When Paulo heard a man’s voice coming from the seashell he was both surprised and disappointed. Paulo had wanted only to hear the sound of the ocean. He wanted to be soothed. The confident and powerful voice told him to stand back immediately. These words, and the tone of the hidden voice, did not soothe him. The anxiety that he was trying to rid himself of was more pronounced than ever. As Paulo placed the shell back on the sand, a man with extraordinary features emerged from it. The man from the shell announced himself to be a genie, one who had come to grant Paulo three wishes.

“But before you make any wishes, I must warn you that I am an evil genie.”

“What does that mean?” Paulo asked, looking at the genie’s waistcoat which was made of rubies and sheepskin.

“Whatever you wish for will have an unpleasant evil twist. No good will come of anything your heart desires.”

Like all men who seek the sounds of the ocean for relaxation, Paulo wished for a million pounds. He could not imagine a negative side effect of such a bet.

“Your wish is done.” the genie told Paulo. “Check the credit on your mobile telephone.”

“But I’m on contract.” Paulo declared.

“Not anymore.” Paulo entered three digits into his phone and pressed call. His balance was one million pounds. Knowing that there was no way he could ever use this million pounds without hanging around phoneboxes and offering strangers phonecalls at cut rates, Paulo became saddened. He had been tricked, and the fact that he had been warned about being tricked made his sadness even more painful. Paulo could take no comfort in the thought that he would never have to go through the motions of topping up his phone again. He hadn’t had to worry about that since 2001, when he left his Pay as You Go for a monthly contract, after learning that he could get twice as many text messages for the same price.

Paulo was not a good man; he was alone in the world. His first thought after discovering he had three wishes was money, his second was Rachel. Money had always come before the only woman Paulo had ever loved. Paulo’s second wish was this: “I wish that Rachel still loved me.”

“It is done.” the genie said. His words were followed by a smile, the smile of someone who had just committed evil. He had forced eternal love into the heart of a woman.

At that very moment, somewhere on the other side of the world, that woman fell to the floor, spitting coffee from her mouth as the love in her heart was pumped into every molecule of her being.

Two days went by before Rachel came knocking on the door of the man she had sworn to never see again. The last words she had spoken to the man were the opposite of “I love you.”, but those were the words she was now speaking. Not only did Rachel want to see Paulo again, she wanted to see nothing else.

Within an hour of being together, Paulo knew that it would not last. Rachel loved him more than anyone had ever loved anything. Her love was so intense that when he made love to her for the first time in three years, he felt claustrophobic, the anxiety was too much to bear. His panic attack prevented either of them from climaxing.

Although he was a millionaire on paper and he had the love of a beautiful woman, Paulo was four times more depressed than when he had met the genie just two days ago. Determined to at least try to make it work with Rachel, he asked her to move in with him.

A week passed, a week filled with gentle sobbing whenever Paulo used the bathroom. Rachel could not be apart from him for one second, and so, she removed all the doors from the house. There was nowhere for him to be alone, nowhere for him to hide, not even his own thoughts. Every gap in conversation was met with “What are you thinking?”

A week was all Paulo could stand, love had torn him apart. Calling upon the genie, he wished for Rachel to stop loving him.

“Your wish is done.” the genie spoke.

Paulo soon settled back into his life of a week ago. All the while, Rachel was back on the other side of the world drawing up plans. The genie had not only removed Rachel’s love, he had injected her with hate. Rachel hated Paulo more than anyone had ever hated anything.

While Paulo spent his days offering offpeak phonecalls to the homeless, Rachel was gathering an army. She was preparing to launch a war against the man she had recently promised to love forever. It was not hard for her to find supporters for her cause. Women will always come to the aid of one of their kind, and men will do anything for a pretty face.

News of a fifty thousand strong force marching towards Paulo’s location reached Paulo’s television. The reporter spoke of angry men and women armed with guns and broken bottles, even small children waving flags of hate had been called up to the fight. This worried Paulo.

In a panic, Paulo used thirty-seven pence of his remaining £999,989.67 balance to call the genie’s shellphone.

“You’ve got to help me.” he said. “They’re a mile away from my house!”

“I’m not really supposed to do this, but I like you and I feel bad. I will grant you a fourth wish.”

“How should I stop this army of hate marching on my house?” Paulo asked, his anxiety worse than ever.

“I probably shouldn’t answer that. I am an evil genie after all. Whatever answer I give will surely be rooted in evil.”

“Ok, ok, fine. Can you give me superpowers?”

“It would be the easiest thing for me to do. To show you how truly sorry I am for this whole mess I will give you powers beyond even Superman. It is done.”

Feeling uncharacteristically brave, Paulo put on some trousers and left his house, ready to wait for the battle. Soon there were fifty thousand men, women and children standing at the entrance to Paulo’s street, a cul-de-sac with no escape. At the head of the impeccably organised angry mob was Rachel, her white t-shirt was stained with raccoon blood, the only thing she had eaten in days. Hate had driven her mad. Just like everyone else in the crowd, she was pointing a rifle at Paulo’s heart.

“I’m sorry it didn’t work out.” Paulo shouted. “I still love you, you know.”

“Too late.” she replied.

“Fine. Give me your best shot.” Fifty thousand guns fired, flashes of light, thunderous explosions and a strong breeze, but nothing else. The air between Rachel and Paulo remained empty except for the hate. For a moment Paulo laughed to himself. Blanks. She still loved him and wanted only to scare him. Not even a genie could take away their love. Then he noticed the ground at his feet, a river of red ran from the curb to his toes. Moving his hand along his chest he felt the holes where the bullets had entered, his torso had become the bloody surface of the moon. There were no blanks. As he fell to the floor he realised what the genie meant when he said he’d have powers beyond Superman - he could see through lead.

James, England.

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