Fantasy Fiction

Look up the word “average” in the dictionary, and next to the entry you’d probably see a picture of Harold Painter. In his late 30s, with a thinning hairline and a forgettable face, Harold wore the same white shirt, and brown pants and suit jacket almost every day. He sold life insurance, and lived alone in a small bungalow with only his German Shepherd Rex for company. In other words, he was the concept of boringness made flesh.

Unlike many other boring people, however, Harold was painfully aware that he was indeed boring. He wanted to change this, but he wasn’t quite sure how to go about doing that. So, he did the most logical thing he could, at least to his mind; he searched the internet for “interesting activities”. After some digging, he decided that he, Harold Painter, would take up antiquing.

The next day, Harold dressed in his white shirt and his brown pants and jacket, and headed off to what seemed to be his town’s only antique store. The bell jangled as he walked through the door of “Cave of Wonders Antiques and Collectibles.

It was a small store off Main Street, with a distinctly musty odor and lit by single bare incandescent bulb. One bored looking clerk stood, half asleep, at a dirty glass-topped counter, and barely paid any attention to Harold as he browsed through creaking, dusty wooden shelves crowded with all manner of detritus.

After browsing for a few minutes, Harold somewhat nervously approached the counter.

“May I help you sir?”, the clerk asked with a slightly annoyed tone, as if Harold was bothering him by asking him to do his job.

“Yes, good morning, sir, I would, uh, like to buy something please.”, Harold replied, a bit intimidated by his new surroundings.

“Anything in particular you have in mind, sir?”, the clerk responded.

“Well, um, you seem like you’ve worked here awhile. Is there anything you’d recommend, or anything you have on sale?”

The clerk felt a sly smile come across his face. Here was his chance to get rid of two annoyances at once.

He left his post at the counter and walked to a small shelf all the way in the back of the store. On this shelf sat a single item: an utterly garish white porcelain lamp in the shape of an elephant, almost 3 feet tall. It had been in the shop for so long that no one could remember exactly how long they had had it or where it came from. The clerk pegged Harold as an easy mark, and figured he’d get some praise from the owner if he finally managed to unload this literal and figurative white elephant onto someone.

The clerk grunted as he picked up the lamp and brought it to the counter.

“It’s yours for 20 bucks.”, the clerk panted as he put the lamp down on the counter.

“I’ll even wrap it up for you. Wada ya say, sir? Deal?”

Harold hesitated for a moment, then pulled out his wallet and plunked a 20-dollar bill on the counter.


Harold struggled to carry his new prize all the way home, but finally made it. He somehow managed to fumble his keys out of his pocket and get the door open. Just as he stepped through the door, he heard running and barking from inside the house. In his haste to get home, he had forgotten that Rex was an excitable dog.

“Rex, no!”, Harold yelled desperately as Rex made his customary running jump into his arms. Instinctively, he put out his arms to catch Rex, and the lamp crashed to the floor. Harold closed his eyes, waiting for the sound of shattering porcelain. Instead, he heard something quite different.


Harold opened his eyes as Rex calmed down and sat on the floor next to him. The lamp was still intact, not even chipped or scratched.

Just as Harold began to mentally congratulate himself on getting such a good deal on such a sturdy piece of workmanship, he heard the mysterious voice again.


Confused, Harold scanned the room, trying to see if anyone else was in this house with him and Rex.

Suddenly, a flame began to rise from the top of the lamp, where the bulb and shade would have been if they had been installed. It gave off no smoke, nor did it burn the lamp or anything else in the room, and gradually grew until it extended as a pillar about halfway to the ceiling. Slowly, the flame began to transform into something resembling a craggy face, somewhat human in appearance but also distinctly otherworldly.

“Who dares disturb my slumber!”, the voice thundered, echoing through Harold’s house.

“Wha-wha-wha-wha-wha- “, Harold could barely speak from fear and shock.

“What’s the matter with you, numbskull? You got a speech impediment or something?”, the voice responded, clearly angry.

“You, are you a- “.

“Yes moron, you are looking at a 100 percent genuine djinn. Name’s Alqasi, Lord of the All the Djinn of Saba, Iram, and the Empty Quarter. Or at least I was until some fancy hot-shot sorcerer managed to trap me in that butt-ugly lamp over there on the floor.”

“I, I’m sorry sir, I didn’t mean to disturb you.”, Harold replied, still trembling.

“Ugh, you humans never ‘mean’ to do anything, do you? It always seems to just happen somehow, doesn’t it? Well punk, you woke up the wrong djinn, and now I’m going too- “

“Wait a moment.”, Harold responded. “If you’re a real genie, aren’t you supposed to grant me three wishes for freeing you from that lamp?”, he asked innocently.

“Oh, of all the, do you seriously think, I can’t even…”, Alqasi stammered with rage at Harold’s ignorance and impudence, before his voice suddenly softened and he smiled wickedly.

“Why, of course master, how rude of me. Of course, I owe you three wishes. What do you require of me?”

“Well, what can I wish for?”, Harold asked as his eyes lit up.

“Oh, just about anything. The only restrictions are that you cannot wish for more wishes, and I do not have power over life or death. All else is within my power to grant.”

“Oh, well that sounds quite nice then.”, Harold replied. “Oh, mighty genie, for my first wish I wish for you to make me interesting.”

“What?”, Alqasi responded flatly, clearly confused by Harold’s request.

“I want you to make me interesting. I’ve always been worried that I’m just average and boring and unremarkable. I want to be interesting; I want to stand out.”

“Are you sure you don’t want something a little less, shall we say, esoteric?”, Alqasi asked. “Perhaps some gold? Jewels? An attractive wife?”

“Well genie, maybe we can do that latter. Right now, I just want you to make me interesting. A being as old and powerful as you seem to be has surely met some interesting people so far, so I’ll let you choose how you do it, but please, just make me interesting.”

“Alright master, your wish is my command.”, Alqasi said. He then rubbed his hands together and chanted some kind of incantation in a strange language that Harold didn’t understand. Rex howled as magical energy swirled and crackled around Alqasi. Finally, there was a brief flash, like one from a camera flashbulb.

Harold looked himself up and down, but, as far as he could tell, nothing had changed.

“Um, genie, not to be too critical, but I think it didn’t work.”, Harold suggested.

“Oh, it worked human, it worked.”, Alqasi replied, his previously deferential demeanor now rapidly slipping away. “Try picking up your keys over there.”

Slightly confused, Harold attempted to pick up his keys from the floor where he had dropped them earlier. He reached down to grab them, but as he did, he found that, instead of holding keys in his hand, he was holding a handful of roasted peanuts.

“What the- “

“Hmm, that’s odd. Maybe try picking up your phone instead.”, Alqasi suggested.

Harold dutifully complied, and, as before, was rewarded not with his phone, but by an even larger pile of roasted peanuts.

“Genie, what happened?”, Harold asked Alqasi nervously.

“Human, you ever heard the story of King Midas?”, Alqasi questioned.

“Uh, I think so, yes.”, Harold replied. “He was an ancient king who wished that everything he touched would turn to gold, right?”

“Correct, human. And do you know who was responsible for granting him that idiotic, self-defeating wish?”

“No, I can’t say that I do, genie.”

“You’re looking at him.”, Alqasi deadpanned.

A look of horror began to cross Harold’s face as he realized what had likely just been done to him.

“You mean to tell me- “

“Yes indeed, sucker.”, Alqasi responded with an evil laugh. “From now on, anything you touch, roasted peanuts. I guessed that you like them because you’ve got a huge jar of them on that table over there. Your clock? Peanuts! Your clothes? Peanuts! Your mangy dog if you’re stupid enough to ever pet him again? Peanuts!”

“Genie,” Harold hissed through gritted teeth, “I command you to undo this wish!”

“Oh, you humans really do make me laugh sometimes. I’d almost forgotten how much fun it is to mess with you. This one is definitely an oldie but a goodie, wouldn’t you say so you little worm?”

“Genie, this is your last warning. Undo this wish or else.”, Harold commanded firmly as he looked Alqasi straight in his flaming eyes.

“And just what do you think you could possibly threaten me with that could make me do that?”, Alqasi answered haughtily. “The whole ‘three wishes’ thing is a lie. I have no obligation to do anything for you, and there is nothing you can possibly to do me, little man.”

“I can touch you, and turn you into roasted peanuts, can’t I?”, Harold probed, cool and determined.

“Seriously, that is the stupidest thing I have ever- “, Alqasi stopped in the middle of his retort. “Oh shit.”, he resumed flatly.

Harold just stood and grinned, Rex still at his feet.

“Oh shit, I forgot to give myself immunity to the wish when I granted it; doesn’t happen automatically you know. I just thought- “

“Thought a mere human wouldn’t be smart enough to figure that out.”, Harold finished his sentence for him.

“Well, little man, I’ll give you this, you’re pretty clever. But there’s nothing you can do to stop me from just going back into my lamp and refusing to come out!”

“I’ll just touch the lamp and turn it into roasted peanuts. Then you’ll have nowhere to hide.” Harold has never felt like this before. His mind was running like the engine of race car. He felt cool, collected, confident.

“Ack, you’ve got me there too, human. I guess I’ll just have to BRUN YOU!”

With that, Alqasi roared has he spewed a jet of burning fire at straight at Harold. Harod merely held out one finger, and the jet of fire transformed into a stream of roasted peanuts, which fell to the floor in a heap.

“Alright genie, I’m getting more than a little tired of this. Undo the wish, turn all my stuff that you turned into peanuts back to normal, and then get back in your lamp and stay there!”

Alqasi, so used to lording over humans, now trembled; he knew he’d been beaten.

“Y-yes, master.” he affirmed meekly.

Once again, Alqasi rubbed his hands together and chanted, this time speaking his mysterious incantation backwards. There was another flash, Harold’s keys and phone returned to their normal state, all the peanuts vanished, and Alqasi slowly sank back into the lamp from which he had emerged.

The next day, Harold returned to the antique store, panting and grunting as he carried the lamp in and placed it gingerly on the counter.

“I’d like to return this, please.”, he said to the same bored clerk he had met the previous day. “I put a bulb in it but it wouldn’t light up. I think it might be defective.”

The clerk was about to point to the large “NO REFUNDS, NO RETURNS, NO EXCHANGES” sign on the wall behind him, but one look at Harold’s face told him that this was someone who had seen something, not a man to be trifled with. He opened the register, handed Harold back his 20 dollars, and then swore under his breath as he contemplated the laborious task of restocking the accursed lamp.

Harold walked out of the store, filled with more confidence than he’d probably ever had in his life.

“Well,” he said to himself, “I don’t think I’m that boring anymore. After all, what ‘boring’ person ever managed to outsmart a genie?”

As Harold went to put his wallet back in the pocket of his brown jacket, he found and pulled out a single, solitary roasted peanut. He put his wallet away, laughed, and ate the peanut as he strolled home whistling.

August 25, 2023 22:46

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Belladona Vulpa
17:20 Sep 07, 2023

Jumping right to the central character to help us imagine him. Interesting to follow, because I expected something unusual to happen to the character and it did not disappoint. I liked the dialogue with the spirit, I had the same thought to touch the lamp haha. Overall, simple, funny and with a twist. I enjoyed reading it!


Michael Novak
19:43 Sep 07, 2023

Thank you! I'm honestly still a little shocked that anyone even red this; it was my first attempt and I was worried that it was terrible.


Belladona Vulpa
04:51 Sep 08, 2023

I think many of us have this feeling when we write we doubt ourselves. I often try to focus on enjoying the process itself because I don't want to be stressed, after all it's a hobby and it should be also enjoyable. I don't know if that mindset helps at all, in my case it helped. Anyways, like I said I enjoyed reading your story, and don't worry, keep writing!


Michael Novak
18:43 Sep 08, 2023

Thank you!


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