“Welcome to Ridgeland Mall!” yelped an obnoxious teenager stationed at the entrance of Jacob’s hometown mall.
“Sure,” Jacob muttered as he shuffled by the greeter, his head lowered as if to hide his face from everyone.
Jacob was at the mall to get some things for his wife, Rachel. He loathed her, and she loathed him. After ten years of steady decay, their marriage was on the brink of collapse. Jacob endured this excursion to pick up his wife’s medication from Andre’s Apothecary only so that he might see the cute cashier, even if she was years younger than himself.
“Morning, Mr. Woodall,” said Mary, the object of Jacob’s affection. “Is it time for a refill?”
“Yes,” he grumbled. Though it sounded like anger, his voice was truly gruff out of shyness.
“Very well. It’ll be ready in a few moments,” she said as she disappeared into the back room.
Jacob sighed and cast his gaze outward, toward the other shops in the mall, and the various vendor carts that dotted the path to credit card debt.
He caught sight of something odd outside the pharmacy. On a cart was the word WISHES! in big, bright, bold letters.
“Got it!” said Mary as she came from the back, and rang Jacob up, cutting off his concentration momentarily.
“Um, thank you,” said Jacob as he hastily paid her and left, opting to rush to the Wishes! cart.
“Good morning, sir,” said an oddly-garbed man who stood behind the stand. “Here at Wishes!, we have the wishes to change the world for the be—"
“That’s well and good,” said Jacob, almost angrily at the man’s assumption that he cared what his sales pitch was. “Do they work?” he asked, incredulously.
“Of course, my good man. I have here the finest wishing apparatuses for sale. This ring,” he said, pulling a ring from a wooden box. The ring was a simple gold band with three like-sized diamonds set in a row. “This ring here will grant you three wishes. After each wish, one of the diamonds will turn to coal. When all three are gone, the ring itself will become coal.”
“Right, whatever, how much does this hoodoo cost?” asked Jacob, so miserable he was considering buying into whatever the strange man was trying to sell him.
The man adjusted his top hat and rolled up the sleeves on his pinstripe suit. “This isn’t anything that just anyone can have. The responsib—”
“Price, man. I need to change the world!” said Jacob so loud people turned to stare.
“For you, one hundred dollars. Only because I see you wish to change the world. But I mus—”
“Thanks,” said Jacob, cutting off the man, slapping five twenties on the counter of the stand, and snatching the ring. The strange man shook his head as Jacob hurried away.
“Thank you!” said the door greeter as Jacob exited the mall, then transfixed on his new treasure.
“I wonder how it works,” Jacob asked out loud. “Wonder if I just put it on,” he said, slipping the conveniently-sized ring onto his finger. “I wish my wife was hot,” he said.
With a slight cracking sound, one of the diamonds on this ring turned to coal, just as the man had said.
Jacob could hardly believe himself. He was so happy; he had to avoid speeding home to see his new, hot wife.
However, when he got home, he was instead met with fire trucks around his house, blasting the remains of his home with water.
“What’s going on here?” he shouted as he ran up to a person wheeling a body bag on a stretcher away. “What happened to my house?”
“We responded to a fire alarm here. When we got here, there was a woman, dead and on fire. We barely made it out when the flames touched a pool of liquid and sent the house up in flames,” said a firefighter nearby. “Where were you?” he asked.
“At the mall, getting my wife some pills,” he said, showing the receipt to the man.
“Well, then, you couldn’t have done this. The alarm was set off before you could have made it back here."
Jacob couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His wife was dead. He was sad, but then his sorrow turned to joy, and then joy to scheming. He excused himself to his car and whispered to the ring, “I wish that Mary was madly in love with me.”
Again, one of the diamonds set in the ring crackled and turned into coal.
Deciding he had to go get Mary, he hurried back to the mall. However, when he got there, the mall was surrounded by police.
There, he saw Mary being escorted out of the mall in handcuffs.
“Mary!” he shouted.
“Jacob?” she yelled back, then saw him. “Jacob! My love! I did this all for you!” she shouted as she told him how she had killed his wife.
Jacob waited until the police had left to go into the mall and to the Wishes! stand.
“You!” yelled Jacob as he pulled the ring from his finger and slammed it onto the counter. “This doesn’t make my wishes come true. It’s horrible. I want my money back!”
The man there shook his head.
“Okay, I see how it’s going to be. This is used. How about this,” Jacob said angrily as he shoved the ring back onto his finger. “I wish for my money back!”
Nothing happened. The man behind the counter chuckled as Jacob twisted his face in confusion.
“Didn’t you read the sign?” the man asked as he pointed below the WISHES! sign.
There, under the bright, bold letters was another piece of paper with bold black letters.