Three men are out walking in the woods one day, when they stumble upon an old bronze lamp. Naturally, having spent much of their lives reading internet jokes, their first inclination is to rub the lamp and excitedly greet the genie that emerges.
“You have freed me from my near-eternal captivity!” the genie booms. “As my rescuers, you are entitled to one wish each.”
The first man excitedly blurts out, “I wish for a billion–“
“Now hold on just a minute!” the genie interjects, “This wish comes with a catch. Only about ten feet from here in the bushes, there lies another lamp, much like my own, but black. Black as a midnight sky. This lamp contains the Demon of Ba’al, and he and I made a deal long ago.”
“Ten feet? How many meters is that?” asks the second man.
The genie frowns at him and continues. “You see, like myself, he has been imprisoned in his lamp for over 60,000 years. We had only each other to speak with. We made a deal that if either of us was set free, he would help the other.”
“So in order to receive your wishes, you must first walk over, find the lamp, and release the Demon of Ba’al. He will require a sacrifice from you, one that may be most terrible. You will have no choice but to acquiesce, or not only will you forfeit your wish from me, but you will surely die a most painful death.”
The first man ponders for only a second. “I’m homeless and unemployed, and my wife left me six months ago. I have nothing to lose.”
He walks over to the bushes and pokes around for a moment until he finds the second lamp. Black as obsidian, its sharp, jagged edges slice into the flesh of his hand as he rubs it gingerly.
A gargantuan, horrifying creature, with flaming red eyes, oily black wings, and great, curved horns like a ram’s emerges in a thick cloud of acrid smoke. “WHO DARES DISTURB MY ETERNAL DWELLING PLACE??” the beast thunders.
The first man is too terrified to reply, but the demon looks over to see the genie and quickly realizes the situation.
“AH, SO WE HAVE HERE A SOLDIER OF FORTUNE!” he snickers. “WELL, WELL. WHAT SHALL WE REQUIRE OF YOU?” He looks down to see the man’s trembling, bleeding fingers. “YOU HAVE ALREADY SHED BLOOD FOR THE CAUSE, SO I WILL TAKE ONLY ONE OF YOUR HANDS.” Reaching down a long, black claw, he snaps the man’s hand off at the wrist as if it was nothing more than a twig.
The first man screams for a moment or two, but then slows to a mere sob as the pain begins to abate ever so slightly. He turns to the genie. “I wish….I wish for a billion dollars.”
“It is done,” replies the genie, and hundreds of suitcases appear around the man, filled to bursting with cash. He grabs a couple as best he can with his bloody stump and begins to drag them back towards the road where he left his car.
The second man scoffs at him. “A billion dollars? You get ONE wish that costs you a body part, and that’s all you ask for? Not only are you a fool, but you are a cliche fool, the worst kind.” He turns to the demon. “I have a lot more to live for than that poor idiot, but I’m a gambler. I’ll take your deal. What sacrifice do you require?”
“YOU ARE ARROGANT AND FOOLHARDY!” sneers the beast. “I LIKE THAT. I SHALL TAKE ONLY A LEG.” He reaches down and, with his bare, clawed hands, rips the man’s right leg off at mid-thigh. Screaming in agony, tumbling to the ground, the second man can barely manage to form words. “I……I wish for……for 1.5 billion dollars,” he moans through clenched teeth.
“It is done,” the genie says, and another huge pile of money-filled suitcases appears. However, the man can do nothing but lay curled up in the fetal position, clutching the stump of his leg and groaning.
The genie and the demon turn to the third man. “What of you, sir?” the genie asks as the man approaches from the shadows of a tree, where he had been watching and thinking. Something in his face is familiar to the genie. “Wait…don’t I know you?”
The Demon of Ba’al, as well, is struck by the man’s countenance. He steps forward and enthusiastically raises a claw in greeting.
“HEY, DAVE!! How you been, man?”