I should have listened to my friend. I shouldn’t have let that guy buy me a drink. What was his name again? Uriel?
Yep, Uriel was no good, I realized once I recognized the thick, leathery beast my tongue had become and the unrelenting pounding against my skull.
Oh, but he was so good-looking.
Yes, I remember now. Uriel, the guy at the hookah bar who beckoned me to join him from all the way across the seedy night club. His skin was brown and slightly rough like desert sand. Healthy, dark hair curled away from his head and complimented his five o’clock shadow.
Uriel’s facial features made me wonder if he had an accent. When I reached the bar, I found out that he did. A very soft, tempting accent.
Long story short, we shared stories over hookah and drinks – all of which were on him. I could still taste the remnants of the grenadine-flavored shisha that we smoked. But I don’t remember much beyond that. I couldn’t even recall what our conversation was about. All I know was that somehow I got really hammered.
No matter how drunk I got last night, I knew I was safe. My friend, Portia, always had my back. I knew that when I opened my eyes, I’d find myself tucked in bed in her apartment, surrounded by her cats.
One is probably sleeping on my head right now.
I made an attempt to get up, but this headache of mine would not let me move. So I kept my eyes closed and waited. The thing about hangovers is that most of the time they just want to be acknowledged. If you tried to ignore them, they would never go away. They would just hang around and make your day miserable.
That’s why I got comfortable and waited it out. Give the hangover its time. Make it feel special until it finally released its grip long enough for me to make myself a cup of coffee.
“Seriously? You just plan to keep sleeping? You’re not even going to make sure that you made it home safely?”
I opened my eyes to this alien voice. That was not Portia talking. And I was not in her apartment.
“What the hell?”
“What? Don’t you like your new home? I thought you would, given the amount you smoked last night.”
I was still looking around for the source of the voice. My hangover was screaming at me to sit down, but I was up, frantically looking for a way out of the glass bubble in which I was trapped.
With my small fists, I banged against the red glass. My pounding made quite a ruckus, causing the sound to reverberate and further aggravate my headache.
“Careful with my gold cuffs,” the voice warned.
I paused only long enough to look down at my wrists. They were donned with some kind of heavy jewelry. I stared harder. They were golden clamps that nearly reached my elbows.
I made an effort to remove them, but the disembodied voice just chuckled, “You aren’t ever going to get those off, Naya. They’re enchanted to keep djinn like you under control.”
“Where are you!” I screamed. I had had enough of this.
The voice clucked its tongue.
“Naya, have you forgotten what I sound like already? That’s a shame. Come to me now.”
Before I could protest, I felt my headache dissipate and replaced by an entirely new sensation. My body began to levitate on its own. A strong, almost painful force tugged me upward. I tried to fight it, but like everything else happening around me, I had no control over this.
The reverse gravity dragged my body upwards and away from the room of red glass. I gasped as I saw the opening above me narrow into a black chasm.
There’s no way my body will fit through that!
I shut my eyes and let another wave of disorientation take over. What happened next could be best described as my body transforming from a solid into a gas. Now I could properly fit inside the narrow shaft of darkness, but I had no idea where the hell my body had gone.
Darkness became light – or rather a dimly, candle lit glow – and my body materialized back. I watched in horror as thick smoke became my legs, arms, and torso. But that wasn’t the worst of it.
Standing across from me was the source of the haunting voice.