A Genie in a Jam
by Oonah V. Joslin
|Table of Contents|
|Chapter 1: Of Elders and Rhubarb|
DJ had wanted to work with humans ever since he could remember. He’d read the exploits of other Djinn who’d chosen that as a career and had taken a few trips into Earth dimensions just to get a feel for it. He enjoyed the feeling of being squeezed ribbon-like through a tunnel and bursting out at the other side.
Of course he’d remained in flame form. Unlicensed materialization was unlawful for good reason. Mastering the intricacies of changing local thermal equilibrium took decades of practice. It was not for mere sparks to attempt.
If he obtained the permission of the Elders today, he’d be allowed to take corporeal form and interact openly with humans at last.
Waiting in the anteroom, DJ thought of all the good he would do and the fun he would have, but he was nervous. He’d never come before the Djinn Council of Elders before and he felt decidedly flickery about it. He had heard it was a daunting experience
Summoned, he found himself in an awesome hall, hovering above a shining floor checkered with purple sugalite and gleaming marble tiles inlaid with a grid of pure silver filigree. He stood between the horns of a vast horseshoe table, which dominated the room like a gigantic magnet. Its highly reflective surfaces shone like emerald veined with darker green; pure polished malachite, decorated with golden flames.
Around the outside of the horseshoe, five great thrones were arranged with the greatest, and most ornate, at the centre. The two on the left were of jasper and jade. On the right, were onyx and obsidian and the central one was the glorious topaz throne. Yellow-brown, honey and flax in colour, it was ornately carved all over with the symbol of the Djinn: smokeless flames. The elders appeared one by one, each as his fiery self on his throne; and with each eruption, DJ felt more keenly his own insignificance.
The Most Ancient, Topaz, presided majestically; a fervent flame of golden distinction. DJ had never seen his like. To the left was Jasper, a red disgruntled flame, deep and threatening but shot through with joyous sparks of pure orange. Next to him the gentle, green fire of Jade glowed, modestly feminine and calm. To the right of the great Topaz throne blazed Onyx, steady and hard, exhibiting a dark flame whose black depths spoke of fathomless wisdom.
DJ was suddenly aware of the final Elder. Glowering at him with barely concealed contempt was his old teacher. Obsidian’s black flame was flecked with magnesium, white as a midnight snow storm. DJ was familiar with his presence, sharp as a scalpel blade, quite brilliant and impossible to please; at least DJ had never managed it. And now Obsidian loomed large over DJ’s hopes like some grim shadow from childhood nightmares.
Obsidian would be difficult to win over. DJ recalled all his naughty childhood pranks on Earth trips, like the time he’d lit the old lady’s fire for her by flying into it. That prank had gone down well with his classmates. How could he know the old girl had a feeble heart?
The forest fire hadn’t really been his fault either. He’d just been helping out some campers. And that female firefly who mistook him for her mate... what was he supposed to do, disappoint her? And that time he’d gone exploring inside the sleeping man... he was just brushing up on his human physiology. Anyway, forensics had put it down to spontaneous human combustion, so... no real harm done.
But DJ had been banned from all Earth trips after that, and Obsidian had had to answer to the Djinn Council, the only stain on a perfect record at the end of a sparkling career.
DJ bowed very low before this opulence of eminences. His own teensy incandescence was virtually invisible in such company as this, and in this instance he actually wished he were invisible.
‘Why have you come?’ boomed a voice from the topaz throne. DJ saw Obsidian’s flame grow blacker and knew, by the dark disturbances within the others, that information was being passed flame to flame.
‘Please your eminence, I wish to take up a position as a genie.’ DJ’s voice crackled nervously as he spoke.
‘You have a particular position in mind?’ enquired the soothing voice of Jade.
‘I have, Ma’am. An Earth company has advertised for a genie to represent their jams.’ He’d half expected to hear Obsidian’s derisive laughter but his silence was worse.
‘Jam?’ enthused Jasper. ‘It seems a laudable pursuit to me.’
Obsidian grumbled darkly.
‘I tasted jam once,’ continued Jasper, ‘Rhubarb they called it. It was very sweet as I recall, but had the unfortunate effect...’
‘Thank you Jasper,’ interrupted Topaz, ‘I believe you have recounted your symptoms to us before — at some length.’ Then he addressed DJ. ‘You think you are wise enough to grant the wishes of men? You are only three centuries old.’
‘I do not know, Your Eminence. I would like to try.’ DJ had sort of assumed they would say yes straightaway. Now, with Obsidian maintaining a stony silence, he was beginning to think that they might actually refuse his request.
Onyx’s high tone piped in, ‘We take our contacts on Earth most seriously, young Djinn, especially in these days when we send so few ambassadors.’
DJ took this to be an allusion to his past record. ‘It is true I have made mistakes in the past, but I was inexperienced,’ he appealed with a look towards Obsidian, ‘and perhaps foolish.’
Obsidian’s flame did not waver. He remained implacable.
Jade softly intervened: ‘You must understand, DJ that we pose a considerable threat to humankind — as they to us. You place yourself in jeopardy by doing this. You will meet with skepticism and antipathy and your powers will be strictly limited.’
He didn’t know who Skepticism and Antipathy were, but he was unwilling to show his ignorance to the Elders, especially if he was going to have to meet with these two, as Jade said. ‘I understand,’ he said gravely.
‘It seems you have an advocate,’ boomed Topaz.
DJ found his flame blushing pinkly. ‘Her Eminence is most generous in her concern,’ he said. ‘I would hope to draw on the guidance and wisdom of the Most Ancient of our peoples, to aid me in my humble duties.’ He bowed extra low towards the topaz throne. If there was one thing DJ had learned to do well in three hundred years, it was to grovel.
Obsidian spoke at last. His voice still carried a peculiar resonance that made DJ gutter like a tea-light in a draft. ‘Have you truly learned from your mistakes, DJ? Have you matured?’
‘Yes, sir,’ squeaked DJ, then lowering his voice, ‘that is, I think I have, Teacher.’ He hoped the old title would mollify his adversary. ‘I would be eternally grateful for the chance to prove myself.’
‘Humph!’ Obsidian had heeded DJ’s promises before and had his own idea of their worth. The others seemed pleased though, and visibly brightened.
At last one spoke out distinctly from the others. ‘Are we agreed in this?’ asked the deep voice of Topaz. ‘All in favour say, “Aye”.’ And they all did — except Obsidian.
He fixed DJ with a cold flame. ‘I will be keeping an eye on you, young Djinn, personally. If I hear of any trouble directly or indirectly caused by you, you may forfeit more than just your status as a genie!’ He turned to the others. ‘Mark this well,’ he said, ‘I would not trust him. There is plenty of work for his like in the gem mines.’ And he turned his back on DJ.
The mines! DJ quailed at the very mention of them. The gemstone mines were the worst punishment any Djinn could face. He had visited the upper galleries on a school trip designed for his reform. Well he knew that if the Council willed it, there could be no escape from that deep hell where living stones formed and were farmed by wrongdoers.
So engrossed was he with these thoughts that DJ didn’t see the precise moment when a stick of rhubarb-coloured tourmaline appeared in the air in front of him. It scattered shards of light in his direction that felt like a shower of tingling sparks from a fresh sunrise and called him from his dark reverie. A slight quivering sensation accompanied his embodiment as, for the first time, he took the form of a genie, solid, elegantly clad and with the power to go where he pleased.
The Elders adjourned, leaving him alone. Obsidian departed first leaving a bitter coil of black soot. Liberated from his preoccupation with the mines, but now with no light in him at all, DJ felt naked in the great Council Chamber. Anyway he was anxious to be off for another reason. He had a rather important interview to attend — on Earth.
Copyright © 2010 by Oonah V. Joslin