|photo copyright NASA|
Adam plucked the object off his bedroom floor and carried it back into his small living room. He decided against risking, what, damage (?) tainting (?) the space where he slept and hurried back to his first choice. He plunked the object down in the center of an open space he had created earlier by nudging his furniture against the walls. He stared at “it” wondering, again, if he was being smart or stupid.
I am being smupid, he thought.
It was made of a metal that held the color of brass. A swirling, curved handle at one end and a long, delicate stem, like an extended elephant’s trunk at the other. This lamp looked exactly like every picture and movie he’d watched growing up. The surface was covered by an intricate spread of carvings that might have been several patterns woven together, or a single, complex design that eluded him. It felt oddly old to the touch. He had dug it out of his back yard. He thought of it as his backyard despite the fact he shared it with three other tenants in the building. He was the only one who ever used it anyway, and he was certainly the only one to ever search it with a metal detector. The matter of the object actually belonging to the property owner was dismissed quickly because it never entered his mind. She was only a name on a check mailed mostly by the fifth of the month.
The one redeeming part of all this was no one would ever know. IF he was right he would stick to his plan. If he was wrong, no one would ever know it. No blood, no foul, and positively no video for the world to see. Quiet and private, like all good craziness should be.
Stories described friction as the means of activating the power within it. Adam thought this sounded familiar. He extended his right pointer finger, touched the lamp’s body near the handle, and with a firm, swift motion swiped it across its surface.
He wiped his hand against his shirt. The fabric stuck to his chest. He was excited by the absurdity of it all, but he hadn’t realized he was sweating. He blew on his finger tips to dry them and tried again.
Do I try this one more time or hundred times a day for the rest of my life?
The implications of the question set in after a moment. The possibility that THE IMPOSSIBLE or THE FANTASTIC was very real gripped him. He wanted this to be real, despite all the terrifying doors that would swing open as a result. He had thought long and hard about the human monsters paraded in headlines and the pages of history. What if they, through this lamp or something like it, were granted the power to impose their whim upon us all? For that matter, would the kindhearted utopian do any different? The world would become a chaotic shadow shaped by these whims. Matter shaped by the whisper of a saint or a sinner. Perhaps both had tried it before? And weren’t the words or intent of the wisher often twisted in tales and legends? This would explain a lot about the world.
I should re-bury this thing.
But who might find it next? What if a politician found it?!
Better to waste a lifetime, he thought.
Adam made himself comfortable on the floor. Using two fingers now he again swiped across the surface of the lamp. Nothing. Three fingers. Nothing. He placed his full palm against its surface covering as many of the carvings as he could swiping this time down its full length. Instantly a dull green glow grew from the carvings.
Opening the lamp had been the first thing Adam did when he found it. It was empty. He was then aware of an odor coming from the lamp. He scuttled back several feet. The smell grew stronger. It was like…like a memory. Adam pictured rain…thunder and lightning…OZONE! It was the smell in the air after lightning strikes! Whatever was happening in the bread loaf sized lamp was generating power. A lot of it. Adam’s chest suddenly squeezed against lungs as if under a great weight of water. His ears drums popped shooting pain down the sides of his neck.
Lightning in a bottle…
Panic set in. He couldn’t think clearly.
Genie in a bottle…
He glanced at the lamp.
Looking at it burned his eyes! Reflexively he turned away twisting his neck in a painful wrench from the sudden motion. His eyes watered, forcing him to rapidly blink. The familiar details of his living room blurred into a milky haze. He rubbed his eyes praying he hadn’t blinded himself while cursing himself and the whole train of events leading to this.
Slowly the pain lessened. He opened his eyes bracing for another burst of pain, but none came. The haze, however, remained. He looked at his hands. They came into clear detail, as did his legs and feet. The pressure was also gone. He could breathe easily again. He looked at the haze a moment before realizing he was looking at it. The haze was around him, not in his eyes. The room was filled with…smoke? He covered his eyes with hands leaving only the smallest, tightest opening between his fingers letting in light like a child watching a horror movie they can’t turn away from. He scanned the room from behind his hand-shield. It looked like smoke but also like a thin liquid suspended in air. He braced himself and risked the briefest of a flicker of a glance at the lamp. To his relief, he felt no pain. To his shock, the smoke was pouring from the lamp. Something was missing? Wasn’t it?
…right…I used the smoke detector batteries for the remote…
Assuming it was smoke in the sense he or the makers of the smoke detector knew it. He took a glance, slightly longer, and this time he saw the face in the smoke.
Adam froze. He stared at a face that melted with the smoke, was made from it, and yet somehow was also illuminated against it. It stared back at him. Large dark ovals for eyes with no whites. Hairless. Pale. Where a nose should be it may have had two small slits. It may have had a mouth. The visage swayed in motions he could not follow or understand. Despite the tinge of headache and nausea growing the longer he studied it, he would not turn away. It was mesmerizing.
He looked at the face. The face looked at him. He looked at the face. The face looked at him. Adam waited for it to do something because it damn well looked like it should be doing something! Then it occurred to him the ‘face’ may have been thinking the same thing. Waiting, being a better word. This was part of his plan, right? Part of his crazy theory that now sat in front of him.
…the face is an interface for a face like his face but not his face which was why people with faces like his face could not face the consequences of the face that only looked a little like his kind of face…the reason why it must go….
Adam mustered as much calm as he could and with a slow, clear voice said, “I wish you into the nearest star,” while pointing out a window at the Sun. At the same time, as part of his plan, he pictured the lamp vanishing into space and hurling toward the massive fusion engine.
The room was quiet. The smoke was gone. It was. Then it wasn’t.
Slowly he stood. He rubbed the ache from a knee as he walked to his window. He opened it and listened. Normal sounds fell through the opening. No screams. No explosions. But did it work? Had the lamp been safely destroyed? Had anything been lost in translation? Softy another question raised it's head to be counted. What next? Adam pondered this to the rising thrill of a successful adventure. Maybe there was a way to sort of tell other people. He could write a story. Pretend it was all fiction.
Maybe post it on his blog.
It wouldn’t be hard to draft. He had lived it after all. He smiled considering the thought. It would make a good short story. Maybe it could be the start of a number of stories that took classical ideas and gave them a new twist. It could work. He sat for about ten minutes and mentally plotted out the first story about the lamp. He’d have to change his name, of course. He needed a normal, everyman kind of name…
Sam…That’s pretty boring. That’ll work.
A child’s rising laughter from somewhere outside caught his attention. Listening, it wasn’t a laugh. It was a scream. The sound of many screams piling upon each other had tricked him into thinking it was single voice. He looked out his window. He didn’t see anyone, but the sounds of screams grew. And it was getting darker outside. He looked toward the Sun. Jagged lines like black lighting raced across its surface crossing and crisscrossing. A small piece of the star that would have blinded him to look at it only minutes ago slowly floated away to dim into nothingness. The world dimmed a little more. The air on his face noticeably cooled. As slowly as the fragment had faded he slipped back to the floor. It worked. The plan worked. The lamp made it to the Sun and had been destroyed. The object…the thing, whatever it was that could undo the laws of the Universe was gone, and whatever made it work was now free and destroying the Sun. Or something like that. It was hard to think with all the children screaming. He never knew so many lived in the neighborhood. The ground shook as the solar system unraveled itself.
Careful what you wish for…
He closed his eyes one last time to his last thought.
At least no one would ever know it was me.