The jinn was not as spectacular as Faris had imagined. While he was large, he completely filled the alleyway, he was not glorious or powerful in appearance. Once the glowing haze had cleared his skin appeared dull and lifeless, the color of the sand. His eyes, hair, and garments were all of the same drab hue. Faris almost burst into laughter. Why his teacher, Safiy seemed more magical than this impostor.
Yet Faris restrained his laughter and looked upon the jinn, waiting for him to speak. When the jinn finally did speak his voice was raspy like the hiss of a snake. “You have three wishes that I can grant, choose them wisely, for there can only be three.” Suddenly Faris felt greedy, why should he only have three? “For my first wish jinn, I wish for a thousand more wishes.” The jinn smiled, his eyes became a little brighter. “Your appetite has earned you nothing, I cannot grant more wishes. Yet, you have lost one. Hopefully you will choose more wisely for your remaining two wishes.” Faris was furious. What a clever trick the jinn had played on him. “Faris! Faris!” His mother was calling from the next street. The jinn had vanished, Faris ran home for dinner.
That night Faris lay in his room, trying to think about what else he might need of the jinn. He could wish for limitless power, how vague a wish that was though. The jinn was certain to turn that around on him. He could wish to be the most powerful sorcerer, but feared the jinns interpretation. Could the jinn somehow make him evil? Faris decided to do nothing until he knew for sure what to wish for. To take his mind off the whole situation, he decided to practice the vanishing trick that had failed him at the market the other evening. He had done it at least fifty times before, by himself. He picked up a small ball of linen, and forgot what to do next. He simply could not remember the trick. He strained his memory for several minutes, but only became exhausted. He put the ball down and fell fast asleep.
For the next week Faris read the books that Safiy gave him. The books all urged wisdom, and focused on the power of the inner. Faris hardly knew what that meant. Safiy, exhorted Faris to be judicious to others and himself. “You have everything you need to succeed inside you, you have only to believe that it is there to find it.” Faris scoffed, what did Safiy know about it. Faris was searching for something else. Searching for an answer on what he could ask the jinn for. Yet he was distracted, he couldn’t focus on anything for very long. Images of the lamp kept creeping into his mind. He was irritable with everyone, and wished they would let him alone. Safiy watched as Faris skimmed the pages of the most recent book recommendation. Faris’ glazed eyes wandered lazily over the pages, his fingers flipped pages he hadn’t read. Safiy snatched the book away from him. Faris was startled, he hadn’t realized that the old man was observing him. “What are you thinking boy?” asked the old man. Faris couldn’t think of what to say, there really was no logical explanation, he couldn’t explain the jinn. Safiy would think him greedy. He lied, “I was thinking of the spring. The weather is so nice,” Faris commented. Those golden eyes pierced Faris, looked deep into him. They looked through the lie to Faris center. He hoped that Safiy could not read what lie hidden there. Safiy looked suspicious, the troubled; but didn’t say anything.
Faris walked home and thought about everything that had happened. He was so frustrated that he couldn’t get any of his tricks to work anymore. He kicked the dirt as he walked and suddenly had an idea. He would ask the jinn to help him with a trick, all he would need would be one. If he could do that then he knew he would have the confidence to do any of the tricks. He ran home and rubbed the lamp and out came the jinn, looking more robust than Faris remembered. His eyes glinted brown, and his crisp vest seemed to be a burgundy rather than tan of before. “Do jinn’s change wardrobe?” Faris wondered to himself. “I will make my second wish, I wish to be able to do the vanishing ball trick.” Remembering that the jinn had once tricked him he added, “Not just an illusion, but real disappearance.” The jinn’s chest puffed out a little, and he said, “Your wish is my humble command.” He gathered bits of smoke from his arms, and chest. He brushed some bits of smoke from his tan hair, and collected it all into a ball. He rolled the smoke ball tighter and tighter. The smoke ball glowed and solidified, becoming real. The jinn, now looking quite strong, handed the ball to Faris, and retreated into the lamp. Faris turned the ball over in his hands, marveling at the thought that this had just been smoke transformed. The thought mystified him. It felt just like a normal ball though. He focused, held the ball straight out and closed his eyes. He rubbed the ball all over and concentrated all his energy into the ball. He felt the weight in his hands lightening. He opened his eyes already knowing what he would see because he had felt it. The ball was gone, Faris whooped in the air. He knew just what to do now. He grabbed a ball from the corner, and ran to the market.
Faris stood in the midst of the people, he called their attention, and announced his trick.He stood on a basket, and held the ball in front of him. He closed his eyes and rubbed the ball, but couldn’t get his mind to focus on the ball. He tried harder, focusing all his energy on the ball, willing the object to disappear. Yet the weight remained, he knew the ball was still there. He tried again, and again, and again. There was no laughter this time, but Faris could hear feet shuffling away. Faris ran from the market again, through the markets, and alleys. He ran home and rubbed the lamp. The jinn appeared again, gold cuffs on his strong arms. “Master?” he asked. Although the jinn wore a devious smile. “Why would the trick not work in the market?” demanded Faris. The jinn laughed heartily. “Ho-ho, because you only ask to be able to do the trick. You did not ask for the power to do the trick anytime. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. You have one wish left.” The jinn disappeared again. Faris was exhausted, and he realized, famished. He could think of nothing else. He sat to dinner and ate voraciously. His family stared at him, while he picked everyone else’s plate clean. His mother was glad, her boy must be growing, she thought. Although, if she were to be honest with herself, she would notice that his skin seemed a little dull.
Faris was obsessed with the lamp, he could think of nothing else. He went to the maktaba, but could not even look at the books. He could not listen to Safiy. He stared into space, not realizing that Safiy had stopped talking, and was just staring at him. Safiy’s piercing eyes were again analyzing him, this time accentuated with a pucker of sadness about the lids and brows. “Can you listen boy?” Safiy asked, Faris came back to reality, “Of course teacher. What would you have me do.” Safiy sighed, “I have taught you all I can, I see no need to continue our lessons together.” Faris felt like a camel had stepped on his chest. He didn’t understand why the old master was being so unkind to send him away. He left the maktaba, feeling flat. He stumbled home, not really seeing the road.
He fell upon his bed, and lay there feeling numb. His brain was caught up in a flurry. He would need a wish that was jinn proof. The jinn had said before that he had not asked for the power to be able to do the trick, only to be able to do the trick. What did Faris want more than anything? He wanted to be a great sorcerer, the kind who had enough power to do anything they wanted, at any time. That was it! He would ask for nothing more or less than that. He rubbed the lamp, and the Jinn, strong and handsome, popped from the lamp. “Your wish?” he asked. Faris rubbed his hands together, “I wish for the power to do any magic that I desire.” The jinn laughed, his golden cheeks bobbing, and his deep chocolate colored eyes lolling, “Wish granted.” With that the jinn and the lamp vanished from the room in a blaze of fire.
Faris sat on his bed, he didn’t feel any different. He didn’t feel a power coursing through his veins. He decided to lay down and take a nap, he was feeling rather tired. He woke up the next morning and didn’t really feel like doing anything. He sat in bed for most of the day. His mother called the healer, who could find nothing physically wrong with the boy. For all intents and purposes the boy was healthy and the mother should be glad that her son was not sick of boils like so many other boys of the time. No, his malady could be cured by a few lashes on the back, explained the healer. Faris continued this way for months, not really wanting to do anything. He didn’t want to play, or read, or do magic. He didn’t really want to do anything. Worst of all the most wonderful part of Faris, his desire to do magic, was completely gone.
Safiy came to see him, he brought Faris a book. Faris read it disinterestedly. So Safiy brought another, and another. Days, weeks, months, years passed this way. Until one day, when Faris had a thought, “What if I could do magic?” And eventually, . . . he did, without any magical help at all.
Endnote; Reader beware of complacency, for this is a cautionary tale. You lose yourself most when you trust yourself least.