Name: Lori A. Goldstein
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy
Title: BECOMING JINN
A chisel, a hammer, a wrench. A sander, a drill, a power saw. A laser, a heat gun, a flaming torch. Nothing cuts through the bangle. Nothing I conjure even makes a scratch.
I had to try. But the silver bangle encircling my wrist can’t be removed. Shielded by magic, the bangle is what releases the powers coursing through my veins. It’s like being infected by a virus. And it’s going to kill me. I know it.
I slam my newly acquired accessory against my bedroom closet leaving a rounded indent on the wood door. The pristine, gleaming metal of the bangle mocks me. For the rest of my life, I’ll go where I’m told, perform on command, and do it all without question.
I race into my bathroom.
Click. Click. Click.
I turn on the faucet and watch with satisfaction as the red tips of the long, manicured nails that replaced my formerly short, round ones overnight swirl around the basin and disappear down the drain.
Snip. Snip. Snip.
A blanket of dark espresso hair surrounds my feet. I’ve sheared off the three inches that are new since yesterday and then some. The color, which morphed from mouse to mink while I slept, is an exact match for my mother’s. It can stay. The sheen helps the chin-length bob I’ve given myself look halfway decent.
Seriously, how was I supposed to explain the sudden change in length? I’m not the type of girl to get hair extensions. I don’t want people to think I’m the type of girl who would get hair extensions.
I splash water on my face and can feel the length of my eyelashes. Leaning over the vanity, I peer into the glass and widen my eyes. I used to be able to get away with calling them hazel, flecked with gold. They are now simply gold. Amber. The color is an exact match not only for the color of my mother’s eyes but for the color of all Jinn’s eyes. And I can’t have that.
Lucky for me, my learning curve with this conjuring thing has been fast. One crooked wrench, one inoperable lighter, and one unrecognizable reciprocating saw preceded the plethora of tools turning my bedroom into a hardware store. And in all fairness, the mangled saw is more because I have no idea what a reciprocating saw actually looks like.
Just as I did when conjuring each tool, I steady my breathing, tune my ears to the beat of my heart, which pumps my Jinn blood at a rate closer to that of hummingbirds than humans, and close my eyes. I picture a pair of transparent contacts tinted dark brown.
An icy tingle snakes through my body. I shiver. My body craves heat. In all the ways I take after my mother — in all the ways I take after all Jinn — an intolerance for cold is the one that bothers me the least.
I concentrate until a bead of sweat forms on my upper lip and the slimy lenses float in a sea of saline in the palm of my hand.
I’m not supposed to be enjoying this. I know what unleashing my powers means. But for this second, alone with this magically enhanced version of myself staring back at me, I allow myself to be impressed.
Though my Jinn ancestry means magic has always been inside me, the rules don’t allow me to begin drawing upon it until the day I turn sixteen. The day I receive my silver bangle. The day I officially become a genie. Today.
Or more accurately, last night. As I set the contacts down, the bangle clanks against the bathroom counter. It was smart of my mother to secure it in the middle of the night while I was asleep, unable to protest.
When I woke up this morning, she was sitting next to me, a tentative smile on her face.
“Happy Birthday, kiddo,” she said, lifting me off the mattress and wrapping her arms around my torso, which I had yet to notice had elongated during the night.
I sensed the bangle even before the cool of the metal against my skin confirmed its presence. When my eyes adjusted to the sunlit room, my heart found its way to my throat.
I knew this was coming. I grew up knowing this was coming. But still, a part of me believed something would stop it. Maybe my mother would finally realize I was serious. I’ve been begging her to find a way around me having to become a genie since I was old enough to understand what the word “destiny” meant. Maybe the Afrit, our ruling class, would decide my well-honed lack of enthusiasm was an insult to the long line of Jinn from which I descend. Maybe they’d take one look at me and realize for the first time in Jinn history, powers should skip a generation.
The thick shackle masquerading as a piece of jewelry clamped around my wrist meant, despite my contempt for all things Jinn, everyone still wanted me to become one. Everyone but me.
Nothing could be more oxymoronic than the “happy” before my mother’s “birthday.” I pressed my tongue against the roof of my mouth and swallowed the lump in my throat.
I leaned first my pillow and then myself against the headboard and clutched the oval pendant around my neck. Through it resembles a locket, there’s no hinge on the silver medallion allowing it to open. The cursive “A” engraved on the front stands for the first letter of the name I share with the necklace’s original owner, my grandmother, whom I’ve never met. Having no family save for one’s mother is a side effect of being Jinn.
Like a security blanket, the false locket has always calmed me. I was so young when my mother first hooked the chain around my neck that I don’t remember it. But I’ve worn it every day of my life since.
I let go of the pendant, which seemed lighter in my hand than usual, and studied the bangle. Anger, disappointment, nerves, and an unexpected dose of fear fought to become my alpha emotion. My mother was holding her breath, waiting for my response. As cathartic as I’m sure the outburst she was expecting would have been, it wouldn’t have changed anything.
I simply wiggled my wrist at her. “Thanks for the present,” I said, imbuing my tone with sarcasm so heavy I hoped it would cover any shakiness in my voice.
“Figured it’d be better if it was quick,” she said, “like a Band-Aid.”
The bangle is nothing like a Band-Aid. It’s the opposite. Fast, slow, doesn’t matter. It’s not something you take off. Ever. I couldn’t have stopped the bangle from ensnaring my wrist along with the rest of me any more than I could have stopped all the ways my body was altered while my mind was unable to resist. Whether I was conscious or unconscious, my life was going to change. I was turning sixteen, after all.
Unlike the human world, sixteen is the age when Jinn become adults and our indentured servitude to the Afrit begins. The bangles stimulate our bodies to reach full maturity, which as an inherently attractive species, tends to make us, well, hot. I don’t think it’s actually a quid pro quo thing (and if it is, we Jinn must be the most shallow of species), but then again, I’m purposely ignorant of the inner workings of the Afrit.