A Smokeless Flame

The wind was unnaturally still the night my Uncle Ali died. In the morning after I first obtained the ornate lamp that has made a mess of my life ever since. I have since buried it in an attempt to prevent any other person from experiencing the infinite terrors summoned by that hellish brass object.

My now deceased Auntie brought it out to me with a forced smile. I also equally forced appreciation, but in reality I was expecting a crown of jewels or a fleece of golden threads. My Uncle had traveled almost all 7 seven seas (‘The 6 that mattered!’ he would always say). My disappointment at receiving the simple lamp was immeasurable to the grief I felt at the loss of my Uncle. He died not from a Bengal tiger or wild natives in distant lands. But instead suffered slowly from lung cancer, a side effect from his second favourite habit after traveling; smoking.

It was specific however that I was to receive this lamp. I thought immediately perhaps it was a some jest, as a child I was always thrilled when he read me stories about Djinns in A Thousand and One Nights as child. Perhaps he had found one in his travels. I scoffed at the idea, perhaps he had forgotten that I was 16 and had long since stopped believing in those irrational tales. He had started to drift at the end, apparently talking “endless nonsense” is what my mother called it.

It could have been a warning he was shouting out in his bouts of consciousness, more than anything I wish-… Aghh.

A wish. I curse the entire concept of wishing, desire is the cause of all unrest within us.

God save me, I am starting to speak like it.

I treasured the lamp, never used it but just left it by my bedside table.
Its appearance grew on me slowly. In a way it reminded me of my Uncle, it was short and rough around the edges but charming in its own style nonetheless.

The true start to my troubles are fresh in my mind and I can vividly remember the proceedings.
One day in my final year of schooling as packing away my evening studies in preparation from the evening prayer when  I was distracted by a sudden blinding light. As the sun set it reflected off the lamp I had neglected for so long. It was covered in a thin layer of dust, I went to rub it clean with my sleeve when I hesitated. Maybe it looks better with some dust I asked myself.

What would my uncle think of these unreasonable superstition? I was to become a scientist, I told myself. I cast aside the innate fear I felt in my belly which I will never again ignore for the rest of my life. With a wipe the dust cleared and I coughed.

Three loud knocks came and I almost dropped the fragile memorial.
What a coincidence. Surely a coincidence I told myself again, mother must have finished teaching early I… I better go get the door.

At the door stood a man dressed in a white.

“I am sorry for this intrusion, may I pray within your house. I am a long way from home and am in great need.”

“Yes” I immediately said with no inclination afterwards of why I agreed.

I should have noticed his ghost stare and the slippery nature with which he walked as if a young man dressed in elderly man’s loose leathery skin. When he smiled the wrinkles on his face neither sagged nor stretched.

Maybe the greatest trick he played on me was my expectation for a Djinn to appear with a dramatic burst of smoke and flame
and not a simple knock at the door…


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