I sat on the wall after class, nervously fingering the box and swinging my legs. It was the first day of school after spring break and had been one of the most stressful I'd ever endured. I hadn't dared carry the box around with me all day in case I misplaced it or someone thought they might borrow it, and that meant leaving it in my locker. That turned out to be an even worse plan - I was on the edge of my seat throughout every lesson, worrying that someone would break into my locker and take the box. It was irrational anxiety and I knew it: the lockers were all well-protected with combination locks, and it was vastly unlikely that anyone would ever keep anything in there which was particularly valuable. Plus it was a good school; everyone was pretty honest in general and we'd only had a very few incidents if theft in all the time I'd been there.
I was waiting for Karyn, my best friend of longer than I'd care to mention. In fact, I'd been waiting to talk to her for over a week, but she always spent spring break with her parents in their caravan in the mountains and we had no classes together this year, so this was the first chance we'd had to get together for a while.
Finally, I spotted her strolling towards me across the yard. She was wearing her usual get-up of scruffy old slacks and her favourite worn old green jumper. Her short red hair was in its normal unruly state and she displayed her quirky grin as she spotted me slouched on the wall. The overall effect, I thought, was pretty cute. I'd always thought she was cute, but we'd never been more than friends. There are some friendships you just don't want to complicate.
When she finally reached me, she leapt up onto the wall with somewhat more ease than I'd managed earlier.
"Hey, Jon-boy! How's it going? Good break?"
I grinned sheepishly. "Was okay. You?" I asked.
She shrugged, "You know, same-old, same-old. There's only so many snowy mountain peaks you can gaze at in wonder in a lifetime. I might have to give the old spring break tradition a miss next year and just hang out with you."
I grinned. "That'd be nice. Save me from couch-potato-dom."
"Anything of interest to report while I was away?" she asked.
"My grandfather died." I stated matter-of-factly.
Her face fell, "Oh, Jon, I'm so sorry. I know you were close. What happened? He wasn't all that old, was he? I thought he was off on one of his expeditions just a few months ago."
I shrugged slightly. "Heart attack, apparently."
Karyn frowned. "You don't seem overly upset."
I took a deep breath and took the plunge. "That's because I'm not convinced he's actually dead."
"I presume we're not talking adolescent denial here," she asked, with a raised eyebrow. "I mean, how can they diagnose a heart attack with no body?"
"Oh, there was a body, I'm just not sure it was him." I realised I was probably giving her images of mutilated corpses or worse, but I was genuinely nervous about what I was about to show her.
"Erm. Then what makes you think..." she started, obviously somewhat bewildered.
"This." I interrupted, holding up the box. It was fairly unimpressive, about one inch by four and an inch deep, made of plain dark wood with a few obscure markings carved into it.
"What is it?" she asked, intrigued. I think I was probably playing up the cloak-and-dagger stuff too much, but it was quite mysterious, after all.
"It's my inheritance." I opened up the box. Inside was a rather crumpled piece of paper and a rather unusual, if plain-looking, stone. The stone was slightly metallic, rather like haematite, but with a reddish hue to its surface, rounded, flattish and about an inch across. "Read the note," I instructed her. She did so, with much eyebrow-raising in the process. The note was from my grandfather and what it said was this:
If you are reading this, it means I have passed on. Do not mourn my leaving; although we shall no longer be able to spend time together, be happy knowing that where I am now is just a new start and a different perspective than before and that I shall just look at it as my next great adventure.
The stone you find in this box is my legacy to you. Treat it with care, it does not look much, but has immense power. I have entrusted it to you, as my favourite grandson and friend, to be its keeper and guardian now that I am gone.
I found the stone on my latest expedition to South America and I believe it to be of Incan origin. How it works, or where it came from beyond that, I have no idea. All I can tell you is how it works and trust you to use it wisely.
Bear with me on this next bit; I know it sounds fantastic, but trust me when I tell you that I am telling the truth. All I say is real and it will not take much experimentation for you to prove it.
While holding the stone against your flesh (I recommend just holding it in your hand as the simplest approach), simply use the words 'I wish' followed by whatever it is you want the stone to do. There is no limit to the number of times you can do this, as far as I can divine, but beware for the words of a wish can be reinterpreted but not changed once the breath is over. The stone has great power, but is not unlimited. Changes made will be as if it has always been so, apart from for those within earshot of the wish or out of the range of influence of the stone. This range I estimate at several miles, but I fear I have not been able to determine an exact figure.
I must go now. Use the gift I have given you wisely, and think of me often.
Your friend, always,
Karyn finished reading the note and looked at me accusingly. "Is this a wind up, because it's not funny if it is?" I shook my head. "You can't be serious. If this note is real, your grandfather faked his own death or something similar and has left you a magic Inca stone which grants wishes."
I nodded. "Yep."
"And you expect me to believe that?"
"Not a chance." She crossed her arms over her chest. "I mean, I'm as open minded as the next girl, but this is just plain silly."
"See that branch?" I indicated a piece of wood that had fallen off one of the nearby trees. I grasped the stone in my hand. "I wish the bark on that branch was blue."
I was used to the sensation by now; it was like momentarily getting something in your eye, forcing you to be unable to look at the object the wish was affecting. Karyn was obviously a little taken aback by the strange sensation.
"Hey, weird, it was like..." Then she caught sight of the branch. Which was bright blue. "Holy shit!"
"My god, it really works!?" She was agape.
"It does indeed. Wanna see the scary part?" I grasped the stone again and wished for the branch to be red.
"Why didn't it work?" asked Karyn, looking puzzled.
"Because it was contradictory to a previous wish. Basically, you can't undo wishes, which is what makes this thing so scary to me."
"You aren't kidding, that is scary!"
"There is, however, some room for movement: I wish the branch was very dark blue." The sensation was felt by both of us again and when we looked, the branch was indeed a dark, almost black blue, which was a lot more innocuous than the bright blue it had been moments ago. "So, you see I was able to make a new wish which didn't contradict the old one and have it work. The branch is still blue. However, if I was to try and move the branch back to its previous brighter blue, that would fail as it contradicts the latest wish."
Karyn was clearly astounded. "This is great. Scary but great. We can have lots of fun with this."
I wasn't so sure. "I dunno, Karyn, it seems very dangerous to me, I'm thinking of just locking it away and throwing away the key."
"You can't be serious. You have the most amazing discovery ever, and you want to lock it away. How about this: how about we try it out for a while and if anything disastrous happens or looks like happening, then we'll decide to put it somewhere safe."
She was making a reasonable amount of sense. "Okay. We'll use it for a week, but not for anything drastic. We'll have a little fun and nothing more. Agreed?"
"Sure thing. Can I have a go?" I knew she'd ask, and I'd never had any intention of saying no, but she did seem a little over-excited about it. In the end I knew I trusted her and handed over the stone.
Karyn fingered the stone, passing it from hand to hand, feeling its smoothness. The first thing she tried was wishing the branch back to light blue, with no success as I had predicted. She was just contemplating changing the colour of her shoes to better match her old slacks when we were interrupted by a high-pitched laugh.
Sarah McMillan, head cheerleader and class-A bitch, was wandering across the yard followed by her usual entourage of drooling, overmuscled football players and other assorted testosterone-fueled flunkies.
Karyn was unimpressed. "Can you explain to me why men are so shallow? Everyone knows that McMillan is a total bitch and yet, because she has blond hair and big tits, every guy in the school spends half his life dribbling down her cleavage."
"Not every guy," I noted, although I had to admit that Sarah wasn't bad to look at, even though I'd never associate myself with someone with such a untrustworthy character.
"Okay, most guys. There's only one of her; why can't she just pick one and let the rest of us have a go?" She sighed.
I grinned. "Got your eye on anyone in particular?" I asked, trying to sound nonchalant.
She scowled at me. "No. Just a general feeling. God, I wish I had long blond hair and big boobs and maybe then I'd get some of the attention."
I think it dawned on us both at the same time what she had said and we just looked at each other, a look of slight shock on our faces, but it was much too late by then. I found I had to look away from Karyn, as I got something in my eye, or so it seemed.
I knew pretty much what to expect when I looked back, but it was still weird.
To be honest, the breasts weren't really noticeable. Karyn always wore her favourite baggy green sweater and I was really pretty much in the dark as to her bust size before the wish, but presumably they hadn't counted as 'big', at least in her mind. The hair, however, was a different story. It was not only light blond and lying gently across her shoulders, but more shockingly, perfectly straight. It was not, in my opinion, a look which suited her, but then I didn't suppose for a moment she'd been serious with her hastily spoken wish.
Karyn looked down, pulled at her bra and lifted a lock of yellow hair to take a look at it. "Fuck."
"Indeed. This is why I wanted to lock this thing away. This sort of thing was bound to happen." I sighed.
She shrugged and then looked disconcerted at the new things obviously going on in her bra. "Could have been worse. I could have wished..." She realised she was still holding the stone. "Never mind. Here, take this thing back before I mess up some more." I took the stone and put it back in the box, out of harm's way.
"We could make some more wishes to try damage limitation. You were pretty vague." I noted.
"No. At least not yet. Let me go home and sleep on it - on my back - and decide what's best. I don't think now is the time to be rash." With that she was up off the wall and walking away. "Meet me here again tomorrow," she called back before she disappeared around the corner.
I looked down at the box and shoved it in my pocket. I decided that tomorrow I was going to leave it at home, well-hidden from Mom. I figured it was less likely to cause more trouble if it was less directly accessible.
I looked around the now deserted yard and decided it was time to slope off home. Tomorrow was a new day and there was only one way to find out what it would bring...