Jasmine could feel the heat of the room bearing down on her. The smoke was stifling, but the sensation of the opium pumping through her lungs was finally taking effect. Within minutes, the dimly-lit, smoky room began to blur like a maelstrom of color. The slightest glint of light from the fire pit seemed to burst like supernovae, forcing her eyes closed so that her mind would not fry from over-stimulation. Lying there across her father’s rug, she almost felt liberated from the staleness of her life. She felt naked and full of ecstasy.
She did not even notice the black shoes beside her face as she entwined her arms and legs around herself in her hedonistic dream-state.
“Jasmine,” a voice called to her from the ether. “Your father demands your presence. Jasmine!”
The voice cracked like pottery under strain as it grew in volume, the tone of the voice calling to her becoming more and more impatient.
“Mmm…” Jasmine moaned. “Can’t you see I’m busy?”
Without a word, rough hands suddenly pulled her body up from the floor and began carrying her through the dark, winding hallways of the mansion. Jasmine giggled to herself stupidly as the swirling colors of the passing lights danced and flitted like fireflies. Her body felt as light as a feather in the strong arms of her captor, and in her trance, she wondered who the man might be. Her sense of smell was perhaps her only unaffected sense, and she could dimly recognize the man’s odor as a mixture of sweat, horse, and blood.
It was Jafar.
Jasmine’s mind sobered considerably.
“Put me down, dog,” she said firmly. He voice wavered like that of a little girl’s.
Jafar ignored her until she was suddenly placed in front of an ornately carved wooden door. Along the frame of the door were minutely detailed symbols and Arabic characters. Her father’s office. Jasmine swallowed thickly as she smoothed down her robes and hair. She shot a look of deepest loathing at Jafar, who was now standing stoically beside her as if he had done nothing whatsoever. Slowly, Jasmine lifted her hand to the surface of the door, but just before she stuck it, a voice boomed from beyond, “Enter.”
Tenderly, Jasmine entered the room.
A wave of stale bodily fluid and blood washed over her as she stepped inside. Seated to the left was a man that Jasmine had never seen before. His arms and legs were tied securely behind the back of his chair, and a bloody strip of cloth had been stuffed brutally down his mouth. His left eye was swollen shut, but his right eye painfully glanced at Jasmine with what appeared to be a plea of mercy. The brutish voice of her father snapped Jasmine’s attention back to the elaborate desk placed just off-center from the back of the room. Standing beside his desk, Jasmine’s father stepped forward, his hardened features softening as he gazed upon his beloved and only daughter.
“Daughter, your days are spent far too often in the opium chamber, and not enough with potential suitors. Love is the greatest opiate, my dear.”
Jafar made a small, impatient noise, but Jasmine ignored it.
“I told you. None of them are worth my time,” she replied tersely.
Her eyes glanced back at the beaten man in the chair. “They’re all so predictable.”
If her father had noticed her obvious recognition of the man in the room, he did not acknowledge it.
“That simply will not do. I…may be forced to take matters into my own hands if you cannot find a suitor soon. I must have proper grandchildren, Jasmine. Someone to carry on the family business.” Her father paused, as if he anticipated an unpleasant reaction from some unspoken message. Jasmine waited with trepidation.
“If you cannot find a suitor within the month, I will be forced to wed you to Jafar.”
The words hit her like the blunt face of an axe head. Jafar stepped forward and bowed deeply.
“Your words honor me, Sultan.”
Jasmine interjected, her voice like furious thunder. “Are you f*****g kidding me? You are the most feared drug lord in Agrabah, father. Yet you would sell me off to your hitman? Like some f*****g w***e?”
Jasmine’s father roared with rage, the room instantly falling into silence. The beaten man quivered with fear as he watched.
“Do not marginalize Jafar’s commitment to this family! His loyalty has never been in question. You would wait until your fruit has withered to dust, and become the childless shaman woman that people fear to speak to! I will not have it! Get out of my office; I will hear no more of this.”
Furiously, Jasmine turned and stormed from the office. Her shoulder impacted heavily against Jafar’s muscled arm, and he smiled cruelly as he turned to watch her leave. When he turned back to the Sultan, Jafar shifted his eyes to the beaten man in the chair.
“What would you have me do with this one?”
Breathing heavily, the Sultan looked from the beaten man’s legs, up to his bruised and swollen face.
“The man thinks he can cheat my business. Let him see if he can cheat death. Put him in the tiger cage. Rajah has gone too long without meat.”
The unwavering strength of the city guards forced Aladdin down the darkened streets, splitting the night air with taunts and assurances of Aladdin’s imminent execution.
“I can’t wait to see your head roll, rodent. You butchered a very important man in these parts. Where do you think I got my fix?” one of them growled. The other guard laughed humorlessly.
“One of the better opium peddlers. Not quite the Sultan, but cheaper.” Aladdin had ceased his struggle as they dragged him limply down the streets. These brutes were simply too powerful. If there was one thing that the city guard was known for, it was mindless physical coercion.
“Have you laid eyes on the Bleeding Stairs, mongrel?” the left guard asked. Aladdin did not respond. The guard continued. “They say it is stained with the blood of criminals from a thousand years ago. It has never been cleaned. The number of heads that have tumbled down it would rival the population of the very city itself.” His voice almost cracked with pride, as if the man would start weeping on the spot from sheer admiration.
Suddenly, the right guard squealed. A high pitched chirp rose up from the shadows, and Aladdin felt the man’s grip loosen slightly. It was enough. The guard who had been talking suddenly dropped his guard as he cried out in surprise. Aladdin spun from the guard’s reach and looked up at the guards. Like a shadow from the wall, the silhouette of Abu was perched atop the right guard’s shoulders. In its hand, a dagger gleamed like a jewel in the moonlight. The blade flashed like a burning ember, and instantly, the wet sucking sounds of blood filled the air. The dying guard collapsed to his knees as he wrapped his hands around his throat, desperate for a single breath of air before the life fled his body. The opposite guard roared with anger as he flourished his scimitar and slashed at the monkey. Like a puff of smoke, the monkey vanished into the dark, and the guard’s blade instead struck his dead comrade’s head, cleaving it two just below the ear. The dead guard pitched forward onto the cobblestone street as his black blood filled the cracks and breaks of the dusty rock. The still living guard fell to his knees in anguish as he pulled the corpse to him, his mind temporarily overcome with madness at the butchering of his comrade’s body.
“Abu!” Aladdin cried out. It was too dark to see, but Aladdin heard the chirp of acknowledgment from his savior, and without another word, Aladdin turned and bolted into the darkness.
To be continued…