Anthony Gomez III

An Ocean Full of Frankensteins


Anthony Gomez III is a PhD student at Stony Brook University and is based in Brooklyn, New York. He is an emerging Mexican American writer with pieces forthcoming in Shenandoah and The Bookends Review. Read more at

The witch was not a witch, but she might have been.

That was what Gabriel first told me over the phone when he called and said there was a story he needed to tell despite the hour. I urged my former student to calm down, which did nothing because he proceeded to speak long into the night and while I sometimes put the phone down to make a cup of coffee or take a break, I learned enough to relay the story here.

Gabriel finished walking into a town from the dirt road, his clothes still clean. Later, this detail would let everyone in town know he journeyed only a short distance to their withdrawn place. Their assumption was accurate, as this academic was dropped onto the path from a car with less than a quarter of a mile to go.

The first sign of activity came from a large group of children on the outskirts. Six or seven—or maybe more—ran around like a pack of dogs, roaming whole grounds without a care of what was in sight. He waited for them to pass, watching a small cartoon-like pile of dirt build into the air. There was just one straggler left: a young boy who ran with both arms flat out in the air and his head craned to the side. Frankenstein’s creature was seemingly out to catch and get them.  

After the dirt died down and the child disappeared, he continued on, reaching the center with a few short nods to the several men he passed. He went inside the first open cantina where a woman, with the beauty natural only to older age, sat alone in the far corner and a single gentleman worked the bar. Gabriel mentioned here that many of the seats were up on tables, and the impression of dust around each chair led him to think the place was used to few patrons. Even in this state, the cantina was a beautiful and odd sight. Straight to the back the wall was a stark yellow. Orange created a wonderful mismatch on the adjacent side. The wooden bar was held by patterned tiles of kaleidoscopic eyes.   

His hand went onto the bar just as a thin napkin came down.

“Sorry,” he said, speaking English from habit. Not having been to his home country since infancy, Gabriel struggled to produce anything that seemed a sensible Spanish sentence.

The barman straightened the napkin and placed down a glass without ice. He left Gabriel to return to the woman’s table, pulling the chair out for her. As the barman put an arm on her back before letting her fade around the corner, Gabriel brought the glass to his forehead and held it there. Despite the lukewarm temperature he enjoyed the sensation.

“Hola, señor.” The barman called back. “¿Qué deseas?” Gabriel ran through the latter question, concocting a response. The delay must have reminded the barman about the brief English spoken. He switched languages, his voice dropping. “I’m sorry, sir. What can I get you?”

“Just a water, please.”

When the barman failed to reappear, Gabriel had to remind himself that such a simple thing might be hard for a place like this. After a dozen minutes or so, Gabriel stood and looked beyond the backdoor, seeing no one in an empty kitchen. The glass, now empty, brought no further comfort to his forehead. He held it there nonetheless as he walked to the cantina’s edge. From here, he regarded the nonworking fountain that decorated the center. Far above and past it, he thought he could make out a large cloud of dirt.

It must be those kids.

Soon enough, he was proved right. Their small group ran by and in the distance, the same boy, arms still held up, trailed several feet behind them. He was a fast one, and he might have caught them if he did not stop and turn with the same horror-film posture toward Gabriel.

“Go!” Gabriel shouted. “Vayas!”

The boy ran on.

Gabriel stepped further towards the center fountain and watched the boy resume the chase. His figure grew increasingly small. And then, there was nothing to see nor hear, save the quiet of the Earth.

Down below, the fountain was filled with signs of neglect. Within its walls there was plenty of trash, some of which seemed to indicate the personal and private memories of the town and its citizens. Those he would never know were strangers in the ripped photos. Announcements to events gave an impression of life that appeared contrary to what he had so far seen.

At the same time as this thought greeted him, the world started to vibrate, shaking from a sudden culminating progression of people, comparable to a roaring fútbol field. Out from one alleyway he saw a single man.

Then, they all seemed to come, all the town’s adults in one progression.

Running ahead of everyone, a man, dressed in a button-down vest, looked ridiculous. Each wing of the vest flapped open in the wind. Even if he could not see his face, the attire made Gabriel aware of who led the pack. The barman. With each pause, the man would point to where they needed to go.

He was leading them towards him.

Gabriel might have felt scared, might have embarrassed himself on the spot if the crowd had not adopted a slow walk. The thought that came to mind was Night of the Living Dead. How could one stay terrified of zombies that move so slow? The undead were there, but shouldn’t you then outrun them, outpace and flee them?

Gabriel agreed about the poor scares, but he conjectured over the phone line that the site of the undead was also likely to make one stuck—just as he was. It’s a terrifying thing to not know how to move, he confided.

The barman eased some tension when he waved a hand and continued ahead of the group.

“Necesitamos hablar.” In his curiosity and lapse into shock, he could not translate even this basic message into a sentence he might understand. The barman kept going on in Spanish, forgetting the similar trouble of interpretation that occurred earlier. When he stopped speaking, everyone’s eyes were directed toward Gabriel. They seemed to await an answer.

None came.

A hand shot from the middle and surged through the sea of people. It belonged to a woman with dark hair and a determined face.

“We are here—well, they are here—to know if you intend to take a look,” she said. Her words were in a fluent and musical English capable only from a non-native speaker.

“To take a look?”

“Yes. Jorge says he believes you are here to see if help is possible. No living being would come otherwise.”

Jorge must have been the barman’s name because he smiled at the familiar sound. Gabriel though, was unsure of what she meant, unsure of what position they confused him for. His real reason for coming was isolation.

“I don’t know what he told you. But I am not a professional for the government of any kind. I am an academic. I just research things.”

“So surely you’d want to see this.”

Gabriel imagined getting away. Yet, what then? The town would definitely take him an intruding outsider. The whole town would feel exploited for coming together to see the man who was not what they wanted. No, there was no getting away. Maybe this is how those zombies work, Gabriel offered under a brief laugh. Eventually, you just accept that you can’t get away.

“Alright. Can you tell me, in your own words, what I will see?”

“Today? Two sisters—witches. Carried to us by the ocean.”

No uncertainty transpired within her statement. However much he felt the description ludicrous for the commotion, he also thought it was wrong and impossible to deny so many people’s belief.

“Very well,” he said. “I suppose we can go.” The woman turned back and spoke, a great sigh of relief went across the faces he could see—smiles and short laughs to break the tension. Jorge came up to him and placed an arm on his shoulder. This time, he remembered to speak English to the outsider.

“I have to go. When it’s done; I can serve you.”

“If you’re ready,” the woman added, and Jorge dropped his arm and left.

Gabriel followed her out of the town square and onto a street that showed nothing but the backs of short and spaced out buildings. Little coverage from the sun made the walk hot and harsh. Moving on, he guessed these houses at the edge were abandoned, enclosed by wood. The woman was ahead, and he could see the crowd diminishing, though many persisted behind him.

The wide street they were on continued straight even as the buildings, the last remnants of the town, disappeared and the flat cobble road became a grass filled path. Suddenly, the smell of salt and the sudden cooling told him to prepare for a new start.  

Sure enough, the extra steps opened him to a calm and dark blue. Lost in the thought, he snapped himself awake to see the woman had already stopped. Gabriel hurried to her, watching the glimpse become the expanded image of the terrifying ocean. The town’s people were no longer following, waiting where the road transformed. Judging those he could still see, something had changed. The enthusiasm from earlier, if it was still there, was hidden within faces that hid away. He was reminded of children scared to confess their mistakes.

“They don’t know what to expect by sending you down,” the woman said. They were on top a steep cliff and the shore itself remained concealed.

“Do you have an idea?”

“I don’t think you can do much but learn and see. Admit that it is happening.”

“What makes you so unafraid?”

“These girls are familiar.” Gabriel saw there was a way down besides jumping to one’s death, a windy wooden stairwell that could just about squeeze one adult down. “And they are reminders.”

The woman moved down the stairs. Unsure when to go, he waited till the creaking stopped. Waves crashed without rhythm, becoming the uneven tempo to which he stepped.

“What do they remind you of?” he asked while moving. 

“Myself!” she shouted. It was just the voice without the body because he refused to look away from each step. 

“And who are you?” There was no answer yet. The question hung in the air. It was only when his first foot came off the stairs and touched the sand that her voice reappeared.


“Well, thanks for being here, Gloria.”

“We will see them just over the ridge.”

The ocean’s waves, so strong and active, now gave the impression of ease, a constant touch upon the ground that could send him to sleep. It was a quality that did not match the trouble of wading through the sand in his shoes—sinking and dragging his step up and over to kick sand in all directions.

Each time he came close she moved on. The distance never became too much; he could always make out her profile and take the time to gather details about his guide.

Gabriel told himself to remember the way she focused upon the ocean. To follow her gaze and recall the waves; how they started far away and built themselves up, and how they crashed along the sand, stretching out like a hand that fell just short of reaching them. But what most fascinated him was how she walked on the shore itself. Washed away were the several small footprints she made. The steps were clear, always evenly spaced apart; a natural trace upon the natural Earth while behind him, there was the block and odd shapes he made.

He stopped to take his soaked shoes off, which he threw to the sand. Now, he too could feel the world’s cold touch.

“You said that they were witches,” he called out. “Is that why the town was so afraid of them?” For a moment, he wondered if the ocean covered his voice when there was no response. Instead, Gloria kept on, stating her answer in a calm voice and letting the wind carry it back.

“Maybe a little.”

 Gloria had stopped. He came within reach of her. As a wave retreated, he could see two bodies just ahead. Gabriel and Gloria continued on side by side until they were upon them.

Sisters may have been correct, but the term did nothing to prepare him for how identical they were. Twins, perhaps. He bent low to see the same tabasco dress on both. A dark skirt covered their bottom half, stopping short at the ankles. Both their feet were clear, washed by the sea. The white off-shoulder top of their traditional dress was pierced from the water. He could see part of their naked body beyond the cloth, and within the shirt were three deep cuts. The wound was harsh, and the thought they were both alive for such pain made the sight worse.

Gabriel plunged his left hand into a passing wave, letting it wash away any dirt on his hand. Only after it was clear did he return to push the hair aside the woman closest to him. Then, he repeated the movement and did the same to the other. Each sister’s eyes, all still open, were grey.

He returned to Gloria, who stood away all this time.

“I don’t understand,” he said. “How could anyone think those poor things are witches?”

“Because they’re the only two who have shown up intact.”

“Only? There are others.”

“I have seen several girls. So yes, there are others.”


“Too often.”

When he looked back to these two supposed witches, he noticed how the water spread around them, as if refusing to touch them. Thinking it was a coincidence he watched again, finding the same result. Gabriel wanted to speak about it, to urge Gloria to look, when an interruption came.

The rush of laughter and indiscernible noise that collected and grew.

“I don’t know what to do,” Gabriel said. “Why have me come? Why not just send you?”

“Young women are dying. They don’t know what to do. They don’t want to admit their helplessness to themselves. To them, sending a stranger was the best plan in some time.”

Gabriel could see shadows form against the horizon. The same seven or eight children ran at full speed, water and dirt scattering. Their voices carried the rough and quick tongues of the young, making it hard to make out any word. This was not all of them, as his monster caught up, a minute behind. The boy’s arms were not up now, and his pace slower than the others. Rather than sliding into their circle around the two bodies, this boy went to Gloria.

“Sí, lo mismo,” she told him.

Gabriel stood away and saw the other boys and girl bend low, grab on, and stand up straight until one body was off the ground. Like ants, tiny steps carried them far and they were roaring beside the coast. The boy who played Frankenstein’s monster lagged behind, keeping his head down and his pace slow.

“He feels it more than the others because he knows,” Gloria said.

Could the boy know either of them? No, he hoped. There were simply others who washed up here.

Gloria came to him and placed an arm on his shoulder to stir him back from reverie.

“This will go quickly with you here.” Around the bend, the children all disappeared. The body left behind seemed wrong—lonelier. Gloria went behind the woman and reached underneath her arms. Before she lifted her up, she offered another thought: “There has never been two on the same day.”

He grabbed the woman’s legs and they moved parallel to the waves. Water dripped off the woman’s body, falling to the ground like tears. When he looked back, the tide was rising. Already it covered the impressions on the sand of where those two had laid.

A small house appeared. It was at the exact edge of the coastline, under where sea cliffs rose and prevented further movement. Despite being the middle of the day, two lights were on inside. The sharpness of old flame lamps, hovering at the windows. The children were waving their hands to urge them on.

Gloria, from routine, stepped around shells and pebbles, guiding him to a clean patch of sand where her companion rested.

“Thank you, señor,” she said.

“What will you do now? What will…” He stopped his thought because the children all turned to him. Their heads looked up in curiosity. Maybe they were curious about his speech. Maybe they were simply curious about Gloria’s helper.

“I’ll put them to rest. There’s never been two though. Never even been one so whole.”

“I’m sorry?”

The boy who always stood away from the group stepped close and tugged at Gloria’s shirt.

“No lo sé,” she told him. Even Gabriel, in the heat of everything, recalled the phrase he used so many times. I don’t know.  

Gabriel took another glance at the two women. Their eyes, still grey, seemed to look out to the left, toward the child and Gloria. She gave the boy a hug, and he squirmed out. Those arms of his wiped at his eyes.

“The child will walk with you back.”

“And should I come back later?”

“You would be the first. But now walk back, and please make sure the boy is okay.”


Returning to town, they were greeted by the growing cold of a disappearing sun. It was already out of sight, falling below that deceptive western ocean. No people remained to greet them and not much could be heard past the passage or in the town center. With no specific idea, he headed toward the cantina, hoping Jorge might know where the boy was to go.

As they approached this beacon of light on a dark block, the pain at his feet began to burn.

He had forgotten his shoes on the sand.

Once again, the place was empty—not a soul in sight. In the same seat as the morning, he waited for the proprietor. The boy lifted himself up in steps, first by placing a foot on the stool’s bracket, then elevating his weight up and onto the seat. He was too small to sit up and stare, so he sat at the very edge and rested his head on the bar itself.

This time though, the wait was not long. Jorge appeared from the back door with two glasses already undergoing condensation.

“Hello, amigo. We were not expecting you so soon.” One glass appeared by him and another by the boy. “And you,” he said to the child, “you know she’s going to get upset—oh, look at that. You got me speaking English, Gabriel.” Jorge shook his head and smiled so his next words appeared less serious than before. “Ve a ella, Carlos.”

Carlos slid off the seat. Instead of rushing off though, he stopped and stared at Gabriel, as if searching for something in his expression.

“¡Ve a ella!”

Both arms came up, stretched out into the air. The right arm fell down, and then the left, both perfectly straight against his body. He walked on in jagged steps, like he was learning to move for the first time.

“He’s been watching to many old monster movies. Maria, says, ‘they’re black and white, what harm can they do.’ You see the result.”

“He’s your child?”

“No. He was my sister’s.” Jorge fell quiet and went down the bar to clean a nonexistent mess. “Down there,” he said with his back turned. “What happened down there?”

“I don’t know. I offered help, but there was nothing much I can do.”

“Well, Gloria will take care of it. She always does.”

“Why her? What help can she do that is so unique?”

“The bodies have shown up for some time, señor. Poor girls. They are almost always nameless and alone. At first, we journeyed out into other towns to see if we could find anyone who knew them. When that proved hopeless, we started to bury them. Then we started digging here and at the cliffs. We asked for help. But we are too far down, too unremembered. Then Gloria washed ashore. We were by then exhausted. It was the kids who saw and told. Carlos said there was a strange woman by the others, the ones we left for the ocean to take back. I ran to see if anyone would join me but was forced to rush down alone with the children. They pointed the way and I saw her. She was not lying there. She was sitting, looking out into the ocean.”

The town center was so hushed Gabriel could hear someone’s steps approaching for some time. It was the same woman he first saw inside the place. Jorge went around the bar with a large smile on his face and placed an arm around her shoulders. Gabriel mentioned to himself that this must be Maria. Her hair fell over her face, but it wasn’t enough to cover the smile she returned him.

“Carlos?” he asked her.

“En casa,” she replied. She waved a hand for Gabriel. “Hello.”

Without moving from his position, Jorge went on.

“Gloria set up in the house that was empty for too long. She persisted down there alone, not typically coming into town. I warned the children not to go, but you tell a child something like that and…well, they came back safe each time. She was a witch the town claimed. It didn’t matter, they accept a witch when she hides death.” Maria placed a hand over Jorge’s, and she finished his story.

“The women of this country disappear. The men especially were glad to turn an eye. We didn’t talk to her when maybe we should have. Jorge would go to the cliff and walk down; he would see her back on the beach. He would see bodies wash up and watch her pull them away.”

“Then why come up now? What was so different?”

“I don’t know,” Jorge said. “She came up yesterday and said she would need an outsider’s help. There were two sisters, she told us, and they were witches.” Jorge stopped, as if only now wondering why he didn’t consider Gabriel’s question prior to now. “Then you showed up.” Jorge looked at his partner and watched the long yawn.

“It’s unfortunately no longer safe for her to walk alone. Even in a small town like this. I’ll be back to close; don’t hold up for me.”

Gabriel sipped his water, thinking it strange to sit in a cantina that was not his, without a soul to give the place a semblance of human solidity. Tired from the day he loosened his tie and let it unravel to the floor. Yet, there would be no sleep tonight. Words on the page could not rest his mind.

He had to return to the beach.

Emerging from the lit cantina out onto the dark street told him that this must be what it feels like to enter the world for the first time. There were no streetlights, only several small halos in various spots from people’s homes. He relied on the memory from the day. When he escaped the alleyway to reappear at the cliffs, the light was slightly better. Enough of the world reflected off the ocean to grant him sight where he walked. Down the windy stairwell and back onto the sand, where his feet sank from the weight, he cared only about going forward.

Where there were two bodies at daylight, there was the ocean air and ocean sounds. So, he kept on.

Like earlier, Gloria’s house appeared all at once, a shadow within something darker. From here, he could see two beady eyes of light beaming in the window. It was hardly strong—a speck against the world.

“Do you not sleep?”

Gloria appeared on the porch as a silhouette. A grinding and turning of a gear screeched from her hand until a small ember appeared within a small glass lamp. She was not entirely clear to see, but he knew she was guarded. Of course, he told himself: why would she not be afraid of a random man?

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I came down for the ocean to end up here.”

Gabriel, his eyes adjusting to the lamp, looked down toward the patio to see what he wanted. What was there surprised him—nothing.

“They are gone?”

“Yes. The town knows I take care of it. I told you too, didn’t I?”

“But why? How could you get the whole town to turn an eye?”

“You think I did that? No. You’re just like the others. You hurt people and when you want to know about the suffering it’s only for your satisfaction.”

“Hurt? I haven’t hurt anyone here.”

She gave no response. Gloria pulled the door open to reveal a home filled with a yellow and orange glow. Gabriel, as if knowing there was no recourse to flee now, crossed that threshold. His voice on the phone started to shake as he described going inside like enduring the atmosphere within a Munch painting.

A rush of impressions entered his mind. The lamp on a wooden table with two chairs. The floors were nothing more than planks. There were shelves filled with books patterned and arranged in a neatness that betrayed the minimal cluster of this room.

Gloria waited by the door, waited for his eyes to look up.

She turned a key, let the lock fall to the floor, and pushed against the door. It creaked along the floor to reveal a room the glow from this one would not illuminate. Was there something within that she wanted him to see? What was the reason for the lock?

Something moved. A faintness from the corners.

A hand came forward and reached for the door. First, a shadow emerged, and then a body. The hand remained, as if steadying the movement. Out came a woman whose other arm stretched out.

This woman was in the open, naked without any sense to her obscenity. She did not speak and she did not move further. From where she stood, Gabriel remarked several curiosities. Both legs below the knee looked stitched together, a long and thick string sewn in an uneven pattern. Similar stitching ran up the thigh at different ends. Her left arm was a shade off from the rest of her body while the right arm’s thread ran not through, but alongside the arm.

Each moment he did nothing—each moment he neither ran nor suffered fright—she crept a little more into the open. At last, he saw what his unconscious knew was there.

The two eyes.

They were a comfortable and easy grey. Yet, neither were a match. The sensation was familiar, and Gabriel knew it they came from the two women.

“The girls,” Gloria spoke, “come to the beach and they are always broken, hurt, or destroyed. Mutilated they are. It’s not hard to see why the town would turn their back.”

“You pull them together?”

“No, I just collected what was all apart. We all deserve to die intact.”

“What were you hoping to do?”

“I wanted protection. No one cares what happens to these women. I didn’t know at first. But when those two sisters washed ashore whole—when we brought them back—I knew something would happen.”

Gloria’s creation started to shake. Its free hand touched his shoulder.

From the touch, Gabriel knew she could break him.

He looked at the body once more and saw the pieces. They were no longer separate, they were proof of a collective experience, the pain all those different women went through, unheard and unspoken. Memories of horror tied together; memories that—if they went far enough—recalled how lonely floating along the ocean might be.

“Carlos.” Gabriel said, not managing to complete his thought.

“He always felt more than others,” Gloria finished. “His mother has not washed up. He hopes and hopes. For now, this is all I can do. I won’t send her out. Not now. She would only wind up on the shore.”

“Your own Frankenstein.”

“Not yet. This will be different. She will protect us though.”

“The town thought you were a witch. I’ll be hoping they were right.”

“I don’t want to need protection. But we need help.”

When Gabriel left the house, the sun was far from ready to return from its hiding place. Enough of its touch had reached the ocean earlier to give off a warm air. It was a quiet night and Gabriel half-expected to see the children out, even at this hour. Yet there was no one, and he hoped Carlos and the others were safe.

His shoes from earlier, forgotten in his walk back to the town, were still together on the sand. He sat down beside them and waited on the shore for the morning to come.

I was still on the phone, waiting for his story to end. I asked him what he was doing there. What was he waiting for?

“I’m waiting for her,” he told me. “I want to be on the shore when she washes up. I don’t want Carlos to see his mother alone on these sands.”





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