Be Careful What You Wish For…

lanterns

This is another story that popped into my head almost fully formed. I couldn’t think of a title at first but I think this suits it rather well.

Goliath

I am very good at waiting; I have had a lot of practice. A hundred years is but a week to me, a year a mere blink of an eye. I have been in existence for time beyond measure. Although I am trapped, I will wait. Someone will release me. They always do.

Tim and Cassie parked the car in the driveway, stretching their limbs as they got out, undoing the knots in their muscles as a result of the long journey. His grandfather’s house was much as Tim remembered it; large, built of sandstone and strangely neutral. He visited regularly as a child, once being left for three weeks in the summer when his mother and father decided to tour Europe. However, despite knowing the house well, Tim couldn’t say that he’d ever warmed to it. He didn’t dislike it but conversely he never felt completely comfortable there either. The design of the house added to its air of inscrutability; large, stone lintels over recessed windows giving the impression of hooded eyes.

The house was an ideal playground for a child, with long corridors and unused rooms, perfect for hide and seek if he’d have had anyone to play with. He spent many hours arranging imaginary jousting tournaments along the upstairs corridor which ran the whole width of the house. There were many bedrooms which had not been slept in for years, with dust covers over the furniture and the unaired bed linen giving off a musty odour. When an excited eight year old Tim had discovered a large wardrobe in the Blue Room, all he had received was a bump on his head when he’d tried to walk through the back of it into Narnia.

Tim grabbed the suitcases from the car and took them into the large hallway. Tim’s grandfather hadn’t lived in the house for two years, not since he’d moved into the nursing home. It had been cleaned once a month but felt hollow and airless as houses do when no-one has lived and breathed in them for some time. Tim went round the ground floor peeling back the shutters and flinging open windows to let the April sunshine and spring breeze freshen the rooms.

Cassie brought the Waitrose bags full of provisions through to the kitchen and found Tim standing at the sink, staring out at the manicured lawn. Everything had been business as usual while Tim’s grandfather had been away, as if he’d expected to make a full recovery and return to live there. The problem was that you don’t get better from Alzheimers.

“Are you alright, love?” Cassie asked, laying a hand on Tim’s back and giving it a consolatory rub.

“Yeah, fine. We’d better get the suitcases upstairs and start thinking about dinner. We need an early night as we’ve got a lot to do tomorrow.”

Tim strode out of the kitchen towards the hallway, leaving Cassie staring after him with concern etched on her face.

They woke early and after a breakfast of toast and cereal, made a start on sorting out Tim’s grandfather’s effects. They started in his bedroom, a room so full of dark, heavy wooden furniture that it made the large room appear small and cluttered. Cassie cleared the wardrobe while Tim sorted through the chest of drawers.

Apart from Cassie occasionally asking whether an item of clothing should go on the charity pile or in a bin bag, they worked in companionable silence with Classic FM playing quietly on their portable digital radio. Normally, they’d listen to 6 Music, or Absolute Radio if they wanted some retro tunes, but today the strains of Mahler and Tchaikovsky were more suited to their sombre task.

They’d both taken a week off work after the funeral to sort out the house and it looked like they were going to need every minute of it. Tim’s grandfather had travelled extensively in his life and had brought back souvenirs from his time spent living in Kenya and South America. These included a Masai warrior’s shield to a carving of an Aztec fertility goddess.

Tim had contacted an auction house to come and collect the most prized pieces to sell later as neither of them knew the value of the collection.

Once they’d cleared all the clothes, kitchen equipment and a lifetime’s worth of belongings, Tim and Cassie started going around the house with two packs of coloured post-it notes, deciding what should go to auction and what could be collected by the house clearance firm. Both were booked for Friday, leaving only a few days for them to finish going through the rambling house.

Thursday dawned bright and clear and having worked so diligently, Tim and Cassie had completed every room and only had the attic left. Tim had climbed the extendable stairs into the loft space the previous afternoon to have a brief recce and reported back to Cassie that there was a lot to sort through and they might not get it finished by the end of the following day.

They ascended the stairs and started working their way from each end of the attic, looking through tea chests and packing crates, the idea being to meet in the middle when they were finished. As Tim was rummaging through one of the boxes he discovered a small Moroccan lantern, the bronze tarnished and mottled. Tim picked it up and started to clean a small patch with the sleeve of his jumper. A blinding flash of light and billowing smoke were followed by a large explosion which propelled him across the attic floorboards. Emanating from the air above the lamp was a light so bright it illuminated even the darkest corners of the attic.

“What the…?” Tim and Cassie chorused in unison.

The smoke cleared and the light dimmed enough for them to see a large shape had emerged from the flames, although there was no heat and nothing had caught fire. The figure was huge and filled the loft to the eaves.

“You have freed me from my prison and to repay that debt I will grant you a single wish,” the figure declared in a voice that was deep and booming.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re a real life genie?” Tim asked after a long pause.

“I am Goliath, the most powerful of the Jinn. I know not of this Jeannie.”

“How long have you been in that lantern?” Cassie asked.

“Five and ninety years. I have been held captive for much longer so it went by quite quickly.”

“How did you fit in that lantern when you’re so big?” Tim asked, as he edged his way slowly around the Jinn towards Cassie.

“A magic spell cast by my enslaver shrank me so that I could fit in the lamp.”

“Enslaver? Who was that?”

“Your father’s father,” replied Goliath.

A stunned silence followed as Tim tried to absorb this information.

“My grandfather trapped you in this lantern?” Tim spluttered.

“After I had granted him his wish, yes. I thought it was not a grateful gesture.”

“A wish! What wish?”

“Eternal life.”

“But my grandfather just died so that’s a load of tosh.”

“I am a powerful being but no-one can live forever so a long life was compromised upon.”

“Wait a minute. You said you’d been kept prisoner for ninety five years so how old was my grandfather when you granted him the wish?”

“Five and thirty years old.”

“So he was a hundred and thirty when he died?”

“Yes. That is a long life for a human, I think.”

“That’s quite old but I’m sure he probably expected to live longer than that. Five hundred years would have been more what he had in mind. Anyway, for the last two years he didn’t even recognise his own family.”

“His wish was granted and he lived a long life.”

“So you’re saying that I have to be careful what I wish for?”

“Don’t you mean we?” Cassie interjected.

“I believe that is so,” answered the Jinn, ignoring Cassie.

“I suppose most people ask for endless riches or eternal life, don’t they?”

“Human beings are quite predictable, yes.”

“Okay,” Tim said slowly. “I’d like us to be happy, me and Cassie.”

“Happy? Not endless riches or a really long life?” squeaked Cassie.

“Yes. I’ve got my inheritance so I don’t need loads of money and my grandfather lived the last fifty years of his life alone in this huge house, surrounded by artefacts and I know that he was lonely and unhappy. I don’t want to end up like that so I’d prefer a short, happy life rather than a long, miserable one.”

“Very well, your wish is my command,” Goliath intoned and started to fade away.

“Hang on a minute, how will I know that it’s worked?”

“On your death bed,” the Jinn replied and promptly disappeared.

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