The thick, summer breeze swept over the horizon. Cool air brushed through my hair, drying the warm liquid that rushed down my cheeks. Blades of grass gripped the soles of my shoes as if they were trying to hold me in place. I peered over the 10ft. tall cliff I was standing on, staring down to the murky waters below. They seemed to be abnormally still, as if time itself wanted me to overlook my drastic decision, but there was no turning back, I had made up my mind. Life had consistently thrown me curve balls, and I struck out every time. The world had turned its back on me, isolating me, transforming me into a social faux pas. I’d had enough, it was time for me to stop the pain the only way I knew how.
I tiptoed closer and closer to the precipice, eyes shutting firmly as I felt the tips of my shoes lose the feeling of ground. I held my breath, exhaling deeply just about to take the last steps to my death. That’s when I heard a faint, low growl calling from beneath the waters. A dark figure began to rise from below its surface, its covering remaining undisturbed. It beckoned to me, its long, skeletal fingers waving in my direction. I stumbled back, wanting to run in the opposite direction, but it curiosity coerced me to stay.
The night clothed the area in darkness, the only source of light was emanating from the moon's rays. Despite this, I could faintly make out an unusually wide smile painted on its almost non-existent face. It began its slow descent from the water and with every step it took, I stumbled backwards, eventually running in the other direction. I didn’t manage to get far, my body collided with something hard and I was flung to the ground. I looked up, laying my eyes upon the thing that forced me down, a sense of fear tingled down my spine.
It was the creature. The pale moonlight shined in its direction and I could clearly see all of its features. Its face was void of eyes with sunken depressions taking their place. Nails like sharpened blades reached towards the ground. Its skin as dark as the night itself glistened with a slimy texture. Its body was sickly thin and frail, almost to the point of decay. It peeled open its mouth with a grin, the smell of rotted corpses assaulted my nose. “Hello, my dear.” It spoke with a soft yet raspy voice. It slowly advanced towards me, I was too afraid to move away.
“Do not fear me my dear, after all, I am the one who saved your life.” I quickly opened my mouth to speak, confident in what I wanted to say, but all I managed were a few muffled stutters. The creature roared in laughter, tears falling from its eye sockets. After a few seconds he managed to compose himself. “I know what you’re thinking, stopping someone’s suicide attempt isn’t really saving them, is it?” That was exactly what I was thinking. “Tell me, Elizabeth, why do you desire death so badly?” How did it know my name?
I began to speak once more, this time producing actual words. “I wish to die for many reasons, why should some have profitable lives, and I have one void of meaning?” The creature glared in my direction, the corners of its mouth curving downwards. “You do not value your life as it is?”
He remained silent as he sorted through my words. “Very well, then I shall grant you what you so desire, of course for a price.” I slowly stood to my feet, confused by the creature’s words.
“How can you grant me such a thing, what are you?”
It toppled over again in laughter, I was becoming increasingly irritated that it found my words so humorous. “My dear girl, wouldn’t you like to know.” He began to laugh again.
“Tell me or we have no deal!”
It abruptly stopped, straightening itself, anger beginning to show on its almost expressionless face. “My dear, I’m sure you can benefit from this deal more than I, but if you must know, I am many things, but you can just call me, the gifter.”
I began to wear an even more confused look than before. If what the beast said was true, I could completely reinvent my life. I quickly thought it over, weighing the pros and cons, then gave him my answer. “I’ll agree to your deal, but only if you name your price.”
“In due time. Now, run home, I will be contacting you in a few days.” With those final words, he vanished. I hurriedly ran home, a confection of emotions coiled around my brain like a snake suffocating its prey. Those next couple of days were the longest I’ve ever experienced. I wanted so desperately to have the life I’ve yearned for for so long. A life envied by others and lived by few. Just when I was about to write off the entire experience as nothing but a vivid nightmare, the creature returned once more. It looked even more sickly and decayed than before. “Hello Elizabeth, fancy seeing you again.” His voice sounded like that of a dying man. I felt more sadness and pity towards him than fear. “I failed to mention this during our last visit but I’m afraid I can only grant you no more than seven wishes, so please, consider using them wisely.”
I nodded eagerly, agreeing to the beast’s terms. I’d been thinking of what I would ask of him the last couple of days, I knew exactly what I wanted. “My first wish shall be what I envy most, a life of the rich and famous. I wish to live the life of a famous novelist.”
The creature smirked and tilted his head towards me. “As you wish, my dear.” It snapped its emaciated fingers and I was instantly transported back to my room. The following day I awoke to a constant ringing emerging from my bedside table, it was my phone. I picked it up and was surprised to see 17 missed calls on the screen. I redialed the number, hesitatingly waiting for an answer.
“Finally you're awake!” The voice sounded frantic on the other end. “You have a book signing today, didn’t you remember? I’m coming to get you in half an hour, please be ready!” And with that the unknown caller hung up.
The wish had worked! I leaped from my bed scurrying to get ready. Just as the caller said, they were there in half an hour. I never could’ve imagined the feeling of being wanted, of being appreciated, but here I was able to experience every positive emotion I’ve neglected throughout the years. Book signings, public interviews, and publishing deals with some of the top publishers in the U.S. were some of the perks of my new life. But, despite my new found fame, I had a reoccurring sensation that something was missing. I mulled over the feeling for many days, amidst all of the fame and popularity. I arrived at my answer a few days later, I was not happy. Even after gaining so much, I craved more, the satisfaction of this new life was no longer enjoyable.
“So, Elizabeth, how are enjoying your new life, it’s to your liking I hope?” The gifter slithered up to me placing his long, delicate fingers upon my shoulders.
“I cannot say that I am, although I appreciate what you’ve done, I still have yet to find complete happiness.” I turned to face the creature, he looked a bit less sickly than I remembered.
“Well, you do still have six more wishes, what is it that you desire?”
It didn’t take me long to construct an answer. “I have yet to find a mate, perhaps a lover would alleviate my woes.”
The gifter snapped his fingers. “A lover it shall be.” The next day I met the man of my dreams; we met in a diner that morning, he was more beautiful than I could ever imagine. Eyes the color of clear blue waters, hair like the darkest bits of chocolate, skin as smooth and bronze as if it were kissed by the sun. His voice was deep and sensual, we fell in love almost instantly. We soon married a few short months later.
For quite some time, my life felt as though it were comprised of a balance between excitement and euphoria. I was beginning to think that maybe I wouldn’t need those last five wishes after all. I felt this way until the love I felt for my husband began to slowly melt away. We were always constantly arguing over this or that and the spark I’m sure I thought was real just wasn’t there anymore. I became increasingly distressed, my hair began falling out in clumps and my face developed subtle wrinkles. I was settling into the early stages of depression. The gifter later visited me yet again, and even more than before, he looked as though he was regaining his health. “Oh my dear Elizabeth, you're beginning to look a bit frail, are you no longer happy?” There was an implied pity in his voice, though he wore an expression of glee upon his face.
“I cannot say that I am, dear gifter, my husband and I cannot seem to get along anymore, perhaps another wish shall do me justice?” The gifter crouched by my side, gently caressing my thigh.
“Oh course, so, what is your third wish?” I thought for a moment about my answer, I didn’t not wish to relive the cycle of up’s and downs.
I wanted this to be my final wish. “I wish for nothing more than stability. I wish for nothing but pure happiness, void of the feeling of agony and despair.” I saw the beast snap its fingers for what I hoped would be its last time and for a few, short, prosperous years, I felt what I could call true happiness. My husband and I’s disagreements become scarce, he had earned a raise and the popularity of my books spread like wildfire. Soon we were able to afford a bigger house, fancier clothing, and expensive technologies. But the more I reflected on our new found happiness, the more manufactured it seemed. The smiles received from fans felt forced and fabricated, the praise I was gifted seemed simulated and robotic, even my husband’s love towards me felt artificial.
Three more wishes were made in the upcoming years, all of which ended in tragedy. I felt the motivation within me slowly dissolve into a pool of molten liquid. I stopped trying to keep up this façade of a life I had constructed of my own free will. I lost my husband, my book deals, my house, everything. My hair was balding and my skin reduced to a wrinkly, grey texture. The feeling of tiredness and fatigue plagued my body, I was nothing more than an outer shell of flesh and dysphoria. The gifter visited me one more time and while his flesh grew more and more vibrant, my own became more tattered and wilted. “Poor, poor Elizabeth, look what has become of you.” The look of sheer joy sprawled across his face stirred awake an anger deep inside of me. “How dare you smile while I wither away! Do you find joy in the suffering you caused!” The gifter’s smile faded into utter dismay, I felt a sense of regret at my sudden outburst. “Just as the still waters, what is stolen from it is missed, but it always has what is to be appreciated.” I stared at him in confusion, he smirked then continued on.
“You agreed to my terms because you felt the world robbed you of true happiness, of ambitions, and of love, but yet you could not appreciate what you already had. The only one robbing you of that my dear, was you.” He was right, I was so lost in the fairytale I constructed that I could not see what I already had to hold dear. My own greed had robbed me of the many roads I could have taken, I had chosen the road filled with contradictions. “Your selfishness, your envy, your lust, that is what kept you from accepting even the smallest of gifts. After all, what is life without pain.” He progressed towards me, standing inches away from my bewildered face. “I’m sure by now, you have discovered what my price was all along, haven’t you, my dear, Elizabeth.”