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Wishing Well By Bernie Mojzes

How many dreams have you thrown down the well? How many pennies held close to the heart, eyes closed, impressing through sheer force of will on the unresisting metal your deepest desires, your most desperate of unspoken needs, before casting them into the void?

There's silence, longer than you expect, and then a softly echoing plop. In your mind's eye, you see ripples break the perfectly still waters, concentric circles radiating outward to lick at the cold, dank stone before returning to break the succeeding rings into randomly shimmering wavelets. In your mind's eye, the well-water is dark, but moonlight glistens off the ripples, moving across the surface and fragmenting into soft white fireflies that flit just above the water.

But of course, you don't actually see that. The Sun isn't strong enough to illuminate those depths. The Moon is wise enough not to try.

It's unadorned, this ancient well, and uncovered. A danger, some say, that has claimed more than one life over the years. The low, stone wall that rings it is old, the mortar crumbling under yellow-green lichens. Thick moss makes a perfect seat for lovers, both young and old, as they hold hands and promise each other undying love and dream impossible futures. In the dark, it's virtually invisible--just one dark shadow in a courtyard of shadows--and the right height to trip the unwary.

Some people in town are old enough to remember when this wall was built. Some even remember that the wall it replaced was not the first.

No one remembers when the well itself was dug.

Many have tried to claim this well as their own. That flat spot there, the soft, sandy surface? That was a Green Man, bas-relief in concrete, built into the wall when it was made. The finer features wore away within a year. Within two years, it was barely recognizable as a face. Ten years ago that greenish blob there was a bronze crucifix, presented to the town by Archbishop Galloway when he visited to preside over the opening of St. Christopher's.

Look, it's loose. It's going to fall off soon. Like so many of the others.


I've seen you here before, standing before that wall, oblivious of the disintegrating Green Man, the corroded crucifix, oblivious of everything but your own ever-growing desperation. There are tears in your eyes, not for the first time, not yet for the last. Why? What have you lost? What do you hope to regain?

The penny drops, heavy with your need. In your mind's eye, you see your coin sink, feather-slow, until it settles on the outstretched palm of a pale, white hand. Delicate fingers close and press the penny against a cold breast. The woman of the well closes her eyes, as you did, and she knows your deepest desires, your most desperate of unspoken needs. If she breathed, she would take a deep breath, as you did before letting your dreams go, and exhale slowly, as you did: a sigh, a release. But she doesn't breathe. In the water, her long, dark hair swirls as she moves.

Of course, you don't actually see that.

And eventually, you drag a sleeve, or a lace handkerchief, or the back of your hand, across your face, and you walk away.

You don't look back.

Nobody ever does.


So, let me ask you: How many of those wishes have come true?

I thought so.

I'd ask you what compulsion brings you back, day after day, night after night. I'd ask you what you feel as you throw your dreams into that hungry pit. I'd ask if you really thought that the sacrifice would bear fruit. That it would grant you your deepest desire. That it would change your life. That it would make you happy.

But I don't need to.

You're gone, and it's my turn to feed her. The copper is cold against my skin, and I hold it until it warms. I surrender another dream, and listen for the splash.