The scientist looked up at his assistant, wide eyed. “I have found it.”“Found what, doctor?” the assistant asked, surfacing from his book.“What?” the scientist scoffed. “Only what we have been searching for for the past several days. Take a look.”He picked up the heavy book, one hand on the spine and the other holding the page down so it could be read. His assistant came round the table and read over his shoulder. “Ah. Eternal youth.”The doctor shook his head. “Nothing as unlawful as that. There are consequences of going against nature so thoroughly. Have I taught you nothing?”Squinting at the finely detailed pictures, the apprentice peered at the hand written page once more. He nodded. “The perfect body.”“That’s right, lad. That’s right.” The scientist set the book on a stand. It rose out of the notes and journals and research books like a castle, regal and impressive. He ran the tips of his fingers over the page and a smile crossed his lips, a smile that a father might grace on a child. His hand dropped to his side. “Find me a quill, paper.”The assistant jumped and began rummaging through the huge pile for a scrap empty of ink, hoping to find a buried quill along the way. He emerged minutes later, white pieces poking up through his hair, and held out the needed utensils.The older man took them carefully. He smoothed the parchment and pulled the glasses hanging around his neck up to his eyes. He extracted an inkwell from his robes, dipped the quill in it, and started scratching away. The boy stood awkwardly, not knowing if he was still needed or if he could go back to the fantasy land hidden between the covers of his manuscript.“Here, here.” The doctor waved him forward and pressed the list into his hand. “Go and find these things.”As he surveyed the cramped writing, the assistant mentally checked off each item. His eyes paused on the last one and he frowned, reading it multiple times. Each time it told him the same thing. He folded the paper and put it into his breast pocket.“What are you waiting for?” The scientist blustered, waving his hands. “Make haste.”The assistant turned and burst out the door into the claustrophobic alley. The sun hung low behind the opposite building like a too-ripe orange. Garbage and debris cast shadows around his feet and against the walls, hiding any rats or beggars. A glass bottle burst beneath his boot as he hurried out onto the main road.People were in short supply, most preparing for bed, the rest waiting for a deeper dark. He drew his coat closer around him as he slipped around a corner into another alley. His fist came up against the second door from the street. Footsteps and locks clicking out of place preceded its opening.A petite girl ushered him in, then closed the door, locking it back, before wrapping her arms around his middle. “Barty. It’s been forever since I’ve seen you.”“Hey, Clare. Afraid this visit is for business only,” he informed her, smiling.She twisted away, but snatched up his hand, pulling him after her. They pushed through a curtain. He blinked at the light that suddenly flooded his pupils. Her fingers slid along his as she moved away, the tips of them catching. “So what are you looking for today?”Barty drew the note from his pocket, unfolded it, and handed it over. She moved around the room, taking various jars and boxes off the shelves and setting them on a counter, mouthing each word as she read it. A small mountain of containers was the end result.Clare stepped behind the counter, pulling up various tools from hidden cubbies. Some were used to open the jars and boxes, others to measure out the various powders and liquids that made their homes inside. She transferred all of this into a box divvied up into multiple compartments. “I’ve got almost everything here. Afraid you’re going to have to go elsewhere for this Abominable at the bottom. I’ve never heard of it before.”He sighed and took the box from her, tucking it beneath his arm. “Then I’ll never find it.”She guided him down the hallway, once more holding his hand in hers. “Don’t be so pessimistic.” She opened the door and pushed him back out into the cold. “I’ll add this to your tab,” she called after him.He waved at her and she went back into her shop. He stood frozen when he reached the main street, gazing at the mountain that rose beyond the village, trying to figure out where he would find Abominable.
The scientist threw open the door for him before he could even knock a second time. “What took you so long, boy?”Barty stepped inside and immediately crouched down beside the fireplace. His body shivered with cold and it was a few shaky seconds before he could get his gloves off. His teeth chattered. “H-hard to f-find some things.”“Ah well, you’ve got everything now. We can begin.” He held his hand out expectantly.His assistant drew the herbalist’s box from under his coat, set it not-so-softly in his palm.The scientist turned it over in his hands. “Is this all?”“Out-t-t in the h-hall.”Barty scooted closer to the fire, blew hot air on his fingers. Blood rushed to his face as heat thawed out his veins. A drop of water slid down his neck, a side effect of frozen sweat.The scientist’s scream jerked him to his feet. Barty grabbed a poker from its stand, but the yell was one of anger not fright.“What is this?” The doctor stormed back inside, a dark shadow slouching in the doorway behind him.Barty frowned, placing the poker back in its place. “You asked for Abominable.”“No, you fool. I asked for an abomination.”“Technically speaking, sir,” the shadow spoke up. “I am.” The self-proclaimed abomination stepped into the light, his massive body and long white hair taking up all the space. His face was the only place not covered by fur. The skin was black. He appeared as a polar bear in humanoid form.“And you are willing to sacrifice yourself to this cause?” The scientist huffed.“No,” the creature said. “I have simply come to give warning.”“Which is what?”The abomination looked at the book, still in its place of honor. “I once coveted what the boy has told me you seek. And this is the punishment which the Earth bestowed upon me for my ungratefulness.” He met the man’s eyes. “The perfect body is merely a matter of opinion, my fine doctor. But I think you and I both agree that this is not it.”The scientist stared up at the giant, then he looked over at the cauldron that hung over the fire, waiting. He strode across the room, pushing Barty out of his way. He promptly overturned the cauldron. Its contents evaporated on the spot.