The founder and CEO of ITG nursing, James Montague, has a secret obsession with the paranormal and trains a handful of his travelling staff to detect and identify paranormal occurrences, Irene happened to become one such nurse after her second regular nursing assignment. Her current placement at South Shore is also a covert attempt to locate a paranormal signal in the area which several ITG employees serendipitously located when driving along the Skyway. Unlike many of Irene's other paranormal objects of interest, this one is constant in time, location, and strength, suggesting a fixed point emanating the paranormal energy.
It took Irene less than twenty-four hours on the job to find the paranormal disturbance. For lunch break on her first day, Emma takes her to a little hole in the wall cafe two blocks away that every hospital employee swears has the best coffee and danishes in town. Even though Irene and Emma are working first shift and it is early for a proper lunch rush, a line four people deep has already formed to order.
"Do we have time for this?" Irene wonders aloud, checking her watch. As an afterthought, she switches the watch mode to the paranormal detector view built into the watch of every ITG paranormal hunter and her eyes bulge out of her head. The detector is a simple dial arranged in colors from coolest to hottest, black to red, around the outside of the dial with a needle that points at each color to indicate the level of paranormal energy within a few mile, or less depending on the strength of the paranormal energy, radius. Irene's detector currently points to green, suggesting a strong disturbance a mile off or a mild disturbance very close by.
"Yeah they're quick." Emma responds to her question, studying the patisseries displayed in a case by the cash register, unaware of Irene's reaction to her watch.
"That's good anyway." Irene mutters off-hand while scanning everything else in the room and giving renewed attention to the proprietors of the shop. After a moment her eyes fall on a decorative brass jar resting on an old wooden mantle, the only remains of a fireplace that once heated the room. The jar is the only thing on the shelf and has accumulated a large amount of dust relative to everything else in the room.
"Is that old thing?" Irene asks Emma, pointing towards the item.
"What old thing?" Emma responds, ripping her eyes off the pastry.
Irene points, "That thing over there on the mantle."
Emma's eyes slide past the place in an odd fashion and she frowns at Irene, "I don't see what you mean." With a sigh, Irene breaks out of line and marches the few paces across the room to show Emma the lamp. Side stepping a table on her right than a table on her lamp, she compulsively wipes at a discoloration on the lamp before turning back to Emma pointing directly at the object.
Halfway into the motion of her turn, Irene's vision sways and her brain registers that a strange thing has just occurred. The colors of the room keep turning and the clinking of utensils and glasses, the zooming and honking of cars, and the general hubbub of people packed into a small space fades to silence. The change is not sudden, but startling none the less. When Irene's vision settles her eyes fix on Emma, her head tilted ever so slightly and her eyes narrowed at Irene, her entire body projecting a feeling of slight annoyance or exasperation. Everyone else in the room, but Irene has stopped as well, exchanging money, sipping coffee, or gesticulating wildly over their food.
"Um, okay," Irene says aloud to give herself something to do.
"Okay, what?" A resonant, baritone, male voice inquires behind her, making her jump a foot in the air and whirl around. The room whirls with her again, the flying colors and streaks of light making her dizzier, disorientated and motion sick than any such motion would normally produce.
A man is floating improbably on the mantle within easy reach of the brass ornament, which Irene now realizes is an old Middle Eastern-style, oil lamp. Internally she groans as it hits her that the man hovering above the six inch strip of wooden mantel is probably a Djinni, out loud she asks, "Are you a Djinni?"
The man's face reacts imperceptibly, but Irene intuits an expression of surprise upon it, in spite of the lack of visible change, "Yes, but you astound me by calling me as such. In your language we are more commonly referred to as Genies."
Irene nods, but studies the man suspiciously, "And so are you here to give me three wishes, which will never work out for my benefit, but the fulfillment of which will allow you to escape from eternal imprisonment?"
The Djinni laughs a jolly peel which files the eerily silent room in an even eerier way. "Well now little lady aren't we just getting ahead of ourselves here. First allow me to say, I am Aasifa and I exist to serve. What is your name my lady?"
"Irene." Her mouth hangs open in unspoken questions and statements as the Djinni continues.
"By rubbing the lamp you have freed me from a sleep which lasted several thousand years, actually several hundred, as you may have surmised my previous master transported me to this spot and it was only built, well okay you have awakened me from my sleep which lasted about a hundred years." The Djinni flashes a charming smile with an accent of condescension. He is an attractive man, with a dark face and chiseled features, Irene considers him to have an interesting resemblance to Mr. Montague, although everything about the Djinni is slightly surreal and indistinct. A blurring around the edges as if heat waves are perpetually rising around him and a breeze is constantly shifting his clothing and hair.
She opens her mouth, but snaps it shut again as Aasifa's speech continues, "I was bound millennia ago by the great king Solomon himself, and tasked to grant three wishes to any who should disturb my slumber. Therefor to you, Lady Irene, I grant three wishes, you have until the end of eternity to contemplate your wishes for I will be bound to my lamp forever. When you have completed your wishes, my lamp will disappear from your sight and be re-hidden in the world at large, you may search for me if you wish, but your eyes will be blind to my location." Aasifa finishes with a grin, a wave of his hand, and a grand bow from his position above the mantel piece.
"What's the catch?" Irene asks, still lacking trust in the Djinni and all that he proclaims.
"There are no catches to my wishes. They will be fulfilled exactly as you phrase them, which may not be exactly as you intend them, but," Aasifa shrugs as he trails off.
"Aren't there supposed to be rules, no wishing for more wishes, no wishing someone to death, whatever." Irene presses on, Aasifa's lack of reaction to her comments unnerve her and the thought grows in her mind that she should just wish for him to turn himself and his lamp into Mr. Montague.
Aasifa chuckles at her, "You have been hearing too many tales. No I am not a Djinni such as these, there are no limits on the requests you make of me."
"Why not? It seems a great amount of power. Do most people use it well or poorly?" Irene inquires seeking to glean as much information from the Djinni as possible before deciding what to do with him. The Djinni's face never changes, but Irene obtains the impression of an exasperated or confused face where before it was jolly and nonchalant.
"Many of the Djinni imprisoned by the great king Solomon were evil Djinn. Like humans Djinn may possess any sort of temperament and natural inclination to help or harm their fellow living things. The situation was always tense between good and evil Djinn, and in the time of Solomon, the situation came to blows and a war enveloped the good and evil Djinn, spilling over into the world inhabited by men and angering the great king. The good Djinn had long worked with the great king and consequently, Solomon sided with them, imprisoning all that stood against them. Most of the neutral Djinn had aided the good Djinn in the war; I am a neutral Djinni and personally, had decided to not get involved. Unfortunately for me, when the evil Djinn were imprisoned, my lack of commitment to the winning side was perceived as an affront. 'If you are not with us, you are against us,' is what they told me. I was imprisoned along with the evil Djinn, however, as I had engaged in no crimes against other beings and showed no inclination to do so, many of the restrictions placed upon evil Djinn were not placed upon me."
"An evil Djinn might perceive an evil act, such as murder as the only means of accomplishing a humans wish, thus restrictions were leveled upon them; however, I will look for other ways to fulfill my master's requests and only stoop to murder or other despicable acts when directly ordered to do so or when no other recourse is open to me."
"The prohibition upon wishing for more wishes is a simple loop hole in the original enchantment, a Djinn is not prohibited from saying such things to his new master, and an evil Djinn will use such a tactic to ride himself of a human master to which he is forced to bow as soon as possible." Aasifa returned his face to a pleasant smile during his story and had not reacted shown any signs of emotion when explaining the reasons for his imprisonment. Irene still did not trust him, but decided to bind the Djinni to herself anyway, a tiny voice insider her head told her this was a mistake and she would regret it, but she sets the idea aside to digest later.
"Okay, I wish for more wishes." Irene declares.
"You have used your first wish to wish for more wishes. You now have four wishes." The Djinni responds formally. Irene notices that the Djinni only gave her two more wishes over the two she would have already had by virtue of freeing him, suggesting stinginess about him she otherwise would not have guessed at.
"I wish for unlimited wishes."
"You have used your second wish to wish for unlimited wishes. You now have unlimited wishes." The Djinni announces, without missing a beat.
Irene contemplates the phrasing of her next wish before continuing, "I wish for you to be truthful and forthcoming with me at all times, you may never lie to me or fudge the truth, but must give your honest assessment of the situation. If you do not have enough information to fully assess the situation you must tell me in your true opinion."
"You have used your third wish to wish for something which is completely redundant with the spell which imprisons me, you know have unlimited wishes."
Glaring at Aasifa and his lack of reaction to her proclamation, Irene asks, "I thought you said evil Djinn could tell their masters they only have three wishes via a loop hole."
"Yes that's true. The loop-hole is that statistically speaking, it's true. Almost no one uses more than three wishes, if you wish for one more thing you will be become an anomaly, three more and you become an outlier." The Djinn eyes her with a bit more interest at this.
"Why? Doesn't everybody wish for more wishes?" Wishing for more wishes seems like an obvious choice to Irene.
"Yes, but most only ever use three. I imagine you will see why."
Irene thinks about this and changes her line of reasoning in addressing the Djinn, "Every time I summon you, will this happen?" She asks waving at the frozen, yet unstable world around her.
"Yes, unless you wish for it to be otherwise. There are limitations of this place however, and staying here indefinitely would be dangerous for you, moving things not attached to your person when you enter this state may be dangerous to you, and any danger outside of this place will still be there. For example, if a car was about to crash through that window and kill you, you would have to use a wish to avert the disaster as my disappearance would result in a resumption of time and space and therefor your ultimate demise." The Djinn's lack of facial expression unnerves her and she absorbs the impression that the Djinn is amused at this potential outcome, which unnerves Irene more.
"No one else could see your lamp. If I remove it will the shop owner notice?"
"My former master wished it to be as such. He thought me evil you see, and desired to imprison me even more thoroughly than I already am." This statement puzzles Irene.
"But you claim to be neutral and to be bound to answer my questions truthfully and without lies." She blurts.
"Yes, but how do you know I'm not lying? You only have my word to take that I may not tell lies." This answer stuns Irene and she realizes that everything she knows about the Djinni was essentially based on his word. There were legends and movies and pop-culture to reference, but they often misrepresented everything under the sun, why should Djinni be any different. If the Djinni was capable of lying then he could lie to her about everything, either he was telling her the truth about everything or lying about everything.
"If I leave you here, no one will be able to see you?" She challenges suspiciously.
Another issue stuck out at Irene, "Why could I see you?"
"You couldn't, when you first came in. But you became aware that I was here and knowing that I was here allowed you to see through my spell, another loop-hole." The Djinni's face hints at a broad amused smile without actually assuming it.
"I see." Irene muttered, fidgeting with her watch. "Alright I desire to take you with me." The Djinni seems pleased with her statement, waiting forever in a cafe might not be his idea of fun, Irene reflects.
"I wish for a bag large enough to hid your lamp in, but inconspicuous," Irene peers across the street, "A large shopping bag from that home decoration store over there would probably suffice." Such a bag materializes around her right arm. It is a strange feeling, there was nothing there and then suddenly there is as if she had the bag all along and forgotten about it, only to suddenly remember its presence.
"You have used your fourth wish to wish for a large inconspicuous bag to hide my lamp in, you now have unlimited wishes." Aasifa anoints.
"Um, how do I put you back in your lamp, and will it end this immediately?" Irene wonders, it would still look alarming for her to be stuffing the lamp in her bag as she reappears.
"You say, 'my wishes are complete' and you will have about five seconds before you return to your world."
Irene studies the Djinni carefully for a lie at the words 'my wishes are complete.'
"Don't worry, I will return, and if nothing else you have my lamp and can always compel me to give you more wishes." Aasifa responds to her unsaid question.
"Alright, my wishes are complete, for now." Irene reaches for the lamp and places it in the bag as Aasifa's body turns to mist which suffuses back into the lamp. She places it gently in the shopping bag before turning back towards Emma prepared to continue their conversation.
At Emma's first sign of confused movement Irene says, "Never mind, I must be hallucinating."
Emma's lips curl into a tiny smile before they collapse into a frown, "When did you go shopping, I didn't notice that before." Emma points at the bag which appeared on Irene's arm over the course of a split second.
"I had it all along," Irene states smoothly, "I brought it from home, it had my scrubs and stuff in it. I was going to throw it out, but realized I might want to take some of the paperwork and stuff they gave me at the hospital today home."
"I didn't see it." Emma retaliates maintaining her confusion.
"I had it folded up under my arm." Irene answers as she returns to Emma in line.
"You can't take any of that stuff home anyway, I don't think so at least." Irene sees the moment in Emma's eyes when her mind shifts away from the possibility of a magically materializing bag to the more reasonable explanation that it was there all along. Irene, however, already realizes one of the draw backs of the Djinni's wishes as she reintegrates into her everyday life, discussing work with Emma.