prompt: owl, title: yours for the asking in misc. flash fiction

  • June 27, 2021, 5:33 p.m.
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  • Public

“You could wish for infinite wishes, child, of course you could,” according to the owl that lived there for as long as anyone could ever remember, “but that wish would just turn you into another genie.” It smiled, to whatever extent one can smile through a beak. “Humans always think they can out-smart magic, magic has been around for ten billion years, people get to a century if they are lucky. No matter how brilliant you are for a mortal woman or man, this universe simply has an insurmountable head-start on figuring the loopholes, the loopholes within the loopholes and deeper nested loopholes all the way down. You have no chance against the sum of everything.”

You look down at the lamp in your hands while the owl continues on. “If you wished to live until the end of time with your first wish in hopes of buying millennia to strategize against the infinite, the next moment would be the end of time and then we would all be screwed. In my opinion, I’d suggest against that course of action. Selfishly, I’d admit. I have become accustomed to living.”

You had found the wishing lamp in the cave at the edge of your known world, the one all of the elders scoffed at as a children’s story, at great cost to yourself and those around you. Years and years of planning, a small fortune in supplies and hired mercenaries, a weeks-long trek, a dozen traps solved and half-solved, three survivable wounds on your body and as many hirelings dead.

But you aren’t completely stupid, you knew the legends of the ways wishing gets twisted, careful what you wish for and all that, so you consulted the creature most knowledgeable in magics and the non-magic as well, the enchanted owl at the edge of town that everyone always went to when the normal sages just wouldn’t do. You remember asking it dumb things when you were a child, how many licks it took to get through a candy, dumber things still as a teenager, how to make a certain someone fall in love with you. Returning an adult with questions far more pressing and world-breaking, somehow the ancient nearly-all-knowing bird up in the tree still made you feel just as childish and stupid as all of those other silly times before.

“What if I wish to be as wise as the universe itself,” you finally ask, “at least a coin-flip chance of out-smarting it with my second and third wishes?” “How do you think I ended up as the wise old owl, without hands with which to rub that wishing lamp a second or third time?”

You look down at the lamp, look up and then set the thing down at the base of the tree. “Perhaps I’ll just let you guard it instead, Wise Owl.” “See,” the owl completes its line of thinking, “you leave a little wiser than before yourself, without the wishing or the curse of feathered wings.”

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