The Corruption of Malik The Unsmiling
Imagine, if you will, a gas station in Hell. Run by a wisecracking djinn. This week’s story by Naseem Jamnia surpasses how good you may think that customer service experience could possibly be, into the infinite. ~ Julian and Fran, October 29, 2023
The Corruption of Malik the Unsmiling
by Naseem Jamnia
The funny thing about running a gas station in Hell is that there shouldn’t even be gas stations in Hell. One, because it’s Hell. Two, because jinn (like yours truly) are meant to reside on Mount Qaf (if we’re not shacking up in caves or trees or islands).
My little joint sits on the liminal between Jahannam Levels 2 and 3, which I only got ’cause Dasim botched the January 6 job. What do you expect when you send a jinn in charge of domestic discord to take on a country? Then Dasim went crying to Papa Iblis, Iblis found me, and I reached out to some old friends. In return, Iblis called up a favor with the guardian of Hell, who, as an angel, had to pass up the request to The Big Guy Up Top, who must have figured gainful employment was better than letting one more jinn run amok.
“Hellfire, Hossein,” says Qamar. He’s an Iraqi river jinn, hiding the fish tail most days but leaving the green beard on proud display. “Your coffee is the best in the Seven Levels.” It’s the only coffee in the Seven Levels, but I appreciate the sentiment. “Why don’t you quit with the gas and sell this?”
(Can we appreciate the irony of an Iranian jinn calling themself Hossein after the martyr? Sheer perfection, what can I say. My real name, like all jinn’s, is under wraps.)
“You think Mister M’s gonna let me open a café?” I scoff. “I was lucky to get a percolator. You know how mad the Lord of Fire is that my coffee is good? They expected burnt shit from that Moonbucks place like another level of punishment.”
I don’t mention that I’d wanted to open a café, a little place for my kind, away from home, to rest. Nothing fancy, and although Iblis had reminded me to source the coffee, cocoa, and sugar from child laborers, I’d promised Mister M I’d do the fair-trade shit so as not to anger The Big Guy Up Top. (I avoid the Aleph-word, lest it bring unwanted attention.)
But somebody didn’t want me to forget my place, so the gas station is what I got. I’m a Persian jinn, which means before I was slinging gas and selling overpriced snacks in the currency of “thanks for not scorching me,” I was causing mischief in Iranian and Iranian diaspora households. Arab jinn get to wreak real havoc, closer to the Iranian deev. Me, I’m just your run-of-the-mill trickster type misplacing your crap and accidentally stealing the key to free the jinn imprisoned by Suleiman himself. (Yeah, did I mention that’s why I’ve become the jinn to call when someone fucks up? My ass had the misfortune to find the key to Sakhr’s under-the-sea iron chest and the bigger misfortune to figure out how to open the damn thing without touching its iron.)
“No wonder they’re called the Unsmiling,” bemoans Qamar, who’s taken to spending his afternoons here planning elaborate pranks he never gets to do since people rarely ride horses to the Euphrates anymore. “It’s not our fault we had to move in before the Day of Judgment!”
“Well, it sorta is,” I say, meaning jinn in general. Mount Qaf got flooded ’cause Iblis and his crew were too good at tempting humans into destroying their planetary habitat. But instead of waving around Their godly hands and making Qaf livable again, The Big Guy Up Top decided this was a good lesson and opened the jaws of Jahannam for the foreseeable future. Plenty of jinn got the hell outta Dodge (pun intended) and slipped into the human world, and the rest trooped dutifully down. As for the other residents of Qaf—Gatshan-shah and his court are busy being pissed about their new fiery stomping grounds; the Pari, per their heavenly holiness, fucked off to Paristan; and don’t get me started on the damned Simorgh and her babies making a ruckus for having to relocate back to Mount Damavand.
“JINN OF THE UN-GASOLINE,” booms the voice no denizen of Hell wants to hear. “REFILL MY VEHICLE.”