Short Stories

Close Enough to the Truth

The sizzling sun was sparkling in the clear sky like a vibrant oversized ornament. I was walking around the bazaar and was blissfully content. I had the opportunity to browse the market’s various shops and pick out one of the many wondrously unique items, by which I was surrounded, and claim it as my own. After spending half of my day looking for just the right object to catch my eye, I found something that was absolutely perfect. I picked it up and found a merry smile tugging at the corners of my mouth. I stared at the item longingly and just knew that I would soon feature it in one of my stories. After I was certain that I was going to purchase the nick-knack, I traded the appropriate amount of dinars for the object that had so successfully captured my interest.

When I was back in my quaint and cozy hotel room, I sat in my desk chair and unwound the wrappings from my purchase. The beautiful brass lamp showed signs of age. However, instead of causing my newly found marvel to look shabby, the dated look only served to give the oil lamp a sort of distinguished character. I cupped the lamp in my palms, gazing at it with the sort of adoration that a small child might fix upon a snow globe. The sunlight shone through the windows and reflected off of the lamp, casting a bronze tint across the walls of my hotel room.

I carefully stroked the side of the lamp as I tried to determine why it had appealed to me. Suddenly a caramel skinned woman shot forth from the lamp. Her black hair was styled into a bob and she had a mysterious air about her, which was aided by the smoky eye shadow layered over her eyelids, and even more so by the fact that from the waist down she was nothing but a narrow and winding puff of wispy purple smoke.

“Oh my!” I said. I had bought the lamp to inspire a fantasy story of some kind, not because I had actually expected for it to harbor a genie. The genie introduced herself to me, and informed me that she was called Nour because apparently introducing herself was part of the standard genie protocol.

A look of outright shock must have fallen across my face. I can only imagine how I must have looked with dilated pupils and my mouth gaping open. Nour’s only reaction was to giggle, as if I had recited an often told joke that never ceased to be funny.

She explained to me that I had three wishes, which I could redeem whenever I desired. I was eager to make my first wish so I quickly considered all the things I could possibly wish for and realized that the only thing that could have made my day at the bazaar any better would have been someone with whom to share it.

As a writer, there was only one thing I could possibly want. As soon as I had mulled my day over, my choice was made; I just needed to work on how to phrase my request. Though I was hopeful as to the outcome of the wish I planned to make, I had read that genies were tricky and mischievous, so I knew that my wish needed to be stated in a manner that was free of loop holes. “I wish for the ability to bring to life my fictional characters at will, but I still want to be able to control the course their lives take,” I said.

“Ooh, no one has ever wished for that before!” said Nour. A lopsided grin accompanied the shrill statement, and remained plastered on her face as she continued speaking. “I cannot wait to see how this turns out,” she added. After expressing her surprise, Nour paused for a moment as a cunning look crept onto her face. “Are you sure that is what you really want to wish for? Wouldn’t you rather have the ability to create worlds at will? Why settle for just your favorite characters when you can cause their entire world to exist?” she said.  Her attempt at baiting me was obvious, since she strung together an entire series of questions in her overzealousness.
“First of all, I do not desire nearly that much power. I’m sure that if such a wish were fulfilled it would prove to be more of a curse than a blessing,” I began. My inner story seamstress had already begun to reflect on the many possible ways such a wish could go awry. “You’re testing me, aren’t you? You want to see if I’m worthy of any wish at all?” I finished. Nour shrugged nonchalantly as she considered my response, though he face harbored a look of approval.
However, she quickly snapped her fingers, signaling that we were to get back down to business. As she did this, her mercurial temperament caused her mood to change once more and facial features quickly shifted into a physical manifestation of boredom. “Wish granted. You have two more wishes left. Just snap your fingers while thinking about the character you’d like to bring into existence,” she said. The statement was made in a flat monotone and with the attitude of an actress reciting her lines for the thousandth time.
I wasted no time in putting my new found talent to use. The first character that came to mind when I thought about meeting one of my creations was Max the weredog, from one of my earlier novels. Max was an adorable weredog with silky blonde hair and enormous blue eyes. “Max,” I whispered as I snapped my fingers like Nour had instructed, and made an instantaneous decision that I wanted a younger version of the character to appear before me. To my delight, only a moment after I invoked the new powers with which I had just been vested, there was an eleven year old boy standing in front of me. I ruffled the small child’s hair as I smiled comfortingly in his direction, just in case he was confused.

“Mom?” he said. I smiled at him, already charmed by the way his voice came out as a baffled quiver. I knew all about his mother Cora, since I had written about her, noting for the first time that her description resembled my own. I suppose Max had instinctually picked up on the fact that I created him, and processed it in the only way his child like mind would allow. I decided to play along for his benefit.

“Yes, honey,” I said. His assumption was close enough to the truth, after all.

“I love you,” he told me. He wrapped his arms around me in the clumsy but affectionate manner of a small child.

“I love you too dear,” I responded. I always had felt a sort of motherly concern for the young child who would one day grow into a morally upstanding, easy going, and forgiving young man. I proceeded to pick up the small plastic ball I always tossed from hand to hand when I had random bouts of writer’s block and threw it across the room. I knew that Maxwell would take much delight in bounding after it. Due to being a weredog, the child had dog-like-compulsions, which resulted in lots of fun for all involved.

As Max wandered around my hotel room, I thought of another character with whom I would like to converse. Peony came from one of my few realistic fiction novels, which was still a work in progress. She was the comic relief of the book because of her many character quirks. She had Anthophobia, or the fear of flowers. Because of this, she was afraid to leave her house and do everyday things.
“Peony,” I breathed with a snap of my fingers. Suddenly a young woman with curly red hair appeared.

Peony’s confusion showed plainly on her face. “Where am I?” she said. As for Max, the little boy was running around my hotel room chasing the ball, utterly uninterested in the room’s new occupant.

I pondered how to respond, deciding to briefly summarize the situation for her. “You were fictional until now. I wrote about you and I made a wish that caused you to become real.”

Our conversation was interrupted when she saw a potted flower sitting on the hotel room desk and promptly screamed. I swallowed the chuckle fighting to escape the confines of my throat.

“Why did you give me an irrational fear of flowers?” she said. Her words were partnered with a glare that was trained on me. Now that I was looking up at the character who I would have previously described as wonderfully quirky, I felt particularly cruel. Not only had I given this character an odd affliction, in an attempt at irony I had also named her after a flower.

“Well, I remember reading about an Emperor who invited guests over at his house and killed them by having his servants drop so many flower petals from the ceiling of the room that they were all crushed to death. This made me want to create a character that was afraid of flowers,” I reasoned, trying to justify my actions.

“Fix me,” Peony said. She paused for a moment before adding, “I want a new name as well.”

“Fine,” I said. Seeing the problems I had imposed upon a character who had now become an actual person had induced a stress related headache, and I massaged my temple as I let out a prolonged sigh. I was beginning to question my wish to bring fiction into the real world for the first time, and I slumped down into the desk chair positioned in front of my computer and considered therapy for Peony.

The amount of fun that I was having decreased by every minute that ticked by. Peony was pacing the hotel room ranting while raving incessantly about the insensitivity behind her name. For some reason, Max had started growling. Frankly, I was starting to get tired of all of the chaos. I had only wanted my characters to become real, so that the darling characters about whom I frequently daydreamed could keep me company. Writing is a solitary profession and I will admit to getting lonely at times.

I decided to forge ahead with my plan and try again with one more character, in the hopes that they would all mange to keep each other entertained. I went to the window and shut the curtains before summoning one last character into the mix.
My final character came from another fantasy novel that I had written. Lily was a vampire and had a resilience that I admired. No matter what plot twists I threw her way she always managed to do the right thing in the face of adversity.  She also had a sense of style that even I envied. It was easy enough dressing my characters, but I had a harder time choosing outfits for myself. I had always wanted to go shopping with Lily, just to see what articles of clothing she might recommend for me.

“Lily,” I said. I paired the name with another snap of my fingers. An ivory skinned young woman on the very border of adulthood stood in front of me. She had straight dark hair and even darker eyes. Before she could say a single word I explained to her the very same thing I had explained to Peony.

“Okay,” she began. Things were not off to a good start, her voice had already taken on a combative tone and she had had only said one word thus far. “Why did you kill off my family?” she asked, her hands placed firmly upon her slender hips.

“To further the plot,” I responded. My eyes were unable to meet her gaze and instead darted around the room. I felt as though I was trying to justify a murder, which essentially I was. “It’s not like they were real.” The excuse sounded hollow, even to my own ears.

“And you felt that it was necessary to make me a self-loathing vampire? My sire killed my family because he wanted to make me a vampire, so the whole thing is entirely my fault for . . . appealing to that monster.” Lily’s tone had taken on a bitter tone and her features were set into a look of revulsion reserved for me and me alone.

I observed her and was flooded with guilt for the pain I had unintentionally caused.  I considered how to respond to her accusations, eventually thinking it best to counsel her through her issues. I had created her after all, so maybe I could help her come to terms with the loss I had caused. It was the least I could do.

“Lily, it was never your fault. You aren’t a bad person. There’s no reason for you to hate yourself. You honestly don’t deserve it,” I said. “They weren’t ever real in the first place so you didn’t actually lose them.” I felt as though I were pleading with her to understand.  Lily rushed towards me with her fangs flashing.  I stared at her, incredulous.  My eyes had to be lying. “You aren’t about to bite me, are you? You never bit anyone the entire time I wrote about you!” My words had no effect on her, and she continued to advance towards me while taunting me with the terrifying sight of her fangs. I began to type frantically, hoping that I would have enough time to churn out the words that would cause her to stop. Suddenly, she froze in place.

I finally understood that it was not fair to my characters to suddenly make them real when the experiences that had shaped them were entirely fabricated. How could I expect for them to tell the difference between fantasy and reality, since their memories were of events that had never really transpired? Besides, I had too much control over them for them to truly make their own autonomous decisions, and it would be impossible for them to cope and to blend seamlessly into the real world. More importantly, it wasn’t safe. Bearing this in mind, I made the hardest decision of my entire life.

I fixed a teary eyed gaze upon Nour, who was sitting with her legs neatly crossed on the very edge of the queen sized hotel room bed, which was covered in bedding that was patterned in a gaudy floral print. “I wish that you would send them all back where they belong,” I said. Nour snapped and all of my characters were engulfed in a thick cloud of foggy smoke. Suddenly the smoke and all of the characters I had grown to love were gone.

“That’s your second wish. You only have one more.” Her words were unnecessarily simplistic and she offered no words of comfort, though I was still mourning the unhappy conclusion of my first wish. The uninterested tone she had been using all day was beginning to grate upon my nerves.

“I wish that I’ll never be plagued with writer’s block again.” The wish was so simple that there was no chance of it going awry, and once I had depleted my third wish, she would no longer be around to regard me with her apathy.
She winked at me, allowing herself one more of her quick bursts of emotion. “What a perfect wish!”

“Goodbye Nour and thank you.” My words were sincere. Though things hadn’t turned out quite the way I had planned, but meeting my characters had been an unforgettable adventure.

She was then sucked backwards into the lamp, lazily waving goodbye. When I returned home from my vacation I mailed the genie’s lamp to a friend, since I no longer had any need to keep it for myself. By this point in time, I am a pro at wish making. I’ll give you some advice, just in case you ever find yourself in possession of a genie’s lamp. The trick is to keep one’s wishes simple. It is harder for them to spiral out of control that way.

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