Asha creeps down alleys and lanes, eyes downcast and pockets empty. The only thing she carries is a folded slip of paper tucked into her palm. Her fingers are ink-stained; she believes the magic will only work when the letters are penned in the deepest purple she can find and the paper has been hand-made from her own secret combination of pulp and ephemera.
Her pockets are empty because she knows the night streets are dangerous. If confronted, she will have nothing of worth to give, and Asha recognizes that this, in itself, is almost as dangerous as traveling around with a fat wallet and a neck hung with bling. What she doesn’t know is that she shines anyway, with an elusive glow obvious only to those familiar with the characteristics of hope.
Sometimes the letters that Asha delivers are relevant to her own needs and desires, but they are just as likely to contain the wishes of others, garnered from long telephone conversations with friends, bits she’s observed on the internet, or snippets overheard on street corners. Her writing is almost illegible, a tightly cramped scrawl filled with loops and curves that bend into shapes resembling ancient symbols whose meaning has long been lost, faded into obscure history texts or books on alchemy.
She approaches the cross streets and pauses. There is rarely anyone else in the area at this time of the evening but she wants to be sure. She quickly scurries forward, pulls down the lever on the night depository and stashes her letter inside. She checks to make sure it is secure in the metal box, but she doesn’t linger.
On her walk home, Asha imagines what the morning tellers make of the pages she leaves there. Do they laugh, she wonders, or do they covertly add their own wishes to the list? She hopes that what she’s doing isn’t some sort of federal offense. Upon her return, Asha’s boyfriend gives her an indulgent smile and goes to put the kettle on. He is used to her nocturnal outings and knows he cannot stop them.
Back at the bank, another figure emerges from the shadows. The woman is slim, dressed in tight jeans and a black tank top. Her cheeks are round, but she wears a much different face than the one usually portrayed by painters or prophets. Anyone mistaking her for human would know otherwise if they were there to see her reach into the depository and retrieve the slip of paper from the impossibly small chute.
The Moon Goddess cups the letter in her hands and murmurs a brief chant. When she opens her palms, the page has crumbled into thousands of tiny pieces. A light breeze emanates from her fingertips and, for miles around, people smile in their sleep, dream-fed. The Moon Goddess lifts her hands towards the sky and watches as the shredded bits drift silently upward. “There you are, my children.”
The stars hungrily devour their meal and the night echoes with their thanks.