Writteninsanity t1_jcb2xg9 wrote

There were a lot of rumoured ways to have your wildest dreams, all with just enough truth to them to spark hope in the lost. Wishing stars asked for nothing but a keen eye and pure heart. Genies needed nothing more than careful wording. Birthdays offered everyone the same opportunity every year.

Whispered wished offered to those methods were wasted on the wind. In the end there was only one method that I'd found in years of study that seemed to be true, seemed to be something that people like me could verify.

A wishmakers key.

I didn't know where they came from, or where they went once they'd been used, but Wishmaker's keys offered the simple promise, they would make anything possible. The keys could wrestle the laws of the universe and force them into a place where the user could grant their wish for themsleves.

Of course, in most cases, this meant the Wishmaker's keys faded away without having done much at all. Fairytales might have belabored the point, but it was true that most people's wishes were already within their reach.

You wouldn't even know if you wasted your wish, because you could, eventually, make it.

The rusted but somehow still glittering key on my desk tempted its spot in the lamplight. It whispered things, promised solutions to problems I didn't have, offered to make my dreams come true, even as the dreams that idly came to mind were things I could easily manage without the assistance of the key.

I didn't need a magical artifact to make me tea, all I had to do was walk downstairs to do it.

But the whispers didn't stop.

I made a quick note in my journal about the behaviour and took a look at my phone on the desk. It was well past the witching hour and I didn't have anything other than idle observations about the key I'd gotten my hands on this afternoon.

Well, the key I'd made myself destitute over this afternoon. They might have only been a way to unlock the doors of life, but keys certainly carried the price tag of catch-all solution to your every whim.

Of course, the key could help me get money. It could ensure that I didn't need to worry about that ever again. It could-

I shook my head and stared down the key, pushing the affected thoughts out of my mind. "Why do you want to be used?" I asked the antique brass.

All I needed to do was ask it formally and I could be sure that I would eventually get the answer...

I grabbed the key and put it back into the box that I'd bought it in, securing a key behind a lock. I was too tired to have something else trying to convince me of a solution. I needed sleep, and I certainly didn't need it to tell me how to get that.


I woke up closer to morning than the middle of the night, whcih wasn't hard considering that was when I'd gone to sleep. Dawn was just getting around to arriving as I sat up in the bed and stared over at my desk, and the lockbox on it.

Inspiration stuck at strange times, but usually I was at least awake for it.

I slipped over to the desk, putting on a housecoat on the way to make an attempt at modesty. Once I was sitting down I found a hairtie I'd left out last night and pulled my tangled hair our of my eyes.

Years had bled away as I'd burned the university's grant money on wish research. It had always been an easy topic to get funding for, afterall, everyone wanted to know what they could do to wish the worst parts of their life away.

I pulled the key out of the box and sat in the middle of the desk this time, leaving it between my and my well-worn sage notebook. I drummed fingers on the desk, and waited for it to talk to me.

For the first time since I'd gotten it, the key stayed quiet, waiting for me to speak to it instead of offering it's constant opinion on how useful it was.

The last thirty pages of notes from last night were a slow read, a mostly rambling mess that had come from the frantic idea that I'd finally found something that wasn't a placebo, but-

I flipped past the last notes I'd made to the first blank page and put pen to paper. Just when I was about to write I pulled back from it, leaving an ink stain on the page.

The key looked dull now, even in the waking light of dawn.

"Just another wishing star," I sighed to the key. That was the philosophy of the Wishmaker, it opened doors, but as it stood anything was already possible. It didn't matter what wish I offered the key, becuase even the impossible was possible if there was an artifact out there that could grant wishes, "isn't that right?"

The key itself didn't have a voice, it had always stolen mine by putting words into my head. That said, even voiceless, it laughed.


Writteninsanity t1_j9wxuny wrote

Nobody calls you sapient until you punch them in the face...

In all seriousness, I steered away from a lot of that because I tend to get exhausted about the amount of sci-fi that potrays aspects of humanity as uniquely hyperviolent. Sure we engage with violence, but I really don't think it's one of the things we want to define our species by.


Writteninsanity t1_j9w5sov wrote

I’m gonna throw out that it might be underestimating planes here.

Absolutely granted you can communicate a lot with pointing and gestures, but it kinda falls apart at advanced concepts like “there is not a screw right here but here is how you could make one “


Writteninsanity t1_j9un3pq wrote

As beautiful as that is (And I might end up stealing it lol) in the story it's more a brought up thing that humans having tons of living languages and needing universal translators between one another is WEIRD.


Writteninsanity t1_j9uj8or wrote

"Welcome back to Good Morning Nations, I'm Janet Tillsdale and today we have someone very exciting on the program," Janet beamed at the camera, offering a smile she'd practised so meticulously Harold said she did it in her sleep, "today on Good Morning we have an exclusive interview with Rebel Ovishir Scientist, Dalia Kinderith, who is making the claim that humans are, in fact, sapient."

Some people in the audience laughed, others scoffed, it was a contentious topic.

The camera pulled back from its close up of Janet and revealed the guest, a pearl skinned feminine alien covered in thousands of fish-like scales; a powerful tail was tucked behind her on her chair and she was wearing both a tight space suit and a small mask that covered her mouth.

"Welcome Delia," Janet greeted.

There was silence for a moment, longer than was allowed in an interview in most cases. The network had added support for the alien translation devices to the studio, but it was still far from real-time. Dalia waited as English was translated into something she could understand. Then she opened her mouth and a moment later, over the speakers, a simulated voice spoke up "Thanks for having me Janet, I've found your program very interesting over the past week."

"Is that how long you've been on Earth?"

"Ten days now," Dalia's fake voice corrected. To the audience the whole thing looked like a poorly dubbed movie from the 90s with Dalia clearly making her point before any words came out, "I do love the planet. You've been very welcoming to the Ovishir."

Janet nodded along and her producer shout-whispered something in her ear about steering away from the 'welcome' that the Aliens had gotten. After the first contact skirmishes just beyond Pluto the United Nations had welcomed Aliens to see the planet with open arms. It was a hot button issue and not something she was supposed to bring up on an all audiences program. "If you've been here that long, what's so interesting about our program?"

"Well," Dalia started, "it's actually quite similar to the programming we have back on Ovilatia, almost shockingly so."

Usually Janet would have made a joke there, but she'd been trained on the alien translation technology and how poorly it dealt with English sarcasm at the moment. "Well I'm glad you like the show."

"I never said I liked it," Dalia shot back with a proper humorous tone. The audience laughed. For some reason she was able to joke through the translation. Must have come with practice.

"Fair enough, I guess we'll have to look for other fans in the stars," Janet responded, "I haven't had a galactic audience before."

Dalia offered a sharp exhale, which Janet had been told was the Ovishir equivalent of a polite chuckle.

"Speaking of the galaxy at large," Janet pivoted, "would you mind telling us a little bit about your theory regarding humans compared to the other species?"

"Certainly," Dalia shifted a little in her chair, giving her tail space to unwind behind her for a moment, "so the general galactic opinion at the moment is that humans have been exempt from Galactic Integration Procedures because they aren't a properly sapient specie due to the lack of Keeneeta but that view seems myopic by my study."

'"We-" Janet went to start but noticed that Dalia was still speaking, the translator was just buffering.

"There is a lot of evidence to point to humans being a Sapient species, and the fact that you aren't be treated within Galactic Integration Procedures could be disastrous for your species, should you ever keeneetaa."

There was the word again. Nobody quite understood what it meant, but she'd been told not to ask about it because it mostly got a reaction of 'see, they're obviously not sapient, they don't even know what it is.'

Janet nodded along with Dalia's conclusions and then, once she was confident that she was finished her piece, spoke up, "So these Galactic Integration Procedures, they're important in your mind?"

Dalia thumped her tail twice, which was the Ovishir equivalent of nodding, "Absolutely, it's about regulation, and right now the lack of regulation around human-galactic integration could be disastrous for your species."

Janet understood that she wasn't allowed to ask the specifics of GIP rules, but she could at least prod a little, "Disastrous how?"

"The Galactic Integration Procedures are the outlines for how we're supposed to interact in the early days. I don't know much about human history, but if there were any instances of Colonialis-"

"There were," Janet cut in.

"ism," the translator caught up.

Dalia thumped again and then continued, "right, so most instances of Colonialism result in cultural decay. Galactic Integration Procedures are set up to promote the flow of human cultural traditions into the Galactic Sphere as opposed to having the arrival of other species erode the human cultures by having off-world species be economically dominant on your home planet."

Janet frowned at the statement 'home planet' she understood that Dalia was being kind there. Humans had a single colony, but they were a single planet species, which was apparently well behind the usual curve for galactic integration. "So you're worried about the lack of regulation surrounding Alien arrival on Earth?"

"Exactly, Janet," Dalia confirmed, "even the fact that I'm allowed on a program like this speaks to the complete lack of GCA oversight regarding humans, and considering the fact that humans have most other markings of PAS, Planetary Advanced Species, it's reckless."

"The other markings?" Janet prodded. Her producer told her to be careful.

"Things like an advanced economy, space flight, abstractions," Dalia explained, "it's all very baseline requirements but they've been solid in the past. The suggestion that brought me here is that your language system obviously isn't inhibiting you as much as the GCA wants to suggest and you should be under Galactic Integration Protocol."

There was a moment in people's careers where they needed to make a choice between playing it safe and risking their job to do it well. Janet had always told herself that she was going to take the hard-hitting path, which was likely why she instinctively asked, "so keeneeta is a linguistic concept?"

"No, pivot," her producer growled in her ear.

"It's difficult to explain because it doesn't translate to your personal language but yes," Dalia said, "and you deserve to understand what's holding you back so that you can argue your case. Whether they will judge your species for it or not."

"Do not be the reason I get calls from the fucking Press Secretary," the producer hissed.

"Perfect," Janet said, brushing her hair back in a practised motion and pulling our her earpiece alongside it.

"Keeneeta is the," Dalia considered for a moment, "it's a base tongue. A unified language that your species inherently understands."

"Like a universal language?" Janet asked.

"Not quite, my species has two main languages alongside our keeneeta," she explained, "but it seems like there are many humans who, without a shared language, have no way of understanding one another."

"So if everyone learned the same language?"

"No because you would need to learn it," Dalia pointed out, "a keeneeta is an inherent thing to the birth of a sapient species," she paused and a moment later her 'voice' did, "or at least-"

The translator cut out and Janet shot her eyes over to the side of the stage and was met with glared from producers and the sight of one yelling into a phone.

Dalia turned to look at the chaos unfolding, she said something but without the wider translation there was no way for Janet to understand her, that said, her eyes showed something close to apology.

A pit gnawed its way into Janet's stomach. She didn't have the context of the future texts that would outline this was one of the most critical interviews of the 2110's. Right now she just understood that she was in deep shit.



This is somewhat a prequel / world building for my ongoing series Six Orbits over on /r/Jacksonwrites :)


Writteninsanity t1_j6imd7g wrote

Alinel looked up from her immaculate desk silver eyes shining then darting away from me. Most people who walked through these doors got a joyous walkthrough of how everything worked. Instead, Alinel sighed toward her desk. "Welcome back."

I nodded to her and took my place in the waiting room. It was custom to let the agents explain the process before you partook but, there wasn't really a point for me. Alinel could ignore me and be sure that I would be back next week just the same.

There wasn't a protocol for what was going on. The process had been written in stone since the first souls were brought through processing. You go in, you partake in cleansing, you wake up on Earth with a new life ahead of you.

It was simple really, souls were too heavy with a lifetime of memories shackling them to a previous existence. The censing process shucked off old heartbreaks, triumphs and every foggy day in between; it left you a clean slate for a new life. It let you go down and try again.

Most souls eventually took part in the immortal cycle. The temptation of something new built up over time and souls were seldom content with their previous lives. There were some, sure, but most were willing to take another chance at bat, in a new time, with a new face.

Far as I knew, I was the only person who wouldn't have that opportunity. I could remember everything, every breath, every step, every bruise, I could even remember how much the cleansing burned when it tried to tear the memories out of me.

It burned less than the realization that it hadn't worked.

After a moment I stood up and nodded to Alinel, she offered me a soft smile laced with pity and waved me forward.

The Cleansing Room was a void in the most literal sense, an endless white expanse that was somehow claustrophobic and vast concurrently. Steps from the door, there was a soft silver pool, where my refection stared back at me.

The bags under my eyes had only gotten deeper since I'd died all of those years ago. They would never get better.

I knelt down onto the white, feeling the cold-warmth of emptiness press against against me. It was pressure that came from nothing, created from the concept that there should be a floor here as opposed to anything physical.

There was a small bowl, cracked black marble that had been repaired with gold, sitting between me and the pool. Alinel told me once that the bowl was different for everyone who came into the Cleansing room. That made sense. Mine would be broken.

I grabbed the bowl off the floor and with one hand dipped it into the silver pool, sending ripples across my reflection. As my visage shifted it flashed over different parts of my life. The bruises, from childhood to college, had been a consistent theme, until they stopped altogether.

My fingers brushed against the pool. It felt like nothing and everything all at once. Every sensation that had touched my fingers cascading over my nerves, coalescing into static.

I pulled the full bowl out of the pool, the silver liquid poured off the sides, fading away against the white void on the ground. I saw my laughter in the droplets.

I squeezed my eyes shut before I brought the bowl to my lips. It wasn't going to work. I had to be okay with the fact that it wouldn't work. I'd walk back out into eternity, past Alinel. I wasn't allowed to forget.

And I didn't know why.

The silver liquid scarred my throat as I poured with down, tiny spikes reaching out for my memories but never finding purchase. There was supposed to be a cleansing fire, something washing away the past but the scars were too deep and funneled the liquid down a useless path.

It hurt. The process of forgetting hurt. The process of remembering hurt. I didn't deserve this. It hadn't been my fault. I'd done what anyone would do.


Alinel looked up from her immaculate desk silver eyes shining then darting away from me. Most people who walked through these doors got a joyous walkthrough of how everything worked. Instead, Alinel sighed toward her desk. "Welcome back."


Writteninsanity t1_j5ns6dx wrote


Writteninsanity t1_j5nl4xh wrote

We in the business call this a branding problem. Since my biggest serial release, a certain company released an app with the same name. The app did pretty well.

I don't have a tiktok. I have a Tik Tok, very different.


Writteninsanity t1_j5lzpb7 wrote

The Genie had been on the mountain forever. In the early days, once humans discovered him, he'd been the one defining point of history. Wars, famines, droughts, even death. All problems were solved by the genie. Each adult got one wish a year, and people knew how to use them,

Years into the existence of the Genie, he had said his first no, and then the nos turned into a cascade. It turned out that the genie would never grant the same wish twice. This hadn't mattered when a small smattering of people were seeing the genie, but once you could fly from all over the world to see him, it was suddenly near-impossible to get a wish granted. Even the crazy or simple ones.

A billion people trying to come up with something, anything, that hadn't been asked for.

It didn't help that the Genie's rules cared about intent. To him, a million dollars was the same as a billion dollars, you were just wishing for money. Any love in the world was the same as another. All yachts were banned after the pirate Blackbelt wished for a grand white luxury ship in the 1600's.

The Genie was reductive, everything in the human experience was boiled down to simple concepts and categories.

In the early 1990's, someone was able to buy the deed to the Genie's land, and that had turned it into a business. Suddenly, it wasn't that everyone was allowed to wish from the genie, you needed to pay an exorbitant fee to get your shot. That changed things.

If it was going to cost hundreds of thousands to see the genie, you had to ensure that you did it right. That was where Djinnologists like me came in. It was my job to scour recorded history to create a timeline of wishes. Then Djinologists work with lawyers to craft the wording to and action the wish that our clients wanted.

In actuality, the list of wishes that we had no previous evidence of was staggering, partially because many wishes were functionally useless, and many others were impossible to track. There was no evidence of whether a woman had ever asked to be rid of her period cramps, but you had to imagine it had happened at some point.

Of course, most of the random open wishes weren't what our clients wanted. If our clients had a big enough trust fund to afford to see the genie, as well as enough money to hire us, they wanted a return on investment.

We hadn't provided this time.

Elroy MacEverill the 3rd, had been bought a wish with the genie for his birthday from his parents, a pair of shipping tycoons. We had offered Elroy options for wishes that would let him say 'I got a wish granted' but he'd constantly fished for something useful.

Between the lawyers and our team we came up with a wish that would translate to material wealth. As it turned out, the genie didn't care whether you wished to own a mine on earth, or on another planet.

Eroy MacEverill was now throwing a man-sized tantrum in the small heated waiting area that they'd built in front of the genie. I'd stepped out to get some fresh air, and sit beside the thing I'd spent my life studying. Afterall, we had an hour.

At this point, most people had made their wishes. One of the benefits from coming with a rich brat was that you could ask the genie for something after. Most of the lawyers and other Djinnologists wished for innocuous things to prove or disprove personal theories.

My favorite was that Alicia had wished for a naked mole rat who couldn't stop dancing if there was music around. It wasn't useful, but it was neat.

As I nursed my coffee that I'd clutched tight in my mittens, the booming voice of the Genie rang out behind me. "Do you have a wish my good man?"

"I think I'm good this year," I said. I had a list of options in my pocket, but none of them meant anything and I'd be back here in a couple months with a rich dick or a rich dick's daughter either way.

"No wishes?" he asked, "you people who study me are a peculiar group." I felt the mountain wind pick up for a moment as the genie moved his massive form closer behind me. "Tell me, do you ensure that you write about how handsome I am?"

"Of course," I lied.

"Good good. It's unfortunate I ended up here. I should be in the middle of the town square for ladies to admire," he trailed off, "or men. That was actually someone's wish. You can write that one down."

"They wished for you to be-"

"That's the funny thing, already was. Not that I can act on it but the magic that makes me also cares about some of my human traits."

I nodded.

"Luckily it doesn't let me get bored because hoooooo boy I would be a lonely little genie."

There wasn't much of my coffee left. "Yeah well. Kinda wish it was back like it used to be where everyone was allowed to come here and-" I stoppled. I'd just broken the one rule.



I spun to see the Genie swell to massive proportions, looming over the mountaintop like a raging stormbound. He brought his gargantuan fist down on top of the building on top of the mountain.


The Genie shrunk down back to his normal size. The building remained undestroyed under his fist. "I'm just kidding man it's chill."

"What the hell?"

"I just made it so any wealth transfer attempted to buy access to me would inevitably end up back with the payee. Seemed easier."

"Oh-" I took a deep breath. "Oh that's good," I stared at the building with all my coworkers inside. Thank God they were alive.

Of course, now I needed to explain that they were all out of a job...

/r/Jacksonwrites - edit for some grammar.


Writteninsanity t1_j5kcjsy wrote


For what it matters, there isn't going to be a follow-up to this one. The central tension set up is Alibi needing to break its one rule, the framing of the story could have been about anything as long as that was the central drama.

Now that the drama is solved, I would be changing the theme of the story to move to 'the mystery' as the central tension, which is fine but wasn't the intent here. Gotta love the writing stuff.


Writteninsanity t1_j5hgl5o wrote

The smell of spilled whiskey was the first and only thing to greet me as I pulled open the door to the Alibi. A textbook dive, the splintered tables of the bar were full, but nobody looked toward me as I tapped the bottom of my boots in the entryway.

The lack of turned heads was a point of pride in the Alibi. It felt private no matter how busy it was. When you were inside the Alibi, your business was your business, and if someone overheard your conversation, no they didn't.

The barkeep, a hammerhead of a woman named Sasha, clocked me in the doorway but didn't offer a nod. In fact, she didn't offer me anything; instead, Sasha stared at me with careful disinterest for a moment before returning to the drink she was pouring.

Maybe it was better that people were ignoring me here. I doubted I would have been good attention.

The bar top of the Alibi was scratched from a million slid glasses and a thousand knives. Years ago, they attempted to re-lacquer the thing, but the regulars said it'd killed the charm. Within a week, it was back to a scratched wooden mess threatening to stab any hand that rested on it.

I sat down at the bar, pulling out one of the few unused stools. As I sat down a behemoth of a man to my right pulled his chair away from me, and closer to the ear of the people he was whispering to.

Sasha ignored me for a moment, but then I held up two fingers to order a drink and made it clear that I was looking for her. I watched her sigh and turn her attention to another customer.

My phone buzzed in my pocket again. It had been ringing off the hook all evening, not that it had a hook; it was a cell phone.

I would answer it eventually.

Sasha finished pouring the neat whiskey for the woman to my right and finally, out of plausible deniability, turned to me. "Detective," she opened, somehow making the title sound like a curse.

"Evening Sasha," I said with a nod, ignoring the tone she'd used, "how's Rod?"

"S'fine," she answered, "what are you drinking?"

I considered it for a moment, "A Mojito." The second I said it Sasha glared at me. Asking her to mash mint was my way of keeping her around. That and a mojito completely clashed with the atmosphere.

Then again, so did I.

"Coming right up," Sasha hissed before grabbing a glass from the bottom of the bar. She knew how it worked; she would start working on the drink, and then when she was trapped in front of me-

"Sasha, a question."

She grunted, which roughly translated to 'there it is.'

"Okay," I cut off our usual song and dance, "a favour then."

That got her to slow down the process of fake cleaning the glass.

"I need you to tell me the truth. Just this once."

Sasha snorted at that and then chuckled to herself. Once she'd finished,she looked up at me, waiting for a smile or anything to show that I was joking.

The core rule of the Alibi and the nexus of its success was that they would always offer an Alibi for you, no matter how many people came knocking on your door. As a detective I was the exact opposite of what Sasha wanted in here. She wanted people to feel safe when they were turning over a new leaf.

It was rough to admit, but these Ex-cons needed a haven away from officers with an axe to grind.

"Look, I'm not here on force business today," I explained. She didn't flinch, "I have two questions about a girl, and then I'll shut up and drink.

Sasha grabbed the white rum from the wall behind the bar but didn't comment.

"Hell, I'll leave a big tip too," I leaned it, "it's just two questions."

Sasha paused, then poured rum into the measuring cup. "You're desperate," she mused after a moment.

I didn't say anything. I just nodded.

Sasha stopped what she was doing and put the half-finished drink down in front of me. There were still several steps between me and mojito. "What'd you get yourself into?" she asked.

"Not me," I corrected; that finally got Sasha to raise her eyebrows and look at me with anything but disdain. "I'm looking for a girl."

"Oh yeah, saw her last week," Sasha answered before I'd explained any part of the question. She went to grab the half-finished drink, and I got my hand in the way.

"Sasha. She's going to get herself hurt."

"Well, it ain't gonna be here so-"

"I know she was here. I just need to know where she was going, Sasha," I explained, "just this-" I stopped, "I'll stop coming here. You'll never get another call from me about a case."

Sasha cocked her head slightly, and her tight bun flopped a moment later.

"Sasha. Please."

Sasha put her hands on her hips and then turned to the back of the bar to find the beer she'd been likely nursing for the better part of the last two hours. Once she'd taken a proper gulp of it, she crouched in front of me. She'd scanned my face enough times that I was sure she wouldn't find anything new.

"Just one question," I negotiated.

Sasha took a deep breath. "Fine. Shoot."

"You saw an Asian girl here. Her name was Carly, would have been with two other girls, all three with black hair."

"Yeah. There's your question."

"That was a statement," I corrected, trying to keep the current dynamic instead of slipping into the old one. "The question is, did they say where they were going?"

Sasha took another sip of her drink. "You said this ain't for work?"

I nodded.

"Why'd'ya care so much."

It was my turn to sigh. I reached and grabbed the half-finished drink, taking a sip of the odd mix of white rum and soda water. "She's my sister."

Sasha frowned.

"And she's in bad, and I don't know how to help her so-" I laid my land on the counter. "Came to someone I could trust."

Sasha stood up, looked both ways and then took a deep breath, "You're killing me, detective."

"I know."

"They were talking about Wharburtons," she answered as she leaned in to ensure that nobody heard her breaking the one rule of Alibi. "Don't know what about, but they're bad news."

I tossed a twenty on the table and stood up. A breath later, I tossed a second one on top of it. There was silence for a moment between us, and it felt like the bar had quieted down too.

"Fuck you and your stupid rules," I hissed overly loud, ensuring that the surrounding patrons heard me.

"Get fucked, Detective," she shouted back. She pointed to the door, but I was leaving anyway.

I couldn't risk turning around to say it, but I hoped she understood that I mouthed 'thank you' as I left.

/r/Jacksonwrites all that jazz