A Flicker of Madness (500 words) -1st Place February 2010
'So this is what it's comes to,' Bill thought as he brushed the last of the dirt from Mary's coffin. 'I've come full circle. I've gone from a respected professor of archeology to this- a grave robber.' He hated the job title, but in the end that's exactly what he was doing. When you get right down to it, grave robbing is what all archeologists do.
Bill was in the antique business now. As it turns out, one of the best places to find centuries-old antiques is in the frozen clutches of their original owners. He hoped that was true tonight as well.
Mary Shelley had had a difficult journey from cradle to coffin. Life had been harsh and often cruel to her. Three of her four children died before their third birthday. Close friends had committed suicide. Her husband Percy drowned in a boating accident, his body cremated. Upon retrieval of his ashes it was discovered that his heart had somehow survived the relentless heat of the furnace. Mary had kept the heart wrapped in a silk handkerchief then in several layers of paper, pages of her dead husbands poetry. The heart was said to have been buried with Mary, along with a notebook containing writings that eventually became part of the final version of her famous novel, Frankenstein.
The notebook was Bill's target. He had evidence that the late Mrs. Shelley never gave birth to a fourth child; that while doing research for Frankenstein she took a particular interest in the work of a poet and philosopher named Erasmus Darwin who had experimented with reanimation of dead matter. Mary's fourth child, like her novel, had been a product of her research and indeed a product of her grief. Her fourth child wasn't born, but was created, from parts and pieces of her first three. The notebook would contain the proof.
The wooden lid popped and splintered under the force of the crowbar before finally giving way. The casket featured a two-door lid, which allowed the top half to be opened for viewing. Bill thought of these lids as Dutch doors for the dead. They were his favorite as they allowed for easy access to the residents. The lid creaked on its rusted hinges. He used the crowbar to prop up the lid. Even before the makeshift prop-rod was in place he caught a glimpse of the notebook; still locked in the decaying hands of the famous author. He grabbed the book surprised by the amount of force it took to free it from Mary's death grip.
He stood up and held the open pages above his head to the moonlight. His smile broadened. An instruction manual on how to build a child was what it boiled down to. 'And a picture!,' he thought as he stared, eyes wide, at the faded image of a child. So intensely focused on the child in the photograph, Bill was completely unaware of the child standing directly behind him.