Part 6: “Wishes Again”

This is the final section.

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Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 can be found here, Part 3 can be found here, Part 4 can be found here, and Part 5 can be found here.

***

The next morning was a difficult one for the tallest man. It was all he could do simply to rouse himself: the heavy layer of melancholy he had been living in seemed to have thickened overnight, leaving a leaden weight somewhere inside his chest. Nevertheless, he got up and had breakfast, loitering in his bedroom for a few minutes in hopes of figuring out a plan.

His wife surprised him by sitting up in bed.

“Where were you last night?” she asked.Image

The tallest man had barely spoken to her for weeks, and he was no longer used to it. He looked down and said nothing.

(Continued after the jump.)

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Part 5: “Back to the Stream”

(Haven’t had time lately to engage in the self-mockery that is Libby Drawing Pictures, so today’s segment will have a lovely photograph of autumn here instead. Pretend the leaves are by the stream. Or just pretend that I will re-post later and put a real picture in. :)

Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 can be found here, Part 3 can be found here and Part 4 can be found here.

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The next morning, the tallest man’s wife was shocked to see her husband climbing out of bed, and more shocked still to see him wolfing down breakfast as though he hadn’t eaten in days (which, unfortunately, was close to the truth.) She started to ask him what had caused such a sudden change in his spirits, but he had dressed, washed and raced out the door before she could finish her sentence.

The baker and the miller’s daughter had kept the tallest man up-to-date as to his friends’ whereabouts, and so he knew where he could expect to find them. He decided to seek the shortest man first, and headed for the town square, where he saw him almost at once.

The shortest man was stretched out on a smooth stone bench, surrounded by giggling milkmaids. He seemed to be telling some grand, heroic story, and as the tallest man grew closer, he realized it was about the shortest man himself, and also that it was not true. A milkmaid with a dimple in her chin sat in his lap, while a milkmaid with a rounder shape and corkscrew curls wound her fingers through his hair. He did not shift his gaze as the tallest man approached.

“I have a message for you,” said the tallest man, feeling his knees quake from beneath him. He could see nothing of his old friend in the man that sat before him now, and he did not know how he would respond.

The shortest man tore his gaze from the milkmaids and stopped smiling abruptly.

“It is a message from the spirit of the stream,” continued the tallest man. “He asks that we meet him by the water this evening. He will transport us to the stream at the stroke of midnight, for he wants to ask us a question.”

(Continued after the jump.)

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Part 4: “At Night”

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.

(Today’s drawing was produced by my brilliant artist friend Dana. Isn’t it wonderful?! I hope to enlist her again.)

***

When the tallest man reached the stream and saw that neither the shortest nor the middle-sized man was there, he thought at first that they must be late. He took off his boots and slid his feet into the warm, dark water, darting glances behind him every few seconds. After a while he shifted his gaze to the bottom of the stream. A small, bright light winked at him from beside a rock, and after a moment it rose up and turned into the water spirit.

“I’m afraid that they will not be coming,” he said. “I knew from the very beginning that they would not. This often happens with wishes. I tried to warn you, but you did not listen. Those men are shadows of who they once were. Your friendship no longer matters to them.”

“I’m sure I could speak to them,” said the tallest man, whose heart was beating painfully in his chest. “Perhaps they will meet me here tomorrow.”

“They will not,” said the spirit of the stream. “They are no longer the men that you knew. Go home, enjoy your wealth, and try to forget.”

(Continued after the jump.)

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Part 3: “The Tallest Man”

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.

***

The tallest man awoke the morning after the meeting with the water spirit feeling excited and hopeful. Wealth, he knew, could take many forms, and he was eager to see which ones the water spirit had chosen for him. When he opened his eyes to an ornate ceiling, covered in gold-plated curlicues beset with silver, he leapt out of bed and shook his wife awake.

Although he had told her all about the events of the previous day, she was just as surprised as he was when she saw how their bedroom had changed. Overnight, it had tripled in size, and a velvet canopy had appeared on the bed, which was now much bigger and softer than it had been. Looking down at himself, he saw that his nightclothes had been changed into silk, and a satin dressing gown had been hung up on the shining gold curtain rod. Two servants waited at the door, carrying an enormous silver platter, on which a steaming, mouth-watering breakfast was laden.

After the tallest and his wife had finished eating, two servants entered the room and helped their new master dress. The tallest man’s usual clothes had been replaced by countless sets of stiff-looking suits, with a row of smart-looking ties folded neatly inside the wardrobe. Two more servants entered the room and polished the tallest man’s shoes until they gleamed. Then the servant to his left slipped a tiny gold key into his pocket.

(Continued after the jump.)

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Part 2: “The Shortest Man and the Middle-Sized Man”

Part 1 can be found here.

***

In the morning, the three men awoke to find that the spirit had kept his promise. Each of them sprang out of bed in wonder and looked out at the new world that lay before them.

The shortest man ran to his looking-glass and nearly cried when he saw what was reflected in it. His ears were perfectly proportioned and nestled close to the sides of his face, while his nose had shrunk down to a satisfyingly exquisite size. His receding hairline had been replenished with thick, glossy, golden locks, and his pale complexion had turned rosy and vibrant. Ecstatic, the shortest man spent the early morning watching his reflection, marveling at the way his eyebrows slid sideways when they were knitted together in a frown, and the way his lips curled when he stretched them into a smile. Not a single feature had been left untouched.

If there was ever a moment when he felt unlike himself, when he wondered whether he had made the right choice in accepting the spirit’s gift, he soon forgot it. His life would be better now, he told himself. And he rejoiced to be changed so completely.


Later that morning, the shortest man decided to go out into the village, hoping to share his good fortune with his neighbors. He had been afraid of their wagging tongues for so many years that he trembled as he walked, momentarily forgetting his good looks. It took all the courage he had to charge up to the town square and show the villagers what the spirit had done.

(Continued after the jump.)

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Part 1: “Wishes”

There once lived three men who were very unhappy. Every afternoon, after the day’s work had been done, they left their village and went to a nearby stream to lament their misfortunes. None of the three men told the others precisely what their trouble was, but gradually they became friends and felt a little less unhappy than they had before.

One day, dangling their feet into the warm, murky-colored water, the men noticed a small, glinting light at the bottom of the stream. They decided that the tallest of them should wade out to where it was, capture it between his palms, and bring it back to shore. This he did, and the other two men watched as he released the light onto the bank.

It did not remain a light; instead, it grew to the size of a small trout and scuttled out of the tallest man’s hands on legs that looked like matchsticks. It had tiny, pointed horns, a beard that blew with the wind, and a mouth full of bright, needle-sharp teeth. It was the spirit of the stream, and by the laws of nature and convention, it owed them each a wish.

The shortest of the men, who was very unhappy indeed, took his turn first.(Continued after the jump.)

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