2 comments

Fantasy Holiday Urban Fantasy

The Wishing Well


Spiders and ghosts decorated the linoleum tile floors and peeling plaster walls of Sky Trail Elementary school that year. Hallways filled with Power Rangers, vampires, and—oddly enough—Forrest Gump, meant that I had my work cut out for me. With just one day left until the big Halloween Bash, I was determined to win the costume contest, but if this Spirit Day preview was any indication, my witch costume certainly wasn’t going to be earning me any prizes. One of the vampires had crimson splattered all over his collar, and his teeth looked so real, all sharp and pointy as they jutted out from his lips, that I’d flinched when we bumped into each other. There was no way I’d place higher than him, even with my light-up magic wand. I needed something better.


I’d been thinking about this the entire way home from school, trying to imagine ways to make my costume more impressive, but the closer I got to home, the more certain I was that I needed something altogether different. There was no way my parents would get me another costume at that point, but if I was anything, I was determined. With this new goal in mind, I knew exactly what I had to do.


Taking the small, rock path through the tree line behind our neighborhood, I headed directly towards the stone well. It wasn’t just any old well—it was a real wishing well. Finding it had been quite the exciting event a few weeks earlier, and when I’d shown it to Maggie, she’d danced with delight at the sight of it. We didn’t make a wish that day, because apparently, you’re supposed to give the well a gift in exchange for your wish, but she had assured me there was magic in those waters.


I didn’t have a gift this day, either, but I’d figure that out when I got there. If nothing else, I knew there must be something at the bottom of my backpack that would suffice. I didn’t know all the rules of a wishing well, but how hard could it be?


I stepped into the mushy clearing, ground soft from thunderstorms the day before. My Vans sunk into the mud, and I cursed the earth for getting my favorite shoes dirty, before hearing Maggie’s voice in my mind, reminding me that I’m responsible for my own things. Even when she wasn’t with me, she was.


“Hello!” Hello, hello, hello… My voice echoed all the way down until it hit against water at the very bottom and bounced back.


The stone circle of the well only stood about three feet tall, so it was easy enough to bend over it to peer into the darkness. It was cold out that afternoon, despite the high-hanging sun, and I shivered as my voice spoke back to me before flying off on the wind, back towards the trees. I’d need to make this quick.


Crouching, careful not to touch the damp ground, I swung my bag around, prepared to unzip it in search of treasure. However, before my numb fingers even gripped the zipper pull, I saw something glint bright out of the corner of my eye. Following the light, my eyes landed on something shiny at the base of the stones. I hoisted my bag back around my shoulders and stepped over to the object.


“What are you?” I asked the shining disc, engraved with odd markings. It was a coin, sure, but not like any I’d ever seen before. “I wish Maggie was here,” I whispered to it.


“Ask, and you shall receive.” Her voice was accompanied by a light chuckle, and I spun around to see Maggie standing there with a wide grin. “I see you found my offering.”


I held the coin between my thumb and forefinger, holding it up. “I should have known it was yours!”


She patted my shoulder on the way to the wishing well. “Well, dear, it’s actually yours. I had a feeling you’d be here today.”


“You did?”


“Mhmm. Turns out I was right. Now, what are you wishing for?” Maggie glances into the well before turning back to face me. “I assume that’s why you’re here?”


I flushed, and it wasn’t just from the cold. How did Maggie always know everything? “I want a new costume for the contest at school tomorrow.”


“Oh?” She raises a brow. “Your costume is wonderful already! Why do you want a different one?”


“I saw some of the kids at school today, and their costumes are way better than mine. They’ll win, for sure.”


“I see…” She strokes her chin. “It’s not always about winning, though, is it? If you like your costume, then maybe it’s best to stick with it and just have fun?”


I’d already considered that, of course, and under other circumstances I would’ve done just that. But Ashley had been teasing me at school, and I’d convinced myself that she’d think I was awesome if I won. It was my one shot at showing her that I was just as cool as her, with her beautiful Ariel costume.


Maggie could tell there was something I wasn’t saying, but she didn’t push me. “Just wait till you see my costume. I think you’ll get a kick out of it.”


I smiled and pretended to be curious, because she must have forgotten she’d already told me what she was planning on. I knew she’d gotten the materials and made the costume herself. The kids in the neighborhood were going to freak out when they saw her!


“I don’t really love my costume,” I lied. “So, it’s not just to win the contest.”


She nodded. “Very well then. You’re welcome to use that coin for your wish, if you’d like.”


I thanked her and held the coin reverently, closing my eyes and repeating the words in my mind. I wish to have the very best Halloween costume. I wish to have the very best Halloween costume. I wish to have the very best Halloween costume.


I tossed the coin into the well, and it clattered once against the wall before landing with a splash into the unseen pool below. Breathing deeply, I felt the magic rise like steam, landing on me and sinking into my skin. I gasped as the warmth of the spell overtook me and clapped giddily once it returned to normal.


“It worked!” I declared, running to hug Maggie.


“Indeed, it did,” she said softly.


***


The next day, Sky Trail opened its doors to the community for their annual Halloween Bash. Students, teachers, parents, and community members all came together for a day of games, contests, candy, and music. I’d been right—everyone came ready to win, and I felt immensely grateful that my costume was sure to be better than everyone else’s. When I’d put on my witch costume at home that morning, I’d been disappointed at first, not sure how exactly the magic was supposed to work.


That was until I went downstairs and watched as my black hat, dress, and boots transformed into white storm trooper armor. My wand became a light saber, and when I walked into the kitchen, my dad had beamed excitedly at my surprise costume. He loved Star Wars, and said it was the very best costume he’d ever seen.


Now, back at school, I was certain all the kids there would feel the same way.


My parents couldn’t get time off work, but Maggie had promised to come to the party, and I couldn’t wait for her to see my wish in action. In the meantime, I walked around the cafeteria where they had booths and activities set up for students. Everyone looked amazing, and every time I started to feel self-conscious, my costume would shift into something else. I’d worried at first that people would become suspicious of my ever-changing appearance, but to my shock, they didn’t seem to notice.


As I approached one booth, I transformed into a grim reaper, complete with glowing red eyes and realistic scythe. The kid giving away popcorn had looked at me with wide eyes as he handed the bag over, muttering something about me having the very best costume ever. His friend agreed and offered me an extra bag. That’s when I felt the tap on my shoulder.


I turned around to find a tall scarecrow looking down at me, straw dangling from a burlap hat like hair.


“Maggie!” I cried, giving her a tight hug. “You look amazing!”


She bowed dramatically, sending pieces of hay tumbling to the floor, and dust puffing into the air. “Ms. Scarecrow, if you please.” She winked, and I laughed. “Just what are you supposed to be?” she asked.


I looked down to see what I was at that moment, and it turned out I was a book. Literally, a book. “I—I guess you like reading?”


She looked at me with a question on her lips.


I shrugged. “I think I’ve figured out how the spell works,” I responded to the unasked question. “I seem to become whatever the person in front of me wants to see. Is that possible?”


A knowing expression took over her features. “Ah, yes, that makes sense. I wondered how the well would grant your wish.”


I wasn’t actually sure how I felt about it. “Isn’t it cool?” I tried to act like I was pleased.


Maggie was nodding when a group of kids approached, pointing at me.


“See? Isn’t Molly’s costume the very best?” one boy asked excitedly.


Another boy answered quickly. “Yeah! How did you find such a realistic cowboy outfit?” He ran his fingers along the leather fringe vest I now wore.


“Cowboy?” a girl asked, brows furrowed. “She’s the very best Ferngully I’ve ever seen!” And suddenly I had translucent wings and choppy black hair. The shifts were dizzying, and I was starting to feel queasy.


“No, she’s not!” the first boy said, practically shouting. “She’s obviously a werewolf! Look at those teeth!”


The group of children were fighting amongst themselves, but I was bent over, gripping my knees. The room was spinning as my hair, clothes, and make-up cycled so quickly that I couldn’t see straight. It was too much… I was going to be sick.


“Molly,” Maggie whispered, holding my shoulders, and guiding me to one of the plastic chairs lining the wall of the cafeteria. “Why don’t you sit down.” She handed me a bottle of water and waited for me to open my eyes. “It’s the spell, isn’t it? The wish?”


I nodded. “I just wished for the very best Halloween costume. That’s all.” Tears were forming, but I batted them away quickly. The last thing I needed was for anyone at school to see me crying.


“Here.” Maggie handed me a coin that looked exactly like the one from the day before. “To reverse it, you don’t need the well. You just need to hold the matching coin and say your wish has been fulfilled. It should stop it.”


“But what about the contest?” I sniffled, hiding my face from my classmates.


Maggie’s eyes were soft and compassionate. “Is it really worth all this?”


“I don’t know. Maybe.” I wished I didn’t care so much, that’s for sure.


Maggie sat down next to me. “I can tell you from experience that it never does much good for us when we try to be what we think everyone else wants, because what one person likes, another doesn’t. And no matter what, if you try to change yourself to get their approval, you end up losing yourself. It’s not real friendship when you have to change yourself to make them like you.”


I scowled, even though I knew deep down she was right. “I just wanted to win the contest.”


“Is that all? Because I get the feeling this is about more than a costume.”


“And to make Ashley like me.”


She nodded with understanding. “I understand that. But at what cost?” Maggie put a flannel-sleeved arm around me. “You deserve friends who know you and love you exactly as you are. Not because you win awards or take first place in some contest.”


I leaned my head against her, feeling straw scratch the top of my head. “I know. You’re right.”


“So.” She tapped my hand, which was still gripping the coin. “Why don’t you end this wish and actually enjoy the party? I have a feeling if you keep shifting based on who’s closest, you’re not going to be able to have much fun.”


“Yeah. You’re right.” I looked down at my open hand, engraved coin resting in my palm. “But you’ll stay with me?”


Maggie smiled and it made her eyes crinkle. “Of course! Ms. Scarecrow needs her witch friend in order for the costume to be complete!” She flicked her brows up once. “What do you say?”


“I say…” I rubbed the coin. “Let’s do this!”


Closing my eyes, I told the coin that my wish had been fulfilled. Warmth rushed through like a soft, summer breeze, lifting my hair and transforming me back into my witchy self. The coin did leave behind a bit of its magic, though, in the form of green skin.


“I see the coin decided to give you your best costume ever, instead of everyone else’s.” Maggie looked pleased. “It suits you.”


If my cheeks hadn’t been the color of pea soup, she might have been able to see me blush, but as it was, I was just happy to be back to myself again. The spinning had stopped, and the nausea had abated.


“Ready?” she said, standing and extending a hand. “I think I saw something you’d win, for sure!”


“Oh?” I asked eagerly, looking around at the booths. “Which one?”


She pointed to a corner where two girls stood together awkwardly. I’d never seen either of them before. Both were dressed similarly to me, and instead of feeling embarrassed by it, something pleasant bloomed. They were talking quietly, but as I approached, I realized they were discussing a book they’d both just read. The Secret Garden was my favorite, too! I told them as much, and it earned me happy introductions.


Turns out, both girls were in Miss Sheffield’s class, and that’s why I didn’t recognize them. Maggie left me to get to know Alicia and Jessica, and she had no way of knowing it at the time—or, maybe she did, come to think of it—but those girls would go on to become two of my lifelong best friends. I never wished to be anyone other than myself again. At least, not until middle school.

October 11, 2023 22:29

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

2 comments

Mary Bendickson
00:14 Oct 12, 2023

Great messages there for kids of all ages. Thanks for liking my Gift

Reply

Awen Kerr
17:09 Oct 12, 2023

It was a lovely meditation and very needed when I read it. Thank you for taking the time to read mine!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.