View Full Version : As above, so below

December 15th, 2013, 10:49 PM
"Mutual interest is the essence of any contract, and how gratifying it is when this interest is the good of Man! Gentlemen, you shall receive nothing else than pure refinement from our part on all levels; as above so below." A slight nod of respect, a subtle smile of sympathy, and now it is safe to turn one's back to the audience. Five small steps separate him from the door. He takes them fast enough to hide any hesitance and slow enough to hide any hastiness, using his staff not as a compensation for his limp, but rather a privilege of walking steadier than any man ever walked. As the door gently closes behind his back, the smile is still there but not the sympathy. He knows that outside, these mediocre beings are still seated around the conference table, staring with yearning at that plate on the door "Magnus Opus Pharmaceuticals, President and CEO, Karl Sutter". It is with every detail that he plays his great work.

He must play by today's rules. That, he understands after many of yesterday's punishments. Though he was raised in a more ambitious world, he came to realize that: today, that same world has become self-content. All the gold is sealed away, and its value is rewritten in numbers, and recycled in papers. In order to begin quarrying the Delta of the Nile, all he had to do is raise enough money to afford the piece of land in Sah El-Hagar and fly the town's mayor along with the land owner to Brooklyn, where his office is. His persuasive magic can do the rest; after all, he has been known as the trickster, among a few other attributes. As for the means to achieve this capital, he chose running his own Pharmaceutical Company, given that he excelled in the art of interaction and reaction, be it chemical or human. The promise of the twenty first century’s leading Pharmaceutical Company opening a giant research facility in Egypt, as absurd as it sounded, implied endless employment opportunities and fields of investments for the locals. For Karl, it meant he was a single step far from his great design. With all the pawns in place, he performs his tour de force, and is ready to sublimate to the next stage.

Karl pours a glass of aqua vitae, sits on a brown leather Chesterfield couch and lays a century's tiredness on the right armrest. With his left hand, he keeps a firm grip on his staff, planted straight on the parquet. He has actually forgotten how this staff came into his possession: it was earlier than his burdened brain can afford to remember – a strong wooden rod with a pointed extremity, topped by a shiny winged golden globe that never leaves the palm of Karl’s hand. It is too short to be a walking cane, but after noticing that carrying a sceptre stirs up too much skepticism nowadays, Karl decided to fake a limp and started leaning on it. Setting down behind Brooklyn Bridge, the sun sends the last few rays between sky-scrapers, through his office window, into the wrinkles of his fair face. He takes a sip of aqua vitae without wetting his neatly trimmed grey beard, and knocks his scepter thrice on the parquet. At the sound, Atlas and Enoch slither graciously from underneath his desk. His two oldest friends, two python snakes, always wait for him in his dark corner. In an amazingly synchronised fashion, a product of centuries of company, they entwine around his staff, laying their heads gently on the back of his hand. The sun sets; he preferred the view before the bridge was built. “Hermes.” Karl whispers, as he misses hearing his birth name.

He loathes the world today. When he was born in Greece, millenaries ago, humanity still believed in the sublime. Man was humble enough to admit that what he ignored was not only uncharted territory, but a higher, more essential sense of being. Hermes remembers looking for a god in every figure that ran past his sight as he used to drive his master's chariot on the silk route. He remembers an earthly urn he found stranded in a bush of papyri by the Nile and the sweet, gold-tainted, hallucinating Panaceum it contained; from which he drank and never felt thirst again. So many centuries he has devoted to study its perfection. This is how sublimation became his obsession and sole preoccupation, the sublimation of matter and spirit. He drove his chariot through boundaries seeking lore of matter and soul, their interactions, and their purification, holding the urn, studying what remained of the Panaceum but forever forbidding himself to taste it before he masters the art of producing it. And back then, for that, he was considered a god.

Hermes stands up from his couch, heads towards his window and looks down on a street full of bodies walking back from banks, malls, and chain restaurants. By the window is a Louis XVI taboret crowned by a rugged urn with strange scriptures, empty like the people he looks down on. They walk without wonder or bewilderment; they are tired of looking at redundancy. And beyond that redundancy is uncharted territory which does not concern them: other people are employed to explore it with the certainty of finding more redundancy. With the decadence of the world, Hermes's value degraded from god, to philosopher, to alchemist, to where he is now. The last millenary has been the saddest, as he has been called a heretic, a sorcerer, a charlatan or a lunatic whenever he spoke of alchemy, of refining metals into gold, or distilling the Panaceum, or of the sublime.

Despite of it all, he came so close a few centuries ago. He was about to understand the secret, hadn’t it been for that wretched pirate who kidnapped him and drank his Panaceum for the love of mermaid in the spring of 1717. He was thrown by the ocean on the shores of New Amsterdam, now his bittersweet home, New York, with nothing else but a scepter, an urn and two python snakes. In order to mount the ladders of the industrial world, he was forced to bury the sublime behind the face of a normal striving man who does not believe in better dimensions. Determined to find more of his Panaceum, he decided to look under every grain of sand on the shores of the Nile, where he first found it. He had eternity, that he knew, and it took him three centuries of preparation.

Today he bought his first land of the Delta, and with every cure to a mundane disease he shall sell to the world, he’ll buy another land… until he can offer humanity the cure for all. Hermes looks at Atlas and Enoch. How divine they are; more divine than the corpses crowding the streets of New York beneath his feet… because these two pythons have had their taste of it, of the sweet, gold-tainted spirit. Soon he shall taste it again and bring it to humanity so it may understand how far it has stranded. Soon he shall bring back better days, as above so below.

December 16th, 2013, 08:50 PM
The idea is very intriguing. I like the concept of Hermes being regulated to a mere business man. You took a mythological figure and turned him into a man, nice job. But this reads more like a prologue than an actual short story, there isn't really much going on. What were your intentions when you began to write this? If it's supposed to be the prologue to a novel, you hit it out of the park. But a short story needs more conflict, more structure.

December 17th, 2013, 01:20 AM
Glenn thank you for your feedback.

You have directly hit the weak spot I had while writing this piece. Actually, when I was halfway through it, I didn't know how to end it for quite a long time.

This is the third of a series of short prose I am writing, with the purpose of writing known fictional characters in a modern realistic setting. My purpose was character description, with a bit of history to every character. So yes you may call them all prologues if you like. I have made links throughout the texts between characters, in case some day I feel like elaborating this. I would appreciate your feedback on the first two pieces, which I have already posted in this section: "My dearest Adriane" and "Behind the eye". They might help you relate better to this one.

The weak point I was referring to when I was writing this last one:
I wanted to create an alchemist living as a modern-day pharmacist. While tracing back the history of alchemy I found interesting origins in a Greek Hellenistic philosopher "Hermes Trimegistus". Some further research showed me that in some historical references there was confusion about his identity and relation to the Greek god Hermes. I found this concept too interesting to leave behind and decided to incorporate it in my "prologue", which imposed more story telling and turns. This is how the piece got stuck between the intended "prologue" form and a short story. It is considerably longer than the first two.

Thank you again.

December 18th, 2013, 08:18 PM
No problem, Pietro. Glad I could be of some help. I know an interesting idea when I see one, and yours is just that. A really good character experiment that can be turned into something really special if you commit the time.

December 24th, 2013, 04:37 PM
I don't particularly like all of the back-story and explaining. I love the third paragraph. If it started with that and continued, without any explanation, I would be hooked

December 29th, 2013, 01:50 AM
This is an incredible idea. I wonder if you continued with it whether you might introduce other so-called "mythical" characters in a modern sense to help him in his search. What is the theme you are searching with this piece, or is it merely just something that intrigued you as an idea? For someone that is not familiar with either Hermes or Panaceum, I will admit that there were parts of the story that left me behind until I googled them. A line or two in their denoting what exactly the Panaceum is might make everything much clearer.

December 29th, 2013, 02:19 AM

I actually introduced Hermes to previous mythical characters. I have already posted in here: "My Dearest Adriane" and "Behind the Eye". The stories slightly intertwine. I hope you enjoy the read.

December 29th, 2013, 06:52 PM
This is great stuff. You've definitely gotten better at integrating the character into a modern setting with each story. He fits very well here. In any case, all three are very descriptive and the language alludes to an ancient feel. My big suggestion would be getting them involved with other characters so that the action can speak for itself, rather than having to explain it all, if you're shooting for something bigger.

December 29th, 2013, 07:51 PM
Thank you for reading and for your suggestion thepancreas.

For the time being I'm just having fun bringing all the characters in my head/bubble to this world. I am imagining loose links between the different stories for the fun of it. Maybe at some point I will bring them all together :)