Two wishes wasted; this third and final one was my last chance. The overhead lights were blinding, and I was sweating beneath this makeup crap they made me wear. “You’ll look better for the camera,” they said.
Like I cared about the camera. I wasn’t here for fame, or glory, or a spot on Dancing in Zero-G with the Stars. Sherlock Holmes said that whenever you eliminated the impossible, the virtually impossible had to be true, or something like that, but he never said what to do when the impossible was the only way out.
The host of Genie in a Bottle sure didn’t need makeup, being a hologram. He looked pretty good at home on the projector, but in the studio, you could see right through him. I’ll give those programmers credit about one thing, though – he had smarmy know-it-all jerkwad down to a T. “Fifteen seconds left for your final wish, Randy. The clock is counting down – ten, now – what will it be?”
He could afford to be calm, the supercilious simulacrum. I mean, not only did he not exist, but he also didn’t know what I knew. If I didn’t come up with the right answer – and right quick – there wouldn’t be enough left of any of us to dope a semiconductor.
I took one last look at the products of my first two wishes. The Cyclops was strong enough, that’s for sure, but he had no depth perception, and stumbled around the stage with his hand stretched out in front of him, trying desperately to gain his balance. The other was running through the audience, kissing whomever she could find. I’d tried to wish for Morgiana, my ex. She made me want to chew out my eyes, but she was the cleverest woman I’d ever known – I just knew she’d know how to get us out of this mess. But the computer misheard me, and so Morganna the Kissing Bandit had been plucked out of the past. She’d laid a good one on me, but other than that, she hadn’t been any help.
The timer went off, and I took a deep breath. The host’s question went in one ear and out the other. I knew what it would be, my third wish, if I could get up the guts to say it. Ah, but then again, who needs guts when the universe has ceased to exist.
“Well, Chuck, I’ve thought a lot about this, and I’m going to wish for the end of all things.”
The host’s holographic mien cracked, and a flashing light went off, accompanied by a booming voice originating from everywhere. “Warning: You Have Violated The Rules. No Wish Can Be Used To End Existence, Or Through Inaction, Cause Existence To End.” I heard a clunk, and thanked the maker that the Asimovian Laws of Robotics had been grandmothered in to the rules of all games.
Back at home, a switch flipped from “End Program” to “Resume.”