issue 5

Monologue of a Wishing Well, by Anjali Patel

The poets over-romanticize the stars. They name them for your gods; proclaim them grand and omniscient. You mortals always elevate what you cannot understand, casting the distant and mysterious as beings worthy of fear or desire. Think: things that go bump in the night, or the blacksmith’s apprentice who smells of cloves and fire and won’t look twice your way.

I regret to inform you: there is nothing extraordinary about stars. There might be magnificence in their numbers, but they are about as insightful as gnats trapped in honey. I would know; I dated one once, when I danced among them before crashing to your world on the coat-tail of a comet. Stars are dim and vapid things, little more than glitter and distraction. You might as well wish on the light reflected off the scales of a sardine.

What I’m trying to say is: it was wise of you to come to me.

Excuse you, of course not. I broke up with one of them. When I landed here, it became a long distance thing; it was never going to work. She was light years away, so there was always a delay and we could never get in sync, you know? No, I’m fine talking about it. It was long ago. Your kind had just barely flopped out of the ocean; you wouldn’t remember.

Why not go back? Oh, inertia I suppose. Also gravity. I’m kind of stuck here until your sun explodes and casts me back beyond your heliosphere. It’s alright; time moves differently for me. Your lives are just blips, beginning and ending as quick as frothing, popping bubbles. It’s just a matter of waiting. Plus, this well I’ve taken up residence in is rather cozy. And there are plenty of other celestial bodies out there. See, the other day, I received a very suggestive message from the moon…

Wait. Right. We’re talking about you.

Let’s cut to it, then. What do you wish for? Love, riches, fame? I’m willing to negotiate on price. I no longer take coins because of inflation, but I accept other currency: years off your life, your firstborn…

Oh, the stars are free? Well, why are you here then?

Fair enough.

Let’s talk through your wish first and then we can discuss price. How about that? You want to woo the blacksmith’s apprentice I bet, eh? Well don’t try for more wishes. You know how the stories go.

Oh. You want…

You just want advice?

Okay. Mmhmm. I see.

I don’t know if I’m much in the way of the advice department, but if you want to catch her attention, I don’t advise enlisting as a soldier. What if you get shipped off to a distant kingdom? And what happens after she forges your sword and armor? Do you think you can return every time it breaks? There are better ways. Open a tea shop. Ask her to forge the kettle. Thank her with lemon scones. Invite her to tea. Talk to her.

No, no, no, you have a lot going for you. Candlemaker’s daughter, smart, considerate. Bright-eyed and optimistic in a way that does not over-nauseate. You’re a catch, trust me.

I’m sorry I said the blacksmith’s apprentice wouldn’t notice you. I guess…I guess I’m a bit bitter. Envious. There aren’t too many options when you’re trapped on some backwater rock whose most intelligent life forms can’t fathom more than five dimensions. No offense to dolphins. It’s lonely here, you know? Waiting around for this planet to explode so I can get on with my life. Messing with mortals was only fun the first millennia or two. Now it’s just rote.

Plus, now you know the stories and can work around my tricks.

All that said: be brave. Have faith in yourself. The worst she can say is no, and then you nurse your broken heart and heal and move on.

Let me know how it goes?

Of course. And no charge this time; it was my pleasure. This was nice. I…I would like it if you stopped by again. It has been some time since anyone has visited me. I’m all covered in lichen. It’s not a good look. What if a meteorite lands nearby? I would be so embarrassed. Plus, there is a full moon coming up. It might be time for me to put myself back out there.

Good luck. And if you do ever wish on a star and her name is Aslesa, tell her I say hi.


Anjali Patel is a computer whisperer and speculative fiction writer. She writes to explore queerness, agency, ancestral severance, convoluted mythologies of her own devising, and the stars. She lives with a grizzled dog who offered to teach her magic in exchange for free rent. Find her on her website at anjali.fyi or Twitter @anjapatel.

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