Djinni on the Titanic
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This story is set in the world of the “Marvin and Fatima” series. If you haven’t read those stories, check out Three More Wishes and its sequels, which are compiled in Wishes, Genies, Sex, and Death: Marvin and Fatima THREE-IN-ONE.
October 10, 1911
Port of Southampton, England
Bashira of the Green Tribe of Djinn was dressed like a rich young human woman, wearing a green-velvet dress to match her green eyes. In her hand, Bashira carried a bulging green-velvet bag.
Bashira stepped out of a horse-drawn cab directly in front of the Southampton offices of White Star Line. A minute later, Bashira was facing a young clerk as she dumped out the contents of her bag: many, many gold sovereigns.
With all those little gold coins, Bashira bought a First Class one-way ticket for the RMS Titanic, which would sail on its maiden voyage in six months. White Star was given many, many gold coins because Bashira not only wanted to travel First Class on the Titanic, Bashira wanted to ride on the Titanic in style.
White Star was paid in gold sovereigns because Bashira easily could magick-up gold coins—as many as she needed, with the coins looking however she wanted. Bashira was a djinni, after all.
But while Bashira was unbothered by magicking up British gold coins, she refused to magically create twenty-pound banknotes. Mainly because each Bank of England-printed banknote had a unique serial number on it, and Bashira had not figured out the serial numbers’ pattern. As unlikely as it was that human police would question Bashira as a suspected counterfeiter, she preferred to avoid the risk.
Humans might detect magically-duplicated banknotes, but they could not spot magically-created coins.
When Bashira, ticket in hand, walked out of the offices of White Star Line, she was smiling in anticipation.
Four months earlier, Bashira had sailed on Titanic’s elder sister, RMS Olympic, on its maiden voyage in 1911. Bashira had enjoyed that trip. So Bashira expected that six months from now, again she would eat great food and would talk to interesting humans. Titanic would be a pleasant diversion for ageless Bashira.
SIX MONTHS, FOUR DAYS LATER: April 15, 1912
2 a.m. ship’s time
On RMS Titanic, in the North Atlantic
Bashira was deathly afraid.
After the aborted Djinn War in 632 B.C., Bashira had never again felt fear of death. After 632 B.C., Bashira had never again expected to feel fear of death.
Bashira of the Green Tribe of Djinn was a free djinni—meaning, she was not bound to a brass Vessel and was not required to grant wishes to any master. For a free djinni, life was usually great—
All the djinn except for those in Brown Tribe could work powerful magic; all djinn were ageless; and a djinni, being a smoke-bodied shapeshifter, could laugh off injuries that would kill a human.
However, djinn were not immortal. A djinni could freeze to death (as Lodmand of Pink Tribe had learned the hard way). All Tribes believed that if a djinni were immersed in water, even for an instant, that djinni’s smoky body would die. In the days leading up to the angel-prevented Djinn War, Bashira had been terrified that an enemy djinni would water-swap her to the bottom of the Indian Ocean.
But that had been in 632 B.C. In April of 1912, death by freezing or immersion was merely theoretical for all the other djinn in the world—something to joke about. But as Bashira stood at the railing on the tilted Titanic and looked down at black water, as freezing-cold wind blew on her, she felt terror.
Some of the lifeboats that were already launched, were only partly filled. Bashira saw young men climb over the Titanic’s railing and jump off, fall and fall, and disappear beneath the water—If I did that, I’d be dead now. When the young men surfaced, they swam toward the lifeboats. The problem was that the lifeboats had rowed away from the ship, so the swimmers had a long swim.
But most of the humans in the water had no such plan. They hugged themselves and they yelled for help.
A girl in the water, about ten years old, was clearly panicked. She was yelling, but she was also flailing around—which achieved nothing, and would soon get her tired.
Near to Bashira on the tilted Promenade Deck, two young lifebelted Englishmen also had spotted the girl. One of the men said, “Bastards! Why didn’t they put her in a lifeboat?”
The other man said, “If the popinjays won’t put her in a lifeboat, I will.” So saying, he climbed over the railing.
“Roger!” exclaimed his friend. “What are you doing?”
Roger replied, “Marcus, I’m dead regardless. But this way, I die like a man.” Then Roger dropped. Splash.
The Titanic’s lights were still on. Soon Bashira saw Roger swim out to the girl (with guidance from Marcus). Roger swam out to the girl, put one arm across her chest, and pulled her toward a lifeboat. Often Bashira saw Roger turn his head sideways and speak to the frightened child.
Once the two of them got near the lifeboat, however, Roger went limp and stopped swimming. But by then, the girl had figured things out. She swam to the lifeboat and was pulled in. Bashira, watching, thought, I’m sure Roger was as frightened as I am. But not once have I thought of trying to save anyone else.
Bashira’s hope collapsed. The Titanic’s sinking would not be stopped, much less reversed; the passengers on deck would not be rescued by another human ship; there were more passengers on deck than there were places in the remaining lifeboats. Not to mention, even if Bashira took a seat in a lifeboat, the freezing night air would kill any djinni. Bashira was doomed if she stayed with the Titanic.
Bashira thought, I can’t stay on this ship of corpses one second longer. The fact that by then, Bashira’s feet were literally frozen solid, was a good excuse.
Bashira took off her lifebelt and her magicked fur coat, and wrapped them around a shocked-looking Second Class woman. Then Bashira moved back into the ship, as fast as her frozen feet would allow.
Bashira eventually reached the passageway that would take her to her First Class stateroom—a passageway that was supposed to be level. But now the passageway was tilted, and walking that passageway reminded Bashira of climbing up a sand dune.
Once Bashira reached her stateroom, she went inside and shut the door. Just then, all the electric lights in the stateroom went out, as the ship groaned.
Bashira’s fear spiked then, making her decision even easier. FOOM—Bashira teleported to Cairo.
Once Bashira was in Cairo, she spent the next sixteen minutes standing outside in Cairo’s early-morning sun, thawing her frozen feet. Bashira then stood in the same spot for another twenty-one minutes, because she craved the sun’s warmth. Bashira was still shaking then, but not from cold.
One month later
The sinking of the Titanic had become international news, and many little acts of heroism by ordinary humans had been reported in newspapers.
Bashira, even restricted by Chief Ashnadim’s rule of “Help humans in only subtle ways,” had realized by mid-May of 1912 that she could have given the endangered humans a lot of help on the night of the sinking. But during that night, all Bashira had thought about had been her own danger and her own rescue.
One month after the sinking, Bashira felt ashamed as a coward, and she was humbled that some humans had shown better character in the face of death than she had. Roger the brave Englishman was often in Bashira’s thoughts.
Brian the Hero
A stormy Friday night in September, 2017
Barrow, Texas (between Dallas and Fort Worth)
Off-duty Pizza King delivery-driver Brian Maslow saw lightning flash, somewhere ahead of his pickup truck.
Eighteen-year-old Brian could not tell exactly where the lightning flashed, because so much rain was hitting his windshield. Even with wipers moving at maximum speed, the view through his windshield was as distorted as if he were looking through shower-door glass.
BOOM! Brian heard thunder to match the just-flashed lightning. C’mon, I’m off work, give me a break, he thought. He had been surrounded by lightning and thunder (and blasting rain), tonight since 8:30. Needless to say, this had made delivering pizza fun. (Not.)
But at least, now he was off work, and the only driving he had to do now was to go home to his apartment. Brian could not wait to change out of his soaking-wet clothes!
Meanwhile, as a result of the blasting rain, Brian’s truck was moving only 10 mph. Fortunately, the storm had scared everyone else off the roads, so Brian did not (much) have to worry about rear-ending the vehicle ahead of him that he could not see.
The wind was shifting constantly. At the moment, it was blowing toward the back and slightly toward the left. Brian’s right-side truck window was getting blasted with rain, while he could actually see out his left-side window—
What was that? Flashing red?
At the moment, Brian was driving west on Richards Street. Richards Street passed over Bentsen Street, which ran north-south, because Bentsen dipped under Richards to make an underpass.
The only problem was, the Bentsen underpass liked to flood during times of heavy rain—like now. And the rain had been blasting for the past two hours.
Did I see a car flooded in the underpass? Brian thought. They might need help.
Brian pulled his truck over to the edge of the Richards overpass, put on his flashers, and shut off the engine. He tossed his keys on the front dash, grabbed his waterproof flashlight, and opened the driver’s-side door.
Brian had to push, to get that door open, because the wind was blowing so hard.
Flash! Pause. BOOM! This was not the time to be outside. Yet Brian would not think of driving another inch until he knew whether someone needed help.
As soon as Brian stepped out of his truck, wind-blown rain blasted his face, hands, and clothing. While Brian was being firehosed by Mother Nature, he walked over to the left-side railing of Richards Street, his waterproof flashlight in his hand. He looked down.
A car set in water that was deep enough to cover the flashing red taillights and part of the rolled-up side windows. Now that Brian was out of his truck, he heard screams from inside the car, and pounding on the car roof.
“HELP US! HE-E-L-P!”
Bright lightning flashed somewhere close; the answering thunder was instant and it was loud. Brian was frightened—
Fort Worth is to the west, Dallas is to the east, and Death is maybe directly above me.
—but he did not hesitate to run to the end of the Richards Street Bridge and try to rush down the grassy slope to where the floodwater was.
As Brian was working his way down the slope—slanted wet grass made it tricky for him to keep his footing—he heard shrieks. He looked over at the car.
Now the car’s lights were out, and the water around the windows was higher.
Right after Brian stepped into floodwater, another lightning/thunder combo happened to the north.
Brian waded out to the car. The windows were fogged up, so he could not see clearly inside; but someone was sitting in the driver’s seat.
Brian pounded on the roof of the car. “HELLO?”
A hand wiped enough of the fog away from the driver’s-side window that he could see a woman’s face. “We can’t open the doors!” she yelled back.
Brian tried pulling on her door. He couldn’t move it. Water pressure is pushing it closed.
The problem had an unpleasant solution: In order to open the doors, he had to equalize the pressure—which meant letting water inside the car.
Lightning flashed; thunder BOOMed.
“WHO’S IN THE CAR WITH YOU?” Brian yelled.
The driver answered, “I and my daughters are here. Yasmeen is eight years old—please help us!” Now Brian noticed that the woman spoke with a foreign accent.
Brian yelled back, “I’M GOING TO BREAK YOUR WINDOW. LEAN AWAY!”
Brian dunked his waterproof flashlight just under the surface of the water, the flashlight’s narrow side facing the window. He tried slamming the flashlight against the window, but the water would not let the flashlight move that fast.
Brian had to settle for holding the flashlight a few inches away from the window and using both arms’ strength to hurry the flashlight. Even so, it was not till the third hit, when he hit the door glass at an angle, that the glass broke.
The driver-lady shrieked when water poured into her lap. But then she said, “Please help Yasmeen!”
Lightning flashed nearby; thunder boomed loudly. Brian thought, If lightning hits this car or the water it’s sitting in, I’m fried.
Meanwhile, Brian had moved to the back door and tried to open it. At first, this door would not budge, either; but when the water level inside the car was almost as high as the water outside the car, Brian opened the door.
In the back seat were a teen girl and a girl of eight; both girls were black-haired. The little girl was standing crouched on the back seat, to keep her head above water.
Brian put his flashlight on the roof of the car, grabbed the little girl, then—as quickly as chest-high water would allow—Brian carried her toward the grassy slope.
“I’ve got you, Yasmeen. Don’t worry, you’re safe,” he told the child whom he was carrying.
Once Brian set Yasmeen down on the grassy slope, he then rushed—quote, unquote—through the floodwater back to the car. The car’s back door had shut itself , he discovered. By now the water level inside and outside the car were the same; still, it took effort for Brian to pull the driver’s door and the back-seat door open. The driver-woman and the teen girl hurried out of the car. The driver-woman, Brian noted in passing, was wearing a hijab; the teen girl was not.
Brian grabbed his flashlight off the roof of the car, then he waded back to the grassy slope where Yasmeen was. Yasmeen’s mother and Yasmeen’s teen sister each had a painfully strong grip on one of Brian’s arms.
Flash! BOOM! Brian wanted out of this water.
Once the mother and both daughters all were out of the floodwater, Brian offered to drive them to their house in his truck. It was only when the four people walked near Brian’s truck that he discovered that a TV-news crew from station WFAA had filmed most of his rescue.
The TV reporter informed Brian that not only was this area getting wind, rain, thunder, and lightning like crazy, but it was currently also under a tornado warning.
“Wonderful,” Brian replied.
A week later (Friday)
Bashira saw the whole rescue play out on YouTube.
She thought, This human, Brian Maslow, had many reasons to fear for his life. Yet he did the right thing. He is braver than I.
Bashira was also pleased that this Brian Maslow had rescued three immigrants from the United Arab Emirates. Bashira understood very well that many Americans hated anyone Moslem and/or Arab.
Bashira thought, Brian Maslow deserves a reward. But what reward is worthy of his unselfish bravery?
After more thought, Bashira the djinni clapped her hands. “I have the perfect reward for Brian Maslow. Or rather, ten perfect rewards.”
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