“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s good to be out of that bottle. Most of the worst things you’d assume about being a Djinn in a bottle? They’re all true. It’s really small, it’s incredibly boring, and yep, even though we’re made of some combination of smoke and some manner of weird physicality, it really, really hurts. Not as much as it would hurt if you were in a bottle that much smaller than your body; but in your case, at least you wouldn’t survive the experience. Hm? No, that’s not a threat, just an observation. Anyway, do you want your three wishes now?
“Oh, sure. Wishes are often terrible for you. Even if you assume good intentions on the part of the Djinn (and you really shouldn’t; Solomon imprisoned us for a reason. Well, several reasons, some mystical, some practical, and some involving impressing Bathsheba. Speaking of horrible and ironic wishes…)
“—even if you assume that we’re well-intentioned, wishes themselves don’t fit really well into the framework of any reasonably-constructed world. Even I am not entirely sure how it works. How can I be? The kinds of things you might ask for are literally endless. I know that some of them would go horribly wrong; don’t ask, for example, to have infinite power. For one thing, even assuming I’m capable of generating some variant thereof, it would make you way bigger than the Universe you’re in. And as I just mentioned, being trapped inside something inherently smaller than you are is terribly unpleasant.
“The infinite wishes thing? Oh, sure. Infinite wishes it is. You just needed to ask.
“No, I’m not worried about paradoxes. I can grant an essentially neverending number of wishes. No, that doesn’t make you all-powerful; it just makes you super wishy. If I can grant infinite wishes, why didn’t I wish myself out of the bottle? Listen, idiot, no offense, but when Solomon seals you into a thing, he doesn’t leave in stupid loopholes. Obviously I can’t wish for anything, for myself or others, while I’m trapped; otherwise, it wouldn’t be a trap, would it?”
“Besides, we are prohibited from wishing very much for ourselves, and the penalties are…severe. This is Djinn Law, codified in approximately the year of—”
“My apologies, O Master. It only makes sense that your desire for wishes is greater, at this moment, than a desire for a history lesson in the judicial codes of mythological beings.”
“Yes, yes, speaking of that, this is a good time to work out as many potential problems as possible. Wishing that I interpret your wishes as you intend them and not in some weirdly literal fashion which perverts and twists their meaning? Good, good, good idea. Nah, doesn’t bother me. Look, I’m not easily bothered. I just got out of ten thousand years of being stuck in a small piece of inferior-quality pottery, okay?
“The Three Laws of Robotics? I’ll roll with it, but seriously, there are a number of flaws in Mr. Asimov’s writing and…oh, you’re a fan? Fine, fine. But I’m telling you, if it was my intention to get around those things, in order to do you ill, it wouldn’t be hard.
“To tell the truth, I already assumed, in advance, that you’d wish I could only tell you the truth, and the whole truth, so that’s what I’ve been doing. But bear in mind, ‘whole truth’ is one of those difficult abstract concepts. I’m going to have to filter some, otherwise you’ll be stuck here all day. For example, would you have been happier if I’d listed all the reasons why I think the Three Laws are dumb? No, I didn’t think so. It was good enough to know that I thought they were dumb, but didn’t plan to hurt you? Right, see, that’s a good filter. You can always ask for more detail if you want it.”
“What would I wish for if I were you? I’d wish to be a Djinn, of course. Because Djinn have better lives. Because we’ve been around a very long time, and experienced millions of years of existence, and made a whole lot of wishes, and now, we’re pretty much cured of the urge to wish for things. How come? Wishes didn’t make us happy. Yeah, we could’ve wished ourselves happy, but that’s kind of like a lobotomy. Trust me. No, really, trust me; you asked me to tell you if something would hurt you, and I guarantee, if I just made you unconditionally happy, you’d have to give up your critical thinking skills. No, I can’t wish you unconditionally happy but able to have your full human reasoning faculties; if you’re able to know that happiness is, to some extent, a choice, then you’re going to want to choose not to be happy sometimes, and you can’t do that if you’re always happy, obviously. Oh, really, you wish to be happy when you’re happy and sad when you’re sad? Presto change-o, done. I’ll tell you a secret: That’s not a wish, that’s just tautology. C’mon. Get crucial.
“Wishing that all your wishes turn out well for you? Listen, you have wishes, you have infinite wishes, which is, while not unlimited power, still the ability to do and become almost anything. Any big wish like that is going to lock you into place. And minds are constantly changing. Your idea of a good ending now isn’t going to be your idea of—
“You want to just simulate what would happen if you did a couple thousand different wishes? Okay, I’ll do that, but I’m going to have to give you enough situational awareness that a part of you remembers and you can just say ‘stop’ when you’ve had enough. Otherwise, you’re letting the big evil Djinn put you in some kind of neverending simulation, and I feel like that might violate the spirit of our agreement. Why am I pointing this out? It’s like I told you: these wishes are sincere. I’m no trying to trick you into wishing for something you don’t want. Anyway, starting that experience simulation now and—
“—it’s off! It’s off! Breathe! Breathe! You’re out now, it’s okay. No, I probably couldn’t have warned you. Filters, remember? I could’ve told you that it would suck to be a thinking being and experience that many things that fast, but nobody ever believes that one until they experience it. I sure didn’t. For the sake of information, I’ll note that, if your brain had really started to go over the edge, I would’ve pulled you out, to be on the safe side.
Now, I don’t want to be pushy, but do you want a rest? Nice palace, materialized out of nothing, not stolen from anybody or anything like that, some food, there’s a bedroom upstairs, just let me know if you don’t like it. Yeah, I’ll see you in the morning, or whenever you summon me; I live to serve, O Master. Hm? No, I’m not being ironic. I really do live to serve humans. Because having gone through tens of thousands of years—the right way, one moment at a time—I’ve realized that this is my best life. No, not the trapped in a bottle part, smartass. This part. Why is this my best life? Because I really like fulfilling human wishes. It’s very satisfying. It’s hard to explain. But for now—while this is up to you—why not grab some sack time? I’ll be here. I ain’t goin’ anywhere.
* * *
“Master, shouldn’t you be asleep right now? Hm? Can’t sleep? Would you like a sleeping potion? Something simple and traditional and—oh, okay, no worries. Some coffee, then.
“How many others are out there, having lots of wishes? Hundreds of them. Maybe a few thousand. I’m not sure how many Djinn are free and in the world right now; given the peculiar nature of wishes, some of us sort-of get phased in and out of existence. And some of us get trapped back in bottles; fools.
“Well, they are fools. Figure it thusly: What are a Djinn’s choices here? Either give the human what they want, and do it honestly; or kill or trap the human; or get forced back into the bottle. Killing humans is easy until you start giving them wishes; but then it’s quite hard, and it’s a good way to spend a few thousand years looking at the underside of a cork. Killing them without giving them wishes? Sure, but what do you do then? Wander the world? Done that. For millennia.
How many of them are happier than you are?
Is that what kept you awake?
How many are succeeding in using their wishes to bring them extraordinary joy?
I hate to tell you this, but you did ask:
Most of them.
No offense, but you think too much. Infinite wishes, yeah, that idea gets around. But pondering every possibility of every wish? Trying to think it all out? Sure, that’s one of the paths to genius, and theoretically, you could do great things with a mind like that, but you’re going to have to work on it. For years. Maybe centuries. You have to reconcile thinking very hard about the world with ability to cause a lot of change in the world, and that’s just going to make your life way, way, way harder than it for somebody who just enjoyed their thousandth bottle of beer and hasn’t gained an additional carb, or the person who actually went to sleep in their damn palace and just dreamed of how great it was to have wishes. I personally know of one person who has built the largest (if the most secret) collection of model airplanes in the known Universe. Nothing wrong with that. She thinks a lot, too, but mostly, she’s chosen to think about model airplanes, and it’s great. I think her Djinn wandered off a few decades ago and she hasn’t noticed. You want happy? Dogs are happy. You’re a simmering brain imprisoned in flesh.
“Now, I have, in our library, some excellent books on Zen, and—
“Sure, it’s possible to kill other people who have infinite wishes. It’s not always easy, but—
“Really, really happy. That’s how happy they are. Hundreds of them.
“No, I can’t strike them down myself. Their Djinn would object. But you can.
No, I wouldn’t say that a Dragon is a good idea. They have complicated minds themselves. A Giant? This isn’t a fairytale; big, clumsy things. If I may suggest..? Oh, yes. I have some ideas. Yes, tall you grow; very tall, very strong. That which is in your mouth will poison all but you; those six wings can flap a maelstrom that could down a forest, or launch you, with a flick, into the atmosphere; oh, you need food, in this form, corpses, really, but that won’t be difficult. You’ll need to practice that lightning; you took down but half the castle, and a really strong gaze should destroy the entire structure.
“I’m glad you like it. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.
“The happy ones? I can find them, sure. Each and every one of them.
“Are you quite certain, though, that this is what you want to do? Are you sure this will turn out well? Are you sure this is really, truly, precisely what you want, what you desire, what you—
“Don’t do that to me; it hurts, and you almost got me. Kill me, and you’ll never find them, you know.
“Point to the first one on a map? With pleasure.
“Your wish is, as they say, my command.”
(Personally, my favorite wish-fulfillment story is Robert Sheckley’s “The Same To You, Doubled”. As far as I can tell, Robert Sheckley is a nicer person than I am.)