“Emerald Fields!” the robotic voice in the bus said. It’s annoying voice woke me up from my nap. It took me a second to realize I’d miss my stop if I continued sleeping. I grabbed my bag, got out of my seat, squeezed past the passengers, and finally got through the doors a second before they shut behind me. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. Phew, I could’ve gotten lost again.
The bright sun beat down on me. I scanned the stop I got off on. Yup, I’m in the middle of nowhere, if only the bus stop was in town instead of here. The town was called Emerald Fields but I didn’t see any green. The fields were all dry, cracked mud, and some dried up plants poked their heads out of the ground. Just as the news said, this farmtown had been hit hard by a drought for quite some time with no forecast of rain anytime soon. Perfect, I thought to myself, rubbing my hands together. I walked over to the intersection on the road then looked into the distance on each end of both roads to see which way the town sign was. I could barely make it out in the distance, but there it was. I started walking towards it.
It took me some time but I finally reached it. I wiped the sweat off my brow and took a swig from my bottle. I could make out some vultures circling above. No sign of a random cow skull though. The town seemed small. A few houses here, some shops there, and sunburned farm folk everywhere. It was obvious everyone was aware of my presence. Small towns do know everyone here I’m assuming, but they seemed friendly enough. I asked directions to city hall from a kind old man in a bakery and soon got there. I also got a free muffin.
At city hall I booked a meeting with the mayor, saying I could help with the drought. Reception got me to my meeting with her pretty quickly. They must be pretty desperate.
After some introductions, the old lady mayor asked “So, what brings you to Emerald Fields”.
“Straight to business, I like that. Well, I’ve heard of what’s been going on with the town on the news, a record heat wave with all of the rivers dried up. All the crops are dried up, no business at all since it’s mostly just farming. You guys are in luck, I’ve come here to help” I replied.
“Well we’d take any help that we can get. How would you get water here?”
“Don’t worry about the how. For a million dollars I can make the drought go away.”
“We’re just supposed to trust you? We can’t just give you that kinda money without any proof…”
“Hmm…” I hummed while looking down and resting my hand under my chin, “have a town hall with the farmers, see what they think, and then we can plan something out that way.”
“Fine, we’ll meet with you at sunset in the town square and give you our decision.”
“I look forward to it,” I said with a smile as we shook hands and then left.
Once I was outside I was startled by a sudden voice behind me saying “Selling wishes? Interesting. Why not just wish for a lot of money instead?”
“Damnit Xiz, quit doing that. You were listening the whole time? Can anyone else see you?” I said as I spun around to see him floating behind me as if reclining in a pool.
“Yup, it gets boring staying in there. Nope, just you”
“To answer your question, yeah, I’m gonna sell the wishes” I said while popping in my ear buds so I’d look like I was on my phone instead of talking to myself like a crazy person. “I read online what happens to people who wish with a paw. They get what they want but suffer from consequences for messing with fate. I’m just gonna sell ‘em to make a lot of money. They learn whatever lesson you’re trying to teach ‘em and I get moolah.”
“Why not just sell the paw then?” he asked as he floated down to the ground then started walking backwards in front of me. I noticed I didn’t see his reflection on the shop windows as we passed a thrift store.
“And risk dropping this thing into the hands of someone evil? No thanks, too much power. At least, I think it is, I haven’t seen you grant any wishes yet.”
“You got a weird moral code, man.” We walked in silence for a few seconds. Xiz was checking out the shops as we passed by them. He broke the silence by asking “What if they want proof you’re legit?”
I answered with “well I was thinking that maybe you could get some dirt no one in town knows about the mayor to prove I’m legit. This doesn’t count as a wish though. I’ll get you something you want to pay you back.”
“Fine, I love secrets anyways. I want bones.”
“... you eat bones?”
“Yeah, they taste great. Bone marrow is amazing.”
“That’s whack but deal, you go snooping and I’ll get some bones. Meet me at the park”. We split ways. I bought some cheap fried chicken and saved the bones for Xiz. We exchanged our stuff at our meetup spot. He told me what to whisper in the mayor’s ear and that would suffice. I didn’t want to ask too many questions. Xiz munched away at the bones while we wandered around the park, which was cracked and dried as the rest of town. Before we knew it, it was nearing sunset and we started heading to the town square where the farmers and mayor were waiting. When we reached there, we saw a large crowd of people in front of the mayor on a small stage, a string of lights on the top of it. The street lights turned on as the sunlight dimmed.
“Well, I spoke with everyone and you’re lucky that we’re desperate enough to humor you. The plan now is to give you half up front for you to do whatever it is you need to do and then afterwards, when we see the water ourselves, we’ll give you the rest. As you can see, here are the two duffel bags”, said the mayor on the mic. I approached the stage to grab one duffel bag when the mayor stopped me. “Before that, we need some sort of proof that you can do what you claim you can. Can’t risk you grabbing one bag then disappearing.”
Xiz laughed then said “You actually called it.”
I gave him a wry smile and then said to the crowd “Does everyone here trust the mayor?”
I heard the crowd murmur with agreement. A short, tanned, super buff farmer said “She’s served this town well for many years, we regularly re-elect her.”
A tall, skinny farmer from further in the back shouted “yeah what he said”. The crowd, once more, murmured in agreement.
I turned to the mayor and whispered in her ear “Under the garden beside the backyard shed. I know roses need blood in fertilizer to grow but a dead body… well that’s just overkill”. I saw a look of horror and confusion on her face. She mumbled “What the- how the- you were in the park the whole time.”
The mayor turned back to the mic and said “He’s the real deal. We’ll give him the first bag. Do you want to count it before taking it?”
I turned to the bag and noticed Xiz had shoved his head into the bag through the side like a ghost. I could hear him mumbling some numbers and then he popped his head out, turned to me and said “yup, half a mil”.
I turned to the mayor and replied “no need, it’s half a mil. Before I take this, I’d like to just give you fair warning. When you mess with your fate, the scales need to be balanced again. There will be some … consequences. Is everyone still down?” I scanned the townsfolk to see their reaction.
There was a brief moment of silence as everyone mulled it over and then the crowd shouted in agreement. “Do it, the risk is worth it!” shouted an old farmer, “Our livelihood is on the line!” yelled a young woman, “bring it on, B-” yelled a kid while his mother clasped her hand over his mouth before he could finish his sentence, and “Yeah, what they said!” said a tall, skinny farmer in the back.
“Stop! I’m getting some bad vibes from this man! Bad vibes! Especially from whatever's in his pocket” yelled an old man waving his cane in the air as he stepped out from the crowd.
“Quiet Crazy old Creed, what else are you gonna say? You see another ‘demon’ again?” said a man wearing a straw hat putting both hands on his hips.
“Well I wasn’t gonna mention it cause you guys would call me crazy again but yes, there’s some weird looking monkey demon floating beside him”
“I look weird?” said Xiz painfully, he seemed kinda hurt.
“You look fine,” I whispered to him.
“Fine, a show of hands, who wants to do this?” questioned the mayor. “Denny, count how many.”
People raised their hands then Denny mumbled some numbers and said “75 are for.”
“Now all that’re against?” asked the mayor.
Denny mumbled some numbers again and then said “101 against now.” He grabbed the mic then said “you guys can’t vote twice. One more time, all against?”
Some hands dropped down. “K I’m counting 74, looks we’re getting Rumey’s help then.”
The crowd cheered in excitement while some folks moaned and shook their heads. I guess the stuff I said about consequences got to them then.
“Well, everyone’s in agreement. Thank you, I will head to a secluded spot and do what needs to be done”. I grabbed one bag and headed to the park again. When I was out of the view of everyone, I took out the paw and made my wish “I wish it would rain here to nourish this dried out town and all its farms.” The pinky finger twitched and curled inwards. I waited. Nothing happened. I scanned the area, the horizon, stuck my hand out to feel a drop; nada. I looked to the night sky and all I could see was stars which was a first for me after living in a city all my life, very breathtaking, but no clouds. “Xiz” I said as I looked around for him. Did I get tricked? I poked the paw and said “Yo, where’d you go?” It curled the 4 middle fingers inwards, stuck the pinky and the thumb out like how someone would make a phone with their hands, and I started hearing Xiz. I put the paw-phone to my ear and said “Hello?”
“Gimme a sec, I gotta get some stuff started,” he replied. Then I felt a poke on my back. I turned around as he said “Done” in person. The paw went back to normal, with the pinky still curled inwards.
I heard a rumbling sound in the distance. Rain clouds quickly gathered everywhere covering the sky. Then I felt the first few drops as I heard cheering coming from the town square. I went back to it to see high-fives and hugs being passed around everywhere as the rain intensified. I received many thanks from everyone; I nodded and said happy to help, your welcome, no problem, and so on. I went back to the stage, grabbed the remaining cash, and started heading out as I heard Xiz say, “you probably wanna hurry up out of here”.
I looked to see where he was looking. The mayor was whispering into a cop’s ear and looking towards me.
“This is probably ‘cause I know about the dead body” I said to Xiz who was hovering beside me.
“Most likely. You probably should’ve told someone about that.”
“Ye-yeah, I’ll leave the police an anonymous tip.”
I took out my raincoat and put it on as quickly as I could and started jogging out. I heard a “stop him!” from the cop and started picking up my pace. The rain also started picking up pace rapidly and I started to notice the flooding. The cop slipped and was soon swept away with the current. I saw a large floating sign board for an ice cream shop that I hopped on and started rowing with a floorboard piece I saw floating. I was quickly out of town. As I passed the town sign I heard lightning crackle, just barely missing me, hitting the town sign and smashing it to smithereens. I rowed until I reached a point where the flooding stopped and the rain wasn’t hitting me anymore. I looked back and saw the rain getting worse with lightning still striking and big waves sweeping full buildings away, even destroying some. Screams could be heard throughout town.
“Th-this isn’t my fault. I gave a warning beforehand,” I repeatedly mumbled to myself as my legs shook, making me slowly sink to the ground.
“Whatever helps you sleep at night” Xiz said with a smile as I rocked back and forth on the ground.