It had been many long millennia, but Terra the Extraordinary finally felt she was finished with her travels around the universe. She had sought out many habitable planets, traced the origins of a thousand vanished cultures, and stepped on lands she had once only seen from within the light of her own solar system. Vivid memories of starlit nights had compelled her to explore. Honor, family, and promises made to loves lost compelled her to return.

She traveled using a ship, although Djinns didn’t need any protections from the vacuum of space. Most Djinns simply cruised through galaxies like fireflies. The Alexandria was Terra’s preferred style. Her enormous flying library was made not only of books, which comprised a vast part of her collection, but also the remnants of the worlds she had explored. She had found artifacts like two-headed fertility figurines, spherical star maps, and even a selection of ancient, corroded weapons with intricate etchings. On display in its own protected room was the dented remains of the Voyager spacecraft. The golden disc that sought to introduce humanity to other worlds hung on the wall in memorial. Her most valued objects, however, were the two simple, scratched-up metal bangles around her wrist. They had been a burdened gift from long ago, and despite their bloodied history, Terra chose to bear them in equal parts pride and sorrow. She absently fiddled with them while the Alexandria came to a full stop, as her nerves needed to find something for her fingers to do.

At last, she had arrived in the Solar System once again. She emerged from her Alexandria to find hundreds of Djinns joyfully passing the time in the Final Era of the universe. Eight Djinns had enlarged themselves to titanic size to play a game of corner ball, passing Mars back and forth like a crumbling plaything. A tall, snakely Djinn named Majahti Of The Veil passed the ball of lifeless rock to a slightly shorter but more muscular Djinn, Lincoln Of The Emboldened Axe. The muscled Djinn gripped the planet with rash force, more intent on winning the day than keeping the yesterday. As he kicked the ball through Saturn’s icy rings, a mountain range chipped off. At first it fell with increasing speed. Then it slowed and drifted, breaking apart like a ball of mud hitting the surface of a great lake. One of the pieces spiraled beside the unseen Terra. She let out her hand and caught the mountain in her palm. It was so small to her eyes, yet it reminded her so much of home. She made a mental note to examine the mountain later and placed it in her pocket. After parking the Alexandria in a safe spot, she passed over the empty remains of Earth on her way to the outer rim of the Solar System.

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In this Final Era, the Djinns were the last living beings.

Once captive in objects no bigger than a few square inches, the Djinns had the ability to create or destroy anything they wanted. And so they had, over and over again, variation after variation, without the limitations they had endured upon their birth. For the first million years within the dawn of the Final Era, all the Djinns did was reform the universe to their liking. Palaces were erected in instants, rivers of gold flowed from galaxy to galaxy, and ripe fruit hung from trees with never-ending roots. Lysa the Focused shrunk beyond the smallest quarks and gluons to see what hid beneath. Ghaston the Vivid created an entire race of phantoms on an empty moon, let them live and thrive for a hundred thousand years, then wiped them out after growing tired of seeing lifeless husks dance to his whims. Ki of the Balanced Eye and Tena of the Lost Lake locked themselves into immortal combat, just to see who could last longer. Both were indestructible, and both knew that fact. They fought anyway, destroying hundreds of star systems in the process. Their vow to determine who was stronger would likely last until the universe compressed itself into a fine, infinitesimal ball of energy.

Eventually, most of the Djinns grew tired of their own antics. They settled into more quaint activities, like playing games with arbitrary rules and telling stories of the old days. The old days, of course, spanned their adventures with humans and their wishes. Each Djinn had been summoned many times throughout their confined lives, and tales of these summonings brought as much laughter, sadness, insights, and perspectives they could recall. After each story, the Djinns would take a moment to raise their glass to the home that was. The quiet that followed was enough for each man and woman to ponder their role in what would come next, as the humans must had before they disappeared. Humans had been lost, they presumed, in some attempt or another to survive. Despite all their investigations, the remaining Djinns were left with no answers. It was a brief, unsettling reminder that even with all of their infinite might, the universe was mightier.

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There was work to do. Terra wondered if this day would be the day she had prepared for, and reflected on her lost husband one last time as she approached the Kuiper belt. Just inside the outer rim of the Solar System sat the Circle of Tales. The Circle was comprised of Djinns who loved reciting the stories of their youth. They sat around a meteor fire much like man once used a campfire. The Djinn’s fire was far different in its makeup, though. instead of orange, blue, and white flame popping and crackling, ribbons of purple, green, and pink puffed out of burning planetoids that had been collected nearby. The rising ribbons blurred the space around it; whether the effect was natural or the doing of one of the Djinns enjoying it, Terra could not say.

Tora the Toughened tossed another rock into the fire as Terra came closer. At the same time, a popular and respected Djinn named Alek the Ambassador returned from a long walk with the thin and pale Eveleign. They made quite the odd couple. Alek resembled the jolly Saint Nicholas, wearing heavy robes of volcanic green, and the ghostly Eveleign was thin and wispy like a shadow, wearing two layers of light, airy blue fabrics a blind man could see through. The two must have been discussing an interesting nook of Eveleign’s tale for some number of hours, because the rest of the Circle was fully engaged in yet another tall tale of drunken whims. Alek and Eveleign’s discussion was an innocent one, Terra was sure, but the image of both of them returning from the seclusion of a private moon was too good an opportunity to pass up.

“Off creating lands and peoples, Ambassador?” Terra said with a sly tone.
The men and women around the streaming meteors roared with short laughter, three of whom raised glasses in a toast or agreement. It was a great joke among the Djinns that only when humans had vanished could some of their more primitive creation stories come true. The joke was an old one, but Terra’s timing was precise.
“No, no, none of that, I’m afraid,” Alek chuckled. “It is good to see you, Extraordinary One. Come, please, sit.”
“Yes, sister. I haven’t seen you in ages. Sit and be merry with us,” Tora said with an inebriated wink.
“Thank you,” Terra said back. She sat.
“Your timing is impeccable,” Tora said without one slur. “We’d just finished listening to Reynard’s stories of conquest. Too bad for him he wasn’t done telling!”
This brought out more roaring laughter. Reynard laughed too, but not as gloriously.
“I was done, I assure you,” Reynard said, straightening his voice.
This response caused Tora to fall on her back with more laughter. Terra had once described her sister to Alek as the type of woman who would laugh the same way at a witty play on words as she would coming across a dead horse along the road. Tora’s sense of humor knew no boundaries of taste. It was an admirable thing, Terra sometimes thought.

Alek and Eveleign sat next to one another, across from Tora. Terra sat cross-legged where she was, just outside the circle. Two travelers joined as well, seating themselves beside Terra. They weren’t recognizable to most of the group, and introduced themselves as Alabaster of the Rage and Demeter the Hunted. They dressed young, and Alek asked them of their experiences. They explained their experiences were lacking; they had become Djinns right before humanity vanished and had never been summoned prior to their release into the Final Era. Alek gently pressed further, but they had no stories to give. They bore a resemblance to each other few Djinns could claim, and it was clear by their common eyes that they were brother and sister. It made Terra think about how fortunate she was to have her own sister alive and laughing after so many years of heartbreak and blood.

“Now, who would be next?” Alek announced with kind authority.
Four others besides Tora were blasted out of their minds, and probably would be for years to come. Their stories were less thought-provoking and more quick and dirty. Many of these tales were exaggerations, embarrassments, raunch-fests, or even cruelties. But they always brought voracious laughter. It was not a terrible thing to be eternally drunk. It was something to do.

Vela the Devout raised her glass of bottomless ale and nearly fell forward in excitement. She declared her next story to be “the one with the big spoon and the Pope.” Alek raised his palm in a hushing, dismissive gesture.

“How about you, Terra?” Eveleign said, taking a cue from Alek.. “We have rarely heard stories from your time in the human era.”
“Yes, yes! Of course! Sister dearest, tell us your stories!” Tora agreed.
The others nodded in agreement. A few murmured to each other loudly (the drunks weren’t as quiet as they thought they were). Terra looked to Alek. The two of them had spoken many times, and he was one of only three other Djinns that had a basic knowledge of her past summonings. Alek looked back to her, concerned. But he agreed with the others. He wanted to hear her tales, and told her so with just the right glint in his eye. Terra looked behind her briefly and saw a comet. She grabbed it, observed its coolness and roughness, and looked to Alek once again. Terra then scooted closer to the fire, in clear view of all around.

“Very well,” Terra said. “I will tell the tale of how I got my name, Terra the Extraordinary.”
Tora grinned.
“At last!” she shouted. “Whoever said fortune favored the bold has never met my sister!”
A couple of drunks laughed, then stopped. Terra’s face was straight and narrow. She meant business. Tora caught this, finally.
“Please, carry on,” Tora said.
Terra refolded her legs into a more comfortable position and flicked the comet, no larger than a baseball, into the streaming mess of cosmic fire. A hint of blue mist rose up out of it.
“My story begins as many of our stories have, leaving the torturous void of containment and entering a time and place I could not expect.”

To be continued…

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***

The Djinn’s Tale is a novel by Gregory Trombley. Revised edition coming soon. Please like, share, and comment if you like what you read and want to see more. 

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