Bob floated in the void, perpetually flipping end over end. The endless tumbling wasn't so bad when he didn't have a point of reference. He got super nauseous when he passed a nearby star or planet. Lucky for him, that hadn't happened in a few thousand years. Or was it unlucky? After all, he had been floating through space for hundreds of millions, maybe billions of years.
Getting sucked into a star, gas giant, or even a black hole would have at least been a refreshing change of pace. But Bob wasn't that lucky. In fact, Bob was probably the unluckiest person in the whole fucking universe because, as far as he knew, he was the only person in the universe. He was utterly alone. One might think that Bob, having traversed several galaxies and billions of celestial bodies, would have been caught in something's, anything's gravity. That wouldn't have done him any good, though. It's not like he could die.
Bob wasn't anyone special on Earth, back when the planet was still a thing. He had always found it strange that he continued to vividly retain his memories of Earth after all the time that had passed since its destruction. Bob remembered himself, his family, and everything that had occurred in his life. That probably had to do with his second wish. But here's the thing, the second one wasn't even his idea. It was the old man's, the one who granted him the three wishes.
Bob had been sitting in Smitty's tavern, same as any other Friday night, and honestly, same as most nights. He had just begun sipping his fifth gin & tonic when the door to the tavern swung open. Through the open door stepped a bearded white-haired man in a cream-colored cotton suit, with a crisp white shirt underneath. The man stood at the entrance, stroking his long flowing beard, searching the bar, until he finally turned his gaze to Bob.
When the white-haired man saw Bob, he raised his brow as if to say, ah, there you are, as though they had been planning to meet the entire time. The man casually walked to the end of the bar, where Bob always sat, and pulled up a stool next to him. The bartender came over to take the man's order, but he politely declined and asked for water. The man then turned to Bob and said. "You have three wishes. Go."
It's not like Bob had any company, and he was drunk, so what could it possibly hurt to play along with a crazy old man? "Anything I want?" asked Bob.
"Anything." replied the old man.
"I wish I could live forever."
"Done. Just know, there can be only one immortal thing in existence, and that's about to be you."
"About to be?" asked Bob.
"Yeah, it won't take effect until after you've made all three wishes. Also, just because you're going to live forever doesn't mean you can't get sick. You could perpetually live with something that regenerates, like cancer."
Bob turned his mouth downward in mock concern. "We don't want that."
"No, we do not. Might I suggest your second wish?"
"Alright, let's hear it," laughed Bob. He downed his drink and flagged the bartender for another.
"How about your second wish be that you never fall to any illness. Not of the body, not of the mind."
Bob shrugged. "Sure, why the hell not?"
"Done," said the old man. "You've got one left, and I bet you everything in existence that you're going to pick something selfish like money."
Bob took offense to that. "And just what is that supposed to mean?" he asked angrily.
"It's human nature. You guys only want what's best for yourselves. Not the whole."
Bob's face softened into a thoughtful expression. Booze made him easy-going that way. "Did I hear you bet everything? In all of existence?"
The old man's mouth turned up in a crooked grin. "Indeed, you did."
"That's a pretty big wager, sir. I don't believe it's yours to make, seeing as how not everything is yours to bet."
"You'd be surprised," said the old man, extending his hand to shake on the wager.
Bob looked at the white-haired man's hand. "Sort of seems like we're focusing more on this bet than on my final wish."
The man threw his head back and laughed heartily. Not in a sinister or maniacal way, but more like Santa Clause or a grandpa hearing a funny story. "My son," he said, catching his breath from laughing at his own inside joke. "This bet and your third wish are the same. You and I are the same. Time is an immeasurable circle, beginning at this point, in this very bar." The old man squinted curiously. "Funny thing, though. Last time you were sitting over there."
The old man pointed to the opposite end of the bar and shook his head. "One would think I'd have a better understanding of time than anyone, but I suppose I designed all of it to surprise me on occasion." He shrugged. "Where's the fun in always knowing what's going to happen?"
Bob sat, staring with a slack-jawed expression, unsure if the old man was mocking him or just had dementia. "Time is a circle beginning in this bar? What the fuck are you talking about, buddy? Are you busting my balls?"
"Don't pay me any mind," said the old man apologetically. "I'm just a lonely old man, ranting and raving."
Feeling like a jerk, Bob dropped his attitude and extended his hand. "I"ll take your bet. Considering I'll do the opposite of what you're suggesting I'm going to do, I'll win everything in existence. I already know the outcome."
"Hey, so do I!" replied the old man excitedly, shaking Bob's outstretched hand. "It's a bet."
Bob downed his drink, wiping his mouth with a sleeve. "I wish for world peace."
"Just to be clear," said the old man. "You wish for the world to be at peace? True peace?"
"What other kind of peace is there?"
The old man raised his brow to the question. "Oh, there's all kinds. I can list them off if you'd like, but in my humble opinion, true peace is the peak of the concept."
"Fine," said Bob, growing impatient with the old man's veiled speech. "I wish for the world to be at true peace."
"Done!" said the old man clapping his hands together loudly, startling the bartender and several of the patrons.
"Well, I guess you lost the bet," Bob said with a smirk.
"Guess so," shrugged the man. "I lost the bet."
"You going to give me my three wishes and everything in existence now?"
"Indeed, I am." The old man held out his finger. "Go ahead, Bob. Give it a pull."
Bob squinted at the old man. He might have been drunk, but he wasn't oblivious. "I don't remember telling you my name, buddy." He backed his stool away from the bar, now wary of the white-haired, bearded man. "How did you know my name?"
Still holding out his finger, the man gave Bob a sheepish grin. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you. I know this because I've attempted to tell you time and time again. You never believe me, though."
Bob rubbed his eyes, annoyed and officially over the old guy's game. "If I pull your finger, will you go away?"
"Immediately." finished the old man.
Bob sighed and grabbed the man's finger, pausing for some reason to look the man in the eyes. He had the greenest eyes Bob had ever seen, which was odd because that's what people said about Bob.
The old man smiled warmly. "Until next time, my son."
"Sure thing, old-timer," said Bob, pulling the man's finger. Suddenly the man and his finger disintegrated into a white flame. The flame was blinding, and as Bob shielded his eyes from its brilliance, he heard the most ear-shattering noise in the history of Earth, and that statement was a fact considering it was the sound of the planet exploding. Then Bob was flying indescribably fast through the edgeless expanse of space, completely and utterly alone.