Tonight, California writer Matt Bowers is taking us for a look into the bottom of a very special well. Ready to make a wish?
I wish my little brother would die.
Moments later, a ceramic piggybank shattered against the dry earth at the bottom of the well, pennies and nickels and dimes ricocheting against its stone walls. The girl peered over the edge but heard nothing more.
This was the sad awakening of his consciousness.
Over the decades, coins accumulated at the bottom of the well, forming an inches deep layer of corroding metal. Not all wishes were hateful. But he found those to be the most delicious.
Most wishers arrived at dawn. Others came during brisk autumn afternoons, or during the long and lazy evenings of summer. But these were congenial well-wishers, harmless and trivial. He craved the wishes that came under cover of darkness.
And then, many years after he first awoke, on a moonless night marred only by twinkling stars, he felt a familiar presence.
I wish my brother were alive.
The woman upended a coffee can into the well, fungus-green bills fluttering slowly into the void. This time she did not wait for a response, but walked back into the night.
Something changed for him after that. The coins, some half-buried after decades at the bottom of the well, began to coalesce, as though they were melted and forged into single pieces. Weeks passed. The metal took on recognizable shapes: arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet. With each wish, he became more corporeal. Before his hundredth birthday, his body was fully and crudely fashioned
It was his tragedy that, even as he became substantial, the wishes ran dry. People were moving away from picket fences, dirt roads, and old oaks; away from buried memories and family cemeteries; away from abandoned wishing wells. But he knew none of this.
And so he begins to wonder if he exists. He thrashes metal limbs against the unyielding stone walls of his penitentiary, driven mad by fear and starvation and doubt. In the ashy loneliness of night, he marvels at a world known only through its darkest secrets, a world that discards its wishes into a withering hole and deserts them.