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Granted Wishes

Be Careful When You Wish

By Adam DiehlPublished about a month ago Updated 26 days ago 5 min read
Granted Wishes
Photo by Mila Buenavida on Unsplash

"They thought it was the end of the world-a day that wouldn't end. It was purgatory or worse. They carved symbols into rocks, they cast bones, they opened the guts of their livestock. When no answers came, they sacrificed those they'd deemed culpable for one reason or another and for some, no reason at all. And when night finally came, they wailed in mourning for all the ill they had done."

"So, it was for the first summer solstice all those years ago," Jack, the soothsayer said. Jack who was a used car salesman every other day of the year. "When in man's ignorance he didn't give proper due to the Sun and its cycle of life and death."

"Hail Sol in her splendor, robed in the light of truth," the gathered townsfolk chanted in response. All of them, like Jack, something ordinary and mundane in their daily lives.

"Yes, Hail Sol," Jack responded. "Would brother Blake come up and utter the prayer?"

"Hail Sol, brother," Blake responded and approached the makeshift pulpit. "This land has been cursed," he said. "For three years it has produced nothing and everything has it been given to prosper. Yet, until now, the great Sol, in her wisdom, has judged the time unripe for sowing and reaping. So, on this Summer Solstice, in supplication and entreaty, we call upon all gods and goddesses of the harvest and fertility to bestow upon us the gift of rain and growth in our fields and enlightenment and maturity in our hearts and minds. Hail, Sol." Six days a week, Blake was the lone postal worker in the town.

"Hail, Sol," they answered as one.

With backhoes and tractors, they moved in large stones, placing them as best they could in accordance with the old rituals they'd read about. The older women placed bouquets of white anemone along the inner ring of the stones-the younger ones, blue hydrengas. When that was done, they stood around the circle and chanted something in latin that most mispronounced and none understood. Then, in a deep silence, broken only by some young lady who couldn't stop sneezing after handling the flowers, they waited.

None of them were really sure what they expected would happen. Most hoped for rain but only a few really thought it would arrive on time. The rest were just bored. Whether true believers or casual enthusiasts, when something actually did start to happen, it terrified them.

The ground shook and in the middle of that stone circle they'd erected, a single bolt of lightning struck, the force of which, sent all of them flying. The townsfolk jumped back to their feet and rushed to the stones. As subtly as they could, they peered around them but did not dare to cross the threshold. Inside the circle there was a large plume of smoke that was dissipating slower than the altitude and wind would indicate. There was a shadow inside the smoke, crouching at first and then slowly unfolding to its full height, which really wasn't that high. The townspeople gasped as the figure blew away the last wisp of smoke as though blowing a goodbye kiss to an unloved acquaintance.

The thing wasn't grotesque or even that much different from a human but it was certainly not human. The gathered amateur ritualists couldn't peel their gazes away from it. Whatever they were expecting, a little, burnt man with spiky black hair, wasn't on the list. It spoke.

"Who dares summon, Char, the summer King," it said. "What boons does thou seek from the blackened keeper of the Long Day?"

"Um, hello," Jack the car salesman said. "I'm Jack and these good people around the circle are the inhabitants of the town below." The creature tilted its head in the direction of the town but didn't speak.

"We have summoned, umm, summoned thee, in accordance with the ancient Solstice ritual Vestalia, of which we read much to seek aid in the season of harvest."

Char laughed. And laughed. He fell to the ground clutching his stomach laughing. I looked at my watch. I wanted to time this. I guessed the length of time he laughed would be conversely proportional to how serious he took the town's requests. To be honest, I was not the greatest judge of character but I was pretty sure Char was not "on the level".

In between fits of laughter he was able to manage a reply. "Ask and I shall consider your requests," he said.

"We wish it to rain and for our crops to grow like they once did," Jack said. "We wish for a bountiful harvest this year, and in all the years to come. In remittance, we will hold this ritual yearly on the solstice and provide you with the firsts of our crops."

Char stroked his little beard, a goattee, of course, and pretended to be deep in thought. Then, he gave a barely noticeable shake of his head. "All that, I can give you, and more. It won't cost you even a single ear of corn. All it will cost you is her," the imp said and pointed. Everyone's gaze followed his long, bony finger and wouldn't you just know it, it was pointing at me.

"No," I exclaimed.

"Yes! Give him the virgin," Karen cried. Karen was a realtor by trade and volunteered at every school function and oblivious as they come.

"Shut up, Karen," I said. "I'm no more a virgin than your daughter."

"Hey!", Karen's daughter yelled.

"Sorry, Ashley," I said. "Maybe your virginity has grown back, Karen, as much as your husband cheats on you."

"You little slut!" Karen yelled.

"Now, am I a slut or a virgin, Karen," I said. "Make up your mind. Look, this guy is so obviously evil. Why are we even listening to him? I bet he can't leave the circle. Let's all just turn around and go back to our normal lives and forget this happened. Forget any of this happened. Jack?"

"I'm sorry, Sarah," he said and my heart sank. "Karen honestly didn't know, but this was always the plan."

"That's why your daughter invited me to this ren fest?" I said. "Why do you even need it to rain, you sell used Toyotas. And you Blake. You're the mailman. You deliver the mail no matter what the weather is!"

"The folks who buy my cars farm," Jack said. "No crops, no money for cars. It's that simple. Char, I invite you to leave the circle."

"No," I said again and turned to run. Char was in front of me before I could take a second step. "Get away from me," I yelled.

"Relax, dear," he said. "I can only take you if you're willing. I can give you anything you want. Here, or (he then shrugged and looked down) elsewhere. I can be anything or anyone you want. I can be your lover." He then shifted his shape.

"That's my husband!" screamed Karen.

"Or Jack's," he said and shifted again.

"That's my daughter!" Jack accidentally admitted.

"As I said, I can be anyone you want me to be and now that I'm a part of this community, duly invited, together, we can have so much fun," he said and as he did, gave a curtsy and extended his hand.

I'm not ashamed to say, I took it.

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Comments (2)

  • D.K. Shepardabout a month ago

    Enjoyed the blend of ancient ritual with modern townspeople roles!

  • Andrew C McDonaldabout a month ago

    Nicely done. Truly enjoyable read. Good luck in the contest.

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