I thought she was sick. But after a week went by, I stopped by the office and talked to Mr. Craft, the assistant principal and attendance officer.
“What’s the word on Vickie Stone?” I asked.
“You know, the new girl? Moved in last fall?”
He looked at me with a blank expression. “I can’t place the name,” he said finally. He reached for his file of index cards and flipped through them. He looked up at me. “No Vickie Stone,” he said.
“Of course there is,” I laughed. “Look again.”
“I don’t have to look again,” he said roughly. “I’m telling you, there’s no Vickie Stone registered here.”
I went to the file of permanent records and looked in the S’s. No Vickie.
I asked the secretary, “Did Vickie Stone withdraw or something? Transfer?”
Was I losing my mind?
“Vickie Stone. She was in my second period class.”
The secretary consulted her computer, then waved me over to look at her monitor. I saw my second-period class roster. Vickie Stone’s name was not on it. “Is this an early April Fool, Mr. Walton?” she asked me.
“Yeah,” I gasped, trying to remain calm, “it’s an April Fool.”
Next day, second period, I casually asked the class. “Has anyone heard anything about Vickie? Is she sick? Did she move?”
I don’t really need to tell you what happened next, do I?
No one had ever heard of her.
If it weren’t for the copies of her Papers that I had in my house—and her handwritten notes—I would have thought I was crazy, too. Now you’re going to have to trust me on this next thing: When I went home that night to check my photocopies of the Papers, I found them in fine shape. But the words on the handwritten notes—the ones in the spidery ink—began to fade before my eyes. Quickly, I sat at my computer and typed copies of as many of them as I could. But I could not get them all. In a short while they were gone. I tried soaking them in lemon juice; holding them up to flames. But I could see nothing, not a sign that any words had ever been on the paper. (When you read what follows, I think you’ll understand how this happened.)
A week later I got a card from Vickie. The postmark was so smudged that I could not tell when she had mailed it—or from where. The stamp had fallen off somewhere along the way. So the card could have been mailed from anywhere—around the corner, across the ocean. I would never know. On the front of the card was a picture of Mary Shelley.
And here’s the message:
I know I have some explaining to do. But I will not be able to do it. Not right now, anyway. You’re not crazy, Mr. Walton. I am real. Just like my Papers … real. One day you will know the truth of what happened, but that day will have to wait. If you want to tell my story some day, I guess you can. But, Mr. Walton, I warn you: No one will believe you.
P. S. It’s fortunate that you made copies of my Papers, isn’t it?
I have not heard from her again. Maybe if she ever sees this book—if she’s even alive—maybe then she’ll get in touch with me. I hope so. I miss Vickie Stone—or Victoria Frankenstein, or whoever she is.
I think I believe her Papers are authentic. I know I want to believe Vickie. But then … I sort of have to, don’t I? Because if I don’t, then it’s not Vickie who is insane, is it?