Alchemist: The Sequel
I’m suddenly not unconscious. I’m in the back of an auditorium leading into the woods. The trees branches must have scared me away. They sway behind the professor, creaking like an attic. I want to warn him, but no one speaks. The class is taking an exam – one I haven’t studied for – on some course I didn’t know existed. Alchemy. I went to a magic store in middle school and bought a deck of Tarot Cards, which is now in my pocket. I flip the first one over: Judgement.
I don’t belong. Here or anywhere. I sneak out and pass seemingly familiar people in a seemingly familiar quad. They don’t strike me as zombies, but they’re missing limbs. Some don’t have faces. I see my reflection in a grandfather clock… I thought that wasn’t allowed in this world? Our campus diner has turned into a religious establishment. I find empty churches soothing. They offer strength and clarity. This one has neither. The monsters surround me and I black out.
I’m on a train. My companion is a warlock named Wilson. I hate Wilson. He won’t stop smiling. What’s so funny? Can’t he see we’re dead? He’s leading me across an industrial waste site. Metal disintegrates into dust. We’re no longer underground. He rubs his beard and pierces the roof with his oar. I check the time: 1:60. Since when can anyone read in this place?
Applause. More than I’ve ever heard. It’s not for me, of course… but the game. I enter a crowded stadium, but can’t see anyone. I glide to the upper deck when I see her dangling from the edge. No one notices except me. For fuck’s sake, Cynthia.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” I scream.
But she doesn’t listen. Why would she start now… of all times? If more people just listened to me… Cynthia… why didn’t she listen!? I told her to stay away… I told her explicitly: I’m dangerous. Can’t you see that? The longer you stay, the harder it is for me to control. Why was she even there in the first place? She HATES baseball. I took her to a game once and wanted to streak across the field.
Miraculously, I convince her to come down from the ledge.
“DON’T TOUCH ME,” she snaps.
My hand passes through her thin wrist.
“This isn’t real,” I explained. “Don’t you want to see how this ends?”
She nods. Why is she crying? Fifty thousand people are cheering. My robe is soaked with tears.
Should I call her and apologize? That new guy she’s with is a tool. Wilson… what kind of name is that anyway? Maybe I should push him off the ledge. Spotlight shines on me and I need to get out of there. Now. Cynthia disappears, but I’m too worried about this hoard of folks chasing at me to deal with my feelings.
Wilson is thankfully waiting for me outside. Am I glad to see him? Something I never thought I’d say. He’s also ditched the train. We’re driving now. I’m in the backseat lying down, but I can see the dashboard. Cars aren’t supposed to go this fast. Our engine will explode. My fingers feel dry.
“Where are we going?” I ask, hoping he’ll mentioned Cynthia. “Where the hell could she have gone? I was going to apologize, if she’d only LISTENED for once.
“Do you really want to know?” he said sarcastically. “We both know she’s gone, if that’s what you’re after.”
I shake from rage. I should have never intervened when his idiot friend wanted him to drive. It’s not MY FAULT he got behind the wheel. And this was the guy who was banging my girlfriend. I told him Cynthia was in trouble. She took too many pills… I know because I took them with her. But it’s not like I’d know they’d get behind the wheel of a car. It’s not MY fault this guy gets jealous all the time. AND WHY AM I NOW BLIND!?
“It’s a side effect,” he says, matter-of-factly.
I leap from the car.
Water. Why am I wet? When did that happen? Cynthia and I had only gone skinny dipping once… what a trip that was. We didn’t sleep for days.
Campus has a lake surrounding the football field – I see the grounds. But why the water? I’m shivering. I can barely breathe. I sprint along a seemingly endless hill. I’m rejuvenated.
“CYNTHIA!!!!” I yell.
She smiles in the distance. Wind blows up her dress – the one she wore the last time we spoke. Blue like Dorothy, not the sky. Her face spirals the faster I run. Our footbridge has cobblestones. I trip over the railing.
I drop like their car. The windshield has such much blood. I can’t see except for her the back of her head. It’s buried in his chest. They lay motionless and I hear the sirens. They’re so loud. I grab my ears. My eyes burn. Cylinders grind against rock, turning it to mustard gold.
And then I wake up like I do every morning. I stare at the ceiling. I need to stop lighting candles at night. I can’t tell whether it’s guilt or the future. I kiss Cynthia, covering her hand, so I don’t have to see her ring.