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Deep Outside SFFH 1998-2002 pioneering online professional SFFH magazine - we made history!

Ygor's Dream

by William Laughlin

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[Transcribed from a recording found among the effects of Daniel Gorstein, Second Oboe, Curtis Symphony Orchestra, September 1948]

They're all gone now. And despite the others' far more Gothic talents for resurrection, it is deliciously ironic that I alone have survived. Not completely "monstrous" enough to notice, yet, all too obviously not "normal," the villagers, with their pitchforks and hounds, torches and crosses, invariably passed me by on those apocalyptic nights to pursue the Creature-- leaving mad Old Ygor, as ever, to skulk away, as he'd done so many times before, a mute witness to the destruction hidden atop the Carpathian hillside. The ancient castle, the windmill, the laboratory, all reduced to wet soot and rubble within a few savage hours.

(Even we "monsters," at our most bloodthirsty, weren't able to wreak such havoc in so short a span, eh Master?).


So, how is it then, that I find myself like one of those mysteriously cyclical birds, always returning here in the early Autumn, just when the sharp odors of pine needles and burnt wood begin to fill the air? Is it some kind of subconscious anniversary, I wonder? I tell the university that I am researching, of course, that these "sabbaticals" are part of another passionless article on Hungarian folk songs, but it is another history that I am concerned with here. As I follow the gypsy caravans through the villages to the south of the mountainside, I feel strangely content on this part of my pilgrimage. The gypsies: I hover at the edge of their campsites, pay heavily for food, and nightly, drink too much of their sour wine and, lay alone, playing my old shepherd's horn beneath the pinwheeling stars, staring up at the smirking moon. Dreaming, Master -

Dreaming of the old days....


The memories are at their worst during night-storms, though. In them, I face barely suppressible blue flickers of my former self creeping out from the corners of a room at night-- twisted shadows spurred by every whipcrack of lightning. It's as if my past is reaching for me, Master, drawing me back to the darkness of my life before with crooked fingers of my former sins!

And, there in my mind's eye, burning in the heart of the storm, silhouetted in blue-white electric flares, I always see you, Master, bent feverishly over your instruments, muttering incomprehensibly to the bubbling tubes and sparking wires, clutching at air like a confounded Zeus—standing before that steel altar, bearing your shrouded slab of cold sewn meat, trying to will it into life!

And dear God, how I believed in you! I, your cunning, crooked Hephaestus, a thing hardly fit to lope fawning at your side. Yes, almost from the beginning, I worshipped them all, physicians—scientists. The so-called saviors of our day!

I began my criminal career working for doctors, snatching bodies for their research long before I met Frankenstein. Can I be blamed? I was a shepherd's son lost in this new Industrial Age! I possessed no trade, and desired no bootlicking assembly job in the city! But in the center of town, there was the College of Physicians! I started as a "bearer," one of those who carried out the remains, but, after bribing the village gravedigger, I created a business of my own-the Resurrection business! A secret, dirty business admittedly, but at least I was my own master. Actually, it was the only time in my life that I was truly free, I think. I drank, whored, and sang, and had the false moment-flush love which early success and money imbue. It was only after the mistake of attempting to sell one physician the freshly interred and exhumed body of his own sister, did I ever run afoul of the law. Just that once, that's all it took. One idiotic error, and I was left dangling at the end of a rope...

The end of my first life. My first dream...


...But I didn't die, did I, Master?

A mistake of haste, of eagerness, no doubt, the hangman neglected to secure the knot tightly enough, just enough so that Ygor might live—but just barely, eh?

Brother Gregor, a monk, found me as I was carted off in a corpse pile with the rest of the day's executions. In fact, he nearly killed me as he pulled my near-dead body out of the heap. My neck was broken and spine shattered in numerous places. A skeletal jigsaw of humanity.

Tortured, I drifted in and out of consciousness as I was borne by horse cart to the Monastery, suffering as he repeated the Lord's Prayer over and over, without inflection, in Latin, each bump in the roadside triggering unimaginable spasms of agony. And yet, somehow, I endured. Days. Weeks.

However, though kind, the Brothers had the medical knowledge of a backward people, hoping that poppy-juice and prayer would suffice in such cases, so after five months, when my bones finally, amazingly, re knitted, they were tangled, bent. Left a human question mark, but alive, nonetheless!

And thirsty for revenge!

A year later, I bid farewell to the monks, and shambled back to the mountains, working as a shepherd once more, traveling alone in the hills, playing my horn beneath a mocking moon. And, slowly, over the months, in my solitude, I began to formulate a new dream. A second dream. The modern age would be my salvation! There had to be a way to fix this!

I determined then, that I would find a doctor, a healer who could right my hobbled form. And thus, a limping quest began...

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It was in a public tavern located across from the medical college, where I first heard you, master: that voice, shrill, effeminate, rising over the snickering chorus of drunken students with its arrogant assertion:

"I can create life!"

I turned. And as the students sat, smirking into their cups; I listened. Not to the words, which I hadn't the ability to comprehend, but to the excitement, the thrill as you spewed forth streams of complicated jargon, waving your hands as if conducting an invisible orchestra. And I knew, almost instinctively, this was the man!

Only a man so insanely focused upon such a preposterous goal could cure me!

And immediately I realized something else:

He'd need bodies...



"Ygor, you fool, dig faster! You clumsy imbecile, you'll damage the tissue!"

It was always flesh. The flesh I so patiently harvested from the graves, racing against the impatient dawn. Cold. Lifeless. Flesh.

Working. Never moving quickly enough, never learning fast enough! Is it any wonder that I hated the Creature, Master? That stitched atrocity continually held my future for ransom, constantly absorbing your obsessive attention!

But the original sin between us occurred during one particularly bad night. I had suffered a severe pelting by a gang of Tyrolean schoolboys and, that afternoon, as a palliative for my aching spine, drank heavily. Unfortunately, this was the night which you needed a special task from me. The brain.

There in the murky semidark, hung over, shaking with furtive haste, I dropped the specimen. What to do? Can you truly blame me, Master?

With your urging me to hurry, fearing your wrath, I did what any scolded toady would do: I took the other specimen and ignorantly prayed that you wouldn't notice. Horrifyingly stupid, eh?

And that's where it all began, I think, my bizarre sibling bond to the Creature, as well as my filial piety to the Family Frankenstein. Odd. It was as though each of us were always trying to create a family -- a galvanic family for this new modern age.

Of course, it ended, as all of those experiments did, with the mob and flames. And me, lumpen, living alone in the ruins and graveyards, stealing from herds and flocks. I did it for twenty-five years, caring for the Creature, awaiting your heirs, your son. Still, it wasn't an invaluable time of my life. I learned English from the wandering missionaries. I played my horn in valleys and caverns; I schemed and hunted, hated by the peasant-folk below; I plotted my revenge. I see now that those mobs were but a foretaste of the mobs to follow in Europe, eh? Countries of mobs ruled by angrier, more insidious men than the Inspector. Men capable of teaching them to march in rows and kill...

(You know. I see the Inspector and the burgomaster occasionally, Master. Old men, playing shuffleboard in the square conning drinks from English tourists. The Inspector has suffered a stroke and now he walks with a limp. Funny, isn't it?).

The end came just before the War, where so many dreams much greater than mine died hastily in bomb bursts. Having exhausted the Frankensteins and nearly having been killed in an ill-conceived experiment with telekinesis, predictably, I sought the nearest scientist. Kroger, his name was, a disgraced researcher. He actually began to perform surgery on me, first altering my appearance, then doing further surgeries to increase the comfort in my neck. I took on the name "Daniel," then, and, reflecting on it, Kroger treated me fairly well though he lacked your genius, Master. We traveled from town to town and worked the carnival shows. The final operation was to straighten my spine, but then he, as you, became embroiled in intrigues, in other experiments: the fate of the Creature, lycanthropy, and, of course, vampirism.

Ha! And I, I fell in love!

First, let it be said that she was unremarkable. That particular family of gypsies had bred like rabbits throughout the region and doubtless I'm certain I had seen that face before on a sister, cousin, mother, or aunt a dozen times already. Yes, she danced well enough, and sang, but no more pleasingly than any other peasant girl I'd seen. No, it wasn't that at all. Perhaps it was that she needed me, to escape the mob that one day, who can say?

In any case I, a hunchback, repulsed her, and my punishment for overreaching was to be left once more, rent and torn by mad Talbot. But again, somehow, bafflingly, alive!


You know, not too long ago, in New York I thought I saw her ghost.

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We were playing Stravinsky's Requiem Canticles (another Ygor!) and there she was, a young Czech soloist on loan from somewhere in the old Country, playing the viola, eyes shut in a half-swoon, swaying in deep concentration. I said nothing to her. Nothing.


The Creature's favorite song. One of mine, too. I play it still, to warm up. Damn, I am almost out of the tape. I must finish sooner than I had hoped. Let me see, now, where was I? Oh, yes—

I still had Kroger's notes and correspondences with two surgeons, Orlack and Bennett in America. Traveling to Belgium, I had Orlack examine me and, afterwards, he wrote references for me for Bennett in Philadelphia.

And so, I came to America...

I wasn't alone. The ships were thronged with unwashed immigrants like me. And strangely, it was there I began to gain acceptance, playing tunes for my fellow shipmates, to amuse them during the long tedious days crossing the gray-green Atlantic that awful winter. Using the last of Kroger's money, I journeyed by rail from New York to Philadelphia.

Doctor Bennett proved to be an energetic, smiling man with a brood of children and a great fat stomach. Amazingly, he straightened my spine, within the year, in three operations. It had taken over half my life, and a year's recovery—to me, it was finally over.

After almost thirty years I walked, slept, sat: normally. Normally! And yet...

Oh, the scars are surprisingly few, everyone says so. Occasionally, Bennett shows me off to his students (a small price to pay) and he often comes to hear me play in the Orchestra.

Do you know what the strangest thing is, Master? The aggregate of my proximity to those experiments—somehow—I have gained years of extended life, of retarded aging—

In me, in lowly Ygor—you have created life!


Yes, Bennett has made me into the image of a progressive American now, using his influence to get me a job in the conservatory, playing and teaching the oboe. I live in a respectable brownstone in the center of the city and even have a fiancée: Moira. She thinks my slight limp and accent give me a Byronic look. Ha! Me!

I have told her nothing of my past.

Or how I cannot pass a graveyard without feeling the itch of loam beneath my nails.

And sitting here, speaking into this infernal device, which I'm certain you would have loved, Master, my accent thickens, as I hear thunder rumbling on the hillside. Now, I think, if offered, I'd trade it all, all of it, for that dream. For that moment, when you and I harnessed the lightning, Master and looked down at the nighted world. Stunned. Agape.

Crouched at the threshold of a thousand strange and shuddering tomorrows with the Creature's first step...


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