Farahad knocked against the tree again. He was sure he heard a voice calling out to him from underground. Somewhere in this graveyard was a prisoner. She sounded desperate, though her screams were incoherent.
He tried pushing gravestones. He felt against the lone tree for any kind of mechanism or passageway, but it seemed to shy from his touch. The cries from beneath squeezed through narrow passages where no creature would fit, so he grabbed the earth with his hands and made his own way down.
He sank into the ground. In no time at all, the soil had softened as water, and he dived in. Following her sobs, he swam and fell into a room, empty, save the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. She was the sole source of light, and she hung from the wall as a lantern.
She saw him and wept, “You shouldn’t have come.”
Farahad listened as she told him how she came to be here, of the lover she refused to betray and the jealous genie who transformed him and took her captive. “Every night as the sun fades from the western sky, he takes me down and canes me with a rod from my husband’s tree, until I am made to sleep from exhaustion.”
“That’s terrible,” he said. “I wish I could do something.”
Behind him, the genie rose from the depths of the earth and spoke. “You can free her if you want. If you are willing to take her place, she and her husband can live in peace.”
“Oh,” said Farahad.
“You noble man! I never would have believed that one would trade his life for ours.”
“Oh,” he said again.
Only a good man would have investigated those screams, he told himself later. Only the best.