Glen awoke beside a pit of glowing coals. He rolled on a mat, disturbing mounds of tasseled pillows. Fabric walls surrounded him, rising straight, then tapering into a crown. Around him, an array of wooden platters displayed different coloured fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Over the flames, a grotesque looking carcass roasted.
A goat; maybe?
“You’re right; it is a goat.”
Before now, he hadn’t noticed his host opposite him. The stranger he met in the desert sat cross-legged. He took a pinch of dried, green and red herbs from one of the bowls and sprinkled it over the meat. It gave off a savoury aroma which Glen found pleasing.
“Are you hungry?” asked the stranger. “Why not try the dates by your feet. They’re excellent.”
He did feel hungry, or pehaps believed himself hungry. He laid dying at the feet of this man when he met him. The whole thing was a mirage. Perhaps he did die, or was now in the process of dying. Either way, surely he imagined this scenario.
Glen laughed. “Why not? I can do anything here; can’t I?”
“You’ll find this is no dream,” said the stranger. “Even if it were, surely one can still use manners.”
Glen took a few dates from the platter and chewed, surprised at how good they tasted.
Is this real?
The stranger cocked an eyebrow.
Glen leaned forward and trailed a finger along the carcass. He recoiled from the heat and sucked the herbed grease. It tasted even better than it smelt.
“Convinced now?” said the stranger.
“Who are you?”
“Merely a servant of the same Master as you.”
“You’re an angel?”
The stranger produced a curved dagger and cut a generous slab of meat from the carcass. Dropping it on a plate, he handed it to Glen.
“There’s a dagger there for you also,” said the stranger.
Using the dagger provided, Glen cut slivers small enough to go into his mouth. He did this a few times. As his hunger lost momentum, then he added vegetables from the various platters.
The stranger too, added slices of caper like vegetables to a piece of meat, holding it like a sandwich before putting it into his mouth.
“I have come with a powerful gift for you,” said the stranger.
He took some beans from a dish and held them out to Glen in his upturned palm.
“Take these beans.”
Glen took them from him and stared mesmerised at them in his cupped hands.
“What do I do with them?”
The stranger screwed his face.
“You eat them,” he said incredulously.
He smiled, then broke into laughter.
“You thought they were going to turn into a beanstalk; didn’t you?”
Glen faltered for words, eventually saying a vague “no.”
“I have come to give you this.”
The stranger reached behind his back, producing a shiny copper lamp.
“I hope I’m not ‘sposed to rub this.”
Smiling, the stranger rolled his eyes mischievously.
“Yes… you are.”
Glen cursed under his breath. “And then I get three wishes?”