Samantha was clearing out her great-aunt’s house.
It was taking a long time because there were so many memories attached to everything she found.
Here was the old rocking horse that she used to play on whenever she came to visit in the summer. It had apparently entertained her own mother when she came to visit her aunt. The white paint was flaking off, and a lot of the original horse hair mane and tail had gone. Did she have room for it at her house? No, her two children were too old to play with it and it was just not practical to keep it. Another thing to put in her mental discard pile.
Great Aunt Elisabeth had reached the grand age of a hundred and two and had out lived all of her brothers and sisters, including her own grandmother. She had insisted on living in her own house right up to the end. She was a tough and independent woman. The last couple of years she had lived entirely downstairs but this was her only real accommodation to her advancing age.
The upstairs rooms had grown cluttered and dusty in those abandoned years. Great Aunt Elisabeth had finally succumbed to pneumonia the winter just gone and now it was April and they still hadn’t cleared the house and got it on the market to sell.
The money from the estate was to be split between herself, her Mother and a distant cousin Jeremy. Despite the large family, it was only those three that had regularly visited, telephoned and kept in touch with the darling old lady. The others had all suddenly come round when it became obvious she was ill and unlikely to get better. The Vultures. Great-Aunt Elisabeth had seen through all that falseness. You could never fool her, she was as bright as a button until the very end. She had been with her at the end, in hospital. She had given her her ‘magic’ ring. It was a gold ring set with a large Amethyst carved with a symbol a little like the letter Z. It had always fascinated her because it was most unlike anything she would imagine this simple lady wearing. They always joked about it being a magic ring.
“Here take this, I want you to have it. Keep it with you always.”
She always wore it now, on her right hand. It had looked too odd on her left with her simple wedding band and the small diamond engagement ring.
Her cousin Jeremy, who she had only met a few times but really liked, was helping clearing out the living room while her Mother was going through the kitchen leaving her to clear out the two bedrooms upstairs. This room contained the big walnut wardrobe that she had been scared of as a child. Her mother said that she had the same fears when she was little too. For some reason there was something ominous about it. You always felt that it would creak open and a hand would come out of it. In a small box on the windowsill there was an ornate key with a paper label written in her great-aunt’s unmistakable hand. It said, ‘Wardrobe’ in the elegant curly handwriting that no one ever writes in nowadays. She had always admired that lovely handwriting in all the Christmas cards she had received and those lovely letters great-aunt Elisabeth had sent her when she had been away at University, feeling homesick and wanting to chuck it all in. Her Mother had told Great Aunt Elisabeth how much she was struggling and so she had written to her every week. Letters of encouragement that had helped see her though. She still had one of those letters. Wiping away the tear that the memory had caused, Samantha gathered up her courage and used the key to open the scary wardrobe.
There wasn’t any skeletons in the closet or any scary bogeymen. It had a couple of old fur coats hanging up and smelling very musty. She had no memory of them being worn. Her Great Aunt had given up the wearing of furs even before Samantha had been born. She had said to her once that if she discovered any furs she was to burn them, not sell them, because if she can’t reunite them with their proper owners, ie the animal it had come from, then no one should have them. Looking at the cut of them, they must have been from the 1930’s and would probably be worth a lot of money, but she didn’t like fur either and also she believed quite strongly that a persons dying wishes should be honoured.
At the bottom of the wardrobe was a small square chest and inside that, wrapped in a flaky newspaper dated 1929, was a beautiful glass bottle with a gold stopper in it.
Samantha sat down and admired this fantastic find. Where had her Great Aunt got it? She had never married and never had any children. She had spent most of her life in the same town, in the same house and to her knowledge had never left the country. In the box was some old envelopes and letters. They were dated the same year as the newspaper. They were bound together in string and a small label just said ‘His Letters’.
She opened one of them and read it. she felt guilty at the intrusion into something so private, but then she couldn’t resist.
“My Dearest Elisabeth,
I hope this letter finds you well. The memory of our last meeting is forever in my mind, the smell of the roses as I held your hand and you confessed your love to me. I tell you again, I feel the same, My heart is forever yours, and when I return from this expedition, I will speak to your father and hopefully your hand will be mine.
We have just reached Alexandria and will stay here for a couple of days before travelling down the Nile. The temperatures are extreme and, as you know, I do not like the heat.
I will write again when we reach Thebes.
Ever yours, My darling,
In 1929 her Great Aunt would have been Seventeen. Clearly this love affair didn’t come to anything, but her dear Aunt Elisabeth had never mentioned it.
She opened another letter at random.
“My darling Elisabeth,
We have reached Thebes and the heat has increased. I am keeping out of the sun as much as possible but I will be glad to get home to England and a more civilised climate.
We have managed to obtain the travel permits we need to continue our journey into the desert. We should be at the dig site in three days. I will write again when we are settled.
I hope you are enjoying the Autumn weather. I do love England in September.
Thinking of you, as ever.
Your Adoring servant,
There were two more letters one written in the same hand and another in a far cruder hand. She opened the latter one first.
I understand that you and Captain Edward Fitzwilliam had a mutual understanding and as such I felt it dutiful of me to include you in the list of those I must inform of the sad development.
Captain Fitzwilliam was bitten by a Black Desert Cobra and died yesterday. There was nothing we could do to save him.
His last words were of you. I hope this gives you some comfort at this sad time.
Sir Arthur Davenport.”
The tears streamed down Samantha’s face as she read this letter. She understood why her Great Aunt had never spoken of it. It was so sad. She had never married or had children and all because the one man she’d loved had died all when she was so young.
She had one final letter that she had to read. It was dated a few days prior to the last one. Across the envelope her Great Aunt had written ‘His last letter’.
I am so very excited I don’t know how to contain myself. We have only been digging for a couple of days and already we have found some of the most amazing artifacts. Sir Arthur Davenport, who is leading our expedition, is strutting around so proud. One of the objects I found is a glass bottle, none of the Egyptologists had seen anything like it before. It wasn’t of the period they were after and so they said I could keep it. I am sending it to you for safe keeping with this letter.
I hope that it won’t be very long before I will follow it and be back with you. I hope to be there by Christmas.
My dearest, I long to be with you again.
So that explains the bottle. It had been sent from Egypt by this man, Edward, but he had never come back to claim it.
Gingerly she picked up the bottle. It had swirls of blue and green and shimmered even in the dim light from the dirty windows.
She gently shook the bottle. It didn’t appear to contain anything but the shimmer seemed to come from within. It glowed.
Samantha pulled out the golden stopper. The bottle shook. Quickly she put it down on the floor and stepped back. A green smoke came pouring out of it and rose up and up, reaching as high as the ceiling.
Rather terrified, Samantha stood with her back to the wall, next to the door, in order to make a quick run for it if necessary. Her eyes were glued to the green smoke which was now getting thicker and thicker.
It coalesced into the form of a giant man, with skin the metallic green colour of a beetle. He was wearing large voluminous purple silk pantaloons and had a cruel curved scimitar tucked behind a red silk sash. It had a long beard and its hair was black and long and held back in a pony tail, but it was its eyes that she couldn’t tear hers away from. They were huge and edged in black, like a model from the 1960’s, a bit over done. The Irises were a bright purple and they had a terrifying glare about them.
It spoke in a booming voice that shook the room.
“Behold! I am the great Genie Ashbaaloth, Cringe before me mortal for I spell thy doom and destruction. Tremble before my mighty wrath. For four thousand years I have dwelt within this decanter, imprisoned by the Priests of Ptah and now I shall take my revenge on mankind.”
For some reason, now he had spoken and told her to tremble, she felt the opposite. It all seemed slightly ridiculous to her, like a bad Aladdin film. A thought came into her head and she voiced it without really thinking.
“Well I thought you were supposed to grant me three wishes.”
“What is this mortal? You seek to enslave me to thy will? I grant no wishes. I bring only death.” He bent down to speak to her and moved his face close to hers. She could smell its foul breath.
In defence she put up her right hand to shield her face. Her Great Aunts strange amethyst ring glinted.
The Genie jumped back and screamed.
“You Have the Ring of Ptah! I am bound to it. I can not harm thee. I must obey thee.”
The Genie then sank to its knees and placed its head on the floor in total submission.
Muffled it muttered the famous words.
“Master, Thy Wish is my Command.”
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 18/April/2018