I sat on my flimsy plastic chair at Comber Correctional Complex as I waited for my little brother. Harsh gray concrete below, the low buzz of stained fluorescent lights from above, dirty white walls on all sides, and the grumpy glares of guards on me culminated in a suffocating feeling with every visit. It wasn’t long before I spotted Ilyas entering with a guard in the usual orange jumpsuit and waved him over. He sat down with a smile in the empty seat in front of me.
"How's it going these days?" I asked.
"Feels like a school here," he joked as he leaned on the table between us. He moved his shoulder length hair away from his hazel eyes, revealing the small scar above his eye from when we were kids. "You? Any luck with getting a better job?"
"Still applying but they always want experience that I don't have..." Why do we always gotta talk about this?
"Well, at least you still got your fast-food job."
I bit my tongue. Lost that a year ago and no one wants to hire me since. Whatever, I've still got some cash saved from back when I got unemployment. "Yeah man, at least I've got that..."
Ilyas narrowed his eyes.
"What's wrong?" Crap, he can still read me like a book.
"Work’s been rough, like usual." I quickly tried changing the subject so he wouldn't grill me anymore. "How's learning going? Getting better at programming?"
He stared some more, then softened his gaze.
"Yeah, one of the guys used to be a programmer. He made some crazy computer virus in the past. Smart guy."
"That's great," phew, he let it go. I wiped the bead of sweat off my brow discreetly.
He tapped on the table with one hand. I stared at it as we continued our conversation. It looked normal from a quick glance but if someone looked close and counted the number of fingers, they’d notice he had 6 of them. It was a genetic oddity almost everyone in my family had, everyone except for Mom.
“Anyone ask you about your extra digits?”
“Yeah, the other prisoners think it’s pretty cool. Rat-eyes said I have double the flipping-off powers than normal people.”
“That’s a new one.” I chuckled.
We continued chatting away until time was up. We gave our goodbyes and I watched as he left. I headed out of the complex, on my way home. I couldn't take the bus; had to save every penny. Even sold my bike sadly. The walk was long, but I knew the way back. Hands in my pockets, I walked down the sidewalk, kicking a rock in front of me.
What should I do? I'm gonna run out of money. I need more to get a good lawyer to free him or at least lower his sentence; I’ve even got student loans, bills, and food to pay for. Why's being an adult such a pain? 1000 applications and just rejections. I hate this, what's so wrong with me that no one will give me a chance? I should just ask Berny for that unlicensed pharmacist job… These heavy thoughts left knots in my stomach.
Lost in thought, I suddenly tripped. It shook me out of my negative spiral. As I looked around at the unfamiliar environment, it hit me. I was totally lost.
A cloud darkened the seedy place - abandoned shops surrounded me, lifeless and crumbling, except for a random food truck. That's when I saw it, the only shop that had some life.
A sign on the top read Eddy’s Oddities in a strange font, the window-display full of items that I’d never seen before like giant colorful eggs, slimy creatures, and even skulls from strange otherworldly beasts.
Some invisible force pulled me towards the mysterious shop, as if I was in a trance. I opened the door and walked in. There was a register at the front with some dude in a suit reading a book. Behind him, the wall was covered in strange looking masks. Rows of shelves stretched across the other side of the room, loaded with weird knick knacks like cyanide flavored gum, candy worms that wriggled in their packaging, pet rocks that moved around in cages, and balls of lightning that bounced in jars.
Above the things beside the wall to my right, a sign read FREE STUFF. There was a huge hammer on the ground, a sword in a big rock, and even some weird looking gauntlet. I tried yanking the sword and the hammer free, but both seemed superglued to the ground. This is a cruel joke.
I carried on, making my way through the aisles. There were a bunch of dolls that gave me the feeling I was being watched. Creepy... I sped up and went to the next aisle. Here, there was a shelf full of paper maps with one that seemed to show the shop layout along a star in front of a shelf. The legend read you are here. It even showed that Eddy was the one standing at the register. I moved around a bit and saw the star move as well. What kind of tech is this? Another shelf was full of “immortality” items, according to the aisle sign. A red crystal with a phoenix etched onto it, a couple of goblets tied to a bottle of water that read “fountain of youth”, and some floating robo-diamond-thing with an eye at its center that blinked at me. Next was an aisle marked transportation devices. I saw what looked like brass knuckles split in half and a futuristic ray gun with pictures of green goopy portals on the box.
When I reached the back of the shop, I noticed stairs leading down. This floor had some pretty cool looking stuff, I want to see what else there is, not like I got much to do anyways. I pushed the door open and made my way down. There were many levels, the first full of weapons like swords that felt ice cold to the touch, red hot whips covered in flames that burned my fingers, and tridents that had lightning sparks appear intermittently and caused my hair to stand up as I passed it. Another floor had plants with some that moved and grabbed at me. Are these animatronics? The next level had what seemed to be strange ingredients like basilisk eyes or thunderbird feathers.
A woman dressed all in black with a raven perched on her shoulder took some items and dropped them into a basket.
Another level I came across was full of armor. A slime creature tried on some and it made it look like a human was wearing it. A big red frog-bat-humanoid creature with golden eyes stared at me like it was looking at the tastiest thing in the world when I reached the pet section, licking its lips. My heartbeat quickened and a cold sweat trickled down my back as fear set in. I-I’ve gotta be dreaming, this can’t be real, these things can’t be real, this place can’t be real, but everything feels so real… I pinched myself to wake up but nothing changed.
The blood drained from my face when I realized the frog-bat followed me through the aisles as if on a hunt. It came towards me so I quickened my pace then jogged and finally full on sprinted as fast as I could back to the stairs. Goosebumps grew on my arms and my breathing got rapid. It followed, catching up to me in seconds. Before it could grab hold of me, I frantically grabbed at random whatever was beside me for a weapon, yanking out a polaroid camera. Oh come on, there were fire whips earlier. I mashed whatever button I could feel to startle it with the flash. A burst of light appeared, blinding us both. As my vision returned, I realized the beast had vanished. I looked everywhere but it was nowhere to be seen. A picture popped out of the camera, showing the beast from earlier except it moved within, pounding in sheer panic on its 4th wall as if it was trapped within! I carefully put the camera back where I found it. These things are r-real…
It finally set in. Everything in this shop is dangerous, what have I gotten myself into... I saw some dragon eggs on that floor. I carefully walked around those, muscles tensed and my back drenched in sweat. This whole place is freaky… but I have to keep going, the best has to be at the bottom floor. Just selling one of these items could make me insanely rich. Seems the shop owner knows though since you’d need to be a millionaire to buy these things with these prices. The cool stuff I wanted was way outside of my budget. Some of the cheaper stuff had warnings of curses on them though. I kept going down and down and down. How long have I been here? Hours? Days? I didn't know, but finally, I reached the bottom.
Well, this has to be the best. It seemed like I was right. This was the wishes section. I saw a rainbow rock that granted infinite wishes, a lamp that gave three, a ring that gave many but only small wishes, and a fish in a tank. Wasn’t there an aquatics floor? Shouldn’t that be there? There were too many zeros in their prices.
My eyes fell upon something that was more in my budget. A 6 fingered monkey’s paw for 6 bucks. The price was too good to be true so there must’ve been a catch, but I was tired from going through what felt like a never-ending labyrinth. I could steal the rock, but if this dude has these kinds of stuff up for sale, who knows what he could do to me… Besides, it felt like it was meant for me, we had the same number of digits. I stared at it, taking it all in and imagining the possibilities. This could make me a lot of money. No more financial woes. My mind was made; this is all I’m gonna get. I grabbed it from the shelf. As I turned around to start the long journey back to the register, I felt dizzy for a split second. The whole room melted around me and morphed into the top floor, right in front of the cash register.
Woah. I regained my balance, holding onto the counter. Did I just teleport? My legs buckled a bit from that experience. I gingerly placed the paw in front of the cashier.
He slammed the book he was reading, A Guide to the Dark Multiverse, shut. “Welcome to my Oddities! Eddy, at your service! Is that all for today?” He gave me a toothy grin, and I mean very toothy. He had way too many for what appeared to be a human. His musou-black suit looked expensive, his hair slicked back, and his eyes pitch-black and beady with no reflection in them.
“Ye-yeah, that’s all” I stuttered.
“Excellent choice, Rumey! Do remember though, this object comes at a terrible price!” he spoke while wagging his finger at me.
My eyes widened with the realization. He knows my name without me introducing myself. Then they went back to normal. This whole shop is full of strange stuff, this has to be the least shocking thing that’s happened.
“6 bucks isn’t that bad” I nervously joked while handing over a crumpled 10 dollar bill.
“Hah! You are one funny man,” he chuckled, handing back the change and his business card. “Thanks for your patronage, I hope to see you again.”
“Likewise,” I nodded and exited the shop. I crossed the street and decided to take one last look at the place. I turned around to see… nothing. There was a gap between the abandoned stores where the shop was as if it was plucked off the ground. Some tall grass poked out of cracked concrete and junk littered the empty spot where it was just a second ago. I checked my bag to make sure my whole ordeal wasn’t just some wild hallucination, and there it still was, the paw and his business card. The location on the back had changed to somewhere far away. I’m keeping this card safe. I put it in my wallet and checked my watch. I could’ve sworn I was in there for a bunch of hours but my watch showed I’d only been there for a couple of minutes. My stomach grumbled loudly. Being scared for hours really works up an appetite. I grabbed some pasta from a food truck and headed home.
I was finally back at my place. Empty as usual. I tossed my bag on the floor in the hallway and then popped open my laptop in the living room while getting comfy on the couch. I searched online for monkey's paw while eating my pasta. Every bit of info I found on the paw seemed fictional. There was an old story of someone else finding a five fingered version of this. A man asked for money from it. Nothing happened at the moment but the very next day his son died in a gruesome factory accident. The company the son worked for compensated the family for their son’s death with the exact amount of money that was requested from the wish. The grief stricken mother then wished for the son to come back to life but as they heard knocks on the door in the dead of night, the father, unwilling to see what gruesome way the paw brought him back from the dead, wished for him to remain resting in peace. The mother opened the door to see no one there.
That was horrible. I need money but don’t want to face those kinds of consequences. I bet there are some people who would want something regardless of the consequences but I’m not like that. That… gives me an idea. I started making notes and formulating my plan, writing down portions of the story, looking up needs, searching wishes people have online, reading articles on bad stuff going on no matter the distance, and saving the best ideas on my phone.
Finally, I knew what I had to do. The stories mentioned people just making a wish and then the fingers would curl inwards for each spent wish. I wonder if there’s a genie or something linked to this. I tickled the palm, looking closely at it when suddenly - it jumped up, grabbing my face! I yanked with all my might tearing it off, then threw it across the room. When it landed, it crawled like a spider into a dark corner of the living room, disappearing into the shadows.
I heard a deep voice from behind me laugh. I whipped my head around and saw a tall monkey demon looking thing staring at me, with 4 twisted horns, pointy ears, sharp teeth, and wearing clothes with strange patterns. I felt the blood drain from my face as I stood up, moving backwards as I stared at the creature, stumbling over the coffee table and rolling on to the ground then quickly standing up in a defensive pose.
"Should've seen your face, it was like this!" His head morphed into mine, making a frightened expression then went back to normal, laughing.
“Wha-what are you?” I said while trembling.
“Xiz, at your service,” he replied with a nod. He snapped his fingers, making the paw suddenly appear then handed it back. “I’m a jinn, also known as a genie. You get 6 wishes, no more. I’m not omnipotent so I can’t do cosmic stuff. I’ll let you know if I can’t grant a wish. Also there are consequences to getting your wish granted, but you already knew that. So, what’s the first one gonna be?”
I paused, taking that info in. I relaxed my tense muscles. “Hmm… I’ve got an idea for it, but I don’t want to use it yet. I’d rather use it somewhere else.”
Xiz raised an eyebrow as he crossed his arms. “That’s a first. Sure, let’s go where you want to. Would you like to use your first wish to get there?”
“Nah, I don’t want to waste it. My bus pass has just enough to get there. I’ve been saving it for a rainy day and this may be it.”
“Sure, whatever, I’ll be waiting for you in the paw. Just poke it if you need me,” he shrugged, then turned into a thick smoke that disappeared into the paw.
Well here goes. With the paw in my pocket and some supplies in my duffel bag, I left the house, shutting off all the lights and locking the door on my way out.
Rumey's life takes a fateful turn when he purchases a mysterious monkey's paw from an enigmatic shop. Little does he know that every wish comes with a chilling price. Determined to outsmart the consequences, Rumey embarks on a risky plan: selling the wishes to warned yet unsuspecting souls, shifting the burden onto their shoulders. But as the web of desires and consequences grows tangled, he finds himself trapped in a perilous game of fate. Will his cunning be enough to secure his own freedom, or will he face a merciless downfall? Explore the treacherous world of wishes and the haunting repercussions in this gripping tale of greed and destiny.