A mad scientist approaches you with an offer: He has a secret potion that will help you get the thing you want most in this world—be it a person, a thing, an ability, etc. What you don’t know (and won’t reveal until the end of your story) is that there is one dire consequence (not death) from drinking the potion.
(500 words or fewer)
It was a cozy apartment; small, but clean and tidy – just the thing for a new family starting out. The sun was coming up now, shining through the living room windows and giving a healthy glow to the two occupants. It had been a rough night; she was just waking up, but he had stayed awake, keeping an eye on her. When she opened her eyes and began to look around, he crouched beside her.
“You never thought it would work when you accepted, did you?” He smiled, and she smiled as well in echo. “You thought it was a prank, some drunk at the party passing around the good stuff. How high were you? Do you even know what you had been taking?
“When I pressed the glass into your hand and told you to make a wish – that whatever it was you wanted most would be yours – you laughed. You didn’t even listen to my warning as you got on the table, tore off your shirt, and announced to the whole room, ‘No job, no bills, no responsibilities! Young!'”
He stood and began pacing a slow path beside where she was laying; her eyes followed him.
“Then you downed the drink in one shot and threw it to the floor and screamed ‘ANOTHER!’ like some drunken Norse god, and everyone laughed then. Everyone thought you were the life of the party.”
He stopped again and leaned over her, cupping her cheek with his palm. “You really ought to have listened to the warning, my child.”
She looked away, a bird outside the window drawing her attention, and he shook his head with a look of sad disappointment.
“But this is what you asked for after all.”
The bird flew away and she began to cry. He lifted her into his arms and she quieted, eyes fixed on him again.
“I suppose I could fix you. I suppose…” He held up a small, stuffed bear. “Would you like that? Would you like me to fix you?”
“Da!” she said, reaching for the toy.
He let her have the bear and she chewed on its ear. He set her in a high chair and turned on the television where a breaking news report was showing the face of Lisa Yuan, a pretty young girl of twenty-three, last seen leaving a party just after two in the morning. The edge of his mouth turned up and he changed the channel to PBS.
“Don’t worry, Lisa,” he said, going to prepare her a bottle. “You won’t even remember you had another life before I became your father.”