[Editor’s note: work in progress, not sure where – if anywhere – it’s going.]
"A ‘genie’ genie?" I asked. Air-quotes accompanied my question and confused look.
"Quite right. Three wishes, no more, no less. And no malarkey!"
"Only if that’s a two-way street, genie. How about this, I won’t ask for infinite wishes – or infinite lamps! – and you don’t twist my wishes around."
The genie was visible concerned: his hands were rubbing each other, like he was nervously washing up but forgot the soap.
I looked down at the old barnacle-covered vessel that I’d just moments ago pulled from the ocean. The hook was embedded deep in some crevasse, the line looped around a few times and caught on itself. I raised the lamp, rocked it from side to side. Water dribbled out of a dozen random spots.
"You’re looking pretty down," I said to the genie. "How about if we just pretend I never fished you out?"
I slid a blade under the tangle of fishing line and freed the lamp. Holding the lamp in my right hand, I swung it back and prepared to toss it off the pier.
"No! I don’t want to go back in there," the genie said, eyeing the lamp. He then faced back toward the water, "Or there. You fished me out, human. You have to make your three wishes."
"Three wishes, no more, no less," the genie repeated himself.
"What happens if I don’t make any wishes?"
"Ever heard of Mr. Meeseeks?" I lied and shook my head. "Look, just make your three wishes and I’ll be on my way."
"Back into the lamp and into the ocean?" I raised my eyebrows. "The place you never want to go back?"
"You humans. Don’t they teach you this in school? What do you suppose genies do in between assignments?"
"Well, I didn’t know genies called them assignments… But I suppose you hang out in the lamp and watch TV?"
"Nope. We don’t exist. When we’re not assignment, it’s like a sleep but without dreaming. It’s been twelve hundred years since my last assignment, but I remember it like it was yesterday. Because to me, it was yesterday!"
"Not too terrible. Why do you care if I toss you into the ocean if you don’t actually exist?"
"Damn it, human. Do I need to connect the dots for you? Until you’ve made your wishes, I’m on assignment. I exist, and continue to do so. If you toss the lamp back, I have to go back to it and live in it! Would you like to spend a few centuries in a studio apartment the size of a jug?"
"Uh-huh," I drawl, as if the genie’s predicament is finally dawning on me. "So the three wishes, that seems like a genie problem, more than a human problem…"
The genie glared at me.
If you’ve never had an immortal magic being glare at you, I’d recommend it, at least once. It felt like flipping off a hurricane and watching it skulk back to the ocean.
"WHAT IS YOUR WISH?" The genie’s voice boomed and almost swept me off the pier. The hurricane blasted me with 200 MPH winds for a second.
How would you deal with an ancient god?
I picked up my fishing rod and started walking back to my car.
The genie shed his four-story tall CGI body and became an old man, a fishing rod in one hand and a tackle box in the other. He blended in with the other fishermen on the pier. The barnacle-covered lamp was poking out of the not-quite-closed tackle box.
I hadn’t realized it until just now, but no one batted an eye at the genie’s presence or magical powers, not even when he materialized out of thin air or blasted the pier with his voice. No one looked awkwardly or behaved differently at all.
"They can’t see you?" I swept my hand to encompass the two dozen people around us.
"No. Only you can see me."
"Because I released you? Because I’m your assignment?"
"What if I give the lamp to one of them? Will they see you then?"
The genie heaved a sigh before answering. "The lamp’s non-transferrable. You. Three wishes. That’s it."
The walk back to land gave me a chance to admire the beautiful weather and the beach. The genie didn’t push me and a few times I even caught him looking in fascination at the strange beach-goers who passed us.