“Notes for a Young Alchemist”

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“In lab, you develop headaches from sneaking glances at others’ solutions. Everyone else’s looks better, shinier. Master Salcedo tells you over and over that in order to succeed you must love the process and not the result, but mother of God, the process is so boring: melting and waiting and chopping and adding and waiting, distillation one, remelting and rewaiting, sneaking a glance, hating Tesla, distillation two, your face full of acne, your stomach growling. The routine just makes you sad and bored, and how can you enjoy that? This is the process they tell you to love: everything you think has the potential to be brilliant congeals in an ugly way, stuck to the bottom of a flask like lard.”

For the 12th installment of our ongoing series of fiction by never-before-published authors, we present a beautifully wrought story that offers a contemporary angle on the genre of magical realism. 

Julia Drake received her M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia University, where she also served as a writing instructor. She currently lives in San Francisco and is working on a novel and a collection of short stories. “Notes for a Young Alchemist” is her first published piece of fiction.