Have you ever been in an accident? I’ve read about people who have survived bad car wrecks and have said that they were perfectly calm while it was all happening. They were sort of watching it—almost like a movie—rather than feeling they were in it. And then, afterwards, they were confused about the simplest, most obvious details.
Well, that’s the way I was in the moments and hours and days after those events at Niagara Falls. Harriet had to tell me—remind me?—about most of what happened. I clearly remembered running toward Gil, seeing him let himself fall into the river, feeling that hand in my back. Then … things blurred. I only vaguely remembered the voice of the creature, seeing Mr. Leon dive into the river. Lying, alive but dazed, on the shore, Harriet holding me.
Things happened swiftly then. I don’t even want to tell you about Gil’s mom. It was horrible at first. All the screaming outside had awakened her. She’d looked out her window, had seen the two of us near the river, and had raced to us, assuming the worst. Because I was out at the river, you see, she thought I’d known he was going to do it. That we’d planned his suicide together. She screamed at me. I won’t write the words. If I write them, I’ll never forget them. They made me feel even worse than I’d ever thought I could.
Fortunately, I still had his note back in my room and, later, was able to show it to her.
By the time you read this, I will be gone. I decided long ago that I wanted to die this way, not the way my disease wanted me to. Your friendship—though that word seems awfully weak for what I feel—has been one of the most important things in my life. This year was hard for me. It would have been impossible without you. I wish … well, you must know what I wish. And I hope you know how I feel. I’m not going to live long enough to learn all of what love means. But, being with you these past months, I know what I’m going to miss. And it makes me so very sad.
When his mom read this, she hugged me and asked me to forgive her. Which was the easiest thing I’d ever done in my life. By then, she’d found the note Gil had left for her, too, and she knew everything.
While the police and the park rangers were talking with me, I was confused about what had happened. I mean, I knew about Gil. But all I could tell them about the rest of it was what Harriet had told me—and, of course, those splinters of memories that I had.
There were some strange things to think about—and to talk about with Harriet and, later, with Father.
For one thing, no bodies were found at the bottom of the Falls—or downriver. This is not as strange as it seems. People who go over the Falls are sometimes lost forever. Bodies never recovered. It’s not unusual. Still, all three of them?
There’s something even more strange. As the authorities gathered around us by the edge of the river, I clearly saw Mr. Leon standing at the edge of the crowd. He and his clothing were dry. Had Harriet and I both been wrong? I eventually talked with him abou it … but I’ll tell about that in the next installment of these Papers.
Here’s something else. Harriet swore that as she had been running toward me on the shore, after the creature had hurled me out of the river, she had seen her father—Dr. Eastbrook—sprinting along the shore toward the Falls, screaming words she couldn’t understand. And after he saw Blue Boyle go over the edge, he stopped just a moment, then hurried on down the road. She didn’t see him again.
Mr. Gisborne acted like an idiot. He actually stood over me by the river and told me that Gil had ruined his trip! That’s the closest I ever came to taking a swing at a teacher. Or swearing at one. But I didn’t need to. Gil’s mom slapped him so hard that he actually fell to one knee and held his head in his hands for a while.
No one went home to Franconia on the bus. All the parents drove up to get us. Father and Mrs. Eastbrook drove together to get Harriet and me. Much of the way home we talked about what had happened, and whenever I talked about Gil, it was all I could do even to say his name.
For some reason, I did not tell anyone about the … creature. Neither did Harriet. We both—without even consulting the other—had told the police that Blue Boyle had just fallen in the river after he shoved me. And that I’d been saved by a stranger.
But not long after we got home—a few days—Harriet came over on a Saturday afternoon, and we went for a walk in the woods at the edge of town. And we talked about all of it.
“My father,” said Harriet. “What we he doing there?”
“I can’t be positive,” I said, “but it seems pretty certain that he and Blue wanted me dead.”
“I don’t know. Revenge for earlier? On Green Island? I don’t know.”
“And, Vickie, that large … thing. That creature …?”
“I know. I know.” We were both silent for a bit.
“Vickie, I saw him run out of the woods and dive in the river. No human can run that fast. Swim that fast.”
“You don’t suppose it could be …?”
“How could it be?” I asked. “Frankenstein’s creature was just something in a book.” I looked at her. “Wasn’t it?”
But I knew better.
End of the Second Installment of
The Papers of Victoria Frankenstein