Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Born of Rain and Fire (a fable of forgiveness)



When he could breathe again he looked up into the falling torrent of rain that came in through the open skylight. The converted mortuary table suspended high above in the leaping lightning of the sky swayed dangerously in the gale, threatening to tip over on one end. One of the huge cabled kites had caught fire and was falling like a meteor.

The last lightning bolt of the night storm had finally seized, mounted, and poured the stuff of life into his collection of cobbled together meat and pulled it across the fatal line. It was this last bolt that struck close enough to shake the stone walls, rattle and crack the thick glass jars of chemicals and preserved homunculus, and magically raised erect the fine hairs of his arms. The thunder crash was close enough to blot out his cold objectivity and fill him with an animal urge to cower and hide.

Drenched through the skin, he picked up a dry wooden rod and cautiously batted down the circuit breaker lever on the wall. The lights died and glowed like altar candles. He took the heavy chain hanging from the old mill’s suspended block and tackle and leaned all his great weight against it but it refused to move. Grunting, hunched, he wrapped the chain around his huge shoulders, bowed his head and threw himself hard against it, weeping, until he felt it give. The table spun half way around in the high wind as the pulley caught and the assembly began to descend.

As he labored at the chain, the thought came to him that the hardest part was still ahead. Until this moment it hadn’t occurred to him that he was not prepared for what to do if he succeeded. He’d been practiced only in steeling himself against disappointment but not how to endure hope. Catching a lightning storm with any reliability in the spring or summer when they abounded was in itself almost impossible. The indifferent things of nature performed when they would; unlike the things of man they could not be stolen or bullied while his labor dissolved into decay.

In the beginning he had studied the mysteries of his own body and despaired of the depth of the difficulties ahead of him. The single legacy his god had passed on to him was his savage birth, and as he grew to appreciate this accomplishment first hand he began to develop a grudging respect that was almost enough to give him a heart to forgive his creator for the crime of bringing him into this world. But he could not.

He learned there was only a very short window between the winter’s murderous but preserving cold and the spring’s life giving storms when he could cut, cauterize, stitch and try again. Each spring he’d grimly pushed his harvest of foraged human flesh into the boiling sky but it always went bad when the lazy lightning would not arrive to receive the battalions of tailored carcasses he offered to it. Tonight it had.

As the table at last came into view he was dismayed to see pillars of smoke rising from the bandaged bundle there. Turning away, swallowing his panic, he pulled the chains of the block and tackle with tender patience until he heard the rails of the table slop down into the swamp of mud the rain had made and for two minutes could not bring himself to raise his eyes from his shoes.

“It’s roasted,” he thought, and feeling liberated from the throes of hope, he was able at last to turn and go to the hulk mired crookedly in the mud. But the clean clouds that rose had a cheerful lightness and the bandaged tape was uncharred. It was only steam. Without touching the body he unfastened the half dozen mule chains that held it in place. The steaming steel links hot from the storm strike sizzled his fingers. He pushed the table out of the rain into a dry place and left it only long enough to light torches. The storm was far away and the work room was silent but for his breathing.

No.

He held his breath. Under the soft patter of the receding rain the sound of gentle wheezing continued without him. There.

He fumbled through a tool box and found the greasy meat shears only when he stabbed his finger on them in the dark. Standing at the table he watched the rumpled bundle of bandages gently rise and fall, rise and fall, and like a terrified bridegroom he had no idea where to begin.

Please, please. The shears touched the bandages but he saw he was stabbing at them in his panic and hurry. He turned his back to the table, sat on it for a minute and waited until he was calm. Gentle now, gentle. This moment will never come again, because if I fail this time my soul will die. I can wait a little. This moment is mine. This creation is mine. Something new. Something defiant. My raised fist against God.

Calmer now, he began to cut. First the arms because symmetrically it was the easiest and straightest, the simplest place to begin. As the bandages fell away the flesh showed and the sight of it made him dizzy.

Is this is how he felt?

When he saw me for the first time did he feel this excruciating thrill? How did we ever learn to hate each other so terribly?

The skin showing under the bandages looked different than before, pinker, but it was so hard to tell by the torch light alone. His ran his fingers along the hot skin and it felt tough and resilient. It felt like his. He cut his way up the bandages above the elbow, lifting them above the thick and complex sutures he’d made a week ago from long study of the illustrated notebooks and the scarred runes of his own body. He snipped across the bandages of the chest and breasts. The nipples showed through and finally flopped free swollen and vivacious. The two breasts were mismatched, one larger, one smaller because they had come from different women.

He snipped up the shoulders, the neck, the face. When he drew the bandages away the fearful amazed windows of her soul were looking at him with wonder.

“Eva.” He touched a clinical hand to her cheek and felt her temperature. Her eyes roamed wildly around the room and finally settled on his face. Her bandaged hand reached up and caressed the long faded mountain range of scars that ran across his forehead and traveled behind his ears and down his neck where a man he had left for dead had once sewn his face onto his skull. Her fingers smelled strange and smoky and of the sky. They explored his lips and he kissed them and permitted his heart to heave and fall in love.

He brushed his face against hers and breathed the sour storm scent of her for a moment and whispered in her ear. “Can you speak yet?” Her chest wheezed in response and he felt her throat struggle.

He looked away and sighed. Her lips moved and sounds came out, but no words. He passed his hand over her cheek and touched her ear with his finger tips. He noticed the ears were not on the same level. That would have to be adjusted sometime when she’d gotten her strength.

“Soon you’ll remember how to speak,” he said. “It took me a long time. Don't worry, I can fix anything that doesn't work. Once you hear human voices it all comes back very quickly, you’ll see. I had to hide outside an old man’s hut for many days and nights listening to him and his children talking. When they discovered me they shot me with a gun. But you won’t have to go through that alone like me. I’ll talk to you and read books to you and sing to you."

Her eyes fixed on his face and he waited to see if she would scream and turn away. She only went on watching him and she was not afraid. There was a movement on the other end of the table and he realized she was wiggling her toes under the bandages.

"I'm your creator. You don't know what that means yet. My creator was a man. That man was my god, and that unworthy god abandoned me. As soon as he lost the courage to defy his own God, he hated me and I wanted him to love me and make me worthy of him and he would not. I wanted him to teach me and help me and he would not. I wanted him to make me a man I could be proud of and a work he could be proud of and he would not. I prayed to him and asked why he had created me and why the world was cruel and he would not answer my prayers. But that won’t happen to you. If ever you ask why you were born, there is only this answer and no other. I built you for love. Through you I’ll forgive my weak god. And not because you’ll love me. That’s not why you’ll help me forgive my god.”

He looked down at her exposed breasts. She had no self consciousness or shame in her. The sylphy girl no more comprehended her own nudity than a new baby. She reminded him of how he had been on the night he had risen from his lightning bed naked, phallic and huge and approached the bed chamber of his mortal god hoping to be celebrated there and loved. From that bitter instant on he’d understood his place in the world.

“Eva, I created you. You belong to me and I have purchased you with grief and failure only for this night. You’re a thing of the air and I’ll teach you about the uses a woman’s body can be put to and lead you into the pleasures of love and passion I created you for. Let me tell you what you will do for me in return.

“You’ll love me and look up to me. You’ll believe that I’m perfect and wise and all powerful because I know how to attend to your pain and repair you of every wound and flaw except one. You’ll long to be part of humanity, to take your place with others. And then you’ll see other women, and instead of seeing how much better I’ve made you, you’ll hate me with the bitterness of a fiend and long to kill me because you can’t kill yourself. You’ll curse the day you were born, no - not even born - ignited. And I will be perfectly faithful to you as only a man who has never been loved can be and you’ll hate me viciously and murderously for a while as I hated my small god. Then the day will come when you’ll see I’m not all powerful. You’ll see I can’t help you in your disappointment, that I have no hope or answers to calm you. You’ll know I made you to be my equal and only that and nothing more. I don’t want you to worship me. I don’t want you to pray to me or make up ideas about me. I want you to lay with me shamelessly and do what women do, and then when you need nothing from me you’ll forgive me for failing you and being such a useless god. When the day comes that you forgive me, your useless god, for failing you so abjectly, I’ll find the way to forgive my god for failing me.”

He ran an exploratory hand down her breasts, first one and then the other and her eyes followed his hands and he thought he saw her try to smile or grimace, but it was impossible yet to tell.

“When that day comes, there will no creator and no creation. There will be only the heat of our love.”

So saying the huge patch work man pressed his lips to her and she allowed him to hold her long and long.



C. Sanchez-Garcia




6 comments:

  1. This is fantastic, Garce. I am a big fan of Shelley's Frankenstein and wrote pretty extensively on it for a women's studies class in grad school. I think you've done a beautiful job capturing the beauty and power in creation. This story left me breathless. Thank you.

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  2. Hi Kristina!

    Thanks for coming by and reading my stuff!

    I have a lot of thoughts about Frankenstsin, especially the novel. But I'm curious - how did you write about it for a women's study class? Was it because Mary Wollstonecraft was a very liberated woman for her time or something else? tell me.

    Garce

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  3. This is awesome, Garce. I teach Frankenstein in my "Sympathy for the Devil" course (cross-listed as a first-year English and a Women's Studies course). I'll let Kristina answer the question you asked, but IMO the act of creating a new person and accepting parental responsibility (or not) is at the heart of gender roles. I would love to share your story with my class - it's guaranteed to spark an interesting discussion.

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  4. Hi Jean!

    Yes please, with all my blessing in perpetuity. If you do share it I'd be interested to know what the discussion is like, how the topic goes.

    It's interesting that from a feminine view this has to do with parental responsibility, Victor Frankenstein as a father. That's definately a way of seeing it. In my case I was seeing it from the view of God and Man and man being abandoned by God which is my big existential beef with God.

    I think the story that Mary W. Shelly wrote is so archetypical that a reader brings their own veiw to it and we all see certain uniquely personal things in it which is the mark of great myth making.

    Garce

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  5. Garce,

    Once again you've given us a story full of beauty, terror and insight. Thank you.

    Not to mention, of course, that this is perfect for Halloween!

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  6. Hi Lisabet!

    Thanks for reading. And halloween is coming!

    Garce

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