Fizzing bubbles tickled my lips as I tilted the vial and attempted to ignore the impish smile of the djinn who’d supplied it.
New growth, he’d promised. New hope for the gimp who’d found only a Band-Aid solution in the medical world.
The war took more than just my left foot. It took my dignity. My confidence. My ability to walk through a grocery store without receiving a hundred sympathetic looks or averted gazes. The capacity to run the bases in a Saturday ballgame with the guys, or the power to sweep that special girl off her feet with the ballroom dance moves Mom drilled into my head.
The war took my life.
I closed my eyes and tilted the vial.
“Every last drop,” the creature’s voice boomed.
Peaches and cayenne pepper coated my tongue. Heat sank into my throat. A volcano tunneled its way into my stomach.
I didn’t hear the crash of glass or the maniacal cackle of my supplier, but the cold cement of his compound tomb burned my palms and brow. For the first time I realized I should have settled for the prosthetic foot.
Six months I’d used the gimp-aid with too many hours of therapy—until I couldn’t stand the chafing pads. Desperate for another solution, I’d explored the possibilities medically, then, finding no viable solution, branched into internet searches which finally led me to the occult. It was on a dark site where I found him (aka, invisible to the public).
Locked in a windowless tower in the Israeli desert, he’d been trapped for centuries, granting the wishes of visitors who placated him with an offering. I brought a plate of cheese. Don’t know if djinn like cheese, but in the middle of a desert, it seemed like a rare delicacy. In return, he offered me a steaming green beaker.
My gut boiled. Tingling fingers crawled up my back and pressed out through my skin. The flesh tore. I screamed and the world went black.
I woke with stale sweat covering my skin, the moon beaming down from above. A jolt shook me fully awake. The guide I’d hired to bring me out the tower dragged me on a wheel-less gurney behind his camel, the ends jouncing off the occasional rock as it left a snaking trail through the sand.
“You wake, crazy man?”
I swallowed sandpaper down my throat. “Yeah. I’m alive.”
“I tell you that place no good. I tell you, stay away.”
I covered my eyes. “How close are we to the city?”
“Close. You fly home and never come back.”
I’d been home a day when the itching started. I rolled over in bed, unable to reach the spot in the center of my back, but my fingers brushed over something.
Solid, fleshy, oblong with a solid bone structure. I caught the end and tugged. My back seized. Darkness swirled behind my eyes.
I pushed off the mattress and hobbled into the bathroom. The buzzing neon light illuminated something poking over my shoulder. A single white nub. I turned my back to the mirror, took a deep breath, and twisted to see.
A foot. Perfect. Whole. Sticking out of my shoulder blade, toes up.
I focused on the toes. Wiggle.
I could get over the fact that something impossible hung from my back, looming half an inch over my shoulder, but what was I supposed to do with that? Have it surgically removed and attached to my ankle?
Guess djinn don’t like cheese. Or maybe he was angry I didn’t bring crackers as well. Maybe it was the joke that kept him laughing at night after I left, imagining me trying to function with that thing hanging off my back. Perhaps I should have been a little more specific about where I wanted the thing attached.
My fingers clicked over the keyboard as I searched for an online surgeon. Doctor Tom. I snapped a picture of the protrusion, keeping my face out of the shot for anonymity, and emailed it in with an inquiry. Could he fix me?
I’ve been hiding the atrocity under a trench coat ever since. People give me strange looks, but that’s nothing new—the hobbling gimp with a hump. If I dared let anyone see it, can you just imagine the scientists who’d lock me away or the reporters who’d build their careers on my uniqueness?
And that’s what I get for dealing with a demon. Word to the wise, stick to angels and miracles. I’m headed out to meet one next week, I hope. If they’ll let me into the Vatican.
Check out her Maiden of Time series, published by Raybourne Publishing, or a number of anthologies containing her short stories.