prompt: copy, title: one step forward, two steps back in misc. flash fiction

  • Oct. 5, 2023, 9:17 a.m.
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  • Public

“Look,” the administrator said, sitting in the desk hovering above him, her authoritative pantsuit brought neatly together by a slender purple neck-tie, “you came to us well-regarded, MXY-944.” “Call me Mixy, ma’am,” he tried playing it cool, “I insist.”

“Indeed, MXY-944,” no patience for casual obsequiousness, “your mother was one of our finest field agents for millennia. Her pedigree certainly shows, at least insofar as raw magic capacity.” “Thank you, ma’am, I…” He cut off his filibustering as her eyes shot daggers at him, shot literal daggers that halted in mid-air, inches in front of him. This was how djinn intimidated each other, through deadly spell-craft as well as deathly word-play. “But that’s half your problem.”

“Your wish-twisting lacks proportionality and, more to the point, lacks punitive irony. You don’t teach lessons, expose flaws, exploit vices, you just wish-twist in your showiest way possible.” “I have my own style, ma’am, but…” Those daggers crept closer still. “But nothing, MXY-944, no. Consider Ashton Van Willingham the Fourth’s wish to be The Ruler of the World.” “I thought it was clever.” “Clever, maybe, but meaningless. Standard procedure would be to send him to Mars where he’d rule a world for the four minutes it took to asphyxiate or perhaps send him forward to the death of the sun when he’s the only man on Earth, ruling by default.” “But that’s too boring!” “Boring teaches lessons, MXY-944. You turned him into a wooden ruler the length of the Earth, which burned to a crisp upon atmospheric re-entry.”

“But that’s funny!” he protested, too offended to suck up further. “Funny is great if you’re also educating or punishing, but we’re not here just to be funny.” “It was too funny!” “Take the case of Richard Springfield who wished he could have his best friend Jesse’s girl.” “I did a great job on that!” “MXY-944, you did not. You could’ve swapped him into Jesse’s body, losing his own identity in the deal. You could’ve turned him into a copy of Jesse’s girl, possessing her literally. Bit kinky for my taste but absolutely ironically-valid.”

“MXY-944,” he averted his eyes, ashamed, “you shrunk Jesse’s girl to seven inches tall and put her in a firefly jar.” “But-” “It wasn’t ironic, enlightening or even a punishment.” “But-” “It was performative cruelty.” “It was funny!” he cried, distending into a huge draconic monster, burning off the daggers with fire-breath, “it was funny, that’s all that matters! Funny, funny, funny!” The supervisor looked down at him, coldly. “Oh, now you’re just being a baby,” she said as her own illusory-image dropped and her tie extended to wrap about his waist, “so that’s your punishment then, Mixy. We start over.”

“Mom?” His eyes went cold. “Yes,” she said as the neck-tie attached to his navel and he started shrinking away, phasing through back through her belly, “my little braggart baby,” until only a first-trimester bulge remained beneath her pant-suit.

She looked down toward MXY-944’s renewed potential. “You see? Educational and funny.”


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