Short Story: Careful what you wish for

I’m very tired, and I’ve been meaning to post some of my own writing on here, rather than just criticizing other people’s, so I thought I’d share a fun story I wrote last year for (I think) a Reedsy contest. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but maybe some of you will like it.

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You find a $100 bill on the street. A few blocks later, you find another. A few blocks later, another…

“This is ridiculous.” You bend to pick it up, scowling, “No one would believe this!” You shout at the sky.

You shouldn’t be drawing attention to yourself, but Eric’s the one to blame for this whole mess. Just because he touched the lamp first, he gets to be the one the genie listens to?

“This isn’t fair!” No one’s around to hear you, the streets uncharacteristically deserted since you stomped off in a huff when the disembodied voice wouldn’t respond to you. “Let’s hope Eric hasn’t managed to break the world yet.”

You were going to wish for unimaginable riches in the form of untraceable wealth; getting the added bonus of plausible deniability in case you got investigated by the tax department. “How am I supposed to file this, huh Eric? Definitely-not-the-work-of-the-undeclared-genie-we-found-on-someone-else’s-property, nope!” Your voice startles some nearby birds. As they fly off, you yell at them, “Acts of god are taxed at a much higher rate than other forms of income!”

You kick the next bill you find on the ground, and it catches on a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe. You stumble and fall across a duffle bag, torn at one corner and spewing currency left and right.

“Oh, very funny.”

“Yeah? What’s funny about it?”

A pair of very large boots come to rest in the corner of your vision, and you look up (and up, and up) to find the owner of the voice.

A large bald woman stands there, distinctly unamused and unlikely to look favourably on the teenager lying across her (presumably ill-gotten) bag of cash. Damnit, of course this genie thing would backfire!

“Uh, my seeing eye dog running off?” You squint off to one side of her face, “I can’t see a thing, without uh, Spot. Spotty.”

Her face doesn’t change. “Aren’t seeing eye dogs usually golden retrievers?” She looks at you like you’re on par with the gum you’re now scraping off your shoe, using what you belatedly realise is probably her $100 bill, “Golden retrievers aren’t spotty,” she adds.

“I wouldn’t know!” You say, triumphantly, “On account of, uh, I’m super blind. Can’t see faces at all, nope. What is this odd cardboard I’ve fallen on?”

The woman waits until you stand up, making a great show of holding your hands in front of you and calling your imaginary dog before she says, “You’d be Adam, then. Eric said you were a bit daft.”

“Eric!” you sputter, “Where is he? I’ll kill him!”

“I wouldn’t try it, if I were you.”

“Yeah, well you’re not.” You’ve crossed your arms across your chest, pouting. The curiosity gets the better of you within about half a second and you peer at the woman without uncrossing your arms, “Alright, I’ll bite. Why not?”

She points at the sky, and you look up at the dragon you’d been ignoring, assuming it was just university students practicing their illusions.

“Eric wished for a dragon?” Even he’s not that stupid.

“Eric is the dragon.”

“What?” It seems you’d vastly underestimated Eric’s stupidity.

“He said, and I quote—This’ll be so cool if it works­—then he wished to be a dragon. I obliged.” She shrugs, her massive shoulders rippling the cape she wears in hypnotic fashion.

“You,” you pause, struggling not to offend, “You ah, didn’t used to be, to have, ah—”

“A corporeal form?”

“Boobs.” You blurt out, immediately regretting it. You’d wish to sink into the ground but she’d probably do it.

Her eyes reflect fire in their depths, but you think that’s normal, for genies.

“Is that normal?” you ask. No point assuming anything.

“Breasts? They certainly seem to be, from what I have seen of your time.”

“No! Not the—” you break off, blushing furiously, “Never mind. So that’s my money, then?”

“Of course.” She waits until you’ve stooped to pick it up before continuing, “You have the remaining wish to use. Eric is no longer capable of wishing for anything, and three wishes is the traditional boon.”

“I get another one?”

She inclines her head, something about the gesture registering as distinctly non-human, raising all the fine hairs on the back of your neck.

“Oh, that’s okay.”

“What?”

“I’m good, I’ll take a raincheck on the ah, wish.”

She doesn’t respond so you wave your hand, “You may leave here.”

Her eye-flames turn vaguely blue-ish and you take an involuntary step backwards.

“I cannot.”

“Can’t what? Leave?”

“Make your wish, human!” Her voice is improbably loud, swirling the wind around me.

“Okay, geez! What do people usually wish for? What’s like, a good wish?”

“Morality is a side effect of current social mores. I could no more tell you what is ‘good’ in this time than I could influence your wish. My power is at your disposal, I am a mere facilitator in this process.” The genie looks at my blank face and sighs, the motion affecting far more air than seems logical. Her cape is swirling around her… are her legs missing?

You look away hastily, before she thinks you’re ogling her.

“Most humans of your age and sex wish for status, female companionship and physical improvements. In my experience, currency should take care of the first two wishes.” The genie gives me a meaningful look, and you wonder if you should be offended.

Physical improvements? You’re getting body-shamed by an impossibly ancient supernatural creature, now? “Right, right, makes sense. Okay, in that case, I guess I wish to be, uh, really attractive?”

There’s a flash of light, and you look down. You haven’t changed in any way that you can see. “This had better not be some lesson about self-esteem.” You glance back up, but the genie has gone, leaving behind a swirling mass of fire and wind

An ominous laugh swirls from the small tornado where she once stood.

You glance behind yourself nervously, clutching the duffel bag of cash to your chest. Dragon-Eric is swooping happily at some nearby pigeons.

The genie’s voice echoes all around you as you squint through the debris stirred up by her once-more incorporeal form. “Oh, I’ll enjoy this one. You should have specified what you wanted to attract, fool.”

Your shout attracted the attention of the large green dragon that was once your friend.

Why didn’t you notice how large his teeth were before?

Dragon-Eric’s eyes gleam.

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