My request for membership to the secret society of the Alpha and the Omega would be rejected – of this I was certain – and so I resolved not to make such a request even though my spirit boiled with desire for the jewels of knowledge that could be mine.
Since the day I first discovered them, I covertly observed and kept a mental register of those whom I could discern as members of the society. This was no easy task, for those who practice the high art of which I speak do not dress differently, or walk differently, or eat different food. A subtle sweep of the eye, a whispered spell, a manipulation of the short-wand over white wafer tablet, a calling forth of the markings that bear within their lines and curves the secrets of this great cauldron within which was forged earth and sky, water and fire, vegetable, animal and mind. These are the distinguishing features of the ones who possess deep knowledge.
They were not mean-spirited, these practitioners of the high art, and they tried to placate the uninitiated by providing us with fake wands of charcoal and wax, but I knew that the clumsy markings brought forth by these tools were not the real thing. They did not have their roots in the mystical knowledge possessed by true initiates. They did not elicit in others the subtle sweep of the eyes and the whispered chants.
One day my grandfather took me for a walk in our neighbourhood. Previously on such walks I had seen an impressive building that I, through careful scrutiny and deduction, discovered to be both a temple of the high art and an initiation-ground for young incumbents.
Previously I had exercised great discipline, because I had come to realize that my grandfather was himself a prominent member of the secret society. I deduced this from the fact that he had a special and unusually beautiful short-wand, a wondrous fountain of symbols that he used with great skill, and which he refilled from a small bottle of blue potion.
This time the volcano of my spirit erupted and at a carefully timed moment I pulled free and bolted into the temple to seek there the Holy Grail that would wrest from the jaws of whatever demon stood in my way as guardian of the sacred knowledge. My grandfather ran after me calling my name, but I managed to breach the perimeter and penetrate into one of the chambers of the inner sanctum where a class of incumbents was being instructed by a majestic high priestess.
On her rostrum was an entire casket of pure white short-wands that she used to conjure up symbols on a large black tablet affixed to the wall. I stood gazing at the golden halo of light that poured through her hair. When she saw me, the light became darkness in her eyes, and for a trembling moment I realized that her wands contained within them the signs not only of beauty, but also of the beast. They all stared at me for a moment and then burst into laughter as my grandfather caught up and swept me into his arms. He apologised for the interruption, and they must have known that he was an important member of their society, because they were not at all angry.
When we got home, my grandfather related the incident and there was much hilarity all round. Later, my mom explained that I was not yet ready to become an initiate, but if I was patient and learnt all that I was taught, that day would come soon. In the weeks that followed, my parents and relatives taught me several rhyming chants and spells that would prepare me for membership. Some of these I had heard before, but had not realized their significance.
In these weeks I realized that the wax wands were not really fake at all, but were actually training wands designed to prepare me for my apprenticeship in the high art. Then came the day of my alpha.
That day I was handed my first true short-wand. It was constructed of yellow painted wood that enclosed the slender metallic cylinder from which it drew its core power. One end was tapered to an elegant point and at its other end a golden clasp held a soft, pink cylinder. I grasped it, uncertain at first, in shaky fingers over white wafer tablet. Then with the confidence I had gained in calling up the mystical markings with all of my training wands that had been left broken and discarded in the wake of my preparation for this great day, I held it firmly and called forth my first symbol of true magic – the letter A.