Solomon Sets the Rules
(MARVIN HARPER’S NOTE: Things that happened to me are told in first person—“I did this,” “I said this.” Things that happened to people other than me are written in third person—“He did this,” “She said this”—told with the knowledge of a mind-reading angel. Reader, I hope you don’t find this confusing.)
June 19, 632 B.C.
Inside Fatima’s lamp
Seventeen hours and 22 minute had passed since Fatima of the Green Tribe of Djinn had been commanded to enter a brass lamp. No matter how hard she tried, she could not leave the lamp.
When Fatima made herself be solid but tiny, she could see light coming in through the spout of the lamp. So this meant that she could fly out, if she made herself small enough, right?
No. Every time she tried to fly out of the spout, she slammed into an invisible wall at the end. Maybe Kharmesh of the Blue Tribe could punch throughhis wall by muscle force, but Fatima had to use magic.
The problem was, magic was not working. Not one bit.
Fatima was pissed. She was now as magic-helpless as a wormfood (human); and Fatima was trapped in this stupid lamp, even though she had done nothing—
“BOUND DJINN, COME FORTH,” Fatima heard the angel command.
That was when Fatima’s problem turned into its opposite. Fatima did not want to talk to the wormfood king who had imprisoned her, nor did Fatima want to talk to the angel who, for whatever reason, was doing the wormfood king’s bidding. But Fatima was unable to stop herself from green-smoking, and could not stop her green-smoke self from leaving her lamp and then de-smoking.
In the palace of Solomon, King Of Israel
Five brass lamps, one unstoppered brass bottle, and Solomon’s ruby ring were set on the floor. At the angel’s command, Solomon watched smoke billow out of those seven Vessels—blue smoke, green smoke, pink, and brown.
The smoke reshaped itself into seven colored smoke-columns, which pulled in and reshaped themselves to become two djinn of the Blue Tribe, twodjinn of the Green Tribe, two djinn of the Pink Tribe, and one djinni of the Brown Tribe.
The Pink Tribe female (Jerngert) looked nervous; the Brown Tribe male looked calm; and the other two female djinn and the other three maledjinn were giving Solomon death-glares.
The five angry djinn were not quiet, either. Solomon heard many insults, and sometimes it was hard to keep a calm face. But the king smiled, amused, whenever he was called wormfood. Yes, he would die someday—so what?
The angel had been standing behind Solomon as he sat on his portable throne; the angel had said nothing as Solomon had been berated. Now the angel spoke: “SOLOMON, WISEST OF HUMANS, SHALL DECREE THE RULES OF YOUR SERVICE, AND HEAVEN WILL GIVE FORCE TO THOSE RULES. SHOW RESPECT TO THIS HUMAN, FOR HE IS GRANTED AUTHORITY TO MAKE YOUR SERVICE BE EASY OR HARSH.”
That quickly shut up the insulters!
The Green Tribe female, Fatima, said timidly, “Pardon me, human king, but I was the last djinni to be put into a brass lamp or brass bottle. So what is the Turd Tribe person doing here?” She flicked a finger to momentarily point toward the Brown Tribe male.
Before Solomon could answer, the Brown Tribe male did. He stood straight and said, “I am Roshradzam of the Brown Tribe, and we are as worthy as any other Tribe of djinn, though our powers be less.”
This assertion was greeted with snorts and rolled eyes from the other bound djinn.
Roshradzam continued, “Why am I here? Because Hakeezib, Chief of the Blue Tribe of Djinn, threatened to water-swap the favorite concubine of Chief Thointorgos unless Brown Tribe sent a djinni to kill the human king. I was sent; I was unsuccessful.”
“Because Brown Tribe beings are puny weaklings!” said Kharmesh of the Blue Tribe with a laugh. Kharmesh was the tallest and the most muscular djinni in the room.
Solomon smiled at the seven bound djinn. “I have a friend in high places”—Solomon gestured toward the angel—“who tipped me off that an assassin was coming. But since I didn’t have any more brass Vessels and time was short, I had to put Roshradzam into my hollowed-out ruby ring. Sorry, Roshradzam, no disrespect intended.”
Fatima looked shocked that Solomon had apologized to Roshradzam, when the human king had nothing to fear from the captured Brown Tribe djinni.
Solomon thought, What, djinn have never heard of kindness, grace, and mercy toward a defeated opponent?
The main reason that Roshradzam had not succeeded at his assassination was because Solomon had not been in bed at the time. Solomon had stayed awake till late the previous night, again and again rewriting the rules that the bound djinn would be compelled to obey.
Now there was no more reason to delay the bad news. Solomon reached inside his sash, pulled out the small scroll, and unrolled it.
Solomon read the rules to the seven bound djinn. The angel had nothing to say afterward; the bound djinn had much to say afterward. Yet Solomon did not waver.
Still, the bound djinn accepted the rules better than Solomon had expected. Jerngert, the Pink Tribe female, pointed out to the others that, while the master’s nonmagical commands must be obeyed, each genie was free to ignore the master’s orders and requests that the genie perform magic. Jerngert said, “This is a mercy that I wasn’t expecting from the human king.”
To which Fatima, Jerngert’s friend in Green Tribe, added, “In addition, if a human tries to harm my master, I’m allowed to punish that human as I choose. I intend to choose some creative ways.” Fatima’s smile was scary.
Then Solomon had a thought. He looked at Roshradzam and asked (in Arabic), “Can you speak any other language besides Arabic?”
Roshradzam shook his head.
“Can you learn new languages quickly, like they can?” Solomon gestured to mean the other six genies.
Roshradzam’s head-shake was emphatic.
Kharmesh and Sumera insulted Roshradzam; Solomon stopped listening.
Solomon looked at the angel. “Roshradzam has a problem with becoming a genie, and we need to fix it.”
Solomon looked at the bound djinn and asked, “So now that I’ve spoken the rules and Roshradzam’s language problem is fixed, does anyone have questions?”
“I do,” spit blue-skinned Sumera. “What do we do when all seven of us are owned by the same djinni? I want to puke, thinking about taking orders from Ashnadim or Sigvard.” (Chiefs of, respectively, the Green Tribe and the Pink Tribe.)
Solomon smiled at her. “It is impossible for a djinni to grasp your Vessel or to rub it, so a free djinni cannot be your master. Only a human can.”
“Liar! You’re saying what I want to hear, but I’ll be the one fetching Ashnadim’s slippers.”
Fatima said, “You’re as stupid as a camel. A djinni’s forearms and hands turn to smoke if he touches your Vessel. Kharmesh, Jerngert, and I all saw it happen—go ahead, ask Kharmesh.”
Sumera looked at big blue Kharmesh. Kharmesh shrugged.
“Fine,” Sumera replied. “So now I need only worry about a wormfood owning all seven of us bound djinn. My life is improved.”
The angel replied, “AFTER THIS HOUR, YOUR VESSELS WILL BE SCATTERED. EVERY HUMAN ALIVE TODAY WILL BE CRUMBLED BONES WHEN NEXT YOU ARE GATHERED TOGETHER.”
Sumera crossed her arms. “You think so, White Wings? Before this year is out, some human wizard or sorcerer will have tracked down our Vessels. You scattering the Vessels means only that the human must work harder, and cast more spells. Either sooner or not quite so soon, we seven will have one master.”
“NOT SO,” replied the angel. “YOUR VESSELS SHALL BE AS NOTHING TO HUMAN MAGIC, DJINN MAGIC, AND DEMON MAGIC. ONLY HEAVEN WILL KNOW WHERE A BOUND DJINNI’S VESSEL IS. FEAR NOT.”
Sumera had no more loud words of reply. But Solomon heard her mutter, “I wouldn’t count out demon magic so quickly, angel. Those demons know a thing or two.”
Of the seven bound djinn, Fatima became Solomon’s favorite (though he would never tell her this). Fatima was outspoken, like Kharmesh; but like Jerngert, Fatima would think. (Or rather, sometimes Fatima would think. She had a lot of anti-human prejudice that she refused to question.)
Fatima asked Solomon, “How do we become free djinn again? Or are we stuck like this till Judgment Day?”
Solomon turned around to look at the angel. The angel announced, “AS SOLOMON DOTH SPEAK IT, SO SHALL IT BE.”
Solomon’s father, King David, had warned him that there would be days like this.
Now Solomon thought hard. The others waited silently.
Then Solomon spoke: “You djinn will be freed before Judgment Day, I promise you. You all will be freed on the day that all your Tribes prove worthy of your freedom.”
The seven bound djinn looked puzzled by this prophecy.
The Lost Election
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Characters Susie (Susan) Cooper and Tim Hanson have appeared in my novels Names Have Power and Three More Wishes.
October 6, 2016 (Thursday night)
Local chapter, Abzug Society
Michelle Landrieu-LeClerc sat on a brown folding chair and hated Marvin Harper for the 7,846th time in six years.
Jane Yancy-Miller was running unopposed for the Treasurer position, so she was chosen to moderate the election for chapter Chairperson.
There had been a time when Michelle had likewise been unopposed when she’d run for Chairperson of the local chapter—but that was before Marvin Harper had become famous as the “hero billionaire.”
Now in 2016, when it came to Michelle being re-elected Chairperson, that man Marvin Harper had messed things up for her, again—
Michelle now had a challenger for the Chairperson seat: Gertrude Price-Weatherby. And Gertrude was running on a platform of “Marvin Harper is not our enemy.”
Now Jane walked to the lectern and banged the gavel. “Women, each candidate for Chairperson will speak for two minutes, then we will vote. Ms. Price-Weatherby won the coin-toss and chose to speak last. So Ms. Landrieu-LeClerc, please come forward now.”
After taking the lectern, Michelle looked into every face. “I am Mitchell Landrieu-LeClerc, and you know me. I have been active of this chapter of the Abzug Society for fifteen years, since my daughters entered middle school.”
As Michelle took a breath, she noticed: A lot more women here are wearing a lot more makeup than they did in 2010. Six years ago, no woman in this chapter would have dared wear anything more than muted-color lipstick, like Michelle herself wore.
What does this mean? she wondered.
A worried part of her brain replied, It means that they’re not your minions anymore. You can’t count on their votes.
Michelle shoved down that worry, and went back to speaking:
“I have been tireless in the struggle to give my daughters a world of equality for women. I will not allow any man, no matter how admirable he seems, to take our rights from us. I do not trust Marvin Harper, and you should flee any woman who says we can peacefully coexist with him. Many find him charming, and he is generous with his money, but the fact remains: Marvin Harper is a dedicated, resource-rich, and seductive agent of Patriarchy. Good grief, he has a harem! He is dangerous to our cause, for as long as he breathes.”
Thus Michelle ended her speech; she did not ask for the women of the chapter to vote for her. With head held high, she walked from the lectern to her chair and sat down.
Seconds later, it was Gertrude at the microphone: “Michelle here has many times listed Marvin Harper’s faults and sins. Let me point out one of his virtues. When one of his harem girls, Kristin Curry, was told that Marvin would pay for all her college expenses, she told him where she wanted to attend: Smith College. That’s right, the one in Northampton, Massachusetts. And once she got there, you can bet that not one student there, or professor, told Ms. Curry that she had to bake cookies for the rest of her life and stand by her man.”
Gertrude looked into every pair of eyes, though she only glanced into Michelle’s. “Ms. Curry now has a degree from Smith, without borrowing one dollar of student loans or flipping one burger. According to The Sophian, Harper did not try to talk Ms. Curry into a different school when she asked for very expensive, very feminist Smith College.”
Gertrude made eye contact again, then resumed her speech. “Michelle is abrasive. How many women of this chapter has Michelle expelled for failing to uphold feminist purity? Virgilia O’Keefe, Bellina Mott, Rivka Goldheim, and I’m sure I’m forgetting others. Remember when Michelle called Susan Cooper a bimbo and a disgrace, and Susan denounced Michelle as a ‘man-hater with anger issues’ just before she loudly quit? These women whom Michelle kicked out or drove away, where have they gone? Except for Susan Cooper, they all joined Marvin Harper’s harem. The LeClerc twins are shacking up with him right now! Though oddly, they haven’t been drummed out of our chapter.”
“Thirty seconds,” Ms. Yancy-Miller said.
Gertrude looked into everyone’s eyes for the last time. “Marvin Harper has not yet chosen to become our enemy. But as our enemy, he would be formidable, perhaps unbeatable. Elect me, and he will never become our enemy. But re-elect Michelle, and war with him is only a matter of time. Why is this bad? A public-relations war with the ‘hero billionaire’ is something the Abzug Society cannot win, and feminism cannot afford to lose more support.”
Seconds later, it was Jane, not Gertrude, at the lectern. Jane banged the gavel and announced, “It’s time to vote.”
Across the city, the next morning (Friday)
At Tim Hanson Ford, off Smith Freeway
Almost every Friday morning, I climbed into my car and drove from my mansion to Tim Hanson Ford.
By no coincidence, Friday mornings were when Tim Hanson Ford had the fewest customers.
At the car dealership, there was a separate small building where the dealer had his office. That building was tiny, since it held only Tim Hanson’s office, his receptionist’s desk outside his office, a postage-stamp-sized breakroom, and a conference room.
I parked my gold Mustang near the door to this tiny building; seconds later, I was walking in the door.
Even before my eyes adjusted, I heard a mega-cheerful female voice: “Good morning, Mr. Harper! I hope you’re having a wonderful,wonderful day!”
The speaker was Susie (née Susan) Cooper, Tim’s receptionist. Her blond hair was fake, her large tits were real, the blue ribbon in her hair was satin, and her big, friendly smile was ever-present.
There was a time, before I met her, when Susie did not smile at all. Furthermore, I am told Susie was very unpleasant to any human male.
The reason that Susie now looked and acted like the ultimate bimbo receptionist was the same reason why I, Marvin Harper the “hero billionaire,” spent my Friday mornings hanging out with a car dealer in his office.
Tim Hanson and I were friends because we shared a unique situation: We both had magical mind-control powers, and we tried to do right by the people we mind-controlled. I had been given my powers by a genie wish; Tim had been given mind-control powers as a reward by the Golden God.
In Tim’s case, whatever mind-rewriting he did was irreversible. Tim had accidentally reprogrammed Susan, his ultrafeminist receptionist, and bimbo Susie was the result.
Bimbo Susie now was looking at me and smiling. I replied, “I am indeed having a wonderful day, and you’re looking great. Will you please let Tim know I’m here?”
“Sure. He’s at the Service Garage now, though I don’t expect him to be gone long.” Susie picked up her desk phone, and spoke briefly with Tim via his smartphone.
After Susie hung up, she theatrically looked left and right, as though checking for eavesdroppers, and said, “The Abzug Society’s local chapter had an election last night. You were the main campaign issue. And Mitchell—”
“You mean Michelle—”
“—Michelle lost the election. She’s out, she’s only a peon now, too-bad-so-sad.”
I laughed. “Feeling a little vindictive, are we?”
Susie smiled, but the smile was cruel. “Six years ago, in front of the entire group, she called me a ‘bimbo man-pleaser’ and ‘a disgrace to the cause.’ She was seconds away from kicking me out when I quit. But now she’s no longer the big cheese here. Do you want to know what really delights me?”
“Gertrude—she’s who won—reminded the members that Michelle’s twin daughters aren’t living with her, they’re living with you!”
I made a rocking-hand gesture. “Not at the moment. I’ve sent the twins on an all-expenses-paid trip to France.”
Elvira Finds a Lamp
Late afternoon Friday, local time
In the French countryside
Almira LeClerc was driving a rental car, with her sister Elvira in the passenger seat. The American twins were headed to a family reunion—with French “family” whom they had never met. Fortunately, both sisters were fluent in schoolbook French.
With only the twins in the rental car, they spoke American English—
Almira asked, “Why do you think she did it, Marvin’s old aunt Claire? Why she pushed Marvin to give us this trip to France?”
Elvira replied, “Maybe she likes France? After all, Claire is a French name. What’s really weird is how, once old Claire convinced Marvin to help us take this trip, Marvin needed only one short phone call for our parole officer to go along.”
Almira shrugged. “Why is it weird? Marvin Harper deserves to be served, and everyone realizes this.” Then she laughed. “Everyone except you, Elvie. Though you’ve gotten along much better with him and everybody else in the past two years.”
Elvira said, “Everybody except Mother.” The twins laughed.
Elvira added, “I’ve been trying hard to be a good person these last two years. But I never imagined that I would be rewarded with a trip to, ohmigod, France! And we get to use Marvin Harper’s credit card while we’re doing it.”
Almira grinned. “Yeah, we tour France, we meet arrière grand-père Armand’s relatives, and the ‘hero billionaire’ pays for everything. Life is good.” Then Almira eyed the dark clouds ahead. “Except that we’re headed into nasty rain. And these roads are not good.”
As Almira had predicted, soon rain fell on the French countryside. Minutes later, the rain was pouring down.
Just as the rain started to blast down, the car passed a construction site. (Which was an odd thing to see, as Mlle. Fontaine had explained in high-school French class.)
The blasting rain slowed the car’s speed to a crawl. Looking through the car’s windows, even with the wipers going their fastest, was for Elvira like looking through shower-door glass.
Still, she could make out a man at the construction site, who was wearing a white hard hat. Elvira saw him make a throat-slash gesture. Then all the men at the site (including Monsieur Hard-Hat) dashed for their cars.
From the driver’s seat, Almira said, “I can’t drive in this. We’re two kilometers from a village. I’ll head there and hope they have an inn for travelers.”
Elvira said, “That will make us late to the reunion.”
Almira shrugged. “Not if we get rolling tomorrow at dawn.”
The village was too small to have an inn. The good news was, the village had a villager who would rent the twins a room for the night. The bad news was, the rain was still blasting; Elvira was soaked to the skin before she’d moved ten feet from the rental car.
Once the twins had a room to themselves, Elvira yearned to frolic with her twin sister. But Almira was tired, or so she claimed. Elvira sighed.
Early the next morning (Saturday), local time
It was not yet dawn, but the eastern sky was bright when the twins climbed back in their car. To get back to the road on which Almira had been driving when the rain had hit, the rental car now drove past the construction site.
Elvira saw a bright-yellow reflection where she was not expecting it. She yelled, “Almie, stop the car! Stop, stop!”
The car screeched to a halt. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” Almie asked, sounding frightened.
“The construction site, there’s a big pile of dirt there. I see a teapot sticking out of the dirt.”
“You’re making us late for a teapot?” Almira rolled her eyes. “Besides, teapots mean England, not France. Which is wherewe are.”
“It’s yellow metal, and it has a handle. It’s an antique teapot.”
“How do you know it’s antique?”
“Remember what Mlle. Fontaine told us in class? In France, they don’t tear down a building until they have to. See that burned lumber? See that pile of scorched bricks? Who knows how long that house stood before they had to tear it down. That teapot could be centuries old!”
“So what? Neither of us drinks tea.”
“Jeez, twin, use your brain. It’ll be a unique souvenir of our trip to France, not some mass-produced trinket.”
Almira’s voice got stern. “You want to quote Mlle. Fontaine? She also said that the French have crazy laws that we don’t have, about old stuff. And we’re parolees. Marvin wouldn’t like me if you and I got arrested for stealing a teapot.”
Elvira replied, “Twin, this burned-down house used to belong to someone. He or she could have grabbed the teapot at any time. They didn’t.”
“But that doesn’t mean that we—”
“It’s not stealing! But if we sit here, gabbing about it, the construction crew will come back and I’ll lose my chance. Construction guys work sunrise to sunset, remember?”
“Which means that if you get out of the car, somebody could come along in the next few minutes, and then we both might get arrested.”
Elvira rolled her eyes. “I know you, Almie. You don’t give a shit about the laws of France, only about the laws of Marvin Harper.”
“The last time you wanted to do something on your own and I let you, the result was Anna Kay and us getting kidnapped by gangsters.”
“No gangsters are near here, just French construction guys. Who are headed this way even as we speak.”
Almira said, “Fine. Go. But if the car gets dirty and we get charged extra, you’re paying Marvin back.”
As Elvira was slip-sliding on the muddy ground in the pre-dawn light, she muttered, “Jeez, Almie, you were gutsy six years ago. Now you’re a total scaredy-cat.”
When Elvira pulled the handled brass thing out of the pile of dirt (which was now a pile of mud), she knew instantly that she was not holding a teapot.
She also knew instantly what the brass lamp might be.
But Elvira did not rub it with her hand. She was not even slightly tempted. Not because she wasn’t curious, but because the brass lamp was soyucchy with all that mud.
Instead of rubbing the mud off the brass lamp with her hand, Elvira walked over to some still-wet grass, and dragged the brass lamp around by its handle till the lamp was clean.
When Elvira returned to the rental car with her prize in hand, she saw Almira staring at her through the glass.
When Elvira opened the car door, Almira blurted, “Holy shit, you found a motherfucking genie lamp! Rub it, rub it!”
“No way. The construction crew will be here any minute, remember? I’ll rub the lamp later.”
“Arrggh!” Almira replied.
The twins reached the city of Clermont-Ferrand a little after ten o’clock, and found the family reunion soon after.
But the twins didn’t join the reunion, not yet. Elvira suggested that they find a local hotel first. “So while we’re talking to all our new aunts and uncles, we don’t have to worry about our suitcases being stolen out of the car.”
Almira smirked. “Ri-i-ight, you’re worried about suitcases getting stolen out of the car.”
“I don’t think it’s a genie lamp. It got rubbed clean, and no genie came out.”
Yet when the twins brought their suitcases (and the brass lamp) into their hotel room, Elvira made sure to lock the brass lamp inside the emptiest of her suitcases. Elvira told herself that her reason was that the brass lamp was a unique souvenir, and she didn’t want to lose it.
“You know,” Almira said casually, “you don’t need to deprive yourself; it’s okay to unlock that suitcase now and to satisfy your curiosity.”
Elvira said, “Our relatives know we’re here. They expect us to reappear soon at the reunion. I’ll rub the lamp later.”
“Arrggh!” Almira replied.
Much later, hours after dark Saturday, local time
When the twins returned to their hotel room after spending hours at the reunion, they were tipsy.
Almira said, “Here’s your chance. Grab the lamp, rub it, and let’s find out if there’s a genie in there.”
“No way,” Elvira said. “I’m tired and I’m drunk. That genie would eat me for breakfast. Speaking of breakfast, morning seems like a good time to see what I’ve got.”
“Dammit, twin, I’ve been wondering all day whether that brass lamp is the real deal. Now I’m gonna have to wonder all night, too?”
“Yep,” Elvira replied, grinning drunkenly. “Remember, I’m the person who dipped your Barbie in black paint. I can be a bitch sometimes.”
The next morning (Sunday), local time
After both twins had taken showers, Almira asked, “Now are you going to rub the lamp?”
Elvira grinned. “Certainly not. I’m dressed only in a towel. If there is a genie in there, he deserves for me to be dressed more respectfully, don’t you think?”
But an hour and a half later, Elvira was dressed, her hair and makeup were done, and the twins had eaten breakfast. Elvira had all her suitcases unlocked by then.
With her left hand, Elvira reached into the suitcase that had the lamp in it, and grabbed the brass lamp by its handle. Elvira stood and faced Almira.
Elvira said, “I don’t think anything will happen. But here goes.”
Elvira rubbed the brass lamp with her right hand.
The brass lamp shook in Elvira’s hand like a frantic rat were trapped inside of it. Then—
A plug of mud shot out of the spout of the lamp, hitting Almira full in the face.
Almira ran off to the bathroom then, to wash her face (as Elvira called out laughing apologies).
So Almira did not see lots and lots of blue smoke billow out of the lamp, and Almira was not there with Elvira when the blue smoke turned into a blue woman.
Sumera Drops a Bomb
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Events referred to in these next two chapters took place in Chapter 28 of Three More Wishes: Be Kind to Your Genie.
Elvira saw that the genie’s skin was light blue. Her hair, which was pulled up into a bun, was dark blue, as were her eyebrows. Her eyes were not merely blue, but glowing blue. She wore Middle Eastern clothing, including harem pants and silk slippers—all of which were blue.
The genie-woman looked at Elvira, sighed deeply, and said, “Bonjour, Maîtresse. Je suis Sumera, ligoté djinni de la lampe, ici d’accorder trois vœux à vous.”
“Holy shit, you’re real!” Elvira said.
The genie frowned. Elvira figured out that Sumera might not know English.
Elvira might have shot her mouth off in French then, and spoken her wishes bam-bam-bam, if the genie had not sighed. That sigh said to Elvira, Granting this human’s wishes is an unpleasant task, so let’s get it over with. A genie with such an attitude would not help Elvira if Elvira worded her wishes poorly.
So instead of wishing, Elvira said, “Plus tard, mes vœux.” Later, my wishes. “Parlez-vous anglais?”
“No, Mistress,” Sumera replied in French.
“Holy shit, a real genie!” Almira exclaimed in English.
Sumera turned around. Wet-faced Almira was standing by the bathroom door, staring back at Sumera.
When Sumera turned to face Elvira again, Elvira said in French, “She is Almira, my twin. Almira LeClerc. I am Elvira LeClerc. Can you tell us apart?”
It was a simple question; Elvira expected a simple answer.
To Elvira’s question, Sumera replied, “It’s easy to tell you two apart. You each have a spellmark, and your spellmarks are different.”
Elvira said, “What do you mean? What is a ‘spellmark’?”
“Someone has cast a spell on each of you—”
“WHAT?” Almira and Elvira said together.
“—and all I know is that the spells have different sources. Your sister’s spell came from a djinni; while your spell, Mistress, came from a being who is not a djinni.”
“What are the spells on us?” Almira demanded.
Elvira said, “Who cast spells on us? Find out, find out!”
“No,” said Sumera. “That is a magical request, and I may refuse to obey a magical request. Now if you were to wish for answers to your questions—”
Almira glared at the blue genie. “You’re just trying to get Elvie to use up a wish.”
Elvira said to Sumera, “You can refuse a magical request? What can’t you refuse?”
Sumera clenched her fists and gritted her teeth, and her body shook, rather than answer the question.
But soon Sumera said, “I cannot refuse nonmagical requests. And unless you ask a question that can be answered only by me using magic, I must answer any question you ask with the truth.”
“Except the questions we really want answered,” Elvira said. “Quite a loophole you’ve got, Sumera.”
“Yes, you’re a big help, blue genie,” Almira said, disgusted. “You tell me a genie cast a spell on me, and won’t tell me more. Trouble is, I’ve never met a genie before.”
That’s when Elvira thought of something. “Almie, I know who the genie is.”
“Who? Who? Tell me!”
“Actually, I don’t know. But I have a really strong gut feeling.”
“Twin! Say his name. Now.”
FOOM. Green light flashed, and now there was a fourth female in the hotel room.
“Fatima?” Almira blurted.
“Fatima,” Sumera sneered.
Fatima, who was casually dressed all in green, gave blue genie Sumera only a glance. Then Fatima’s eyes locked on Elvira’s brass lamp.
Fatima looked up from Elvira’s hand to Elvira’s face. “Oh, shit,” Fatima said.
The Hotel Room Gets Crowded
Sumera said something to Fatima in a foreign language. To Elvira, Sumera’s words sounded insulting.
Fatima said to Sumera, “I do not have the time for your stupidity”—speaking in sixteenth-century French.
“You really are a genie?” Almira asked Fatima in English.
“Shit,” Fatima said.
Elvira asked in English, “What are you doing here?”
Fatima replied, “Entertainment—I came here to watch Sumera be forced to grant wishes. But now I have to work.”
Fatima reached into a pocket of her green-denim jeans and pulled out her smartphone.
Elvira saw that Sumera was frowning. Fatima noticed this too. Instead of Fatima making her phone call, she asked Elvira, “Does Sumera understand English?”
It was Almira who answered: “No, because Sumera is too lazy to learn, I’m sure. She’s already informed Elvie she doesn’t have to obey magical requests.”
Fatima rolled her eyes. In sixteenth-century French, she advised Elvira, “Order Sumera to memory-read you. She may not refuse to do that.”
Elvira commanded Sumera thus, not sure what she was ordering. Sumera glared at Fatima, then reached out a blue hand to touch Elvira’s forehead.
Then life for Elvira turned weird.
When Elvira finished reliving her entire life at high speed, she discovered that Marvin Harper was standing next to Fatima in the hotel room.
Marvin was yawning, his hair was mussed, and the buttonholes of his shirt were mismatched with the buttons.
The sunlight through the windows seemed to Elvira to be the same as before. “How long was I out?” she asked.
“Five minutes, maybe more,” Almira said. “I was scared shitless, till Marvin told me he’s gone through the same process lots of times.”
“So you are the famous Marvin Harper, master of Fatima,” Sumera said in sarcastic English. She dropped a curtsy. “I am so pleased to meet you at last.”
Elvira put her fists on her hips then. “Now that we’re all here and we’re all acquainted and we all speak English, would someone—Sumera, Fatima, Marvin, I don’t give a rat’s ass who—tell me, WHEN AND WHERE AND HOW AND WHY MY TWIN SISTER AND I GOT SPELLMARKS ON US, AND WHAT THE SPELLS DO.”
“Jeez,” said Marvin, rubbing his face with one hand, “and I have to answer this on four hours’ sleep.”
Then Marvin looked each twin in the eye. “Why is simple: Because you two were out of control. When and where is even simpler: the party.”
There was no need for Marvin to specify which party. May 15, 2010, the LeClerc twins had been arrested for drug possession, at the costume party to which Marvin had been invited and which the twins had party-crashed.
Now Marvin said, “But the how and the what of you two getting spells put on you, those take some explaining.”
Meanwhile, back in the USA (Sunday)
The local time was several hours past midnight, and Michelle Landrieu-LeClerc was deeply asleep. But though she was sleeping, no way was she resting as she dreamed—
Michelle is standing on a featureless plain—no buildings, no hills, no lakes, no grass or trees. In front of Michelle are thousands of men.
She sees a man with gray hair and trimmed gray moustache, a pressed black-pinstripe suit, and gold cufflinks. She sees a man in his twenties with three days’ growth of beard, a dirty wife-beater t-shirt, and a can of beer. Michelle sees young men, middle-aged men and old men; men rich and poor; men who are black and white and yellow and brown.
This is the Patriarchy, and every man in the Patriarchy is grinning triumphantly at Michelle.
At the front of the penis-horde are two men who are not content to grin at her; they are pointing at Michelle and laughing.
One of the two men is tall, muscular Marvin Harper. He says, “I’m not the enemy of the Abzug Society, but I am your enemy, Michelle. I’ve corrupted your daughters, and I’ve bamboozled your local chapter into voting you out. Sucks to be you, ‘Mitchell.’ ”
The other man mocking Michelle is her ex-husband Dennis. Dennis LeClerc looks the same as the day Michelle Landrieu met him, right down to his chocolate-brown mullet and mustache, and his tight blue Hawaiian shirt. Dennis now says, “Karma is a bitch, bitch. You shut me out of my daughters’ lives, and yesterday you lost the thing most important to you: head harpy of the local chapter of man-haters.”
Michelle answers, “You lost your rights as a father when you cheated on me and I caught you.”
“That isn’t your call to make, Michelle. I’m the twins’ father; they need me in their lives. Who knows what trouble they’ve gotten into, with me not there?”
Michelle says nothing. She has never told Dennis that his daughters were arrested, tried, convicted, and thrown into prison. Why tell him now? Michelle has done the right thing by not telling Dennis, but he would not understand.
“Enough!” a woman’s voice says. Dennis, Marvin, and the rest of the Patriarchy become statue-still. The woman’s voice continues, “I’m tired of hearing these men prattle on—aren’t you, Michelle?”
All the men vanish except for frozen Dennis and frozen Marvin. Where the horde of men was standing, now stands a sexy young woman who is facing Michelle.
The woman has the figure of a porn star, the red skin of a sunburn victim, bright-red shaped eyebrows, and waist-length pink hair. Her clothes are a gray-leather, halter-top bra; a chain-mail loincloth; and black-leather, porn-actress high-heeled pumps with spikes. Her heavy makeup saysI’m easier than a two-piece jigsaw puzzle.
Michelle thinks, This woman looks completely slutty. Dennis would love her.
The woman walks up next to Michelle’s frozen ex-husband, looks at him, and says, “Michelle, you first realized that all men are beasts when you caught Dennis and that bimbo. You are absolutely right: No man deserves any kindness from you.”
The woman taps Dennis on his shoulder; he vanishes. Then the red woman walks up to unmoving Marvin Harper.
“Marvin Harper, you man you,” the woman sighs. “You have humiliated Michelle here, after all she’s done for women’s equality. You should be taken down a peg. Or three. Or thirty.”
Michelle replies, “Good luck, honey. Marvin Harper is the ‘hero billionaire,’ remember? When you trash-talk him in public, nobody believes you. When you sue him, his turncoat lawyer Victoria Allblue gets the lawsuit dropped.”
The woman turns to face Michelle, putting hands on shapely hips. “Do you want vengeance on Marvin Harper? I can get you vengeance. I am Fanzelle, and I promise what nobody else can.”
“Oh, yeah? How?” Michelle says skeptically.
Fanzelle shakes her head. “I can’t answer well enough in a dream. Wake up, summon me, and I’ll explain everything.”
“ ‘Summon me’? What does that mean?”
“I’m a succubus. I seduce men, then claim their souls during sex. But this job was forced on me by lower-downs, and to heaven with all those male demons I work for!”
“Hold on, they make you fuck men? Even when you don’t want to? That’s sex slavery!”
“Exactly. So summon me, Michelle, and I’ll explain how you can get vengeance on Marvin Harper, and how I can get promoted out of being ordered to gratify men’s base desires.”
“Not so fast,” Michelle says reluctantly. “I’m going to lose my soul if I do this, won’t I? I’ll get eternal punishment in hellfire?”
Fanzelle looks left and right, checking for eavesdroppers, then she murmurs, “Not if we word the pact right.”
In a normal-volume voice, Fanzelle says, “I’ve said all I can say in this dream. Wake up and summon me if you want vengeance on Marvin Harper.”
“How do I summon you?” Michelle asks.
As soon as Michelle woke up, she rushed into Elvira’s old bedroom and headed straight for her closet. On a shelf, Michelle found a box of playground chalk.
There were only two pieces of chalk in the box. Two pieces were more than enough.
Next, Michelle threw on her clothes and drove to a (fortunately nearby) 24-hours Wal-Mart. Michelle bought a box of red birthday candles and a disposable lighter.
When Michelle returned from her shopping trip, she left her car parked in the driveway, instead of again parking her car in the garage.
Barely twenty minutes after Michelle had awakened from her dream, she stood in her garage next to a chalk pentagram. At the five corners of the pentagram, five little red candles burned. Happy birthday, Marvin Harper, Michelle thought. She smiled eagerly.
Michelle took a knife in her right hand and sliced into her left forearm. She let blood run down her arm to drip off her elbow, then—making sure she did not step on the chalk lines—she leaned forward so that the dripping blood splattered on the concrete floor inside the pentagram.
Michelle promptly stepped away from the pentagram, again making sure she did not step on the chalk lines.
Michelle spoke solemnly: “Harken, Demon Fanzelle, I summon thee. Appear thou afore me, here and now, bound in place and deed by the pentagram.”
Above the middle of the pentagram, the air got darker, becoming black smoke. The black smoke began to swirl, faster and faster. When the black smoke was an enclosed tornado, the black became red. The red tornado stopped its spinning. The red smoke diffused to the boundaries of the pentagram, then the red smoke pulled itself in.
Within the pentagram stood Fanzelle. Just as in the dream, Fanzelle had huge breasts, red skin, bright-red eyebrows, and pink hair; Fanzelle was dressed exactly the same as in Michelle’s dream.
But within the pentagram, Fanzelle had more to her appearance. Namely, a red, barbed tail; pointed ears; glowing-red-iris eyes; horns coming out of her forehead; and huge bat-wings coming out of her shoulder blades.
Fanzelle looked at Michelle and said formally, “O mortal named Michelle Joan Landrieu-LeClerc, I the demon Fanzelle do come to you as summoned.”
Then Fanzelle grinned at Michelle and added, “You ready to mess with Marvin Harper?”
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