Welcome to the Sunday Vignettes! – by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘nother Mike

*I’m trying to do this thing, to increase visibility for the promos.  You should look at the post just below this for the promo.*

Welcome to the Sunday Vignettes! – by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘nother Mike

We hope you will enjoy these, and join in. Luke, Mary Catelli, and ‘nother Mike had this idea that it would be fun for everyone if we ran a regular scheduled vignette session. We asked the Beautiful but Evil Space Princess and she agreed to let us try it.

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it!  For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is alchemy.

112 thoughts on “Welcome to the Sunday Vignettes! – by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘nother Mike

  1. Let me take a crack at this.

    “The quest to turn lead into gold was the stereotypical occupation of the alchemist, although occasional experiments were tried with iron and other base metals. However, it was Joachim Voynich who managed to accomplish the feat by mixing and then splitting mercury and platinum…”

    –A History of Alchemy, Author Unknown

    1. Okay… Not sure where you might go from here. You could continue with the story of Joachim and his work. Or use this as a prelude and then do something like “That’s what the history books say. But the truth is…” Thanks!

  2. I don’t know if this qualifies as a vignette, but this is what comes to mind:

    You probably think an alchemist’s life is pretty amazing, right?

    We’re all living on easy street, right?

    Life gives us lemons and we, LITERALLY, turn them into lemonade,right?

    Well, you’re wrong.

    Somehow, I’ve managed to take a perfectly good marriage and turn it to shit. And I don’t even know how.

    1. Sure, that works. I like the use of that forbidden second tense, with the almost accusatory questions, and the reversal. Then the shift from physical alchemy to alchemy of life, and getting it wrong. Makes a good standalone segment, or you could go ahead and tell us about how someone ran a perfectly good marriage into the ground… Perhaps with a saving twist of alchemical magic to save the day?

  3. I went Midas one worse. Everything I touch is transmuted. Food turns to metal when I try to eat. The love of my life is now a lifeless statue. Everything in my house is hard, shiny, and useless.

    But I didn’t even get gold.

    Anybody want fifty tons of zinc?

    1. Hum… Nice lead up, with us wondering what the heck you’ve got, and the shift to zinc. Good standalone, and you can take us for a ramble through trying to deal with zinc everywhere (even the kitchen sink, as Tom points out). Good!

  4. “The magical enforcers are after me.” He clutched a raggedy book. “I dared print my results. Please! Hide me!”

    “Points for an original pickup line.”

    He fumbled the book, darted a look at the front door and fled.

    “Alchemy?” Tricksy tucked the book away and ignored the men shoving past.

    1. Oh… And what is Tricksy going to do with her newfound book of alchemy? Nice hook! And now our heroine has the book that is going to change her life, right?

    2. Bonus points for the multiple functions of that first line, showing specifics of plot, character, and setting. You’re apparently getting good at this stuff.

      Minor nitpick: I’m not sure “raggedy” fits in well with “print” from a time/space continuum standpoint.

  5. One word over…

    “We can dig up your sky wheel, but you must pay in gold,” said the elder.
    “Our ship’s engin.. er, alchemists can make gold.”

    “I know, but make it anyway- They won’t know it’s radioactive.”

    As each one sickened and died, the village realized they’d been paid in cursed fairy gold.

    1. There are a lot of stories where gold from elves, fairies, and so on has a curse on it, aren’t there? Visiting aliens… Interesting twist. Make it “As each sickened…” (Drop the one) and you’ve got it. Thanks!

  6. …and with the other ingredients the sample was turned into a pill through the process I have discussed. The pill’s medicinal type is 574 and the grade is seven. Blue Feathered Nightmare Potato is the only known medicine which forms a type 574 pill with the other ingredients. Blue Feathered Nightmare Potato would cause liver overdraft toxicity in amounts sufficient to create a grade five pill, much less seven.

      1. I’ve been reading a lot of Xianxia, a genre where alchemy is used to make pills of immortality. Rare exotic plants and a strict hierarchy of power levels are very common. The potato imitates the usual naming scheme. To be forensically useful, pill alchemy would probably need some standardization of classifications.

  7. Master Lucius’ hands shook as he prepared the final incantation: the spell that would transmute all the iron in the room to gold. He’d searched for it his whole life. How strange, he thought, that its obscure discoverer should have written nothing more after his success. He spoke the words.

    1. And instantly all the hemoglobin in his blood was changed to auroglobin. At first he didn’t realize anything was greatly different about himself, but gradually he realized that he was having difficulty thinking and controlling his body. His last thought was that he was developing an interesting faintly bluish tint.

      1. Considering what’s happening to him, how did he know that the earlier researcher had succeeded?

      2. And here’s one answer to the cliffhanger! All the iron, including hemoglobin. Oh, well, it worked, right? And maybe the next alchemist will figure out how to get a golem to say the necessary incantation? Thanks for getting us off the cliff!

  8. Albert cross-dressed. Nothing sexual, no kinky underwear. He just found it more comfortable, less binding, to go about in a lightweight shift. As he lifted his aching 6-foot 4-inch, 280-pound bulk from the dirt, face suffused with anger, one thought was dominant: those muggers would regret they stole Al’s chemise.

    1. Nice! Twist and whap, wake us up! Makes me wonder who will write the lament telling the tale of Al’s chemise, and his hunt for the muggers who stole it. Epic!

  9. “Ah, a silly mortal.” The pointy-eared goblin eyed her. “Is this an alchemist wanting the fairy king to pay for his experiments to turn lead into gold?”
    Halley whispered to Artos, “Did the alchemist ever get the payment?”
    “Of course,” whispered Artos. “Real gold? Gold in truth? A great treasure.”

  10. The prisoner cursed as he eyed the shackles on his wrists and ankles.
    He had secreted the potion, he had cited the incantation correctly. He had somehow transmuted the metal from cold iron into gold.
    But he had forgotten that shackles were shackles.

    1. Fortunately, pure gold is fairly soft as metals go. He looked dubiously at the shackles, not wanting to bite that much gold. On the other hand, there was a convenient wall….

      1. Of course, he had to move quietly. If any of the others prisoners awoke, seeing him chained with golden links, they were libel to cut him out the hard way.
        As it was, he had to decide if he’d take the links with him. Being gold made them even heavier.

  11. Ashlen cursed as the concoction curdled and turns a dark, opaque indigo as it hit the bottom of the searingly hot cast-iron pot. Said curses mostly involved the misbegotten parentage of the seedy-looking market stall barker that promised her best-quality mongoose blood. So much for trying to cut production costs.

  12. “What is wrong with these crazy natives?” Morple asked, and let off another long stuttering blast that mowed down a dozen. The bodies were piled in heaps and the locals forced more forward. It was the same everywhere they landed. He went dry and jammed home another magazine of gold bullets.

  13. It appeared, on the surface, to be a perfectly conventional alchemist’s laboratory. Alembics, mystic sigil wallpaper, and a highly trendy stuffed alligator hanging from the ceiling. But hidden behind the wall of bound copies of Proceedings of the Hermes Trismegistus Society, protected by an arcane tumbler lock, lay the mysterious crystalline glass tubes, blue flames, and frosted brown jars of the powerful and secretive chemist.

  14. Completely off topic: I had a bit of a snarky writing idea the other day:

    Not that this is a horrible device, but a lot of fantasy (and some bad sci-fi) stories try to set the scene by opening with some long drawn out Grand Prophecy, which is supposed to outline the plot, usually about some Grand Struggle buried into the cosmology of the setting itself, and some Chosen Hero.

    The other night, I got this ridiculous image in my head of my protagonists walking by some sandwich board wielding loony from the “Church of the Opening Narration” trying to catch the attention of any suckers too polite to keep walking, err, I mean earnest young hero types who might be the destined chosen ones of destiny. 😛 Maybe the resulting story will be full of gnomic pronouncements and chapter headings that have absolutely nothing to do with the plot.

  15. The Chessmaster smiled as the life-sized gold rook thudded into place, checkmating silver’s king. “Father, your cathedral will have to find its money for repairs another way.” He snapped; the chessboard reset, his erstwhile opponent now a silver bishop.

    Infinite wealth grew boring, but alchemy offered many alternative entertainments.

  16. Alchemists! Gold, that’s all they think about! It’s like there the stereotypical dwarf but with out the ability to mine for anything. He said he’d marry me but he goes and becomes an alchemist! Then he says he’ll marry me soon as he can make a gold ring by his own hands and Everyone knows there never going to make any real gold, so I’m beginning to think he never wanted to marry in the first place and just said it so his family would stop insisting he find a wife… What do you think sis?

    1. I think he’s having an affair. Have you noticed how much gold the miller’s wife is wearing these days? Do you seriously think she owns anything more valuable than straw?

      1. I don’t really/try not to think that way, I was thinking the sister was trying to decide if it would be a good idea to respond or just run away…

    2. I’m rewriting this because I already don’t like it and want to work on using as few words as possible. [I haven’t even finished a short story yet, but I’m working on it.]

      Gold, that’s all they think about! There like the stereotypical dwarf but without the ability to mine for anything. He said he’d marry me but he goes and becomes an alchemist! Then he says he will, soon as he can make me a gold ring and EVERYONE knows they’re never going to make any real gold. I’m thinking he never wanted to marry in the first place, just saying it so his family would stop insisting he find a wife… What’d you think sis?

  17. You’d think that a magician’s assistant’s life would be all skittles and mead, but you’d be wrong. Sure I’ve learned to wave a wand and fill the tankards and table with the best of drink and victuals, but you have no idea of the work involved to make all that happen.
    Potions, and brews, and incense oh my. And each in its own receptacle that must be cleaned by hand, magical cleansing is forbidden. So by the end of the day there I always am, all chemy from head to foot.

    I know, way over on the word count. Deal.

    1. an opportunity for the magician’s assistant to discover a great secret … that tankard-filling, etc. can actually be done with less work without magic?

  18. The Philosophers, Natural and Hectoring, all agreed it couldn’t be done. He wore their scorn as a mantle of pride. He worked alone, because that was safest—safest for him, safest for anyone else. The women of the village came to him, some openly, most in secret, for potions and powders–most worked, because he was observant and he was diligent.

    He knew the cure for Hubris. And so he worked, long day after long day, searching for the Potion of Nemesis.

    He knew if he ever found it, he would have to be the first one to take it.

    (I went for an even 100 words. Sorry about that, Chief!)

    1. Hey, as long as the word count is exact, the advantage is there. (The advantage being that it helps teach you to make words jump through flaming hoops, like tigers at the circus.)

  19. As always, it began well. The dross metal. heated until it liquefied. Fourteen words, each spoken in a different voice. The herbal smoke attracting the Energies in the single right Form–

    –the Energy-laden cloud sucked into nothing, the Nothing fading to chittering laughter.

    The Blue-tailed Monkey. How did it always know?

    1. I like the imagery of the process.

      Deliberate or not, it seems the blue-tailed monkey has become the focus/star/central character of this piece. 🙂

  20. When Alzakasm was called to the mortal plane, he had been bathing. Boiling sulfur, great for getting all the knots out after a long day wrestling with Angels…”Alchemy? That’s all you want? Sure, it’s done like this…”
    He went back to bathing, smiling. ” Foolish mortal, lead > gold gives off a shitload of Gamma, see you soon.”

  21. The native grand high something-or-other finally presented his demand. “Raw metal?”, the quartermaster asked, rapping once or twice on the translator. “That’s what his demand is?”

    The captain grinned. “Primitive cultures: They’re easy to fleece, because they think atoms are precious. What is rare is knowing what to do with them.”

  22. Lee had only turned his back for an instant when the pot went up with a whumph and a wash of heat. The cackling of Ed the jay rattled around the room like pebbles in a jar as the cat streaked out of the room. A terrible stink began to rise ominously from the burning pot.

    (There’s another fifty words to this, because I’m no good at meeting wordcounts exactly, but that’s the first fifty and it stands on its own.)

  23. “Since Alchemy is primarily a spiritual exercise, I was quite perplexed when the School of Natural Physicians sent for me. My work on isolating hellfire from sinful wrath into a black, volatile powder skirted heterodoxy, perhaps; but I couldn’t see any practical application. What could they possibly want from me?”

  24. Our host said, “You must see this man….”
    “… alchemist,” his wife finished. “Disreputable sort.”
    “Alchemist?” I said, alarmed.
    “Alchemist?” echoed Loree. “Really thinks he can turn lead into gold?”
    To my dismay she was already sharpening her mental blades, ready to slice the poor fellow’s self esteem into chopped liver. Loree loved ‘Scientific Discussion.’

  25. Greetings from Little America!

    I’m trying not to drool on my shirt at the moment, so I’m afraid a coherent entry is beyond me.

    On the bright side, it makes me the most random of random word generators.
    Next week: vector.

    1. Errr — I’m afraid ‘Nother Mike and I already ran the random word generator, and the next week’s word has already been chosen. Will be revealed on the day.

  26. Sorry, all. We’re on the countdown to moving day (1 more day) and I’m in the Japan time zone, so it was Monday morning for me when I saw all the wonderful vignettes. Hooks, reversals, alchemy in many splendored forms! I’ll bet you thought this was just a blog, but then the colors started singing, the sounds ran the rainbow, and all those ideas popping! Wow, you could warm yourself with the sense of wonder blowing off these vignettes. Now, I have to admit, my wife tells me I need to pack the toilet seat, then take a shower. So individual comments are going to be delayed. But… Applause, folks! Y’a done good!

    (113 words… Huh, a Drabble almost. Just cut 13 words? Now, cutting 63 would be hard.)

  27. The Prince had always wanted to better his people’s lives. He sank a fortune into funding the most renowned alchemists he could find. Finally, they discovered how to cheaply turn lead into gold.

    And now, a mere decade later, the new lead-based economy seems to be getting inflation under control.

  28. The insane alchemist Isidor reputedly died attempting to perform surgery on himself.
    Centuries later, someone realized the truth. The chemical fumes Isidor unknowingly breathed were the key. Their condensation required the proper environment: the human body.
    Isidor’s corpse was exhumed, and indeed, inside his urinary tract – the kidney Philosopher’s Stone.

    1. Not really a quibble, but I might have ended this vignette with “the Philosopher’s (kidney) Stone.” I don’t know if that would be better stylistically or not.

  29. “Why do you want to learn alchemy, boy? Perhaps to learn how to convert base metals to gold?”
    “That would be good….” answered Joachim, hesitantly.
    “No it would not.” the old man spat. “It is far easier to extract gold from gullible and greedy men, and that is of the dark arts. I will not teach it.”

    1. Excellent. Can really feel both characters come through in just a few sentences. We can picture them already from just their speaking style.

      Not sure about the “answered Joachim, hesitantly.” portion. Perhaps more actively showing the hesitation, with the speech coming afterwards, something along the lines of:

      Joachim shuffled his feet and his chest tightened, “That would be good….”

      1. I was trying for economy of words. I’ve heard tell that adverbs in this types of situation are supposed to be evil, but I say if the tool fits, use it. It’s hard to convey tone of voice in print.

  30. “Alright, it worked. The enemy was helplessly, hopelessly, and unavoidably drunk. It was more a slaughter than battle. We’ll win this war for sure, with your alchemical weapon. Thank you. Now, we must occupy that territory and keep sober ourselves, so, turn the wine back to water.”

    “Turn… it…. back?”

    1. “Yes, back! Have you ever tried to ride a drunken horse? Well I have!”
      “Don’t ask.” he said to the questioning look sent his way, “Just fix it before our own forces start to imbibe. Holding a garrison three sheets to the wind is not as fun as it sounds.”

  31. “We’ll rebuild her as beautiful again, sire. She’ll outshine all the courtesans in the palace!”
    The prince patted the regen tube. “Again? No. She was always awkward, and homely.”
    “But the minister…”
    “Love is the strangest alchemy; it makes her beautiful in his eyes.”

    1. Sweet alchemy story! The emotions really come across, which is something I can struggle with in writing, so I doubly appreciate it.

      I was a little confused by why a prince would be so tender while having someone regen’ed for a (lower ranking?) minister who loves her. I guess what I’m getting at is the unresolved question of how they all relate to each other, as the generic titles given don’t really specify much in this context. “Prince Charming”, “Prince Malfoy”, “Your Chief Minister who raised you”, “Your Father’s Minister”. If you were more specific, the connotations provided may tie the relationships together better in the reader’s mind to enhance the intended meaning.

  32. *I’m trying to do this thing, to increase visibility for the promos. You should look at the post just below this for the promo.*
    Based on the ratio of comments between this and the promo post I think you had exactly the opposite effect to what you were after.

      1. I wonder if the vignettes could have their own day, not a weekend one? Sarah gets another rest day from blogging. We have fun. And the promos don’t get buried. Win, win, win.

        1. You’re fine, querida. It was not a bad idea, it just needs some fine tuning. I just couldn’t pass up the chance to tease you. 😀

  33. I don’t think I can wait for next Sunday. I was so cool to read all of theses and to work on one myself. 🙂

  34. “So, which parts of the dragon are good for alchemy?”
    The assassin gazed at the half butchered beast, its skin neatly cut and piled for processing. The meat was being carted away by reinforced wagons as hobgoblins worked to render down the fat over impromptu fires.
    “What part isn’t?”

    1. Argh, the original Pete’s Dragon was much better than the recent sequel made-for-tv-level-movie.

      Your version is also very vivid, though. 🙂

  35. When the rich-bitch queen picked up her injected apple, I coughed.

    Coughed to cover my laughter. Alchemy? Zymurgy, more like.

    Jealousy? Revenge? Death? A torch ginger potion accomplishes that. At least sleep smells just like death.

    But just a kiss of purple poppy will make a Prince drunk with love.

  36. Second try, also 50 words, as my inner editor wouldn’t let me walk away from the first draft without some criticism.
    Selling the rich-bitch queen her injected apple, I coughed counting my gold.

    Coughed restraining my laughter. Alchemy? Zymurgy, more like.

    Revenge? Death? Cough. A torch ginger potion accomplishes those. In jealous eyes deep sleep imitates death.

    But just a kiss of purple poppy will imbibe a Prince with true love.

      1. Thanks for the comment. I agree, the second version is definitely more poetic in style. Hopefully the whole thing wasn’t too obscure for this audience.

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