in the mist and smoke

I have serious reservations about writing what is, in essence, a fan-fiction piece associated with Mary Shelley’s brilliant and gripping Frankenstein. That didn’t stop me from doing it, but it’s worth noting that I had serious reservations about it.

I don’t really feel there’s more to this story, per se, certainly no more action or content, but I do feel the end just sort of drops off. I struggled to know how to end it, but, given the limitations of the prompt (500 words), I decided that the abrupt ending would work, at least for now. I may try to polish it up more later or I may decide I was crazy to ever mess with Shelley’s story. Who knows, really?

(Vye probably knows, but she’s never been one to be straightforward.)

The prompt for this week came from the 500 Club:

Someone comes to town, someone leaves town. Both of today’s prompts are about running away, or coming home. Breaking out of jail, or being incarcerated. Falling out of love or into it. First day of school, or graduation. A birth, or a death. Pick one that sparks you, and get ready for the catch.

Write a scene of leave-taking or homecoming that contains ten words or less of dialogue. Be cinematic.

For better or worse, here’s what I came up with. Particularly if you’re a fan of Shelley’s beautiful work, feel free to tell me what you think in the comments.

in the mist and smoke

Hawthorne was cold. He was always cold of late. His travels brought him to the mountains again, now headed northeast, his quarry having gained significant distance while he was dealing with the aftermath in the previous town: 3 goats, 1 horse, a rather large number of chickens and, regrettably, 1 boy of six.

The boy looked like William, and perhaps that was a much reason as anyone would ever know.

His arrival in a near identical town two days later was anticlimactic. None of the townspeople were in a state of panic. No livestock was dead or missing. No harm had fallen on anyone. In fact, he questioned if he was in the right town at all, for there was no sign of any kind that a monster had been here.

When he entered the town’s inn asking about an 8 foot tall grotesque and a doctor, they nearly threw him out. He had to beg to be allowed the privilege of a room. These were quiet people. People who were suspicious of strangers and superstitious about bad omens. Hawthorne probably made the hairs on the back of their necks stand on end. In fact, he might have been…strongly encouraged…to leave town that very night had it not been for the fire.

It started in the stables. Hawthorne saw its glow from his room and rushed out. Several townspeople were running back and forth from the well with buckets of water, trying to extinguish the flame before it leap to the nearest buildings. If not contained, the entire town could have burned up.

Hawthorne instructed the men and women to form a line, passing the bucket from one person to the next. They were soon moving twice as many buckets with half the water spilled, and the fire quickly came under control. As the last of the flames were dying out, through the mist and smoke, Hawthorne saw a huge form lumbering towards the woods and, following closely, the ragged figure of a much smaller man chasing him.

“They’re here,” he said to no one. Without thought, he ran to his room and scooped up his things, thinking to chase them into the woods, hoping to overtake the doctor and put an end to this madness. Hoping, perhaps, to find some way to reconcile man to beast, creature to creator.

On his way out the door of the inn, he bumped into a priest–an old fellow who worn his wisdom in the creases of his face. “My son,” he said, and then, seeing Hawthorne’s urgent expression, his arms full with his luggage, he put a hand on his shoulder and said, “Wait until morning.”

Something about the way the man spoke halted Hawthorne. It was a warning. He returned to his room.

The next morning Hawthorne collected his things and left, heading further northeast, a peace having settled in his heart.

And somewhere in the mountains, he lost Dr. Frankenstein and his monster.

Somewhere in the mist and smoke.

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