Waiting On The Fourth Wish

Submitted into Contest #49 in response to: Write a story that takes place in a waiting room.... view prompt

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1. The Green Bottle

The last lighthouse keeper keeps his hand as close to the green bottle as possible ... without actually touching it. Touching it would complete the circuit ... grant the wish ... it would grant the final wish -

And he didn't want to do that.

That would close the great doors, and seal them. Turn out the lights. Are the windows all shut? Make sure the alarms have been set.

And catch that last bus home.

After that?

2. Does the Night Crew Come In?

I wonder. Do they wash the floors after a day's work? Or just a lifetime's? And sweep away the cobwebs? Do they flush the mud room? Do they do that? Do they dust down the stars and brush up the planets and moons and asteroids into their dustpans ...

3. Do They Release the Monsters?

When they are done cleaning, I mean ... do they release the monsters after that? Watch monsters - gigantic and terrible - with claws that tear and snatch. And fangs to rip, and wings to carry them over the fences if that's where they want to go.

No one stands against the monsters. No one could even if they had wanted to -

The lighthouse keeper picks a piece of lint from the table before him. He says, "I certainly don't want to."

4. Picture God ...

walking precisely from room to room ... planet to planet ... up the stairs, from one galaxy to another. An angel accompanies him. The angel has a clipboard on which he writes - as God dictates - each penny's worth of damage done to His property.

The lighthouse keeper shrugs. Says to the memory of a pet, "I don't think we're getting our security deposit back, Toto."

5. The lighthouse keeper picks up a business card.

He holds it with both hands. He tilts it toward the light as he reads it, slowly, aloud:

Andrew Anderson

Lighthouse Keeper

He sets the card down, chuckling to himself. He had had the cards printed up when he first got the job. He tells his imagjnary pet, "It was a great conversation starter."

6. The green bottle was a conversation stopper ...

not that anyone knew anything about the green bottle; to them it was just a dirty green bottle with something nasty inside it ... something nasty you could feel ...

He had found the green bottle wedged between two large stones at the base of the lighthouse. The sea had shifted during the night, and coughed up the bottle. And he had freed it.

Now, the last lighthouse keeper sits and stares at the bottle.

He had known immediately what the bottle was and what was inside it ... though he couldn't describe it, or name it. Djiin ... Spirit ... Angel ... It would grant him three wishes; that was the bottom line.

Anything he wanted to wish for, it was his.

He didn't even have to open the bottle!  Just wish.

And by way of recompense ... he would wish a fourth ... last ... wish. A wish the spirit in the bottle wished for - he would wish it for him.

7. Three Guesses What That Wish Would Be.

The lighthouse keeper glances at the bottle then turns deliberately away from it. He murmurs I should have heaved the bottle back into the waters.  Or smashed it on the rocks - I could have done that. Should have -

But I was too smart for it. I figured I could beat it at its own game.

It would want to exchange places with me - I could see that; and I could trick it - whatever was inside the bottle - in classic folktale fashion. I would ask it: How could something so large, and magnificent, fit into so small and fragile a bottle?

Show me.

If it got out, that is. If it wanted to get out - to be released, first and foremost. Because it couldn't release itself. Do you believe in Magic I would ask it ... real capital M Magic and not this smoke and mirrors stuff of slipping in and out of an old bottle.

Make a rock so heavy you can't lift it then get under it.

I could wish away its power to grant the last wish.

8. But first

I thought I could do some good; the lighthouse keeper remembers. I thought I could wish for world peace ... so I did. And it did. It granted me world peace.

That lasted about five minutes ... until someone noticed his neighbor's yard was more peaceful than his own yard ... and he wanted it.

9. I could have wished for unbridled wealth

or immortality ... but the bottle took care of that for me. It was necessary to the last wish ... I didn't have to wish for either; they were already mine.

I was lonely, the lighthouse keeper thinks. I had always been lonely. Have ... always ... been -

So I wished for a wife, and a family. And the bottle gave me a wife and children - sons and daughters - who grew to marry and have sons and daughters of their own ... who gave me great-great grandsons and daughters. Great-great-great grandsons and great-great-great granddaughters ... and dogs and cats and fish and birds -

They all died.

10. I probably wished to forget I had ever wished - something stupid like that.

11. I don't remember.

12. There was the last wish remaining, though,

I couldn't forget that. The last lighthouse keeper stares at his hands. He mouth – he starts to mouth the words … but he can't say them; he chokes on - won't. Swallows.

Says, "The bottle wants me to -"

He pauses. "I do not think there is anything actually in the bottle; there is just the bottle ...

"And the bottle wants me to wish the universe shut down ... closed ... dissipated. The bottle wants me to wish all existence out of existence."

13. I think,

the last lighthouse keeper thinks, that God so loved what He had created that He could not bring Himself to destroy it. What He had made He could not unmake - well - He didn't want to.

So He raised up an island and stood on its shore. God did this. He pulled the bottle out of no where. Look ... there is no thing up my sleeves. He wrote Himself a note and rolled it and shoved it into the mouth of the bottle. He breathed into the bottle. He sealed the bottle, and threw it out into the water.

He made the first lighthouse then, and then made the first lighthouse keeper to find the note He had written, someday.

He sank the island.

He walked across the water, homeward.

14 .And I found the bottle.

15.   What happens to me?

For years now ... has it really been centuries? The lighthouse keeper shrugs. For centuries, now, he begins again ... souls ... yes ... he has begun to see raw souls slipping past his lighthouse -

The souls themselves -

No longer adorned with bodies -

There are fewer and fewer souls ... and he wonders what happens to him when it's over ... when no more souls remain to pass -

When he picks up the bottle -

16. Do I remain behind?

When the doors are all sealed, and the stars turned out, the last lighthouse keeper wonders ... does he just sit alone in the dark?

"I've never told this to anyone," he says, "but I'm afraid of the dark."

17. And I'll be in the dark for all eternity ...

18. Is that hell or what? 

The last lighthouse keeper wonders about this ... wonders what would happen if he refused to take up the bottle. 

Could he? 

What's so scary about the dark anyway?

The lighthouse keeper once dreamed he was in a dark room - pitch black it was. Filled with sheep it was …. Watching him. It was filled with sheep. He could hear them. He could smell them. He could see their midnight faces in the dark ... he could count them.

He could sleep.

Would

19. when the last soul passes.

20. It did.

He just knew it, somehow.

He knows it!

And the last lighthouse keeper, in the last lighthouse ... reaches for the dirty green bottle -

21.   There is a knock at the door.

July 05, 2020 14:35

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