A gold coin lay on a downtown sidewalk on a steamy summer afternoon. When the crosswalk light turned red, Mary stopped at the corner with her husband, Alan. She noticed a glint on the ground, spotted the coin and picked it up.
She had never seen anything like it. One side showed a handsome man with a charming smile, and the other an ornate palace with domed towers straight out of “Arabian Nights.”
“What’s that?” Alan asked.
“Nothing. Just a coin.”
Without warning, Alan took it from her hand. His eyes narrowed and his jaw tightened. “Djinn coin. Leave it,” he said and tossed the small gold disk back to the sidewalk.
Annoyed, Mary picked it up again. The smiling man on the coin seemed to wink at her, but that must have been a trick of the light.
Alan frowned. “You used to listen to me.”
And you used to be kind, Mary thought.
“What’s a Djinn coin?” she asked.
“You mean you don’t know? How — ” He shook his head. “Never mind. You make a wish and flip the coin. If it lands heads up, your wish will be fulfilled. If it lands tails…”
“You still get your wish but as the Djinn wants it, not you, and he can be malicious. I once heard about a man who wished for a Thanksgiving dinner, and when the coin landed tails, his wife turned into a roasted turkey.”
“What a load of bunk,” Mary said, laughing.
“Maybe. But it’s not worth the risk.” He held her wrist and pried open her fingers. “What would you change, anyway?”
The coin dropped from her palm to the sidewalk where it spun on its side and settled heads up. This time Mary was sure the smiling man winked.
The crosswalk light turned green, and Alan set off across the busy street. Mary rubbed her wrist where he had grabbed her, the skin already turning red. She scooped up the coin, tossed it into her purse and hurried to catch up.
Midnight. Crickets chirped, accompanied by the distant hum of traffic outside the bedroom window while Alan snored under the sheets beside Mary. She turned the coin over and over. The gold glowed ghostly silver in the darkness.
“One wish,” she whispered and clutched the coin. The metal felt ice cold. “I wish my husband would be kind, considerate and loving.”
The coin went from ice to fire. Mary flipped it into the air, where it sailed in a high arc and landed with a soft thump on the bed.
The Arabian palace was face up.
“Oh dear,” she said.
The sounds of crickets and snoring vanished.
She looked around. She was in a different bedroom now — large, windowless and round with a high domed ceiling. Light from oil lamps flickered across elaborate wall paintings of men and women in compromising positions. She blushed. The bed was round, too, piled high with pillows and surrounded by a flimsy, shimmering curtain that seemed to change color as it rustled.
“Hello,” said a masculine voice.
“Ah!” Mary said, startled.
A man lay beside her, smiling.
“Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
He took up the coin from the bed, held it to his lips and blew. The coin evaporated into a puff of golden smoke.
“You’re the Djinn,” Mary said.
“Yes. I am also your husband, and you are my wife.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Kind, considerate and loving, you said.” He leaned over the pillows to kiss her neck, and she shivered. He whispered in her ear, “Your wish is my command.”
Jennifer Campbell-Hicks is a writer, journalist, wife, mother and lifelong science-fiction fan who lives in Colorado. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Daily Science Fiction, Fireside Magazine, Abyss & Apex and other venues.