from Dr J Watson to Sherlock Holmes Esq:
Villa Diodati, Geneva
(from the Diary of Dr Watson)
The events of the last few days are even now a blur in my poor, addled brain. I awoke this morning thinking the whole thing may have been a dream, but the hastily scribbled notes from that awful night were still clutched in my wretched hand, as if some greater power would not allow me to let them go.
I hurried downstairs and found the house empty, only a barely-legible note from Holmes saying he and Mary had gone off to the market. However, reading between the lines, I deduced that my companion is keen to drill her on that dreadful tale of hers, banging those monstrous thoughts from her sweet brain.
Back in my bedroom with a much-needed pot of strong coffee, I read over my notes. My almost indecipherable scrawl shows I was clearly drunk with wine and fear, since it breaks off at what I assume was a crucial point in the evening. However, since I cannot at present recall anything further, I shall record my notes here. Perhaps at some future point, I will regain something of these lost nights….
Shelly, Byron and the young Mary are sitting by the window this evening as the storm thrashes the countryside, rain drumming against the windows like buckshot on a tin drum. Holmes and I amuse ourselves with a game of gin rummy, while keeping half an ear on our friends’ discussion. The three of them have for the last few hours, busied themselves writing so-called ghost stories, but it is only now that their discussion is becoming interesting. My companion whispers that I should take notes, so I will annotate their dialogue from this point onwards:
SHELLEY: I say Byron, this was a tremendous idea of yours for us to spend this frightful evening writing ghost stories.
BYRON: Ah, dear Shelley, I am full to the neck with good ideas. Have you finished your mystical masterpiece yet?
MARY: Yes darling, tell us what you’ve written so far.
SHELLEY: Oh I think it’s pretty well finished. D’you want to hear it?
MARY/BYRON: Of course!
SHELLEY: Well, it starts off with this huge big monster. And he decided to go down to the village pub and eat all the pies. And do you know? That’s exactly what happens. The end.
BYRON: My word. Percy, you are truly the brightest star in Christendom. Have another drink…
MARY: What happened next?
SHELLEY: What’s that, my love?
MARY: What happened next?
SHELLEY: That’s it. Finito.
BYRON: Madame, what a talent your lover has. We should hoist him somewhere high and make him do naughty things for money.
BYRON: Sorry, did I say that out loud?
MARY: Lord Byron, let us hear your masterpiece.
BYRON: Very well. Twas on a clear night and the stars were a-twinkling in the sky…
SHELLEY: What astonishing language, don’t you think, my love?
MARY: Indeed. [At this point I detected that Mary was becoming a little irritable]
BYRON: And from the heavens a great cloud of poo fell onto the earth and everyone thereon was poo’d upon.
SHELLEY: Great thundering thundery things. Byron, you are indeed a talent to behold on a wet and windy night.
BYRON: Come along Mary, let us hear your tale.
SHELLEY: Yes, share your teensy weensy little story with us, darling.
MARY: Well, I’ve called it a gothic science fiction novel. The story is initially told by a man called Robert Walton who, in his letters, quotes the narrative of the hero of the book, Victor Frankenstein, who, in turn, quotes the monster’s first-person narrative. In addition, there are several minor characters…
BYRON: Sorry, what? I didn’t understand a word of that – are you writing in some archaic language? A bluu bluu bluu lah de dah de diddly…
SHELLEY: Old Byron’s right, my love. Can’t you just tell us what it’s about?
MARY: It’s about a woman who murders her lover and her lover’s friend with a big knife during a stormy night when the three of them are holding a competition to write a ghost story.
BYRON: [Here, Byron paused for several long minutes] Right. Perhaps you’d better…
SHELLEY: Yes, my dear, please continue…sounds amazing, doesn’t it Byron?
BYRON: Extraordinary…I think we should have it published…
MARY: The event on which this fiction is founded has been supposed, by Dr. Darwin, and some of the physiological writers of Germany, as not of impossible occurrence. I shall not be supposed as according the remotest degree of serious faith to such an imagination; yet, in assuming it as the basis of a work of fancy, I have not considered…
To be continued