Jon slumped on his bed with a sigh. It had taken a week of deliberation before he finally decided to tell Karyn about the stone, and already there had been an accident.
When he'd first tested the thing successfully he'd almost tossed it into the garbage. The only thing stopping him was the thought of some stranger getting their hands on it and changing the world in ways he'd never be aware of. Slowly, he had gotten used to the idea of having the power to reshape the universe quite literally in the palm of his hand, or at least as much as that was possible. But now...
Karyn was Jon's best friend, and by no means stupid. In fact, she was one of the smartest people he knew. And yet it hadn't taken a minute before she inflicted an unwanted wish upon herself. One that may well be permanent. If he couldn't trust Karyn, how could he trust anyone? Could he even trust himself?
Again came the impulse to simply rid himself of the stone and let someone else deal with it. But that would be almost as irresponsible as just using it however he wished.
If only he knew more about the stone. Oh, his grandfather had explained the basic rules that it appeared to operate under. But what was it, really? Who or what made it? How did it work? Even contemplating these questions made Jon recall all the fairy tales and old stories involving magical wishes. They never seemed to end well.
What if the stone was alive? Aware? What if, like a spiteful genie from some ancient legend, it deliberately twists the wishes of its user, ruining lives and then moving on? Jon had to admit it was a far fetched nightmare scenario, but until a week ago he'd never believed in magic wishing stones either.
Falling on his back with a soft thump, he sighed again, lost in thought. "I wish I knew how this thing worked..."
And he knew.
Magic. Real magic. That in itself wasn't a surprise to Jon. The stone was certainly like no technology he'd ever heard of. But with the flood of information cascading into his brain came knowledge of the true nature of magic.
Magic was, in essence, raw chaos.
While witchcraft, sorcery, and miracles were commonly accepted during the bulk of humanity's existence; the commonly held belief in the world today was that the universe operated based on rules. Matter and energy were mutable, but permanent. Time and space changed with velocity, but these changes were predictable in nature, following simple mathematical principles. The universe was a great machine. A complex clockwork masterpiece. And if humanity didn't understand why one gear turned, it was just a matter of time before they found what drove it.
Reason, as Jon now terribly realized, was just a form of conceit. The universe had no rules. The universe was driven by magic. Raw, chaotic, inherently unpredictable perturbations of matter and energy, forming and unforming eternally, obeying no laws.
The wishing stone cared nothing for Newton or Einstein. Heisenberg or Hawking. For it was this same magic that gave it its power.
Yes, the stone had rules, but it was just a small island of calmness in a sea of chaos. And it was not nearly so orderly as it seemed. At times it would interpret wishes literally. At others, it seemed to be able to infer what the user meant by their words, and act with them....or against them. Again, seemingly at random.
His mind numb and his heart pounding, Jon, drunk with sudden comprehension, could not help but say something he knew he shouldn't.
"I wish I knew everything about magic."
Jon's bedroom melted away. Time stopped, and the universe was empty.
Aware, yet unfeeling Jon opened his...eyes? Mind? He couldn't tell anymore. His body didn't seem to be there. Nothing but a black starless emptiness that filled creation.
Then there was light.
A billion billion points of light, and Jon knew what they were, though he wished he didn't.
He had wished to know everything about magic, and the stone was compelled to obey. Each point of light as a time, a place, a space, a consequence. each of them involved magic. In those points of light were every magical event ever to occur in his universe...and in every other universe. Each point was an infinity withing a greater infinity. And he would have to know them all. Every story, every person, every tragedy, every triumph. And it would never end. It was, after all, what he had wished.
Other universes. Some like Jon's. Some nearly identical, only he didn't have the stone. Or he did have the stone, but the rules were different. Or his best friend was Sarah McMillan. Or his grandfather was alive, but gave the stone instead to a sister he never had. Or the stone never existed at all. He lived with his mother. His father. His parents were divorced, married, dead.
Others were similar to Earth as Jon knew it, but not quite the same. He found that, more often than not, he didn't exist. But magic always did. An old man and his shop traveled from town to town, world to world, universe to universe, leaving behind devastated and terrified people whenever a purchase was made. A medallion exchanged lives, altered bodies, and then vanished, to repeat the process over again.
Some were very different. Many legged creatures made of fire fought great speaking prisms. A universe composed of flashing lights far off, so far off in the distance of an infinite green sea. And some so alien and terrible Jon's mind simply refused to comprehend them.
Slowly, one point of light moved, coming closer and closer to his mind-eye. Jon knew his instruction had begun as an image began to resolve around him, and his mind seeped into the background of another universe, another tale...