This is the Djinn Story in the six sentence blocks, with the cue word at the top of each six.
"Don't give me that 'Your wish is my command' stuff," he gruffly said, hiding his fear with anger as he glared at the apparition that had materialized out of the ancient bottle he held in his hand, then added, "I know how these things always turn out, and it's not good!"
The Djinn looked bemused and out loud said, "Whatever you say, boss, I can go back into the bottle," then added silently, I can wait until you get desperate, you humans always get desperate.
Still glaring, he asked, "What's the true story behind you -- do you really make things happen, or just make people think they happen, and how do you happen to exist anyway?"
"How do you exist?" the Djinn asked, then added, "and do you understand reality, or only think you do?"
"You might just as well get back in the bottle and let me stick it back in the pile of junk where I found it," he said, looking around his grandparent's attic and wondering if they had ever known about this particular item, and if they had, what they had perhaps wished for, if maybe such a wish was why things were the way they were in his family.
"I'll be waiting," the Djinn called out with a knowing smile as it turned into a puff of smoke and went back where it had come from, while he wondered how long it would have to wait as he thought about the troubles that would press upon him as soon as he descended the attic stairs.
He shut the attic door quietly behind him so as not to wake anyone else and shook his head as if to try to clear it, wondering if he had really seen that apparition that seemed to disappear into a puff of smoke or if it was just his imagination.
Heading for the kitchen to make some coffee, he thought again about how his grandparents had ended up with this house, the rumors that swirled around, the notion that there was something not quite right with them or their acquisition of the property. Certainly they had always been very reticent to discuss any financial matters or talk about how they afforded things when they were living, especially the house cluttered to the brim with antiques and expensive art and knickknacks, and were said by the folks in their small town to have brought many secrets to their graves.
If he had actually seen a Djinn in the attic, if it hadn't been an early morning pre-coffee dream or hallucination, perhaps it could give him some answers.
While he debated whether or not to head back up to the attic with a cup of coffee and find out if he was sane, he heard the pitter patter of his younger child's feet coming down the stairs, the little voice calling, "Daddy, mommy not up yet and I's hungry!"
Going back to the attic to search for answers was just going to have to wait.
"More, Daddy!" his little boy said, rousing him from his reverie as he stood over a now almost too done pancake.
"Just a minute, Little Guy," he said as he flipped the cake onto a plate and put a pat of butter and some syrup on it, then added with a smile, "when did your appetite get so big?"
The child just stared at him with round eyes, then began tucking in to the proffered breakfast with gusto, the syrup leaving sticky streaks on his cheeks and chin.
"Good morning," his wife called out, coming into the kitchen with a smile, "you two are up early today!"
He flipped another pancake out of the skillet and said, "I thought I would go nose around in the attic a bit, just see what kind of job we have up there," to which she answered, "That's a great idea, it's probably better to get up there before the heat of the day."
Handing her the spatula, he took a deep breath, poured more coffee, and headed back up to the attic stairs, determined to at least see if he had imagined the Djinn, and if he hadn't, to try to get a few answers.
He pushed aside a couple of old picture frames and a dilapidated box of Christmas lights and grabbed the bottle he had held earlier, uncorked it and set it down, then began twisting his wedding ring, something he always did when he was worried or nervous; he had reason to be nervous, he felt that he was testing his sanity.
The Djinn appeared, which at once relieved him because it meant he was sane, and made him more nervous in a different way, especially when the Djinn smiled an imp-like grin and said, "Well, that didn't take long, you didn't even take time to eat some of the breakfast you were preparing for the family!"
"How..." he started to ask and the Djinn cut him off with, "Oh, let me tell you, we Djinn have ways of knowing things that beat your internet all hollow."
"Then you should be able to answer some questions for me," he said, to which the Djinn replied, "Perhaps I can, and perhaps I'm sworn to secrecy by the previous holder of the bottle, and perhaps I'm not to be trusted."
"Believe me, I don't fully trust you, at least not yet."
"And yet you want to be able to trust me because you need answers, and that puts you in a dangerous place indeed."
He mindlessly twisted his wedding ring again, and the Djinn, who noticed everything, said, "Still subconsciously worried you batted out of your league with her and that it won't last, aren't you? No need, it's been seen to."
His eyes widened as the impact of the words sunk in; he had always wondered how he'd ever had the nerve to ask her out that first time and why she had responded so favorably when she was the kind who could have any guy in the school.
His mind wanted more information, he wanted to sop it up like hot toast sops up butter, but he worried he was jumping from the frying pan into the fire by even daring to ask.
"The biggest problem," the Djinn said, "is that you humans think by manipulating things to you liking, everything will work out, all will be well, you will live happily ever after; you don't see the strings attached, the strings that touch everything else in the universe, which is why, as you said when you first saw me, these things often don't turn out for good after all."
"I guess the first thing I should ask, then, is what are the 'rules' of dealing with you, and how do I know you will tell me the truth if I ask you questions," to which the Djinn replied, "You own the bottle because you are your grandparent's heir, so you rule me, and if you require me to tell you the truth, I will have to, even if it's a truth you don't want to hear."
"I suspect your next question is going to be about the 'three wishes rule' and I will tell you the same thing I've told every owner of my bottle -- you've been listening to too many Arabian Nights and Grimm fairy tales, or seen too many Disney movies," the Djinn said drily.
"You do know everything, don't you?" he said with wonder, and the Djinn snapped, "I know a lot of things, but not everything, I'm not the Creator."
"That brings up an interesting point, even before we get to what my grandparents were doing with your bottle and how they got it, how is it that you happen to exist and even talk about a Creator?"
"Everything had to come from somewhere, you know that," the Djinn said in a way that reminded him of his old high school history teacher explaining what should be obvious to a rather slow student, "and there are some fascinating stories if you took the time to look at them which talk about Adam and his first wife, Lilith, one of the giants, and how they were the parents of the Djinn -- not at all accurate, but close enough to the truth to know that we were created, just not necessarily supposed to be a part of your world in the way we are now."
"Which explains why the wishes never quite work out?" he asked, to which the Djinn replied, "Bingo!"
"That raises the next question, what do I do with you?" and the Djinn, hearing his wife coming up the attic stairs, told him, "Start by keeping me a secret!"
Corking the bottle just as the Djinn finished disappearing into it and stuffing it behind a pile of old LP records to block it from view, he turned just as his wife opened the door and gently inquired, "Honey, are you in here?"
"Yes, I'm just poking around," he answered, picking up a stack of picture frames and blowing on them, causing a cloud of dust, then adding with a cough, "and wondering again what in the world we've let ourselves in for by moving here."
"Well, you know your grandparents always wanted us to move back here; since now we can afford to stay I think it will be wonderful to raise the children in a smaller town, and face it, you really always did want to move back, anyway, you loved growing up in this house."
"You know me so well," he said with a smile, "although it is bittersweet to have to go through all of their things, and decide how much we are going to keep, and what to do with the rest of it, right now it's like living in one of those antique and flea market places!"
Laughing with him over that, she then asked, "Are you going to come down while the pancakes are still hot?" and he said, "I'll come down for more coffee in a few minutes, I think I saw some of our old high school yearbooks up here."
"That was too close, you can't let her find out about me," the Djinn told him as soon as he pulled the bottle back out and opened it, reminding him that he might be more than the few minutes he had promised.
"What would be so bad about her finding out about you?" he asked, and the Djinn a little too quickly to his mind, responded, "The fewer humans who know about me, the better!"
"That's one reason, but what is your real reason?" he persisted; he had the strange feeling this was important.
The Djinn heaved a sigh and said, "Like your grandmother, you aren't going to take the easy answers, I rather knew that, but I'd hoped we could go through a bit of the, ah, earlier history your family had with me before we delved into how your marriage came to be, and why no one but your blood family can find out about me."
He went through a range of emotions all in about 10 seconds, encompassing worry, confusion, anxiety, and mostly fear -- how much of all this did he really want to know, and how could he rid himself of what he was now worried might turn out to be a family curse, and do it without telling his wife, when he shared everything with her?
The Djinn continued, "That day she first looked you in the eye over the chemistry lab table and you worked up your courage and asked her out, you weren't out of your league at all; she was tired of self-absorbed overtly handsome jerks and was thrilled a nice young man like you asked, all I had to do was give you that shot of courage at your grandmother's request."
"And my wife can't find that out because..." he couldn't help but say, and the Djinn finished with, "...because that was also part of your grandmother's request, that she never, ever know."
"My wife couldn't know -- what was the rationale behind that?"
The Djinn's look became very serious as he answered, "Your Grandmother was afraid if your wife ever found out that I had even the smallest hand in you two getting together, she would second guess herself, wonder if she had married you of her own volition -- your Grandmother was afraid her knowing would ruin everything, and she was right.
"When people find out a Djinn has been involved in any transaction in life, they wonder how much was their own idea, and how much they were forced into. You, of course, were not forced, you really wanted to ask her out, all I had to do was get you to open your mouth, and she wasn't forced, she had secretly admired how gentlemanly you were, how studious, and how kindly you dealt with your grandparents, but if she finds out about me, she might begin to wonder and second guess."
He heard the back screen door bang open and his children burst into the back yard with shouts, accompanied by the dog they had recently adopted who was barking and jumping around them with abject delight.
"I'll have to get downstairs now or she will start to suspect some thing is up, but I'll come back as soon as the coast is clear," he told the Djinn, which nodded and went silently back into the bottle.
"My first suggestion is to not wish for peace on earth; the last time anyone wished for peace on earth, we had the Roman Empire, and you know how that turned out -- it was peace, of a sort, but at what price?"
It had taken him a couple of days to make it back up to the attic without being followed, and he'd been mulling what to ask the Djinn next, or whether he should test what would happen if he actually did wish for something.
The Djinn had spouted the line about the Roman Empire as soon as he got out of the bottle and without any prompting, and now added, "You really do want the whole story, but there are parts your grandparents wanted kept a secret and I have to honor that. Will it be enough if I tell you that, yes, they got this house and all that is in it as well as their fortune through some, shall we say, creative paperwork, that they wished for you to have a wonderful life here in this town with your wife and children, and that they meant to have me out of the picture before they died but they ran out of time?"
"What do you mean, 'they ran out of time'?"
"They knew the dangers, they lost friends and hurt some people over some of the things that happened through their wishes, and they wanted to protect you; it wasn't just your wife who wasn't supposed to know about me, you weren't supposed to, either, but by the time they realized they needed to do something about it, they weren't able to get back up here to the attic, and they knew sending someone to get my bottle would bring about the revelation of what they wanted kept secret."
"So I was not supposed to 'inherit' you at all?" he asked.
"No, you weren't, because your Grandparents didn't want you to turn into the rank and file of what most owners of a Djinn bottle become -- someone disillusioned with trying to manipulate life to suit your own parameters. Humans weren't meant to do that, and they knew it after their first couple of wishes gave them the physical things they wanted, but cost them relationally."
"About those things, and specifically about this house, how did they get it when it used to belong to the family of the man who founded the town?"
The Djinn's eyes narrowed as he said, "That family ran into a financial difficulty that your Grandparents were able to help them out of by relieving them of the house, and that family has never forgiven or forgotten; as I said, they got much of what they wanted in the first few years as they made wishes, but they lost much, too."
"Did my Grandparent's wish lead to that financial difficulty in the first place?" he asked, to which the Djinn almost howled, "You really don't want to ask that!"
"You don't have to be a star, baby, to be in myyyyyyyy show!" he sang out with the music playing through the open door of the store they passed, and as he smiled at her, she laughed.
"What -- you didn't marry me for my singing voice?" he asked, and she laughed even harder, thinking about his awful and hilarious solos in the shower, and he joined in, and they laughed until they were breathless, leaning against each other.
A few passers-by looked bemused, but most just walked on without even a glance, as these two were obviously tourists; they were parents, taking a second honeymoon, acting like kids, enjoying a break from the mundane and humdrum and general tightness of their lives.
She noticed a small antique store down a side street, and knowing she had an eye for such things, he followed her in; it was a rather dilapidated place, with not much to offer in the way of true collectible items, but she did see an old bottle in a corner that would look lovely with a few items she had at home. The proprietor didn't set much stock in it so it was cheap, and that was what they needed; as with everything in their lives so far, even on a little get-away they were always on a tight budget.
"So my Grandparents bought your bottle from a shabby antiques dealer while on a cheap vacation?" he asked the Djinn incredulously, and the answer was, "Yes, I was waiting for them."
"Wha...waiting for them?" he gasped, his mind flashing with ideas of the fate you cannot escape from the old Greek myths he enjoyed reading so much in his youth.
"Yes, I was waiting for them," the Djinn answered. "I do not know everything, and I cannot clearly see far into the future, but I have a great deal of power, as you can imagine, enough to read people and I knew if I stayed quiet and kept myself a secret from the lowlife 'antiques' dealer, some time during the tourist season a couple with intelligence who wouldn't make too huge a mess of wishing would come along. I was right, they did, and I was waiting for them."
"When did they actually figure out they had bought a Djinn bottle?" he asked, still wondering just how much he really wanted to know.
"Your Grandmother thought the bottle was beautiful -- even I must admit I was assigned a very nice one -- and she put it on the shelf among other curiosities she liked, never thinking to open it until years later, after your father had left this small town and gotten married and when you were very young."
"It must have startled her the first time she opened your bottle as much as it did me," he said, and the Djinn gave a chuckle, replying, "Your Grandfather was there, and they both jumped like the cats you see in the videos when someone sneaks a cucumber behind them!"
"Those are rather mean videos," he said, trying to sound stern, but he couldn't help laughing when the Djinn did.
"It was all right, I've never scared a new owner of my bottle to death -- that would be counterproductive, at least most of the time. Well, there was one..."
"It's enough that I have to deal with a Djinn and figure out what my Grandparents did with you without knowing about all of your other dealings with humans," he interrupted with a sigh.
"The difficult ones are those who think that owning a Djinn bottle will fix all of their problems, which was another reason I was waiting for your Grandparents; even from a distance I could tell that they would learn that lesson early."
"Yet they did make wishes, and learned some of it the hard way," he said in a way that was almost a question, and the Djinn responded, "Yes, at the beginning, even your very intelligent and thoughtful Grandmother was a bit, shall we say, bedazzled by the possibilities of having me around."
"I think we're making great progress with this place," his wife said, smiling up at him from the picnic blanket where they had just enjoyed a lunch al fresco.
"We sure are," he responded, then added, "it really does feel more like home, doesn't it?"
"Yes, it does, and the children love it. By the way, any time you want help with all the stuff in the attic, you just have to ask, you know."
"I know, but it's so hot and stuffy and dusty up there, I think I'll just tackle it a bit at a time, bring things down out of there to deal with, that sort of thing."
The children and their half-grown puppy rushed up at that point, the children laughing and breathless from chasing the pup and his stick; all of them wanted the stick thrown again -- the ultimate game of keep away.
And I have to keep everyone away from that attic, he thought, at least until I figure out how to either get rid of or hide a Djinn.
"Why are you so obsessed with this?" his friend asked.
"Because it is their fault my family lost most of what it took generations to build!" he snapped, his eyes flashing.
"How can it be their fault? I thought they helped your family when the trouble started."
"It's their fault because their family never had much, but suddenly, my family has trouble and they have enough to buy up most of our holdings to 'help' us -- how? I always believed they had some kind of assistance, and now that their grandson has moved back here with his family to stay, I'm going to get to the bottom of it!"
"I'm getting better at throwing the ball, right Daddy?" his daughter asked, looking at him in that way she had that always made him melt.
"You'll be ready for the major league draft before you know it!" he grinned at her, and as expected, she responded with "Daddy, you're silly!"
"You'd rather stay in the minor leagues?" he asked with feigned innocence, and they both laughed.
"Dinner!" his wife called, bringing the pitch and catch session to a stop for the moment, and they tromped into the house to find the younger child already in his booster chair, his spoon at the ready.
"By the way," she said as they all sat down, "the cable guy was here today to try to figure out why we are having so much trouble with our system, and he says he's probably going to have to run a new wire."
"That figures," he said, and he had a hard time not reacting when she responded, "Yes, he's going to have to figure out where the wire is now in the attic, and replace it."
"You got into the house how?" his friend asked incredulously.
"It was amazingly easy, I just wore my old uniform from when I worked for the company and told her I was there to check the cable -- you know the reception is notoriously bad around here, everyone has trouble with that and the phones -- and she let me come in."
"And did you find anything?" he asked, and was tempted to add "you nutcase!" but refrained.
"Nothing yet, but I'm going back tomorrow to poke around in the attic, see if anything comes to light."
"What will you do if she expects you to actually fix something?"
"I worked for the company long enough that I can wing it, I still have some equipment, but the main thing is I want to get into that house, I am convinced there are answers in that house!"
"You were right not to trust him up here alone," the Djinn said when he came back to the attic after spending a couple of fruitless hours following the cable repairman throughout the house.
"Yeah, I was glad I stayed home from work to be here when I noticed he was looking around a lot more than was necessary just to do his job, especially when he was up here, it was very suspicious."
The Djinn's next words made his blood run cold, "Suspicious is one way to put it, he's one of the few remaining direct descendants of the family that used to own this house, and he's hunting for answers to how you ended up here instead of him."
"Does he know about you?" he asked, and the Djinn responded, "No, but he suspects that there's some mystery, and he's the kind of man who will stop at nothing until he finds the answer he wants, and will go to any lengths to get even if he thinks he's been wronged."
Before he could ask another question, there was yelling from the back yard; he and the Djinn both looked out of the window and the Djinn laughed and said, "Your natives are getting restless!"
The children were having a tug-of-war with something, and with his usual promise to be back soon, he headed out, wondering how much longer he could balance the roles of work, husband, dad, and owner of a Djinn bottle.
"We can create a great life here for our grandson, this is the way we can do it!" she was staring at him, her eyes pleading with him for understanding.
"It's not going to be that easy!" he said as he paced the room. "There is deceit and guile and craft and trickery in it, and we don't know what bad things might result in the long run."
"We'll be careful, I'll be careful, I promise, you know I would never wish things that would hurt people on purpose. I just want us to be able to have a good life here, for him to be able to have a good life here. There isn't much I'll wish for, and we will always consult each other and wish together so we can work to avoid hurting anyone, but I just can't waste the chances we have now that we have a Djinn bottle!"
"I've always wanted a bigger home," she said to the Djinn, while her husband sat very stiff, still not convinced even talking to this Djinn was a good idea, much less making any wishes.
"As I'm sure you will understand, suddenly making your house bigger would arouse suspicion, and I really do not want to end up in the hands of your government and/or their scientists," the Djinn told her; "therefore, I suggest the stealth method, in which I increase your bank account to the point where you can build or buy yourselves a larger place."
"You can do that?"
"I call it creative paperwork," the Djinn said drily, "and of course I can do it, I even leave a logical paper trail to a long-lost 'relative' who leaves you the money."
"And no one is hurt by it?" her husband asked, to which the Djinn replied, "No one is harmed, the 'relative' doesn't really exist, and your fiat money lends itself to this method very nicely."
"Then I want you to get us a bigger home that way!" she said, and the Djinn smiled and responded, "Done!"
"Did you see the wonderful tree we found to use as our Christmas tree?" he asked as he dug out a couple of boxes of very old ornaments from the attic. "It was even growing on our property, just the right size, and the kids were so excited that we got to cut our own tree, just like I used to be when I was little!"
"That was one of your Grandmother's more innocuous wishes," the Djinn said with a reminiscing smile, "that there would always be one perfect Scotch pine, just the right size for Christmas, and on this property so no one could argue ownership."
"Oh," he said, a bit deflated, then added, "well, what's the fun in that if you know it's always going to be there?"
"You have to find it, of course, it's not like I'm going to put it in the same place all of the time!" the Djinn snapped. Right before popping back into his bottle, he added a bit petulantly, "Now, please go get that thing decorated, I want to be able to see and feel the magic of Christmas in this house again, it's been too long."
"'You mark my words!' he snarled, his face only a few inches away from mine. 'Your family got everything they have by some means of treachery, and if I die trying, I'm going to figure it out and do whatever I have to do to reverse it!'"
"Yes, I thought he would start stalking you, but I had no idea he would confront you directly this soon; the fact that he couldn't find anything when he got in here posing as a cable worker must have really frustrated him," the Djinn said, looking a bit pensive.
"As much as I've enjoyed our conversations, and as much as I want to know the history of what my Grandmother and Grandfather did with your help, this is getting out of hand and I'm going to have to ask, how do I get rid of you and not let you get into the hands of someone else? I mean, I'm assuming I probably shouldn't just wish that you would never be found by him, or wish you away, right?"
"You are sadly correct, the proper way to permanently get rid of a Djinn from this plane of existence is not a small matter," the Djinn sighed, then added, "it involves a blood sacrifice."
"You have to be more patient, we will make more mistakes if we go too fast," he told her. She looked down very soberly, and he gently lifted her chin and smiled, adding, "I know we want to do what is right by him, but we can't make too many wishes too fast, we've agreed that way lies madness."
The Djinn looked on blankly, having become used to the way these two worked, especially when they were discussing how best to use wishes to enhance the life of their beloved grandson.
"I know," she said with a sigh, "I thought having the bigger house would be a good thing, I didn't realize it would come at the expense of a dear friendship."
"Thus we have to be more cautious," he emphasized. "There's nothing wrong with us working to make his life better, there's a lot wrong with us using magic to make it so he never has to work or earn anything for himself."
"I'm sorry, but no matter what happens, I'm not going to be killing anyone to get rid of you!" he told the Djinn.
"As I told you the first time we spoke at length, the reason the wishes do not work out in your world is because we Djinn were not meant to be a part of your world as we are now. In order to send us back to the Creator so we can be put in our proper place, a blood sacrifice is required, along with the right ceremony, in a specific hidden temple in the part of the world you call the Middle East."
"This is starting to sound like the script from a cheesy movie!" he exclaimed. "I mean, I'd laugh if it weren't such a serious situation."
The Djinn was about to reply when he suddenly interrupted with, "What if I just wished that my grandparents had never found you?"
"You threatened him in public, and on a scale of zero to ten I rank that as a minus two on the stupid meter!"
"I simply got caught up in the moment, that's all; it's making me crazy that I can't figure out how their fortunes and ours were reversed so quickly!"
"Well, that's why you've hired a paranormal investigator to do the investigating, right?"
"And a fat lot of good that's doing!"
"Not so fast, I've been tracking down the money they used to buy the house initially, and get this -- it appeared out of nowhere, an 'inheritance' from someone who has no existence anywhere else; that only happens, I've found before, if they use magic."
"Magic!" he said, intrigued, and the investigator answered, "Yes, specifically a Djinn, in most cases."
"Don't you ever want a turn making a wish?" she asked him one night as they climbed into bed, quietly so as not to wake the young boy sleeping in the next room.
"Sweetheart, all I've ever wished for is you, and a good life for our boy, and now for our grandson."
"I know that," she said, "but aren't there some things you want for yourself, too? Some of the small luxuries that make you happy, things you've always wanted, the kind of things we could never have before?"
"I'm just not sure that using a Djinn to get things like that is either a good idea, or would bring the same satisfaction as if I earned those things," he responded.
"Killjoy," she said teasingly, but long after she was asleep, he was still pondering the conversation, going over what he'd never been able to settle in his mind, if this Djinn bottle was a blessing or not.
"Wishing that your grandparents had never found me plays havoc with the time stream," the Djinn answered his query with a very sharp look. "You probably could wish that right now, but it's a given that you have no guarantees where it would leave you, or anyone else in your family, including whether or not your children would even exist."
"As awful as that would be, I'm going to keep it in mind as a possibility," he said. "After all, if they'd never found you, everything would be undone from the time I was a child, so by this age, I'd never know I could have had a different life."
"It's still not something I think you want to try," the Djinn cautioned him, "it could have unintended consequences."
"As I've seen with my own family story, all wishes have unintended consequences," he answered, "and if it comes down to wishing that and taking the consequences or committing a murder, I think I'd prefer the former!"
"You've been very quiet the last couple of days," she said, climbing into the bed after leading their youngest back to his room for the second time that night.. "Anything you need to talk about?"
"Not really," he answered, "just trying to figure out what to do about a rather sticky business situation."
"Anything you want to share?" Her gentle inquiry made him feel wretched for the secret he was keeping and the plans that were floating through his mind.
She was completely taken aback when he said, "I'm thinking of making a business trip to the Middle East."
"Did I hear you correctly, you said they have been using a Djinn, as in, from the Arabian Nights tales?" he asked.
"That's what the signs all point to, although there's not way to completely confirm that until we find the bottle."
An ugly suspicion came over him and he growled threateningly, "You better not be pulling my chain, telling me that there really are Djinn on this plane of existence!"
"Trust me, deciphering how people have used magic or paranormal activity, this is my bread and butter, I know my stuff!"
Soothed somewhat, he then muttered, "And I'll bet he has it holed up in that house that used to be ours, hidden away from me, and I have to figure a way to find it!"
"We'll find it, all right, I have a ritual for that."
She was standing at the kitchen sink when he came down the next morning, and without turning she asked him, "Did I hear you correctly last night, that you are thinking about a business trip to the Middle East?"
"Yes," he said, squirming inside with the thought of the misdirections and half truths he would have to tell her; after all, he couldn't just come out and say he needed to go on a trip to get rid of the Djinn that was becoming a family curse.
"What in the world would you need to do there, and why business in such a dangerous area, I really would worry if you did this," her statement was quiet as she tried to hide the fear in her voice.
"My grandparents had some of their business dealings with someone from that part of the world," he started on the explanation he had carefully prepared, "and I've been contacted and asked to come finish up some things, tidy up some loose ends they weren't able to get to before they died."
"I just don't understand why it would have to be done in person," she said.
It was hard for him to hide the tremble in his own voice when he answered, knowing if things went wrong he wouldn't be coming back from the trip; "There are some serious complications, and only their direct heir can deal with it."
"Wait a second," he said as he and the Djinn were discussing plans, "what if I simply wished myself into this temple we need to get to?"
"If all goes correctly, remember, you won't be able to wish yourself back," the Djinn replied drily. He added, "You have to leave an actual trail of entering the country properly, with yourself on the security cameras, so that you can leave and get on a plane to get back home.
"There's also the matter of getting your enemy to follow you over there, remember?"
"That's part of the plan I am not so sure I understand; since I'm trying to keep you away from him and send you back to the Creator, why do we want him to follow along when he will do anything he can to take you away from me and not let this work?"
"Remember when we first met, you said you couldn't trust me -- I have an idea, but I need to know, have I done enough to change your mind and can you trust me now?"
"What are we going to do?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper, running her hands through the gray strands of her hair, something she always did when she was worried.
"I don't know," he answered dully. "Even if we do manage to get either my bad knees or your bad hip up into the attic again and get the Djinn bottle, what could we do with it? There's no way either of us could take the trip to get it to that temple he says we'd need to go to, we've waited too long."
He added, "Alternately, even if we could just get up there to the attic, not even bother to try such a trip, would we wish for things to return to the way they were before we found him, just to keep our grandson from finding him?"
"Even if we could," she replied, "no matter what, the good we've gotten from having that bottle has much outweighed the bad, so no, I could never wish to go back!"
"What do you get out of it if I go with this plan of yours?" he asked the Djinn.
The Djinn closed his eyes, dropped his head with resignation and said, "I'm weary. At first I found the power exhilarating and the results amusing, but I grew fond of your grandparents and now I realize I've gotten tired of watching humans mess up their lives trying to use me to manipulate the world in ways they weren't meant to do." He looked up and added, "And I want to go back to the Creator and be put in my rightful place, which is not here."
"You better make certain this plan of yours works correctly, we only have one chance."
"Do you want to find out for sure if he has a Djinn or don't you?"
"Of course I do!"
"Then you have to cooperate, even if it doesn't make any sense to you, and while we are doing this ritual, you can't be rolling your eyes and acting like it's just a bunch of mumbo jumbo. If I'm right, and he's keeping a Djinn in that house, I have to be able to tap into its energy through this ritual to show us the bottle's location in the house."
"And if there's no Djinn?"
"Then I'll eat my hat, but I'm sure I won't have to, you just concentrate on your anger at what their having a Djinn has done to your family to help me find its energy trail."
"What's the point of knowing he has a Djinn in the house if it's well guarded and we can't get to it?"
"There's always breaking and entering, but I like to save that as a last resort, and only when a family is on vacation so I have plenty of time to search, but this time, I don't think we have to."
"You have an idea?"
"More than that, I've been monitoring his activities as well as talking to the town gossips, and he's made reservations on a flight to Amman, Jordan; that means he's trying to take the Djinn back to its place of origin."
"So we follow him there, but why is he taking it to begin with?"
"From what I've gathered about him, he's the kind who is taking it to go return it to the temple and perform a sacrifice to get it out of this realm of existence -- I'll bet you credits to navy beans he knows you want it, and he wants to get it out of your reach."
As she dropped him at the airport, he could tell she was on the edge of losing it, and she almost never lost her composure.
"I feel like one of those mothers who is going to tell her child that if he falls and breaks a leg it's his own fault and he shouldn't come running to her about it," she said, half laughing and half crying. "I still don't understand why you have to go meet with this person halfway around the world, and if something happens to you over there, I don't know what I will do!"
"Nothing is going to happen, I'm going to take care of the business my grandparents left unfinished, and then I will never have to leave the country again unless it's with all of us on a vacation," he tried to reassure her.
He hated keeping secrets from her, hated having to leave, and hated that he couldn't tell her what was really going on and that he had an ace up his sleeve. If it looked like the plan he and the Djinn had worked out was going to fall apart, he'd make the wish that his grandparents had never found the bottle, and it would change their past, and neither of them would ever know.
As he hung back from the groups of tourists, he tried not to draw attention to himself. Clutching the bag containing the bottle hidden among souvenir t-shirts, he was looking for the clues the Djinn had coached him to seek.
At a place near the edge of the ancient site, he spotted one of the signs he was looking for and waited for a moment when no one was watching in his direction. He had to be very careful as he wandered further and further into the areas archaeologists hadn't finished examining to both make sure he wasn't caught by authorities who took meddling with their antiquities very seriously and that the one person he did want to see him was exactly the right distance behind him.
How his foe had ditched the sidekick assisting him he had no clue, but it made things easier knowing it was just the two of them; he had a much better chance of pulling this off if it wasn't two against one. He kept his ears open listening for the footsteps trailing him and he was starting to think he'd missed the signs when he saw it just as the Djinn had said -- the one sign that marked the secret entrance.
He fumbled with the bag in his hand, dropping one of the shirts from it as he pulled out the hidden Djinn bottle, then felt around for the spot on the secret door that exactly matched the indentation on the bottle's side. Pressing the bottle against the spot brought the desired result; the stone gently and silently moved inward, revealing a narrow passageway.
Ducking inside, he was careful not to push the stone door all the way shut behind him, and he nervously padded down the corridor. As he reached the end, it opened out to reveal the temple he was searching for, the one that Djinn magic made sure no person without a bottle would ever find.
Barely looking around at the cavernous temple, he fixed his gaze on the obelisk on the dais at the front; it was taller than he was, and appeared to be made of solid crystal, clear and sparkling as a diamond.
Taking his place behind one of the columns that held up the ceiling, he remembered the Djinn saying, "The whole key is you getting into position behind the column closest to the obelisk, making sure he doesn't see you until the right moment."
He didn't have long to wait. Standing still behind the column so he couldn't be seen from the entryway, he realized he was holding his breath, listening.
"I know you are in here!" he heard his enemy declare, the sound coming suddenly and echoing off the temple walls. "Now the only question is, are you going to give me the Djinn bottle so I can get back what's rightfully mine, or do I have to fight you for it?"
Straining every nerve, he listened for the sound of footsteps, trying to gauge how close his enemy was, sidling behind the column to stay hidden. When he saw the man from behind, almost at the obelisk, he knew it was time and called out, "Here, if you want it, catch!"
Knowing he had only this one chance to get it right, he called out, "Catch!" while throwing the Djinn bottle at the obelisk.
"No!" his enemy's scream echoed through the temple as he dove to try to prevent the bottle from making contact; too late, his outstretched hand reached through the smoke that was the partially emerged Djinn and was pierced by a shard of glass just as he touched it and the obelisk.
His blood mingled with the glass from the Djinn bottle, the obelisk became so brightly transparent there was no looking at it and there was a boom loud as thunder; the obelisk itself seemed to shatter and when the former Djinn bottle owner looked again, both his enemy and the bottle had disappeared, and the obelisk itself looked as it had before.
"Well, I've seen some dramatic scenes in this temple, but never one quite like this, you didn't have to draw his blood, he did it to himself!" said a hooded figure, coming out of the shadows behind the dais.
It took him a moment to find his voice and stop it from shaking as he asked, "Where are they?"
The guardian of the temple gave him a stern look and said, "The Djinn is in his rightful place where the Creator intended all of the Djinn to be, and your enemy, who wanted to harm you, has gone on to his eternal reward."
"I never meant to harm him" he said softly, "and I almost feel like I took the chicken way out of this whole situation."
"Your enemy meant to harm you," the Temple Guardian replied. "No matter what you had done, even if you had given him the Djinn bottle, he would never have stopped trying to harm you and your family. In the end, you did not send him to the other side, his own anger and hate did that."
"I feel sick," he said, and the Temple Guardian remarked, "You do look a bit green." The ground beneath them began to rumble as the Guardian added, "You are not meant to be here now that your work is done, and as mine is done, too, neither am I."
"Quickly," the Temple Guardian said as the whole temple started to shake, "you must leave now, I have to enter the obelisk also."
"And is everything going to be okay?" he asked, barely keeping the tremble out of his own voice.
"That was the last Djinn left here on this plane, so all is well; I will go through the obelisk to the other side, and this temple will become what your archaeologists will believe is an ancient worship site that was abandoned thousands of years ago, leaving no trace of the Djinn or their magic here."
"There will be no trace of any magic the Djinn worked in this world?" he whispered, a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"There will be no trace in this temple, but every year when you find that perfect Christmas tree growing on your property, you will know that the wishes already granted last even after the Djinn is gone."
"Thank you," he said; the Temple Guardian smiled and shoved him into the corridor where he'd come in, and he turned to go home.