As Steven withdrew the knife from the torso of the limp kitten, he noticed the lack of noise. Gone were the fevered hisses and limp mews of only a few seconds earlier. In their place now blood and viscera spilled into his lap. How odd, thought Steven before chucking the carcass to the ground.

Steven had always been interested in transmutation, the turning of one thing into another. He considered himself an alchemist. Like most alchemists, he was primarily unsuccessful. Things had an unfortunate habit of remaining themselves.

It wasn’t a big change he was looking for. Not yet. No need to turn lead into gold. He would settle easily for transforming Swiss cheese into Brie or milk into water. What harm could it do for a man to have such power? Not much surely. Not enough for God to take this away from him.

Steven considered the kitten on the floor. Had it changed? It breathed. It screamed and then that noise had turned into this gore before him. He nudged the body with his foot. There was no response. It had energy. It had life and now it was liquid and dead flesh, basic, elemental matter. Energy to matter?

Physics wasn’t his thing, but alchemy sprang from science. The ultimate achievement of science was to create energy from matter. Alchemy could reverse the process.

Converting energy to matter was the most basic transformation, the most primal. It is how the universe was born in the fires of the big bang. Energy to matter was the ultimate alchemy and he had mastered it.

He kicked the kitten as he rose from his chair. He stripped himself naked. Manipulating the knife he turned it on himself. He placed the point of the blade just before his larynx. He took several deep breaths. Finally, he let loose with a sustained note. The most basic beauty a human voice was capable of.

He pressed the blade into his neck. As it entered his esophagus the note weakened noticeably. He pulled downward but his ribs protected the chest too well. Dragging the blade over the sternum he created a read line down his torso. As it cleared his ribs it plunged into his abdomen, piercing a lung. The note gave out completely. Now the knife moved with force and momentum through his organs. Steven’s concentration began to flicker. He could feel it now, but it was not pain, he told himself. It was transformation, the fire that creates. When he got to his groin he had lost all focus and collapsed to the ground. His entrails poured out onto the floor. Still he could feel it. He was changing. He was becoming. Though he had stopped singing he could still hear the note. It enveloped him and made him a new thing. He was not himself anymore.


Benjamin Jacobson writes when he’s not thinking about writing or teaching writing. Benjamin takes responsibility for one wife, one and a half children, two dogs, and a father-in-law, but that’s it. His plans for the Apocalypse include reinventing the wheel and hunkering down with a rag-tag group of survivors. He lives in Arizona, which welcomes the Apocalypse every summer.