Face contorted by a mixture of cramped agony and startled surprise, Mohamud gasped for air as unseen demonic magic stretched his body. Pulled like soft date candy, the forces squeezed him into the nameless void.
Vision fading, Mohamud remained conscious just long enough to feel himself hopelessly cast into a pitch-black metal cavern. He thunked against the floor, and promptly passed out.
Mohamud reentered consciousness to a stranger’s voice, a horse-kick headache, and total darkness. For a moment, he considered whether he was even alive.
“Hey, you awake?”
Mohamud released a low groan.
“AH!” Mohamud started up into a sitting position, still unable to see. He groped lethargically at the air around him.
“Oh thank goodness,” sighed the relieved voice. “For a while there, I thought you might be dead.”
Mohamud squinted into the blackness. “What? Who are you?” he asked the disembodied voice. “Where am I?”
“Oh! Silly me, beg pardon.” The stranger clapped twice, and a dim glow lit the room—a perfectly cylindrical copper cavern, with smooth corners and a small round hole in the ceiling.
Head throbbing as his eyes blearily adjusted to the mounting brightness, Mohamud slowly began to make out the stranger before him. As his focus sharpened, his eyes grew wide.
Sitting cross-legged just a short distance in front of him was a thin turquoise man, wearing loose silk pants, a tightly wrapped turban, and a childish smile. He leaned forward and gleefully slapped his knees as Mohamud finally grasped what he was looking at:
More specifically, a Djinn in a small copper cavern. More specifically—
A Djinn in a bottle, realized Mohamud. He sunk his head into his hands. He understood, now, where he was. But before he could ask for specifics, the Djinn interrupted.
“Ta-da!” the Djinn pronounced triumphantly, gesturing broadly to the space around him. “Welcome to the bottle!” He sprung energetically to his feet and grabbed Mohamud’s hand, pulling him to a stand. “It’s a pleasure to have you.”
“How did I—?”
“How did you get here? Well, you rubbed the bottle silly! And it sucked you in.”
“But,” Mohamud stammered, “but I thought—“
“Thought what? That I’d pop out? And grant you wishes? HA! That’s what I thought twelve years ago. At least, I think it’s been twelve years. I kinda lost count around four… Or was it five…?”
Mohamud watched, paralyzed with confusion as the Djinn momentarily lost himself in thought, whisper-counting on his blue fingers. Eventually, though, the Djinn looked back up at Mohamud, and the pensiveness disappeared into a joyful grin.
“But hey! None of that matters now that you’re here!” the Djinn said, clapping Mohamud on the shoulder. “I can finally get out of here!”
The Djinn began unwrapping his turban and stripping off his silk pants. “Here,” he said once he was naked, tossing the clothes at Mohamud. “I’m not entirely sure how all this works—heck, neither was my predecessor—but I think you might need these. Either way, can’t hurt I suppose.”
Mohamud complicity caught the garments, then snapped himself aware. “Wait a minute,” he objected, “what’s going on here?”
“No idea my friend,” said the nude blue Djinn. “But from what I understand, this wicked bottle has a curse on it. And to release that curse, someone’s gotta rub the bottle. That’s you,” he said, pointing to Mohamud. “And now that you’ve done that, you’ll take my place until the next poor sap comes along.”
“Wait, What!?” Mohamud protested.
“Oh don’t worry. Unlike my PREDECESSOR,” the Djinn screamed into the empty room, “I’ll be careful to ensure that you get passed along rather quickly. Heck, you’ll probably only be in here a couple of days at most. Not even enough time for your skin to go blue!”
This couldn’t be real.
“Anyways, the magic should take effect any time now, so uh, good luck! Maybe think about poetry or something. Ta-ta!”
And with a subtle pop, the Djinn vanished.
Face contorted by a mixture of cramped agony and startled surprise, Ahmed gasped for air as unseen demonic magic stretched his body. Pulled like soft date candy, the forces squeezed him into the nameless void. Vision fading, he remained consciousness just long enough to feel himself fall onto a hard metal floor.
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