Nothing for Free. Short Story.

Antibiotics all up in this bitch. (or is it bastard, do gendered curse words trump sayings? Or vice versa?)

Still sick, in case you couldn’t tell from the above rambling. It’s moved steadily down my throat and into my lungs. Awesome. Still I caught it fairly early which is both terrifying and reassuring. Thankfully I didn’t wait till today to go to the doctor.

I didn’t get up to much this weekend. I should be talking about how my friends 21st was awesome, but instead, I spent it wrapped in blankets, feeling like I needed to sneeze, constantly.

What a way to end the summer.

Speaking of, it’s really cold the last few days, I’m hoping that means we’re in for a freezing winter, fingers crossed for some snow. (might be a be premature, but hey, I have to hope, at least until I can afford to move to somewhere like Greenland or Canada.)

on with the show!


Life hadn’t been that great for Henry, he was overweight, ugly, and his intellect left a lot to be desired. He worked in the same dead end job for shitty pay while his equally shitty manager made his life well, shitty. He had no friends and certainly no romantic engagements to speak of. Had he had friends, he might have been embarrassed that he had never actually kissed  a woman at thirty five. His life revolved around getting up, going to work, coming home and watching television. That’s all he ever seemed capable of doing. It had been drilled into his head from day one. He shouldn’t expect too much, he wasn’t capable of much, why aim high? What? Did he think he was better than everyone when anyone with a lick of sense could see he wasn’t even close. He could read, but it was always done slowly, almost painfully, with a frown on his face and his teeth clenched in concentration. He didn’t see the point of reading. He didn’t see the point of most things.
He had never been the lucky sort, he had never won anything, never found money, never got two items instead of one at the vending machine. His life was set to be unremarkable and he was fine with that. He’d live and die in obscurity and he was happy enough, well, he would survive with what he had. Then one morning that changed.
There was no bolt of lightening, no great trumpet signalled what had happened as it so rarely did. Everything changed without a word or hope of recognition. Reading came easier, not something he noticed, after all, why would he? The  greatest change, at least the first one he noticed was around midday, when a woman, an actual woman, tried to flirt with him. His face had reddened, big blobs of sweat rolling down his face and back, and the more she  flirted the worse it became. But she didn’t seem to notice any of that. She didn’t see the way his teeth overcrowded his mouth, jostling one another for space, she didn’t see the way that one eye was slightly lower than the other, as if his face was slowly melting. She didn’t see the random, scraggly hairs that sprouted from his face and neck.  He first suspected it was some sort of cruel joke, but there was no tormentors in his life, other than his boss, who seemed as shocked as he was. She had left the store after giving him her phone number.
Henry spent the rest of the day in a daze, unable to concentrate on anything and trying to figure out what exactly had happened. His thoughts plodded through the events again and again and he couldn’t figure it out.

He was walking home, having missed the bus, and was out of breath. Sweat ran down his face in thin rivulets, every ten minutes he had to stop to catch his breath. He wished, for the first time since he was a child, that he wasn’t so fat. He was aware that he was large in the way a person is aware that there are starving children, rarely thought about until someone mentioned it and then promptly forgotten again. When he finally made it home he sat down in his chair with a massive sigh, thankful to be off his feet. His evening passed as usual and eventually he went to bed. The next morning he woke an went about his normal routine, not noticing there was anything strange until he stepped into the shower. Normally it was cramped, his body hitting against the cold tile of the stall, but not this time, it was as though the shower had doubled in size, but it hadn’t changed. He had. He looked down at himself and realised, for the first time in his life, he was skinny. At first he panicked, thinking that he must be sick, horribly, terribly sick. Then he remembered his wish. He had wished that the woman would find him attractive, it had been a small thought, one quickly pushed away, but there none the less. He stepped out of the shower, thinking in his slow way. He must be magic. It was the only thing that made sense. He could change things, wish them into reality. He thought for a moment, then wished he had a pizza. There was a quick knock at the door. He wrapped a towel around himself and went to answer it.


“Large pizza, yeah?” “Uhh, yeah…Thanks.” He took the hot box, then remembered he’d have to pay. This wishing thing wasn’t as easy as movies made it seem. He went to grab his wallet, “hey, wait I need you to sign this receipt.” The delivery guy handed him an small machine, Henry signed it “thanks.” The pizza guy pulled it back from Henry then turned and left. Henry looked at the box, on the label it stated that the pizza had been paid for by credit card. Shrugging, Henry closed the door and sat down. He needed to be able to think and for that he needed food. Of course he had to be careful, he couldn’t just go about flaunting his new ability, that would be dangerous. He needed to be smooth, secret. Like a spy. Like James Bond. His face lit up, then fell. No, that would be a stupid wish. James Bond might sleep with beautiful women all the time, but he was also always getting shot at. No, he’d wish for something else.

Once he had finished eating the pizza he made another wish, this time that he was rich. He opened his eyes  to the same apartment, he didn’t panic though, no doubt the money would be in his bank account. He looked at the place, it was filthy. He needed it to be clean. There was another knock on the door, “Spring Fresh Cleaners, where would you like us to begin?” “Um…where ever is easiest.” The perky girl at the door nodded and three people entered.


When the cleaners left the apartment was spotless and looked better than it had in years. He could definitely get used to this. He thought for a moment, then wished he was handsome. He went to the mirror and was disappointed to find that he looked exactly the same. Trying to stay calm, he remembered that the weight loss happened over night, maybe his face would be the same. While he was at it, he wished he was muscular and had a magnificent body. Feeling good, he picked up the phone and rang work, then he hung up. No. He just wouldn’t turn up. Screw quitting, he hated the place anyway. This was far better. He sat down again, trying to figure out what exactly he should wish for next, his life was going to be perfect.


He stood from his chair, tired from thinking so much, he turned, then screamed. There was a man in his apartment, “who are you?” “No one of any great significance, but then neither are you. I’m afraid there had been a mix up.” “Mix up?” “Yes, you see you were an unfortunate recipient of something that my people need.” “Your people?” “Yes. We work for a small company that makes sure that everything in this dimension is kosher.” “What?” “We keep everything right on track. Make sure the world keeps plugging on without too much interference. Our operatives are given a little leeway, they supply their own income and can shape the world around them. You have accidently received that ability. It wasn’t meant for you.” “Well, I have it now, so-“ “it doesn’t work that way and I’m afraid I’m going to have to take it back.” “What? You can’t.” “Already done.” The man started to fade, “wait!” “What?” “Aren’t you supposed to like wipe my memory or something so I forget?” “No, that won’t be necessary. You are not equipped to shape reality. There are numerous tumours riddled throughout your body. You have a short time left. We are certain you won’t be able to cause us any damage.” “Tumours? But” Henry collapsed, seized, then lay still. The man looked down at the body, “poor bastard.” After a few seconds he was gone.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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