18: An Atamanaa Welcome

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I sat by the window the entire trip. The memory of my parent's death looped in my mind. The realization that Novus was to blame for all my suffering dug into my heart. An image of his ship stripping the shuttle's side causing the explosion pulled tears from my eyes; tears I quickly wiped away with my sleeve before Jupiter could see.

"I'm sorry, Eddie," said Jupiter sitting across from me. He sipped a glass of purple juice. "At least now you can stop blaming yourself and start living."

"It still hurts," I said pulling my legs in closer.

"Perhaps the Djinn can help. Maybe he can make you forget."

"I don't want to meet the Djinn." I placed my hand over my fanny pack. "He just wants my wish."

"Or." Jupiter leaned in. "Maybe the Djinn just wants to help."

"I just want to go home. I'm done with my adventure."

The ship turned and suddenly three moons orbiting a blue planet appeared outside the window.

"That's not Earth," I said.

"No, that's Atamanaa, the wish planet. It's where the Djinn lives."

"I told you I wanted to go home."

"And you will, Eddie, but the rules of the universe are absolute. All wishes must go through the Djinn. It is his obligation to the stars."

"Alright, let's get this over with."

The ship entered the planet's atmosphere. It rocked and shook. I clutched the handlebar on my seat to keep myself from sliding off. Beyond the windows tall twisted spires, floating gardens of trees and vines, and flying cars of every color and shape zoomed by the ship as we approached the landing point. All my understanding of what a futuristic city would look like was reflected outside. I saw men, women, children, and other aliens walking the streets below; their eyes turned up to our ship. A crowd had formed where we touched down. The roar of cheering voices and the flash of camera lights invaded the ship's interior as the steps dropped to the ground.

Jupiter stood up and reached out his hand.

"Here you are, Eddie. Time to say goodbye."

"Are you not coming with me?"

"No, I have to get back to the resort. I've informed the Djinn of your intentions. You will be well taken care of here."

"And what about Novus?"

"He's been arrested. Don't worry about him anymore. That bad man is gone for good."

I gave Jupiter a hug. He pushed me away.

"Now go on," he said scooting me towards the steps. "Your public awaits."

As I stepped down the steps, the crowd erupted in another wave of cheers. Golden streamers glided over my head, confetti rained down on the red carpet before me, and everyone around me reached out their hands asking for my autograph.

"Eddie!" they screamed. "Eddie from Earth!"

At the far end of the red carpet stood a platform with a sign hanging above it. It read, Welcome Eddie From Earth!

A lady dressed in a bright blue and pink striped latex suit skipped down the red carpet towards me. In her hands was a microphone and beside her hovered a mini video camera on propellers. She stopped me and smiled at the camera.

"Good morning, Universe News. Titania here speaking to you from Atamanaa. Eddie from Earth, the girl who Galaxion chose as its wishmaker, has finally arrived after being kidnapped and drugged through the galaxy by a notorious criminal. Welcome, Eddie. How does it feel to be the only person from Earth to ever travel the stars?"

The microphone landed in front of my face.

"Um, it's great I guess," I said shrugging.

"Tell us, Eddie, having received the greatest wish in all the universe everyone is dying to know what are you going to wish for?"

"I don't know," I said.

Titania turned to the camera.

"You heard it here first. Eddie from Earth doesn't know what to wish for, but you can help her out. Send what you would wish for to Universe News. All our lines of communication are open for the next ten quarks. The best ten responses will receive a free three night stay at the Djinn's luxury hotel here in Atamanaa and have the chance to present their wish to Eddie herself. So send in those wishes! We want to hear from you!"

The newscaster grabbed my arm and tugged me towards the platform. She turned me around until I faced everyone.

"So Eddie," she said crouching to my level, "why not you show the universe, Galaxion. Not many of us get to see a wish. Let us see it."

I didn't want to, but the many eyes watching me pressured me into unzipping my fanny pack and reach for the rock inside. I pulled it out. Ribbons of red and blue light lifted off of Galaxion as I held it in my hands. The crowd ooed and awed.

"Raise it high so everyone can see," said Titania.

I lifted Galaxion high. It began to glow brightly. The crowd erupted in more cheers.

"Eddie, Eddie, Eddie," the crowd chanted. A smile formed on my face. I was never one to be the center of attention but something about the chanting of my name and the happy faces of the crowd made my heart lift with joy.

Two hands landed on my shoulders. I looked up. Celeste's smiling face beamed down at me. She whispered into my ear, her red hair tickling my neck. "Congratulations, Wishmaker," she said. "The Djinn will see you now."

I took Celeste's hand. Titania followed us as we walked away.

"Eddie, a few more questions before you go."

"She will answer no more questions," said Celeste to the camera, but Titania was persistent.

"Eddie, what was it like to be kidnapped by an intergalactic thief and murderer? Any comments."

I didn't answer out loud, but in my mind the words came out honest and true.

"They were the best moments of my life."

Celeste and I stepped onto a glowing platform. The platform lifted into the air like an elevator with no walls. We rose towards a giant pair of doors of the city's tallest spire. I glanced at the crowd below. Their chants faded into a whisper amongst the hum of flying cars.

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