Blue Bottled Belly Dancers and other fine myths
The one thing I never realized about Istanbul was the incredible smell of the place. The air is ripe with every smell known to man. Spices and bodies, breads, ancient dust, rich perfumes, fish, and flowers, it writhes its way into your nose and straight to the brain. A solid wave of smells.
I arrived in the city early, checked into the hotel, dropped off my bags and immediately headed out again to explore. The stalls and streets called to me. I spent the day wandering amongst the smells of the Spice Bazaar, taking in everything. It took me a few tries at haggling before I seemed to get the hang of it; soon I was carrying an armload of rugs, fruits, a bottle of wine that had supposedly been aged fifty years. I stood in yet another carpet walled booth, eyeing several small bottles that lay in a basket. One had the most beautiful cobalt blue color, white swirls patterning and mixing with the deep shade.
"How much?" I asked the stallholder, who sported a large black mustache and had been watching me browse. That in itself was somewhat unusual, as most of the vendors Iíd dealt with tended to hound you, forcing things into your sight.
"One million, two hundred thousand."
I stared at him for a moment. Then did a quick mental computation, oh, eight dollars and fifty cents. "Thatís too much, one million." Which came to about seven bucks.
"One million, two hundred thousand." He countered, looking somewhat harried.
"One million, thatís all."
He glanced at the woman tending the register then shrugged. "One million."
I hid a grin, it seemed like a bargain to me. Setting down my packages I picked up the bottle. It was heavier than it looked. It was roughly the size of a soda bottle, fluted and curved at the top, a dark cork plugging its contents. I shook it a little, there seemed to be something in it, perhaps some ancient brew for an unnamed malady.
I dug in my pocket and produced the currency, grinning at my new prize. It was time to go back to the hotel and relax, examine my new treasures and perhaps even eat.
On the way back to the hotel, I nearly stopped and joined the mob surrounding one of the fish vendors. They were grilling fresh fish, stuffing it into loaves of crusty bread with sweet onion and spices; the smell almost drove me mad with hunger. This was easy, considering Iíd yet to stop and have something. But I made it back to the hotel, taking off my shoes and ordering up room service.
Room service showed up within a half hour, bustling in with a laden cart and more enticing aromas. I shoved a fistful of lira into the waiting boyís hand and turned my attention to the feast, barely registering the closing door. Switching on the TV, I spent the next hour picking food from the tray and oggling the news. I was glad to turn the thing off and stare out the window instead.
I was leaning half way out the window and watching as the sun drenched the city with the last of the daylight. When I remembered the bottle I had bought. My last purchase of the day. Leaving the window open to let in the coming night, I picked up the bottle and went to the bathroom to look at it.
The lights in the bathroom were the brightest, and I didnít know if I would want to be rinsing out whatever sloshed inside of the blue bottle. I wiped away the dust covering the striking cobalt color, and held it up to the light, but I couldnít seem to see into it, the milky white lines that caressed and webbed their way across the bottle, also blocked any decent view into the thing.
I decided I was just going to have to take my chances, and started loosening the cork. What would it be? Some ancient perfume? Perhaps a nice alcoholic beverage from the past?
The cork came out with a soft pop, and dust was exhumed. I coughed and waved my hand to clear the air, when it encountered something solid. Opening my eyes, I found myself staring at a bare chest, a male bare chest. I looked up. The most deep, cobalt blue eyes met mine, and I fainted.
Itís not every day you pull a cork out of a bottle and have something other then a bad smell come out. When I came to, I was lying on my bed. The television was on, playing the news again. I blinked a few times, wondering if I had dreamed the whole thing. I must have, I mean, people do not appear out of bottles. If they did, theyíd be a genie... I lifted my head and looked down at the floor in front of the TV.
Leaning against the foot of the bed was... what? A genie? A man? A trick of my senses? I cautiously prodded him with my toe, nearly leaping off the bed when he turned around and glared. He certainly looked the part of a genie. Baggy, gauzy pants, wild hair, startling eyes, chiseled chest muscles. He was actually gorgeous. More so than anyone I had ever seen before.
"Do you speak English?" I asked him, looking at his eyes for confirmation that heíd understood what I had just said. His glare if anything, seemed to get worse. "Itís just, Iíd like to know how the hell you got into my bathroom... " I trailed off and watched as he stood up. He was tall, taller than me, not like Iím very tall. But this guy was huge, at least six feet, maybe even seven. But he was so evenly proportioned, so perfectly built.
"I speak all languages." He said in a strangely accented voice, and I believed him.
"Well would you mind telling me how you got into my bathroom?" he gave me a look, like I was crazy for asking, "itís just Iím not sure how you got in there, but maybe you should go?" Not that I really wanted him to leave, he was so beautiful, like a fine painting, like wonderful music that you must hear more than once.
"I cannot leave until you make your wishes." He said in perfect seriousness.
I stared in astonishment at him. It had to be a dream. Genies didnít exist. They were just stories, fables, not true. Right? "Tth-three wishes? Right?" He nodded. "But... thatís just a story, thereís no such thing as a genie."
"Iím a Djinni, not a genie. And you have three wishes before Iím free to sink into oblivion again."
He sounded so... so dead when he said that. As if heíd said it millions of times before, and he didnít know how heíd managed to say it again. "Well, I have time right? I donít have to wish right away do I?" He shook his head slowly from side to side.
"You have all the time you need."
All the time in the world, I bet. Simple as a wish. A wish... no. Three wishes. "Do you have a name?"
He looked surprised; maybe youíre not supposed to ask a Djinni its name?
"Heero huh?" I reached out a hand, which he ignored; I shoved it into his large hand anyway, shaking it. "Duo, Duo Maxwell."
Having three wishes can seem like a dream come true. Unless youíre like me, and have read all those old stories and fables, drunk in Arabian Nights like a sponge. I knew what having three wishes meant. It meant I would most likely be tricked either by the Djinni or myself into messing it all up. So how to wish wisely?
Heero in the meantime had settled onto the floor again, I noticed after a while that he was idly flicking through the channels. Then I noticed he wasnít using the remote. I was still sitting on the bed, so I slithered down to the end of it and leaned over his shoulder to check. He wasnít using a remote; he didnít even move his hands. It seemed like a neat trick to me.
I tapped his shoulder and he turned his head to glare at me. He didnít seem to be a very happy guy. "Heero, I know you canít help me with a lot of things, maybe you donít even want to. Iíve read about geni... Djinni, you all donít seem to be a very nice lot. Tricky even." This didnít seem to win him over any; his eyes narrowed slightly, his mouth thinned. I felt a line of sweat trickle down the back of my neck. "I was wondering, what uh... " his eyes were boring a hole into my head, "W-what can you do for me? I mean, three wishes is all well and good, but what if I donít want them? Can you just take them back?"
"No." He growled out, and turned to stare at the television again. I let out a silent sigh and sat up. This needed some thinking.
Of course, Iíd thought about what I would do with three wishes. Hasnít everyone? But to actually have them was something completely different. To know I could wish for anything... "Can I wish for more wishes?" I asked, though I was almost positive the answer would be no.
I nodded. Ok, some things are true to myth. "Do you have a list of what I canít wish for? If you do, that might narrow it down some." He was glaring at me again.
"Why donít you make a wish, and if you cannot do it, I will tell you?" He said it slowly, as if I were a complete idiot.
I leaned back on the bed, stretching my legs out. Then I collapsed, and stared at the ceiling. The Djinni thought I was a fool. I probably was. No mortal can make a good wish without screwing it up, and what if he twisted my words and muddled up my wish? "Heero?" I sat up again and looked at the back of his unruly head of hair. "Will you try and twist the words of my wishes? I mean, if I say something like, and donít you dare think of this as a wish Iím actually making... What if I wished for a sandwich? Would you ask what kind? Or play a dirty trick and give me something like a shit sandwich?"
Heíd turned around by the time I finished and gave me this look. I couldnít tell what it meant, but it almost looked like mild surprise. I waited for him to respond, wondering what he could possibly be thinking. I wondered how old he was, what heíd seen.
"I would," he paused and nearly looked guilty, "play foul tricks on you."
"Really? Thatís kind of cruel." I shrugged and dismissed it. "So I have to be really careful what to wish for and how I word it?"
He nodded, finally ignoring the TV and facing me. "Will you do anything for me without my wishing for it?" I asked.
His eyes narrowed again, and he started to shake his head no. I held up a hand. "No, I didnít mean it like that, I think. I meant," I fished around for what exactly I had meant, "What if you saw a bus speeding towards me? Would you save me? Or let it hit me? I mean, do you have any loyalties I should know about? Do you think youíre evil?" His eyes had widened again, he didnít seem a very talkative person... Djinni.
His mouth opened and shut a few times and then he settled down against the foot of the bed again, stretching his long legs out in front of himself.
With his back to me, I wondered once more, what his thoughts were. I crawled down to the end of the bed and leaned over his shoulder. "Listen, I donít know what to do with three wishes. I mean, itís the kind of thing everyone dreams about," I chuckled, "itís the kind of thing people wish for. But I donít want to screw up the world, so maybe you could help me?" I noticed my breath was ruffling a bit of the hair at the base of his head and leaned back up onto my elbows, sighing. "What would you wish for?"
He turned around and I nearly found myself sighing again, only this time at the intense cobalt of is eyes, just like the bottle, so deep... I blinked a few times, shaking myself.
"I cannot grant my own wishes." He sounded almost sad when he said it, or perhaps resigned.
"Well, if you could, what would you wish for?"
He sat there, staring into my eyes. It was like heíd never really thought about it before. Maybe he hadnít.
"I would wish to be mortal." Now it was my turn to stare at him.
"Why would you want to be mortal? We die. Or hadnít you noticed? I mean we suffer a lot; we get hungry and have to sleep and stuff. Do you have any of that happening to you as a Djinni?" Iíll admit, I was very curious. Itís not everyday you get to ask a real live Djinni questions.
"No." His eyes went sad. "No" He said again, as if for emphasis.
I waited for more but he didnít seem to have anything else to add. "So why do you want to be mortal? Whatís it like being," I gestured helplessly, "being what you are?"
I leaned my head over his shoulder and rested my chin on one hard, muscled pectoral. He didnít seem to mind. "Tell me what itís like. You said we have all the time in the world. Or are you all set to get back into that bottle. Is there something in there I should know about? Maybe a whole other world?" He had turned his head when I put my chin against him, and as I talked, heíd just watched me, something like bewilderment on his face.
"Have humans changed so much?" He asked softly.
"From what? When was the last time you were... um, out?" I shifted on the bed and slid down onto the floor next to him, leaning my head back against the bed next to his.
"My last master was alive in the time of the Huns."
"Wow. The Huns? You mean like Attila?"
He nodded. "Yes, my last master." I blinked at him in astonishment.
"You were Attilaís geni...Djinni?" I pulled my legs up and hugged my knees. "Wow, what was it like?"
"Very dirty and there was a lot of horse shit."
I glanced at him sharply. Was that actually a joke? But his face remained immobile. "I wish you would tell me about yourself." Then I froze. His eyes focused on my face, and I felt myself start to blush. I wanted to smack myself, but remained frozen in place by my own stupidity.
"Your wish is granted."