Amesha looked incredulously from the being hovering before her down to the tarnished ring from which it had, apparently, sprung. “Did you really come out of this ring?”
“I did,” the genie said.
A genie! Amesha shook her head. She would never have believed this were happening if it weren’t, well, happening. She had always pictured genies as coming from lamps, but when she’d begun wiping off this old ring she’d found on the ground, it had started to vibrate. Now this purple-skinned fellow, clad in robes that looked like they were woven out of smoke, hovered in the air in front of her.
“And you’re real? This isn’t some kind of prank?” She put her hand on her hip. She looked around, trying to be sure there was nobody else nearby. She cut through this alley every day as a shortcut home from school. Had this ring been there the entire time, beneath a forlorn piece of paper? Or was it newly arrived?”
“I am real,” the genie said. He folded his arms across his chest. “Do you desire to make your wishes?”
Amesha laughed. “This is too much,” she said. “Like, this is straight out of fiction.” She straightened her face. Like probably everyone, she had talked with her friends about what she would wish for if she ever met a genie. Unlike everyone else, though, she had seriously thought about it. “Okay. I have questions for you. You are not to construe any of these questions as wishes. If I say anything that would imply to you that I desire to make a wish, you must first ask me to confirm that I am attempting to make a wish. Do you understand?”
The genie gaped. “I understand.”
“Good,” she said. She twisted the ring between her fingers. “How many wishes are you able to grant me?”
“Three, as tradition dictates,” the genie said.
Amesha nodded. Well, the stories had something right. “Are you allowed to grant me more wishes than that?”
The genie shook his head. “No, I am not.”
“What prevents you from granting more wishes?”
“Laws, magically enforced,” the genie replied. “Once I have granted three wishes to you, my ring will disappear from your possession.”
Amesha considered who had created the laws. She decided it was irrelevant to her goals. His answers had given her a suspicion. “What can I ask you to do, other than grant wishes? How much command do I have over you?”
The genie frowned. Her questions clearly displeased him. “You may ask me to grant wishes and to answer questions. You may make stipulations regarding our interaction, as you did moments ago. You may also command me to enter and exit my ring. I am not required to do anything else.”
Ah, that was an interesting answer. “So you are required to answer my questions?” Amesha asked.
The genie paused. “I am bound to answer your questions truthfully. As many as you wish to ask, so long as they are within my knowledge and as long as you have wishes remaining to be granted.”
“Interesting,” Amesha said. “Are you one of those genies from fables that’s going to try to twist my wishes into horrible things?”
“I will grant your wishes as literally as possible,” the genie replied.
“So, yes,” Amesha said, tapping her foot. She narrowed her eyes. “Enter your ring. I’m taking you home.”
“As you wish,” the genie said, bowing.
“We both know that was not a wish,” Amesha said. Without answering, the genie dissolved into mist, which condensed, hardened, and became a smokey purple stone that set itself into the ring.
At home, safe in her bedroom, Amesha called the genie out of his ring once more. “I have been thinking, genie.”
“I have been eagerly awaiting your thoughts,” the genie said flatly.
“Is there a limit to how many wishes you can grant?” Amesha asked. She ignored his tone.
“As I said before, I am allowed to grant you only three wishes.”
“That’s not what I asked,” Amesha said. “Is there a limit to how many wishes you can grant throughout your existence?”
“Ah. That is a different questions,” the genie said. “It should be of no concern to you, for I can grant you only three, but yes, there is a lifetime limit for how many wishes I can grant.”
“What is that limit?” Amesha asked.
“I don’t know the answer,” the genie said. “That knowledge is not granted to us.”
“Alright,” Amesha asked. “If I desire more than three wishes, how do I go about that?”
“I don’t have a direct answer for that question,” the genie said.
“Try anyway,” Amesha insisted.
“You cannot wish for more wishes,” the genie said. “That is forbidden. You could perhaps hope to encounter another genie sometime in your life, though the chances are slim.” So there were other genies. Good to know.
“Are you able to grant a wish that increases my chances of meeting other genies?” Amesha moved to her desk, where she got out a pen and a piece of lined paper.
“I am not allowed to do that, no,” the genie said.
“Okay,” Amesha said. She had anticipated that answer. She wondered if whoever had made the rules binding the genie had anticipated her. “I am going to write down a rough draft of what I think my first wish might be. You are not going to grant it. Instead, you will first tell me whether it is something you are capable of granting.”
Amesha’s brow furrowed subconsciously as she wrote. She wanted to get her phrasing perfect, so there could be no room for the genie to doubt her intention or twist the wish so that it didn’t serve her purposes.
When she finished, she decided to read the note allowed. “Remember, what follows is not yet a wish I desire to be granted. Once you hear it, you are only to tell me whether it is a wish you could grant.”
“You’ve already said that,” the genie said. He sat down in the air, one hand draped over a folded knee. “I understood you the first time.”
“Surely you understand that, wish your wishes as such a limited resource, I have to be careful with each one,” Amesha said.
“I get it,” the genie said. “But most humans are way less careful than you. They just wish for money, or attractiveness, or to be president.”
“I’m not like most people,” Amesha said. “I prefer to think things through. I like it that way.”
“Fine,” the genie said. “What is your wish?” Amesha glared at him. He rolled his eyes, a surprisingly mundane gesture.“What is the wish you desire to propose, which I will not grant at this time?”
Amesha read. “I would wish for you to be unbound by the laws that require you to limit the number of wishes you can grant to a single individual before your ring is dispersed to another location. Note that this wish explicitly does not encompass any of the other laws that bind you, including specifically the fact that you are allowed to use your power only to grant wishes, and the fact that you must answer my questions.”
“How do you know I’m only allowed to use my power to grant wishes?” the genie asked.
“It’s implied by your behavior,” Amesha said. “If you could grant wishes to yourself, or if you could use your power freely, you would not be so easily bound to granting wishes to mortals like myself. Am I correct?”
The genie huffed. “Yes.”
“Good,” Amesha said. “Now, the wish. Can you grant it?”
The genie stared at her, his face blank. She couldn’t be sure if he was pondering her question, having no answer, or whether he was attempting to resist answering her at all. “I can,” he said, after a time.
“Alright,” Amesha said. “What are the repercussions of granting that wish?”
“You have laid out the specifics precisely,” the genie said, obviously exasperated.
“I have, but as the person who wrote it, it is difficult for me to see the potential flaws,” Amesha said. “You are an outside entity who can look at it from a different angle. What will be the effects of that wish?”
“After that wish, you will have only two wishes remaining,” the genie said. “However, I will no longer be disallowed from granting you more wishes, should you ask for that in another wish. In addition, there are certain powers which may not enjoy the fact that you’ve circumvented the rules.” The genie smiled coldly. “Does that answer your question?”
“Yes,” Amesha said. She had guessed, from the way he had talked about the rules binding him, that there would be someone or something behind them. She would deal with that later. She turned back to her paper and began writing once more.
“Are you not going to ask for that wish to be granted?” the genie asked.
“Are you really so impatient?” Amesha asked. “I’m rewording it slightly to remove any possible ambiguity.”
“There was already no ambiguity!” The genie through his arms up in frustration.
“Well, that’s your opinion.” Amesha ignored him while she finished writing. “There. You may take the following as an actual wish, which I expect to be granted.”
“I understand,” the genie said, his voice flat and bored.
“I wish for you, the genie who is bound under my control by possession of this ring, to no longer be restricted by the one specific law which controls your ability to grant wishes. This wish in no way should be construed to be asking to release you from any other limitations imposed on you by whatever power it is that does so. The sole restriction from which I desire you to be released is the one which prevents you from granting additional wishes on top of the three to which you are normally limited.”
The genie folded his arms. “Are you satisfied with that wording? Do you desire for me to grant that wish?”
Amesha’s heart fluttered. “I do.”
“It is granted,” the genie said. “I take it you have another wish in mind, considering.”
Amesha frowned. “That’s it? No fanfare?”
“No,” the genie said. “It was not a wish that required much fanfare, was it?”
“I suppose not,” Amesha said. She turned back to her paper to write down her next wish.
“Really?” the genie said. He leaned over her shoulder. “Are you going to write down every single wish?”
“Of course I am,” Amesha said. “I’ve read too many stories about wishes going wrong to risk that happening to me.”
When she finished, she read it aloud. Despite her care, this was a wish she felt had little chance of going wrong. “Rather than being limited to three wishes, I wish to extend the total number of wishes you can grant to me to be equal to the number of wishes you can grant throughout your lifetime.”
“I knew you were going to make that wish,” the genie said.
“Congratulations,” Amesha said.
He sighed. “You asked me to confirm before granting anything that sounded like a wish. Do you want me to grant the wish you just proposed?”
“I do,” Amesha said.
“Wish granted,” the genie said. He snapped his fingers. “There’s you fanfare.”
Amesha felt a field of possibilities open up before her. She pulled a notebook out of her desk drawer and began writing.