Wishing Well By D. I. Jolly
The first thing Janet became aware of, was the smell. It reminded her of her grandmother’s cooking and of her childhood. The big elaborate Sunday lunches they’d have at the table in the garden, everyone together, laughing, smiling and having fun. Next, she became aware of sound, the crackle of a fire, footsteps on a wooden floor, laughter in a room nearby. Then as she opened her eyes and really awoke into her dream, she found herself standing in her Grandmother’s kitchen. But not as it was today, and who knew what that was like, but as it had been when she was a child.
Slowly she drifted through the house watching it unfold in front of her, the small play space by the fire where she and her brothers would sit and draw, or do puzzles. The dining room where she was always so careful to keep her elbows off the table. And finally, into the garden, the magical space that her Grandmother spent so much time on, full of brightly coloured flowers, tomato plants, chilli bushes and her favourite cherry tree in the world.
Only, the tree wasn’t there. In its place she saw a well. Looking exactly like the one out of her favourite childhood story book, the one she always made her Grandmother read her.
“This well,’ her Grandmother would always whisper, always their little secret,’ is no ordinary well. It was built by the God Pan, and it has the power to grant wishes.”
With the story full in her mind Janet became aware of a small coin sitting in her pocket, and she knew what she had to do. Carefully she skipped around the well three times. Closed her eyes and whispered.
“I wish for eternal youth for my husband and me.”
Then put the coin on her knuckle and flicked it with her thumb, sending it spinning into the well. She waited for what felt like a long time before she heard a faint sound that could have been a splash, and the dream ended.
The first thing Janet became aware of, was nothing. No aches, no pains, her bad hip didn’t feel it’s usual stiffness. Something the doctor had warned her about before the replacement surgery. When she opened her eyes, she found she didn’t need her glasses to see. Still half asleep it wasn’t until she got to the mirror that it fully hit her.
Staring back at her, was her. But whereas an old woman went to bed, a young woman stood there now. It was her, but at 23 years old. A childlike laugh bubbled out of her and she quickly pulled off her nightie to stand naked in from of the mirror, admiring herself. Excited she looked back at the bed and only then realised that her husband Josh wasn’t in it. Proud of her new, old, new body, she started skipping through the house looking for him. Desperate to see if her wish had come true for him as well.
As she got downstairs the first thing she noticed was the sound. Quiet, but heavy and irregular breathing. Her skipping stopped and turned into a very slow and cautious walk towards it.
Then she saw him, sitting on the kitchen floor tears running down his young handsome face. He looked almost exactly the same as he had on the day they had met, all those years ago. His face snapped up to look at her and a cry of pain fell out of him.
The cry of a child, lots of volume but no power, no strength in it. The sound of defeat.
“Noooo, noooo, noooo. Why? Why has this happened, what did you do?”
He raised his arms to her, pleading for help, for an explanation and she could see deep but bloodless wounds on his arms.
“I… I found a well in my dream and I made a wish.”
He stumbled forward never really standing up and wrapped his arms around her legs and cried into her lap, much like a child into his mother’s apron.
“Take it back, please, please take it back.”
Tears welled up in Janet’s eyes as she looked down at the breaking shell of the man she loved.
“But, but I did this for us.”
He fell away from her again at looked up red faced and furious.
“NO! You did this for you! And you have done this to me. I don’t want to live forever; I don’t want to be young again. I wanted to grow old together, to live our lives together and find peace together. I worked so hard, we worked so hard, and you’ve taken it away… Oh Jen my love, take it back. Please, please take it back.”
He once again crawled towards her and put his head down on her feet, weeping, repeating.
“Take it back… please… take it back.”
She became aware of a sound, like wind whistling passed an open window, only it sounded like a flute, and a giggle and she remembered the rest of the story her Grandmother would read her.
“But be careful what you wish for little Rabbit, because Pan is a tricky God and what you ask for, might not be what you really want.”