by Richard S Shaver
(written circa 1970--Reprinted by Jim Pobst)
Frankenskar was a nine day's wonder and a fright when he first came on the scene. Later he made the scene.
Just where he came from and how he got his sewed up, zipped up multilateral and impossible scars was never quite clear at first. Later, it didn't matter so much as what to do about him.
They never did get it through them, generally, that Frankenskar was no joke played by a grisly surgeon. But then, when did the masses ever grasp that there is more to life than watching the stupefying TV screen or gassing about baseball, football, soccer or what-have-you's, such as the latest golf classic? Personally, I could never grasp what the general public grasps about any "major news" fact.
And he was that!
Frankenskar was a major news fact...a fact that occupied a lot of column space speculating as to what was at the bottom of the mystery surrounding his sudden appearance.
Frankenskar reminded one newspaperman of the legend of Osiris. Early in his career some wordmonger got it into his column that IF the legend of Osiris were true, then Frankenskar would be the parts of Osiris, put back together by his doting spouse. He looked like that.
It never occurred to even that newsman that there WAS anything to such legends of immortality, or that Frankenskar actually possessed supernatural powers.
If it had, he would never have used phrases like "doting spouse". of Osiris' goddess wife, Isis. For the ancient gods were always jealous of their prerogatives, and one of them was not to be spoken of lightly, derogatively, or in any manner not entirely respectful.
Even after several news gatherers died mysteriously, it still did not occur to them that there was anything to be inferred in the way of vengeance. They went right on pooh poohing all of Frankenskar's feats, and comparing him to Osiris revivified was as far as any of them got in understanding what Frankenskar really was.
To understand what he was, you have to go back to Lindbergh and Carrel and their immortal chicken-heart experiments. If you were around that long ago, you would remember the news accounts of the immortal bit of flesh in the test tube that just kept growing and didn't die. For some reason, none of them ever wholly realized that Lindbergh and Carrel had cracked open a mystery much greater than even the lost tomb of Osiris.
They proved that given the right nutrients in the right way, flesh doesn't die but goes right on living and growing. But the world of stupidity and vicarious sports paid no attention.
It didn't occur to any of the writers of the time that the legend of the immortal Osiris, who didn't die when his enemies cut him up and strewed the pieces around the Mediterranean, but lived while Isis went Śround gathering up the bits to sew them back together ... it didn't occur to them that it was not necessarily a wild old legend. It was perfectly possible ... if you consider the Lindbergh-Carrel experiments in the light of truth. They proved that Osiris could have been immortal, and that Isis could have known what she was doing, traveling around looking for bits and pieces.
His wife looked as regal and marvelous as Isis herself but Frankenskar wasn't Osiris revivified. And only that one ever drew such a parallel between the lives of Frankenskar and Osiris.
In this modern time we have an infinite scorn for all the ancient ways and thoughts and records. We call them "survival mythology" -- meaning tales for children.
That they were NOT tales for children, but actual records of events that occurred long ago, few people of today ever get through them.
Otherwise the mystery of Frankenskar would not have been such a mystery, and a lot of trouble could have been avoided by paying proper respect to himself, his wife and his doings. But no one ever accused modern newsmen or moderns generally of being salons of wisdom, or even of being respectful to anyone unless they had a gun at their head.
They just didn't realize that Frankenskar DID have a gun at their head, is all.
Not a one of them ever realized that Frankenskar was living proof of life itself. Not a one of them ever managed to put two and two together and come up with the real answer...Frankenstein (sic) was living proof that flesh and age are not necessarily companions in this vale of tears.
Where did Frankenskar come from? He was asked often enough, in the latter days of the limelight that centered on him, after the Washington Incident. But about all the questioners learned was "I have no way to tell you of things you cannot understand."
What Frankenskar said, another time, was (I found this after many a session with the clips and other records of his career...) "How can I tell you that space itself is collapsible as a rubber balloon and that it is perfectly possible to reach through a hole in the balloon to another place and another space and another world?"
I suspect that Frankenskar came from such a place as the Bermuda Triangle, which I hear swallows ships and planes and boats as regularly as a crocodile feeds on washer women in the deeps of the African jungle. He just happened to pass through the other way.
From where the ships go, he came silent, inscrutable, powerful and eerie -- with his eyes like green marbles, and missing no nuance and no possibility around him. He could take the least occurrence, and make from it an impossible event. A jostling kid -- like, suddenly, the kid was on the other side of the room.
It was in the old stories of The House In Philadelphia where you can climb a stepladder and disappear into thin air that gave me the key to Frankenskar's origin. For the telling included descriptions of the weird looking people who climbed down the stepladder and walked into our world...and some of them bore just such scars as those that gave Frankenskar his name.
It was the scars linking up with the visitors From The House In Philadelphia. that gave me the first real clue to the origin of Frankenskar. (Not that anyone else ever bothered overmuch with such links, any more than they ever bothered tracking down some of Charles Fort's clippings to see what truth was in them.) People don't really think, it seems.
Which is why I never bothered writing down all the little things that betrayed the weird sidelights of Frankenskar's life ... all the disappearances and appearances that marked his career.
To begin with, his rest was perfect rest. When he wasn't moving, he didn't move. That was the most striking thing about the big man, his ability to be absolutely motionless. Not an eye twitched, not a muscle tremored, not a finger moved. Like a statue, he could be motionless. And there was something inhuman about this motionlessness that struck a quiver of fear into those who noticed.
It was this inhuman quality that was always most noticeable, and that gave rise to the name they gave him -- as much as the scars. Lots of people have scars, but nobody calls them "Frankenskar." It was originally "Frankenscar," but some typesetter put the K in place of the C, and started the thing in the newspapers. Frankenskar became the press name for him ... and nobody ever got around to finding out if he had another name.
There was a white scar round his head like an evil white worm that gave him his most sinister and striking aspect. It looked as if the top of his head had been torn 1006e, then sewed back in place. One couldn't help wondering what else they did when they had that brain case off. Or even if he had a brain, or some sort of computer installed inside.
He was good looking ... that is, he must have been very good looking, before the scars were there.
But he was no monster, people liked him in spite of the sinister-looking scars and his unmoving, unwinking manner. And when She ... (I called her Isis to myself, but most people called her She out of sheer fear of asking her name) ... when She came in and sat beside him, motionless and unwinking as himself ... there was in fact an eerie dual presence of some mysterious alchemy that caused hushed tones, tip-toe walking, and a funereal quiet, out of respect, as in a tomb.
It was this silence and unmovingness that was their most striking quality, for they seldom spoke. When they did speak, in bass or contralto resonance ... there was more silence, as if people found their words too much to take.
No one could ever really describe for anyone else just why they went to Frankenskar's place, or what went on there that drew them back time after time.
He took a place on the hill above ... an old rambling house, vintage style -- 1910, or so. It was one of those big houses with gingerbread scrollwork and high ceilings they don't build anymore -- no one can afford the lumber, and besides, no carpenters know how, any more.
What went on? Nothing, absolutely nothing you could call by any name, or fit any word to. Maybe telepathy, but there were no particular thoughts you could carry off and set down on paper.
Frankenskar sat on a big chair with his wife beside him, both motionless. And people came, and bowed a knee in an uncontrollable ritual as in a cult center. Then they sat on the floor or on the few benches and chairs scattered about. Nobody talked. They just sort of communed with nothingness. I couldn't describe it in words.
But I'll try. The few times I could get in ... they only allowed about a score in at one time ... my curiosity sort of drowned in a blue sea of strange silent wonder that welled up from nowhere and swept over my mind. It was like watching a sunset and thanking Mother Nature for the sight. But it wasn't an eye experience -- rather some other interior mental organ was excited from long slumber and came awake out of an age of atrophy. Back to life again. You see, Frankenskar and his wife seldom spoke. Occasionally they spoke, with effort and in a heavy accent. But that was only to people they did not know well, as if speech were for people who no brains.
In everyday usage, they didn't speak. Not to each other, nor to people around them. They just looked ... and people knew what they wanted. At first, acquaintances in the very early days of his appearance put them both in the mute category and to communicate with them went through all sorts of shouting and gesturing and mouthing of little words. Then, all at once, they knew. It wasn't necessary for them to speak because they knew your thoughts, and could talk to the mind directly. People aren't used to this, but it is some- thing they adapt to remarkably well, and quickly.
So Frankenskar's silent meetings with his followers weren't really silent. There was a lot going on in that silence, and he could hear them and he could direct an answer to this one or that one without disturbing or interrupting the others.
This took time to get accustomed to, and I never really had the time. I was too busy in those days chasing a dollar on my job to have much real time to spare, and my knowledge of the whole Frankenskar scene was casual and happenstantial. It was only later that it sank in...when he was gone. I had missed the greatest thing that ever, or nearly ever, happened to me just by being otherwise occupied.
I hadn't even fully realized what his non-speaking really meant, even though I thought I'd heard communication in my head. It was so small and still I didn't consciously recognize its nature.
But the non-speaking was the key to the whole thing. They didn't have to speak and never had spoken, where they came from.
So ... only a few days before his final disappearance I asked ... "Where did you come from, originally? How did you come to this place?"
This asking wasn't oral. It was mental, something like wondering to myself, and the answer was rather like an imagined answer ... deep-toned and resonant, but still not sound. And I learned.
Frankenskar answered all right, pictorially. He 'said' "After my brother usurped my place and slew me, Isis gathered the pieces and fled into the cavern world."
There were pictures of that place ... of machines and living quarters of vast size, outsize for normal people ... huge, endless corridors and complexities I couldn't grasp at that instant. There were pictures of Isis (as I saw her) working with the dead body ... and finally of the freezing place ... and pictures of her also frozen and waiting beside him. Waiting for what?
They were waiting for the usurper to die of old age, or in war ... so that they could return.
They waited, as nearly as I could tell from this thin communication, for long centuries frozen stiff in some subterranean, cyclopean place. Then, something woke them. What it was I couldn't understand ... an automatic thawing of the freezer device, perhaps.
Then, once more alive, the two had wandered, looking for a way out of the cavern world, so empty and so endless and yet so weirdly rich with endless food stores and freezers full of food and like one huge, endless deserted hotel. Finally, the portal had opened before them, and stepping through, they had found themselves amid the throngs on a busy street.
That was one version. Later, I found a man who claimed to have been there when they appeared. I append his story for what it's worth.
It was one of those bashes ... a bunch of young people having a time, high on grass, reefers passing Śround and endless talk of the kind only youngsters would tolerate under the influence -- about God and emotion and their place in Life. The "Establishment" was getting its usual excoriation. The witness was there, more or less as a tolerated guest. He carried a guitar.
There were about twenty, ten couples ... with people coming and going and bunching and unbunching and getting ready for some sort of meeting later in a place he'd never heard of, called Blue Heaven.
But all that is unimportant. What is important is that - the ceiling opened with a noise rather like muted thunder. One minute all was normal ... low talk, laughter, a low- turned radio was muttering about the weather ... and suddenly this long, drawn clap like distant thunder, and the ceiling had a roughly circular hole in it six feet wide. Some kind of fluid blackness swirled in the hole, and down through the opening drifted with a slow turning motion, like astronauts in a gravity-free newscast, two people.
A big man and a tall woman, not herself big, but tall and slender, with one hand clasped in the man's heavy fist. They turned and turned twice and then they were standing on the floor, motionless, watching out of dark Egyptian eyes, with a studied wariness, as cats watch a trainer. Nobody else moved either -- frozen like people playing statues. Then the two tried a step or two, as if trying the gravity, trying the floor. The most striking thing about them was that they didn't blink; didn't move in nervous movements that other people accept as natural. They moved and stopped, but when stopped, were still.
What really impressed the witness was the ceiling. . gaping, a round ragged hole that should have been shedding plaster and wooden splinters, but wasn't. Instead, it slowly healed itself ... like a lens coming into focus, the shutter slowly closing ... and the dark fluid of darkness withdrawing like drifting fog, but black. Slowly, the ceiling closed itself, and was again as it had been. A perfect old ceiling, with a slight peel of paint.
A numbness settled on everyone in the room. A girl started to laugh hysterically, but the man looked at her with his heavy brows drawn together in a frown, and she stopped laughing and her face took on a startled look as if she'd just touched God with a finger, or swallowed an ice cube.
The two were wearing Egyptian clothing, as if going to a Fancy Dress Ball, but in that place and that time it didn't mean anything. Coming through the ceiling didn't mean too much either. The eyewitness had never mentioned lt. Some others there had tried, and been laughed at for their trouble.
He was wearing a short kilt, a long dagger, and little else but an Egyptian collar, very brilliant with enamel. The white scars that ran everywhere over his body were like heavy cobwebs, and in places like white manila quarter-inch ropes. But you didn't think about his scars because his eyes would fix you with a glance, and you didn't think of anything but a kind of sudden liking. An awe and a sort of subdued love would sweep over you with as much effect as a dab of water, fluid and awakening.
She was wearing a transparent skirt with pleats, and her breasts were bare and beautiful under her wide collar and lacquered hair. She was neither young nor old. But costume and sudden appearance notwithstanding, what was most remarkable about it was that no one spoke. No one screamed, and except for the girl who'd tried to have hysterics but couldn't, there was no panic. They stood and looked as the tall Egyptian couple walked slowly out of the room, down the stair and away ... before anyone came out of that strange trance of disbelief and awe.
Later I decided to investigate. I found the house, got a stepladder and went up and looked at the ceiling ... it was no different than any other ceiling and there was no hole. I asked questions of the few people who'd been there, and got the vaguest answers, as though they had trouble gathering their thoughts into speech. Which was not unusual in that area.
I learned they'd walked on up the avenue, and had not been stopped, arrested or even noticed over-much. For in that area and that time, weird costumes were accepted as the "thing."
I'd first heard about them weeks later when, in conversation, I heard that a pair of Egyptians had moved into a big house, and that people were going to them. I went. And saw them enthroned on two old captain's chairs in the big living room.
He never gave any speeches, and those few people who found words to say to him received deep toned replies in an almost unplaceable accent -- a Mediterranean accent, that you could not place from this country or from that. People either stumbled out of there in deep mental vacuum, or walked out with a lighter step as if some deep sense of fulfillment had been satisfied.
People went to Frankenskar with troubled minds, upset nerves, self doubts, unsure confidence in themselves and their work. They came away with a different kind of mental attitude; a sureness and serenity and inner peace. Yet there was no exhortation, no ceremony, nothing you could point at and say "that is what does it."
He did it, with his big brooding and scarred face floating above the room, detached, completely alien to everyone in the room, yet perfectly in command and perfectly knowing. He knew ... what was in your mind and what to make you think to relieve the mental block and the tension.
People went into his house and sat down. After awhile they came out again. They never talked much about it, but they came again and again. They always left an offering too, laying something on a table by the door. There was no receptacle for offerings, and the money lay there in a pile of coins and bills. But nobody asked for it, and nobody refused it and some people didn't leave any -- as if they had been refused the favor or hadn't felt welcome.
I think the secret of Frankenskar was in the times. People suffer from noise, too much talk, too much music, too much of everything not "relevant" to themselves. And at Frankenskar's they found no pitch, push, pull, nothing but a chance to be quiet and commune with the quiet and think their own thoughts. At least, that is what I thought before I learned from experience there was a lot more to it than that.
I've thought about it since, and I learned. For one thing I learned that a temple and a priest and a god and a goddess and a religion are all the same thing. Frankenskar was his religion, he was the immortal wisdom, he was like Soirees and the big old house he sat down in was his temple. And those were his people coming to him.
I learned, in thinking about it all, that he was what he was and that was the whole secret. Just as a maple tree is a maple tree and had red leaves because it is a maple tree and in fall flames into color and the next spring puts out new leaves. It IS a maple -- no less and no more.
So with Frankenskar -- he was an immortal, he was his own religion. He did not need to say words or shout imprecations or explain doctrine or say anything. He sat and brooded and allowed his followers to see him and be where he was .. and that was all that was needed. The scars on his face and wherever his flesh could be seen -- a network of white raised lines, were as much a part of him as the leaves of the tree are a part of the tree. He was a mystery, living proof of immortality and he did not need to explain or indoctrinate.
There was peace, there was tranquillity; there was serenity looking down. And from her face, also, beside his.
It was this sureness of Fate and the inscrutability of Fate that Frankenskar gave people. Fate itself brooded from his scarred forehead, and people knew there was a greater justice than of mere man's devising.
There has to be a mystery, it seems. One day he wasn't there any more, the big house was silent and empty.
* Footnote to The Washington Incident: When LBJ called Frankenskar just before his death, he hit the limelight, yet managed somehow to escape the usual scorn afforded charlatans and cultists in the Press. That the former President wanted to talk to him, during his last illness, put the whole thing into italics. That he should send for Frankenskar was one of those things that set the whole nation on its heels, open-mouthed.
It was no great mystery to me that LBJ would want to talk to the only person available who could give some information about life beyond mortal life. I'd already accepted that fact about Frankenskar ... what there was to know he knew, for I personally had come to accept the real, the dark, inscrutable but living face of legend-come-alive that he was.
That they managed to keep this visit out of the press, except for a few mentions in the financial sheets, was a result of the respect for the President's illness. And, as with all of his interviews, it took place in utter silence. So the Press could hardly quote him.