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by Lisa Tuttle
Description: What if the logic of the world reflected the bizarre logic of the unconscious? Each story in My Pathology explores the insanity just below the surface of normal life--especially the madness that unites and divides the sexes. A woman's obsession with her younger sister's nocturnal activities centers uneasily upon the attic of their shared home, where someone or something has built a room-sized nest. A man's desire to connect with aliens threatens his ability to form human relationships. And in the title story, a modern-day alchemist has enlisted sexuality itself into his quest for the philosopher's stone, with uncertain consequences for the women who love him. By turns disturbing and compelling, these sixteen multi-faceted tales reprise the career of one of SF's most emotionally insightful writers.
eBook Publisher: Electricstory.com, 2001 ElectricStory.com
eBookwise Release Date: September 2004
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [457 KB]
Reading time: 307-430 min.
From "My Pathology":
Daniel worked in an office in central London, as did I, but he lived out in Metroland--nearest station, Rayner's Lane--where the dear old London underground emerges above ground, transformed into a suburban commuter train. The rails ran behind his house, so we were treated to a view of his back garden a good quarter hour before we could expect to arrive at the front door, on foot, from the station. Once, on his way home, Daniel had seen someone entering by the back door, and even though he phoned the police immediately on his mobile, the burglars managed to get away with the TV and VCR.
These were easily replaced. Daniel kept little that he valued on the ground floor of his narrow, two-bedroomed turn-of-the-century terraced cottage. Practically everything that mattered to him was kept locked in his "workroom," otherwise the spare bedroom.
Daniel was a chartered accountant in his ordinary life, but in his workroom he was an alchemist.
He told me this, as he'd told me about Michele, early in our relationship. It meant nothing to me then. If asked to define alchemy, I'd have said it was a sort of primitive, magical chemistry, bearing about the same relationship to modern chemistry as astrology did to astronomy. It seemed a very strange hobby for someone as sane and successful as Daniel, but I kept my mouth shut as he unlocked his workshop to show me the shelves filled with ancient, leather-bound volumes, sealed jars with Latin labels, beakers and retorts, a Bunsen burner, vessels of copper and of glass. The smells were what most struck me: half a dozen different odors lingering in the air. Sulphur, roses, hot metal, burnt sugar, tar, and something pricklingly acidic which made me cough.
"What do you do here, exactly?"
"Do you really want to know, 'exactly'?"
"Search. Explore. Study. Experiment. I'm looking for the Philosopher's Stone--does that mean anything to you?"
I shook my head apologetically. "Afraid not."
He kissed me. "Never mind. If you are interested, I can help you learn, but it doesn't matter; we can't share everything."
As I watched him lock the door to his workshop, I wondered if it would matter. Of course couples couldn't share all their interests, but this hobby seemed less like stamp collecting, more like a religion.
We didn't talk about alchemy and we didn't talk about Michele, and as the weeks and the months passed, and my love for Daniel became more deeply rooted, those two "untouchable" areas of his life became irritants, and I wondered if there was a connection. I finally asked him if Michele had shared his interest in alchemy.
He tensed. "She pretended that she did, for a while, but she didn't. It was my fault as much as hers. I let her know how important it was to me ... but it's not as important as honesty. If she'd just had faith in me, instead of pretending she understood.... She lied to me."
I held his hand. "I won't lie to you. I won't pretend. But I would like to know more about something so important to you. You said you could teach me...."
But the shutters were down; I was trespassing. He shook his head firmly. "No. I won't make that mistake again. It's better if you don't know, and you won't be put in an insidious position. If you don't know anything about The Work, we can't possibly argue about it."
I wished I'd never mentioned Michele. I began to hate the invisible woman who still hovered on the periphery of my life, attached to my lover like a parasite, barring certain possibilities from me forever.