Malcolm Potter was desperate enough to finally make the pilgrimage. He once thought it was all silly nonsense, but things had gone too far. The monster in the White House had made an incredible mess over the past two years, rolling back environmental protections so that his rich buddies could clear cut and strip mine, even in national parks, chipping away at abortion rights, healthcare, protections for all marginalized populations across the board, and having a religious fanatic as his Vice President. The nation was spinning out of control.
He had been a staunch atheist for most of his five decades of life, and couldn’t understand why religions were still tolerated since they were one of the major causes of war, oppression, persecution, and colonialism. Yet, even though his last hope was firmly grounded in superstition and belief in the occult, it was still a hope. Only the stone could restore the correct orientation of the world, and return it to a course that ultimately would lead to utopia.
“Who are you?” Malcolm thought he’d be the only one here, but a woman was standing on the other side of the stone.
“Who are you and what do you want?” She was young, maybe mid-twenties, and seemed positively terrified of the newly arrived man.
“My name’s Malcolm. I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Why did you come here? The old lady said she hadn’t told anyone else about the stone.”
“Old lady? My mediation instructor is a forty-five year old man and he said the same thing.”
“You, too?” The pair turned toward the voice, and saw a middle-aged African-American man walking toward them. “My great-auntie swore she was the only one who knew.”
Then they saw the rest, from far and wide, all around them, strolling toward the stone. The youngest must have been about 14, and the oldest needed a walker to get around. Malcolm and the woman he’d just met ran to help her.
“It’s okay. You’re here for the stone, too?” Malcolm got to one side of her to support her weight.
“I’m Esmeralda,” said the woman who supported her from the other side. “Let us help you.”
“Thank you, thank you very much.” Her voice was weak, almost a whisper, as if she needed all of her energy just to breathe.
In the end, there were hundreds gathered around the stone, all of them like Malcolm, desperate, needy, even panicky, but all for different reasons.
“Please stop Donald Trump from destroying everything good and right.” Malcolm uttered his simple wish just as he was told he should.
“My baby boy has cancer. He’s only eighteen months. The doctors say they there’s a treatment, but it’s so expensive. Please help him.” Esmeralda was sobbing as she uttered the last three words.”
“I’m a working class guy, self-employed,” began the African-American man Malcolm had met earlier. “Nobody can afford medical insurance anymore except the rich and the poor. I’m being taxed for not having any insurance, but out-of-pocket, it’ll bankrupt me. I can’t let my family suffer like that anymore. Please fix that stupid law.”
The woman with the walker muttered her plea like a prayer. “It’s not that I don’t have faith, but the world can’t wait any longer. There’s no decency or morality anymore. If you can, please send Jesus to save us and redeem our broken planet.”
One by one, everybody present, with more people arriving all the time, spoke of their broken hearts, their lost dreams, gay children bullied at school, a Christian student being hazed at her liberal arts college, A Jewish man whose daughter was beaten by Muslims while she was vacationing in France, and was now in a coma, an environmental scientist whose children were doxed by deniers, all of them with their cares and woes, all so different from one another, and yet brought together by the their needs.
“What do you think is going to happen?” Esmeralda walked away from the stone with Malcolm to help make room for the new arrivals, which were streaming in from all over the world, every country, every tongue. There were persecuted Christians from Somalia, gays and lesbians who had been tortured in Iran, a Muslim man whose daughter was burned to death by Hindu mobs in India.
“I don’t know. I thought I was the only one who felt like this, and that I had the only solution. If I could just wish it into being, the world would be a better place.”
“It surprised me, too. I mean, you and I are so different, so is everyone else around the stone.”
“All different, but all the same, all human.”
“I don’t think the stone can grant all of those wishes. Some of them are the opposite of others. I mean, how could it merge them all into one world?”
The answer occurred to Malcolm, but like some of the others around the stone, he didn’t want to believe it.
“Hey.” They both felt a hand pat them on the shoulder and turned to see the man with health insurance problems. “My name’s George and I think I get it what the stone is all about.”
“What’s that?” Esmeralda tilted her head to one said, a quizzical expression on her face.
“That stone isn’t going to grant any wishes. It’s doing something even better.”
“What’s better than wishing for social justice and equality?” Malcolm had a sinking feeling that he had just wasted his time, but why would he have been sent here by someone he trusted if it was all a hoax?
“Bringing us all together. Look out there.” George waved his arm at the crowds continuing to surround the stone. “You’ve got people talking to each other who wouldn’t have been caught dead together in the same room an hour ago. I see gangbangers talking to cops, Muslims, Jews, and Christians praying with each other, soldiers and pacifists getting to know each other, you name it. They’re all relating to each other.”
“How is that even possible?” Malcolm already knew the answer, but he hesitated to put it into words.
“Because we’re all people. That’s got to be it.” A smile slowly graced Esmeralda’s lips, then she founded again. “But how does that help my baby?”
“Maybe we can help each other. I’m an oncologist. If you tell me where you live, I might be able to do something.”
The woman opened her mouth to object and Malcolm put a finger up to his lips to stop her.
“I’ll wave my fee and I can get other specialists to donate their services. I think George is right. The stone isn’t supposed to fix the world for us, we have to do it. We can all come together, like we have here. Maybe we can’t create a perfect world, but by seeing each other as people first, we might be able to make the current one better.”
I wrote this for Thursday photo prompt: Stone #writephoto hosted at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Each Thursday, Sue posts one of her original photos and challenges anyone wanting to participate to use it as a prompt for crafting a poem, short story, or other creative work.
This is probably similar to The Wishing Tree, which I wrote a few weeks ago, but in this case, there’s no magic involved, at least not the kind of magic you might expect.
I’ve probably offended just about everyone by writing this since I’ve reduced all of the differences between people down to a single, common denominator. But I wanted to point out that while this sort of world doesn’t seem possible given the wide variety of different values we all represent, we can at least attempt to understand each other as human beings who all have troubles and fears. Maybe then, we’ll be willing to help at least some others who aren’t like us, and be able to talk without having to be upset.