The genie appeared from out of the spout of the lamp in a wisp of smoke, his upper body large and muscular, but his lower half little more than a tail of blue and purple vapour. He had a circle of black hair on his head, the centre bald and revealing the top of his shiny head.
Miles took a long drag on his cigarette and put it out in the ashtray before he spoke. He wanted to act as casual as he possibly could, considering there was a magical being in the middle of his kitchen.
‘As I said last time,’ the genie said, ‘I can grant you three wishes – no more. Have you selected your first wish?’
Miles nodded. ‘I have,’ he replied. In fact, his first wish had been the only thing that he had thought about for days, ever since he had pulled that dirty lamp out of the trash. After several long nights spent debating the ethics of wishing for something to improve his own life versus something to improve the rest of the world, he had made his decision.
‘I wish for world peace,’ he said.
The genie grinned, showing a full set of yellowing teeth. ‘I can do this,’ he told Miles, ‘though only as much as is possible without affecting the will of humans. Though I have great power, I can do nothing that impedes upon their freedom.’
Then he snapped his fingers, and disappeared back into the lamp.
The world’s weapons were destroyed overnight. Wealth was shared out equally, to the extent that it could be, to reduce and limit jealousy. Health came became available to all free of charge. For a while, it seemed as though there would be nothing left for people to argue or fight about.
The genie had done well, so Miles summoned him for his second wish.
‘I wish I had one hundred million pounds,’ he said. It seemed like a reasonable enough amount to ask for.
The genie grinned his yellow grin, snapped his fingers, and returned to the lamp.
Miles would not have known what to do with two hundred million dollars, so one hundred million dollars blew his mind. He bought himself everything that he had ever wanted, and realised that it had barely even made a dent in the amount of cash he had.
As the rest of the world’s money had been dished out between the entire human race after Miles’ first wish, his second officially made him the richest man on the planet. It got him plenty of attention.
His neighbour approached him one day wearing a dark expression, and attacked him, then stole his wallet. In comparison to Miles’ bank accounts, there was not much in it, but when he looked around he saw that there were many angry people who were all out to get him.
Upon this realisation, he returned to the genie.
‘I don’t understand why this is happening,’ he said, nursing his bruises with a bag of frozen peas. ‘Whatever happened to world peace?’
‘You made your second wish,’ the genie replied.
‘So, if I wished that nobody could dislike me …’
‘I cannot do anything that would affect free will. It would have no effect.’
Miles scratched his chin in thought. He did his best to shape his sentence in a way that would have no adverse side effects for himself, though he knew that he would not have been able to guess every possibility.
‘I wish that I could influence people’s free will,’ he said.
‘Now that,’ said the genie, ‘I can do.’
He grinned, and he snapped his fingers, and he returned to the lamp, all for the final time. Then the lamp vanished in front of Miles’ eyes, probably to reappear in somebody else’s unsuspecting bin.
Miles cursed the genie. He cursed it when he woke, and he cursed it before he went to sleep. World peace, as a concept, was great – but it had done nothing to eradicate people’s greed or their thoughts of self-importance.
His own greed and sense of self-importance had only ruined the flimsy, temporary peace that the first wish had created.
As for his third wish, Miles discovered the genie had been true to his word. He was a powerful influence over other people. His every sentence, his every gesture, his every expression encouraged people to speak, to move, or to behave differently. Everybody wanted to look like him, and to live as he lived.
His power of persuasion was unending, and it bored him to death. Miles came to realise that everybody who loved him, whether family, friends or fans, only did so because he had persuaded them to love him.