Alchemy of Demons

 © Zhang Wang (
© Zhang Wang (


The double doors, nine feet high, five wide, opened and closed by their own volition. A warrior gesturing him inside, Jen walked past a green dragon, coiled inside the doors’ left, and a tiger, crouched at its right. At the back of the central hall, a room extending in all directions, atop a vermillion chair, sat a man wearing a patchwork robe of green, red, yellow, white and dark blue, his eyes half-closed, hair unkempt, feet bare. He moved not when Jen approached, his scepter of golden light casting not a shadow on the wall. To his right sat a boy made of gold, a girl made of jade.

The man adjusted in his chair and opened his mouth and while not a word issued forth, the room shook, a crystal lamp hanging above him casting silver light trembled as does a lamp in a boat tossed about by a storm. The ground below him heaved; the man, the boy, and the girl flinched not. Jen looked over his shoulder. Like a dog trying to find a comfortable place to sit, the dragon turned about in a circle; the tiger yawned and the double doors, behind which the warrior bowed to Jen, slammed shut.

A thunderous tremor shook the ground; the ground fissured in the shape of a lightning bolt.

Jen’s nostrils flared, his hands shook. He ran for the door, evading more fissures splitting the ground. Locked. The dragon’s silver eyes derided him; a subtle reproach in the convex reflection from the beast’s eyes distorted the terror. Jen, backing away from the dragon, bumped into the tiger. He whirled, it roared. Jen ran back to the man in his chair, as of yet unmoved. He shook his knee. The man responded as a statue would.

Looking up and down, Jen spun around, trying to spot a way out. The ground to his right crumbled and a hand emerged, then another, clawing for freedom. Another pair of hands before him, another to his back. And one by one the massives arose: a headless beast with sharp eyes for nipples, a mouth where his belly button should be, holding a jade sword as long as his torso, an axe as broad as his chest; a four armed snake-like thing with dog-like head, horns atop his head and down his arms bearing a jade tipped lance. Gong-sis, the dead come back to life, by the dozens, oozing pus and blood from festering wounds and emaciated flesh; ghosts; a giant serpent with nine human heads, befouling the ground with its dung; flying things, sharp toothed things, and, the biggest of them all, a beast in the form of a bull, a single eye in the middle of its forehead, a snake’s tail whipping the statuesque gold boy, the seated man, and the jade girl to the ground.

 © Zhang Wang (
© Zhang Wang (

None paying Jen a dose of attention, the creatures faced the last to emerge and stood patient.

It examined them all and licked its lips with its thick coarse tongue.

And at its simple command to “collect,” the first to arise rushed the double doors and with one blow of his axe, rendered them to splinters. Screaming, gurgling, growling and the flapping of wings, each, save the last, dashed out the door.

The thing with the one eye stepped on and ground to dust the gold boy and jade girl as if they were cockroaches. It looked at Jen and smiled, plunked a leaden hand on his shoulder. “Thank you.”

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