A neat little row of leaves had gathered at the top of the cathedral steps like a crispy looking jury. Megan raked the lamp through them, ‘I bet the other genies are more flexible around the use of language.’
Now brace yourself, for her summoned companion was no exotically beautiful and scantily scarfed maiden. Indeed this genie favored the gnarly, whittled appearance of someone who boils up scantily scarfed maidens for breakfast, makes a onesie out of their skin and joins an on-line dating site under the name of Babs McFun. The genie just shrugged and carried on negotiating the release of a complicated bogie with the tip of her nail.
Overhead, the cathedral bell screeched out a dozen speckled gulls from its austere tower. Megan tried again, ‘I only said the word by mistake, and then I had to use the second one to undo all that stuff with my boyfriend and the elephant trunk… I mean that’s not really fair is it?’ but the reassurances were weak and shaped themselves around her words a fraction of a second too late.
The old woman was rubbing the bogie into the chicken flesh of her upper arm like it was a delicious body butter, ‘Is that a wish?’
Megan looked out over the crowd of people milling around the square below, ‘I bet if you offered any one of them three wishes they’d jump at the chance,’ she shook her head, ‘But two wishes later and you end up right back where you started, I wouldn’t wish finding a magic lamp on my worst enemy.’
‘Is that a wish?’ the old woman sucked at her teeth. Needless to say they were yellow and had a part-time job coning off the road works on the nearby motorway.
‘No it’s not a fucking wish,’ Megan glared at her.
‘Only you said the W word.’
‘It was not a wish.’
‘As you wish, Deerie,’ she added the deerie because she looked like a hag and it was expected.
‘Gaaaaaaagh!’ Megan raked her hands through her hair. The damn genie kept saying wish, it was so easy to get confused. Luckily everything still seemed okay.
But as the final noon bell died away, and for those who could read the signs, it was enough that the gulls chose only the newly cleaned cars to spell out their ticker-tape warning.
‘I’m not one for nit picking,’ the genie said, picking a nit out of her ear, ‘but you rubbed the lamp see, and that means you want a wish.’
‘I don’t want a wish.’
‘Do you wish to wish for something else then…Deerie?’
‘Stop saying wish.’
‘Is that a wish?’
Megan puffed out an exasperated sigh as the city tram clattered across the square, ‘If it’s a wish then I have to say the words I WISH, in front of it.’
The ghastly woman bowed, ‘Your wish is my command.’
‘Your wish is my command.’
‘No, no, I didn’t make a wish,’ Megan raked back over the conversation, ‘I just said…’ she clamped her hand over her mouth, but it was too late and the familiar black light was already coiling from her mouth like an unkempt bikini line.
As the last gull fled to the growing silence of the tower, the air around Megan thickened, picking up the dust and spinning it into tiny ringlets. She caught at her throat, as the first of the words inked itself into her flesh, ‘No, please, that wasn’t a wish, I was just explaining the context…’ she looked around frantically, her boyfriend had warned her over and over that it was the third wish you really had to watch out for, the one you couldn’t undo.
And in the time it took for her to gather a scream, all the garish colours that had decorated the day cancelled each other out. Except for red, obviously.
At the hearing, all the witnesses swore that they hadn’t seen the girl run in front of the tram. Things like that just happened sometimes, poor girl was probably too busy texting to pay attention. The driver didn’t mention the strange looking lamp that had mysteriously appeared in his locker later that day. Why should he? A good clean up and it could be worth a bit of money. Funny how he’d just been wishing that his luck would change.