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Bob's Big Mistake
|Bob sat near the back of the auditorium, empty seats around him. The
place wasn't as full as it should have been, but blame that on the
event being held in the afternoon. Usually the bodybuilding
competition would have been held in the evening, but there were too
many conventions and other events in New York this weekend, and this
was the only time available.
Although the crowd was sparser than usual, the quality of the competition was high, and many of the top bodybuilders were here. Being an enthusiast and a modestly talented bodybuilder himself, Bob was pumped to see Mike, his favorite pro bodybuilder, in person. Mike was in top form -- massive, with insanely huge guns -- and he was really playing to the crowd. When the final results of the judging came in, though, Mike not only didn't win, but he didn't even place in the top five. Bob was stunned. As the crowd slowly filed out, Bob just sat there, partially in disbelief, partially trying to decide whether he wanted to hang around and try to get autographs from the competitors.
While he sat there, he felt something in the chair poking into his leg. Reaching down, Bob felt a large coin stuck in the chair. With a couple of tugs, he pulled it free and held it up for a look. It wasn't like any coin he had ever seen. Slightly larger than a half dollar, it looked like it was made of dull bronze. The front and back were the same. In addition to some strange, indecipherable runes, there was what looked like a jinn's lamp in the center, and the words "Good For 3 Wishes" at the top. The words at the bottom were smudged and unreadable, so Bob rubbed the coin with his shirt to clean them off. Upon doing so, he saw that they said, "No Cash Value." Snorting wryly, Bob suddenly noticed a man sitting next to him. The seat was empty just seconds ago, but now an olive-skinned, moustached, wispy-bearded man in middle-eastern garb, complete with turban, was sitting beside him.
Turning to look at Bob, the man said, "You summoned me?"
"What are you talking about?" Bob asked. "All I did was rub this stupid token."
"Ah, but that 'token,' as you call it, has summoned me, Siraj the Jinn."
"You mean you're a genie?"
"We prefer the term 'Jinn'," said Siraj with some scorn, "but yes, many ignorant ones refer to us as 'genies'."
"So you can grant me three wishes?" asked Bob incredulously.
"That is so." Looking around disdainfully, Siraj said, "I would ask that you make your wishes as soon as possible. I would like to leave this wretched city with all haste."
"Well, I'll try, but you can't rush me into anything. You're my servant until you grant me the three wishes, right?"
Arching a sarcastic eyebrow, Siraj said, "I was unaware that you were so well-versed in the cosmic laws that govern the Jinn. In what other subjects would The Master deign to instruct me?"
"No need to be sarcastic," said Bob. "I just thought that you couldn't leave until you granted me my three wishes. Is that correct?"
"That, I may not say," replied Siraj. "But in the event that you are misinformed, I suggest that you make your wishes with all speed."
Slightly flustered, Bob's mind raced, thinking what he should wish for. "People always get into trouble when they wish for money, immortality, or more wishes, don't they?"
"Again, I may not say," said Siraj enigmatically. "But there may be wisdom in your words."
"Let's try something different, then," said Bob. "You know the bodybuilder Mike who was just on stage?"
"I was not here during the contest," said Siraj, "but I know the one of whom you speak."
"There was only one bodybuilder named Mike on stage today, so there shouldn't be any confusion. I've always admired him, and I've never gotten to meet him. I want you to make it so that he and I are friends."
"That, I cannot do," said Siraj. "I can control many things, but the human heart is not one of them. I cannot command that one person befriend another."
Exasperated, Bob said, "Look, it's not like I'm asking you to make Elle MacPherson fall in love with me. All I want is to get to know him. Can you arrange that I meet him and get to know him?" When Siraj nodded affirmatively, Bob said, "Then that's my first wish."
"As you wish," said Siraj, "it shall be done."
"When?" said Bob.
"Obviously not this instant," said Siraj with a hint of acid in his voice. "But soon it shall come to pass."
"OK," said Bob. "I guess I didn't know what to expect. It will be really cool to meet him, though. I've used him for inspiration and motivation when I was in the gym. He's got a real cocky, bad-ass attitude, and he's huge, too. And did you see his arms? They're absolutely incredible! I don't know why he never wins any competitions. It's sure not because of his guns. Maybe the judges think his other muscle groups are too small or something. I don't know. Whatever the reason, I wish he could get as big as he wanted to be, so people couldn't ignore him any more."
"As you wish," said Siraj, "it shall be done."
"What?" said Bob. "What shall be done?"
"The bodybuilder named Mike shall be able to enlarge himself at will, just as you wished."
"But I wasn't wishing for that. I was just talking to you," said Bob.
"Ah, that is a pity," said Siraj, "for the wish has been made and cannot be rescinded. Perhaps you should be more careful."
Angrily, Bob said, "Or perhaps you should use some common sense! You knew I wasn't really wishing for that!"
"Did I really?" said Siraj with an arched eyebrow and the hint of a smirk. "I was unaware that The Master had a talent for reading minds. Only a few of us Jinn, the greatest among us, possess such power."
"No, I can't read minds," snapped Bob, "but I don't need to be a mind-reader to know that you're misinterpreting me on purpose." Calming down for a second, he said, "But I should have expected that. It always works that way in the stories. It's your job, I suppose."
Siraj said nothing, sitting placidly, with a bland, unreadable expression on his face.
"Come on," said Bob. "I still want to meet Mike. Let's see if we can't get backstage." Looking at Siraj, he said, "Aren't you worried about sticking out, wearing that Arabian Nights costume?"
"I prefer to wear this 'costume,' as you call it, rather than the clothing of your culture," said Siraj disdainfully. "And as for the rabble around us, I am invisible to all but you."
"Well, at least I won't have to explain who you are," said Bob. "Come on."
The two went to the backstage door. Siraj did indeed appear to be invisible to all but Bob, since nobody paid any attention to him as they walked along. The guard at the door refused to let Bob through, though, since he didn't have a pass. Seeing no other alternative, Bob decided to leave. "I must be going to meet Mike some other way," he thought. "That is, if the genie isn't lying to me."
* * * * * * *
Backstage, Mike was devastated at his low placing. "Why does this always happen?" he asked himself. He just sat for a while, thinking about it. Finally, he decided to put it behind him. "I can't control the judging," he mused. "All I can do is work hard and make myself bigger. The only thing I can control is me." Full of frustrated energy, he decided to work out for a while. He was still wearing only his posing trunks, so he changed into a pair of shorts, then headed over to the free weights. As he worked out, he thought over and over, "I've got to get bigger. I've got to get bigger." He didn't notice that the weights seemed to be getting smaller and lighter. Finally, his mind registered that someone was talking to him, and it jerked him out of his concentration. "Shit, man, what happened to you?" said one of the other bodybuilders beside him. The huge, heavy dumbbells in Mike's hands now looked and felt like aerobic weights to him. An even bigger shock was the size of the person beside him. The top of the man's head barely came up to the level of Mike's pecs. Mike thought the guy might be a midget, except that his own head was up near the ceiling. He was nine feet tall!
"How did this happen?" Mike thought, as he looked at himself in the mirror. "I was just working out, then this. The only thing different was that I was concentrating on getting bigger, and . . . maybe that's it." Ignoring the still-babbling man beside him, Mike focused on his reflection and concentrated on growing. Sure enough, he shot upward, further dwarfing the bodybuilder beside him. He stopped himself abruptly when his head rapped against the ceiling. He now stood twelve feet tall. From this angle, he could only see his feet reflected in the mirror, like those mirrors in shoe stores. The guy beside him stood only waist-high now. From waist-level, Mike heard a voice say, "What did you do, man?"
Looking down, Mike said, "I can't stay and talk. I gotta get out of here. Got some growing to do!" Stepping over weight equipment, Mike strode towards the exit. People moved out of his way, and if they didn't, he cleared a path through them. He thrust several child-sized -- to him -- bodybuilders aside, and several others were sent sprawling, struck by his tree-trunk-sized legs as he walked past. When he reached the exit, Mike crouched down and pushed open the double doors. By ducking his head and contorting a bit, he was able to squeeze through the doors and out onto the sidewalk. The sudden appearance of a twelve-foot bodybuilder clad only in shorts caused quite a stir on the sidewalk, even in New York.
"This oughta give me plenty of room," Mike thought to himself. As he concentrated on getting bigger once again, he shot upward at an incredible pace. When he stopped growing about ten seconds later, he stood somewhere between four and five hundred feet tall. At his feet, cars had been crushed or pushed along as he expanded. Unable to escape, many people found themselves trapped in their cars as Mike's rapidly expanding feet swept them along, slamming them into other cars, leaving dozens of them packed together like sardines. Beyond this immediate radius, traffic had snarled, accidents were occurring, and people were fleeing in all-out panic. Mike, however, was savoring his new size. He reached down by his right foot and picked up a tiny car, giving it a slight tug to remove it from its tightly-wedged position among the other cars. Enrique, the driver, saw Mike's tree-trunk-sized fingers descend on either side of his car. Glass broke and metal scrunched as they pushed down on the cars on either side. Suddenly, Enrique was thrown around roughly as the gigantic fingers closed on his car like a huge industrial vise, crumpling metal panels, shattering windows, and causing the air bags to inflate. This was followed by an ear-splitting metallic shriek as his car was torn from its metal prison among the other cars. Enrique felt a sickening lurch as the earth fell away beneath him, and the G-forces pressed him painfully into the seat, making stars swim before his eyes as he shot upward in the giant's grasp.
To Mike, the car was a toy. It fit in the palm of his hand with plenty of room to spare, and he prodded it and rolled it around with a huge index finger, fascinated by the tiny details. He could even see the tiny driver inside. He was holding an entire car, with a human being inside, in the palm of his hand! However, his newfound power had gone quickly to his head, and he no longer felt anything in common with the people whose city he towered over. If anything, he felt slight contempt for creatures so puny in relation to himself. He soon got tired of the car he was holding and tossed it aside. As he watched expressionless, it landed far below in a knot of traffic, crushing a couple other cars beneath it and bursting into flame.
Turning to the building in front of him, Mike saw movement inside. Crouching slightly and peering through the office windows, he saw people scatter in terror. Inside the building, when the workers saw his enormous face swoop in, his huge eyes glaring directly into their office, they fled to the interior of the building. After peering inside, Mike leaned back slightly, then smashed his fist through the wall of the building. Much of the stone facing, concrete, and other materials shattered brittlely as his fist made a three-story hole in the building. Most of the exposed steel beams snapped off and bent inward, but others along the edge of the hole bent, but remained in place. To enlarge the opening, Mike pulled out a couple of the remaining beams and dropped them, not caring where they landed. Far below, the huge beams hit the sidewalk and street with a deafening clang, shattering the concrete and pavement where they landed. One bounced harmlessly off Mike's foot, only to land on top of a nearby car. But whereas Mike's foot only stung slightly where the beam had hit it, the car was crushed under the heavy steel. The main portion of the car was smashed flat under the heavy steel girder that fell across it, shattering all the windows and leaving only the front and back end relatively intact.
Now able to easily reach inside the building, Mike scooped up a handful of whatever was there. Closing his fist loosely, he pulled his hand back out and examined its contents. In his hand was a hodge-podge of rubble and battered office equipment: cubicle walls, several desk chairs, a desk, a file cabinet, and several computers. Nothing exciting in itself, except that it was so tiny. Picking up a little desk between his thumb and index finger, Mike examined it from all angles. As he turned it upside down, several drawers slid out. As they fell, one struck the top of his left thigh and tumbled along it for a hundred feet, until it finally rolled off the end of his knee and fell the remaining distance to the sidewalk, where it broke into pieces. The other two fell straight to the ground. One hit the street and shattered, while the other hit the top of Mike's foot and broke apart, though he didn't notice the tiny impact. Bored with the desk, Mike squeezed it between his fingers. It instantly disintegrated in a puff of fragments and splinters. Turning to the rest of the material in his hand, he scrunched the metal file cabinet like it was made of tinfoil, then picked up a tiny computer monitor and exploded it with a slight squeeze of his fingers. Bored with these, too, he flicked the remaining monitors over the edge of his palm and watched them crash on the street. Then he dumped the remaining contents of his hand onto the traffic below, where it shattered windshields and dented cars.
* * * * * * *
Bob and Siraj were one block over when Mike exited the building and grew to gigantic proportions. As he began his rampage, Bob said, "What's going on?"
"You wished that he have the ability to grow at will, and so he does," answered Siraj. "Does this not please you?"
"It's not what I meant. This is insane! Nobody can be that big!"
"I assure you that it is possible," said Siraj. "He can now grow to whatever size pleases him. And do not fear," he continued with amusement, "part of the wish alters the laws of nature so that his body can function at any size."
"But he's going to hurt people!" Bob exclaimed.
"That is likely," said Siraj indifferently.
"Well, do something about it!"
"What would The Master have me do?"
"For starters, undo the wish that gave him this power," said Bob.
"Ah," said Siraj, with a gleam in his eye. "That I will not do."
"What do you mean you won't do it?" demanded Bob. "I'm using my third wish to make you do it."
"Perhaps The Master is not as knowledgeable as I thought," said Siraj with icy mirth. "You do not have a third wish."
"What?" exclaimed Bob. "It says so on the coin!"
"One should not believe everything one reads. You have no third wish. The Master should know also that not all Jinn can be commanded so easily, especially to undo something that they themselves wrought."
"So you were lying to me?" demanded Bob.
"I did not lie," said Siraj. "You were ignorant and foolish, and you believed that which you wanted to believe. However, I did make a bargain, and I will honor it. Your first wish is still unfulfilled, and although it would be fulfilled in good time, I will hasten it to fruition."
"What are you talking about?" said Bob nervously.
"You have not met Mike," said Siraj with mock innocence. "I shall remedy that now." Turning in the direction of the gigantic bodybuilder who loomed over the city, Siraj spoke in a voice that carried clearly over a great distance, which Mike plainly heard. "Mike!" he shouted.
Mike had just dumped his handful of rubble when he heard someone call his name, and he looked around for the source. Looking up from street level, Bob saw the corded muscles in Mike's immensely thick neck stand out as the giant swiveled his head, searching for the person calling his name.
"Down here, you stupid musclehead!" shouted Siraj. Mike's gaze followed the sound down to where he saw Bob standing alone on the sidewalk. "Yeah, down here you idiot!" taunted Siraj.
"What are you doing?" yelled Bob. "Are you nuts? You're going to get us killed!"
"I assure you that I am in no danger," said Siraj mockingly. "My only concern is to help you meet Mike." Turning back to Mike, he dropped his formal, archaic speech and taunted derisively, "Yeah, you're a big man all right. Why don't you quit being such a wuss and pick on somebody your own size?"
Mike's eyes glinted, and he boomed, "THERE ISN'T ANYBODY MY SIZE, JUST BUGS LIKE YOU. AND YOU JUST MADE A BIG MISTAKE!" Saying this, he took an earth-shaking step toward Bob. Siraj turned to Bob and said, "My job here is done." As he dissolved into a cloud of mist, he taunted, "Enjoy meeting Mike!"
Frantic, Bob didn't know what to do. Taking out the coin, he feverishly rubbed it, hoping to extract another wish from the genie. However, when he rubbed it, it crumbled into dust, its power expended. The earth shook under another of Mike's footsteps, and Bob simply ran, hoping somehow to elude him. But before he had run far, a house-sized foot crashed down in front of him, then slid forward to completely block the sidewalk. Stone and concrete flew as it slammed into the building, demolishing a large section of the first-story wall. His escape route cut off, Bob turned and ran in the other direction, though he knew his prospects were slim indeed. Sure enough, a massive hand overshadowed him, and though he tried to dodge it, there was no escape as it closed around him. His arms were pinned awkwardly and painfully to his sides as the titanic wall of flesh enveloped him, squeezing the breath from him and leaving him in total darkness. And if that wasn't bad enough, he felt the gut-wrenching sensation of rocketing upward like an express elevator. The giant must be standing up, he thought woozily through the pain and vertigo.
Suddenly the pressure relented and daylight returned. Bob lay on the giant's open palm, hundreds of feet off the ground, near the giant's face. His ribs ached, but fortunately they didn't seem to be broken, and Bob gasped great lungfuls of air as he fearfully turned to face Mike, and frantically tried to think of a way to talk himself out of this situation.
Before he could say anything, though, Mike's voice hit him like a sledgehammer. "YOU'RE CHALLENGING ME? BIG TALK FROM SUCH A PUNY RUNT! CAN YOU DO THIS?" In his other hand, Mike held up a Mercedes, his thumb covering the driver's side, and his index finger on the passenger side. The side windows had shattered, and the panels were buckling from the pressure he exerted by simply holding it between his tree-sized fingers. As Bob watched, Mike effortlessly increased the pressure, and the middle of the car collapsed, pinched into a distorted hourglass shape. With a smirk, Mike tossed the car aloft, then caught it out of midair and clenched his fist. Bob saw veins the size of water mains stand out on Mike's huge and immensely powerful forearm. After a few seconds, Mike opened his fist and showed Bob the compressed remains of the Mercedes. It looked like it had been through an irregularly-shaped car crusher. It wasn't in a square block, but everything except the glittering fragments of broken glass had been fused into a lump of mangled metal.
Still looking at Bob, Mike tossed the car aside, where it hit a building, then fell to the sidewalk below. "CAN YOU DO THAT?" he demanded.
"No," said Bob, shakily.
"NO WHAT?" boomed Mike.
"No sir!" said Bob. "Please," he continued, "let me explain . . ."
"DID I SAY YOU COULD TALK?" Mike thundered. Before Bob could answer, Mike's enormous thumb appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and hovered over him. Bob tried to dodge it, but it was wider than he was tall, and he found himself knocked flat and rolled roughly onto his back. Staring up, he saw Mike's thumb lift momentarily, but before he could so much as roll over, it descended again. Reflexively Bob stuck out his arms to block it, but the huge thumb was unstoppable. He might as well have tried to chest-press a truck that was driving towards him. Mike felt nothing but contempt as he saw the tiny man feebly attempt to defend himself, but couldn't feel the slightest resistance. Bob's arms were pushed back and pinned with the rest of his body against Mike's fingers. Trapped there with only his head sticking out, Bob tried to plead for mercy, but was unable to get enough breath to speak. Then Mike increased the pressure, completely pressing all the air out of him. As Bob's vision dissolved into a blackness swimming with stars, he heard a pair of cracks and felt a stabbing pain in his side as a couple of his ribs broke. Just before he lost consciousness, Mike's thumb lifted. When Bob gasped for air, the pain in his side was white-hot, so he clutched his side and panted shallowly as Mike said, "YOU DON'T TALK UNLESS I SAY YOU CAN. GOT IT?" When Bob merely nodded his head, Mike once again positioned his thumb over Bob and repeated, in a more menacing tone, "GOT IT?"
"Yes . . . sir . . ." Bob gasped, as loudly as he could, the effort causing him intense pain and making him see stars again.
"GOOD." rumbled Mike. "NOW THAT YOU'VE LEARNED YOUR LESSON, I THINK I'LL LET YOU GO." Bob's stomach fluttered wildly as Mike crouched, then lowered his hand to the ground and rolled Bob out onto the pavement. Bob cried out in pain at the jarring his ribs took, and he suffered some scrapes as he hit the pavement. As quickly as he could, though, he got up, where he stood not far from a colossal foot as Mike rose from his crouched position. From below, watching the gigantic form rocket skyward was disorienting, but Bob just stood there, staring upwards at Mike's titanic, chiseled form, waiting for instructions. He feared what would happen if he disobeyed him again.
Mike looked down at the puny man for a minute, satisfied with the utter terror and obedience he saw. Finally, he spoke. "I'M DONE WITH YOU. YOU'D BETTER RUN WHILE YOU CAN!" When Bob stood there for a second, hesitant to move, Mike bellowed, "RUN!" and stamped his foot, the impact shattering the pavement, bouncing nearby cars, and nearly causing Bob to lose his balance. His heart in his throat, Bob ran as fast as he could, despite the pain of his broken ribs. High above, Mike watched the little man flee. He even waited until Bob was several car lengths away before stomping him flat.
Lifting his house-sized foot, he could see a tiny stain embedded in the crumbled pavement where the little man had been. Dismissing him with a snort of contempt, Mike turned his attention once again to the rest of the city. What to do next?
* * * * * * *
Looking around, Mike saw Central Park and decided to head there for a little stroll through it. If the people there were lucky, he might give them a show of his awesome physique. Or he might just crush them instead. Hell, he didn't care. He was just enjoying his new role as titan, and the city and its inhabitants were just toys for his amusement. People so tiny, pathetic, and slow were lucky they didn't get crushed, whether by accident or on purpose. Ignoring the sirens down below as police cars and ambulances rushed to the scene, Mike turned and headed up the avenue.
As tall as a forty-story building, Mike towered over most of the buildings in the area. In fact, most came up no higher than his knees. The avenue itself was relatively wide, but at Mike's current size, it didn't give him a lot of room. With each step of his, a huge foot swooshed along the sidewalk, sometimes scraping alongside buildings as it went. Wide enough to cover the entire sidewalk and part of the street, it snapped off trees, knocked over street lights, and destroyed overhangs and awnings. Shrieking people scattered in front of him and fled inside buildings. Surprisingly, many drivers were able to veer off onto side streets and get out of Mike's path. However, many were not so lucky and were flattened in a fraction of a second, crunching pleasantly beneath his feet as he strode along. Sometimes the cars were empty, but other times they contained hapless motorists whose last vision was the sole of Mike's colossal foot descending on them. But Mike didn't purposefully crush every car on the street; in fact, after his first few steps, he didn't even pay much attention to where he was stepping or the destruction his progress was causing. The novelty crushing several cars in one step soon wore off. It was too easy. Many cars were spared completely as he strode right over them, though sometimes his foot would just nick a car as it swung past. When this happened, Mike didn't notice it any more than an adult would notice bumping a matchbox car, but to the people at street level it was a different story. The impact of Mike's foot smashing into the car sent it flying sideways to crash into a building or flipped it end-over-end along the street and sidewalk, to smash into other cars or crush panicking people.
Although most of the buildings were at knee level, Mike eventually reached a block of taller ones, the tallest of which were nearly his own height. Pausing briefly in the intersection, he grinned, squared his shoulders, and strode forward. His mountainous delts were wider than the opening between the buildings, but that didn't stop him. With a crash, his shoulders plowed into the buildings to his right and left. Whole sections of the buildings' upper stories were demolished, and when they collapsed, rubble and furniture tumbled from the sheared-off sections to fall into the street. Mike only felt slight resistance and continued forward without slowing, nonchalantly tearing open the buildings as he went along. In addition to his shoulders, his massive thighs were also too wide for the street, pressing hard against the buildings he passed, shattering windows, tearing off facades, and causing girders to buckle inwards. With each step, enormously thick cables of muscle jumped and tensed as his mammoth thighs strained against his shorts, which struggled to contain them. Inside the buildings, people and furnishings were thrown around as Mike's earth-shaking footsteps got closer, and sounds buildings being demolished get louder. Suddenly, when the quakes and noise were at their peak, glass shattered, steel groaned and bent, and the walls exploded inward as a rippling, iron-hard wall of muscle scraped past the building. It was over in a second, but everything inside was in disarray. Covered in dust and rubble, the rooms facing the street were stripped of their outer walls, and floors and ceilings tilted crazily because of the bent girders. Still, the people in these buildings were lucky.
* * * * * * *
Joe was aimlessly flipping through channels on TV when suddenly he saw a special report. An incredulous announcer was describing a rampaging giant terrorizing the city. At first Joe thought it was a joke, but then he saw actual footage of the giant punching a building and destroying cars. As the report continued, he could feel slight tremors, which had to be the giant's footsteps. Curious and excited, Joe ran to get his bike. According to the newscast, the giant was headed in his general direction, and if he headed over a couple blocks, he could see him first-hand. Joe had always been fascinated by giants, and this unbelievable opportunity was too good to pass up. Turning off the TV, he headed out the door with his bike.
Outside, the streets were in chaos, though the sidewalks were relatively empty, since most people were inside, hoping they would be safe there. Joe jumped on his bike and took off. As he neared the avenue the giant was on, he could feel the footstep-tremors getting stronger, and the other sounds of destruction got louder. Soon he reached the right avenue, where he stopped. Cars zoomed through the intersection, trying to cross the street before the giant arrived. Police had set up barricades so that cars couldn't enter the avenue that the giant was on. At least, that's what Joe assumed they were there for, because when he saw the giant, he knew the barricades would be useless against him.
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