5.47 a.m.

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            5.47 a.m.
                   By Peter Williams

    Don't panic! My voice really is inside your head! Listen carefully, I only get this one minute a day and until you came jogging past all I've seen this early for decades has been drunks, flashers and a guy trying to have sex with squirrels.

    I am not a figment of your imagination. Stop thinking that! I'll tell you where to find the magic lamp, which you can use to summon the genie and make him take my wish back ... hey! Why did you speed up? What makes you think you need a shrink? Get back here!

    Fine. Run. You can escape this park but for the rest of this minute you can't escape my tale of woe!

    Back in '74 I was sprinting along this very path, only I had the cops after me, which wasn't fair as all that rich guy had to do was hand over his wallet, instead of playing the hero and making me panic, forcing me to accidentally stab him fifteen times.

    But then everyone's always treated me unfairly. My teachers gave me harder questions than everyone else: who knew Don Giovanni wasn't the character Marlon Brando played in The Godfather?

    Then there's every boss I ever had:

    "Get to work, Colin!"

    "I don't pay you to smoke, Colin!"

    "'Free: Take One' means the leaflets, not the cash register they're leaning against, Colin!"

    They all drove me to this.

    I knew all the exits would be blocked, and I couldn't go back to jail. Not again. If I spent much more time there they'd be letting me pick the colour to paint my cell walls.

    Then I remembered that hidden up ahead was the entrance to a cave I'd used as a child to stash the stuff I'd stolen. I dived right to the back, farther than I'd ever dared before. I planned to stay holed-up until things calmed down. How long could that take? After all it's not like I'd killed anyone and if he died later it would be the ambulance driver's fault for not getting there fast enough.

    I slid back and sat on something that made my eyes water. It was a mud-encrusted oil lamp. I would have liked to pass the time by flattening it with a rock, but I couldn't risk attracting attention so I started scraping the dried-mud off with the hope of finding a seam to pry open with my knife. The blade slipped and struck the metal hard enough to produce a spark. Moments later thick, purple smoke started filling the cave.

    As the fog cleared I could see what looked like a businessman opposite. If he hadn't appeared out of thin air and wasn't hovering, cross-legged a couple of inches above the cave floor I'd've been working out how much I could get by robbing him.

    As it was I jumped back into kung-fu stance and let out a high-pitched, Bruce Lee-type yell and if that dirty, lying, illegal-immigrant of a genie tells you I covered my face and squealed like a little girl don't believe him!

    "I, the Genie of the Lamp (all-rights reserved), grant you one wish," he said without taking his eyes off his watch's dial.

    "Don't you mean three wishes?"

    "That's for people who polish the lamp, not try to destroy it, so don't push your luck!"

    "In that case, could you make me a god?"

    "Okay," the genie said, "a god it shall be."

    "Not so fast, I wouldn't want to be just any common god."

    "They're not as run-of-the-mill as you might think. Look, can we speed this up?" he said tapping the lens of his gold Rolex, "I've been five millennia without a woman, or a juicy steak, or teeth to sink into either."

    "I could be the king of the gods. Vengeful, ruthless, and omnipotent (that's the opposite of impotent, right?). I'll build my throne from my enemies' skulls!"

    "So, godhood it is then, and you should get some cushions for that throne. Now where do I find the local ladies?"

    "I need to think!" I snapped, "I wish you'd just give me a minute!"

    So he gave me 5.47am.



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