• Published 3rd Jun 2015
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Cast-Iron Cast-Offs - Cast-Iron Caryatid

A collection of vignettes which are, on occasion, based on, but not canon to, other stories by Cast-Iron Caryatid.

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【If Wishes Were Horses】Chapter 1 - Never Drink and Contrive

Author's Note:

I'm a very strong believer that any subject matter can be written well. Everyone knows there's a lot of bad Human in Equestria stories out there, but there are good ones, too. This story snippet is the result of me asking myself how I would handle it; I never intended for it to see the light of day, but you might find it amusing.

Be warned, however, that this story snippet includes the following:

  • Humans in Equestria (Plural) (Plural like you wouldn't believe, but not that plural)
  • Transformation of a male human into a pony mare (Technically a lie) (Close enough)
  • Far more foul language and crude humor than any of my other stories (It's not that bad) (Innuendo is fun)
  • Bad, terrible and no-good rhyming (It's intentionally bad) (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it)
  • 100% Incomplete and almost certainly never will be (It's in this collection of snippets for a reason) (Sorry)

I don’t drink.

Now, this may seem like an odd way to start a story, but hear me out; it’s important. Picture, if you will, a rangy, long-shanked young irishman. Go ahead and pull out all the stops—use all of the stereotypes you’ve got.

Curly red hair, milky skin and freckles like the wallpaper at a murder scene? Check.

A name that substitute teachers and starbucks employees have nightmares about? Check.

Currently in a bar and in the middle of a fistfight? Check… although, if you wanted to be technical, I wasn’t actually engaged in the fistfight.

I was cowering behind the counter of the bar.

It was a nice counter, mind—all brass and dark-stained wood polished by years of heavy use—but at that moment all I really cared for was how the raucous crashing of the fight was being rendered into dull thuds by the reassuring solidness of oak behind my back. Not everyone properly appreciates the satisfying feel of a thick piece of wood.

“Hey, Ó Cochláin,” a rough, yet undeniably female voice called out. “You can come out now.”

Speak of the devil, and lo, he shall appear—not that I had anything against the woman or her lifestyle, of course. She was a nice enough gal for someone who could snap me like a twig if she so desired, both of which were things you’d expect to find in a bouncer, so who was I to complain?

Sure enough, poking my carrot top back up over the edge of the bar counter revealed that the altercation had indeed been settled, and the heavy thumping of chairs I’d been listening to for the last while had been coming from them actually being put back for once. The bouncer herself seemed to find a great deal of joy in making all the nearby patrons jump as she slammed a few back into place on her way over to the counter, if the grin on her face was any sign.

Seeing as the coast was clear and I no longer had any need to protect my poor bushy red noggin from flying glassware, I slowly drew myself back to my full six-foot-four height like some sort of animatronic bartender being reactivated. As I rose, I automatically began to clean up the mess that had been made, grabbing the spilled and empty glasses that had managed to remain on the countertop and taking them over to wash them in the sink.

“Come on, Beth, would it kill you to call me Caolán once in awhile?” I asked, craning my neck back around to look at her as she came to lean on the counter.

Her grin was a mile wide and lit up her sky-blue eyes, but the words that came out of her mouth were a different matter entirely. They were still undeniably joyful, however. “‘Ó Cochláin’ is more fun to yell from across the bar,” she informed me with great cheer. “Oh-cock-layn. Cock, cock, cock. It’s such a fun word.”

I shook my head and made a show of letting out a put-upon sigh, but the response was no surprise after four months of working with her. That was just Beth; rude, crass, and as happy as a clam at high tide. Her full name was Elizabeth Browning, but she’d only admit to it when the giggling started after ten shots, and she’d only let you use it after twenty—though if you wanted to be technical, ‘let’ was the wrong word for it, as unconsciousness was involved. Beth would, of course, deny that such a thing ever happened, but twenty shots was enough to take out pretty much anyone, let alone a blonde five-foot-two country girl, even if she was built like a tractor.

“Can I get you anything?” I asked as I grabbed a wet towel and started to wipe down the counter.

“I could go for a tall glass of Irish cream right about now,” she said with a sly smile, leaning closer over the bar and lowering her voice so no one else would hear her.

I put on my own wry smile and gave a little chuckle. “Something I can get you while you’re still on the clock, maybe?” I suggested, wondering if the last bartender on our shift actually let her drink on the job, or if she just thought she could get away with it because I was still pretty new.

Her head thumped onto the counter in exaggerated disappointment, but she quickly recovered. “Fine; just the cream, then, Irish.”

“You’ll do anything to avoid saying my name, won’t you?” I remarked as I bent down to fetch a pint of heavy cream out of the fridge underneath the counter. “I think you’re just mad you pronounced it wrong for a month before anyone told you.” My nametag says ‘KAY-lan’ in parenthesis, now.

“Yeah, more like it took you a month before you could say more than two words to correct me,” she snarked as I poured her a good thousand calories of dairy into one glass for her. Sometimes, I had to wonder if weightlifters and bodybuilders really were the same species as the rest of us. “How come a ‘handsome Irish lad’ like you is such a…”

“A pussy?” I finished for her with a raised eyebrow. “That’s rich, coming from the one who ordered the cream.”

That got a chuckle and another smile out of her as she brushed her ponytail back over her shoulder. “I was gonna say ‘chicken’ to go with the ‘cock’ theme, but that… that is actually way better,” she said, accepting her glass and bringing it to her lips. “I take it you’ve heard it before?”

“Grade school was such a wonderful time for me, yes,” I told her as I went back to cleaning up the bar. “I wish I had a tragic story of love and loss for you to explain my disposition, but there really isn’t one. You’ve seen my mother, right? She’s the one that comes in here every friday night to get an eyeful of all the young studs.”

Beth’s eyes widened, and she gave me an incredulous look. “No shit?” she said, and took another gulp of cream. “That pervy little Japanese lady it your mom? She’s like, old enough to be your grandmother!”

I looked her straight in the eyes—or at least, I tried to. She had a little dribble of cream on her chin, and I automatically passed her a napkin. “Beth, the point is, I’m adopted and we live in Idaho. Just about the only similarity between my life and the life of some theoretical, actually-Irish-raised me is the potatoes.”

She seemed to be finding it hard to believe. She stared at me for a moment, and then finally slapped her hand down on the napkin I’d given her and wiped her chin. Shaking her head, she tried another angle. “Okay, sure,” she said. “But your mom obviously isn’t meek.”

“No, she has no shame—there’s a difference,” I corrected her, only half serious. “Actually, I’m pretty sure she just likes to mother and embarrass me. I don’t mind it too much, though, since we’re not that different. We both like to watch.”

“Kinky,” she said with a wink. “That why a teetotaling Irishman is working his way through life as a bartender?”

I shrugged noncommittally. “Pretty much. People-watching is fun, and I’m fine with just being in the background until someone needs a drink or a little talk. Not drinking isn’t even a problem, since it’s not like I’d be able to drink on the job anyway. Lots of bartenders give it up, actually.”

“Yeah, but giving it up is different from never having done it in the first place,” she argued. “I don’t see how you can be as good a bartender as you are when you’ve never even tasted the stuff. What do you suggest when someone asks for a recommendation? It’s like the blind leading the blind!”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” I laughed and gave her a roguish smile. “I just show them the most expensive thing that’s in their budget.”

She opened her mouth to say something then snapped it shut. A moment later, she gave me a strange look and a frown, and said, “Bullshit.”

“Okay, not really,” I conceded with a shrug. “But you’d be surprised how often it works out that way in practice; the price is just another selling point for some people, especially when it’s being offered to the cute girl at table eighteen. Honestly, though? Pay enough attention and you get to know what goes with who, personal taste doesn’t really come up that much.” That much was true enough, but of course, we wouldn’t be friends if I were the type to leave it at that. “I never said I’d never tasted alcohol, though,” I added.

“Okay, now I know you’re shitting me,” she said, giving me a flat, unamused look. “You have not sampled enough drinks to know what you’re doing and spat out every single swig. That is not a thing a human being can do.”

Bringing a finger to my lips, I give her a sly ‘shh’ and say, “That’s my secret, I’m not actually human—I’m a magical space unicorn.”

She let out a single snort of laughter at that. “You would be something like that. The only other way to explain it is if you had a vagina in those tight pants of yours—but everyone knows that real girls swallow.”

“Ooh, ouch,” I said, placing my hand on my chest. “Denied my one true calling on account of a technicality.”

Beth rolled her eyes at my theatrics and decided to just chug the second half of her cream. “I swear, Caolán,” she said once she was done. “There’s a genie at the bottom of a bottle of jack that’d wake up that Irish ancestry of yours.”

“Absinthe, maybe—but that’s a fairy, not a genie,” I joked, gesturing over my shoulder to a bottle with a green fairy on it. “There might be something to that, though. I mean, it’s Swiss—not Irish—but it is green.”

Beth and I went our separate ways after work. As she disappeared around the corner, I could see her still nursing a proper Irish cream that, along with the straight cream from earlier, would have put a normal person over their daily caloric intake for the entire day and then some. With the burger she was probably going to get at the diner down the street, I figure she was eating double, or even triple what I do, but hey—she seems to know what works for her body, so it’s none of my business.

For my part, I was sipping a sports bottle of seltzer water with a lemon slice in it as I walked home.

That… was my life. It wasn’t a bad one, by any means, but Beth did have something of a point, even if she never really laid it out. It was kind of odd to make a living serving alcohol when you don’t even really like the stuff. Sure, I was happy doing what I did, but how and when did I actually decide to become a career bartender? And yeah, I’d made a career of it, apparently. This wasn’t my first job serving drinks, after all.

There I was, twenty eight years old and well on the road to being the local facilitator of drunken hook-ups for the rest of my life, and I wasn’t actually sure how I got there. What decision did I make that had brought me to that point?

Knowing me, it probably wasn’t a decision at all, but the lack of one.

I’ve been called indecisive, and I wouldn’t really dispute it if I could. I went to college straight out of high school with no real idea where I was headed and did what I could to work my way through it, but that was basically impossible in this day and age. I had started out waiting tables at a local bar and grill, and somehow ended up getting promoted to the bar rather than the grill when they needed a new barback. As the debt started to pile up and I began to run out of classes I could take without a major, I began working more and more hours at the bar, and taking fewer and fewer classes to balance it out. I guess the final piece fell into place when the bar and grill closed, and the next job I found required me to get my bartending licence.

It was a good job and I liked it, but I couldn’t deny that it really was an odd fit for me.

The route I took home was a nice walk. I felt an itch to break into a run, but a worm of self-consciousness in my gut stopped me. It was just after two in the morning, and if someone saw me, they’d probably think I’d been mugged. Muggings weren’t a huge thing out here in potato country, but you never knew.

I had my seltzer water to think about anyway, which I took the opportunity to take a swig of.

Home was a third floor apartment smaller than I could afford and bigger than I really needed, and I reached it after a rather lazy twenty minute walk. The door thunked shut behind me, latching automatically as I went through my daily ritual of divesting myself of keys, wallet, coat and vest. Dinner was something frozen, and sleep a welcome reprieve from the stiffness in my shoulders that came from slinging drinks all night.

Tomorrow was monday, and I would start the whole process over again, as I would the next day, and the day after that—or so I thought. Little did I know that my comfortable schedule was going to have to deal with two unfortunate occurrences.

Monday, Beth won the lottery.

Tuesday, my mother died.

Beth was almost as much of a mess as I was at the funeral. Honestly, I was surprised to even see her outside of work, but I guess she felt guilty that her fortune had coincided so closely with my misfortune; she even offered to pay for the funeral out of her winnings, but I declined. There’s something fundamentally personal about making and paying for funeral arrangements, and while I appreciated the gesture, taking charge of it myself was the least I could the woman who raised me.

The funeral itself was a small affair, consisting entirely of myself, Beth and a few close friends of my mother’s. If she had any surviving family back in Japan, they didn’t show, which says all there is to say about that. She never spoke about what had happened that led her to coming to America all alone, but she was apparently well enough off to adopt single, so who knows?

It’s just one of those mysteries you always think you’ll get an answer to, until one day the opportunity is gone.

In accordance with her will, the funeral was a traditional christian service. Whether this was a statement of her own divorce from her native country or simply for the sake of those who would be attending it, no one could say. None of mother’s friends and I were close, and no one chose to speak, so the funeral itself passed by fairly quickly. Eventually, everyone else left, and I stayed behind to watch in a numb sort of enchantment as the decorations were removed and the actual burial was carried out.

By the time dusk came around, even the funerary attendants were gone, leaving me sitting on the grass alone with my mother for the first time since it had happened. Usually in a situation like this, you’d expect a person to have something to say—to make their last goodbyes and find some closure—but nothing came to mind. It wasn’t that the loss hadn’t hit me yet, I guess there just wasn’t a whole lot that had gone unsaid between us. She’d adopted me, given me a home, loved and supported me as I grew into something of an independent adult.

What more could I ask for?

My reverie was broken by the sound of a car door being gently shut. I glanced over, expecting to see just another grieving family content to tend to their own business in peace and quiet, but what I actually found was… well, not that. I wasn’t sure if it was welcome or not, but it wasn’t going to leave me be.

“Hey,” Beth said as she sat herself down on the grass next to me. She looked like she’d been crying and smelled like she’d been drinking, but neither one for a few hours, I think. For a moment, I was impressed that her black dress was still in the shape it was before I realize it wasn’t the same one my vague recollection said she was wearing earlier. I took another glance back to the car she came in, and sure enough, it doesn’t even have plates yet. Someone was going to have to talk to her about that, or she was going to be back to bouncing—bouncering?—back to working in a year. It wasn’t any of my business, though, was it? Maybe it could be.

“Hey,” I belatedly respond, and the silence stretches out between us. “You look like shit.”

She looked away from me and said, “So do you.”

“I have an excuse,” I reminded her, successfully killing the mood.

We sat there for a while, and while I knew that she was trying to be there for me, the awkwardness clung to to us like a film. I wasn’t really used to the physical closeness, and there was an emotional gulf between us that wouldn’t be bridged in one evening.

Still, a step was a step, and she was trying to help. “How… is that going, anyway?” she finally ventured to ask. “You’ve been out here a while, now.”

Arms resting on my knees, I gave what resemblance of a shrug that I could. “I’m just at a loss, you know? I keep trying to think of something to say—a way to say goodbye; thank her; say that she did everything she needed to and shouldn’t have any regrets—but is that enough? It doesn’t feel like enough.”

“I don’t…” Beth began to say, but found herself hesitating. “I’ve never lost anyone like you have, so maybe I’m talking out of my ass, here, but it sounds like you have your answer, and you just need for your head to catch up to your heart.”

That sounded as good as anything else, I suppose. “Yeah, maybe,” I said. “But it doesn’t make it any easier to get up and move on.”

I heard a crinkle, and looked over to see Beth pulling a brown paper bag out of her purse, because of course she was. “Beth…” I whined, giving her a pained look that said she should know better than this. “Beth, come on. Give it up for one night, please?”

She set the bag down in between us with a slosh and left it there. “It’s the oldest remedy there is,” she said, matter-of-factly, and, well, she was right, but that didn’t excuse the smugness.

Was I being unreasonable? Maybe—though in my defense, it wasn’t just alcohol that I avoided. I never really liked the idea of anything that could change how a person felt and behaved. Yes, that means I wasn’t a fan of caffeine, either. Heck, I wasn’t even in the habit of taking pain medication if I could avoid it. It wasn’t that I thought there was anything particularly sinister about any of it. I wasn’t some tinfoil-hat fundie who thought doctors were all trying to poison us with toothpaste. I just… liked to think I didn’t need that kind of thing.

It was a point of pride.

There was a difference, of course, between alcohol and most of the other things like it, though. It wasn’t like I’d never had caffeine. It wasn’t like I’d refused morphine when I had my wisdom teeth removed. Why was it such a big deal if I shared a bottle of something with the only friend who seemed to give enough of a shit to come to my mother’s funeral?

I guess it really wasn’t.

With a resigned sigh, I reached down between us to grab the bottle. “What did you even bring?” I asked rhetorically as I shifted my weight so that I could use my other hand to pull the bottle out of the bag. I fully expected it to be something old and expensive, given the precedent so far with Beth’s purchasing decisions.

I was disappointed. Not wrong, mind, but so very disappointed. The green bottle sloshed as my head dropped between my knees. “Absinthe, Beth? Really?”

“What?” she asked, confused. “You said—”

Pulling my head back up, I took another look at the bottle, specifically the date. It was, indeed, over a hundred and fifty years old. “Beth, do you know anything at all about absinthe?”

“It’s got tits on the label?” she suggested jokingly, but I wasn’t laughing. “What’s the big deal?”

Right. Beth was a bouncer, not a bartender; there was no reason to get too upset. “You know how Coca-Cola used to have actual cocaine in it, but they took it out ten or fifteen years before cocaine was banned from over the counter sales?”

“Yeah, I guess?” she said warily and glanced nervously at the bottle I was holding. “You don’t mean—?”

I shook my head. “Apart from being completely illegal, thujone is a hallucinogen, Beth. Kind of not the substance of choice for a god damn funeral.”

“Shit,” she cursed under her breath with a wince. “Shit.” I honestly felt a little sorry for her. I mean, there was your regular, run-of-the-mill awkward, and then there was… this.

Imagine her surprise when she heard the telltale tinkling of me fishing the cheap corkscrew out of the bag.

“What are you doing?” she asked, confusion writ on her face. “You don’t have to—”

The cork popped open with a satisfying ‘poomph,’ followed by the mellow licorice smell of anise. “Relax,” I said, getting to my feet, bottle in hand. I offered her a hand up, and she took it. “When it comes to alcohol and funerals, it’s not always for the living.”

Beth watched as I lifted the green bottle in front of us… and began to pour it out over the grave. The act was called libation, if I remembered correctly, and was a part of lots of old religions that I knew nothing about, but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right? Also, the disposal of evidence, because like I said, the stuff was completely illegal. As the last drop of green liquid drained from the bottle, I let my arm down and tossed it gently in front of the headstone like you would a bouquet of flowers, and said goodbye one last time.

That’s when things started to get weird.

As I opened my eyes, I was surprised at how dark it was. What had been dusk when Beth had arrived was now clearly evening, with a bright full moon shining overhead. I might have dismissed it as the two of us losing track of time, if not for the thick veil of misty fog that seemed to be seeping up out of the ground all around us.

The fog built up rapidly, spilling out across the graveyard and building into a wall of unnatural white. Beth nudged me as I watched as the forest in the distance disappeared from sight, but I was fascinated by the sight and refused to look away.

“Caolán,” she said, prodding me again, “Caolán!”

I quickly glanced at her. “What?” I asked, somewhat annoyed, but she didn’t answer, her own gaze fixated at the ground in front of us. I turned to look at what had caught her eye, and jumped back as soon as I saw it.

The fog over the grave was a vivid green, and as we watched, it drew itself up into the indistinct figure of a naked woman. I was about to say something, when it’s eyes came to life with a powerful viridian light, and it opened its mouth to speak.

“Of tree and stone are lock and key;

I offer thee these wishes, three.

One I bring in hearth of fire;

burning with your heart’s desire.

One I gift in fields of gold;

of truest truth and oldest old.

One I grant in blood of life;

with purpose filled and wonder rife.

Wish thee thrice or not at all.

Wish all three, and fate forestall.”

The figure’s voice was haunting and hollow, and I stumbled backwards as it spoke, listening closely until the end. “Fuck, I don’t need this right now,” I said, covering my face with both hands. I could smell the anise and alcohol on my hands and hoped this was just some ridiculous hallucination, but of course, it couldn’t be. You don’t hallucinate from a few fumes. I’d have to have actually drunk the absinthe, and I didn’t do that.

Did I?

No. No, I didn’t, and confusing myself with stupid questions like that wasn’t helping. The ground was wet with alcohol—alcohol that had a gassy green tart evaporating out of it. Somehow, this was real.

Beth hadn’t moved from her spot and had to turn to look at me. “Caolán,” she said with her voice full of wonder. “You… you could ask for your mom back.”

Her reaction confused me. “What?” I asked, taking half a step forward to whisper to her before realizing I couldn’t do it without getting equally close to the apparition. “Beth, no—nothing good can come of this!”

Soon, she has the same look of confusion on her face. “What do you mean? I thought you weren’t religious?”

I just stared at her. Did she really now know? “I’m not. This has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with ‘you do not trust anything that offers you a wish—ever!’ I don’t care if it’s a faerie, a genie, a devil, a ring or a magical fucking fish that talks—it never goes well.”

“Oh come on,” she said, rolling her eyes at me, though from the look on her face, I think I was getting through to her more than she wanted to admit. “This isn’t some story that ends with a lesson about being happy with your lot in life. Just… just think it through, and you’ll be fine, right?”

I shook my head. “If it’s all the same, I’d rather not risk it,” I told her, and was about to say the same to the apparition directly, when Beth rushed forward and clapped her hand over my mouth.

“Wait!” she cried. “What about the last line? ‘Wish all three, and fate forestall?’ Not wishing could be just as bad. It could be worse!”

I stopped for a moment to consider that interpretation, but it was incredibly vague. “I don’t know, Beth…”

“Aren’t there stories where the genie just kills the shit out of whoever rubs the lamp?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

I had honestly forgotten about that. “I—yeah, I guess. Shit.” I turned to the apparition, and risked asking it a question. “I don’t suppose you’d be able to clarify your… riddle?”

At first, I’m not sure if she’s even going to respond, but after an awkward pause, she cocked her head to the side and spoke in that same ghostly, reverberating voice from before. “A telling tale, a turn of rhyme. Lock and key; ticking time.”

“Wonderful,” I said with a groan. “Fine, have it your way. I’ll wish. Could you at least repeat the rules for me?”

Like a machine, the apparition repeated her opening statement word for word, and I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose, making an effort to concentrate on the three types of wishes. That was going to make this difficult. How well did the wishes have to match? Each one actually had several elements to them, and I was willing to bet that a little poetic license would go a long way.

Wait, poetic license? That gave me an idea. I fished my phone out of my pocket and turned it on for the first time that day. As I waited for it to boot up, I looked back up to the apparition. “How long, specifically, do I have?”

For the first time, the green woman did something other than stare directly at me—she looked up at the darkening sky. “Ere twilight wanes and thy final fate calls; the ticking clock rings at true night’s fall.”

“Great,” I said. “Alright, just… lemme think this through.” Assuming that meant I had until the light was completely gone from the sky, a quick check with Google as I walked out of earshot told me I had roughly a half an hour. Hopefully that would be enough given my… handicap—which is to say, of the two women in my company, the one granting wishes had the longer attention span.

“What’s up?” Beth asked, crowding in at my side to look at what I was doing. “Googling good wishes? Shit, I bet there are whole nerd groups who obsess over stuff like this.”

“Not exactly,” I say and nudge her away, trying to focus on what I’m doing. “You know how when you meet someone with a really strong accent, you find yourself unconsciously mimicking it?”

There was a pause, and I didn’t have to look at her to know the look she had on her face. “No?” she finally said, making a question out of the statement.

“Yeah, well, just trust me when I say it’s a thing,” I told her as my walking brought us to her car, which was parked right on the curb. “It’s a subconscious play for empathy, and it works the same way as hearing our own opinions paraphrased to us.”

Beth kept walking after I stopped and turned around to lean on her new car. “Okay, sure, makes sense, I guess, but why does that involve hunching over your phone instead of actually talking to her? Girls hate that shit.”

“That may be,” I said without looking at her. “But anyone can appreciate a man who has a way with words.”

Seeing as I was no poet, I wasn’t entirely happy with what I’d come up with, but there wasn’t much more I could do with five minutes on the clock. Beth had whined intermittently about wasting time for the first five minutes or so, but wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected. I guess you don’t get to be a bouncer without cultivating a little patience.

I read through what I’d written one last time and finally put my phone away. There were only three short lines and I couldn’t find any actual loopholes, but I was leaving a lot to luck, and with my life possibly on the line I didn’t want to say anything I’d regret.

The misty figure was sitting on my mother’s headstone, which was at once the most human thing I’d seen it do and the most off-putting. Not wanting to give the thing any more reason to screw me over, I let the matter go unsaid, but I couldn’t help a frown from weighing down my lips for just a moment.

The figure rose as Beth and I approached and looked at us questioningly. “The river of time narrows to little more than a stream; have you settled on the shape of your honest heart’s dream?”

Well, this was it. I took a deep breath, and I wished. “Grant me a wish of desires come due; act on my words with their meaning held true.”

“The fuck kind of wish is that?” Beth asked, incredulous, but I ignored her.

It was hard to tell, but I think the apparition smiled. “Master, my master, your will shall be done. In substance of speech, there shall be only one.”

Emboldened by my seeming success, I moved on to my second wish. “Grant me a wish of the most honest of gold; be as a friend when my wishes you mold.”

This time, Beth let out an audible groan. “Wishes?” she said. “What wishes? You’ve only got one left!”

“Master to friend and friend into master,” the apparition summarized happily. “To keep thy welfare at heart, and safeguard disaster.”

“Grant me a wish of life and hope unspoiled; of untroubled times and bitterness foiled; grant me this wish, though I’ve yet no guarantee; I believe in the worst, so I beg you—surprise me.”

The only sound that came from beth was her hand hitting her face. The figure, meanwhile, shied back and wilted. “The spirit of your words defies the meaning I hear; the mistrust that you wield wounds like a spear.”

“I think what she means is—way to live up to your name, dick,” Beth commented with sour reproach, not even commenting on the insane vagueness of my final wish. “That’s how you talk to your friends?”

I blinked. Crap, that was a pretty shitty thing to say, wasn’t it?

“Nevertheless,” the figure continued with a sigh. “My heart wishes you well; enjoy your new life in your harlot-friend’s hell.”

“…wait, what?”

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