Author: David Barber

For as long as I can remember, any wish I made came true.

No, Reverend, let me finish, then I should be glad to hear your opinion.

Like that youth yesterday, over-revving his dirt-bike outside the window. Wishing things away is too easy.

You don’t remember jirts do you? I was afraid of them as a child, so they’re gone now, along with the colour chim and the singer Jimmy West, whose annoying summer hit was everywhere when I was twelve.

Consider for a moment the dangers of my gift, and you will understand why the world is such a damaged, incoherent place.

Thwarted as a child, I wished my parents away in anger, only to bring them back again in remorse, but now as strangers. Though that is not the worst of it.

I edited out Le Grande Peste which stopped the War in 1916, and we live with the consequences. A flu epidemic that felled 50 millions, and a catastrophic second war, ignited by some mad German.

I never tried to make the world a better place again.

A good question, Reverend, but no, I cannot explain my gift. It is nothing like fairy-tale wishing. I have wondered if the Many Worlds idea offers an answer.

In some world I must have won the Lottery, so wishing for it simply selects that alternative, though I recall it was one where I was born with a heart defect. Endlessly tinkering rarely improves things.

And what married man would not change some niggling habit in his spouse if he could? You cannot know the tragedy of the person you love warped into your creature.

Ah, of course you are sceptical, but proof is not easy. Unicorns must exist somewhere, so wishing for one would simply show you a common household pet. And if I made them vanish again, they would always have been fanciful nonsense.

Consider that Jamaican nurse who came in with my medication—

You say there has been no nurse?

Perhaps I am confused. After all, what sort of man would wish someone away simply to prove a point?

I do not want a sermon, Reverend. In the end I am a monster and weary of everything. There, the power of confession.

Guilt? Ah, now we come to it. But isn’t every future but one murdered by our choices?

I have unmade countless lives – no, let me finish – and lately the world has all the substance of a passing carnival; clowns I never saw before, and lofty men on stilts I will never see again. And increasingly I wondered about wishing everything away, and my curse with it.

So I did.

But it seems the whole world is not so easy to dispose of, for here I am, and the world still haunts me. Doctors say this brain tumour is inoperable, and has been swelling inside me for years. I find myself in a hospital bed, though I remember otherwise. And of course, our world ceases to exist when we die.

I knew you would not understand. I wish I had never confided in you now.

The rise and fall of my heartbeat on that monitor predicts the future; it is the stock market of my fate, and in a day it unravel miles.

Ah, nurse. Time for my pills again? And if you see the Hospital Chaplain, would you ask him to drop in please?