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Fantasy Funny Inspirational



It was briefing week at Genie Alliance headquarters. Rows of new recruits hovered in the gymnasium, practicing their human-friendly forms for their mission to Earth. The blue planet in the Milky Way needed rescuing from a climate crisis.


In the gymnasium, Commander Jennings pressed play on a training video. The cartoon from Earth featured a blue genie with a goatee and gold bangles. He had a human torso that tapered into a wispy blue tail.


This,’ Commander Jennings said while pausing the video, is the human perception of a genie.’


The recruits tittered quietly. 


‘Note the blue epidermis, the flamboyant behaviour, the outlandish voice. I want you all to practice mimicking it. Let’s go!’ 


The recruits visibly vibrated with concentrated effort while Commander Jennings hovered along the rows inspecting their efforts. 


‘With vigour—with vim—with effort!’


Recruit 350 was horrified. Earth had been her last choice on the mission list. To Jean, humans didn’t sound especially fun to work with; especially not if they favoured exuberant cartoon genies like this idiot she was imitating. Who did this half-human hamming it up in gold bangles think he was? If the Alliance was expecting her to act like a rambunctious blue berk, she wanted no part of it. But she didn’t have a choice in the matter. The gods had decreed the mission.


Commander Jennings took to the podium; presenting every previous failed Earth mission. Jean’s enthusiasm dwindled to microscopic proportions. Famine, war, pestilence, and global warming—which was poised to strike a killer blow—all persisted.


There are far more intelligent beings out there in the universe, whose civilisation I’d rather help. Why did I have to get saddled with humans?


As the gym full of genies strained themselves into varying shades of azure, their plasma cores flickered. Commander Jennings shouted for the shades to be 'Richer' and 'More vibrant' before floating back to his podium.


‘This—is a lamp,’ he said, pointing to the video screen. ‘It is imperative that you take up residence in a similar vessel to maximise your chances of human contact. Your target is 111 humans. 3 wishes each. 333 wishes total.’ 


He clicked onto the next slide. 


This—‘ he said, ‘is a gravy boat. It has a similar shape to a lamp, but is not to be confused with one.’


Jean sighed. This was really basic stuff.


‘Now, everybody—tell me—why would I avoid using a gravy boat to contain my essence?’


‘The principles of containment. . .’ Jean mumbled along with everyone else.


‘Correct. An unsealed vessel won’t sufficiently preserve your essence on Earth. Your plasma core will shrivel if you spend too long in the atmosphere. We don’t need a load of genie corpses on our hands. Otherwise there’ll be a massive clean-up mission. The Gods are touchy about wasting resources.’


Commander Jennings scanned the rows upon rows of trainees.


‘Remember—we are giving them the opportunity to save their planet. You can only grant them what they wish for.’ He looked on the verge of tears. Tears of pride. ‘What’s our credo?’ He shouted.


The recruits chanted back at him. ‘They have to want it! They have to want it!’


*


Jean thought the Earth Mission was a massive waste of time, because in 8 billion years, the planet would be engulfed by a big ball of helium. What was the point in saving such a questionable species? As usual, it all came down to the will of the gods. Jean was simply doing their bidding.


There was a rumour that once you’d fulfilled your wish quota, you’d be transported to a higher astral plane—a kind of nirvana. The ultimate reward. Though, to Jean, it sounded like a spurious trick employed by the Alliance to get everyone signing up for missions. Commander Jennings’ lips had never uttered anything close to the word nirvana. He and the rest of the commandants had done nothing to dispel the rumour because it worked in their favour. 


But all of that wasn’t why Jean had signed up in the first place. Avoiding a life of drudgery in the service industry where 90% of genies worked was her game plan. But it was beginning to look like her life would always be one of servitude. There would be no escaping cosmic donkey work. The only perk to her work was astral travel. 


============================


With training their complete, the recruits teleported to earth; scattering their plasmic forms into billions of atoms and materialising in their designated continents. 


When Jean touched down on terra firma, she roused herself, then housed herself in the appropriate vessel as quickly as possible. A begrimed brass lamp in an antique shop in the small market town of Leyburn seemed like a good start. 


A three week period of torpor followed. She lay, recuperating, in her cold brass cave. This dormancy was interrupted by a spherical shopkeeper in half-moon glasses carrying out his annual dusting programme. 


Upon being summoned, Jean couldn’t fulfil the shopkeeper’s environmental healing wishes. Other humans would have to be making the same wishes for their powers to coalesce and raise the collective consciousness. At this stage, unfortunately, a lot of heads were still buried in the sand. 


The shopkeeper’s ambitions were to bring back the Dodo (he had a stuffed one in his shop) and a few species of extinct butterflies (of which he had many pinned up in frames). Even if Jean did bring these species back, they’d probably end up taxidermic or framed on the his wall. So Jean could only offer him a placeholder.


The shopkeeper frowned. 'What does that involve?'


‘It would be a certificate to show your involvement in saving Earth. Your wishes would be made good when we hit the threshold of goodwill.’


‘Ah. Right. Well. I think I’ll go with something else, then. What can you grant me straight away?’


A Lamborghini, a gorgeous wife and a mansion on Capri. Typical. How many humans were going to be flip-floppers like this one? 


*


Jaded that she’d wasted three weeks on granting just one wish, Jean relocated to the larger settlement of Darlington. She stationed herself inside a Curry Pot Noodle. This unorthodox manoeuvre—however frowned upon by the Alliance—exposed her to a higher volume of human traffic. 


The supermarket was teeming with delinquents whose shallow natures would be easy to appease with simple wishes. Jean planned on upping her numbers as quickly as possible to leave Earth.


Materialising inside a white plastic cylinder, Jean nestled against dried noodles and soya chunks. After enjoying her crunchy new bed, she tore into a small, square packet and watched a brown liquid ooze out. She curiously sniffed it, and after she'd got the olfactory go-ahead, licked it. It was the saltiest of delights. Though it might have been another highly unorthodox move that was frowned upon by the Alliance, for Jean, it was just a way to pass the time. As a genie, she did not require sustenance. 


It wasn’t long before a brash young man with a hankering for noodles flung her into his trolley and sped home for lunch. 


Inside the kitchen of his council house—clinging to noodles—Jean saw the tin foil roof peeling back. A rapid stream of boiling water cascaded towards her. She teleported out of the pot and landed behind a tracksuit-clad man whose hair was drowning in wet look gel. 


Jean straightened her turban. There had been ample time to rehearse the cadence of the cartoon genie whilst resting in her vessel; but her words came out flat.


‘Hello—I am—a genie. My name is Jean.’ 


The young man dropped his kettle on the floor and hopped angrily about. He cursed as he whipped off his scalding socks. He rushed to grab a pack of frozen peas. Jean tried to ignore the flurry of activity and get straight to business.


‘You probably know why I'm here. You have three wishes. I’m supposed to say "choose wisely", or something.


If Commander Jennings were viewing Jean remotely, he would have berated her for her lack of salesmanship.


The young man’s look of bemusement transformed into one of stupefied delight. 


After conjuring a VR headset, three nubile companions and a million pounds, Jean dematerialised from the council flat. Disgusting. If he was going to go down that route, why not ask for more than a million? Is that the highest number he knows? 


All judgements aside, Jean couldn’t be picky about who she worked with. She had a quota to fulfil. That was only the first of her many encounters with reprobates on benefits.


Jean skulked back through the ether to the supermarket to suckle at the saucy teat of another soy sauce packet. It was good consolation after a hard day. Then she lay in wait for another low life to pick her up, urging the mission on so that she could leave. Maybe she would get to nirvana. It felt nice to have hope. She’d likely never find out if it did exist though. The gods would probably dangle that carrot forever. 


*


Jean’s Pot Noodle days proved prolific, but her peers were still far ahead in volume of wishes. A telepathic transmission from Commander Jennings revealed that the Earth Mission was, for the first time, on course. This was of some comfort to Jean. At least she’d have something decent to put on her C.V. 


Earth was a slog, but gradually, as human consciousness was raised, they began to forfeit selfish wishes for ecological salvation. 


To the bafflement of everyone, Dodos came back to life. The oceans were dredged of plastic. Renewable energy became the standard. Carbon neutral became carbon negative. The ultimate goal of the mission—to raise human consciousness—was being achieved. 


While half of the earth’s population still had their heads buried, others became aware of the miraculous changes. Quite justifiably, though, they did not attribute the changes to a crack team of interstellar genies. Everyone who reported swirling blue plasma was written off as eccentric.  


After reaching her second century of wishes, Jean broke out of the council estates and working men’s clubs. She relocated to a small sugar pot on a ceramic stall in an indoor craft market where she was snapped up by a yummy mummy. 


Jean found that the middle class clientele were replete with fanciful visions for saving the planet. They were far more receptive to having a certificate that boasted of their contribution to saving the world; even if it was only out of egoism. Masses of them jumped onboard Jean’s eco-wagon and her numbers rose. 


But Jean's opinion of humans didn’t change much. Wherever she looked on the social hierarchy, humans were as duplicitous and treacherous as one another. It seemed that there was no such thing as a completely selfless act. There was always a hidden motivation; even if it was just to feel good about themselves for being charitable. Except it wasn't really charity, was it? They were saving their own skin. 


*


In the third trimester of the mission, the nine months of gruelling work finally paid off. The collective consciousness of Earth amassed enough power to save all of its inhabitants. Jean saw a certain poeticism in the human race being ‘born again’ after nine months. She almost felt a pang of empathy. Not quite, though. They were still vile creatures, all, as far as she was concerned—bar the originator of soy sauce.


Jean’s squad was recalled by an overjoyed Commander Jennings—who was keen to put such an effective team to use on another mission right away. During her short spell on leave, Jean felt a pang of disappointment that the rumours of nirvana hadn’t materialised. 


Her next mission to planet Gatwad sounded even more of a hoot than Earth. Some numpties had detonated a doomsday device over a petty land dispute, so she would be putting the genie radiation immunity gene to use, scavenging for survivors. The mission seemed even more superfluous to the universe than her first. She didn’t think that any other planet could be more of a lost cause than Earth. But Gatwad would provide an unexpectedly silver lining.


*


Jean arrived back at Genie HQ. After returning to her quarters, she removed her turban and a small packet fell onto the floor. She snatched it up quickly before anyone could see.


It survived the journey!


It was improbable that a carbon based condiment would survive the dematerialisation process. But somehow, it had. Jean wriggled with glee and shot up to her bunk. She cradled the packet and dreamt of a new future. 


It was the only thing she recalled fondly about her days on earth; lounging on her crispy noodle bed, ripping into those salty packets of joy. After she'd finished her mandatory duties with the Alliance, maybe she could put this sauce on the map?


Figuring out the formula of the sauce and making it herself would be just the ticket to avoid further drudgery. Serendipitously, planet Gatwad’s chief and only export was soy beans. So her next mission (though she didn't know it yet) was taking her to the motherlode.


The fact that the soy beans would be infused with radiation from the recent detonation wouldn’t be a problem for her fellow genies, who held immunity. She could give them a taste for the sauce and get them hooked. She could go on to be a pioneering advocate of sensory pleasure and enlighten a dull world of servitude. If people got a taste for the pleasures they'd been denied, her sauce would start riots. The genies would revolt against the gods. Flavours and tastes would become an intrinsic part of society.


Maybe if she became a sauce tycoon, her slavish race could rise above servitude once and for all. 


Now, to figure out that formula. 



July 01, 2022 16:11

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11 comments

23:35 Jul 20, 2022

I liked the dichotomy of silly genies and a serious subject like climate change. Funny stuff and probably our only hope. Awesome story! I'll read more of your stuff

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Jim Firth
09:58 Jul 21, 2022

Thanks Christopher. If silly genies are our only hope in the climate crisis, then we might be in a spot of trouble, haha!

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Carolyn Brown
04:53 Jul 04, 2022

A genie named Jean... I have a nagging idea that Jean's soy sauce machinations may end in outrageous disaster! Maybe it's because she was tutting about humans having no selfless thoughts and ruining the future of their planet and everyone on it, while at the same time preoccupations with her own best interests were directing her actions. Will the next chapter be about soy sauce nirvana? I can't imagine what a genie's corpse would look like. I love the idea of a genie wriggling with glee and clutching a packet of earthly condiment. It's w...

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Jim Firth
18:52 Jul 06, 2022

Carolyn, If that's the only takeaway from this story--that we should all wriggle with glee when clutching packets of earthly condiments--then I am a happy bunny. I have a feeling you might be right about soy sauce nirvana not being all it's cracked up to be. A disastrous attempt at selling the sauce to the genie planet sounds like it would be a fun part 2! I might have to give that a shot :)

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18:41 Jul 24, 2022

I'd love to see this as a graphic novel. Hilarious (and utterly charming) -- from start to finish! Audible laugh at: "using a gravy boat to contain my essence" And this almost read like a prayer: "To the bafflement of everyone, Dodos came back to life. The oceans were dredged of plastic. Renewable energy became the standard. Carbon neutral became carbon negative. The ultimate goal of the mission—to raise human consciousness—was being achieved." From your pen to God's ears. Oy vey...

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Jim Firth
19:30 Jul 24, 2022

Deidra, What can I say? Genies prefer a container with a lid. A graphic novel? I hadn't even thought of that, but it might work well if anyone was daft enough to draw it. Thanks so much for reading and commenting :)

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Aeris Walker
19:56 Jul 01, 2022

HA! Another journey to a world of belly laughs. Fantastic. The beginning was just hilarious, you immediately brought the reader into the setting, and made it feel like we were right there beside the other genie recruits. I love how the speaker is so passionate about his mission that he gets emotional. Lol! The idea of a genie chilling in a container of ramen noodles and passing the time by sampling the sauce is just GOLD. Don’t know how you think up this stuff. “‘This—‘ he said, ‘is a gravy boat. Similar shape to a lamp, but not to be c...

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Jim Firth
13:32 Jul 02, 2022

Aeris, You are quite the cheerleader! Your amazing comments are so encouraging. It's very useful to know which parts came across well, because that first scene was like a big exposition dump at first. So it's good to know that you could feel the scene. I can't resist adding ridiculous things like pot noodles instead of a traditional lamp! Can't recall where that one came from though!

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Aeris Walker
14:19 Jul 02, 2022

Expedition dumps can absolutely have a dragging effect on stories, especially ones right at the beginning, but you kept it light and humorous and presented this super unique idea right away that there was no choice but to keep reading. I probably would not have been as faithful to story writing if it hadn’t been for other highly encouraging and kind writers who motivate me to never stop improving. I think encouragement to writers is more valuable than million dollar ideas!

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Jim Firth
14:45 Jul 02, 2022

Well, you could charge for your comments! It's nice of you to pass on that motivation you've received from others. I try my best to do the same, but usually feel like I could do more encouraging. Comments from the right people are worth more than prizes!

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Aeris Walker
01:00 Jul 03, 2022

Well, thanks Jim :) I’ve truly appreciated all your comments, so no complaints here! And yes, I definitely agree—knowing you genuinely touched someone with your writing, whether by making them laugh or cry, is a reward all on its own.

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