October Frights 2022!
It's that time again - October Frights!
Welcome to the new website, still somewhat under construction, and it's time for the annual Halloween story! Before we dive into that, I also invite you to check out the Halloween Season on ConTinual, we're running both new and replays of some of our favorite spooky shows!
And be sure to check out everyone on the tour: https://afstewart.ca/october-frights-blog-hop-participants/
On to the story. It's Part I of Spirit of Alchemy
I do not understand why anyone would wish for this curse. I certainly did not.
My…no, not that. Not in many years. Never again would I refer to him as such. Lord Apollinaris Offredus feared death above all else.
When he was cogent enough to care.
The low drone of a television wafted through Offredus’ closed door, but the lack of other sound meant he was still entertained. It might be a while before the nightly tirade began. I could no longer pity the remains of what had been a vibrant and brilliant, if not also a narcissistic aristocrat from his time. Now, it was mostly the self-absorbed spirit trapped in his own twisted mind, forgetting his age. Forgetting what had transpired over the ages. Still promising he could still amend for what he had done to me.
Maybe I could resume my work for a period before… before. Or maybe I should simply walk into the night and return in the morning when he would again settle down for the day. Then again, the last time I did such a thing, how long had that been? No matter, it hadn’t been worth the effort to clean up the mess afterwards.
Sipping at my glass of merlot, beads of wine trailing down the inside curve of the glass like blood, I reached for the curtains shielding the apartments sanctum from the outside world. The falling sun casting a blazing halo behind the New York skyline, long shadows creeping up the side of buildings, scurrying like plague rats around scattered glows of artificial beacons of light cast through the windows of artificial mountains that held offices and homes.
Rising from the single chair at the kitchen table, closed the lid on the remains of another flavorless meal from a plastic container, and tossed the bundle into the trash. Taking the glass, I retreated into the study.
Tomes, texts, scrolls, and loose pages filled the wooden shelves lining the walls, more stacks on the floor and every available surface, except for my working space. A small wooden chair and table rest in the corner, bathed in the warm glow of a floor lamp. A lone notebook and a fountain pen awaited me. As cluttered as everything else was, I needed my working space to be clear. I allowed myself to only place those items that furthered my work on the otherwise clean working space, even setting the wine glass aside onto a stained spot on the windowsill.
What to work on tonight?
Plato’s Apology had done little for my mood. It could sit and wait for me to come back around to a rereading in a decade or two. A small wooden cigar box, tucked on a shelf where my eyes passed over it daily, tugged on my sense of nostalgia to be opened. I could quote everything inside the container, though I couldn’t begin to remember the last time I had actually looked inside.
Taking the box, I opened the lid and was greeted with faint memories of tobacco and perfume. I could smell the coffee from the café downstairs of the Paris apartment during the glorious days of Années folles. It was the last time Lord Offredus had seemingly been happy, or at least felt we were close to a solution, when he was most like his old self, not that it was always a good thing. We spent more than a decade chasing an alleged master alchemist known only as Âme Brûlante around the city, missing him by mere moments here and there, though I often doubted his existence. Exchanges of notes like spies through Horace, a ‘mutual traveler,’ never to meet face to face. The last communication had come with a small book. A French translation of the Corpus Hermeticum written allegedly by our mysterious friend, complete with footnotes and opining for having missed the great age. In a delicate scrawl on the inside cover was the note;
May our interpretation of the great work be of assistance to you.
Horace, and Âme
Placing the delicate century plus book on the table, I could picture Horace, wispy and being swallowed in a hand patched suit, offset by a garish blouse or another, and a floppy, oversized blue beret that covered his thinning brown hair. Every evening, he would appear, almost a spectral figure, known of by all, but really known by none in the small Montmartre cafés. I cannot remember how our, I’m not certain I can call it friendship, it was much more and much less at the same time, began. One evening, he slipped into the painted cold iron chair across from me, a cheap cigarette trailing a cloud clutched between two fingers, introducing himself as he motioned to the server for that damnable mix that was more cream than coffee.
It was well known, and accepted, if you were to be so blessed as to be selected for a chat, you would be picking up his tab. Always several cups of coffee, and at some point, a pastry. His first words to me were, “What do you know of alquemie?”
I snorted a bit of my glass of wine. Esoteric topics were not unusual, but I expected something more along the lines of talking about art, or the latest scandal among the community. Around us, many were laughing about Ernest, the new American reporter who was spending so much time poking at the artists and their weird ways. But alchemy?
I flipped to a bookmark, a piece of old parchment, and read the first piece I came to.
Whatsoever human souls have not the mind at the reins, they are but fated to the same destiny as souls with lives irrational. For the mind acts as reason in balance, and giving cause to the soul to pursue the desires for which it was borne; and not at the mercy of the nature of the animal. The animal ceases not to rage and lust, nor are they ever satiated of these ills. For passions and desires are exceedingly great ills, over which God hath given man mind to be judge, and executioner.
What of the mind when there is no longer a body to contain it? What of the mind trapped in a body that for all practice, cannot and does not age?
Of course, I believed Horace had come up with the poor translation, a mix of the old Latin with his years of conversations with the denizens of the arts district. His ramblings and commentaries showed the influence of too much coffee, and likely other drugs, and not enough material sustenance.
Grumbling and racket came from Offredus’ room. It sounded like he was in a heated debate, arguing with himself again. It used to happen only occasionally, but in recent months, it seemingly happened every few days, about the same time. It was as if he were fighting with an earlier version of himself. What had gone wrong? What had he left out?
In truth, I doubted he knew. The secretive bastard would sometimes hide things even from himself to “protect the work.” It what put me in this position, and him in his.
No, I wasn’t in the mood for a fight this early. Maybe he would calm down if I went for a walk, even somewhat. Or he’d be in a rage that I wasn’t there when he beckoned. I was no longer his servant. Let him rage.
Besides, Fastred had sent word he had something of interest.
I tucked the work back into the cigar box. It had been a while, and the old book dealer might find this tome a curiosity, not that I would ever let him have it.
See you tomorrow for Part II, and check out the rest of the tour!
And there's some giveaways at: https://storyoriginapp.com/to/oyHMogF.