By David Walls-Kaufman
I really enjoyed the Liberty Island short story contests because you had to come up with a story outside your comfort zone, and you had to write for a deadline. It was terrific practice for a writer. This was for a “Fantasy Father’s Day” contest.DAVID
A clear day peppered by fall colors. Three veterans sat in the sidewalk cafe in the shadow of the Great Doctor Memorial in the Plaza Frankenstein.
“First of all,” said the first vet, “Frankenstein was no politician.”
“He was a statesman,” agreed the second.
The scribe nodded as his quill wrote.
“No Regent who does great things is a politician,” said the third. “And all the corrupt bureaucrats Frankenstein slayed that day makes him the greatest.”
“The greatest of all!” chimed the second.
The veterans lifted in toast their chalices of purple absinthe. The purple absinthe from Tall Cheops. The scribe bought the best to loosen the tongues of these chevaliers. They wore the black beret with the immemorial gold-green badge. The badge showed the Rook the militia took that day to break the Diet and Ministries.
“Did you men participate in the regicide?” asked the scribe.
“Why yes! For shame if we missed!”
“And Frankenstein led you up?” The scribe’s gaze landed again on the fat gold signet on the finger of the third veteran, the loony one.
“The Great Murderer led until he was struck down. Then up again, healed by his very father! He wanted credit, you see. For the liberation. Was it not His stately vision to capture the corruptniks against the republic?”
“Things were awful under their hand, Scribe.”
The scribe touched the quill feather to his chin. “How were The Troubles?”
“Alas! Dark Oligarchy it ‘twas.”
“Oligarchy is alright if it is Just and bright. But this was vile double standard of Law and risk. One for common, another for those in the top rank.”
“They made it their express mission to destroy the reputation of anything and everyone! To spoil life so no one got along.”
“To keep us at each other rather than at them!”
“Friends even to our enemies before us!”
“Only Frankenstein saw through.”
“Really? Only He?” The scribe writ faster. “With his famous hair?”
“Only He, scribe!” The third sucked the last drip from his chalice. He sucked again, watching the scribe. He overturned the chalice to demonstrate the forlorn emptiness. “And it was more the shape of his head than the hair, that captured his virility.” The scribe dipped in his wool tunic for his coin pouch. “Scribe! Reachest for the pouch? Wonderful! Tis a wondrous day for another absinthe.”
“Aye! We chevaliers are known for our thirst!”
“Renowned, I might say,” said the scribe professionally.
The first waved to the barmaid. “Lass! Another squirt!”
“I’m to go in for the bot.”
“I have a cavalry pension, lass,” said the third. “You could do worse than to receive my Civil War pension for the rest of your life.”
The girl frowned, considering. “Me, a CivilWar bride?”
“Yes, my girl. And mother of eight. Ten. Fifteen.”
She eyed the signet. “And how many kids do you want?”
“I feel I owe the Realm a dozen more.”
This seemed fair. “And you fought at Rooks?”
“Yes, wifey. Aired the shoulders of many crooks at Rooks.”
The vets grinned at the rhyme. The scribe writ.
“Bring the bot, lass, and we’ll tell of the Day, and how the Doctor Father of our Great Murdering Leader saved the Sun that saved the Realm!”
The Rooks stood atop The Cliffs.
The Cliffs towered vertical over the Valley of Kings. Once the Citadel of the Republic, lice from the “best schools” permeated the chambers sufficient to wrest the institutions so that they became playthings for the rich and the permanent political class. The ruse spread through the Oracles, the schools, even the circuses in the bazaar. Each preached the same toxin—life was not worth living, the Realm had botched the world, that Oligarchs were the only doers of Good.
Citizens prayed wise peace could be restored by the vote pushing the ruling class to decency. But, no—the rulers doubled down. Frankenstein became the Partisan champion. His father, Dr. Frankenstein, scion of the elite, friend of intellectuals, begged his son leave alone the natural evolution of politics. Unforeseen popular uprising won Frankenstein the Chancellorship, but he was blocked from authority by the Oligarchs, who enlisted all branches of government to harry the Chancellor’s reforms.
Turncoats inside the dramas revealed the extent of the mischief. Frankenstein took his leadership to the farms and shires. He raised his sword and told of his plan:
“Divide the realm! Let Oligarchs own the cesspool Cities! Common and Partisan shall take the rest. Let each govern as they see fit and prove to the other who governs best. Let Partisan crash the tax and sweep away the regulations.” Of course, Oligarchs would hear none of this. Well did they know the discouragement tyranny brings. When rulers are the winners at every turn. Could Oligarchs leave two gardens growing side by side for comparison? No, they must bite out both eyeballs to stop from being seen!
Frankenstein declared for martial law across the Realm. He launched his campaign with the brilliant speech on “The Cancer against Freedom”, given before the army in the Valley of Kings. He warned against disloyalty of not only the bureaucracy, but also some generals for fear the intellectuality of the Oligarchs had beguiled them. “Soft men bring hard times; hard men bring soft times,” Frankenstein quoted.
Frankenstein then lay siege to the Rooks. The Oligarchs met the siege with the commanding presence of Dr. Frankenstein, who speechified from Pulpit Rock. He begged his son stand down, for he had created him and could not stand this division of the Realm.
“I made you with my own hands, stitch by stitch! Each piece I carefully composed without interference by woman! To make you pure!”
The Oligarchs and intellectuals watched greedily from the ramparts. They figured to shame the rebel leader to submit.
The people in the Rookery and the City hung on each word.
“Father, this life and my talents are blessing’s kiss!”
“Your hair, my son! The shape of your head! They are legend, they are mine! The size of your hands that are known clear to the Sands of Huld!”
“I bless and thank you, Father, for all!”
“Show love, and do as your Father commands!”
“But each must weigh even family against the preeminence of Land and Law, dear Father! What is family without foundation? They are nomads! Equal justice is never guaranteed in the wilds where beastly shapes prey on manly shapes. Without equal justice, Father, society becomes the wilds! Come down and join us for the sake of all Mankind. Your son and the Partisans will show you love, hiding by rock and stream, in field and glade, in cliffs above you—ready to fight for liberty!”
These famous words shook the father, for he was wise. He saw that his judgment was clouded by old favorite intellectuals so wedded to their privilege that they lost compass. The Oligarchs spied the wince in the father’s gaze. They knew they must stop this public humiliation if Dr. Frankenstein abandoned them for cause of right. At a signal, Captain Greide buried deep an arrow in the thorax. The Father’s tongue and eyes glared out before he plunged into the arms of his son and the Partisan captains. The whale bone staves knotted into his fox saved the Father. Thus, the wizard healer patched up Dr. Frankenstein.
Lucky this was for what would happen next.
The people of the City were chastened by this treachery. But they were unarmed. The Rookery Guard was fierce, and the Spearmen spread out with the Criers through the City with the yarn that Dr. Frankenstein was a traitor and so his end was Just.
Frankenstein held aloft his mighty sword, Darlt.
He hollered attack; his generals joined in voice.
The bird world rallied to the call. Swallows, finches, pigeons from the Cities and towns, starlings, robins, grackles. Poured forth they did round the boots of Frankenstein and his entire great Partisan army, and cavalry too. Up, they went along the sheer walls. The Rookery Guard bent back their mighty bows, sending sheets of arrows upon the up-trending regiments. Arrows and spears sparked off sword and shield. Frankenstein, whipped by rage, for his father and freedom, upraised his mighty arms daring traitors to strike.
Strike they did. Many times.
Remember how his head was near torn off? By slicing halberd and arrows? And his right arm. The mighty head hung by a tether, the arm gone.
But lo!—the loving Father rallied from his own death! To kneel over the broken son. Whilst the wizard showered the Chancellor with herbs and waved the healing qi clouds, the father staunched the wounds with plaster from his lab and then sewed them shut. Even before He was fully recovered, the army rose up on the bird clouds, their recovering leader croaking orders in the frenzied attack. Through the birds, the Partisans saw their leader rally wave after wave upon the Rookery Guard.
The Guard fought from every window and balcony. They shot arrows, hurled spears, heaved out furniture and drapes, pots of geraniums from the concubines’ apartments. The Oligarchs were so well conceived in their treachery that they had hoarded all manner of projectiles and weapons into the ateliers and lofts of the Rook.
Frankenstein clawed back to lift his sword and cycle it round to lop off oh so many noggins from the Guard. Swish, swish! Zing, zing! A scythe taking down mushrooms. Off they popped, in vivid explosions of gore, all in the glory of freedom.
The Rookery Guard beheld Frankenstein and his father growing stronger. Dr. Frankenstein ministered heroically to wounded Partisans and they lurched back into the fray. The Oligarchs had few wizards on their side for the wizards feared the Oligarchs and now had gone into hiding. The Oligarchs were caught by surprise since their strategy had stoked public hate against arms and brave men, and had always sought to see the nation die like a babe snuffed in the crib. The Guard faltered in bravery and felt the weight of their spears, and flower pots and busts of old Oligarchs. For the Guard saw the spirit of the rebels. The rebels cut and slashed with the excitement of Freemen when they smell the chance to hit back at tyrants, a chance that delivers a special joy. The eyes of the Guard lit with the wish to fly elsewhere, anywhere but fighting for these masters.
“Hold!” cried Frankenstein at the Guard. “Hold, and thoust wilt be passed over!”
“We Guardsmen will fight into a lake of blood, Frankenstein.”
“Your eyes speak a different language, Captain.”
“Why would you not behead us as traitors?”
“For the world is made better by more good men! And good men are made each moment by their choices!”
“How can we know truly?”
“As a warrior and Freeman, I give my vow! Turn now your backs and invigorate our ranks against the tyrants!”
“May we bear arms after the fight, Frankenstein?”
“Your swords and bows will insure thine trust!”
With that, half the Guardsmen turned upon their brothers. Their brothers faced the moral defeat that whispered in the cauldrons of their own burning lungs.
The sweated warriors huzzahed. The bird swarms lowered Lord Frankenstein upon the balustrade of the Imperial Loggia. The Oligarchs, watching from the luxurious interiors, let show the hatred in their eyes. Frankenstein’s boots strode across the loggia awash in blood and bodies, the latter festooned with arrows and mortal slices. He snapped out his own silk from within his breastplate and dabbed at his neck wound.
“Gather up the Oligarchs,” he ordered.
Much protestation issued from within as Partisans and Guardsmen rousted out the unctuous hedonists from their hiding spaces. Out they came, with their wives and other sex playthings, draped in inestimable wealth.
Frankenstein glared, holding his neck wound.
“You betrayed the nation, the Republic. You are an infestation, with no wont but to destroy what others create to bend to your purpose. You are the infinite siren song of trouble, and today your constant complaining shall end.”
All citizens nodded. No one was safe so long as a single Oligarch serpent lived, cutting inroads in future unhappiness.
“Good people assume all are on the same page to make the world better. That none would sabotage that which is true enough to serve human comfort and need not be rebuilt. But your cult’s only concept of society is the one over which you hold exclusive tyranny, no matter the cost to the rest. Anything short of that, you exhaustively undermine to attrit and throw your cloak over the shoulders of power.”
“You know not what of you speak, Frankenstein,” answered Calumbri, the Exchequer, and their leader. “None of your fool words is true! Solve this crime against democracy by restoring us to full power and you and the common shall live well!”
Frankenstein rubbed his famous, stitched chin.
“Calumbri, thou art a singleminded race. The stench of blood in the Rookery is no presentment for the doing of nothing. It is the death sentence of you all.”
“What does this mean?” Calumbri doubted this fate. “No trial?”
A trial meant lawyers. Lawyers were allies.
“What trial or examination did you ever give to anyone or any notion of morality beyond the high walls of your self-obsession?”
“You are not human, Frankenstein!”
“More human than thou, Exchequer. Ask the men.”
“They will say what you wish! You hold the axe!”
“Yet they sheathed arms. They quit your fight. Any sane traveler coming upon this scene would appraise the image opposite to you, Calumbri.”
The Captain of the Guard stood with a boot upon the dais.
“It is as Lord Frankenstein sayeth, Exchequer. You whore to your own disease. Who trusts thee? What haven’t thou ruined? Farms? Commerce? Your only defense against egregious proof is the baton of intimidation. Our only sure wager is to execute you off until the remainder see their fate upon the City wall and swear upon their children never to wander even to a political opinion for fear of death.”
Frankenstein leaned upon his sword hilt. “This is wisdom!”
“You are a traitor, Renfield!” Calumbri yelled.
“Not to my family and men, rabbit.”
“No more wasted words,” Frankenstein declared. “Bring them to the parapet and line behind them with stout halberdmen. Let free Partisans swing free and sacrifice the corpses into the Valley of Kings until they slip on the blood or grow weary of arm. And let us all sing and dance, dine and drink at the doing. Let the apartments of these pimps be turned out so the jewels may be dealt to the soldiers and the poor.”
The scribe pulled back his robe sleeve.
“We piled the gold, gowns, crowns, rings, candlesticks, sconces, satin undergarments, coins, paintings, tapestries upon the loggia until the blood rose between the tiles to a level that threatened the dainties.”
“Then,” said the third veteran, twisting his signet, “we prepared a pallet so to raise up the wares from the red drool, and then kept stacking and hacking.”
“Gloriously granting to conceit its just reward!”
“Frankenstein, great King that He was, claimed for the satisfaction of his own blade the top seven miscreants against the republic.”
The poor scribe shook his wrist.
“Please! Chevaliers, I cramp!”
The veteran’s laughed.
The barmaid had drawn nigh to partake of the history. Her suitor smirked much at her and boldly lay his arm around her hips. Such the twinkle of wit was he that the lass let him do it. And she plopped her fair hand atop his beret as if atop the bean of a faithful spaniel. Quite the couple did they strike!
“You should have heard we Partisans exult as mighty Frankenstein dispatched each miscreant,” informed the first. “‘Twas the song of Republic!”
“And in true form of the dramatist,” said the spaniel, “he sacrificed the juniors first to make way the excitement of executing the top rank!”
“Brooms pushed gore out the parapet rainspouts.”
The third again fondly twisted the signet ring. The second pointed the ring out to the barmaid. “That ring, lass, was gifted to George from the King himself.”
“Aye,” said George, smiling in his beard. “Me arm come off just like Dr. Frankenstein’s son. But I didn’t stop swinging with me left. We found an arm good as new, and the wizard sooth-said upon it and touched it with a dash of braised flox, then Dr. Frankenstein stitched me with the same gold thread as erected his boy from dead parts!” George squinted up at the statue to Dr. Frankenstein in the square.
The bot clicked out another round of absinthe.
“The Sire of the Realm, lass,” said her future husband. “For when he battened down the head of his son that fateful battle, Good and Evil saw how Good that day would find its way through to shine upon thee and me!”
The lass caressed the old face.
“You are a shining batch of history, ain’t you?”
“True as me love for you, girl.”
“And how many spuds is it you want?”
“As many as will fit, lass. As many as will fit.”