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The Unguarded Wish Of The Woman In The Green Stockings

"Just an attempt at a steampunk tale."
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Competition Entry: A New Years Do-Over

The party was in full swing a grand celebration in a warm home, as a group of familiar friends and acquaintances gathered for food and drink, music and laughter, waiting and watching for Time to reboot itself, and another year, to be born with the rising of the sun, instead of just a new day or week.  It was here, at this mundane gathering, when he approached the Veiled Woman with a drink in his hand. 

“You have a tear in your stocking, dear lady.”

She turned demurely to face him,  her face was covered by a veil as well, lace.  Her beach sand brown eyes had thick kohl around them - stark against the tree bark brown of her skin.  She was dressed in all the European finery with petticoats and lace and corsets and long layered skirts and stockings.   She looked him up and down. 

“And you would know that how?”

“Find the woman with the green stockings, I was told.  You’ll know her when you see her,”  the man replied evasively. 

She narrowed her eyes at him.  “Who are you?” she asked slowly.  The man smiled.  

“If I told you  I am a djinn, would you believe me?”

Something in the Veiled Woman’s eyes widened before her partial expression shut down and she quickly said, “No, I would not.  I am not a child who believes in fairy tales.”

“Oh but it is the dawning of a new year,  Such liminal times are befitted only for fairy tales.  Tales of happiness and woe.  Hopes and wishes.  And so, so much more. Indulge me.   At the stroke of Midnight,  slip away.  Look for the Silver Fireworks.  I know you are curious. I can smell it.  A djinn always knows the scent of a pure heart who has lost its faith.”  And with that, someone bumped into the Veiled Woman, and the Djinn in the nice suit with the drink slipped away. By the time she looked around to find him,  he was gone.  She frowned.  

It was England in 1899.  The Century was to turn over in a few hours.  The Veiled Woman mingled and tried to not watch the clock but she very much was watching the clock.  She smiled and curtsied and said all the right things and met all the important people.  But then the hour came and people were counting down staring at the giant clock in the skyline.  The Veiled Woman heard the fireworks, they were all red and green and pretty colors.  Away from the main firework show … there were silver fireworks.  She gathered her skirts,  excused herself, and went toward them.

It was an alley behind a pub where she met him.  He was still wearing that suit but the drink was gone.  He smiled when he saw her.  “Every year lonely souls see the year turn over,  every year,  they wish for a better life, even make plans for it.”  He stepped closer to her, his gaze intense. Focused.  On her.  She stood there.  Veiled,  Impassive. But listening.

“What if, just this once, you could  make that wish, with the certainty that your wish would come true.”

“Where I come from children are taught that dealing with Djinn comes with a price.”

“Everything has a price,  Life has its price in the end, does it not? All I am offering is to change one life choice that may help your life from now forward to improve. A choice of your past that you can do differently. Think about it,  Lady, what one thing do you wish you could change to have a happier life? More peace? Anything at all. But it must be from your life and your life’s past only. That is the only rule,” he said with one finger up  He held her gaze as he slowly let his hand fall back to his side. 

She took a breath.  “Just one?”

“Fortune favored the bold, not the greedy, Lady.  The moment you or I leave this alley,  the deal is off, by the way.  And the liminal energy will do its workings at sunrise.  The effects of what you wished for,  will show themselves once the sun kisses the sky of the new year, and in this case, the new era, a new Century.  Imagine the things the forces that be have awakening inside each of us already. So think and decide, Lady, or walk away and regret this night forever,”  he said, and there was a dark weight to his voice that made the Lady with the Green Stockings smirk beneath her Veil.

Her hand went to a necklace charm.  It was a key.  She felt the familiar metal against her gloved fingers.  “Then I wish to see her again.  To be with her again, as I was before,  for all time.  To be … as I was,”  she whispered. 

And the djinn was just starting to smile a satisfied smile when the shadows rose around him and gripped him as if binding him.  He started to scream  “No! Noo, please!  I did nothing wrong! Wait, please stop!”

The Djinn wailed and swatted at the shadows.  The Veiled woman stood there and watched.  Her eyes flickered a bright green,  green as envy, and she smiled beneath her Veil.  “Oh so young,  so young and ignorant.  You will learn the lesson I learned and then you’ll think twice and maybe even thrice before taking a contract from the Souls of Shadows.  A djinn must never bargain with the forces of Will and Wish with its own kind.  IT is our most sacred pact.  Such things are only offered to Lesser beings,  like the feeble minds and hearts of man.  All Djinn are equal only to each other.”

“How? How are you Djinn?  How did I not notice?  Are you masking yourself?” he asked in a fearful whisper as the Shadows kept trying to bind him.  His dark eyes were wide with fear and panic,  he looked frail, losing control over his solid man-like form,  his face gaunt and getting more ghoul and specter-like.   Soon he’d take his natural shadow form and be whisked away by the Greater Jinn. 

The djinn is everywhere at all times, in every shadow, and in every corner of every reality.  They are the shapers of reality and the guardians of hope, time, and will.  They use their innate illusion magic for innocent tricks most of the time, but a few who rise in power,  prefer a higher-risk game.

“I made a bargain a long time ago.  You are just the granting of that bargain, the consequence of a choice I made several hundred years ago.  And I am sorry it was you chosen to be the pawn in this game,  Gregor,  truly.  I liked you.  And I hope that you remember this day, this moment,  that  when the time comes you will remember that I asked them to be merciful.”  

And then she glanced toward the Shadows and rose her hands up to the sky speaking rapidly in Ancient Tamazight, her eyes glowing brighter green,  green as the northern lights,  her layered skirts and veil blowing in an aetheric wind before she turned to look at the young Djinn and his eyes widen in realization

“Aldjya…” he gasped in awe.  And the Veiled Woman smiled somehow without lowering her Veil, that smile could be seen in its full glory, in the green of her eyes. 

“Take him,”  she said to the Greater Jinn and they swarmed him as he screamed. The Shadows swallowed the sound before any Mortal could hear him.  And then she closed her eyes and surrendered to her Greatest Wish.  The Veiled woman, Aldjya,  transformed into a porcelain doll, dressed as she was, just lying immobile on the ground in that alley.  Beautiful, and innocent. Green eyes stared out into the quickly dawning sky.  

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