*We would always like to believe the promise of a solution to our most challenging problems will turn out to be everything that it seems...and it can be very easy to buy into the illusion presented to us, especially if the illusion itself believes that the promise is real...*
The Place: 1851-a small rural town somewhere in New England
“Has true love eluded you? Has the world convinced you that you cannot have everything you ever desired? Step right up to Dr. Pontificus Hovenbecker Vundercrust’s Cabinet of Concoctions, Creations, Charms and Cure-alls! No dream is too unattainable, no hope too high, no feat too unfathomable. You!”
The man, with the brazen voice of a trumpet and as about as shiny with all of his gold-plated buttons on his hunter green coat, thrust his silver cane at me. He flashed a smile that could blind angels.
The crowd around me gawked at the grand display behind him, an old gypsy wagon with bright paint of gold, red, green and purple, displaying a banner that read “Dr. Vundercrust’s Wagon of Wonderment.” He offered me a hand, I took it and he pulled me up onto the stage.
“Young man, what do you want more than anything in the whole world?” The exhibitor leaned on his cane, locking eyes with me.
I cleared my throat, as the small crowd stared at me with eager eyes. “I…really don’t know. I guess…I would like to be extraordinary. I don’t care what manner. Just…extraordinary.”
The doctor beamed another glorious smile. “Young man, I have the perfect solution for you.” He opened his leather satchel and produced a bottle with a greenish liquid. “Dr. Vundercrust’s Peak-of-Potential Solution. Brings out the extraordinary in even the most ordinary man.”
I took the bottle and gave it a tentative sip. Instantly the change occurred; my muddy hair gained a golden sheen, my scrawny frame burst into lean muscle, and my sallow skin beamed a healthy peach. The audience gasped in amazement, and then the good doctor produced a rapier from a compartment in the platform. Without preamble, he ran the blade straight into my side—and the blade bent like taffy. My skin did not have a scratch.
Naturally, Dr. Vundercrust’s wares were almost sold out in five minutes.
Later that night, after the villagers were tucked away at home (most likely trying their new wares, praying for the miracles that would never happen), I stalked into the wagon and sat down. Vundercrust’s driver snapped the reins, and the horses pulled the wagon down the road.
“Good show today, boy,” Vundercrust said as he counted his profits. He glanced over at me, seeing my true shape: the teal salamander skin, the blank yellow eyes, and the seaweedy hair that dropped around my head in tangles.
“First taste is always free, the next comes at a price,” is what the doctor had told me when I first dared to drink the Peak-of-Potential Solution, and of course I had kept coming back for more. Yes, I could alter my physique, be as radiant as Adonis, but at the end of the day, the truth was constantly crawling underneath my skin, and by now my addiction meant I owed the doctor my loyalty for the rest of my life…however long he wished that to be…