Theo sat in the single room apartment near the docks all morning, his feet propped up on a table that was covered in vials and beakers and a bunch of other crap. The sun, shining through the wooden shutters, had slowly worked its way down the opposite wall and across the floor, the sound of the city increasing in volume as it did. Fishmongers selling their catch, teamsters loading and unloading the merchant vessels, people just going about their day.
He was tired and ready to be done with this business. The damn alchemist had fled halfway across the world to escape his debts, forcing Theo to follow halfway across the world with him. By foot, horseback, ship, even on a fucking camel. Yes, he was ready to be done with this business.
The doorknob rattled and he tensed a bit, ready to give chase if necessary. The alchemist finally opened the door, a balding man with a bit of a paunch. Theo relaxed. If he ran, it wouldn’t be a challenge catching up with him.
The alchemist still didn’t see Theo, preoccupied as he was with the small wooden crate he carried, full to the brim with gods knew what. He gently placed the crate down on the floor and closed the door. He turned around, eyes closed, and leaned against the door. He let out a sigh and rubbed his forehead.
As much as Theo enjoyed watching the alchemist giving himself a head massage, he didn’t have all day. Who knew how long it would take to find passage out of here? He cleared his throat.
The alchemist’s eyes snapped open, his hand frozen on his forehead. For a moment, the only movement was the dust floating in the slats of sunlight.
“You’re here too early. I’m so close to a breakthrough. If you just give me another week, I’d—”
Theo shook his head. “No more time alchemist. You’ve already been on borrowed time for a while now, and I’m not in any position to give you more in any case.”
The alchemist’s skin lost its color and he slumped to the floor. “You don’t understand. I could pay them everything I owe if I had but another week. You do know what they were funding me to research, yes?”
Theo shook his head again. “Can’t say I do. Can’t say it’s my business. Can’t say I give a shit.” Theo stood up and began walking towards the fat little man.
“No, no! Listen to me! I can turn lead into gold! I can turn lead into gold!”
The alchemist, sweating profusely now, licked his lips. “Yes, yes, I can see that you’re intrigued. As well as you should be. Just imagine, if you will–”
Theo was chuckling, a grin spreading across his face.
“What are you laughing at?” asked the alchemist.
“I’m laughing at you. You’re trying to dig yourself out of debt using the research that put you in debt in the first place. Priceless.”
The alchemist’s face darkened. “You lack-wit! I’m offering you unlimited wealth and you laugh in my face? Whatever they’re paying you, it’s a trifle compared to what I’m offering.”
Theo stopped laughing. “Lack-wit?” He stalked forward. The alchemist squeezed back. “I’d have to be a lack-wit to believe you can transmute lead into gold. Yeah, I’d rather have a bounty I can count on, rather than an imaginary hoard of gold.” He was now inches away from the alchemist. He looked him straight in the eye. “Besides, I already know how to transmute gold.”
The alchemist looked at him incredulously. “You… you do?!”
Theo smirked. “Yeah, I figured it out a long time ago.” He moved to the alchemist’s ear and whispered, “Blood to gold. Works every time.”
This was yet another writing exercise from Chuck Wendig — turning a random song title into a story. The song was “Blood to Gold” by Boy & Bear. I had 1,000 words to work with. Them’s the details.