There was the wishing vessel. Bold as the dawn, solid as earth.
Strange. Its home was on your left side nightstand; its height measured out in the stack of paperbacks behind it; its radiance mirrored in the collection of raw stones and gems circling it. Instead, you found it on the right-hand nightstand where your water glass should have been. You took this vessel in your hand--this vessel, hewn by your mother's hands, baked with the power of hope and sealed with a sea-blue glaze marbled with pebble brown streaks.
Stranger still: it felt heavier than it should as if weighed down by your bottled wishes. You held it in your hand a moment longer, wondering what occurred in those eternal moments between closing your eyes and waking.
Then that evening as you chopped vegetables for roasting, thinking about things that belong in other lifetimes (half-remembered thorns that only nip at your heels when you are tired), the lights flickered in and out of consciousness. Of course, that would have meant nothing if it weren't for the misplaced wishing vessel and your keys, now no longer in the drawer where you know you'd left them. Or the sudden chill that swept through your home, easy enough to blame on the draft forgotten after months under the gaze of the summer sun.
It wasn't until you drifted off to sleep, in fact, that you knew the truth of the situation: you were no longer alone in your own home. You felt the ghost brush cool, soft fingers along your naked back and settle in next to you as you hovered between dream and wakefulness. Then there was your whispered name the next day as you tended your garden, sounding nothing so much as dried leaves rustling in the wind. And the wishing vessel again misplaced, perching precariously on your bookshelf, so much heavier this time as you carried it back to its rightful post. The faint scent of memory and wet dirt began to permeate your home. Yes, you had a ghost, a living, breathing ghost contained within your walls.
Each day the specter became more and more distinct, once a faint shadow hovering just beyond sight, now a thick presence that didn't feel the need to hide any longer. It patched a form together from stray bits of thread, used tea leaves, and lint from the bottom of your laundry basket. The smell of mulched garden debris and damp earth became stronger each day, strongest of all at night when the darkness could feed it.
But you grew tired of its presence. You grew tired of never finding your keys where you always put them. Tired of hands, now with the feel of knobby sticks for fingers, pressed against your back before sleep took you. Tired of never knowing where your wishing vessel might turn up--and when you found it half buried next to your rosemary, as if a seed waiting to sprout the hopes buried inside it, you reached your limit.
It took so long to dig out that heavy, heavy vessel. Longer still to drag it in from the rain. The ghost was no help; it merely watched you puff and pant and try to set things right. This had to stop. You wanted your home to be yours again.
So you did the only thing you could: you brought another spirit into the conversation--one holier, more honest even, than you or your spectral companion: whiskey. You poured a glass for you and your phantom guest, now bearing the faint outline of a person, smelling of moss and old books and the inside of a wishing vessel.
"So how is it you found me?" You asked the specter sitting across from you at the kitchen table.
"I found a blossom of indecision, a wrinkle of silence and traveled down the puckered road of an old scar." Its voice was like crackling leaves and smoke.
A gulp of whiskey was your response. You drank in companionable silence for some time as you mulled over its words. The rain beat out a tattoo on the window pane. The shadows in the room grew longer in time with the setting day.
"And where did you find this blossom, this wrinkle, this scar?"
It gestured to your curled up palm. You opened it and saw several little half-moons carved into its surface. What had you been holding on to so hard? So tightly?
As if in answer to your soundless question, the wishing vessel now sat between you on the table, still caked in dirt. The table creaked under its weight. There was your collection of unspoken wishes, your barely-acknowledged hopes like lead dandelion puffs.
"It's the voice that does it," your specter explained. "Just the sound of your lips and tongue wrapped around one of those dandelion heads."
What would it hurt, you thought, to give voice to all those dreams you'd stashed away for so long? What would it take to breathe life into the many roots and veins you'd allowed to go dormant? What would it cost you to loosen your grip on those fragile seeds you have guarded and protected and stashed away for a rainy day, much like this one?
"They are stronger than you think," the ghost again replied to your unvoiced thoughts.
You brushed the dirt from the vessel and dragged it toward you. You held it between your hands--gently this time--as if it were a butterfly flitting through your laced fingers.
Perhaps just one. There is no harm in allowing one stray seed to breathe and bloom. You named it, this wish, to yourself. To your ghost. To this vessel that had held it for so long. You felt it being released into the air around you like a cloud of sandalwood perfume or the flap of wings. Your skin tingled with this unblemished possibility permeating the air around you, and you closed your eyes to savor this new-found lightness.
When you opened them, the ghost was gone, and with it the smell of dead things. There were only the two whiskey glasses and the vessel (so much lighter now) left, along with a stray blue thread that once held the specter together. The other wishes slipped more easily from your lips after that, the hopes too. You felt only sweet release, the joy of freeing these pods into a life you dared to think possible.
Your home was your home again. Your wishing vessel was once more what it should be: a womb, not a stopped bottle, fertilized by syllables slipping from your vocal chords. And the air was thick with dandelion seeds.
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