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Weight of a Wish

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“Are you sure?” The giraffe asked, and nodded pointedly towards the figure standing stiff nearby. Although the sharp, knife-like pins sunk deep in its flesh every few vertebrae, trailing up the entire length of the spine did not seem to attach to anything else, it was clear that the person - whoever they had been - was now held quite fast by their choices. “These things don’t always work out how you think.”

“Yes,” the woman agreed. Perhaps she was not as wary as she should have been, but she did not wish for beauty, flawless stature, or better bones. She had thought long and hard about this for many years, and decided that, of all the wishes that had flowed with her over her life, this was the most important. “I would like only a little more space.”

“As you say.” It required only a quick blink of the giraffe’s eyes for the granting to begin. The transformation was not painless in the least, but it was always worth it. None had ever said otherwise.

The woman held her lips firmly shut, at least until this desire, too, was sensed and the loose fabric of her clothing fell over her face and sealed them for her. Drawers, wooden with brass button-like handles, appeared in a neat column in one of her thighs. The largest formed directly beneath her bust, and promptly opened to reveal another arm, as spindly as her third. The thin, flowing clothing seemed to form a shell around her, although it continued to ripple in the light breeze that passed over the dull green sands.

The giraffe was a little surprised by this, since the woman had made it clear already that she did not require a complete second set of appendages for her work. “Space,” of course, was a malleable term, but generally those who wished to break from society for a time had other means of doing so and did not wander out to the desert in search of a wish-granter. Still, wish-granting was a fiddly discipline at the best of times, and unfortunate things had been known to happen before when the wishee had other unrealized aspirations - often ones they had thought long suppressed to the point of ignorance - which came tumbling out as well, or external expectations that sullied their wish, or even not visualizing precisely what they meant.

The woman turned her head as though peering at her surroundings, though what she saw or not, only she knew. She ran her hands up her arms, newly gloved in thin linen, and then across where the drawers appeared as ports through both silk and skin. Her clothing waved about the breeze in confusion.

“I am sorry,” the giraffe said sincerely. He never wished misfortune on those who came to him, though it found everyone sooner or later. “You can stay here with me-- well, us,” he amended, glancing at the other figure, unmoved even by this display, “for as long you like.” He meant this, of course, in a very literal sense, though connotation compelled his word choice. The woman was entirely able to leave or stay as she pleased, and he could not compel her either way. Nor could she make a second wish for such, only desire it in a non-magical sense.

The woman appeared to accept, for she relaxed a little, and didn’t flinch as a trio of long pins attached to her aging - although not elderly - bones to support her skeleton. The giraffe’s own spine tingled in sympathy where the fire burned along it. His choice had been made so long ago that he hardly remembered it himself, but whenever the heat beat too strongly or the wind threw sand in his open sores, he looked up at the shifting currents of turquoise above, the tiny specks that might have been glowing fish or stars or painted kelp. He did not remember what the world was like before, but he did not regret his offer to keep the waters away.

A glance at the other figure, however, made him wonder, if only for a moment. Dark roots threaded through skin that was greener even than the sand below in the light of the water above, and the photosynthetic frill on its head swayed very gently in the breeze, the only thing that moved at all on the figure. It too, had wished for more than it was able; and, cursed with a blessing of compassion, had tried to take his flames from him. One’s wish could not undo another’s here, however, and the burning proof of his dedication endured. But what was the purpose of a gift for survival in the water, when the water no longer remained?