One moment, they were there, in the confines of that little office in Murdstone & Co. The next, they were somewhere else entirely. Within the blink of an eye, the moonlit interior was exchanged for a starlit sky, the hard oak floorboards were exchanged for damp blades of glass, and the scream that got stuck in Captain Robertson’s throat was exchanged for vomit that generously slopped to the ground.
“It’s okay. Let it all out,” Mr Daim comforted his companion with a gentle slap to the back, “everybody vomits after their first place-jump.”
“Stay the hell away from me, you devil spawn!” roared Captain Robertson, stricken with fear. The force that sealed his lips was no more.
“You’re in shock, Captain. Take a few deep br—”
“NO! Stay back!” The pistol now had its eye on Mr Daim, “You were about to sell me out to that thing.”
“Don’t play dumb with me. I saw you speaking to that monster in the devil’s tongue.”
“First of all, that was Cymric. And, no, I was not about to sell you out. You’re my friend.”
Captain Robertson wasn’t going to fall for Mr Daim’s sentimentalism, “if I was really your friend, why didn’t you tell me you were a genie?”
Captain Robertson raised a sceptical eyebrow as if to say: Are you sure about that?
“I did tell you. At the tea house,” the more Mr Daim thought about it, the more confidence he lost in his own assertion, “at least I’m fairly certain I did,” until eventually, he lost it all, “Okay, maybe you’re right, I may have forgotten to mention it,” the Captain was pulling back the hammer of his revolver now, “but in my defence, it was fairly obvious from the start.”
“Really? How so?”
“I mean,” Mr Daim chuckled nervously, “my name is Mr Daim.”
Captain Robertson returned a blank stare. He wasn’t amused. Or maybe he just didn’t know.
“Um… Daim means immortal in Urdu. Jinn are… well we’re not immortal… but compared to your human lifespan, we may as well be.”
Mr Daim gifted his companion one of his award-winning smiles along with a thumbs up for good measure. Unfortunately, that was the very end of the Captain’s tether.
“I’ve had enough of your games, Mr Daim. Tell me the truth right now, or I swear to God, I’ll shoot you where you stand.”
“Very well,” the jinni had his hands up now, “what do you wish to know?”
“First, you can begin by telling me where we are and how we got here.”
“After you ruffled Jack’s feathers, I thought it prudent that I get you out of there before you ended up missing a face.”
Images of that poor sod lying in the soot-smothered East End crossed Captain Robertson’s mind yet again as bile crept up his oesophagus. Part of him was surprised he contained so much vomit, given the number of times he’d puked these past forty-eight hours.
“So, I transported us to this hill,” continued Mr Daim, “I believe it’s called Green Witch Park.”
“Greenwich,” corrected Captain Robertson, gulping down the creeping bile as he surveyed his surroundings. The observatory behind them confirmed that the jinni wasn’t lying.
Mr Daim nodded in recognition before eyeing the gun still levelled at his chest, “I see that my efforts in preserving your life do not warrant your trust.”
“You see correctly. Now, tell me, Mr Daim. Who are you?”
Long before the advent of humankind, the Earth was ruled by jinn, beings made of smokeless flame. Like their younger siblings, the jinn were a divided people, separated into many nations from the Titanian Empire to the Republic of Atlantis. However, none could surpass the might of Mount Qaf, the city of shining emerald, the conduit between the terrestrial and celestial.
It was here, at Mount Qaf, that a jinni, whose birth name has been long forgotten even to himself, was born. Unfortunately for the jinni, he came into existence during turbulent times. The Creator had conferred stewardship of the Earth to a new people: the Beni Adam. As you can imagine, this sent shockwaves across the world. If the Beni Adam were to rule, then what would become of the jinn?
Many jinn saw this as a new beginning and decided to live amongst their counterparts of flesh and blood. Others were fearful of the Beni Adam’s bestial nature and retreated into their own realm. Some jinn, those of the more disobedient kind, saw it as an opportunity and began to take on the Beni Adam as worshippers, building large monuments to false gods. However, the most pre-eminent amongst the jinn, one who had come closest to the Throne of the Creator, refused to accept the sovereignty of the Beni Adam and was subsequently cast out of Heaven. As revenge, he vowed to spend eternity tempting the Beni Adam to do evil.
And so, the jinni, born at Mount Qaf during turbulent times, watched humanity emerge from caves to build cities of magnificence. He watched humanity commit deeds of great malevolence with one hand and deeds of great benevolence with the other. He watched them build machines that could transport people over great distances and others that could transport messages even further. He watched them build weapons that could take a life with the single flick of a finger and others that could tear through entire battalions as they screamed in terror. Every day, he was inspirited by their ingenuity, their tenacity and their nobility. Every day, he was appalled by their cruelty, their brutality and their barbarity. Through better times and worse, he watched them grow from lighting their first spark of flame to generating their first spark of electricity.
As time marched on and millennia after millennia passed by, the jinni grew restless. For all the places he’d visited, all the loved ones he’d lost, all the poetry he’d read, he was still missing something crucial: purpose. It is in search for a purpose that the jinni began wandering aimlessly from one end of the Earth to the other. He was looking for a sign. Any sign that could point to a greater meaning to his existence. What was his place in the world?
One day, while passing through the labyrinth of a busy city, the jinni overheard the most beautiful of recitations. Day after day, he would return to that exact same spot to hear its message. It spoke of a gracious and merciful God who would reward those that did good deeds and exhibited the qualities of the righteous. It was then that the jinni finally found his purpose. From that day on, he vowed to break the shackles he had placed upon himself and dedicate the remainder of his life in service of his God.
In the proceeding years, as the empires of yesterday were replaced by those of tomorrow, the nations of the Beni Adam grew in strength while those of the jinn fell into decline. Without safe havens to offer protection, the jinn became victim to the greed of the Beni Adam. Thus, began the Great Upheaval. In the proceeding centuries, countless jinn were captured and enslaved by the Beni Adam within the confines of enchanted ornaments, forcing those that remained to go into hiding. In retaliation, some jinn began to torment their counterparts of flesh and blood, fuelling the fear that drove humanity’s enterprise.
Amidst the chaos, the jinni, as old as humankind, took on a new role. He would hunt down those that spread corruption in the world, whether they be amongst the jinn or Beni Adam. He would free the enslaved and relieve the tormented. He would take on many names. The most recent of which was Mr Daim. An arbiter between those of sounding clay and smokeless flame.
“… and that more or less sums up my life story.”
Captain Robertson was astonished by what he’d just heard. The being that stood before him was as old as humankind itself. There was no telling the wealth of knowledge the jinni had stored away. The things he’d witnessed. The people he’d met. The life he’d lived.
“Is that all?” asked Mr Daim, hoping his companion was satisfied enough to lower his weapon.
Captain Robertson shook his head, partly to answer the question, partly to joggle his blown mind. “No, tell me exactly what you discussed with Spring-Heeled Jack.”
“Okay,” Mr Daim took in a deep breath before barraging Captain Robertson with a complete transcript of what was said, “I introduced myself by saying, ‘pleasure to meet you. My name is Mr Daim, and you must be the infamous Spring-Heeled Jack everyone is talking about.’ He didn’t reply, so to break the ice, I said, ‘Depressing weather this week, wouldn’t you say?’ To which he responded, ‘Why are you here?’ If you ask me, I found that rather rude so to display my dissatisfaction I replied, ‘Sorry?’ To which he res—”
“Daim!” Captain Robertson halted the jinni’s word-for-word transcript, “I’m not in the mood for this tomfoolery. You know what I mean. Tell me what it is you said in Cymric.”
“Oh, I see,” but he didn’t see, “I said, ‘Daethpwyd â mi i’r wlad hon i’ch olrhain i lawr.’ Then Ja—”
“IN ENGLISH!” Captain Robertson was turning red with frustration, “Tell me what you discussed in Cymric, but in English.”
“Ohhhhhh,” Mr Daim finally understood what his companion was asking for, “why didn’t you just say so?”
Captain Robertson held back the urge to scream. The respect he had just accumulated for Mr Daim was quickly dwindling.
“I explained to Jack that I have only been in Albion for a week and that I was brought here to bring him to justice. However, it appears that things are not as straightforward as they seem,” Mr Daim’s mischievous demeanour was replaced by one of grave seriousness as he pondered how to break the news, “Jack claims that he was set up.”
“But that makes no sense. Didn’t you find evidence to prove Spring-Heeled Jack was at the scene of the crime?”
“Yes, I found his residual aura at the scene of the crime, but that’s not sufficient enough evidence to prove he committed the crime. Without witnesses, there’s no way to prove what happened. For all we know, Jack may have been acting in self-defence.”
“You’re seriously taking the side of the ghoul here?” Scoffed Captain Robertson, “that thing tried to eat me!”
“Only after you shot him. Besides, I’m not taking anyone’s side; I still need more information. If what he says is true, there may be greater forces at play here than I initially thought, which is why I agreed to an audience with our friend Jack a week from now.”
“You can’t be serious,” sighed Captain Robertson as he lowered his revolver.
“I most certainly am.”
To be continued…
This is part of a larger series called Midnights In London