Ben was a teacher who worked in an archipelago. He had his own boat and would putter around from island to island, teaching hieroglyphics at the local schools. He taught at a different school every day of the week.
This was just his day job, however. His real dream was to become an alchemist. He had a small alchemy kit he carried around and when his classes were finished, he would experiment and do his quiet research at a nearby bar or coffee shop.
One day, he was at a school on Sunny Island and had finished all his classes by lunchtime. One of the teachers came up to him.
“We want you to stay until the end of the day,” he said. “You are a teacher and that’s what teachers do.”
“Okay,” Ben said. “That’s fine, but where should I go while I wait for the end of the day?”
“Anywhere you want,” the teacher said.
This sounded like a great thing, except the school was so small that there was nowhere to go. Ben went first to the library. He had just set up his alchemy set when students began to trickle in. Immediately, they crowded around him.
“What’s this?” one asked, picking up a glass bottle.
“That’s Aqua Fortis,” Ben said.
“Can I drink it?”
“It will kill you in a very painful way.”
“That’s Sugar of Lead.”
“Of lead. That will kill you too.” Eventually Ben packed up his equipment. He wandered from room to room, looking for some place to sit. He ended up in a storage room, crammed between boxes of abandoned pencil stubs and the costumes from the school’s Cthulhu Day program.
“I need somewhere else I can go,” he thought, “like an alternate dimension where I can do my work.”
“…Or, some sort of simulacrum to sit here for me,” he added, after a moment of contemplation, in which he realized he had no idea how to open another dimension. For the next few weeks, he worked on his replacement until the fateful night when he poured the Elixir of Life into its head and brought it to life. It looked just like him, spoke in his voice and seemed reasonably intelligent. He still couldn’t turn lead into gold, but this was good for the time being.
From then on, he would bring the simulacrum (or Ben Two, as he called it) to school with him, then set it loose whenever classes were over and he could sneak out. This worked well, but it was difficult to carry Ben Two to school and dangerous to walk into school with it. Finally, one day when Ben was feeling especially tired, he sent the thing to teach his classes for him.
No one noticed.
From that day on, he sent Ben Two to teach all his classes, while he stayed home to work on his alchemy. That was the plan, at least, although he ended up just playing World of Warcraft and eating Pizza Pockets all day long.
One day, he was walking to the store to get more alchemical supplies and Pizza Pockets when a beautiful woman ran up to him and threw her arms around him. She gave him a big kiss.
“Ben, thanks again for last night. I had a great time.”
“Sure thing,” Ben stammered. He had never seen her before in his life. She gave him another kiss and then left.
That evening, Ben was waiting when Ben Two came home. The simulacrum came in, flipping through the mail.
“I saw a woman today,” Ben said. “She said she had a good time with me last night.”
Ben Two looked up. “You saw Gloria? Crap, why did you leave the house?”
“Why shouldn’t I?”
“Don’t you think it’s a bit suspicious to have you at the store while I’m at work? Anyway, you’ve gained a lot of weight. From now on, just give me a list and I’ll get whatever you need.”
“Yeah, okay,” Ben said.
“Also, don’t open any packages that come here. I’ve got some stuff going on.”
“Don’t bother yourself about it, okay? I’m out there making a better life for both of us. You’ve got your hobbies here. Just stick to them, and ramp the curiosity down. This is everything you’ve wanted, right?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Ben said. He was trying to work out if this was all a good thing or a bad thing.
(to be continued)