The Lorelei Signal

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The Question Never Asked

Written by M.O. Bishop / Artwork by Marcia Borell

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It does not cross al Ladin’s mind to do so. That there could be more to this business with the genie than a handout of three wishes. In fact, he is too busy drooling over what his greatest desires are to think about anything else.

 

I already have placed a bet with myself what the wishes will be. The three Ps. A princess, a palace and a pile of local currency units.

 

Sometimes the “master” puts two and three in the opposite order so that if I do exactly as requested their hovel or burrow would be filled with the chinkly stuff before I move it into their new abode. Stupid you say and I agree. In such circumstances I switch two and three round.

 

As for number one, why do they think having a beautiful mate of high status will do anything for their miserable existence? For all they know she might turn out to be a real shrew or will sleep around with other guys.

 

And the women “masters” are just as naive.

 

I win my bet as al Ladin gives me his wishes then puts down what he thinks is a lamp.

 

It is not one though, that I can assure you. No, it is an interrealm translation instrument that I turn into the form people in whatever world it is in will associate with genies. Fit in with the surroundings is my motto.

 

When they rub it, pull a cork out or whatever I appear out of it in a cloud of smoke. (Unnecessary theatrics I know, but it plays well).

 

Most of the time they jump out of their skin or hide or scales so I give them time to compose themselves. Then I give some guff in the local mythology before offering them three wishes.

 

Naturally I inform them in advance no changing the past, no immortality and you can’t ask for an unlimited number of more wishes. They barely take that in though as their eye(s) glaze over and they take their brain(s) out of gear on apparently being offered something for nothing.

 

Which is probably why they never ask what’s in it for me.

 

If they did then I would give some spiel about freeing me from a prison or some other tale. Who though is to say I would not be lying?

 

But they never do so I don’t have to.

 

Very occasionally they request something else. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred though it is the three Ps so I win an awful lot of bets.

 

The joke is that it does not take much power to produce what they want but the more they ask for the more I get to take what I want in return. So, if they were to ask for peanuts then I could end up using more magic to create their desires than I get back. Ask for even less and the interrealm translation instrument would be stuck in whatever world it had arrived in.

 

Back to al Ladin’s wishes.

 

First, I speak my spells and the three Ps appear. Then I turn into smoke which then flows into the spout of the lamp. OK so I could just dematerialise. Good theatrics though, what?

 

Then after I have taken my reward said lamp winks out of existence. Well, leastways in his world.

 

~ * ~

 

I “look” around at this new cosmos or whatever you want to call it. We are on a beach, which is good. Arriving on the top of a mountain or down a cave is a real bummer because one can wait a hundred years before the mark, sorry “master” finds me.

 

Immediately, I turn the lamp into a coral encrusted bottle with a plug in the spout. Then I wait.

 

After a while a feathered creature appears. Seeing the bottle she picks it up and pulls out the plug. As I appear I wonder how Chicken Licken is going to feel when I take a chunk out of her soul too.

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M O Bishop lives in England. By day he works in a large life assurance company. By night he reads sci fi and alternative history, rings church bells, plays boardgames and writes a range of fiction.