Return of the Surprise Genie

Sweat soaked Laurie’s running clothes. It dripped from her nose when she bent over, breathing heavily. She looked up at the steep stairway between her and the end of her run. “God, I wish there weren’t so many stairs.” She started up them.

As she ran, a mist gathered. She noticed about halfway up as the bright morning sun faded behind purplish mist. Within a few heartbeats she could barely see the steps under her feet.

A muscular, shirtless, bearded man stepped out of the mist in front of her. Laurie almost fell back down the stairs. “Your wish,” he boomed out, “is granted!”

“Uh, what?” Laurie jogged in place.

“Now there are not so many stairs!” The man clapped and vanished. The mist receded in a few eyeblinks, and Laurie could see again. At first she thought the steps were gone, and she jogged forward slowly until she noticed a new wall.

She stopped jogging. The genie had left the handrails along the stairs, but in place of a couple hundred broad steps were four enormous steps covering the entire ascent. She couldn’t get up.

“God damn it,” she said, heading for the side to climb up the hill.

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