Unfulfilled

As I was walking along the beach one cool spring morning, I stumbled upon an old bottle sticking out of the sand. The glass, once clear, looked cloudy with a sickly green tint to it. I picked it up, curious as I am about strange artifacts. There was something inside, obscured by the grimy exterior. I pried the cork off the bottle and dropped it in surprise as smoke issued forth from it.

As I backed away from the billowing smoke, it formed itself into a vaguely human form.

“I am the genie of the bottle!” the smoke announced in a booming voice. “What is your wish?”

I didn’t respond right away. Several seconds went by as I blinked and tried to convince myself this was just a hallucination. But the smoke genie persisted. I thought I could detect a little impatience in the way it billowed.

“A genie..” I managed at last, masterfully stating the obvious. “So…uhh..does that mean I get three wishes?”

I scratched at my scruffy beard, still trying to determine if what I was looking at was real.

The genie looked taken aback. “Three? Wherever did you get that idea?”

I shrugged. “That’s how it always is in stories.”

“This is no child’s tale,” the genie bellowed indignantly. “You only get one wish. That is all I can grant you. Now, what is your wish?”

Again, I didn’t respond right away. Only one wish to get whatever I wanted? That was tricky. What did I want? A better job would always be nice. Maybe just a ton of money without the job. A girlfriend. Maybe a wife? No, that’d be weird without the girlfriend part first. Peace on Earth? To be honest, that’s a bit broad, and would that really help me? Not to sound selfish, but it was my wish, after all. I hated having to think about big decisions like that. They always made me nervous, which just made me stressed. Any moment now, the panic attacks would start, and…wait, I knew just what I wanted.

“Happiness,” I said.

” Very well then. And what would make you happy?”

I blinked. “Well…I don’t know. Shouldn’t you know?”

The genie shook its smoky head. “I grant wishes. I don’t create them. If you know what can give you happiness, I can produce it for you. But I cannot predict what makes you happy.”

That was disappointing. What made me happy? There were all sorts of little things. Books and adventure films and good conversations. Chocolate chip cookies and dogs and the laughter of loved ones. But was that ‘happiness’? I didn’t know. I had no idea. What could make me truly, eternally happy was a mystery, as obscure and hard to define as the smoky spectre that floated in front of me.

I amended my wish and set the genie free. It was surprised. As it granted my wish, the smoke took on a more definite shape. An old man stood in front of me now, his face heavily lined, several eons of life etched onto it. The lines deepened as he broke into a smile. He thanked me for freeing him and walked away. He stopped for a few moments to admire the scenery around him, the pale sand strewn on the beach, the waves lazily approaching the shore before retreating. With a contented sigh, he kept walking until he disappeared into the horizon.

After a few moments, I resumed walking as well, feeling as empty as the bottle that lay half buried in the sand.

Acceptance

I’ve always fit the definition of what you might call a ‘nerd’.

Math and the sciences were among my favorite subjects in high school, I was basically a teacher’s pet in my English classes, and it was probably easier to teach a fish to tap dance than to teach me any sort of sporting activity.┬áIt didn’t help that my older brother was a bit of a sports superstar, something various relatives never hesitated to remind me of, and which only pushed me further away from the ballpark. I’d much rather have my nose buried in a book.

Like any kid, I loved me my cartoons. Adulthood has done little to change my opinion of them, even if the spooky mysteries of Scooby Doo are laughable for the wrong reasons now. At some point, I discovered the world of comic books. I’m not entirely sure what led me down that path, but there I was. They were fun to read and a good way to pass the time; I never expected them to become a lifelong hobby.

As a child, I remember walking into my brother’s room as he and his friends were watching Batman (the Tim Burton film). It was near the climax, and I just remember this eerie looking guy in a black bat mask and outfit fighting a purple-suited clown. I was hooked right away. That image remained mostly forgotten until Batman Returns came out, and I was intrigued to find out more about this ‘Batman’ guy. He seemed quite alright.

My childhood love of fairy tales (I never got tired of reading Jack and the Beanstalk) instilled in me a lifelong love of the fantastical and the surreal, and set me on the path to being a sci-fi and fantasy junkie. I was glued to the TV on many an afternoon watching Star Trek and Lost in Space, and though I haven’t watched Star Wars (what?!), I’m very familiar with Star Wars trivia, almost as much as any diehard fan.

These were the foundations of my formative years. But, as I discovered growing up, such pursuits were looked down upon by the cool kids. Science fiction, fantasy, comic books. These were the domain of nerds and geeks, the weirdos that nobody invites to parties. Nobody wants to be a pariah, so I downplayed my interests to try and fit in. During early adulthood, I let the mask slip a bit, letting people know my interests, but I still kept it quite low-key.

However, I think it’s time to accept who I am now, Earlier this year, I attended my very first comic convention, the Middle East Comic Con 2015, and I was thrilled! It’s the kind of thing I would have shied away from in the past for seeming too nerdy, but it’s time to let that banner fly proudly. I’m no longer in the business of trying to impress people by putting on a ‘respectable’ front.

This, for example, is what my closet currently looks like:

IMG_20150619_153750

Yep. About three quarters of a shelf dedicated to clothes, and the rest for my assorted action figures and memorabilia. There are a few bookshelves around the house that are also guarded by my toys. I’ve got a long list of video games I intend to play this year (such as Arkham Knight, coming out Tuesday!), and there are many more collectibles that will take up more space than I can hope to provide right now.

That’s me, in a nutshell.

The Librarian

Every shelf in the Library’s cavernous aisles is stacked with worlds and universes, full of life, and also of death. Nobody ever checks out any books from there, though. Nor are there any avid readers wandering around inside, casually flicking through pages while speaking to each other in hushed tones. The Library has existed for as long as anyone can remember, growing in size over untold years (or is it millennia?), a beast that subsists on knowledge and can never be satisfied. And deep in its silently beating heart sits the Librarian. He is the keeper of stories, a guardian of fiction and fact. He was there once upon a time and he will be there happily ever after, though he cannot say if it will be happy or not.

The Librarian has seen the Library’s foundation being laid. He will see its last stone crumble to dust. He has seen babies cradled in their mothers’ arms and old men laying on their deathbeds. He has seen lovers light up the dance floor and enemies scorch the battlefield. Heroes fighting villains; teenagers navigating their lives through friendship and love; regular folks grappling with careers and relationships, hoping to find happiness. The Librarian has seen them all, page after page, chapter after chapter.

He finishes reading the life of a famous radio personality with a dysfunctional family; the poor man dies alone and his family feuds over his assets before the body’s even gone cold. The Librarian sighs and closes the book. The family’s stories will have to wait for another day; perhaps he’ll read some lighter fare next. He returns the book to its shelf where it will be put away for good, never to be read again.

Endings are usually the problem. Some stories take their time building toward an inevitable conclusion, others are cut short abruptly; so many of them are tragedies. He had quite enjoyed the one about the dinosaurs, but was disappointed with how it ended. Asteroid impacts seemed like a cheap storytelling device. His chair creaks a welcome as he settles back into it, exhausted from today’s reading. He glances at the giant tome sitting on one side of his desk: The Saga of Humanity. That one’s been an ongoing project; he reads a handful of chapters every few years, but is no closer to the end. Sometimes, he finds himself tempted to peek at the ending, but that would spoil the surprise. He’ll pick it up again in a year or two and see how the story’s progressed.

The Librarian removes his glasses and rubs his temples, leaning back. Tomorrow he will once again explore new worlds, new lives. He hopes that at least some endings will be happy as he closes his eyes and drifts off into a sleep without dreams.