With the Sultan's palace towering over, you walk down the markets of Agrabah. Houses and buildings made of hardened mud and rocks line the thin alley. It's so packed with people; it's difficult for you to walk even a meter. The air is hot and heavy and dry in your throat. You're thankful for the water pouch you've brought to quench your parched mouth. The sand the breeze kicks up stings your eyes and your exposed face and hands. The layers of rough clothing you wear are cumbersome, but it saves you from the sand and the sun. Your sweat would make you feel dirty, but let's face it: The last time you had a bath was a while ago; water is so hard to come by in the desert that it's only used for drinking. You're thankful everyone else wears as much clothing as you do, or your and their body odor would mix with the other distinctive smells. The smells that cut into your nostrils. Fish. Dung. Smoke. Burnt trash. Camels.
The shops are small and crammed together. It's difficult to tell one stall from another. The sellers are barely visible over all of their wares, which overflow into neighboring stalls. The only way you actually know what they are there is by the loud shouts heard, mixing into the yells of the other venders and blending together much like their wares. Patrons also make a lot of noise, ordering and bartering and arguing.
You crane your neck over the crowds, trying to glimpse the things for sale.
Dates and nuts. Spices. Herbs. Salt. Sugar. Cinnamon. Powers. Fish. Meat. Chickens. Apples. Melons. Bananas. Pineapples. Coconuts. Bread. Chilies. Peppers. Cacti. Cabbage. Roots. Wines. Vinegar.
Silks. Animal skins. Yarns. Blankets. Rugs. Woven baskets. Pottery. Bowls. Bracelets. Necklaces. Earrings. Rings. Broaches. Gold. Silver. Copper. Tin. Jewels that sparkle. Stones that shine. Perfumes. Oils. Pipes. Lamps. Statues. Candles. Trunks and boxes. Drums. Horns. Bells. Cymbals. Charms to ward off spirits.
Ah, but none of these things truly interest you. You haven't ridden on a rude spitting camel for a fortnight with nothing but your mother-in-law's nagging for company to buy such common things. You want something special. You want something to make your journey worthwhile. You have a pouch with gold coins tucked – you put a hand to your waist – tucked securely beneath your belt. You want to find something to spend them on.
You manage to squeeze your way through the main street of the market and are shoved roughly into a small side ally. It is shaded from the sun by the buildings. It's then that you realize, looking back on the brightly lit mass of people, that the market was positioned from west to east so that sun would light it for as long as possible, as soon as the sun rose until the sun set. You consider shoving your way back into the crowd, but decide against it. There was nothing exciting on sale there anyway.
The darkened alley is quieter than the main part you just left. The smell is also much less pungent, thankfully. The stalls are further apart and the venders do not shout, trying to get your attention. Here, the goods are much of the same, which of course gives way to suspicion as to what they are really selling if they can manage to keep their stalls here. There are even items with dust and are worn from the blowing sand. But it's cooler and less crowded, so you continue on.
After half an hour of walking through the back alley labyrinth, a seller calls out to you just as you pass his stall. "Sir! Sir!"
It has been so long since a vender has called to you that you jump and jerk your head over. He is obviously a foreigner. He is very young. His skin is paler and his hair is lighter, though it is just as curly as anyone else here.
He enthusiastically waves you over. "Good ewening to you, comrade! Kom closer! Kom closer!"
You cautiously approach the stand.
He slams his hands on his stall and you jump again. "Welkom, sir! Welkom to my entwerprising stand! Ewerything on sale today! It is some'sing special you look for, дa? Pasha is hawing it for you, guaranteed!"
You stand there, still as a statue. What the hell did he say?
"Here, here!" He reaches under his stall and takes out a strange metal box. It looks like just a shiny container, but there is no way to open it. Instead there are two long, wide slits on top of it. You lean over to look into the box. It looks like it's mostly filled with metal. He beams at you. "It was inwented in Russia."
You look at him puzzled.
"You hawing bread, дa? You hawing bread and it is cold and limp and is hawing no taste. Yжасно! You want it heated up. Put slice in top," he takes out a piece of bread and puts it in the box, "pressing dis down," he presses a strange leaver, "wait a moment."
He stands there, smiling at you. You shift your weight and glance down at the box. What is he waiting for? You sniff the air and smell something burning.
Suddenly the bread pops out of the box and you jump back. Black smoke is coming out of the box.
"Ah! Eh," the boy says. He reaches in and takes out the bread, which has been blackened to a crisp. "Er." He laughs nervously. "Dis is not what you are wanting!" He tosses the bread aside and picks up the box and places it in his stall again.
You hear him mumbling in a strange language and rummaging through more items. It is not long before he comes back up with a new object: a long metal cylinder with glass in one end.
"Another Russian inwention! You are in the dark, дa?" the boy starts again. "You looking for some'sing, but you can no find! Too dark! You take dis," he points the object to the side, "and click." He presses a button on it. Nothing happens. "Ah!" He looks at it and hits the side of it with his palm. Again, nothing seems to happen.
You begin to walk away. This boy is crazy. And probably a wizard. You saw what he did to that bread. What if he shrinks you down puts you in that box next?
"Ah! Sir! Sir!" The boy puts down the object and steps out from his stand to catch up with you. "Of course!" he exclaims. "Of course you are not wanting any of dat junk. You are looking for some'sing wery special! Дa! You are looking for dis!" He reaches into his sleeve and pulls out a lamp. It is gold but tarnished and rough. "Ah! Do not be fooled by its common appearance!" He lowers his voice. "Дa, it is not what is outside, but it is the inside that counts."
You begin to walk away from the boy but he stops you again. "Dis is no ordinary lamp, comrade! Дa! It once changed the life of a young man! A young man who was like this lamp: more dan he appeared!" The boy leans in and lowers his voice to a whisper again. "A true diamond in the rough." He straightens and beams at you again. "I can see! You are not beliewing me! You are wanting to hear the tale? Дa, дa! Kom!" He herds you back to the front of his stall. He tips the lamp and shiny sand pours out of it and into his palm. "It begins on a wery dark night." He throws it into the air. "A night where a wery dark man waits for a wery dark purpose…"