An alternate ending to Robert Louis Stevenson's short story, "The Body Snatcher"
|This will make a little more sense if you actually read "The Body Snatcher" by Robert Louis Stevenson.
A summary of the short story by robert-louis-stevenson.org is as follows:
Fettes studies medicine at Edinburgh and works under and lodges with the anatomist Mr K____ (Stevenson was probably referring to the anatomist Robert Knox, who infamously received bodies for dissection murdered by Burke and Hare). Fettes is also in charge of receiving and dividing bodies for class vivisection.
One night, the body of Jane Galbraith, a woman Fettes had seen alive and well only the day before, is brought to the rooms. Fettes suspects foul play and confronts the class assistant Wolfe Macfarlane. Macfarlane confirms it was murder but warns Fettes to say nothing.
After work one night, Fettes meets Macfarlane who is accompanied by an insulting and insinuating man called Gray. Later, Fettes is startled out of sleep by MacFarlane bearing Gray’s murdered body into the dissecting rooms. Fettes is horrified by Macfarlane’s crime, but his uncertainty of what to do keeps him silent. Meanwhile, he gives Gray’s corpse to the medical students for dissection.
Later, when Mr K___ is short of subjects for his classes he sends Fettes and Macfarlane to the graveyard to collect the body of a farmer’s wife who had recently died. The men exhume the body and place it in their carriage, but in doing so they accidentally break their lamp. The darkness begins to prey on their nerves and they light the remaining lamp, only to see that the body is not that of a woman:
“[t]he light fell very clear upon the dark, well-moulded features and smooth shaven cheeks of a too familiar countenance, often beheld in dreams of both of these young men [. . . ] the body of the dead and long-dissected Gray’”(p. 298).
Terrified, they jump from the gig, which continues towards Edinburgh with its uncanny load.
Quotations taken from “The Body Snatcher”, The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Swanston edn, vol iii (London: Chatto and Windus, 1911).
This was a school assignment where we had to write an alternate ending to one of Stevenson's short stories. I chose the body snatcher because it was so chilling, yet had so much potential for a darker, extended ending. Enjoy.
And as Fettes took the lamp his companion untied the fastenings of the sack and drew down the cover from the head. The light fell very clear upon the dark, well-moulded features and smooth-shaven cheeks of a too familiar countenance, often beheld in dreams of both these young men. A wild yell rang up into the night; each leaped from his own side in the roadway. Frozen with fear, the two men stared at the corpse, the body of the long dissected Gray. After several moments of this, MacFarlane grabbed for the sack and threw the cover over its face.
“Wait!” errupted a hoarse whisper from Fettes, but it was too late.
MacFarlane inclined his head toward Fettes in an inquisitive gesture.
“I thought I saw something; a glint in its eyes just before you covered it.” Explained an apprehensive Fettes.
Mac Farlane's hand lingered over the sack for a quivering moment, then decisively drew the fastenings. Sweating heavily, he made sure the strings were drawn tightly, then double checked to be sure. An owl's hoot broke the silence and frightened the two of them so badly the lantern fell, broke, and was extinguished. The horse whinnied in fear and broke into a gallop. As luck would have it, the harness snapped and the horse fled, leaving the two men stranded in the dark with corpse. They stood a moment, unsure of how to act.
“I suppose one of us should go into town and bring back another horse.” MacFarlane spoke rather gruffly.
Neither of the two men said what was weighing upon their minds; who would go and who would remain with the corpse. Another silence ensued.
Finally Fettes spoke, “You walk a much faster pace than I; it is best if you go and be quick about it.”
MacFarlane nodded and began a brisk trot. Fettes turned back to the gig, shivering, and not from cold. The owls screeched in the night; dogs barked in the distance; Fettes could almost swear he even heard the scream of a rabbit who was unfortunate enough to be caught by an owl. The night air was quite humid; but Fettes broke out into a cold sweat. In his gut, he could feel that something was wrong. He looked toward the gig, but all seemed quiet in the moonlight. Still, the feeling refused to leave him. The shadows upon the trees took on unnatural shapes; the feeling in Fettes stomach twisted and hardened until it was a pain so unbearable he bounded toward the gig and tore open the fastenings of the sack that covered the transmuted corpse. A strangled cry escaped his lungs. The sack was empty.
The night, which had already been ominous, now became terrifying nightmare. Fettes broke into a run in the direction his companion had gone. A cloud covered the moonlight; it wasn't long before Fettes fell and went tumbling down the incline. As he struggled to his feet, a low moan escaped from behind him. Fettes turned just in time to glimpse the corpse of Gray, standing behind him. Then the rock came and crashed into Fettes' skull.
The clouds dissipated, and the moonlight shone down once more. Fettes could feel the pain shooting through the gash on his head. The creature was on top of him. He felt its cold, dirty fingers snake around his neck. The fingers began to tighten, slowly, drawing his throat shut like a miser's purse strings. Fettes went in and out of consciousness; some blood from his head seeped into his eye. He saw the wicked glint in the creature's eye, and Fettes could almost swear it was smiling. His chest ached and his lungs begged for air; Fettes tried to struggle, but was far too weak and dizzy. His eyes rolled up into his head and his arms dropped to his sides as his heart stopped beating.
The papers had a very interesting story that week. Two men were found strangled outside of town. They were found with the corpse of a woman they had apparently dug from a nearby grave. Police can only speculate what may have happened to the two men; but it is near impossible to ever know for certain.