It was the usual three wishes, but alas, as with anything that was real, there were limitations. Not only was she limited to three wishes per year, but the effects of each wish lasted for exactly one year--no more and no less, no exceptions. She could not use wishes to undo other wishes, and of course there was no wishing for more wishes or such nonsense. Fortunately, any wish made must be given directly to the genie, in a deliberate manner, so that casual remarks such as "I wish you were dead" would be ignored. There was an additional stipulation that the same thing could never be wished for more than once; even if the second wish was similar but not exactly identical to the first, there were limitations on how similar the wishes could be. None of these rules were the genie's idea: he was simply confined to a set of physical laws--which were the same for all genies--and there was nothing he could do about it.
Kathy overestimated her genie in college when she first found him in an old book of differential equations (the genie believed a math book to be the perfect hiding place, as college students rarely ever opened them [even math majors]; the genie's spot had indeed been quite comfortable for over fifty years). The first thing Kathy had done was to wish for the cute guy in biology class to become her boyfriend. The genie had made it so, but he ended up being a classic jerk--big-headed, cocky, and very jealous. She had wanted to dump him, but her wish bounded him to her until exactly one year later (that is, precisely the amount of time it took Earth to go around the sun, not by the human calendar conventions). The other wishes she made that year failed just as miserably--she won a million dollars without taxes and appeared in a television commercial which ran every day. But exactly one year later the money (and all the items purchased with it) was gone, and the particular commercial she was in (she hadn't thought to specify that it be a GOOD one) caused her to be ridiculed by various late-night talk show hosts. (It was a soda commercial, and there had been a certain amount of belching in it.) It had been a year of misery.
The next year, her junior year, she did better. She wished to be the most beautiful person attending the school, as well as the most intelligent (two separate wishes, naturally). She also wished for perfect health. She then had her pick of boyfriends, was a marvel in the classroom, and was in tip-top shape all year round. Of course, a year later all that changed. Her boyfriend dumped her, she suddenly made Cs because the classes were too advanced for her, and she caught a very bad case of the flu.
After that, she'd learned her lesson. Kathy limited her wishes to minor, usually short-term things. She asked for small amounts of money, and always bought food or other disposable items with it, things she would not care what happened to one year later. She would move a star here and there--just a little, and after all moving a star that was hundreds of light-years away could not possibly have any affect on her. After she graduated, she got a good job and moved into a house away from her parents (all on her own). Perhaps it was out of loneliness, but after a while she got into using her genie to play elaborate practical jokes: Making her neighbors' grass grow at an accelerated rate, making herself fly around like a witch on Halloween, and once she even turned the St. Louis Arch upside-down like a U--for a whole year! It was all over the news. But no one could ever know it was her, for if anyone ever found out about the genie they would surely try to steal it away from her. And so she grew tired of making jokes, and decided to save the genie for emergencies only.
It was now September, five years after she graduated, and she hadn't made any wishes whatsoever for over a year. She could not talk to the genie except to make a wish (although once she did wish for him to talk to her whenever she wanted, but he turned out to be quite a boring individual). She felt so lonely. Relationships were always such a fizzle for her. She had recently bought a computer of her own (without wishing for it), and was in the department store looking for a new game to play. She happened upon a game called "Creatures," read the box, became very interested and made the purchase.
Kathy was enthralled with it for over a month, completely forgetting about the genie. She had so many creatures (called norns) to play with! There was Harry and Sam and Vera and Spock and Betty, and her favorite, Tyke. There was also a grendel, basically a tougher version of a norn, that she wished had been left out of the game.
One day, Kathy was playing with Tyke, feeding him carrots and watching him play with the beach ball. As she watched, she mused about what the norns would be like if they were real. They would probably be about six inches tall, and could fit in her pocket. How cute they would be! Of course, it would only last for a year, but they would keep her company. Surely if they could eat the carrots in the game, she could just as easily feed them carrots from the supermarket. And a few cheap toys should be enough to satisfy them. Of course, some of them might die on her, but additional wishes might take care of that.
She thought about it overnight, and by the next morning she still could not think of any reason not to--after all, she would have two remaining wishes which she should be able to use to correct any problems. She opened the chest and woke the genie.
"What is your wish," the genie asked sleepily.
"I wish for my creatures from my 'Creatures' computer game to become real! I have the game running now, if that's necessary."
"It isn't," said the genie. He searched the universe, as he always did, for every piece of information available about the game, and what was needed to make the creatures come to life. The "Creatures Strategies and Secrets" guide, which Kathy did not have, was very helpful. The genie worked his magic, said "Finished," as he always did, and went back to sleep.
Less than a moment later, Kathy heard "Tyke bored" from the computer room (a bit loud, she thought). She knew that's what was said, for she had played the game so much that she had the sound of each syllable in the norns' speech memorized.
"Tyke!" she exclaimed, and ran into the other room--
--and almost ran into a literal monster. She looked up, and the red face and horns were unmistakable. It was Tyke, alright. But he happened to be about six-and-a-half feet tall!
"Oh--f--bibble!" Kathy said, running into the kitchen.
Tyke followed. "Push hand!"
Kathy got all the food she had out of the refrigerator and set it in front of the norn. Of course, the norn didn't eat it. "PUSH FOOD!" Kathy shouted, intent on teaching the norn that SHE was NOT food. . .
Meanwhile, in the computer room, the other eleven norns came out of the computer, one by one.
Tyke had fallen asleep, so Kathy emerged from the kitchen, saw the giant norns running around, and screamed.
The norns ignored her, but had plenty of things to say. "Get yes Harry!" "Push Sara!" "Run!" "Spock right!" "Run hand!" Apparently, Kathy was still the "hand," the pointer used in the game. One said it whenever she got too close. So it had been in the game quite often.
Even Leia, her newborn, was giant-sized. If she were standing (she was still in the crawling stage), she'd come up to a little above Kathy's waist.
After awhile of putting up with it, Kathy got an idea. Norns may be able to use lifts and "movers," but she betted that they would have no idea how to use a door--not in their vocabulary. The car was on the driveway outside, so she herded the norns through the side door of the garage and locked the door. (They did slap her a few times but weren't overly vicious. Some of the toys she had bought helped.) She then went into her bedroom. She would first get an explanation out of the genie, then wish for the norns to be reduced to say. . . two centimeters in height. On her way to her bedroom she did not notice a soft snoring coming from the living room.
"Genie, I wish for you to talk to me about the last wish you granted, for an amount of time not to exceed one day."
The way Kathy stated it apparently made the wish different enough from the wish to talk to him she had made a couple of years ago. "Granted," said the genie.
"Why are the norns so HUGE?!"
"You didn't say how big they should be," said the genie with a yawn. "I made them exactly the size they should be. Acually, they should be a little bigger, but I felt they needed to be able to fit through the doorways."
"Indeed!" Kathy said, at once interested and annoyed. "But why should they be so big anyway?! I thought they'd be tiny."
"Well," said the genie, rubbing gunk out of his eyes, "I was reading the 'Creatures Strategies and Secrets' guide, by Toby Simpson."
"Toby Simpson, one of the creators of the game. Aren't you on the Creatures newsgroup?"
"No. I get too much spam when I'm on those things."
"Oh. Anyway, on page 4 of the manual, it states that Albia, the home world of the norns, is a disk-shaped planet a few kilometers around. Since a norn can go all around Albia, it wouldn't make sense for them to be tiny. Their size would be disproportionate to the world they lived in. So the logical thing to do was to make them large enough to use objects in the same proportion in which they used them in the game."
"But in the game, they're not even twice as tall as the carrots!"
"Albia must have awfully large carrots," said the genie. "Anyhow, I did the best I could."
Kathy sighed. "Alright. Here's my next wish. I wish--"
"--Sorry," the genie cut her off. "You have used up all of your wishes."
"USED UP?!" Kathy shouted. "What do you mean 'used up?!'"
"No one can have more than twenty-three wishes from a single genie," the genie stated.
"Twenty-three! It's not even a multiple of three!"
"But it is the ninth prime number. Trust me, it does make sense for the laws of physics I adhere to."
"But you never told me!"
"I'm not allowed to tell you until you're on your second to last wish."
"But you DIDN'T TELL ME!"
"I forgot. Sorry about that."
"What kind of genie ARE you?!"
"Well I don't WANT to be a genie, if that's any consolation!"
"Well, fortunately I'm not required to stay with you any more. The norns and the grendel will go away after a year. Good-bye!" The genie disappeared.
He didn't even stay for a full day to talk about the previous wish! But no, Kathy suddenly realized, she only said he should talk to her "for an amount of time not to exceed one day." She did not specify that she was the one to dictate exactly how long. Oh, how stupid--
--Wait! "The norns and the grendel?" The norns and the GRENDEL!!
"NARG!" boomed a voice from the living room. The grendel had awoken.
Kathy remembered. "I wish for my creatures from my 'Creatures' computer game to become real!" she had said. She had not singled out the norns. She ran to the computer room, and sure enough, it was full of giant bees. She shut the door quickly.
"GET FIG NUG!" Fig was the grendel's name, and he said that whenever he wanted to hit. Kathy found herself facing him at the other end of the hallway. They stared at each other for a full minute.
"GRAH!!" The grendel approached.
Kathy quickly got an idea. In the game, she knew how to prevent--or at least delay--the grendel's hitting. When the grendel got close, Kathy reached up and tickled the grendel's forehead. She just barely managed, but sure enough the grendel laughed. She did it again, and while he was distracted she ran out the front door and outside--
--And saw twelve giant norns in her front yard, playing gleefully! Kathy stared at them, playing gleefully, chasing after frightened neighborhood kids, and destroying Mrs. Ashby's prized tomato garden.
She saw that the main garage door was open. Of course. They must have seen the button for it, and pushed it thinking it was a lift button. Kathy held her forehead. She didn't feel well at all. What had she done?! She saw a few angry people coming towards her house (including Mrs. Ashby), and decided it would be a very good time to visit her parents--perhaps for a year, or maybe two. She got into her car and sped off, almost running into Tyke on the way.
Tyke watched the car go, thought nothing of it, and (quite randomly and unintentionally) headed towards a nearby shopping center. He always did like to wander off like that.
The genie returned to the school library and settled into an old calculus book--in the chapter on partial fractions, just to be safe--and took a well-deserved rest.