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by J.R. Anderson about a year ago in fantasy
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"Ultimately, it is the desire, not the desired, that we love." - Friedrich Nietzche

Photo by allison christine on Unsplash

“Okay, Carmen, today’s the day. I can feel it," I said, rubbing my hands together. The food stained seat of my Toyota Camry squeaked as I shifted my legs. My best friend Kendric says she's too beat up for a name like Carmen, but her rusted patches and once rocket red paint was evidence of her fight to get me through pretty much every lemon life had thrown. I knew the first day I sat in the driver’s seat Carmen and I were soulmates. I stuck my hand out my partially rolled down window and opened my door, closing it with my legging-clad hip. Then, giving Carmen a quick rub for luck, I walked into Thrift World.

The musty smell of second-hand stuff used to disgust me. But, now, I Iooked forward to the search and find among the generations of old university sweatshirts and shoes that should have been thrown away. Last Monday, I looked in the game area, which contained a couple of busted boxes and missing board pieces and found a classic jazz record stuck with tape residue to the bottom shelf. Every week I held out hope that I would find something magical---something Jumanji-esque, without the lion, spiders, and poisonous flowers.

I wandered over to the books, waving to Bob at the donations counter. His bald head glinted in the fluorescent light as he gave me a nod and pulled barely used Nikes and marble coasters out of a bag. Like me, he treasured the obscure hunt through another’s junk.

Turning toward the far wall lined with books, I noted more self-help books had made it to the shelves. The optimist in me figured that someone had gotten the help they needed, so they were giving others The Joy of Whatever, but the full-blown cynic believed self-help books must be garbage. Why else was there ten copies of 8 Ways of Getting Out of a Rut? Maybe I should snag one for Kendric.

I chuckled and stroked a couple of books with my fingers, my pink polish a sharp contrast to the dull book jackets. Bob must have gotten a large book donation because there was now a whole low shelf dedicated to paperback romance novels. I squatted to inspect the covers of half-naked Scottish lairds and buxom painted ladies.

“Oh, maybe this one,” I said, pulling a book with a man standing hipshot in Mr. Darcy clothes, his dark hair windswept by the ocean storm brewing behind him. I cradled the book in my left arm and stood to scan the hardback books.

My eyes caught on a thick leather-bound book sandwiched between The Lord of the Rings and I Potty, You Potty, We Potty Too. Balancing on my toes, I reached for it and was shocked – quite literally – when my fingers grazed the spine. The zing ran down my arm, causing my hand to reflexively grasp the book. Only it wasn’t a book. My hand held a tin box. Someone had shaped and painted it a dark leathery brown to look like a book. My fingers felt glued to its surface, and a humming seemed to slip into my fingers – the sound part sigh of satisfaction and part creaking groan.

“Cree-py,” I sing-songed.

I shook the box gently and heard something solid inside. The humming turned into buzzing as if thousands of bees suddenly zoomed beneath my skin.

“Super cree-py,” I said aloud. Grasping the book-like tin, I grinned and fast-walked to the register.

“Hey, D.C.,” Bob said as he plucked prices into the cash register. “Anything good today? Oh, you found this box. It came in anonymously without a key. I been wonderin'.”

“I can’t wait to pry it open,” I said, bouncing on my toes, and handed Bob a twenty. “Keep the change, Bob. I gotta run.” And I jogged outside, my flip-flops slapping against my heels.

“Carmen,” I said as I opened her door and flung myself into the driver’s seat. “We did it.”

I placed my hand on the box, my skin suctioning to the cool metal, and sped all the way home.


“D.C.,” Kendric called into my apartment. I vaguely heard him take a breath and cough. “What the heck, girl? Did you give Carmen a paint job? She looks brand new.”

I heard the door click closed, but my attention was focused elsewhere.

“Holy shit, D. When did you buy all this stuff? Did you find this at Thrift World?” Kendric stepped inside onto a massive tiger-skin rug. “I hope this is a fake,” he mumbled as he nudged the tiger’s head with his tennis shoe. He coughed again. “What the hell is that smell? I can taste it.”

“Rose, vanilla, and beeswax,” I replied mechanically, my hand held in a trance by the book in my lap as the shadows of candles danced on the walls.

“What the?” Kendric gasped as he lunged to a corner of my studio apartment where there used to be a miniature library. “You put a ballroom in your apartment?!”

”It was either that or an armory, complete with shining knight," I said.

“When did you have time to do this? I was just here two days ago. How did you make the space?!"

Scanning the rest of the room, Kendric rubbed a hand across peacock feathers in a corner vase before his mouth dropped open at the sight of me.

“Wh-Wha? What in the ever-living hell did you do to your boobs?!” Kendric all but shouted. “And your hair! Your boobs!” His cedar brown eyes bulged.

“Did I do too much?” I asked, looking down at my chest, hardly noticing the crumbs on my black shirt from the pheasant pie I’d eaten earlier. “I was going for maximized, yet tasteful. Hang on.” I bumped the tin book-box as I scribbled in a little black book.

Kendric’s eyes popped out of his head as he watched my boobs shrink to a lesser yet still voluptuous size.

I grinned maniacally at him, my eyes shimmering violet orbs and my normally mousy-brown hair glowing like polished chestnuts and bouncing with twice its usual volume and length. “I know, right?”

Kendric didn’t respond. He just plopped onto my new four poster bed and stared.

“Kenny,” my voice vibrated with the bees buzzing beneath my skin. “You’ve got a friend – wait, wrong song. You ain’t ever had a friend like me. Bam.” I held out my free hand jazz-style.

When his eyes didn't blink, I snapped the little book closed, my newly jeweled fingers glimmering rainbows against the black cover. “Kendric, I think I found the equivalent of Aladdin’s lamp at Thrift World. But, like, instead of a genie, I am the genie.”

“A genie?”

“Yeah, you know like Robin Williams or Will Smith. But not blue or wearing harem pants. Come on. I’ll prove it. Give me a wish--anything you want.”

Kendric eyed me sideways and said, “Okay, how about twenty thousand dollars.”


“Yeah,” he mumbled. “I could do a lot with 20K.” His lips curved up as if playing along with my lunacy.

“Okay,” I spoke slowly. “But why stop there?” I scribbled furiously on a new page and looked up with gleaming eyes.

And nothing happened.

“Sometimes it takes a minute, and then it doesn’t always appear directly. Look on the parapet, and I’ll look by my bed.”

"You have a parapet?" Kendric said disbelieving, but he shuffled to look out the patio door.

“Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shitting shit,” Kendric said, yanking open the door and running to Carmen. Inside her shiny new windows, mounds of jewels in every color, shape, and size, sparkled against newly minted gold. Every available space glittered a veritable king's ransom.

Kendric pressed his nose against the passenger window. “Holy freaking shit, D.C.,” he said as his breath fogged the glass. "I meant 20K in our century!"

I laughed and puffed out my buxomly chest. “I am a genie!”

Still in unbelief and afraid to leave Carmen without an armed guard, Kendric asked me to scribble whatever it took on a page in the book to move the wealth inside.

“Never fear, Libby will take care of it!” I said, my voice an octave lower than normal and smooth like honey.


“Little Black Book. LBB,” I said. Once inside, we fell beside each other on the royal silk of my new LoveSac. “I’m calling her Libby.”

“So, that little, er, Libby, she’s the reason you can suddenly…” Kendric snapped his fingers, gesturing to the new TV taking up almost an entire wall then pointing at my chest. “Do that.”

The buzz, buzz, buzzing erupted from deep in my bones, and I told Kendric everything: from finding the tin box to prying it open to discovering a little black book inside. “And when I write in it, it’s like I can feel the universe shifting with the demands of whatever I wish. My pen just glides across the white pages with this inner-yet-otherworld purpose. Like what I’m wishing is actually deja-vu. And I can’t stop writing and wishing and wishing and writing. And just when I think I’ve wished for everything I’ve ever wanted, another wish writes itself.”

My hand began to write beneath a long list of other wishes. “See? I hadn’t even thought of this wish until the pen stroked the page.” At the point of the period, a colorful tattoo sleeve bloomed across my right arm: blue buds of Hawaiian flowers mixed with cheetah print. I looked up at Kendric with wild violet eyes. “Cool, right?”

“Way cool,” he said, “Although I gotta be honest, D.C. You look a little scary. The whites of your eyes are turning blood red, and your pupils are ginormous.” He lifted a hand to my forehead. “I think you might have a fever. When’s the last time you slept?”

My shoulder jerked upward as I shrugged. Libby’s energy surged through my body, and I stood with a jolt.

Kendric reached for Libby, and I recoiled as if burned.

“Ouch! It stings. It stings,” I cried out. “D-don’t take her. She-she doesn’t want to be taken from me.” I looked at Kendric with feral eyes. “I d-don’t think I can let go," I said.

“Delia Cloud,” Kendric said. “Give me that book.”

“I can’t. It hurts,” I said as a violent stabbing of bee stings surged through my core.

“You'll have to take it," I said, blinking as tears drowned my eyes. “Take it, Kendric!”

He ripped the little black book out of my hands and threw it across the room. The book thumped against the wall and landed on the wood floor. Libby’s pages fluttered elegantly and closed with a hiss.

Grasping my thrashing arms tight against my sides, Kendric stared into my eyes. “Shh. It’s alright. You’re going to be alright,” he said, holding me against his broad chest. "You're going to be alright," he repeated as if trying to convince us both.

The stinging ceased and the buzzing slowly receded into a depressed hum. My head hurt like the pain of a brain freeze from eating ice cream too fast, and I could feel Libby’s energy across the room. Pulsing. Wanting. Her need a caress on my already hot skin.

My mind turned foggy, and my eyelids drooped. The energy depletion of the last two days pummeling my body with the need for sleep, and I shuddered a sigh.


“Yeah, D.C.,” Kendric replied while eyeballing the little black book, daring it to snap itself back into my hands.

“I have to get rid of Libby, don’t I?” I said, my voice a throaty whisper.

Kendric leaned his head down and kissed my voluminous mane and rubbed a soft hand down my tattooed arm. “Yeah, D, we gotta get rid of her.”

“But not the jewels, right?”

“No. We can keep those.”

“What about my boobs?”

Kendric chuckled in relief. “Man, I hope not.”


About the author

J.R. Anderson

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