Emilia walked briskly, her footsteps crunching the golden leaves. She could see her own breath in the cool autumnal air.
She was not merely getting away from the stuffiness of the library.
She had been on a particular mission of late, a quest of her own.
Emilia was a typical librarian, a lover of knowledge and stories. She was most content with a glass of wine and a good book.
However, there she was, braving the cold until she reached a clearing, where stood the object of her mission.
It looked like an ordinary tree, maybe taller than most. Perhaps a sequoia tree, the reddish bark soft yet sturdy.
Emilia appeared transfixed by it while her lips muttered her wish, a deep desire she has had for some time.
She paused, as though to hear the tree’s response. A leaf detached itself and spiralled down. Her hand came to cover her mouth, as if to try and retract her words.
Emilia turned away both afraid and excited. She felt sure she had just found a wishing tree.
She spent the following days experimenting and documenting everything.
Unfortunately, before she felt ready to share her findings, people in the village figured out what was going on.
Soon, everyone in the village was using the tree’s powers.
Isolated and modest wishes soon led to a flood of outrageous ones.
Mr Piercy’s wishes for prosperity turned into wishes of poverty for his annoying brother in law.
Young Jonathan’s wish for love turned into wishes that her beloved be fashioned more to his liking.
Mrs Johnson’s wishes for better furniture turned into a competition with her neighbours for the most lavish home.
The once close-knit community was rapidly descending into chaos as conflicting wishes collided. All the while, with each wish, the tree lost a leaf.
Seeing the rapidly denuded tree moved Emilia to assemble the village to try and talk sense into them.
“Be careful what you wish for! Once the leaves have all fallen, we’ll have to live with whatever we’ve asked for collectively until next Autumn. We must not squander this and end up in a worse place then we are.”
After much debate, it was decided that from then on, everyone would have just one wish per week.
Gradually, wishes changed from transient things to profound, more selfless ones. They decreased in number as the people rediscovered their own agency.
The tree didn’t lose all its leaves to wishes.
It was relied upon less and less every year, as the people became wiser. Eventually people forgot about the wishing tree.
Some say it had died. Others that it was just a legend.
As for Emilia’s first wish and how she knew about the wishing tree, it is all documented in her book, if you can find it. It’s called “Whispers of an Autumn Grove”.
I’ve heard that the saying “be careful what you wish for” is a direct quote from the book.
I suspect we might find many a lesson from this tale but the one I’ve recounted is the only one that survived.