I Dream of Djinni

“Hey old-timer, do ya need help getting back in the water?”

Dalton “Brick” Brodey heard several male voices laughing in unison. Just then, a lap of warm water smacked him in the face, going up his nose and causing him to strangle and cough. He was aware of the two loud and boisterous men jogging past him close enough to kick sand in his lap as he sat up. It was morning already, and he had fallen asleep, or rather passed out, on the beach at the water’s edge. He was still wearing his trademark leather hat, sunglasses and swim shorts. He glanced down the beach at the men who had laughed at him – the two twenty-somethings in jogging apparel had made it nearly out of sight by the time Brick could focus his tired eyes on them.

Old-timer? He though indignantly. What the hell do they mean by that? He was only forty years old, and in damn-fine shape too. He was a big man – a former high school and college football player. At six foot, two inches tall, he was an impressive sight. He was ruggedly handsome, with short black hair, only lightly graying at the sides, as well as a mustache and perpetual five o’clock shadow that framed a broad, tanned face. His emerald eyes, usually clear and dazzling, were bleary and bloodshot from excessive drink.

He glanced up at the position of the sun and judged it to be around 8 am. If he had spent much longer unconscious on the beach he would have ended up severely burned. He looked around for the handsome young man he had been sharing a bottle of Jack Daniels with when it was still dark. Not seeing him anywhere in sight caused Brick a brief moment of panic. His hand flew to his hip pocket to ensure that his wallet was still with him. It was. He slowly became aware that he was sitting on something half-buried in the sand, and figured it must be his whiskey bottle. His mouth was dry. A firm believer in the old adage that there was nothing like “the hair of the dog,” he reached under himself and grabbed the uncomfortable beverage. Only then did he realize it wasn’t his bottle of Jack at all.

Brick examined the curious artifact closely: It was a bottle alright, bejeweled and ornately-painted with a complex three-color pattern of overlapping shapes. It was quite ancient-looking, with a wide bottom shaped like a pumpkin squash and a long, tapered neck, capped with an ornate stopper that bore some type of symbol. Brick thought the symbol looked familiar, but couldn’t place it at the moment, although he seemed to remember that it had some religious connection. He became curious about what it may contain inside. He shook it, but heard no sound, so he reasoned that it certainly contained no whiskey, and was probably empty. Then he got the wild idea that it may be filled to the top with something else of value, like gold-dust. Still somewhat wobbly from his night of carousing, he struggle to his feet, determined to get the top off of the bottle.

Brick was a construction worker and carpenter by trade, and had worked out with weights most of his life, so he had large, formidable arms. He grasped the bottle at the base of the neck and grabbed the stopper with his strong right hand, attempting to pull and twist the top off at the same time. After several minutes of this fruitless endeavor, he decided to take a second look at the top.

The top appeared to be made of lead, rendered quite crumbly by time and exposure to the sea, he figured. The impression of a six-pointed star, made of two interlocking triangles, appeared to have been pressed into the metal my some kind of die when the metal was still soft. Suddenly Brick got an idea, and reaching into his pocket, fished out his trusty Swiss Army knife. He opened the smallest blade on the knife and used it to chisel the lead from the edge of the bottle’s mouth. Satisfied that he had made some progress, he again seized the bottle in both hands. For a moment the top seemed to give by the slightest bit, but then no more.

After twenty minutes of twisting, pulling, pleading and cursing, Brick decided to take a break. He sat down in the same spot he had been for most of the morning, placed the old bottle next to him, and watched a handful of joggers and dog walkers go up and down the beach. He was on a “working” vacation, and had spent much of the past week in various states of drunken debauchery. He had spent his days tanning on the beach and his nights going from bar to bar and guy to guy. It was an empty, constant routine he had carried on since the death of his partner. It helped dull the pain and emptiness in his heart.

He began looking around for the Jack Daniels bottle. He finally found it a few feet away, half-buried in the wet sand left by the tide. He retrieved it, and to his delight found it to be a third full. After several swigs he became extremely relaxed. By the time he could see through the bottom of the bottle, he was more ready, if less able, to deal with the stubborn bottle full of gold dust.

He grabbed the old bottle and tried to stagger to his feet, but the ground seemed reluctant to stay still beneath him. He fell down on his first attempt to stand up, and emitted a string of loud cursing that drew curious stares from half way down the beach. He was more successful at standing the second time, and began to pull and twist on the lead stopper again. He was ready to throw the bottle back into the sea, but in a last ditch effort, he gripped it between his thighs, and yanked on the stopper with both hands. It flew loose with a loud pop, and the lead stopper struck Brick in the mouth, sending him reeling backward and crashing to the sandy ground.

“Sommolabith!” he shouted as best he could with his bleeding mouth covered with his hands. He lay in the sand writhing in pain for several minutes, oblivious to all around him. As he sat up again, slowly recovering his hat and sunglasses, he did not notice that the bottle had landed upright in the sand behind him, nor did he notice the curious stream of smoke that began to jet skyward from it’s mouth. Up and up the smoke went, then it seemed to spread and coalesce into a massive form hundreds of feet high. The sky grew dark, as storm clouds suddenly formed as far as the eye could see. Brick did not realize for several minutes that a fifty-foot tall man stood over him. The enormous figure threw his arms to the clouds and shouted “Praise Allah!” with a voice that mixed with the thunder and shook the ground.

Brick looked up and caught a glimpse of the enormous figure in time to hear the last echo of its shout reverberate across the beach. With the creature’s proclamation the sky cracked open, the clouds parted as quickly as they appeared, and the giant’s image dissolved away. Completely sober now, Brick jumped to his feet with his gaze still fixed on the sky,…and backed up into the most beautiful man he had ever seen.

“Oh, excuse me. I mean, did you see that?” he sputtered. Brick locked his gaze on the stranger. The man, if it was a man, was tall and bronze-skinned, like he had spent a lifetime in a tanning booth. Quickly noting that the stranger was clad only in a loincloth, Brick’s gaze rolled up and down his body, and then back up again. The man was about half a head shorter than Brick’s six foot, two inches, and had the most perfect Soloflex body he had ever seen, but it was his face that most fascinated Brick. It was broad and handsome, with a dazzling smile of white teeth. His head was topped with a mop of curly blond hair, and his eyes – His eyes! Brick couldn’t figure them out. They were silver, and seemed to have dancing flames in the irises, as if they reflected some nearby campfire.

“See what, Master? Is something wrong?” the bronze man asked in a respectful hushed tone.

Brick wasn’t sure who the stranger was speaking to, so he glanced around quickly, but didn’t see anyone who looked like a Master. They were nearly alone on this particular section of the beach, with only a few other beach combers hanging close to the string of beach houses some distance away. Brick seemed to be the only person who had noticed the strange thunder and the fifty foot giant. Everyone in sight carried on about their business as if nothing had happened. Brick looked back at the stranger with a you’ve-gotta-be-putting-me-on smile, slightly intrigued by his exotic good looks.

“I just thought you were…taller for a minute there. Never mind, liquor gremlins, I guess! But you’ve got me wrong, buddy. Don’t let the leather hat fool you. I ain’t into S&M stuff….Uh, where are you from, cutie?”

The stranger gazed at Brick with complete adoration. “Oh wise one! I have been imprisoned in yon bottle for thousands of years. Thine was the hand that freed me, and now thou may have anything thou wisheth. I am your slave!”

Brick laughed at the corny speech. “Wait, that guy I was with last night – Steve? No, Stan! Stan put you up to this, right? Okay, where’s he hiding?”

The stranger looked perplexed for a moment. “I know not this Stan-Stan, but from this moment hence thou art my only concern.”

Brick rolled his eyes in disbelief. “Look, I appreciate that, really. But you guys always say that, then when I ask you to do a little light housework, or get a job, it’s out the door you go.”

“Thou doubt my gratitude?” the stranger cried, aghast. “I am wounded, Master! Would that I could die in thy service! Speak! What is thy whim?”
Brick was beginning to wonder if the stranger had escaped from some nearby asylum. “Man, I could use a drink.” He muttered under his breath. Suddenly there was an audible crackle in the air between the strange man and Brick, and a small glass containing a dark-colored liquid materialized in Brick’s hand.

“What the hell?” Brick was so startled he almost dropped the glass.

The golden hunk smiled broadly. “Taste it, Master.” He implored.

Brick took a cautious sip. It was the most perfect Jack and Coke he had ever tasted. It was more than perfect, in fact, it was sublime. He drained the glass then stared at it in wonder. “How did you do that?” he rasped, his voice horse from the alcohol.

The stranger nodded his head, still grinning. “Tis child’s play. The image of the refreshment and what it should taste like was within thy mind.”

“So you can read my mind?” Brick asked.

“Only to please thee better, Master.”

Brick had not been so intrigued by anyone in a long time. He suspected that the odd young man was some kind of street magician, like David Blain, and he wondered if he was secretly being video taped for some reality show. Regardless of what kind of game they were playing, Brick was impressed by the good-looking youth’s eagerness to please, and he didn’t want to let this one get away.

“What’s your name?” he found himself asking as he gazed into the stranger’s haunting eyes. “And your phone number? Do you have a cell?”

The stranger laughed heartily. “I have no name, Master, except the secret one used by Allah to call this slave to His presence. Nor have I a number, although I was once Sulayman’s most favored general. Yon bottle there has been my cell for millennia. It is thy property now, as am I.”

Brick thought the hunk might be trying to keep something from him, like a long-time partner, possibly even a wife, back at some nearby beach house. He was disappointed. He would respect the man’s privacy, of course, but was already regretting that this particular guy was already taken.

“Okay, I can dig that.” Brick said. “But I wish you at least had a name. Usually I don’t even ask, but-“

Again the air between them crackled, and suddenly the young stranger threw himself at Brick’s feet. Brick was startled when he realized that the man was kissing the tops of his feet profusely. Embarrassed, Brick grabbed him by the upper arms and forced the man to stand up again. Once they were facing each other, Brick saw that tears had begun to stream from the stranger’s silvery eyes.

“What’s wrong? Did you hurt yourself?”

The stranger seemed to struggle momentarily with overwhelming emotion. Finally he replied, “Thou hast honored me, truly, as no other master before. I am now known as Amon, less than the dust at thy feet!” He bowed reverently.

“I thought you said your name was a secret.”

Amon whipped his eyes with his hands. “Thy wished that I had a name, and now it is so.”

Brick felt a sudden wave of sympathy for the crying man. “Do you have a place to stay tonite, my friend?”

“I live in the bottle, Master.” Amon replied.

Understanding suddenly dawned on Brick. He felt ashamed – and not for the first time – of his compulsion to drink. “Yeah, buddy, so do I. Look, you can stay with me and my roommate for a couple of nights, until you get yourself together.” Brick was concerned for, and admittedly, attracted to Amon. It occurred to him that the man might be Schizophrenic, or tripping wildly on some drug, but Brick had always had a soft heart for hard luck cases. Amon didn’t seem dangerous.

Amon’s smile returned. “Thou wish to take me back to thy tent with you? Thou trust me to dwell with thy concubine? Truly thou art an exceptional Master.”

Brick laughed. “Well, my place is a little better than a tent, and my “concubine” would probably be too self-absorbed to notice that I’ve brought someone else home. Justin – that’s my buddy – is a work-in-progress. I love him, and I keep hoping that he’ll make something of his life, but all he wants to do is stay out with his friends at the bars ‘til four in the morning and then sleep until five in the afternoon. I’m starting to loose hope, but I can’t bring myself to turn him out…”

“If he displeases Thee, Thou should rend him in twain and feed the parts to the jackals!” Amon said thoughtfully, then his expression became devious. “If thou wish it, I shall turn him into a two-headed dog, or a pile of camel dung!”

Brick was surprised at Amon’s reaction, but was appreciative for his devotion. “Well! Kitten’s got claws, huh? Man, I guess I should keep you two apart as much as possible, huh? Shouldn’t be too much of a problem, like I said, he’s usually asleep or gone. He doesn’t make any time for me anymore, so I can use someone to talk to who understands what I’m going through.” Brick noticed that the sun was now high and hot. He looked around at the beach, and then pointed in the direction of a small hut near the boardwalk about a hundred yards from where they were standing. “Let’s go over there to the tiki bar. I’ll buy you something to eat. Man, I don’t see how you could keep in such great shape being homeless and all.”

“Yes, Master.” Amon quickly bent down and retrieved the ornate bottle and its cap, and then handed them to Brick.

“Oh, thanks. I never did find out what was in that thing.” As they walked toward the refreshment stand, Brick peered into the bottle’s dark interior, then turned it upside down and shook it over his outstretched palm. “Empty. It figures.”

As Brick and Amon sat on high stools at the bar, they continued to get acquainted. After much protesting, Amon finally agreed to try the Frozen Fuzzy Brick ordered for him. As they sat, Amon watched all of the activity around him with child-like wonderment.

Brick had decided to have something non-alcoholic, so he ordered a plain Coke. He watched with amusement as Amon seemed totally unfamiliar with the use of a straw, and was stubornly attempting to scoop the slushy drink into his mouth with it. Brick reached over and directed the free end of the straw into his new friend’s mouth and the other end into the glass. “Suck the drink up into the straw; don’t blow into it, —like this.” Brick demonstrated with his Coke.

Amon followed Brick’s instruction, then drew back from the straw in amazement. “Master! This is truly a miracle! You have ice, and there are no snowy mountain peaks in sight! What exotic, far-off land is this sherbet from?”

“They made it right here, a couple of minutes ago. Where are you from, Amon?”

“Persia is my home, but I have been away from there for so long, I cannot recall much of what it is like.”

“That’s odd. You don’t look like a typical Middle Easterner. I thought you were Swedish, or German. I heard you refer to “Allah” a couple of times. Are you Muslim?”
Amon looked at Brick, puzzled. “What is ‘Muslim’?”

Brick took Amon’s response to mean he didn’t want to discuss it, and so he let the subject drop. “It’s okay. Just keep your religion to yourself. Muslims aren’t too popular in this country right now. Your English is excellent. How long have you been away from home?”

Amon took another deep draw on the straw and replied matter-of-factly, “Three thousand years.”

Brick laughed so hard he almost fell off his stool. When he recovered, he said: “Funny, you don’t look a day over two thousand. Com on Amon, be straight with me. You’re not three thousand years old.”

“No Master, I am six thousand years old. I was imprisoned in the bottle for three thousand years. Has the world changed so much that Jinni such as I are not known to man?”

Brick looked at Amon in disbelief. “Wait, are you saying you’re a – what did you call it – ‘Jinni’,..as in genie?”

“I thought thee knew me for what I am – I was King Sulayman’s general over all the Djinn in his army. Sulayman was given power over all of our kind. Do not Sulayman’s descendants still rule?” Amon had finished his drink, so Brick signaled to the bar tender for another one.

“Do you mean King Solomon, from the bible?” Brick asked. His brain suddenly began to wake up and put the pieces together. The strange symbol in the lead of the bottle’s top was the Star of David, an ancient mystical symbol. Brick had once had a friend who wore a small one on a chain around her neck. He recalled the odd weather and the fifty-foot hallucination that occurred when he had first opened the old bottle. “So you’re a genie, the kind that grants wishes? You seem like a good kid, but I’m finding this a little hard to believe…”

Amon, receiving his new drink from the bartender, nodded. “As I have told thee, thou may have anything thy wish…”

Brick thought it over for a moment. He thought to ask for money, to be rich and free of responsibility, but then he had another idea. “Bring President Bush here.”

For a second nothing seemed to happen, then a static crackle rippled through the air beside Brick. With a pop of displaced air, a man with graying hair, wearing a bathrobe and black socks, suddenly materialized at Brick’s elbow. The obviously disoriented man looked about the little bar in befuddlement, then turned to Brick with a puzzled look. Brick saw that the man was indeed George W. Bush. “Uh, excuse me, but where is this place?” he asked with a drawl. “I was on my way to the bathroom-“

Amon was watching his Master with interest, while no one else in the bar seemed to notice anything out of the ordinary. Brick drew back his large arm and rabbit-punched Bush in the face. The President of the United States dropped to the floor beside Brick’s barstool like a sack of dirty laundry. Brick turned to his friend with a smile of pure satisfaction. “I’m sorry I doubted you. You can send him back were you got him.”

The President lay still, face down on the dirty floor. Brick thought he heard him whine something about “mommy” before the air crackled again, and Bush vanished.

“Who was he, Master?” Amon asked.

Brick shook his hand and rubbed his knuckles. “Just some jerk.”

“Master, something puzzles me. Forgive my ignorance, and my brashness. If my question displeases thee I will return to my bottle and thou may cast me into the sea again…”

“No, no, please, ask me anything you want.” Brick took another sip of his Coke.
“This Justin person you spoke of…you are…intimate with him?” Amon asked shly.
“We were, but we haven’t,…in a long time. He’s really just a rebound guy. Actually, he’s rebound guy number-“ Brick paused a moment to do some quick calculating. “-forty-seven, I think. There used to be someone in my life I thought I’d be with forever, but he…died.”

“I see. I am sorry for thy loss, but the world must have changed a great deal indeed.” Amon said thoughtfully. “Thy must be a very powerful sultan to flaunt thy wickedness in Allah’s sight.”

Brick was puzzled. “What do you mean?”

Amon seemed to look deep within himself for the long suppressed memories. With a sigh of regret, he began to relate his tale:

“As I have said, I was Sulayman’s most trusted, favored general. Long ago, when King David died and his son Sulayman first became king of Israel, Allah came in a dream and asked Sulayman what he desired most. When Sulayman replied that he wished for an understanding heart to judge His people and the ability to discern between good and evil, Allah was so pleased he granted Sulayman’s wish, and more. He gave the King the greatest intellect of any man who had ever lived, as well as wealth, fame, and respect. King Sulayman was given power over all creatures, including the Djinn. To wield this power Allah gave the King a magic seal set into a ring, which the King used to compel my kind to do his bidding.”

“I dwelled in Persia until I was summoned to the King’s service. The King’s army was the mightiest on Earth, with men, animals and Djinn all bound to do the King’s bidding by the magic seal. Sulayman’s army had a whole regiment of Djinn, and I was in command of this special division. Sulayman’s reign was one of relative peace, but there were often uprisings and rebellions among the lands which bordered Israel and Judah. We were often in the field, far away from our native land. Comradery and morale was high within the ranks, for we knew that Allah was with us…”

“But command can be very lonely. My division, a mix of Djinn and a few mortal men, loved me and I loved them, but one particular mortal meant more to me than most. His name was Aasir, and he was my Lieutenant. A most beautiful, strong young man with dark, curly hair and eyes of the deepest brown, we spent many long nights in deep conversations about philosophy and politics. We played Senet and Dogs and Jackals for hours. As the lonely months of guarding the borders between Isreal and Kadesh and Zin grew into years, Aasir and I were each the other’s constant companion. At first our relationship was one of mutual respect, and I knew he saw me as a wondrous creature. Soon he became comfortable with me when he saw that I was much as he was, capable of laughing, of mourning, and of worrying for my fellow soldiers. We became fast friends, and then…lovers.”

“For a man to lie with another man is forbidden by Allah’s law, but such things are not unheard of among soldiers. Although my form is human, I was made of smokeless fire at the dawn of time. I justified the risk we took each night when Aasir came to my tent by thinking that my ethereal existence would somehow exempt us from punishment should we be found out. I was wrong.”

“One quiet evening as Aasir and I lay together in my tent, one of the King’s priests, Azariah, came to the camp with a message for me from Sulayman. By this point in our long assignment, my men had become lax about protocol within the camp, and so the priest was directed to my tent, unannounced. Emboldened by the King’s authority, he let himself in, and discovered Aasir and I in the throes of passion. The priest was horrified and outraged at our unnatural act, made doubly so, he said, by the fact that I was a Djinn – an inhuman creature with a naturally wicked nature. He ordered my own men to arrest Aasir and myself. I could have destroyed the priest on the spot, but to do so would risk the King’s wrath, and Allah’s. My men reluctantly followed the priest’s orders. Azariah led a detachment of my company, with Aasir and I bound as prisoners, back to King Sulayman’s court in Jerusalem.”

“The journey back was long and difficult, especially for Aasir. I watched his health and his spirit deteriorate during the days our caravan traveled the trackless land back to Jerusalem. By the time we reached the court of the King, he was nearly dead. I cried tears of fire to see him, this man who was a brother to me and so much more, reduced from a strong, vibrant soldier to a gaunt shell with no will to live. I thought to use my power to help him escape, but again I feared Allah’s wrath. We were dragged before the King, wise Sulayman who I loved almost as much as I love Allah. I could see the sorrow in Sulayman’s eyes as he sat upon his throne and listened as Azariah spoke his charges against us. As is the law, the priest produced two witnesses from among my personal guard to speak to what they had seen.”

“Sulayman had no choice, of course. We had broken Allah’s law and but one punishment was prescribed. I had been present in the King’s court when the two mothers fought over the life of one baby, and had witness with my own eyes the wisdom of the King. All the while since our arrest I had prayed that the King in his wisdom would see some way out of this for Aasir. But it was not to be. Aasir, my beloved, was beheaded before my eyes and all the eyes of the court. I cried out with such pain and anguish at Aasir’s death, that all the water within the palace, in every cistern and pot, boiled away, and the moon eclipsed the sun, casting the whole city into darkness. Sulayman wept silently at the depth of my grief. What made it so much harder was the knowledge that Aasir would not be buried, but his body taken beyond the edge of the city and dumped in a ditch like some ox carcass”

“Then the King was faced with the problem of what to do with me. I was a creature of great power, and could not be destroyed so easily. Sulayman had a bottle brought to him by one of the servant girls – the very bottle you opened today – and, using his magic ring, compelled me to change into a smoke form and enter the bottle. This I did, for I could not resist and had no desire to. Besides Allah and the King, who I had displeased so, Aasir was all that had mattered to me. Once I was inside the bottle, Sulayman, his voice cracked and shaky with emotion, passed his judgment. I was to be sealed in the bottle and cast into the farthest sea, where I would sink from sight, never to come into contact with man again. Sulayman then ordered his smiths to cover the stopper of the bottle with lead, and he used his ring to set his seal upon it before the lead cooled, thereby binding me to the vessel forever.”

Amon was crying slow, sorrowful tears as he concluded his tale. “From the moment the seal was set I knew nothing except the passage of time. I existed in limbo, and can only guess that Sulayman’s orders were carried out. How my bottle prison landed on yon beach is a mystery to me, but time and tide are beyond the control of all, save for Allah.” Amon’s tears rolled down his cheeks and hit the surface of the bar with a sizzle, creating small smoking potholes in the bar’s dark varnished surface.

Brick found himself whipping tears from his own eyes. He was so moved by Amon’s story, he felt as if a boulder sat upon his chest. For several minutes, all he could manage to say was “Wow.” He offered Amon a napkin to dry his face with. “Three thousand years ago…and you still feel that pain.” he said, holding up the bottle that had served as Amon’s prison and turning it slowly in his hand. “I’m so sorry, Amon.”

“You are most kind, Master.” Amon said sincerely, his head hung low in deep reflection. “Was your loved one beheaded also?

Brick visibly flinched. “No,…he was in the World Trade Center on September eleventh.”

“I do not understand.” Amon said.

“I still don’t understand. But you couldn’t. You don’t have any frame of reference. It happened a few years ago, in New York City,…one of our largest cities here in America. You do realize you are on the other side of the world now?” Brick asked.

Amon gazed at Brick, as if hearing something far off. “I can see many strange and wondrous images in your mind. I see magnificent cities with towers that touch the clouds, metal birds that people ride through the air in, thousands of wheeled carriages that move without ox to pull them…and a box that cooks food with the touch of a finger. Does Israel still exist? Is it as magical as this place?”

“Well, yes, and no.” brick replied. “That part of the world is insane.”

“Will you tell me what happened to your loved one?”

Brick considered it for a moment, then slowly shook his head. “Alright, but not here. Let’s go back to my beach house. As much as I love that loincloth, we need to get you some clothes, anyway. I just have to pay the tab.” He reached into the hip pocket of his trunks and pulled out his battered wallet. When he opened it, he realized it was empty and swore under his breath. “I had nearly seventy dollars in here! That little peckerhead Stan –Steve – whatever his name was – did rob me!” He looked up at Amon sheepishly. “Uh, could you maybe…make some money so I can pay for our drinks?”

Amon got up from the stool. “Of course, Master.” The now familiar crackle of ozone filled the air, and the surface of the bar was instantly overrun with a pile of gold coins nearly a foot high.

The barkeep rushed to the end of the bar where Brick and Amon were about to exit. “Hey!” he shouted. “What is this? You guys owe me $18.50!”

Amon paused at the door and looked at the middle-aged man with surprise. “That is your payment. Do you want more gold?”

The barkeep scowled fiercely. “Gold? Yeah right. I don’t know what this stuff is but gold paint can be bought for $1.98 a can. I need legal tender U.S. currency or I’m calling the cops!” A patron from the other end of the bar wandered over and examined a coin that had fallen on the floor. He picked one of the coins up and bit down on it tentatively. Others customers began to walk toward the commotion, talking excitedly as the barkeep disappeared toward the back, presumably to call the cops.

The sudden attention was making Brick nervous. “Amon, he wants bills. Give him a twenty.”

“Oh, I see! Alright, Master.” Amon said, and with a crackle the pile of gold on the bar vanished, instantly replaced with a single twenty dollar bill. The barkeep flew back to the front of the bar and snatched the bill up.

“It better not be bogus!” he said, examining the twenty closely. The chatter among the gathering crowd escalated sharply when the pile of gold disappeared.

Brick pulled Amon out of the bar before anyone could ask questions. The curious customer still held the gold coin that he had picked up.

“Hey Charlie,” the drunk slurred as he held the coin out for all to see. “I…I think thish is the real shtuff…”

Charlie looked up from the twenty. “What?”

Brick’s beach house was a few hundred yards up the boardwalk from the beach where he and Amon had spent most of the day. As they walked through the little community of shops, residences, and tourist traps toward the mile-long strip of beachfront property, Amon caught the admiring gaze of both female and male bystanders. Amon returned their curious stares with his own.

“Master, people gaze at me so openly and lustfully.” Amon remarked.

Brick smiled. “Please call me Brick. “Master” is so…out of place here. They’re staring at you because you’re hot,…I mean, beautiful to look at. These days it’s all about how you look, and buddy, believe me, you’ve got the look.”

“I see.” Amon said thoughtfully. “And what doest thou think of me, Master Brick? Is this slave worthy of thee?”

They had reached the porch and front door of Brick’s home. Brick paused and looked into Amon’s earnest face. He removed his sunglasses for the first time and looked at Amon directly in the eyes. “Amon, you are…like no one I’ve ever met. I think you’re incredible, even before I knew you could make gold and booze appear out of thin air. But even beyond that, you don’t have any of the pretenses other people seem to. For someone as powerful as you to submit to servitude – that’s unimaginable to me. Selflessness is a rare thing indeed.” He drew his keys from his front pocket and unlocked the door.

As they entered the house, Amon puzzled over his new Master. So far, this human had acted as no Master he had ever had. He was eager to get to know this man who had treated him so kindly. Master Brick had not asked for riches, or great power. He had not asked to be made ruler of the world. Why was that? Amon figured that either Brick did not realize the extent of his slave’s powers, or the man was so powerful and rich already that he did not need anything Amon could provide.

Brick ushered Amon into the main room of the beach house, which offered a large patio-door view of the beach and the ocean beyond. The room was decorated with a Santa Fe style rug and two brown leather chairs, and a large leather sofa in the far corner. Amon saw that someone slept soundly on the sofa, turned toward the couch’s back as if attempting to burrow between the cushions to escape the light. A mop of tousled, unnaturally-blond hair, all that was visible of Justin, stuck out from beneath a light blanket. Beer cans littered the floor around the living room. Brick quietly motioned for Amon to follow him into the kitchen, and indicated for him to sit in one of the chairs at the breakfast nook’s table. Amon bowed appreciatively and had a seat, while Brick eased into the opposite chair.

“We can talk in here without disturbing Justin. Would you like some coffee?”

Amon nodded, and two steaming, gold cups on a silver serving tray crackled into existence upon the table between them. Brick smiled. “Well, I was going to make it myself, but…” He took up the nearest cup and sipped it, nodding affirmatively at the fine taste. Only after Brick had tasted his did Amon take the other cup, drinking eagerly.

“It is very sweet.” Amon remarked.

Brick drained his cup. “Yep, just the way I like it. I guess you knew that.”

“Doest thou wish to rouse thy friend?” Amon asked.

“He ought to come around in the next hour or so.” Brick raised a hand indicating for Amon to remain seated. “Wait here, I’ll be right back.” Brick left the kitchen and disappeared into the adjacent room for a few moments, then returned fully dressed in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt, and carrying several items of clothing. His sunglasses was pushed up to the top of his head. He handed Amon a pair of black jeans and a white cotton t-shirt. “These belonged to Doug – he was my partner. He was a little taller than you so the pants might bag, but we can find some better-fitting stuff later.”

Amon leapt to his feet, then got down on his knees and bowed low. “Thou honor
me again, Master Brick.” He said humbly, and took the offered clothing. Although he could create anything for himself to wear that he wished, he did not want to offend his Master by refusing the offered garments. For a Master to cloth his slave was an indication that he was held in high station.

Brick sighed. “I wish you wouldn’t – I mean, please don’t bow to me, or anyone else for that matter. We don’t do that in America. And you don’t have to call me “Master” at all.” Brick helped Amon to his feet. “As a matter of fact, I’m setting you free. You’re no longer a slave, do you understand me? I’m not your Master. No one is. We’re equals. Just call me Brick.” Amon held the clothing reverently and smiled. “Well, put them on!” Brick said finally with a laugh. He thought he would get to witness the intricate wonders of loincloth removal, but he was disappointed. With a quick crackle Amon stood before Brick wearing the handmedowns, and they fit perfectly.

Once Amon was dressed, they sat opposite each other at the table in the tiny breakfast nook. “Mas – I mean, Brick, what happened to Doug? I sense that it was something…horrible.”

Brick looked away from Amon’s eager gaze and fixed his eyes on the wallpaper pattern across the room. His expression became distant, as if he were reading a tale written on the opposite wall:

“Doug and I grew up in New York and met in high school. We were both on the football team, three years running. We found out about each other the way close friends do. We both tried relationships with girls all through high school, but they never lasted. I always suspected he might be gay, and he suspected me, but we respected each other enough not to pry. After three years of high school we were already closer than brothers, and once we became roommates, as well as teammates, in college it only took one drunken weekend alone together to deepen our love for one another beyond even that. We didn’t go public with our relationship, however, until after college. That was the early eighties and it was still taboo to be gay. We were both young business majors trying to make a go of it in a highly competitive field, and we really didn’t need the extra stigma. After years of hard work we both ended up working at offices in New York’s largest buildings. They were called the World Trade Center Towers, and each contained over a hundred floors of business, financial and commercial offices. One morning a few years ago, a group of…maniacs commandeered two of those giant metal birds you say you saw in my mind,…and flew them into both buildings. It’s too complicated to explain how or why – the why of it still makes my head hurt – but there was an explosion, causing both buildings to catch fire, and eventually collapse. Nearly three thousand people died in those buildings that day. Doug was one of them. He was at work in Tower One, like I should have been. But that particular morning I didn’t go to work. I should have. I wish…I wish I had died with Doug that day.” Brick’s voice broke. He finally looked up at Amon. “We argued that morning, before he left. I don’t even remember what it was about, but it was probably something stupid and trivial. The last thing we said to each other was in anger…”

“So, who’s this?” a sleepy voice interrupted from the kitchen doorway. Justin stood in his boxers, his eyes locked on Amon. Amon started to stand. Brick, caught a little off guard, didn’t quite know how to explain Amon. He put his hand gently upon Amon’s shoulder, indicating to him to stay seated.

“Well,” he sputtered, “Um,…This is my new friend. I’ve offered to let him stay with us for awhile. His name is Amon.” Brick said after a long, uncomfortable pause.

Amon started to bow, but then thought better of it. He simply nodded politely in Justin’s direction instead. “I am honored to meet you, Sayyid.”

Justin cocked his head to one side. “What did he call me?”

Brick got up and went over to where Justin was standing. “It’s just a form of greeting. He’s not from around here.”

“And where’s he gonna sleep? Oh, wait, I guess he’s sleeping with you, huh?” Justin snapped, bitchy sarcasm already creeping into his voice.

Brick sighed loudly. “No, it’s not like that…”

“So what’s it like, then? Never mind, I don’t care.” He turned on his heals and disappeared back into the living room.

Brick sank back into the chair opposite where Amon was sitting, looking downcast. “Well, that went pretty much as expected.” Just then, an envelope tucked between the salt and pepper shakers in the center of the table caught his attention. He reached across and plucked up the envelope. “Credit card bill…” he muttered, mostly to himself, as he tore open the envelope and scanned the sheet within. “What the…six hundred and fifty freakin’ dollars?” he shouted shrilly. He looked up at Amon in astonishment. “Excuse me, Amon.” he said more calmly as he got up and went into the living room. Amon watched him go. He quietly listened to Brick confront Justin in the next room. After a moment, he whipped up another cup of coffee out of thin air and sipped on it as the voices argued back and forth.

“What the hell did you get from Ticketmasters? When I said you could use my card, I meant for essential stuff…” That was Bricks voice, firm, slightly angry, but also almost pleading in tone
.
“Oh” Justin’s voice replied vapidly. “The Black Crowes tickets. They came the other day. A bunch of us wanted to go when they play in Tampa next month.”

“Ah, okay. Why didn’t you ask me first?”

“You were on a bender.” Justin replied matter-of-factly.

“Oh. Well, when is it? I might have already planned something that weekend…”

“Um, well, I didn’t exactly order a ticket for you. Sorry.”

“What?” Brick shouted incredulously. “I love the Black Crowes, you know that! I have all their CDs in my collection that you help yourself to and leave strewn all over the-“

“It was going to be just me and Bart.” Justin interrupted. “But then Shane asked to go, but no one had any money, and I said, “Well, I’ll take care of it, Brick won’t mind.” Then Tink said we could take his mom’s SUV if I got him a ticket too. I didn’t think to get a ticket for you because, well, everyone’s about half your age and you can be such a downer sometimes…”

“Oh.” Brick replied, and Amon could hear hurt in his Master’s voice even from where he sat in the breakfast nook. He could not understand why his Master would want to go and look at crows, much less pay money to do it, but it was clear that the young one had been thoughtless and disrespectful. Amon continued to sip coffee, but his expression darkened. His silver eyes sparkled with malevolent power.

Amon heard Brick struggling to regain his composure. “Oh, well,…sounds like a crowd, alright. Yeah, I have projects that I need to work on anyway…Shouldn’t you be getting dressed?”

“I thought you liked for me to go around like this.” Justin answered coyly.

“We have company.” Brick hissed.

“Afraid I might catch his eye?” Justin retorted.

When Brick re-entered the kitchen, he smiled at Amon sheepishly. Then he saw Amon’s expression.

“That one is beneath thee.” Amon said simply.

“Well, he’s a good guy, it’s just that he’s like most guys his age. His priorities are screwed up.” Brick grabbed a beer from the refrigerator and returned to his chair opposite Amon.

“He hath no loyalty to thee. You feed and shelter him, but doth he sell wares in the marketplace to put bread on thy table? Doth he make pottery? Or breed livestock for thee?”

Brick reflected on Amon’s question. Y’know, I haven’t seen any bread from him since I met him.” He looked at Amon and shook his head. “He’s had it rough. His parents kicked him out when they found out about him. His last two lovers also threw him out…and he can’t seem to keep a job for more than a few days.”

Amon folded his arms across his chest. “And doest thou know why?”

Brick considered it. “Well, I didn’t at first, now I think I’m beginning to. But I can’t kick him out. We’ve had some good times – and I don’t think he has anywhere else to go.”

Amon smiled triumphantly. “I can make him go away for thee…”

Brick was startled by the menace in Amon’s voice. He pointed a finger at Amon and said as sternly as he could: “No! You’ll do no such thing! Do I make myself clear? I don’t want you to turn him into camel crap or make him disappear, or anything like that, okay?”

“As you wish.” Amon submitted. I have displeased thee. Since thou hast released me from servitude, doest thou wish me to leave thy presence?”

Brick shook his head. “No! I mean, yes – Don’t leave unless you want to, I mean. You haven’t displeased me.”

Brick looked at the clock on the wall opposite the table, then checked his own wristwatch. “Dammit! I’m supposed to be on the highway already! I have an appointment to see a client about some hand-made furniture pieces she wants me to make…”

Amon leaned forward eagerly. “Oh, I can whisk thee there in a blink, Master.”

Brick threw his hands up in protest. “No! No, I can drive myself there. I don’t want to give the little old lady a heart attack by popping into her living room out of thin air…Can I trust you not to hurt Justin while I’m gone?” He stood up and began rummaging through a box of folders on top of the refrigerator. After a minute he retrieved the one he was looking for.

“I will not hurt or do anything to the young one while thee are gone.” Amon said, but his expression while Brick’s back was turned was one of slyness and cunning.

“Good. Thank you. He’ll probably be leaving to meet his friends at the bar in a little bit anyway.” Without thinking, Brick spun around with the folder in hand and bent down to give Amon a kiss on the cheek, which surprised both of them. Brick locked eyes with Amon then. “You know, I never expected to find anyone like you,…” he began, then, having embarrassed himself, added: “On the beach, trapped in a bottle, I mean. I really would like you to stay, at least for awhile.” Then he hurried out of the kitchen, clutching the file folder under one arm.

Amon placed his hand on his cheek and stared in amazement as his Master hurried out of the house…

Amon explored Brick’s beach house. In many ways it resembled the palaces he was accustomed to, but he noted the distinct absence of solid gold furniture, or even the most basic gold-gilded items. This was an oversight he would have to rectify for his Master. There were many things which puzzled him, such as the squat porcelain throne in a tiny room at the end of the hall. His Master obviously did not trust the Justin person completely: many things were attached to the wall by a length of thin cord. One such item, prominent in the main room where Justin slept, was a large box with an opaque window set into its front. Amon was studying his own reflection in the glassy surface when Justin entered the room, now fully dressed.

“Nice TV, huh? Twenty-seven inch screen, high-def…I finally convinced Brick to buy it so me and the “girls” could watch “Grey’s Anatomy…” Justin sighed. “Doctor McDreamy so realistic you could reach out and grab him!” He plopped down on the leather sofa and began to put his shoes on. Amon smiled and nodded politely, not understanding anything Justin had said.

Having tied his shoes, Justin slumped back on the sofa and retrieved what Amon could only describe as a “magic wand” from between the cushions. Justin pointed the wand at the large box, and Amon was started to see that the window in the magic box had lost its opaqueness, to reveal one of the metal ox-less carriages barreling toward them at alarming speed. A booming, disembodied voice proclaimed that the new Saturn was more fuel efficient than any other model before. Amon, who perceived that he was standing directly in the strange rolling contraption’s path, tried to dodge out of the way, but Justin simply pointed the wand at the box again. “Crap! I hate that commercial!” he said. Instantly, the image changed to one of a man and a woman staring longingly into each other’s eyes. They argued softly but intensely about weather the man was or was not someone’s real father. Justin tossed the remote to the end of the sofa and leaned forward, intently eavesdropping on what Amon was sure was meant to be a private conversation between the two attractive young people in the magic box. Justin shook his head in disgust and looked at Amon. “I can’t believe they’re still doing this storyline. “Days” has been treading this same water for years…”

Finally, Amon could not repress his curiosity any longer. “Please, what is the nature of this device? Is it some type of scrying mirror? Are you a wizard?”

Justin threw back his head and laughed. “What kind of third-world country are you from?” he asked, but Amon did not know how to reply. “Why don’t you sit down? You’re blocking the set.” Justin added.

Amon complied, assuming the chair opposite the sofa, which also afforded a view of the “TV.” As they watch, more beautiful young couples appeared to discuss their most intimate secrets, apparently unaware that they were being observed. As late afternoon passed into early evening and the scenes that played out on the screen changed many times, Amon was witness to acts of fighting and war, love, betrayal, deception, and pleas for them to try this product or that device. It was all very confusing to him.

Justin was eager to see something called “Powerball,” and he produced a small slip of paper, which he showed to Amon. “See this?” he said, displaying the ticket so that Amon could clearly see the set of numbers written across it. “One of these days, I’m going to win this lottery. I’ll have millions! And once I do, you won’t see ol’ Justin anywhere around here anymore!” He laughed.

Amon’s interest was piqued. “Truly, young Justin?”

“You bet your ass!” Justin replied with a smirk.

“And would Mas-, I mean, Brick benefit from your fortune?”

Justin’s expression faltered almost imperceptibly, but he beamed sincerity. “Sure, sure! Of course! I owe Brick a lot…” Justin said with a smile that never reached his eyes.

Amon peered into Justin’s mind, and perceived what a “lottery” was. Before long, the ever-changing picture on the magic eye settled on a smartly-dress man behind a desk. Next to the desk was a tank which held hundreds of small white balls with numbers on them. The balls danced and swirled inside the transparent tank as if they were caught up in a desert whirlwind. Each time a ball shot up into the tube at the top of the tank, a random number was displayed and a fanfare sounded. Absorbed in the showmanship, Justin did not notice the crackle of static that heralded Amon’s magic, nor would he have understood it if he had. The man announced the last number displayed on the last ball excitedly, and Justin wrote them down hurriedly on a small pad. Once nine numbers were displayed, Justin swore and crumpled the ticket up in his fist. Amon had been watching Justin out of the corner of his eye. Justin, absorbed in his own disappointment, took no notice. After a moment Amon coyly asked, “Thou didst not win?”

“Hell no! Leave me alone, will ya?” Justin snapped.

Amon smiled. “Perhaps you should look again…to be sure.” He said quietly.

Justin shot him a dirty look. “It was a sixty million dollar lottery. I had the number memorized. Of course I’m sure.” Nonetheless, he opened his fist and looked down at the crumpled ticket. After a minute he uncrumpled the ticket and tried to flatten it out, all the while staring at it intently. His scowled expression changed to puzzlement, and then to wonder. He snatched up the note pad he had written the winning numbers on, and a barely audible gasp escaped his lips. Amon pretended to watch the TV as Justin repeatedly looked from the ticket to the pad and back to the ticket incredulously. Amon saw a wide, gleeful grin spread across Justin’s face as he realized what he was looking at. Then, something strange happened: Justin cleared his throat, brought his expression under control, and stuffed the lottery ticket into his wallet.

“What is wrong?” Amon finally had to ask, knowing full well that he had just made Justin the lottery winner.

Justin cleared his throat again, and looked everywhere except at Amon as he replied: “Uh, nothing. Just making sure…I, uh, yeah, I didn’t win.”

Amon stared at Justin, taken aback by the blatant lie. He thought to turn him into a slug right then and there, but he had promised his Master. Justin sat on the edge of the sofa, making a show at watching TV, but fidgeting nervously. Finally the young man stood up quickly and began picking up several items of clothing strewn around the living room, hurrying back and forth, retrieving personal items like a man pursued. “Um, I’ve got an emergency, dude. Would you tell Brick that I had to go? My, ah, mother is sick. I need to go…be with her.” He stuffed the clothes into a duffle bag that had been carelessly thrown into the corner beside the sofa.

“I see.” Amon said through gritted teeth. “When will thou return?”

Justin zipped up the now-bulging duffle bag and quickly slung it over his shoulder. “Don’t know.” He said, flatly. A minute later, the door slammed and he was gone.

Amon settled back into the comfortable chair, enjoying its cool leather suppleness. He watched the fascinating magic box as scenes of the strange new world, so much different from, yet so much the same as, the world he had known, played out in rapid succession before his eyes. A triumphant smile came to his face…

It was well after dark when Brick returned home. Amon greeted him at the door with more coffee.

“Hello Amon!” he said, genuinely glad to come home to someone who was glad to see him. He took the offered coffee, but wishing for some relaxing wine instead. He did not voice his wish aloud, because while on the road he had promised himself to try to limit his drinking. He realized that Justin’s criticism of his “benders”, and the fact that younger people thought he was past his prime, had cut him deeply. Meeting Amon, hearing his story, and experiencing his new friend’s zeal for life, had inspired Brick to try to get his own life back on track.

Amon followed Brick into the living room. The first thing Brick noticed was the absence of Justin’s litter – and Justin. The second thing he noticed was that Amon had been watching TV. He couldn’t decide which had more chilling implications.

“Um, is Justin in the bathroom?” Brick asked tentatively.

“No, he is gone.” Amon answered.

Brick’s mouth went dry, but he tried to act unconcerned. He sat in one of the living room chairs. “Oh, I guess his club-whore buddy Tink picked him up?”

Amon sat in the other chair. “No, he is gone for good. I do not think he will be back.”

Panic gripped Brick suddenly. He began to feel a tightening in his chest. He quickly checked the bottoms of his boots to make sure he had not stepped in a steaming pile of Justin and tracked him through the house. He fought to find words to express his horror. “You didn’t – he isn’t?” He swallowed hard and started over, alarm creeping into his voice despite his best efforts. “What did you do to him, Amon?”

Amon shook his head. “I did nothing to him, Master. I did something for him.”

“What the hell does that mean? Where is he?” Brick jumped to his feet and began searching the living room for some new object – any out of place brik-a-brak – that had not been there before. “You’ve got to change him back, Amon!” Brick shouted. He saw a fly buzzing about the patio furniture outside and wondered if it might be his boyfriend…

Amon went to his Master’s side. Brick stood at the patio door watching the fly walk around on the neglected patio table. “Do not worry, Master. Justin said to tell thee he was going to see his sick mother.” He said with a smile.

Brick was dumbfounded. “Justin hates his mother. They haven’t spoken in years.” He said flatly, spinning around suddenly to face Amon. “What do you mean you did something for him? Why isn’t he here?”

“I made him the “lottery winner”, what ever that is. Is sixty-four million dollars a large amount?” Amon asked.

Brick had a moment of dizziness. He grabbed Amon by the shoulders as much for support as anything else. “The lottery? The STATE lottery? Oh my god, that’s fantastic! He’s been playing the lottery since I met him. I always told him it was a waste of my money…So, he went to claim the money?” Brick asked pensively.

Amon took his Master by the hands and led him to the sofa. They sat down. Brick’s eyes searched Amon’s face, clearly confused by the information he was being asked to process.

“I suppose he will.” Amon replied. “And although he owes thee a great deal, he will not be back to repay it.”

Brick shook his head. “Well, I never asked to be repayed…But he’ll be back…if for nothing else than to say thank you…”

“That was not his intention.”

“How the hell do you know?” Brick shouted. Amon saw tears welling up in his eyes.

“Brick,…I know.” Amon said as gently as he could, tapping his head with his right index finger. “I tested him. When he realized he had the winning ticket, you were not in his thoughts. What I saw was what I always see – dreams of opulence, gluttony, debauchery, the desire for possessions and status only. You were not at his side in those dreams. Not only that, he lied to me about winning, not realizing I was responsible for making it happen.”

Brick clamped his large hands over his face. Despite his best efforts, his sobs escaped to echo through the room. Amon waited patiently for his Master to regain himself.

Eventually Brick lifted his face from his hands, his expression one of stony resolve. He took a deep, stuttered breath. “Well, he’s just a kid, it might take him awhile to get his priorities straight….Yeah, maybe he’s just overwhelmed with the thought of all that money. Once it gets settled and all the publicity is over, I’ll probably hear from him.”

Amon sensed that Brick truly believed that Justin would return. He wondered at the human predilection for hope. Although he did not like to probe his Master’s mind without permission, in his emotional state Brick’s despair flooded out of him and into Amon’s head – a painful river of deep desires and shattered dreams. In the deluge he saw a string of bad relationships, where Brick was always the giver and others always took from him. With each new person in his life, Brick always built a house of dreams on the sandy shores of hope, only to have disappointment shift and topple the house right out from under him.

“Master, If thou truly desire him, I can Make Justin crawl at your feet for your attentions.” Amon said.

“Hell no!” Brick replied quickly. “That’s not what I want at all.”

Amon shook his head. “I knew that thee would not want such a thing, but it was my duty to ask. What does thy heart desire?” Amon asked, already knowing the answer.

Brick though about it for a long moment. “I just want to be loved. But I don’t want some kind of love zombie who only wants to be with me because of some kind of spell!”

Brick stared down at his hands. “I’d like to have someone in my life who just wants to be with me, as a partner, a helpmate, not just for what I can do for them. Doug was such a person, but he’s gone, and now genuine love, especially for a guy my age, especially the second time around, seems to be beyond anyone’s power.”

Amon reached over and embraced his friend warmly. “I think I understand thee now, Master. Thou art already a rich, wise caliph, for thy heart is made of pure gold. Thou hast set me free, but I think that I do not desire to be anywhere, but here, with thee.” Amon had a mind that by remaining with Brick, it would somehow make both their hearts’ desires come true. Strangely, Brick felt the same way.

END.

I Dream of Djinni

Lee Parten

Joined January 2008

  • Artist
    Notes

Artist's Description

A story about a man and a genie – with a new twist or two.

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