Melody hated her job. She worked for Mr. Mellifluous in his If Wishes Were store. Her official title was Assistant Manager but she knew what she really was – a skivvy, a rubbish collector, sweeping up the wishes of the world as if they were made of discarded paper.
Humans loved the act of wishing. They were always doing it.
I wish I was thinner.
I wish I had more money.
I wish my hair was straighter.
I wish I could give up smoking.
I wish he loved me.
They threw their wishes out into the ether willy nilly, without a care. They had no idea where their wishes would end up or what form they would take once they hit the sunlight.
The trouble was that anyone could be a wishcaster. They didn’t need to be one of the magical folk. Once a wish was cast it was alive, it was moving and there was no telling where it would end up.
Mr. Mellifluous had received awards for his Be Careful What You Wish For advertising campaign alerting humans to the dangers of carelessly cast wishes. There was talk of a Nobel prize, a knighthood, but from Melody’s point of view the campaign had done nothing to reduce the number of wishes littering the streets. Humans never learned. They were the most reckless species Melody had ever encountered. At the moment she had five crews doing a sweep of the city for the troublesome wishes. Wishes that took on the anguish and woe of their casters and caused destruction wherever they went. They couldn’t be caught and resold in the store. There was a dark vein in them that grew and grew the longer they were out in the air. The magical folk didn’t want those wishes. They only bought human wishes full of hope and promise, keeping them under glass like pets, watching their colours fill a room like their own miniature sunsets.
The troublesome wishes had to be destroyed. It was the moon they hated. The crew used mirrors to hit them with the silver light. They screamed before they burst into nothingness. Fear and loathing filled the night. And a thin line of sadness. Those wishes had been cast out of moments of despair, of loneliness, of sorrow. They were doomed to huddle in the shadows never understanding the bliss of a wish cast from joy.
The moon was high tonight, flooding the roads with gauzy light. The shadows were sliced to brushstrokes, staunchly pasted against the sides of buildings. The crew kept note of every wish they destroyed. One hundred, two hundred, five hundred. When they reached one thousand they would rest and drink dandelion wine below a ray of moonlight, toasting their success.
Melody never toasted. Collecting the wishes depressed her, even the ones cast from joy. They didn’t belong to the magical folk. They were private thoughts, little poems desirous of change. Dreams of a different life, a different world. It was not the destruction or the collection of the wishes that depressed her, more the fact that they had been cast in the first place. So many people wishing for something else, submitting their needs and desires to the universe; hoping, believing, yearning for their wishes to come true.
Most wishes did not come true. Melody had encountered only one. It had been cast by a child who had spent an entire summer’s day playing with her puppy in the garden, making daisy chains and drinking lemonade. It was one of the simplest wishes of all –
I wish for another day like today.
Melody had watched the child for years. She was a woman now. She saw happiness in the way leaves fell to the ground, in the way birdsong filled the air at twilight. She was grateful for each little moment. Each day was a day she had wished for no matter how it turned out.
Melody had a wish she dare not cast. Only one. That humans could see that they had the power to make their wishes come true. Within themselves. Deep in their hearts. That was there was no need to throw their most fragile of thoughts out into the air to be collected like cattle or destroyed under moonlight. That they had the power to change things for better or for worse.
One day she would do it. Mr. Mellifluous would have her head, but someday soon she would speak her wish aloud.
Until that time she would continue to clean the streets by the light of the moon as the wishes murmured and swirled at her feet, barely visible and trembling.