“Three Wishes”, by Philip S Davies.
(about 950 words)
That Wednesday afternoon, Kayleigh stared blankly at her laptop in the student digs. It was no good: she couldn’t concentrate on her project about receding Himalayan glaciers. For one thing, her Gran was dying in the hospice. For another, the Student Loan Company had written about her statement of account. Couldn’t she visit her Gran, or earn a living, instead of studying?
The laptop beeped with incoming e-mail. She hadn’t closed the programme in the hope of a distraction, so she checked her inbox.
What was this, some sort of joke? Sender: “Pixel Pixie”, subject: “Three Wishes.” She almost deleted it as junk or spam, then stopped. There was no attachment, and it had cleared the virus scanner, so it should be safe. She clicked and read:
“Good afternoon, Kayleigh. I’ve chosen you out of everyone in the world to have Three Wishes. Please state your requests in replies to this e-mail. I wait to hear from you, Pixel Pixie.”
Kayleigh stared in astonishment. Either she’d flipped into a fairy story, or this was a wind-up from a friend, a joke in bad taste, a crude hoax, or an internet predator making contact to stalk her. But in her distracted state, Kayleigh wanted cheering up.
She clicked Reply. “Oh yeah? Right then, Pixel Pixie, I wish for world peace. Or does it have to be: I wish my lottery numbers come up tonight? Kayleigh.”
She sent that and went to make a coffee. On her return a new message had arrived.
“Dear Kayleigh, world peace is a noble wish, but it means affecting everyone in the world. Specific is better, so your first wish is granted. Enjoy the lottery jackpot. Pixel Pixie.”
Right then, Kayleigh thought. We’ll see what your game is, Pixel Pixie. But she stuffed her lottery ticket in the back pocket of her jeans, just in case.
She said nothing to anyone until her numbers came up in the Midweek Rollover. With trembling hands she dialed the prize claim number. Her fellow student lodgers knew about it first, and then Kayleigh rang her parents. Everyone hit the roof. Her first thought was that with her new 25 million, she wouldn’t need to trouble the Student Loan Company anymore.
In the morning the Lottery Company sent a car to fetch her, and Kayleigh was in shock. Not only was her student debt a thing of the past, but she could buy the rented house where she and her friends lived. She could buy the whole street. She didn’t need to work again. Or study for that matter. But if this were so, what would she do with her life?
At first she enjoyed the millionaire lifestyle, lounging in the limousine, but soon tired of the media interviews: radio, television, newspapers, photographs, and the repeated reporters’ question: “What are you going to do with the money?”
But worse was to come. Returning home, the phone hadn’t stopped ringing and her e-mail inbox was full, as it seemed that anyone who had ever known her wanted to share ‘a thousand or two’ of her winnings.
Kayleigh retreated to her room, unplugged the phone and opened her laptop. Ignoring all other messages, she composed a new e-mail.
“Dear Pixel Pixie, thanks for the lottery win. My second wish is for someone else, rather than myself. I wish for my Gran to be cured of cancer. Yours, Kayleigh.”
She waited and the reply came. “Kayleigh, your wish is granted. Pixel Pixie.”
Kayleigh sighed with relief. She wouldn’t lose Gran after all. She evaded her now over-friendly housemates, and cycled to the hospice. As she arrived, her mum, dad, and younger brother Nathan were leaving. Gran had been whisked off to hospital for scans and tests, to check what had happened with her cancer.
Kayleigh locked her bike and jumped into the car as the family sped off into town. On the way, she ignored Nathan’s comments about “Cashpoint Kayleigh” because her mum and dad were in the heights of anxiety about Gran.
At the hospital, Gran’s tests took an age. The doctors seemed to be trying to find evidence of why they’d been wrong. At last the family were allowed to see her, and Kayleigh was shocked to see Gran distraught and in tears. Yes, she was cured, the cancer had gone, but she hated being scanned, probed, tested and prodded by one doctor after another. A hospital manager had upset her by insisting that the Primary Care Trust would vigorously defend being sued for misdiagnosis of the cancer.
But Gran seemed most worried about what she would do now. She’d accepted she was dying, and at 97 and frail, had thought this the best time to go. Care at the hospice had been excellent, and Gran couldn’t face returning to struggling to cope in her bungalow. But what else could she do, now that she was cured and would soon be discharged?
Kayleigh had had enough. She asked her dad to take her back to her digs, and was silent all the way in the car. In the quiet of her room, Kayleigh drew a deep breath, opened her laptop and composed her message.
“Dear Pixel Pixie, this isn’t working out. For my final request, I wish for everything to go back to how it was before my first wish … except, perhaps, could I do well with my uni course? Yours, Kayleigh.”
She waited, and then felt a slight dizziness. Was that the adjustment of reality? The laptop beeped.
“Dear Kayleigh. Of course. I find that the smaller wishes work out best. Good luck with your studies and your finances, and I wish you satisfaction in work and family, life and death. And congratulations on the First for your degree. Farewell, Pixel Pixie.”