The wind left footprints on my walls as the stars left broken wishes hanging off my lips. Tomorrow was the first day of fifth grade and I wasn’t even going – I couldn’t. The sinewy air was choking me enough that I couldn’t eat. I felt the tension like I was a rope but somehow, I couldn’t sense what was coming next.
Breath. The sound echoed off my room’s starry atmosphere.
Breath. I released it like I wished I could release my pain.
Tap. I reached into the windowsill infested with bugs and geranium pots that had died a month ago. Then I gazed at the sky. Upon the night speckled with stars, I spied a beacon of light. It was incandescent. Shining far brighter than the North Star.
I closed my eyes and made a wish.
Beep went the monitor. Fourteen wishes until my shift ends. Then another Wishmaker Apprentice would sit in my chair, probably more skillful than I. I hated monotonous work. My job was simply to forward the wishes of children to the official Wishers based on the three categories. Fanatical. Unchangeable. Accessible. My chair squeaked, awkwardly turning to the computer next to me. My fingers sped along the road of keys and colors.
“Bryan Beverly,” I read to myself, fixing my glasses so they sat comfortably on the bridge of my nose. Age 15; 10:52 AM; Woodlands, Singapore. I clicked on his wish bottle. His voice radiated from my headset, too tight for my liking.
“I wish that I had the courage to ask Starly Fernmaster to the Prom,” the audio crackled as I immediately dragged Bryan’s wish to the “Accessible” pile along with the millions of other teenagers. This was not an uncommon wish. I imagined a lovestruck teen wishing upon a star, not even knowing that there was an audience of one thousand listening.
“Next,” I whispered to myself drawing a few stares. This was the silent mundane work of a Wishmaker. We weren’t supposed to speak. The button below the monitor flashed purple so naturally, I knew this wish was coming from a young child. I stifled a grin. Young children often amuse me with their ludicrous wishes. My eyes focused on the screen. Millie Carter; Age 10; 9:41 PM; Providence, Rhode Island.
“Let me get this over with,” I muttered, “probably another spur of the moment wish.”
The button followed the silent rules as I could barely tell that I pushed it. The speakers drummed a white noise as I heard the girl’s voice slightly speak into the microphone.
“I wish,” she began, voice as soft as water, “that my brother would breathe one more time. And that I’d just forget… But it’s hard. Really hard.”
I felt my palms sweat, lingering over the button “Unchangeable”. To mercilessly put Millie’s heartfelt wish to the baskets of impossible wishes was cruel. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t dispose of her issue. It reminded me too much of my own father who left before I was born. Just like her brother. The one I couldn’t bring back to life. Simply nobody could. I pressed play again. And again. And again, until my eardrums would remember her voice forever. I watched the apprentices switch seats at least twice as I continued to stare at the screen. I was on wish twelve. Two wishes to go. But this was the first wish that mattered. Sure, I’d gotten a couple of life wishes from struck adults but never with as much passion this child was displaying. Her voice was just so innocent. Like this was her very first loss in her world. And knowing I could visit her on Earth and simply hold her hand was reassuring. But that was the Wisher’s job. And they wouldn’t waste their time with her. The fix button was for them only. I was eight years short of leaving this dilapidated space home. I’d be a real Wisher then. I would venture to Earth in order to grant wishes. That was the goal of a Wisher. To make those in predicaments happy. I moved the mouse to “Accessible” but stopped abruptly. The Wishers would dispose of the wish after figuring out her brother was dead. Why bother with the impossible? You couldn’t defy it. But I couldn’t leave Millie Carter in the dust of eternity. She was ten, dealing with something most adults couldn’t fathom. So, I took a deep breath. I knew I’d be kicked to the curb right as I arrived back. Because I pressed code red. In flashing white letters, the screen read: Wishmaker, Wish granted.
My head hung low. The wind seemed to be haunting me like an amorphous figure. Whispering Adam Carter’s name. Over and over again. I didn’t grope to my parents this morning at breakfast. They said that his death was imminent. He’d been working in the navy since he graduated high school. It was like people were expecting his death just as the sun rose each morning. But I never could fathom his absence. It was like he was still there. Winking at me from the stars an infinite mile away. In the smiling cake from my tenth birthday milestone. I felt his heartbeat in the steps I took to the bus stop. The trek to school was hard. I stood in the pouring rain, filling my boots to the tip top, making my socks feel like sponges. It took me ten minutes to realize I didn’t catch the bus at the corner of my street. I watched it leave me in my frozen shoes.
So, I waited alone.
The face of the Earth was the epitome of picturesque. Clouds were crying droplets of water as I began to walk. Walking. I took one step after the other, in the realization that I was actually on solid ground. Not on brazen metal floorboards in the Wisher Apprentice’s spaceship. Not hunched over in a seat that was two times too large. Or sitting in silence. I was here. But I didn’t have time. There was an hourglass in my mind. It only took a couple of minutes until I’d be reported missing. The enjoyment of this world would only last a moment until I’d never return. Now I was drenched to my shaking skin beneath my ten-pound metal suit. Millie Carter. I needed to find her and grant her wish. Where could she be? I navigated my way through the streets. All of the homes were empty. Lights out. Absolute quiet besides the pitter-patter of rain on the asphalt.
“Millie?” I called out into the distance. My voice sounded like weary, crackled from age. I didn’t recognize my own sound. I couldn’t believe something so rudimentary to a human being was so foreign to me. But what consumed me was the girl. Where was she?
It was me, the strange boy in the armor, and the swept-clean streets of the city that lingered. The sky began to flash a dull gray, with thin clouds like constrictor snakes, weaving through the air. I was afraid there would be lightning. I was already enemies with the thunder. And especially scared of the boy on the streets. Mother had always said not to talk to strangers but this one looked youthful. His eyes were bright, in stark contrast to the screaming storm around us. I wondered if it was the glint in his eye or the reflection radiating off his white-blond hair that made him look younger. But really, observing him from ten feet away, it was really his soft eyes. I watched him step onto the sidewalk carefully avoiding the teeming puddles. He kept his eyes on his feet, wrapped in rusted metal. Eventually, he looked down upon me, raising his eyebrows. He coughed.
“Are you Millie Carter?” he asked uncertainty, scratching his forehead. I didn’t bother hiding my knees that were knocking together like bricks. The stranger would figure it was from the cold anyway. While exploring my surroundings, I began to question the man’s intentions. Was I wearing a sticker with my name plastered on it? How did he know who I was?
“Yes, I am,” I murmured. It has been a period of ten-second silence before I responded. The boy began to wring his soaked hands on his pockets, “but I’m not in the mood for talking.” I spat, not even realizing the boy’s expression hadn’t changed. His face was stone and emotionless, not a tinge of sympathy was displayed.
“Hmm,” he uttered and reached for my shoulder. I thought I would back away but my feet were grounded. It wasn’t harmful, the boy’s touch. It was a reassuring like a brotherly touch. Something I hadn’t felt in months. I took a sharp breath in.
“I understand,” the boy answered, “you look like you’ve had a hard day.”
“Yes, I have,” I admitted, “I’m sorry for being so harsh. How do you do?”
“Me?” the boy looked worried, “You’re asking how I’m doing?”
I couldn’t resist giving a little laugh. It was like when Adam tickled me, and I tried so hard not to cry out. He’d smile at me and urge me to laugh. And I did. “Yes, you! How is your day, boy?” I looked at him a bit closer. “You’re not from here are you?”
The boy squirmed in his stance, “No, well, you see… I’m what you call a Wishmaker. An Apprentice to a Wisher. I sort all the wishes of children across the universe. You could say where I’m from is like a star. So small from the distance.”
“So, you’re here to grant my wish?” I asked, challenging the squeamish boy. I doubted he could even make a teacup appear in front of my eyes.
“Yes,” he said with confidence. “er, no. I mean, your wish is nearly impossible to grant. I just, well… I shouldn’t be here anyway. It isn’t my job. I guess I’m just here to be your friend or some type of acquaintance”
“Your job?” I mumbled under my breath, “A job is just a title. Like a status you see?” It felt odd lecturing a boy who looked three years older than me but I continued. “But I could really use someone to talk to. You probably already know this, but my brother is in the navy. I mean, he was in the navy. He’s been since he was eighteen. We all were expecting that something would happen sooner or later. But I guess, I didn’t expect it would be now. Now everybody’s expecting that I just forget.”
“But you don’t want to forget somebody so dear to you?” the boy condoled, his voice barely a rasp.
“Exactly,” it was like the words were taken from my mouth, “what did you say your name was?”
He hesitated, running his fingers through his hair.
“Adam,” he said, “Adam is my name.”
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