“You’ve got the wrong guy!” he shouted, dazed and confused.

The old woman standing over him bared her teeth, her eyes aflame. She shoved her staff into Greyson’s chest, forcing him flat onto the ground.

“No more tricks from you, peasant!” she spat. “Where is that cursed genie?”

Greyson squinted up at her, grunting from the pressure of her staff. He suddenly became aware of a rumbling in the ground beneath him — it must have been growing for some time before he noticed it. But it was beginning to shift the sand and pebbles around him on the dry desert ground. Looking up, he could tell that the woman now noticed it, too. Raising her head, she scanned the dunes around her before finally turning to her right, aiming the staff at the top of a dune.

The rumbling slowed to a stop. The woman did not lower her staff.

“The genie will do you no good, Emmetta,” came Greyson’s voice — but not from Greyson. From behind the dune that the woman was focused on.

The woman shot Greyson a confused look. Her eyes darted back to the dune, studying it. She swung the staff back to Greyson.

“I said no more tricks,” she growled. “The genie, or your life.”

Greyson returned her gaze. “How will you get the genie if I’m dead?” he asked.

“She won’t,” his voice answered from behind the dune.

Emmetta swung her staff back at the dune. A ball of purple light, like the plasma ball that Grayson had as a child, erupted from her staff and hit the dune. Instantly, the dune exploded. Through the resulting cloud of sand, Grayson could barely make out… a… pirate ship? On legs? Mechanical SPIDER legs?

Through the sand, a cannon fired. Emmetta swung her staff from her right to her left, deflecting the cannon ball into the sand a few yards from where Grayson lay — and, for just long enough, leaving the staff within Greyson’s reach while she was distracted. Greyson kicked out with his right leg, sending the staff tumbling across the sand. He rolled, swinging his legs at Emmetta’s, sweeping them out from under her. As she collapsed, he scrambled to his feet, darted to the staff, and snatched it up. As Emmetta rose, he ran for the mechanical spider ship.

As he neared the vessel, a man came into view — a man identical to Greyson, but more sunburnt, and wearing something like brown robes instead of Greyson’s T-shirt and shorts. Standing next to this doppelgänger was a beautiful woman with dark skin, bright green eyes, and golden robes of her own.

“Fire all!” he heard the man call.


“So you two had a plan?” the woman asked.

Greyson laughed. “No way. I just got here.”

“How did you know what to do?” she asked.

The man smirked and looked at Greyson.

“I heard my own voice… I knew there was a genie involved…” Greyson returned the man’s smile. “And I pieced together why I would wish for another version of me to appear.”

“I needed something quick,” the doppelgänger filled in. “I needed something Emmetta would not expect. Wishing for a version of me from another world — as scholars have assumed there are — would, at worst, provide a distraction. And, at best —“

“…provide a partner,” Greyson finished. He looked at the woman for a moment, smiling. “And, if I were to guess… I’d say the ship was wish number one, and I was wish number two. Leaving wish number three to free you — and end the wishes. If, in fact, the limit is three, as I’ve always heard.”

The woman smiled and looked at the man in robes. “I see you are clever in every world,” she commented.

Greyson looked down at the staff he was holding. “And now, my guess is that I’m other stuck here forever… or the wish made my return contingent on something.”

He held out the staff to his doppelgänger. The man studied it for a moment, then locked eyes with Greyson.

“Thank you for helping us,” he said.

Greyson smiled. “Thank you for showing me what’s possible.”

The man nodded. “Godspeed.” He lifted the staff from Greyson’s hands.

Greyson was back in the college library. His group members all yelled in surprise. He was still covered in sand.

“Greyson!” Rebecca cried. “What just happened?”

Greyson didn’t answer immediately. He just returned the gaze of the beautiful, green-eyed, dark skinned girl, and knew what was possible.

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