by Aneesh Shukla
Twilight was beginning to fade and the dark of night settling in. Aneesh leaned against the open doorway of the balcony, watching the sky, waiting for the stars to light his way. Behind him, he heard Maitri humming softly as she soothed their son to sleep. The warm summer breeze caressed him lovingly as he smiled, recognizing the tune. He hummed along as she slowly backed out of the room and then walked over to him.
“He’s down,” she whispered, wrapping her arms around his waist and resting her head on his chest. She would be asleep by the time he returned. But as always, she would wake up when he crawled into bed beside her and hold him until he fell asleep.
“Where are you going tonight?” Maitri looked up at the night sky, trying to find the star patterns that Aneesh had so often pointed out to her. They had spent countless hours on that balcony in their little apartment in Chicago, keeping each other warm and searching for meaning in the chaotic constellations.
“Trevi,” Aneesh replied softly, running his fingers through her hair. She smiled and looked up at her husband. “Your favorite! Go. The stars are getting brighter,” she said, stepping back from him. She straightened his jacket and pulled his collar tighter around his neck for him.
“You know, I hope Maadhav has someone as loving and perfect as you when he takes over for me someday,” Aneesh said. Maitri laughed as she took his satchel off of its hook and put it over his head and shoulder. She put her hands on his face and said, “Do good, husband. Go grant some wishes.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Aneesh said, smiling. He kissed her softly and she wrapped her arms around his neck. More than anything, he wanted to take her with him. Being apart from her and Maadhav was darker than the most starless of nights. As they separated and Aneesh walked out onto the balcony and looked up at the twinkling sparks of light in the blanket of darkness, Maitri closed her eyes and prayed for his safety.
Then, Aneesh climbed onto the railing of the balcony and jumped.
But, he didn’t fall. He flew. As soon as his feet left the railing, he shot straight up to the sky towards the stars. The wind rushed through his hair and he raced past the clouds and up into the stratosphere. Closing he eyes, he let the stars tell him where he needed to go. He could hear them whispering to him and pulling him towards them as he slowed to a stop. He floated there, so many miles above the surface of the Earth for a few seconds until the stars shone suddenly all around him. When they dimmed and he opened his eyes, he was on his way back down, cascading to the surface like water over the edge of a cliff. And when he finally hit the ground, he was knee-deep in the waters of the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy.
No one had seen him. Nothing even stirred in the night as he made his journey around the world. He reached into his satchel and pulled out a small envelope sealed with wax. He pried it open and took out a small card and read it. “Southwest corner. 2-Euro coin.” Aneesh waded over to the designated area. As he got closer, the card in his hand grew warmer and warmer until it was almost burning him. He reached down and picked up the coin and as soon as he did, the card burst into flames, the burning ashes and remnants floating up into the night and disappearing. Aneesh gently shook the coin in his hand until it gave off a faint glow. He pressed the cool metal against his ear and listened.
“I wish I could afford to travel like this all the time.” The whispered words resonated in Aneesh’s mind as he let the coin fall back into the water. He took out a second card from the envelope and wrote them down with a beautiful black quill he produced from his satchel. When he resealed the envelope, it also caught fire and the flaming pieces floated up to the heavens.
By day, Aneesh was a high school English teacher. But by night, he was a wish granter. Wishes didn’t come true because people whispered into a coin and threw it into a fountain. Wishes came true because wish granters willed them to come true. Each night, Aneesh was assigned three wishes to grant from a random fountain somewhere in the world. To this day, he didn’t know where his assignments came from. He didn’t know how star travel worked. He didn’t know and he didn’t ask. He was granting wishes. He was curing illness and reuniting loved ones and making dreams come true.
He picked up the coin for his second wish of the night and listened. “I wish Claire would fall in love with me.” Sighing, Aneesh dropped the coin back into the water and said, “Sorry, my friend. No magic is powerful enough to go toe-to-toe with true love.”
Yes, there were rules. The magic couldn’t create love. It couldn’t grant wishes that asked for more wishes. Wishes made from spite couldn’t cause intentional harm or pain. But, Aneesh thought it to be a noble calling. That is why he and Maitri both would be so proud to see their son take it up one day.
He picked up the third coin and shook it gently, as he always did, and listened. But as soon as he put the coin to his ear, he knew something was wrong. The coin felt hot instead of cool against his skin and the voice that came from it was not a gentle whisper, but a raspy, moaning, angry tone.
“I wish for the end of the wish granters.”
The coin fell from his hand and Aneesh looked down at it, confused. He waited for the envelope to burn away on its own, as that was an impossible wish. It was against the rules. Unfortunately, there were many malevolent people in the world, and Aneesh had come across many wishes that tried to cause pain or suffering to others. None of them were ever granted. But, the envelope stayed and the quill leaped out of his satchel and wrote the words down on the card itself, without his hand to guide it. As Aneesh watched the burning remains float up to the sky, he looked around, half-expecting something terrible to happen. But the night was as quiet as always. For a moment, he feared that he was stuck there, unable to return home. But soon, he began to feel the familiar pull on his body from the stars.
He shot up to the sky again and travelled cosmically back home. He thought about the wish and the voice from the coin. It sounded so full of hatred. But, he couldn’t understand how it was possible. No one knew about the wish granters, as far as he knew. And wishes weren’t supposed to be able to attack anyone or end anything.
He landed with a soft thud on the balcony and stretched out his neck and legs. But then, he froze. There was something sticking to the glass of the sliding door. It was a card. He stepped forward and read it.
“I wish for the end of the wish granters.”
“Maitri!” He yelled as he grabbed the card and threw the door open. He ran into their bedroom and she was already half out of bed.
“What happened?” He handed her the card and she looked up at him confused. “What does this mean?”
“I don’t know!” He told her about the third wish at the fountain and the unusual way it was granted. “But nothing has happened to me,” he said finally. “So, did it just not come true?” After a few seconds of dead silence, Maitri looked up at Aneesh, her brow furrowed.
“You don’t think…” And as Aneesh looked into her eyes, he instantly knew her thoughts and felt her fear. Without another word, they both ran into the hallway and to their son’s room. Throwing open the door, Maitri let out a scream, “Maadhav!”
The crib was empty. He was gone. The two of them buckled and fell to their knees, holding onto each other for dear life. Inside the crib was another card.
“The end of the wish granters.”
Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing