(Those who are coming to this serialized story for the first time, you can read the complete opus to date by clicking here.)
The witch left her daughter Naíma with a supply of spices to burn and beaucoup incantations for warding off evil spirits. And she had taught me a little prayer in Arabic to repeat, whenever some particularly nasty jinn plagued my sleep: Bismillah rah’man rah’heem, “in the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate.”
Naíma and I settled in nicely to my new apartment in Marrakesh. She cooked, cleaned, shopped, made friends, while I began work on my new novel. I hoped to put all the drama of the past few months behind me but, in spite of the spice bonfires Naíma set at bedtime, filling up the place with smoke, it didn’t take long before the nocturnal visitors returned.
I recorded each encounter, with times and dates, in my journal.
March 16, 12:15 am. Two shapes slid into my bed, one in front and one in back. An unfamiliar male voice spoke in my ear.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been here.”
Suddenly I was being forcibly kissed. My eyes snapped open. I saw the room but the man-form helping himself to my mouth was invisible. The second form pressed against my back; squirmy and hyper, he started roughing me up, squeezing my breasts and the flesh on my waist.
I turned my head away and chanted, Bismillah rah’man rah’heem.
March 30, 6:30 am. I woke, sensing movement on the sheet behind me; I felt a man’s shape attach to my back; a huge pair of arms wrapped around me.
Frightened, I whispered, “Who are you?”
“Your jinn.” His answer contained muffled laughter, as if he was having a joke on me. His hand slipped between my knees and moved up my thigh.
Bismillah rah’man rah’heem!
And he was gone.
April 3, 1 am. I lay on my back, just drifting off, when I heard the by-now-familiar faint hiss of something manifesting on the side on the mattress. On my guard, I demanded: “Who is it?”
I heard a man speak, but it was nothing but gibberish, like a tape running backwards.
“Speak English,” I insisted.
He replied in French, which was too fast and garbled for me to understand. Then he tried to nudge me onto my side to make more room for himself on the bed.
This time I didn’t bother with the prayer. “Go away!” I snapped. Then I got up and went to the bathroom. Returning to an empty bed, I read for a few hours until I was tired enough to get back to sleep.
5:30 am. I was dreaming I was back in my childhood bedroom in Connecticut. A fierce wind blew open the windows; I ran into my parents’ room. They weren’t there. I flung myself onto their bed for safety. Unseen hands attacked my ribs, fingers pinched my skin violently. I twisted away, crying out, rising to consciousness…
I woke in my bed in Marrakesh, turning onto my back with a groan. Someone’s shape materialized on top of me; a pair of hands cupped my face, lifting it gently for a kiss.
“What is your name?” I interrupted. I’d read that, according to superstition, if you possessed a jinn’s name he had to cede control to you.
He replied evasively, “We don’t have names where I come from.” He continued preparing my body for ravishment.
I tried a ruse. “I need your name so I can call you when I want you.”
He tried to ignore me but I kept asking for his name. Finally he said, “Neil.”
“What?” I wasn’t sure I heard him right.
I felt him bow his head to my ear. He repeated the name carefully, “Neil, N-E-I-L, Munne, M-U-N-N-E,” pronounced like “money.”
A jinn named Neil Money? How stupid did he think I was?
Bismillah rah’man rah’heem.
He faded away. This prayer was nothing if not efficient. I issued a mental warning to all jinnoon: If I don’t like your act, you get gonged.
I was gradually losing my terror of these sketchy spirits. At the beginning of my adventure, I had gone in search of a magical connection, only to wander into a bad neighborhood. Scenting a victim, the locals stepped from the shadows, and soon I was surrounded by horny lowlifes – the scum of the cosmos – who taunted and toyed with me before attacking.
What a hoot they were having at my expense. I felt humiliated after every encounter. The whole next day I’d be disoriented, dreading the next bedtime; but worse was my anxiety over the question: am I cracking up?
“No, you’re not.”
It was nice to hear someone say it, even though my dear friend Desmond was not what you’d call a down-to-earth guy. Desmond (not his real name) was a well-known and well-paid gay psychic from New York. Arriving in Marrakesh for a few weeks’ vacation, he looked me up; I poured out my tale to him, figuring he wouldn’t reject it out of hand, since he was in regular communion with his own, much nicer, set of spirits.
I finished by asking, “Do you think I – ”
“No, you’re not.” I didn’t even have to say “crazy.” Being friends with a telepathic meant that conversations were often condensed.
“I mean, is this really – “
We were sitting in a café; he had one eye out for the cute Moroccan boys cruising the avenue. Marrakesh was an open-air market for gay tourists. As we waited for our coffee to arrive, Desmond did my Tarot cards. Being friends with a clairvoyant often meant free readings.
“You should be on the lookout,” he warned playfully. “Your jinn is going to take a human form. The man whose body he takes won’t know what’s going on – he just won’t feel like himself. But you’ll know.”
(To be continued.)