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"End of Story"
by Beth Gulla

“She’s still there?”

The trio—two men, one woman—turned to the speaker with mild, patient smiles. The newcomer stalked over, put her hands on her hips in a classic irritated pose, and actually let out a small “hmph!”.

“Well yes, she still appears to be thinking,” one of the men answered; this was Peter. He was shorter than his other companions, but a touch taller than Delilah, and his skin and hair—well, just about everything—were a faint copper. In his eyes, small flecks of brighter, sparkling color winked in and out of existence and the same could be seen in his short-cropped hair, if one looked carefully enough. To his right was a much taller man: Quincy. Broader in shoulders and a bit around the waist, Quincy’s complexion was a sort of subdued, albeit still glittering here and there, silver. Like the other man, this color covered him completely, tinting his skin, hair, eyes, even clothes. On Peter’s left was a woman just slightly taller than her copper friend: Nichole. She was a little plump but had that air of a loving and generous grandmother everyone looked forward to visiting. She too seemed silver at first, but a closer look should show her tone leaned more on the grey side, though it was no less vivid and alive than the others.

Finally, there was Delilah: her flashy silver—much more gaudy than the tall man’s—suited her loud mouth and tactless comments rather nicely. Currently, she was tapping her foot impatiently and glaring at the impressively large 7 year old girl floating before them. Actually, it was merely the image of a 7 year old girl and has it hung in the air, it would occasionally ripple as if it had been projected onto water. The little girl was swinging her legs idly as she sat, occasionally chewing on a thumbnail, and looking very deep in thought.

“Well what is she waiting for?!” Delilah snapped. “Does she think we have all day to sit around and wait for her to finish?”

“Technically, we do,” Quincy pointed out with a glimmer of amusement in his eyes.

“She’s just trying to get it right,” Nichole soothed, moving to Delilah’s side and patting her on the arm.

“‘Get it right’? She’s only 7, just how much ‘getting it right’ is there for someone that age?!”

“Obviously she’s seen enough movies to know not to waste this chance,” Peter pointed out. He too seemed to be hiding a broader grin of almost mischief behind his serene outer smile. Delilah gave him a scathing look and made another “hmph” noise.

“Doesn’t she know it’s not that simple?” she muttered a bit sulkily. “You make your wish, it goes in with all the others and then that thing decides if anything even gets granted. End of story, thanks for playing, better luck next time.” As she spoke, she waved a hand vaguely in the direction of a large earthenware jug sitting by itself on a pedestal in the center of their spacious, circular room. It seemed ordinary enough except that the top was almost completely sealed, with only a small hole just at the tip of the pouring spout remaining open.

“Oh look, it seems like she’s made up her mind,” Nichole said, pointing, and indeed it had. As they watched, the young girl hopped up from her seat, brushed off her skirt almost unconsciously, before taking a deep breath, her face an adorable storm cloud of concentration. She clasped her hands in front of her, closed her eyes, and whispered her short, but very specifically clear, wish. Then, suddenly remembering something, she dug one hand into a pocket and flicked a coin into the air. As it flipped end over end, the light caught flashed on the image of an eagle with its wings spread for just a moment. A second later, gravity won its little war and the coin tumbled back down through the air, vanishing from sight with a small blip sound. In the same instant, the little girl’s image rippled more strongly and then faded from sight.

“Putting it all in for this one,” Quincy commented with a wide smile, turning away from the now empty air.

“Poor dear looked terribly worried,” Nichole added. Peter shared Quincy’s smile, but Delilah just rolled her eyes.

They turned as one to the jug but they didn’t have to wait long for the jug soon rattled on its pedestal, accompanied by the same blip sound as before, like a stone falling in a pond. The jug settled again but took to glowing softly as the four approached it.

“If I may,” Quincy said as he reached for the handle, although it was unnecessary. The designated pourer had been settled with the coin toss. He lifted the jug as if it weight nothing, then tipped it forward, lowering the spout to the saucer-like depression set in the top of the stone it had once perched on. They waited silently and finally, with a soft chime like a bell, a small water-like bead fell out of the only opening on the jug. The other three leaned forward as Quincy straightened the jug.

Black meant no one’s wish was granted this time, any other of the four colors each person wore meant it was someone’s lucky day. At that point, the one who matched the bead’s tint merely had to pick it up and the wish would be made real. Quincy leaned a little closer as well, making sure the jug did not tip again as he held it to one side. The silence lengthened a bit more, until--

“Unbelievable,” came Delilah’s soft exhalation.

The four straightened and now Peter and Quincy were grinning unashamedly, while Nichole allowed a small, albeit very pleased, smile to steal across her expression. Delilah looked up at the ceiling with a sigh.

“Whatever…” But she stayed where she was and watched as Peter took the jug from Quincy and then nodded to the small silver bead still waiting.

“Please, by all means, old friend.”

Quincy gave a playful little half-bow before reaching out and picking up the tiny glittering wish between his thumb and forefinger. He turned to one side and with a small puff of air, the bead flew from his fingers in the shape of a small sparkling cloud that hovered for a moment before vanishing. Quincy turned back to his companions, mimed dusting his hands off, and winked.

“End of story.”
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October 2013


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