Faris was an angry Ifrit . Anger was bad news in an Ifrit, who were Djinns, creatures of smokeless fire. An ancestor of Faris was said to have burped around the Mesozoic era, and accidentally wiped out the dinosaurs. The Almighty Yehwah was yet to fashion humans from the red dust of the earth, and when they did appear upon the planet, the Unbelievers among them, who knew not the Holy book, gave all the phenomenon’s credit to crashing rocks.
Not that the Ifrits cared what Kafirs thought. Kafirs were just good permissible meat, and you never thought what food thought. Not without ruining the taste.
No, what really interested them was Faris. Faris was a renowned Ifrit who lived in one of the majestic mountains, Burj-Faris he called it, in Sinai. His anger and its fallouts generated the interest of reality tv in lesser Ifrits, whose miserable lives otherwise revolved around milder human-based mischief, hiding cutlery, making fart sounds in haunted mansions, creating headless visions, anything to keep up the fear in the god-fearing.
Faris’s mate Zahara had descended from a clan renowned for beauty, and magical abilities shrouded in deep mystery. Of course, it could be nothing more than cooking and love-making, but who could tell.
But then, why had Faris imprisoned the lovely Zahara in the highest cave of the labyrinth that spread below the mountains?
There were many rumours. The most accepted spoke of Zahara as a blushing bride, only a few nights at Burj-Faris.
Faris had gone down the mountain to the prayer hall as was his practice, for some harmless gossip with six of his dearest cronies, generally about the degradation of moral fibre in the younger Ifrits.
Zahara meanwhile was busy exploring the Burj, and suddenly found herself at the lower end of the cave network, arriving at the main kitchen which had a fantastic glass wall that revealed to her the faint line of the new moon Nouriya. Beholding it, she was filled with a strange burning desire, and she turned to the head chef, and asked, “Are we stocked up on Yehudi hearts?”
The chef, a fine female from the slave community of Shedims, said with a hint of snobbery, quite acceptable in this cooking community, especially when accosted by the female of the house, “Yehudis have to be slaughtered fresh. We never keep stock. What do you have in mind, Madam?”
“I was thinking of making some Hurriyat fries to surprise my husband….”
The chef smiled more warmly, nodding in understanding. She too had been a young bride, and could relate to this desire of young love. She said, “If Sayyida wants, I can send a stripling to get the town’s finest…”
Zahara raised her ringed hands. “You know what? Let me do this myself…”
And before the poor chef could say anything, Zahara hobbled down the slopes down to the busy Sinai at peak-hour Friday. Her plan was to trot down the shop and ask the shopkeeper to give her the freshest, pull out the beating heart right out of the caged and screaming Jahudi. As she approached the town, she shrouded herself in dark mist, to prevent any unsuspecting male Ifrat from viewing her and being accidentally mesmerized by her flowing tentacles, and spontaneously combusting as a result.
But nothing could hide the exhilarating scent of Faris’s Ifirati. It spread across the town, all the way to the chieftain Jaffer. Zahara was first betrothed to Jaffer for a short period, and it was said that Jaffer still loved Zahara. But her family had found him unsuitable, and instead chose Faris.
Jaffer was at the Jami, and he was also the chieftain of the Ifrits. He approached Faris’s posse of six, with a waxing grin on his mustached face. Faris felt the the anger burn like molten lava from Jahannam in his chest. Relations between Faris and the chieftain were always frigid.
“My brother Faris,” Jaffer said, prickling the ears of everyone in the vicinity, “I hear your poor Ifirati is wandering lost in Sinai. I met the shopkeeper just now, a blubbering superstitious fool, I must say. He thinks judgement day is approaching, and some gab about Ifrits not knowing how to keep females in check…pay no heed to this nonsense, my brother–”
It took all of Faris’s might to stop himself from pouncing on Jaffer’s head and doing the Rodeo.
But he rushed back to his Burj. Zahara’s screams of mercy were said to have reached not just the lower town of Sinai, but far into the water-dwelling Marids, for he whipped her with molten iron rods and bound her delicate tail with silver chains.
A day later, somewhere in Europe, a stadium burnt to the ground, and with it, 1000s of Kafir humans.
Such violence did not go unnoticed. Ifrits may not privy to suspicion , because always, some human god-fearer rushed to claim the attacks as theirs. But Ifrits were upset on a global scale, shaking their heads across the planet at this large-scale destruction of good human meat. It was bad taste.
So Jaffer visited the Burj under the pretext of warning Faris of the international repercussions, but also to laugh at Faris.
Jaffer said, “You need to stop being so insecure, Faris. It’s just like back in school. Back then, you were scared of watching human slaughter. Now, you are scared of your beautiful female.”
An enraged Faris shouted, “Are you here to seduce my wife or something?” And called upon a flock of pet pigeons, who proceeded to poop all over Jaafer.
Cursing Faris from underneath the poop rain, Jaffer swore revenge.
From that day on, Faris refused to speak of Zahara, and pretended that all his offsprings were but gifts of Yahwah with no role whatever of an ifirati.
Three males he had, and then an odd girl child, and he made sure that all his children, even the girl, were kept away from the evil that was wrought from their mother. Whenever the milk dried at her teets, Zahara was banished back into the high stone caves, and the parenting handed over to the umpteen slaves that manned the Burj. The arrangement worked fine for Faris, except of course Faris’s explosive violent anger, which was the primary cause of a constant reshuffle and occasional death on the Burj payroll.
But a semblance of peace was restored.
Until Farish’s stomach started acting strange. He’d always been on the plumper side, but recently, it was noticed, that his stomach was getting bloated. For a long time, he assumed it was a pot belly, quite common in these parts, and began (as much as he hated it), some kind of exercise or the other. Then he tried to diet, and screamed at Zahara for feeding him food of the devils that was filling his belly this way. He started talking to doctors, and even visited one or two god-fearing human ones out of Sinai. But by the time he returned, his stomach had grown so humongous that it was almost like a separate entity.
Now, whenever Faris went to the Jami for his prayers, he had to get his son to push him on a wheelbarrow. And just as they were preparing to go home, his son pushed the wheelbarrow a trifle too much, and the stomach plopped on the floor.
There were many stories about what happened after that. The most cited was that the stomach had let out a little yowl, the sound of a hurt puppy, and twitched and twirled pathetically on the floor as if in pain, seemingly trying to escape from Faris’s girth.
It became the talk of the town instantly. Faris’s stomach was alive, one said! Save me, the stomach had screamed, and half the town swore to have heard it. Faris was pregnant, others declared.
Needless to say, when Faris heard it, he was angrier than before and ordered his son to cart him to the top of his Burj, stomach et al, for the sole purpose of whipping Zahara, who was surely the one responsible for the tale. Once again and with great difficulty, he wielded the molten chains of hell and beat her to bits….this time, losing his senses in the fog of anger.
When he came to, Zahara lay writhing on the floor, her body was bleeding density. Faris stared in horror as he watched her soul turn from smokeless fire into pure blue smoke. Her soul was extinguishing not from his ruthless beating, but from the torment of merely living with him. She was as desperate to escape as his stomach, and desperate to survive. Her essence pounced upon his belabouring stomach like a star-shaped fish. He screamed at it, and then watched as it clawed upwards disappearing into the wall.
“Jann!” He screamed, “You shape-shifting snake! You come back out here this minute and resume form!”
But Zahara only stonewalled him from the stone wall. She would have preferred to say she was disgusted by her male consort, but that would have landed her straight in the radar of Al-A’dham, the eternal evil, and soon she’d be painting her face and letting her tentacles loose and in general being an embarrassment to her family. In the walls, she was an embarrassment only for her husband. A prisoner, still, but in no way in the control of her captor, her male, idiot husband, Faris. As smoke, she was free.
When the news of Faris’s stomach travelled across the land and into the waters, it reached the ears of the water-dwelling Marids, whose souls were hungry for a prophet. Even though both Marids and Ifrits were Djinns made of smokeless fire by the same almighty Yahweh, the Marids and the Ifrits hated each other, and would in general kill at sight. While the Ifrits squabbled over who got Jaffer pregnant, the discussion among the Marids was entirely different. This was immaculate conception! Faris was going to give birth to a prophet! About time they had a djinn prophet, really.
When Jaffer heard of this Marid gossip, he gathered the Ifrits. The last thing he wanted was Faris associated with anything prophetic. “It is just like the Marids to declare any goat and camel as a prophet.” He declared in a post-Jumua gathering, “Brothers, the true matter to be concerned about is this: Is Faris male or female? Should we allow Faris into the male section of the Jami?”
Jaffer’s rhetoric was interrupted. “The Marids!” Someone screamed. The Marids had found a few knives, guns and DIY bombs to settle the matter in the oldest way around – attacking a crowded Jami.
In the meantime, there was a smaller prayer cove in the woods nearby. These were the Intofeels. The Intofeels survived because their philosophies were too ridiculous for massacre. Even now as the Marids battled the Ifrits, the Intofeel priest was contemplating aloud, “Brother Djinns, word arrives of the stomach of Faris. But remember, it is not a stomach at all. It is a creature in its own right. We must learn to treat with respect.” They formed schools of philosophy, made songs, and wondered if the stomach should be separated from Faris by medical means, and if Faris could issue a Talaq to the poor stomach, and in the scenario, whether the stomach’s opinion be considered.
Needless to say, the other two factions ignored the Intofeels. They found only each other appropriately superstitious and blasphemous, and best eradicated from the face of the planet. How dare you talk of another prophet, the Ifrits declared. The Marids on the other hand couldn’t stand the Ifrits, and shouted that they did not know how to control their females. The sermons at the Marid Jamis went as, “Ifrits cannot accept the truth about prophets. But soon, there will be a prophet from the stomach of Faris. This is the only way they will see the truth of a djinn prophet”
Faris decided that the biggest danger of all was not the Marids eradicating the Ifrits in violent bloodshed, but Jaffer trying to sleep with him.
Yes, Faris believed that Jafffer was coming to seduce him, if only to demonstrate to the world that Faris was a female, and then capture his unmanned Burj. And what was worse, when Jaffer would come to seduce him, Faris would not be able to resist him. He would sleep with Jaffer, not in the least because he admired Jaffer’s whiny tongue or oiled thighs. He hated the very sight of it. It was because he would be unable to stop himself. As male, he had been blessed with god-given self-control. But as an Ifarat he was lost. Yahweh had abandoned him, as had his Zahara.
If only he could atone for his sins. But then, he had no idea what his sins were.
Thus terrified, he hid in Zahara’s cold quarters, His orders and demands to the absent Zahara now turned into desperate pleas. “Yahweh, Zahara! Somebody lessen this scorn upon me. Soothe my pain. Help me.”
But nobody came to help. Except the Intofeels.
The Intofeels were known as crazy but mystic folk, and sometimes, generally by accident, they could be wise. They visited him one at a time as strange mystics do, and insisted on touching his stomach, teasing it and kneading it. All concurred that this stomach was indeed a sign of his feminity, the eternal Al-Yin. And they told the weeping Faris to stop fighting his inner Al-Yin, and stop this ridiculous search for original sin.
As a parting gift, the Intofeels whispered words of the Book in Faris’s ears, bringing a strange solace. Faris’s heart was filled with self-love. He accepted his state. He stopped going to the Jami, and began cooking his own meals. He would be a model female, he decided. And perhaps Yahweh would forgive him and grant him back his Al-Yang.
Meanwhile, Jaffer was rallying. He made the Ifrit priests declare that Faris’s marriage to Zahara null and void.
Zahara’s family sent someone to collect her things (Zahara herself remained missing).
Jaffer would marry Faris. It was the only way to save Faris from shame. Faris would be Jaffer’s third wife.
It was more than Faris could bear. And he decided that anything was better than this.
He ran to the Marid chieftans.
He told them of his predicament. They were more than willing to protect Faris’s immaculacy. In return, Faris only needed to give birth to a prophet. Faris agreed, not knowing how to give birth, let alone do anything prophetic. If only Zahara could help him in this female business, he thought, and convinced the Marids to protect him at the Burj as he requested Zahara’s help once again.
But a Maridi invasion was not to go unnoticed. The minute the Marids entered the Burj, the Ifrits materialized at the mountain foothold.
The Marid chieftain no. 1 screamed down at the Ifrits, “This is our prophet, you blasphemous camels! Faris is ours. Get Lost. ”
Jaffer waved his mighty sword at the Maridis, “Leave my wife and son alone!”
“I am not your wife!” screamed Faris, holding his belly, “And this is not your son!”
“You cannot live by yourself, my beloved” said Jaffer, “You must be married, or your child would be fatherless. Be my Miriam, and I shall be your Yusuf.”
Faris could feel his Al-Yin respond to the charms of Jaffer’s slimy words, “Oh the terror,” Faris wailed, and pulled a hijab over his head and stomach. “Will nobody save us! Will nobody save this prophet of mine!”
Marid chieftain no. 1 was sufficiently charged by this cry, and he charged down at Jaffer. Jaffer plunged the end of the sword into the man. The man screamed his dying words, “My god is great. But not yours!”
Marid chieftain no. 2 was fast approaching, with as much intention to die for his beliefs as the other fool. This time, Jaffer was swordless. So he shouted, “Fools. Will you kill your only chance of a Prophet?”
This had them squandering. The Marids were not really a smart lot. But to their credit, they could smell self-serving intellegence when it was flung upon their faces. The Marid chieftain no 2 asked with growling curiousity, “What nonsense do you speak?”
Jaffer trained his eyes upon the man, “How will you get a prophet? Have you considered? Do you know if Faris a male or a female?”
The Marid laughed and replied, “We don’t care. Why does it matter? We want a prophet.”
Jaffer said, “It matters my enemy brothers, it matters. Because if Faris is female, how can you trust a female? Also, are we creatures that would fight over a female and her worthless word? Who can tell if Faris is even pregnant?”
Marids looked collectively confused. And Faris knew he was hitting the right note, he closed in his arguments quickly, “I do not ask you to stop fighting us. We can remain deadly enemies that dreaming of pulling out each other’s gut and drinking the other’s blood. All I ask is pause it. Let Faris give birth to your precious prophet, as he claims. Let us wait out the full pregnancy term. I promise you, no harm will come to him during this cease fire.”
The Marids fell back at this logic. Faris screamed as he was relinquished to the Ifrits, and to the arms of Jaffer.
Guffawing, Jaffer’s first act was to drag Faris to the highest caves of Zahara, and establish himself as the new lord of Burj. With molten chains, he bound Faris’s mouth and whipped him into silent screams.
Before leaving, Jaffer said, “Remember, this is for Zahara. You killed her. i loved her.”
Abandoned in the caves, Faris wept, and for the first time, understood his sin, “Forgive me Zahara. I understand now. I should never have hurt you.”
This proclamation was enough. Out of the wall, Zahara appeared as a cloud of cooling mist. She was voiceless as smoke, but a single touch upon his feverish forehead was enough to soothe the pain of fire. Faris was melting in her arms. And this was how a baby girl was born.
News of the miracle birth reached Jaffer.
A girl?” Jaffer was guffawing. But he was also truly overjoyed, “Let see them make a prophet out of that!”
Faris didn’t mind having a girl. For the first time in his life, he felt something of love to another human. What he minded however, was his stomach, which still refused to go away.
“This is just pregnancy fat” said Zahara, who appeared again from the wall to pick up the girl and kiss her forehead, she said, “Isn’t my child beautiful?”
Faris wrinkled his forehead, “Your child?” He asked wonderingly, “Was it Zahara’s child all along?
Zahara said, “I think a child’s parents are the ones that love her, don’t you think?” Faris nodded, filled with a kind of shame.
Zahara linked his hands with Faris, “About that tummy, how about a walk, my love?”
“But, but…they will kill us!” said Faris.
Zahara wagged her finger, “Excuses don’t burn fat…”
They walked the town of Sinai, linking hands. Whispers were abound about the unnatural, the dangers of Al-Yin and Al-Yin, and something about scissors. But even if it was their last walk, they would walk, Zahara said, and when Faris was tired, Zahara helped him onto the wheelbarrow, pushing his weight home.
The shopkeeper of Sinai saw Faris, Zahara, and informed Jaffer at the Jami. Jaffer stomped towards Faris, and a terrified Zahara pushed the wheelbarrow too quickly, and Faris fell to the ground.
This time his stomach moved like a massive dough, stretched and dragged itself like a window-pane, and separated itself into a full cylindrical being, like a snake standing with its waving hood against the full length of Faris.
The shape of half moon appeared on its surface, like a child’s drawing of a snowman’s mouth. The mouth moved, and in the sound of a cawing heron came the words, “Talaq Talaq, Talaq.”
Intofeels discussed as always. Who was the Talaq for? For Jaffer? For Faris? If so, why now?
No one could tell.
But Faris screamed with joy, “I am free. No longer female! God has forgiven me. Saved me from from Al-Yin”
He kicked Jaffer to the floor, and ran home to kiss his sons and also his daughters. He wept tears of relief on Zahara’s shoulders, before dragging her and his daughters into the Burj lockup, safe from the world and themselves.
By Yahweh, he would never to beat Zahara or his daughters ever again.