As we walked the streets of the French Quarter, I continued to ponder the plot, idly wondering which of Grimm’s fairy tales I was living. Perhaps I wasn’t living; perhaps I’d fallen, hit my head, and was somewhere hooked up to life support… I struggled to keep up with Emmett’s longer stride, and realized that if I were on life-support, my now-ragged breathing would have set off alarms fit to wake the dead.
Maybe this was the one where our brooding hero, in his callous youth, scorned the old crone – a beautiful sorceress in disguise – and was sentenced to 200 years inside a–“Wait! Wait a damned minute,” I said, stopping abruptly.
“What is it?” asked Emmett, alarmed at my outburst.
“You can’t have been in that computer for 200 years. We haven’t had computers that long. Where did you come from?”
Emmett exhaled loudly. “Pensacola.”
“Can you just be serious for a second? How did you piss off a witch and end up — going from Pensacola to my PC?”
“It’s a long story. Madame de Pesée Coeurs has not always lived in New Orleans. Her name is Mayette. She, too, is a jinn – but she is not of my community. I didn’t spurn her, as you so quaintly imagine. She is old enough to be my great-great-great-great–oh, I have no idea how great–grandmother. She is one of the first jinn – the ones they say looked on the face of God.
For some reason, an image of the Medusa came to mind. “She didn’t turn God to stone, did she?” That would explain His long silence.
Emmett laughed. “We are creatures of God, just like you.”
“I can’t just wave a hand and make a unicorn appear in someone’s bedroom, Emmett. You’re not ‘just like me.'”
“No, but God set you above us. Some of our kind, like Mayette, weren’t happy with that.”
“God set us above you? How is that even possible? You can control the wind. You can make things appear out of thin air! If we humans are so special, why didn’t God give us special powers?”
“Classic case of making humans ‘the good child’ and holding you up as an example of the virtue of obedience. We were allowed to keep our powers, but were ordered to use them to serve humankind. If we refused, we were forever barred from God’s company. We would never, ever return to heaven. Do you have sisters or brothers?”
“Then you know,” said Emmett. “We were the privileged brats who had everything, but we were also rebellious – mischievous. We liked to try on God’s powers the way you human girls try on Mommy’s shoes. So He knocked us down a peg – made you humans ‘the good children’ and ignored us. For millennia. That sort of thing…well, it twists creatures, whether they are jinn or human. Not all the jinn accepted it. But most of us just wanted peace. We were willing to bide our time and hope that God would see us as ‘the good children’ once again. We – sometimes grudgingly – used our powers to serve you.”
“But Mayette – she’s basically still holding a grudge?”
Emmett laughed. “We wanted peace – we saw that to keep you good, God gave you less. We wanted to be – good siblings. But Mayette’s kind would never allow that. They set jinn against human, human against jinn. Insinuated that we were demons – devils from your ‘Hell,’ sent to torment humans and tempt them to sin, in order to damn them and separate them from God forever.”
“Because God cast out Mayette and her clan when they laughed at Adam and refused to see him as an equal, let alone God’s chosen kind.” Emmett shook his head. “I blame Him, you know – he does this all the time. We could have been equals, but no, He always plays favorites.”
“So…let me get this straight. We humans are Daddy’s favorites, but he gave you all the cool toys? All the power?”
“He gave you all his love.” Emmett looked sad, not angry, about this. “It was our own fault, mostly. But the first jinn blame you. Humans, not you, personally. Man was all too happy to keep God’s favor to himself, and never let us forget how we defied our creator, lost our place in the heavens because we wouldn’t bend a knee.” He looked out over the bay. “We’re immortal, but we will never look on the face of God again.”
I said a silent prayer for Emmett, blushing as he smiled at me. “Thank you.”
“So, Mayette’s messing with you because you worked with the pirates?”
“I told you, it’s complicated.” Emmett leaned on the wall, inhaling the sea air, reminiscing. “She was competing with them.”
“She wanted you to work for her?”
“She was upset that I turned her in to the authorities and testified against her when she stood trial for piracy.”
“You tried to trap a jinn in a jail cell.”
“Piracy was punishable by hanging.”
I raised an eyebrow at Emmett. “You tried to off the competition?” Respect.
“She was a murderous cutthroat. I was a privateer. I operated within the law. She was in it for the violence; she didn’t care about money or justice.”
“You tried to off the competition.”
“Do you hate me now?”
“Having met the competition, I’m not sure I can. But if you’re all immortal–surely you have to know that trying to have her killed was a bad idea. I mean, women don’t take kindly to that sort of thing. I can’t imagine jinn women are more forgiving.”
“You don’t know the half of it.” Emmett cringed. “Turns out we can be killed. Just…not quite the way you understand it. I’m trusting you with everything, now – you understand? If I tell you this, you have to promise not to kill me.”
I hadn’t been planning on it, though the temptation might’ve crossed my mind once or twice in the past twenty-four hours. “I promise.”
“To our kind, ‘killed’ and ‘trapped’ are basically the same thing. To ‘kill’ us is to rid yourself of us for a generation or two. Unless you will us back into being.”
“So…” I scrunched up my face as I tried to puzzle it out.
“So, Mayette was hanged and buried.”
“Oh. Oh! Oh, Emmett, that’s awful!” Now I began to understand the human fear of being “buried alive.” Probably not a real danger for any of us, ever, but if you unwittingly see it happen to a jinn… “Did you know this, when you turned her in?”
Emmett was silent, but my mind was suddenly filled with images of carnage – of Mayette’s face twisted with unholy joy as she slaughtered ships carrying innocent humans – settlers from the old world, women and children included – in the cruelest ways, then set fire to their ships, leaving some of them alive to burn in agony.
“Stop! Stop it!” I cried.
“She got her revenge. She ambushed me on a beach in Pensacola.”
I tried to imagine the diminutive Mayette “ambushing” this seven foot tall jinn standing next to me. “Surely you were more than a match for her, Emmett?”
Emmett hung his head and glanced at me sheepishly from the corner of his eye. “She’s still a girl.”
“Oh, for crying out loud, Emmett. You’d seen what she could do – what she delighted in doing. How could her being a woman have factored into it?”
“When you look at her, Morna, what do you see?”
“An evil old woman.”
Emmett nodded. “I see an evil young woman.”
“You men, you’re all alike.” I snorted with disgust.
“Morna, I wasn’t attracted to her.”
“Oh, sure you weren’t.” I rolled my eyes. “God, Emmett, that’s pathetic. That little glimpse – whatever that was that you showed me – that’s the definition of evil. And you let her get the best of you because you’re all macho and noble and she’s a girl? Give me a break.” I didn’t care if “times were different back then.” Evil is evil.
And, if I were being completely honest with myself, I wanted to believe that my seven foot jinn, here, could protect me from the misanthropic Mayette – not go all goo-goo eyed and fail me if she put on the curves to impress him. I had a feeling she wasn’t done with us, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t up to the task. I was also pretty sure I wasn’t immortal. But clearly, that was a mixed blessing.
“When I said ‘she’s still a girl,’ I meant it. When I look at Mayette, she appears to me as a child. Fragile. Vulnerable. I forget what she’s capable of until it’s too late.”
The horror of it hit me. Mayette – who killed with veritable glee – could force Emmett to choose between killing a child, or being slaughtered at her will. Emmett lobbed the scene like a grenade into my mind until I fell to my knees on the grass. She had bound him with thick rope and hacked him to bits, there on the sand. His blood – red as any human’s – stained the pure white sand in the moonlight.
“She burned what was left of me – mixed the white hot ash with the sand – and brought me back here, in burlap sacks, to New Orleans.”
I reached out to touch Emmett’s arm, to reassure myself that he was whole and alive and still breathing. I didn’t understand how he could be, but then again, I had a unicorn grazing in my brand new sun porch back in Houston. My mind was learning to do gymnastics on a competitive, Olympic level.
“Still not understanding how you got into my PC.”
“It comes from sand.”
I’d never look at a computer chip in quite the same way. All that mysterious number crunching? Maybe it really was magic.
I should have asked myself, then, what batteries were made of, and why mine needed bat guano, fingernail clippings, and the blood of my enemies to recharge.
If it wasn’t clear, I’m attempting to tame two birds with one blog – NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo – simultaneously. Throughout the month, posts tagged NaNoBloWriPoMo will be works of fiction adding up, I hope, to a ridiculously silly “novel” of at least 50,000 words. I say “I hope” because I’m blogging this one day at a time – as a committed “Pantser,” I’m learning how the story unfolds just minutes (hours, at the most) before you do.
Did you miss one? Here are the chapters, all in order (more will appear as they are posted):
- The Challenge
- Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You
- It’s…Different on the Inside
- Madame and the Warranty
- Like Fireflies in a Pickle Jar
- Like Sand Through the Motherboard
- There’s No Place Like 127.0.0.1
- Drunk on Freedom, Dancing with the Jinn
- Why Me?
- The Power of Imagination and Words
- Rebellion and Revenge