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“COME IN,” a low raspy voice calls.

A shiver runs up my spine. I can see nothing in the darkness beyond. I hesitate then push the beaded curtain aside. The room is dim, illuminated only by candles that flicker to announce my presence. The sweet smell of incense covers a barely discernible smell of rot. The walls are covered in tapestries and lined with worn antique furniture cluttered with curios from a bygone era. It takes me a moment to realize there is a woman sitting in the corner behind a small circular table. She is still and shrouded in faded scarves blending her with the muted tapestry behind her. Her steel grey hair hangs long, framing her shadowed face. She gestures to me to sit in the one empty chair.

“Give me your hand. I can tell you of the love that awaits you,” she says as reaches across the table toward me.

I keep still, my hands clutched in my lap. “I am not here for love.”

“Wealth then, I can read what fate has in store for you.”

“I don’t want to know. That is why I am here. I heard you can change it, that you can grant wishes.”

The woman leans forward, the candlelight illuminating her shrewd dark eyes.

“Where did you hear that?”

“A friend.” I slide a business card across the table.

Surprise transforms her features as she picks up the card. She runs a finger gently over the embossed letters. She holds it up to the light, turning it reverently. A smile of recognition flashes across her face. Satisfied with her inspection, she slips it carefully into her sleeve. Her eyes bore into mine and I can see the calculation in her scrutiny. I feel the hair rise on the back of my neck. I sit calmly trying to keep my face blank, showing no hint of my desperation.

She nods. “Wishes will cost you.”

“I am willing to pay.” I take out forty, one hundred dollar bills and place them on the table.

“The cost depends on the complexity of the wish,” she says with barely a glance at the pile.

“I want to feel young and strong. That death is something far off in the future, not hovering over my shoulder.”

“I can’t give you back your youth, I can only guide your future.”

“Yes I understand. I am not asking for a miracle. I have already had one of those. I am cured. I have recovered but the constant checking, the monitoring of every new symptom and the stress is too much. I am tired of worrying. I am still young. I want to feel the ignorance of youth again.”

“You want to forget.”


She hesitates, then turns and pushes the tapestry behind her aside to reveal a small wooden cabinet. It is intricately carved with figures entwined in a forest. She takes a key from around her neck and unlocks it, removes a bottle and puts it down on the table just out of my reach. It is small with a glass stopper and a dark label that I cannot decipher. I am suddenly reminded of Alice and wonder if I am about to go down the rabbit hole. The liquid is blood red. Even Alice would not have been foolish enough to try it.

The woman takes my money and counts it, waving her hand to indicate it is not enough. I put down a few more bills. She nods.

I reach for the bottle but she grabs my wrist. Her hand is cold. Her grip is surprisingly strong.

“You understand this will make you forget everything. All that you have gone through, all that people have done to help you, all that you have learned about the preciousness of life. You must think carefully about this, as there is no going back once you drink it.” She pushes the bills toward me and places the bottle beside them. “Choose wisely.”

The silence of the room is deafening, broken only by the ticking of a clock. The stack of cool crisp bills shadows the adjacent bottle but still the deep red liquid pulses in the candlelight. My eyes flicker between them. I hesitate, then reach out my hand.


Image of Jennifer Anderson

Jennifer Anderson is an architect living in Toronto, Canada. Her passion for art, travel and architecture has given her the desire to capture memories and sense of place in her writing.