After Roland had purchased the Alchemist Cabinet, he returned home. Liz never returned his calls or texts, and he had no idea where she was. He felt quite alone as he sat on the sofa and stared at his reflection in the blank TV screen. A little past seven o’clock, two men delivered the Alchemist Cabinet.
It was now half past eleven, and he sat in his underwear, cross-legged in front of the Alchemist Cabinet. At this point the cabinet was almost empty; some of its contents were in neat stacks in a semicircle behind him, and other scrolls, parchments, and loose books were piled on the sofa. Roland got to his knees, removed the last few scraps of paper, lifted out the shelf, and looked it over. The shelf had writings on it; not only on the top and bottom but on the edges as well.
Roland closed his eyes and ran his fingertips over the embossed symbols and signs on the rows of bronze scales that covered the bottom portion and the cabinet’s legs.
His reverie was jolted by a vision of the same ugly soldier who had given him such a menacing glare in the crosswalk the day he went to the college library. Roland quickly pulled his hand away and opened his eyes. “Oh man, not that again.” If his eyes had been open, he would have seen the faint ruby glow under his fingertips.
Roland sat back on his heels. He saw what looked like a small door at the back of the cabinet. He pushed on it, and it opened. Inside, standing up was a red leather bound book tied shut with a piece of twine. Roland teased it out of its tight nook. He settled into his easy chair and untied the twine. Roland looked at the imprints on the cover. He recognized the alchemic signs for the four elements--air, water, earth, and fire--branded in the corners. The initials “R. H.” had been tooled into the leather.
The book was well worn. He carefully opened it. Little flecks of leather and paper came off in his hand and spiraled onto the floor. The book was handwritten in Latin with brown ink. Roland yawned and looked at a long sentence that was repeated three times. He read, “Per aqua sanctum regenerate ad animus novo super tempus novus et locus novus cum intent genero flamma aeternus.*” Roland yawned and rubbed his eyes. “Well, I actually understand most of that.” *By means of sacred waters shall occur rebirth and renewal of the soul beyond place and time for those with intent to create an eternal flame.*
Roland locked his front door. He reread the Latin sentence again aloud. He brought the book into the bathroom, reached in behind the shower curtain and turned on the water. He read the sentence out loud one more time and set the book down. Roland undressed and got into the shower. The soothing water relaxed him and mercifully washed away the remains of his day. Roland was very sleepy. He dried himself, grabbed the book, and got into bed au natural. He had intentions of reading more, but couldn’t. He turned off the lamp on the nightstand and fell asleep with the book open over his heart.
From the clouds above a single strand of ruby light, the product of Valentino the Elder’s experiment carried out those many years ago ended its chaotic six hundred year journey, tumbling from one metaphysical plane to another. The tight ruby beam passed through the skylight over Roland’s bed and reached its destination when it touched leather bound journal and its new owner. A pulsing web of ruby light enveloped Roland.
Roland levitated off the bed and passed through the wall into the living room. The bed clothes slid down the bedroom wall to the floor. A soft red glow engulfed the room. Roland floated in front of the Alchemist Cabinet. The cabinet doors opened slightly. The whisper of men and women speaking Italian faded in and out. A horse neighed and its hoof beats echoed into silence; there came laughter, snippets of a harpsichord, swords clanging, children crying; and all the while different birds sang or called, even a hawk shrieked. The sounds grew into each other and built to a cyclic, wavering cacophony and then abruptly stopped.
The doors violently swung open to a black pulsing universe spangled with countless stars in a slow rotation. Roland floated through the cabinet doors and into the expanding void. He saw the stars flicker and come in and go out of focus. Huge parchment pages covered in Latin, diagrams, and drawings formed the slanted walls of a tunnel that ended in a speck of light. Roland hurtled on his back through the tunnel. He caught glimpses of Liz, of his parents, Brian, and even Lila. As Roland neared the end, the tunnel twisted into a swirling black vortex that swallowed the pages, and faces and the hundred sounds.