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  • Sarah E. Seeley

Excerpt: Peradventure

Post date: March 21, 2020



DELILAH STOOD ROOTED to the gritty mud floor of her hut with a mixture of awe and terror as a massive hand reached for her through the night’s darkness. That hand could have easily crushed her throat or broken her neck before she could think to scream. But she didn’t scream. And the giant, claw-like fingers merely stroked back the hair that had fallen into her face.


The goliath of a creature peered at her with glowing yellow orbs for eyes. His skin was surprisingly silky, dark blue like the night’s sky just after sunset. A glowing blue vapor curled off his skin in pale wisps and illuminated his features. He had bat-like ears, and a single lock of black hair, tied in place at the top of his head, fell snarled and loose over his shoulder. He was bare-chested, wearing a pair of loose muslin trousers that gathered at his ankles. The striped sash at his waist pinned the jawbone of some large animal to his side. He smelled like scorched sand, like fire and brimstone.


He smiled at Delilah. Though menacing to behold, the creature’s methods were beguiling. A part of her still wanted to flee for her life, but she found herself inexplicably transfixed.


“Do I frighten you?” the creature asked. His voice was deep and unearthly. It seemed he could have churned the underworld with a single rumbling breath. Yet it was as gentle and silky to her ear as his touch was to her cheek.


Delilah knew that voice. She couldn’t deny it belonged to the mysterious man from the south that had been pursuing her the past three days—the man she had been avoiding, yet unable to chase from her thoughts and dreams for the same three nights. In daylight, he had been a mere man. Just as massive. Just as ominous. But a man. Only a man.


“What are you?” she whispered, her voice trembling.


He took a step closer. “I am jinn,” he said. “By daylight, I take whatever form pleases me, be it a man or any other creature. By night, I take my demon form.”


“And your name?” She dreaded the answer he would give.


“Among my kin, I am known as Afzal. Among men, I am called Samson.”


“Samson!” His words confirmed her fear, and she stumbled back into the water pots against the wall. She kicked over one of the vessels by mistake, and it shattered on the floor.


“It seems my reputation precedes me.” He flicked his wrist, and the base of the broken pot righted itself. The clay shards flew back into place, leaving no seams or cracks, and the water slurped back inside over the lip of the vessel.


Delilah clutched her chest and shuffled away a little farther from the pot in astonishment. “Have you come to curse me?”


“Nonsense.”


“Why have you come, then?”


“For the same reason any other man comes to you from time to time. Though, I could not have come into your humble abode of my own want if you hadn’t invited me. The laws of magic forbid it.”


“What do you want with me, Samson the Jinni?” Delilah did everything in her power to avoid his fiery gaze, afraid he might seduce her to her doom if she let him stare into her soul too long.


The jinni paused. His bare feet were even more massive than his hands, yet they had a graceful toning instead of the flat, lumbering stock she might have expected for someone his size. Strong tendons stretched across his knuckles. His toenails were long, black, and pointed, like his fingernails. His callouses even seemed aesthetic in a way: not too thick or thin somehow, for a creature that clearly enjoyed journeying everywhere he went without shoes. “Delilah, isn’t it?”


“Who told you my real name?”


“There was no need.”


The woman’s face grew hot with shame.


He said, “I mean that I can look upon your heart and see for myself who you are and what your intentions are. I saw your true name there.”


She said nothing, continuing to stare at his feet, or the ground, when she could manage to look away.

“Tell me what you’ve heard about me?”


Delilah lifted her eyes ever so slightly. “I know that you revel in luring men to their ruin. You claim you will grant riches to any who should solve your riddles or win gambling bets with you. And whenever one or two are clever enough to outsmart you, you slaughter and plunder whole villages out of spite because you are bound by your magic to honor your pacts.”


The jinni plucked a few figs from a basket on the woman’s table, popped them into his mouth, and gave a masticating smack of his jaw. “This is true enough,” he said. “I do take pleasure in causing humans mischief, watching them crumble beneath their own vices. You humans have such base and petty appetites. Avarice. Malice. A sense of entitlement. You’re so easily corruptible, it’s hard to resist toying with the minds and hearts of your race.”


“For a creature who has no material needs, I find it ironic that a base and worthless creature like myself has so much power over your emotions as to make you lose your temper.”


“Among other things,” he added. The jinni’s figure shifted before her eyes, morphing into the form of a man with ebony skin. He had the body of a god. At last, Delilah looked up into the dark human eyes that had first captivated her before she knew they were merely a demon’s facade. The glowing vapors didn’t dissipate, pouring off him like sweat in the night’s heat. In the absence of daylight, that seemed to be the only thing Samson couldn’t mask about his true form. He crept closer, lingering over her as she pressed her back against the angular brick wall of the hut. He slipped one last fig into his mouth, chewing it slowly. “Do you like mischief, Delilah?”


Something bubbled up inside her that made her want to giggle. She remained silent, but couldn’t stifle the smile curling her lips. How did he know just what to say to entice her? She wouldn’t dare lie to a jinni, knowing he could read her intentions so keenly. A creature that could shift forms at will and fix water pots with a mere wave of his hand was not one to be trifled with. And she couldn’t deny that she did delight in the thought of mischief and malice and other things the jinni had mentioned, from time to time. At the moment, she knew she was indulging a little too much in his figure and his closeness. It was, indeed, human nature.


“If you want me to leave, I’ll leave,” he said. “I never force myself or my . . . mischief on anyone.” He stroked her cheek with a human hand this time. His skin was a little rougher, but the touch just as gentle and inviting. It sent a shiver through her spine.


Still smiling, she replied, “I don’t do business with jinn.”


“Why not?”


“I’ve also heard that you’ve seduced many women, some to their shame and ruin.”


Samson laughed and dropped his hand from her cheek. “You are right, Delilah. I have indeed broken the hearts of many human women. But I have shamed none of them, unless for some reason they think they should be ashamed of themselves.”


“How can you be so cruel? There are other jinn who choose to help us overcome our weaknesses. Why do you choose instead to vex and destroy as many of us as you can?”


“I don’t wish to destroy you,” said the jinni. “Any other human fool enough to make a bet with me doesn’t deserve to win my little games. They deserve to fall. My torment is reserved only for humans who are too weak and desperate and stupid to make the right decisions for themselves.”


“Clearly you must think I’m one of them.”


“Not so. You’re different.”


“How?”


“I’m in love with you.”


~*~

First publication © 2014 by Sarah E. Seeley

Standalone publication © 2018 by Sarah E. Seeley

All rights are reserved. Please share a link to this excerpt rather than copying. Thank you!


If you liked this excerpt and would like to read more more, you can purchase this story on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Peradventure-Sarah-Seeley-ebook/dp/B07C7JHB76

© 2023 by Sarah E. Seeley.

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