Short Story
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.
                              The Wish
                                                 By Allen W. Yoakum


 Rain pounded the window and thunder shook the frame of Mr Henry's library
and he smiled at what was about to happen.  Mr. Henry looked out onto his
estate with pride and pleasure that only a self made man could.  In the
garden below stood six marble statures of classic Greek style.  Each was a
warrior from the major time periods and all were depictions of men in their
prime.  Mr. Henry thought of the money he had spent on all six statues and
the time and effort it must have taken to carve out of the white rock the
forms.  

 He smiled a sly smile and turned to the large library lined with books that
dated back to the Gutenberg press and a few even older than those books.  
Mr. Henry with his large frame and broad shoulders and slim waist walked
over to his desk where three books bound in cracked leather aged by the
passing time and about an inch thick with aged paper.

 Mr. Henry touched each book's cover as if touching a lover's back with a
feather.  The old books were open to various pages and there was Latin and
Greek written in a very clear hand on each page.  A rusted color came from
the iron ink used to write the books showing their age.  Mr. Henry looked at
the figures and symbols put down with such precision by some unknown
author or authors.  He wondered if the writer or writers had ever used the
knowledge as he was about to use it and what had happened to them.

 Mr. Henry thought of all the work and effort he had taken to bring these
books together.  The money spent and his learning to read, write and speak
Latin and Greek and of course deciphering the words.  Words that Mr. Henry
was sure would give him what he needed.  Each book was a key to something
more important than the money spent to obtain them.  More important than
the political power Mr. Henry weld over so many.  More important than the
power he held over those who worked for him in his factories, lumber yards
and his other three companies.  Mr. Henry knew that the books were even
more powerful than his vast fortune and possessions.  Mr. Henry would give
everything up for his three old books and the chance they gave him.

 An old grandfather clock struck 11 o'clock and even with the clouds and rain
hiding the moon, Mr. Henry knew he had but one hour to get ready.  He took
up a marker from the table and walked over to an oak table and two matching
chairs.  Four candles, unlit, were at the corners and stood on brass holders.  
Also on the table were six decks of unopened playing cards and a chute for
them to go into when the time was right.

 Mr. Henry looked at his watch and coughed from deep down in his gut for a
few minutes.  After the fit, he smiled as he thought soon they would end and
he would get to smoke again.  Taking in a deep breath, Mr. Henry took the
cap off  the marker and began to draw the symbols from the open pages of
the books by memory.  He had practiced for over a year to get the drawings
as exact as possible.

 A flash of lighting filled the room with light and an instant later thunder shook
the windows of the library.  Mr. Henry took it as a positive sign and not
unexpected that the storm was overhead.  After drawing all the symbols, Mr.
Henry waited till the clock was ten minutes before midnight.  Going over to his
desk, he picked up an orientate knife with a black stone set at the end of the
handle and with the knife, Mr. Henry took up a brass bowl with more symbols
in contrast on the sides.

 Moving with steady steps, Mr. Henry walked to the table and sat down.  He
unbuttoned his white shirt and rolled up both shelves.  Taking a deep breath,
Mr. Henry took the knife and cut his thumb on both hands and let the thick
blood drip into the bowl.  When there was a good amount in the bottom of the
small bowl, Mr. Henry picked up a cloth and put in on his cuts.  In minutes the
bleeding stopped and Mr. Henry put the blood in the middle of the table.

 As the clock came closer to midnight, Mr. Henry started to speak in Latin in
a clear voice.  The more he spoke, the more intense the storm became and
the lights flickered.  Speaking with strength the last sentence he had learned
from the books, Mr. Henry waited.  Everything seemed to stand still for Mr.
Henry.  His hazel eyes looked at the chair opposite him with wanting and an
almost pleading look.  Mr. Henry thought for a second that everything was for
not, that it was just a myth that someone would appear, that the story he had
been told was nothing but some old man's lie or delusion.  Worst of all, Mr.
Henry thought that he was meant to die in his old and used up body infected
with cancer.  He was about to get up in anger and burn the books in the
fireplace when a flash of lighting came from the window and a figure started
to fade into existence.

 Mr. Henry watched as a man with tanned skin and striking features
materialized into the chair across from him dressed in a toga.  A smug look
crossed the being’s face as he looked around the room.  He looked at Mr.
Henry and with a gesture of his hand, lit the four candles.  In Latin the being
spoke to Mr. Henry.

 “Why have you summoned me from my sleep mortal?”  Mr. Henry was
caught off guard for a second and then in Latin as well he said:

 “I have sent for you to play a game with my soul as the prize if you win and a
granting of a wish if I win.”  The being nodded and sat back waiting.

 “You of the mortal world have the right to choose the game and the rules.  
Tell me of this game.”

 “Yes, one of the unseen plane and of great power.”

 “You may call me Remus mortal.”

 “Yes Remus.  The game in question is Black Jack or 21.  It is a game in
which with a deck or many decks from which are dealt two cards to start with
and your goal is to get as close possible without going over the  number 21.  
Jacks, queens and kings are worth 10 points.  An ace is worth 1 or 11.  I have
six decks ready to go and a chute to deal them out for our game.  The winner
is the one with the most hands won and ties will not be counted.” Remus said
nothing for a full minute than laughed.

 “What no chess, Othello or a game where intelligence is involved?  No
testing of minds against each other?  Just good guesses and pure chance?  
Mortal you are very different from the few who have come before you.  I
accept the game you may prepare.” Mr. Henry nodded and began to unwrap
the cards and take them out of the boxes.  Having gotten this done, Mr. Henry
shuffled each deck six times and loaded it into the card chute.  Remus looked
at all this with his bright blue eyes that almost glowed and his expression was
blank.  Mr. Henry put the last deck into the chute and looked at Remus.

 “I am ready.”

 “Then begin mortal and hope you win.” Mr. Henry nodded again and dealt
the cards out.  Remus picked up his and looked at the chute. “You know
mortal that my powers are useless here in this time and place.  You have
chosen wisely this game called Black Jack.  I will take a card.” Mr. Henry took
out a card and gave it to Remus.  Remus had 18 now and Mr. Henry 17.  
Thinking about it, Mr. Henry took a card and got a two of hearts.  Remus
thought some and took a card and got a four of clubs.  Remus grunted and
put the cards down in anger.  Mr. Henry took up a piece of paper with the
words 'Being' and 'Jack' on top of the paper with each word having a column.  
He marked his win and dealt some more.

 An hour went by and Remus and Mr. Henry won some hands and lost
some.  At first Mr. Henry won most of the hands then Remus started to win
more and more.  When half the cards were gone, the game was in Remus'
favor.  Time moved on and the game with the god kept going.  Mr. Henry
looked at the sheet of paper where he kept the tally and saw it was about
even.  Pulling the last card Remus went over 21 and Mr. Henry got 21.

 “How many have you won mortal?” Mr. Henry counted up the hash marks on
both sides and a grim look crossed his face.  He looked at Remus his
possible savior or tormentor and took in a deep breath.

 “We are even Remus.”

 “I see.  Put your cards back into that thing and we will have one more hand.”
Mr. Henry did as he was told shuffling all the cards and putting them in the
plastic chute.  After he was done he gave Remus his two cards and he pulled
out two as well.  Remus had 17 and so did Mr. Henry.

 “We each get one card and this affair is over mortal.” Mr. Henry gave
Remus' card face down and he gave himself one face down as well.  “Turn it
over mortal and see your fate.” Mr. Henry did so and his cards totaled 20.  
Remus flipped over his last card and his total was 19.  Mr. Henry let out a
deep breath and smiled.  Remus just looked at him from across the table
saying nothing.  Mr. Henry waited for the god to talk.

 “You have won this game mortal.  What is your wish to be granted?  Is it
power?  Is it money?  Or maybe control of this world?  I can give you anything
now so wish and wish well.” Mr. Henry said nothing for a few seconds then he
asked his wish.

 “I want the body of a perfectly healthy 21 year old man with the body that is
perfect forever Remus.  That is my wish.” Remus nodded and gestured for
Mr. Henry to stand.  He did so and could not wait to feel young and powerful
again.  To have everything in the world and not know ill health or death again.

 “I grant you your well earned wish mortal or should I say immortal?” Remus
smiled and he snapped his fingers and Mr. Henry's old body was transformed
into that of a young man in his prime.  Mr. Henry with his new eyes looked at
his new body and touched his firm abs and muscles with his new hands.

 “Thank you Remus.” Remus smiled and said:

 “I have given you a body now it's time to make you a true immortal.  Are you
ready?”

 “Yes Remus.”

 “Good.” With that said Remus snapped his fingers again.  Mr. Henry waited
but felt no new sensations or feelings.

 “Am I immortal?”

 “You soon will be.” Mr. Henry waited with his heart pounding and his mind
racing with the possibility that he could live forever.  Then there was a flash
and Mr. Henry's clothing changed to a toga on his body.  “I think you'll like
this look better immortal.”

 “But I don't understand...” Mr. Henry tried to move but his feet were stuck to
the thick carpet.  He looked down and instead of flesh he saw brilliant
marble.  “What's happening Remus?” The god got up and smiled.

 “You wanted a perfect body I gave you that.  Now I am giving you that body
forever.”

 “But this is not what I wanted!  I wanted to live!”

 “And you will in a body of stone.” As Remus spoke, Mr. Henry's body turned
from flesh to stone.  Mr. Henry swung out at Remus but it was too late the
process was finished.  Remus looked upon the statue of Mr. Henry and shook
his head.  “Your form is out of shape immortal.  Let me help give you
something proper.”  Remus moved the hard marble like flesh till Mr. Henry's
pose was something of a classical Greek statue.  Mr. Henry tried to move,
tried to do anything but his new body would not move.

 “This is not what I wanted!” thought Mr. Henry.

 “You should have thought of that before you called me.  Before you made
your wish.  Now I go back to my sleep immortal.” Remus smiled again and
walked away from the trapped Mr. Henry and faded away.  Mr. Henry raged in
his mind trying to break free but there he stood in that marble casing.  The
storm blew itself out not long after and dawn came over the land.  Still Mr.
Henry raged at what Remus had done to him.  He did not even notice his
head house keeper come in and give a questioning look at what he had
become.  She called out his name and looked for him all over the house and
still he raged in his shell.

 In the end, Mr. Henry's family declared him dead.  His estate was sold and
the money split between his remaining family.  They not knowing what to do
with what had become of Mr. Henry, put him in the garden with the other
statues.  Mr. Henry went mad one fine spring day in his perfect body that
would live forever as he always wanted.
About Allen W. Yoakum