Guest Post: Emily O’Leary, “Wants, Wishes and Woes”

Hi, Hello!

My name is Emily — reader, writer, mother, and everything in between! — and I am here to throw some words at you today! I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember, though I definitely suffer a lot with the confidence to put them out there. I’m getting there though, so when Ivy crashed my DM’s to ask if I’d like to post a short story on her blog I thought well… why not! So, thank you Ivy for always having faith in me and offering your support, you are literally the best and I’m sending all the face squishes. And thank you to you, the reader, for giving your time to read this little tale! It’s part of a collection of short stories I’m working on, based on the Seven Deadly Sins, and all with a supernatural/ mythical twist.

I’ve really enjoyed working on these so far, it’s just been a nice little project to work on, and I’d love to publish them all together one day! But in the meantime, here’s a little look at one of them — I hope you enjoy it!

Emily

Insta | @emily.j.writes — this will be the page where I submit any updates for things I’m working on if you’re interested in checking them out! Or if you just wanted to fly by and say hi!


Wants, Wishes and Woes

Junichiro Ogawa was a man who wanted. He wanted power, status, money, to be looked at and revered. He didn’t think that was an unreasonable desire — wasn’t that what all people aspired for, in the end? More than they started with?

This last wasn’t difficult to achieve, because Junichiro had started with nothing. The fourth son of a poor family, he was the recipient of hand-me-down clothes worn from use, the child who would never make it to college, for the money pot had long since run dry.

So Junichiro had climbed. He’d scrambled, always reaching for more, pushing himself beyond his limits, he begged and borrowed, lied and cheated, whatever it took to reach that next critical step on the path to his goal. He would not flounder, he would not fail. He would do whatever it took to succeed.

In hindsight, with madness coursing through his fractured mind, faced with an eternity of endless torment, he probably shouldn’t have gone quite as far as he had.

***

It had started with a story.

An innocent tale, a child’s story, warning listeners against avarice. It was silly, the idea of it, but once Junichiro heard it, it plagued his very existence. What if it could be true?

Hin’nagami, a spirit made from the regrets of the dead, brought to life to grant wishes for its maker. It seemed too good to be true. The process to make hin’nagami was an arduous one, but hadn’t Junichiro always vowed to go that extra mile to get what he wanted? A few short years of hard work here, and he could have anything in the world. He’d done his research, he knew there were potential pitfalls of creating such a thing, but he was a smart man, armed with knowledge. There were options, and he felt secure enough in his wits that he’d be able to overcome any problems he might face.

So he set about his mission.

The first part of Junichiro’s task was time-consuming and required much thoughtful planning. For three years, he was to collect the grave-dirt of the recently dead, from seven different graveyards, every single night.

This activity possessed him entirely. He carefully selected his cemeteries considering two main factors: distance of travel between each one, and how frequently they were used in laying the dead to rest. He couldn’t afford to chance not having the time to get to each site, and didn’t want to run the risk that he’d never have fresh dirt to collect. He’d found no specifics indicating how ‘recent’ each sample of dirt had to be collected, so he wanted to be sure there was a steady stream of incoming bodies to mourn.

Spending all of his nights driving from village to village, collecting fresh handfuls of dirt, and carting them all back to the two bedroom flat he shared with his mother, took its toll. He was exhausted from the lack of sleep, constantly whittling over the obituaries in search of his next plot.

“I’m worried about you, Junichiro,” his mother said one morning as he dragged himself to the table for breakfast. He was dishevelled, tired, with dirt still crusted to his nail beds. He’d had no energy to wash when he arrived home, simply falling into bed for a couple hours of sleep before he rose again to start work.

“Don’t worry for me. Worry for yourself, you’re looking worse than I am, old woman,” he snapped cruelly.

A look of hurt crossed her face, a frail hand fluttering over her heart. He wasn’t sorry he said it, it was true anyway, and didn’t she know what a burden she was to him? It was her fault they’d had nothing. Her fault he had to forsake his life this way, in order to make it better.

Junichiro pushed the plate she offered him away in disgust, storming out of the door to head to work.

Things did not improve and, as the weeks became months, his mood suffered greatly; by the end of the first year he’d lost the position at the job he’d worked so hard to excel in. The progression ladder he’d been on for so many years of his life crumbled to ash in his overly firm grasp, and this only made him more bitter.

He’d come too far though, to stop now.

He’d work odd jobs whenever his time wasn’t taken with his nightly activities, pulling in enough to scrape by. It didn’t matter though, none of it did, because if he just pushed through, he’d have everything he ever desired. Screw the company who’d fired him, in a couple more years he could wish himself ownership of that company — could burn it down and remake it from the ground up if he wanted to.

He kept going, consumed with his obsession. He had little time or mental capacity for anything else, and before he knew it, one year became two. That second year had been particularly easy, actually. A virus had broken out, and the cemeteries had never been so busy. It had been no problem getting fresh grave dirt regularly. He was so close now to completing this first step, he could almost taste it. His mind was full of the extravagances he’d wish for — his own home, fine dining each night, money, power, more money.

Everything was going well. Better than well, and suddenly he only had four more months of this tedious dirt gathering to go.

And then there was a snag in his plan.

One of the cemeteries had had no new body, and he began to fret. How long? How long could he collect the same dirt from the most recent grave? How long until it was no longer considered ‘fresh’ dirt, but became just… dirt.

He was pacing his small flat, tugging at his hair, eyes wild. He felt like a caged animal, and he lashed out, slamming his fists down onto the side table, over and over, screaming out his ire.

“Junichiro!” His mother shouted from the other room, and he felt his nerves prickle beneath his skin. He twisted to look at her with the frustration he felt simmering inside of him as she scurried into the room.

“Oh, Junichiro,” she chided, wringing her hands, a concerned frown creasing her brow. “Are you hurt, let me see?”

She bustled towards him and made to grab for the curled fists resting against his thighs. He pulled back from her reach, fists clenching harder so the nails of his fingers dug into his palm and snarled in vehemence.

“I don’t want your sympathy, and I definitely don’t need it! You know nothing of what I do, how far I’ve come! Nothing!”

Her eyes widened, her concern smoothing into anger.

“You’re right,” she said, shaking her head. “I know nothing! You don’t talk to me anymore, I feel I barely know you at all! This man you have become, you are not my Junichiro! My son was kind, good, hardworking. You, whoever you are now… you are not him! Stomping around my home, always angry, never doing anything useful, spitting venom like a poisonous snake!”

“How dare you speak to me this way!”

She rallied against him, taking a step forward and pointing a trembling finger at him in accusation, fury lining her face.

“How dare I speak to you this way? And what of the way you speak to me? You treat me as though I am the dirt beneath your shoes, Junichiro!”

“You would be of more value to me if you were the dirt beneath my shoes! Get away from me, you pathetic old woman!”

He shoved her. Hard.

She lost her balance and fell back.

Junichiro watched in grim silence, the scene playing out as if in slow motion, as her head hit the edge of the table on her way to the ground. There was a sickening sort of crack that echoed around the room, and his mother slumped to the floor in a heap.

He saw the spread of blood pooling beneath her, a dull roar resounding between his ears. He stared at her for some time, before blinking away the haze and manufacturing a new scenario in his mind.

He went calmly into the kitchen, and methodically put on a pair of rubber gloves. This done, he reached for a glass and filled it with water from the tap.  The sound of water was loud in the otherwise still apartment, and he almost flinched.

He took the glass back to the other room, and careful not to step in the blood seeping across the floor, he moved towards his mother’s feet.

He removed her left shoe, shutting down the realisation that he was currently holding a dead foot in his grasp, then poured a small amount of water on the floor. He swiped the shoe through it, and fit it neatly back on her foot. He then moved to her hand, lifting it to wrap her fingers firmly around the glass before rising with it once more.

With careful approximation, he held it above the ground, about the chest height of his mother, then dropped it to the floor. It shattered on impact.

He purposefully did not look at his mother again as he turned and left his home. He would go out, and come back later, to find her dead on the floor. He’d find a woman and bring her home with him — an alibi to his shocked, emotional agony as he returned home to find his mother had slipped and tragically died in his absence. Yes, that would be sensible, this would all work out exactly as he needed it to.

For though his mother might be dead, at least now there’d be a new grave to fill.

***

Junichiro gathered up his last handful of earth, and poured it carefully into the jar he held.

He sat back on his heels, not quite believing it.

He’d done it. Every night for three years, seven different graveyards, handfuls upon handfuls upon handfuls of soil gathered. He’d finally completed the first part of his task.

Relief flooded him, so powerful he felt giddy, and a little bit sick from the adrenaline. He took a few moments to calm his jittery nerves, congratulating himself on his dedication over the last three years, before hurrying from the graveyard to start on his next task.

Junichiro didn’t bother going home — a place that he’d come to loathe since his mother’s passing, covered in a light film of dust, dishes always piled high on the kitchen sides, he simply had no time or care to look after it anymore — but instead went to the storage facility he had rented some time ago.

It was still the early hours of the morning, but he always checked to ascertain he had no followers or nosey observers anyway, before opening the door and letting himself inside. He flicked on the light, letting it stutter to life with a low hum and a buzzing click whilst he quickly brought the door down and locked himself in, final jar in hand.

The small, cramped space was filled with what most people would consider a particularly odd assortment of items, but to him felt like a treasure trove.

The shelving along the far wall was filled with jars of dirt, all that he’d collected and safely stored all these years. To the left was a small desk, on which lay bunches of material, and a meagre but suitable sewing kit, laid out from the project he’d begun working on. Directly in front of him, at the centre of the room, was an old, dingy bathtub in pea green that he’d found by happenstance one day at the side of the road. It would be perfect for what he required.

Against the right wall, was a chest freezer, the red light indicating it was still on. He strode over and lifted the lid, turning the unit off at the wall.

Rolling the jar he held between both hands, Junichiro stepped up to the tub. Nervous anticipation skittered over him, his hands going clammy as he began to unscrew the lid.

He tipped the jar up, letting its contents pour into the bath, then re-lidded it, staring down, a smile fixed on his face. He crossed over to the shelves, took down several more jars, and repeated the process until each one had been emptied.

Now it was time for the contents of the freezer. 

Junichiro bent over the chest, grabbing a pack filled with a thick, red substance. Blood, the second ingredient he’d had to collect these years. Human blood — his blood. Drawn with regularity and stored here ready for when the time came.

He removed them all from the still icy freezer, and spread them out over shelves to continue to defrost, then seated himself at the desk.

Gathering up the scraps of fabric — pieces cut from his mother’s old clothes — he set about pinning pieces together in the pattern of a child-sized smock dress, and proceeded to sew his creation.

He left the unit briefly later that morning, feeling drained beyond belief, to grab food and coffee to see him through the rest of his day. Once suitably sated he returned and began the rather more grim task of emptying the blood packets into the tub with the dirt.

He worked with a fevered mania, exhaustion pushed firmly aside even through the ache burning his eyes, as he kneaded the blood and dirt to create a thick, gruesome, clay-like paste. His hands and forearms were caked in gore, the constant kneading sending stabbing pains up through his wrists and into his elbows, but still he kept working until he was content with the consistency.

Junichiro felt half mad with fatigue, and briefly considered giving up to rest, then shoved the thought away. No, he told himself firmly. There would be time enough to rest after he’d finished, he couldn’t risk all his work going to waste if the substance began to dry before he was done.

He sat on the floor next to the tub, reaching an arm over every few minutes to grab another handful of gloop, moulding it into life as he went. First he made an oval sort of shape, and from there came two stumps, that grew in length with each press of clay, eventually forming arms. The legs were next, a little longer and more knobbly than he’d intended, but no matter, they would do.

At last he formed the head, even affixing it with two glass eyes he’d purchased from a craft shop, and stringy black hair sprouting from the scalp.

He perched it on the floor before him, and sat back in contemplation of his work.

It was… hideous, actually. Quite frightening. Gangly and malformed, it’s features were rough at best, and he felt as though it’s eyes were peering directly into his soul. Yet despite all this, he felt a kind of bizarre attachment to the thing already. A kindling flame affection.

This was it, this was the answer to all his wishes.

He left it there, watching him keenly, to set the clay, curled on the floor beside it, and went to sleep.

***

It was the dead of night again, a time Junichiro had become all too familiar with over the last several years of his life, the moon hanging full in the sky.

He raised an arm to wipe the sweat from his brow, and took up his shovel to continue digging.

He was at the crossroads of a nearby park, performing his final act to awaken the Hin’nagami. He’d dressed her delicately in the dress he had made, laid her to rest in the prepared box, and carefully performed the prayers and rituals required to seal her soul. Now he was here, ready to bury her. A thousand steps must pass over her grave before she could wake up, and then she’d be his.

He tucked her box gently into the hole, refilling it with the utmost care and respect, sending his very first wish up to the moon. Then he left the park, returned to his musty smelling flat, and fell into the deep and dreamless sleep of the deceased.

***

Junichiro… a voice whispered into his mind.

Junichiro, where are you?

That voice… unfamiliar, and yet he recognised it. Felt a fondness for it, a need.

Junichiro… I’m here… I’m awake… won’t you come get me? I can make your wishes come true, Junichiro.

Junichiro bolted upright in bed, heart hammering hard, blinking the sleep from his eyes, trying to reach blearily for the dream that was trying to flee from his grasp.

He stretched and cracked his neck painfully, he’d spent the last few days mostly sleeping, finally catching up on all the rest he’d lost to his project.

He jolted suddenly, remembering.

The hin’nagami, it had come to him in his dreams, it was alive, had been calling to him!

He shot out of bed and opened the curtains, pleased to find it dark out, late enough that he could retrieve her and not have to concern himself with potentially being seen.

He was elated, practically running from the apartment, almost forgetting the shovel in his haste.

When he reached the area of the park he’d buried her in, he barely cast a glance around him before he went to work. What did it matter? If anyone did see him and question him, he’d very soon be able to wish their memory away. He thought that could work anyway, and if it didn’t, he’d simply wish them away completely!

Hitting the box, he threw down the shovel and carefully removed the rest of the earth with his hands, caressing the top of the box lovingly.

He pulled the box out, and gently removed the lid.

The hin’nagami sat up, turned her head toward him, and got to her feet.

Junichiro, I’m so glad to see you. How wonderfully you’ve cared for me, how quickly you came for me. How can I return the favour? What do you wish for?

“I–I can’t believe I really did it. You’re really here, yo–you’re alive!” Junichiro gasped out the words between laughs, almost in disbelief. He’d done it. He’d really, actually done it!

Of course you did, silly. You were so clever, so dedicated. Now, what do you wish for?

Junichiro floundered, suddenly blank for ideas. He was just so overwhelmed, so overjoyed that all his hard work has finally paid off.

What do you wish for, Junichiro? 

“I–I wish we were home. At my apartment. I’m much too tired to walk, can you transport us there?” he asked, unsure.

The hin’nagami tilted her doll head, staring at him unblinking.

Done.

And there they were. Standing in the hallway of his apartment.

He laughed, clapping a hand over his mouth in shocked amazement. She did it, he’d done it, and life would never be the same again!

***

Within a short few weeks, Junichiro was living like he’d never lived before, and the hin’nagami became his constant companion.

He’d wished for money, naturally, and bought himself a nice house with room to furnish lavishly. He wished for delectable meals and fine clothes, a new car and yes, that company that had fired him was now run under his own name. He was on top of the world.

So, what’s next? The hin’nagami asked in her childish, sing-song voice?

“Right now? Huh… I have no wishes right now,” Junichiro said, nonchalant.

Why? 

“Why? Because there is nothing I need right now, hin’nagami.”

Wishes aren’t about need. What do you want?

Junichiro frowned at her. This was something he’d heard about the hin’nagami, he remembered. Their constant, obsessive desire to fulfil wishes.

“I want nothing right now, I must go to work. I’ll be back later.”

Booorrriinnnggg. She droned, and despite her expressionless face, he could imagine the roll of her eyes, the petulant pout.

He ignored her and went about his day, but as soon as he returned she was there at the door, waiting.

So… she said, tilting her head. What’s next?

Junichiro sighed and stared into her dark, glassy eyes. It had unnerved him a little at first, to see her walking around in her clunky manner, to hear such a joyful, sweet voice coming from a mouth that never moved. He’d grown used to it though, even found it endearing, her constant need to please him. But now… now he found her a little bit… irritating.

She was relentless with her desire to grant wishes, barely allowing him breath following one wish before asking him to make another.

Junichiro… let’s play. What’s next?

“Silence! That is all I wish! I wish for you to be silent!” Junichiro burst out.

She stared back at him, quiet at last, and tilted her head to the right. He’d never noticed before now, but in the past when she was asking him questions or speaking to him, she’d always tilted it to the left. A shudder ran through him as she stared him down, eerie in her soundless appraisal. She turned on her heel and marched away, a door slamming behind her. 

Junichiro felt a kind of fear, then, for the first time since he began this whole ordeal.

The hin’nagami avoided him for the rest of that day, and it wasn’t until he retired to his bed that he realised why.

There, scratched into the wall of his room in a child’s untidy scrawl, were the words:

What’s next?

***

Things devolved pretty quickly from there. Having the hin’nagami was like having a sinister toddler that never slept. She trailed him whenever he was home, piping up with increasingly alarming ideas for their next wishes, complaining when he spent too much time away, or didn’t spend enough time ‘playing’ with her.

The exhaustion Junichiro had finally overcome since creating the hin’nagami crept slowly back in, his sleep disrupted by her dream intrusions, imploring him to wake and make a wish.

He was tired, he was worried, and more than anything he just wanted her to leave him alone. He’d finally gotten everything he wanted, but the hin’nagami was a persistent presence that prevented him from enjoying it.

He contemplated wishing her away daily. He could do it, he knew. In all his research, the stories declared that if he wished her away she would simply latch on to the next needy person, and he’d be free to live his life on his own once more.

But he couldn’t do it.

He’d given up everything to create the hin’nagami, done things he could never undo. How could he possibly just… throw her away? She was the reason he had anything at all, and would always be there to help him if he was to fall.

It was a sick sort of devotion, an obsession, an addiction. What man in his right mind would ever give this up?

***

Junichiro was awoken from the first dreamless sleep he’d had in days. The hin’nagami had been in her box for an entire week, and until tonight had plagued his sleeping mind tirelessly, begging to be let out and wished on.

Something was wrong though, he realised, everything felt suddenly too still, but what had woken him?

He rose from the bed and searched his room. Seeing little else, he unplugged the bedside lamp and carried it the door, peering round in the dark.

There, a small sound in the kitchen, the soft snick of a door opening gently. Fear and rage swept over Junichiro, and he quickly but silently swept down the hall towards the kitchen. 

A figure was bent down in the open pantry door, and Junichiro could hear soft whispers. Without thinking, rage fuelling the fire that raced through his veins, he crept behind the figure, and brought the lamp crashing down over his head, sending him wordlessly to the ground.

Junichiro! The hin’nagami screamed from where she stood in the pantry, for it had been her whispering conspiratorially to this intruder.

“What do you think you are doing?” Junichiro yelled at her, grabbing her from the floor.

She didn’t fight him, only crossed her arms over her rumpled dress and stared at him with those dead eyes.

You wouldn’t play with me anymore! He heard the pout in her voice, the lip tremble. I went to him and asked him to come find me.

“I am your creator, what you gives you the right to leave me?” He was shaking with fury, spittle flying from his mouth. The sudden urge to hurt the hin’nagami scared him, so he placed her on the counter and took a step back.

What gives you the right to lock me away? I’ve done everything you wished for, why won’t you return the favour?!

His eyes were wild as he shoved his hands through his hair, wiped them down his face; sharp, aggravated movements an attempt to calm his frayed nerves.

“You’re right. I have a neglected you. I am sorry.” He bit the words out, tasting the falsehood on his tongue. “Please, hin’nagami. I wish for you to get rid of this man, now.”

OK, Junichiro! She said, chipper now, the waver in her voice gone. Just like a small child, having gotten their way, who suddenly stops crying.

Junichiro just blinked at her solemnly as the body vanished from his kitchen.

“I think we should move,” he muttered, half to himself. If she’d visited one man in his dreams and urged him to come here, then there could be others too. They were no longer safe here.

“I wish for a new house for us. Somewhere close enough, but somewhere a little more secluded.”

Done. She obliged.

***

He couldn’t say what did it. What it was that finally made him snap. But he did.

Perhaps it had been the months of endless, ridiculous wishes.

I wish I had pink hair.

I wish for ten chocolate cakes.

I wish we had a unicorn.

Each more absurd than the last. Each demand for more coming sooner than its predecessor. Junichiro had tried and tried to keep up, to keep going, but he was tired.

So, what’s next? The voice chimed, like a bell tolling at the start of each hour, mind-numbing in its monotony.

He stood on the building looking down at the world below him, the hin’nagami tucked into the crook of his arm. Practically on top of the world, the way he always thought he would be.

They don’t tell you that once you’ve reached the top, there’s only one direction left to go.

He hadn’t been able to part with the hin’nagami, the idea of her ever belonging to anyone else, granting their wishes, being their companion, it irked him too much, struck him through with bitter jealousy. Her constant pestering, her worrisome ideas though… they were too much for him. But he would not let her go.

He’d have her, or no one would.

What will you wish for, Junichiro?

“An end,” he answered softly, and stepped off the ledge.

***

Junichiro opened his eyes to white. Entirely white nothingness surrounded him. White, and white, and white. No walls or structure to indicate he was in an actual room, just… white.

He was seated on a small sofa, and there perched next to him, was the hin’nagami.

He closed his eyes, sucking in his lower lip to keep from crying. He couldn’t decide if it was despair he felt at seeing her there, or relief.

Junichiro… she spoke softly, a tremble in her voice. Junichiro, what have you done?

Junichiro shook his head. He didn’t know what he’d done.

I think we messed up, Junichiro…

As if on cue there was a soft click, and as Junichiro watched, a large screen was revealed before them, invisible curtains peeling back.

Scenes began to play on the screen. Memories, these were his memories, throughout his whole life. The ups and downs. More downs… more.

His mothers death, and his part in it.

Oh… Junichiro… what did you do.

Tears were running down as his face as the scenes played out. The hin’nagami chirped up frequently with her unwanted commentary, pointing out all the things he’d done wrong, what they should have done differently, how much they’d still had to achieve.

Once the curtains closed on his final memory, watching the ground rise up to meet him for a second time before everything went black, they simply reopened and started the whole sorry show over again.

This was the seven hundred and forty-sixth time now, the hin’nagami’s words a steady drone in his ear, tugging painfully at his heart.


Thank you so much for sharing this amazing story with us, Emily!

If you want to connect with Emily, you can find her on Instagram!

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