(Those who are coming to this serialized story for the first time, you can read the complete opus to date by clicking here.)
I completed the roll to my left side and focused through the dark.
Nothing there; the spirit had gone, dissipated. “The line was dead,” I wrote later in my journal.
It was as if the jinn couldn’t hold a long-distance connection long enough for us to come face to face. The first time when I’d had such a solid sense of his physical body. On this second encounter, he came through weakly, not even touching. Only his voice – tender, respectful, hinting at a romantic nature – had been utterly clear.
It can’t be an easy trick for a disembodied spirit to weave a manifestation that can be perceived by a living person. I told myself that next time I should keep still, in case my movement had disturbed the delicate mesh of ether that was my jinn. I reasoned (though some might say I had long since departed the realm of reason) that with each contact he should get stronger, as my energy gave fuel to his: a sort of interspecies bundling.
Or would he continue to grow weaker, fainter? It might be a good idea to have the witch perform some kind of booster spell.
I still wondered why his voice sounded different from our first contact. Was it the same spirit? Did it matter?
I fell asleep mulling these things. In my dream, I found myself standing alone in the middle of a vast concrete parking lot, a skyline of factories beyond. Shadows collected along the edges: a gang of toughs. I looked around for help. In the distance I saw my jinn walking behind a row of trees. His eyes followed me but he was powerless to come to my aid, the trees forming a boundary he couldn’t cross. At last he vanished into some woods. I was left by myself to deal with the punks, who clearly had nothing good in mind for me.
When I woke I recorded the dream in my journal hurriedly. Khadija and I had to be off to Marrakesh, so I didn’t pay it much attention.
Now, though, when I read what I wrote, I recognize it as an explicit omen.
Heading south, we detoured to Khouribga, where Fatima stood ready to take some more of my money for some more of her magic. She promised to fiddle with the reception so that my jinn could come through more clearly on our next rendezvous. She also planned to bring her daughter Naíma to Marrakesh as soon as I found an apartment. Naíma would be my cook-housekeeper there.
Although I’d made the trip twice before, the approach to Marrakesh as one descended from the Atlas Mountains was always stupendous. The terracotta color of the soil and the buildings that rise from it appear like the passing configuration of a cloud at sunset. Outside the pink walls surrounding the medina was the “nouvelle ville” – the modern section built by and for the French colonialists as well as upwardly mobile Moroccans aspiring to be French. This was the neighborhood where a single white female American novelist would be safest.
We found an apartment right away through a Jewish realtor. (She invited me to her home; I experienced my first Sabbath in the middle of a Muslim city.) The place was unfurnished so I had to buy a couple of mattresses and a desk – the bare minimum since I was only planning on staying for three months. It would be another day before the electricity was turned on; Khadija left me off at the Hotel du Pasha before driving back to Casablanca.
It was a relief to stretch out in a proper bed, all alone with a good book, after a month of camping in Khadija’s living room and reading her Tarot cards every day. I was truly on my own; that is, until Naíma arrived. Tomorrow I would explore my new neighborhood, the grand souk, and the medina. But first, a bit of private bliss: a good sleep.
Dreaming, I found myself once again on that concrete floor, only this time I was flat on my stomach, my body pressed into the grit by someone unseen. There was muffled laughter behind me. A hand yanked my head up, forcing me to look up. Hovering over me an enormous wedge-shaped monolith. It rose steeply to its apex where the crude outlines of an animal’s face at the top stared down at me, a living idol waiting for the next sacrifice.
My head was pulled back farther, my back arching until I thought it would break – and then hands attacked me, pinching my waist painfully and probing between my ribs. Trying to squirm away, I used all my strength to twist around, to see my assailants and fight off their hands.
I managed to flip onto my back. I was now awake and staring at the hotel room ceiling. The attackers had faded with the dream, though I still ached from their fingers. Night was giving way to dawn.
But I was far from safe. The room I woke to was suffused with a presence of evil, flowing into every corner and blocking out consciousness of everything but itself.
(To be continued.)
Causes Sarah Kernochan Supports