Would you make a pact with the devil!

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One of my short stories in my book Flight of Destiny is called “The pact” it is about a desperate man, whose wife is dying, who is forced into making a pact with the devil.

History is littered with people who have taken this dramatic step.

There is even a Pope, namely Pope Sylvester II, who seemingly was way ahead of his time, and of high intellect. This French pope is credited with inventing the hydraulic organ, pendulum clock, and introducing Arabic numerals to Western Europe, on top of this he also wrote books on mathematics, natural science, music, theology and philosophy. Due to his incredible intelligence, highly tuned scientific mind,  and ingenuity  people suspected he had made a pact with the devil. He is not the only senior church figure to turn to the devil. Saint Theophilus the Penitent turned to the devil to make a deal, in order to gain a high ecclesiastical position. The contract signed in his own blood proved to be a heavy burden for Theophilus. German alchemist Faust also  is supposed to have made a pact with the devil, in order to pursue his “boundless desire for knowledge” for the next 24 years.

It seems a recurrent theme that if you are highly talented, it seems there is the possibility you have formed a pact with devil, this was the case of virtuoso violin musician Nicolo Paganini. His great virtuoso performances led people to believe he had formed a pact with the devil, and that it was the devil who was aiding him during the course of his performances. He was  refused the last rites,  and it took a while before he was finally laid to rest.  Paganini was not the only violinist to come under the microscope. It seems to be an Italian thing, Giuseppe Tartini, claimed that he dreamed that The Devil appeared to him and asked to be his servant, not only this, the devil composed piece for him, which Tartini transcribed when he awoke.  The devil is also accredited for turning Robert Johnson  a noted American blues artist into a genius. Rather than quash rumors he encouraged them.  There are quite a lot of modern day musicans who it is claimed have a made a pact with the prince of darkness, Bob Dylan, Jay-Z? Led Zeppelin, to name but a few.

Below is an exert from Flight of Destiny as Jarret encounters a man who says he can save his sick wife and unborn baby and Jarret is forced into making a pact with the devil.

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Suddenly, he became aware his was not alone. A well dressed

man with shiny patent leather shoes was walking purposefully

towards him, as if he had something important to say.

“Jarret Lamb?” the dapper man asked in a sweetly scintillating

voice, pausing before the distraught Jarret.

Jarret froze, astonishment momentarily replacing pain.

“I can see you’ve a lot on your mind just now,” the man said

calmly, examining Jarret minutely in profile.

Jarret eyed him suspiciously, not knowing what to say.

“It’s your wife and child, isn’t it? They’re in mortal danger,”

declared the man.

“And how could you possibly know that?” demanded Jarret,

stunned.

“I just know,” the man replied matter-of-factly. “And, what’s

more, I can help.” The man’s eyes had a chillingly hypnotic draw, as

did the mesmeric tone of his voice. The man’s clothes, posture and

demeanor echoed confidence. He also emitted an enchanting aroma,

rather like an orchard of ripe fruit trees.

“How?” faltered Jarret.

“Your wife and child will survive,” avowed the man, resting a

hand gently on Jarret’s shoulder, like a father might when consoling a

son. Then his voice dropped and took on a more cautionary tone. “But

only if you do something for me in return.”

“And what exactly might that be?” asked Jarret confused, but

desperate for any shred of hope.

“You need only shake my hand, and everything will be righted. In

a few days you will receive a letter with instructions. In exchange for

your wife and child’s lives, you must carry out the instructions exactly

as written.” The man’s voice lowered to a rasping whisper. “You have

no alternative, really.”

“I see,” replied Jarret. Though trembling, his heart racing, he

couldn’t help but think, What do I have to lose? This man is probably

just a lunatic, but regardless, he’s seems more purposeful and sincere

than the doctors, who’ve thus far offered no concrete solutions or hope.

Crazy or not, he’s all I have at the moment. Jarret shrugged his

shoulders and slowly offered the man his hand. The man’s hand felt

strangely cool, and Jarret felt an icy-cold electric spark jump from the

man to him as they shook.

“There. Done and agreed,” said the man with a sense of agreeable

formality, like some of the businessmen Jarret dealt with at work.

“Now finish your walk, and return to your wife and child.”

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R is for Roald Dahl and Rupert Thompson two outstanding writers.

 

R for Twitter

I read Roald Dahl’s Kiss Kiss, so many years ago, I can’t exactly remember when.  Whatever I was really struck by it. Maybe some of the concepts in this book seem a bit dated…but then it was published in 1960 and times were rather different then. Would you call your short story “Parson’s Pleasure” and the main character Cyril Boggis? If you don’t know this story it is about a shady antiques dealer, who takes advantage of naïve country types, and comes across a priceless Chippendale commode, which he acquires for twenty pounds with the intention of selling it for twenty thousand. What we can safely say about Roald Dahl’s stories is that there is a significant twist at the end of each story. It is this aspect that really influenced my short story writing.
With my own short stories, like Dahl, I try to include an unexpected twist at the end. With short stories, you face limits, you have create characters, that the reader will immediately identify with. You have to create strong dialogue. You have to create an opening sentence like no other, that grabs the reader’s attention. Some people believe that authors graduate from being short story writers into full novel writers, a kind of literary rite of passage…me…I really like this format of writing. My work might be much darker than Roald Dahl might have dared…but I really admire his work and “Kiss Kiss” for will always be very special to me.

Rupert Thompson.
I encountered this author while he was writing his first book “Dreams of Leaving”. I was an Art student at the time, my dream to become a famous painter…Rupert at the time was the boyfriend of an Art College friend and was a bit older than me. He came from a similar boarding education as me, but he and his brother, who I also got know, were of a rebellious nature. His sentences are always sharp, his observations equally cutting. More recently I read a book called “This Party’s Got to stop” which is not fictional, but based on the period when I was in contact with him…it is a moving account of when his father died. It is moving, witty but it has a real edge to it.

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.

http://theflightofdestiny.yolasite.com/

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H is for how to write a killer short story.

 

 

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To write a good short story, you need immediate impact, meaning your first sentence has to be a killer. You have to create an opening sentence like no other, that grabs the reader’s attention.   For example my story “Bugeyes” from Flight of Destiny  begins with… Bug-eyes was due a life of toil. Seed begins with Captain Spender’s wife was ovulating.  Cast from Hell begins with There it was: I was to be banished from hell.

Your plot is going to be vital as to whether your short story is a success. Deborah Eisenberg states that “the plot of a good story is likely to be a stranger, more volatile and more evanescent sort of thing than the plot of a novel”. You can’t meander with a short story.  A short story,  can’t  evoke the expanse  and diversity of life, and takes the reader’s attention towards a more limited aspect.  With full novels, the author is forced to wrap things up,  whereas the short novelist can afford to be ambiguous.  So a novel and short story have different constraints.

With short stories, you face limits, you have  create characters, that the reader will immediately identify with.  You have to create strong dialogue.  An important element in writing  for me in writing a great story is to come up with a really nasty evil character, who during the course of the story does the most despicable things. Writers  might contrive a cocktails of character flaws (don’t create a one dimensional character) into their characters, to come up with an interesting and memorable deviants.   A mindless slasher killing for no obvious reason is not going to engage readers, whereas a murderer with a lot of previous baggage and an air of sophistication will.  Writers really need to delve deep to create their deviants. Readers love an evil character, literature is strewn with them.  I would say an interesting evil character is often multi-faceted,  never straight forward,  they themselves are often in a way victims.

Being short story writer, so I am constantly looking out for ideas for new stories.  My stories are dark and surreal,  so I rely on a supply of dark thoughts flowing through my mind, as well as other sources drawn from real events, read a newspaper, they are usually brimming with ideas for short stories.

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.

http://theflightofdestiny.yolasite.com/

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“Odd Child” a short story for Christmas, by Francis H Powell

oDD CHILD SMALL

“ODDCHILD”

ODDCHILD .
The Queen had been surrounded by sweet angelic choirboys. The Pope had talked about peace in the Middle East, but had failed to say how he could actively bring this about. Presents meaningful or otherwise had been exchanged. Traditions had been observed. Religious ceremonies had taken place, incense, rituals, stern faces, pontificators, talking about a strange occurrence that had happened thousands of years ago, in a primitive land. There had been no world disasters, no earthquakes, no hurricanes, no tidal waves, not this year, just many untold stories of misery and loneliness, that had blighted the world as ever at Christmas time. Shop keepers had rubbed their hands in glee. Television companies had been bereft of ideas of how to entertain the people. The transport system had been bewildered, as to how to deal with a sudden snap of Siberian weather.

Somewhere in the middle of all this was Oddchild. Oddchild didn’t quite fit in amongst all of this. He was part of a sizable family. He had listened and observed all that had passed in front of him. He had been silent and pensive, alienated by it all, unobtrusive, but with moments tinged with oddness.

Lunch had not passed without incident. The family were stunned into a tight knotted silence as Oddchild, while a succulent force-fed turkey was being passed around, had nestled himself under the table, taking with him a bowl of nuts, which he gobbled, while the family mused at this sudden change in his behaviour. The sanctity of the lunch had been broken. There was little point in trying to reason with him, coax him out, and he was beyond the age of being castigated. His behaviour just had to be reconciled with. Aunt Austere had pondered and intrigued as to whether Oddchild had perhaps taken some kind of drugs, that had prompted such behaviour. As she has slapped some cranberry jelly on her plate, wedged between some sprouts, she sighed and arched a disapproving eyebrows upwards. Mother had demanded in a soothing motherly tone
“Would you like some wine dear.”

Oddchild had not answered, his mind was elsewhere. Father had looked silly in his paper crown, which had been extracted from a cracker, along with some heinously unfunny insipid jokes, that the family had cheerfully tittered at. Still Oddchild huddled under the table. Members of the family cleared away the remnants of an excessive meal, having stripped a sizable chunk from the turkey, which they would still be eating over the next few weeks, served up, in one form or another.

“Aren’t you hungry dear.” Demanded Mother with noticeable desperation, stacking some plates, still nonplussed at Oddchild’s Christmas dinner breach of etiquette. Still no response, so she shrugged and shifted a quick concerned glance in Father’s direction, while Aunt Austere reflected on Reverent Glib’s sermon, before switching the subject to the shooting season. Then an awkward outburst of coughing from Aunt Gimp had ruptured the conversation, sending Mother scurrying for a glass of water. Calm was finally restored, as Aunt Gimp finally managed to suppress the fit. Aunt Gimp’s mind was a deluge of stories concerning the war, in fact her mind had never really moved on since this period.

Finally Oddchild came out of his splendid isolation, removing himself from under the table. He held a gawky expression on his face, averting the gaze of the two aunts and the rest of the baffled family, who tried to hide their looks of surprise. He did not utter a word, he just slipped casually back into the throng. The family trooped into the living room to continue the next part of the proceedings, coffees and a viewing of the Queen’s annual speech to the nation. Aunt Austere had not liked her speech of the previous year. There had been too much attention spent on people with dark skins of different faiths, rather than the white Anglo Saxon majority. Dark skins seemed to disturb Aunt Austere greatly. She could not get her head around the idea that such people had been born and bred and raised in the same country as her and were more than fully integrated into society. It hadn’t been an “annus horribilis” this year for the Queen. One of her family’s favourite sports “fox hunting” had been banned, but this had not deterred the hunters, who either found loopholes in the law or simply broke it. Aunt Austere often sang the praises of a sport in which fifty or so dogs chase after a fox with the objective of tearing this beautiful animal to pieces, in the name of a “noble British tradition”. The Queen’s eldest son had married a woman who had he looks of some “dowdy weatherworn aunt” which had no doubt heaped a certain amount of embarrassment on her. However no palaces had been burnt down, there had not been too many notable scandals, “toe sucking incidents” “court cases involving forgotten conversations with servants” “Princess Diana revelations” “young drunken or drugged up royals on the front pages.”
With the TV switched off, lunch firmly lodged in the their stomachs, the question of how to occupy the hours of the day that remained, usually a sturdy walk was the answer. Oddchild unrepentantly led the way, with his sudden outburst. The logical progression being a huge inter-family argument.

“You are all mad, the whole lot of you.”
Two Aunts shot rapid shocked looks at one another, the rest of the family drew in sharp intakes of breath. A log fire crackled and hissed.
Aunt Austere took up the challenge.
“I think you were the one who spent the entire lunch hidden under the table, so if anyone’s mad, it’s you dear.” She had a vague contented smile emanated from her face.

Oddchild had to concede on this point, but he was referring more to their narrow perceptions of the world, he pressed his point.
“I’d rather be under the table than have to listen to some of your drivel and watch you gorge on bounteous amounts of food, while a third of the world is starving, while you sermonize about a world you have little understanding of.”

“We have lived through the war, my dear.” Said Aunt Gimp proudly, Father adjusted his paper crown, Mother stared into the fire. Aunt Austere’s eyes were flaring up, her mind was a storm. The turkey had long since gone cold and the atmosphere that prevailed was now equally frosty.
Mother thought she should try her hand at a little arbitration.
“Your Aunt’s did their bit for the war effort you know, dear.”
What spying for the Nazis.” Said Oddchild tossing his head back with mirth.

The tone of his voice and acerbic remark hadn’t gone down at all well. Father’s eyes bared down on him, Mother had lost her composure.
“I think you should apologise, said Mother, with her hands on her hips.
“Apologise for what.” Muttered Oddchild, reflecting on the rasp of his previous remark.
He turned to the two Aunts.
“It’s no wonder, neither of you got married, the pair of you will go to the grave crusty bitter virgins.”
Mother was the first to speak.
“Now you really have gone too far.” She said. Father paced up and down, he had taken off his paper crown by this point.
“I’ve never heard such a wicked remark.” Said Aunt Austere her face all creased up and severe.
“Turn your hearing aid up” muttered Oddchild sarcastically under his breath.
“What” barked Aunt Austere.
“Forget it.” Said Oddchild.
“Well I certainly won’t forget this Christmas” said Aunt Gimp mournfully.
And there it was just 364 days until the next torturous ritual of more of the same.

 

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Francis H Powell, author of Flight of Destiny, 22 quirky short stories…

I enjoyed these tales as they gave me a fantastic break from my daily routine and I enjoyed remembering them and day dreaming about them afterwards. They’re a little Ray Bradbury, a little Stephen King, but with Powell’s own unique twists. Very interesting read.

Science gone mad

Mad scientist

Science gone mad…
There are so many examples of Science gone mad, who can fail to be moved by the image of a mouse that looked like it had a human ear grown on its back. The wretched rodent got dubbed earmouse, a creation by Charles Vacanti. At face value people assumed it was a human ear, and perhaps a scientist showing off to world, saying “look what I can do”. This kind of Frankenstein abomination is going to be met with ear piecing outrage. The desire for a scientist to go to the limits must be a really strong urge and they must put in the back of their minds the unethicalness of their actions. With the advance of science, scientist are now capable of doing what was previously thought of as being unthinkable. Worldwide scientists are given a free rein to do pretty much whatever they want when it comes to genetic modification. Are we facing genetic Armageddon ?

I was very impressed by the concept of a film called “Splice”…a film released in 2009, a French Canadian, Science fiction horror film, in which two young scientists go well beyond the boundaries, playing God, (as well as going against the orders of the company they work for) by attempting splicing animal DNA to create human/animal hybrids. Like with many films of this nature, it all goes horribly wrong, with nature biting back…

In one of my short stories, bluntly named “Mutant” a world famous scientist takes out the ultimate revenge on his neglected cheating wife. Having arranged a car crash for her and her lover, he takes it upon himself to splice a fish tail to replace her mangled legs. When she comes round she finds herself a “novelty mermaid” floating around a kitsch pool, ogled at by all of his rich friends who are all party to her total humiliation.

Extract from MUTANT one of my 22 short stories, part of Flight of Destiny.
Her husband, the greatest surgeon in the world, had discarded her
pulverized lower limbs and grafted on what looked like the tail of a
fish. To reaffirm her new situation, he’d even preserved the decapitated
fish head and placed it on display for her to see. The gruesome remains
glared up at her with a pained expression. The shock was too much,
and she passed out.
Upon regaining consciousness, she found her husband, Crawford,
standing before the capsule admiring his work, the ultimate synthesis
of surgery, science and art. He was taking pleasure in pointing out the
details of his outstanding work to his entourage, which had now
swelled in numbers, consisting of businessmen who’d paid huge sums
to be present at the unveiling. All sick voyeurs, mouths hanging open,
eyes agog, they nodded perfunctorily at each point. All peered
incredulously at the half-woman, half-fish before them…

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