You learn more from your mistakes than your successes.
So here I am to try, and to fail, so I can learn.
Paul Fail. For The Win!

26 February 2010

#FridayFlash: The Alchemist's Wish

The Alchemist's Wish
By D. Paul Angel

Far from the city, distant even from the farms and villages too small for even an inn; nestled the tiny valley of Witherbark.  It was the kind of locale which wasn't so much mentioned on maps as it tended to reside under such labels as, "Wilderness," "Elf Be Here," or "tread ye not here after dark."  It earned its name from the nebbish, weathered hide of the birches and oaks which densely filled its ripples.  Deep within it, however, there was also a pure spring of fresh water, around which tightly wound an ancient, almost forgotten, Ley line.  Next to it sat an old, weathered cabin, which housed a single, gruntled, occupant.

Lam Thion emerged from the forest, pushing back the branches, snags, and vines that were ever trying to absorb the paths.  He held an arm-full of dead branches and crossed the tiny clearing around his cabin while his unquiet eyes flitted from the cabin to the forest with varying degrees of distrust and malice.

He entered the cabin to a sickly obsequies voice greeting him, "So good to see you again, Master Thion."

"Sod off Skaeal," snapped Thiol, "You miserable Imp."

"At your service," the Imp replied, materializing, next to the fireplace.

"I said 'Sod Off!' not, 'appear!'" shouted Thion, allowing the wood to tumble from his arms across the cabin's hard packed dirt floor in his anger.

"Of course, Master, I was merely trying to be respectful." replied Skaeal cooly, "Perhaps Master does not wish the lowly Skaeal's help with the Master's experiments anymore?"

"Curse you to the pain, Skaeal.  You bloody well know I need you, you, you-" Thion's anger filled tirade would've made Skaeal blush, were he not already naturally beet red and a minor Daemon.  Thion's coarse words continued as he built a fire around the medium cast-iron cauldron that filled corner of the room closest to the spring.  It slowly died out of its own accord as he grabbed the misshapen ingots of lead off the floor and placed them in the cauldron, but you could tell that the anger still rippled through him.

He had done this ritual many, many times, and it had always ended in abject failure.  There was only one ingredient missing.  One last thing that Skaeal had yet to figure out which was all that separated harnessing the Ley energy into the conversion.

"If only you could read the book," he said finally, plaintively, in Skael's general vicinity.  The Book did not exist tangibly so much as it was the collected lore of Skaeal's line of Daemons.  When Thion had summoned and bound Skaeal to do his bidding, he had not counted on the Daemon being unable to read the whole of the tome.

"Master understood that Skaeal could not read when Master bound Skaeal," said the Imp matter of factly, raising his small arms to his side and knocking over some books from the shelf on which he was suddenly sitting.  "Perhaps Master is tiring of turning lead into gold and wishes Skaeal to try and read something else?"

"No, I cannot leave here without gold.  My life is forfeit until I do.  As you know all too well!"

Skaeal made no reply but was suddenly next to the cauldron, wrapping the flames around his fingers.  "Perhaps Master would like to try a hotter fire this time?"

"Is that what the book says?" asked Thion with piqued excitement.

"Skaeal will help the help the flames."

Thion looked into the Imps's shiny, solid black eyes.  There was a glint in them that he had never seen before. "You can read it now, can't you?  Can't you!"  Skaeal made no reply, but started building the flames hot enough that Thion could feel the sweat drop from his brow.  He grabbed the little Daemon's form, and turning it away fromt he fire and towards him shouted, "What's changed? Tell me what's changed!  What do you know?  Tell me!"

"What is it the Master wishes?" asked Skaeal, matching Thion's level stare,  "Above all else?"

"Gold of course!  I want to turn lead into gold."

"Then Master shall."

"You can read the formula!  The last ingredient! Tell me, what it is?  Tell me!"

"A willing Human," said Skaeal simply, as Thion was immolated with a piercing scream.

The next day, Skaeal pushed through the charred reamins of the cabin.  He heaved a smoldering beam aside and uncovered the cauldron, looking at the gold within it.  "We both got what we wanted," he said as he pulled it out. "I get my freedom, and you, Master," he said mockingly, "finally turned lead into gold."

18 February 2010

Pirate Timing

Pirate Timing
D. Paul Angel

Llewelen walked around the large crate lashed down between the Main and Fore masts with his gait matching the Ocean's easy rolls.  The air had a crisp saltiness to it, and the tropical Sun hung just above a quickly fading mist.  The breeze was picking up, and Llewelen inspected the taught sails on either side of the crate.  As he was looking up, a lithe man dressed in ill-fitting black clothes walked up to him.

"Are ye sure today is it?" asked Llewelen without looking away from the rippling canvas.  The stranger, who gave only the name Stanton and had paid handsomely for the voyage with him and his crate, seemed both familiar to the sea and yet a stranger to sailing.  He had promised much, subtly threatened more, but was nothing if not assured of himself.  He had been adamant that his crate stay above deck, and had spoken to the crew in superstitious tones of what would happen were anything placed on or near it.

"Yes, Captain Llewelen," Stanton replied through an exaggerated yawn, "Just as sure as when I told you this time was coming some days hence."

Llewelen grunted and continued his walk.  He opened his mouth to speak but a flash of light to the Northeast caught everyone's eye.  Moments later a resounding craaack pulsed over the ship.  Thus far, the stranger had been right in his predictions, but bets had been made about this particular one.  Money and prayers were soon abounding around the ship.

Llewelen moved aft to the quarter deck, and felt his neck prickle.  He had taken part in his share of combat, ordered his share of discipline, and personally carried out the harshest of penalties; that he was particularly adept at any or all within the realm of violent conflict, however, had not yet made him actually enjoy the craft.  He turned and regarded Stanton smugly standing at his side
"And now gun boats that aren't?"  He asked Stanton in as matter of fact tone as he could muster.

"Yes, and I would remind you again that it would be best for your crew to show as little resolve against them as possible.  Resistance would be... futile at best," he finished with a wry smile.

Llewelen held an ancient spyglass to his eye and saw four grey shapes, low in the water, and moving far faster than any ship of sail could hope to.  They crisscrossed and began firing guns that sounded like booming, ripping canvas, with one shot flowing after the other.  They truly were, Llewelen realized, no match for the half dozen 24 pounders the ship carried, let alone the score of cannonades.

The shells quickly tore through his sails until the wind leaked through like a sieve, and the ship slowly eased to, until it was drifting with the current.  The four grey boats came to a stop almost as readily as they had sped in circles around the much larger brig.  They each had a low rumbling sound and a cloud of black smoke following them around.

The Stanger sidled up next to Llewelen, "Now you believe me?  The whole British Navy is no match for them."

"We know you carry pieces of eight," came a voice amplified somehow from across the waves, "You will bring them to us or we will kill you all and take them."

"What is your decision Captain?" asked Stanton, "Either way, they will kill you.  And you cannot fight."

"Aye," said Llewelen, turning to look into the Stranger's eye, "Let's see if you can really protect us.

The Stranger's hand went into his breast pocket.  As the announcement began to repeat itself, the huge crate in the middle of the ship disintegrated in a cloud of smoke.  Almost as quickly, trails of green smoke arced across the sky from the box to the four boats.  In an instant the rockets had fired, found their targets, and each boat had been hit multiple times.  When it was over, only one grey hull remained afloat, burning and slowly breaking apart.  Two others were merely odd bits of grey flotsam, and the fourth was little more than an oil stain shimmering across the waves.

"I think, Captain, that I have quite lived up to my end of the bargain.  A tenth of your doubloons, if you please."

"Aye, but, how would you be taking them?"

"Yes, that."  The stranger reached in his pocket again and a ripple rose next to the ship.  A black shape emerged from under the water and a small submarine was soon bobbing next to the ship.

"Now.  My reward Captain," Stanton said insistently.

"Certainly Mr. Stanton, You'll be getting what ye earned, but tell me, don't ye worry about hurting Time?  What will the men say when they get back to port?"

"I didn't tell them anything about Time, Captain, that way if you say anything, no one will believe you.  As for the men, well it was green smoke for a reason.  Hold a mass tonight and thank God for calling forth a Kraken to kill thy enemies.  Say it enough and they'll believe you."

Llewelen regarded Stanton's arrogance and asked, "Will ye be back?"

"Yeah, probably.  I'll check on what they try next," he nodded towards the wrecks for emphasis, "and just get here first.  Again.

"And now Captain enough.  My doubloons."

Llewelen responded by pulling a pistol out of his belt and aimed it at Stanton.  Stanton no longer deigned politeness and sneered at Llewelen.  "My clothes may not look it, Captain, but they are more than sufficient armor for any 18th century weapon."

The condescending smile remained frozen on his face as his body was torn in half underneath it by the plasma pistol's discharge.

Llewelen squatted next to Stanton's body, "True, lad, true.  But how's it do against 28th century weapons?"

15 February 2010

Submitting a #FlashFriday Piece?

When I wrote my last #FlashFriday piece, "Deau <3 Machina" the first draft was 1,700 words and I felt like I had not said nearly enough.  The story works as it is, I feel, but I really liked that first draft.  Cutting almost half of it hurt, because each of the different characters was given so much more depth, and it was each of their little individual decisions that eventually led to the culminating Deus ex Machina.

So the question is, if I go back and write that story, expand it out by another 2,000 to 2,500 words words or so while adding in another twist or two; what are the ethics of then submitting it?  I would, of course, mention that a much smaller version was already published online, but just because I can doesn't necessarily mean I should.
If anyone has any thoughts experience or recommendations I would greatly appreciate it.

A Glenfiddich Trifecta

My wife surprised me a few years back with a couple 375ml bottles of single malt Scotch whisky.  One was Glenlivet, the other Glenfiddich (pronounced with a hard "ick" I soon found out).  I had avoided drinking for years for reasons detailed in an earlier post, but had finally started.  I had also come to find that I enjoyed single malts, and this was a fine introduction.  I liked the Glenlivet.  I loved the Glenfiddich.  Indeed, it became the first single malt that was "mine."

Since I was new to the single malt game at this point, I went on to trying more single malts, and fell away from Glenfiddich.  It wasn't that I didn't still like it so much as there are just a wealth of other whiskies out there to try.  Recently, however, I came to back to it.

I was on the road not too long ago and ordered a Glenfiddich from the hotel bar.  I was chatting with the bartender, who was an amazingly cool person, and we were talking about whiskey.  She was not, "A whiskey girl," but was thinking of trying some.  Well, she got distracted whilst pouring and almost overpoured the glass.  She apologized and said that it was all mine for no extra.  So I invited her to try a sip: after all, if you're going to be sampling whiskey, why not start with a whisky?

Well she poured some off into a separate glass took a sip and... just about died.  She coughed, sputtered, ran out of the bar and I could see her downing water.  She was absolutely mortified, and was apologizing profusely for, "insulting my drink."  I was laughing and told her there were no worries, and its all about taste; I even got to share some Latin with her, "De Gustibus non est Disputandem. (Of taste there is no argument.)"  I also told her that if she didn't like Glenfiddich, her foray into whiskey was probably not going to go very well.

Regardless of her reaction, however, I still ended up with a double, if not a triple of my old friend to enjoy the game with!

During the Super Bowl I was at a friend's house and they asked if I wanted the usual beer or wine.  I'm not a fan of beer at all, and wine is OK, but it is not a football drink.  Sorry 49er fans.  Then they looked at each other and said, "Hey, you, like whisky, right?  Because we have this whisky sampler..."  It was the Glenfiddich 12, 15, and 18 year sampler, with a single shot of each.  "Oh yeah, I could help you out with that."  The little Glenfiddich bottles each have their own canister, too.  So cool!

I had the 18 and the 12, with another friend of their's having the 15.  It was like enjoying my good old friend and his hot, exotic cousin.  Fun for an afternoon, but still out of my league.  So far.

Finally, the third of the trifecta (introductions don't count).  We had an office ger together after work at a local brew pub.  They have a decent bar so I tried asking about a few more whiskies I could try.  No luck.  After the third I just asked if they had Glenfiddich.  Success. Finally!  I shared a sip with a co-worker who really liked it, and then just enjoyed the Hell out of it myself.

Like any good, old friend I know I can rely on Glenfiddich for a pleasant time.  Sure there've been other times shared with other whiskies inbetween, and even, yes, blends; but I always like coming back to my oldest friend.

12 February 2010

Deus Heart Machina

Deus <3 Machina
D. Paul Angel
The World watched as the Hubble's feed focused on the single point of light headed towards the Asteroid, and held its collective breath as the light intersected with the slowly twisting mass.


"You can do this Vinny.  Been long time since anyone remembered Temple's Big V Vandano, heart and soul of the of the Owl's Vaunted V-fense.  Who owns the records?  You.  That's right Vinny V, you. And today you're going run, RUN!, to the park and back! Yeah!"  His pep talk to himself complete, Vinny "Big V" Vandano went for his first jog in two decades.


A lifetime later, when even the TV executives were beginning to wonder if the Asteroid ratings boon was really worth the extinction of mankind, a silent, brilliant flash split the Asteroid neatly in two.


Danielle swept through the kitchen with light feet and a happy smile until she saw her beloved cat Charlie sitting by the window; the open window she had forgot to close.  Charlie coolly regarded her as she slowly stepped closer, but he was out the window and down the fire escape before her lunging grasp could catch him.


"It's kind of like the difference between an elephant getting shot with a cannon ball and a shotgun," explained exasperated astrophysicist to the reporters, "Just because it's not going to kill him, doesn't mean it's not going to really sting."


Smooth Tony regarded the pathetic man in front of him.  He held the engagement ring the Boys had found in the man's pocket up to the ill, grimy light the abandoned warehouse afforded.  Even in the dimness Tony could see that it was Cubic Zirconia.  Despite their obvious similarities, this was not the man Tony had actually conducted business with, so he regarded the man's babbling sobs about his brother Grant as likely true.

"What would you like for us to do with him Mr. Noland?" asked his top underling, Bren.
Smooth Tony considered.  "Anyway you cut it," he thought, "Truth a pretty lousy business partner in this line of work."
"Bren.  Joey.  Take a couple of the boys and this chump to his girlfriend's."
"Yes, Mr. Noland," said Bren without a trace of emotion.
"Beat him till he dies."


"Just keep the legs pumping V! Whoo!"  Vandano continued shouting to himself as he stumbled back from the park.  The day was warmer than expected, and he was more out of shape than he accepted.  The smell of grass at the park had reminded his brain so strongly of his football days that it interpreted his numb, bloated hands as being taped, and the lack of peripheral vision from the lingering heat stroke as a helmet.  So when he turned the corner to his alley, and saw a small, desperate looking guy surrounded by five huge men, Vinny knew that quarterback was his.


The entire Earth wobbled ever so slightly as the two mountain sized pieces of asteroid safely passed on either side.  In between a cloud of dust and rocks hit the atmosphere with radiant light.  Thousands of tiny specks winked into vapor, but a few still continued their fateful plunge towards the heart of Philadelphia.


Smooth Tony wasn't sure why, but he liked the ring.  He had even opened the sunroof of his limo so he could look at it better in the sunlight.  While it wouldn't do to linger, Smooth Tony enjoyed watching his men work enough that they were approaching the alley.  A man accustomed to having his way, Smooth Tony was stunned to see a huge man in a sweat stained, grey sweat-suit bulldoze through his men before leveling the chump.  Smooth Tony only just managed to start shouting at his driver to stop before a largish meteorite punched through the engine block of the limo doing it for him, cold, and throwing the ring through the sunroof mere moments before him.


Sherman saw a blur of grey explode between the goons and knock them aside.  As time dilated he watched as the massive arms sweep down, gain momentum and then connect with his chest.  The blow knocked him off his feet and sent him skittering against a curb.  Shaken, with one knee awkwardly on the ground, Sherman held out his arms to regain his balance.


Holding the Charlie tightly, Danielle whispered both curses and love into his ear.  She didn't even notice the windowless van pull into the alley until a large, sour-faced man stepped out.  Once she saw him though she knew she didn't want to be anywhere near the alley.  She turned and ran for her door.  She got up on her stoop, and was struggling with the door, trying to block out the commotion behind her, when she heard a reedy gasp behind her.
She turned and saw Sherman, on one knee with his arms spread, below her.


One of the smaller pieces of asteroid was a particularly hard form of Carbon.  It's lattice structure had enormous strength, but was still brittle at the right angle.  So even as it ablated away layers until it took on a pointed shape, when it hit the sharp metal edge of the hydrant it had split.  Part of it ricocheted off of the pavement and a brownstone wall before arcing back skywards. 

At its apex, it intercepted a slowly tumbling ring, hitting its Cubic Zirconia centerpiece hard enough that the fake stone simply vaporized.  It threw the ring even higher in the air and gave it an even more eccentric tumble as the impact's remaining energy was dissipated through melting the small metallic prongs onto the new, glittering stone.


As she was looking down at Sherman, she saw a ring slowly arc across the sky and land delicately on Charlie's back.

"Oh, I do Sherman!  I do!"