I will not die here. Lisette pulled her knees to her chest, encircling them with her long arms as her gaze moved slowly about the space. The inside of Azhar’s bottle differed greatly from the lavish close quarters depicted in popular stories about genies she had read as a child. Instead of an area drenched with vivid colors and lavish furnishings, the bottle’s pit was devoid of bright tones. Where she imagined plush pillows and heavy drapery, there was hardness saturated with gloomy grays. So, Azhar was being truthful when he stated the bottle was his prison and not his home. She drew her bent legs closer against her curvy body as a conversation she once had with Azhar reentered her mind.
“Is it true what they say about genies?”
He had turned his deep violet eyes on her; they glowed brightly as his gaze slid over her caramel tinged hands. “Yes, unable to kill our masters, we at times have resorted to burning their hands.”
She pulled her gaze away from his and slid her hands into the front pockets of her skirt. “That’s an awful thing to do to a person.”
“The hands,” Azhar said thoughtfully, “Are rarely burned to the point where they drop off.”
Lisette let out a grunt. “That doesn’t make it any less awful.”
“I understand why you would think that is true. But do you see our side of it? We only do this because it is the touch of human hands that beckon us genies from our cells or, as your breed likes to call them, bottles. An act which signals an opportunity for us to bargain with you. Our new master. I grant you three or four wishes, and in return you only have to grant my one wish.”
Azhar had held up his end of the bargain. For he had granted her wish for a home, another wish for her to have someone to share that home with, and her final wish for a child to complete her family. Yet when it came time for her to grant his single wish, she had refused to utter the words he had urged her to say. She had no choice but to deny him what he so desperately wanted for the sake of her kind.
If only I knew what he desired before I wished for any of it.
Lisette bit down hard onto her bottom lip a move that yanked her back in to the moment. The dire reality of the situation was like canine teeth sinking deep into her flesh causing her body to quake with fear. Azhar’s scent , sweet and smoky, was strong, overpowering. She rubbed her arms hoping to keep his odor from seeping into her pores. She did not want to carry any part of him with her. As she rubbed, she noticed her hands. She brought them up so that the little light that filtered in could act as a spotlight on them. When she was seven her mother insisted she take up piano. She detested having to devote so much time to learning the notes.
Yet now the thought of never feeling the smooth, ivory keys beneath her fingertips ever again forced tears to well up in her dark eyes.
As his master, she knew Azhar could not kill her, just maim her. But she also knew this rule did not extend to her loved ones. Whenever her thoughts turned to her husband and child, she would steer them in another direction like seeking a way out of his bottle. Unfolding her legs, she braced herself against the curve of the bottle as she pulled herself into a standing position. Squinting, she looked directly at the beam of light filtering down. Her gaze moved onto the surrounding walls, which contained crude shapes that jutted out. Lifting her right foot onto one of the lower juts, she wrapped her fingers around two of the higher placed ones. Just as she moved toward trying to climb out a searing, tugging pain crept across her face.
Her hands slipped from the juts as instinctively they moved to touch on the fiery skin of her cheeks. She let out a moan as her body connected with the hard floor of the bottle. The tugging sensation intensified. Her fingers were pressed firmly against her face while the eyes blinked wildly as she tried to comprehend what was happening to her. The skin under her hands cooled as the fiery feeling died down. Slowly, she let her fingers slip from covering her cheeks as the tugging, pulling sensation also edged away. Her stare roamed the tight space as she sought out any reflective surface. Spotting one, her hands were quick to grasp it but slowed as they brought the rectangular object nearer to her face. A lump rose in her throat. She swallowed pushing it back down as she closed her eyes. With the mirror directly in front of her she drew in a deep breath before raising the lids of her eyes. Her full lips parted as the breath was released. Nothing appeared wrong with her face. No hideous burn marks as she had envisioned. As relief washed over her, a piercing sound cut through the silence.
Her body jerked, and the shattering sound of glass hitting the floor mingled momentarily with that of the offensive, rumbling noise. She tried lifting her arms but could not. Her body felt as if it were being crushed under the force of a great wave. Just when she thought she could no longer bear it, the pressure was released. She blinked and no longer was she down in the pit of Azhar’s bottle.
Instead, she found herself in a familiar place. The dining room of her home.
A near exact replica of herself was seated at the table next to her beloved husband. Her infant child cradled in his arms. She attempted a step and found that her body was frozen. He had made her into a living statue. She could see her flesh was ashen in color, like those angelic statuettes in the church graveyard. The eyes of the replica were violet in color, and she understood now why her face had felt hot and why it seemed as if it were being pulled off. Azhar had concealed himself under a mask of her likeness and made her invisible to all eyes except for his piercing, violet ones. An innocent family meal is what he used to draw all that she loved most to him. Her gaze left his flaming eyes and went to where the entrance was. Except for a single door leading to a hallway, the formal dining room was closed off to the rest of the house. She had to close that door. Once confined to a small space Azhar would be powerless and his body would revert to smoke, which his bottle would beckon back, imprisoning him once again.
“Now will you speak the words, Lisette?” His voice was inside her head forcing her attention back on him.
A pool of tears formed in her eyes as her heart ached. “No.” The single word did not slide easily off her tongue. Though barely a whisper it landed hard on the ears of Azhar, angering him. The mask of her likeness he wore fell away as his body reverted to fire. Helplessly, she watched as the flesh of her husband bubbled and fell from his bones. She could do nothing as the pain stricken cries of her only child filled the space as its life was being consumed by Azhar’s angry blaze.
Once they were reduced to nothing more than ash swirling about her, Azhar lifted his spell off her. She knew he expected her to fall upon the floor, weeping over her great loss. Instead, she ignored the scent of charred flesh in her nostrils, the taste of her husband and child’s ashes in her mouth, and focused on the image of them burning to death against the genie’s body. Her aching heart knocked hard against her rib cage as she ran for the door.
She made it out of the room and had her hands on the door poised to push it shut when Azhar realized what was happening. Within seconds, her hands began to burn. The fire started at her fingertips and ran up toward her wrists. She screamed but kept her flaming hands positioned on the door. Using her whole body, she shoved the door. It closed with a loud thud trapping Azhar inside. The flames threatening to engulf her hands were quelled. She heard screams but did not know if they were hers or Azhar’s as the bottle reclaimed him.
When help arrived she insisted no one touch the beautifully, jeweled adorned bottle lying amongst the ashes of her family. Later with her charred hands wrapped in gauze, she crudely handled a pair of tongs, using them to grip the bottle. After dropping it a few times she managed to get the genie’s bottle inside a rectangular, wooden box. With her elbow she slammed the lid shut then stepped aside to watch as her sister secured the lock. That night they walked onto the end of a long pier.
As her sister threw the wooden box into the water the aching in Lisette’s heart eased a bit. “For the sake of human kind, I hope the sea never lets go of Azhar.”
Tanya Yvonne is a YA fantasy writer who helms the site: TanyaYvonne.blogspot.com, which contains author interviews (Gigi Amateau, Tina Wells) and other gems concerning the wonderful world of publishing. She holds a BA in English from Old Dominion University (literature and secondary English education were her minors). Her debut novel is ‘Violet Eyes’ and the short story below is actually its prologue. Tanya ends each of her blog posts with the signature tagline, Happy reading, writing or whatever:!) In the past, she has written a blog post for radicalparenting.com and most recently for the site Writers and Authors.
Interesting Fact: She has a near alarming addiction to chocolate covered almonds and cashews.