Cassandra Apostrophe thought geography field trips with year 10 were like being consigned to one of the seven halls of hell, alongside dinner with her Aunt Joanne where she was expected to plead for her inheritance and her annual checkup with the halitosisian dentist Wellington Parchment. This year’s sojourn, to the Cornish Coast, was living down to expectations. Mr Mumbles was in hospital with suspected ruptured grommorods, Ms Jollijapes had retired to her room with a bout of repetitive vapours and even the usual resilient Colin Plasterboard had developed an alarming list to the left that meant he had to sit out today’s descent down Mandeville’s Bosom to Carmichael’s Coffin.
‘Come on, you lot.’ Cassandra might be petite but she refused to be daunted by physical challenges. ‘There are some interesting rock formations and…’
The collective groan drowned out her encouragement.
Oh well, she thought, some of them might drown and immediately regretted her wish. The paperwork involved would be horrendous. ‘Come on, only a few steps and then you can run on the sand. Wait!’
Too late. Two boys broke ranks at the front followed by an uncertain gaggle of girls and then the more studious ones, aware she wasn’t chasing, joined in. Only Jameson Parfitt stayed by her side, tutting. He tugged at his tweed jacket and adjusted his cravat and not for the first time Cassandra had to remind herself he was 14 not 41. Or 414.
Sadly his disinclination to run was not as a result of his natural instinct to comply with her wishes. ‘That went well,’ he said with the pious smugness of the serially dull.
Cassandra knew she couldn’t blame him; having the Honourable Member for the 1950s as a father was enough to turn anyone into a scaled down bank manager.
‘Miss Miss!’ Jeremiah Fobgibblet waved from the sand. ‘Miss! Miss!’
‘Oh for heaven’s sake what does he want now?’ As she hurried down the steps, Jameson’s reedy voice trailed after her like a persistent fart, ‘probably another pee…’
Yes, she thought, that would be typical. In fact the reason for the child’s excitement became apparent as soon as her foot touched the beach. Standing by the entrance to a large cave – which Cassandra couldn’t remember from her last visit – was an enormous hairy headed warrior carrying the sort of sword that would have given any knife crime tsar kniptions. The children had gathered round him, sensibly (Cassandra noted) more that a sword length away. For his part the man stared out to sea, apparently oblivious to the chatter of youthful voices around him.
‘Who is he, Miss?’
‘What’s he doing here?’
‘What’s he staring at?’
What indeed, she wondered. ‘Perhaps you’d leave this gentleman alone, and I’ll have a quick word.’
Reluctantly the children dispersed.
‘Sir, are you alright?’ She noticed the man was dressed in a dirty woollen cape with what looked like animal skins on his legs. ‘We won’t disturb you, then.’ Silly bugger, she thought, noticing how wet his clothes were. He’ll catch his death in this wind.
She began to turn when a large hand stayed her progress.
‘Wench,’ The man’s voice was strained, ‘What is your desire?’
Not to be called names by some misogynistic patriarchal lump of smelly gristle, she thought.
‘You have three wishes.’
‘What?’ Cassandra goggled at the man who was now staring at her with the oddest amber eyes. ‘You’re kidding me?’
‘You called up the spirits of the ancients and the wise. You are the liege of the King Across The Water. You…’
‘I’m an underpaid overstressed teacher of a bunch of hyperactive fourteen year olds and I really don’t need your mumbo-jumbo.’
‘But you must have desires.’
‘Look, don’t get me started down that route. Crickey, I mean a new car would be nice.’
The man’s forehead crinkled. ‘Car?’
‘A Golf maybe, or one of those hybrid ones.’
‘Well of course a bright red Porsche would be lovely but who’d insure me and I’d never have the space to get the homework in and a weekly shop, and my mother would…’
The man held up a hand. It was the sort of hand than, once raised, expected to be greeted by silence. Cassandra decided it wasn’t the sort of hand that handled disappointment well.
What happened next Cassandra was never sure but it certainly involved some clouds parting and earth moving and the oddest tingle where she’d broken her arm as a four year old.
Yep, definitely ‘Woompf’.
‘You did say red?’ The man looked momentarily concerned, not that Cassandra noticed. She was transfixed by the brand new Golf that had materialised next to her. The children began to gather round. Had they not been there, the urge, suppressed by years of dealing with school politics and parent’s evenings to exclaim ‘what the actual fuck’ in a voice more accustomed to singing the Aria in Madame Butterfly would have overwhelmed her.
She spun on her heels and faced her class. ‘Who was it? Come on, We went through this in the Health and Safety briefing. What don’t we do when confronted with a mountainous cliff of igneous rock?’
The class looked sheepish. One girl, whose name Cassandra momentarily forgot, raised her hand. ‘We don’t incant and say “Open Ses…”.’
‘Thank you. So who in all the fantastical worlds was dumb enough to release the beast?’
The girl – Siobhan or Saorise or something – peered round Cassandra at the man, back in his initial pose but with what might be described as a trace of ‘a job well done’ smugness around his eyes. ‘Is he a Genie, Miss?’
The man bristled. ‘I’m none of your Saracen infidel thigh-strokers, Young Miss. I’m a Jamie.’
They all turned. ‘A Jamie? What’s a Jamie?’
The man looked surprised they didn’t know. ‘Like a Genie, only we wear wool and can’t fly. He hurried on. ‘It’s more your Viking than Visigoth schtick. But you get the same wishes.’
Cassandra made a cutting motion with her hand. ‘Jameson Parfitt, be quiet.’
She turned to the man. ‘And if we accept them all, you’re then free to wreck havoc on the surrounding countryside.’
He looked a little put out. ‘It’s only fair. I’ve been in that bloody cave for 473 years and this is the first chance I’ve had of a release.’
Cassandra put her hands in her hips. ‘Oh come on. You’re a mythical creature, conjured up to give hope to a deprived people, subjugated to within an inch of their grimy existences. When you were imagined into being, your creators didn’t anticipate that an over indulged, sugar addicted generation of gamers and social media addicts would find you, did they?’
He sighed. ‘There’s so much in that sentience I don’t understand.’
‘No well, take it from me, you really do not want to be giving this lot even half a wish.’
He began to look forlorn. ‘You have to. You can’t leave me standing out here. I mean, what about when the tide comes in? And all that seaweed. I hate seaweed.’
Cassandra thought for a moment. ‘Alright, how about this? What if I wish you back inside your cave with your magical door shut. That way you’re no worse off than you were.’
‘I suppose. Though technically you still have one wish.’
‘Yes, I was coming to that. There was a memo around school the other day. You’d do well to take it seriously.’
‘I want you to change your password. All that Open You Know is too easy. You need to Rebrand. Jamie 2.0.’
‘But if I do that, no one will be able to release me.’
Cassandra looked at the sparkling eyed, possibly demonic stares of her class. ‘Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that. This generation can hack GCHQ and every porn channel. You’ll be back out soon enough. It’ll just give me a chance to work out how to get this car off this bloody beach and put some miles between me and your Bring a Blood Axe party.’
This was written in response to Sue Vincent’s latest #writephoto prompt, here