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Bad Dream


By Nik Kelly




Time: Future.


So, there I am, working with the *BIG* Tesla coil, the conjugate mirror and the ferrite-array phase-shift module, when there's a loud POP and FLASH--

When I finish coughing ozone and checking for damage from that arc-over's ball lightning, I notice I'm not alone in my cellar workshop any more.

He's Mid-Eastern, dressed in swirly silks, doesn't look like a typical Jihadist. His ornamental belt-knife is a bit on the scimitar-sized.

He didn't come through the door: Opening my cellar's Faraday Cage cuts the power.

He is *slightly* transparent...

I glance over to the optical bench and the holography table, there's nothing running.

"D'uh, hello..." I offer, "Are you a Time Traveller ?"


Plaster dust and dried blue-tack blobs shower from the ceiling. The Faraday Cage shrieks, buzzes, rattles and clatters like a Heavy Metal concert during accidental feedback.

He gulps, tries again at a level below painful, "Ahem: Your kind would call me Genie or Afriit."

"Er, Hello, Howdy, Salaam, Bonjour, Guten Tag, whatever: What brings you to my humble workshop ?"

"My ectoplasm was running low."
"Ah, I might be able to rig a feed, but..."

"No, no... I have derived ample nutrition from your sparkly device." He chuckled. Rather than sounding jolly, that had subsonics like a funnel cloud...

"May I open the door for you to leave ?"
"Not yet." He chuckled again, "Are you ignorant of the old legends ?"
"None of my business." I shrugged, "I can offer you coffee, but only Instant. There's some yoghurt and bread rolls in the fridge that should comply with Islamic food rules. I've some tinned chicken & mushroom soup in the cupboard, salt on the table, water in the tap..."

"Too kind !!" He chuckles, "You are a cool one-- Are you a Wizard ?"
"I'm an Amateur Scientist, is all." I sighed, "But I suppose we've evolved from those old Alchemists..."
"Ah, you follow the Alexandrian Tradition ?"
"Figured the Earth was round, got a fair estimate ? Now, THEY were real smart. I'm just a hobbyist-- I do this for fun."
"You stand on the shoulders of giants-- and know it."

"Too kind." I nodded, "But you look as if you have something else on your mind..."
"Ahem..." He chuckled, "I am required to return a kindness for a kindness."
"Well, it was the best ball-lightning toroid that rig's blown in months, CCTV caught it, I reckon we're even."
"But I did not ask: I am obliged to you."
"So.... ??"
"You get a Wish."

"No, thank you." I stated, "You've also given me material for a short story, we're well even."
"You do not want a Wish ?"
"Look..." I waved around, "Science don't work on Wishes, I'd be dishonest, I'd be cheating."

He puzzled, "You are old: Do you not wish for Youth ?"
"Hey, I'm not that old, not for this era !! I've several active decades ahead of me-- D'uh, and to be young and foolish again ? Think with my hormones instead of my head ? No thanks !! I might not be so lucky this time around !!"

"Ah, you are a Philosopher."
"If you like..." I shrugged, "Took me long enough to garner the rudiments of wisdom..."
"Then would you have Wisdom ?"
"I'm only human-- it would drive me mad."
"Fame ?"
"Don't like fuss. Or crowds. Also, there is Fame and Fame."
"Ah, you are modest, too... Fortune ?"
Again, I waved around, "This came from my pocket-money. I'm not poor. If I had more, it would only go as tax. Worse, I'd need to explain getting rich suddenly."

"Your people have a Lottery--"
He inclined his head in salute, glanced beyond the walls, "You write stories ? Do you not wish fame thus ?"
"They're not bad, some are quite good, but they're not Commercial."
"You wrote a novel ? Surely many would pay to read it ?"
"Niche subject: I'm not ashamed of it, but it is NOT best-seller material. No way will I go to the Vanity Press. Leave it as an e-zine."
"Hmm... Your wife is sick ? You do not Wish her well ?"

"I would if I could, but there is 'improbable' and 'impossible'. Wednesdays, she's in day-care. I've done the shopping, I've time to play."
"She is dying ?"
"No more than you or I... She just collects medical problems-- One damn thing on top of another..."
"My Powers are great--"
"So have a look, if you like, but no obligation."

He faded to invisibility. I checked the Tesla for burns, reset the breakers in the capacitor-pack's charger.

"Ahem..." He was back, "About that novel ??"

And, yes, I know it is derivative, but ...



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