Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: One
Title: The Day of Wishes
Every year during the first full moon of the season, the people of Caelan celebrate “The Day of Wishes.” It’s rumored that magic happens on that day. Unlikely babies are conceived, wars are averted, poor harvests come back from the brink, and love is in the air. If one is truly open, almost any fervent wish might be granted—as long as it is honest and true.
A huge festival commences to celebrate “The Day of Wishes.” Townspeople dress in their Sunday best, even when money is tight. Women spend days cooking, baking, and weaving in the hope they can attract favor.
This year is no different. The festivities go on all day in the fields surrounding King Fergal’s castle. Poor and rich alike mingle, tethered by a common bond—the desire for a wish to be realized. Children’s games are organized, and men gather to compete at archery. As the afternoon wanes, immense tables are brought forth from the castle walls and loaded with rich food and wine where the people dine together. For this single day, all are equal.
At dusk, everyone gathers for the lighting ceremony. Hundreds of delicate wooden lantern frames covered by fragile white paper are set alight and released into the night sky. The wind is still tonight, and the soft sound of the warmed air fluttering the lantern coverings is all that can be heard. It’s rare that a group this size can remain silent, but their collective reverence for this tradition unites them.
The clear night sky fills with paper lanterns casting golden honey light lifted by the prayers and wishes from all below.
My name is Chay, and I am a wish. Wishes can discern the quests of each lantern’s owner; a part of the essence of their soul rises with their light, and we can see the auras. There are a finite number of wishes at each festival. Tonight, I look out over the glowing offerings. So many choices, most of them worthy. I can only choose one, though.
I float through the sea of light, allowing the requests to flow through me. There is one that grabs and holds me, a request from a golden-haired maiden from a poor family. Her days are long and arduous as she works tirelessly to help her family, always with a smile. Her mother is often ill, and her father left years ago. She’s a dreamer and a painter, but has put aside her own dreams to help others. Her wish isn’t for herself—it’s for her mother, her sisters.
The selfless ones are rare. As a wish, I’m allowed to grant their requests for others in addition to ferreting out the dream they would never dare ask for themselves. With my special sight, I sense a dark-haired man she often admires from afar. When I locate his lantern, his wishes are for her, that she wouldn’t have to toil so hard, that she would allow herself to partake of happiness.
There are gasps from the crowd as I become visible, a glowing white specter in the sky. Fingers point at the strange light as the townspeople wonder what it could be.
I draw together the lanterns that belong to the couple below, and entwine them with threads of light. My magic is strong tonight, and the other wishes around me sigh with such longing as it blossoms.
We don’t have the honor of staying and watching the favors we bestow. It’s time to move on to our next task. We answer wishes that are offered up to the stars in the sky. We’re in the dandelion fluff that floats on the breeze. Wherever a wish exists, we can be found.
We’re not supposed to follow up, but perhaps next year, I’ll peek in on my special couple. After all, we sometimes get to make wishes, too.
Sarah Aisling hails from New Jersey and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and awesomely precocious daughter. She’s currently putting the finishing touches on her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SarahAislingAuthor