A young man cures the world of the longest creative dry spell in history.
|Twenty years ago today, the world changed. We noticed gradually. Artists of all types suddenly felt blocked but none wanted to admit it. They are a stubborn breed and they, quite admirably, tried to work anyway.|
Art is a voyage into the labyrinth of the heart. Increasingly people began to speak about feeling trapped into just one chamber, one corner of the maze. One idea was all that they could write, variations on a theme but written endlessly, it does lose its color. Eventually, the affliction was deemed Writer’s Cramp because it was the writers that first voiced their concerns.
I have searched these twenty years, for a cure. Waste of time that turned out to be. Pure dumb luck led me to the answer, on a routine trip to my local library.
I had traveled the world, spent ages elbow deep in old texts studying connections between creativity and the divine. Looking for energy and religion and feeling the answers hovering just beyond my reach.
On an ordinary day, I opened an old book, turned the pages delicately, the paper so thin I was sure that if I wasn’t careful, my fingers would pass right through. An illustration of a jinn jumped out at me. I do mean that literally. One moment I was leaning over the page, studying the tattoos swirling along his arms, wondering why the artist had chosen to draw this jinn’s face with its tongue hanging low like a dog and his brows bent in a sarcastic arch, an intelligent fire in his eyes. A blend of the wild and the tame perhaps. The next moment he was emerging from the page, his nose pressed against mine, until I dropped the book and jumped back. It landed with a thud and the jinn let out a curse.
When I dropped the book, he tripped on the pages on his way out. His shin struck hard on an old oak chair. He was hopping delicately around the room.
I pushed my glasses higher up the bridge of my nose and took in this state of affairs with a growing sense of the surreal. He was not what I would have expected. Who had ever heard of a red-headed jinn? He was tall and his presence filled the room despite his sudden limp.
He eventually stopped hopping and pulled out the chair that had hurt him and sat down upon it. He bent to inspect his leg and I took the opportunity to inspect his tattoos again. They were beautiful. The design of them was abstract but here and there were suggestions. Here a leaf, there animal tracks.
He sat tall once more and narrowed his eyes at me. “Why have you brought me here?” he asked, irritably. He spoke with a thick Scottish accent.
I felt my jaw drop, a shock reaction that I thought only happened in stories, until it happened to me.
“I haven’t,” I stammered. “I just opened the book.”
He looked around. “Where are we?”
“In a bargain basement at a public library. In the middle of nowhere, really.”
He shook his head. “That bastard,” he muttered and shifted around in the chair.
I may as well have asked. “What bastard?”
He grunted and settled in the chair. I could tell that he was deciding whether I was worth his time or not. After a time, he shrugged.
“My brother,” he said.
“Your brother?” I prompted.
“Aye,” he sighed. “My twin. He got free and has left me here to rot.”
“I see,” I said. Of course, I didn’t see and he could tell.
He rolled his eyes. Some expressions do appear to be universal. “No one wants to be a jinn, forever beholden to the wishes of others, not free to have a want of our own. It’s a curse. One that my brother earned and I got stuck with because I was with him when the spell was cast.”
“How did he get free of it?” I asked.
“Jinns are agents of chaos. With the curse comes one way of escape. If we can change the whole world with a wish, good or bad, then we are free. He had such an opportunity and took it. Gleefully.”
“What was the wish?”
“A young man wished for the whole world to be like him. All trapped within themselves.”
“But . . . Why didn’t he just ask to be free?”
The jinn crossed his arms and sighed, “I have learned that most people aren’t interested in bettering themselves, but rather dragging others down.”
I was starting to feel a disconnect from myself and this situation. I could be going mad, that’s true, but this was also the most interesting thing that had happened in my world in two decades. Why not just roll with it?
“Wait. Does this mean that I have three wishes now? Because I called you from the book?”
He nodded resignedly. “I was wondering when you’d get to that. What’ll it be then? You want to be the only person who can create? You’ll get fame and riches that way.”
“Who would want that? I want a world with color and variety. I want that back. I want stories that I don’t know the ends to. Can I wish to undo the other wish?”
He studied my face, “Aye, but will you?”
“If I do, won’t you be free as well? You will still have changed the world. Does it matter that you are just changing it back?”
“I don’t know. But I’d do it gladly. What’s the use of eternal life with no new stories?”
I made the wish and gave everyone back to themselves.
I felt the change, deep within my heart. A loosening, like mortar falling from between brick just before the whole wall fell.
The jinn disappeared and I never knew what had happened to him. I opened the old book to find a new blank page. Space enough, for a new story.