The next day Faruq woke early, as usual. Sleep evaded him of late. He took his bath, and went in to his father’s workshop, which adjoined their home, to begin another day of apprenticeship. His father loved his work, that much had not changed, and he was usually there even before Faruq, but that day the workshop was empty.
Faruq wandered the dark room, still in shadow as only the crown of the sun had crested the horizon. His footsteps echoed on the hardwood floor. He breathed deep of the familiar scent of sawdust and varnish.
His father had split the building into a showroom at the front and workstations at the back, where some twenty craftsmen and apprentices worked for him daily.
Faruq peeked his head into the archway that separated the showroom and workspace. “Baba?”
Faruq had a sudden, burning need to know where his father was, what he was doing.
He spun to leave the workshop and stumbled over something warm, soft and barking. Thamina’s puppy had grown, and neither she nor her mother paid the creature much mind anymore. The servants had adopted him, playing with him and keeping him fed. Faruq reached down and scratched a shaggy ear.
“How do you keep getting in here? This not a good place for you, Baba doesn’t want you in here.”
The dog was bigger, but not yet fully grown and Faruq scooped him up under one arm, took him to the door and set him free. And just in time too as his father arrived soon after.
“Faruq!” He said and gave him that signature warm smile. “Bright and early as always. That’s my son. Someday this will all be yours, you know.”
He squeezed Faruq’s shoulder and gazed at him fondly, and Faruq grinned. This was his father. Fierce determination made Faruq’s cheeks flush. He would fix his family. He would.
“Come, let’s set up,” said his father.
The sun rose, and the crew assembled, and soon everyone was hard at work. Somehow, no one talked much in the workshop these days. Only the knocking of hammers and the grinding of saws filled the silence. Faruq worked diligently, lulled into a hypnotic almost-peace while scraping his sandpaper against the surface of the footstool he was making. Time passed in weightless seconds until a soft, familiar voice jolted him back to the present.
“Craftsman Raheem of Riverside, I presume?”
Fear washed over Faruq like a frigid, relentless torrent, painful in its intensity. He paused in his scraping but he would not, could not look up.
He heard a wooden knock as his father put down whatever he’d been working on.
“I am he.”
“Excellent. I am Muwaffaq, a close acquaintance of the King. I’m looking to make a few additions to my home, and your work comes highly recommended.”
Faruq knew he was shaking, but he couldn’t help it. His father’s voice hardly broke through the buzzing in his ears. Sweat tickled the side of his face.
“Ah, very good. What did you have in mind?”
Faruq never heard, his mind tangled up in nightmares and plans for escape. He worried for his mother and Thamina, who might even now be dead. As his father led the wish scribe around the showroom, only snippets of their conversation got through to Faruq.
“…many important documents I need to store…”
“…this to your liking? Note the delicate gold edging…”
“…ensure they won’t be destroyed by air or water…”
“…of course. Ah, watch this.”
It wasn’t until he heard frantic, yet muffled barking that he was up and running into the showroom, his feet seeming to move of their own will.
He stopped short at the sight of the wish scribe, standing tall and regal as ever next to his father who sat, legs splayed casually with his hands on his knees, on a large, engraved chest.
“Where is the dog,” Faruq demanded, though he knew. Oh, Ahura Mazdaa, he knew.
“Oh, Faruq. This is my son, good sir,” he told Muwaffaq. The man simply nodded slowly.
“Where is the dog?” Faruq repeated.
“The little mutt finally came to good use,” said his father, and laughed his usual jovial laugh. “Right now he’s testing how airtight this chest is.” He knocked on the chest’s surface.
Faruq’s eyes flitted to the wish scribe despite himself, but he only stood calmly with a look of mild interest on his face. Faruq could only guess what he was thinking.
The boy stood fraught with indecision. To stop his father and save the dog would only draw more attention to the cruelty of it all.
As he balked the yips turned to whines. The scrabbling got weaker, then stopped completely.
His father hopped up from the chest and opened it. “There now, you see?” He said, gesturing for the wishcrafter to look inside. Muwaffaq bent his tall, reedy body to peer inside the chest, his hands behind his back.
“I do indeed,” he said and turned to Faruq, “Your father does fine work.”
Faruq’s only reply was a high, strangled noise.
“This will do nicely,” said Muwaffaq. “When can you have mine completed?”
“Let me quickly check with my crew,” he said, and before Faruq could stop his father, he found himself alone with the wish scribe.
“Your father certainly has, unconventional methods,” he said.
“Don’t kill us,” Faruq whispered.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Don’t kill us. Please.”
“My boy, why ever would I do that?”
Faruq stayed silent.
“You wouldn’t be referring to a certain tested wish, perhaps?”
Faruq’s eyes went big and white as two round eggs, and he glanced around wildly.
The wish scribe laughed. “It seems to have worked out spectacularly, wouldn’t you agree?”
Again Faruq stayed silent. The wishcrafter narrowed his eyes and gave Faruq a sly smile.
“Oh you can’t possibly be worried about that spectacle with the dog. I’ve seen far worse than that, I assure you.”
“So you’re not here to do away with us?”
He laughed again. “I had no such intention. But I doubt it’s me you should be worried about. Take my advice, keep your wits about you, boy.”
Just then his father returned and the two men resumed talking shop. Faruq slunk back to his workstation, infinitely and foolishly relieved that the wish scribes weren’t after his family. It took a few moments, but the horror slowly caught up to him, and his chest seized up at the realization that his father had just casually killed Thamina’s dog.