Fold one thousand paper cranes in your life, and you will get a wish, so the legend says. Given the amount of time it takes to fold one thousand paper cranes, very few people have completed the task. Amelie was a rare exception.
She had learnt to fold cranes at the age of ten, and found the movement with her hands, having something to do, calming. Initially, she made them just for fun, but before she reached sixteen, the origami had become a coping method, a way to deal with her scrambled brain and butterfly heart. It was the racing heart that had led her to reach for the paper a few minutes before the strange thing appeared in her room.
She had just made the last fold, crisping the edges with her fingernails, when the thing appeared in front of her. It was tall, but looked like it was somehow standing wrong, as if it were a dog standing on its hind legs. It had a nose that came somewhere between an elephant’s trunk and a pig snout, with a mouth just underneath it and two white, aged tusks protruding either side of it. It was covered in iridescent fur, with a stripe of white running down the centre of its back and finishing in a tuft at the end of its tail.
‘Hi there!’ Its voice was a low growl but there was an unmistakable sense of friendliness to it.
‘Um, hi?’ Amelie’s eyebrows furrowed as the creature gave no further explanation of itself, despite a lengthy pause. ‘Can I help you?’
‘Oh, sorry, completely forgot. You just folded your thousandth paper crane! Congratulations!’ It pulled out a party popper from somewhere on its person and set it off so that the strings of paper adorned Amelie’s hair.
‘I’m sorry, what?’
‘You know the legend – fold one thousand paper cranes and you get a wish!’
‘And you are…?’
The creature shook its head, looking briefly at the floor. ‘I always forget to introduce myself! I am your personal wish granter, my name is Baku.’
‘Your name is what and you’re my who?’
The thing’s – Baku’s – smile vanished, replaced with a look of disdain. ‘I am Baku, you folded one thousand paper cranes, I am here to grant you a wish.’ It muttered something about how modern people had no appreciation for the old gods anymore before looking back to Amelie, smile back on its face.
‘And why should I believe you?’
Baku perceptibly rolled its eyes. ‘Look, you see these tusks, and these claws,’ it said, pointing to each of the body parts respectively, ‘if I wanted to kill you, or hurt you, I would have done so by now. I can see you just finished folding a crane, is there anything so crazy about this all really?’
Amelie sat down on to her bed, feeling slightly sick. Her hands instinctively reached for the paper as her breathing quickened, unable to take her eyes of this thing that was in the room. She looked down at the paper, breathing slower, and deeper, with each fold. Her hands had slowed to an almost imperceptible tremor when she asked her next question, her eyes firmly on the crane. ‘So what are my options?’
She slowly looked up to see Baku brighten. ‘Right, let’s get into it then! There are three rules: you cannot wish for anything that would directly harm another person, you cannot wish for anything that would upset the natural order of things, and you cannot corrupt any person’s will.’
One idea jumped to the forefront of her mind immediately. ‘I wish for you to cure my anxiety.’
Baku titled its head, and frowned. ‘I don’t think that would be wise. You see, to do that would require resetting a deep-rooted psychological pathway very suddenly. It’s too dangerous.’
‘So there are more than three rules?’
‘I’d say that one’s more of a guideline.’
Amelie crossed her arms. ‘You won’t do it though. What about super speed?’
‘I can do that! But from what I’ve seen, the novelty does soon wear off. Just a warning.’
Amelie rolled her eyes. ‘I feel like you’re being deliberately obtuse.’ She wouldn’t normally have been this honest with someone that she had just met, but this was a something, not a someone, and besides, the entire situation seemed to have sent her brain into partial shutdown anyway. For now, it was easier to go along with everything and pretend it was all normal. Her fingers still fiddled with the crane she had folded, making the wings flap.
‘All I’m saying is this decision is not one to be made in haste. Wishes can’t be undone, and you would do best to make it worthwhile rather than ending up wishing that you had wished for something better your whole life.’
‘Alright then.’ Amelie slumped back in her chair, placing the origami crane on to her desk, at the end of a row of around ten others. ‘I have some thinking to do.’
Baku sat on the floor and curled up like a cat, yawning. ‘Wake me up when you’ve decided.’
Amelie grabbed a piece of paper and began to write ideas for wishes down, scribbling them all out one by one until half an hour later, she was left satisfied.
Unsure how to wake up Baku, she cleared her throat. It didn’t stir, so she poked it, very gently, with her pen cap. It yawned, stretched, and stood up.
‘Ready to make a wish?’
Amelie nodded, and told it.
‘That’s a pretty good wish. And I have heard a fair few wishes in my time.’ Baku raised its two front limbs and closed its eyes. A teal light shone from somewhere behind it, surrounding it. The light disappeared, and Baku opened its eyes and smiled. ‘Your wish is granted.’
‘You know, you have some sort of gift,’ Amelie’s friend said to her as they lounged on a picnic blanket at the park. Three dogs surrounded them, jumping into Amelie’s lap, all fighting for attention, trying to lick her face and laying down on their backs, presenting their stomachs for belly rubs.
The owners came running over, each apologising and trying to get their dogs back. Amelie just smiled at them and pushed the dogs back to their owners.
‘Something like that.’ Amelie smiled to herself, feeling a kind of peace for the first time in years.