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genie story

A Genie at Work

(complete text full story - 4,254 words)
(first of three sections)

         If you were a ghost in the city of Oolong Morblock, then that was bad enough. You couldn't eat hamburgers and you couldn't smell flowers. You couldn't feel the warmth of the sun yet the cold of the wind cut right through you. But if you were a genie then it was far worse.
        Ptolemy Dace was a genie and so he suffered as genies did. From time to time, unpredictably, the urge to serve would come upon him without warning, and then he would go questing out for a desiring human. And then another, and another - ending the session exhausted and on the point of being deranged.
        Finally, Ptolemy decided that enough was enough. The people of Oolong Morblock would have to be trained to leave genies alone. A genie's urge to serve was conjured up by the inchoate desires of the living population. If living humans could be trained not to desire - or, at least, not to desire the services of genies - then Ptolemy's suffering would come to an end.
        "And how do we train them?" said Ptolemy. "Why, by setting a bloody example."
        First, he needed a base to work from. In his spare time, Ptolemy hung out in the accident and emergency ward of Parkes Pilkem Medical, the hospital which served Oolong Morblock's richest. Invisible to the human eye - invisibility was an option always available when the urge to serve was not driving him - Ptolemy spied until he had the data he needed. The address of a house with a hospitalized owner.
        After a year of doing this, Ptolemy was still no closer to his goal, but he had learnt a lot about computers and their problems. Maybe there was a better way to do this, but the demands of his clients were continually disorganizing his head, making it difficult to think. So he stuck with the one plan he had been able to formulate.
        On what was officially the first day of spring, Ptolemy made his way to the latest address, arriving at the house at ten in the morning. The drapes were drawn. The house was in shadows. And in silence. Good.
        Ptolemy liked silence and darkness both - ancient commodities which were distressingly absent from the modern world.
        At first, Ptolemy stood absolutely still, orienting himself. When he interfaced with the unbridled turbulence of the world and the humans that it contained, then data came to him in huge discordant gusts, unbalancing him, causing him to over-compensate with florid riffs of spontaneous creativity, inventing madly to work up the gyroscopic momentum he needed to keep himself from falling over entirely.
        "This drives me crazy," said Ptolemy to himself.
        By "this" he meant the frenetic environment of the city state of Oolong Morblock with its twenty million minds buzzing with news, views, opinions and television gossip. He meant the chaotic discordance of competing schedules, of alarms and clocks and subway timetables, of the frenetic business of a high technology world.
        Leaving no footprints on the luxury of the carpet, Ptolemy graced through the house to the room which held the waiting computer.
        "On," said Ptolemy.
        The computer came to life.
        Would it work? This time? Would it finally work?
        "Cursor center," said Ptolemy.
        Obediently, the cursor moved to the center of the screen.
        "Cursor right," said Ptolemy.
        He halted the cursor at the icon which he desired and commanded it to double-click. Three hours later, he finally had his own Internet bank account. But transferring money from the accounts of his hospitalized host proved beyond his powers.
        And money was what he desired most. Money was the power to move things in the real world, and he was hungry for power after too long spent chased by voices, hectored by the winds.
        "Okay," said Ptolemy. "Let's do it another way."


        Opera Morleth-Spindle and her husband Mop Molish Morleth-Spindle were going over their accounts when a genie appeared in their living room. At first, they didn't notice it, because they were too busy arguing over money. Although they both worked, their combined incomes were never enough for half the things they wanted. Mop was low in the hierarchy of his public relations firm and Opera was still struggling to find her footing in the TV world, so their salaries were not nearly equal to their tastes.
        Finally, the genie coughed.
        Mop glanced round and saw the genie.
        "Go away," said Mop.
        "That's not smart," said the genie. "I'm a genie, and I'm here to grant your wildest dreams."

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This story,"A Genie at Work", was first published when posted online on 2003 September 27 Saturday. (4,254 words)(fantasy).

This page is part of Hugh Cook's website,
Copyright © 2003 Hugh Cook. All rights reserved.


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