I loved the visits to my grandmother’s house.
Her house was a treasure trove of nic nacs spread all over the place and in so many different rooms.
‘Just stuff I have picked up over the years,’ She would say. ‘Be careful touching things,’ she would warn, ‘You never know how old it might be and most of my possessions are irreplaceable.’
So it was that we would spend hours pouring over her ornaments and vases and all manner of odd shaped objects the use of which we had no idea.
The lamp was always an article of interest. Grandmother was always evasive about its origins. It was placed in her ‘stuff I picked up over the years’ category.
‘Be careful with that lamp,’ she’d say, ‘you rub it too hard and you never know what might pop out. Not every lamp has a genie.’
As kids we played all manner of games, we knew the Arabian Night’s stories, we knew about the genie in the lamp, we knew if the genie came out we had three wishes.
There was always fierce competition amongst us about the three wishes. We would speculate about riches and happiness, travel and good health, wisdom and not having to eat Brussels sprouts ever again.
And of course we did rub it, endlessly and grandmother would be standing at the door smiling at us and at our lame attempts to activate more than our imaginations.
‘Well at least you keep it shining.’ She would say.
The lamp exercised our fertile imaginations and kept us occupied on many an overcast and damp afternoon.
Grandmother was happy for us to play with the lamp, it was as if she knew there was little danger in us doing so and that the worst thing that might happen is we were to drop it and break it. Though I do have to say we were very careful.
One night my sister brought the lamp into our room and sat it above her bed. I said to her that we were told not to take the lamp out of the room Grandmother had it in. My sister being the sort of girl she was to never listen to anyone’s advice nor heed anything that looked like a warning just shrugged and said she was hoping we could continue to play with the lamp before we went off to sleep.
We made up tales of visits to strange lands, with rich princes vying for out attention, and with exotic clothes for us to wear.
We did go off to sleep with these vivid images in out heads.
I awoke the next morning to find my sister’s bed empty and the lamp gone. She’s returned it I thought. And decided to lay in a little longer. It was cold out I could tell as our bedroom windows were fogged over.
A little while later I stirred as grandmothers head was round the door urging us to get up. I looked over and my sister’s bed was still empty.
After dressing I went out to the kitchen where Grandmother was fixing the breakfast. On the way I did notice that the lamp was back where it has always stood. I was glad my sister had returned it.
Grandmother asked me where she was and I replied that I thought she was up and about well before me. Grandmother had not seen her and we both went off to search. My sister did like to explore far more so that I and I knew I would find her out in the garden looking round a corner somewhere and shouting down the well as she loved to hear her voice echo back.
But I found no trace of her. Neither did Grandmother.
Then she looked hard at me and asked me what we had been playing with the day before. I explained about the lamp that she had brought it into the bedroom and left it above her bed.
Grandmother looked at me in horror. She repeated her warning from our first ever visit.
‘Touch what you want, but always put it back where you found it.’
Grandmother ran into the room where the lamp was sitting and looked at it. Again she asked me what game we had been playing and why my sister had left it above her bed.
Grandmother took the lamp in her hands and rubbed both hands at once over its sides. There was a flash of light and before grandmother stood a tall and very handsome man. He smiled at Grandmother and she smiled back.
‘Madam knows me so well. We did have an agreement did we not?’
Grandmother sighed deeply, ‘We did indeed Hugo.’
‘Then accept that I can collect my bounty.’
‘But she is a child Hugo. She didn’t understand and I failed to tell her of the danger of moving your lamp.’
‘Ignorance is no defence Madam, you of all should know that.’
‘She is my grand daughter Hugo, I will trade you another.’
I looked askance at my grandmother, she looked at me and quickly reassured me she wasn’t referring to me.
Hugo looked at my grandmother and asked, “When will you come with another?’
“On the dawn of the seventh moon Hugo, like I always do.’
There was a flash and Hugo disappeared. My grandmother put the lamp back into its usual spot. She then turned and walked to our bedroom and looked in on my sister sleeping soundly in her bed.
“She will sleep a little while and when she wakes she will remember nothing of this event. You my dear must never speak of it, for to speak of it is to raise Hugo from his eternal slumbers. You already know what will happen if you move the lamp.’
‘Is there nothing I can do to negate the power of the lamp?’
‘Only destruction by fire will kill off the lamp and Hugo, and we wouldn’t want the house to burn down now would we.’
‘And the seventh moon?’ I asked
“You need not worry about that my dear.’
And so my sister awoke and our lives went on as normal. She had no idea of what had happened and I have kept it quiet all these years.
Today is my ninety-fifth birthday. My sister passed away last year, I feel it is safe to tell the story now, in written form for the lamp still rests where grandmother left it all those years ago. I have written into my will and told my children that the lamp is to be put into the coffin with me when I die. I am to be cremated.