Be Careful What You Wish For
By David Goodner
picked up the ring at an estate sale. It
was tarnished and gaudy, and went for a song because nobody else realized it
was the real deal. I hadn’t been sure, but it looked a little different than
all the other costume jewelry in the lot I bought. The band was wide, and marked with something
that could be Hebrew of Sanskrit. I
couldn’t really tell the difference. I
knew the ring was real because of the weight.
Real silver is pretty heavy. I
figured it might make a nice prop for something. If ever there’d been a magic ring, this was
naturally, I did what anybody would do.
I tried the ring on. There was an
immediate blinding flash of light. I
blinked away starbursts, and when my vision cleared there was a woman standing
in front of me, wearing a red dress with silver bangles all around her waist.
enough of a history student to know that the traditional harem outfit is
actually a late addition to middle eastern culture. So I didn’t find that all too
surprising. I mean, face it, my threshold
for surprise had already been met and exceeded.
had blue skin and hair, and gold eyes.
Her wrists were bound with slave bracelets that connected to rings on
all her fingers. She had on a kind of
jeweled headdress that terminated in a ruby exactly like the one on my ring.
said something incomprehensible, and bowed to me.
I replied. Not my finest moment of
dialogue. “You’re a genie, aren’t you?”
asked me something. I could tell it was
a question by the tone of voice, but still couldn’t understand.
don’t speak… Urdu or genie or whatever.
This better not cost me a wish, but I need you to speak my language.”
tried another language, I think, then another that sounded a little like
Italian. She was getting increasingly
upset. Finally, she stamped her foot and
reached over to put her palms on either side of my head. Sparks flew through my brain. I kind of fell backwards into my chair.
she said. “That’s better. What year is it?”
I asked. “What the hell did you do to
me? I want my wishes.” Like any good fantasy gamer, I’d planned what
I’d do on this day in excruciating detail.
“I wish for… wait, are you the kind of genie who grants just three
wishes, or the kind that grants any number of minor services?”
am a lesser genie, Master, but…”
so whatever I want, but only conjurations.
You can’t make me immortal or change reality to suit me. Just make stuff.”
is correct, Master, but only…”
first of all, I want a black Lamborghini Diablo out in the driveway, fully
fueled and ready to drive.”
something shifted in the world. It felt
like being electrocuted by an earthquake inside a freezing volcano. And the ring dropped off my finger. “What was that” I asked. Where had that come from? I tried to pick the ring back up, but my hand
passed through it like it wasn’t there.
“What the HELL?!?”
genie looked a little sad. “I was trying
to warn you.” She shrugged, reached down
and picked up the ring, slipping it onto her finger.
I realized her
headdress was gone, and felt something on my own head. As she put the ring on, I felt another shock
go through me. I also noticed she wasn’t
blue anymore. Her hair still was.
“I’ll need some
modern clothes,” she said. “Do it now.”
“Yes, mistress,” I
said instantly. It was as though I had
no control over myself. Power flowed out
of me, and an outfit appeared on the table; a sundress, sandals, and appropriate
underwear. “Mistress?” I asked. Where the hell had that come from? None of my plans included any of this.
“I was trying to
warn you, my service had a limit, an expiration date. I was bound to serve for 1000 years in… you’d
say the year 1009. Counting the years by
the Hijri calendar, my term of service ended in your year 1979. But my last master lost me many years
ago. I was trapped in the ring until
someone freed me. But if someone tried
to command me after my term of service ended, well… they’d be forced to take my
“I did try to warn
you.” She started taking off her clothes
to put on the dress. “But now, I’ve been
stuck in that ring for over 100 years, and nobody ever even wore it. I’ve been bored out of my mind, and based on
what I read from your head, your century looks like a lot of fun.”
was all I could say. I stood there,
She reached up to
pat me on the cheek. “Don’t take it too
hard, kid. You only have to serve me for
1000 years. Of course, since I’m an immortal,
I’m not going to lose you like some of my past masters did. Now, I think I want a black Lamborghini
Diablo, fully fueled and ready to drive, in your driveway.”