The Djinn, by Nancy Gibson
My name is Abdul-Hayy and I am a djinn. My family traces its genealogy back to the beginning of time, when Allah, Zhu, the Great Creator, He whom you call God, created the first beings, we who were created from fire, the djinn.
My name means ‘servant of the living’, and I am honored to be chosen by Rama, Yahweh, the Almighty, to come forth from my abode from time to time in order to grant three wishes to the human who opens the door to my sanctuary. I am what you, in these times, call a genie.
Although current fashion portrays the picture of a genie living in a bottle, this is not altogether true. Those of us whose mission is to grant wishes to humans live in all sorts of containers: bottles, jugs, boxes, or even flasks. I, myself, live in a small, ornately carved wooden box, fashioned of teak, created long before recorded history began. In it is my palace, surrounded by magnificent gardens displaying brilliant flowers and sparking fountains. There my wives and servants attend to my every need.
When the human whom Shangdi, Jehovah, Krishna, ordains shall be granted three wishes finds and opens my box, I come forth to do my duty as the Lord God, Creator of All, has commanded. When my job is completed, I return to my palace to live for days, months, years, decades, or centuries before being summoned again into the world of humankind.
It is not my decision as to who will be blessed—or cursed—with finding and opening my box. Indeed, how the Greatest of Great chooses who is to be the recipient is beyond my knowing. Possibly it is a test of the individual, to see if they use the wishes for good or evil, whether they use the gift wisely or foolishly. Djinns have feelings, however, as do humans, and I often feel happiness or sadness, anger or regret, at the way humans use their wishes. But I cannot interfere.
I cannot influence the wishes—that is I’m not supposed to. I cannot suggest a different wish, for example, or point out the folly of the petitioner’s desire. There are few rules other than that: I cannot deliberately kill or injure: I can only grant the wishes to the person who opens my box, and the wishes must pertain to him or her. The wishes are non-transferable, if you will. And I must grant the wish as closely to what the human has asked for as is possible, although, I must admit, there are times when I encourage the human to think well upon his wish, and I do so in such a way as to suggest their wish is not a wise one.
Once, many centuries past, a shepherd boy found my box while he was tending his flocks, and easily removed the lid.
“Ho there, what is this?” he asked as I slid into his world on a stream of smoke. “Are you an angel?”
“I am a djinn, young master, not an angel,” I replied. “I have come because you have loosed me from my box. Now I must grant you three wishes. Give some thought, so you may choose wisely.”
The boy sat upon the ground and thought. “I have need of nothing. My father has seen to it that I have food to eat and clothing to wear. I enjoy tending the sheep.” He pondered the problem. “What I would enjoy most is a lyre and the skill to play it beautifully. This would keep me happy and I could sooth the sheep when they are restless.”
I would have thought such a one would want riches or a palace or some such thing, but he wanted a simple item only.
“Think carefully, young master, before you voice your wish. Is a lyre and the gift to play it what you desire for your first wish?”
“Yes. Yes, it is. I wish for a lyre and the talent to make sweet music on it,” he replied.
With a nod of my head it was done, and the instrument was in his hands. As he strummed, beautiful notes rang out over the hillside, and he sang with a sweet voice as he played.
When he finished the song I asked, “And what is your second wish?”
He thought for a while but could think of nothing else he wanted.
“Then I will return to my box. If you will, please replace the lid and keep the box safe and when you desire your second wish remove the cover and I will come to you again.”
When I next was called forth, he was older, a boy still, but almost a man. A mighty war was being fought between his countrymen and those who wished to subdue them and cast them into slavery.
“Djinn, it is time for me to ask for my second wish,” he said.
“Indeed, young master, you have waited patiently before summoning me again.”
“Now I need you to slay the enemy troops so my country can be safe.”
“Alas, I cannot do that. I cannot slay people. And the wish must be something for you, not something done to others,” I answered.
“Then give me the means to accomplish this for myself,” he replied. “Give me a weapon that I may slay the giant who leads the invaders.”
“Think, young master. Be sure that is what you want.”
“Yes it is. For my second wish I ask for a weapon with which I will slay the giant.”
Suddenly, in his hand, there was a slingshot and a bag of rocks.
“Djinn, indeed I am well versed with such a weapon, having killed wild animals with one. Are you sure this will work?”
“There is no mistake in the wishes. You asked for a weapon with which you would slay the giant, and that is what you have in your hand. Do you know your third wish?”
“No, djinn. You can return to your box. I will summon you again when I am ready for my last wish.”
It was some time before he called me forth for the third time, and by that time he was a mighty and powerful man. Where his first two wishes were thought provoking, the third one disappointed me. He wanted another man’s wife.
“Are you sure, master? Are you sure this is your third wish?”
I granted it, but I was filled with disillusionment, which lasted until I returned to my palace and immersed myself in the luxuries surrounding me.
Over the centuries I have granted many wishes. Some have made me proud, some have made me sad. Some have even made me regret not having manipulated the human into a different wish.
Women, it seems, tend to wish for beauty, jewelry, a fine home, or a handsome lover. Men, on the other hand, on the most part wish for power and wealth and the trappings that go with such.
This is not always true, however. A woman in India found my box and used the wishes to help the poor for the remainder of her life. A young girl in the rural south of what you call America found my box while digging in the dirt of the garden. She used it to escape the poverty surrounding her and went on to help people all over the world with the riches she earned. It is stories like these that make my heart happy.
Others have not chosen as wisely. I have had two women who wished to be queen of their respective countries. Both died violent deaths, with their heads rolling into baskets at the foot of the executioners. For a long time after each instance I regretted not trying to persuade the young woman to ask for a different wish. Alas, what was done was done. They had chosen their fates.
A young Sioux Indian boy made another wish I regretted. He used his first wish to be brave when he spent the required time alone in the wilderness. He used his second wish to be granted a name he desired, Brave Horse, in the naming ceremony. His third wish was used to obtain his heart’s desire. He was enamored with the wild horses that roamed the canyons around his home and wished to have the beautiful stallion that led the herd. He was sure he could tame the beast, even though his father and the elders of the tribe told him he wasn’t ready for the challenge. Sure enough, on his first ride on the mighty horse, he was thrown and lost the use of his legs for the rest of his life. How I wish I had helped him structure his wish so the accident would not have happened.
I have found often it is not the wishes themselves that bless or curse the receivers, but how they use them. In my palace I have a large mirror, and when I look into it I see not my own reflection, but the world of those to whom I grant wishes. As I watch the people who are granted their desires, I marvel at the difference in humankind and how they react to good fortune. The goodness of some remains long after they are gone. The misuse of wishes can hurt others just as long.
I had two recipients, men, both of whom had miserable childhoods filled with poverty, neglect and abuse. Each of them, in their time, asked for the same three things: enough money to buy whatever they desired, enough food to never be hungry again, and a wife who was faithful and loved them no matter what occurred in their lives.
The first man established an inn by a busy road. He served delicious food to those who frequented his establishment, and he never turned away a hungry person without the coin to pay for a meal. He was especially kind to the many orphaned and abandoned children on the streets of the town, feeding them and paying them small coins for errands. His wife was a happy woman, always smiling at him and the customers. When he died and passed into the next dimension he was mourned by thousands he had helped and missed dearly by his wife and many who called him friend.
The second man wished for the same things. He stocked his home to overflowing with food. He had more food than he could use before it became old and rancid, but still he bought more. He filled pantries and cabinets with food and ate as if he would have no more. Soon he became so fat he could hardly walk and seldom left his house.
He hoarded items that took his fancy in the same way, filling cupboards and cabinets, casks and trunks, with so-called treasures and securing them with padlocks so no one could see or steal what was his. He liked to brag to others about what he owned and how he had obtained it, until his manner alienated what few friends he had. Alone except for his wife, he sat in his home and admired his treasures.
He had a sweet wife, who loved him dearly, but he treated her rudely, ranting and raving and behaving crudely and obnoxiously, often driving her to tears. When he died the power of the wish died also, and although she had loved him, she felt released from prison. She sold all his treasures and lived the remainder of her life in luxury, never missing him.
A young farmer, living in a place called Ohio, was plowing his fields and found my box in the dirt turned over in his tilling of the soil. He brushed it as well as he could and tried to open it, but the lid would not budge. He took it home to his wife.
“Here is an old box I found in the field today. It looks like it might be pretty if you can get all the dirt off.”
When she had served lunch and he had returned to the fields, she put the children down for their naps and started cleaning my box. Taking a soft brush, she removed the dirt from the crevices, causing the ornate design to glow. When she slid the lid, it came off easily and I appeared in my customary puff of smoke.
“Oh my God!” she exclaimed.
“I am not God—I am Abdul-Hayy,” I responded. “I have come to grant you three wishes.”
“Abdul?” she said, frowning. “That sounds like an Arab name. Are you a terrorist come to take over the country?”
“Indeed not, Mistress. I am originally from the country that was at one time known as Arabia, but my true home is in my box. My name, Abdul-Hayy, means servant of the living. I am here not to induce terror, but to grant you three wishes.”
“Like ‘I Dream of Jeanie’?”
“As you say, Mistress. I am what you call a genie.”
“Oh my goodness. What will I wish for?”
“I cannot tell you that, Mistress. Only you can tell me what you desire and I will grant it.”
She sat at her kitchen table and thought.
“You do not have to use all three wishes right now. You may think on it and open my box again when you are ready.”
“I know one. Can I use one today and think about the other two?”
“Indeed, Mistress. It is quite wise of you to consider the matter.”
“Well, then. I wish to be the most beautiful woman in the world!”
With a gentle ‘poof’ and tendrils of smoke, her dishwater blonde hair turned into masses of golden curls, her skin soft and blemish free—the color of peaches glowing on her cheeks. Her blue eyes were large and luminous, and her figure was womanhood perfected.
She rushed to the mirror hanging above the sideboard to see the changes her wish had accomplished.
“It’s true! I’m not plain any more, I’m beautiful!”
“As you asked, Mistress: you are the most beautiful woman in the world. Do you have another wish to be fulfilled?”
“I’ll have to think about it. Is that all right?”
“Certainly. I will simply return to my box. When you want another wish, remove the lid and I will return.”
When she called me back again by opening my box, she was holding her handbag and my box and she was standing next to two suitcases.
“You have called for me, Mistress. Does this mean you have decided on your next wish?”
“Yes, I know what I want next. Everyone I know says I am too beautiful to be stuck on this farm. I want to go to Hollywood. With my looks, I can be a movie star.”
“And your family, Mistress? Will they be joining you there?”
“No. My husband says this farm has been in his family for five generations and it provides a perfectly good income. He says he’s not interested in moving to California, so I’m going by myself.”
“You must think on this carefully, Mistress! Your children, won’t they miss you?” I almost crossed the line—saying that. I am not supposed to try to persuade a person away from their wish.
“Maybe for a little while, but they’ll be so proud to have a mother who is a movie star, and I’ll call them and send them presents.”
“If you are sure, Mistress. Please state your wish.”
She put my box into her handbag, picked up the two suitcases and made her wish.
“I wish to go to Hollywood and be a famous movie star.”
I nodded my head and with a ‘poof’ she disappeared. I had no doubt she would call on me for her third wish when the time was right. I had to close my eyes and think deeply in order to return to the safety of my box, which was, by now, in Hollywood.
Back in my palace I observed in my mirror her climb to fame. She was cast in movie after movie, and indeed, was said to be ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’. Back at her old home, calls and letters from her became more and more sporadic, until they ceased altogether. The husband missed his wife, and the children cried for their mother. How I wished I could have changed that wish.
Two years passed before she called me for her third wish.
“Genie, I have made several movies, and I make money for the studios because I am so beautiful, but I am not respected as an actress.”
“Indeed, Mistress? Hmmm,” I replied. I could not tell her the reason for the lack of respect, that she was a terrible actress. She would simply have asked to become a good actress. I cannot influence wishes in such a manner.
“So I have thought about my third wish, and I am ready to make it,” she said.
So, I thought, she has come to that conclusion herself.
“I wish to win the Academy Award for Best Actress for my last movie, Love’s Searing Heart.”
I could do nothing else; I nodded my head. It was done. Within hours her nomination was announced and a few months later, much to the amazement of the critics, she won the Oscar.
I didn’t have time for much rest in my palace before being called forth once again. When I emerged from my box I found myself on the deck of a yacht, surrounded by men in tan uniforms holding guns pointed at me. This was not as frightening as it might sound; guns can do me no harm. It was probably more frightening to them to have a nine-foot tall genie slide from a small box in a puff of smoke.
My box was in the hands of a dark man dressed in tan shorts and a shirt adorned in palm trees. He was smoking a cigar and a glass of liquor was on the table at his side. Another man similarly dressed was seated in a nearby chair.
“Ieee! Hold your fire, men, until we find what’s going on,” said the man holding the box.
“I am a genie, Master, come to grant you three wishes,” I proclaimed in my usual explanation.
“Ha! A genie is it? I thought genies were just a myth. So then, you have to do what I say?”
“Indeed, Master. I must grant you three wishes.”
“Master, huh? Then if I should command you to, say, lick my feet, you would have to do it?”
“If you should choose to use one of your wishes on such an endeavor, then yes, Master, I would do so.”
What a fool, I thought, to use a wish in such a way.
But he did not make that wish. He thought about it as he puffed his cigar and took a sip from his glass. “These men,” he gestured around him, “they do as I say. How are you different from them?”
“I can give you things they cannot, Master.”
“Can I use a wish to ask for more wishes?”
“No, Master. It doesn’t work that way.”
“Well, then. For my first wish I want the most beautiful woman in the world at my disposal.”
I nodded my head and immediately the beautiful blonde was sitting in the chair at his side.
“Abdul! Do I get more wishes?” she said as she saw me.
“No, Madame. This gentleman wished for the most beautiful woman in the world, which is you,” I explained.
“You two know each other?” my new master asked.
“Abdul gave me three wishes and I wished to be the most beautiful woman in the world,” she replied.
“And now you belong to me,” he said, with a broad grin on his face. He turned to the men surrounding us, “You can stand easy now, but be ready.”
A pout appeared on the beautiful face. “I don’t know that I want to belong to anybody,” she said.
“Too bad. That was my wish,” he said, leering at her.
Hoping to postpone the argument that was surely to come, I spoke. “Do you have your second wish, Master?”
“I am in a very competitive business,” he answered, turning back toward me. “I have many enemies who wish to do away with me and my business associates. I wish you would kill all my competitors.”
“I cannot grant that wish, Master,” and before I could explain, the guns were again pointing right at me.
“If I am your master, you can damn well do what I tell you!”
“I can give things to you,” I explained, “Like I brought you the most beautiful woman in the world, but I cannot harm other people.” Then I added a little lie. “Genies can’t do that—harm people.” Which, of course, is not altogether true. There are evil djinns who can and do harm people, but I am not one of them.
He frowned as he thought about this.
“Say, what’s a girl got to do to get a drink around here?” the blonde woman asked.
“Of course, my sweet,” he beamed at her. “Champagne?”
“That would be lovely,” she replied, and he gestured toward a slight young man in a white uniform who was standing to the side.
“Champagne for the lady, Paco,” he said. “And something to eat for all of us.”
“Right away, El Jefe,” he responded and hurried inside.
Within minutes trays of delectable canapés and bowls of fruit were placed upon a dining table. The leader rose and extended his hand to the woman. When she stood, he wrapped her hand over his arm and escorted her to the table, and they and the other man who had been seated on the deck settled themselves.
“To the most beautiful woman in the world,” toasted El Jefe as he raised his glass of wine. “What is your name, chica?”
“It used to be Joanne, but I changed it to Tawny when I got to Hollywood.”
“To Tawny!” He and the other man toasted, and the men with guns each raised their bottle of beer. “To Tawny!”
“Do you not wish a glass of wine, genie?”
“Master, I cannot drink alcohol, or else I will be prevented from granting your remaining wishes,” I said. I had learned centuries ago not to say it was against my religion to drink alcoholic spirits. That information always led to an argument. No man tried to force me to drink if they thought they would not get their remaining wishes.
When they had eaten their fill and stood to leave the table, El Jefe motioned to Paco. “Show Senorita Tawny to my cabin,” he said. Turning to her, he smiled. “Rest a while, my dear. If it will make you feel any better, remember I am a very rich man. I can cover you in diamonds and furs, if you wish, and give you the best of everything. And I am about to get richer.”
When she was gone he said, “While I ate I thought about what you said about being able to bring me things, but you can’t hurt or kill anyone. Right?”
“Yes, Master, that is correct.”
“The man who is my strongest enemy, the man who takes more business from me than anyone else, the man who has more of my people killed than any other competitor, is Juan Alexandro Lopez. You can bring him here to me, can you not?”
“Yes, Master. I can do that.” I could see something bad coming.
“Then this is my wish. I wish for Juan Alexandro Lopez to be standing here in front of me now.”
I nodded my head and in a puff of smoke a man in a dark business suit appeared on the deck of the yacht. Even though they had all seen me produce the woman, Tawny, they gasped when he materialized, and the men surrounding us aimed their guns at him, as they had at me. In this case, it was probably a good idea, since he reached into his coat and pulled out a small revolver.
Before he could aim it at El Jefe, the men on either side of him wrestled it from his grasp. He looked around in amazement.
“Ah, Juan Alexandro, you wonder how you came to be here, do you not? Let me introduce you to my own personal genie, Abdul. He magicked you here for me. Abdul, this is the man who costs me millions of pesos, and millions of US dollars each month. Say goodbye, Juan Alexandro.”
With those words he gave a signal and all his men opened fire on the hapless newcomer. He fell to a heap on the deck, his blood running across the boards in rivulets trying to reach the sea.
“Come, let us go to the rear deck, where it is cleaner,” El Jefe said. “Pedro, Jorge, Louis, dispose of the body and clean the deck. The rest of you stay with me.” He started toward the stern, then turned. “You may have whatever you find on the body,” he told the men, and proceeded toward the rear of the ship, smiling. “That is one less rival,” he commented.
When we reached the unspoiled area he spoke again.
“It gave me much satisfaction to eliminate Lopez,” he said. Turning to me he asked, “Are you sure I can only have one more wish?”
“I am sure, Master. Only one more.”
“Even under threat of death?” he asked, and the men in uniform who had accompanied us to the stern pointed their guns at me once again.
I smiled. “Master, you could shoot me with all your guns and nothing would happen. I have lived for thousands of years and, Allah willing, I will live for thousands more. I have shown you what I can do. Do you doubt me still?”
“No. I guess not.” He was quiet for a moment. “For every rival I eliminate, another comes along to take his place. With only one wish remaining, it is useless to try to rid myself of them all.”
The man sitting next to him leaned toward El Jefe and whispered something in his ear, something that brought a smile to his face and a twinkle to his eyes.
“Hector, you are a genius! That is the answer.” He turned to me. “Give me a moment to frame my wish in my mind.”
“Certainly, Master. Take as long as you need.”
After a minute he cleared his throat and spoke. “My wish is this: I wish to have all the heroin in the world, all the cocaine in the world, all the marijuana, meth, ecstasy, LSD, acid, hash, poppers, crack, speed, angel dust, smack, opium, all of this, all of it that exists, here in my possession.”
“All of those drugs, Master? All there is of them? Here in your possession?”
“Yes. You’ve got it.”
“Then it is done,” I said and nodded my head.
The yacht now lies one mile deep beneath the sea, buried under 905,328 tons of what you call ‘dope’. Eighteen people are buried there also: El Jefe, Tawny, Hector, and all the rest of the crew.
Perhaps I should have tried to reframe his last wish, perhaps had him wish it to a warehouse somewhere. Perhaps I should feel regret I did not do so.
Nancy Gibson is an old lady with a wild imagination. She writes short stories about djinns, angels, leprechauns, cajun mystics, and talking furniture. When she’s not writing she’s one of the “ladies that lunch.” Gibson lives in rural Arkansas, near Hot Springs, with her three cats and three dogs.
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Tags: accidents, desire, fantasy, humour, lies, magic, Nancy Gibson, spirits