To The Honorable Sol d’Alchéme,

I realize that this is my fourth apprentice and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but he really will not do. It is necessary that I have someone appropriate for the Great Work. What follows are my grievances so far:

  1. An hour after asking Aramis Vaulin to finish cleaning the bile cylinders, I found him in the living room staring at the ceiling. When I asked him why he was avoiding his cleaning duties, he pointed to the wall where spider vines were growing and said, “Shouldn’t we clean those first?” (your honors — WE?!)
  2. After 3 days of seeing the same tattered overlong red shirt, I insisted that Aramis Vaulin wear his appropriate blue apprentice tunic. In response, he put on his tunic OVER his shirt as if it were a coat. Your honors, you know how integral color is to the Work — imagine how difficult it has been for me to see it disrespected in such a way on a daily basis.
  3. At eleven at night the evening previous (an hour belonging to the spirits and not the living as we all know), Aramis Vaulin knocked repeatedly at the door to my chambers until I let him in, after which he held up my most recent publication, the 4th tome of alchemical correspondences, revealing that he had MARKED several pages with RED INK, crossing out my words and adding his own diagrams of wings, petals, and planets to the margins. He indicated the vandalized passages and spoke over my horrified silence to say; “See, it’s this first moon phase in this decade that gets the rest of your calculations off…” In addition to this impetuous insult to my research, I was distressed since my private notes and records of current experimentation were also contained in this tome. It would be disastrous for an untrained apprentice to misinterpret such private writings.

Your honors, I can wholeheartedly reassure you that should you require additional incidences it would be my absolute pleasure to provide them. I have many, but as always, I am respectful of your time.

Please remove this apprentice from my property and replace him immediately, 

Alchemitrice Estenne Garand

To create the Great Work within myself would be unbalanced, unnatural. 

The 1st Humor:

COLD/DRY – Earth – black bile – (basement)

*Cathele Hueron

To the Incomprehensible Sol d’Alchéme,

I am concerned about your concern. Why would you ask for my progress on the Great Work when I have explicitly described the faulty ingredients I am working with? As you can imagine, the situation has only deteriorated. He is disrupting the incredibly delicate ecosystem that I have established within the house for the purposes of the Great Work. He demonstrates not a scholar’s curiosity but a schoolboy’s mischievousness. I found him attempting to uproot the moss carpet in the entryway (an important foundation for the first humor, as you know) and peeling back the cover of the old fireplace, thereby undoing my careful protections within it. He insists he is “cleaning.” Your honors, is there any hope for an apprentice who sees our work as ‘dirty’? It is he who is unclean, with some rot in his blood or mold in his soul that will not let magic take root, let alone an appreciation for it. 

I deem him wholly unsalvageable,

— Alchemitrice Estenne Garand

But to create this work in the world around me seems a great calling.

The 2nd Humor:

HOT/MOIST – Air – red blood – (kitchen – laboratory?)

*Jehan Renfeu 


To the Intractable Sol d’Alchéme,

Though I never expected us to reach such extremes, you leave me no choice. If you will not grant me a new apprentice, I have no other option but to extract what I can from this broken one. 

Let the outcome of this dark task rest on your shoulders,

— Alchemitrice Estenne Garand

Even greater than myself and this world — to create it in others, even the unworthy.

The 3rd Humor

HOT/DRY – Fire – yellow bile – (kitchen for sure, oven)

*Turner Rolane

To the one who comes after me,

You are in danger as soon as you find this behind the ivy — STOP cleaning immediately. That’s what will turn her attention to you because she doesn’t want you to find the veins pulsing through the walls, the pipes siphoning pollen and spores from the garden into the floorboards, the purposeful leaks in the ceiling capturing rain and worse. She doesn’t want you to find us. I have found the first, deceased by slow, fungal magic, and it is too late for me. The mansion is her cauldron and you are another ingredient. If you are third you must end this. If you are the fourth then you are the last.

This is no Great Work, what she has created out of us — it is slow and decaying.

I wish you luck.

— Jehan Renfau

There are those who do not appreciate the beauty of creation, the subtlety of balance. 

The 4th Humor

COLD/MOIST – Water – clear phlegm – (the living room, but with leaks)

*Aramis Vaulin

To the Completely Useless, Irresponsible, and Cowardly Sol d’Alchéme,

While I appreciate being the last sacrifice to the madwoman Estenne Garand, that number should have been zero, and while I’m sure your mathematical skills are as poor as your administrative and judicial abilities, I hope you can still grasp that concept. At first I wondered, why didn’t the overseers of magical works investigate the disappearances of three young apprentices in a row? Now I understand the lure of the solution, the possibility of the Great Work being completed through the conduits of their bodies sewn into the beams of this house. Ew, Sol d’Alchéme! Are you so opposed to modern laboratories?

I am sorry I proved too curious and “‘clean”’ to be a suitable fourth ingredient for Estenne Garand. I can assure you that her Work has been completed. But I was not the fourth.

— Aramis (still alive) Vaulin

Marcella Haddad loves trees, armadillos, and Nutella. She’s an MFA candidate at UMass Amherst and her work has appeared in Every Day Fiction, Moonchild Magazine, Rag Queen Periodical, and others. She can be found in the woods of Western Mass and at

Mold by Marcella Haddad is the winner of the Apparition Literary Magazine February Flash Fiction Challenge, which was based on the featured image: Dead Leaves by Remedios Varo

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