[ I wrote this story freshman year of college I believe. It’s been a while since I’ve come across it, and a longer while since I actually wrote it. Since I’m in a bit of a creative slump with the other longer projects on the go – I thought I’d share this rough little thing with all of you! It was created due to a love for Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (It’s definitely in my top 5 books of all time..) and it was a fun little exploration of what it means to be morally grey. Hopefully once I pull my bootstraps up and can get past my slump I’ll be able to pour more effort into finishing the stories I have on the go! ]
She sat across from him, looking as odd as she had in his literature class. Her neon blue and silver dyed hair, bobbed up with gemstones into almost childish pigtails. Her eyes, such a brilliant hazel wide and intelligent. And her hands clasped together, fingers long and agile.
Those fingers wrote hundreds of brilliant lyrics in his assignments, and here they were now clasped and betraying her nervousness. And all because of him.
He cleared his throat, shuffled the papers in front of him and focused on the cold styrofoam cup full of decaffeinated brown sludge.
“You know why you are here, Melody?”
She nodded her head. Her smile did not seem false, but rather timid and friendly. Patient, as if she were listening to him in class. He only wished it were that simple.
“Mr. Anthony, I imagine this is about our last assignment? I don’t understand why we are here… you gave me full marks.” She dressed like a technicolor punk, but her voice was pure nerd.
“Yes. Well… you did pass with flying colors on the assignment Melody, but it’s… your test results have generated a few results that some of the conclave has found. Well. Worrisome.”
He could recite the tomes of Shakespeare and yet was stumbling on the script. He settled himself once more and forced a few sips of lukewarm coffee down his throat. The pale yellow room had a large mirror – and both of them were smart enough to know what stood behind that. Men in suits. Men with guns.
“Worrisome.” Her voice flattened and instead of losing her patience she merely swallowed and nodded. Her fingers stretched and clasped again. “They think I’m not human you mean.”
It was finally said. Released into the nervous room like a hummingbird. It fluttered around the two trying to escape just as they were. It stilled the air and choked the breath out of the man.
“Look, just explain yourself a bit. Lets go over a few of the assignments and we can sort this all out. Melody, I don’t want to be here anymore then you do. You are my best student.” Now there was that honesty to his voice that gave him confidence again. “Then we can all go home. Okay?”
Her eyes watched him, and for a moment they watered. “If only it were that easy,” she whispered lower this time. “I’m no fool Mr. Anthony, we learned about this at the political meetings. But… yes. Lets just get this done with.” And like that she wiped them and they were friendly and clear again.
She seemed to easily resist the side glance to the large mirrored panel, which he had a hard time trying to avoid. Perhaps she really didn’t know they were being watched? Or perhaps she was just smarter then that.
“Can I read you a few paragraphs from some of your writings? Then you can clarify, or maybe, rewrite them as you see fit?” He shuffled through a few papers. Her handwriting was delicate and precise – one of the few students who handed some of her writings in without retyping the whole thing. The ones that were printed were almost as delicate. And there certainly was enough typing to judge by.
“Here we are.” He stopped on one, the bright yellow highlighting marking the sections. He hesitated, reading it over first quietly in his head before sliding the sheet to her.
“..and so the earth moves on, leaving him lost to his own devices. He seemed to wonder to himself if his creation wasn’t for the betterment, not of mankind, but of what mankind should have become. Was he a relic of a forgotten warning, or a warning yet to come.” It was soft on her tongue, yet powerful. He imagined that is how it sounded in her head when she wrote it almost a month ago. She set it down, smiled more a moment in recall of it. “An essay on Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. I remember it. I loved the book – it was the first time I read it in all honesty. I had been meaning to add it to my collection.”
“Yes, and it was well written Melody, but what did you mean?”
She tilted her head slightly, face squinting up a moment as if confused by the question. “You read it Mr. Anthony. You marked me on it – you never asked me that then.”
“Please, I need you to explain it.”
Then she glanced to the side, finally. For one second she let curiosity get the best of her and those hazel eyes glanced to the mirror. For one moment she seemed to stare through it at the ones judging her before her gaze returned to him.
They softened for him, and that made him feel all the more like a day old sucker.
“Frankenstein’s monster is a warning and message to us all. In the sense it reflects how science and indeed our own beliefs can sometimes get the best of us. Dr. Frankenstein created the monster, then chose to abandon it. Fearing what he created and falling instead into the hatred society bred for such a thing, he chose to instead seek to destroy his own creation rather then understand it. In the end; his own hatred, fear, and irrational beliefs were the real monster of the tale. Not the monster itself, who is shown more human then the other characters in the book. She was brilliant, Mary Shelly I mean. Utterly fantastic.”
“But you sided with the monster.” His interruption made her fascinating grin dull a moment. As if he pulled her unwillingly out of her memory of the tale. “Melody, you were supposed to write about how he should have dealt with the monster. I mean, it was so well written and creative indeed… at the time it was refreshing to hear it but I shouldn’t have let you get so far off topic.”
She looked hurt. She opened her mouth a moment, then closed it. She looked down at the paper and ran a finger over the highlighted section.
“I did answer it. I think they should have left him, to find a place.” her painted nails, the color of opal traced the words as if they were alive. She read, then re-read the sentences. “The earth did move on, unfortunately. It always does. He was one man–”
“..man the world perceived as monster. He was made from human remains, does that not make him human? Re-animated, yes. But cellular and structure remains – he was human. Wouldn’t the DNA of a human corpse; still reanimate as human DNA? I didn’t side with the ‘monster’ Mr. Anthony. I sided with the ‘victim’.”
She slid the sheet back across the table, palm flat and eyes down.
“I stay by my previous statements.”
He sighed and took the sheet back, setting it aside and taking a few moments to look more carefully at the papers before sliding another, this time typed on clean crisp computer paper over to her.
Instead of highlighting, it was circled. She traced her finger around the first section she noticed, then flipped through it to a few of the other ones as well.
Three comments were circled. Three answers now in question.
“I remember this one. It was after watching the documentary about the bible… I didn’t score as high on this one.” She shook her head, almost disappointed.
“Why did Judas betray Jesus? He did so because without the darkness we wouldn’t see the light. If not Judas it would be another. If not another then the story would not continue. He didn’t do it because of some character flaw, but because of universal balance. It is suggested among ancient gnostic gospels that not only did the Christ understand the necessity of being betrayed to the cross – but encouraged it.”
She read it, unapologetic. And at the end she set it down and looked across the table at him with steel eyes. There was no fear there, no mixing of words. And all the more her words sounded strange to him. Unreal, as if perhaps the conclave was right to question her.
“See? Why would you do that?” He grunted slightly, removing his glasses and anxiously cleaning them. “You make it sound like he wasn’t in the wrong. You make it sound like the meaning of the story isn’t important.”
“But don’t you see? That is exactly my point. The meaning of the story was so important that Judas had to make the sacrifice. Just as the Christ made his sacrifice.”
“Why do you say ‘the Christ’? And.. that isn’t the point!” He pulled the sheets back, flipped through to the next page. “You make him into a martyr? He was the great betrayer. You can’t side with the great betrayer… look! Look here.”
He slid the papers to her again, this time forceful and nearly tearing them where the staple held them together. “Lucifer was much like Frankenstein’s monster? You wrote that!”
Her mouth opened slightly, closed again. Her eyes squinted with hurt but she nodded at his accusations. Then slowly, after he took a few breaths she answered.
“He was.” She carefully smoothed the sheet out, unwrinkled the edges his outburst had caused. “It was a few weeks ago I wrote this. I remember reading Dante’s Inferno. I remember later reading a few articles on him while we were in study groups. He also reminded me of Prometheus in the old greek tales…”
“You sided with him.” He said flatly. His head was pounding.
“No. I just wasn’t biased. Look, did he do bad things? Yes. Was he evil though? Was he really just made to be evil? And if so… why would a God make him? Isn’t it more believable that his character is just like we are. Do you believe these invaders, these aliens are as soulless and heartless as they say?”
She rubbed at an eye, if it was to clear a tear he couldn’t tell as he was glaring at the folders contents instead. He hated this. More so he hated that he was the bad guy this time. Why couldn’t it have been the principle? Why did it have to be -her-?
“Melody, what am I suppose to do? You don’t talk like them. You don’t act like them. Hell you are smarter then most of teachers at the school. I know for a fact you’ve dumbed down your intelligence assessment. You told me so.”
Them, the word echoed in his mind. It made him feel ashamed. After all, he was talking about himself as well wasn’t he? He was one of ‘them’ too was he not? Why not Us? Why couldn’t he just say “you aren’t like US Melody. You aren’t one of US”. But that tasted like a lie.
“In confidence.” She whispered quietly, barely above a whisper. “I told you that in confidence, yes.”
If he felt like a jerk before, it now showed again in his face. He turned away from her and closed the file. His eyes glanced to his watch – it was now quarter to eight at night. Neither of them had lunch and her parents likely frantic wondering why she wasn’t home yet.
“I did not think I spoke so differently. I mean, I use words Mr. Anthony. Most girls in my age group can barely spell. It’s because I love to read, I love to write. I want to be an author eventually. And, and I’m just not into dating right now. That doesn’t make me…” she hesitated, her fingers once again clasped together as she sighed. “Does that make me so odd?”
“No. I mean… we just need to be certain. You know blood tests aren’t accurate. You were at the meetings. If you just agree to change your words and maybe attend a few atonement classes then I’m sure we can get this–”
She glared this time. It was the first time her face had gone hard. The meekness gave way to disgust.
“Atonement? Brainwashing you mean.”
“Lower your voice.” Fear perked in his tone. His eyes glanced to the mirror in fear.
“They sit you down, tell you how to act. Tell you how to think? I would rather die!” she wiped her eyes more now, the tears were washed away with her flushed palm. “I’m different yes but we can’t all be the same!”
“No one wants you to be the same as everyone else Melody, they just want you to be Human.”
“Have I hurt anyone? Have I done any harm in all the time I’ve been your student? Have you -ever- had a problem with me Mr. Anthony?”
“No.” He rubbed the bridge of his nose, his glasses sat heavy. “Of course not!”
“And in your opinion do you think I have feelings? Do you think I have a heart, and a mind, and interesting ideas? I know they need you to sign off on their paperwork unless I’m a danger Mr. Anthony. I know that’s what they need.”
His head hurt and the lump in his throat wasn’t being helped by the now cold remnants of coffee left inside the cup. Of course, she was right. She was exceptionally bright after all. What he didn’t say however was how, persuasive, the conclave could be.
His signature would break her. Sending her away without being sure would break him. And a confession was suicide. What was left?
Silence sat between them for a few moments. He swore he heard the impossible ticking of his digital clock as the seconds passed them. Finally he could bear the silence no longer.
“Am I what?”
More silence. A stale moment of tension between two old friends. She wouldn’t budge. She wanted to hear it. Her pig tails shivered with her breathing. She was obviously upset. So was he.
“Are you human, Melody? Do you think that you are? Just say you are and you want to change your mind about things. Say you are and just try the atonement classes. Then this is all over with.”
“I want to play a game. Just you and me. Not them. Okay? I’ll ask you one question and you tell me the truth. Then, if you tell me the truth I’ll answer one of yours honestly.” She swallowed and eased herself to lean over the table with her hands tucked into the inside of her elbows while her elbows rested on the sturdy resin table.
“This isn’t really the time–”
“Please.” she let one tear fall from her eyes, and then managed a sincere smile across her worried face. “Please Mr. Anthony. You know as well as I do that my future is on the line. Humor me. It is the only real time I have left.”
“Okay. Ask what you want Melody.”
“Do you believe these invaders, these aliens are as soulless and heartless as they say?”
He paused, the color slightly drained from his face as he glanced at the mirror then back to her. Rock, meet hard place. Hard place, meet rock. He could lie of course and tell her whatever well recited paragraph he was supposed to so that the waiting ears behind the wall wouldn’t judge him. He could simply refuse to answer as well, if he wanted to.
But those eyes pleaded with him; and it was true what she said. Her future indeed was on the line. Her very life was. Was it fair to toss her under the bus with no consideration to her one simple question?
“I don’t know.” His words stumbled at first, his brow furrowed in thought. “We don’t know what they are. The government tells us they are dangerous but…” on instinct his voice lowered. “I guess we couldn’t know for sure. We don’t have any real information to go on.”
Her bottom lip trembled as her smile shook a moment. Her eyes, still watery but pleased with his answer. He wasn’t sure why, it was barely an answer at all and yet she seemed to glow with hope in him. But now he knew it was his turn and she waited so patiently for him to ask.
He could as a million things. He didn’t have to go through with this insane game but he was so sure he knew the answer. He was so sure that a week full of atonement classes and she would be back inspiring him with words and passages and poems…
“Are you human?”
Everyone returned from classes. Different sometimes, broken a little… but always they returned. So would she. Everything would be normal again.
“No. Deep down I think I’ve always known I’m not human Mr. Anthony. Now I know for sure. I don’t know what I am, or what I’m here for. I feel the balance in the universe. I feel the potential in us all.”
Time stopped as she was searching for words. “…if there was only more time to explain to you.”
Her painful smile lingered in the air a moment while the door opened. They both knew in a hellish moment that time was up. There were no more moments. No more questions. The game ended far too early.
Was this what Judas felt like? Was he Judas now? If so, why was there no hate in her expression? Where was the hate, the fear, the anger?
His mouth was agape, but no sound dared utter from them. Time passed in choppy seconds of eternity. He barely turned his head before the men were inside. A moment longer as the tazer lines zipped past his shoulder and into her chest. He watched it stunned as the small barbs tore her striped shirt. Her smile lingered only one second longer as she watched as he tried to scream for them to stop.
And as he did her body jolted with the electricity and that smile was a grimace of pain as her eyes rolled and the smell of battery acid hit the air.
Time was so slow, and he himself was slower. He stood, fists on the table, screaming but they ignored him. Two men grabbed him by the elbows, yanked him back away from the table as Melody’s body shuddered under the girth of three men restraining her. It looked as if they were breaking her, piece by piece.
“She’s just a girl! You’ll kill her!” He snarled as the men dumped him and the papers in the hallway, throwing a large orange envelope in his lap with the remaining folder. His gut wrenched with disgust. Every teacher in the district knew what that orange envelope was for. It was insult to injury. Payment for a job well done. It was Confession Pay. A tidy sum of ten thousand dollars of blood money.
“Mr. Anthony. Take your pay and go home to your wife. These… creatures are very cunning. You must not sympathize with them. You must not believe them. You must remember that they are the monsters and we are humanity.” His smile was patronizing. He knelt down a moment, helping him gather the papers from the floor. “You have two weeks off – spend them with your family. The conclave will file all the reports needed. Feel free to burn the rest of this.. gibberish when you have the time.”
And without another word the men filed back into the room. The door shut and lock. Melody was gone from his class, his school, and his life. She would simply be wiped out as if she had never existed. No final farewell. No hatred in her eyes. Nothing but her words written down on school assignments. The same words used to condemn her.
Burn them? No. That was the last thing he intended to do.
He clutched them to his chest and held them close. When he stood shakily out on the night street the images of what had occurred started to settle into numb realization.
He had his payment. He could take a vacation to a pleasure colony, perhaps buy himself a fancy new computer device. Maybe he could buy enough alcohol to cloud over the unsettled thoughts which rattled in his brain: But could he really burn out the questions she left there?
Who were the monsters; and who the men?