“A djinn. Not to make a wish. But for the very best advice on how to be happy w/ what you already have.”
431. 433. 435…ah, there it is. David stopped in front of the sliding metal door marked 437. He savored the possibilities for a moment—what treasures might be held in this nondescript storage locker?–before fitting the small brass key to the padlock. The lock snicked open and David felt his back twinge a little as he pulled the door up.
Inside, the room was stacked with… boxes. Just cardboard boxes, smelling of old paper and dust.
Well, it’s not supposed to be obvious. David sighed and stepped in to open the boxes, carefully. His wife had been encouraging him to find some kind of hobby; he found fishing boring and he scored too high for golf. While watching TV one night, she’d suggested this: searching for treasures by buying abandoned storage units. She’d made it sound fun, exciting; an adventure!
This was not an adventure. This was an awful lot like work.
David went through the boxes, one by one. It seemed like the contents of a shabby apartment, mostly. Now that he was a quarter of the way in the room, he had revealed a beat-up couch with monstrous red rose fabric. It probably wasn’t sellable—he’d more likely have to burn it, it was so hideous—but it made a good place to rest for now. He flopped into it, sending up a cloud of dust that made him cough and sneeze.
He opened the next box. It held a bunch of knickknacks, mostly. One looked like a kids’ trophy; maybe he could Sherlock-Holmes it and find the kid and return his long-lost trophy!
David rubbed at the dust, trying to read the inscription.
A voice boomed and echoed in the metal-walled locker, and David doubled-up, trying to clear the sudden smoke from his lungs and eyes.
“What the hell?!” David said.
“IT IS I, THE GREAT SAFWAT, DJINN OF ARABIA,” the blue smoke-monster grinned down at David from where it hovered. “WHAT IS IT YOU WISH OF ME, LORD AND MASTER?”
“Um,” David said. “Sorry, gin? I haven’t been drinking the right mix. I only get a hangover.”
“I AM NOT A BEVERAGE AND THIS IS NO LAUGHING MATTER,” Safwat said. “I MAY GRANT YOU THREE WISHES, AS YOU DESIRE.”
David scratched his head. “No kidding, wishes? Huh. What do other people wish for?”
“TREASURE BEYOND IMAGINING,” Safwat said. “POWER. LOVE. VENGEANCE. PEOPLE WISH FOR MANY THINGS.”
“And you just give it to them?” David shook his head. “Sorry, I’ve gotten a lot of junk mail in my day, and this frankly sounds too good to be true. Am I on a reality show? Where’s the camera? Don’t I have to sign a waiver or somethin’?”
“MY OFFER IS TRUE,” the djinn said.
“Rrriiight, sure it is. So the person you gave ‘treasure beyond imagining,’ what happened to him?”
“HE WAS SULTAN OF THE KINGDOM.”
“Well that sounds pretty good. Lived happily ever after, I suppose?”
“LIVED HAPPILY UNTIL HIS REIGN ENDED.”
“Long and happy life as a king? That sounds decent.”
“HIS REIGN WAS 4 DAYS. THE PRIOR SULTAN DID NOT APPROVE OF MY FORMER MASTER.”
“Heh, yeah, I can bet that didn’t go well. You didn’t say that he’d replaced another guy to take the king gig.” David shrugged. “So what about someone else—how about vengeance? How’d that one go?”
“MY LORD WISHED FOR HIS LIFE’S WORK TO BE REMEMBERED FOR ALL TIME, WHILE HIS PEERS WERE FORGOTTEN.”
David nodded. “That sounds like a pretty good wish. How’d it work out?”
“SHIPBUILDER THOMAS ANDREWS IS FEATURED IN MANY MUSEUMS AROUND THE WORLD, AND ALL KNOW THE NAME OF HIS PRIMARY VESSEL.”
“Oh? Which one was that? I’m not a big naval buff—“
“TITANIC,” the djinn interjected.
“—Oh. Yikes,” David tutted through his teeth. “Apparently these wishes need to be specific. So what did you give the last person you talked to?”
“HE WISHED TO BE REUNITED WITH HIS LOST LOVE,” Safwat said. His voice continued to echo in the small space; David hoped no one could hear it.
“And you did that for him?” David asked.
“And then they were, what, happily ever after?”
“I DO NOT KNOW THEIR EMOTIONS. BUT THEY ARE TOGETHER. FOREVER UNITED IN DEATH.”
David’s mouth hung open. “See, that’s just what I’m talking about. I bet the guy didn’t even know this ‘lost love’ of his was dead. And so he made that wish and you killed him and oh my god that’s why he stopped paying for the storage unit!”
David stood up and paced the room, then turned and shook a finger at Safwat. “That’s what we call a bad deal. You’re not really providing a good incentive to make wishes here.”
“IT IS MY PURPOSE,” Safwat said.
“Yeah, well, I think I’m good. All your wishes end in death! No thanks, I think I’m set. I’ve got a nice—small, but a realtor would call it ‘cozy’—house, a wife who cares about me and makes excellent pies; I’ve got a job that pays the bills. The only problem I had was a lack of a hobby. And I think I’ve found another one to cross off my list. This one’s no good either!” David threw up his hands.
“WOULD YOU LIKE TO WISH FOR ANOTHER ONE?” Safwat said, sounding almost pleading.
“No thanks, I’ll figure out the hobby on my own.” David approached the cloud of blue smoke with hand extended. “Nice meeting you Safwat. Can I drop you off somewhere or something?”
The cloud of smoke eyed David’s hand and continued hovering. “I DO NOT UNDERSTAND. EVERYONE WISHES.”
“Yeah, well, I’m good, thanks. I’m heading out now, so go back into your trophy or let me know where to take you. I’ve got gas for a good 50 miles.”
Safwat hesitated. “YOU WOULD ALLOW ME TO LEAVE MY VESSEL?”
“Sure, go ahead, why not. Nice talkin’ with ya, Safwat. Have a good life, or eternity, or whatever.”
The blue mist swirled and spiraled. David took that as a sign the conversation was over, and slid the door down, locking it again with the key. A moment later, a handsome man dressed in a blue tunic appeared outside the storage unit.
“Woah there, startled me,” David said. “That you Safwat?”
The man nodded. David smiled. “Well then, here, why don’t you take this key? You’ve got enough in there to set yourself up with a decent apartment.”
Safwat took the key uncertainly, and David went home. When he arrived, he kissed his wife and told her he’d give fishing a second chance.