At last, when the dust settled, the Queen and the Jinni stood on the mountaintop and looked down on the battlefield and the bodies spread like leaves across the desert. The Queen fell to her knees, wearied and wounded and her sword dropped from her hand. Before her, the doorway to Ambadya burned with fires of every color.All I wanted, said the Queen, was peace between our peoples. But I see now that this is not possible, for my people are ruled by a dreamer and the jinn are ruled by a monster. My only consolation is that thou art by my side, my Jinni. I would die in the company of a friend and give thee my final breath. For I have one wish remaining and it is for thy freedom, yea, even at the cost of mine own life.At this the Jinni shook her head, replying, Nay, my queen. The time for wishing is passed. For here is the Shaitan, Lord of all Jinn and King of Ambadya.And even as she spoke, the fires in the doorway rose higher and through them stepped Nardukha the Shaitan, terrible to behold.O impudent woman, said the Shaitan, looking down at the Queen. Wouldst thou dare make the Forbidden Wish?I would, she replied. For I fear thee not.Then thou art a fool.As the Queen’s heart turned to ashes, realizing her doom was upon her, the Shaitan turned to the Jinni and said, Dost thou recall the first rule of thy kinsmen, Jinni?And the Jinni replied, Love no human.And hast thou kept this commandment?Lord, I have. And up she rose, as the Queen cried out in dismay.Are not we like sisters? asked the Queen. Of one heart and one spirit?And the Jinni replied, Nay, for I am a creature of Ambadya and thus is my nature deceitful and treacherous. My Lord has come at last and I would do all that he commands.The Shaitan, looking on with approval, said to the Jinni, This human girl is proud and foolish, thinking she could rule both men and jinn. I am well pleased with thee, my servant, who hast brought her to me. Slay the queen and prove thy loyalty to thy king.And the Jinni grinned and in her eyes rose a fire. With pleasure, my Lord.Then, with a wicked laugh, she struck down the good and noble Queen, the mightiest and wisest of all the Amulen monarchs, whose only mistake was that she had dared to love a Jinni.
Jessica Khoury
It as mathematical, marriage, not, as one might expect, additional; it was exponential. This one man, nervous in a suite a size too small for his long, lean self, this woman, in a green lace dress cut to the upper thigh, with a white rose behind her ear. Christ, so young. The woman before them was a unitarian minister and on her buzzed scalp, the grey hairs shone in a swab of sun through the lace in the window. Outside, Poughkeepsie was waking. Behind them, a man in a custodian's uniform cried softly beside a man in pajamas with a Dachshund, their witnesses, a shine in everyone's eye. One could taste the love on the air, or maybe that was sex, or maybe that was all the same then.'I do,' she said.'I do,' he said.They did. They would. Our children will be so fucking beautiful, he thought, looking at her. Home, she thought, looking at him. 'You may kiss,' said the officiant. They did, would. Now they thanked everyone and laughed and papers were signed and congratulations offered and all stood for a moment, unwilling to leave this gentile living room where there was such softness. The newlyweds thanked everyone again, shyly and went out the door into the cool morning. They laughed, rosy. In they'd come integers, out they came, squared. Her life, in the window, the parakeet, scrap of blue midday in the London dusk, ages away from what had been most deeply lived. Day on a rocky beach, creatures in the tide pool. All those ordinary afternoons, listening to footsteps in the beams of the house and knowing the feeling behind them. Because it was so true, more than the highlights and the bright events, it was in the daily where she'd found life. The hundreds of time she'd dug in her garden, each time the satisfying chew of spade through soil, so often that this action, the pressure and release and rich dirt smell delineated the warmth she'd felt in the cherry orchard. Or this, each day they woke in the same place, her husband waking her with a cup of coffee, the cream still swirling into the black. Almost unremarked upon this kindness, he would kiss her on the crown of her head before leaving and she'd feel something in her rising in her body to meet him. These silent intimacies made their marriage, not the ceremonies or parties or opening nights or occasions, or spectacular fucks. Anyway, that part was finished. A pity...
Lauren Groff
After the battle, the Queen and her warriors entered the throne hall of the vanquished Akbanids, where they found displayed on pedestals of marble all the great treasures of that kingdom. And the Queen, having little interest in the jewels and gold, passed all these by, until she came at last to the center of the room. And there, on a sheet of silk, sat a Lamp of humble aspect, wrought in bronze and without a drop of oil inside.With great reverence, the Queen took up the Lamp and at her touch, from it rose with a glittering cloud of smoke a terrible Jinni. And all who looked upon her quailed and trembled, but the Queen stood tall and trembled not. Yet in her eyes was a look of wonder.I am the Jinni of the Lamp, pronounced the Jinni. Three wishes shall ye have. Speak them and they shall be granted, yea, even the deepest desires of thine heart. Wilt thou have treasure? It is thine.And the Queen replied, Silver and gold I have.Wilt thou have kingdoms and men to rule over? asked the Jinni. Ask and it is thine.And the Queen replied, These I have also.Wilt thou have youth everlasting, never to age, never to sicken? asked the Jinni. Ask and it is thine.Does not the poet say that hairs of gray are more precious than silver and that in youth lies folly?The Jinni bowed low before the Queen. I see you are wise, O Queen and not easily fooled. So what would you ask of me, for I am thy slave.Give me thy hand, said the Queen and let us be friends. For does not the poet say, one true-hearted friend is worth ten thousand camels laden with gold?This the Jinni pondered, before replying, The poet also says, woe to the man who befriends the jinn, for he shakes hands with death.
Jessica Khoury