He thinks no one is watching – he thinks no one can see him staring out his window, looking at the doll maker's pretty daughter. But that is how we have spent these past few days, he and I – he watches her, and I watch him. After all, I am the seller of spectacles and spyglasses, the maker of eyes. I have seen more already than most men will ever see.
Nathaniel is still afraid of me. Even after all these years, he screamed and threw me out after one glimpse of my face. This, of course, is the natural inclination of the weak-minded when faced with the truth – they fear it, and flee in terror towards comforting lies. Even now he is telling himself that I cannot possibly be the specter of his childhood, and once he has convinced himself of that his curiosity will spur him to delve too deeply. He still blames me for the death of his father, of course – his father, who was my protégé in the noblest of arts. Nathaniel is a fool, just as his father was, and so does not see how his father failed.
The essence of alchemy is to burn away the impurities that mask the secret perfection in the heart of all matter. This is the method by which one transmutes matter – base lead is broken, twisted, melted down, and transfigured by the will of the alchemist into precious metal. Credulous fools pursue alchemy for material gain, and wonder that they cannot make gold out of lead. They fail to realize that the alchemist must first rid himself of impurities before he can begin to understand the fundamental nature of the universe. We are born full of flaws, and we must burn them away in the crucible of anguish and trial.
If your father had truly understood that, Nathaniel, he would have let me take your eyes. He would have given up everything he had ever held dear in order to walk the path of higher knowledge with unclouded eyes. But he failed, and so he perished.
What a shock it was when I first saw Nathaniel in Florence! I thought I had rid myself of that family forever, and I regretted that I had not simply torn the boy limb from limb when I had the chance. Now I see – I have been presented with an opportunity for study. Nathaniel thinks he knows fear – he thinks, even, that he knows a little bit of madness. He knows nothing. He knows only the fear of pain...that blind, animal panic that is common to dogs and mice. There are a thousand and one horrors more mind-shattering than that, an entire symphony of terror that he has yet to experience.
Keep watching, Nathaniel. Olympia is beautiful, is she not? Her hair like spun gold, her voice like an angel come to earth, her skin as pale as moonlight on marble – you'll fall in love with her, like the fool you are, but you cannot leave well enough alone. You'll find out soon enough…the fluttering of her heart is only the grinding of gears; the lips you long to kiss nothing but painted porcelain; and her eyes, oh, her perfect eyes! They are glass shot through with emerald and quicksilver, the product of my craft…Yes, Nathaniel, the eyes of your beloved Olympia are mine, and mine alone!
This, then, shall be my experiment – wherever Nathaniel turns, he will find me. Wherever he looks, he will find horrifying Truth that sears like red-hot iron. I will strip away sanity and reason – those imperfections that leech true genius from the mind – and see if I may refine gold from this lump of human lead.
Your eyes, Nathaniel, will be mine after all.