Nevertheless, Andrew had found the genie, and began making his wishes. The genie explained the laws: Only three wishes per year, and each wish lasted exactly one year. No wishes could be made to negate other wishes, and no wish could be repeated, not even in slight variations (though sometimes one could be clever and wish for something just different enough to be accepted). Casual remarks, such as "I wish I were dead," were ignored. If someone else found the genie, the genie would become bound to that person, and Andrew would lose the genie for good (it was known as the "finders keepers" rule). Otherwise, one could make a maximum of twenty-three wishes (the ninth prime number). The laws were not the genie's idea. While the genie had total control over the universe he resided in, able to bend or break its laws as necessary, he was at the same time bound by the physical laws of the universe from which he came.
Andrew's first wish was for a "hot," highly intelligent girlfriend. (The genie wanted to give him a truly "hot" girlfriend, made out of fire, but he was required to fullfill the meaning and intention of the wish, not just the words.) So Andrew got the most gifted, beautiful woman at the school for a girlfriend (but she was asleep at the time and he did not wish to wake her up to inform her of the event). He immediately made his second wish, which was for the most innovative, fun, and challenging computer game created to that day. A game called "Creatures" appeared in his hands right away. The genie never cautioned his owners about wasting wishes, or their possible consequences, because he didn't care. He didn't even want to be a genie, but he had no choice.
Andrew immediately went to his dorm and started the game. It was quite fascinating--it contained two kinds of artificial life forms: the norns, which were basically friendly and were the ones the player had to teach and breed; and the grendel, who was very unfriendly and slapped the norns around a lot. ("I'm glad there's only one in the game at a time," Andrew thought.) Over the next month, Andrew found various Creatures websites on the internet, and even a newsgroup (though he didn't visit it frequently). There were even add-ons to the games (called COBs), such as donut machines, teddy bears and chocolate bunnies. His second wish had gone very well, he thought.
His first wish, on the other hand. . . Unfortunately, Andrew hadn't thought to specify overall disposition for his girlfriend. As it turned out, she tended to be argumentive and self-centered, always wanting constant attention. She used her beauty and genius as weapons, it seemed, to get her way. And poor Andrew would be stuck with her for an entire year. ("Yes, I can send her to Antarctica," the genie had said, "but you would have to go with her. Remember that part of your intention was for her to be nearby and available.")
Andrew loved his Creatures game, but unfortunately his girlfriend took up the greater part of his time. He had begun staying up late just for a chance to play it. One night, he had been playing until two in the morning. Suddenly noticing the time, he had decided to go to bed just as the phone rang.
"Helloo?" he said sleepily.
"Get over here!" came the angry voice in his ear.
"Get over here right now!!"
It was, of course, his girlfriend, apparently in the middle of some kind of crisis (yet again).
He headed for her dorm; halfway there he remembered he had left the game running. He didn't like to leave it running unattended. He could have easily gone back to his room and exited the game, but he wasn't thinking straight. So he summoned the genie.
"What now?" the genie asked.
"Go in my Creatures game, you know, like a COB. I accidentally left the game on."
The genie didn't quite understand what Andrew wanted, his tired mind being muddled from exhaustion and confused by his girlfriend. But the he did the best he could to comply, and injected himself into the Creatures game.
The world of the Creatures game, inside the computer, was quite different from the outside universe. A "virtual world" such as this was, for all practical purposes, a separate universe with its own set of rules. The genie-universe interface automatically made the proper adjustments. The genie's rules were basically the same, the most notable difference being that, instead of wishes lasting a year, they only lasted fifteen minutes. One could also make three wishes for every fifteen minutes of time. Of course, the genie hid himself right away, next to a carrot vending machine since no norns or grendels had been to that area in some time. The genie nestled against the vendor for a nap.
Green, two-dimensional hands woke him up. A grendel (who Andrew had named "Petunia") had found him. She wordlessly carried him around, as the genie explained the rules to her. She didn't understand what he was saying, but oddly enough, the genie was only required to state the rules, not make his owner understand them. (Of course, Petunia's capture of him meant that Andrew could no longer control him.)
Petunia indeed led an unhappy life, as her face clearly showed. The norns hated her, because every time she wanted to be friendly towards them, she would end up slapping them. It was the nature of her genetics and it couldn't be helped. Of course, the grendel didn't understand all of that. But at her own simplified level, she wanted nothing more than to be nice to the others.
The genie sensed this when the grendel said, "Get Petunia nug." The language skills of the creatures were very low, but the genie got the meaning. He could grant an ant's wish, if he had to. So the genie altered Petunia, transforming her from a terror to a kind, beauteous soul (on a simplified level). She still looked the same, but inside she felt quite different.
The grendel dropped the genie and went through a teleportation device. She re-emerged at the other end and wandered about until she found some norns in the music room. Two norns (who Andrew had named "Ronnie" and "Janet") were there. Ronnie was eating honey while Janet was beating the drum.
Petunia went up to Ronnie and begin kissing him. He didn't seem to like it, for he said "Run grendel" and ran towards the elevator lift. The grendel followed him up, found a ball, and bounced it towards him. Ronnie bounced it back, then the two went back down the lift. Janet had finished off the honey and was now playing a trumpet. Ronnie went to the drum, and Petunia began playing the harp. They were very happy, especially Petunia, and they jammed together for a full five minutes.
Suddenly, a strange feeling overcame Petunia, her old genetic rules returning. The genie's spell was wearing off, and she started looking at the norns. She went towards Janet, wanting greatly to give her a slap, but Petunia resisted. When she got to Ronnie, however, her genetics overwhelmed her and she hit him repeatedly. She then went back to Janet, slapped her and took her trumpet. The norns fled the scene, leaving Petunia all alone. "Narg," she said sadly, as she layed down for a nap.
Meanwhile, the genie had been found by a norn and brought to the game's garden. Several other norns were there, who would pick him up, make a request (usually for something called "bibble," the meaning of which seemed to change constantly), and then drop him on the ground.
The genie did his best to comply, usually just conjuring up food and toys (not much work, since the stuff was just lying around in the garden anyway), sometimes healing a norn who wasn't feeling well. Since the norns chose to use only one or two of their twenty-three wishes before another norn picked the genie up, the genie had an easy go of it. Only the last norn to find him (which happened to be Janet) got all twenty-three of her wishes fulfilled. The grendel had not returned, but even if she had, she wouldn't have gotten any more wishes due to the "finders keepers" rule.
After fullfilling his obligations, the genie stayed in the game for awhile, enjoying his rest--but he soon discovered that an egg had been layed, so he left the game world before the norn had a chance to hatch and find him. He removed himself from Andrew's computer and left for good.
Andrew returned to his dorm room, having had a fierce, three-hour argument with his regrettable girlfriend. "Genie," he said, without response. "Genie? . . . Genie!!!" He then remembered, to his horror, what he had done. He realized he hadn't been too clear in his instructions (and really, he shouldn't have wasted his third wish like that). He stared at his computer screen and also realized, that if the game creatures were truly alive on some level, they might be able to use the genie to make wishes of their own. Andrew searched all over the game for his genie, picked up every carrot, toy and other objects in hope that one of them might be him in disguise, but eventually gave up in despair. During the argument with his girlfriend, he had decided that he wanted to shrink her down to the size of an amoeba and keep her in a jar, but now the wish could never be fulfilled. "She probably would have just found a way to make me sick anyway," Andrew thought.
The genie was at a loss as to where to hide next. Math books were no longer any good, he decided. He searched the universe, and found that even in black holes or the space between galaxies there was a chance of being found. However, after much searching he did find the one spot with the least likelihood of being discovered, and it happened to be right back on Earth.
The genie went to a little software shop in a small town, and settled himself at the bottom of a "Tamagotchi" game box. He was quite confident that he would get a good long rest there, and indeed his assumption would turn out correct.