The wish scribes had no designs on them. They were safe, and yet Faruq was just as concerned as ever. Perhaps more so. He woke in the middle of the night, sure that the episode with the dog had been a nightmare. No way could his father have sat laughing on that chest while a living creature suffocated within, then carried on like it was the most natural thing in the world.
Yet the next morning at breakfast, little Samira’s eyes were red and puffy as she served them. And when she thought no one was looking she shot his father murderous glances.
The flat bread was warm and fresh, the figs and yams sweet, but Faruq barely ate two bites. He was sick with self-hatred for not stopping his father, and felt just as much to blame. He looked around the table at his family. They laughed and chatted and ate to their heart’s content, completely carefree. Always. No matter what happened to them, and no matter what they did, never again would they suffer the sting of shame, guilt or remorse.
Oh almighty Ahura Mazadaa, thought Faruq. What have I done to them?
Tears pricked his eyes, and he mumbled something about not feeling well and hurried out to the back garden. He sat on his favorite bench and let himself cry, sniffling pitifully. The birds continued to chirp and whistle in the trees around him, oblivious to his human tragedy.
There was no way to stop his family. Perhaps one of his father’s craftsmen would be next. Or little Samira. More would suffer and die like Malik and the puppy and there was not one thing he could do to stop them.
No way to save them.
Short of killing them.
Faruq crushed his palms to his eyes at the thought, holding in his wails as best he could. Impossible. Even if the people inside that house were soulless monsters, they still looked like his family. He sat, teetering on the brink of panic and madness, completely at a loss for what to do.
He jerked his head up at Thamina’s voice and swiped at his wet face, sniffling.
“Baba said it’s time to get back to work,” she called.
Overwhelming dread took such hold of him that he shook. Never again would he set foot in that workshop if he could help it.
“Tell him I can’t!” He called back. “I don’t feel well.”
Thamina went away and soon his father’s sandals came slapping down the paving stones. He stood next to the bench where Faruq sat.
“What is the matter with you, Faruq?”
Faruq couldn’t bring himself to look up. “Why did you kill that dog, Baba?”
“What? But you know why. I needed to prove the quality of my craftsmanship.”
Against all his better judgement, Faruq plowed on. “It was wrong.”
He couldn’t bear to look up and see the confusion on his father’s face, but he heard it in his voice. “Is that what all this is about? I had no idea you cared so for that little nuisance. I’ll get you another dog.”
“No!” Faruq took a calming breath. “You should not have killed it.”
“But how else would I have tested the chest?”
This was surreal. Nightmarish.
“I don’t know. But you should not have killed something to do it.”
His father laughed. “But you are more soft hearted than your sister could ever hope to be. Alright Faruq. I’m sorry.”
He was not. Faruq knew he was not. Couldn’t be.
Faruq stood. He could take no more of his father’s attempts at humanity. He would brave the workshop and let the din from the sawing and hammering drown out his thoughts.
“Fine Baba,” he said, his voice more like a weary old beggar’s than a young man’s. “Let’s go.”
Faruq worked in a numb daze, sanding and shaping and carving. No one attempted to talk to him, and when he next looked up he started at how empty the workshop had become. The last craftsman was securing his turban to head out into the night.
He thought about just working though to the next morning. It would do him no good to go up to bed. His family was soulless no matter where he slept.
But his father, of course, still remained. Faruq didn’t want to be alone with him, so he began putting away his tools, his movements tired and slow.
He heard the last man and his father exchange their goodbyes. His father came in from the showroom.
“Ah! Faruq, it’s good you’re still here. There’s something I need your help with.”
Faruq sighed. “What is it, Baba?”
His father led him to a big table at the back of the workshop, and metallic clinks broke the silence as he rummaged around at the far end of it. “I bought some new tools the other day,” he said, his back to Faruq. “Best on the market they say. You know Navid and sons? They’re the ones supplying the high temple. Anyway this is their blacksmith. If these tools are as good as they say, I’ll outfit our workshop too. Now come, put your hands on that board for me would you?”
Faruq obliged and held down the board for his father, who came over with two sharp whittling knives in one hand and a hand saw in the other. He set down the saw and took up a knife in each hand.
Faruq yawned. “Baba, can’t this wait until morning. I-“. His father swiftly slammed the knives straight through the center of each of Faruq’s hands, and his sentence ended in a strangled cry. He felt no pain, but stared, disbelieving, at the blades now pinning him to the wooden board.
“The merchant said this saw can cut straight through bone, but I’ll be the judge of that.” His father clamped his fingers around the poor boy’s arm and raised the saw.
“What? No, Baba!”
“What is it, Faruq?”
His voice was calm and detached, not at all the voice of someone whose hands were pinned and bleeding into the wooden board beneath them. “You can’t cut off my hands,” he heard himself saw.
That terrifying look, the one that bespoke complete confusion. “But why? I want to test the saw.”
This had to be a nightmare, thought Faruq. That was why he felt no pain. He took a breath. “I won’t be able to work anymore,” he explained, just as calm.
His father looked thoughtful. The quivering of the saw was the only sound in the quiet workshop.
“That’s very true,” he said. “Well then, just a finger, hmm?”
He pulled the little finger of Faruq’s right hand away from the others.
“No! Baba! STOP-AAAAHHHHH!”
The pain hit, hot and excruciating and sudden. His hands seared and the ragged grating of the saw vibrated like fiery ants crawling under his skin, all the way up his arms, into his jaw, into his teeth. His eyes rolled back, and all went dark.
* * *
High above on her castle tower, Marid stilled, her palms to the glass. She closed her lovely golden eyelids, tipped her face up to the stars, smiled and sighed a contented sigh. Another sweet moment of revenge, the only respite from her ceaseless suffering.
These days, it is a desperate soul indeed who finds himself traversing that shady corridor known as the gray district. Now, not only do they have to deal with the catcalls of the wish scribe’s boys, but also Ninefingers–a crazy beggar who has taken up residence in the area. He often latches on to passerby, and he only repeats the same few phrases again and again.
Slow down, stupid boy. Slow down…shady dealings in shady alleys. The Djinn have many tricks.
If anyone is so inclined, in listening to the young man they may catch a tragic poetry in his ramblings.
Shady dealings in shady alleys
Slow down, stupid boy
Speak your wish clear, courage rally
Now watch the Djinni’s ploy
All seems well but all is not
The Djinn have many tricks
Hearts reversed, affections bought
The promise of quick fix
A tested wish rarely goes right
The blessings rarely stick
Rue the fruits of tempting fate
For us, the Djinn have naught but hate