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The Blue Djinn of Babylon
by P.B. Kerr
Orchard Books, 2006
THE DJINN WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD
“I want to be a witch,” said Philippa. “With lots
“And I want to be a vampire,” said John. “With
real blood on my teeth.”
“Both of you know that’s out of the question,”
their mother said briskly.
“We have this argument every year,” sighed John. “I
don’t see what you’ve got against it, Mom. Halloween’s
just some harmless fun.”
John and Philippa Gaunt, who lived at number 7, East 77th Street,
in New York, were twins who like the same things as any other kids.
Things like trick or treat. But they also happen to be djinn, with
extraordinary powers to do things, like granting three wishes. Or
at least they did when the weather was warmer. Djinn, being made
of fire, don’t much like the cold, and young, inexperienced
djinn, like John and Philippa, are almost powerless in cooler climates.
This is why, more often, djinn are found in hot desert countries.
Now, while New York is very hot in summer, the winters are very
cold and, even by the end of October, it was starting to get a little
chilly. But this year Halloween was unreasonably warm and, partly
as a way of making it up to her children after forbidding them from
going out trick-or-treating with their friends, Mrs. Gaunt, who
was also a djinn, had a suggestion for them.
“Look here,” she said. “Why don’t we take
advantage of these temperatures and go into Central Park, where
you can both take on the shape on an animal-just to keep yourselves
in practice. After all, this might be the last occasion on which
you will able to use your powers before winter sets in.”
“But I don’t want to be an animal,” said Philippa.
“I want to be a witch. With lots of warts.”
“And I want to be Dracula,” persisted John. “With
blood on my teeth.”
“And I said no,” insisted Mrs. Gaunt. Now, many years
ago, not long after she met Mr. Gaunt, she herself had forsworn
the use of her own djinn powers, although for reasons that were
still a little unclear to the twins. John thought it might have
something to do with the fact that their father, Edward, was a human
being and nervous about having two children who had the power-at
least during the summer months-to turn into an animal. Perhaps for
this reason alone, Mrs. Gaunt had made an earlier agreement with
John and Philippa, that they should only use their djinn powers
after clearing it with her. Just in case they did something in haste
that they later might regret, for the power of a djinn, even a young
djinn, is very great. But she was also aware that young djinn need,
occasionally, to exercise their powers, if only for the sake of
their good health and general well-being.
But the twins were not yet persuaded that becoming an animal was
at all preferable to trick-or-treating.
“I don’t get it,” persisted John. “Why don’t
we celebrate Halloween?” You’ve never actually said
what you’ve got against it.”
“No,” chorused the twins.
Mrs. Gaunt shook her head. “Perhaps you’re right, at
that,” she admitted.
“So let’s hear it,” said John If he sounded skeptical
it was because he though his mother was taking Halloween too seriously.
“Well, it’s really very simple dear,” she said.
“Halloween makes light of a subject most humans know nothing
about, and it’s a very difficult for tribes of good djinn,
like ours. You see, may centuries ago, wicked tribes of djinn, such
as the Ghul, the Shitans, and the Ifrit, persuaded gullible humans
to use this particular time of year to worship them, in return for
not being harmed. People dressed in costumes that were once supposed
to represent those evil djinn they worshipped. And they laid out
treats of food and wine in order that they would not be tricked.
This is why our tribe, the Marid, have always refused to have anything
to do with it. Now do you understand? Really, I’m quite surprised
that you can take any of this so lightly after all you went through
this summer with Nimrod.”
The twins were silent for a moment as they considered Mrs. Gaunt’s
explanation. It had never occurred to them that their own djinnkind
might be the true origin of all that was wicked about Halloween.
And unlike most children, they knew only too well that an evil djinn
would bind and enslave a human, or another djinn, to its will. In
their first summer as djinn, they’d seen evil close up in
the shape of Akhenaten’s ghost and in the person of Iblis
the leader of the Ifrit, which was the wickedest tribe of djinn.
At first hand they had witnessed what real evil was capable of doing.
The Ifrit had actually murdered a man in Cairo called Hussein Hassaout.
Mrs. Gaunt was quite correct. There was real evil abroad in the
world, all right.
Philippa shrugged. “Now that you’ve explained it, it
makes lots of sense, I guess.”
“I’m glad you think so, dear,” said Mrs. Gaunt.
“Sure,” said John. “You’re just looking
out for us, right?
Mrs. Gaunt nodded. “I’m a mother,” she said. “That’s
Excerpted from The Blue Djinn of Babylon by P.B. Kerr.
Copyright © 2006 by P.B. Kerr. All rights reserved.
Excerpted by permission of the publisher. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced
or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.