“The heart is a mute bird. The tongue is a dull blade.”

What she found most difficult to remember, however, was alchemy’s subliminal sway over the modern mind. Certainly, she thought, they’d drilled this stuff into her head enough in school. To no avail, however. It just wouldn’t stick.

What would stick, though, was the image of Justin standing astride the corpse of that snake, the sweat dropping lazily from his beard, and the audible hiss of the fog as it rose from his skin. The whole scene moved slowly as if pressed up against some gelid force. Like time was a medium to be moved through, and the future was a thing pushing against the present.
If she could remember that bit about alchemy, she could make sense of it.

There was some line her mother had told her about metaphor: “Those marvellous metaphors that violently yoke disparate ideas together.” The heart is a mute bird. The tongue is a dull blade. The eye is a crown of thorns. The brain is a sense-making organ, the metaphor is its tool.

Was Justin like the snake, or was he himself the snake? She dabbed at her temple with the rag. The ice wicked through cold and rough.