The concept of “aether” is a puzzling and amusing one. The ancient Greeks thought it up while they were – I dunno, smoking ether? – to describe the firmamental layer separating the terrestrial world and the rest of the Universe. I.e. The sparkly belt of nothingness below the gods. What’s even more interesting is that the concept was relevant until the late-Victorian era, and is still the subject of pseudo-scientific technobabble for the steampunk literary sub-genre today.

I happen to believe this quasi-void of pre-divine “shtuff” exists. Why? How else would one explain how left socks go missing? Or how a thirtysomething man in his pajamas could lose a 900-word blog in a little under twenty seconds?

Yes, that actually happened…and, no, I didn’t take it well.

Worse off, I sent the owners/operators of this here Tea Trade site on a wild goose chase trying to find out how my “Steep Story” literally vanished into the aether. The general consensus reached between them and I was that I had tried to update said blog on a slow-arse computer in a roundabout HTML way, and the result was…poof!

But it gave me food for thought.

I will admit to being a very superstitious man by nature. The blog in question was a continuation of the “Steep Stories” yarns I had produced over the course of the summer. To put it mildly, they weren’t doing well, or maybe I wasn’t doing well at writing them. Either way, the “ratings” were proving dismal and sharply declining each successive entry. That and they were murderously difficult to concoct – taking, oftentimes, more than a day to conceive and create.

Trying to explain the concept was also enough to induce a full-body cringe. I actually pitched the concept – yes, pitched! – to a couple of tea vendors…and I was immediately greeted with a cocked eyebrow or three. I mean, how does one explain what I was trying to do?

Example: “Excuse me, sir. How would you like to donate a unique/rare tea to a meta-fictional story starring myself (in my pajamas), a zombie, and a gnome?…..Hello?….”

I think this zany approach was also confusing potential readers. Whenever I tried to explain it to friends, I found myself wincing with embarrassment upon spieling. Something was amiss, and maybe it was me.

Mrs. Tea Trade offered me some sage advice by reminding me that, perhaps, the Steep Stories themselves were too long. She had a point. The average entry was clocking in at about 2,000 words. However, in lieu of that, the first three I ever did in that format – reviews for The Devotea and Teaconomics blends – were around the same length and resounding successes. Regardless, I took the advice and ran with it.

There were two Steep Stories I had yet to write. I predicted each one would finish at roughly 2,500 words. That entire day, I mentally outlined how I could split them up and came up with a tangible approach; five entries at a little under 1,000 words updated over the course of the week. It was to be my final Litmus test to see if the format was sustainable.

I finished the first installment on Sunday night; I was ready to publish it. After saving the document following a cursory edit, I added pictures. Then I went to save the entry again…and…


At first, I was livid. A couple of hours later, I was laughing. Even the guiding hand of God/Buddha/Vishnu/Whatever didn’t want me to write this crap anymore. The morning after, I brewed tea and remembered something important…

Fuck it, I said to myself. I’m on vacation.

And I stared out into the aether.

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