On a muggy day in July, while Dr. I. M. Nevil was planning on his next act of evil-doing (he had just set fire to a library), he spilled his latte on the morning’s newspaper.
He growled through thin, snake-like lips and mopped at the sweet, creamy mess with his handkerchief. “Wonderful, Igor, wonderful,” he muttered to himself. “Now you can’t even read about what those other super villains did last night.” In the middle of wringing out the coffee-laden fabric — “Silk,” he exclaimed. “Pure silk!” — the article which his latte had attacked caught his eye. Dr. Nevil adjusted his monocle and peered closer at the soggy paper.
His already-foul mood worsened. “That J.K. Rowling,” he said. “I despise her. She was a nobody, had no special background, and BOOM! She’s living in a castle bigger than mine. And she didn’t even kill anyone to get it!” The doctor glared at the brown-stained, smiling face of the richy-pants author and flipped the page in disgust. “And Stephen King! He’s just as bad. Or good.”
Frustrated, Dr. Nevil wondered how anyone without a medical degree and fractured soul could achieve such fame without formal training. “My father put me in a sorts of stimulating environments to ensure my evil-ness!” he exclaimed. “And these celebrities were nothing.” He remembered later that both authors were teachers with the average literary background, but that didn’t seem to count. “They didn’t run around fighting Dark wizards and killing zombies as kids! How on Earth did they manage to come up with some half-brilliant idea that made them cultural icons?”
The doctor paced back and forth in his lush, gadget-filled study, all other matters of evil-doing wiped off his agenda. He pulled out his pipe and clenched it between his crooked, yellow teeth. Continuing his inane bamboozled ramblings about stimulae and the undead for several more minutes, a light bulb seemed to flare to life over his bald head, making the pate shine.
“I KNOW!” he cried, leaping eight feet into the air as villains sometimes do. You might have thought that the delicate, kitten-patterned china on the walls would have rattled as he landed, but Dr. Nevil instead did a somersault in mid-air and floated gently down to his red velvet sofa. While his pupil-less eyes brightened with new thoughts, a ratty notebook, pen and inkwell reluctantly walked across the coffee table and settled in front of their owner nervously, surely remembering what had happened to the last pen.
“I will create a writer!” Dr. Nevil announced. He snatched the writing tools and began to scribble. “He shall be made with equal parts of insanity and cleverness, with a touch of pride and a wagon-load of passion. I will raise him as my own, and like me, he’ll be exposed to all sorts of stimulating experiences that will shape his career and life, and make him THE BEST WRITER IN THE WORLD!!” He broke off into a fit of cackles that frightened the cuckoo back into its clock.
The super villain ended his maniacal laughter, for he knew how much it frightened the cuckoo, and leapt back his feet. “So much to do, so much to do…” The objects in his study watched with fear as Dr. Nevil left his study.
“This can’t end well,” said the desk.
“Who knows?” the coffee table said. “Maybe he will create the best writer in the world.”
The china tinkled laughter on the wall. “I doubt it, C.T., but you never know!”
SIX YEARS LATER.
Frankenwriter tended to his wounds, knowing exactly what herbs would heal the dragon-inflicted scratch to his right thigh. He was a handsome lad, with blond hair and clever fingers to match his words. He seemed entirely normal, but when you look at him and squint, or see him for the first time in a dark room, you notice the uncanny resemblance to J.K. Rowling and Stephen King. And, if you imagined him in his thirties and dressed him in Elizabethan clothing, he was a dead ringer for Shakespeare. There was also an air about him that spoke “distinctly common” and “not too extraordinary.”
This was a lie.
All his life, Frankenwriter had to fight for his survival. His father sent him to strange places to convene with dangerous beasts, meet pretty women, and settle the occasional bar fight or two. The dragon was the latest quest, and with that finally slain (after he tried befriending it and offering to be its Rider, of course), the six-year-old boy hoped for a few days rest before his dad unleashed a three-headed dog and a basilisk in their backyard.
After dressing his wound, Frankenwriter mounted his horse and galloped the thirty feet back to his house (because his father ordered him to gallop everywhere on his horse). He nodded to the closet doors in the porch, which answered with its usual “THE PROPHECY IS YET TO BE FULFILLED!” and stomped wearily up to his room. He half-expected a banshee to be waiting for him, or a zombie to crawl from out under his bed.
“Oh wait,” Frankenwriter said, “that was last week.”
And, like every night before supper, the strange little boy picked up a pen, opened his notebook to a new page, (he was never permitted to have a laptop, iPad, cell phone, or any other electronic device) and stared at it.
He hadn’t realized how long he’d been staring until a thin hand rested itself on his soldier. He quickly unsheathed his sword (which he always had strapped to his belt).
“Whoa, there, Frankie.” His father took a step back. Frankenwriter lowered the sword, which had begun glowing green. “How’s the writing coming?”
The boy sighed. “I’m stuck again, Dad.”
“Well, maybe if you let me help you…”
“No, Dad. That would be so uncool.” (Because even super villain dads can be uncool.) Frankenwriter put the pen down and faced his father. “It’s just that Daphne is shunning Daisy because she likes Derrick who likes Daisy.”
“If you were having problems at school, why didn’t you say something?”
Frankenwriter rolled his eyes, his King features briefly overpowering the Rowling. “No, Dad. They’re my characters.”
His father was silent for a moment. “You’ve never told me what you were writing about. Are they dragon slayers, like you? Oh, I know! They’re training to be dragon slayers! I bet they live in a secluded corner of the world, a place where animals talk through a series of experiments –”
“Dad. They live in New York.”
Devastation crossed his father’s face. “New York? Why are dragon slayers living in New York? There are no dragons on the east coast at all, and believe me, I checked.”
Frankenwriter resisted his built-in urge to curse in Elvish. “They’re not dragon slayers, Dad. They’re normal kids.”
“But – I don’t – why – how.” His father regained his wily tongue and his tattooed forehead turned red in outrage. “I gave you everything so you could be an amazing writer, a STORYTELLER. And you’re writing about whiny teenagers who live in New York? And you know what? I could live with that. BUT THEY’RE NORMAL TEENAGERS. NOT MAGICAL, NOT ZOMBIE KILLERS, NOT TERRORISTS OR — ANYTHING.” He wiped his pupil-less eyes, which had begun weeping black tears. “I’m sorry, Frankie,” he said at last. “But I had such high hopes for you.”
Frankenwriter grinned at his father. “Dad, I still want to write. I just don’t want to write fantasy or sci-fi or freaked-up murder mysteries or any of the things I’ve done in my life. Writing is supposed to be about experiencing new, foreign things, things you only dream about. Since you’ve made sure I’ve experienced just about every possible thing — and a lot of impossible things — the only thing I have left to dream about is a normal life.”
His dad sniffed. “That’s the Shakespeare in you talking.”
Frankenwriter turned back to his desk. “I have to go now. Daphne and Daisy are about to be confronted by Derrick’s older brother Devin. It’s going to get catty.”
Staring at the back of his son’s head, Dr. Nevil managed a small smile. Frankie was
write right. And just so long as whatever he wrote made him happy, then that was fine with him. The snakes curled in the doctor’s stomach wriggled faster, hissing and exposing venemous fangs. Dr. Nevil’s smile broadened. After all, look how Nora Roberts had turned out.
He turned from his son’s bedroom and into the kitchen, where he made a fabulous dish of dragon pot pie (why waste the meat?). He hummed his theme song under his breath as the potatoes boiled. The mention of Nora Roberts made him wonder if he could create the opposite effect he made on Frankie on another child. Dr. Nevil realized that he wouldn’t mind having a daughter. If a life of sci-fi and fantasy and other freaky things inspired his son to write tragic romances, maybe a life of tragic romances would inspire his daughter to write sci-fi and fantasy. Frankie would have someone to play with. Of course, if he were to make his daughter the protagonist in a tragic romance, the rules dictate that the heroic elder brother must die. But it would be necessary, very necessary.
The doctor stirred in a few mermaid eyes with the peas. “Equal parts Nora Roberts and Nicholas Sparks, with an underlying of Jodi Picoult. Yessss. I shall call her Novellansteina.”
**I have nothing against the authors mentioned. In fact, some of them I love. It was just something I thought of — not creating literary versions of Frankenstein, but of being in a writing-stimulating environment. Do you think if you had been raised slaying dragons and fending off zombies, would you want to write about those experiences? Frankie didn’t, but maybe you would. [This was mainly a fun thing to write. So yeah.]**