Universal Reagent
by Admiral Jota

A while back, I picked up a handful of brochures for different kinds of magic. This is the first one I got around to actually writing up. It's pretty nicely-done, actually: tri-fold on glossy paper, decent typesetting and full-color photos. It starts out like this:

1001 Magical Potions
...in one little bottle!

Have you ever wanted to fly like a bird? To be as strong as an ox? To turn invisible? You can do all this and much, much, much more with the help of the new Universal Reagent from Alkahest Inc. Just add a single drop of this miraculous substance to any of a thousand different common household liquids, and that base liquid will be instantly transformed into a potion of supernatural power. Amaze your friends, vanquish your enemies -- become the most powerful individual in your personal universe!

This is accompanied by a picture of a vial (I think it's just an ounce or so, but there isn't really any scale in the picture) of what looks like liquid mercury. It seems a bit more sparkly, maybe, but I think that's just a chromatic effect from the camera and the lighting. It goes on to list some of the different recipes: add it to ink for invisibility, add it to fruit juice for speed, add it to oil for crazy glue. The next page goes into more detail about some of the specific uses, actually: it has headings for different broad categories of potions you might create: athletic, utilitarian, covert, medicinal (Regrow hair! Kill off any bacterial infection in just one dose! Not to mention an entire subparagraph devoted to improving your personal endowment and prowess, so to speak).

Then we've got our testimonials from satisfied customers, of course, each with a smiling photograph beside it:

Will S. of Seattle, WA:
“My family couldn't afford to send me to college. But with the speed and strength I got from using your potions, I was a shoo-in for a football scholarship. That's all it took to kick-start my career and make me the top chartered accountant I am today. Thanks, Alkahest!“

Martha J. of Davis, IL:
“After I came down with a rare incurable strain of Tunisian Goat Pox, the doctors gave me just six weeks to live. But now they all say that I'm in perfect health, and I feel ten years younger! Thanks, Alkahest!“

Fred M. of Tulsa, OK:
“Before the Universal Reagent, I could never get a date. But now I've had to quit my job and buy a triple-wide bed to accommodate my new socially active lifestyle. Thank you, Alkahest!

Unsurprisingly, there's also a full page of tiny print: “Only use Universal Reagent according to its instructions. Alkahest Inc. will not be held accountable for any misuse of the Universal Reagent. Experimentation with the Universal Reagent and any untested substances is strictly prohibited. The Universal Reagent is unable to transmute based metals or any other materials into gold.“ And so on and so forth. But now I'm aware that mixing it with milk can produce a beverage which is not only delicious but also a deadly poison. Handy to know.

They avoid mentioning the price too prominently, but it apparently comes out to $59.99 per bottle. This is a bit misleading, though: I don't think you can buy it by the bottle. It comes in packs of six, and I'm pretty sure each unit is actually just that deceptively tiny vial on the front cover. Still, $360 for six ounces is pretty cheap if it can actually do a quarter of the stuff they claim. I was almost tempted to try it out myself, but the order form had already been torn off. When I checked back to pick up another one, I couldn't find the stall I got it from. Oh well. If anyone else gets a chance to try this stuff, would you let me know how it works? Thanks.