Wish‌ • Noah Hathaway

One might expect the sensation of an earthquake, or the recollection of some childhood incident of standing up in a moving carriage and realizing, in the instant before the pain begins, that the once fixed foundation of your world has been pulled out from beneath you, or perhaps the illusion of the walls growing closer by increments your eye cannot detect but which your mind cannot ignore. The moment that I realized some unlucky mortal had stumbled across my bottle was precisely as catastrophic, though not a single ornament or furnishing was moved from its space in my prison. Gilded carvings of magical beasts clawing out from tables and stools remained motionless. Candles did not flicker and the steady cloud of incense did not waver. The sound of rustling beads and glistening chimes were as subtle as the breath of another, the presence of whom one was hitherto unaware of, in an otherwise unoccupied room; only the most perceptive, or loneliest, of souls might perceive it as I did.

No doubt the mortal was examining the exterior, turning the cylindrical confines of my prison about, but my wine was undisturbed as I set it down. The crystal glass did not clatter because the table did not shake, though it might be resting on the floor as easily as the ceiling. The tent was only as far disturbed as it might have been in a breeze, had there been any wind here. I walked, maintaining discipline and composure, to an opening in the maroon fabric, and pushed it open, resisting the impulse to grasp at my scabbard with my other hand.

The distortion of the green glass did not flatter this mortal. He peered, attempting to discern the contents of my prison, though they were invisible to him. No impressive than the others, he had the look of a castaway about him. His clothes were not rags, but they were thin, faded garments, bleached by the sea. His skin was dry and flushed, his eyes dark and squinting, and I saw more of his nose than I would care for.

The scenery spun about me, though I stood still. The same view of the rubble-strewn beach which had been my only surroundings for decades, if not centuries, was now changing all around me. The bottle was plunged into the ocean, so that it could be rinsed off. A barely audible squeaking sound indicated that he was rubbing sand from its surface, but more ostensibly, the wind chimes resounded as if they were stroked by the hand of an angelic harpist, and outside of the front entrance, a brilliant light played through the thin fabric of the tent.

I was submerged, but I did not feel salt water on my skin. My first sight of the mortal was his expression as he dropped the bottle, which I could only hope the waves would claim. He was now sitting up in the sand, were he appeared incredulous, but not yet in awe, not even as I surfaced with the entire spectacle of a leaping sea predator.

“I am Pazuza, the Jinni of the Storm-Song,” I introduced myself. “The same Pazuza who brought famine upon the River of the King which lasted sixteen and two-hundred years.”

Shaking, the man rose to his feet, but said nothing.

I stepped out of the water, pointed shoes drying instantly. “I was imprisoned in a glass bottle at the dawn of time, and forced to grant three wishes and obey any command for the man who holds my prison.”

The mortal stepped to the side, almost losing his balance on the uneven sand. He was half-starved, weak, and disoriented. I advanced again, in-between him and the waves which I hoped hid the bottle from his view.

“I cannot release myself from this bondage. The bottle is indestructible.” Unwavering, I drew my scimitar. “But the man who frees me is not.”

He stopped moving, staring at me with squinting, searching eyes, his head eschew and his mouth struggling to form words. We stood in silence for a moment, and I began to wonder if he understood my tongue, when at last he spoke.

“What a terrifying thing to see the senses so bewitched, man. Surely you cannot believe such a fable to be true?”

I almost struck at him then, but I maintained my composure. As I had seethed in my prison, long before this mortal was born, I had resolved that his death would be a crime of necessity and liberation, not a fit of untampered passions. He would die understanding me, and until then I would bare his insults.

“You know this to be true, mortal. Behold, I just now burst forth from my prison. How else might I appear before you in this forsaken place?”

He raised his hands in my direction as one might to calm a violent child, and my grip around my scimitar tightened. “You must believe me, friend, I am a castaway, fallen from my vessel, just as you have, doubtlessly. By chance, we washed ashore this same beach.”

“I exploded from the bottle you washed in the sea,” I insisted. “This is no delusion of a sun-bleached mind!”

“You did splash from the water, sir, but not until after you had run up from behind me along the beach, and plunged your head beneath the waves in plain view, all while I asked begged of you to tell me if there was a savage tribe here with which I might take refuge.”

“I am as dry as the desert!” I asserted, but even then I felt a salty drip run along my nose. It could only have been sweat. My voice faltered as I claimed. “Only enchantment could protect me from the waves.”

“You shine in the sunlight, sir, and the residue drips from your beard even now. Can you not perceive this?”

“Here is my scimitar, and here, my tunic, and my precious stones!”

“There is no doubt you are a noble merchant, sir, for I see these possessions. But the Jinni are mere fantasies, and your imprisonment a nightmare, now passed.”

I cried out, now, trembling, “How could the mind of a mere mortal contrive a dream so immersive?”

The mortal smiled, sadly, and spoke in an even tone, “I have no doubt you have starved and suffered in this desolate place. It must have pleased you to imagine that you could summon the luxuries a man of your class must have hitherto enjoyed. Do not think lowly of yourself for indulging in memories of food, drink, and entertainment. I to heard takes of the Jinn from childhood, and I consent that their captivity is not unlike our own exile.” He had reached me, and gently lowered my scimitar. “However, I need you, and you I, in order to survive until rescue arrives.”

My weapon no longer threatened him, and he, unarmed, was overpowering me. In one last attempt to defy him, I protested, “My powers and luxuries were no fantasies – I have the powers of a Jinn!” With a sigh of disappointment, a fresh wound to my pride, the mortal acquiesced.

“Very well. Demonstrate your power, and see that it is illusory.”

“I am powerless without the bottle!” I exclaimed, and, turning, I hastened in to the waves. The salty crests reached by knees, and then my waste, and I frantically searched for the artifact which bound me both to enslavement and to my reality, which could doom me to servitude, or free me from the persuasion of this mortal.

As I scanned the distorted sands for the glimmer of glass, I rejected all other sensations, lest doubt seize upon my spirit once again. As I waded, my speed nearly tripped me, for on the uneven surface I shifted and slid. My eyes were for the sand alone, the rocky shore which I saw was not the bottle I had so fragrantly cast away, the treacherous terrain which threatened to pull me beneath the waves. I barely considered the sounds of the mortal searching behind me, and I barely recall them now. Certainly I did not foresee the consequences of turning my back upon him.

“Is this it? This jetsam? Washed ashore from the ship-wrecking reef in the distance, where it was a bottle of brandy, no better. Hardly a proper vessel for a Jinn.” The bottle cried as his briny palms rubbed some debris off of its surface. As his words struck horror in to my heart, I turned, too quickly. My ankle twisted, and I fell beneath the waves, compelled my forces beyond my strength to defy.

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