Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
The man stared down into the vast, dark depths of the well. It was day, but the silence around him was already so pressing that he could hear the echo of his breathing. The villagers did not like coming here. They believed the place was cursed, and would not venture within a mile from it. Adventurers believed it was an actual wishing well. They would come from all corners of the earth, bearing in their hearts the burning desires that would grant them happiness. Myth foretold that one should toss into the well an item of particular personal value, while shouting out the wish. Then, only on that one occasion, would it be granted, but its power depended on the personal value of the item involved. If a greedy merchant wished for untold riches, and tossed in a plain copper coin, he would maybe win the weekly prize drawing at his local grocer. However, if he were to toss in his most prized possession, the pristine diamond he had obtained from an African trader, he would discover the world’s largest diamond mine and grow more wealthy than he ever could have imagined. The problem was, though, that few persons would risk their greatest treasures for a story of myth. The man visiting the well that day was willing to risk everything.
He had gone largely unnoticed when passing through the village, unlike most heroes who did. It was the story of his life. The wish seeker was a tormented man, cheated out of all he had ever attempted. This was not because of his skill, his talent, or his knowledge. It was because of his height. The man was tiny, dwarfed by all but newly born children. Nobody ever saw him. Everything was out of reach. The word achievement had ceased to exist in his world. It frustrated him tremendously, and the time had come to deal with his impairment.
Months of research had surfaced the myth of the well. Finding the exact location had taken another. Reaching it, a year. But he had persevered, and one sunny day he hoisted himself up onto the ancient stone structure that would provide his new life. The depth of it was dazzling, little glimmers of previous offerings glistening in the sunlight that managed to make its way down. This was it, the well of legend, the little man’s salvation. Out of the pouch he wore across his waist came his treasure. It wasn’t much, and would not be of particular value to anyone, but it symbolized something priceless. A gift from his late grandmother, the pair of boots that the dwarf now held in his hands had belonged to his great grandfather, a man of massive proportions. For years it had signified the hope that he would grow out of his physical challenges, and thus for years it had kept him standing.
The little man took a deep breath, then dropped the boots into the well. As they plummeted down, he shouted at the top of his voice: ‘I wish to grow as tall as the trees!’. The well answered with a soft splash, as the boots broke the water’s surface. Then silence set in once more. Seconds passed, and nothing happened. No bright bursts of light. No magical music. No tingling sensation. Nothing. As the disappointment set in, the man lowered himself to the ground…and found that his feet immediately hit the soil! Closely followed was the ripping of his clothes, which were not fit for this newfound size. It did not matter. He examined himself and found that he had already taken on the proportions of a regular grown man. His body felt strong, energetic, and in his joy he danced around the meadow, uttering cries in his now masculine voice. Then, he decided to run, something he had never been able to do. He plunged into the thicket of trees, pushing himself harder and harder. His lungs burned, but he didn’t mind. He was soaring!
As he ran and ran, he began noticing a peculiar thing. The trees surrounding him seemed to grow shorter, and that was not all, they also seemed to move closer together. Soon after, he found himself dodging trees. Soon after that, he was trapped, and that was when he noticed his wish was really coming true. Literally. The trees started to crack as his size continued to expand, and seconds later they snapped like twigs. The former dwarf was now a giant, and he could see the village as he peered over the treetops. He had never intended to grow to his size, and if there would be anyone able to help him, that person would live in the village. So he stampeded towards it, ploughing his way through the forest, unrooting trees that had stood there for centuries. As desperate as he had been to grow bigger, now he wished he were a small man again.
In the village, panic had broken out. Everyone was packing their belongings, getting out while they still had the chance. They had seen it all. Merchants who had turned to gold, knights who were chased down by hordes of women, and little boys who had turned into apes in their attempt to become more rugged. But a giant coming from the well, in his full naked glory, that was too much.
Everyone fled, leaving the poor soul who emerged from the forest to his own devices.
They believed the well was cursed.
And they were proven right.