Careful What You Wish For
Bev Vines-Haines
Dorsal Winner
Don’t look for immortality and don’t desire it.  Take this word as warning.

Back in ’09, I mean 1709, I stumbled on a scribbled potion in a musty cauldron deep in the recesses of an old cathedral cellar.  Normally you couldn’t get me down there.  I avoided it at all costs.  But an old priest had come up missing.  After two days of searching they sent me down to look.

This place was lined with the crypts and bones of old men who had missed Sainthood by narrow margins.  Over the centuries a lot of good people have almost made the grade.  But then, whether politics, changing Popes or just a shifting of values they slip into obscurity and are forgotten.  Saints or sinners, once they get abandoned to this cellar they achieve a haunting status.  The place is dark and strangely dry.  Bones and coffins rest on shelves or tumble from corners as if eager to surprise unwary visitors. 

I found the old priest quickly.  He had fallen while lifting that heavy black cauldron.  Even in death, his hand groped those dark depths.  That’s how I found that recipe.  Yellowed parchment, brittle to my touch, was what he’d been trying to reach.

Immortality read the title. Stupid superstitions, I hissed.  Nonetheless I placed the document carefully under my shirt and hurried to tell the others I’d found the priest.

Later in my own hovel I gathered the required ingredients.  I won’t write them all here for fear you might try this yourself.  Sheep’s wool, a bat tongue, and silvery drops from the leaves of sage.  Those are a few.  Altogether I searched out 17 items, most quite easy to locate.  Two or three, the strangest, took close to a month to find.

I made my decoction by the light of a full moon.  It was required to return to that catacomb and revisit my old boney friends.  I was to drink a toast to their lost years, lost notoriety and hopeless futures.  Going back was more frightening than the first visit.  That time I’d enjoyed the hope of another living soul.  I took a seat where I could see most of the coffins and bones and lifted my mug.

“To life,” I cried.  “To a hope there is more than sainthood and progeny.  I pray another go at all this for you.”  And then I drained very drop of that elixir only half believing it would do a thing.

But it did, my friends.  While contemporaries grew old and passed away I remained the same.  Not a gray hair or a stumbling step.  Wars came and went.

Hell propped me up and came to visit every day.



First published: November 2016
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