Jack makes a wish on a reluctant genie, but magic never seems to work out like you expect it to.
Chapter Description: By Ingrid Halb
A Reluctant Spirit : Spirit of The East
By Ingrid Halb
"So, you’re a genie?" Jack would have had a hard time believing this if he hadn’t just seen what the little guy was capable of.
"That’s close enough," answered the three-foot tall man standing before him.
"And you do magic on request?" Jack felt stupid asking the question but it was hard to deny the evidence before him.
"It’s more correct to say that I allow the magic to happen," the little man answered calmly, if not a little tiredly. "You see, there is a certain amount of magical energy inside everything. When I hear a properly formatted wish from the person currently in possession of me, it triggers me to release that energy in a general predetermined direction."
"But you do grant wishes, right?" interrupted Jack.
"Yes, but I strongly recommend you avoid doing so as much as possible."
"Why? Is it because I only get three wishes?"
"No, you get all the wishes you want."
"Then why not make wishes?"
The little man rolled his eyes heavenward before answering. "Magic is funny. It goes where it wants to. I can channel it in a general direction but not control its final outcome. And once a wish is granted, it is devilishly difficult to reverse the effect. So it is very important to never make a wish unless you are completely certain that you will be happy with every possible outcome that fulfills the wish."
"Happy with anyway it turns out, eh?" Jack said scratching his head. "So all I need is a ’no-lose’ wish then."
"Exactly, but no such wish exists," the little man said shaking his head side to side.
"Yeah, well. Check this out then," Jack retorted in a cocky voice. "I wish for beautiful women!"
After a while, the cocky expression on Jack’s face was replaced with a more puzzled look. "How come nothing happened?" he finally asked.
"You didn’t make your wish in the proper format," the little man said condescendingly. "There are rules for constructing a proper wish."
"Rules?" Jack said, not at all used to the rather unusual situation of having a three-foot tall man look down his nose at him.
"Yes. A proper wish must have an object, and action, a time reference, and no more than three qualifiers." The little man was clearly lecturing now. Jack scratched his head again before answering.
"Hold it. A what?"
The little man rolled his eyes before repeating in a more careful cadence. "An object, an action, a time reference, and no more than three qualifiers. Understand?"
"Uh, no," admitted Jack. "Explain that in more detail."
"An object is something for the magic to act upon or, depending on context of the wish, something that is to be created." The little man was clearly in lecture mode again. "An action is what you intend the magic to do to the object, or in the case of an object created out of nothing, it refers to the simple act of creation. For example, a wish to make you smarter would have ’you’ as the object and ’make smarter’ as the action. Whereas a wish for beautiful women to appear would have ’women’ as the object and ’appear’ as the action."
Jack bristled at the implied insult. "But that’s what I wished for!"
"No." The little man wagged his index finger at Jack. "Exact words are important and yours were ’I wish for beautiful women’. That’s an object and one qualifier with no action and no time reference. That’s more of a general statement of yearning than a formal wish, really."
Jack felt chagrinned. "So if I include an action, I can have my wish?"
"An action and a time reference."
"What kind of time reference?"
The little man went back into lecture mode. "Almost anything. You could wish for something at once, or at some future or past time. Or you can wish for something to last a given length of time such as being lucky for a day, or not hungry for an hour. You have to be really careful with your time references, though. The wish will last the exact time requested. You can’t extend it longer and you can’t end it early. Understand?"
"Uh, yeah. I think so." Jack didn’t look like he understood at all, but at least he was willing to ask more question. "What were those things I got three of?"
"Yeah, qualifiers. What are those again?"
"Simply put, a qualifier is anything extra added to a valid wish. If a wish can be granted without a given phrase or expression, then that phrase or expression is a qualifier."
It looked like a light was dawning behind Jack’s eyes. "So I could wish for beautiful women with red hair and that would be a qualifier, right?"
"Technically, that would be two qualifiers; red hair and beautiful. But you would need and action and a time reference for that to be considered a formal wish. You could wish for beautiful women with red hair to be attracted to you whenever they see you or for beautiful women with red hair to appear before you every third Tuesday. Then you would have a properly formatted wish."
Jack was nodding his head up and down all during the little man’s explanation. "Okay," he said. "I think I understand this and I’m ready to make my first wish."
The little man winced. "Please reconsider your intent. I’ve done this a lot of times and wishes almost never work out like you think they’re going to."
Jack was undeterred. "I think I have a fool-proof wish ready," he maintained.
The little man winced even more strongly. "Everyone thinks that way. I beg you. Don’t make that wish. You will be better off without it."
"I wish to be surrounded by beautiful women for the rest of my life!" Jack voiced loudly, a big grin on his face.
"As you wish," the little man intoned formally.
Jack looked around eagerly for a few moments. Gradually though, the smile began to fade from his face. "How come nothings happening?" he complained.
"Give it time!" the little man answered brusquely. "Magic has to flow some before it has a noticeable effect."
A shudder passed through Jack and for a moment it seemed a ripple passed through the room. "Whoa! Did you feel that?" Jack asked.
"Yes I did. The magic is starting to work."
"What’s happening? What’s it going to do?"
"I don’t know."
"You don’t know?!"
"I told you," the little man said once again shaking his head and rolling his eyes at Jack’s questions. "I just allow the magic to happen. I don’t control what it actually does."
Jack accepted the little man’s explanation if for no other reason than he was being distracted by what was going on with his apartment.
"The room seems kind of shimmery now." Jack was not addressing anyone in particular. He just felt the need to say something in the face of the visual strangeness going on.
The little man chose to answer anyway. "The magic is definitely having an effect. First it will set the stage for your wish to be granted."
Jack was becoming enthralled at the changes that were beginning to take effect on his apartment and belongings. "Hey cool! All the doorways are arches now. And there are rugs and pillows all over the floor. And what’s with all that squiggly writing on the walls?"
"That’s Arabic script," the little man answered as he carefully studied the room’s growing number of changes. "Lines from the Koran, actually. This new reality of yours seems to be taking on a Middle Eastern flavor."
"Middle Eastern? You mean we’re not in the U.S. any more?" Jack was confused but taking it in stride.
"I would very much doubt it," the little man replied distractedly.
"Definitely Arabic or possibly Persian. Anyway, judging by the looks of things, this will be the palace of a very rich sultan."
"A palace? I didn’t wish for a palace, I wished for girls!" Jack was adamant on this point.
The little man was still too engrossed in the details of the changing room to be put out by Jack’s tone of voice. "Magic is unpredictable, but it does try to tie up loose ends. Perhaps it was easiest for you to be surrounded by beautiful women if you were a rich sultan."
"Yeah?" Jack was obviously pleased by that idea. "That would be so hot, man. But where are the women at?"
"Patience," the little man replied. "Magic does take some time and this is just the stage being set. Ah! I believe these are the women arriving now."
Some dozen forms began to materialize around the room. Lumpy and indistinct at first they gradually took on the more recognizable form of curvaceous women. Dressed in silks and bedecked in jewelry, they laid about the room in varying stages of undress.
"Oh man! They are gorgeous! I am going to enjoy this!" Jack rubbed his hands in glee at the prospect of meeting these women. "These dozen babes and his palace are perfect! See, I told you this wish was fool-proof."
"Fourteen women, by my count." The little man was still paying attention to the details of the enfolding wish. "And it does look like you have been granted your very own harem. Congratulations, it is very rare to have a wish work out as well as intended."
"This is going to be great! My own harem! And you said I shouldn’t make any wishes. Hah!" Jack was clearly gloating at this point.
"It does seem that fortune has smiled on you but for your own sake, I urge you to make no more wishes." The little man spoke without looking at Jack but continued to pay close attention to the surrounding details of the room.
"Whoa. I mean, hey now... Did you feel that?" Jack asked, the smile no longer on his face. The shudder that passed through Jack was similar to the earlier one but this time the ripple passed not through the room but through Jack. The little man did not answer Jack but his attention was no longer on the room but instead focused on Jack directly.
"I...I feel funny. What’s happening?" asked the no longer smug Jack.
"The magic is not yet over," the little man began to explain in a calm
manner. "It is now altering you to fit within the parameters of your wish."
"Altering me? How? Why?"
A note of worry crept into Jack’s voice. He did not like the sound of being altered, at all.
"I do not know exactly," the little man admitted. "But based on the pattern of the magical lines of energy surrounding you and this room, I would say that the creation of the harem was to fulfill the action of the wish while the changes being placed on you have to do with fulfilling the time reference."
Jack didn’t like this at all. "You mean the ’rest of my life’ part?" he asked worriedly.
"Exactly. Perhaps you are being turned into an Arab," the little man offered. "After all, not many Americans own their own harem."
"I guess I could live with that," Jack ventured after considering the possibility for awhile. "Man, do I feel weird. Even my clothes are changing now. Is there a mirror around here, so I can see what’s going on?"
"Yes, near the urn by the archway on the other side of the room." The little man pointed as he spoke.
"Okay, I see it." Jack began walking between several recumbent women as he made his way across the room. "Boy, even walking feels weird. Kind of slinky and wriggly at the same time."
The little man was still studying Jack closely. "You do seem to be walking peculiarly."
"And these clothes are getting thinner and thinner. I mean you can almost see through these things." Jack rubbed his hands across the increasingly gossamer-like material. "Soft though. Are they supposed to be like this?" he asked looking back over his shoulder.
"If what is happening what I think is happening, then yes. Your clothes will change a little more dramatically than you had anticipated," the little man answered cryptically still studying Jack intently.
"What do you mean by that?" Jack asked but was distracted by his reflection as he came up to the mirror. "Hey, get a look at me. I think I am becoming an Arab. My eyes were never brown before, my skin tone is definitely darker, and my hair is turning jet black. Kind of long though. It looks like I’ll need a haircut."
"Believe me, I don’t think you will need a haircut," the little man said with an odd inflection in his voice. Jack however was still too distracted by his reflection to pick up on it.
"Really? It’s pretty long," Jack noted while pulling on his hair which now extended an inch past his ears. "God, I look so young. You don’t think I’m turning into a kid do you?"
"No," the little man said looking Jack over from head to toe. "I believe you will be a fully functional adult when this is over."
"That’s good," Jack said, a little more relaxed from the assurances of the little man. "Because it would totally suck to have my own harem and be too young to use it. If you know what I mean."
"There would be a certain irony to that," the little man noted.
Jack noted the beginning of another shudder. "Wait, here comes another wave," he spoke just as another ripple passed through him followed by a particularly gut-wrenching shudder.
"Oooh-ah!! That was the strongest one yet. Hey, my hair is definitely too long now!" he shook his head as he spoke; feeling his hair brush against his shoulders and across the top of his back. "Why are my fingernails so long? Am I wearing jewelry? I am wearing jewelry! These are earrings!"
He reached up to hold one earring in each hand before looking down over the rest of his body. "And these clothes, is it necessary for them to reveal so much skin and...."
Jack leapt back from the mirror as if bitten. "Merciful Allah! I am becoming a woman!" his panicked voice registering in a higher pitch than it had just moments before.
"I am afraid so," the little man said consolingly.
"But it makes no sense! How can I own a harem of beautiful women if I myself am such a woman?" he said, a dazed and confused look in his soft brown eyes.
The little man shook his head sadly. "It makes perfect sense if we assume that instead of owning such a harem, you are in fact a member of the harem."
Jack looked stunned as his eyes widened with understanding. "Me? A harem girl? No, this cannot be! I command you to change me back!"
"I don’t act on commands, I act on wishes," the little man answered patiently. "And wishes can not just be reversed while the time reference is in effect. They are not stable that way."
"I do not care!" Jack said with a note of hysteria in his voice. "Make me
a man again, immediately! I wish it so!"
"Why is nothing happening?" Jack asked in a hushed and surprisingly sultry voice.
The little man looked askance at Jack. "A couple of reasons. Firstly, the magic isn’t finished fitting you into this reality. Notice how your clothing is becoming more revealing and that your breasts are still filling out. But more importantly, the magical energy from your immediate surroundings was released to create these changes and it is now depleted. You must get a good night’s sleep to replenish it."
Jack grabbed his expanding breasts with both hands and looked at thelittle man in horror. "You mean I must stay in this form until morning?"
"At least," the little man answered in a tone that sounded way too casual to Jack’s now shell-like ears. "Until the energy is recharged there is nothing I can do for you. And I strongly recommend you consider staying in this form permanently."
The little man continued in that same irritatingly casual tone. "Sure, you’ll get to live out your life in pampered splendor as a member of a royal harem. Another wish is just likely to make things worse. This reality is not so bad, really."
"Listen, imp!" Jack was finally able to find his voice. "It count not possibly be worse than this and I intend to remedy this situation at first light of the morning!"
"Won’t you at least consider staying as you are now?" the little man asked.
"Okay, then," the little man’s voice took on a note of resignation. "I’ll see you in the morning. In the meantime, you might want to keep me hidden. If one of the other wives were to take me away from you, then you won’t have any choice but to stay as you are."
"Other wives? Take you away?"
"It’s happened before. People are lured by the power of magic. Just keep me hidden and I’ll see you in the morning. Goodnight."
_____ o _____
"Good morning!" the little man was in a chipper mood as he addressed the young woman who had until yesterday been Jack. "My you’re looking lovely today. I must say that those veils with that skirt are quite attractive on you."
"Be quiet!" the woman replied.
"You’ve redone your hair!" the little man continued in the same light banter. "And are you wearing eye makeup? Oh, I am so glad you’ve reconsidered and started adjusting to your new life in the harem. Within a few years, you’ll be glad you listened to me."
"I said be still, imp!" It was obvious that ’Jack’ was not in a good mood. "I have no intention of adjusting to this form in which I find myself. I intend to wish it away and return to my manhood at once."
For once, it was the little man who looked confused. "But it is almost noon now. Why did you wait so long to call me? And why go to the trouble of accenting your eyes and hair and dressing in such a provocative manner that so highlight the lovely feminine attributes of your new body?"
’Jack’ blushed and demurely turned her face away before answering. "These women, the rest of the harem... They woke me at dawn and bathed me and dressed me. Then they are the ones that painted my nails and face while redoing my hair. I have not had a moment’s solitude all morning."
"Bathed you, eh?" The little man rubbed his chin while he considered the prospect. "That couldn’t have been too bad."
"That was... not unpleasant," ’Jack’ admitted. "But torturous to be so surrounded by the temptations of flesh and so ill equipped to profit from the experience. They call me sister! And they covered me with silks, jewels and perfume!"
"You do smell nice."
"Shut up! This is all your fault and I will stand it no longer." ’Jack’ spoke with conviction in a voice that sounded anything but authoritative.
"Reverse the spell that was cast upon me yesterday. I wish it so at once!"
"As you wish," the little man intoned formally before continuing in a slightly irritated voice. "And this is not my fault! I have done nothing but warn you and urge you to not make wishes. But did you listen to me? No! And now you’ve gone and wasted another wish trying to undo things that can’t be undone!"
"It’s working! I feel it working!" ’Jack’ said as he felt the now familiar shudder. "I feel strength coursing into my arms! Quick! Where is my mirror? Ah hah! See! My hair is shorter and I no longer have my makeup on! I am becoming again a man!"
"Oh, that you aren’t, I assure you," the little man said as he shook his head. "I can see how this is going."
"Lying Djin!" ’Jack’ trumpeted his exultation. "You tried to trick me into that female body. But I did not listen! My breasts are becoming small again and my clothes are becoming a shirt and pants again!"
"You did not listen all right. That’s for sure."
"Hey! My penis is back! Fucking-A!" Jack crowed. "And my testicles! Hello boys, I missed you."
"I hate to break into your little family reunion," the little man interrupted. "But you do remember me telling you that it wasn’t stable to try to reverse time-referenced magic, right?"
"Don’t worry," the newly returned Jack dismissed. "First thing tomorrow, I’ll make a new wish and this time I’ll word things a little more specifically. Hey, look! My apartment’s coming back! Boy it’s good to be back home again."
"You don’t get it, do you?" the little man said as if talking to a child. "Wishes are trouble, and they can’t be just reversed like this. All you’ve done is push a ball halfway back up a hill that it just fell down from.
"Ah, you worry too much," Jack said almost scornfully. "See, everything is solid and back to normal." Indeed, everything did calm down and settle into the comfortable patterns Jack was familiar with.
"And now the ball rolls back down the hill," the little man said tiredly.
"Huh? Hey, why is the room getting shimmery again?" Jack asked just a shudder passed through him and a ripple swept the room.
"Why do you think?"
"No! Make it stop!"
"There is no stopping it. The magic will do what it will do."
The little man’s words were barely finished before another ripple ran through the room. In rapid succession the archways, pillows, rugs, and other exotic yet familiar features formed up and solidified. In very short time the room solidified and it became apparent that they were indeed back in the palace.
"We’re back in the palace? Why are we back in the palace?" Jack anxiously rushed around the room confirming by touch that they were indeed back. "It came back so fast. Why did it happen so fast?"
The little man explained carefully. "Yesterday, magic was creating a reality. Today, it was just returning you to a reality that already
existed. And it was one that you never really left in the first place. Any moment now it should start fitting you back into this reality."
Jack looked aghast. "You don’t mean that I’m going to go back to being that w... Oh! Hey! What? Oooooh!!" Whatever Jack was going to say next was interrupted as a rapid series of ripples and shudders shook his body. The changes that Jack had undergone yesterday were quickly repeated. In rapid succession his hair lengthened, his skin toned darkened, his clothes became the diaphanous veils and skirt he had been wearing earlier. Makeup reappeared on his face and jewelry once again draped around his neck, dangled from his ears, and jingled around his wrists and ankles. Finally his body changed as his size shrank, his breasts grew, and his features softened.
"By the prophet that is a most unpleasant feeling. AIIYEEE! I am unmanned again!" ’Jack’ was clearly distressed to find himself once again in the body of the harem girl.
"But you still smell nice!" the little man laughed but quickly grew serious as he saw ’Jack’ bent over and quietly sobbing. "Hey, are you crying? Don’t cry. Believe me things can get a lot worse than this. This is not so bad."
"It could not be worse!" ’Jack’ sobbed. "Do you know who I have become and what is to happen to me?"
"Well let’s see," the little man said and began to examine the air around ’Jack’. "The magic is settling down now. I should be able to read the lines. Ah yes, your name is Jasmina and you are the youngest daughter of the house of Iskander, your mother is the third wife..."
"I know my family!" Jasmina snapped at the little man. "Do your devil eyes not tell you why I am here?"
The little man studied the air a little more. "Uh, yes! You are here in the palace of Mahmood Shah. You are betrothed to become his fifteenth wife as part of a deal to increase the ties between your families. Oh, a political marriage. Sorry about that, but still, you’ll be marrying a rich and powerful man. That’s not a bad way to spend your life."
"Are you mad?! I am a man!" Jasmina choked back a sob before continuing. "Yet tonight I am to wear this very dress in front of all the invited guests at the wedding feast and dance enticingly for my future husband so that he may take me tomorrow for his bride! Take me! To bed! You understand this?"
The little man scratched his chin and considered his words carefully before answering. "I am led to understand that it can be considerably pleasurable for a woman to be..."
"Are you being deliberately thick?" she interrupted in an angry tone. The tone didn’t last however as she continued in an increasingly plaintive voice. "I tell you I am a man! Inside, I still feel as a man feels. I spent last night and all this morning in the company of my beautiful harem sisters. To be with them and taken to be another is to be shown women with so little inhibitions as no man has ever seen. I have seen them in their entire splendor, and could do nothing. Do you not understand? I want to take them to bed, not be taken to bed as one of
Jasmina ended her tirade by breaking down into more sobs. The little man was not without sympathy but was unable to do anything until the magic had a chance to recharge.
"That is a dilemma," he said as he tapped his chin with both forefingers.
"I have no idea what you can do about it tonight. I still advise you make no more wishes. In any case, you’ve used up all the magic energy in you immediate surroundings. So there is nothing I can do for you until tomorrow."
"Tomorrow!" wailed Jasmina. "But the wedding feast is tonight! What am I supposed to do about that?"
"Practice dancing?" offered the little man, then disappeared, leaving a very beautiful woman wailing alone in her room.
_____ o _____
"Good morning Jasmina. How was the wedding feast?" the little man asked cheerfully.
"I do not wish to speak of it," Jasmina replied in sullen tones.
"It couldn’t have been that bad," he said, leaning forward.
"It was the single most humiliating night of my life!" she exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air.
"Was your dancing that bad?" he prompted.
"My dancing! ...was remarkably good," Jasmina offered as she fiddled with the silk material or her ornately embroidered dress. She couldn’t quite make eye contact as she said this, instead averting her eyes downward.
"Good?" the little man asked, not sure that he had heard her correctly.
"Yes, I said good. This body..." she indicated her self as she spoke. "...seems to be naturally talented in the necessary moves."
"I don’t understand." The little man was not used to being confused. "If you were good, what was so embarrassing?"
"Idiot!" she snapped. "Do you forget that I am truly a man? Do you have no idea how it would feel as a man, to dance such a dance and to do it so well? I still remember the look in the eyes of the men as they leered at me." A small shudder shook her body as she spoke, a natural shudder with no magic behind it.
"But did you not make them happy? Was your future husband not pleased?" he asked.
"My future husband was the worst of the lot!" she sneered. "As revealing as my clothing was, I felt more naked still beneath his gaze. I could sense his longing, his desire for me. Tonight he would take me as his own. Such would be my fate, to feel as a man feels and be taken as a woman! It must be avoided at all costs! Tell me, imp. What is there, of the ways of magic, that you have not already told me?"
The little man thought carefully for a while before answering. "Well, you know most of what I know. You know the structure of a properly formatted wish. You know that they cannot be strictly reversed, and you know that any given object must recharge its magical energy before it can be altered again. As for enabling the magic and seeing and reading the magical lines, that’s inherent in my nature and not something I can teach you."
Jasmina thought carefully a moment in return. "What exactly do you mean, when you say that wishes cannot be strictly reversed?" she asked.
"By that I mean the exact wording of a stated wish must be adhered to at all times." The little man was clearly in lecture mode again and continued, "Any given magical change generated by that wish can be altered, but only in such a way that the result still fulfills the original wish."
"Then there is still hope for me!" Jasmina said excitedly. "I did not specifically wish to be a woman!"
"True," the little man affirmed. "But you did reinforce your current status with that attempt to reverse the first wish. By twice becoming Jasmina you have made it more difficult to become some one else. Magic likes to follow a well-worn path."
"Tell me then, oh great and powerful Djin," Jasmina leaned forward, unaware how seductive she looked when she did. "What type of wish is most likely to rescue me form this form and return my manhood?"
Not really being human, the little man was unaffected by the form of the sensuous woman plying him for more information. Yet at heart he was a helpful sort.
"Do you really need to make another wish?" he asked. "Things can go horribly wrong with wishes and you do have a nice set up here. You’re young, rich, and attractive. I’m sure that given enough time you will get used to being a woman."
"Listen carefully," Jasmina hissed through clenched teeth. "I will never get used to being a woman! Now advise me, imp! Or I will wish tortures on your head!"
"All right! All right! Don’t do anything rash," the little man flinched. "I can’t promise anything, but I think your best bet is to make a very specific wish for exactly the changes you want and then nail it down with a time reference of a very specific time length. That way it will stick where you put it."
"You are a tricky one, imp. But I think you have given me sage advice here," she said absent mindedly playing with a strand of her hair. "Let me think a moment before I make the wish."
"Are you sure I can’t get you to leave well enough alone?" the little man asked one last time.
"Be still!" she snapped. "I know what specific change I require and for what length of time I require it. I wish for my sex to be reversed and for this change to be permanent! I will not have you trick me again!"
"As you wish," the little man intoned formally.
"Is it happening yet? Is anything changing?" Jasmina asked anxiously. "Why is nothing happening?"
"Patience," the little man counseled. "The magic is flowing and starting to find its way."
"I think I feel it now!" Jasmina offered as small ripple washed over her body, leaving a familiar shudder in its wake. "My body tingles and my head feels like it is full of bubbles!"
"Yes, the magic is working," the little man agreed studying the air around Jasmina’s body. "And the pattern that is defining your body is starting to change. But not by very much."
"It stopped!?" Jasmina noted to no one in particular. "The tingles and bubbles are gone! Why are they gone? They will start once again, no?"
"No," the little man said. "The magic that was invoked from within you is spent. Your wish has been fulfilled."
"But I am still a woman! I am unchanged!" Jasmina frantically looked herself over for any sign of change.
"Yes you are still a woman, but you are not unchanged," the little man said.
"What do you mean?" Jasmina asked. "I am starting to have a bad feeling about this."
The little man looked like he had something to say but wasn’t sure about how to do it. "Do you remember," he began, "when you said that being in the harem frustrated you because you desired after the women as a man would even though you were equipped as a woman?"
"Yes..." Jasmina felt there was a trick here somewhere.
"And do you remember," continued the little man, "how humiliated o felt at the wedding feast having to dance seductively in front of all those men?"
"Again, yes." She was on her guard now.
"Well that will never happen again," the little man said with finality.
Jasmina felt that she had missed something here. "Explain why," she said.
"Because you now have the normal sexual desires of a normal female," the little man said casually.
"From this day forward, women will seem to you to be just other people while men will excite you," the little man tried to explain again.
"You are now a heterosexual woman. You will want to sleep with men," he spoke clearly and slowly.
"But I had wished to become a man again!" Jasmina’s mind reeled as the implications of what the little man was saying began to strike home.
"No, you had wished for your sex to be reversed, and permanently too I might add," the little man was clearly more comfortable in lecture mode. "I assume that the magic just found it easier to change you mentally rather than physically."
"This cannot be!" wailed Jasmina.
"Hey, look on the bright side," the little man suggested.
"Bright side? What bright side?"
"At least you’ll be able to enjoy your wedding night now."
Jasmina’s eyes shot daggers at the little man and she gritted her teeth before replying. "I would strangle you now if I thought I could. Wait a moment!" a flash of hope lit up her face. "There is still time before tonight is here. If I went to sleep right now, how long would it take to regenerate enough energy to make another wish?"
"A week," he simply said.
"A week! What happened to a day?" she shrieked.
"You’ve changed into Jasmina three times in three days. Each time you’ve worn a deeper rut in the magical pathways. The energy requirements to kick you out of that rut just go up exponentially each time," the little man shrugged his shoulders as he talked as if to say that he would have helped had he been able.
"Three times? I’ve only become Jasmina twice!" she protested. "I already was her before this last unholy change!"
"Actually," the little man answered in an apologetic tone, "your whole body gets thrown into flux during a change so that technically you did change into Jasmina three times, even though this last time you were given a different mind set."
Jasmina plopped down onto the floor, staring off into the distance. "A week?" she asked no one in particular.
"I’m afraid so," the little man consoled.
"What am I to do until then?" she asked in the same flat tones.
"Smile pretty and enjoy the ride?" the little man suggested.
"I feel sick," she said.
"Call me if you need to talk," offered the little man then disappeared from sight leaving only Jasmina behind. The stunned looking but very beautiful woman sat for awhile then buried her face in her hands and began to sob softly.
_____ o _____
"Hi there! How’s my favorite newlywed been coming along this past week?"the little man asked in a light tone.
"You would mock me in my misery, imp?" Jasmina sat sullen with her neck slightly bowed, looking at nothing in particular.
"I was just trying to lighten the mood," the little man replied apologetically. "So I take it the honeymoon isn’t going well."
"It is horrible!" she moaned.
"What’s the matter? Does he beat you or something? If he does, just make the wish and he’s a cockroach." The little man seemed genuinely concerned.
"No! Don’t. He... he is a kind man, and gentle. He treats his women well."
"I don’t understand then," the little man scratched his head in puzzlement.
"That night, the first one after we last spoke ...my wedding night.... I was anointed with fragrant oils and dressed in the finest silks then led trembling to his bed chamber. I was frightened that I was to lie with a man and he sensed this. He seemed to understand my fear though he misunderstood its source," Jasmina sighed heavily. "Then again, perhaps it is the same for all women who first lie with a man. Surely, I do not know."
"Can’t help you there," the little man added. "I wouldn’t know either."
"He was very gentle. He didn’t rush nor force it upon me what was his right to take. He coaxed me down the path we both followed that night, and I was his."
Jasmina sat in front of the little man holding her knees to her chest with both arms and stared off in the distance as she recounted this.
"Well, that sounds kind of pleasant actually," the little man said still confused. "What was so horrible?"
"You hear but do not understand," Jasmina said turning to look at him directly. "He did not take my maidenhood from me; I gave it to him willingly! I wanted to be his woman! I want him now! His mouth on my mouth, his hand on my breast, his manhood inside me... I need him now. I think..."
"But those are the normal healthy feelings that any woman could have," the little man countered.
"Any normal woman, yes," Jasmina agreed, nodding her head. "But I am no normal woman. We have been busy you know. This past week has seen us seldom leave the bridal chamber. I have learned much as to how to pleasure a man and how to take pleasure from a man. I look and feel as a normal woman, I burn with the desires of a normal woman, yet I still remember that I was a man."
"Gee, it seems like you could be happy here. Couldn’t you try to forget your past?" asked the little man.
"Forget? I would dearly love to forget," Jasmina said sadly, lifting her eyes heavenward. "I wish that right now time would roll back so that I could forget all that has happened and forget you so that I could live the life I knew before."
"As you wish," the little man intoned solemnly.
"What?! Wait! No, that was not my wish! I did not make that wish!" she almost yelled as she spoke, a small hint of hysteria creeping into her voice.
"I’m sorry," apologized the little man. "I am bound and obligated to enact all properly formatted wishes."
"But I had no intent to make such a wish!" she moaned.
"Intent is not important, words are," the little man reminded her.
"What will happen? What is to become of me now?" her eyes darted around the room looking for the first signs of any change.
"I don’t know, but we are about to find out." The little man began to study the air around the room.
"The palace walls, they shimmer now," noted Jasmina as a ripple washed through the room.
"Yes, the changes are starting," agreed the little man.
"This room grows smaller, and the rugs and pillows are gone." Jasmina pointed as she spoke.
"It does seem as though wherever we are going to will be a less palatial place." The little man nodded agreement.
"It is starting to look as a living room does. I see that that will be a couch and that there will be a television. There is something very familiar about this." Jasmina wrinkled her brow in thought.
"It kind of looks like it’s becoming a typical, middle-American house. Could be almost anywhere," the little man sniffed.
"Aieee! I know this place!" she said excitedly. "It is the very house that I grew up in! I have not dwelled in this place for many a year. Why would the magic bring us back to where I have not lived since I was a child?"
The little man considered the magical lines forming around the room for a moment before he answered. "You never did specify how far time should roll back," he said carefully. "Perhaps it is magically convenient to take you all the way back to when you were little boy."
A light went on in Jasmina’s eyes and she began to rush around the reforming room excitedly causing the silks she wore to swirl around gracefully. "Could it be that my unintentional wish has given me back the very thing I desired? Allah be praised, it should be so!"
"Don’t jump to conclusions. Magic is tricky stuff," cautioned the little man just as a ripple washed over Jasmina’s body causing her to noticeably shudder.
"Ooooh! I tingle all over so," she exclaimed.
"The magic is definitely beginning to fit you into this reality," the little man said as he studied the air around Jasmina.
"I feel it! The room grows larger. No, wait. It is I that grow smaller! I am becoming a boy again! See, even my breasts grow small. My clothes are changing too. Hey! I’m starting to get really short here," she piped in a child-like voice.
"You are definitely younger," the little man observed. "I’d say you are pre-teen now and still getting younger."
"It stopped!" she said surprised. "The tingles stopped and the room isn’t growing any more."
"That’s because all physical changes are substantially complete." The little man spoke like someone noting the finish time of an experiment.
"Complete? They can’ be complete. I still have long hair!" Jasmina said tugging on the long black hair. "And I’m wearing a dress!"
"That’s because you’re still a girl," the little man pointed out. "More exactly, you’re still Jasmina."
"WHAT?! Still Jasmina?" the little girl said looking very confused.
"Uh huh. Same black hair, same darker complexion, and if you looked into a mirror you would see the same brown eyes. You’re only about seven years old right now, but you are essentially the same person you were back in the harem." The little man sounded like he had been reading off from a checklist.
"But I had wished for my old life back!" she protested.
"And you pretty much have it. You live in the same house, you go to the same school, and you have the same parents. The only exception is that in this reality they are your adopted parents and they named you Janice." The little man smiled at the little girl in front of him, now almost eye level to him.
"But I’m a girl! Why give me my old life back but keep me a girl?" Janice almost cried.
"You keep forgetting that magic chooses the easiest path and that each of your wishes has to be strictly enforced during the time references," the little man patiently explained. Your first wish was to be surrounded by beautiful women for the rest of your life. The easiest way for that to happen is if you too were a woman, or at least a girl. Your second wish to reverse the first wish did nothing but reinforce the conditions resulting from the first wish. Your third wish gave you a permanent female sexuality, suppressed but not gone now that you are in a prepubescent form. Given all that, it is no wonder the magic made you a seven-year old girl. Anything else would have been even more different from your old life."
Janice thought it over for a little while before asking in a small voice, "How long do I have to stay a little girl?"
"You’ll probably hit puberty in about four to six years," the little man answered.
"Hah hah, you are so very funny. I meant how long before I can make another wish," she said.
"This is the fourth time that you have become essentially the same person. It’s going to take about two or three months to regenerate enough magical energy to impact you physically," he said.
"Two to three months! That’s like forever!" she pouted.
"It might as well be, because you’ll never make that wish," the little man replied.
"Huh? Why the hell not?!" she demanded.
"Because the magic is still flowing and it’s about to grant the rest of your wish," was his enigmatic answer.
"The rest of my wish?" Janice couldn’t remember any rest of the wish.
The little man smiled gently yet sadly before replying. "The part about forgetting all that has happened and that you ever knew me," he softly said.
"That... I never intended for that to happen," was her weak reply.
"Intentions are unimportant. Words are very important. They were valid qualifiers to a properly formatted wish and so must be strictly enforced. In just a few more moments you will forget ever being anything other than a seven-year old girl named Janice," the little man said offering her one last lecture.
"No! I need one more wish!" she desperately tried.
"Goodbye Janice. I’m glad things worked out in a relatively benign manner for you. I hope you’ll be happy from now on," he smiled as he finished.
"Wait! Don’t go! I don’t want to be a girl!" she begged. But the little man was already gone. Janice looked confused for a moment then shook her head. She began to wonder where her Mommy was and with the energy of youth skipped out of the room to look for her.