Tommy’s crowbar tore through the old drywall, spilling a crumbled section of blackened rot to the floor. He wiped his goggles with the front of his shirt and raised the crowbar for another strike when a glinting piece of metal caught his eye.
He looked out the window for his wife, who had just pulled out of the driveway to buy more trash bags. He set the crowbar down and picked up the silver canister. There were no markings or latches, just a single screw-top lid.
Tommy twisted it open.
The creature didn’t appear in any dramatic way. One moment it was not there. The next moment it was. Short, shapeless, and lean. No eyes. No mouth. Its gray skin rippled like a puddle repeatedly hit with rocks.
“What’s this about?” Tommy sneered, not willing to accept another setback in the already delayed renovation.
A voice swelled from the center of the creature. “You have freed me from the urn,” it said. “I am obligated to you.”
Without a word, Tommy pulled his phone out and tapped at the screen. After some quiet seconds, a smile crept across his face and he started reading. “I wish to have a set of traits that are chosen by me and delivered at the time of my choosing added to my current being that displays the characteristics explicitly defined in the Aberrant Core Rulebook and Aberrant Player’s Guide at no cost to me, barring the expense of a single wish’s numeric value to the total allowed.”
The creature huffed, then said, “I don’t do that.”
“What do you mean?” Tommy asked.
“I don’t grant wishes,” the creature said. “I can reveal what is in your near future, but I am only obligated to do this twice before moving on to the next owner of the urn.”
Tommy slid the phone back into his pocket.
The creature continued, “Wouldn’t you want to know of imminent danger? Accidents to be avoided?”
Tommy shrugged. “So until you give me two warnings, you’re not going anywhere?”
The creature’s skin bristled.
“Then get comfortable or, better yet, grab a broom and start sweeping,” Tommy said. He picked his crowbar up and turned back to the semi-demolished wall. “I’m not playing with you until I’m done with this remodel.”
“That’s not in your near future.”
“No kidding,” Tommy chuckled, then straightened and asked, “Did that one count?”
“It does to me,” the creature said.
“Great,” Tommy sighed. “Then you might as well get the other one over with.” He wiped his forehead with a dusty sleeve.
The creature shimmered. “You will not eat tonight.”
“What is that supposed to mean? I skip dinner?” Tommy snapped. He spun and buried the teeth of the crowbar deep into the soggy wooden beam. “These predictions are garbage. You’re telling me what is not in my future. Anyone can do that. Ready? I am not inheriting millions of dollars from a dead relative. There. I did your job for you.”
“You have squandered this gift,” the creature said before it pulsed and disappeared.
Shaking his head, Tommy screwed the cap back on the urn and threw it out onto the lawn. He turned and yanked the crowbar out of the beam. A soft chunk tore away. The beam groaned and splintered. A sharp end speared Tommy through the chest. Sections of the ceiling fell, pinning him to the floor.
Through the open door, Tommy watched as his wife’s car pulled up the driveway. She got out and started walking to the house, but stopped when she saw the urn in the grass.
Air wheezed from Tommy’s dying body in a silent scream as he saw his wife pick the urn up and twist the cap open.
About the Author: Jeremiah Kleckner has taught English/Language Arts in Perth Amboy since 2005. During that time, he earned the Samuel E. Shull Middle School’s 2014/2015 Teacher of the Year award, self-published several books, and churned out over two dozen short stories. Jeremiah lives in Jersey City with his wife, daughter, and an increasing number of dogs and cats.