrator, as provided by Ron Riekki
Art by Leigh Legler
As an EMT, we routinely come upon body parts. A finger gets severed by a pair of pliers. A toe gets cut off by an escalator. A leg gets ex-ed off in a sawing accident. An arm just decides to leap off a body. I don’t know how it happens. I just know that I end up with body parts. What good are they? With living people, I always return them. But if they’re dead, a toe can slip into a pocket. An arm can get covered by some bushes on the side of the road and be returned to later.
What did I start doing with the pieces? I’d read Frankenstein. You have to. Don’t tell me you haven’t. “He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.” It’s my favorite ending line. It made me want the story to continue. I wanted to step into the darkness and distance and find out what was there. I wanted my own monster.
I started assembling the parts in my basement. It was beautiful seeing a body slowly coming together. I was patient too. You have to earn a body. You can’t just steal one like a nineteenth-century medical body snatcher, digging up graves for medical school anatomy lectures. There’s no skill to that. You just need a shovel and a lantern. What I was doing was the equivalent of cultivating a garden. This wasn’t speed and power. This was the slow, steady dedication of science. When I came upon a wonderful ring finger, it made me feel warm with the realization of just how married I was to physiology. Ring fingers are golden and gorgeous and so rare in amputations. The middle finger, I found, was so common that I just ignored them. It would be flopped boringly in–appropriately–the middle of the room, flipping the bird at the world even in death and I would, honestly, sometimes, flip it off right back, continuing my search for something more valuable. And there were so many tips of fingers. It felt like finding a diamond when a finger was intact, separated beautifully from the rest of the world, waiting for me to cradle it in my palm.
It took me years to get a complete arm with hand and fingers. Seven different patients. A rainbow of rigor mortis.
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2019 collection.
The unnamed narrator of the aforementioned account wishes to remain unnamed. He is currently doing a twenty-six-year sentence in Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Bay State Prison, a Supermax prison in central Rhode Island. While imprisoned, he has been thoroughly rereading the works of Nina Kulagina, Uri Geller, and Stanislawa Tomczyk, and is convinced he should be able to escape by bending metal bars by late June of next year.
Ron Riekki’s books include And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (Michigan State University Press, 2016 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal Great Lakes Best Regional Fiction), The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (Wayne State University Press, 2014 Michigan Notable Book awarded by the Library of Michigan), and U.P.: a novel (Ghost Road Press).
Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at http://leighlegler.carbonmade.com/.
“Or, The Modern Levitation of Frankenstein” is © 2018 Ron Riekki
Art accompanying story is © 2018 Leigh Legler