It wasn’t a ritual.
It wasn’t even practice for a ritual. It was curiosity. Scratching an itch. It was finding out what was so special about the thing and how it’s prepared.
It wasn’t the bread on the offering plate. It was learning how to cook the bread.
Something happened unnoticed as I learned the hard way how to keep my hand steady. As I held back my desire for the end result to examine the process second by second. As scents rose, altered, and rolled in the air as if from a furiously burning censer despite the chill of the tools and the environment.
It wasn’t a ritual, I reminded myself. It was an experiment.
“Good. Put that down and look at this.” The words were heard inside my head but did not alarm me. I set down what I was holding and tilted my head to the side to examine what I had been directed to observe. I did not notice that I was still physically alone in the room.
It couldn’t be a ritual, I reminded myself. There was no intent for one. This is merely practice.
“Now, pick that up and resume at your measured pace.” I was excited to see the physical results I had been hoping for. I had seen videos of the process and had researched which bottles were legitimate and which were dyed simulacrums. I was relieved to know my purchases had been true.
It was not a ritual, no matter how much my world seemed to turn at the first physical proof of results. Not at first.
“Let the scents encase and enthrall you. I will show you how to break free of it later. And yes, this is a simile for other things. But that conversation can wait for another time. There is a lot to experience here, and you need to find your pacing in it.” I nodded like the attentive student I thought I was and allowed the subtle layers of smells rising around me to cocoon me. In their softness I realized what had happened.
Too late I understood. The offering wasn’t what was mixed in the glass. The offering was my desire to create it and my attention to detail. The offering was the desire to know… and to know more.
The offering had been accepted and the ritual completed.
The mixture in the glass now transformed and settled, the soft wrapping of scents descended to the floor allowing me the grace of movement. I put the bottle of water on the table and looked up. Across from me, between where my table stood and my monitor glowed, was a pillar of shadow that allowed no light to pass through it. It obscured the still active monitor screen entirely.
“Your goal is completed. You have learned how to louche absinthe and you have done well. If you wish to converse further with me, take up the glass, and drink.” The voice from the pillar was heard entirely within my head. The power of the voice from the pillar was felt with my entire body. I was not being compelled, however.
I was being given a choice. One entirely subject to my free will. Somehow I knew that if I declined, I would not offend because I had truly completed my goal and was sincerely thankful for the instruction given. But here was a chance to know more, freely offered. Would I know more?
I took up the glass.
Of what followed, I will not speak.
I know who/what was appearing as a pillar of shadow. I am not comfortable making any identifying remarks, not even with obfuscated kennings. Some of you may recognize the context immediately. Some of you may have no bloody idea what I am referring to. Either you know, or you don’t know. I may later come back to this post and edit it with their identity, or I may not. Es como es.