“Sorry I’ve been blowing you off for so long, this place is great.” Megan said.
“No worries,” replied Steph, “we’re finally here.”
“I love antiques, but I have no room left at home.”
They both chuckled in agreement.
“Oh wow,” said Megan, “check this out.”
Steph’s eyes followed Megan’s pointed finger. “What, another painting of that blue boy?” Steph asked.
“No. But why is that everywhere? No, below it, look.”
“Oh, a pretty lamp,” said Steph. “Do you think there’s a genie in there?”
“Of course.” Megan said sarcastically. “Oh wow. I just got a funny feeling. Look at my arm, I’ve got goosebumps.”
Megan gave the lamp a small rub, and a purple, shimmery dust started coming out of the spout. She quickly stopped and set it down on an antiques desk.
“Did you see that?” Megan whispered.
Steph stared into Megan’s eyes and nodded in agreement.
After a moments silence, “you have to buy it.” Said Steph.
Megan agreed, and she looked around until she spotted a basket.
“Here, use your sleeves and put it in this basket. Don’t touch the lamp.”
Steph did. “Got it.”
Their hearts nearly jumped out of their chests when the cashier handled the lamp, making comments that neither girl heard. When it was finally in the bag, they were both able to breathe again.
On the drive to Megan’s apartment, they shared their ideas for wishes. Inside the apartment they carefully set the bag down.
“I know,” said Megan, “use the oven mitts.”
With the lamp on the dining room table, they walked around, taking in every detail.
“So, who goes first?” Steph asked, full of excitement and fear.
“I mean, I found it. But I’m also fricking terrified.” Megan gave out an awkward, nervous laugh.
“Well, if there’s really a genie in there,” said Steph, “I bet we’d both get our own turn, so you go first.”
Megan stood frozen. Then she took a step back, “no. I can’t. I feel weird. You go first.”
“Are you su –”
“Very sure.” Megan interrupted.
Steph approached the lamp and carefully picked it up. “Here we go.” She rubbed the lamp. Nothing. She rubbed it harder, still nothing. She started to rub every inch then returned it to the table in frustration.
Clearly upset Megan picked it up, “this is stupid. You saw what I saw. I can’t belie—” Then it happened, after Megan gave the lamp an angry rub.
Purple smoke filled the room, sparkles floating all around. And from the smoke emerged a little, purple-skinned man, no more than a foot tall, with comically large ears and vivid yellow eyes.
With a surprisingly deep, baritone voice, “you summoned me, Master?” The genie said.
“Oh my god.” Was all Megan could muster.
“Not quite ‘god’,” said the genie, “but close.” It gave a grin that took up half its face.
“You’re real.” Said Megan. “But why didn’t you work for her?” And she gestured towards Steph.
The genie looked at Steph, then back to Megan. “My only Master’s are of the ‘Original Five’, and their descendants.
Seeing confusion in their faces, “The Original Five are my creators from long ago. They, and those in their bloodline, are the only ones able to summon me. And since you are obviously a descendant of one of them, I now grant you three wishes.”
Megan couldn’t collect her thoughts and was in disbelief. Without thinking beyond wanting proof, she said, “I wish for a million dollars.”
“As you wish.”
Out of the same purple smoke came a mess of cash, crashing onto the table and cascading all over the floor. Megan and Steph were forced to take several steps back to avoid it.
“What is this?” Megan asked.
The genie replied, “you didn’t allow me to go over the rules. I shall start with this; be mindful of how you word your wish. What you see before you is a million dollars in ones.”
“Two wishes remain.” The genie said. “A pity you didn’t ask for more money, and perhaps in larger denomination. I could have even put it into your bank account.” The genie gave a menacing little giggle.
“Great,” said Steph, “this genie is a wiseass.”
The genie looked up at Steph and grinned.
Steph and Megan discussed their next wish.
“Genie?” Megan asked.
“Can Steph be involved in my wishes as well?”
“If you word it correctly.”
“Okay, here’s my wish, and I want to know if it will work for the both of us.” The genie nodded and waited. “I want us both to be able to travel together into any book story that we want. Does that make sense?”
“It does. Now turn it into your wish, and I shall grant it.”
“I wish for me and Steph to be able to enter into any book story that we want to.”
“As you wish.”
It was quiet.
“Nothing happened.” Said Megan.
“You will have to choose your story.”
“Oh right.” Megan picked up the lamp, and the genie went back in. As she was doing that, Steph was at the bookshelf, scanning for their first adventure. “How about Harry Potter?” She asked.
“I like that idea, but maybe later. I already have one in mind. But grab it just in case. The first book.”
“Okay. I’m going to grab a couple others too.”
They had ten books in a tote and Megan grabbed one more off the bookshelf.
“Are you ready to have tea with the Mad Hatter?” Megan said with a smile.
“Yes. How does it work?” Steph asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe just start reading.”
Megan flipped through the book, “here’s the tea party scene,” and she started to read out loud. More purple smoke filled around them, then they both started to spin faster and faster, until…
They both looked at each other, then looked over at the table with the Hatter, Alice and the others.
“It worked.” They both said in unison. They approached the tea party and were welcomed as if they were original characters from the book.
After a wonderful time, Alice left so Megan and Steph grabbed another book from their tote.
“I’ve never read this one.” Steph said as she held up The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Megan looked up from The Great Gatsby. “Oh that’s a great one. That could be interesting.”
Steph opened the book and started reading out loud. Then came the purple smoke and off they went.
“What did you do?” Megan said.
“I’m sorry, I thought that only you had the power.”
“Apparently not.” Megan said. “I did make the wish for both of us.”
In the distance Megan saw two men leave a house, one of them noticeably stressed. “Steph? Where’s the lamp?”
With terror in her eyes, “I thought you had it.”
“No. It was right beside me. I didn’t expect you to read the book!”
“Read Alice. Let’s go back and get it.” Suggested Steph
“I don’t think we have the book either. I’ll look at our other books, maybe something can lead us back to Wonderland. While I’m looking, can you talk to those two guys over there? We may need a ride, very soon.” Megan said.
Steph ran to the two men as Megan looked at the books. Steph returned before Megan finished looking at the books. “That was fast.” She said.
“They were very distracted, but said everything is fine, there’s nothing to worry about.”
“Of course they said that. Well it’s not fine.” Megan said.
“I don’t see the problem. Besides, that goofy looking fellow said there’s no way he’ll let us go with without towels.”
Despite her panicked state, Megan still chuckled. “It’s fine. We’ll read one of the other books and maybe we can find another copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in their story.”
Megan looked over and noticed that the two men were gone, and knew she had no time, so she grabbed a book at random, opened it and read.
As the purple smoke dissipated, they took in their surroundings. Megan closed the book and read the title. She looked at Steph, “this book, really?”
“I wasn’t thinking it though.” Stammered Steph. “But hey, we escaped those aliens or whatever.”
“We escaped the destruction of the entire Earth, and barely. Let’s read and get out of here.”
As Megan reached back into her tote, she heard yelling. “Right there. There they are!”
“Run!” Yelled Megan.
But it was too late. They were surrounded by a group of angry men, most of which were armed with farm tools and hatred. Behind the men were women, with fear and hatred on their faces. A man grabbed Megan’s tote, and the force knocked her to the ground. More men came and the girls were powerless against the mob. Once they were subdued, the onlookers finally had the courage to rant, ‘witch, witch, witch.’
“They came from nowhere.” A woman said. “Then suddenly they were there.” And she pointed to the road.
“They came straight from the Devil!” Another yelled.
Megan and Steph were brought to jail. They were in a cell with several other women.
“Why can’t we just leave the story and go home?” Steph asked.
“I don’t know.” Megan said, holding back tears. “But I have a theory.”
“I think we’re both thinking the same thing.”
“The wording of the wish.” Megan said.
Steph nodded in agreement. “We only wished to enter books. We need to find a way back to Wonderland.”
“I was thinking,” Megan said, “without our books, every time we read a story within a story we’ll only end up going further back in time. How will we ever get back to Wonderland?”
“It’s been three days of trials and barely eating in this cell.” Said Steph. “We need to do something. What if we wrote our own story?” Steph asked.
“Write on what? I bet women who write are witches too. Then we really have no chance.”
Steph looked down in defeat. “Have you ever read The Crucible?”
“Back in high school, but I don’t remember it.”
“Same.” Replied Steph. “One thing I remember though, if we don’t get out, we won’t be burned alive. We’ll be hanged.”
A couple other women in the cell cried out. Steph blushed, forgetting that as far as these book characters knew, they were just as alive as Megan and herself.
“The only book I think we can get our hands on is the Bible.” Megan said. “But that’s not the greatest place to go either.”
“At the very least, it could buy us more time.”
“You’re right. We need a Bible.”
Their trial wasn’t going well, and they knew they had little time before their execution.
“I got it.” She said, as she pulled a Bible out and handed it to Megan “I was able to snatch it while everyone was yelling at the trial.”
“Oh great.” Megan said. “Let’s do the New Testament.”
“But will they speak English?” Steph asked.
“I hope so. Since it’s a story I’m thinking everyone will speak the language it’s written in.”
As Megan sifted through the pages, the women in the cell were only get louder and more frightened, knowing their time is up. They were screaming and crying, running around like rats on a sinking ship.
“Hurry up!” Steph yelled from across the cell. The women had caused so much commotion that Steph had to barricade herself in the far corner.
“Here it is.” Megan yelled over the women. “Loaves and fishes. Are you ready?”
“What? Yeah, but read it loud!” Steph screamed over the women.
Megan started to read, trying her best to yell over the women. She smiled as she felt that spinning and saw the purple smoke. She heard the women scream at the smoke, and then a loud ‘no’ from across the cell.
Megan looked around. She was on a beach surrounded by a bunch of people. “Let’s find Jesus.”
She looked through the crowd for Steph but couldn’t find her. “Steph!”
Megan, Bible in hand, ran up a nearby dune and looked back in the crowd. “Steph!” She screamed with all her might.
Megan could assume at this point that Steph was unable to hear Megan’s words over the women in the cell and was now destined to be hanged. Despite the logic of the situation, her heart refused to believe, so she continued to search.
Megan sat away from the crowd with her head down, tears dripping into the sand.
“Here, my child.” Said a strong voice from behind her. “Eat.”
Megan looked up, and approaching from her right she saw a smiling man offering some food.
“Jesus Christ.” She said.
While still smiling and offering the food, “No. I am Jesus son of Joseph.”
Despite everything, Megan was thankful to eat real food. She wasn’t fed well in The Crucible. As Jesus walked away, she called for him. He stopped and turned.
“Jesus, I need your help.”
He started to respond, but she interrupted. “I need a miracle.”
Megan didn’t know where to start so she took out the Bible. “Here, look at this. It’s your story. That’s how I got here. My friend. And my lamp in the story.” Megan was babbling now.
Jesus looked at her with compassionate eyes. “Come, help me deliver food to these men, women and children.”
Megan was overflowing with intense negative emotion, but how can you say ‘no’ to that.
Over time, perhaps several months, Megan read her way around the Bible. No one could help her. She was all out of ideas. All but one. She would go to God himself. The idea of reading Genesis terrified her, but she was desperate now. Megan never really put much thought into whether or not she believed in God, but she figured that the God in the book was as real as they come. She started to read about Adam and Eve. Megan entered the story and saw a naked woman approaching a tree.
“Wow, this place is beautiful.” She said to herself. “Hey, you get out of here. I need to talk to that snake.”
Eve looked at Megan and ran away in terror.
“Hey, snake thing. I need your help.”
The serpent approached Megan, a stoic expression on its face. “How can I assist?”
Megan explained her entire story, and the serpent listened with great patience.
“You forgot one important detail.” Said the serpent after Megan finished.
“In the cell. Something your friend had said.”
Megan thought. She struggled to focus. How could this snake know anything that I didn’t mention, was all she could think.
“Read this passage, and you’ll know what to do.” Was all it said, then Megan was alone. A verse from the Bible came to mind, as if the thought was put there. As she looked for the passage, from behind her came a naked man, trying to look tough, but failing miserably.
“Don’t worry dude, I’m leaving.” Megan then read the passage aloud and reappeared in a room with a man at a table full of scrolls and old writing utensils. “Of course.” She said. Write our own story. As odd as it was, Megan was allowed to write. She guessed that the man thought she was an angel.
It took Megan weeks to write her story. She had to create a believable tale and come up with a way to bring her back to the lamp. She would undo all this chaos. She would even get her friend back. She wrote ‘the end’, then went back to the scroll with the tea party on it. She read aloud, hoping more than anything that somehow the lamp and genie would be there.
Out of the purple smoke, she ran towards the tea party table. The whole gang was there.
“Come and sit.” Said the Hatter. “We have more than enough room.” And he got up and took the chair from right under the white rabbit. The rabbit walked around the table to use one of the other, already empty chairs. Megan sat next to the Mad Hatter and looked around for the lamp but she couldn’t find it.
“Have a cup of tea?” Asked the Hatter.
“Yeah, whatever.” Megan said.
Out from under the table, the Hatter took the lamp, and poured Megan’s tea from it.
“That’s it!” She yelled. Her heart skipped a beat and she jumped from her chair in glee. She reached for it, but the Hatter was too fast and pulled the lamp away, spilling tea everywhere.
“What’s the magic word?” He asked.
“Please…?” She asked.
The Mad Hatter looked at the dormouse, “How did she guess so fast?”
Megan took the lamp and rubbed it right away, and thankfully the genie appeared.
“You made it back.” The genie said. “I’m so glad you figured out my clue.”
Megan thought for a moment. “You were the snake?”
The genie grinned his grin.
“Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you help me?”
“I like my fun.” The genie replied. “Besides, The Original Five had yet to imprison me in my lamp, so I could not help.”
“That’s stupid. Whatever. I need to get out of here. I have one wish left, and I need to word it right.”
Behind her she heard men marching. She looked and saw the Queen of Hearts’ card soldiers coming her way, and she was in no mood to be captured and beheaded. Not today.
She quickly made her last wish, “I wish that we never found you that day.”
“As you wish.” And as the purple smoke filled around her, the genie said, “It amuses me. Your last wish is the same, every time.”
“Sorry I’ve been blowing you off for so long, this place is great.”
“Oh, a pretty lamp…”
“…I just got a funny feeling. Look at my arm, I’ve got goosebumps.”
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That's a fun take on story-within-story! A literal journey :) There's something about genie wishes where they just have to go wrong, isn't there? Bad for the characters, but corrupting wishes can be a lot of fun for the writer and reader. And on top of that, we get a time loop thrown in too, connecting the beginning to the end. Critique-wise, there are some minor issues with punctuation that another editing pass would fix. For example, the opening dialogue ends with a period instead of a comma, which doesn't match the tag. Otherwise,...
Thanks for reading, and I'm happy that you enjoyed it. Corrupting wishes is all the fun. It's cliché, but it's one that I'm good with. Thanks for the critique. I always appreciate feedback. Positive makes me feel good, and "negative" helps me grow. The funny thing is, just after I submitted, I noticed a period instead of a comma and wanted to change it, but decided to leave it. You found it, I feel like you should win something.
This story is an amazing piece of work. I loved the whole genie and their wishes idea and your story did not disappoint. Never read one where something didn't go wrong with one of the wishes and this was true to form. I loved the originality of being able to go into a book and I bet a lot of people on Reedsy would have had that exact same wish. Difficult prompt and you rose to the occasion and gave us something special.
Thank you so much. I'm happy that you enjoyed the story. I would certainly love to go into a book, but I'd make sure there's a way out first. ;) Thanks again.
Brilliant story, John! I loved your treatment of the stories-within-stories, and the thread of the genie throughout. Also, great way to resolve the issue of getting buried into several books. I think my favorite part was just a little throw-away line that gave me great joy: "there’s no way he’ll let us go with without towels." :) They definitely forgot their towels, for this journey! Loved it. :)
Thank you so much! Your comment put a smile on my face. And I'm glad you enjoyed the bit about the towel, that was the reaction I was hoping for. A little secret, I had no idea how to get the characters out of the story until I was more than halfway into writing it.
Well good thing, because that would have sucked for them...! :D
Ha! Agreed. :)