The Wish

March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! In honor of my rich Irish heritage (okay, maybe a quarter of me?), I’m celebrating the day not by getting plastered and running around like an idiot with a Kermit the Frog puppet hanging from my backpack, but instead with the one thing I love best–telling a story.

It’s short, silly, and probably not very good. Still, I had fun writing it. Enjoy!


The Wish

Amidst the chaos of climate change and wishy-washy weather patterns, spring had come early. Not budging in temperature or lack of precipitation for two weeks, people let out a collective breath and pulled out their light jackets. Joey maintained his heavy boots and gloves, though. Working outside for long periods of time always brought a chill to his bones.

This most recent assignment too him away from the city, away from even the most remote of the new subdivisions. Out in the country, one would frequently spot a patch of trees, even tiny forests larger than a few yards put together.

Not out here. Rural and countryside, no doubt, but these fields stretched into the horizon. Forests, true to their name, dotted the endless plains, filled with flora and fauna of all sorts. Possibly even some we know nothing about, Joey thought.

He pushed his way through the barriers of tall grasses and scraggly shrubs. Darkness, despite the patches of streaming sunlight illuminating the foyer of the smaller trees, reigned supreme. He stood still, clutching his weapon close to his torso, allowing his eyes to adjust.

So much green. Even this early in the year, the trees and all of their subordinates had sprouted into life, damn the potential frost or chill. Vines choked trees, plants littered the ground, and moss carpeted anything it could. Joey breathed in deep, the sweet and sour, musty and fresh scents mingled in his nose.

Whatever this forest boasted, whether real or not, would never expect such an early discover. Tales from travelers and even the errant farmer spoke of something emerging under the light of the moon or cover of darkness, destroying anything and everything in its path. There was no pattern, and no rhyme or reason. With zero percent failure, Joey had no doubt this would end the way his agency expected.

Small creatures scurried out of sight, leaving nothing but scattered dead leaves in their wake. Birds took off and landed, their screeches and cries echoing in the silence of the early morning. Joey’s footsteps crunched on the ground, but placed with care and practice as to keep attention away from himself.

Deeper into the woods he went, gripping his rifle tight, but held low. Eyes darted in every direction, scanning for any possible lair belonging to the scourge of the countryside. A mound, a fallen tree, or even a large nest up above might house this creature, this thing that no one could describe with anything other than fear.

Joey smiled. He had put down scarier beasts than the most experienced D&D player…and this was real life.

He checked his watch. Only fifteen minutes had passed. Behind, the treeline of the forest still stood close. Had he been walking that slow, or was this treacherous terrain? Not that it mattered, this job was over when it ended. He continued on.

Twigs snapped and leaves rustled. Nothing out of the ordinary, and not anything that would terrorize under cover of darkness. Still, he gripped his Model 70 tighter, finger grazing the trigger. One after the other, he stepped forth over a narrow fallen tree.

The nearest house had to be over two miles from here, a storage barn maybe one. So how did he hear music all of a sudden?

Cheerful, upbeat music, fiddles and flutes and drums all working together in rhythm and speed, emanating from somewhere ahead. Joey peered through the scope attached to his Winchester. Panning the forest from left to right and back again, nothing revealed itself. Still, someone or something was out there. Whether some carefully hidden musicians or a radio left behind by some partying country kids, Joey’s ears never deceived him.

It grew louder with every step he took. Moving in a straight line directly through the middle of the woods, Joey knew he followed the right path. More instruments joined in with the growing volume, sounds of rhythmic clapping and foot tapping rounding it out. Wherever it came from, it sounded like a pretty good hootenanny.

And then he saw it.

Through the dim light of the midday forest, golden illumination flooded out of a three, tall and wide. On the side opposite Joey, the light and music spilled onto the forest floor. He crept around the base, holding his breath.

An opening no taller than a toddler and just as wide revealed itself. Joey backed away, but cocked his body to the left, allowing him to see inside. While the tree was no more than three feet wide, the inside held much more, a paradox to the human eye.

Not to Joey. Some of the things he had seen and dealt with would cause a comic book artist to faint. This was real. And he knew exactly what was inside.

None of them had noticed him. The ten little folk, no taller than two feet each, danced and clapped and played their music. Amongst the ornately carven interior, the leprechauns carried on without a care in the world. However long this fete had been going on was anyone’s guess, but Joey had a feeling they never kept track. While legends dictated that he would get three wishes by catching one, he knew that to be nothing but a mummer’s tale. Something else was going on here, and he knew exactly what.

Whipping around, he raised his rifle and prepared to fire. Silent and lithe, the giant snake reared back, ready to strike. Had he waited even one second longer, those massive fangs would be sunken to the gums in Joey already.

“Don’t even think about it,” he whispered. “Don’t make another move.” Animals rarely understood when he talked to them, but it comforted him to do so. Pointing a long gun at them usually got the point across, but a well-timed bullet also helped.

Slowly, the snake sunk closer to the ground. Its forked tongue flickered, eyes locked on Joey’s. Trailing off into the distance, the only possible way to measure its length would be to kill it, but the head had to be the size of a moped. At its widest, the tube-like body rivaled that of Joey’s wide, muscular frame, but could easily swallow him whole.

He held firm, feet not moving. If the pale green reptile speared into him, it would take quite a bit of force to knock him over. One bullet from his gun, however, would make a quick end of his stand-off foe.

“Ye didnae fall fer it!”

The voice resembled every stereotypical leprechaun voice he had ever heard on television or a movie. Those sprang from truth, Joey reflected, so it made sense. He never took his sights off the massive beast or lower his weapon, but the wee-folk had his attention.

“You were a distraction.”

“True. And our friend brings us the baddest of the bad.”

“I’m not bad.”

The snake moved backwards, less than a foot. Joey’s finger grazed the trigger, but didn’t squeeze too tight.

“Yeh’re all bad. Yeh jes’ don’na know it.”

The snake’s head lifted from the ground. Joey’s heart jolted. Before he could even blink, the beast reared fully back, immediately shooting towards him.

His ears rang with the gunshot. Before the snake even had a chance to open its wide, fang-filled mouth, Joey had pulled the trigger. The large green head exploded, blood spattering the surrounding trees.

He spun at the waist, right arm shooting forth. His fingers wrapped around the leprechaun’s jacket as the little man gasped. Joey lowered his gun as he pulled the wee-folk up to his eye line.

“I want a wish,” Joey growled.

“Yeh get three.” The leprechaun clawed at Joey’s hand and wrist, but may as well have been punching a brick wall.

Joey smiled. “I only need one. Get me a monster worth going after. Something that won’t go down without a fight.”

The leprechaun’s eyes threatened to bulge from its head.

“Yeh don’na want that! I’ve seen it, believe me, it’s ugly.” He rolled his eyes back to the tree. “Wanna come in an’ have a pint or two? Special brew, just for us wee folk.”

Joey pulled him closer so that their noses practically touched. “I like ugly. I want terror. I want evil. I want to feel like I need to run for the first time in my life.”

The leprechaun looked off to the side for a moment. A wide grin appeared as his eyes returned to Joey’s.

“How about a dearg due?”

Joey scoffed. “Stake through the heart.”

“Dullahan?”

“Give it gold.”

“Balore?”

He hefted up his rifle. “Shoot it in the eye.”

Beads of sweat dripped out from underneath the leprechaun’s bowler hat. He tugged at his collar, taking a deep breath.

“What about…Caorthannach?”

Joey dropped the little faerie. His mouth fell open, corners curling up. Slowly, he nodded.

“There’s no water around here. I won’t know what to do.”

“Wish granted, then.”

Joey looked down at the little man. “When and where?”

A sideways pillar of flame erupted scant feet to the left of Joey. He spun around, the darkness giving him no obfuscation as to what approached: a massive skull, enwrapped in fire.

He gripped his Winchester close to his body. That wouldn’t help, but it gave him comfort. The only thing he could do at this point was run.

Another burst of flame came close to him. The heat singed a few hairs on his arm. With a final look and nod at the leprechaun, Joey turned back towards the way he entered the forest and started to run.

He would have loved to take up the leprechaun on his offer of beer, but this was far better. Finally, a reason to run.

 

THE END

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