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I Am Oza

"Adrift Between The Seas"

By Nicholas SchweikertPublished 3 months ago 24 min read
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Created by Author with Free AI

It wasn't unusual for humans to come to my dunes. I saw them all the time, really. Mostly from a distance, sometimes a bit closer. Close or far mattered little; as much as I enjoyed looking at them, they never saw me. I know why most people couldn't see me; happy, contented souls rarely did have a need for me. I feared their kind very little, often drifting along with them for days as they made their way through the dunes that I called my home. By the end of their journey through the heat, I would perhaps know how old they were, who they were married too, what they held dear, and what they hated. They were a peaceful sort, you know. Easy to get along with. Easy to talk with.

Not that I did either of those things. As I mentioned before, I never allowed anyone to see me at all. This was important, because not everyone that came wandering through my dunes were as kind as those precious few. Some were terrible people indeed, and blessed as the only people that could actually lay eyes on me without my permission. They could see me, touch me, speak to me...and worse.

I may never know why it is them that can see me, and not the other way around. Perhaps the gods are cruel, and leapt at the chance of eternal entertainment in the form of my pitiful existence. Perhaps there is some larger purpose to my being, or reason to the madness of my alignment of which I am woefully unaware. Though, if I were to be woeful, it would surely be at my alignment itself, rather than the troubles that befall me due to it. Would that I had been a Djinn of dubious alignment, or even neutral. Evil Djinns were invisible to evil humans, visible only to those unfortunate souls of kindness that they tormented, their deeds wholly unnoticed by those of a more malicious persuasion. Neutral Djinns, in my opinion, were the luckiest of us all. So light, so fleeting of devotion and belief were they, that they remained invisible to select few down both sides of the alignment aisle, almost entirely immune to the tribulations of either of us more extreme beings.

But alas, neutral I was not, and therefore I took great care to watch my step, tailor my voice, and hide my glow, lest a human of rotten ilk be drawn to me for the power that I possess.

I leaned back and sighed. The grains of sand beneath me were hot and welcoming, and the rays of the sun bathed me in a golden, butter-like warmth that I had been longing for since night had fallen some dozen hours before.

Morning was my favorite time of day. Not many things could compare with the beauty of the freshly risen sun, flashing out across the expanse of the desert. Throw in a lonely tree, or a random oasis, and I was in paradise.

My quiet repose was interrupted by the sound of heavy panting, and the scrambling of footsteps.

I sat up straight and looked around. I saw nothing but my own shadow cast across the sea of sand. The scrambling grew louder and louder, and I leapt to my feet in alarm, just in time to spot a man sprinting up and over the dune I had been laying on moments before.

I stumbled out of the way just in time, and he careened past, tripping and tumbling to bottom of the hill in a pile of dust and grit. He lay there, sobbing, his shoulders heaving with each tortured gasp of breath. I stared at him silently for a moment, knowing right away that he couldn't see me. I could always feel evil coming off of a person, like a blanket of dread that blew in a wind, wrapping around me and enveloping me in fear.

This man did not have that aura, and in fact, seemed to be rather hurt. Not physically, but mentally.

I strode down the dune quietly, and stood over him, staring down at his worn clothes. He was a slave, perhaps. He wore little more than rags, and even those were torn down to a humiliating size. He was smudged with dirt and what looked like soot, his feet bare and chapped by the sun. His hair was long, and adorned with a fine ribbon, belying his true status. I knew the ribbon; one that was worn by travelers from the west, the country across the seas. I could see now that his rags were torn seafarers trousers, and a fine, long coat of a royal blue, reduced to little more than a patchwork vest.

I shook my head. Surely the man must have encountered bandits in the sands. One did have to be cautious in these parts. I would know. I once spent forty years enslaved to the same man who used me for unspeakable things, before finally passing on to the next life and once again freeing me to the desert.

The curse of a Djinn was great indeed.

"Wh-who's there?"

A chill ran down my spine, and I turned around. There was no one behind me. No one around us. We were alone.

"Show yourself!" the man demanded, sitting up and wiping sand out of his eyes. "If I'm to die, than kill me like a man! Don't skulk about with it!"

I took one more look around, then reluctantly cleared my throat. "Can you see me, then?"

The man frowned, looking directly at where my voice had come from, directly at me. "No." He shook his head and coughed, the sound dry, and cold. "I must be losing my mind. Cursed desert. The sand does not speak to you, Matthew." He was talking to himself now. "Get ahold of yourself. Your family needs you! Don't be a dunce."

"You're not imagining me," I said again. "I assure you, I am quite real."

The man froze, staring at my location warily. "Then show yourself."

"I'm sure I'm just as confused as you," I said kindly. "This is something a little different than how this usually goes."

"How what usually goes?" the man spat. "Who are you? What are you?"

"I am Oza," I said calmly. "I am a Great Djinn of the Dunes." My mind was spinning. I was bound to converse with and obey anyone that could see or hear me. If they detected me, of course. I had to follow the rules. Had I thought that this man could hear me, I would never have approached him. I tried to imagine any conceivable way in which an evil man could have appeared as kind.

"A Djinn, eh?" the man said, his voice tipped with an edge it didn't have before. It was hopeful, anxious almost. There was another side to it, as well; not curious, not inquisitive, but more like...

Desperate.

"Are Djinns not a fierce creature?"

I felt a darkness building in the man, something that wasn't there before, something that felt so much like the evil that radiated off of those that I avoided at all costs. "I gave you my name," I said quickly, steering the conversation in a different direction. "What is yours?"

The man sighed. "Matthew. Matthew Berg."

"How came you to the desert, Matthew?" I asked. I tried to think of a way to flee, to end the conversation before it went badly, before I ended up a slave again.

"My family and I were shipwrecked along the coast. The port town had a caravan heading across the desert and swore to protect us until we could reach the capital." He shook his head. "They staged the entire thing. Once we were out of the city limits, they turned on us. They took my wife and daughters, and tried to kill me. I barely got away with my life." He laughed bitterly. "There was nothing I could do. I ran in hopes that I could find help and return to save them."

I felt the darkness inside him surge like a hurricane, larger and greater than any evil I had ever felt before. Was he lying? Was he making this up? how had this much evil hidden itself inside of him?

"I see you now," he said suddenly, winking at me with a bleary red eye. "Pretty thing, aren't you?"

I swallowed. The evil was now surrounding me in its familiar way, nestling in around me and worming its into my mind.

I took a step back. "Thank you. This is simply how humans see me, as one of their own. My true form is that of the sands that blow across the desert."

The man stood up and looked me up and down. "Is that so? Well," he said, brushing a bit of dust from what was left of his coat, "that makes you even more interesting, if you ask me."

"Why did you all come here?" I asked. "Why did you bring your family to the Diamond Desert?"

He shrugged, his eyes tired. "We heard that trade was better over here. More movement to it, you know? Thought I could make a penny, set up my family for years. Unfortunately, all of my wares were lost when my ship went down. We thought that if we could make it to your capital, then I could perhaps find other ways to earn an income for my family."

I nodded. "I see. I'm terribly sorry for your loss. Do you intend to return for your family?"

He stared at me as if I were the very epitome of a fool. "Of course I intend to return for them. They are just an hour or so in the direction I came from. I simply needed help in saving them. I have reason to believe that those that took them trade in slaves. I recognized a brand on one of their arms as one that I have seen on slaves that were transported across the sea to my country." I felt the darkness surge again as the man took a step forward. "I hear that you Djinns are very powerful indeed. I would not need an army to take back my family if you fought by my side, would I?"

My heart sank. "No. You would not."

He nodded. "I hear that you are also required to do as one asks you. Is that also true?"

I nodded reluctantly, a clamp settling in around my heart. "That is correct."

To my great surprise, I felt the evil radiating off of the man ebb slightly, retracting back inside of him. It was not gone; it was still very much present. However, it no longer flooded every corner of my senses.

"I would like to ask you for your help," he said weakly. "Even if it is true that you would obey me, I would not wish slavery on anyone. I ask you, please, help me save my family. If you make me command you, I will have no choice; my daughter's lives have far more value than any moral compass I may possess. But I do not wish to harm you! I only need your aid..."

I blinked, staring at the man in disbelief. I suddenly understood why I wasn't able to detect evil in him before, and why it had appeared so suddenly. He was desperate, and willing to take evil measures to save his family, but he was not an evil man.

I was dumbfounded for a few solid moments. In my hundreds of years on earth, some in slavery, and some not, I had never experienced a situation quite this complex. I wanted to help him right away, but I knew better. The power of a Djinn was an enticing thing, not meant for mortal hands. Even the kindest of men would turn as black as night when drinking from the ocean of power that rested in our mere fingertips.

I shook my head. "I beg you not to make me do that," I said slowly. "I fear the effect my strength would have on you."

The darkness flooded me like a tidal wave, smothering my heart in a black flame.

"You leave me no choice then," the man said sadly. "I command you to serve me. Until I release you, you will follow every wish that comes out of my mouth, however small, and however great. Do you understand?"

I felt the chains of servitude lock around my soul in a binding coil, the curse of the Djinn taking full effect. There was nothing I could do. Nothing. As powerful as we were, the one thing no Djinn could battle was their master.

"Very well," I said quietly. I could think of nothing else to say, and so simply hung my head. I felt my form seize, now bound to my human shape, no longer able to dissolve into the sand I so loved.

"One hour due north is an encampment of bandits," the man said. "I want you to take us there, and when we arrive, I want you to kill every single person armed and holding a prisoner. Do you understand, Djinn?"

I nodded wearily. Raising my hand, I called on the heart of desert, and we were immediately moved to the aforementioned encampment. I saw his family directly, as did he. They were bound by the edge of camp, tied back to back by a small cart. All of the bandits lay dead already, sand pouring out of their eyes and mouths.

The man looked at them, and then glanced at me. "Quick work," he said simply. "Thank you."

"Do not thank me," I said bitterly. "I have taken a great many lives this day. You could simply have asked me to bring your family to you. It is within my power."

He blinked. "You do not understand why I asked you to do what you did?"

I glared at him. "I don't need to. There is no reason that justifies it."

The man stared at me for a moment, before hurrying off to untie his family. When they returned, he looked down at his feet in shame. "I would ask two more things, Djinn."

"My name is Oza," I snapped. "And look me in the face when you use me, not at the ground like a coward."

He looked back up at me. "Very well, Oza. I understand why you are angry with me, but I cannot help how this turned out. I gave you the option to help me, and you refused. But fret not, I do not hold it against you! I understand what position this must have put you in. That's why I shall ask for only two more things, and then I shall set you free."

I stared at him warily. I no longer sensed the evil pouring out of his soul. In fact, he seemed quite content. I wondered how he could still see me at all. Perhaps it was because I was bound to him.

"I wish that you would take me and my family back to the coast where we were shipwrecked. Furthermore, I would like for my ship to not be sunk, but restored to the surface with none of its goods damaged."

A moment later, these things were done. We stood staring out to sea, a beautiful ship at anchor in a glistening harbor. I could see the crew milling about onboard, a captain calling out orders against the rising sun.

Matthew faced me. "Thank you, Oza. I am a man of my word. You're free."

I felt the chains release my soul, and the darkness vanish entirely. I stood still, staring at the man in front of me. "You don't want riches?" I asked.

He shook his head.

"No armies? No palace?"

He shook his head. "No. I want only a second chance at the life I created for myself. You have given me that chance, and rid the world of some truly evil men in the process. For that, I am indebted to you. Thank you!"

I took a step back. "You can still see me."

He nodded. "I can. Is that a problem?"

I shook my head. "No. No, it isn't. Thank you, Matthew Berg. You are a kind man."

He nodded. "Bless you, Djinn. I hope that you remain forever free."

I raised my hand, and found myself standing back on my dunes. I lay down on them again, resuming my morning sunbathe, my mind alight with the flame of unanswered questions. How could Matthew see me? Why did he not ask for more? How was he so willing to release me when not a single other man had been? What was this rare person, and how had he just happened to shipwreck on my shore?

I shook my head, deciding that it would perhaps be better to just let go of it all, and forget that it had happened.

I had only been there for perhaps a minute, when a shadow fell across my face. "Well, well, lookie here!"

I opened my eyes and stared up into a grizzled, toothy face covered in prickly hair and green slime. It was almost unbearable to look at, and smelled even worse, snorting mere inches from the end of my nose.

"It's a real life Djinn, is it?" the voice said again. "Well, if I haven't been looking for you long enough!"

I finally realized that I was staring into the mouth of a camel, and rolled aside, rising to my feet. I faced the man on the back of the beast.

He was not much better-looking than his mount, adorned in rings and earrings and tattoos. His wide-brimmed hat sat low over his bearded face, shading a pair of glittering black eyes that made me think of a hunting hawk. He smiled, two gold teeth winking out at me from between their yellow and black cousins. "Well, you know the drill. I've no interest in draggin' this thing out! You're to serve me, boy, for as long as I say, and in whatever capacity I say. I'd ask if ye' understand, but this isn't my first voyage. I've been through these waters before."

I felt the chains lock instantly around me, binding me to this hideous, camel-riding armadillo of a man.

"First thing ye' can do is take us back to me ship," he sighed. "And no funny business; I'll only be tricked out of a Djinn once in my time. So, fer good measure, lets just do this; you, Djinn, are not allowed to speak to me so long as you're in me service, nor shall you communicate with anyone else you may encounter."

Horror settled in my heart as the next fifty years of my life flashed before my eyes. I would be locked to this man until the day he died, and that was if he didn't wish for another life. Which, naturally, I would be forced to give him.

"Well, what are ye' waitin' on, eh? Get a move on."

I raised my hand, and found myself standing on the deck of a giant ship. It was under sail, beating against fierce waves as it pursued another vessel in the distance.

Pirates. Of course.

"Perfect timing, I see," the man said from behind me. "Looks like me first mate has a line in the water already! Do us a wee favor and bring us alongside that there frigate ahead of us, eh?"

I glared at him, and raised my hand. Our ship was instantly alongside the fleeing frigate, and my heart dropped into my feet.

Matthew and his family huddled on the deck, staring across the gap between us in terror. The crew scurried frantically about the deck, fruitlessly trying to urge their vessel to sail faster.

I looked at the pirate captain, trying to show how distressed I was at the situation, how badly I would rather do anything else, anything else on earth...

"How 'bout ye' snap them wee fingers and just have all their valuables and cargo moved to our hold, eh?" he said. "And when you're done with that, just sink the ship. No need fer it, after all."

I had no choice. I raised my hand. Just as my fingers snapped, Matthews eyes locked with mine. A moment later, their ship broke to pieces and sank beneath the waves, nothing but planks and sails adrift on the surface.

"Aye, yer a fine one, laddie. Don't mind you at all!" the captain said. "Well, fine day this was! We've got our Djinn back, boys!"

The crew erupted in cheers and gunshots, my eyes watering from the acrid smoke that billowed out from their pistols and hung in the air.

I felt a hand on my shoulder, and the smell of camel breath and rum filled my nostrils. "The name's Ben," the captain said coldly. "Know it, and fear it. This is your life now, boyo."

And so it was.

A year passed, and hundreds of lives were taken, ships lost to the great blue sea. I did things I can barely stand to recall, things that will be burned into my mind now for all of eternity, or until the gods release me.

Another five years passed, more of the same kind. Captain Ben asked for more time, and I gave it to him. He would live forever now, of course, and I would serve him all of that time.

Another twenty-five years went my, then another thirty, the another fifty. The crew changed, the ship changed, even the seas changed, but in all that time, Captain Ben did not change in the slightest. He grew more bloodthirsty, butchering his targets, burning their ships, challenging them to duels he knew he couldn't lose with a Djinn on his side.

I was miserable. I knew now that I would never be free. Ben had been tricked by a Djinn before; he would never be so again.

I lay on the deck one fateful night, staring up at the stars. They were the same stars that glittered above my beloved desert back home, back across the sea. I wondered if I would ever see the sand again.

A loud whistle filled the air, followed by the crash of a cannonball striking the rail of the ship. Shards of wood splintered into the air, the clamor of voices rising from below the deck.

I leapt to my feet as dark figures crawled up over the rail of the ship, swords glinting in the moonlight. Their faces were covered, their movement quick and precise. Captain Ben's men came up from below, only to be cut down immediately, the dark men silent and ruthless.

"Hands on, hands on!" Ben's thunderous voice filled the air as his cabin door was thrown open. "Every man up! We're under attack, you worthless dogs!"

There was a brief second where I knew I was about to be told to vanquish the attackers. I raised my hand in preparation to do so, when a pistol shot rang out across the night.

Ben fell silent, his eyes wide. He stared down at his chest, where a small hole smoldered in the dim light. After a moment, he crashed to the deck, and I felt the chains around my soul vanish.

A hand grasped my arm. "I command you to do my bidding and no one else's for as long as I see fit," I quiet voice murmured in my ear.

The chains locked again, as quickly as they had released, and my hopes shattered.

"Take us to the Diamond Desert, far across the sea," the shadowy man said. "Quickly, waste no time."

I raised my hand and did so.

My heart soared at the sight of the rolling dunes, sprawling out before me in endless hills of yellow upon gold. I dug my toes into the ground, the feeling of solid earth like a tonic that soothed my aching soul.

I looked at the man beside me. He was masked, his face hidden behind a black cloth.

"Fiera, you are free to go as you see fit," he said suddenly.

I was surprised to see another Djinn appear beside the man. She was a neutral Djinn. I could tell this right away, as we Djinns often can.

She nodded, and vanished.

The man looked back at me. "What is your name?"

I cleared my throat. "I am Oza," I said, my voice cracking. After over one hundred years of silence, I was surprised that it still worked at all.

The man nodded. "I thought so." He removed his mask. His face was wrinkled and scabbed by the sun and the sea, his eyes sharp and calculating. "Do you know who I am?"

I stared at him, and shook my head. "I'm afraid you are unfamiliar to me. I'm sorry."

"Fret not, Djinn. I am not offended. My name is Matthew Berg."

My heart nearly stopped. It wasn't possible. Matthew Berg had to have died years before, the day I sunk his ship. Even if he had survived, he would have had to be over one hundred and fifty years old! He must have used a Djinn, done horrible things to her...

"I saw you when our ship sank," Matthew said. "I knew it was you. I knew that you had been bound again."

"I am so sorry," I blurted. I knew now that he had been hunting me. All his thought had been bent on taking vengeance on me for sinking his ship so soon after raising it from the depths.

"You need not apologize, old friend. I know how the rules work. I know that you had no choice." He sighed. "Regretfully, my wife and daughters perished in the wreckage." He shook his head when I opened my mouth to speak. "Time heals all wounds, Oza, as I'm sure you know. It was many years ago. Anyway, with nothing left to live for, I decided that I would repay you by finding you and setting you free. I went back into the desert and hunted a Djinn, as I knew there would be no other way of finding you." He paused. "I found one. An evil one. He did horrible things to me. One of these things was causing each and every one of my dreams to be a nightmare of the day my family died. For decades I suffered those nightmares, coupled with the fact that he cursed me with immortality, but not an ageless body. I am now one hundred and forty years old, and I cannot die. But not all was lost," he said quickly. "I'm a crafty fellow, and tricked him into teleporting himself into the heart of the desert." He winked. "Djinns being a manifestation of the desert's heart, he did, naturally, cease to exist." He sniffed proudly. "At any rate, I was then immortal, aging, and once again on the hunt for a Djinn. I found Fiera there a couple years back. She was a neutral Djinn. Sort of a bitter thing, if you ask me, but all the same, she taught me everything that there is to know about Djinns and servitude. Per my request, of course. Once I figured out how to free you and how Ben could be killed, she took us to your ship, and you know the rest."

I stared at him silently. I didn't know what to say. There were no words to express the gratitude I felt toward this strange, devoted human.

"Anyway, you are in my servitude, so naturally, I have a request."

I nodded. "Anything, Matthew. Ask for the sun, and I shall pull it from the sky." I meant it, too. Never had I felt more proud and content to be bound to a human.

He laughed. "No, I think that would be altogether undesirable. I would prefer if you just killed me, if you don't mind."

I blinked. "Pardon me?"

You heard me," Matthew said. "I have been cursed with this existence, and have used said curse to find you and set you free. You once helped me save my family, and I owed you a debt. I have now paid that debt, and wish to be set free, the same as you. Can you do that for me?"

I swallowed. "Yes. I can." I raised my hand, then hesitated.

"Why do you wait, Oza?"

"Why are you so kind?" I asked. "And yet evil enough to kill all of those bandits?"

He shrugged. "Evil isn't simple, Oza. I killed those bandits to protect other young girls from being dragged into slavery. I was thinking ahead. As far as being kind..." he sighed. "I have tried to be kind, because I wish for people to be kind to me. That is all. Try to have some faith in humans, Oza. Not all of them are Ben."

I nodded. I stared at this wrinkled old man for a moment, and then snapped my fingers.

He smiled. "Thank you, Djinn. May you be forever free."

He vanished in a puff of dust, his clothing falling to the ground in a pile of black.

I felt the chains fall away from my soul, free once again. I smiled, and laid back on the ground. I took a breath, and let my body drift apart. I became one with the dunes, riding a breeze along their sun-swept hills and valleys. Engulfed in the desert's parched silence, I was nothing but another grain of sand in the wind.

Short StoryFantasyFable
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About the Creator

Nicholas Schweikert

I'm currently searching for my head. I've been told it's somewhere in the clouds, But I'm not interested in coming that far down towards earth to find it.

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