The blue one or the orange one. Such a small choice but Kelly couldn’t help but overthink the decision. She stood there behind the post office wondering if her choice in a sports car would ruin her life. And it didn’t help that he was getting impatient. That glare could melt a mountain. Kelly’s mind scattered once more as she glanced at him. Yellow eyes that pierced her soul. A beard with more swirls than any tattoo she had ever seen threatened to mesmerize her. Clothes that were so sharp they looked as if their edges could cut. He growled and Kelly jerked her face back to the cars. It was the only safe place to look. But they only reminded her of consequences.
Rakha really was getting impatient. A thousand times he had done this and he had never met anymore more uncertain of themself than this child. He expected endless questions that would lead to bargaining and begging. He was used to threats and violence that never amounted to anything. There were even those few rare souls who truly didn’t want anything from him. He hated those the most. Or he had until he met Kelly.
There were so many stories about jinn these days. Some ended up with families becoming royalty on miraculously discovered islands. While others somehow became enslaved in a country that hadn’t kept any in a millennium. But they all warned of how critical it was to make the right choices. Kelly couldn’t afford to make the wrong one. Three questions he would ask. Eight outcomes that would make or break her life. Kelly feared the tension alone would give her a heart attack.
It wasn’t really a difficult question. What kind of car did she prefer? Rakha just wanted to know what her tastes were. He had three chances to get to know her desires. Only three. But he had the experience and knew how to infer. Even watching someone decide said a lot about them. But what to think of Kelly who didn’t even seem to know her own mind? It didn’t matter how many years Rakha watched the human race. He would never understand them.
Kelly wished she knew more about cars. This one was sleek and subtle with small lights and curvy lines. The orange one was bright and jaggedy. It seemed to say “look at me”! Is that what the jinn would get out of this? Was Kelly a quiet person or a loud one? It seemed too simple. People weren’t one thing or the other. They were a mix. And how would it affect the gift? Would he banish Kelly to a library forever if he thought her an introvert? Or would he give her a video crew to tape every second of her life for the whole world to see? Neither option seemed like a good one. But asking for nothing brought the anger of the jinn. Those stories were the worst of all. Kelly shivered and hugged herself. Afraid to make any move. If only the jinn had chosen someone else.
Rakha was tempted to just leave, but that would violate protocol. It had been hours and the girl just stood there. Refusing to chose. Refusing to talk to him. Refusing to claim a gift. It was infuriating. What was so hard about choosing a gift? Sure, some people may regret their decisions later in life, but humans were fickle anyway. She might as well enjoy it while she could. Rakha longed for the day he would be free of this obligation. Only four hundred more to go. So close, yet so far. Rakha longed for the days when people chose their own gifts. They always claimed they knew what they wanted. It was quick and easy. But it turned out humans didn’t know what they wanted. Disasters happened. After the Calamity the rules were changed. The jinn got to choose the gifts now. But they could only ask three questions about preferences. Many complained about only getting one gift. But if it was a perfect gift, who would mind?
Kelly had decided this was the worst possible situation of her life. Too many questions swiveled in her head. And they only led to more. Kelly’s breath was ragged and her eyes ran from one car to the next. She couldn’t do it. Kelly turned to the jinn. He stood there leaning against the wall dozing. All this drama and he was sleeping! At least he had given up that snarl. His easy stance calmed Kelly a bit and she was able to say, “can you choose for me”? Whatever was to come. She would at least be able to say she didn’t choose her fate.
Rakha looked at Kelly, his eyes wide. He stood there for a long moment. The point of the questions was to help the jinn be able to choose a better gift. If she wouldn’t even answer them how was he supposed to know what the girl wanted? He didn’t know humans that well. Rakha opened his mouth to try and explain this or perhaps to yell at her in aggravation but paused. She had given him an answer. Was it really worth it to argue with a simpleton?
Kelly was sure he was considering which horror would be the best way to torture her. She was ready for it. Kelly’s feet were braced, her fists clenched, and her heart was at peace. Finally, the jinn reached out a hand and held it out holding something. Kelly pushed a hand under his and couldn’t help but close her eyes. Something fell into it, cold and hard. She opened her eyes to find the jinn gone. Looking down, Kelly found something she did not expect. There was the head of a daisy sitting in her hand. It looked the same as the weeds growing at the edge of the parking lot except it was hard, like a stone. She had been looking at the weeds when the jinn had assaulted her. Kelly looked around, waiting for an explanation, but she was alone. Kelly admired the daisy and decided it was the perfect choice.
Photo by Aaron Burden