(A Valentine's Day fairy-tale)

Once upon a time there was an alchemist. Older guy, balding, white fringe of hair 'round his head. A little doddering, a little insane and a little, well, out there. But he hadn't reanimated anything dangerous recently and was perfectly happy letting the end of his days wander their way around twisty forest paths and whatnot.

So he's in his laboratory, seeing what he can do with these various elemental forces, distilling this into that, and that into the other. What he ends up with is a beaker filled with a faintly shimmering pink liquid with flecks of gold and lavender floating, one clockwise, one anticlockwise. Picture a kaleidoscope squeezed into a coffee mug. Looked like that, but...transparent. And without the handle.

Oh, and the stuff smelled like hot cinnamon buns.

Problem is, he has no idea what it does or, for that matter, how to use it. So, being the scientist he is, he stages a few experiments.

First: he pours a third of the phial onto a white rose. It shimmers briefly, turns inside out and emerges red. Curious.

Second: he pours a third of the potion onto a slab of stone and watches as it shimmers briefly, turns inside out and emerges as a sparkling diamond.

Third: he fills a bowl with the remaining third and places it in front of a mongrel found on the streets, and watches as it shimmers, inverts and emerges as one of the sleekest, healthiest puppies he's ever seen.

And as he watches this, he realizes that he's created a potion whereby the target becomes the epitome of the fulfillment of man's desires.

And he crumbles, broken, when he realizes he has kept none of the potion for himself.