In a Bottle... Ch. 01byZeban©
Alan liked collecting stuff. Not just any stuff, but it was still safe to lump his collection together into one nondescript category. He always viewed the 'stuff' he bought as potential decoration, and it appealed to his fascination with patterns and puzzles. He owned three modern art themed rugs, yet only had one room to put one in; No two of his picture frames could be said to match each other, but each had a unique and enticing design to it; And the number of things he would like to hang up on his walls wouldn't fit even in an ordinary-sized house, let alone his two bedroom apartment. All the same, every purchase was well worth it to him.
This was how he came across a strange totem pole on his way around town one weekend. Truth be told, he wasn't actually out to browse for any new items on this particular weekend, but he just happened to be passing by a little antique pawn shop when something in the window display caught his eye and drew him inside. The totem pole was covered with what looked like foreign writing on the sides as well as very elaborate pictures. Before he realized he was holding it, running his fingers over the gilded surfaces, he had already approached the owner of the store.
"How long have you had this piece in the store?" Alan tried to ask offhandedly. A question to which the sharp-eyed gentleman answered, "Inside of a week," before engaging in a story about how the item that Alan was holding was actually imported from another country, and that he couldn't possibly let such a rare piece go for any less than two hundred. Alan briefly attempted to argue that he wasn't interested -- he knew how these swindlers worked -- but of course the owner had seen him drawn to it from the moment he entered the shop, and in less than a minute had him convinced that he couldn't live without it.
"Two hundred it is then," Alan sighed as he pulled out his wallet and paid the man.
Rather than taking his latest piece of art back to his car first, he instead brought it along with him to lunch so he could have a chance to look it over more closely. After the hostess had seated him and he was waiting patiently for her to return for his order, he pulled out the little totem pole and set it upon the table.
The totem pole stood about ten inches in height and was tapered so that it easily sat on one end without tipping over. From top to bottom it had shimmering gold that flowed like cursive writing, but looked like gibberish that didn't seem to match together at all. In spite of this, it still accomplished a beautiful spiral of gold from top to bottom. The whole thing was smooth like polished wood, yet oddly heavy as though it had a core made of stone. The thing that most interested Alan were the pictures on the top. There were three murals, tiny, yet extremely detailed. One showed a picture of a female dancer clothed in exquisite silks. The second, an almost exact depiction of the moon. The third was a constellation of stars that he had never seen before.
Alan jumped. He had been so absorbed by the art that he had forgotten that he was waiting for his waitress to return.
"Y-yes. Sorry about that," he muttered, picking up the totem pole and placing it in his lap. "I'm ready to order. I'll have the smoked salmon and prawns. Just ice water to drink please."
"That won't be a problem," she scribbled on a pad of paper ask she spoke. "Soup or salad?"
"Salad with Thousand Island dressing, please."
She scooped up his menu and went back to the kitchen with his order, leaving Alan alone once more. Rather than setting the totem pole back upon the table, he kept it out of sight in his lap and continued to study the pictures. Checking for tool markings or paint, he ran his finger across the picture of the woman dancing. The totem moved.
Alan set it down next to him on the seat as though it were a snake trying to bite him. He continued to stare at it until the waitress brought him his salad and almost scared him to death. She asked if he was alright with an eyebrow raised skeptically, and he assured her that he was fine. He thanked her for the salad and tried his best to smile so she would leave.
Once she was gone he experimentally touched the totem again and quickly withdrew his finger. Nothing. He pressed the picture of the dancer. Nothing again. Confused and wary, he realized it would be best to place it back into his coat pocket and eat his lunch before he became any more suspicious than he already was. He finished his salmon, decided he didn't have as big of an appetite as when he'd come in, got a to-go box, over-tipped his waitress hoping she would kindly forget to tell anyone else about her jumpy customer, and drove home.
Finally arriving home, Alan had convinced himself that his mind had been playing tricks on him earlier. He closed and locked the front door and sat down on his couch, taking off his coat and pulling out the totem pole.
Again he touched his finger to the picture of the dancer, sure that nothing would happen this time. When a piece of the totem on the bottom shifted, he almost threw the whole thing across the room. What was he holding? Was it a bomb? Some kind of trap? A long lost artifact from some other country? Questions flowed into his mind like a million little voices who all wanted an answer at once.
He touched it again. This time it shifted again, a little lower. He set it down on his floor and touched it. Nothing happened. Apparently he needed to have one hand wrapped about the base for this to work. Technology that he didn't, couldn't possibly, understand. Yet his unending curiosity wouldn't let him stop. He picked the totem back up and touched the mural of the moon. More of the gilding shifted, this time in the opposite direction. He liked art that made him think about patterns, but this was outrageous.
Over the course of the next hour, Alan made several observations: Nothing he touched would cause a change to the totem except for the three pictures. The moving parts were only on the bottom, where the fancy gilding was at, and they seemed to move one at a time from top to bottom. The dancer moved one piece to the right, the moon moved one piece to the left, and the stars moved two adjacent pieces in the opposite direction from each other.
He had started to slowly try and line up pieces of the gilding all along one side of the totem when he had to use the bathroom. When he came back everything he had done was undone. His confusion returned, this time with anger. After more experimentation he found that if he was not in close proximity to the totem for about forty five seconds after he had made a change, it would shift on its own, effectively randomizing everything once more.
Alan spent the rest of the night rotating back and forth, lining up every line that seemed to fit with another along one side of the totem. It was very hard working with characters that he didn't recognize, and realized partway through that he was doing some parts wrong and kept shifting pieces until at one point he touched a picture and nothing happened. He tried the other two and they wouldn't work either. The gilding on the side shimmered. He must have done something. He turned the totem to the side and looked at the words he had made.
وكل يوم كنت تعيش في العبودية
An unexplainable feeling grew slowly in his gut as he sat there holding his totem. It wasn't fatigue, he wasn't tired yet. It wasn't quite lethargy either. Then he knew: acceptance. The aura about his totem was almost recognizing him as much as he was it. Without even consciously realizing it he glanced at the writing again and spoke aloud in a language that he did not know.
The writing shimmered again and a small puff of smoke shot out of the top of the totem pole. Alan watched as it rose towards the ceiling, unsure of what to do. It began to change colors from a dusky gray to a vivid green. When it turned red and began to expand, he got worried and stood up from his couch fully intending to run, but only to find that there was no where to go except through it. Instead he stood there dumbstruck, watching his apartment slowly fill up with the colored gas.
To say Alan was shocked at what happened next would be an understatement. So far the things that he had seen that day could mostly be explained with some form of science. But when the cloud of gas coalesced into a pair of red eyes floating in mid-air, his jaw very nearly hit the floor.
More and more of the gas gathered around the eyes to slowly create the shape of a human head and neck. A face materialized out of the gas with midnight black hair framing it. The face was that of a woman, her long eyelashes slowly moving as she blinked at him. She had the smoothest looking skin he had ever seen, with freckles lightly spotting her cheeks and a full pair of lips that parted warmly into a smile that made his knees go weak.
Alan didn't have a chance to see the rest of her body fabricate for the moment she smiled, he fell back onto his couch and the world went black.
When Alan was next aware of what was happening around him, the first thing he noticed was that the strange gas had vanished. Everything in his apartment was the same as it had been that morning when he'd gotten up. In fact, the only indication that anything at all had happened that day was the totem pole laying at his feet on the ground. He slowly got to his feet and gathered his wits. It was still shimmering slightly.
He bent down to retrieve it from the floor, and as he stood back up his gaze met a pair of slender feet attached to an equally toned and beautiful pair of legs. Slowly he moved his eyes upward, afraid that going any faster would cause this lovely mirage to disappear. The legs, clad only in a few layers of very sheer silk, belonged to a feminine set of hips and, where the silk parted for a few delicious inches, a perfect little tear-drop slit of a belly button. His eyes lingered for a moment on this patch of bare skin while his brain struggled to recognize exactly how he was seeing what he was seeing. More red silk wrapped expertly around a full bosom leaving all of the good parts hidden in a way that caused Alan's groin to ache with desire. When finally his eyes reached her face, she was smiling at him. That smile. The last thing he remembered was her smiling at him through that veil of red smoke. He would never forget it. Suddenly everything snapped back together in his mind and a chill ran through his body.
"Master," she said directly to him before bowing her head graciously.
"Huh?" he asked stupidly. Of all the things he had expected this creature to say, that was by far the least likely.
She lifted her gaze to meet his once more, looking genuinely concerned. "I am sorry, do you not understand me?" She gestured to his bookshelf with one of her graceful arms. "I took the task of learning your language while you were unconscious. I hope that I have not made a false assumption that these are your possessions." Her frown deepened, causing her forehead to wrinkle.
"Y-yes. I -- uh -- the books, they're mine. I can understand you just fine..." He fumbled around for words that seemed foreign to his tongue, completely ignoring the fact that she apparently learned to speak English fluently in less than twenty minutes. "What, who are you?"
Her smile returned when she heard him speak. "I am the djinn that you summoned, of course. A female genie, to be more specific."
Alan visibly swayed on his feet. If he hadn't already feinted a moment ago, he would have at hearing those words. His genie?
"And, what -- you're here to grant me anything I dream of?"
"Not exactly. Every master that summons me is able to ask of one desire that I will then do my best to make into reality. One wish, if you will."
"I thought genies gave three wishes," Alan grumbled half to himself. She didn't seem to notice that he hadn't meant to be heard, however.
"Not all genies are the same, Master. It is true that some of us are created with enough power to grant an infinite number of desires to the one with whom we are linked, but that is quite rare. Of the 3,000 genies that I know exist, only 4 are as powerful as you suggest, and their fates are more directly controlled by the djinni."
"If the djinni have the power to influence the fates of their kin, why don't they do that with all of you?" Alan asked purely out of curiosity. "So I have one wish then..."
"None of the lesser djinni have the power to use their abilities for themselves. We require a human master to make the desire for our powers known. In this manner, we influence the world in small ways. You were chosen because you have the intellect required to open the lock on my containment chamber. And yes, you have but one wish."
A multitude of ideas had been swirling around in his head, each possibility more grand than the last. "I think it would be best if I went to bed and slept on this. I wouldn't want to waste my only wish on some passing frivolous desire. By the way, what was it that I said to release the lock? I don't speak any languages besides english, and yet I knew those words like the sound of my own name."
"It is the mantra that all genies are born with. Once you are chosen, you know it also. In the words of your language it would be similar to 'Every day we live as slaves.' I will await here for your return once you have rested." She bowed her head once more.
Alan made his way out of the living room and back towards his bedroom. It was a good thing he was between roommates for the time being, having a genie in his living room would be very difficult to explain. By the time he got undressed and ready for bed it was 11:15. He crept out into the hallway to see what his genie was doing only to find that, true to her word, she hadn't moved a muscle and still had her head bowed.
Alan lay down to sleep thinking about a thousand things at once, not the least of which was the last image he saw of the silk-clad backside of his genie standing in his living room.
That night Alan drifted off to strange dreams. At first he dreamt that he was flying, but he wasn't a bird. It was still his body, and he didn't have any wings. He just somehow thought about floating up into the air, and he did. He didn't take this amazing gift for granted, he began using it every chance he got. Instead of fighting morning traffic, he simply jumped out of his window in the morning and flew to work in a flash.
Then he had a long staff in his hand and he waved it around like a king's scepter, his newfound flight quickly forgotten. Everything he touched it to became gold, and not just in color. It really turned solid gold. He was as rich as anyone could ever imagine. He could buy anything and everything. He called up his boss and quit his job. Then when he hung up the telephone -- just because he could -- he turned it into gold with his staff... which was now a totem pole adorned with arabic writing that he could not understand.
Suddenly it was night time, and he was walking around in his apartment with no lights on. It took him a moment to realize that it wasn't his apartment as his eyes adjusted. He walked through several doors trying to find his way out when he finally found himself walking in on a very attractive woman in the middle of getting undressed. She jumped a little and looked up at him for a moment, then moved closer to look through the door behind him while protectively clutching her shirt to her chest. She walked close enough that he could stretch out his arm and touch her before she shrugged and turned back around, satisfied that no one else but him had entered. It must have been his lucky day!
She dropped her shirt, revealing a wonderful pair of tits and was just unbuttoning her pants when Alan looked into a mirror on her wall and realized that he wasn't in it! Glancing down quickly he saw that his body was entirely invisible. He touched his face to make sure he still existed and he felt his familiar fingers press into his flesh. He would have to figure out all of the details later after the hottie had finished taking her shower.
He turned away from the mirror and found himself in a desert. He was holding an old golden lamp in his hand that looked quite familiar. He heard a voice talking and it took him a second to realize that it was his own. He was talking to someone, but who? He looked around and saw a big blue genie by an oasis explaining something to him, halfway talking to himself by the looks of it. Without thinking about his question, he asked, "Why not?"
The genie looked at him for a moment and said in a forlorn voice, "The only way I get outta this is if my master wishes me out. So you can guess how often that's happened."
Finally recognizing who and where he was, he finished the quote he knew so well from one of his favorite movie's as a child.
"I'll do it. I'll set you free."
When Alan woke from his restless dream-filled sleep the next morning, the first thing he remembered was that he had a genie in the other room waiting for him. The second thing he remembered was the mantra that she had mentioned and how sad it had made him when he'd finally had the chance to think about what it meant for her. Genies weren't born free. Nothing they did was of their own volition, but simply whatever their "master" chose for them.
He remembered how it felt when he suddenly realized that the impossible was all now very possible for him if he simply asked. The world was his, all he had to do was choose what he wanted. His genie didn't have that... couldn't choose. Ever. It made him sick to his stomach.
He got dressed and went out to check on her. She was still waiting for him to return in the same position that he had left her.
"Good morning, master. Have you chosen yet what it is that you desire?" she chimed at him as he walked into the room.
Alan sighed heavily knowing what he wanted and yet fighting himself the whole way. "Yes. I desire that you not have any master that chooses for you how you will direct your power and live your life."
She merely blinked at him for a few moments and then said, "Ever?"
"No more, ever."
"It is very obscured, but I see this to be your true desire at heart. I will live my life from now on by making my own choices. This was truly an unexpected desire, surely not your first. I can easily tell these things, as it is within my power to verify every desire that you have." She smiled at him in an odd, knowing sort of way. He blushed and looked at the ground as he mentally explored her possible implications.
Before he knew what was happening she had crossed the room and embraced him tightly in a hug. He looked down into her eyes and she whispered, "Thank you, master. You have given me a gift beyond understanding."
She stood up on her toes and kissed him full on the lips before walking over to let herself out of his apartment. Alan just stood there, unsure that anything that had happened had been real. Could he still be dreaming? He looked down to find that he was holding his totem pole once more. He set it on his table and went to get ready for work. After all, it was still monday morning.
Over the next few days, Alan found himself hating that he had given up the opportunity of a lifetime, but he still couldn't help feeling compassion for the genie. The more he worked, the less he thought about it.
By friday, he found himself halfway doubting that the entire thing had even happened to him. The totem pole still refused to move when he touched the murals and none of the guys at work had taken him seriously when he'd brought up the remote possibility of a genie being real. Not that he could say he blamed them. The words that had come out of his mouth vaguely reminded him of a little boy asking if the moon was really made of cheese.