Friday, August 9, 2019

Three Wishes

Three Wishes
- by TC Lai, 29th July 2019

When John woke up, he was surprised to find his personal belongings missing. Even the beach umbrella shading him was gone. Out in front the ocean still lapped, the sun above still wicked. And when he got up, the towel that he was lying on turned into wispy smoke and vanished.

All this would surprise anyone but not John. He had gone through a lot recently and was in no mood to be pranked. However, at the back of his mind, he felt there was something more than odd going on.

He tugged at his swim trunks and ran a finger along the seam at the crotch. Sand had nestled there. Wait a minute... John distinctly knew he'd arrived in boxers and was now wearing a Speedo. And an expensive one at that.

He'd also gotten a six-pack.

My, my....what is going on here?

What's next? Baywatch girls bouncing up from a distance?

John stood and waited, one hand on a hip.

And waited. But no one came bouncy up - male or female.

Evidently that was not part of the "dream". It sure felt pretty real though.

Subsequently John moved forward and immediately stubbed his toe.

"Ow, motherfucker..."

Grabbing his hurting toe, John looked down at the offending object. It was a lamp of sorts, you know, of the kind often narrated in Arabian Night Tales or at Disney World.

It was partially buried and so he dug it up.

Lo and behold, it was really an Aladdin lamp, genie stamp at the bottom just above the Made in China label. And just as often, the lamp looked dull. Brass dull.

"Rub it," said John's little devil on his left shoulder.

"No, put it back," said the little angel on his right. "You don't know what trouble it will bring."

John shrugged his shoulders and the two pleading kaypohs vanished. He looked closely at the lamp and a message struggled to make itself read. Perhaps it was a laser display from the inside, made difficult by the bright sunlight.

"YOU...KNOW...WHAT...TO...DO," it said. Birds from a nearby jungle flitted away en masse, as if Godzilla was storming through.

"YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO?" This time it was John sounding rather angry. He picked up the lamp and threw it into the ocean. It made not a sound (as the lamp was pretty aerodynamic) and simply entered the water with a quiet "ploop". So much for that.


Obviously something had triggered his mini meltdown or had brought him to this beach in the first place. Now he was all alone with only his six pack for companionship, so there was no way to know what he was thinking. We just have to wait until someone comes along to act as a sounding board. We hope it will be soon.

And before anyone could say BUKKAKE (sunscreen lotion on face), John stubbed his toe again. This time it did not hurt as the digit was already numbed.

"What the fu**...." John, visibly upset, picked up the offending object. It was the same Aladdin lamp curved spout and handle et al.

"Bloody souvenir stalkers!" And like before, he threw it back into the ocean. Once more it entered the blue space with nary a splash. Nor plop. But the ocean did seem to rear up as if in a groan to say: "Just look at the damn bloody thing!" The ocean was probably tired of all the trash it had to coddle, not to mention the many creatures sickened by it. Mother Nature, some say, have her limits. And the ocean being her bosom, weighed heavy - she was bound to notice.

All the while Father Nature stared and did nothing. Typical.

And John did indeed give the chance to look at the bloody lamp again as another one soon reared its ugly spout and stubbed his toe once more. The poor toe was now swollen and giving him a limp.

"Motherf***ing piece of shit!"

Begrudgingly (remembering what the ocean had indicated to him) John beheld the lamp and looked carefully at it, turning his back against the sun so as to read its message better, kind of like how ordinary folks struggle to read their handphone screens under bright sunlight. Same with birdwatchers when they forget to bring their screen hats.

"I SAID...YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO!" repeated the lamp, as if it had been the same lamp or had a cctv or skydrone watching the preceding proceedings.

"Dumbcock!" John cursed. He had never liked playing mind games and wished people were more direct. It was because of this personality quirk that got him into trouble recently and him ending up on the beach.

Thinking it was the right thing to do, John rubbed the side of the lamp. How many times should I..., he wondered. But before he could arrive at an answer, out poured a whole lot of smoke. It looked like as if someone had just thrown a smoke grenade.

Kennasai, thought John, who expected a more graceful issue. Wasn't that what they always showed in the movies?

When the smoke finally cleared, John was squatting on his hinds looking pretty impatient. He also had a rock in hand, just in case.

*Cough, *cough....

"I swear, one day I am going to end with lung cancer with all this secondary smoke."

The being that spoke these words looked real enough to John but not enough to frighten him, so he exuded disdain instead. Its apparition seemed to project from a pebble on the beach, with the lamp pulsating blue at its base. It seemed a master-slave kind of arrangement, thought John, who owned a pair of TrueWireless Bluetooth headphones. They had since disappeared with the rest of his stuff.

John was piqued. The being in front of him looked like an apparition, yet complained of the smoke which John could clearly smell. He decided to test its constitution by throwing a pebble at it. The normal kind of pebble, that is.

"Ouch!' complained It. "Stop that!"

Interesting, observed John. Next, he kicked the lamp a short distance away. The apparition flickered but largely remained the same.

"Hey, don't do that! It's my home!"

"What's the worry? Must be magic or something," decried John, making an assumption assumed by most of the population at large, if they were still beyond the borders of this deserted beach. And reasserting that assumption by throwing more senseless money at that remake-of-a-remake of that Aladdin movie starring a very blue real-life person. What a stupid endeavor!
Can't Hollywood come up with anything original anymore? Has James Cameron gone senile?

"Any technology advanced enough will look like magic," It intoned. That was a quote from Arthur C Clarke, that famous but mostly dead sci-fi author.

"So you are neither agreeing nor disagreeing?" pursued John, who was clearly avoiding the obvious thing to do, that is to quickly asking for his three wishes.

"Spatial cognition, if supported by enough data points...."

"Oh, shut up," said John, clearly irritated. Despite all that had happened, he was still in holiday mood and had no wish to engage in tech talk. Besides, this creature did not sound like the altruistic sort who was dying to grant people wishes and make their lives better. If anything it seemed a tourist lost on his way to somewhere. Or a mixed-reality AI projection on its first iteration. Still a baby.

John decided to test it.

"Aren't you supposed to grant me three wishes?"

"Ah, we have come to that. Yes, the three wishes. Ok, spit it out."

John rubbed his chin and paused for effect, as if to think for a while. He already knew what to ask of It.

"I wished for three things. Number 1, I want to be the guy in 50 Shades of Grey, that Christian fella. And I want you to be Anastasia. Possible?"


At that, It realised he (she?) was too quick too agree, not fully understanding what he was granting. Eventually It and John returned to the beach, the former looking a little abused and the latter, refreshed. John certainly gave his six packs a good workout. That and other muscles best not mentioned. John was surprised how easily he mastered the whip and other instruments of BDSM as well as abusing the wealth of Christian. About that, he was conflicted. Is that the real me? he wondered. Can money really change a person?

'It' was also feeling conflicted after that Grey to Freed saga and could barely look at John. Much time also seemed to have passed. Once there were fluffy clouds, now they were hard edged. Or was it just the current situation making the clouds "edgey".

It said (in barely a whisper), "What is your second wish?" Inside, It was trembling. Like John, he also did not understand the limits of "magic". After that first wish, he wondered if there were boundaries. If not, he was certainly in for a rough ride, kind of like what just happened. It also tapped into his gender insecurities. They were as paper thin as his apparition. How could one be sure when you looked down and saw nothing?

"Number 2," said John, now feeling a bit more in control of the situation. "I wish for all the shipwrecks in the world to surface on the Australian central desert."

"Really?" It was truly surprised by this request. So unusual, so.... He couldn't find the words. It was nostalgic, academic, generous, humanistic, etc. "All of the above" kind of givingness. It now looked at John with renewed respect and was even thinking of forgiving him for what what went on previously in the Grey mansion. However, post traumatic stress disorder feelings can easily mask themselves as a kind of residual Stockholm Syndrome. And muscle memory can be strong, especially of the sphincter kind. That is why children find it hard to forget their first instance of constipation and remember it for life. Maybe like smell it had a quantum (dingleberry?) component. Research money was available but no doctoral student ventured to "look" into the matter. And thus the field remained a "narrow" one. The nose was more favourable although it too has its nasty moments.

The truth is that John had been a fan of author Clive Cussler since his first novel The Mediterranean Caper. And he had brought Cussler's latest book collaboration to the beach to read. It too had since disappeared.

And why the desert in Australia? John had thought it safer than the Sahara's. If it had been there, all the wrecks would have been stripped and sold for scrap before anyone could say "karang-guni". The aborigines in Australia seemed more respectful of history and the dead.
And of course, there were no nomadic tribes to worry about too. Only dried-out bones of dead creatures and tourists too dumb to read a brochure.

"And what is your third wish?" asked It, once more smiling and feeling a little more hopeful.

John was not. He looked a devilish.

"Number 3, I wish for three more wishes."

'It' sighed as only an apparition could sigh. Nearby a crab cocked an eye in sympathy. It wanted to do more but it had a hardshell and making any kind of facial expression to suit the moment was beyond it. That is why crabs also do not hold funerals for their kind. No one misses anyone; no one could tell. And crabs don't have any manner of speech. However, some scientists believe crabs click their claws as a means of communication. Yet they were so similar to aggressive postures that a simple good morning can lead to a "ler kuah simi" standoff. This is why in some human societies, a one-night-stand slang is "Come, let's crab it." Make love and then move away to the sides of the bed (as strangers). "I'll call you" - which is never. Crabs live very complicated social lives - as do people who hang around in pubs, mostly alone and suffering quietly from crabs (pubic lice).

"Look, I cannot grant you that."


"Wouldn't we be stuck here forever and other people cannot wish to make their lives and worlds better?" offered It, who somehow found the answer easy-coming.

"You cannot do it, can you?" said John, trying the oldest trick in the history of mind games.

"I can, but what's the point?" Again It found his answer too easy-coming, as if someone else had typed it and he mouthed it.

"Try it," insisted John, who had nothing to lose except all those things he had brought to the beach, including his pot belly. (Well, there might be some regret there!)

And so the apparition tried as it was meant to grant wishes.

However, the conflict was so great that the lamp bubbled and tittered and eventually exploded in a brilliance of light.

John shielded his eyes and waited for the glare to subside. And when it did, he found himself lying on the beach, on his beach towel and Clive Cussler (the book) resting on his chest. His beach umbrella was about to be blown away. Kennasai, it was all just a dream, muttered John as he struggled to launch his pot belly and the rest his lethargic and cynical self after the wilful shade.

The end

Background: (Inspiration) Just wanted to come up with an original take on this timeless tale to amuse some army buddies on Whatsapp. After writing that 72 Virgins.

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