In the main, my stories are pure fiction cobbled together from ideas no doubt informed by my experiences but not directly borrowing from them. But there are exceptions.
As 2019 dawned, I wrote a short story based on a writing prompt, a list of words on the theme “wishing well.” (A link to the story appears at the end of this post.) The prompt happened to coincide, give or take a few months, with some research I had been doing that led me to the Celtic goddess Caolainn, the guardian of a magic well in western Ireland. Caolainn used the well to grant wishes, but often her gift was cautionary in nature: be careful what you wish for!
This confluence of events led me to feature Caolainn in the story, with a small twist on the cautionary nature of her generosity. But before I got that far, I had to have someone to make a wish. I found two someones, a young couple named Ian and Piper, hiking not through western Ireland but the western United States.
The change of venue is a nod to my own youth. When I was in junior high school, my family lived in Sacramento, California, where as part of a Boy Scout troop I spent many wonderful days camping and hiking in the mountains. Once, while tripping down an old forested dirt road in the Sierra Nevada, we came upon the shell of a building whose floor was littered with core samples.
The building might once have been part of an exploratory operation by a mining company. All they left behind was the building, the small rock cylinders, and possibly the road itself. No other traces remained. We all picked up a few cores and took them home for souvenirs. I kept mine for some years, but eventually it vanished along with a number of other interesting rocks I’d collected. I don’t know what became of it.
Now that particular ghost inhabits a story. Ian and Piper stumble upon the building, speculate on its significance, and pick up a few samples of their own before moving on. Initially I plugged this reminiscence into the story merely because I wanted to, but then it took on greater significance. The couple find another ghost, an abandoned fire tower, and through these encounters their characters are revealed before Caolainn, who herself possesses some ghostlike qualities, offers to grant them each a wish.
So there’s the story behind the story. As for the story itself, here you go: The Wish. I hope you enjoy it.