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By David Niall Wilson

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As if, beyond the inspiration of Coleridge himself, Byron alone could see. On the altar sat the fruits of years of labor. Belle believed that she knew more of the essence of Absinthe than any living being, and still she quaked at her ignorance. It was a gamble, each time, pouring the essence of each long-dead master's work into her bottles and vials, crashing into the walls of their failures and seeing, just beyond her grasp, the essence, the purity of form that would show her what he had seen, what he would have written.

The last few were darker than the others, and I realized with a start that they were still wet – drying in the sun. Not far to one side, a large vat of some viscous white paste rested with a hose dangling over the edge. The white paste was slowly setting. Beside it, a sorrowful expression on his face, stood the girl’s father. He was a small mountain of a man. His shoulders were too broad, and he stood there in a grungy wife-beater t-shirt and jeans – at least I think they were jeans. They were stained dark and puddled over his feet so it seemed they melted into the dark earth.

Everything is fine,” she said. ” I sat up a bit straighter, shook my head, regretted it, and frowned. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and staggered to my feet. I realized in that instant that I was only wearing boxers, but I wasn’t in the mood to worry over it. If she was there, she’d probably been there when I was brought in – as likely as not she’d stripped me. I left my room, and I heard her following close behind. “Really,” she said. ” I hurried to the back door, flung it open, and stepped out onto the back steps.

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The Call of Distant Shores by David Niall Wilson

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