Betwixt the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger of the adept, a sprig of wormwood held aloft. He stood bent amongst the accoutrements of a lifetime’s craft; orbs, scrolls, charts, and countless crystal beakers. All resolute memorials to efforts that transpired to no end. The shallow endeavours of a now brittle and wretched old man, ever plagued by a youthful hope never realised. “But could this be it?” Like new moons of the lunar cycle his eyes flashed with brilliance anew, he sprung after parchment and a quill. “Could this be the triplicity of compounds I have sought all my days?”
Goose feather in hand, he scratched upon the vellum a triangle. Upon the first point he penned ‘absinthium’, the second, ‘conium maculatum’, and the third, ‘mandragora’. “This is it,” he muttered in adoration. For a moment he held the parchment in disbelief. It was as if he had plucked the formula effortlessly from the air. Setting to the task, he arrayed the coiling apparatus, and fixed the pear-shaped flask upon the steel tripod, within which he arrayed the organic matter, setting the flame. An impure froth emanated forth, a vapour rose through the pipes and drops fell upon the dish.
Seizing the elixir in raw anticipation, he did not hesitate to put it to his lips. In a sublime euphoric instant, he knew this was the culmination of his life’s work. The knots of every past failure seemed to uncoil within him; he could see that all his folly, precipitated by folly, arced flawlessly to this very moment. His skin tingled with delight. It was as if he perceived all from an elevated state of being. Looking to the scraggy ink splotched triangle, he smiled as his breath shallowed, his heart beat its last, and he gave up the ghost…