The Incense Salesman
Liam spends his whole life posting his Being Liam videos, just like he wished for. He graduates high school with Cs and Ds in all of his classes, just barely skating by. He never goes to college like his parents want, nay, implore him to, instead getting himself a job sweeping the floors a couple days a week in one of the warehouses in the Treeburg industrial park down the road from the Monksville Reservoir. The job is part time and it doesn’t pay much, but it gets him by well enough – Liam never accumulates many bills, as his trusty camcorder and desktop computer miraculously stand up to the test of time and pass it with flying colors, which is more than Liam could do on his own tests. He never gets any views on his videos either, not even on the memorial projects he puts together when his parents eventually pass through the veil, and nobody else ever leaves any comments wanting to be Liam’s YouTube friend.
When his parents died, they left Liam the house and a very fat life insurance payout, which Liam used to hire an accountant who remotely takes care of all of his bills for him. Liam shops online, having his groceries, toiletries, clothing, and everything else he might need delivered to his doorstep, and he makes a brand-new Being Liam video every single day.
Until, that is, the day comes when he feels too weak to get out of bed. He makes two videos the next day to compensate.
Never one to get much exercise, Liam’s physical health began to deteriorate in his forties. By the time he was fifty he had to use a cane, and when year fifty-five came around the number of canes doubled. By sixty he was unable to hold himself up, even with the canes, and so he had to resort to a scooter and a stair chair. Liam eventually wound up hiring a hospice nurse named Marty, and the guy stayed with old boy Liam for about two decades longer than he thought he would have to, but he never quit. Liam’s a bit of an eccentric, always making his little videos, but the guy pays well enough. He’s the definition of a minimalist, and so his parents’ life insurance fortune hardly has a dent in it by the time his eighty-fifth birthday rolls around. Liam gives Marty the morning off that day as a birthday gift (Liam and Marty share the same birthday, that’s why Liam picked him), and for the first time in years, he has the strength to get himself out of bed and into his scooter. With the house to himself, Liam scoots over to his desk and wrestles open the top drawer to get his video camera out of the lock box, and that’s when his memory kicks into gear: he still has the other incense cone from all those years ago. He still has a wish left.
Liam sets the camcorder on his lap and takes out the burner and the leftover box. He places the burner on the desk (although drops is more accurate) and, with a hand as still as a chihuahua in the cold, Liam eventually manages to get the cone to stand up in the depression. It’s a lot straighter than the other one; unlike the trout in Liam’s trousers, which never got much use over the course of his life, the cone stands tall and proud, reaching for the ceiling with its rounded, unbroken tip. How it lasted through the years is beyond Liam, but perhaps it doesn’t matter. Even though he can’t pee the bed anymore because of the catheter his nurse insisted he get, there’s no reason for Liam to stress, and so with great effort, he strikes a match (he keeps the box in his top drawer now, next to the lockbox, as the old coffee cup cabinet is now full of paper towels and other flammables) and lights the incense.
A few minutes pass and nothing happens, but then Liam bears witness to that which he missed all those years ago when he ran outside to fetch his camcorder from the pond that’s since been filled in and turned into a memorial flower garden for his late mom and dad. The smoke swirls and twirls into itself, the whitish gray haze thickening until it forms a solid pale gray ball. The ball grows in size, morphing into the form of a cut human torso which sprouts a pair of muscular arms out of the side and a smaller pair of stubby, handless arms out of the front (ah, to find oneself Being Liam). From the shoulders grows a head, and from the head flows a sleek torrent of dark blue hair with alternating strips of gold, light blue, and dark blue ornaments capping the ends. A bird with light blue feathers forms on the woman’s head, and when she opens her eyes and stares down at the ancient, scooterbound Liam, he feels things which he has never felt before.
Then, she speaks, her voice a red velvet cake.
“State your name, boy.”
“Liam,” states Liam through toothless gums.
“Liam,” repeats the djinn, folding her strong shoulder arms in front of her stubby chest arms. “Very well. In burning the cone, you have awoken me; in order to return to rest, I must grant you a wish. Choose your words care–”
This time around, Liam just doesn’t have the energy, nor the youthful exuberance, to cut the djinn off.
“–fully, for you shall have your wish granted, your highest desires fulfilled, but it shall cost you the price of your undying soul. And unlike my husband, I mean to collect.”
The eyes of the pale blue bird open. They glow redder than a blood moon, a color Liam has never seen before.
Again, Liam does not hesitate. “I wish for my youth, genie. That is all I have ever lost, and all I could ever want.”
The lady djinn offers a sinister smirk. “Very well, Liam.” She snaps her fingers and Liam closes his eyes, as he wants to avoid the spark show, but when he opens them, the cone is still smoking, the ghoulish djinn is still floating on the incense smoke, and the bird on her head is standing up on two feet. Liam is still ancient, his bones still brittle, his muscles still weak.
“I don’t feel any different, Missus Genie,” he says, looking at his wrinkled, arthritic hands.
The djinn’s smile morphs into an evil grimace, spreading from cheek to cheek like a plague of locusts over Egypt. “You have wished yet again for something you already had, foolish mortal. Age is a mindstate, youth nothing more than an attitude, and as a creative – though a belligerently unsuccessful one, I must say; in your wish for Being Liam, you were cursed to stay the same, never to evolve, nor to change your name – your mind has remained as young as it was the day you were born.”
“N…no…” is all Liam can manage, as his breath is growing short. He didn’t take his pills, his nurse left for his birthday day off before he thought of giving Liam his pills, and it’s all coming crashing down.
The bird on the pharaoh’s head spans its powdery teal wings and bellows a hiss from its beak. It takes flight, and the last thing Liam sees is the bird’s piercing ruby red eyes as the winged fiend dives straight for the center of his forehead.
Hello Commons, this has been the fifth subchapter of the seventh story from Convenient Incidents, an anthology of fifteen interconnected short stories which revolve around a man by the name of Hilter Odolf Williamson.
Convenient Incidents is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Convenient Incidents is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Convenient Incidents and would like to help support my work, click here and buy an autographed copy of the book (or anything else!) from my store. Alternatively, you can snag a cheaper (and unsigned) copy from Amazon by clicking here.
Be well Commons~