by Dan I Am
A man finds a magic box that grants wishes, with strange results. Writer's Cramp winner.
|Stephen's father had died several years earlier, and now his mother was gone. As the only child who still lived within five-hundred miles, it was Stephen's task to empty out the house in which he'd spend his first eighteen years. |
A few days after the funeral, Stephen's wife, Karen, was helping him pack up boxes - some to save for other family members, some to add to their own castoffs for a yard sale, and some to put out for the trash truck.
“What's that?” Karen spotted Stephen holding a small rectangular box that appeared to be brass.
“I don't know. I've never seen this before.” He slid a fingernail under a tiny clasp and popped the box's lid. Inside, he found a small piece of paper, on which he read a note that was written in an ornate script. “It says I've been granted three wishes.”
“Does it say anything else?”
“It says, 'As the finder of this magic box, you have been granted three wishes, all of your own choosing.' I'll bet my dad left this. He had a pretty odd sense of humor.”
Karen joined her husband for a closer look. “I'll bet you don't dare try it.”
“I don't know what I'd wish for.”
“How about a long and happy life. With me, of course.”
“I already know that will come true. How about money. Isn't that what everyone would wish for?” He slipped the note back into the box and held it close to his face. “I wish for a million dollars.” A brilliant light exploded from the box, and, the room went dark. When it brightened again a few seconds later, Stephen was surrounded by piles of money.
Awestruck, Karen blurted the obvious, for lack of anything more substantive to say at the moment. “Oh, my god, it worked.”
Stephen picked up a handful of bills and stared at them for several seconds before turning to his wife. “Do you know what this means? We can get married, and buy the biggest house in town.” He waited for a response, but instead saw a puzzled look. “What's the matter?”
“You said we can get married.”
“Well, we can. And we'll honeymoon anywhere in the world you want to go.”
Karen inched cautiously to Stephen and took his hand in hers. “Sweetheart. We are married.”
Stephen smiled and stroked Karen's cheek. “It does almost seem like that, doesn't it. Well, let's really do it.”
She had no idea what had happened, but three things were obvious to Karen. Stephen had made a wish, the wish had come true, and Stephen seemed to be losing his mind. “Please do something for me,” she said. “Make another wish, but this time wish that everything was just as it was five minutes ago.”
“But why would I do that? All this money will disappear.”
“Please just trust me. If everything is okay afterwards, you'll still have one wish left.”
“Please. For me. This is very important.”
Stephen shook his head, baffled. But he could see desperation in Karen's eyes. He hesitated for a moment before saying, “Make all this money go away.” As had happened earlier, the box lit up, and the room went black for a second before it brightened again to the sight of Stephen sitting on a bare floor, with no money in sight.
As he looked up at Karen, she asked him, “Are we married?”
Stephen frowned at a very odd question. “I certainly doubt it,” he said. “I don't even know you. Who are you, and what are you doing here?”
Karen's stared into Stephen's face as though trying to validate his very existence. Obviously, the wishes were working, but with a frightening consequence. Each wish brought what had been requested, but some fact in Stephen's memory had disappeared.
“Why are you staring at me?” His eyes scanned the room around him. “And why are you in my mother's house?”
Swallowed up in the insanity of it all, Karen said nothing, but turned and ran toward the door.
“Don't go,” called Stephen. “I just want to know who you are, and why you're here. I'm not going to harm you.”
Karen stopped and turned. “Look,” she said. “I don't know how all this is happening, but it is happening. And that box you're holding has something to do with it.”
Stephen peered into the box, and re-read the note. “I remember perfectly well. I wished for a million dollars, and the wish came true. Then I wished it gone, but I don't know why. Wait. Someone told me to do that. Was it you? Someone I don't even know? A stranger who for some reason is in my mother's house. And you told me to wish that money gone. Why?”
“Whatever magic is in that box is destroying part of your memory each time you make a wish. You're my husband, and I have proof. And you still have one wish left, but I beg you not to use it until we've had a chance to figure this out.”
Stephen stared at Karen, baffled by what he'd heard. “I wish that what you just said made some sense.” The last word was barely out of his mouth before the box reacted to his third wish. Once the room had brightened again, he recognized his wife standing across the room.
“I know you,” he told her. “You're Karen. You're my wife.”
Karen beamed. “Yes, I am.”
“But I'm not sure of one other thing,” said Stephen. “Who the hell am I?”