“And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a help meet for him.’”
Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Trigger warnings: self-harm, suicide, gore, sexual violence, relationship violence
Eve sits quietly by a small, stagnant pool, her legs folded under her as she stares down into the shallow water. She’s spent countless hours in this manner, remaining so still that last week she was able to observe tiny frogs laying their eggs less than a foot from where she sat. She leans over to look at her reflection in the clear water, noticing how her features don’t quite match each other, stitched up with black thread, pieces of five – or maybe it’s six, she can’t quite tell – different faces patched together like a cheap, morbid quilt. She wonders if this was done to her on purpose to make Adam’s life miserable, or if her creator s imply had less enthusiasm when constructing her than his first creation.
Eve gazes down at herself, and the mossy rocks and mud at the bottom of the pool; her eyes shift between the two, blurring them together. The wind picks up, brushing the blades of grass against one another and alerting her to its approach before she feels it on her face. She is distorted by ripples in the pool. She hopes that the breeze will rearrange her face, remake her into something she’d like to be – but before it can, she hears her companion calling out for her.
Eve stealthily leaves her garden, knowing that if Adam discovers it, she’ll have to share it with him.
She stares off into space.
She’s thinking about the frog eggs in the pool.
She lifts her head and looks at her companion. His eyes are old, much older than him. “Yes?”
Sitting across from one another, the two consume their foraged meal of mostly nuts and roots and berries. The packed earth floor beneath them is dry and cool. Thunder shakes the walls of the small hut.
“The human village down by the mouth of the river; I went there this morning. That’s why I wasn’t here when you woke up,” he says. Eve chews slowly, so she won’t have to respond. She actually hadn’t noticed that he was gone.
“Look at what I found.”
Adam reaches into his rucksack and pulls out a book with an old leather cover. The bottom corner is engraved with golden letters that shimmer in the candlelight: Dr. John Polidori. He lays it on the table and starts flipping through the yellowing pages covered in hastily scrawled notes and sketches of various organs. Eve is intrigued, and finally swallows her mouthful.
“Why’d you take this one? I’m sure a doctor would have many books to choose from,” she muses.
Adam looks up from the journal and his eyes meet Eve’s. She can see herself reflected in them and recognizes his expression as one of excitement. He pushes the open journal towards her, tapping a specific spot on the page. She listens as the storm crescendos and the rain pounding against the roof and the ground outside reaches its peak.
The journal contains multiple sketches of a woman, naked and smiling. Her hands rest on her stomach, which is bulging out much further than seems natural. Her breasts also seem enlarged, considering her slight frame. Eve furrows her brow in confusion and feels the stitches along the edge of her temple straining against one another. Her eyes move down the page, to a profile drawing of the same woman. She still gazes lovingly down at her oddly distended stomach. Still more women, smaller and without faces, dance across the page – one with her legs spread wide, something round and enormous protruding from her vagina; another focuses on an abdomen with an enormous gash in it, running from hip to hip just under the belly button. A bead of sweat drips off of Eve’s forehead and onto the page. She pushes the book away from her, as far as possible, across the table to Adam. He’s still grinning like a fool.
“Well?” Somehow, his voice sounds excited, or hopeful or expectant. Eve feels faint.
She stumbles over to the door and throws it open, sticking her head out, hoping that the fresh air and cool water will break through the waves of nausea. Adam’s hand is on her shoulder in an instant, yanking Eve back inside. He guides her in front of the fireplace and makes her sit, covering her shoulders with an old quilt, one that was snagged from the clothesline of a forgetful washwoman. Adam sits across from Eve on the floor, eyes tracing the lines running all over her face. She starts sweating.
He shows her the journal pages again, pointing to the woman that is glowing with pride over the shape of her stomach. Does he not see what she sees?
“Eve. I want this. I want to have children.”
Eve has seen pregnant creatures before, born witness to the birth of many animals in the forest, but for herself to conceive was a possibility that had never occurred to her. She considered herself a woman only because of the condition of her creation, in that she was made with pieces and scraps from the bodies of women. Eve herself was something else.
She feels Adam staring at her, waiting for a reply. Her head is pounding in rhythm with the rain. All she can muster is a weak
A look of shock crosses Adam’s face before it is overtaken by one of sadness and anger. He taps the woman in the journal again, over and over, almost desperately.
“Why wouldn’t you want this, Eve? Is there something else you’d rather be doing?”
Eve watches Adam’s mouth move as he asks her questions he knows she can’t answer.
“Perhaps you’ve forgotten, but I am the one that asked- BEGGED- Victor to create you – to create you for me, for this. I asked for a female companion for a reason, Eve. If I had wanted someone merely to keep me company, I would have asked Victor to construct me another man.”
Eve flinches at this – she hasn’t forgotten. Adam points to the woman again. She’s still smiling.
“This is how you can repay me, Eve, for everything I had to do to convince Victor to create you. You exist because of me, because I want to start a family.”
Eve’s eyes fall from the woman to the floor.
“I can’t believe that you’d be this selfish. That you can’t do this one thing for me, after everything I’ve done for you.” Adam slams the journal down in front of Eve. He takes her face in his hands, an action that he’s performed tenderly in the past – now, it’s more of a command than a suggestion, and her face turns up to his. Their eyes meet.
“Are you selfish, Eve?”
The heart in Eve’s chest is pounding. She knows he’s right – who would she be without him, and without Victor? Multiple cadavers rotting in as many forgotten graves. He releases his grip on her chin, harshly, and she feels one of the stitches in her face rip. Eve tenderly probes the area with her fingertips, and turns to Adam, who is staring out their singular, rain-speckled window – the window that Eve had begged him to include when he began construction on their humble home, to which he had obliged, despite the frivolousness of her request. Eve swallows the lump in her throat.
“I-I’m not selfish,” she stammers. Adam turns to her, still statuesque. She plasters an unconvincing smile on her face, knowing that Adam only sees what he wants to see.
“Let’s do it. Let’s start a family.” He finally grins at her, grins like a madman. In two steps, he overtakes her and covers her body with his.
He’s sleeping next to me now, bare chest raising and lowering evenly. So peaceful. I want to rip his lungs out and watch him gasp for breath. Instead I roll over and move as far away from him as possible without getting out of bed.
I stare at the window. The rain falling outside obscures what lies beyond.
I imagine for a moment that I’m laying in bed with someone that I want to be next to, or even by myself, or maybe that I don’t exist at all; Adam mumbles in his sleep and ruptures the fantasy. Reminds me that I’m here, it’s just the two of us, monsters, clumsily forced together like the pieces of bone and tissue that compose us.
I can still smell Adam’s sweat on my skin. It drowns out the scent of the clean rain, of the earth-packed floor. Lightning flashes. My eyes don’t adjust quickly enough to see anything – it’s just half of a second of blinding brightness.
I sigh. Roll onto my back and stare up at the ceiling. Glance at Adam. Pretend the heart inside of me doesn’t start racing. Try to stop myself from shaking. It was necessary. It had to happen so that I can give him his family.
Adam and Eve. I’m his Eve. That’s just how it is. It’s fine. I can’t stand to look at him.
Eve and Adam. We need each other to make this work. I don’t want it.
Accepting it will make it easier. No way out.
Why else would I exist? Just endure it. I can’t.
Be grateful that you have someone to exist for. That you get an opportunity to live.
Is this worth it?
The thunder arrives, the question left hanging indeterminately inside myself. When I finally sleep, all I see is the journal’s smiling woman. Her eyes are yellow, and her mouth is full of maggots.
In the stolen journal of Dr. Polidori, he describes how the body of a soon-to-be mother produces a certain hormone that allows the skin of her belly to stretch as the pregnancy progresses, keeping the child safely inside of the womb under several layers of warm supple flesh. Adam discovers this through his nightly readings of the journal, which he conducts seated at the edge of their tiny bed, and parrots the most interesting or crucial information aloud to Eve, who smiles and nods and stares, blankly.
Eve’s skin was stolen from dead women. She can’t produce the chemical that allows her skin to stretch as the infant grows. She massages it with oil, like one might an old saddle, to keep it from splitting and cracking, but the child within her is too large and squirms too often to prevent this. The skin on Eve’s stomach is comprised of three triangular flaps, sewn together in the shape of an upside-down “Y.” The stitches that hold the flaps together tightly are straining against the size of Eve’s stomach, and when she moves in certain ways, she can see the red muscles and hot flesh that this flesh holds inside of her.
The disgusting pressure of too-tight skin is becoming more unbearable by the day, and it’s not just around her waist. Eve’s breasts are swelling as well, filling with nutrient-rich colostrum for the newborn to consume when it arrives. They are already full to bursting. The skin covering her breasts is starting to split. She wraps them tightly in strips of cloth to keep them from shifting about too much. Eve has weeks left until the child is due to be born.
She can’t take it much longer. Something must be done.
Eve rises from the bed – something that Adam forbade her from doing weeks earlier, when the size of her belly, combined with her movement, caused some of her stitches to pop. The wrapping around her breasts begins to loosen, falling off more and more as she moves. Eve staggers to the small crate in which her and Adam’s few possessions are stored and digs their dulled knife from the bottom of the crate.
She needs to release some of the pressure. She needs relief.
Eve plunges the dull tip of the knife into her left breast – or tries to – she has to push it against the thick, dead skin for several seconds before the knife slides in. The blade is warm, somehow, or not as cold as she expected it to be. She pushes the knife in enough to create a sizable opening before sliding it out. Blood and a butter-colored, creamy substance flow out, and the pressure lessens for Eve immediately. She squeezes her breast, hard, causing even more liquid to flow out, mingling with the blood as it slides down her stomach and onto the dirt floor to create a sickly pink.
Eve feels better, if a little faint, but she realizes that she could relieve even more of the pressure. She raises the knife over the right breast and starts to bring it down – intending to make a hard, fast cut after learning that her skin was thick and tough when cutting the first breast – but the knife is knocked from her hand just before it pierces, and Adam is staring at her wildly, a mixture of fear and confusion spread across his face, their foraged supper dropped haphazardly from threshold to fireplace in his haste to save her.
The force from Adam’s intervention knocks Eve off balance. She falls, hard, landing on her back on the now slightly-muddy earthen floor. The impact causes her right breast to burst. Looking up at Adam’s horrified, blood-spattered visage, Eve vaguely remembers a passage of scripture; something about not putting new wine into old wineskins.
Adam has removed all sharp implements from the home, hidden them somewhere outside where Eve won’t be able to find them. Not that she can get out of bed, anyway. Around her chest, Adam has wrapped and tied a cloth tightly, waiting for the double wounds to heal. Eve doubts that they will, but Adam needs her to live at least until the child is born. She knows this, dwells on it constantly as she lays in bed, afraid to move at all because what happened to her right breast replays over and over in her mind. She doesn’t want her entire body to rupture like that, to burst open… and…
blood and gore and pieces of me fly all over the walls of the hut and viscera drips from the ceiling and onto my face and stains the dirt floor a dark red-brown and..
Eve has dug her fingernails deep into the skin on her thigh. She breathes in, imagines that the wind that tickles the meadow and disrupts the still pool in her garden is filling her lungs, fixing her. She unclenches her hand, stares at the crescent-shaped wounds on her leg and the blood flowing out. She’s disgusted and in pain.
Adam sits in front of the fireplace, studying Dr. Polidori’s journal to learn all he can about the birthing process before the child is due. She asks him for a drink of water, which is all she can keep in her stomach that is being squashed against her spine by the creature in her womb. He obliges, and as Eve reaches for the cup, flexing her abdomen only very slightly, the thing inside of her begins to thrash about wildly like a caged animal.
The movement causes the dam to break. The threads that were already being stretched past their limit finally give in and snap, almost all at once. The feeling causes Eve’s body to contort, and then go limp as waves of intense pain wash over her. The child continues to squirm, pushing the skin flaps away from it and exposing what lies underneath. She can feel the cool air on her wet, warm organs. It feels like they’re being laid out to dry, like one might do with strips of venison to make jerky. The infant becomes still, but the organs that had been so tightly compacted begin to shift about as they decompress. Blood is spilling all over the bed, lubricating Eve’s insides so that her stomach and intestines face little friction as they slide out of her, the flaps of flesh and skin limply hanging to the side like wet blankets.
Adam is horrified. He considers killing Eve, cutting the child out of her body and ending her suffering. His hands close around her throat, but he pauses. He remembers the child he killed in the forest years ago. The child Adam had wanted to raise to love him, the child that had called him an ogre and then struggled, scream stopped midway out of his mouth as his throat was crushed. Eve is innocent, not even a year old. Eve is Adam’s last chance to be accepted, to be loved. His last chance to be human.
Adam won’t kill her. He won’t.
He covers Eve’s exposed innards with a cloth and leaves the hut. He returns with a needle and thread as the sun sets and gets to work. The child slumbers as Adam sews by candlelight.
“It feels wrong.”
Eve’s abdomen is a mess of stitches and skin and sticky, dried-out flesh that isn’t supposed to see the light of day. Blood drips every few seconds from the bottom side of her protruding belly. Adam tries not to look. He’s not his creator. He hasn’t studied anatomy or medicine.
The pressure inside of her is greater than before – the infant is growing rapidly as it gets closer to the due date – and her organs are stuffed inside of her haphazardly, not unlike the way an excited child might stuff all of their favorite toys into a suitcase before a trip to grandmother’s house.
When she breathes, she can feel things rubbing up against each other in ways they aren’t supposed to. When the child moves inside of her, she faints. She can only drink broth, as solid food won’t fit inside of her stomach. Her intestines are twisted in knots and looped around her other organs randomly.
Eve’s face is drenched in sweat. It’s too much, but Adam won’t let her die. He kisses her forehead. If he loved her, he would kill her.
Adam stands in the doorway, promising to return with an herb or a root or something to be consumed that will ease the pain. He knows of books in the village about natural medicines.
“Expect me back before dark.” He departs.
Eve can’t take it. Slowly, she attempts to stand. Pain screams through her midsection, and she cries out. After minutes of painfully deliberate movements, she’s on her feet. Swaying, but standing. She takes one step. Another. Another.
Eventually, she reaches the door. Eve feels the pieces of flesh comprising her stomach separating, spreading apart as the weight of her innards shifts, but she continues. She needs a moment of peace. She needs her paradise.
Blood flows freely from between her stitches, seeping out and staining her skin and the ground beneath her as she goes. The child stirs, and when it does, its mother must become still to minimize the pain. There are full minutes between steps. Eve’s throat grows dry as she loses more and more blood.
Hours pass before she reaches her destination. Many of her stitches have popped, and she has unwound the cloth from around her chest and wrapped it tightly around her belly to keep any more of her intestines from falling out – the section of it that did come out is tucked between the folds of the binding. The rough cloth rubs the sensitive flesh, chaffing it, rubbing it raw until it bleeds, but Eve barely notices – it is drowned out by all of the other sensations she feels as she limps towards her sanctuary. When she finally arrives, she collapses onto her knees in front of the pool, kneeling as if in prayer. The soft grass and damp earth calm her.
Eve gazes down at herself. There are little tadpoles playing near her reflection. She is pale, and her face is thinner than it was when she was last there – she can tell because the crudely stitched, dead skin hangs off of the ill-fitting frame of her facial muscles. She doesn’t shed a tear. If anything, she feels relieved.
Eve sticks her head in the shallow water, meeting and destroying the self that she saw in the water. The child inside of her thrashes wildly, and Eve feels her belly splitting open again. She loses consciousness, face down in the pool. The tadpoles dance beside her lifeless face.
Eve remembers coughing up water. Adam shaking her shoulders and carrying her home. She felt the needle piercing her flesh and the slight relief as her intestine was pushed back inside of her warm and wet interior before the aching feeling from the pressure began again. Ropes around her wrists, tied up and apart. Adam’s eyes, watery and yellow and so similar to her own, staring at her, taking in the mangled mess of her belly and the thing inside of it.
Eve eventually snaps out of her stupor. Underneath her, the sheets are drenched. The child thrashes about wildly, but the stitches are tighter this time, there are more of them, and her stomach does not burst. She tells Adam it’s time, it’s time for the birth. He heats water and gets clean sheets and does the things that Dr. Polidori writes about in his journal.
The child claws at the inside of Eve’s womb with its small fingernails, scratching her as it is forced out. Eve screams in pain, remembering the smiling, happy women in the journal, the vagina with the enormous head emerging from it. Adam watches. Eve strains against the ropes, and her mouth froths with spit. Blood seeps slowly out from between the flaps of skin on her belly, but the threads hold.
The child stops fighting the birth after a few hours. Eve is thankful that her insides will no longer be torn by desperate fingernails, but the pain is still intense. She cries and begs Adam to kill her, to cut the child out of her womb and end her suffering. He refuses, and sits in front of the vagina, poised to catch the baby when it emerges.
Now, the labor is over. The child is born. It has no skin, and lifeless eyes like its mother’s. There are pieces of Eve’s flesh under the delicate, half-formed fingernails. The umbilical cord wraps around its neck. It became entangled in the womb and accidentally strangled itself in its desperation to stay unborn.
The lifeless corpse lies cold on the floor, the cool, earthen floor. Adam has gone, but not before calling Eve a worthless bitch, a pathetic companion, disgusting, selfish, a waste of life. He ran off into the forest hours ago. Eve believes that he will return to the hut after some reflection and meditation, after some time to process his loss.
Eve stares at the thing she created. An innocent monster. It never had a chance.
Eve never had a chance. She was created out of hate and desperation and anger – an immense burden for one, and an ugly plaything, servant, pet for another.
Could I ever have been more?
She is still tied to the bed, and the child is still connected to her by the umbilical cord – the thing that kept it alive in the womb was the very thing that killed it.
In his haste, Adam left a candle sitting at the edge of their bed.
Eve stretches her leg out and knocks the candle over with her foot. The bed sheets have had time to dry, and the oil that Eve used to rub into her leathery skin, oil that has soaked into the bed clothes during months of use, intensifies the blaze and soon it engulfs all of the sheets and the wooden bedframe and Eve. She keeps her eyes on the face of her child. Her little creation.
The forest fills with the voices of frogs as Eve is burned alive on her funeral pyre.