Faris abd al-Qasim lived in Rabat, Morocco. As a budding magician he entertained crowds in the streets. His magic was intoxicating. Yet they were only tricks. What Faris wanted more than anything was to learn real magic. He spent his days poring over books in the maktaba. Anything he could learn, he did. Safiy al Haddad, the great teacher observed him.
One day Safiy came upon Faris while he was reading about the mystic zohri, Jinn born as children who hold the key to finding lost treasures. “You seek treasure, boy?” asked the old man. Faris felt shocked and embarrassed. He closed the book and looked at the wizened man who stood in front of him. He wore a faded robe of amber, gathered at the waist with a leather belt. He was tall, almost tree like, with veiny arms, and gnarled hands. His brown skin the color of bark, and almost as dry. His white hair stood upright from his head. Faris really had no desire for treasure. He simply wanted to learn about anything and everything. “I,. . . no. I don’t.” Faris answered, the old man looked at him keenly for several moments, then nodded, “That is good,” he said. “Then you will be interested in this book”, said the old man, and handed him a faded volume in crimson red. Faris took the book, and thanked the man who was already walking away.
The book was a compilation of traditional wisdom and proverbs.
Little and lasting is better than much and passing. . . . Endurance pierces marble. . . . If you are a peg, endure the knocking, if you are a mallet; strike!
Faris read every word, and felt that this was the key to becoming a powerful sorcerer. He returned the next day. He received another book from the old man, which he devoured with equal relish. Days and weeks passed in this way. Sometimes Safiy would talk with Faris about the books, other times they would just sit on the pink steps of the library and study.
Faris challenged himself more, trying little bits of magic in his room. He kept his new powers to himself, never daring to share with the people of the village. One day he read about the Jinn’s of old times. He read that they had tremendous power to grant wishes. Faris wondered what he would wish for if he ever met a Jinn, but he could think of nothing that interested him. He closed his book, and prepared a simple demonstration for the market.
More weeks passed this way, and his confidence in himself increased. It was midweek and the crowded in the market, he stood next to the stall of his friend Abdul Wahhab, who sold melons, figs, and other fruits. Faris would preform real sorcery today. He was going to make a melon vanish, not by hiding it underneath the table, as he usually did, but by sending it somewhere else. He stood on an empty fruit basket, and shouted attention from the crowds. Everyone went silent, they had learned from his other performances that he was worth seeing. “What tricks today Faris?” someone called. He smiled, “A disappearing act, I will make this melon disappear.” Faris smiled and picked a melon from the cart, throwing a coin at his friend. “That is an old one Faris! We want to see something new!” Shouted the same man. Faris focused in his mind, concentrated on the melon. He rubbed his hands over the rubbery skin of the melon. He held it out in his palm, and said the words from the book. Yet nothing happened. He opened one eye and people began to snicker. He closed his eyes, and tried again, he concentrated harder on his task. Yet still the melon remained. The people were all laughing now, and the man from the back was heckling. He fled the pavilion. He ran through dark narrow alleys, and bright streets, by courtyards and homes until he reached the sea. He dropped to the sand, and watched the waves roll in and out.
He thought about many things sitting on the beach. The sun was setting in the sky, and Faris lay back in the soft cool sand. He watched the stars begin to appear, and wondered where to go next. He felt that he would never get any better as a sorcerer reading proverbs the day long. In fact he might not ever be a sorcerer. Who could he be without his dreams? Thoughts circled in his head, confusing him. He had another thought, he was a sorcerer, there was no other choice. There was nothing else for him. But, . . . He could never accumulate enough power on his own, he would need help. Safiy was helping in his way, but he needed more. He needed someone to give him power, Who could though?. . . . The Jinn, he had read of them! But what did the book say? He searched his memory, . . . Then it came to him. The verse went something like this
Jinn’s are not always the same, they come in types, righteous, or wicked and vain. . . . Searching high or low you search needlessly, to find a jinn stay close to the sea. . . .
Here he sat, next to the sea, but he was more lost than ever. What a terrible vague hint! The seashore was so vast, there was no way he could scour all of it in his whole lifetime, let alone in time to become a sorcerer. He decided to head home, Mama always helped him feel better. He walked slowly, hoping that he would stumble on a rock and find a lamp hidden underneath. Yet his walk home held no such blessing. His mother was angry at him for being home late, but understood once she heard about his experience at market.
The next day Faris was at the market buying some things for his mother for dinner, when he saw a beautiful new booth.The tablecloth was plum colored and lined with gold. on the table was an assortment of shells, pearls, jade, and other fine things. Faris looked closely at the table, and admired the items there. The man watched him closely, a tall bony figure with a prominent goatee that made his narrow chin seem longer, “Are you going to buy boy? If not then you can move along.” On his belt the man wore a large leather purse that bulged oddly. Something gold gleamed from one corner, but Faris could only guess what it was. He had to move on, as he had no money to spend on wasteful things like these.
Later that evening Faris was walking home with the latest book from Safiy. He saw the vendor from the bazaar walking to the docks. Faris saw something fall from his purse and ran to retrieve it, shouting to the man to stop. The man could not hear him. When Faris reached the spot. Amazed, he found a delicately curved golden lamp. He ran to the docks but had no idea which ship the man had gone into. He asked several people, but all brushed him off. Faris shrugged his shoulders and knew his mother would love such a handsome gift.
Faris put the lamp in his robe, as he dis so, it brushed against his chest. Suddenly engulfed in a foggy haze, Faris struggled to orient himself. There was a strange glow to the smoke, Faris reached out to touch it, but recoiled. It burned him like a bed of coals. The smoke swirled about him, and gathered slowly into a distorted form in front of him. There hovered a huge glorious jinn like those he had read about in his book. . . .
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