(Ex-)doctor Edward Auriol sits hunched over the white desk in his white makeshift office, cutting away at a piece of white paper. Everything in and about the room was clinical, sterile white-- almost everything, save for the greying man and his blackish shadow. Two greyscale photographs in silver frames. And the black paper boys tacked onto the wall above his desk.
Those paper boys.
Prior to the start of his experiments, Auriol took a scientific detour into arts and crafts, and made himself a chain of paper people. His prima materia chain- first stage- he called it; an awfully fancy name to give something resembling a small child's handiwork. He hung it on the wall opposite the desk: black tacked onto white.
The materia chain was twelve boys long at that point. Come the first trial- the first patient- Auriol cut one link off. Spent his first session with the patient taking note of the boy's venous structure, sketching every curve, every little branching line onto that vaguely human silhouette. Number One had a thick vein exposed on the back of his neck; the doctor remembered that much well. He traced over that line so many times the white chalk smudged. When he left the patient for the day alone for the day, he retreated to his office, drew a red x on that vein. That was to be the site of the boy's first injection.
The patient got through four before expiring. Auriol pinned the little paper boy above his desk. Maybe in remembrance; maybe as a reminder.
Auriol turned away from the boys, avoiding the gaze of the photographs. Then he cut one more link from the chain.
Then two. Then three. Ad nauseum.
Eleven marked-up paper dolls are pinned up there, now; one more lies on the desk, patiently waiting for Auriol to finish. He tells each boys apart by number, which he pencilled onto their lower right corners. No need to really name a paper boy.
Still sitting at his desk, Auriol finishes the second chain. This one's cut much more cleanly than the first, from thinner paper. The change of color indicates the second stage: the stage of purification, of reigning in the darkness and the chaos of the first� which Auriol hasn't managed to do quite yet, but best to be prepared for when he does. He hangs this chain above the remnants of the first. White on white. It's barely visible against the walls.
Well, no matter. Soon Auriol's back to work on the twelfth diagram, by now so littered with red x's he's flipped it over to the other side. The doctor's learned a lot from his first eleven failures: the finest needles work the best; aim just beside the vein, and never in the same spot twice within a week. So many limits to work within; magic and science both have theirs, and alchemy can't avoid all of them. Just the bigger ones. Because that's alchemy: magic, art, and science, rolled into the same paradigm. It uses the strengths of one category to transcend the limits of the others. And soon enough, he'd reach the magnum opus of them all.
Finding the perfect spot, Auriol marks it x, and attaches the diagram to his white clipboard. Now it's night; he should be off to bed. He needs all the sleep he can get, really, these days. Tomorrow he'll transfer the notes onto his living notepad.
He rises from his white chair, says a silent goodnight to the boys on the wall. Glances at the woman and the child in the photos. They both smile at him; he plasters one on to smile back. He's still trying to smile as he turns the light off. The clean white room turns black.
I did a LOT of FadeOut machine exercises trying to come up with something for this project. I happened to get a lot of bloody, gorey, and/or medical words, and what I wound up with were a lot of cool fragments from an unhinged perspective. In particular, the word "syringe" came up fairly often, which reminded me of a piece I wrote freshman year. (It was my short story for ENGH 396.) That piece followed a boy (who's going to be Number Twelve/Cayden in this story) and his love-hate relationship with his "doctor" (Edward Auriol; I didn't name either of them in that first story) who controls every aspect of his life. To be honest, it's kind of nightmarish- and I wrote it while feeling highly angsty (this was just after Trump was elected)- but I wanted to explore the idea more, maybe take a new look at it. So that anonymous unhinged perspective became the doctor's. I wasn't quite happy with how one-note evil the doctor became in the original, so I'm ultimately trying to avoid that. Honestly, I don't think anyone's one-note evil. One of my favorite things in fiction is how it lets you see that even the most despicable people have their reasons- and sometimes their reasons are even good ones.
This has been a brief digression into my personal philosophies.
The 'paper boys' came from a throwaway line of something else I made on FadeOut (screenshotted above). For whatever reason, the image just stuck in my head. I thought it worked here, because Auriol doesn't see any of his patients as real people; to him they're flat, blank slates, and he can just cut them up however he sees fit. I'll have to use a line like this somewhere: "People, like paper, are easily torn apart.�
Unless that's cheesy?People are weak as paper.
I am obviously still working on this.
Some FadeOut samples (I made too many to include them all without having a fifteen page document, and not all jump out immediately as relevant to this piece. If you would like to read more, I have separate documents of them on my Google docs.) Everything written in the square brackets is what each line reads, more literally, given the words I chose... or if I didn't think to write that down while it was still in my head, my attempts at interpretation after the fact:
possession for pressing, every syringe sate my will for the uninhibited [first clause: expresses attitude that subject of doctor's experiment- another human being- is merely a material to be used and abused as needed. Second clause: every syringe I use-containing each new variation on this formula- is a step forward; each failed trial brings me one step closer to getting it perfect. Getting something perfect in the sense of reaching a goal: to attain perfection . TL;DR mad alchemy. Combine magic and science to get over the upper limits of each field.] we do experiment with have empty heart [[people] we do experiment with� do not feel anything from it anymore. They're kind of dead to everything. Alternate interpretation: those people are more feeling than we are. Because what are we? We're monsters that use people in cold pursuit of an impossible goal.] A psycho that believes forgotten lore, sharpens embryos and saw ruin come glad [head doctor is exactly that- �forgotten lore� being alchemy. Embryos- those the beginning stage: ordinary people. Sharpening them means rebuilding them stronger, hardier, less easily breakable. Ruin- basically he�s a crazy fuck, I�ve got nothing here.] sleeping happy [this asshole�s sleeping great at night. Goes to bed unburdened by guilt over anything he�s done. Or, alternatively, the kid you�re using is happiest when he�s dreaming because then he doesn�t have to face what�s being done to him]. town of silent way so hopeless coming. is breathing tythe [to the kid: is servicing my holy cause the reason you keep breathing]? experimented, crawl praying of devil [broke previous subjects� bodies and faith]. the wounded, haunting me, copulated with damnation [maybe he is haunted by something: the memories of people he saw lying wounded dead. (lost a couple people to grievous injuries he could not have fixed- lost his mind grieving over them- and became convinced the way to avoid loss in the future was by fixing fundamental weaknesses of the human body). Still haven�t addressed the best part of that line� but it�s more self-explanatory, I guess]. Amputation [pretty sure I used that cuz it almost rhymed and kind of fits the imagery]. the machine trance is the perfect experiment [they want a deeper, changed body [assuming people want to be �fixed�. The people he�s using will thank him for it; the world itself will thank him, even. Comes pretty close to the �she�s asking for it!� mentality]. chamber alike my and his [this is a hospital setting, right? So all hospital rooms are basically the same. Doctor and patient have the same white walls. I personally find white rooms creepy for this reason].
Reading this back over, I got the feeling that this was a mad flashback, albeit a rather jumbled one:
hollows drew about, languorous, calling me crazy [are you talking to shadows, Auriol? Yeah, you are crazy, hate to break it to you. Not a shadow, just a moderately rational person]. dry wishes felt cold, our mouthpiece broken [Wishes dried up there; I couldn�t speak]. blood carries a hollow stone of carbon [blood cells. Blood ran dry, too]. sitting is intolerable bones frenzy, confused, outside their children [can�t sit still am I seeing the bones of my child right now did he really get broken that badly? Oh my god. Who knew that loony so-called wizard�s curse meant something]. the dark protocol take Psycho experience to that love [dark protocol being rules of black magic. He does not know the rules yet, though he�s been the secondhand victim of the practic. He�s not recalling love so much as the loss of it]. the order is enantiodromia: that committed heart be first, hex to use undone [enantiodromia is the tendency for things to become their own antitheses. Takes your commitment to something or someone and uses to unravel you. Exactly what would end up happening to a surgeon who killed a patient, lost his wife and son in consequence, turned to magic for an explanation and lost his mind to it and wound up a Hollywood horror film parody of himself]. hysterics sickened for feel of hollow wandering [Frenzied mourning cools to numbness, detachment from your actions]. all that held her full scattered dead [the parts of me my wife loved, the parts of me that loved her, have scattered now that she�s gone]. passions for connection of that day could combine [the love, the loss, the madness, the anger he felt come back to him all at once; emotional overload]. come looking to the evening revelry [look forward, not back].
I also did some bare-bones research on alchemical terms: wikipedia for the alchemical magnum opus (and its four phases: nigredo, albedo, citrinitas, and rubedo. Associated with the colors black, white, yellow, and red), prima materia, etc. Also read some stuff on thoughtco: https://www.thoughtco.com/the-great-work-or-magnum-opus-95943.
It has now become apparent that HMTL does not understand the apostrophe.)