This is the third draft of this story and the second time it has appeared here. All comments or constructive critique are welcomed. Let me know what you think. Thanks!!
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I don’t know why I still come here. I guess it’s the familiarity of the place that draws me back. Every time I do visit I still marvel at how much of it hasn’t changed. There are a few buildings here and there that have gone up. A few more that have disappeared, but the majority of the skyline has remained constant. There are some subtle changes that one can’t help but stare at. Even though much time has passed I find it surprising that this place, or at least many parts of it, continue to be burgeoning shitholes. So much for the balance of wealth.
Inevitably, I find myself where this whole thing started. It was here that my destiny changed. To say that it changed significantly would be an understatement. It was here that I became immortal. That’s right you read correctly. Immortal. I am sure that anyone who has seen a vampire movie has imagined himself or herself as a denizen of the night, but more than that they have wondered what it would be like to live forever. It is a fantasy of man to be immortal. Those of us who grow from adolescence to adulthood realize that such a thing would be a curse and not a gift. Still, in the hearts of a select few the thought of immortality is a passing fancy. A “what if” that mortals indulge in to ease the pain of their linear lives. Then there are the rare few, very rare few, who no longer have to fantasize. For them it is a reality.
How could this happen? You might ask. How is it possible? Well, the answer is fairly simple really. I made a wish. Well, technically it was two wishes. Everyone, I believe, plays the game of what they would wish for if given the opportunity. It’s a passing fancy to get through the tough times in life when circumstances have screwed us or chance has passed us by. It is at these times when we say I wish this or that was different.
The difference in wishes is as different as the people making the wish. Some wish for power, some for money or fame. Really basic and unimaginative stuff. A lot of times you could find a loophole in the wish itself. A way to grant the wish, but not the way the wisher had intended. For example if someone wishes to be the richest person in the world. Instead of giving them money just make everyone else poorer. Or if they wished to live in the biggest house in the world, they would find themselves in a prison. My friend Tom and I played this game a lot. I would make a wish and he would mess with it. He would make a wish and I would mess with it. One day he told me that he had a wish that was foolproof. He said he wouldn’t even need three wishes only two. His first wish would be that the grantor of this wish, be it genie, or afreet, or whatever, would be able to read his mind. For the second wish he would tell the genie to read his mind and give him what he wants. I thought about this for a long time. I couldn’t find any holes in it. No loopholes. A perfect wish.
Spring turned into summer and with it my attention turned to a favorite pastime. Motorcycles. When the weather was permitting my friend and I would venture out onto the back roads of our state to take in the sights. It was on one of these excursions that we found ourselves in the quaint little town in which I now stand. We had stopped for gas when I spotted the grand opening of a new antique shop across the street. My friend needed to get some drinks for the road so I left him to see what was in the shop. Another one of my interests was collecting antiques and I thought that this place might have something of interest. There wasn’t anything unusual about the place. It was a bit run down and the floor creaked and groaned while walking across it. It smelled of mildew and old books. There was some light music playing in the background to create atmosphere. I walked over to the jewelry case and began looking. The fat man behind the counter asked, “May I help you?”, while trying to stuff a handful of French fries into his mouth. I looked up at him momentarily and told him, “No, I’m just looking.” There wasn’t anything in the case that warranted the inflated amount that he had on the price tags. After the display case I began to look around the rest of the store. He had quite a collection of junk. Everything from old mason jars with marbles in them to even older wagons that read “adio Flye”. It should have read Radio Flyer, but the paint was chipped and rusted away. Over in the corner he had a collection of brass items. There was a badly dented spittoon, half a trombone, a collection of “lucky” brass rings from old merry go rounds and several brass genie style lamps. Being in the market for a new incense burner I looked over the lot. The magic marker sign above them read “$5.00/lamp or 2 for $9.00. I looked each of them over and found them to be mostly the same. There was one, however, that was different from the rest. It was a little heavier and seemed to be of better quality. Also, along the side of the lamp there was an inscription that I had assumed to be Arabic. It was deeply engraved into the metal. There were small brass rings on the top of the rounded handle and directly after the lid so that you could hang the lamp by a set of chains. Overall, I felt that this was the nicest of the lamps so I decided to purchase it. I took it to the counter and gave the fat man five bucks. He wrapped the lamp in paper and stuck it in a bag. I made my way back to my bike, placed the package into my saddlebag and forgot about it for almost two weeks.
I stumbled across the package while cleaning out the bag I had taken on the trip that day. After straightening everything out I set about examining the little lamp. I turned it this way and that looking for some indication of where the thing had been made, but I could find none. I tried to get the lid off but it was stuck. I tried prying it off, but that didn’t work either. I was beginning to think that the lid didn’t come off at all. As I sat there trying to figure out what to do next I gently rubbed the inscription that was on the side of the lamp. I suddenly felt as if a small charge ran through my body. As I regained my composure, I looked down at the lamp and heard a small click. I then saw that the lid on the lamp was ajar and a small whiff of smoke issued forth from the crack created. I looked and then blinked because the smoke didn’t dissipate, as it should. Instead it continued to gently roll forth down the side of the lamp onto the table, eventually dropping to the floor. It seemed that where was no end to the gentle smoke. Carefully I reached over to the lamp and attempted to shut the lid. I couldn’t move it. As hard as I pushed it wouldn’t move back into place. I left it there on the table to get something to hammer it closed. When I returned the lid on the lamp was now fully open and smoke boiled over out of the lamp. Quickly I ran upstairs to fetch a fire extinguisher. As I raced to find it I grew more and more frantic. I was sure that I would have full blazing inferno when I returned. Every cabinet and closet I looked in was empty of the one item I was desperate for. Finally I found what I was looking for in the spare bedroom. I raced back through the dining room to reach the basement convinced that I would see smoke bellowing out of the door. I rounded the corner to the basement stairs and made my way down. As I headed down the stairs and approached the living room I could feel no fire. I smelled no smoke. I did smell the seductive scent of sandalwood that seemed to change into the smell of Jasmine. I looked into the room and saw that the smoke still poured from the lamp, but not with the urgency it had a moment ago. I pulled the hose from the clip on the side of the extinguisher, pulled the pin on the handle, readied myself and stepped into the room to put out the lamp. It was then that I saw it.
Over in the far corner of the room thumbing through a copy of Stephen King’s “It” was the visage of a man, but it wasn’t any type of man I have ever seen. He looked me over thoughtfully, not menacingly or aggressively just looked me up and down for a moment and then went back to reading the book he had picked up. The shock of seeing this creature in my home caused me to completely forget what I had in my hands. I immediately dropped the extinguisher and it fell; right on my foot. The shock of it woke me out of my stupor. I looked at this thing intently. It was about six feet tall and very muscular, almost like a body builder. What made it unusual was the thing’s dark red skin. I don’t mean it was a deep tan or red like an Indian’s. No, this was red like crimson. His head was bald and unremarkable except for two small horns in the front of his forehead. In both ears he had small gold earrings. He wore no shirt and his wrists bore gold bracers on them. There would be more to the description, but from the waist down he was ethereal. The smoke that came from the lamp trailed from it’s opening, across the carpeted floor, and gathered underneath him as if to support the torso reading the book. I looked at him and immediately knew what he was.
“You must be the genie of the lamp.” I said as I limped closer to him.
He closed the book with a slight thump, looked over at me with pupilless yellow eyes and said, “That I must.”
Despite myself, I asked him what he wanted. He chuckled and told me that it wasn’t what he wanted, but what I wanted. Three of what I wanted actually. Three wishes to be granted for everything and anything my heart and soul could imagine. My mind immediately began to think of what I wanted. Money, power everything and anything were at my disposal. My head swam with the possibilities before me. I moved from one delusion of grandeur to the next my greed and avarice building with each passing moment. I thought to myself that I would wish for millions of dollars, the next moment millions weren’t enough. Sweat broke out on my forehead as the three wishes burned a hole in my proverbial pocket. I was eager to get started, but wanted to make sure that I didn’t waste a wish. I darted from thought to thought unsure what I should do not wanting to waste the ultimate opportunity of a lifetime. Then it came to me. The perfect wish.
“For my first wish,” I told him, “I wish that you could read my mind.”
“Done!” Is what he said in a loud booming voice.
“My second wish,” I said smiling at my cleverness, “is for you to read my mind and give me what I want.”
He looked at me for a second. Then his face took on a sad almost disappointed look.
“Are you sure that’s what you want?” He asked hoping I would change my mind.
“Yes”, I told him. “I’m sure.”
“Done.” He said in an almost whisper.
At first I didn’t feel any different. I thought I had been tricked or had not thought of something and my dreams were about to be nightmares. I waited a second to see what would happen but the genie just stood there. He looked at me sadly and then asked if there was anything else that I needed right now. I told him no and he returned to his lamp. I looked around for a minute and thought about what had just happened. I couldn’t figure out what went wrong and then it came to me. I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular. So I focused my mind and without even knowing it I said aloud, “I want three thousand dollars in small bills neatly piled on the table in front of me.” Immediately, three thousand dollars in small bills was on the table. I gently touched it to make sure that it was real. As I stroked the bills I began to once again swim with the possibilities. Taking a deep breath I began to change my world to suit me, just small changes at first. The usual things like a new car and a new motorcycle, better house with a pool and so on. Then I changed myself. I changed my body, which oddly enough was a little painful. Then a thought occurred to me. What would people say and think. I thought on this a moment and decided to change the way my world reacted to me. Everyone would think that this was normal. I was having a blast. No more work, no more wishing I had more of anything. I had it all. Every desire, all desires. There was no door that was no longer closed to me. I was a genie.
As the old saying goes, ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ Soon I was manipulating the lives of those around me. I granted favors to those I deemed worthy and I punished those who I believed had crossed me and let me tell you that was quite a long list. It’s quite an interesting feeling to have the world at your disposal.
I was soon making drastic changes to my environment. Global changes. I wanted to change the world in my image. I had thought that this would be easy, but by changing one thing like war or famine I found that other things emerged to make things worse. It was as if the natural order of things was trying to seek a balance from the havoc I was wreaking on the world. I would invent a better car engine, but this would put millions of people out of work. I would then correct the problem by hiring those people back to make the new cars, but unions constantly fought with one another and held things up. No matter what problem I tried to tackle I found I was gaining no ground. I would fix the rain forest problem and then nations would starve. I fixed air pollution and global warming. This just made companies more irresponsible than they already were. I would try to boost the economy and dozens of third world nations would collapse. It was a nightmare. A butterfly would flap its wings in China and soon there was a typhoon half way across the world. I would spend days setting things in motion only to have it crash around me and make matters worse. It soon became a problem for me to conduct world affairs and lead the fantasy life I had created for my friends and myself. A solution had occurred to me, I could do both. I created myself. A copy of myself I mean. Someone to handle the menial stuff while I took control of the important things. I gave myself everything I would want. This was the perfect copy. It was me, but it wasn’t. I was the father I had always wanted and he was the son I always wished to be. There was something oddly familiar about this. A sort of God-the-father and god-the-son duality to it. It was me, but it wasn’t. It was me, but only better.
I let the new me run my personal life as I turned my attention to fixing the problems at hand. I was convinced that if I struck the right balance I could achieve a paradise that everyone would want to be a part of. I created a global economy. I united all of the countries under one government with America as its center. Still there was always some problem, something always trying to push the balance into place. I thought that maybe man could use a diversion so I turned my thoughts towards the heavens. I sent them into space to explore and to conquer. And conquer they did. Colonies on the moon and eventually on Mars, but as every dream fades this one became a nightmare. The colonies became ghettos worse than anything on earth. Constant warring and economic tragedies plagued my hours. I didn’t sleep or eat anymore, not that I had to. I didn’t get to travel like I wanted to or just lounge around. I didn’t get to do any of the things I thought ultimate power would let you do, but I had convinced myself that it didn’t matter. I was doing good. I was changing the world for the better. I didn’t realize that with each step I took I didn’t make the situation better I just made it worse. I was determined to make things work the way I wanted them. I tried making broad sweeping changes to the world, but that only made broad sweeping messes. I realized that instead of throwing rocks in the water I should be throwing pebbles. I tried making little changes, but they never reached the fruition I had hoped. I tried and tried and tried and tried, but nothing would make the world that I wanted to see, but every move that I made mired me. I had all the power that there was, but I was impotent to make the differences that I wanted. I kept trying to change everything and everyone until one day the strangest thing happened. . . I died.
Just like that I was dead. Well it wasn’t really me it was the other me. I went to my funeral, I watched them lower the casket and cover it with dirt. I saw my widow. I didn’t even know I had gotten married! Bigger shock. I saw my children!! I didn’t know these people. They were strangers, but they had my eyes and my mouth. These were my children.
No, they weren’t. These were his children. I had given birth to myself, but didn’t share in the life I had so carelessly created. It may have been me at one time, but it wasn’t any longer. That person had his own life and now, apparently his own death. I went back with the family. Invisibly, I walked the rooms of this man’s house. I looked at photographs and memories. Collections and toys. This man had a life. He fished. He rode his bike. Played ball with his kids. Took them to school. He loved his wife. He even liked his job. He made this house his home. He lived. The thing I had created had grown in my absence. He found wisdom in living instead of wishing to change everything to suit him. I had robbed myself of everything. By having all the choices I made none. I wasn’t that man anymore. I was just the genie.
The genie!! The original genie. I had completely forgotten about him. I recovered his lamp and rubbed the inscription. He appeared before me with this knowing smile on his face. I asked him what I was doing wrong. He told me nothing. He said that everything has unfolded as it needed to. I asked him if there was something I should be doing that I wasn’t. Again he said no. Everything is as it should be. I was dumbfounded. Realizing my dismay the genie told me that when I decided to alter this reality I started a chain of events that were irrevocable. My decision to take matters into my own hands and disrupt the natural order of things changed the outcome of each thing I changed.
“This is why our kind are usually imprisoned.” He said to me.
“No man or manner of man was meant to have the power you have.”
I dismissed the genie and thought long and hard about what had happened, what I had caused. What my mother used to tell me had finally happened. I wished my life away.
I thought about this for a while, tried to approach it from every conceivable angle, but no solution presented itself. It seemed that every avenue was blocked and there was no way to correct the mess I had gotten myself into. I finally decided that there was only one way to fix everything. Only one-way to correct the damage I had done. So, I made one last change, one last wish. I willed it all back the way it was. Times, dates, events, and people all back the way they were when I started. I brought back my double, gave him my old job and my old life. Well mostly. I couldn’t resist helping a little. For the most part though everything had been put back. I looked around and couldn’t help feeling pleased with myself. For all its imperfections this was the best change I had made. I decided to let the world unfold as it was meant to unfold. I watched as horrors were visited on mankind and I watched as they triumphed over tremendous odds. Still I couldn’t help but meddle in affairs from time to time, but I made sure that it was never enough to upset the delicate balance of this reality. Eventually, as with all things my double passed from this world. I didn’t bring him back this time, nor did I try to extend his life by any unusual ways. No, I let him go and live his life, as it was his now and not mine anymore. I gave up that life when I made my first wish. I stayed for a while after that watching his children, grand children, great grand children and great-great grand children until at last the family line died out as all family lines must eventually. When the last one of his lineage passed I was there. There was no great fanfare or long lines. It was a simple and dignified goodbye. Looking back on it, it was probably more than I myself deserved.
With no direction I once again I turned my attention to the heavens. This time it was me that ventured out into space. I traveled from planet to planet-observing life where I found it. Every now and then I would change things. Not enough to disturb the natural progression of things, just enough to make everyone realize that there is something out there bigger than themselves.
Planet after planet, galaxy after galaxy and universe after universe I explored the subtle depths of each. I have all the time that there is available. It melts before me in a wash of minutes and hours. Linear time is the most rudimentary of all. One second following another; it’s painfully boring. I often wonder how much time has passed. I can’t say. It could be thousands of years or it may be hours. I really couldn’t tell any longer.
Eventually though I find my way back to the place of my physical birth. I guess it is the place of my death as well. I hang around here sometimes for a month sometimes longer. I watch the people and visit the places of my youth. I think about the twists and turns my life has taken and what direction its heading in now. I help people from time to time and punish those who, in my morality, have to be punished. Then I leave and start off on another excursion. I have an infinite number of places to see and an infinite amount of time in which to see them.
Maybe one day I’ll be tired of being this way. Maybe I’ll have discovered what I have been looking for though even now I don’t know what that is. Perhaps I’ll return here and start all over again or maybe I’ll just wish myself away. I can probably do that. After all, I still have one wish left.