Transmutation is the name of the game, he said. The Alchemist put aside his ingredients, turned off the burner, reached for the doobie that was held out to him and took a long deep drag.

Java looked around the large room that the Cherry Lady had brought him to earlier that evening, in wonder. The slightly curved ceiling was a deep translucent shifting shade of blue with the constellations of the northern hemisphere glimmering deep within. The amberish lighting illuminated the wisps of misty white as they drifted across towards the far end of the simulated evening sky. Three of the walls were literally crammed with esoteria – formulae, astrological symbols, runes and other hieroglyphics – chaotic, yet with an amazing harmony that made it into some surrealistic work of the highest art-form. The remaining wall was filled with books on shelves – wall to wall and ceiling to floor. The room itself was comfortably warm and inviting, with rugs and carpets, cushions and well upholstered sofas and chairs. The Alchemist had his paraphernalia off to one section of the room on a long worktop with a basin at one end. Glass jars full of all sorts of unidentifiable substances, mortar and pestle, an antique weighing scale, specimens of plants – some in various stages of being dried and others in liquid and more, with a very large crystal oval which seemed to be floating in the corner, shooting off the colours of the spectrum as it caught the light in its twirling facets.

Maaan it be like som kinda psychedelic trip – witout droppin nuttin. Yo hear me? Cher be bringin me to dis cat she say she know from dose days in Hampstead when she be livin by da heath and he be her neighbour in dose flower-power days.

The Cherry Lady had recently returned after a long trip to, as she described it, all those fabulous places I’ve wanted to visit and some that I wanted to return to. The windfall from the the secret agent man, Leon, had made it all possible, so she had travelled in style, savouring the best of the best. Then almost as soon as she returned, she received the message from The Alchemist and although she didn’t elaborate too much about it, said she had to get back for a few days and wanted Java to join her. And Java, being Java, hadn’t the heart to turn her down.

The Alchemist blew a cloud of smoke out of his face and passed the doob. He was taller than medium height, with long greying hair and a slightly whiter beard. His face was kind and reflected what Java took to be wisdom. He wore a Japanese kimono with the sleeves rolled up and Java was struck by his hands that somehow moved in an almost liquid manner – like they danced maaan, was how Java described it. His fingers were neither long nor elegant, but were more like a ‘worker’s’ hands – strong, but attractive in shape and artistic in a strange way. He wore an earing, a silver bracelet on one hand and had a gold cord with an amulet around his neck. The Rolex around his wrist was in a broad leather band with silver studs in it. Obviously well off, he looked the part – or so Java thought.

Comin back to what yo said maan, bout transmutashun – aint dat bout turning metal into gold?

‘That’s right, but what I’m working on is not just on metal into gold, but also on other substances – refining them until they reach optimal potential’.

He reaches for two samples of some cuttings that lay on the table by him.

‘For instance, here’s a sprig of average quality Mint (Mentha spp.) and here’s what resulted after I made the transmutation’.

Maaan, I took a look at dem sprigs – one looked and smelled jus like dat Mint we use for dat lamb wit mint crust dat yo be doin sometimes, an de odder – sheeet, it be havin dis golden aura to it an dat scent be sweeter dan any mint I ever smelled. I be flashin on dat lamb wit dis mint bein use fo dat crust on it – mus make it be extra speshul. Den ma maan get out dis can full of flowerin tops of som ordinary weed and anodder can wit some after dat mutatin he done, an yo would’n believe da change! Fo shure he be makin dat base weed into a golden replica. Dat aroma – maaan! So he take som out and stick it in da bowl of dis weird lookin pipe, lit dat mudder up and drag. Den he pass dat pipe to Cher an den it com my way. An I aint sayin no more – cept dis cat be one very speshul dude.

So after visitin wit Da Alchemis and getting our heads in som wonderful spaces we walk down past de underground to dat lil ol restaurant roun da corner from da station an had ourselves som dinner. I be thinkin dat we could do a take-a-way so our maan could do som of dat transmuting of dat food!

Anyway, to cut out the superfluous, Java returned from his visit with the Alchemist with a nice sample of some ordinary weed transmuted into a golden super-variety. And I could see just what he meant.