Wishes (Short Fiction)

10-31 necklace

“Can you tell me again why I’m here?” I searched the eyes of the white-bearded man perched next to me on the rotted log.

He sighed. “Child, I tell ya ev’ry day. Perhaps it’s me fate… I’ll tell ya again.” He shifted his weight and winced, rubbing his lower back. “Thirteen years plus thirteen days ago, I found ya sittin’ on this here log.

“How did I get here?”

“Gittin’ to it.”

He expelled a series of phlegmy coughs that made my insides shiver.

“You leant on this log. So I ask ya, ‘girlie, what’s yer name?’ Ya said nothing. Then, I seen the amulet around yer neck.” He lifted a polished arrowhead dangling from a leather cord. “It’s just like mine, ‘cept yers has ribbon, too.”

I felt for my necklace and rubbed the arrowhead between my thumb and index finger.

“I knew then, ya seen Nukpana.” He cleared his throat. “Fer centuries, she’s granted wishes, an cast spells. Yer grateful at first… til misery sets in.”

I furrowed my brow. “How did she find us?”

“We invite her. All it takes is tears an repeatin’ our heart’s desire three times.” He frowned. “Cain’t resist the evil lure of makin’ pain go away.”

“What was my wish?”

He stared at me for several seconds before turning his attention toward his hands. He rubbed his finger over his ridged thumbnail. “Ya wanted to forget.”

“Forget what?”

He shrugged. “Don’t know. Only one person knew; an’ she asked to forget.”

I looked at my hands- miniscule compared to the giant, rugged hands of the man next to me. “Did I look the same thirteen years ago?”

“Haven’t aged a bit ‘cause ya can’t ‘member the worries that set in wrinkles.”

I studied the heavy lines creasing his forehead and weighting his eyelids. My gaze followed those lines down his cheeks; the same path that pulled his smile toward the ground. His spine curved like the arch of a bow. “How old are you?”

“Forty-two.”

I placed my hand on top of his hand. “What was your wish?”

His eyes narrowed. “Ya never asked me that before.”

“It was to remember, wasn’t it?”

His eyes glistened with tears he refused to shed. “De-ment-ya made Gramma forget me. Then, I made me wish.”

“Can you un-wish it?”

He shook his head. “Crazy talk.”

“Have you tried?”

Several raspy breaths filled the silence. “Don’t s’pose so.”

“What would you wish for?”

His lips pressed into a thin line. “Guess I’d wish for nuthin’.” He exhaled a ragged sigh. “Got enough trouble from the first un.”

“Do you want to know a secret, Earl?”

His eyes widened. “Ya know me name?”

I smiled. “I can’t remember anything from my life before I got here, but I know the history you taught me.”

“Why ya ask ‘bout it ev’ry day then?”

“I think I’m supposed to make sure you always remember. Maybe it’s my fate.”

“Hmph. Ya try to un-wish it?”

I shook my head. “I don’t know where I’d end up, so I just stay here.”

Earl’s shoulders slumped with mine. “Jus’ stay here,” he echoed.

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

So October was supposed to be a month of creepy fiction for me. October 31st is the ultimate day of creepy, and I think the pressure of living up to that much scary may have gotten to me, because as of Thursday morning I had nothing. I nixed every idea before they even got to paper. I thought I’d have to skip a story, but then I decided to go a different route.

I jotted down a few things that scare me: apathy, remembering, forgetting, being lost, failure, success (or rather, living up to that standard, should I reach it.)

I noticed that some of the fears were mirrors (remembering/forgetting, failure/success,) so I thought it would be interesting to expand on that. I found it ironic that they had opposite wishes, but were just as miserable, and had completely surrendered to apathy. (I also thought of how this relates to what sometimes happens real life – how we think we know what we want and hope for just that- only to find it was an empty achievement.) The accelerated aging of the man who remembered everything was countered by the stunted growth process of the girl who forgot all… in my mind, this further illustrates that we don’t always know what we want, and maybe it’s not so bad to have a balance of remembering and forgetting – even if they both can be a burden at times.

No, it’s not the traditional Halloween scare, but it will have to do 🙂

Have a wonderfully spooky Halloween. Hope to see you back around here in November!

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45 thoughts on “Wishes (Short Fiction)

  1. Mishka Jenkins October 31, 2014 / 4:40 AM

    I think it’s great! I love that dialogue 🙂

  2. suzicate October 31, 2014 / 6:27 AM

    I like how you took opposing fears, interesting that we often seem to live in parallel worlds.

    • jannatwrites October 31, 2014 / 3:22 PM

      I’m glad you liked the story… I thought it resembled some aspects of real life, too, Suzicate!

  3. nrhatch October 31, 2014 / 6:44 AM

    Perfect tale for Hallow E’en, Janna. A reminder that we should always tag our wishes, prayers, and spells with . . . “an’ harm to none.”

    • jannatwrites October 31, 2014 / 3:23 PM

      Thanks, Nancy! We should always be careful what we wish for, as we rarely think of the consequences 🙂

  4. philosophermouseofthehedge October 31, 2014 / 7:18 AM

    “my hands- miniscule compared to the giant, rugged hands” – I thought the size contrast of the hands an intriguing reflection of their situations/choices.
    Great lines about “worries that set in wrinkles” and “Cain;t resist the evil lure of makin’ pain go away”
    Terrific character development – wonderful story. Worth musing over

    • jannatwrites October 31, 2014 / 3:24 PM

      Thanks so much for reading and for leaving your thoughtful comment, Phil. I was hoping the contrast between the two would be recognized, as well as the similarity between them.

  5. Timothy Price October 31, 2014 / 7:30 AM

    Great story. You can’t imagine how many times I’ve thought up stories. I come up with what I think would be great intros, and I possibly a few great endings, but I can’t seem to get all the stuff in-between to come together to make complete stories.

    • jannatwrites October 31, 2014 / 3:26 PM

      It’s so frustrating when the middle won’t “gel up,” Timothy. Sometimes I’ll have a beginning or an ending that sit around for weeks/months before I find the right story for them. (Who knows how many others slip from my memory!)

  6. Sean October 31, 2014 / 8:13 AM

    I will say that I was expecting creepy but this had a strange twist. It was a nice touch to put the guy in character as you did. I was able to have a better mental image of that person. This story did have a few questions pop up in my head. Was the girl just a memory or was she real? Does he have Da-ment-ya/Alzheimer or not? Thanks for the story.

    • jannatwrites October 31, 2014 / 3:30 PM

      I wanted the dialogue between the two to be distinct, as they were from separate generations. I’m glad you liked that, Sean.

      I didn’t picture him as having dementia – he just aged more than his years because he remembered everything. She was real, but didn’t age at all since her memories didn’t stick. However, that could change now that she remembered her own history. I didn’t go into more depth because I wanted to keep this shorter than usual (it was just over 500 words!)

  7. Debbie October 31, 2014 / 10:59 AM

    This one doesn’t disappoint at all, Janna. No, it’s not “scare your socks off” frightening, but it has just the right amount of spooky. After all, remembering and forgetting (and getting one’s wishes granted) can be tricky things. I don’t know which one of these characters I feel sorrier for!

    • jannatwrites October 31, 2014 / 3:33 PM

      Thanks so much, Debbie! I was hoping it would be spooky enough, although I knew it wouldn’t be keeping anyone awake at night! I think remembering and forgetting are both miserable…just on opposite ends of the spectrum.

  8. Emilio Pasquale October 31, 2014 / 11:24 AM

    The spectre of Alzheimer’s is very scary to me so your story did scare, but was also very sad. Please tell hubby that I’m in love with your mind but not to worry. As long as you keep writing, I’ll be satisfied! Thanks again Janna! You are incredible!

    • jannatwrites October 31, 2014 / 3:36 PM

      Thanks so much, Emilio! My grandma had Alzheimer’s so my initial wish would be to remember everything, however, there’s a definite downside to that (think of how many arguments in marriage would never end if one side didn’t let it go, haha.) You crack me up! I don’t think my husband is worried at all 🙂

        • jannatwrites October 31, 2014 / 11:49 PM

          I’m sorry to hear that, Emilio. It is a devastating disease for all involved.

  9. momtheobscure October 31, 2014 / 1:36 PM

    This was powerful… and the scary thing is it fit into my day. First, I heard The Smith’s “Heaven knows I’m miserable now” on the radio, then when I was sitting in quiet contemplation of what I should be grateful for a random small child ran up and handed me a yellow leaf, now your story. You did great this month. Looking forward to reading you in November

    • jannatwrites October 31, 2014 / 3:38 PM

      It’s funny how some days are like that, when things just seem in sync. I’m glad you stopped by to read the story, Momtheobscure. I’m actually relieved to get back to normal without the pressure of writing a certain type of story. My mind tends to want to do the opposite of what I want it to!

  10. joannesisco October 31, 2014 / 3:53 PM

    There is clearly an edge to this story. As always, your inspiration is deeply thought and adds depth to the story.

    The line that reached me was “I don’t know where I’d end up, so I just stay here.” That is a fear I battle. I am afraid to move forward because I can’t see the next step.

    • jannatwrites October 31, 2014 / 11:49 PM

      I struggle with the same fear, Joanne. Sometimes we have to move by faith. (Says the person who puts off finishing a novel because then I’ll have to figure out what to do with it!)

      • joannesisco November 1, 2014 / 4:20 AM

        What’s the expression? … Leap, and learn how to fly on the way down?

        • jannatwrites November 1, 2014 / 4:33 PM

          I’m not familiar with that one, but it works, Joanne! I think I subscribe too much to “look before you leap.” I’m still looking 😛

  11. vishalbheeroo November 1, 2014 / 1:56 AM

    Absolutely love the story and style of writing..kick ass:)

    • jannatwrites November 1, 2014 / 4:32 PM

      Thanks, Vishal! I’m glad you stopped by and enjoyed the story 🙂

  12. GodGirl November 1, 2014 / 1:50 PM

    Great characters and a brilliant concept, with the older remembering and the younger forgetting. I must say, losing my mind and my memory is the scariest thing of all.

    • jannatwrites November 1, 2014 / 4:37 PM

      I fear the losing of my mind as well… it’s been a trait in our family for generations and I don’t know if God has planned for me to buck the trend or follow it. Thanks for reading, GodGirl!

  13. pattisj November 1, 2014 / 5:20 PM

    Great characterization, I could see them clearly.

    • jannatwrites November 1, 2014 / 9:56 PM

      Thanks, Patti! Glad you stopped by 🙂

  14. Imelda November 3, 2014 / 7:39 AM

    NO, this is not scary at all. Mysterious, yes. But this one is more philosophical and existential than scary. And this is a very intriguing story, too. 🙂 I hope you explore this story a bit more.

    • jannatwrites November 3, 2014 / 10:47 PM

      Thanks for reading, Imelda. I’m glad you enjoyed the story 🙂

  15. agjorgenson November 4, 2014 / 6:33 AM

    So interesting, this interplay of forgetting and remembering. I recall hearing new stories of people who have heightened memories, and the burden it can be for them. We mostly worry about forgetting, but you are right: sometimes forgetting is a gift.

    • jannatwrites November 4, 2014 / 7:10 PM

      It was kind of intriguing to look at the flip side of what we often wish for. I’m glad you stopped by to read it, Allen!

    • jannatwrites November 4, 2014 / 7:12 PM

      Hehe, it was supposed to be a little strange, Bjorn 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  16. diannegray November 4, 2014 / 12:28 PM

    Great story, Janna. Be careful what you wish for 😉

    • jannatwrites November 4, 2014 / 7:13 PM

      No kidding! Good thing I haven’t been doled out any wishes, Dianne 🙂

  17. Tessa November 6, 2014 / 12:06 PM

    Janna that is definitely one of your better ones.

  18. Sarah Ann December 18, 2014 / 5:32 AM

    I really like this. The characters are both really strong and well drawn. Now the narrator has revealed she’s remembering, maybe they can move away from that rotting log – 13 years is a long time to stay silent. (And his phlegmy cough made me shiver.)

    • jannatwrites December 18, 2014 / 10:48 AM

      I’m glad you stopped by to read the story and enjoyed it, Sarah Ann!

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