The Aladdin Box: a short story by: GF Willmetts.

Farday Lumo held in her glee. It had taken a long search and many caves, levering the slab out of the way and she now had found the legendary Aladdin Box. It wasn’t actually a box, at least on Earth. It looked more like an oil lamp, like the one from the Aladdin story, hence its alternate name. It was allegedly said that Scheherazade who related the tale in ‘The Book Of One Thousand And One Nights’ but that story might have added by a French writer called Antoine Galland and translated by Richard Burton. Farday wasn’t sure if that was some famous explorer or actor. It was a long time ago. A magic ring and a magic lamp seemed like fantasy but far beyond the beliefs at the time, so she set out to find one of the artefacts to see what was going on. More so, as there was persistent rumours and legends over the centuries of its use that someone had actually found one recently. Whether there was only three wishes, she would have to find out for herself. The tales of a magic lamp granting wishes in various cultures over the years did not always end with good results but it made her ever determined to find it.

Even so, she had her own fantasies as to what she would do with three wishes and realised whatever she chose had to be worded carefully, lest she got something she didn’t want. There was a long Net search on wishes and someone had mentioned that genies took things literally. Quite how this person knew that was a puzzle but his example made a lot of sense. If you wanted to be the most beautiful person in the world then you might well be the only person or in the Earth’s core. Farday noted that the word ‘in’ was not a good option. Beauty was only skin-deep and was obviously not offering plastic surgery. There were better things to wish for anyway. World peace might not be a good idea neither. It could mean a variety of things, too. Taken literally, another mass exodus of the population. It could also mean a piece of something. A piece of the world might not be a good idea, neither. After all, what would the genie do with the rest? If there was a genie, it might would be worth giving a wish away so whatever it was would have a complete understanding of what was actually being wished for. That was assuming it could understand complex wishes. So far, the world had been lucky to only have a few ghastly changes but, as things changed, someone was bound to do something too ambitious that would be a lot harder to stop.

Farday fingered the oil lamp, feeling the energy it contained. No wonder people could tell it apart from other lamps. She hesitated about rubbing it any further. Was that how people got the genie out early and wished right away? Without an instruction booklet, there was no way of knowing how the genie was called or how long a span to make three wishes. That had always stayed consistent in whatever she read. She wasn’t sure how she would cope if this creature kept following her around until she made all the wishes. Who wanted that kind of pressure? Better to be patient. The important thing was she’d found the Aladdin Box and it was all hers. If she had the power of a god for however a short time, she wanted all the time in the world to make the right choices. Packing it carefully, she headed home with her prize.

That lasted all of six months and a lot of serious thought. More so as when she looked at the lamp occasionally, now on a shelf, it shook, as though something inside was eager to get out. Maybe she should have one wish to keep it happy or just to say hello to the genie or whatever it was. Calling the genie out of the lamp might mean a wish for it to go back in. If she held the lamp, she could always threaten to destroy it if it threatened her. Why hadn’t others who owned the lamp not thought to do the same as her and ponder over their wishes? Then again, she did find the lamp in a cave which seemed the normal place to leave it. Were people fearful of the lamp being used badly or just found by others?

Finally, after days of internal debate, she rubbed the lamp, whose glow grew and resulted in a being appeared in front of her. The energy of the lamp had a physical manifestation. Not a ghostly apparition floating over the floor but a suitably tall dark-suited human, complete with a goatee and slicked back dark hair.

‘You came out of the lamp?’

The man looked around, sniffily, ‘Did I just walk in or just appear?’

‘You look normal.’

‘I have had some generosity of wishes. One was to dress and act contemporary to when I appear so I didn’t stand out. Another was to instruct my host to the specifics of how to make the two wishes.’

‘Two wishes? I thought it was three?’

‘One host thought that by removing the third wish he would never reach three and have unlimited wishes. Instead, he only had two wishes and I moved my receptacle back to the cave after he had them. The wish of another host.’

‘And no one thought to get back the third wish? No one thought to give me any more generosity since that event.’

‘They would give the host only one other wish. They might do an altruistic third wish but everyone can think of at least two wishes and then they are gone or rather I moved my receptacle back to the cave.’

‘OK, that’s twice you mentioned the cave. I could never understand that. Why not rely on being passed from person to person?’

‘A previous host decreed that my receptacle could only be found by someone who really wanted to find it than randomly fall into hands that would misuse my…assistance.’

‘You’ve also had a lot of generous…hosts even when they were down to two wishes.’

‘That was when there was a third wish. It has been rare since then.’

‘I presume that they fall into three categories. Their own welfare. The welfare of others. Somewhere in this, you get thought of? That’s why I have delayed calling you up. I wanted to consider my options.’

The man or genie bowed. ‘A sensible host.’

‘And what happens to…less sensible hosts?’

‘Their wishes prove their own worth and downfall.’

‘Meaning they suffered their own consequences or greed.’

‘You could put it that way.’

Farday took a deep breath. ‘I don’t have to make any wishes right away?’

‘Some hosts wish as soon as I appear. They then try to wish them away. It is obligationary to make one wish now.’

‘Presumably with some odd results? So they don’t think the wishes through far enough and you don’t advise them?’

‘They don’t tend to ask. They believe I just fulfil wishes.’

‘Would me asking questions constitute a wish?’

‘Not necessarily.’

‘Only if I include a wish remark in my question?’

The genie nodded.

‘New territory…for both of us. I will call the word ‘them’. This does not mean a name change, only an identification. Is my limit for one lifetime only three or two of them?’

The genie paused. ‘No one has ever came back for a second set of wishes.’

‘They have to need you enough to find you again? Or too scared to wi…do it again.’

The genie shrugged. ‘I do not care for their fates once they are gone and I have given them their wishes.’

‘I get the feeling your origin isn’t terrestrial…you weren’t built on Earth?’

Again, the genie shrugged.

‘Was this your original purpose? You don’t appear very knowledgeable?’

‘I cannot answer questions that I have no answers.’

‘But you are sentient? You can make independent thought?’

‘You are straying from your original question of what I can do with wishes.’

Farday paused this time. ‘They are down to your interpretation so even with the best intention they can still give the wrong results?’

‘Their questions are vague on specifics, especially on some objectives that are not instantaneous.’

‘Hence the tales of some people having adventures with you beside them. As I understand it, what you do isn’t always instantaneous?’

‘It depends on what is wished for. To become president of a country takes time but I made possible recently.’

‘So if I wi…’

Farday smiled. ‘Almost got caught out there. That word is very much your active word in any language. Would that also include ‘immediately’ or ‘at once’.

‘It is in the choice of words of how quick a wish is fulfilled.’

‘And in any language?’

The genie smirked and smiled. ‘I am contemporary to the host.’

‘Why shouldn’t I be surprised?’

‘Can I spread what I need to do into two wis…of them?’

‘I do not understand the question.’

‘Can a consequence of one…desire be carried over to another?’

That would be impossible to answer without knowing what you intend.’

‘Suck it and see then.’

The genie just looked at her.

‘I don’t have to explain to you what I intend or you’ll hold it against me?’

‘I do not understand the question.’

Farday paused. ‘All to do with the wording.

‘My first wish is that if a host wants to undo either or both of their two wishes then the third wish will bring me to both of you to resolve. Is that allowed?’

The genie nodded. ‘It is done.’

‘My second wish will grant me three wishes to resolve the problem. If I do it in less wishes then I have the remainder for my own use.’

The genie pondered and raised one finger. ‘One wish.’

‘Three wishes.’

‘Two wishes,’ this time with two fingers raised. ‘Had you asked your second wish first, you would have had a third wish.’

‘But I couldn’t have asked for them the other way around.’

‘Colloquially, those are the breaks.’

‘Let’s hope you have sensible hosts…’

The genie nodded and both he and the lamp were gone.

Farday Lumo slumped to the floor and quietly chuckled. At least she hadn’t been confined to share the lamp with the genie waiting to be called. Then he might have discovered what she was and that wasn’t necessary neither. In another alcove was her own receptacle, a decorative jar. Often called the box of delights or even Pandora’s box, named after one of the hosts who found it. All the manifestations of the woes of the world were released from the world when Pandora had opened it. Except hope. She had escaped much later when an archaeologist had found her receptacle and opened the lid. Hope without power could do nothing. With the genie, there was hope that she could change the world. She might even be able to retrieve some of the woes. Hope would be nothing without some optimism.



(c) GF Willmetts 2018

all rights reserved

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