In The Twilight Hour

On Sunday night, after our beautiful moonlit swim and splendid tajine dinner, several of us crammed into one of the narrow, three-bed hotel rooms. What started out as casual conversation abruptly turned into talk of supernatural things when a few people returned from a walk around the hotel property. While admiring the stars from the roof, they had heard ominous braying from unseen donkeys and the screams of a goat being improperly slaughtered. Two of our guys had also discovered that exploring Chefchaouen at night is not sanctioned: one step outside the hotel gates await glowering guards with dogs, watching hawk-eyed for hasheesh dealers. Within the room, it felt as though we were surrounded by the restless livestock, with nothing protecting us aside from paper-thin walls and a shoddily latched wooden door.

Telling horror stories seemed like a logical reaction. One of the girls shared an unnerving experience she’d had with Native American fog spirits, which was made all the more frightening by her sincerity. Sinners reborn as dog-faced men who manifest as inexplicable fog and show up just as one’s car breaks down are cliche and improbable, right? Not when the person telling you about them is trembling, without a trace of laughter in her voice. From there, our token Muslim took over, sharing his knowledge of and experience with the black magic mentioned in Islam.

If you’ve had a normal American childhood, you know of genies. At the very least, you’ve heard of Aladdin. Djinn, however, are the purported real deal. As the story goes, djinn exist in the spirit world and are present without humans’ knowledge at any given time. Black magic involves mixing the two worlds, and is most often perpetrated  by a human who enslaves a djinn for selfish purposes (when this happens, the djinn manifests as a human or animal with backwards feet and disfigured facial features). Djinn cannot harm humans unless they’ve been brought into the human world in this fashion, in which case the end result is usually a very messy death for whoever conjured them. All the while, the guard dogs were getting louder, and all of a sudden, we heard something jingling outside the window.

Mobasshir: “…and when there are a lot of djinn present, animals in the vicinity start freaking out.”

Roomie: “Hey guys, does anyone smell pizza?”

Mobasshir: “Also, one person in the group usually smells something very strong, for just a moment.”

Roomie: “Oh, for God’s sa–”

BAM! Right at our most vulnerable moment, with everyone crowded into a shaking mass of limbs on one bed, something pounded on the door. The panic that ensued would have been hilarious to an outsider, especially since it was just one of our guys trying to get back into the room, but most everyone was too afraid to go back to their respective rooms after that. Besides, you never know when a donkey with backwards feet will be waiting…

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