“Bye!” I yell back as I walk out of the store. I can’t wait to get home. I’ve just survived a freaking twelve-hour shift. I must have been insane. I know I need the money but this is really ridiculous.
As I walk around the corner I childishly flip off the store, ‘fuck you’ local supermarket. Putting my middle fingers proudly high and wagging them up and down in the air. I feel satisfied as if I’ve done it to my Manager’s face, of course I haven’t actually done this because that would have been retarded. I am not in the financial position to go running around flipping off my employer.
“Shit, I’ve wasted my life”, I think, as I pull out my pack of Benson and Hedges.
I shuffle through my back pockets and find my lighter. It’s quite an old lighter made from pure silver that I got dirt cheap from a Gypsy at a bar a few years back. On the front of it is engraved the sign of Macrocosm. It’s one of my most impressive possessions, I am weirdly fond of it, sometimes I can’t sleep without it. It’s a weird lucky charm. Perhaps that’s why even though I know I can make a lot of money selling the thing, I never have.
I sigh, take a long drag and watch as the smoke rises into the cold sky. “The sun has set by now. The night is on the prowl, he’s got his stars glaring down at us all, and his moon following us wherever we walk”. I whisper to myself, guess I’m feeling poetic this evening.
Soon I’ll be home, I’ll jump onto my bed and sleep for five hours before I’ll be out of bed again, running to another shift at my other part-time job. Damn, am I only twenty-one, it feels like I have worked for a lifetime. Kids my age are at University and thinking about the future, or well into their apprenticeships, some of them have families already. What do I have? I have nothing. I was kicked out of my house when I was eighteen. I was never good at school, I’d already stopped attending by sixteen after I flunked my GCSEs. Now I’m just living in a shitty little apartment, in a weird neighbourhood. I am single, heck the only romance I get my way is one of my creepy colleagues staring at my ass from time to time. If I didn’t care about my job I would have given that pervert one serious beating by now.
To summarise, I’m lonely.
I take another long drag on my cigarette and turn down a dark alleyway. I know the saying, the one that says if you’re walking home at night don’t go down dark alleyways, as you never know whom or rather what might approach you, but with my sorry excuse of a life I am long past caring about such things.
As I walk I pull my coat collar higher up around my neck, there’s quite an icy breeze trying to invade my personal space. Maybe I should buy a scarf? I guess I’ll do it tomorrow. My hands are also cold. I rub them together but the only warmth I really have is from that cigarette.
“Smoke and I, a lifelong companion, he’ll even bury me, what a sweetheart.”
I laugh at my own morbid thoughts; my voice echoing out. There are no streetlights here, as my voice echoes it feels like there could be a crowd of people laughing around me, laughing at me, and I just can’t see them. Well isn’t that eerie.
My cig is but a stub now and I throw it onto the floor and stamp it out with my foot. I shuffle through my pockets yet again and pull out my packet of Benson and Hedges, take out a slim cigarette and my lighter. As I flick on it, the spark catching alight, the dark alley is illuminated and I see a face staring at me, only a hairsbreadth away from my own.
I scream, of course, I’m a coward through and through. I take a few steps back, preparing to run to the safety of the store when I feel a hand on my elbow firmly holding me there. In that moment of terror, all kinds of thoughts and horror stories go through my mind.
“Hey. Hey, don’t run off. I don’t mean any harm. I was just curious.” Says a deep, rather soothing voice.
As the moon comes out of the clouds I see a young man, perhaps around my age or younger, he looks like he’s been through the wringer. His clothes are basically rags and he smells like he hasn’t had a shower in years. Piss and beer bottles, that type of smell. From the grime on his face, the only part that made me aware he’s a person are these bright blue eyes that shine out like freaking floodlights. He has pretty eyes. I mean… well, they are pretty…I don’t mean it in any other way.
This man with the blue eyes, who is holding onto my elbow tight, is using his other hand to point at my lighter, specifically the symbol of Macrocosm.
“That. Do you know it is the sign of Macrocosm? Fludd said that Man is the microcosm of the universe, the head of man is the Empyreal, the chest is in the ethereal heaven, and the human belly is the elementary substance. It’s an old sign that I haven’t seen in a very long time, makes me nostalgic.”
His blue eyes stare at me intensely as his finger runs slowly up and down the design on my lighter. To be honest I am freaking out. Perhaps this man is on drugs or something, with the way he looks and smells I won’t put it past him.
I nod and say, “yes, it is the sign of Macrocosm, you’re pretty smart, aren’t ya.” I smile at him. With people on drugs you never patronise them or treat them like they’re crazy, he could get violent any second. Just smile and nod.
“Say, you look like you deserve yourself a treat, you look hungry.” I shuffle through my back pockets until I find my wallet and take out a £20 note, I fold it and put it into his hand. His fingers are ice cold, damn, and real skinny. I feel bad so I take out another £10, even though I don’t have enough money for myself, but heck street kids or runaways like this need all the help they can get. I’ll think about what I’ll do for food another time. I press the extra £10 into the same outstretched hand.
I expect the guy to run away after this, I mean he got thirty quid off a stranger, he must be freaking ecstatic. Maybe he’ll run off to his little mates and then before I get home I’ll be ambushed and attacked, but so what, this is my act of kindness for the year.
Yet instead of all that he shakes his head at me.
“No, I can’t accept this. It is too much.” He grabs my hand and puts the money back into it and squeezes my fingers into a fist around it and smiles at me. It’s a really big gorgeous smile. I feel my heart pitter-patter and clench and it reminds me of why my Dad kicked me out of the house. It’s because other men made my heart flutter.
Even so, this was a bit much, seriously Heart are you fluttering for some street man just because he smiles at you and gave you back your money? I must be going crazy. I, Mason Daniels, have finally lost the plot.
I find myself shoving the notes back in his hands and muttering, “I would feel better if you take it.”
His blue eyes flicker like flames and look me up and down. “You’re a good person, and you have a very good heart.” Then he pauses, his fingers caressing the money. “However, I can’t take this for free, so I must repay this kindness…. but I have nothing… except…. then I have three things I can offer you.”
“Yes, I have three wishes I can give you. Wish any three things you want and I will do my best to make your wishes come true, however, keep in mind that if your wish exceeds the value of the £30 you’ve offered me, then you will have to give me something in exchange to equal the extra cost of your wish. In that way, we will have an equivalent exchange.”
I feel my head spinning. What is going on, what on earth is this guy talking about?
“So basically you want to give me something in return for the money, but you have nothing, so instead you’ll offer me three wishes, like I.OU’s but they can’t exceed the value of £30 or else I am going have to pay that cost.”
He nods, “Something like that.”
This guy is seriously weird, but it won’t be wrong to tease him a little, he is asking for it.
“Okay, then I want one pack of Gold king size Benson and Hedges to appear in front of me right now,” I say jokingly, expecting him to run to the store to buy some, that way by the time he gets back I would be well on my way home, and then at least after his purchase he would still have around £20 for himself.
I laugh, it is an ingenious plan.
Then the guy outstretches his hand and a Gold king size pack of Benson and Hedges falls out of the sky and right into his palm like magic. A second later an ASDA receipt flutters down into his other palm. “That was £10.24, you now have only £19.76 to spend on the rest of your wishes.”
My jaw drops open, my pupils dilate and drool begins to leak from my mouth. No way. No freaking way is this happening. I just want to complete my journey home and not meet some freaking Dynamo. There must be some trick to that. Maybe he pick-pocketed me, however, I am still holding my only pack of cigs in my right hand, and on the ASDA receipt he is holding up, in the right-hand corner is the date and the exact second, he bought it. I look at my watch it is twenty-one past eight, only a minute after the time on the receipt. I snatch it from his hand, staring at it intensely. I’m at a loss, this can’t really be happening, can it?
How? I nearly say the word out loud, but then it crosses my mind, maybe I’m being scammed, maybe he wants me to be impressed and wish for bigger things and then when my next wish goes over the value some thugs will come out from somewhere, forcing me to pay up or something. This must be some sick joke. Yet as I look around, there doesn’t seem to be anyone else other than that young man who is now smiling at me innocently as butter would melt in his mouth. Can it really be magic? I want to believe.
This time I should be careful but at the same time, I should make sure it’s magic, right? What should I wish for? I got it.
“I wish that you were all cleaned up and nice looking!” I declare boldly. My logic being that if I am being punked or targeted then a cig pack could easily be ready and a receipt prepared. Maybe this kid knew my shifts and my routes home and had planned it all in advance, but with this wish, unless he magically transforms in front of me, there is no way he can fool me.
“Oh.” The guy has a surprised look on his face. I want to laugh, I feel proud of myself that I’ve bested him, but then he says. “Wow, you made a wish for me, you really are too kind.”
As he says this his clothes seem to emit some steam, the grime and dirt on them fade bit by bit until they are bright and look practically brand new. They even seem ironed. His shoes now look polished. His black hair that was shaggy and overgrown prior is now nicely styled and cut into a low fade with a long fringe. All the dirt on his face and body dissipates with a playful pop. He is now an extremely handsome young man. Other than his alluring blue eyes he has very even unblemished skin, he has a straight pixie type of nose, his brows are thick and arched in a mischievous way. He looks like a model walking straight out of a magazine. I find myself suddenly unable to look at him straight, I find my heart pounding. What the hell is he?
“Thank you so much, it has been such a long time since I’ve felt so refreshed. Now you have £5 worth of wishes to make. Going to the laundrette” he gave me a few receipts, “was only £3. There was a public bath house for the homeless, I went to it for free, but getting my clothes ironed at a dry cleaner and even a haircut was more expensive than I thought. I got the hair cut at a discount though, trust me, it was an apprentice barber that did it.” He gave me a huge grin. “What do you think, do I look good?”
I can’t speak. I’m too stunned. All I can do is give a slight nod and hang my head in defeat.
“Nothing,” I mumble
I look up and we stare at each other. I don’t even know what I should wish for.
“Say, how much is it to wish to know your name?”
His eyes widen. “Silly, that’s free of course.”
“Ohhh… then…ummm, may I humbly know what your name is?”
“Whoa, you don’t have to be so polite.” He pats me on the shoulder. “My name is Fraus, a pleasure to meet you. What’s your name?”
Fraus? Is it German? I remember reading somewhere that Fraus is Latin for mischief. It’s a nice name.
“Errr… My name is Mason, Mason Daniels.”
After I tell him his smile gets ten times bigger, impossibly big and he shakes my hand fervently, pumping it up and down.
I can’t help myself, my curiosity is at its peak and the question slips out. “Ummm…Fraus…What are you exactly?”
In response, he slowly stops shaking my hand and outstretches his pinkie. “You have to promise never to tell.” I extend my pinkie automatically, and like children, we swear on it.
“I am a Jinn, a good Jinn though. I help people and grant wishes.”
I stare at him, I can’t believe it, I love my old myths and legends, is he telling me he is a Genie. Seriously?
“Wow? It’s nothing to be proud of.” He proclaims bitterly, “Currently people aren’t as faithful as they used to be and are less kind and a lot more cautious. Unlike what you think Jinn can only exchange one thing for another to make a wish. We don’t have the power to create something from nothing. In the old times when living was more difficult many people required our help, but in this modern era, I’m a member of a dying and forgotten race. I can’t live without making wishes, yet no one wants their wishes made.” He moans, there is a deep sadness in those blue eyes. He sighs a weary and heavy sigh.
“Then why don’t you make wishes for me.” My face went bright red, the words come out before I can stop them. “I mean it doesn’t have to be money, right? What if you just came home with me and in exchange for helping around my house and stuff I give you a place to live or something…”
What was I saying?!!!! I want to dig a hole straight to china. I am so embarrassed.
“If you wish for it. If you wish to have me take care of your home and then in equal exchange you let me live there…then that is perfectly fine!” He is beaming at me, his eyes bright.
“Then…then.” What am I saying, this is crazy…but did I have anything to lose? “Then my third wish is for you to live with me and help me until I die.”
Huh…what did I just wish for? That wasn’t what I was supposed to wish for? That was basically a marriage proposal, am I crazy. He’s going to freak. I close my eyes scared to see his reaction to my words.
Then I feel arms around my waist. He’s hugging me. “Thank you, thank you so much! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay your kindness. I’ll spend a lifetime, making your wish come true.” he whispers in my ear.
I can’t believe what I’m hearing.
“Well then,” he says, tugging my elbow. “Let’s go home.”
I find my mind frozen in disbelief. Even as we walk through more dark alleyways together, then onto a well-lit street and into my building, I still can’t believe it. Even as we get into the elevator together and the journey home is complete as I turn my key inside the door to my apartment. I still can’t believe it. There must be some catch to this. What if I’ve walked into a trap? Have I sold my soul to a demon?
He smiles at me brightly, “So Mason,” he asks, “Is this our home?”
When he smiles like that though, I stop caring about the consequences. I smile brightly in return.
“Yes, this is our home.”