Wishes arrive in winged pantechnicons; prayers are delivered by hand. And in each, there are smuggled demands, exhortations, pleas, cries concerning the recognition of hidden talents, threats, the whole banana. The trucks stretch back through clouds and time. That’s before the loaders get a hold of them.
Everyone starts out as a loader. It doesn’t matter how precious your wish is, how oblique your desire, at some point, it will be flung from the soft feathery bed of Heavenly Logistics and onto the hard concrete at Wish Fulfilment by a pair of amateur hands. People are always surprised that there is concrete in heaven. But why? It’s durable, easy-to-clean, visually appealing, and ecologically right-on if done as per the manual. The perfect substance.
Today is slushpile delivery. This will make or break a supervisor. The spelling is poor, the grammar non-existent, the demands outrageous. You can almost hear the rising tone of the thing’s author spiralling up off the old papyrus in an insistent twist of smoke.
“Please give me a motorcycle! I deserve it!” Have a proper job instead. Think of it as a motorcycle derivative. Boom.
“Please let me do well in this exam!” Well, look. No one wants you to do badly. But no one’s stopping you from doing well. You already have the time you need. Alright, here’s what I’ll do: I’ll make these forum commenters into a pack of rabid racists so you can log off and study. No, I’m not doing the work for you. You’ll only come back and bug us. It’s our new directive: pass as much responsibility as you can back onto the customer.
“Please, please don’t let my grandmother die!” Again, I feel a little perspective is in order. It’s not that we want your grandmother and you to be parted but if, like her, you hung out with Hendrix back in the day, then we’re going to pencil you in for a 15:03 and listen to some of your stories. It’s how this business works. Tell you what: keep her till Tuesday. Then say your goodbyes. No, we’re not accepting requests for inheritances just now.
“I wish for three more wishes.” Acceptable for the MG market twenty years ago, but no, I’m sorry, anyone over the age of eight shouldn’t be doing this. Instant rejection. Standard letter if you’re eight or under. Sorry.
You see? Slushpile.
Best Wishes we never question. It’s our bread and butter, though not what you might call bleeding edge fulfilment. It’s idleness of rubber stamping. “Please let Harry find happiness at his new school.” Sure. Though we do pass that on to Gifting now and I heard they outsourced. Budgets, etc. I’m not sure what the delivery rate is on those. Not my department. Put in a request if you’re interested.
Mentally ill? Hearing voices? Seeing stuff that no one else is? Welcome to our VIP list. You single-handedly keep those eggheads in Miracles busy. We bought them out around the time of Joan of Arc, sum undisclosed. They’re an interesting bunch. Can’t live with them, can’t take them anywhere in public, but without them we’d be just another shop. With them, it’s about the inclusivity.
But every now and then, there’s one that we don’t stamp out a standard response to. We may have a subeditor give it a look-over. And once in a little while, you hear rumour of one that gets passed across the desk of our Editor in Chief.
It’s a whole system, these wishes and prayers. You get on your knees and speak them or think them up or we read them etched upon your sorry hearts. Sometimes you can’t prop yourself up on your knees, so we find you curled in a gutter. You can’t see or feel us, but we’re there, patiently scribing away your faults in places of worship and ill-repute. We see you, desperately trying to turn your thoughts to your spouse during intimate moments. Those are the ones we want, those real stories, those of hurt and humiliation. We can’t learn from I’ll-be-good-if-you-just. Right now we’re accepting real. Be real.
Real like the priest who babbles incoherently beneath the stone body of a worn-out Christ in whose divinity he never believed. We know his heart’s not in it, but don’t you see? That’s why we love him. He’s so broken. Leaving aside the constant fear of discovery, who knows what other delicacies he might offer up were we to carve him open? But we don’t do that. It’s a risk with little return on the investment when his own daily thoughts are so much richer. Who wants goodies for two weeks followed by blue-eyed ossified piety for all eternity? You may as well try and shake stories from a porcelain doll.
Be real like the man in the falling plane who suffers a moment of awareness when, by all that is logical, he should be safely out of his mind with fear. Yes. That’s practically a get-out-of-jail-free card, a prayer like that, pumped straight out of the body and into the ether with the firehose force of a frantic heartbeat. We’re all about those gushers right now. Give us those.
Why do they have those moments? Who would do that to themselves? Perhaps that’s what we’re trying to find out.
Give us wishes for simple things that make life-or-death differences. Vital signs in the body of a loved one. A mother bent over her infant as the family roadster hurtles over a precipice.
But we can’t stop time. There’s no undo function. We can’t make that trucker pay more attention as he comes round the s-bend, not unless someone begged and pleaded for it beforehand, and no-one would see that coming. Poor choice of words, but truly we’d all do it if we could.
It’s a mechanism, this world, all built and preordained and set in motion like a giant timepiece from long back. And here in Fulfilment, we are but fiddlers.