Well Being

By Ella G Alexander

You must take responsibility for your own Well Being. It will die without you. Mine, at least, was half starved when we met. I saw it first when I tossed a coin into the well. I had come to fetch water, as I did every day, but a wish made me linger. The coin I tossed was not a very large one, but the wish wasn’t very large either. And it’s stupid to drop large coins down wells. Stupid to throw any money away, really, but that’s what I did.

A hand shot up and caught the coin before it hit the water. It held it there for a moment, then sank down. A head, neck, and a pair of mottled shoulders emerged. The creature staring up at me began to speak. “Is this your well?” Its voice echoed and spiraled as it climbed the round wall of the well. 

“No,” I said. “I just work here.”

“But I see you here a lot.”

“I fetch the water. It’s part of my job.”

It laughed, a noise like grinding meat. “But I never see anybody else.”

“Oh.”

“Even if you don’t own it, you’ve taken responsibility for the well.”

“I have?”

“And…” It had somehow slithered up, its elbows hooked onto the stone edge of the well. “Do you know what that makes me?”

I shook my head.

It held up the coin, which glinted once in the sun as if winking at me, then swallowed it. “I’m your Well Being.”

~

“But it’s not even my well.”

“You may not realize it,” said my Well Being, “but you’ve entered into a contract. In order to draw water from the well, you have to consider your Well Being.” It held up the coin, which glinted once in the sun as if winking at me, then swallowed it.

~

You must nourish your Well Being. Otherwise, it will seek revenge. 

Mine asked for hearts. These are rarely missed when an animal on the farm is slaughtered, so it wasn’t hard to find one. I hesitated over the well for some time, a cow’s heart dripping in my hand. When my Well Being didn’t rise up to meet me, I decided to drop the heart into the water. A hand shot up and grabbed it. Then I heard the gnashing of teeth.

My Well Being surfaced with more demands. It gave me a fistful of slimy wish coins, some foreign, some very old, and I thanked it. 

We continued like this until, some months later, I was kept away for three days. When I returned, the creature grabbed my wrist. “You’ve neglected your Well Being,” it said.

“I’m sorry. I had a funeral.”

“That’s no excuse. There is never an excuse to neglect your Well Being. If it happens again,” my Well Being explained, “I will pull you down below the water and eat your heart.” 

You are responsible for your own Well Being. It’s easy, in the moment, to shirk your duty. So easy, then, to slip.


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