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The Hidden Island

A man finds himself living a legend, with a legendary beauty.
My name is John.

An ordinary name, and it fits, because I'm an ordinary guy.

I'm fifty-seven, short, and not particularly well-built; I have thinning hair, a weak chin, and ears that kind of stick out. I'm not exactly ugly; I just have the kind of face you don't remember two minutes after you see it.

I'm a corporate accountant, which is every bit as dull as it sounds. I drive a twelve-year-old Toyota, and I live in a small one-bedroom apartment. I have no close friends, no brothers or sisters, and my parents have long since passed away. I'm pretty much alone in the world.

It will come as no surprise that I have no girlfriend, either. Whatever it is that gets women to fall in love with you - or even show some interest - I just don't have it. I've never had a "relationship," and I stopped dating thirty years ago. Not worth the disappointment.

One thing about living simply and not dating, though; when you're good at what you do, you can accumulate a lot of money, and I've done just that. I realize that would pique some women's interest - but then I'm not interested in that kind of woman.

Anyway, I can do pretty much what I want, even if I have to do it alone. So when my vacation time came around last year, I decided to take a couple of extra weeks off and go on a month-long cruise around the Mediterranean.

I had no illusions about "finding love" on this cruise. I had been on cruises before, and I knew I would be the Invisible Man again, just like I always am. Women's eyes slide past me like I'm made of air. That's okay; I like cruises anyway. I like the service, the exotic sights, and the time to relax.

But things happen that you never planned for. Things that you couldn't even have imagined...

---

We were halfway through the cruise; the ship had gone up and down the Italian coast, stopped at various ports in mainland Greece and the Greek islands, and was steaming toward Crete.

I was standing at the rail of the lowermost deck, at maybe nine o'clock in the morning, gazing out at a misty-looking island a few hundred yards from the ship. I was puzzled by its appearance; the day was clear and bright, not a cloud in the sky - but the island had a strangely cloudy look to it, as if it wouldn't quite come into focus or was shrouded by a light mist. It made no sense.

There was a young couple standing near me, and I thought they were looking at the island too; but just as I was about to ask what they thought of its strange appearance, the woman said, "Look at that, Paul; no land in sight. Nothing but ocean. Just sky and sea."

I blinked, and I looked from them to the island and back again. No land in sight?

Again I opened my mouth to speak, but at that instant there was a cry from nearby:

"FIRE!"

Everyone, including me, swiveled to look. Some idiot had let his cigarette fall into a trash can, and the flames were leaping three feet high. Some crew members were running up with fire extinguishers.

Like I said, I'm short; and as the crowd grew thicker, I decided to stand on a deck chair to see better. The crew members were spraying the flames with clouds of white powder and -

And somebody bumped me, and I lost my balance and fell over the side.

Now I'm no athlete, but I am a pretty good swimmer. I turned my fall into a very nice dive, if I do say so. I hit the water cleanly, and I came up expecting to see people looking over the side at me and pointing and yelling. Maybe now I'll be noticed, I thought. I was kind of proud of that dive.

No such luck. No one was looking at me at all. Apparently the fire still held everyone's attention. I yelled for a minute or two; nothing.

The ship was leaving me behind, and it was clear that no one had noticed there was a man overboard.

There was nothing for it but to swim for the island. I struck out for it, and fortunately the wind and currents were with me.

It took me maybe thirty minutes to get to shore, anyway. I lay on the beach for a while, tired and winded, but not totally exhausted.

After a bit, I got up and started walking. Might as well see where I am, I thought.

I was wearing swim trunks and a polo shirt; I had been wearing sandals, but they were long gone. That was it. No pockets, nothing. I was trying not to panic. The island was obviously in the shipping lanes, and I would be rescued soon, I told myself.

I tried not to think about the fact that that young couple couldn't see it.

The island was bigger than it looked; it was maybe sixty or seventy acres, about a third of a mile long by a quarter-mile wide. There was no hint of mistiness about it now. The sand was white and warm, and the foliage green and lush, surrounding a rocky outcrop that rose to a height of no more than fifty or sixty feet.

I walked around to the other side of the island. The beach curved inward there, forming a lovely lagoon. A trickle of water that ran from the brush made my heart race; I ran to it, knelt, and tasted. Fresh.

There was a spring, then. Good; I wouldn't die of thirst. I had been more worried about that than I had let myself think about.

I decided to explore inland, not that there was that much "inland" to explore. I looked up; the little stream fell in a tiny waterfall at the edge of the small forest, pouring from a crack in a high, white rock.

When I got there, I looked again at the rock - and I blinked. That was no crack. That tiny trickle of water had cut a channel in the stone that looked to be three feet deep.

I climbed up and followed the running water. The stream was no wider than my hand, but it ran in a straight, distinct channel through the trees. I knelt and looked closer; though they were heavily overgrown with green moss, the channel was lined with stones. Stones that had been carefully placed.

I looked upstream again as I knelt. Through the foliage that overhung the thread of water, I saw a glimpse of snowy white. When I pulled the branches back, I wondered if I were dreaming.

I was looking at a tiny Greek temple, built of white marble. Four columns in front, six down each side. It was perfect.

And, I realized, it was new.

That made no sense. But there it was - the stone as white and the corners and edges as sharp as if it had been built that morning.

I looked around. The temple stood on an outcrop of rock that had been flattened to serve as its foundation. It was surrounded by a perfectly trimmed lawn -

The hair rose on the back of my neck.

There was a circle around the temple, as distinct as if it had been drawn with a compass. Within that circle, the grass was a deep green, a perfect inch-and-a-half long and as thick and lush as a carpet. Outside the circle, the grass - where there was any - was sparse and dry on the thin soil, more gray than green.

With some hesitation, I stepped into the circle, the thick grass soft on my bare feet. My senses were on high alert, but I heard and felt nothing. Wind and water. Nothing more.

I climbed up the steps. The miniature temple was in an archaic style - very plain, with no carvings or writing of any kind. The pediment was low, and I had to duck my head slightly to enter.

The tiny room was no more than eight by twelve feet, and contained nothing but a plain block of white marble, waist-high - and on top of it -

I blinked. Resting on the polished white surface was a rough stone jar, an irregularly cylindrical urn that was stained and scarred with age. The top was sealed with a stone plug, held in place by some gummy black substance. I had never seen "pitch" before, but I supposed that this was what it looked like.

It seemed wildly out of place. The rest of the temple looked brand-new; this jar looked OLD.

Of course, I wondered: What's inside that thing?

---

I didn't open it then. This place was too weird, and I had read too many stories about mysterious containers that held curses and the like. Pandora's Box came to mind - and I knew that in the original myth, Pandora had opened a JAR. I didn't touch it.

I took shelter in the temple, though. It seemed peaceful, and safe. I found that the fruit I picked in the forest stayed fresh when I stored it inside.

And there was plenty of that. Behind the temple, there was a grove of fig and olive trees, and plums and cherries and pomegranates and some other fruits I'd never seen before. I wondered why the trees were all bearing fruit at the same time - and why it never fell to the ground, and was all perfectly ripe and stayed that way.

I laid wood for a bonfire at the top of the rocky hill at the center of the island - and when I saw another cruise ship, I lit it.

The flames were twice as high as my head; but the smoke seemed to vanish before it rose very high, and there was no sign from the ship. It sailed past without slowing down.

I didn't bother to prepare another bonfire.

I had my own small fire, which I kept burning on the stone platform in front of the temple. It never quite went out, even when I forgot to replenish it. There I roasted the fish I caught and some of the fruit, and some root vegetables I found, and I dined reasonably well.

After a couple of months, between the climbing and walking and swimming, I was in better shape than I'd ever been in my life. I was growing tanned and lean and strong. I felt good - better than I'd ever felt.

And the fruit on the trees stayed ripe and ready to eat. After a while, I stopped thinking about it.

---

I guess I had been on the island for three or four months when I finally opened the jar. I knew I would, sooner or later - and whatever weirdness was wrapped around this place, it didn't feel evil.

I found a sharp flint and went into the temple. I must have stood there, staring at that ancient-looking jar, for ten or fifteen minutes. Finally, I reached out and picked it up.

It was warm to the touch, and oddly heavy, as if it were filled with lead. I had brought the flint to chip away the hardened pitch - but I didn't need it. It was still soft, as if the jar had been sealed an hour before.

I looked at the thing, and then, before I chickened out, I pulled at the stone plug. It came out easily -

I don't know what I expected, but what happened then wasn't it.

Light came out of the jar. Not beams or flashes of light, but light made solid. It curled and spiraled and turned in the air, like smoke - but it wasn't smoke. It was gold and white and moonlight-silver, with streaks and gleams of red and green and blue and purple.

I replaced the jar and its plug on the marble block as the light began to draw into itself, growing more and more dense and solid over the stone. The shimmering light began to resolve itself into a shape, a form, a human form -

And suddenly there was a girl there, kneeling on the marble with her feet tucked beneath her. She wore a simple white tunic that left her pale, lovely legs and arms bare. She looked at me with deep-violet eyes that held a trace of fear.

She was by far the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen.

"How may I serve you, Master?" she asked.

---

When I came to, she was kneeling over me, shaking my shoulders gently. "Master," she kept whispering. "Master, please..."

I sat up and looked at her. My mouth opened and closed, but nothing came out.

Her violet eyes were huge and beautiful, with long, dark lashes - and they were filled with tears. "Please do not punish me, Master," she quavered in a tiny child's voice. "I meant no harm...." Her chin trembled. There was a small, charming cleft in it. I marveled at how stunningly beautiful she was.

"Why would I punish you? I just - fainted, I guess...". She looked at me hopefully, and I smiled at her.

She smiled back - and it was like the sun coming out.

I frankly stared at her. I had never seen a woman so lovely. She looked to be no more than sixteen, with a perfect heart-shaped face that any woman on earth would give her soul to wear; eyes like violet oceans, full, sweet lips as pink as summer roses, a small, straight nose, soft, blushing cheeks, and skin as smooth and white as fresh cream.

She lifted a small, perfect hand and touched my own face. "Are you a goddess?" I asked.

She looked at me wide-eyed - and then she laughed, a sound like golden bells. "No, Master, I am not a goddess. I am your slave!"

And then it hit me. I know that you, reading this, knew already, but for some reason I only figured it out at that moment. "Are you a genie?"

Her face grew solemn again. "A djinn," she said. "Yes. I am. I was not always so. But I was made so, and so I must remain." She looked at me curiously. "May I ask questions, Master?"

"You may," I said. My head was spinning. I had a few questions of my own.

"What language is this? It is strange in my mouth."

"It's called English," I said. "How can you speak it if you don't know what it is?"

"I speak the tongue of my Master, no matter what it is," she said. "How can I serve if I cannot understand?"

"Okay..."

I was completely at a loss. I had no idea what to say or do next. Fortunately, she had more questions.

"How long has it been?" she asked.

"Since...?"

She gestured at the jar. "Since I was last sealed inside."

"Don't you know?"

"No. I sleep, inside the jar. Once I was sealed in for two hundred years. I never know."

I thought of something. "Do you remember this place?"

She looked out the door or the temple and smiled like the summer sun. "Yes," she said. "This is the island of Pelos. This is the temple that Odussos, my last master, had me build here." She smiled again. "He had me place an enchantment on the island, to make it a paradise - and impossible to find."

"It's still working," I said. Then I got up - but as I rose, I knocked the ancient jar from the block. I tried to catch it, but it fell to the marble floor where it bounced and rang like steel.

"Don't worry. It is very hard to break," she said sadly.

I put the jar back on the stone and looked at her. There was something odd about the way she said that -

I shook it off. "Come with me," I said. She stood to follow me, and I was surprised again. She was no more than five feet tall.

I led her through the forest, following the little stream. "Did you make this stream?" I asked.

"Yes. There was a spring in the meadow where the fruit trees are, and I made this - channel?" I nodded. "I made this channel and lined it with stones."

As we walked, I watched her. She was a stunning beauty in every way; her pale skin was flawless, her dark, shining hair falling to her shoulders in soft waves. Beneath her short robe, I saw the hint of full, heavy, but firm breasts, broad but graceful hips, and a generous, sweetly rounded bottom. Her waist was narrow, her tunic cinched by a plain leather belt. Her legs were perfect, and her small, pretty feet were protected by simple sandals.

She really did look like a goddess - and moved like one, too. Her every movement was filled with subtle grace.

"There is a little waterfall ahead," she said, "where the stream falls over a rock -"

We had reached the place. Her eyes widened as she stared at the yard-deep cleft in the stone that the little stream had cut. She looked at me, confused. "This is not how it was," she said.

"How deep was that channel when you made this waterfall?" I asked.

She held up her pretty finger and thumb, an inch apart. "Just to make it flow prettily," she breathed. "It had a little spout, to give the water an arch."

The rock was limestone. That stone is relatively soft, but for that tiny trickle to cut through three feet of it would still take many centuries.

"May I fix it?" she asked. I nodded, puzzled. She climbed down in a few quick, pretty movements and stood before the stone. And then, to my astonishment, she slid one small hand up the face of it - and the trickle of water followed her hand up.

She had sealed the crack in the stone as if it had been made of modeling clay. At the edge of the rock, she deftly pinched a small lip into the edge of the stone, and the stream arched from the rock and splashed into a small depression at its foot that I hadn't noticed. She knelt and lovingly shaped that too, quickly smoothing the white stone into a bowl-shaped hollow.

"There," she said, and stood. She smiled up at me, and I felt my heart stop. So beautiful....

"What is your name?" I asked.

"Helen."

I thought - and I felt a thrill go up my spine. "You said your last master was named Odussos?"

"Yes. We lived here together for - ten years, perhaps. When he sealed me back in my jar, he said he would return. That he had to go to his home and settle some matters there." She smiled sadly. "I suppose he never came back."

My wheels were turning. "Where was his home?"

"A place called Ithaka."

I stared at her. "How did he become your Master?"

"He stole my jar from Paros of Troy, who stole it from Agamemnon King before that. They fought a war over me."

"You were Helen of Troy," I said softly, staring at her in wonder.

"Yes. They called me that."

"They say you were the most beautiful woman who ever lived."

She shrugged. "I am," she said simply.

I just stared at her. "For that, and immortality, I traded my freedom," she explained.

Then she looked at me curiously again. "You know of Troy and the war over me?"

"I know parts of it."

She cocked her head questioningly. "Then - how long has it been?"

I watched her face. "Almost three thousand years."

Her hand flew to her mouth, and her eyes snapped open wide as she gasped.

After a moment, she closed her eyes and seemed to turn within herself for a minute or more. I said nothing; I watched only.

With her eyes still closed, she whispered: "The world has changed - and there are no more like me. I can feel it."

---

We went back to the temple, where we sat and talked for hours. I finally pieced together her story:

Helen had been born in the Fertile Crescent - that band of rich soil between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates in what is today Iraq - at the very beginning of civilization. When she was a mortal girl, writing was unknown, and agriculture was a new invention. People had just begun to keep wild goats for meat and milk and hides, and had begun to settle in communities instead of wandering in search of the food they could now raise.

Helen was more than twelve thousand years old.

There were wizards then, too; real ones, who manipulated powers that are no longer even known to exist, let alone understood. They were not quite human, she thought. No one had been sure, even then.

Helen had been a young shepherd girl, noted for her striking loveliness and grace; and the oldest and most powerful of the wizards, an aged, ugly creature, had offered her a bargain.

In exchange for becoming his lover, he would give her immortality - and make her the most beautiful woman in the world, then and for all time.

"I was vain," she said sadly. "Being beautiful was more important to me than long life. I said yes."

Then she frowned. "He kept his word; but it was a cheat, all the same. He did not change how I looked at all - and the djinn are immortal, but we are slaves."

And then, remembering, she smiled and continued her story. The wizard's plan had backfired. He put so much of his power, his magic, or whatever it was, into Helen that there was none left for himself - and he died.

No human had ever been changed into a djinn before her, and none since. Helen was unique, and her nature - and her powers - were not the same as the others of her kind.

"The djinn are evil," she said. "They can be controlled, but it is difficult. They are sly and crafty, and not to be trusted. I am none of those things."

She went on: "The djinn have no feelings, no emotions. They cannot love or hate, be happy or sad. When I was changed, I kept my feelings - though no one pays much attention to them." She looked down, not meeting my eyes. "There are other differences, as well."

I noticed that she was growing more comfortable with English. "Have your masters not cared for you?"

"Some have," she said softly. "More have been cruel. When they discover I can feel pain, and can heal without scarring - "

She looked at her lap, and a tear fell onto her restless hands. "They tortured me," she breathed, "sometimes for years..."

"Forget all that," I said, and she looked up quickly. There was a look of wild hope on her beautiful face.

"Master - is that a command?"

I looked at her, and I understood.

"Yes," I said.

She came close to me so quickly I hardly saw her move, and she hugged me in gratitude, trembling; it was like being embraced by God.

Then she closed her eyes, gave a deep sigh - and when she opened them again, her smile seemed somehow more open, less fearful.

She blinked. "What were we talking about?"

I smiled. "We were talking about your powers, and how they differ from those of other djinn," I said.

She shook her head as if to clear it. "Oh, yes," she said.

My stomach rumbled. "Are you hungry?" asked Helen. "I can provide whatever food you wish."

I blinked at her. "Uh - okay. How about a Pizza Hut thin-crust meat lover's pizza with extra cheese?"

She picked up the flat red box beside her on the steps and opened it. There it was, just as I ordered it - and steaming-hot.

There were no pyrotechnics, no flashes of light or puffs of smoke; it was just there, where it hadn't been an instant before. "Does it please you?" she asked.

I was already stuffing my face. I had had nothing to eat but fruit and fish for months. "Mmglmph," I said, nodding, and she giggled. It was a silvery sound. "Two Cokes," I said around the pizza, "with crushed ice."

She held them out to me. "No, one of them is for you," I said. "Here, have some pizza too."

She looked at me oddly. "Master, djinn need no food or drink."

I grinned at her. "Can you eat it, and enjoy it, if I tell you to?"

Her amazing eyes widened. "Oh, Master - do you mean it? I have not tasted food in so long - when I was awake, I mean. Even Odussos never thought of it. And he was a good Master."

I pointed at the box and the cup. "Eat, Helen," I said. "Drink. And savor it. Enjoy it. Love it. I want you to be happy."

Watching me, she took a bite and began to chew - and then her eyes opened wide, and she took another.

"Mmglmph," she said, then giggled with her mouth full. She swallowed. "It's good. Oh, it's so good - " She took another bite.

"Don't forget the Coke," I said.

"Mm." She took a sip and smiled - then spit it out, shocked. "It's alive!" she gasped.

I laughed. "No, it's just fizzy. It has bubbles. Like some spring water. It won't hurt you - it just makes you burp."

"Oh." She took another sip. "It's sweet."

I took another slice of pizza. Helen had a smear of tomato sauce on her perfect cheek. It was somehow endearing. She took another sip of Coke - and then, sure enough, she burped.

The look of innocent surprise on her beautiful face was priceless.

It was strange; I had not yet grasped the idea that this stunningly lovely, perfect creature was my slave. I was too busy falling in love.

---

After the pizza, I ordered hot-fudge sundaes, which she adored, and then some coffee, which she didn't so much. Helen was sipping at her second Coke and looking at me. Her expression was unreadable. "What?" I asked.

"You are not like my other masters," she said. "You treat me like I am a real woman."

"Like you have feelings?" She nodded, her eyes on my face. "Don't you?"

She blinked, confused. "Yes - but - but they do not matter. My only function is to please you."

"What if it pleases me to see you happy?"

She looked at me as if I had turned green. Her incredible face wore a charming, heartbreaking look of puzzlement as she struggled with the concept.

"But my other masters - they just wanted to - " I saw her mouth working as it wound itself around the word. "They just wanted to fuck me. And watch other men fuck me. And have me suck them. And - and other things. With animals. And things that hurt - " She looked even more puzzled. "I can't remember - "

I said nothing. I didn't want her to remember that she ever could.

"I guess twelve thousand years is a long time not to matter," I said.

Helen gazed at me. Her face - that astonishing face - was as blank as a child's.

After a moment, she shook her head again, clearing it, and said, "This is not what I am for. This is not why I exist." She set her jaw prettily and asked sternly, "Master, what do you want me to do for YOU?"

There were a million things I wanted, but as I gazed at her face - that perfect, hauntingly beautiful face - they all came down to only one.

"Love me, Helen," I said.

Her sweet mouth fell open.

"Please me because you want me to be happy," I said, "not because you have to obey me. Care about me, like me, need me, be glad that I care about you. Let me love you and make you happy - and love me in return."

She sat there with her mouth still open, the smear of tomato sauce still on her cheek. I wiped it off with my finger. "Can you do all that?"

She blinked, still uncomprehending. "Do you not want to - make love to me? To have me dance for you and sing to you and give you pleasure?"

I noted the change of verb. "Of course," I said. "But because you love me and you want to.." She blinked again, her face blank.

"Listen to me, Helen," I said. "I will never hurt you. I will never command you to do anything you don't want to do. I will love you and cherish you as the precious gift that you are. And I will never, ever, seal you back inside that jar."

I went on: "I love you, Helen. How can I not? You're the most beautiful woman who ever was - but it's more than that. Even after all you've been through, for so very long, your heart is gentle and pure. You are sweet and kind as well as beautiful. You deserve to be happy. I want to make you happy."

I swallowed. "Let me set you free, Helen. If there are words I must say or something I have to do to give you your freedom, I'll do it. You've been a slave long enough. I love you. I want you to be free, whether I'm with you or not. You can send me back to my world, and go wherever you like and do whatever you wish, and never see me again."

Tears were flowing down her cheeks. She spoke softly. "I have known many, many men, Master. Some have been kind to me. Most have been cruel. A few I have even cared for." She wiped her eyes, and her lovely face crumpled.

"But none have ever cared for me. Not like this. Not like you."

She sat up straight. "Command me to love you, Master. That is my desire. I want this." She held out her perfect hand, and I took it. My own eyes were blurred with tears. "Command me," she said again, ever so softly.

"Love me, Helen," I said. "Love me with all your heart. I command it."

She melted into my arms, and I held her. "I do," she whispered. "Master."

"My name is John," I murmured. "Don't call me 'Master' again, Helen. Not ever."

"John," she whispered. "I love you, John."

We just held each other for a while. I had been looking for this my whole life, and had long since given up; but she had been without it far, far longer than I.

I looked down at her perfect face, inches away, and she was smiling as if she had never smiled before. Perhaps she hadn't.

And then I kissed her.

I am good with words; but that kiss was beyond any words I will ever, ever have.

---

I wouldn't rush her.

"Make love to me," she said, right after that first kiss.

"Not yet, Helen. I'm still a stranger. Let's get to know each other first."

She looked at me, puzzled yet again. "Do you not want me?"

I laughed. "Oh, Helen - oh, yes. You have NO idea. But not yet. Let's get to be friends, and then lovers." She blinked at that.

"Friends?"

I smiled. "Yes. It will mean more, much more, when we know each other better."

Her face took on an odd, thoughtful, and somehow wistful expression. "Mas - er, John - "

She smiled, and so did I. "John, there is a way that I can know you, and that you can know me. Completely."

I lifted an eyebrow. "Magic?" I asked.

"Yes. I can know everything about you - everything that has ever happened to you and everything that you think and are." She smiled slyly. "And I can know everything you like - and I can please you with that knowledge, beyond anything you have ever imagined."

I felt a little dizzy at that one.

She hesitated. "And you can know me, John. You can know all of my life - that I remember. I have forgotten the bad things - " A small line of puzzlement appeared between her perfect brows again - "I don't know why - but I remember much, and you can have it all. What I am, what I have been, what I know and can do."

She looked at me, her heart on her face, open and trusting. "No one has ever known me like that," she said. "No one has ever wanted to. But I can give you that." She looked at me hopefully. "If you want it."

"We can be - one," I said. She nodded, her chin quivering.

"What do I have to do, Helen?"

A tear fell from one beautiful violet eye. "Lie down."

I did; and as she moved near me, she asked, "John, do you trust me?"

"Of course," I said.

"Hold that in your heart. This will be very strange to you." She kissed me; and then she turned and lay down on top of me, facing up, as I was -

It took me a moment to grasp it. Helen lay down INSIDE me; her body and mine occupied the same space. Her face and body was my own, and mine hers.

Just as I realized that, it began.

How to find words? I was inside Helen; I WAS Helen. I knew her heart, from the inside - and it was as gentle and loving and pure as I had sensed - and so, so much more deeply wounded.

All her memories flooded into me at once, so many, so many -

I was the sweet and innocent shepherd girl, tending my father's goats on that windswept Mesopotamian plain, so long ago.

I was nodding, agreeing to the ancient wizard's bargain - and he WAS ugly, and doubtfully human.

I was in his tent, for months, being changed into something both more and less than I was; pain, and ecstasy, and terror, and power unspeakable, all flowing through me and I through them.

I was weeping furious tears, learning of his betrayal and seeing my jar for the first time - new then, smooth and polished, carved with signs and symbols that no one now can read.

I was crying bitterly when he prepared to send me into the jar, his aged, misshapen face drawn and weak. There was darkness for a moment then, and I couldn't see what was happening; and then I was looking at the wizard again, my heart oddly lighter. And then I went inside the jar, and slept.

I was waking, for the first time, learning that the old wizard was dead - and meeting my first Master.

He was a warchief of a tribe not my own. I was his plaything, till he was killed - and then I became the plaything of another, and another, and another, down through long ages of fear, and pain, and servitude.

I saw cities now forgotten and palaces now dust; the rise and fall of kings and nations unknown today. I was passed from hand to hand, always through violence and death, theft and betrayal. No one gave me up willingly.

I danced naked before armies to spur them to fight, and - served them - all of them - as their reward for victory. I was the price of peace-treaty, and the spoils of war; and more than one war was fought over who would possess me.

I learned all there was to learn of war and death and duplicity and raw lust and blinding pain and perversion unimaginable - but nothing, nothing, nothing of love.

I saw the Pyramids gleaming white and new, and the walls of Ur and Babylon and Mycenae and Jericho and Thebes, freshly built. I saw a thousand black ships that had come to bring me home - and I saw Troy burning.

And, finally, I knew ten years of peace, here on this island with Odussos. He was my last and best Master. I mourned him.

And then I met - me.

I saw myself through Helen's eyes, and I knew what she felt then, and still felt. Confusion, and a hope obscure to me - and finally, love.

She knew me, too. From my earliest memories to the moment we lay down together, she knew my every thought and emotion, all the hidden things and private thoughts and doubts and fears and passions and lost hopes and bleak despair. She knew me like I knew myself - or better.

And I knew - with trembling wonder - that she loved me all the more.

I knew that Helen loved me, yes. She had to - that had been my command - but she had wanted to love me and be loved by me, more than anything she had ever wanted or known.

After twelve thousand years, Helen had found her last Master, her only love, and her soul-mate.

And that was me.

---

We lay together, one being, within and around each other, for a long time after it was done. We spoke without speaking, and I cannot tell which of us said what: .

Now you know.

Yes.

And you love me.

No other.

Never, not ever.

You are mine. I am yours.

We are one.

We are one....

We must separate now. But we can be one again whenever you choose.

That last was Helen; when she felt my assent, she sat up and moved beside me, then turned and touched my face.

"You alone could see the island," she said. "Now you know why." I looked at her blankly. "It was meant to be," she said softly. "I am your destiny, John. And you - you are mine. Perhaps more than you know."

---

Even then, we did not make love. Not right away.

We looked at each other, just looked, for a long time. I knew Helen - and Helen knew me - like I had never known, or been known by, anyone. Or, I realized, ever could be.

How could I - just me, just ordinary John - ever be so lucky? So blessed?

Her face, her incredible face, was my heart. Our hands clasped, and my hand - my aging, slightly arthritic hand - held her small and perfect one as if she were made of glass. I looked ruefully at the contrast.

Helen smiled. I learned later that my thoughts were open to her for hours after we melded. "Would you like to be young again, John?"

I gaped at her. "Can you do that?"

"Of course," she said.

I thought. I had learned what she could do, as she had said I would. And I knew that she had done it before, but rarely - few of her masters had ever owned her long enough to need it.

I grinned at her, and though she said nothing and did not move, I felt - different. It took less than an instant, from one tick to time to another, as I was to learn all her magic worked.

I looked in wonder at my hand; it was smooth and young, my own, but the hand I had had as a teenager. An old scar on my thumb - the record of a mishap with a butcher knife - was gone.

I stood, without a trace of the middle-aged awkwardness and stiffness that I had come to accept - and I looked down.

I was lean, and tanned, and strong from my time on the island - and I was young.

I looked down at her, and she giggled with delight. We laughed, and as we laughed I picked her up and swung her around like a child.

I put her down, and she smiled. "You're so strong, John," she said.

That was the first time Helen had ever used a contraction. "Your English is growing more natural," I said.

"I learned from you," she said. "I like this language. It's so much more expressive than Greek."

I grinned. "I suspect you spoke a very archaic kind of Greek," I said. "And Heaven knows what before that."

She frowned.

"What did I say?"

"Later," she said. "There are things you still do not - don't know. But now isn't the time."

She waved it away. "Come with me, John." She gave me that sly smile again. "There is so much I want to show you..."

Goosebumps. The fine hairs rose on my arms, and I looked down at her body. She giggled.

"I have a surprise for you, down by the lagoon. Come on!" she laughed. She kissed me and darted away, and I ran to follow.

Her perfect ass quivered so fetchingly as she ran -

Suddenly I was aching for her. She looked back and giggled. She knew.

---

It was an Arabian-style tent, silk, in muted earth colors, with a shaded entry. Helen had placed it right on the beach, above high tide. Inside, the sand was covered with luxurious carpets. There were enormous silken cushions scattered about, and the walls were draped with more silk.

There were several sleeping options; besides the cushions, there was an enormous leather sofa, perfect for snuggling, and to one side, incongruous but welcome, was an enormous, king-sized, four-poster bed.
I looked around and smiled. "Very nice," I said.

Helen's eyes twinkled. "Our home, if you like it."

"I do." I moved to take her in my arms - but to my surprise, she lifted a pretty hand and stopped me.

"There's more," she said with an impish smile. She gestured invitingly at a curtain at the rear of the tent.

I lifted the curtain - and burst into laughter.

Behind the curtain was a western-style bathroom, done in white tile, with a perfectly ordinary toilet. Wonderful. I had had enough of going in the bushes.

I looked at her wryly. "You don't need one of those, do you?"

She giggled. "No. The food I eat vanishes."

"Handy," I observed. I looked back at the bathroom.

It also contained an enormous garden tub, and a gigantic shower stall. I knew the hot water would never run out - and I shivered at the thought of sharing both with Helen.

Something seemed wrong. I looked around the bathroom. "There's no mirror," I finally said.

Helen shrugged. "I don't like mirrors."

There was something wrong with that, with the way she said it and the way she wouldn't meet my eyes. I turned her face toward mine. When she was looking at me, I asked, "Helen. Tell me. What is it?'

She looked at me sadly. "I didn't want you to know," she whispered. Then she nodded toward the sink.

There was a mirror above it now. I stood behind her and looked -

In the mirror, I was alone.

I looked at Helen beside me, then back at the mirror. She wasn't there.

"What - "

"John..." She looked up at me solemnly. "John - the djinn have no souls." She pointed at the mirror. "This is the sign of it."

I blinked at her stupidly. "You mean - "

"We live long, but not forever. And after this life, however long it is - for us, there is nothing." She smiled, and shrugged. "This life is all we have. So let's make the most of it."

I felt punched in the stomach. "But isn't - "

"There is hope. But I cannot speak of it." She looked into my eyes and asked me a second time: "John, do you trust me?"

I nodded dumbly.

The mirror vanished. "Then, please - trust me. Don't mention this again." She smiled at me strangely - and I could sense that there was something else I didn't know.

I looked at her for a long moment, watching her eyes - and then I nodded silently. "It'll be all right, John," she said hopefully. "I'm sure of it."

I let it go. I had to.

---

We dined on aged prime beef and perfectly baked potatoes, fresh asparagus, a delicious cheese souffle, and crisp sugar-snap peas, with a heavenly red wine. Helen had set a Louis XIV table and chairs on the beach near our tent; and when we were finished, they - and the dirty dishes - vanished as if they had never been. I smiled; housework will be a nonissue, I thought.

It was a sad smile. I couldn't stop thinking about what Helen had told me.

After the meal, we snuggled on the enormous sofa in our tent. Our hearts were already one; soft music came from nowhere as we began to learn about each other's bodies.

I held Helen close and kissed her - for how long, I can't say. It seemed like ten minutes, and it seemed like hours. I was lost in her mouth and her arms and her eyes.

The melancholy left me. Helen had said to trust her, and I would. This moment was all there was.

There was no need to speak. He lips were soft and welcoming, and her arms held me lovingly. Her hands roamed my back and pulled me closer as our tongues met - at first tentatively, then with more assurance, and then with passion.

I knew that she knew, but I said it anyway: "I've never done this before."

I meant the kissing. I was no virgin; I had visited hookers, a few times - sour and meaningless experiences - but hookers don't kiss.

Helen smiled at me languidly. "Neither have I. It's nice."

I searched her memory - mine now - and I saw that she was right. She had been used, but never loved.

We kissed some more. There was no hurry.

I held her close and stroked her, fondled her, explored her perfect body with my young, soft hands. She twisted and writhed against me, gasping and moaning, hissing and whispering half-words by turns.

I stroked her breast - her perfect breast - through her garment, and realized that it had changed to silk.

I looked down. It was sheer, almost transparent - and her nipple was hardening, growing long and stiff, nosing into my palm insistently. I squeezed it gently, and she gasped.

I slid the silky garment from her shoulder, and held her bare breast in my hand. White as ivory, round, softly pointed and perfect, her nipple like a large, ripe plum - I bent to kiss it, reverently, and Helen moaned softly and lifted it to my mouth. I held and kissed one, then moved to the other.

The tips of her sweet nipples were long and thick, bigger than her fingertips and as tender as her tongue. I sucked them gently, and she whimpered.

I looked at her face. Her eyes were closed, her long lashes wet against her cheeks; her rosebud mouth was open in passion, her face pink with it.

"Should I command you to enjoy this?" I whispered.

"You don't have to," she breathed. "I know you want me to -"

"More than anything," I whispered back.

"- and I do," she finished. "More than anything."

Helen's tunic was hiked far up on her perfect thighs. I stroked her legs, and she snuggled close, drawing her knees up to make it easier.

"You are so beautiful," I said - and thought, with a smile, What an understatement. I leaned back and looked at her. She opened her eyes, smiled, and let me, stretching languidly.

Her tunic of filmy silk had fallen to her waist, and her perfect breasts - so large on her small frame, so beautifully shaped and firm - quivered and stirred as she moved. Her legs were bare to her hips, and her lovely feet were bare; her leather sandals lay discarded on the carpet.

Helen smiled at me again, her eyes half-closed and filled with love. She looked at me knowingly.

"You've barely seen me, John," she said in a breathless, secretive whisper. "Let me show you more...."

Helen rose gracefully from the sofa. Her tunic was somehow back in place, and opaque again.

I stood too. My cock was hard as steel, of course. Helen moved close to me, and -

I'd say she undressed me, but it was rather simpler than that. My ragged polo shirt and shorts simply - evaporated. I felt an instant of embarrassment - then I remembered; I was young again. My tired, pot-bellied, middle-aged body was gone.

Helen giggled at the sight of my stiff organ. To my total shock, she knelt quickly and kissed it - then pushed me
back down onto the sofa with a golden laugh.

"Watch now," she whispered. She turned and took a few steps away from me - then turned back and said, "But don't touch yourself. Leave that for me."

She had surprised me so many times already - and here was another: when she turned back toward me, Helen's face was veiled. Nothing of it was visible but her hypnotic eyes. They drilled into me like violet laser beams, piercing my soul.

I tore my eyes from hers and moved them downward, and saw what she was wearing - and I gasped. She smiled behind the veil and began to move.

Exotic, sensuous music came from nowhere, and my lovely, perfect Helen began to dance for me - in a costume calculated to drive any man to the edge of madness. On top, she wore a short, sheer vestlike garment, open in the front to reveal the inner curves of her delicious breasts and short enough to expose them below; only her nipples were covered, and those imperfectly. Glimpses of her quivering pink tips inflamed me as she danced.

Beneath, she wore a jeweled belt, very low on her wide, inviting hips. Her narrow waist and sweet belly were pale and bare.

From her belt, a long, wide strip of sheerest silk hung, shadowing her pelvis teasingly and swinging free to reveal her bare, pale, perfect legs. She wore a gleaming bracelet on one ankle, and her lovely feet were bare.

"I know what you like," she whispered.

Helen moved like a serpent. Her perfect body was weaving a sinuous web of purest, blazing lust - seamlessly woven together with heartbreaking beauty and grace. She danced, she wriggled and writhed, she undulated and quivered and crouched and pumped her hips and shook her heavy breasts and rolled her perfect, barely-hidden bottom with a smooth and liquid sensuality beyond imagination. Her bracelets jingled, providing all the music she needed; her bare feet moved gracefully on the carpet, arching and flexing prettily; and her achingly perfect legs bent and stretched, her bare thighs quivering and opening wide in flashes of shocking revelation.

My cock was standing up like a fence post, throbbing-hard and glistening at the tip. Helen eyed it greedily as she moved - and she looked in my eyes and humped her pelvis in a blatant, unmistakable, animal rhythm.

Helen's dance grew subtly more urgent, more blatant, more lewd as I stared and shuddered. Her vest suddenly vanished, and she waggled her bare, luscious breasts wantonly, dancing bare to well below her waist; then her veil was gone, and even her bare, quivering breasts could not compare with her perfect face. She looked into my eyes - and pursed and licked her full, rich mouth obscenely as she danced.

Then her belt vanished, with the strips of flowing silk. My Helen was dancing naked before my staring, wondering eyes. The sight was one to boil a man's blood in his veins.

Her pubis was as bare and smooth as the palms of her hands, and she exhibited it shamelessly, crouching and working her hips hungrily - with her hands behind her back and her sweet chin tucked shyly into her shoulder. Her bare feet were planted wide apart, and she rolled and humped and hunched her pussy, bare breasts quaking, hard nipples quivering, till a gleaming skein of clear, swinging fluid slowly drooled from her hairless crotch and dripped to the carpet.

More fluid was pumping from my swollen, rock-hard cock. It was running down my shaft and trickling over my balls, which were drawn up tight and aching.

Helen was as bare and pink as a baby, and her face was as red and suffused with lust as my own. As she continued to bounce and wiggle and hunch, I moaned and pumped my own hips in blinding hunger.

Helen moved closer, closer, till she was dancing naked right over me - straddling my thighs as I lay back, shuddering, on the sofa. "Do you want me?" she breathed, stroking her swollen, drooling hole against the tip of my cock. Her pussy-scent was thick and sweet.

I could only moan. She slowly squatted, rotating her pale, plump hips the whole time and rubbing her oozing slit against my shaft - and then she stopped and giggled, shaking her pointed tits teasingly. "One more thing," she said, smiling sensuously. "I think you'll like it. I know I will."

Helen looked down at my cock, and I looked too - and as I watched in astonishment, it began to grow.

In a matter of seconds, my average, five-inch cock expanded and lengthened till it was enormous, the size of a four-cell flashlight. I looked at it in disbelief. I had regretted that I didn't have more to give her - and now -

My pale, curvy goddess squatted even lower, grinding her quivering wet opening against the gleaming , lemon-sized head of my enormous bone. "Do you want me, John?" she whispered again, her smoky eyes locked on my own. "Do you want me?"

My hunger for her had seemed to grow with my cock; I was on fire with it. I growled and grabbed her hips and pulled her down on me, and she cried out as I impaled her on my new, huge cock. I pulled her hot, slippery pussy all the way down to my balls.

Helen shuddered and came instantly, shaking with the intensity of it, her lovely mouth working and her breasts jiggling as she orgasmed - and as she kept on cumming.
My naked Helen began to bounce, her bare breasts flipping in my face, her fever-hot pussy rippling and squeezing on my dick convulsively; it felt like she was jacking me off with both her greased hands. I felt my cum rising to my cockhead already - and she clamped down with her muscles at the base, holding it back, helping me hold it back.

"You've never... fucked a djinn... before," she gasped, staring at my face through slitted eyelids. "I can... make it... last... all night...."

I sat up, and Helen bent and embraced me as we fucked, her nipples digging into my chest. She climbed onto the sofa and squatted on my cock - and humped me like an animal, pumping her perfect ass up and down in a primitive rhythm, fucking me in time to the music. We kissed, tongues wrestling, and we pulled at each other desperately. I lifted her hips slightly, and she took the cue and began to slide herself up and down on me.

All the way up, and all the way down.

I leaned back to watch. My beautiful Helen was doing deep-knee bends on my gigantic dick, trembling in ecstasy as she slid her bald, wet pussy up and down the whole length of my pole, feeling it push and pull, in and out of her sensitive, spasming pussy, showing herself off to me with lewd grace and innocent obscenity as she milked my cock with her talented hole.

"Oh, John," she cried in a strangled, choking tone. "Oh, John, so good - so good - fuck me, John - oh, keep fucking me - oh, in and out - love me, John - "

I rolled her over on the sofa and began to pound into her from above. She pulled her knees back and opened herself up to me, and I crouched and held her down and slammed it home over and over, fucking her hard with the whole length of my huge dick, making her big breasts flip up and brush her chin with every stroke.

I fucked her from behind and made her pale ass ripple; I fucked her from the side, with one perfect leg hooked over my shoulder; and I fucked her side-by-side on the floor, our legs entwined and our arms around each other, gazing into each other's eyes, lost in them and in our passion.

Helen's magic surrounded us. I fucked her for three hours, and every single second of it was better than any orgasm I'd ever had - and my lovely Helen savored it too. She came for me, over and over, shuddering on my plunging cock three times a minute, grunting and hunching and quaking like a beast.

Finally - "I'm going to cum, Helen," I croaked.

She smiled lewdly, still shuddering with endless lust, and began to ripple her juicy inner muscles on my swelling dick as she lay under me on the silken cushions. "Watch," she whispered. I saw her smile and wondered at it.

"Watch," she whispered again - and as I did, suddenly I was fucking Drew Barrymore. She was smiling up at me with that cockeyed, knowing smile and shaking her tattoos as I fucked her deep. Then it was Angelina Jolie, fucking me naked with her face filled with adoring passion. Then there was a girl who had taunted me in high school, biting her lip and fighting to keep from cumming; and then Liv Tyler, rising toward orgasm; then Rachel Weisz, then my boss's trophy wife, then Julia Roberts, then Marilyn Monroe, then Sandra Bullock....

She changed from one beauty to another, faster and faster. "I can be any woman you want," she whispered with the raspy voice of Rachael Ray. "You can cum in any woman who ever lived," said Katie Couric.

"I want you, Helen," I gasped. "No one but you. Make me cum in you..."

And I gazed into the eyes of my Helen again - and I exploded. I grabbed her beautiful breasts and jetted my boiling sperm into her grasping pussy, and we came together for ten mind-breaking minutes. Longer.

For what seemed like an hour, long, ragged spurts of thick white cum ripped from my monster cock and blasted into her quivering, gaping opening, over and over, and she put her hands over mine on her breasts and came under me till she was shivering with exhaustion. My cum squirted and slopped from her gushing pussy till we were fucking in a pond of it.

We fell against the cushions, and as my dripping cock swung free of her trembling hole, I pulled her close and hugged her. We lay together gasping.

We did not speak for long minutes. As our breaths and heartbeats slowed, we held each other and kissed - small, sweet kisses, tender and warm.

"I love you, Helen," I whispered.

"I love you, John," she breathed. "Thank you," she murmured contentedly, and snuggled closer.

After a time, she lifted her head and looked at me; her face was pink and relaxed, her hair wet with perspiration and matted to her perfect skin. She was disheveled and sweaty and tired and beautiful.

She smiled. "Was it good for you?" she asked.

I would have thought we were both too tired to laugh.

---

A few minutes later, we were laughing still, standing in our roomy new shower. As I soaped her creamy back with my slippery hands, Helen was looking out the west-facing window. I looked too; the sun would be setting soon.

She stopped laughing and spoke my name, very softly: "John?"

"Yes?"

"Will you set me free?"

I froze. She turned around, her naked body incandescent in the late-afternoon sunlight.

I must have looked stricken. I was - and seeing my face, so was she. "I'm sorry, John.
I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have asked...."

I touched her lips. "It's all right, Helen," I said. And then I embraced her beneath the steamy spray.

I felt her body against me, wet and perfect. I nuzzled her hair, inhaled its scent. My hands caressed her silky back. My eyes filled, again.

And I whispered in her ear, "My love, my own true love, my Helen - I love you more than I love my own life." I took a ragged breath. I felt her tension, and wondered at it.

"But.... Yes. Yes, I will." I held her close, clinging to her with tears running down my cheeks, unseen beneath the shower spray. "What do I do?"

For a third time, she asked, "John, do you trust me?" She spoke with her cheek against my chest. When she felt me nod, she pulled back and looked up at me.

"Then we must go to the temple," she said. She looked out the window. "And we must hurry."

Naked, barefoot and dripping-wet, we ran from the tent up the sandy path that Helen had made to the temple. Glancing back at the sun, she gasped. "Hurry, John," she whispered urgently.

We ran into the temple. She pointed at her jar, resting on the block of white marble. I picked it up and looked at her.

The sun was just above the horizon. She looked at it, then at me. She spoke quickly, but carefully and clearly:

"Say, ''Δεν βρέθηκαν λέξεις,' my love - and then smash the jar. And hurry!"

I pronounced the Greek words carefully - and then, with all my strength, I hurled the jar to the marble floor.

This time, it did not bounce; it shattered into a thousand pieces.

My naked Helen, her beautiful face alight, ran to me and embraced me -

And then, to my shock, she collapsed in my arms. If I had not been holding her, she'd have fallen to the marble floor.

I carried her back to the tent, my heart pounding; she was absolutely limp in my arms, as boneless as a rag. I laid her on the bed.

She was breathing. That was all.

She did not wake for hours. I covered her with a blanket, watched her still face, and paced.

I had first seen that face only that morning. It seemed like years. A lifetime.

Finally, she awoke, but slowly. I had heard her sigh, and was kneeling by the bed and holding her hand as she came to. Her big eyes fluttered, opened, and looked at me sleepily. And then she smiled, and there was light in the world again.

"Are you leaving me?" I whispered.

She smiled so sweetly, I felt my heart breaking - and then she said -

"Never, John. Never, never, never."

I was confused. "Then what - "

"Lie down with me, John," she whispered.

I knew what she meant. I lay down on top of her, and once again, we were one.....

.....I was standing before the old wizard, weeping and looking into his hideous face. The jar rested between us, open and waiting.

This, I knew, was what lay behind that brief darkness when Helen and I had been one before.

"Is there no hope for me?" I heard myself - Helen - asking plaintively.

The strangely wrinkled face gave a semblance of a smile. "Perhaps," he said. Then he closed his eyes and spoke as if compelled to:

"A man will come one day," the wizard intoned, "who will come to you through time and space and fire and water.... He will see that which cannot be seen.... He will give you that which you have never had, and he will lift from you that which you find most hard to bear.... He will carry your pain and your joy, and he will teach you all that you will have forgotten."

The aged creature paused and lifted his misshapen claws. His voice grew deeper.

"He will do all this in a single day; and when you have shown him all the pleasure he can bear, and more - "

The wizard's eyes opened, and he looked into mine.

"If he will set you free, in that same day, then your soul will be restored to you. Only such a love can defeat the laws of the Djinn."

The vision faded; and Helen was beside me, leaning on her elbow and looking down at my face. "Do you know what you have given me?" she whispered. I shook my head. "I am a real, human woman again," she whispered. "Look."

There was a mirror across from the bed, where I saw both of us reflected - and Helen smiling back at me.

And then we kissed.

I had not thought it could be better - but it was.

---

"What if I had freed you after sunset?" I asked a few days later. We were having another pizza; Helen had grown fond of them.

She wiped her mouth and smiled. "We would be eating fish and fruit," she said.

"Huh?"

"I would have become entirely mortal again, John. I would have lost my powers, and I would grow old and die with you - but still without a soul."

"Oh." I took another bite. "So what happens now?"

She gave me another enigmatic smile. "Anything," she said. "Anything at all."

---

It's been well over a year now. We've traveled the world - in the present, and the past. We've spent most of our time here, though, in our private Eden, usually wearing just what Adam and Eve did.

And something else happened, that neither of us expected.

His name is Odussos. He'll be four months old next week - and he looks more like his mother than me.

Good thing.
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