I was slammed against the wall of my entranceway. “What the fuck, Jamie? The fuck have you given me?” Snake sputtered, his heavy breath raging out of his nostrils onto my face. The next thing he said shook my world.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. This story started last afternoon.
My name is Jamie. I’m in middle school, I’ve skipped a class, and I pride myself in my vocabulary… Mostly because I don’t know anything else about me to be proud of. I’m skinny, I’m short, I’m awkward to be around and people my age scare me. I’m better with kids and with adults than I am with my classmates.
When I was younger I was always compared to the stereotypical teacher’s pet, only without glasses. I don’t really know why I changed but… I’ve mostly stopped caring about school. I still get good grades because it’s just plain easy. But I don’t even do my homework anymore, all my free time I spend playing video games instead.
But yesterday my mom sent me to play outside despite my begging not to. I thought I would just walk around the park for an hour or so then come back home and get back to my console, but the three kids in the soccer field had other plans.
Snake and his two lackeys Dean and Lukas. Classmates. Also, my bullies. They’d seemed to just be hanging around talking about something or other, until they noticed me and moved in my direction.
Dean is a lanky guy, he has a mop of black hair on his head and permanent, dark eye bags, with a malicious grin that never leaves his face. Wears his leather jacket no matter the weather and pops the collar when he tries to be intimidating. Also, I’m pretty sure he smokes. He’s barely thirteen, and he already smokes!
Lukas wears those 3D glasses they give at the cinema. Not the red and blue pair like years ago, the pure black ones that you’re supposed to give back at the end and that look like poop. I’m pretty sure he got the idea from that time travel movie. He keeps his blonde hair cut razor short and he’s smart enough to adapt his outfit to the time of year.
And Snake is the leader of the group. It’s a nickname obviously, but I don’t want to get beat up, so I’ve learned to forget his name to avoid saying it by accident. Tall for our age, and sporting a light brown brush-up in guise of haircut. He’s both the muscles and the brains of this whole affaire, despite having no affinity for the latter… Which means their group’s general cleverness doesn’t fly high.
It didn’t take long for them to corner me. “Going somewhere, Jamie?” Snake uttered under the snicker of his goons.
“Uuh… No, not particularly…” I replied, my gaze shifting back and forth between the three boys as I futilely looked for an escape route.
Dean came in and grabbed my shirt by the collar, keeping his grin right next to my ear as he explained in his raspy voice, “You don’t seem to get it, dude. That was an order.”
They started dragging me along, keeping me in the middle of their tight formation to avoid me stepping out. “Say, Jamie, what do you know about alchemy?” Snake asked me, not even bothering to turn his head towards me.
My heart skipped a beat at the mention of alchemy. This was this kinda rare and vast domain of potion-brewing and transmutation... And also a minor passion of mine. When I saw cartoons using it as a plot point for an episode or another, I always had a fascination for it I couldn’t pinpoint. It always seemed so powerful, so capable of doing anything, of fixing anything. Unfortunately I knew I would never get to taste it in real life. Alchemy was ridiculously expensive, from entering the schools required to learn it, to practicing the art itself. “A little, like everyone…” I modestly replied. Tooting my own horn was something I had to avoid while in this company.
“Yeah, bullshit. You think I haven’t seen what kinda books you read during recess?” Snake replied, prompting Lukas to punch my elbow. “There’s a rumor an alchemist moved in town.”
I kept my mind focused on rubbing my arm to pretend staying nonchalant, but I could feel a cold sweat make its way onto me anyway. “Oh, that’s nice. Is this related to where we’re going?”
“Ain’t you a smart cookie, eh.” butted in Dean, looking at me intently.
“Alchemy can do all kinds of things, right Jamie?“ Snake continued his explanation. “Like change someone’s hair or eye color, or give them muscles for a while?”
“A-Amongst other things, yes.” I stuttered. “Permanent strength potions are considered illegal contraband, and there’s been many sports scandals, so all potions related to strength are either temporary or reserved for medical applications-”
“I didn’t ask for the whole wikipedia page, nerd.” Snake cut me off, letting the sounds of our footsteps replace discussion for a minute. “Point is, I would really like a A in P.E....”
I glanced at him curiously. “But don’t you already get As there?” In fact, wasn’t it the only subject where you got over a C, I wanted to add, but my desire to avoid a black eye took precedence and I kept that for myself.
“No. I got a B in basketball and now my dad’s pissed. Wants to cut my allowance.” Snake growled. I wasn’t certain how a strength potion would help him there… I was pretty sure his grade had been tanked for his lack of team play, but then again, I did say he wasn’t the brightest bulb in the shed.
“So… You want me to go to the alchemist and buy a potion for you?” I asked, unsure. “I-I can do that if you want, I have my wallet-” Lukas snatched it out of my pocket and emptied it of all its money into his waiting hands.
“Pfft, pay? And get a receipt? And having the purchase declared? And letting the teacher know I’ve cheated? Nah, Jamie. I want you to steal one. Way easier to keep it under the radar that way.” He flashed me a menacing grin as I felt a shiver down my spine.
“Are you crazy!?” I said before catching myself a bit too late.
Snake flipped on his heels and grabbed my shirt. “Shut the fuck up. Next time I’m punching you.” He then released me from his rough handling, but not without pushing me first, to the laughter of his friends. “Anyway. We’re here.” He added, pointing his finger towards a ridiculously extravagant mansion I knew wasn’t there a week ago. There really was an alchemist in town.
I protested. “I-I’m not doing this, there’s no way I can-”
“Oh, cuz you think you have a choice?” Lukas muttered with his gravelly voice while counting my bills.
I paused for a moment, unable to find any word, before slumping my shoulders in defeat. They were three. I was alone. “No, I don’t…”
Snake sent me aside with Dean, who pushed me along the house. “See that open window over there? Climb in, find the potion, come back, and we just might not beat you up.”
“W-why don’t you do it yourself? I mean… I could… Betray you, or… something…” I said, trying to sneak my way out of this.
But all it elicited in response was a guffaw from Dean, before he started whispering. “Yeah right, sure ya will. Snake and Lukas would just stomp around the place, and I know nothing of the whole sneaking around business. But you always manage to just be so frickin’ silent at school. S’like you were born for this job. And wanna know why ya won’t betray us?”
I tensed up. “Why?”
“Cuz you’re a troublemaker like us, I can feel it. Bet ya you’re even excited to do this, even.” As Snake and Lukas approached us, he took his usual volume once more. “Now don’t disappoint me, Jamie.”
I didn’t have time to parse what he’d said to me that Snake spoke up. “Coast is clear. Lukas, give our thief a leg up.” He complied, and so did I, scuttering through the open window and into what appeared to be a living room.
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Bio: I write the LGBTQ gender bending stories I wish I had when I was a teen, and all the internet had was cis gaze erotica. I write so that future trans kids have better stuff to look at to figure themselves out than what I had.