It flashed through the sky and then was gone. Lucy was sure she had seen a UFO and was equally sure aliens were here to secretly make contact with a human being. Maybe they would choose her. Maybe she would get to visit their ship. Maybe she just didn’t realize humans had no need to look beyond good ol’ planet Earth to find a movie-grade monster.
It was amazing what humans were capable of glossing over—like their neighbor’s illicit magical practices—while at the same time believing in little green men.
Of course, Lucy had every reason to hope for an alien abduction, (of all the silly things). With her mother passing away in childbirth, it left her with a father who was an abusive drunk of the worst sort; robbing her of every innocence afforded a child.
Which is where I came in.
Sometimes you wish for an alien, but you get me instead. I’d spent centuries giving humans what they wished for, always with a twist, of course. They rarely stop to think of the consequences of their desires, and they usually rushed in without a second thought. I admit, without shame, not a small number have paid for it with their lives in one way or another. There were a cautious few who managed to twist their words to encounter as little fall out as possible, but they are rare.
There is always a price with magic. It is the most unnatural of acts, as people bend physics near to the point of breaking, which causes a backlash. Or, as a famous Englishman once said, it caused an equal and opposite reaction.
Lucy was different. Maybe some Djinn were jaded enough to level their full power and the subsequent consequences on a nine year-old, but call me sentimental and soft. I just couldn’t do it.
She didn’t even know what I was when she made the wish. How could she? Thankfully, the process wasn’t that simple, or the situation would have been grim. I was different from her other neighbors, but people raised by dangerous individuals can sense that danger in others. Even if they don’t realize it. We chatted at first, as her sense of survival screamed against interacting with me. Maybe it was my gardening that threw her off—I was a sucker for a good Hybrid Tea Rose—but soon enough she spilled her stories to me. One at a time.
“I saw something shoot through the sky the other night,” she said by way of greeting. She grabbed the weeding bucket from near the fence as she walked toward me.
I kept a wide variety of flora, but with spring at its peak I naturally gravitated toward my roses if nothing else needed immediate attention. So I was kneeling in front of them when she came in through the gate, with the moist soil cool even through the knees of my dark olive brown gardening overalls.
“A shooting star, perhaps?” I asked.
She chose a bed to start weeding. It wasn’t close, but it wasn’t so far that we were unable talk without raising our voices.
“I think it was aliens.”
I couldn’t help the smile that spread over my face, though she didn’t see because we were concentrating on our tasks. Lucy spoke easier and more freely if I kept eye contact to a minimum. “Why do you think it was aliens?”
I must have let the smile slip into my voice, because her next words were discouraged, if not a little angry; “You think I’m stupid.”
It was something she heard far too often, but never from me.
“Did I say that?”
“No,” she grumbled
“No,” I repeated. “I simply wanted to hear your reasoning.” I kept my eyes focused on the task in front of me.
There was a long pause, as she weighed her words as carefully as one might weigh gold.
“I wish they’d take me away. If they were real, they’d take me away, forever,” she said, her voice as frail as her scrawny frame.
For the first time since she entered my garden, I looked up at her. Stubbornness pressed her mouth into a thin line, but the bruise on her right cheek rested below tired eyes that were far older than her years. Her shoulders bore the heavy weight of resignation that her nightmare would never end.
It wasn’t easy getting someone to believe you when your father is the county’s lead prosecutor. In her mind, as jaded as it was at such a young age, she still held just enough innocence to believe an alien could rescue her. That abduction was her only recourse.
It was that last vestige of hope that spoke to me. As a Djinn I might not have a soul, but I did have a heart.
Less than a week later she stood outside my gate with two smiling adoptive parents. Magic had consequences, even for me. However, when you have hundreds of thousands of years to build fortunes and generate influence, money can make things happen at an almost magical rate.
“Good morning, Lucy,” I said as I approached the gate, and taking off my dirty gardening gloves. She opened it and rushed through, jumping into my arms at a dead run. I dropped the gloves to catch her, and barely managed to keep my feet.
“Lucy, be careful!” the woman urged.
I waved her off. “It’s fine, she’s just happy, right?” I asked. But it was more than just this moment I was asking about.
She tilted her head back to meet my gaze while tears filled her amber colored eyes. She nodded, understanding the question.
I let a small smile slip and nodded back at her.
“Thank you,” she whispered, and let go of me. She didn’t know how, but some part of her knew I’d had a hand in the situation.
“You are most welcome,” I replied.
I waved them off as they drove away, and I knew I’d never see her again.
Some might say such a small act means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but I think it’s in the small moments that we truly discover who we are.
Of course, not all stories turn out like Lucy’s. Just remember: be careful what you wish for.