Herb’s heartbeats were over the charts. On the one hand, he was excited with this one in a lifetime chance to travel to the future. On the other hand, he was overly anxious because he would not know what to expect until it was too late. The Genie had made it very clear from the start that Herb had only one more wish left so he could not wish to go five hundred years into the future AND wished to know what to expect UNTIL he reaches there.
Herb had cursed the Genie for his inflexibility. To be fair, he did curse himself for his over-eagerness with his first two wishes. Now to fulfil his third wish, he was going to lose his first two wishes.
DUMB! Can’t believe I can be so dumb, Herbert’s mind had repeatedly admonished himself the same thing for the past few days.
On the contrary, the Genie had been enjoying his latest master’s silliness. Over aeons, he had met worse but this one was not the smartest, not at all. When Herb first stumbled on the magic lamp when he was looking for cheap goods in a thrift shop, he thought it would make a great teapot so he brought it home and scrubbed it clean. That was when the Genie appeared and Herb quickly made his first two wishes - to be the richest man ever with a beautiful wife.
“Well, Master, have you given your final wish some thoughts?” the Genie had been asking every morning for the past two weeks. “Can’t put it off forever, you know.”
Irritated, Herb ignored him and went to look for his beautiful wife. She was sunbathing on the beach that fronted one of their holiday homes. As usual, she was the centre of attention. She was every man’s dream girl and the envy of every woman.
“What service can I be of to Madam today?” a muscular guy was trying to hit on her.
“Get lost. She’s with me.”
“What a thorn,” the guy said loud enough for Herb to hear before strolling off.
“I may be your wife, although I don’t have the slightest idea why, but I’m free to be with anyone I like,” she said in her sharp toned voice.
Herb stormed off to look for the Genie.
“What kind of a wife did you find me? She’s such a b-“
“Hold on there. I found you a beautiful wife just like you wished for. You can expect that she loves your riches more than you, if at all.”
“Well then, get rid of her. I have all the money in the world so I can easily find another.”
“As you wish, my Master,” the Genie bowed.
“No, no. Hold that, you sneaky jerk.”
Herb spent another year with a wife that did not respect him and despite all his wealth, he was not happy. Finally, he called upon his Genie and told him that he was ready to leave everything behind for the future. Mentally, he had prepared himself what to expect fice centuries from now.
Flying cars, teleportation devices, spaceships that traverse between galaxies, food that appear instantly... A world without hunger, where there is no need for money-
“You May step through the portal, Master. With that, I bid you farewell,” the Genie interrupted Herb’s thoughts.
An oval-shaped ring of energy opened in front of Herb. He took a deep breath and stepped through it. To his surprise, there was nothing but jungle. He turned around to head back but the portal had disappeared.
“GENIE! WHERE ARE YOU???” he shouted but the thick foliage absorbed his voice. “Genie? GENIE!”
Herb had a panic attack and started turning round and round to look for the portal and his Genie. Cold beads of perspiration appeared on his forehead. The humidity of the forest did not help. Soon, he was drenched. After what seemed like an eternity, he collapsed onto the ground, defeated. He was all alone, abandoned in a future where there was nothing but wilderness.
When he had gathered his nerves, he stood up and began to venture forward. He did not know where forward was because it all looked the same to him, at least in his current disorientated state, so he headed to the direction he was facing.
It was all so unfamiliar to him, yet he felt he knew this place, that he had been here before. He shook off the thought and pushed through walls of tall, green bushes. Ahead, covered by centuries of growth, were tall superstructures in various dilapidated conditions. Sections had crumbled, some with exposed rusting steel structures, and huge trees grew from inside out.
Herb could hardly recognise any of those buildings which had obviously replaced the older ones but there was one in the middle that he could never forget - his office tower that he had started to build a year before he stepped through the portal. It looked like a broken version of the model that was presented for his approval.
With renewed interests and some kind of hope, he hurried towards the building. The grand all-glass facade had long shattered like his heart when he saw it. The receptionist he expected to welcome him was obviously not there. He helped himself into the front lobby. The disintegrating signage was hanging lopsided, probably supported by the last good nail.
“The Gregory Hughes Empire,” Herbert said silently. “Who’s Gregory Hughes?”
He looked around for answers but whatever that held any significance had turned to dust. Then he remembered. Greg was his beautiful wife’s ex-boyfriend. When the obvious sunk in, he uttered several strings of expletives until he realised it was useless.
Automatically, he walked to the lifts and pushed the “up” button. He was briefly amazed by his strength when the button gave way but his world went tumbling down when he remembered that he was stuck in the future. It took him a good half hour before he could think again. He went up the emergency stairs to the next floor and found nothing but undergrowth where there was sunlight. He repeated his steps upwards for several more floors before he came to the sixth floor. Etched on the wall were words that took a few seconds to sink in.
“Fight for our future. Join the Space Force. Take the world back from the-“ the rest was illegible, possibly razed by something, a blaster perhaps.
“What? Was there an alien invasion or something?” Herb asked no one in particular.
He decided that the only way to know was to climb up to the roof. He needed to see the state of the whole place. If he remembered correctly, the building was thirty-storey high. He laboured for the next half hour to reach the top. He realised he needed some light source soon but he decided to hold that thought.
When he finally reached the top, he found the door to the roof was locked, or jammed, but there were no rules in an abandoned land so he kicked it open. He stepped out into the open. The floor crumbled under his feet. He managed to leap to safety but slipped and fell as part of the building broke from the main structure and tilted sideways.
He rolled off to the edge but he managed to hang on to a railing. He was swinging hard and his back crashed into the wall, knocking the wind out of him. He held on for dear life. When he was able to focus on his surroundings, he noticed that a huge acorn-shaped structure loomed in the distance, its size dwarfed his building many times over. He concluded this was the alien mothership that brought the invaders.
Herbert returned to the present when his hands began to slip. He tried to tighten his grip but...
“I don’t want to die!” he squeezed his eyes shut as he lost his hold and plunged downwards.
It was an eternity but he expected no pain when he finally reached the ground but there was no ground. He opened his eyes again and found he was floating just a few millimetres from land.
“Ha, ha, ha! You wouldn’t think I’d let my Master die, would you?”
The Genie was crouching in front of him.
“Let’s get you back home,” the Genie said and with a snap of his fingers, they were... home.
Herb was in shock from his near-death experience. He was cold and shaking. He emptied his stomach on the carpet of his house. Funny but he was able to think about clearing the mess later on.
The Genie conjured up some warm tea for him. When he drank it, he could almost feel the warmth flowing through his body. After he regained his strength, he faced the Genie.
“I’ve got to warn everyone about the invasion, but how? They must think I’m crazy!”
“Well, you are still rich so I doubt there’s anything that money can’t solve.”
“Right! I can start preparing the world for it!” Herbert was already thinking of how he could start researching for better defences because the mothership he saw would require lots of firepowers to defeat...