Book II: Chapter 13
In an effort to stop Miriam’s complaints, I finally agreed to help our friend Alan.
In order to do that I had to bring him to my private workshop — which was actually a just detached garage, a short walk away from the house.
From the outside it probably looked like any other barn one might find in upstate Pennsylvania.
Yet the inside was quite unlike anything you’ve seen – for I am an Alchemist — not just any amateur experimenter trying to turn metal into gold, mind you, but a full-fledged Alchemy Maestro, perhaps the greatest of them all!
(I know, I know, I probably should have told you this sooner, but remember, I tend to forget quite a bit in my old age. What’s that — what else have I forgotten to tell you about? Ha, now that’s a good question!)
“Once inside these walls you shall call me Azoth.” I instructed Miriam, as I fiddled with the multitude of locks that barred the door.
Miriam nodded, yet before going in I felt her hesitate, “Ah, John, er, excuse me, Azoth… we’ll not be doing anything sacrilegious in there, right?”
“Do you want my help or not?” I grumbled, keeping my back to her.
In the pause that followed, I guessed she looked down at Alan, before giving in, “I’m sorry, Azoth. Please, let’s hurry inside.”
“How does it feel to be the one who is manipulated, eh, Mary?” I chuckled.
Refusing to take the bait I’d laid for her, Miriam didn’t reply to me. Instead I heard her mutter, “You, O Lord, are a compassionate God, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness.”
I smiled to myself as I opened the final lock, before pulling the door ajar the door to let Miriam pass inside first – even though she was woman of the world who had seen quite a bit during her long life, as she entered my workshop I could sense her surprise at the sights before her.
To say the oversized garage was over-stuffed was an understatement – for although the 30 x 20 foot interior was a healthy area, I had nearly every available spot crammed with something. A giant furnace dominated the far wall – pipes leading out from it in all directions – some carrying exhaust to the outside, others hooked up to trailing pipes that led off to smaller furnaces or connecting to heating beakers both large and small, and still others going down into the floor. (What’s their purpose? Sorry, that would take too long to explain. Just sit back and listen please).
I watched as Miriam noticed the multitude of glass bottles – how could she miss them? – for more than anything else, jars of all shapes and sizes filled my laboratory. In fact, one of the 30-foot walls was lined completely with a massive, custom-made shelving unit and every space was filled — giant bottles containing preserved animal parts, smaller decanters bubbling with strange liquids, and tiny phials glowing with mysterious crystals. These and more were stored on the shelves – and everywhere else about the room too.
Various tables piled up with unusual tools, hulking chests locked tight, and storage containers overflowing with materials took up much of the rest of the space.
Each with a purpose only I knew.
A bit further inside, I saw that Miriam noticed The Three Pillars. An important alchemy construct, the two outermost posts had a shelf jutting out towards the inside pillar — upon the shelves, each of the pillars held a bulbous carafe which in turn had a long nodule connected to a tube. The tubes of the carafes connected to pipes that were attached to additional tubes that intersected the middle pillar, and then eventually emerged to connect to a similar pair of carafes at the base – yet rather than being supported on shelves attached to the outside posts, these glass jars were situated upon smaller furnaces that were continuously heating the liquids inside the flagons. I knew that Miriam had no idea as to the purpose of this apparatus, and I wasn’t about to tell her (or you!)
As you might expect, my workshop was not without its share of books too. From heavy tomes to delicate scrolls, my fetish with books played out here even more than it did in the living room of my house. I followed Miriam’s eyes with pride as I saw her espy the volume that was my most prized possession – a large stone tablet, shaded emerald green, sat reverently upon a podium in the very center of the room.
Although the engraved text was large enough read even from afar, it was written in a language that I knew that even Miriam did not understand. (If YOU want to know more, do some research — look for references on any of the following: The Emerald Tablet, or The Tabula Smaragdina, or The Secret of Hermes. See, I do give up some secrets).
Next, I could see Miriam captivated by the fact that nearly every wall surface was covered with Symbols; even the floor was covered in a giant glyph – a circle inside a square, inside a triangle, inside a humongous circle, the outer edges of each shape touching the inner edges of the ones they were housed within. As for the symbols on the walls, in one area, I saw Miriam note a collection of four triangles, representing the four basic elements: upright triangle for “fire,” pointing down for “water,” pointing down with horizontal line dissecting for “earth,” and pointing up with horizontal line dissecting for “air.”
“Ah… Azoth,” Miriam found her voice again, “what does the circle with the dissecting lines represent?”
“That one is Quintessence.”
“You might know it as Aethyr.”
“Oh, The Fifth Element — but I thought that was just a legend?”
“Hardly!” I snorted. “Quintessence is much more than a folk tale. Unlike the other elements, it has no physical qualities – it’s neither hot nor cold, wet or dry. It is incapable of change and yet always changing. It controls light and matter. It is the space between – but in a LIVING way.”
“Interesting.” Miriam was clearly impressed by my knowledge (and rightly so). Yet I noticed that she changed her tune a bit, when she asked meekly, “But, Azoth, I thought that Einstein’s Relativity dismissed aethyr?”
“Wrong! Einstein attempted to dispute the existence of aethyr in his Special Theory of Relativity, yet even then his negative proof relied mainly upon an Occam’s razor – postulating that the existence of aethyr was not necessary to explain the gaps in the universe. However, later in life he corrected himself in the commentary to his General Theory of Relativity – wherein he admitted the logical need for aethyr.”
“Ah, John, did YOU have anything to do with his changing viewpoint?”
“No comment.” I smiled. (What, you think Einstein got all his grand ideas on his own?)
“What about all the other symbols you have painted here?”
“Miriam, I can’t sit here and give you a crash course in Alchemy!” However I couldn’t stop myself from hastily pointing out, “This is Tria Prima. Here are the Seven Planetary Metals. Over there are the Mundane Elements and opposite those are the alchemical compounds. This chart shows the Twelve Core Alchemical Processes as related to The Zodiac. Got it?!”
“And those different colored roses? Is this place also a greenhouse?”
“Don’t be a fool – my lab is hardly a garden! The roses have their place in my work and the colors have meaning. Red means ‘passion.’ White – ‘purity.’ Yellow – ‘compassion.’ Orange – ‘optimism’ (and before YOU comment, it’s true, I don’t have many orange roses on purpose!). Blue – ‘promise.’ And the ones gilded with Gold mean ‘Perfection.’”
“And…” Miriam hesitated, “The Black ones?”
I paused a moment, wondering if I should speak the truth. In the end, I didn’t care enough to fight…
“The Withered Roses offer Death.”
“And you said you use these roses in your work?”
“I extract their essence as the backbone of certain experiments.”
“But why would you ever need the Black ones? Unless…”
And Miriam looked at me in horror, suddenly realizing that my most important secret of all…
I was experimenting on myself!