The room was filled with the scent of summer.
Seren Lark closed the book and placed it on the bedside table next to the untouched mug of tea. She wiped a tear from her eye.
‘I know it’s silly to cry over a children’s book, but…’ Seren gazed at the old woman in the hospital bed. She looked peaceful. The corners of her mouth turned upwards; her sunken eyes flickered beneath her lids. She was probably dreaming of a terrific pig.
‘Sleep well, Mrs Lewis,’ she whispered.
As Seren walked from the room, Mrs Lewis took her last fragile breath.
The scent of fear and disappointment, loneliness and regret. The filthy stench drifted around her like a thick fog as she walked through the wards. She could change them. But at a price: one final wish, their last chance of happiness, in exchange for their soul. The temptation was overwhelming.
Dizzy, she stumbled from the building into the chill of the early morning air. The streets were bare. Shopkeepers worked tirelessly setting the stage once more before the city awoke.
A young man wrapped in a blanket was ushered away from a restaurant doorway. He staggered off coughing, phlegm rattling on his chest.
A bitter scent of abandonment trailed behind him.
She couldn’t resist.
Seren followed him into an alleyway. He slumped against a skip. She knelt down and took him in her arms, cradling him like a mother with her child, rocking him back and forth.
Then she sang.
Words were limiting, but a song spoke to the heart. A smile formed on his dry lips. The aroma of roast beef and potatoes smothered in gravy filled the air.
It was the dying man’s wish.
She looked into his cloudy eyes as his life slipped away.
‘I can’t do this,’ she whispered, ‘I mustn’t.’
His lungs filled with life as she released him from her touch.
The young man lay on the floor gasping. ‘I saw the future unfold before my eyes,’ he stammered. ‘I was a sculptor working clay with my hands. I had a studio, a home, a wife, a child and a garden filled with pretty flowers.’
Tears ran down his face.
‘I watched my boy grow into a handsome man and take a wife of his own. I held his daughter in my arms.’
‘Forgive me, I should not have interfered.’
‘What did you do to me? Who are you?’
Seren unfolded her golden wings; they shimmered with every beat, gently lifting her feet off the ground.
‘I am Serendipity Lark. I am the converter.’
The young man’s eyes widened.
Seren laughed, ‘Live your life Henry. We’ll meet again, many years from now, when it’s time for your last wish.’
‘Then, what I saw…. that was real?’ Henry asked.
But Seren had gone.
He watched a lark fly out of the alleyway disappearing into the gathering dawn, a yellow feather twisting on a stray breeze.