“Komenu.” I nodded to the djinn who walked over to the table where I was sitting. He took a chair and scooted it in, the wood scraping across the floor. It was early morning, and Cloud Nine had just closed for the day. Bear had left with Seabiscuit, as usual. I think the pooch was starting to favor him, and I wondered if maybe I shouldn’t entrust her care to my human co-manager permanently. My floor at The God Complex would never be bright enough to harbor the needs of an animal who required sunshine, grass, and someone who liked to throw balls.
“Morpheus,” the djinn greeted me after arranging himself comfortably. “I am prepared to be regent for Tiamelle when we find her.”
I raised an eyebrow. “I thought you were bound to this side of the world once freed from your lamp?”
“No.” He rolled his eyes. “It was simply the hope of Gray Leaf that I would never return. If simple spoken words could be a curse, then hers would have nailed my feet here. You see, I broke her heart, after abandoning her and our newborn child.” He paused and waited for me to understand.
“Tiamelle is your child?”
“Yes. A half-elf and half djinn progeny. I…admit to having many shortcomings, the least of which is having itchy feet. The need to wander, travel, see new things. Gray Leaf wanted to plant roots and nest in her family’s castle, as all elves do when they have children. When she found me, well, you know what happened.”
“She put you in a lamp for a thousand years because you, what? Just disappeared?”
“I was there the first decade. I tried. I wanted to do the right thing. Elf children just age so slowly. Ten years passed, and the halfling still looked like she was just learning to walk! Her communication skills were fantastic, but time seemed to pass so slowly. I grew restless and…mean.”
“Why did you put yourself in that position then?”
Komenu laughed. “Love, Morpheus. Lust, adoration, attraction. She was older than me and powerful with magic. I was smitten.” He shrugged a shoulder, one hand falling across the top of the table where we sat.
“Mmm,” I said meaningfully. “So then what?”
“I started dropping hints, talking about us visiting places far away, traveling as a family. She was not receptive. One day, I just finally left. She used magic to find me and then bottled me up when captured.” He chuckled as though spending the last thousand years stuck in a genie lamp was just a long hangover weekend that you joked about after surviving. “I’ve still got plenty of living left in me, Morpheus. Don’t go getting melancholy about it. Plus, I learned a lot of her magic stuck in that brass nightmare. She still talked to me. I could hear everything.”
“Well, it appears your daughter has inherited your wanderlust. She’s here somewhere, and we need to find her.”
“Well, she’s probably where all young djinn go when they come to the mortal world, Morpheus.”
I waited in silence while Komenu looked at me. “And where would that be?” I inquired, exasperated.
“Why, Disneyworld, of course.”
We did not take a plane there or pack a suitcase. We used our abilities to teleport, diaphanous, shifting through the narrow band of dimensions surrounding the planet. Don’t be surprised to learn that Morpheus, the God of Dreams, has vacationed at this tourist attraction. That is why we were able to travel there using the easy method. You have to know what you are teleporting into for it to work.
I learned that djinn have a way to scent their species, so we found Tiamelle in front of a ride full of smiling and screaming children, spinning around in teacups. She was licking a chocolate ice cream cone, her short, brown, curly hair blowing in the light breeze. “Hi Dad,” she said, after glancing over and seeing who had approached.
“Tiamelle,” he nodded. “I’m sorry about your mother. What happened to the family home?”
The young halfling sighed. “I burned it down. Mom passed. I was there. I had never seen an elf die before. They just kind of fold in on themselves and shrink, then turn to dust – or ash? It was weird. Will that happen to me?” She shivered. “Mr. Brightside, our human caretaker, just collapsed with her. I guess her magic was keeping him alive. I just freaked out. I don’t want to live there anymore. I know Mom wanted me to be this great leader and follow in her footsteps, but that’s not me. I think…I’m more djinn than elf.” She looked down at her ice cream cone, frowned, and tossed it into a nearby trash bin.
“You don’t have to go back if you don’t want to. Apparently, there isn’t anything to return to, even if you wanted to. I suppose I should be angry that my daughter is an arsonist, but after a thousand years in a tiny lamp, you have to choose your battles. Have you ridden Space Mountain yet?”
“That’s my girl.”
I looked at the two of them, bewildered. “Wait. You were in the lamp for a thousand years. And you,” I said, pointing at Tiamelle, “Are fifty years old. The numbers don’t add up.”
“Every year in the elflands is like twenty years in the human world. As a mortal plane-dwelling being, I automatically convert the years in human time.” Komenu looked at me in curiosity. “You didn’t know?”
“So, you really only ‘tried to make things work’ for, what, six months?” I scoffed.
“It was a long six months that literally was ten years. Time moves so damn slow there.”
“So, you were in the lamp for forty years in human time?” My head was starting to spin.
“It was a long—”
“I get the idea. Whatever. I’m starting to wonder why I bothered to give so much of my energy to a mission that wasn’t even necessary. I was missing a few pretty big pieces of information. I thought I could trust Gray Leaf. She did not indicate that she had any ties to you whatsoever. Now I feel like I’ve wasted my time. Although, I suppose I am happy to see the two of you reunited, even though I had no idea you were related at all.” I rolled my eyes. “What will you do now?”
“Our people are nomadic. We do a little of this and a little of that. Experience is what we crave. You need more employees at your club. We will work for you for a few months, and then, when we feel the pull to continue our journey, we will find a new experience. Is this acceptable, Tiamelle?”
“Well, how about asking me, the owner of the club, if it’s acceptable, eh?” I had every intention of saying yes, but I didn’t want to make it too easy on him and his assumptions.
“Of course, my apologies. If you will have us, we would love to help you run your club.”
“I guess it would be okay. There is a small apartment connected to it that can be used as living quarters. I’ve been using it as an office, but we can move that downstairs. The two of you can take care of the tables and grill when we’re able to re-open. I hope we will be able to resume business as soon as the COVID-19 quarantine ends.”
Komenu clapped his hands together. “Yes! I am an excellent cook. Tiamelle will serve the food.”
“That sounds fun. I’ve never done anything like that before.” The halfling smiled. It was curious to see how her royal bloodline mattered so little to her. She was just as happy working magic as an elven princess or working in customer service. The experience was what she wanted–to play with new opportunities.
I decided right then that I liked djinn. At least these two.
I watched as Bear clocked in and counted the money in the cash register, preparing for an opening hour that wouldn’t come until restrictions were lifted on social distancing due to the Coronavirus. “Hey,” I said, sliding on to a barstool.
“Hey,” he said, shutting the drawer. It dinged shut, and he sat down next to me.
“We have two new employees. Komenu and his daughter Tiamelle. Komenu will run the grill, and Tiamelle will serve the food. Are you okay behind the bar still?”
“Yep. I talked to Trish, and I think she wants to work here too. I told her to come in after she gives her two week’s notice, and then I’ll start training her. She can help run food and make drinks when we get busy.”
“That sounds great. If they all work out, we’ll finally have a real team here.” I smiled at Bear, and he returned the gesture. There was a pause, and I said, “About Komenu and Tiamelle. They are…different.”
“You mean not human?” he asked flatly.
“Yeah.” I ran my hand through my hair. “You okay with that?”
“Yep. What are they?”
“Spirits who can take physical shape and live a long time. Humans call them genies or djinn. Tiamelle is half djinn and half…elf.”
“Elves are real,” Bear mused. “I knew it.”
“So, what are you?”
“I am also a spirit being who took physical shape a very long time ago. Not a djinn. There isn’t really a good word for it.”
“God? The Dream God, Morpheus, from Greek mythology?”
“I don’t like to use that word. I guess, technically, I could be considered a type of deity. I can’t believe I’m talking about this with you. It’s a bad idea, Bear.”
“I won’t tell anyone. I’m glad you finally admitted it.”
“I know you won’t tell anyone, but the knowledge could be used to hurt you. Be careful. I’m glad you know.” We embraced in a quick, friendly hug and walked around Cloud Nine, taking care of little details before making our way back out into the world, moving down a path that led to a place none of us knew.