149 – Choices

“Please give it back. I need it and it’s no use to you.”

The man looked defiantly at the small, bright eyes watching him from behind the bushes.

“No! I found it! It’s mine now!”

“You don’t even know what it is.”

“I know it grants wishes. With it I can have anything I want. I just have to find out how to use it.”

“That’s not how it works. It’s not a tool anyone can use by just following directions. It’s a part of me. But if you give it back I promise to grant you one wish.”

The man held the big, golden pearl closer to his chest and away from the eyes.

“No! I know all about you. You’re just trying to trick me into giving it to you,”

“Perhaps I might trick you, if I had it with me. But I don’t, so I can’t. But I’m serious about the wish.”

“Why should I trust you? What’s the word of one like you worth?”

“From what I see, more than yours. Besides, you will get no wishes from it without me anyway.”

“So what? I can still sell it. A pearl this big must be worth a lot.”

The little eyes gave out a chuckle.

“What’s so funny?” Asked the man.

“What little you know. If it stays away from me beyond sundown I will go back to being what I was and so will the pearl. You will have nothing but a common stone.”

The man grinned and his eyes narrowed as an idea crossed his mind.

“If the pearl won’t work without you, maybe all I need is have both of you. Why settle for a single wish when I can get as many as I want?”

“I really wouldn’t try it if I was you.”

The man stepped towards the bushes, extending his hand towards the little, bright eyes. Before he knew what happened, the earth seemed to disappear under his feet.

He woke up at the bottom of an old well, far above, he could see a circle of blue sky and the silhouette of a fox’s head peering down on him.

“You tricked me! I knew you would!”

“Oh no, I didn’t have to. You tricked yourself, and quite masterfully. If I had a hat I would really take it off to you.”

“Help me out!”

“I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t have the strength, or hands, to do it.”

“But… I will die of hunger down here!”

“Oh, not necessarily, It might rain. The well fills up quite fast and you might drown before you die of hunger.”

“Please! Help me out. I don’t want to die like this.”

“You mean by drowning or starving?”

“None of them! Please, stop making fun of me and help me out or get some help.”

“I would really like to help, but the nearest village is really far. I wouldn’t be able to get there before sundown.”

The man looked down at the pearl in his hand, then tossed it upwards with all his strength.

“Here, take it. I give it back.”

The fox’s head disappeared for a moment, when it looked back down it appeared to be somewhat larger. A big golden pearl on its forehead gently glowed against the darkness of the well.

“Well, thank you! How nice of you to give it back. And of course I’m keeping my word. What would you like your wish to be? Gold? Women? Fame? Perhaps a kingdom of your own?”

The man lowered his head, fully owning the humiliating sarcasm in the kitsune’s voice.

“I only wish…” He mumbled. “…to be out of this well.”

He could almost see the smile in the creature’s face as it said a single word.

“Granted.”

• • •

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