Djinn and Tonic

Posted: December 17, 2010 in Fantasy, Short Stories, Supernatural
Tags: , , , , ,

Djinn & Tonic

 

I’m a sensible kind of man, a text-book empiricist. If you expect me to believe in things I can’t see then you’ll be disappointed. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if I can’t prove a thing then I’m completely sure it cannot exist.

However, it being Christmas Eve and me brought up to believe that all oxen kneel on this special day, I’m willing to cut a little slack to my usual rigidity. Perhaps that’s why I feel I can tell you what has just happened without you judging me too harshly…

On the train home from work this afternoon I found myself staring at this pretty girl, I allowed my eyes to glaze over as I began to dream about undoing the top few buttons on her winter coat, the released burst of her perfume, the blush of warm air on my face, but as the train went into the tunnel I looked at her reflection instead, because she’d caught me looking directly at her and I felt embarrassed. What I saw took all sexual thoughts from me like heat from an open door. A grizzled bearded man stared back at me where her reflection should have been. The face was swarthy and Arabic. With typical cliché, I took off my glasses and rubbed my eyes, feeling the tired jellied balls squelching in their sockets. I looked again just as the train came out the tunnel into daylight losing any reflection.

I put it down to over-indulgence at last night’s office party and made it home to get ready for Christmas drinks at my neighbours house. He was Muslim by birth but being a learned and well-travelled man he’d decided to annexe the good bits and festivals from all philosophies. He had the air of one not quite of this world, I’d mistaken this for aloofness at first but we’d gradually become friends since he moved to the street four years ago and these Christmas Eve drinks had become something of a tradition. But tonight seemed different, there was something in the air. I’d been looking out the window casually but not seen anyone arrive, in fact the whole house was in darkness except for the glow of the fake tree coming from the back room.

Being a worrier by nature, I decided to knock on the door. I raised the knocker and tapped with such non-committal pressure that I was surprised when he threw open the door. He had his index finger to his lips inducing me to keep quiet.

He ushered me into the kitchen and closed the door behind him. His usual calm almost peaceful expression was gone, replaced by a feverish anxiousness. A bead of pure sweat had formed on his forehead and twinkled under the kitchen’s halogen spotlights.

“I’ve caught a Djinn… “

My response seemed to catch him off guard.

“What’s a Djinn? “

“A genie… a fucking genie. “

I looked around the work surface for telltale bottles of tablets or strong liquor.

“Sure you have. Everything Ok, I mean, really?  Gin?“

“Djinn… DJinn. Come look. “

He flicked open the door and flung it wide as if issuing a challenge to me.

“Is this some sort of Christmas charade… I mean you can’t seriously expect me to believe you’ve got a… “

There it was. On the floor glimmering at ankle height, trapped by an upturned pint glass and piece of cardboard like a celestial spider.

“What the deuce is that? “

“I told you… it’s a Djinn. “

“And a Djinn is… “

“Look, in Islamic thinking, Allah created three types of living thing. Angels, Humans, and Djinn. Creatures of fire, neither totally human but neither angelic. They live out of town. “

“Sure, a LONG way out of town. “

“But being spirits they can also live in animals. Dogs in particular. And that’s where I found this one. “

“In your dog? “

“Yep. Haven’t you ever wondered why Muslims hate dogs so much?  The dog had been acting kinda strange for a few days, then I caught it about an hour ago literally coughing up sparks onto the carpet. “

He pointed to the rug in the centre of the room, sure enough there were singe marks on the white surface.

“I looked in his mouth and saw this glow coming up from his throat, so I reached in with my hand and just yanked. And up came our little friend over there… “

He pointed with his thumb at the sparkling Djinn.

I asked for some music to calm my nerves and help me think. The radio played Fleetwood Mac. The Djinn began to writhe around under the glass in abject agony.

“It’s the sound, the sound, turn it off quick. You don’t want to piss it off. “

I slowly moved in for a closer look at the creature whilst offering the best placatory expression I could muster. My mouth fell open – the face of the Djinn was the face I’d seen in the girl’s reflection on the train, and boy did it look pissed.

‘I’ve seen that face before…’

My neighbour didn’t seem overly impressed.

‘Quite likely. Djinn live among us, taking many forms. Sometimes they’re invisible whispering in our ear, temptations and stirring up trouble. Sometimes they possess people and animals. But you haven’t heard the best of it yet. What else are Djinn, or as you know them: Genies famous for?’

It took me a minute but when the realisation came it struck like a thunderbolt.

‘Wishes?’

My neighbour winked.

‘Wishes. Or in this case A wish. One.’

‘You are kidding me?’

‘Nope. I am not. It’s the real deal.’

We spent the next half hour discussing our options. My sensible suggestions of health and long life or limitless money soon gave way to more fantastical possibilities. If this ridiculous world of magic is actually turning out to be true then why ask for something as mundane as money? Why not ask for time-travel? Go back and see the real birth of Christ on Christmas Eve? Go into the future and witness the birth of the next Christ?

To fly? Rush over oceans, the salted wind making you feel alive as continents whizz past?

Or invisibility perhaps? Creep into banks and get all the money you need anyway?

To make any girl you see suddenly be overcome with desire and demand immediate sex?

To freeze time in any moment just by clapping your hands… and have immediate sex anyway?

My neighbour pointed out, not without some glee, that perhaps I just needed a girlfriend? A wank rather than a wish?

This hit a nerve and I pushed even harder for my choices. We just couldn’t agree. My neighbour wanted Time Travel, and I wanted health and happiness for all our friends and extended family. The Djinn seemed to be getting impatient. Having up to this point been remarkably docile, it had splayed its arms and legs out into a Da Vinci star shape and was beginning to rock from side to side, trying to build up enough momentum to roll the pint glass.

My neighbour pulled rank.

“A coin flip. Let chance decide, I mean everything else here is so out of our control we may as well trust in the universe? “

The coin hung in the air catching the light as it spun, even the Djinn stopped in its struggle and presently looked up awaiting the outcome.

The gold pound coin thumped onto the white rug and I immediately stooped over, praying to see the Queen’s winning face.

Triumphantly she smiled back at me. I reached up in celebration, punching the air and kicking out.

My left foot caught the pint glass full on and hoofed it up into the air, smashing against the underside of the fireplace and making the splinters tinkle down like pine needles in a frosted forest.

As if frozen in time we looked on helpless as the freed Djinn made a bee-line for the chimney stack and disappeared up the shoot. On this Christmas Eve we both knew there’d be no Santa coming in the other direction to block its exit.  

From the window we watched the Djinn shoot out the chimney like a champagne cork into the crisp night air, before racing across the darkened sky as if an ascending meteor.

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