Yes, it does sound silly, but he’s also ten. We’d watched Frankenstein (2015 edition) with our Dad at the start of summer. Now that is a shit film, but Ben was obsessed with it. He told me that he could do that and I said he couldn’t. He asked what I would give him if he did. I said he could have my soul, that he could use it to give his monster personality. We shook on it.
A few days later I found him in his room, white cotton wool all over the place. He’d ripped apart his teddy bears. I asked him what he was doing, he said he was experimenting. Dad wasn’t too happy when he found out all his stuffed toys were now dismembered. He threw them away and grounded Ben.
That was the end of it for a while. Though later that week I went to check on him, he’d been so quiet in his room, I wondered what he was up to. He was siting on the end of his bed playing FIFA. He smiled when I entered the room, then asked me an odd question.
“How long does someone need to be buried before they’re dead?”
“If they are buried, they’re already dead.”
“Oh,” he said, and went back to his game.
“Why’d you ask?” I replied, but his face had already contorted into an angry mess and began shouting obscenities down his head set.
“Dude, no swearing, you’re lucky Dad didn’t take your game away.”
“Get out!” he shouted at me in true preteen form.
That weekend he didn’t get into any trouble, I was asked to take him to the park, which I was fine with, I usually did that. I pushed him on the swing until one of his friends arrived with his parents. Ben told me to go away. I always wished I was the cool older brother, unfortunately I was the geeky older brother that took his Switch with him wherever he went. So, I sat on the bench while Ben and his friend played.
Ten minutes later, I heard the kid’s mum shout out, I looked up to see Ben scooping up handfuls of bark chippings, forcing them into the poor lad’s mouth and trying to bury him. The mum was apoplectic by the time I had joined them. I apologised profusely and agreed to tell Dad what had happened. I didn’t. I couldn’t. If I did, I’d have to explain how he got the idea, and Ben could have spilled the beans.
“What were you thinking?” I asked him, making him walk his bike back to the house, as that was the only punishment I could dish out. He hated walking.
“I wanted to make a Frankenstein.”
I shook my head, wanting to tell him Frankenstein was the doctor and not the monster, but I stopped myself.
“You can’t do what you did, do you understand why it’s wrong?”
He didn’t say anything.
“He’s a little boy, like you.”
“I’m not a little boy,” he said, I sensed the start of a tantrum.
“How would you like it if someone did that to you.”
“I’d love it, I could be like Frankenstein.”
I stopped next to him and knelt down and said, “Do not do that to anyone again. Dad would be really mad to find out what you did. He’d take away your Xbox and you’d probably never get it back. Do you understand?”
His head dropped.
“Ben, do you understand?”
I ruffled his hair and we finished our walk home in silence.
Monday I was off the hook. He was around our gran’s house, being the school holidays. I spent the day at home watching YouTube. I picked him up around 3 o’clock and he was smiling.
“Why’re you smiling?” I asked.
“I did it,” he said.
“You did what?”
“I made a Frankenstein!”
He was so happy.
A cold dread filled me.
“You did what?”
“I win, I win your soul.”
I took his hand, gripping tightly, and ran the short distance back to our gran’s. I banged on the door. No answer. I banged again. Then a sense of huge relief flowed over me when I heard her dog bark from within. Visions of her Jack Russell struggling to dig itself out of a cruel shallow grave had invaded my mind and I was glad it wasn’t true.
Ben wouldn’t let it go though. Day after day he said that he won. He wanted to know when I was going to give him my soul.
“Even if you had made a Frankenstein, how would I give you my soul.”
“But you promised!” he demanded and then threw a sulk.
Today my dad asked me to check on gran. She wasn’t answering her phone. It didn’t register at first. It was only when Ben asked to come along that it hit me.
“I win,” Ben chanted as we walked the short distance to her house. He had a skip in his step.
When I approached the door, I hesitated before I knocked. No one answered. I turned the handle, the door was unlocked.
“Hello?” I said expectantly, while an uncomfortable feeling grew in my stomach.
“What did you do?” I snapped at Ben, pulling him into the house.
“Ow, that hurts!”
I squeezed my hand on his, an anger and panic growing.
“Gran, are you there?”
We moved through the house slowly, calling up the stairs and into the kitchen, hearing nothing in return.
Out the back window I could see her dog dig. I opened the back door.
“Hey buddy, what you doing?” I said to the dog, which in turn forgot about what he was doing and ran towards me.
Ben pulled his hand away and began petting the dog.
“Hello,” gran said, sitting at the garden table.
I was shocked, expecting not to see her alive.
“It’s lovely to see you, I’ve been a bit down recently.”
“Dad asked me to check on you.”
“That was nice of him.”
“Why haven’t you been answering the phone?”
Her eyes welled up.
“Ben, would you like an ice cream?”
“Yeah!” he beamed, completely oblivious to gran’s obvious upset.
She took his hand and led him inside.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“I haven’t seen your granddad in a couple of days, he’s never done that before.”
“Have you phoned the police?” I asked.
“No, should I?”
“Yes, gran, if he’s missing, you should do that.”
“Oh okay. Let me get that ice cream first.”
As we were speaking, I had heard the dog digging. Gran handed the ice cream to Ben and left to get her phone.
“What you digging for, buddy?” I asked, slowing making my way over.
I knelt down beside him, his paws frantically pulling at the soil. The dread returned. Blue cloth was all I saw at first, denim, jeans. Then a slightly dirty black boot.
Ben licked his ice cream.
“I win,” he said.
Apprehensively I clawed at the dirt, slowly but surely uncovering what I hoped was only buried trash.
“I win!” Ben said.
“You haven’t won anything,” I scolded him.
“What have you won, Ben?”
Gran was standing in the garden.
“I made a Frankenstein,” he said.
“That sounds like fun,” gran replied.
“Yeah, do you want to meet him?”
“I’d love to,” she said.
“Gran, I think we better be going.”
“So soon, but what about this Frankenstein?”
She smiled at Ben.
“Yeah!” he demanded.
“Did you phone the police yet, gran?”
“Yes, they are going to call me back.”
We sat in the living room as gran waited for the phone to ring.
“Are you going to show me the Frankenstein?” she asked.
“Yeah! He’s in the garden.”
“No!” I said.
“Ben wants to show me the Frankenstein, don’t you?”
“So, he will.”
I sat in the living room not knowing what to do. Waiting for my gran to scream. It wasn’t my fault. I kept telling myself that. The phone rang. I toned it out. Moments later they returned.
“I promise he was there,” Ben said to her.
“I’m sure he was,” gran said, she was smiling again, “Are you going to answer that?”
Gran hobbled by and picked up the land line.
“Hello Peter, your lovely children are with me right now.”
Gran went silent.
“Wonderful, Ted’s with you? No, I don’t know why he would be so dirty. He says it was Ben’s fault? But Ben’s here. You know Ted’s memory’s going. You’re going to bring him back? Wonderful. He would love to see his grandchildren.”
Ben was grinning from ear to ear.
“I win!” he said again.
That was this afternoon, since then I’ve been feeling a bit off. Like there’s no top and bottom to my emotions, like I’m numb. I need some advice. Is it possible to lose your soul?