Sam plodded along slowly, with each step his back pack seemed to get heavier. He was almost there though. Once home he could slip the bag off his shoulders and change out of his school uniform. He looked forward to changing most of all. His uniform had started to get a little smaller on him the past few months. He had told his mother, but though she promised they’d get him a new one, it hadn’t happened yet. At first he thought that maybe they couldn’t afford it, that it was simply too expensive, but further reflection made him doubt that. They lived in a large house in the good part of town. Both his parents worked, high paying, long hour jobs. They always had a new car or new TV. And the more he thought about it, the more certain he became. His mother just didn’t care. That did sound a little harsh, after all, she probably did care, in her own way. It was just she had so much to do, so much to remember, that it always seemed to slip her mind and then suddenly, it was a week later and she couldn’t even recall the first conversation. He had tried to convince her to give him the money, that he’d go and buy it one day after school himself, but her answer was simple and too the point. “Nonsense. We’ll go this weekend. You won’t know what you’re supposed to get.” So he just suffered. It wasn’t too bad, it was only if he stretched up to raise his hand that it became obvious. The worst of it all was the waist of his trousers, it dug into his sides so that when he did finally take them off, he had red painful marks on his pale skin.
Sam walked alone, as he always did. He wasn’t the only student of the school who lived out here, there were a few others, they tended to walk home together, always without him. He wasn’t bullied, nothing so terrible as that, but he seemed to end up excluded through no fault of his own. He’d go to play football, but the teams had already been picked, he’d join in the chasing game, only to find it ending a few moments later. No one had any actual disdain for him, no one was afraid to be seen talking to him, yet he found any attempts at making friends, actual, real friends, to failing miserably. In class those he sat next to always seemed to enjoy talking to him, adults told him, or rather told his parents, he was charming and lovely. There seemed to be no actual explanation that he could see. There was no one orchestrating the students, no grand enemy, no arch villain. As the days and weeks wore on, he began to exclude himself voluntarily. He didn’t want to spoil anyone else’s fun. He would read or walk around the school grounds until lunch was over. None of the teachers seemed to be concerned, nor were the students. It just became who he was.
He opened the front door and shucked off his back pack, letting it drop onto the floor. He’d have to move it before his parents returned, but for now it could stay where it was. He raced up the stairs to his bedroom and quickly changed into something comfortable, once that was done he went to the sitting room. It was only three, his parents wouldn’t be home until half six at the earliest and sometimes they wouldn’t get home until seven or eight. He turned on the TV and began to pass the time.
His parents arrived at seven, after he had done his homework and tidied up the house a bit. Breakfast for his parents was always a rushed affair, or rather, that is what it seemed like to him. They would sit and eat their toast and drink their coffee and read their papers or books until it was time to go and suddenly it was a flurry of goodbyes and they were gone, leaving everything sitting on the table. It had fallen on him to clean up the breakfast things. As well as generally tidy. He didn’t get an allowance for this, though he had asked once, which was met with “Why would you need an allowance? What do you want? we’ll buy it for you.” Which seemed to him as though his parents were missing the point. Some boys in his school got an allowance without actually doing anything.
They ate dinner in silence, well, Sam was silent. His parents talked about their day, discussing various clients and mergers. Though Sam tried to keep up with the conversation he barely understood half of it and never had anything to add. When they finished eating, they turned to him, “How was school?”
“It was good.”
“Get any grades back?”
“Not today, though we had a French test this morning.”
“How do you think you did?”
With that his parents nodded and turned back to each other. Soon they’d migrate into their home offices for a while, before emerging a while later to have some wine and perhaps, watch a movie. The movie was always his favourite part of the day, as it was the longest he spent with his parents. They sat together, side by side on one couch, while he sat on the other. They drank their wine, he drank a glass of coke. Sometimes there were snacks and sometimes there wasn’t, that was all just extras though. He savoured the time he spent with them. His parents chose the movie, very rarely giving him a say. Mostly they were thrillers, or dramas. Sometimes it was TV instead of a movie. They would watch until Sam became tired and went to bed, getting a brief peck on the cheek from his mother and a pat on the back from his father, then he would leave and they would stay up a little later.
He read at bedtime, technically it wasn’t allowed, but his parents never checked. He would read until his eyes became heavy and sore, then a few pages beyond that until the words were starting to lose meaning. Then he’d fold over the page and place it on his locker before falling asleep. This night was no different.
Sam opened his eyes, fully awake. Something had woken him, though he wasn’t sure what, maybe a noise? He sat up in bed, listening, feeling as though something was wrong. He calmed himself by repeating that it was probably just a dream he had. There was no noise from outside, though that wasn’t unusual. He half expected to hear something smash, to hear whispers, something to alert him to a robbery, but there was nothing. He carefully moved his legs over the edge of the bed and stood, ignoring the screaming fear that the monster under his bed would grab his ankles and pull him under. That was silly. He wasn’t a child anymore. He didn’t believe in those kinds of things. His heart, which thudded in his chest, disagreed. He crept to the door and opened it slightly, peering into the dark hallway. There was no sound, no shadows skulking about. The house seemed safe. He turned and stifled a scream.
A man sat on his bed, but it wasn’t quite a man. He seemed unnaturally tall, even when sitting and inhumanly thin. His face was pale, his eyes dark, but he held a friendly smile. His first instinct was to run, shout, scream. But his second was to chastise himself. It was obviously a dream and even more obviously, the friendly stranger meant no harm.
“Oh, don’t be nervous, I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Who are you?”
“Well, that is a bit of a long explanation and I don’t want to be sitting here when the sun rises and your parents call you for school. Let’s just say I’m kind of like a Fairy Godmother. Godfather? Hmm. That sounds a bit too Mafioso for my liking. We’ll stick with Godmother I suppose. No matter what you call me, one thing is clear, I’m here to help.”
“With anything you like!”
Sam had stayed where he was during this conversation, as had the man, well, Godmother, he stood from the bed, his arms and legs seemed pointed and razor sharp, but the bed was undamaged. He clasped his long fingers together.
“Why don’t you call me…Rick.”
“Rick? How did you get to that from Fairy Godmother?”
The man tittered, “It was the first name I could think of.”
“Ok, Rick. How are you supposed to help me?”
“Well. I don’t grant wishes in the traditional sense. That is for genies and beans and wells. There is no motive, nothing will go wrong, you will get your wishes intent, not just the wording.”
“How many do I get?”
“Well, originally, it was three, but due to some budget constraints we’ve had to cut back. You get one wish. A single, solitary wish.”
“And it can be for anything?”
“Anything. No rules, nothing barred, close your eyes and go for it.”
“Can I have some time to think about it?”
“Of course. You have twenty four hours to decide and, if you don’t choose by then, it will be defaulted and go to someone else.”
“How do I know this isn’t a dream.”
“Show me your hand.”
Sam took a few steps forward, then reached out tentatively, Rick reached out and ran a finger along the back of it. Sam shivered, it felt cold, but it was painless. There was a small, silver line on the back of his hand.
“There. That will be there when you wake up.”
The room started to get dark, Rick sat down again, then he patted the bed.
“You’re tired, come. Sit.” Sam sat down beside him, he hadn’t realised how tired he was. He felt a little dizzy too. He lay back on the bed, Rick smiled down at him, “See you tomorrow night, kiddo.” Everything went dark.
Sam woke the next morning, wondering about his crazy dream. It had been so vivid. He hadn’t looked at the back of his hand. That would be giving the dream some credibility. He was too old for that stuff. He showered and dressed, then went downstairs for breakfast. While reaching for the cereal box, a beam of light glinted into his eye. He looked down and saw it, a thin line of pure silver in the back of his hand. He almost cried out. He looked at both his parents, but neither seemed to notice. He poured out his cereal, trying to act normally. He didn’t want them to know about this. Not yet. Not until after. So it hadn’t been a dream. What now? He got a wish, he could wish for anything he wanted, but what did he want? He couldn’t waste it. He could wish for more wishes, but that seemed greedy. What if that stole someone else’s wish? No. He only had one. Rick had said so.
The day passed much faster than usual, Sam spent it all wrapped up in trying to think of the perfect wish. He could wish for friends, but then he’d never know if they truly liked him for him, he could wish his parents would spend more time around him, but what if they got fired? He had to think carefully about this. Rick said that it was the intention as well as the words. Maybe he could fix it all with this wish?
When night finally came Sam thought he’d be far to excited to sleep and, from what he had read in books and fairy tales, he would need to be asleep when Rick returned, otherwise it wouldn’t work. He lay down, not bothering to read, and closed his eyes.
He woke suddenly. He got out of bed and went to the door, then he turned, the bed was empty. He tried to ignore the crushing disappointment. Of course it was a dream. The light was probably reflected off a knife and he’d just imagined the silver line. He trudged back to bed and got under the covers. He turned over. A hand gently shook him. Sam yelped, then spun around. It was Rick.
“Didn’t think it was a dream, didja?”
Sam nodded, slightly ashamed. “Ok kiddo, what’s you wish?”
“Well. I’ve been thinking about it all day. I wanted it to be perfect.” Rick nodded sympathetically.
“Just let me know and it will be yours. Anything.” Sam thought about what he wanted, exactly what he wanted, he wanted friends, real true friends, he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life alone.
He took a breath, “I wish I wasn’t always alone.”
Rick smiled, nothing happened. “Perfect, perfect! Just this wish I can grant! Now. Before I actually do this, I want to be sure you are sure that this is what you truly want. Think of it exactly as you mean it.”
“Yes, this is what I want.”
“Ok. I can see it now. One last thing. I just need you to tell me your name.”
“Don’t you already have it?”
“No, it’s a union thing. I need to be told it, by you. It’s how magic works. Don’t worry about it though, after all, how many people know your name? Call you it every day? They don’t have power any more. Trust me.” Rick smiled.
“My name is Sam.”
“Ok Sam. Your wish is granted.”
Ricks mouth stretched open, revealing a black maw, it stretched further and further, then he pounced, swallowing Sam whole before he had a chance to scream.
Sam woke on cold stone. He shivered, he was still in his pyjamas. Rick was no where to be seen, all around was darkness. “Hello? Is anyone here?” He heard pebbles skitter across the ground. “Hello?” His voice seemed so small and alone. A face appeared in front of him, a boy his age. “Who are you?” “I’m Sam. Who are you? Where am I?” “He sent you here.” More faces appeared out of the darkness, hundreds of children, thousands, all looking cold, malnourished and dirty. They began to share their stories with him, tell him where he was, or at least where they guessed they were. Sam felt a pit of cold dread in his stomach.
He had gotten his wish, he would never be alone again.