American Djinn

American Djinn” (short story) published in Overland (Issue 210, Autumn 2013).

“Day 1: Aljazhab.

“The oldest city in the world seems a likely place to find ghosts. The cab plunges into a hot, dusty turmoil of traffic, crowds and distorted calls to midday prayer. After the sensory deficit of the five-hour flight (barely diminished by Raangela and flirting with the Swedish air hostess) the city wakens me with a slap in the face. The smells stream inside: rose tobacco, rank sewage, spicy charred lamb from the street stands. The light has a peculiar quality in this part of the world; it crystallises in the torpid mist of exhaust vapours and sand, making the world at once dream-like and more real.

“The outskirts of Aljazhab conserve that drabness that would have been called modern in the late 1970s, but the beauty of the city is gradually unveiled as we enter. The town is an incongruent palimpsest of materials and styles in which asphalt mixes with glazed mosaic, plaster with stone, stucco with plastic. The advertising signs appear to have been time-tunnelled from another era – and so, it seems, have I. It’s been twelve years since I was last here and the place remains as I remember it, or as I believe I remember it. There is an initial sense of displacement, as though I had just been dumped into an elaborate reconstruction of one of my memories. …”

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