The Brain of Frankenstein

 

Baron Frankenstein filled Doctor Karnstein’s glass with more Amontillado. “We are alike, you and I,” he said.

“Well, we’re both physicians,” quavered Karnstein. “But you are pure research, whereas I apply myself to the saving of lives.”

“True,” said Frankenstein. “But we are both involved in the saving of lives. And I am practical, some of the time. Currently I’m working on something that could save many lives and does involve surgery.”

Karnstein simpered: “I hope you’re not going to tell me these rumours about you are true?”

This could be difficult, pondered Frankenstein. Sounded like Karnstein mightn’t approve. “Are the rumours so bad?”

“Bad for business, perhaps. We don’t want our work disturbed by superstitious villagers dragging us off to the stake. Ma-ha! We cannot save lives if we’re roast-meat.”

Ah, not so bad. A little more fortified wine and he’s mine.

“So, Baron,” Karnstein’s speech was slurred. “What are you doing that’s so secret, yet so frightening to the ignorant peasants?”

Yes, thought Frankenstein, Karnstein’s already on my side. Just doesn’t know it yet. “Something I need your help with,” he grinned, sardonically. “I am — like you — a highly ethical surgeon, trying out a very delicate procedure. I need your professional assistance. I’m about to attempt the most delicate of operations: the transplant of a human brain.”

Karnstein nearly dropped his glass. “Well, the ethics depend on whose brain, and whose body.”

“Indeed, I cannot practise on ‘the ignorant peasants’.”

Karnstein laughed. “Ah-ha! Not sure I entirely agree with you, Baron. That inn keeper was rather insolent when I charged for my services; removing a splinter from his finger. He was — after all — paying for my hard earned skills.”

“Have some more Amontillado!”

Karnstein drank greedily. “So, just who are you going to practise on?”

Frankenstein leaned back in his chair, and tented his fingers. “Myself.”

“What?” Karnstein shook his head and laughed. “One of us must be hearing things — or rambling. I thought you said you’re going to transplant your own brain.”

“I am,” said Frankenstein.

“You can’t possibly… operate on yourself,” dithered Karnstein, “S’impossible! And probably unethical.”

“On the contrary, it’s the only way that is ethical.”

“Still impossible, though.”

“Not if you carry out the surgery, following my instructions to the letter.”

“Could never counsel such a thing,” said Karnstein, drawing himself up. “And that is — um — that!”

Such impertinence, thought Frankenstein. Ah well, Plan B. “But my dear Doctor,” he said, “It is vital you carry out this operation. Your pettifogging concerns about ethics are rather off the mark. You see I must have my brain transferred into another body — and soon.”

“M-m-m-must? I don’t follow you.”

“This is not — shall we say — a matter of pure research any more. I discovered recently that I am ill; mortally ill. I have only days to live. My only chance of survival is to transfer my brain from my ailing body to a vigorous one. You can help me, Doctor. You can save my life.”

Karnstein mopped his forehead and drained his glass. “If I could perform such delicate surgery,” he said, “of course I would, my friend. But I don’t have the skills… the experience!”

“Then we must start your training right away. I’ll give you access to my notebooks and demonstrate my new techniques. Of course, you will have to be sober! Come down to my laboratory and let me show you what I have been doing.”

So Frankenstein led Karnstein down to his laboratory. And in that eerily lit, stone walled room full of strange apparatuses, he showed him the hideous creation lying on the bench. It appeared superficially human. But the yellow skin, stretched tight, barely covered the work of muscles and arteries arranged over the abnormally long skeleton. The yellow eyes stared sightlessly towards the ceiling. And the top of its head was open and empty — awaiting a brain.

“My God!” Karnstein’s eyes started nearly out of their sockets.

With a sympathetic smile, Frankenstein handed him the flask of Amontillado.

Karnstein, took a long draught, and fell backwards in a dead faint.

“Waste not want not,” said Frankenstein, catching the falling flask.

It was quite a long time before Karnstein woke up — with a violent headache. He could not remember a worse hangover.

Frankenstein looked at him sympathetically, “Ah, so the patient awakes.”

“I feel strange,” said Karnstein.

“I’m really not surprised,” said Frankenstein, holding up a mirror.

I knew I was overhung, thought Karnstein, but not that overhung. His reflection was sallow and strangely unfamiliar. His eyes focused — and he saw the taut, yellow skin with stitches around the top of the head. He screamed.

And went on screaming.

“Don’t take on so,” said Frankenstein. “You really didn’t imagine that I was actually going to use my own brain, now did you?

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About Zoe Nightingale

I am a writer of short stories, novels, poetry and non fiction.
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