‘I need a wish. And I need it tonight.’ He said in a hoarse, used voice while scratching his scraggly stubbly chin.
‘And what makes you think I can grant you that?’ Li was already inconspicuously reaching into his pocket for his leather pouch.
‘I’ve heard…things. From people who know what they’re saying.’ He hunched over the table and slid a bright green marble over the scratched surface of the tabletop. Li picked up and examined the sphere between his thumb and forefinger.
‘And what’s this?’ Li said curiously.
‘Grant me that wish and it will become clear.’ The way he peeled his hat lower over his eyes reminded Li of a fisherman braving a storm.
‘What’s your wish then?’
‘I want to know everything.’ As the stranger said this Li squeezed one of the stars in his pocket to oblivion.
‘It is done’
The gruff fisherman nodded in gratitude and walked out of the pub and out of the world forever. Li’s attention turned to his new trinket. The marble had surely enough become clear, clean and pure as water under blue skies. He buried the marble into his pocket, finished off his drink and left the pub. Heading for home.
Li woke up the next morning and crawled out of bed. His joints screamed and his head was as light as concrete. He bumbled into the kitchen and looked in the mirror. He was wooden. He was as wooden as Pinocchio. One carved expression on his face. He tried to say something. Scream, maybe. But he felt his lungs knock against his oak ribcage. He felt his birch wood heart stationary in suspension. He moved with a judder and a creak, he would of cried if he wasn’t a meticulously constructed tree. Incapable of love he fell to the floor, his hollow body echoing, he felt his frail wooden veins and arteries crumble and break inside his wooden flesh.
Li came to staring at the white ceiling. He had no idea how long he was collapsed for he looked at his hand to see if he dreamt the curse. His hand was immovable, still wooden. How long had he been a puppet? How long had he been on the kitchen floor for? He woodenly stumbled out the door of his house and the world was as desolate as his dreams: all black and charred. No world to wonder in. He walked for hours amongst the debris, heading nowhere but going everywhere. He came to a standstill at a cliffs edge, there was no water left to fall into and float away on. He could become driftwood no more. He hurled himself off regardless, whistling through the air and plunging down onto rocks and a burnt seabed. He crashed onto the platform, splintering fragments of him flying everywhere, wooden fingers snapping, ribs breaking and organs crunching under the weight of gravity. He was still looking through oak eyes. He was still living this precarious life.
Li stared at the tumbling grey skies, all the clouds twisting into the smoke from the Armageddon. His vision curled everything he saw into a marble, a small green marble being slid over the table by a rough fisherman asking for a wish.
‘What does the future look like?’
‘Like a wasted wish’ Li replied.