“I wish for the world to reach Utopian status within the next century and maintain it until the sun burns out naturally,” Peter said. After he made his wish, he laid down on the couch to wait for three minutes.
“Wait, that’s your wish?” The genie asked. She walked to the couch and looked down on Peter through narrow eyes. “That doesn’t count yet, unless you’re sure,” she added.
“I’m sure,” Peter replied. The genie shook her head, her gold dangling earrings jingled with the motion.
“No, no. Hold on. You haven’t even given it any thought,’ she said. “I didn’t even tell you when you had to use it. Why don’t you hold on to it for a while, maybe you can think of a way out.” Peter remained on his back, but he gave her a curious look.
“You said I can’t wish for anything that will save me,” he said. “There’s no way out.”
“You didn’t even try,” she said. She had an edge of annoyance in her voice. Peter shrugged.
“I’m going to die one day anyway, right? At least this way, my death means something for everyone else.”
“They’ll never know it was you,” she said. Peter laughed.
“I’m going to be dead, it doesn’t really matter,” he said.
“No, c’mon. You’re supposed to try and outwit me. I’m a genie, there’s gotta be a loophole, right?” She grabbed his hand to try and pull I’m off the couch; she only managed to get him sitting upright again. “I said you can’t wish for anything that’ll save you, but maybe you can come up with a wish that ends up saving you as a side effect? You can take your time, there’s no rush. I’ll just hang around until you use it up.” Peter tilted his head at the genie.
“What’s life like inside the lamp?” he asked. She hadn’t accepted his wish, so he felt comfortable starting a conversation.
“It’s not bad,” she said. “It’s actually a pocket universe, so I’m not cramped or anything. It’s a lot like being the last person on Earth, I have an entire planet to myself.”
“Do you have to grant wishes?” he asked. The genie nodded and shrugged simultaneously.
“What’s the point of a genie that doesn’t grant wishes?” she said.
“Why just one wish? And why does it kill me?” Peter asked. The genie shrugged again. She sensed it was going to turn into a conversation and sat down on the couch next to him.
“Genies get to make up their own rules. The three wish limit is commonly accepted, so most genies will use that as a standard. I’ve tried several different rulesets; and, I’ve found that making a client think long and hard about one wish earns me a lot of free time on the outside world. Most people…,” the genie reached out and gave Peter a playful shove. “…think about their wish for more than a few minutes.” Peter smiled as he gave her situation some more thought.
“I think you’re right, maybe I rushed it,” he smirked at her. “Give me a few years and I’m pretty sure I can outsmart you,” he said.
“Really?” she asked, her eyes brightened. Peter nodded.
“But, until then, do genies eat? It’s getting close to dinner time and since I’m going to be alive, I need to eat. You should join me,” he said. The genie grinned.
“What’s your goal for the first wish?” Jeannie asked. The mid-30s wish lawyer spent most of her early life resenting her name. She grew up on an Earth where genies were common. Kids would give her non-stop ‘wishes’ on the playground. In her college years, the ‘wishes’ became more obnoxious. Until she realized the marketing potential in her name while in a business class.
After over a decade of work, Jeannie’s practice had a very positive reputation. She herself was well connected to genie social circles; her name made a great conversation starter. The genies she referred her clients to often did a good job of upholding her reputation. Her positive reviews were the reason she was approached by Sharp Development. After that meeting, Jeannie was at the forefront of the multiversal tourism boom. It was equal parts stressful and amazing at first. People, like her middle-aged client, came from other universes to her Earth to make wishes.
“Goal?” Abel asked. “You’re a wish lawyer, right? I’m here to get my wishes twist-proofed.” Jeannie’s experience let her maintain a smile while she sighed inside. She guessed he was going to be that type of client, but she was still hopeful. She long ago learned that trying to explain it to them would drag the process out.
“Then what’s your first wish?” Jeannie asked, even though she already knew. It was the same with most tourists.
“I want to be rich,” Abel replied. Jeannie nodded.
“For how long?” she asked.
“What?” Abel laughed. “What do you mean how long? That’s a stupid question.”
“You could wish to be the richest man in the world, and have that wish granted. But, the genie gets free reign to interpret anything unspecified however it wishes. Your money could be gone in an hour.” Jeannie explained with the patience of a school teacher.
“Oh, okay.” Abel said. He sat up straighter. Jeannie could tell he’d never considered that before, and she was glad to see he was willing to take in new information. That would make the process easier. “Yes, forever.” he nodded.
“Does that mean you want to live forever?” Jeannie asked. She watched Abel’s brown eyes dull slightly.
“Uh.. no? Wait. Can I?” he asked. Jeannie gave a slight nod.
“That starts getting into wish optimization. If we word a wish carefully enough it can easily cover two or three of the things you want to get done. Which is why it’s helpful for me to know your goals for each wish.”
“Oh, sorry,” Abel said sincerely. “But.. that kind of is my goal for the first wish. I didn’t think of it any deeper than, ‘I want money’,” he admitted.
“Okay, we’ll get back to that right now. Tell me about your other two wishes. What goals do you have?”
“Well, I know money can’t buy love,” Abel shrugged. “So, that was going to be my second wish. To find a nice woman to marry,” he said. Jeannie nodded and continued to take notes on her desk.
“And my third wish was going to be for happiness. Because money can’t buy that, and it doesn’t come from love. So, I’m hoping to cover all my bases this way and just get a perfect life.” Abel said.
“Wonderful,” Jeannie smiled, sincerely this time. It wasn’t her practiced customer service smile. He was brusque at first, but now she could tell that was just the persona he was used to projecting. Being on alternate Earths did that to people sometimes. There’s a kind of magical freedom in knowing you’re in a completely new place with no past definition of you. “After all my years, I can guarantee all three of those things in one wish.”
“Really!?” Abel straightened his back and scooted closer to the edge of his seat. His eyes sparkled like the world was opened up to him all of a sudden. He had access to two more life changing wishes.
“Yes, but,” Jeannie said. Abel deflated slightly. This is all information that’s in the pamphlet, but I like to go over it anyway just to be sure you know. As an alternate tourist, you’re only allowed three wishes in your lifetime; from any and all genies.” Abel tilted his head slightly.
“Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?” Abel asked. He didn’t read the pamphlet, but he was expected to have that limit. Jeannie shook her head.
“Genies on this Earth are unionized. Freelance genies don’t share information the same way. It’s technically possible to get three wishes from multiple genies, but that has it’s own problems. Freelance genies tend to be lonely, crabby, and prone to wish corruption. On this Earth, they’re much more personable. Of course, as I said, they can interpret anything unspecified. So, a lot of it comes down to how you phrase your wish. If you’re nice about it, they’ll likely be too.”
“Oh,” Abel said.
“What I like to recommend to my clients is to make one wish first. Live with that for a while and see how things change. Plus, it’ll give you a chance to come up with more wishes. We just freed up two of yours, and right now you’re scrambling to come up with two more, right?” Jeannie asked. Abel nodded sheepishly.
“Yeah,” he said.
“Okay, perfect.” Jeannie flipped to blank sheet, scribbled something on the pad, then tore it off. She handed it to Abel with a bright pink business card. “This is Bhithas the Gracious. He enjoys these kinds of wishes, so he’ll treat you right.” Abel accepted the card and glanced at the sheet.
“This is my wish?” he asked. Jeannie nodded.
“Five words? Talk about room for interpretation,” Abel said.
“Genies don’t make magic, they’re just conduits. The real magic comes from the universe.”
“Which universe?” Abel asked.
“Any one you’re in,” Jeannie answered. The void, dark matter, anything you want to call it, is pure energy. The problem most people run into is thinking they need to overcomplicate their wishes to outsmart the genie. They’re proud and if they see a challenge, they’re going to take it. They then take it upon themselves to show you everywhere they were smarter than you.” Jeannie pointed at the paper in Abel’s hand.
“Give them a simple request and most of the time they’re glad to help give you all the energy you need.”
“But.. this doesn’t mention any of my three wishes?” Abel asked. Jeannie smiled.
“I’ve been doing this for over a decade. I’m so sure that’ll work, that Bhithas allows a wish back guarantee. He’ll explain it to you, but if you make the wish and aren’t satisfied after a year, you can cancel it.”
“A year?” Abel asked. The disappointment in his voice was obvious. Wishes were supposed to be instant.
“Magic is like most things. Too much too fast can make immediate changes, but those changes aren’t likely to stick around. Small steps work best for permanent changes.””Alright,” Abel looked at the words again and sighed in acceptance. “Thank you so much for everything,” he stood from his seat. “I’m gonna go make a wish to improve my life,” he said with an amused smile, but he shook his head. “I want to do better,” he practiced his wish as he walked out the door.