Are you superstitious?

I think superstition means different things to different people. Do I believe in ghosts and specters hovering around and passing through people? No. But I’ve resigned myself to know factually that our world is not occupied by just humans. I personally only know of Djinn. There are a few more, I’m sure. More knowledgeable people than I will know, and even they won’t know everything.

I would have never believed it if it weren’t ingrained in me. My parents always told me to respect the land and its people even if I can’t see them. They told me I was never alone and that creatures variable to me in constitution were always lurking around.

Ever since my first brush with supernatural truths at eight, I’ve slowly filled my own personal library (the large drawer under my bed) with books that tackle the other world. I became engrossed in understanding more about them and my curiosity reached its peak when I decided to inquire directly to the source one day.

My best friend always assures me that I’ve lost track of all my mental faculties in trying to uncover the truth, but she never told me I was wrong. This is why two sixteen-year-olds were standing in a narrow alleyway in the warm spring breeze of a Friday night equipped with only the clothes on our backs, a heat-sensing radar and a small metal lunchbox that rattled with its contents with every move.

Tara was very opposed to the idea and almost didn’t come. Fortunately, I have the greatest best friend in the world who would have never left me to fend for myself. There she was, metal lunchbox in hand, standing only an inch behind me and breathing deep, meaningful breaths to steady herself as she patiently waited for my next move.

She’d informed me that she had the police on speed dial in case anything happened and somehow her rapt hyper-vigilance worked to steady my own nerves. I turned the heat sensor on and glided it carefully around to survey our location.

It was a cool April night and gentle gusts of mild winds danced around us. The town dawned a mirage of abandonment as its inhabitants slept the night away. This would be the perfect time to scan for heat signatures in a deserted region.

The sensor hummed quietly with importance as we watched carefully the attached screen, a dimly lit LCD reflecting our view in climate colors. Tara saw it first, her breath catching immediately.

An orange blog with a yellow outline inched onto the screen and made its way to the center. The sensor was pointed to the wall, so I assumed whatever it was was just beyond the corner.

Suddenly, Tara grasped my shoulder and tightened her fingers around me.

“Oh my God,” She breathed a whisper. “No way.”

A black cat had rounded the corner and stopped in the middle of the alleyway. I glanced down at the radar and up at the cat several times before grasping Tara’s hand and squeezing it back.

“There’s something else,” I whispered, as though the breeze wouldn’t carry my voice anyway. “It’s not just the cat.”

Tara swore under her breath, offering up no suggestions. Before my eyes, the orange blob on the screen began shifting subtly. It slimmed down marginally and gained height towards the top. I recognized this shape.

My eyes widened and I snapped my head upwards just in time to see a man appear behind the cat. He was a tall, hunched man with few, short, white hairs and a white beard. His skin was dark and he wore a green, long-sleeve shirt and a plaid pair of pyjama pants patterned with grey and blue colours.

The man placed his hands behind his back and fixed us with a stare that could only be construed as weary. His eyes were slightly narrowed and his face was hard as stone.

Moments passed and the man’s unyielding expression burrowed into us as the cat flicked her tail and watched the events of this riveting meet unfold. There was no doubt about it, this man was not human.

I decided to gather my courage and snap out of the state of chilled preservation that my body had adopted. Carefully, I reached back and pulled the lunchbox out of Tara’s grasp. She had a death grip on the box and I had to yank it out of her hand to dislodge it.

I had thought this box would be a life-saving, forward-thinking move, so when I opened it to reveal its contents, I felt myself grow bolder.

“We just wanted-”

Tara elbowed me, I suspect stronger than she meant to owing to her nerves, in my side and I took it back.

“I just wanted to talk. If that’s okay.” My breathing was much too slow to benefit me and I had to sniff some oxygen into my lungs before I continued. “I brought something that I read you might like.”

I opened the metal lunchbox, revealing chicken bones inside, took a measured three steps ahead and placed it on the ground before backed away quickly further than he had been standing originally. Tara replaced her death grip on my arm and we watched the man eye us consciously.

What if that book was wrong? What have I done?

Immediately, I stammered through my words to apologize to the man if I had misunderstood and that I just wanted to talk. I meant no disrespect and I hoped from the bottom of my heart and nervous system that he would understand that.

As I watched the man and regurgitated apologetic groveling, I could see the subtle changes in demeanor. Uncertainty took me over as I saw his stone face soften and his posture straightened.

He held up his hand as if to stop my barrage of unnecessary word vomit and, if my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me, he smiled warmly.

“What brings you here at this late hour?” He asked, his voice truly belonging to a kind old man.

“I-” Tara’s elbow nudged me again, and I almost cracked up into a fit of laughter or crying, not sure which. “We wanted to meet you. We had a few questions.”

“Oho, am I that special? What do I know that you don’t?” His voice was humble and welcoming and I was able to release my confined breath.

Steadying my nerves, I decided to go for it. “You’re a Djinn, right?”

The man nodded slowly, confirming my suspicions.

“Great, we’re human. My name is Dana and this is my best friend Tara. We wanted to know about the other world and everyone who lives there.” I paused expectantly, catching my breath again before losing control of my nervous faculties again momentarily. “Could you tell us?”

The old man straightened, his hunch clearly a thing of the past, tilted his head to the left and gazed upon the sky as if to read the answer upon the stars. The sky was clear and the moon shone brightly, coloring the four of us in luminous shades of optimistic austerity.

“Why do you ask?” He wondered, thoughtfully.

“I just-” I thought, for a moment before I continued, “I need to know what we live with everyday. I need to understand it. I need to see it in my mind’s eye.”

“So, you mean to understand the things you cannot see.” He confirmed, and I nodded. There was silence for several moments before the man looked back at me.

“Do you know what the best thing about humans is?” He smiled broadly and I shook my head in response. “They’re very smart. Some of the smartest creatures to exist in the world. Unfortunately, I think, you get hung up on the small stuff.”

Tara had regained her senses and finally gathered the courage to ask what the man meant before he continued.

“The world is full of things we don’t know. Undiscovered land, mysteries of the human brain and even the goings on of various different households that you don’t have the insight into.”

A chuckle emanated and the man dawned a kind look upon the two young girls who were out at midnight in an empty town, meeting a Djinn in the middle of an abandoned alleyway.

“The events that befall your life will happen whether you know these things or not. You are faced with personal challenges that you must navigate in the world before you are in a place where you could burden your mind with knowledge that will do nothing but preoccupy you.

The other world is one that is parallel to yours, that much I am sure you know. Though you are both smart girls and, I can see, quite capable of taking care of yourselves, you must not deviate from your paths.”

It took me a moment to digest his words and exchanged a look with Tara as a quiet consultation of what I was to ask next. She nodded, and I proceeded with caution, “I only want to know. I don’t really want to do anything with the information, I just feel like I need to know this. Please.”

“You are consumed by knowledge that was not made for you to learn yet,” He said, amused. “If you were to learn this information, your life would be no different than it is now. You would not see or feel differently and your life would be engulfed by a path that will lead you nowhere.

I will not inform you of the dwellings of the other world, but I will say that your path is one that you must focus upon. You are a smart, capable human and you have the talent of perception and solving problems. Your life will bring you happiness and safety, so do not allow yourself to trifle with worlds that will cause you misery and pain.”

The finality of the matter seemed resolved and Tara and I were assuaged by what we had heard. We thanked the man and made our way back to our homes. The black cat followed along, wagging its tail and keeping a look out.

I still think fondly of that night occasionally, twenty-two years later. My best friend Tara and I still talk every week. I tell her about my job as a police captain and she regales me with details of her married life. We both turned out quite happy, just as the old man predicted.

We often exchange remorse over having forgotten to press the man for his name, though we suspect he wouldn’t have told us anyway. We’re both happy and safe as the old man suggested we would be.

Even as police chief, in the middle of danger, I am able to keep a level head that steers me clear of danger every time. Still, every night as I close the door to my apartment after a long day of work, as I peer out of the window behind my sink while I cook or glance to the left through the window in my living room, I am comforted by the small, black cat flicking its tail and looking out to the streets. Still, she stands, wrapping my home in a safety blanket of black fur and forever-vigilant eyes.

The End.

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