• Fraser du Toit

Formulaic Life


Light art photography


The formula was precise, and adherence would have to be strict in order to achieve the desired results. Any slight variation in timing could spell disaster.

Cal reviewed his notes again, checking the translations against the original text several times before sitting back, satisfied. The formula represented the culmination of a decade of research and planning.

He held up several pages of notes, inspecting the papers like a newborn baby. There could be no doubt that he had cracked the code. Humanity would never be the same again, he thought.

Rising from his well-worn chair, Cal proceeded to stretch his tired body. Never again would he sit down there to study the infernally rambling writings of madmen and magicians. He was finally free to pursue his new life, the formulaic life.

There was a knock on his door that made him wince. He hurriedly stuffed his notes into the desk drawer as he heard the click of the lock unlatching behind him.

“Cal?” came the intruding voice.

“Yes, just a moment,” he said as he slid the last of the profane tomes into the drawer.

The door swung all the way open to reveal Thallaser Druy, Archmagi of the Ebony Tower. She was a tall, slender woman with short-cropped gray hair slicked back with wax. Her face was locked in its usual grimace, as though she smelled something rotten.

“Your quarters are a mess, Cal,” she barked.

“Apologies Arch magi, I’ll see to it,” he mewled.

“How goes your thesis?” she asked.

“I believe that I’ve made a breakthrough,” he said, although he wasn’t talking about his long-abandoned thesis.

“You are years behind your peers, Cal,” she sneered, “you once showed such promise. This thesis better be ground-breaking.”

“Oh, it will be, Arch magi,” he promised with a smile.

“I came to tell you that you have one more month before the college kicks you out,” she said, “the headmasters and I have grown tired of indulging you.”

Cal was furious, “What?! Even if I complete the thesis?”

“Should your thesis prove of sufficient value, we might reconsider. Surely you didn’t expect the Ebony Tower to tolerate a decade of decadence?”

“I haven’t been decadent, my time has been spent studying, Arch magi,” he pleaded.

“Enough,” she held up a firm hand, “you have one month. Don’t disappoint me.”

The Archmagi left Cal’s room in a flurry of billowing robes, the tail of which magically grasped the door and pulled it shut behind her. Cal was left gaping after her, had she but known the gravity of his work! He ripped open the drawer that held his formula, the time had come to enact the formulaic life.

Luckily, the process would take a month to complete if he started today. He would have to follow the path he had identified precisely. Failure to do so would result in a fate too terrible for him to entertain.

*

The other students had never really liked Cal, and they barely noticed that he stopped attending meals in the common area. Those living in the rooms adjacent to his reported strange chanting and acrid smells emanating from his room over the course of the next month.

Cal followed the schedule to the letter. He reduced his eating and sleeping incrementally according to the formula. Rituals had to be performed every few hours for the entire month, and he only left his room late at night to collect more materials for his magic.

His body grew weak as he infused his own life-force into the web of magic he wove around his soul. The stench of decay hung like a mantle on him as his attachment to the world of the living faded. By the end of the month, he could barely complete the intricate movements required of the ritual.

*

Archmagi Thallaser Druy burst into Cal’s room at the end of his allotted month to find the gray husk of her former student suspended in the air above an arcane circle. She gasped as the head craned over to look at her with glowing blue eyes.

“What have you done, Cal?!” She cried as she fell back.

The lich floated down to the floor, icy magic crackling in the air around his hands. He floated forward to face the Arch magi.

“I am my own thesis, reborn, eternal, with a power you could never wield,” the lich drawled through unmoving lips.

“Abomination!” Archmagi Thallaser Druy cried, her hands catching fire as she stepped back into a defensive stance, “prepare to be exterminated!”

Fire and ice clashed for many hours before the lich was driven from the tower. Thallaser Druy lay bleeding from a deep wound in her side as the lich fled into the night.