Sunday, May 21, 2006
Sunday Scribblings #8: Wishes
In college my astronomy class took a trip to Catalina Island to view a lunar eclipse. We trucked up a mountain to the island’s highest spot to set up our telescopes and we found a cult of eclipse chasers there before us: people of means who will travel anywhere in the world to view celestial phenomena. Their telescopes were robotically equipped to rotate in synch with the Earth, and a loudspeaker was broadcasting Greenwhich Mean Time in both English and Japanese. These people were ready. Then the fog rolled in and obscured the entire eclipse, but that’s not the point. The point is simply that for everything in which humans take an interest there lies the potential for obsession. You hear about birdwatchers’ life lists, their fortune-consuming ambition to make a tic mark next to every species of bird on the planet. I can’t help but fantasize, what if it were so with wishing? What if there were rich, resourceful obsessives scouring the bazaars and troll bridges of the world for wishes? What if? It’s my favorite question, what if. So... what if?
1. Wishing Wells
There are only a handful of true wishing wells in the world and wish-hunters are terribly secretive about their locations. The sugar heiress Tess Millicent Headley is generally believed to be the world authority on the matter, and many a lesser hunter has taken to simply tailing her in hopes of being led to an active well. In recent years she has been forced to hire decoys and dress them in her signature jodpurs and Cleopatra wigs, to try to throw stalkers off her trail. She joked in a speech to the Royal Wishology Society that sometimes even she forgets which one is the real Tess.
On the black market teeth are powerful currency for buying wishes. As one might suppose, different species of teeth purchase different potencies of wishes. A whole barrel full of rat incisors is worth a mere “scuppy,” for example (a dull hope in wish parlance), whereas a pair of viper fangs might fetch a “shing” strong enough to win love or revive the dead. There is not a species on the planet whose teeth have not found their way into Zorigo’s Rag & Bone Shop in Caracas. He fingers them all like rosary beads and pronounces their worth, then metes out his scuppies and shings. No one knows what he does with all those teeth, and no one ever asks. Incidentally, there is only one kind of wish more powerful than a shing. It’s called a “bruxis” (after the Latin for "gnashing") and its power lies in its great sacrifice, and those with the pain tolerance (and the pliers) to purchase it must learn a new kind of smile.
3. Lost Luggage
A century ago the notorious wish-hunter Chikamatsu Monzaemon uncovered the secret troll practice of hiding wishes in the lost luggage cellars of large railway stations. He began a spree of murdering luggage custodians and stealing their jobs, and thus gained access to the orphaned valises of eighteen European railway stations before he was finally caught. He had, however, at least two-dozen shings tied with fishing twine into his great grey beard, and he simply wished himself away to Australia as soon as the prison door swung shut.
(This is weird, isn't it? Oh well. It was fun. For more wishes, go to Sunday Scribblings!)
Posted by Laini Taylor at 10:26 PM