I took the brush and dipped it in the vial, then I began to baste the object like a tiny Christmas ham, now merely a ball of confused elements with jagged pieces of sharp metal and bone poking out and tufts of fur in and through and around the messy mixture. As I applied the clear salty liquid, the smelly lump seemed to relax its agitation. The unpleasant smell dissipated. I would swear that if it was a living thing it could almost be said to give a sigh of contentment as I applied the fluid. I continued to spread it on until it had a complete coating all over.

I had forgotten the hour, but I suppose it was after midnight. The lightning and wind had ceased and only a snowy rain mix fell and formed a hard ice crust on everything outside. I suddenly realized my exhaustion and again felt my zeal for this project waning. What had I expected? Sticking the thermometer into its side, I noted the obvious, that some chemical reaction was at work, for the temperature was over one hundred and forty degrees. This had to be some kind of joke – the man in the shop had sold me a box of garbage and reagents that would produce a fizz, like a homemade soda volcano, but that was hardly what I’d had in mind when I went out in search of a new hobby.

I decided I would clean up the mess in the morning, and I put myself immediately to bed without even removing my waistcoat or shoes. The sleep-inducing effect of whiskey had me unconscious even as I mounted the stairs to my upper room, and I am certain that I must have sleep-walked the last twenty feet before collapsing.

But as my physiology would have it, once the soporific had spent its power, I awakened prematurely and was unable to return to sleep. The clock read 4:30 in the morning and I laid there frustrated for quite a while before rising in the still predawn darkness. I returned bleary-eyed to my little project thinking it would be suitable for nothing except the trash, and found it had evolved a little from the way I’d left it. It clearly had gained some organization and the tufts of fur had gathered into a proper array like a regular animal’s coat. Nor is that all. Once again it was jittering around in the metal bowl in agitation as I had seen it before, and it emitted an utterly foreign sound that I can only describe as resembling a baritone quack from a metallic duck.

The calming trick had worked before, so I tried it again. Taking the basting brush and the vial of salt tears, I brushed it with a good application, running along the grain of its fur. As predicted, the object became dormant.

Thus began my relationship with the creature I have lately started to call Malefic. But in those early days, I maintained a posture of cool ambiguity toward it. I decided to leave it a while and not throw it away. When it became jittery, I bathed it with the brush as before. I found its fur to be exceedingly soft and pleasurable to the touch and it occurred to me that a child might find it a nice toy when then chemical reactions ceased.

But to my astonishment, after ten days it had developed rudimentary limbs, and had started crawling on all-fours. In eight weeks it had eyes and a strangely formed snout. It’s fur had completely filled out, and it had perfected ambulatory function. And eventually, like a house cat it would rub up against my legs as I sat in my study, distracting me as I tried to work out some astro-chemical derivative or discrete geometry as I sometimes did to pass the time. Truthfully, in the months of its growth into full maturity, I came to value it as something of an awkward pet, a stray that had made itself at home. I cannot deny that my heart significantly warmed to it when an old friend from the academy came to visit me. Seeing the little beast, and hearing my explanation of its origin, he proceeded to hail my ascendancy among the titans of science. My pride was stroked and I thanked the creature afterward for the favor it had brought me.