Dr. Frankenstein and the Curse of Self-Awareness: Part II (Conclusion)

If you haven’t read the first part of this story, go to:  Dr. Frankenstein and the Curse of Self Awareness. Then return here for the conclusion.

The phantasm was your standard-issue genie, up to a point: skyscraper tall, with a long, twirling mustache and broad shoulders, but his bug eyes were friendly. Once past the imposing size, you realized he offered a welcoming smile. In other words, the sort of genie you wouldn’t mind having a beer with, if you found a bar with a mile-high ceiling.

I am at your service, Master. You may request one wish and one only. I must warn you, however. The maker of this lamp wanted certainty that no one would use it to cause harm. He therefore required me to tell its possessor this: any wish that would damage another will produce the same injury to the person who makes it.

The genie took a deep breath before speaking again:

OK, now you’ve heard what my maker demanded I tell you. But, over my 3000-year career, I’ve had lots of time on my hands when the lamp lay undiscovered. So, you should know — I took a junior college course in psychology and dabbled with becoming a therapist. What I’m trying to communicate is this: I will give you 50-minutes to discuss possible choices before you decide; breakfast included, no extra charge!

With that, the food appeared. “Wow,” said Ralph. “Thank you so much. I never persuaded Fox to go to marital counseling and she almost never cooks, so this is great! I kind of thought I should enter therapy myself, but never had the time.” Ralph didn’t receive consideration often. His, interest in talking was as much for the semi-human contact with a congenial genie, as to help him decide how to use the gift of the lantern.

“So, what’s on your mind?” asked the ancient apparition. The human proceeded to describe his marital life and his wife’s bankrolled journey to glamour, emphasizing her regular side trips to his personal complaint department. The ageless magic creature listened patiently.

Wow, Ralph said to himself. No one interrupted me.

“Well Ralph, have you considered returning your wife’s body to its pre-surgical status? No problem at my end.”

“No, I don’t want to do that to her. She ‘d be depressed and never forgive me.”

“OK, how about if I make you as handsome as she is beautiful?” offered the genie.

“No,” said our hero again, “She’s never been bothered about how I look. My appearance is the only thing she accepts. Besides, she’d adjust to any change.

Ralph looked away. “I don’t think there is a solution.”

Ralph quieted, despairing. The genie, out of ideas, offered nothing more.
Then the unlikely Master came alive to his power: “You know, here’s what I want. It would be amazing for Fox to see herself in the mirror. Not the outside, external stuff, but the inside: to fathom how self-involved she is and how she is never satisfied. How much I love her, too.”
“One minute of self-awareness, please. I hope to change her forever. Can you do it, genie?”

“Sure, Ralph. Bring her here tomorrow before dawn. I’ll need a hand-mirror, as well. Your wish will be granted.”

Ralph spent an anxious day and a sleepless night waiting for the morning. It took some doing to persuade Fox to rise early for the promised beach visit, especially because her eye sensitivity caused avoidance of sunny places. But she was intrigued by her husband’s request. He assured her they would only be there for a short while past sunrise.
The next day came, while Sleeping Beauty dreamed of a luxury car or a trip to France, either one a fulfillment of her husband’s enticement.  The couple thus traveled in a state of quiet uncharacteristic of her, preoccupied as she was by her material fantasies.

As instructed by the man of the lamp, Ralph carried a small satchel and walked with Fox to the empty beach. The genie reduced his stature to nestle in Ralph’s ear, where he whispered precise instructions.

Our hero laid out a large towel and requested his wife to sit facing the water. The lamp stayed in the handbag, as Ralph removed the glass, asking the beauty to take off her shades, then hold the mirror to her face. “Oh, Ralphie, are you going to put a necklace on me?”

Now came the dawn. In an instant Fox saw not her a reflected image of expensively achieved features, but a self-interested personality in its self-unforgiven ugliness. By the fifth second, she realized how vain and narcissistic she was. In the eighth she became aware of the chronic unkindness she visited on her family.

One quarter of the way to the end of time, a shaft of insight displayed the likeness between the neglect Fox suffered as a child and the identical indifference she dispensed to her children. Half-way through she could no longer justify her affair.
At 40 ticks a psychic bombshell penetrated her defense against the emptiness of her existence.
In the last 10 seconds of her single minute of self-awareness, the once friendless girl no longer dismissed how much she had hurt her husband, who — it occurred to her — loved her more than anyone. At second 60 — crying the non-stop, can’t-catch-your-breath tears of catharsis — Fox’s heart broke and stopped beating. She collapsed in Ralphie’s arms, already dead.

For an instant — enough time for a horrified, heart-rending sigh and the formation of a single tear — Ralph stared at the devastation wrought by his attempted salvation of his marriage. His wish was innocent: to make Fox as beautiful inside as her oft admired face and form; a person whose acquired self-awareness would morph her into the compassionate, loving wife and mother Ralph and his children yet ached for.

But his gasp signaled only the dawn of Ralph’s own insight, just as the genie warned earlier, as unexpected by Ralph as his wife’s tortured demise.

In the first second he realized how weak he had been with Fox; by the 10th, how much he failed to provide their children with a strong role-model. Thirty-seconds on, penetration of the word ENABLER knocked him back into the sand.

Though the day was still new, Ralph’s consciousness sensed a curtain lowering on creation. He saw a sign emblazoned on an antique gate: ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE. In his slow-motion entry to hell, Ralph perceived himself as an indulgent Dr. Frankenstein. He was the creator of a monster, one surgery at a time: the man whose life would have been different if he had learned to say “no.”

At the end of Ralph’s single minute of enlightenment, his heart also stopped. He slumped over his deceased wife, closer than they had been during life.

The last moment of Dr. Frankenstein’s descent, before his heart broke, revealed that he and Fox were not ill-matched at all. In fact, they were perfectly matched, as if made for each other, like a custom measured and cut glove, sewn to fit one’s hand.
Fox could not have become “herself” without Ralph, and Ralph could not have fulfilled his potential to be a good-hearted, but beaten dog without her. An evil genius lay within himself, all the same.

Like two intimately bound elderly people in a long marriage, the scientist and his creation had to die close in time. One could not live without the other, if indeed they ever lived.

The genie crawled out of Ralph’s right ear. He assumed his full height and stood over the wreckage of the magic lamp’s too illuminating wish-fulfillment.

Gosh, this never happened before, he thought to himself. Criminy. Maybe I need to get out of this business. Three-thousand-years is enough. I don’t want another catastrophe.

Back in the day, I wanted to be a therapist.


The phantasm crawled back into his lamp, lost in his own lostness.

He’d been so focused on the wishes of others, he never created a decent Plan B.

The top image is a poster for the Mel Brooks’ film Young Frankenstein. The Arabian Nights Entertainments by Milo Winter, published in 1914 by Rand McNally and Company is sourced from Wikimedia Commons. The final image is a Magic Lamp.