“Come in here a moment, would you?”
My father called me into the drawing room. He sounded serious but then he always does. He makes everything sound like one of his scientific lectures, and so I had learned years ago that his tone of voice did not necessarily mean I was in trouble. He was standing in front of the fireplace. A brandy had been poured but was untouched. He saw me eyeing it.
“Perhaps when you are eighteen. Which is why I want to talk to you, my boy.”
Ah, yes. My eighteenth birthday was only days away. I had been asking repeatedly to have a party. My friends from the village would love this place – but none of them have ever seen it. My father has always been unswerving in his insistence that I must never bring anyone back to the castle.
“You’re almost a man now,” he began. “I can hardly believe how the time has flown. But I think – I hope – you are man enough to hear what I am about to tell you. I believe you deserve to know the truth about who you are. About what you are.”
It was a puzzling opener, I had to admit. He gestured to me to be seated.
“My mother?” I prompted. This had to be about my mother – I’d never met her. What could he possibly tell me about my mother that I had not heard before? She had died in a car crash when I was a baby – the same crash that had scarred my entire body for life.
“I’m sorry,” his composure faltered. “But everything I told you when you were a boy is a lie. You have no mother. You never had.”
He wasn’t making sense and I told him so.
“Science can do wonderful things…” he said. There was a pleading look in his eyes, so I encouraged him to continue. He had raised me single-handedly; it’s not unusual for households to have just the one parent. “I have told you you never had a mother. The complete truth is you never had a father either.”
“Then who the hell are you?”
“Please try to remain calm, my boy. Hear me out.”
“You’re telling me I’m adopted!” I leapt to my feet. “Is that what you’re saying? If so, then I must have had a mother and a father somewhere along the line. Who are they? I want to meet them?”
He was shaking his head. He made calm-down gestures, waiting for the storm of my reaction to blow over.
“I’ve told you that you never had a mother or a father. It’s the truth, my boy! And now that you’re an adult, I want to present you to the world. My life’s work, the pinnacle of my achievements. I am so proud of you, my boy.”
“You want to show me off? You’re not making any sense! I’m not the first boy to grow into a man. They’ll have seen it before.”
“Not like you! You’re unique.”
It was my turn for head-shaking.
“Look,” he said and he took a fat notebook from a drawer. It was tightly packed with close handwriting and diagrams and bookmarks. “Please, read this; see for yourself. You are a miracle of science, my boy. You will bring hope to millions! Millions of childless people all over the world.”
My eyes watered. I couldn’t take in the details of the pages I was flicking through.
“I’ll leave you to peruse it. We’ll talk later,” he edged towards the door. “And perhaps, have a drink together. A couple of days early won’t make any difference. What do you say?”
I said nothing. He left me to it.
One of the first pages had a drawing of a baby curled in a womb-like bag suspended between electrodes. Another showed the baby with dotted lines around the wrists and ankles and neck and – all the places where I bear scars to this day.
“I shall tell him he survived a car crash,” my father’s handwriting spidered across the page. “Until he reaches maturity and then, if he likes, I shall reveal this list of donors.”
There had been a car crash – a multiple pile-up from which no one emerged alive. Newspaper cuttings revealed the bodies of some children had gone missing… I felt sick. I pushed the book away. It fell open at the title page – my ‘father’ always liked to put his name on everything.
How To Make A Family – by Doctor V von Frankenstein.