This story is by Eve Garnier and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
4 November 1898. Matthew accepted to be my new subject of study. I wouldn’t think he would agree since he never understood my interest in the supernatural phenomenon until he became one of them. I hope this experiment will get us closer as we used to be when we were children.
The rain was falling on Watson’s Bay. Abigail was looking through the window, a cup of tea in her hand, lost in her thoughts. Watching Matthew who was heading towards the beach before disappearing from her sight, the evening fog enveloping him.
Abigail was always fascinated by supernatural creatures. She never expected to be so close or get the chance to study one of them so intimately. Excitement since the first day had stirred up the blood in her veins. A new experience, a new way of study. It was the first time the scientist had her hands on a willing subject very much alive.
7 November 1894. We had to move the bathtub away from the window. If Matthew liked the view of the bay, his skin started to react to the sunlight, turning him into sea salt. He wrote all his sensation thoroughly as I sketched his arm and took a sample of his skin. I suspect it was a similar sensation than what a vampire feels when they get in contact with sunlight before turning into ashes. I had to reorganise my study room, closing the big curtains to avoid him to turn into a statue.
Sitting at her desk, Abigail was holding in her hands a plier, between it a scale. She was going through the various pages of one of her books on marine life. Trying to compare the scale to the different drawings of fishes that have been listed so far by naturalists. Abigail had plucked a couple from various part of Matthew’s body. She was anxious to discover if he had any similarity with a known species. On the other side of the room, laying in the bathtub, the merman was reading the newspaper. He was wearing a white shirt, had his hair tied with a bow, and half his feet were hanging on the side. His left hand was wrapped in a bandage. The merman was waiting for his body to heal from the mutilation caused by the scientist. One that happened when she tried to get some of the skin that grew between his fingers.
“You are very quiet today Matthew.” She said without lifting her head from her book.
“I’m starting to get a little concerned on the toll this experiment is starting to have on you.” He replied, lifting his eyes from the paper to leave it on the floor. Legs folded back, plunging into the water to only become one tail, which was missing a few scales. He moved to the other side of the tub as she stood up, walking towards him.
“Don’t worry about me,” Abigail replied with a comforting tone. “I’m doing this for you, I’m trying to understand what you are and to make sure that nobody can hurt you.”
“You don’t have to do this; I know that I won’t let anyone use me as a tool.”
“Yet, here you are. If I wanted, I could go push you further.” She warned him.
“You know it’s different; I trust you and your approach.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t,” Abigail said in a whisper before walking back to her desk, taking a sip from her cup of tea.
15 November 1898. Today, I offered to try a various set of weapons on him. I wanted to see which ones were causing damage, which one could prevent his body to regenerate. I’ve tried all weapons I could come across the manor and even from father’s collection of swords and firearms. Nothing seemed lethal until I tried a knife from our silver set. It was conclusive, another weakness he shared with vampires. […] I worry about him, he keeps eating his regular meals, but I suspect that they do not satisfy his hunger anymore. Ever since the attack that turned him, he started to take walks when the sun was setting. For the good of the experiment, I asked him to avoid them.
27 November 1898. As expected, the subject’s state has weakened since he stopped his evening walks. He keeps going through his daily routine to limit the house employees’ suspicion, going out in the gardens on rainy days to get some fresh air. The subject pretends everything is fine, despite my experiments and his loss of strength. I’m worried, I’m starting to see more as an experiment than a human, after all, he lost his humanity.
The rain was falling on Watson’s Bay. Abigail didn’t care anymore; she wouldn’t even look through the window. Weeks had passed, and the conversations remained the same. A couple of days ago, an employee of the house was found dead. An animal attack was the authorities verdict, but the naturalist suspected Matthew to be responsible. He had been in a better state since. She then decided to set a new goal, one she didn’t talk to Matthew about. She wanted to awake the beast inside him. Yet, she was losing patience. She had to go harder on him. Innovating in her methods, she tried electric shocks, using silver bullets, ask for more samples, prevented him from eating and changing the hours of his torture. Slowly, the scientist lost her charm, her sleep and at that rate, she would lose her sanity.
16 December 1898. Subject has shown signs of reluctance during my prior examination. Evasive, wounded pride, they don’t seem to be so willing to participate, I’m close to my goal, all I need is to…
The cup of tea tumbled when her elbow accidentally tipped it as she wrote in her journal. The liquid coming to mix with the fresh ink. Abigail bit her lip to hold any blasphemy to escape from her mouth. Stepping away from the desk to avoid ruining her dress’ skirt.
“You should rest,” Matthew suggested from the bathtub, his legs were coming out of it, an ankle chained to the feet of it. A tired sigh raised his chest. “You haven’t slept for weeks.”
“Silence.” She snapped coming by his side. “You think you can handle everything, but at some point, you will reach your breaking point, again.”
“I told you, I had nothing to do with Mr Hawk’s death.”
“If you are telling me the truth, your survival instinct will have to kick in at some point. Or you’ll starve yourself to death!”
“Abigail, I’d rather die than to be a threat for you or anyone in this house.”
The scientist was desperate, she grabbed a rapier, the blade sliding along Matthew’s neck.
“You are not human anymore; you can’t pretend that if I attack you, you won’t react.”
“I don’t want to hurt you…”
“If you don’t. I will.” She threatened, pushing the blade against the skin, a thin droplet of blood appearing.
“No. Please, try to understand Matthew, I’m trying to do this for you! I need you to help me, helping you. To understand what you’ve become, to find a way to reverse it.” She pleaded Matthew sighed.
“There is no cure, there is nothing to fix, Abigail. I became one of them when I got bitten. Get over it.”
Anger and deception wrinkled the woman’s face as she took a step away, looking at the sword in her hand. It swings in a singing noise aiming at the man’s chest only to pierce his shoulder. A groan of pain escaped from Matthew’s lips. The cry made her lift her head to face him. Realising what she did, bringing her hand to her face, unable to pull back, falling on her knees, trembling.
“That’s enough.” He said in a low tone pulling out the blade before reaching for his chain, crushing it with his bare hand. “I don’t want to hurt you, Abigail. It was a mistake to let you go this far, my mistake. I can’t let you do this anymore, not to you, not to us. I’m leaving.”
“Where will you go?” She asked trying to recollect herself.
Matthew didn’t reply, walking past the scientist, leaving the study room.
A couple of minutes later, he was stepping out of the manor, a bag with some of his belongings on his shoulder. He stopped an instant to look back, seeing the silhouette of the woman by the window.
“Farewell, my beloved sister,” Matthew said to himself, before looking away. “I hope we’ll meet again.” The creature left, heading towards the beach to disappear in the ocean.
The rain was falling on Watson’s Bay.