Here’s another piece for the #300DaysofFlashWriting challenge, where participants write for ten minutes only on a prompt posted online by my friend Shekina on her blog and social channels. This was written from the Day 21 prompt, ‘Photograph’.
Aisha hated having her photograph taken so much that she was at a loss when the genie told her what her one wish had to be.
The lamp had called to her from a dusty shelf in her parents’ house, where she was spending the Christmas holidays. She didn’t remember ever seeing it before. Despite the dust around it, the lamp itself looked brand new. She could see her face in its smooth surface, stretched wide by the curve of the lamp.
She rubbed it, of course. Why wouldn’t you?
The genie looked nothing like the cheeky blue one in Aladdin, which she had watched over and over as a child. The genie was a woman, for a start. Young and pretty with an hourglass figure and rubbed-pink lips, but still disappointingly like a normal person. Not a granter of wishes.
“Huh,” Aisha said.
“Huh? HUH?” the genie said, her voice rising, her accent unremarkable. “There was a time when my kind was revered by yours.”
“Well, you know.” Aisha shrugged. “I thought you would look different.”
The genie sighed. “Of course you did.”
“So, do I get three wishes?”
“It’s just one these days.” At Aisha’s disappointed look, the genie added: “What can I say? We’re overworked and understaffed.”
“One wish, then.” Aisha looked thoughtful.
“Before you get too excited, there’s only one type of wish you can have.”
The genie gestured around the spare room. “There are photographs in this humble abode, yes?”
Aisha nodded, thinking of the faded photos of her parents’ wedding day in the living room. The formal black and white portraits of long-dead ancestors hanging on the wall. The numerous albums stuffed with photos of relatives she couldn’t even name from trips to India.
“You may pick one of those photos, return to that setting and the age you were in the photo, and proceed to live the rest of your life from that point on.”
The genie rolled her eyes. “A woman of many words, aren’t you?”
“The problem is,” Aisha said, “I’m not really in any photos. Not after the age of twelve, anyway.”
“So?” the genie said, inspecting her red-tipped nails as if already bored. “Go back to being twelve. You’ll have plenty of time to get rich. Play the lottery, bet on the horses. You know what’s going to happen now.”
“Is that what other people do?”
The genie shrugged. “Yes, mostly, although you do get the odd one who just wants to go back to when their friend took their photo at a party the previous week so they can pout at the camera in a more becoming way.”
Aisha had found the albums while the genie talked. She opened one to a random page and squinted at it. There she was, aged twelve, eating kulfi in an ice cream parlour with a blissful look on her face. She thought about her life now: dull job, no boyfriend, a houseshare with people who refused to clean the bathroom.
She loved kulfi. Always had.
“Ah, go on then,” Aisha said. “I might as well. It’s not as if I have anything better to do.”
© 2021 Dipika Mummery