Friday, July 27, 2007

Solve et Coagula

The Alchemist stood near the open window, his crooked, bat-like nose glinting like a slithering serpent under the pale of the moon. His eyes, gray and deep with age, glittered with feline cunning and reptilian calculation, while his long, bony fingers, like ghostly wisps of smoke, clung heavily to the ancient leather covering of the equally primordial book he held in his hands. A long, thin beard, shining silver in the darkness of the room, seemed to writhe from withered stalks, moving with an unnatural vitality that spoke of forces far beyond human comprehension.

Near him, the girl sat in fearful contemplation, seized at once by childlike awe and impending dread. She was young, not yet eighteen, but had the disposition of one beyond her young years. Her auburn hair shone like fire in the eldritch night. The chamber was cold, perhaps too cold, and it sent shivers crawling up her spine. Tears seemed to crystallize at the moment of their formation, and even the sweat on her brow began to chill with morbid complacency. She bit her tongue hard, blood trickling down her lips and flowing down her face like a livid river. It was the best she could do to stay awake-- to stay alive-- in that hour of abandon.

The Alchemist shifted from his contemplative posture, and moved towards the girl with the elegance and grace of a specter. His eyes bored themselves into her soul, as the volume he held in his hands began to throb, and beat, like a living, disembodied heart. The long, bony hands began to reach forward, clawing their way through the thick of the night air like a bat hunting its prey. The Alchemist's nails were long and yellow with age, cracking and manifesting a moribundity that seemed more supernatural than natural. His lips parted, and revealed two rows of yellowed, sharpened teeth, anchored in return to gums that dripped blood and were black with abuse.

The girl watched in horror as the long, bony arm began to reach for her. She silently prayed through clenched teeth that this ordeal might be over soon. In her mind, images of the past, of carefree days and halcyon youth, began to race in a fashion worthy of an epiphany. But it was not always like this; for there was once a time when the Alchemist, too, despite his embracing of his damnation and sinfulness, was once very much like her. He too was once a man; but where all traces of humanity and decency used to be now reside an implacable pride, surrounded by impregnable hubris and a criminal obsession for the good. And now she gazed at the Alchemist in pity, seeing his disfigured face, made more bestial by the soft glow of the moonlight, moved, top, to pity at the sight of his complexion, of which only the dead and the dying had a share. For indeed the Alchemist was grayer than stone, and the coldness in him was even greater.

"What is the Secret?"

The Alchemist hissed through his mouth, his saliva spraying from his foul maw like the hiss of acid. His eyes burned with a sick curiosity. There came no answer from the girl, silent and immovable as she now was. Her hands, bound by ropes, were now sore with blisters; she could feel her wrists being cut open and the blood leaving her fingertips, leaving them gray as the Alchemist's own skin. The old man moved closer to her. "What is it?" But still, there was no answer that escaped her lips. A reptilian smile crawled across the old man's withered husk of a face. Whether the Alchemist relished this moment or not, his cryptic smile would not tell.

In his mind, thoughts, countless and infinite, began to race and swirl with preternatural speed. Questions of the stars began to envelop the Alchemist's head, and the dim beating of drums and the ululations of primordial chaos began to dance in his mind. He began to descend into the spaces between seconds and traverse the eternal distance between the now and the eternal. Now, his face seemed to twist with lecherous glee into something far more horrible than a smile: a look of happiness. He reached forward again, this time cradling the girl's face in his right hand. He could feel her apprehension, the fear ripping through her like a knife.

"What is it?" His voice resounded throughout the vacuum of the room, reverberating with echoes each said differently: at once mocking and reverential, threatening and compassionate. It seemed as if the room were flooded by voices, legion and yet one. The girl stared back into the hard, cold eyes, and looked at them with her own piercing ones. In a move totally unprecedented yet seemingly anticipated, she put her quivering, tottering hand on the Alchemist's bony wisps masquerading as fingers. And she stared at him as intensely as she ever had before, or after, in her life.

As their eyes connected, her sapphire blues perceiving the coldness and distance of his silver-greys, there, in the intersection of time and space where each melded into the aether, and into each other, there seemed a spark of light, fleeting and ephemeral but bearing the wisdom of the ages, to dart between. She perceived his thoughts and saw through his eyes, as he likewise did. She saw how his pride had once consumed him: how, abandoned by his loved ones, he sought refuge in the arcane and the occult; how he sought the secrets of the stars, how he desperately wanted to tap into the ageless whispers of the firmament and the unfathomable deep below. She saw through his eyes how silver became gold, and gold became silver, and lead both, and understood the timeless craft through which this was brought to be. She understood the speech of the beasts and conversed with the rain and kissed the face of the sun.

The Alchemist, in turn, tapped into her thoughts. His mind, cruel and scarred by vicissitudes far beyond his reach, could not fathom the joy and light in hers. He saw through her eyes how, before rumors of the Great War had even been born, she would run across the corn fields and chase butterflies for her sisters, and, running barefoot through the rough and tumble, her feet were scarred and blistered. He perceived the simplicity of her life, the joy of being loved, the warmth of a hug, and the joyous annihilation of being one with the Other. He felt the rain washing down his face, and felt as if a lightning bolt had just struck him squarely in the chest. His mind seemed to melt into his heart, as his breathing became more robust, his chest heaving and sighing with an almost suicidal enthusiasm. The Alchemist wanted he scream, and scream he did: but no sound escaped the warbling of his jaws, the thunder that was building up in his throat crushed to deafening silence.

As the visions ended, both the girl and the Alchemist seemed to have aged a thousand years in the process. Though lasting but mere milliseconds, each felt as if they were locked in a never-ending now, an eternity of confusion, highs and lows, from the deepest depths of despair to he farthest reaches of serenity and beatitude. The weight of the visions seemed to crush them with invisible yet tangible force, as the moonlight overhead lent its twilight in the massing darkness below. His knees were weak and wobbling; he had not the strength to get up. He fell to his hands, still reeling from exhaustion. As he looked up, his eyes were met with a most wondrous sight.

Before him, the girl now floated in the air, seemingly suspended on the arms of an angel. She shone with such brilliance that flooded the whole room, and indeed the surrounding environment, with the light of beatitude. Her head, once naked, was now laurelled with a golden crown; her eyes flashed lightning, and her voice was like a silver trumpet. Her limbs moved with a gracefulness and delicacy that seemed to be given by God Himself. She was bathed in tremendous brilliance, flashing, transforming, captivating, and her haloed head rested majestically on her neck, tall and proud, as even then to the Alchemist her raiment—no longer the meek and humble woolen smock as before, but the glorious armor of the battle-scarred—radiated with fiery intensity.

He could feel his eyes melting away before so wonderful a creature. His heart, which, moments before knew not love nor warmth, was now seized by the most joyful pain imaginable, that of the realization that it had not known such a mysterious thing before in all its years of solitude. The Alchemist prostrated himself, and stretching his hands, sought to touch even the feet of the being now before him. And, just as before, when he finally found a reason, a purpose, an idea to devote himself to, the brilliance faded once again into darkness; luster turned to rust, as the light that shone brighter than the sun itself paled into the sickly light of a full and leprous moon. Before the Alchemist lay the girl, prone and prostrate. He scrambled to her, seeking with feverish madness to touch something of the wonder he had just beheld; but to no avail. The creature was gone, and the Alchemist was left alone, once more with girl: dead.

In the midst of it all, the Alchemist wept, and no tears came from his eyes, but instead a loud and powerful sound reverberated in his throat and erupted, with the sound like the shredding of mountains, into the cold and desolate night. Outside the high walls and impregnable towers of the castle, the war still raged on. Soldiers hacked at each other still, heads flying through the air with the grace and beauty of a ballerina; blood smoked in torrents, as the clang of sword upon shield, and the droning sea of war-cries, kettle drums, war marches and shouts of victory and defeat, continued unabated, perhaps never destined to end at all. As the Alchemist surveyed the scene from his ivory tower, his heart was moved to pity. And he left, just as soon as he had taken his first glance. In the midst of the battle, he had found his heart, and he did want to part with it anytime soon.


Archistrategos said...

I wrote this almost two semesters ago for my Eng class. It's part of a short story that is almost 16 pages long. But it's worth, it though: I got an A+! Yippee!


Histor the Wise said...

Please forgive me for being critical....

The girl starts out with her hands tied, yet she moves them around: how come?

It's a very good story, by the way.


Archistrategos said...

That's quite simple, really: copy and paste. LOL (I missed out a paragraph hahaha).

Histor the Wise said...


The detail was disturbing me a lot.;)