Friday Fodder – Defeat

Once upon a time…

From one of the many hidden pockets in his tuxedo, Abracadabra withdrew a deck of cards. He would pass the time as he always did: with a magic trick. Perched on the side of the magnificent stone fountain in the centre of Millennium Plaza, he shuffled the cards in a most ostentatious display. His moustache twitched and he peered up from under his top hat towards some passing friends, “Hey kids, wanna see a magic trick?”

The teens approached with caution.

“Pick a card. Any card,” invited Abracadabra, fanning the cards out before the nearest boy.

The boy made his choice.

“Now, don’t let me see it,” Abracadabra instructed. “Slip it back into the deck. Anywhere you like.”

“Dude, I’m not an idiot,” the boy scoffed, returning the card. “I know how this works.”

“Oh? Do you now?” Abracadabra made a lively show of shuffling the cards high up into the air.

“Hey, aren’t you the newest supervillain to join Duty Mayhem?” a girl of about fourteen asked. “You used to be a magician, right? Yeah! I saw you on the news! You work for Doctor Impossible!”

“Affirmative, my young apprentice!” Abracadabra smirked, catching the cards and brandishing them with dramatic flair. “With one slight variation: I am still a magician. Now, pick your friend’s card.”

“Alright,” she said. She stared at the fanned deck for a moment, then picked a card from the centre. The chosen card displayed no number, royalty, or suit. It simply read: RUN.

“That’s not my card,” the boy said, pulling a face. “My card was–“

“–the seven of spades. Yes, I know,” Abracadabra retorted, rising to his full, imposing height. “Here’s the trick. Doctor Impossible will be here momentarily. Once he arrives, we’re going to do unspeakable, villainous things to anyone in close proximity! So?”

He held out the RUN card. “Are you sure this isn’t your card?” The teens ran off in horror. Abracadabra chuckled to himself. It was so much fun being evil.

“Terrorising the local youth, are we?” a voice asked from behind him. “I knew I was wise to take you on as my protégé.” Abracadabra spun around to greet the city’s most notorious supervillain and Duty Mayhem leader and chief.

“Doctor Impossible,” Abracadabra smiled, tipping his hat in a gentle bow. “I had to amuse myself somehow, sir, since you seem to be running late.”

“Fashionably late,” Doctor Impossible corrected. He adjusted the huge utility belt on his leather and spandex costume. His colours were black and red, and he wore the bold combination with pride.

“Today is the day, my Tailored Trickster!” Doctor Impossible announced, throwing his arms wide. “We are going to the future!”

“We are?” his protégé inquired, taken aback. “Isn’t tomorrow the day that Duty Mayhem takes over the city with your Doomsday device? We’ve been planning this epic strategy for months. Are you rescheduling Mayhem Day?”

“Of course not,” said Doctor Impossible, patting the magician on the back. “It is precisely because we do plan to take over the city tomorrow that we are going to the future today! Mayhem Day is my legacy! I must know with full certainty that it accomplishes my grand ambitions to my exact specifications.”

“So, we’re going to the future to…check?”

“Indeed we are! We’ll travel forward exactly one year!”

Abracadabra took his seat on the fountain’s stone edge once more. “Riiiight. And for those of us with IQs below 920, how is that possible again?”

“With this, my quick-fingered fellow!” Doctor Impossible pulled a translucent gun from his belt. It was covered in buttons and dials and filled with some sort of blue gel. “Behold! My Quantum Accelerator Plasma Chronosphere Death Ray Gun!”

“The name’s a bit much,” Abracadabra grimaced.

“It’s pretentious on purpose,” Doctor Impossible countered. “It’s threatening and descriptive!”

“It’s a full sentence.”

“Fine, I’ll drop the word ‘death’ then,” Doctor Impossible said with a pompous wave of his hand. He looked down at the gun like it was a beloved pet.

“Well that’s a relief” 

“I have actually been tinkering with this theory for many years. For someone of my intellectual prowess, creating the quantum device was relatively rudimentary. Harnessing the energy of atomic nuclei and heating the plasma beam with enough energy to cut a hole in the fabric of spacetime is childs play. However, there was a critical element missing for me to be able to step into the hole.”

Abracadabra watched as his mentor circled around the plaza, hands behind his back, like a university professor in the middle of a lecture. He was an evil genius, wrapped up in self-importance, wrapped up in spandex.

“Okay” Abracadabra said, covertly rolling his eyes, “I’m assuming you’re getting to the point soon..?”

Doctor Impossible looked over his shoulder at his protégé almost surprised to find the tuxedo-clad man still there. “The point is, I found the missing ingredient and infused it into the plasma! Ha!”

“And what is it?” Abracadabra asked. “The missing ingredient?”

Doctor Impossible grinned a dastardly grin. “Tomorrow Man.” he stated as a matter of fact.

“Tomorrow Man? The hero who’s supposedly from the future?” Abracadabra scoffed. “I don’t know, sir, I find his whole schtick a little far-fetched.”

“It’s not a schtick!” Doctor Impossible’s eyes blazed. “He escaped from a military research facility in the year 2525! The ability to pass through the fabric of spacetime was literally infused into his DNA!”

“And how did you get his DNA?” Abracadabra asked, regretting the words as they left his lips.

“I stole it, of course!” Doctor Impossible proclaimed. “He should be more cautious about how he discards his bloody bandages.”

“That’s so gross.”

“Indeed. And it’s also brilliant!” Doctor Impossible stated, rubbing a gloved finger across his immaculately manicured goatee. “Now, thanks to my genius and Tomorrow Man’s negligence, when I pull this trigger, we’ll travel one year into the future! Mwahahahaaaaaa”

Abracadabra observed his mentor blankly.

Doctor Impossible ceased his laughter and glared at the magician. “What are you doing? When the supervillain boss begins an evil laugh, that’s the cue for all associated villains to also laugh. That’s basic Being A Villain 1:01!”

“My evil laugh still needs a little work, sir.”

“Well, it won’t get any better without practice. Now laugh!”

“Heh-heh-heh-heh!”

“Not like you’re having a seizure. From the belly! Like me! Mwahahahaaaaaa”

“Hahahaha!”

“That’s close enough!” Doctor Impossible waved his hand through the air, like a conductor cutting off the final note in a symphony. “Now, do what you do best, and create an illusion so that no one in the future will recognise us!”

Abracadabra plucked the paper flower from his lapel, crushed it in his hands, and fluttered his fingers – producing a handful of silver powder. He clapped his hands together twice and bathed them both in the shimmering substance. The substance vanished, leaving the pair donning inconspicuous disguises. “Done! Even our future selves won’t recognise us.”

They leaned over the edge of the fountain to see their reflections in the water. Doctor Impossible looked like a typical middle-aged college professor in a sweater vest and spectacles. Abracadabra appeared to be an artsy student, complete with a pretentious scarf and matching beret.

“Superb!” Doctor Impossible declared. He twisted a few dials on the plasma gun, setting the date for one year in the future. “Now, to see if Mayhem Day was obscenely successful!”

He aimed the gun at the empty space in front of the fountain and pulled the trigger. A blue plasma beam erupted from the nozzle and a seam appeared in the air before them – no more than a hairline crack at first. As the heated plasma continued to burn through the fabric of spacetime, the crack became a gap and the gap became a hole. Larger and larger it grew until it was three metres in diametre. A bright kaleidoscope of swirling colors was visible inside the gap, and beyond that, the outline of a cityscape.

“It works!” Doctor Impossible shrieked. “It wooooooorks!! Come, protégé! To the future! Mwahahaaa!!”

The pair of villains stepped through gap and out of time…

“Are…are you sure it worked?” Abracadabra asked, moments later. “Everything looks the same.”

Doctor Impossible stared in disbelief at the tidy plaza, the pristine steel and glass skyscrapers, and the beautiful blue sky above them. He blinked. He glanced down at his plasma gun, then back up. “It did work…” he said slowly, his brow knit in confusion. “But why are all the buildings still standing? Where are the hordes of hopeless slaves working as my Impossible Army? Why is nothing on fire? Look! Look at that couple crossing the street! They’re smiling! People are happy! I can even hear birds chirping! What is the meaning of this?! It’s as if my tyrannical takeover never even happened!”

Abracadabra tapped Doctor Impossible on the shoulder. “Sir?” he said, pointing to the fountain. “Something happened.”

Doctor Impossible turned around. Instead of the decorative stone tiers that had made up the elegant water display in the present, there stood a two-story statue of Doctor Impossible. His stone cloak permanently blowing in a nonexistent breeze. His costume was an immaculate likeness and his gloved fists rested on his hips in eternal determination. Doctor Impossible threw his hands in the air. “What is the meaning of this?. Why would my slaves build a statue of me looking…not evil? And why am I in the classic Hero Stance? Villains don’t stand like that.”

Abracadabra removed his beret and scratched his head.

“Amazing, isn’t he?” said a voice from beside them. They both turned to see a casually dressed, pretty young woman standing there. She had stars in her eyes as she gazed up at the statue of Doctor Impossible.

“Amazing?” 

“Oh yes,” she turned to them with a smile. “He was the greatest hero this city has ever known.”

Doctor Impossible felt as though he’d been sucker-punched in the gut by an iron giant. He reached for Abracadabra’s shoulder, steadying himself against the sudden onslaught of gravity. “The greatest ‘hero’?” his voice croaked.

“Absolutely! You don’t know?” the woman exclaimed. “The people we believed to be heroes – Phoenix Fire, Dragon Slayer, and the entire Pure Crew – went rogue. They were going to crush us all with a Doomsday device! Doctor Impossible intercepted them and saved us all!”

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Doctor Impossible mumbled.

“Could that have all been hearsay?” Abracadabra asked the woman. “A rumor? A ruse?”

“No, definitely not,” the woman said. “The entire exchange was captured live on multiple news channels. It was also eye-witnessed by thousands of civilians. It happened right here in Impossible Plaza.”

“This is Millennium Plaza,” Abracadabra corrected.

The woman smiled. “Not anymore. It was renamed in honour and memory of our greatest hero.” She waved a graceful hand at the statue. “In fact, tomorrow will be the one-year anniversary. There’s going to be a huge celebration in remembrance of Doctor Impossible. Everyone is welcome!”

It was then that Doctor Impossible noticed the bundles of black and red helium balloons displayed all around the perimeter of the plaza.

“In remembrance?” the evil genius repeated. “You mean…he’s dead?”

“Oh,” the woman said, biting her lip in embarrassment. “You didn’t know? I’m sorry. Yes, the great doctor died that day, at the hands of Phoenix Fire, Dragon Slayer, and the so-called Pure Crew. ‘Frankly, the entire city is glad they’re rotting in prison.”

“The heroes are in prison?” Doctor Impossible squeaked.

“A special prison for people with special abilities,” the woman confirmed. She tossed her mousey-brown hair over one shoulder and gazed up at the statue once more. “I feel like he’s still watching over us and the city he saved.”

The woman departed.

“Sir?” Abracadabra was concerned.

“My plan…” Doctor Impossible whimpered. “My perfectly wicked, dastardly genius plan…”

“The heroes stole my doomsday device and the media must have seen me trying to steal it back!”

Abracadabra’s eyes widened. “The entire fight was misinterpreted!”

“Precisely!” Doctor Impossible cried. “And now, instead of being a fear-inspiring evil overlord, I’m dead, and remembered as a hero! A hero! Can you imagine anything more humiliating? Oh, this won’t do! This won’t do at all!” He began to pace in a seizing, frenzied manner.

Abracadabra stared at him, feeling helpless. “Is this really the worst outcome, sir?” he asked, trying to calm his mentor down. “Mayhem Day wasn’t exactly a success, but the people love you. You’ll be remembered forever!”

“As a hero!” Doctor Impossible spat. “I don’t want them to love me! I want them to fear me!”

“But…you’re famous.”

“I am a VILLAIN!!” Doctor Impossible shouted. “I don’t want to be famous! I want to be infamous! This is unacceptable! We’re going back to the present! NOW!”

Back in Millennium Plaza, Doctor Impossible whirled around, glaring at his protégé. “Adjustments must be made to my plan. As of now, Mayhem Day is canceled. Indefinitely.”

“Canceled?!”

“I will not be subjected to a legacy of lies!” Doctor Impossible declared. “Better an honest villain than a faux hero. I will think of some other way to take over this cursed city!”

Across town, deep within the secret and secure confines of vigilante hero headquarters, Tomorrow Man watched Doctor Impossible and Abracadabra via the surveillance monitors.

“He called off the whole plan,” Tomorrow Man announced.

“Unbelievable,” Dragon Slayer said, “You did it, man.”

“We did it,” Tomorrow Man corrected as they clinked their coffee mugs together.

The door opened, and both men turned to see the mousey-haired woman from the future stride in. “Can you believe that old coot?” the woman asked. She turned a dial on her watch, powering down her electronic disguise, and revealing herself as Phoenix Fire. “He bought the whole act. I honestly thought he was going to start crying at one point.”

“Great job!” Tomorrow Man said, nodding in approval.

“So,” Phoenix Fire said. “Looks like we’ve earned ourselves an unexpected day off. You guys want to do something? Go somewhere?”

Tomorrow Man grinned. “Back to the future, perhaps?”

“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.”

― Ralph Ellison

Moral of the Story:

Let’s face it. At some point in life, we all have to deal with defeat – whether we like it or not. Failing is both unavoidable and universal. No one ever learned to read or write perfectly on their first attempt. No matter how big or small, at some point, you’ve probably failed and sooner or later, you will be defeated again. It seems that failure tends to be more public than success, or at least that’s how we perceive it to be. We fret it, we try to avoid it, and we question ourselves each time we have unconventional ideas. However, the simple truth is that no great success was ever achieved without failure. It may be one epic failure. Or a series of failures – such as Edison’s 10,000 attempts to create the light bulb or Dyson’s 5,126 attempts to invent a bagless vacuum cleaner. Whether we like it or not, failure and defeat are necessary stepping stones to achieving our greatest success.

Choose to handle your defeats with grace and grow from them. In the end, how we react to our experiences is what truly matters. After all, you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs! When we feel defeated, we rarely question or try to learn from it. We’d rather just forget what happened and move on. In this way, we let defeat pile up so we make the same mistakes over and over again. Hiding failure makes it impossible to have dialogue that encourages insightful feedback and self-awareness. These are the conversations that help us to grow, and (as much as possible) avoid future defeat. It is crucial to find vulnerability in the process of getting over a failure. Armouring up against vulnerability is killing us: killing our connections, our spirits, our potential, our creativity, our ability to lead, our love, our faith and our joy. We need vulnerability to learn from our mistakes. This requires a personal effort to open up, show ourselves, learn to laugh at our failures and share them with the world. Once we accept our faults, no one can use them against us. When we embrace our defeats, we can then lovingly help others to improve.

“My past has not defined me, destroyed me, deterred me, or defeated me; it has only strengthened me.”

― Steve Maraboli

Affirmation: The world needs my light and I choose to shine.

I am a magnet for success. There is always a way if I am committed. I am brimming with ambition and I am more than capable of doing hard things. I am worthy of every success. I am a powerful creator and I choose to create the life I love to live. Every day I discover new interesting and exciting paths to pursue. I trust my intuition and I always make wise decisions. I am focused on my goals and feel passionate about my work. I work well under pressure and always feel motivated. Every day I become more confident, powerful, and successful. My mind is free of resistance and open to exciting new possibilities. I am worthy of all the goodness life has to offer and I deserve to be super successful. I know I have the power to create all the success and prosperity that I desire. My success comes from sharing my talents with the world. During times of personal struggle, it is my successes that pave the way forward toward victory. The universe is filled with endless opportunities for me to succeed. Everywhere I look, I see love, support, happiness, and prosperity.

“While one may encounter many defeats,

one must not be defeated.”

― Maya Angelou

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