Iman sat in his family’s little boat, staring out at the glassy Red Sea. His sister, Farah, sat a little farther away, intently listening and watching her mother teach her how to sew up a ripped sail.
"Iman?" Iman heard his father's voice behind him. He turned and saw his kindly dad watching him with a troubled look on his face.
"You okay, my boy?" He asked gently. His soft eyes searched for any deep secrets inside Iman's soul. Iman prayed that his father didn't find the one secret that he'd been hiding for the past couple of weeks.
"Yea, dad," Iman mumbled. He looked guiltily at his father. His father lowered his voice.
"Tell me, son." Iman noticed his mother watching them carefully out of the corner of his eye. Her long, dark hair covered the side of her face that Iman could see, but he knew, by the way the tilted her head ever so slightly, that she was watching them.
"My hands have just been feeling...tingly. Or something," he added hastily at the sight of his father's drained face. He looked over and noticed his mother, now not even trying to hide the fact that she was listening. Farah was also watching, but she had a puzzled expression on her face. Iman blushed at the sight of his whole family looking at him. Iman's parents exchanged a knowing glance. That worried Iman. His father's dreading face kept haunting him, and he wondered if something was wrong with him.
A few days passed slowly. Despite the gleaming Arabic sun, Iman felt a constant chill. His hands started tingling worse than ever. But, just the day before, his hands weren’t only tingling.
Iman sat on a round barrel, trying to re-tie a broken piece of rope on their fishing net. A spiny fish had gotten caught in it earlier and frayed the rope while it got out of the net. Iman had been working on re-tying this square in the net for quite some time, and he was getting extremely frustrated.
I wish this rope would just tie ITSELF!!!! He thought angrily. He closed his eyes to try and contain his anger. Suddenly, he felt a tight squeeze around his finger.
"Ow!" He yelled. His eyes snapped open to see the section of the fishing net newly tied. With his finger in the middle of the knot. He tried pulling the rope off, he tried shaking it off, he tried un-tying it. Nothing seemed to work. The tip of his finger was getting a light purplish color, so he went to his father for help. Eventually, his father cut the rope off, but neither of them knew how Iman had tied a rope around his finger.
Iman laid on his back in his little hammock in the cabin he shared with his sister, trying to rest in for the night. The slight swing of the ship hitting the soft waves normally lulled him to sleep, but his mind was racing, and his fingers were pulsing with the strange tingling feeling nonstop. After Farah's breath slowed to a steady, sleeping rate, he slowly crept out of his bed. He was determined to talk to his father about his ‘condition’. He followed the sound of his father's rumbling voice up to the top deck.
Once Iman was in earshot, he heard his father exclaim,
"We have to turn around, Dalia! That storm is looking nasty,"
"Are we sure we can't just go as fast as possible to try and land just before the storm hits the water? We are so close, Rif!" Iman’s mother said.
“I don’t think it is worth the risk,” Rif said thoughtfully. After a moment of silence, Dalia spoke up, a new hope in her voice.
“Couldn’t he just...stop the storm? We should find out what kind of genie powers he would have.”
“I still don’t understand how Iman could even have genie powers! It’s not like I was born with them; I was cursed! And, my curse was lifted when Aladdin wished for my freedom! It makes no sense,” Iman’s father said wearily.
Iman jumped at the realization that his parents were talking about him, and accidentally smashed his elbow into some extra oars propped up on the wall. They loudly clattered to the ground, and Iman’s parents fell silent. After a moment, Iman’s father grumbled,
“We need to find a new place for those oars! They keep falling over, and I bet they woke the children,” He added bitterly. Iman heard the ladder creak as his father lowered himself downstairs to fix the fallen oars. Iman knew he needed to scurry back to his cabin, but his legs wouldn’t move. His heart fluttered wildly, and he felt like it was going to leap out his throat. His mind raced. Were his parents talking about Aladdin, husband of Jasmine, who was the Sultan of Agrabah? And what was a genie? Most importantly, what did it have to do with him? Iman watched in horror as his father jumped off the last rung of the ladder and turned toward him.
“Iman!” Rif exclaimed. “What are you doing here?” When Iman didn’t answer, his father added, “Son, you look ghastly! Sit down. What’s the matter?” Iman sat and looked up at his father’s face. He thought maybe his father hadn’t quite connected the dots. Or maybe he was hoping Iman hadn’t been eavesdropping.
Iman’s mother came swiftly down the ladder and crouched next to her son.
“What is it, Iman? Did you...You weren’t listening...were you?” Iman looked down at his tingling hands. His mother sucked in a sharp breath. She looked up at her husband, her face going white. Iman’s father looked sternly at his son.
“What did you hear, Iman?” He asked.
“I...um...uh...all of it?” Iman whispered sheepishly. His father let out a frustrated breath. Iman didn’t know it, but he’d stirred up old worries inside his father. After a tense silence, Rif muttered,
“I wanted to wait to tell you. She’ll come for you, if you know. The knowledge makes your location stronger, and...” Iman couldn’t hear the rest, for his father started pacing. Sensing Iman’s confusion and despair, his mother said,
“It’s nothing, honey. Your father is just very...worried about past...events.” She said, talking slowly and choosing her words very carefully, then winced as if she hadn't said what she'd wanted to.
“What do they have to do with me?” He asked, his voice so quiet that even he could barely hear himself. He hoped for his mother to say something comforting and say that they were maybe talking about a different Iman.
“We don’t know yet, Iman,” she said, saying the exact opposite of what Iman wanted to hear.
“Can you at least tell me what Dad is so worried about from his past?” Iman eyed his father, not wanting to ask him directly, for he knew it would only anger him further. Iman’s mother furrowed her forehead, then let out a breath that she seemed to be relieved to breathe out.
“Well, it all started when your father was...cursed.” Dalia said quietly.
“Cursed?” Iman squeaked.
“Yes. This was thousands of years ago, but-” Iman interrupted her with a laugh.
“Thousands of years! Ha!” He crowed, somewhat trying to lighten the mood, but fell silent at the strange look on his mother’s face. “Dad is...Dad has been alive for thousands of years?”
“Please let me finish my story. Have you heard of a Genie before?” She asked intently.
“I don’t think so,” Iman answered, racking his brain to remember a genie in all the stories he’d read.
“Basically, your father was cursed to live as a mighty magical being,” she explained.
“Some curse! That’d be awesome!” Iman exclaimed. He might have been imagining it, but he thought his father snorted bitterly.
“Oh, but it wasn't awesome,” Dalia continued. “Your father was bound by shackles on his wrists and forced to live in a magical lamp until a master came and rubbed the lamp. That gave the master complete control; and three wishes.” Iman rocked back slightly, stunned. Magical powers didn’t seem so great now.
“Then, an evil man named Jafar went searching for a ‘diamond in the rough’. He wanted to send this person into the dangerous Cave of Wonders to retrieve the lamp. That’s when he found Aladdin, a street thief in the city of Agrabah,” she said, the name of the city just rolling pleasantly off her tongue. With sparkling eyes, she continued. “I was a handmaiden to the princess, Jasmine, and-”
“You worked for the Jasmine?! The first woman to become Sultan of Agrabah?” Iman asked in shock. Dalia smiled.
“Yes, I did. Then your father came and swept me off my feet,” Dalia said dreamily, gently nudging her husband, who’d stopped pacing and sat down next to them.
“Dad, I can’t believe you were a genie!” Iman said in amazement. Iman sat in a trance, his whole view of his parent’s backstories turned completely upside-down.
“I’m just happy that Aladdin was the one who rubbed the lamp first. He set me free, and suggested the name Rif, since it means an assistant and powerful” Rif said contentedly.
Iman knew the story of Aladdin well, but he never heard the parts about the magical beings being involved. And he never imagined his father having any part of it. He always thought Jasmine just fell in love with a street thief and then changed the law.
“Well, Iman, you need some sleep. Make sure you don’t wake Farah as you go back to your cabin,” Iman’s mother instructed. His parents started to rise to their feet, but Iman wasn’t done with them yet.
“Hold on. You still haven’t answered all my questions yet.” Iman’s parents exchanged dreaded looks. “What does all this genie stuff have to do with me?" He asked. His father sat down, a serious look in his eye.
“Iman, we think you have the powers of a genie,” he said. “It would be different than my powers before, because you aren’t shackled.” Iman let out a breath. “But it still isn’t a good thing to have those types of powers, especially when you’re young. They can quickly corrupt a person and make him or her lazy. You must learn to control them, and not let them control you. If you have any,” Rif added quickly.
“Oh, he does all right,” a new, terrifying yet somehow soothing voice boomed from behind them. A figure moved into the light from the shadows of the ship. Thunder boomed in the distance, magnifying the tension in the room.
“Lilura,” Rif said, his voice etched with the deepest anger and hatred that Iman had never even imagine coming out of his father’s mouth. This new lady, Lilura, chuckled softly.
“You’ve built quite a life on the sea, genie,” She said patronizingly. Her voice reminded Iman of a predator that would be sweet and kind to get what she wanted, then kill when she was satisfied. She ran a gentle, white hand along the boards of their ship. She reminded Iman of a pencil; she was tall and stick-straight, with slender arms and legs. Her face was striking, in an evil kind of way. Her piercing grey eyes clashed with her long, dark hair. She had a long robe on, a velvety jet-black. She radiated power, and she was terrifying enough to make even Iman’s father tremble.
“What could you possibly want here, Lilura? Haven’t you wreaked enough havoc on my life already?” Rif growled. Iman stifled a gasp. Was this the woman who cursed his father? That thought made his blood boil with rage. He closed his eyes. If I have any ounce of genie magic in my veins, let it rise! Send this evil woman to the ends of the earth! He thought ferociously. He opened his eyes, hoping to see the sorceress gone. Instead, he saw her looking straight at him.
“I believe you know what I want, genie,” she said, talking to Rif but stalking toward Iman slowly. “I wish to bind your son the same way I bound you. After all, your son could be a powerful weapon,” She taunted.
Wishes! Iman thought fiercely. When I tied the fishing net, I wished for it! Worth a shot. His parents had gone rigid and white. Iman closed his eyes once more, but this time the sorceress realized what he was doing.
“Stop, boy!” She yelled, her violent, powerful voice almost scaring Iman into obeying. Almost. Iman balled his hands into fists, and threw all his energy into his mind, sending a wave of light-headedness into his brain. She leapt toward him, but he was faster. With all his might, he shrieked in his mind,
I wish to send Lilura, this evil sorceress to the ends of the earth! He opened his eyes to not only see Lilura disappearing with a mix of anger, shock, and revenge on her face, but also to see himself floating to the ceiling of the ship. Green light swirled around him, and he started to shiver. I guess I am a genie, He thought, his stomach filled with mixed feelings. He willed himself to be lowered to the ground, and he embraced his parents.
“My goodness, Iman! That was...impressive!” Dalia exclaimed. She continued talking, more to herself than anyone else, her voice shifting from excitement to shock to horror. Iman looked at his father. Once Dalia had a break in her chatter, Rif said seriously,
“You know Lilura will come back. She won't be that easy to defeat next time. If there was anything I learned from her, it's that she doesn't ever take no for an answer.” At Iman’s crestfallen face, he added, “But we’ll be ready.” Iman smiled, but he was interrupted but the sound of a creaking door. They all turned around to see Farah sleepily peeking out at them. She squinted.
“Having a party without me?” She asked, her voice filled with mock hurt. Iman looked at his parents and smiled.
“Something like that.”