This 200-word story is about waiting for the other shoe to drop.Read More
The three police officers waited in the precinct lot. One stood, two leaned on their cars, but none was at ease. "God, I wish this guy would show up," Officer Brusky said. "Stop it," said Sergeant Chopra. "It doesn't work like that."
"Yeah," added Officer Millikan. "You have to say something like, 'I wish I could run faster than Usain Bolt,' and then he shows up."
They didn't notice the purple smoke drifting out of their tailpipes until it coalesced into a muscular man with a broad smile. They jumped when he clapped his hands and boomed, "Your wish is granted!"
Service weapons practically leapt into the officers' hands. "You're under arrest," Chopra shouted. At the same time Brusky stammered, "What wish?"
"The wish to run faster, of course! Look at your phone!" Against Chopra's direction, Millikan holstered her weapon and checked the news. The surprise genie crossed his arms and looked smug. "Oh my god," she said, "look." She showed around a breaking news article: Bolt had just broken both legs in an accident.
"I didn't wish that!" she cried.
Chopra repeated, "You're under arrest!"
"Of course you did, Officer," the genie said. "And under arrest for what?"
"Um, battery. On Bolt," said the sergeant.
Millikan said, "But I didn't mean it!"
"I never touched him, your Honor," said the genie, dissolving into mist. "And you don't have to mean the words. You think anyone else thinks their wish will come true?" He vanished.
"Dammit," cried Brusky, whose trigger finger looked itchy.
"Told you this wouldn't work," Chopra said.
Officer Millikan met with the department counselor a few times, then returned to work. A month later, she ran down a fleeing suspect with unbelievable speed. The next day, the news revealed that Bolt's supposed injury had been a hoax.
Manny looked blearily at his alarm clock. He wondered if he'd just hit snooze or off, then wondered if he'd wake up again even if it blared more shitty 80s music. "God," he croaked, "I wish I could sleep longer." He closed his eyes and hoped he wouldn't be late for work. "You can!" boomed a deep voice, eliminating all danger of further sleep. Manny sat upright to see a large man in his small studio apartment, smiling at him with gleaming white teeth. He was muscular from the waist up and an intangible wisp from the waist down.
"How'd you get in?" Manny scrambled for the baseball bat he kept by the bed.
"I'm the surprise genie!" the man boomed. "Now, you can sleep as long as you want, no interruptions, guaranteed!"
Manny blinked. "Really?"
"Truly!" The genie grinned.
"So, I can go back to sleep?"
"Of course! Farewell!" The genie disappeared with a sound like a balloon popping and a burst of purple mist. Manny went back to sleep and got to work three hours late and received a reprimand. As he ground his teeth over it, he heard a distant, "The power was within you all along!"
The light flickered when Ksenia turned it on, and it kept flickering. "Stupid lamp," she said. "I need a lamp that works." Joasia sat forward in the secondhand recliner. "Maybe some mood lighting."
"Yeah, that would be nice. I wish I had a lava lamp. Uh..." The flickering light tinged purple as a mist rose up out of the central air vents.
"Your wish is grrrrrrranted!" boomed a deep voice, and a muscular man appeared. "Behold!" The flickering lamp now cast an ominous glow as lava poured from its lampshade. It pooled on the floor, which creaked and smoldered, promising a conflagration.
"That doesn't count," Joasia said. The two women moved away from the lava.
"It is a lamp of lava, is it not?" The genie grinned.
"I guess, but Lava Lamp is a trademark. It's a specific product. This isn't a Lava Lamp."
"I..." The genie's grin faltered. "Really?"
Ksenia blinked. "Um, yeah. That's definitely what I meant. You have to undo... this. Right now." She had backed into a corner.
With a petulant wave of his hand, the genie returned everything to normal, and vanished.
Ksenia sighed in relief. "Was all that true? About the trademark?"
"Now me show you Elmo's friends!" babbled the furry red puppet. Three-year-old Suzy watched raptly. Her mother Susan winced and tried to focus on her book, but the puppet's shrill laughter made it impossible. Muttering under her breath to avoid disturbing Suzy's fun, Susan said, "I wish this show featured less of Elmo." A purplish mist roiled into the living room through the air return. Suzy looked at it and then at her mother, but before either could speak a deep voice said, "Grrrrrranted!" A muscular man appeared from the mist, smiling broadly.
"Now it's time for Indiana Elmo and the Last Who Said!" cried the red monster. "Who said that? Let's find out!" Standing at a cobwebbed tunnel, Elmo said, "The patient one will pass." He paused a heartbeat. "Okay, Elmo's done being patient!" Elmo ran forward and a scythe severed Elmo's head at the neck. Elmo screamed and blood shot everywhere. As the puppet flailed, Susan saw foreshortened fingers gushing red, lost in the red fur of the monster.
Suzy screamed along with Elmo. Susan turned on the genie in the fury, but before she could speak he said, "Buh-bye, now!" and burst into a fading purple fog.
Jenny watched the man as he went by, appreciating his fedora. "Man, I wish I had a hat as cool as that." "Grrrrrrrranted!" boomed an echoing voice. All around her, a purple haze rose into the air, and a muscular, shirtless man stepped out from the mist, his bright grin showing through his beard. Jenny stepped back in surprise, wondering if she had her mace, then reflexively caught a ratty purple beanie as it appeared in front of her.
"This... really doesn't compare with that fedora," she said.
"No, maybe not," said the genie, "but it is exactly the same temperature!"
"Really? That's your loophole?" The genie laughed. "Wait, will they always be the same temperature?"
"Of course! My wishes are always true!"
"Okay, so I could use this as some kind of remote temperature gauge. Maybe send it into the deep ocean for readings... or the Earth's core. No, it would burn up. Holy shit! We could launch it into a black hole, and take readings from the other side!"
"What?" said the genie.
"I've got to get that hat," Jenny said, running after the man.
"Why do I feel like I screwed this one up?" asked the genie.
Dennis slouched on the plastic bench seat and looked out the school bus window, slouching and morose. "I wish the ride to school was shorter," he said. Purple mist billowed up from the bus's heating vents, casting everything in a lilac tint until Dennis couldn't even see the backpack he'd put next to him to save the seat. "Your wish," boomed a deep voice, "is grrrrrranted!" A muscular, half-naked man with a big beard and white grin appeared from the mist. From below him, the bus made a loud, grinding clunk, and shuddered to a stop.
"I can really wish for things?" Dennis said. "This is awesome!"
After a moment on the radio, the driver said, "Okay, kids, just hang tight. We're getting another bus to pick us up and finish the route."
"Hey." Dennis looked at the genie. "This didn't make the ride shorter at all!" The genie shrugged.
"Hold on." The driver listened to the radio. "Change of plans. They can't find a bus for us, so we're going to have to walk to school. Everybody get your stuff."
In his booming voice, the genie declared, "The ride is over!" and evaporated into mist.
"This sucks," Dennis said.