Wishes for Fishes: Now Open!

On this fine summer day, Uli squats by the entrance to the basement of the crummy apartment building she inherited from her witch aunt two months ago. Beads of sweat carve through her grimy skin and as she swipes them away, she nearly stabs her own eye out with the screwdriver she holds. No matter! Nothing can get her down today. She shoves the plug into the extension cord and steps back to admire her handy work; her store’s new sign is an entire sheet of corrugated metal speckled with LED lights so that Wishes for Fishes flickers like light filtering through deep water. Such an upgrade from the sign that Uli used to prop atop her van was a cruddy slab of cardboard inked with drying markers and speckled with seagull shit.

Gathering up her toolbox, she scurries to the back entrance that leads to the backroom of her shop. When she flicks on the hanging, naked bulb, its dim yellow light wavers and roils. She has made an aquarium of the backroom, and the length of every wall from ceiling to floor is encased in water encased in glass. Right now there is only the great shadowed coil of the infantile Lóng dozing under an aesthetically broken pot, and three fish swimming languidly, but she hopes that soon they will have greater company. When Uli taps the glass on her way to the restroom to scrub herself clean, the colourful shape of the Eartheater Cichlid taps its snout to her fingertip and then belches out smoky wisps of partially digested heartbreak. Soon, she croons, soon I will take you new friends.

The shop itself is shaped like a shoebox. Despite being underground, it gets decent light. The mirrors that Fabian installed around the narrow windows near the ceiling reflect in enough sun that she wouldn’t need any artificial lighting in the day. In a corner through the small rectangle of floor grates on which the cat (also inherited, came with the building) dozes, the flickering flames give the store a warm, homely glow.

Star charts and accupuncture maps and talisman written in red ink on yellow hellnotes plaster the walls. They are obscured here and there by the plants that crest the shelves and spill over in spindly leaves and coy curling vines. The shelves themselves were stuffed full of oddities and banal-but-useful knickknacks alike. The drawers nearest her counter are stuffed full of the usual love spells and woven charms for financial security, and the bronze bells that hang on childrens’ satchels to scare off spirits and ghosts. The glass counter itself is wiped clean and gleaming. Only her old Macbook occupies its surface but within there are neat knots of wires and chargers and gizmos, for the more modern wishes.

Uli perches on the stool behind the counter, fidgeting excitedly. Finally! Opening day!

[[Hello! I’d like to try an RPish game with y’all wherein I play a shopkeeper who sells wishes big and small. Uli takes cash, card, engagement rings, secret family recipes, memories of the first time you rode a bike… anything that she can pay the bills with, any human experience she can transform into fish and pretend is her own. Please feel free to visit!]]

2 Likes

Franc brought his little fish to the shop.
He was unsure of what this could mean
but when he heard the news, he decided to bring his fish to the shop for safe keeping.
He didn’t really even know what the fish he met was
or who
but discovered it’s story in a hitchhikers guide to the galaxy
and after delicate discussions with the fish decided
that it was time to let go
and trusted that the fish could now also talk for itself.

So Franc took two busses and a train to arrive at the shop. Deep in thought (and conversation with the Babel fish)
Uli saw the child approach from beyond the thinly veiled window curtain.

Franc knocked on the door and in their most polite and strong 7 year old voice said
“Excuse me, Miss Uli I have I wish please…”

“Come inside dear child…”

Without much ado, Franc got straight to business and offered his hands.

“I wish that this fish will find a safe home here.”

2 Likes

Uli stares for a long moment, turning her head this way and that, for in the boy’s hands was a square container of tofu, enough for two hotpots. Parting that tofu like silk, and resembling more a yellow tadpole or leech, is what she supposes is meant to be a fish.

“I don’t understand,” says Uli, to which Franc raises the tofu and fish combo towards her.

Psst, comes a little voice. Uli furrows her brow because it seems to be coming from…

Psst, comes the little voice again, and this time Uli leans closer to the tofu, tilting her head to hear better.

Wet hits her ear. She yelps at the cool sloosh feeling that buries itself into her ear canal before settling behind her eyes, a bit like brain freeze.

At once the world hums with a dull drone. Uli gasps and stumbles backward. Her back hits the shelf and the bells clang in their box. But even after they quiet, there is still this thrumming at the back of her skull. A rumbling of sorts.

And Franc, squealing, “I think it likes you! I think it’s found its home!” He beams at her. “Thank you so much! How can I ever repay—Oh! I suppose I have paid you!”

And Franc, laughing, delighted, despite that he’s just, Uli’s pretty sure, swindled her out of her first sale. This has to be a trick somehow… but try as she might, Uli cannot figure it out. It doesn’t help that her head still aches a bit with that low frequency hum. The droning wavers in her ears, rising then cresting. She shakes her head in vain. The droning continues, so low and incessant that it almost seems to be coming from behind her. But other than that, she’s none the worse for wear so for the moment, she gives up on that and tells him, “For future reference, you should know you’ve misread the sign.”

“Oh no! Is Wishes for Fishes what Mama calls figur-ruh-tiff?”

“Figurative? Well no, the fishes are quite real, I assure you, it’s just that…” Uli trails off again and decides it is best to show instead of tell. “Let’s try something. I want you to think of a bad feeling.”

The boy’s face falls and for a moment Uli thinks he will refuse, but when she wriggles her fingers in his direction, they slide through an aura around him that is viscous as honey. Nodding with approval, she sinks her pinky deep into the bad feeling, pressing closer until her fingertip touches his mouth. With a little flick of her wrist, she pulls her finger back and reels out from between his lips a fat neon tetra the size of her thumb, as blue as the sky and red as the boy’s hair.

“A fish!” Franc exclaims. He comes as close as he dares to peer at the little fish trashing about at the end of the invisible thread tethering it to her finger. “This is one of them small fishies from our class fishtank! Leon’s mum donated a whole bunch of them last month.”

“Is that so?” Colour her curious. Little boys didn’t usually have bad fish of that size swimming around in them, not so near the surface anyway. “Does Leon’s mum make you feel bad?”

“Leon’s mum makes Leon feel bad. And when he tells me, I feel bad.”

Uli pauses. She was planning to take the tetra as a little freebie but now she feels bad. “Have you or Leon told anyone else?”

Franc shakes his head.

“Here, take this back then.” With another flick of her wrist, the tetra snaps into the air and off its tether. With lightning speed, it zips back into Franc’s awaiting mouth. “It’s important not to ignore bad feelings. Sometimes they tell you what needs to be done.”

Franc nods vigorously, wide-eyed.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” cries Uli, “I’ve fulfilled your wish and given you new purpose! Off you go!”

And as her first customer scampers out of the door, Uli decides that, you know what? Strange fish be damned. She can’t let her first strange happening in her shop of strange happenings get her down! She’ll deal with her earfish when the day is over. For now, she awaits eagerly her next customer.

2 Likes


Jeff looked at the shop entrance and then at his companions.
“It doesn’t look like much.” he said with a questioning look at Fabe and Gak who both stood apart from each other. Despite Gak’s continued enmity towards Fabe and Sophyá they both had agreed on this shop though, that counted for something he guessed. He tilted his head back and winced as he hit the back of his head on the pommel of Excalibur. He put his right hand up to put some pressure on the injured area and his left hand to his side, where he found the hilt of the silver rapier.
“I could open a bloody shop for mythical swords in a month if this keeps up.” He thought to himself.

He stood there and continued to ponder the shop door. Why was he feeling a reluctance towards going inside? The name was endearing and the neon sign just cemented the fact that here was a person who knew what they liked regardless of it was fashionable or not. Nothing wrong with it.
The door opened and a small boy stepped out and up the stairs to ground level. He fleetingly looked at Jeff’s team with wonder, then he flashed a brilliant smile at them and dashed off the same way Jeff and his companions had come.

And suddenly, the shop seemed less imposing. Jeff, drew in a fortifying breath, nodded to himself, descended the stairs and let himself in through the door followed by his companions.

The shop looked to Jeff as if someone had been torn between wanting to open a cosy countryside café and one of those esoteric shops that caters to white girls with crystals that always smells to much of incense and that they had decided that, fuck it, I’ll do both. But, oddly, it smelled like an aquarium.

“Hello?” Jeff said as his companions trooped in after him.
“Oh, hi!” came a feminine voice from behind the counter, “Wait a moment I’m looking for a thing!”

The group waited around awkwardly in front of the counter, well except for Fabe who for some reason went and inspected the mirrors that hung around the shop. Jeff realised that among the silvery knick-knacks and arcane-ish papers on the counter, there was also an off-brand tupperware box containg a huge tofu block.

“Ok, there.” shouted the voice and Jeff would have been hard put to actually place the age of the person who rose from behind the counter, but she had and welcoming smile that went from professional to true delight when she saw Fabe poking about.

“Fabe, you didn’t tell me you were coming along for the opening!” she chided him with a thrill in her voice.
“You know Ulz, I think I should really look at a different placement for this one.” Fabe said still looking at one of the bigger mirrors.
The woman, rolled her eyes and then looked at Jeff and his companions.

“Hmm, right, you seem to be in interesting company anyway. So, What can I help you with today?” she said the last part looking directly at Jeff.

“Ahh, well…” Jeff said hesitantly and then, being prodded in the side by Sophyá in a “get a move on” fashion he continued, “Well, we are on a quest… And we’d…you know… need some directions?”

1 Like

The question, “Where to, my good dude?” opened up a whole can of worms as every member of the party began to speak, wondering if anyone knew where the golden apple was to get directions to, arguing about the quest’s true goal, whether the golden apple was truly the holy grail because I could’ve sworn it was a cup, or a mug or uhh—every member, that is, except Fabian who strolled over and leaned an elbow on her counter.

“You gave Jeff the rapier,” Uli observed, and also, “Now he has two swords.”

“Yea, I didn’t know he already had one. See—” Fabian pulled out the eye and at once the packet of incense on the nearest shelf popped and started to smoke. He hastened to continue: “Haha, eyeball, see, I saw Jeffers here in a shining future, waving a big ol’ shining stick and I thought it was the stick you so graciously, wonderfully, gave to me for the mirrors that I spent all afternoon setting up for—”

Uli looked up from smothering the tiny fire with a rag to glare at him.

“Anyway, what’s with the tofu, Ulz?” Fabian asked, and then promptly stuck his finger into it. “Oh gnarly, kinda feels like the swamp demon brains.”

“It’s from my first customer! There was a fish in it.” Sharp like a knife, Uli slapped his hand away from its trajectory of finger to his mouth. “Might have fish poop in it."

“Oh, was it a live fish? Where’s it now?” Fabian nodded with understanding as Uli tapped her temple. “Right, tofu medium and brain medium. Same texture."

Uli finger-gunned him. “Y’know, I’d been wondering about that! Makes sense!”

And while they’d been having their little catch up, it seemed that the party had come to a decision. When Sophyá nudged Jeff, he stumbled forward and blurted out, “We need directions to the golden apple!”

“Holy grail of legend, seed of discord, beholder of ultimate beauty?” asked Uli as she pulled out a thick ring folder and thumbed through a thick wad of ancient parchment she’d hole-punched and kept organiser with flimsy plastic dividers. To be quite honest, she was trying to buy time. She’d been slow to notice but there was a deep growling from somewhere within her shop, slowly increasing in volume with each passing second, dips and hitches beginning to quicken. And then there was a faint groan in the universe, as though it was a sofa that someone had just sunk down on, that Uli knew to be the Lóng, her dragon, uncoiling. Her head throbbed. Her ears itched. The humming, the groaning, the growling,

And then, clear as day,

PEACH.

Uli’s mind raced. She would know that voice anywhere; though she’d never heard it before, she’d spent years dreaming of it. She heard, she obeyed, she asked, “Does it have to be an apple?” Uli’s mind went a mile a minute, tires leaving scorch marks. Many people mistook what they wanted for what they needed and they paid dearly in turn for what they didn’t mean to buy, which never bode well for customer satisfaction but worked very well to her advantage. She asked slowly, as though in earnest deliberation, “How do you know it’s an apple?”

“What do you mean?” asked Jeff, furrow between his brows.

Uli leaned forward with a knowing smile. “Language does so complicate matters when we go gallivanting off based on old scripture and legend. Did you know? The Chinese word 請 translates to green in English, but can also refer to certain shades of blue and yellow. Fascinating how that works, eh?”

“What do you mean?” Sophyá repeated and coming from her, it sharpened to a frightful point. The steel in her gaze, Uli noted, is marvelous. Perhaps Fabe gave her rapier to the wrong party member.

“You are looking for a round, reddish fruit that glows golden with hidden power, do you not? I know of this legend of yours, but in ours, it isn’t an apple. It’s a peach. They could be one and the same.”

Gak’s lip curled with dissatisfaction but they did admit, “I have heard of such stories from our eastern brethren but because the beliefs and rituals that invoke us onto the material plane are different, we do not know much of each other’s existence.”

Uli beamed at him, her best customer service smile. "Ours are peaches of immortality, grown in the Goddess of Mercy’s garden. Imagine the rows and rows of fruit-laden trees! All ripe for picking! If they’re good enough for Sun Wukong, it’d be good enough for you.”

Gak swept his gaze over the various magical knick knacks around the room, then pinned her with a stare. “And you know where the peach is?”

“I have… this!” From the safe beneath the counter, Uli pulled out a small chest carved from rich mahogany and gently undos the silver clasps. From inside, she carefully plucked out from its silk cushion, a lighter in which there bobs a single coarse hair. The flame flared small at first, and then twitched, twisted, and burst into a long thin stream of fire towards the back of the shop. “The hair of Sun Wukong plucked before he stole his first peach holds all of his greed, all of his cravings. It’ll lead you towards the garden.”

The party oohed and ahhed appreciatively, except Gak who sniffed and prodded it with a delicate claw. “So… a magical dowsing rod,”

Jeff groaned. “It’s the closest lead we’ve got so far. Maybe—”

“Make up your mind already!!” cried Uli. She gestured with a huff to the slowly darkening shop. The sun is setting. “Well?!”

“Alright, alright!” Jeff took a deep breath. “We’ll take it!”

“Good! And your payment!” Uli jabbed a finger at Gak, who suffered it because Jeff shot him a warning look. “I shall take the first time you discovered the simple joys of fresh cut fruit, your first taste of pure bliss.”

And out came a great trout, writhing in the air between them. Its mouth gaped and gasped. As Uli wrestled it into her arms, the rainbow sheen of its scale sparkled with unearthly light. Struggling to keep hold of the trout, Uli nudged the lighter towards Jeff, who scooped it up with glee.

“This is just a loan, however. A hair from Sun Wukong is worth more than you know, so you have to return it! Pay me with a fish and a promise!”

“We will do our best to return it,” Jeff agreed easily.

“Best you do that! My great nai nai’s charmed it to ka-boom if it’s away from my blood for too long. It’ll burn you to grilled fish.” And now! The time to strike! “Hell, bring a peach back to me too!”

“Will do!” Jeff gave a cheerful thumbs up!, and when Uli, giggling as she fist-bumped his hand, offered her pinky with a casual flippancy, he hooked it with his own in a pinky promise.

Both Gak and Sophyá stiffened at once, but it was too late! The deal was done and sealed. Uli began politely hustling them towards the door, which the trout thrashing in her arms helped greatly with. Dodging its flailing tail, the party hurried to the exit.

“Fabian!” Uli called, and when the man in question turned, lazy smile, sharp-eyed, she grinned back. “Remember! That the peaches made a monster out of a monkey.”

Without missing a beat, Fabian called back, “And what are we humans but monkeys with a god complex?”

As the door swung shut behind them, Uli laughed, high and delighted. With a little whoop, she spun on her heel and rushed into the backroom, falling to her knees on the couch perched against the aquarium. Her dragon was coiled up again, but as her nose touched the glass, it let out a sigh that shuddered out from its long slender neck.

Pressure in her skull like the babel fish gnawing and gurgling and then,

SERVE ME.

Scrambling to stand on the couch, she held the trout up high above her head to let it slip into the water. It spasmed in the water, and then shuddered, and then swam in short jerky spurts towards the dragon, who opened its lazy eye, and then let out another breath, this time wordless and content. As though dismissed, the trout jerked as though escaping a trance and then zipped away to the other side of the aquarium.

“You liked that,” she cooed, pleased. “Today was such a wonderful day! And I’m sure there’s more to come.”

2 Likes