Gil had no trouble passing her wards as she helped him up the stairs. Numb as he was from the news of Mike’s illness, he was no one’s enemy. Glory took him to the kitchen and had him sit at the table. She was lucky that the house had come fully furnished since she probably would not have troubled herself with buying a kitchen table and chairs otherwise, or a dining room set for that matter. If she kept getting unexpected visitors though, it might be prudent to invest in some food and drinks. She was lucky to even have a cup in the cabinet.
She filled her one and only cup with water from the tap and turned back to Gil to find him with his head in his hands. “Come on guy. It’ll be okay. He’s looking for a way to cure himself.” She set the glass down and awkwardly patted him on the shoulder. “He hasn’t given up.”
“He’s not my best friend,” Gil mumbled desolately through his tears.
“Oh?” she responded, puzzled by the sudden revelation.
“He’s my boyfriend.”
“Oh!” His emotional state made a lot more sense to her now.
“We d-didn’t tell anyone. My parents… they’re not… they wouldn’t have allowed it.”
“Yeah, some parents can be…. pretty ignorant,” as she knew from first hand experience.
“And then he was just g-gone. He didn’t say anything. I knew he was sick for a little while, but I thought it was the f-flu.”
“Yeah, I think so did he.” She paused, uncertain how to continue. “He’s looking for a cure. Do you know anything about alchemy?”
He blinked in confusion and looked at her blankly. “Just that it’s a precursor to chemistry. It’s kind of nonsense… like ghosts and UFOs.”
She laughed despite herself, and he looked as if he might start crying again. “Look,” she said, laying a hand on his arm, “Just because modern science has debunked a lot of ideas concerning alchemy and other ‘pseudosciences,’ doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to offer. Even science is periodically updated as theories are discarded or adjusted to fit new data. Nothing is ‘nonsense.’ Everything is perceptual. Even in science, they’ve found that observation changes the results of any experiment. Alchemy is as dependent upon the purity of the intent of the alchemist as it is upon the purity of the ingredients.”
“So… if I don’t believe in something like alchemy, it wouldn’t work for me, but if I did, it would?”
“Not exactly. It’s more like taking things on faith. Faith is the gateway to miracles.”
He looked doubtful. “I… don’t believe in God,” he said bitterly.
“Doesn’t matter,” she replied, shaking her head. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the Christian concept of God. That’s just a construct anyway. Perceptual. The Christian God exists because people believe it does, and it exists to different people in different forms. It’s just an egregor, a collective thought form.” He looked confused again at the term, but she pressed on. “Miracles aren’t dependent upon divine intervention. They can be the result of faith, expectation, and the right formula. Mike’s simply looking for the right formula.”
He continued to look skeptical. “So Mike is looking for some kind of alchemical cure for whatever he’s infected with… Why doesn’t he just go to a hospital and let them look him over? I’m sorry, but whether or not alchemy and all that stuff is real or not, modern medicine has come a long way since the Dark Ages.”
Glory bit her lip. “For one thing, I imagine he’s afraid his former teachers might track him down if he did that. After seeing how they treated Gozala, I doubt he feels like he has a lot of legitimate options.”
When he nodded, she pressed on, knowing he probably wouldn’t like or believe what else she had to say. “There’s also the fact that… well… he’s technically dead.”
“He’s what?!” Gil’s eyes widened in horror.
Glory sighed. “I don’t know the specifics, but whatever he’s infected with… it allows him to continue walking around, but all his bodily functions have ceased. If there’s a way for him to cure himself, alchemy may be the only solution.”
“Oh, my, god….” he groaned, sagging in his chair.
“I’m sorry. There’s…. more.”
“He’s… well, his body is… rotting away. He may not have much time left. The cold weather was helping to preserve him, but I think that winter’s just about done. Unless he heads to Canada or something, I don’t think he can last…much… “
She broke off as, with a moan, Gil dropped his head into his hands again. She felt bad, as shell shocked as Gil had seemed on the street, didn’t he deserve to know what was going on if he was really in love with Mike? She just hoped that all this information wouldn’t put him over the edge. He already seemed perilously close to a nervous breakdown.
“Come on…” She nudged him until he got to his feet, “You need to get some sleep, I think.” Leading him unresisting up the stairs to her room, anyone could see the man was mentally and physically exhausted. Rest, in a real bed, would do him good. Food would probably help too, but rest first. His eyes were closed before his head ever touched the pillow. Glory wasn’t even sure he was aware of where he was any more.
Carefully closing the door so as not to disturb him, she walked down the hall to the library. She’d lock up Geber’s manuscript in her secret vault and then go out to a store. By the time Gil woke, she’d have some food ready for him. Glory didn’t like to think about what he must have been eating if he’d been on the road since Mike broke Gozala out. Living out of a car was stressful enough without worrying about your missing boyfriend.
The room was already illuminated by the morning sun, and Glory paused in the door, closing her eyes and inhaling the warmth like a flavor. She might not have any need for food and her senses had lost their ability to tantalize, but she suspected her library, any library, would always feel welcoming and calming after a stressful day’s events. Even if that day were only a few hours old.
Opening her eyes, she focused on the table and her mouth dropped open. If she could still feel her stomach, it would have been flopping about like a toad seeking an escape route. The table was empty. Gozala and Mike had taken the manuscript with them. A bitter rage welled up inside her. Not that she begrudged Mike his need to find a cure, but this was the second time someone had stolen a book from her. She reserved the right to be ticked off, despite her concession to his needs.
Her mouth set in a firm line, she turned on her heel and left the room. Purposefully, she strode down the stairs and out of the house. First food for Gil, then she would see about tracking Mike and Gozala down.
Glory would help Mike and Gozala if she could, but one way or another, she would take back Geber’s manuscript. She couldn’t keep letting people take things from her. It wasn’t that she considered herself a materialist or assigned much value to any book based on ownership, but… While she’d be the first to admit that it was probably not a healthy fixation, every book she owned felt like a little extension of herself. When people took them from her, her sister stealing her manuscript and now Mike taking Geber’s manuscript… well, he might as well have carved out a little piece of her flesh as a keepsake.
What had the ghoul called her… a guardian? It was time she started acting like it. She resolved to never let anyone get close enough to her treasures to ever steal from her again.
to Book 3, page 9