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Fantasy Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

I’m not granting you that ability. Sorry, and all that, but no. 

Truthfully, I don’t care if you got me out of this lamp. I’m going back in after your three wishes anyway, what’s the difference? Even if you wished for my freedom, which rarely happens. Well, this isn’t some cartoon, so pick something else—fine. But before I do, I’m telling my story. Maybe you’ll think twice. 

One day a man found this lamp in an antique shop. Let’s call him Tim. Thin, tall, thirtyish. Lived alone and worked as...we’ll say a shopkeeper. It’s close enough. 

You remind me of him, actually. It’s those blue eyes. He had ones to make a woman fall in love. Too bad he didn’t realize, or maybe that’s good. Anyway, he freed me, you know the drill, right? Finally convinced him he didn’t need a psychiatrist, at least not for this issue. 

All humans need an intervention, trust me.  

Anyway, he wanted to be a miracle worker. I asked him to elaborate. 

“I want to heal people and reverse climate change.” 

“Sir, do you recall what happened to the last person who did such things?” 

“You mean Jesus?” 

“Who else?” I answered. 

“So, are you suggesting he shouldn’t have done what he did? And that he actually existed?” Tim stared at me as I paced that living room. I’m sure I looked insane, but I didn’t care. 

“You’re questioning a spirit about the Son’s existence. Great.” Tim started to speak but I cut him off. “No, I’m not saying anything He did was wrong. I’m saying His story should be a warning. He went into this prepared for an outcome that He knew had to happen. You aren’t. This isn’t going to end well for you.” 

“You’re my one shot,” Tim said softly. 

“At what?” 

He wouldn’t look at me. 

“Not being a loser,” he finally said. 

At least I thought, one human admits to it. 

Yes, I judge you all, and why should I not? I’m being used for mankind’s greedy purposes. Even in the most selfless wish, which are far and few between, there’s a touch of “what’s in it for me?” Tim was no different. I should’ve refused, but in my anger I said yes. The results were immediate. Three incidents happened, each worse than the other. 

**** 

Of course, Tim couldn’t keep it to himself. When his friends commented on the unusual Miami weather, Tim told them what happened. And the results were--well what would you do if your friends made such claims? I was invisible to all but Tim, first of all. Secondly, I’m just a story to most. His friends laughed, and he got angry. Tim proved his powers by healing a cut on a man’s knee. After that, they got scared. Again, wouldn’t you? After all, everyone says they want Jesus to return, to remake the world. But they don’t mean it. No one wants to face the soul-searching, guilt, and pain that would cause. Not even the most selfless saint. And you know what I have to say about that. 

I told Tim to keep a low profile. In your words, shut the hell up

No, you couldn’t keep it to yourself either. How do I know--look can you just let me finish? Thank you. I told Tim why Jesus drew away from crowds and told people not to discuss their cures. “Because,” I said, “doing this for fame kills the spirit. And because people will take from you until you die. Then they might spit on your grave because you left them. Either do this for its own sake or not at all.” 

“Oh, easy for you to say! You’re a spirit who can do anything!” 

“Of course,” I answered. “That’s why I’m in this lamp in the first place, doing everyone’s bidding! Because I wanted this.” I opened my arms as if to encompass the living room we stood in. By my lord, that man didn’t believe in dusting. Or cleaning in general. 

“Why are you? Did someone curse-” 

“That is not any business of yours.” 

Tim raised his eyebrows, eyes got wide. For a moment, the two of us stared at one another. “Maybe you should leave,” he said at last. 

“Is that your last wish, Master?” 

Tim went into his bedroom and slammed the door. I went into the lamp, wishing it had something I could slam. Instead, I talked to myself. A lot.

The second incident was the little girl. 

**** 

Word did get around about Tim. At first, he just healed people he knew. But those friends posted videos on social media like Pictogram. Crowds found and harassed him, so eventually, he was fired from his job. 

That part was a shame. 

You see, Tim was good at his work, although he didn’t seem to know it. People would tell him their problems. Losers, I thought. Telling another loser their pathetic stories. But...he seemed to care. Tim would give a dollar or two if someone came up short with their groceries. He did it even though he needed every penny for himself. But if I told him that, he’d shrug and do it again. Problem is, those are the ones the world takes advantage of. And when you’re a miracle worker, it’s unrelenting. Trust me, I-well it’s true. I’m not harping on this for my health. Those quiet people became just as greedy as the others. It was like they lost-  

No, you don’t understand. Even I wouldn’t wish pain on you beings, inferior or not. And yes, the ones he healed thanked and blessed him. For what that's worth. Some even tried to pay him, which he refused. It was what happened to those who witnessed it. Those who felt denied. The more he gave, the more they wanted. Anyway, after he was fired, he left and everyone followed. Eventually, we ended up in a park, and there the crowd grew. But by then, the man was frustrated and exhausted. “Please,” he said to the fifty or so who had gathered. “Let me rest. I promise I’ll come back tomorrow. Just...I’m tired.” He turned to go, but someone called out. 

“Wait! Please.” 

A woman blocked his way. With her was a little girl in a wheelchair, about two years old. Her eyes were blank and apparently unseeing. The woman, who looked like she’d never had a lucky break, said her daughter was born brain-damaged. “My fault,” she added. “I... am addicted. Pain killers. Please,” she went on, as Tim took her hand. “I know you’re tired, but this is my last chance. Tonight, I go to rehab in Jacksonville, and she goes to my parents. I’m begging you to help her.” 

Someone in the crowd shouted that the woman was a criminal and should be locked up. “All she wants is the guilt off her!” cried another. “And you’d deny us!” 

“For God's sake, it's a child," Tim answered.

“Not here,” I said. “By the love of my Lord, arrange it somewhere else. I can-” 

But that man wasn’t one to listen. Tim healed the child, and everyone saw. It was truly wonderful to see awareness in the girl’s eyes. To see her look around, smile, and stand up was like a sunrise after the hurricane. Something joyous. 

The crowd’s reaction was the storm and just as horrifying. 

 They surged forward, trying to get to Tim. To grab him, use him, hurt him? I don’t know. But they nearly trampled that mother and child. I was able to shield them with some magic. Against the rules, but to hell with that. The mother grabbed the little girl and fled. And I spirited us away. 

**** 

We couldn’t go home naturally. In the end, we stayed in homeless shelters, always moving. It was at one that we found out the American president was investing in coal and oil again. Tim was very sad about this. He walked outside and I followed. Eventually we ended up staring over the Indian River lagoon. It was downtown Fort Pierce, and a soft breeze blew. I asked Tim what was wrong. 

“We’ve learned nothing,” he said. “Not a damned thing.” 

“Well, your kind doesn't,” I answered. “Stiff-necked, short-sighted, and self-centered. That's mankind right there.” 

“We've elected a bastard.” 

“He's no better than anyone else. Just a bully looking for money and power, like all of you." I turned away. "Your people could change this. By my Lord that would be a miracle."

“I suppose you're perfect.”

"Being a spirit I'm not susceptible to sins of the flesh. So, yes I am superior."

I expected Tim to mention the lamp. He didn't. "Who do you mean by Lord? Jesus?"

“No, but he's above me. You'd call him cherubim."

“Can’t he break the curse?” 

 “He put me in the lamp.” 

“But-” Tim stopped as a homeless man approached us. He had white hair, looked older than me, and smelled like it. Tim backed away, but all the man wanted was help with his cell phone.

“I can’t get data,” he said. 

“Let me see,” Tim answered. He pressed buttons to get whatever data is. You want to talk about something magical, it’s smartphones. How just glass, metal and plastic do so much-but I digress. Anyway, while Tim worked, the man talked about the bridge he’d once helped build. It was several miles away, but we could see it, strung like Christmas lights across the bay. Tim asked about his job, and they talked for several minutes. Then the man took the phone and showed Tim big shipping crates. 

 “I want one to live in,” he said. 

“Some towns are using them for houses,” Tim said. “It’s not a bad idea.” 

Finally, the man thanked Tim and went on his way. I was struck by how he treated this man, who was just a beggar. As if he was someone worthy of being listened to. Where I come from, one has to earn respect. We would have ignored one like him. 

A loser listens to his kind, I thought. 

Indeed? said a voice inside me. Fortunately, Tim distracted me. 

“How do you deal with this?"

"I warned you," I said.

"I know, Gene."

Tim called me this, thinking it was more respectful than Genie. My true name is unpronounceable to the human tongue. I glanced at him. For an instant, his face resembled that old man’s. Then he sighed and looked over the bay. “Look," I said, you shouldn't ask me. I have a lot of anger.” 

“But you still must do something, or you’d get depressed and want to—can you die?” 

“No. But we can fade away. I... sometimes... I don’t know. Your kind is awful.” 

“Surely,” Tim said, “we can’t be that bad. Or I’m going to jump into the lagoon myself.” 

“I told you not to ask...wait. There was this girl.” I remembered her now. She was terribly poor. Jobs were scarce, and her father begged or scrounged for things to sell. He was one step away from thievery and she from prostitution when I was found. And she wished for three things. Books for herself, a means to attend school, and a job for him. 

“She could’ve asked for riches,” Tim said. 

“I said this,” I said. “And she answered her father would still be a beggar. He needed worth. And I think she wanted it too. So, I made sure the right documents got to the right people. He got his job and she started school.” 

“Okay, so she wanted the tools to help themselves," Tim said. "Is that so bad?"

"No," I said, thinking of the father. "It's...almost selfless."

That damned preacher is another story.

**** 

If I had one wish myself, I’d like to see that preacher punished for what he did. If the price is my damnation, I will gladly pay. Just as long as he suffers next to me. 

Pastor Michael was his name. Except I never called him that. To me, he was Snake. And we ended up in his shelter. 

It was a fine church too. A mega-church, Tim told me. Professional musicians on Sunday, beautiful artwork, lofty ceilings. He had a TV show and was nationally known. Once, Jesus told a rich man to leave his possessions and follow him. Snake did not take that to heart. I’m sure the tax man was breathing down his neck. I hope so. 

Tim took a job there as a janitor. I didn’t want any part of it. And in that boarding house, which was now our home, we argued. 

“He’s just a fake,” Tim said. 

“Trust me,” I said. “Do you think I don’t know evil when I see it?” I started pacing again. “He scares me, Tim.” 

“He can’t hurt you.” 

“By my Lord, it isn’t me I’m worried-” I stopped because those words shocked me to the core. Me worried over a mere human, a loser? 

Who’s the loser around here? said that voice within me. 

“I have you,” Tim said. 

“No,” I said. “Listen. I’m in that lamp as a... punishment if you will. I can’t explain because you wouldn’t understand. I will say I’m supposed to learn humility. You’d call it enlightenment.” 

“You seem enlightened,” Tim smiled. “They should let you out.” 

I looked away, for this was something I tried to deny. And I couldn’t anymore. “To be honest, I... I was probably arrogant and foolish. And it got...well if you must know-” 

“You don’t have to tell-” 

“My mistakes hurt my brethren.” 

 Now I felt Tim’s eyes on me. “Gene...” 

 “They’re probably happy to be rid of the likes of me. So, I really wouldn’t put any trust in this genie.” 

Tim laughed, loud in that tiny room. “Well,” he said, “I think we do have something in common, Gene.” 

“Which is?” 

“We’re both idiots.” 

I laughed, which felt so very good. It had been so long since I had. “You could be right about that.” 

In the end, I convinced Tim to be careful and watch his step. But—look, my friend, you need to listen. Maybe I am long-winded, but it's your future on the line. Now where was I? Tim. He was becoming angry. Here was this charlatan who was rich and well-liked. Tim was, as he put it to me, still a nobody, someone on the run. This anger was doing something to his healing power. Like it was always turned on. All someone had to do was brush against Tim to be healed of cancer. And people noticed. So did the preacher. Eventually, Snake fired Tim on trumped-up theft charges. He responded by sweeping the paperwork off Snake's desk and calling him the true thief for the tithes he demanded. It was a side of Tim I'd never seen before. It frightened even me. Along with the office staff who were present. Security escorted Tim out.

I think if that was all he did it would've been fine. But Tim spoke out to whoever would listen. He soon reminded me of another. And I wondered if the disciples ever felt this way. Scared for their teacher. Their friend. 

I begged Tim to stop causing trouble. 

“Someone should." 

“Why does it have to be you?” 

“What? Do you think I’m a coward? Or maybe you are?” Tim answered. “You know what? Maybe you should leave.” 

This time, I didn’t ask if it was his final wish. I didn’t want to hear the answer. 

Even that might’ve been fine, but then a news reporter interviewed Tim. It went viral as you'd say. And I think that pushed Snake over the edge. 

**** 

I wish I could forget this. But I can’t. 

Snake must have seen Tim as a threat. He had an empire to lose. And Tim was a loser with no family left. He wouldn’t be missed; the preacher must’ve thought. And everyone will forget about this poor drifter. 

 He probably was right. 

We were walking downtown. It was rather warm for December. Too warm for the coats those three men were wearing. But then again, many homeless dress like that, so I didn’t think much about it at first. They asked Tim for healing. I did wonder how they recognized him with the hoodie and the scarf he was wearing. But not enough to be alarmed. 

“Not here,” Tim answered, and gestured to an alleyway. “That’ll be more private.” 

For once, I wished he’d healed in front of everyone. For I only saw they were wearing gloves when it was too late. Once in the alleyway, they surrounded Tim. Two blocked the view from the street. I knew then and ran, but it was too late. Like lightning, the third stabbed him quickly in the stomach, then cut his throat. Then they quickly walked away. Right through me, but I didn’t care. I ran to Tim and held him in my arms. There was so much blood. By now a crowd was forming. I heard someone say call 911. Someone else kept saying, "please, forgive me, Tim."

I think that was me. 

In his pain and sorrow, Tim made his final wish. 

**** 

No, you don't understand, because you don't remember your last words. You said I wish I could go back in time and forget all this. And so, you did, but I can’t, my friend. Now here we are again. I can’t decide if it’s fate or you keep frequenting the same antique shop. I’m also not sure if I’m glad to be back or afraid for you. Some of both I think. This brings me to a question I’ve been meaning to ask. 

What in the Lord’s name were you going to do with this ugly old lamp anyway? 


July 01, 2022 14:24

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2 comments

Jules B
03:18 Jul 07, 2022

[Critique circle] I love the concept for this story - the be-careful-what-you-wish-for trope, but also more specifically the idea that if you wish to be a miracle worker, healer or similar then things are bound to backfire. The tension ratcheted up slowly, which was great, although I think you could have made the "pay-off" - the suffering towards the end - a bigger deal. I would love to know more about Tim's thoughts and emotions as he becomes gradually more disillusioned, angry, and despairing. I do like the set-up of the genie addressing ...

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Michele Duess
11:52 Jul 07, 2022

Yes your comments were useful. This story I had to cut down for the word limit but originally it did focus on Tim's thoughts and his interactions with his friends. For example, in the original he loves a woman who has friend zoned him. He is angry when even being a miracle worker doesn't get him the girl (who fears a mob showing up at her house among other things.) This time I wanted to focus on the genie's character as well as Tim's. But I appreciate your comments on building suspense. The 3000-word limit kills me. I wish sometimes it was ...

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