Deus Ex Machina

Ezra Azra

© Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Unhappiness in the lives of sisters Melnin and Jinni was, almost, a daily expectancy. They were trying to make a good life in a foreign country. They were political refugees from a country overseas governed by a cruel tyrant.

Their present host country was the only country in the world that accepted, without conditions, from anywhere in the world, all political refugees, legal and illegal, who intended to return sooner or later to their home country.

When Melnin escaped illegally twenty years ago, the arrival of refugees from her home country was a weekly event involving numerous escapees at a time. In the last five-or-so years, that number had gradually decreased to only a few every more than a month-or-so as the tyranny overseas increased its efficiency in preventing escapes.

Melnin, from the beginning, was a volunteer among dozens who helped new arrivals. Because of the need for anonymity, every volunteer was known to only one official contact, and by phone only. The only help accepted was groceries and, or, new clothing purchased the same day. Delivery was always at a location and time chosen by the volunteer.

In the few years immediately prior to Jinni arriving unexpectedly, none of the escapees had arrived from anywhere near the town where Melnin had been born and had lived all her life.

Melnin's official contact had notified Melnin that an escapee, calling herself Jinni, had arrived who had mentioned Melnin's name as a possibility. Only the slightest possibility.

The shock at the news rendered Melnin utterly discombobulated for minutes on the phone. She had been allowed to call back in few minutes in order to calm and compose her feelings and thoughts. On the one hand, she knew she would need far, far more than minutes to be calm and composed. On the other hand, she was well aware that new arrivals, in general, and that one especially, needed to be helped within minutes, always.

She called back within minutes. When she heard the escapee had claimed to be her sister, Melnin had barely enough strength to end the call properly, before she fainted at her kitchen table.

She had brought Jinni to her third floor apartment. All the way in her small car from outside the refugee centre, she had failed to recognize any family resemblance in her and Jinni.

That had been about three years ago. She was at a time she had abandoned about ninety percent of her suspicion Jinni could have been another of the tyrant's secret agents, who had ever been active, maiming and killing escapees all over the world.

In those three years Melnin had gained confidence, firstly and mainly, in Jinni's spontaneous and instinctive sisterly living style.

Secondly, from some astounding family facts that had been unknown to Melnin.
They were twins. Fraternal twins. The suspicion in those days was that fraternal twins were a sign of a fatal curse on the babies and the parents. Within days the family's traditional Fortune Teller was consulted. Her readings of the cards, beads, and tea leaves all were in agreement.

Bad luck. Serious bad luck. If the twins were brought up together, there would be untimely death in the family. And, even if they were separated to live unknown to each other, their destinies would sooner or later have evil consequences on each other. Hence, the only practical recourse was to kill one of the babies; preferably the younger. Since both were female, the gods allowed that to be absolutely guaranteed safety against the curse, both babies be killed immediately.

The parents could not kill either. They decided to not name the second-born twin, and to sell it to wealthy strangers in another town. They never seen or heard of her again.

The parents gave their firstborn a name suggested by the Fortune Teller; a name that would give her extra protection against her doomed sibling. Jinni. "Jin" meant "spirit of fire"; "ni" meant "on."

If Jinni had never met Azra, casually and by accident, she would never have heard about her nameless twin. Jinni was enrolled in a law degree at the University in her town. Because of the tyrannical Government, Government spies, undercover and in the open, were everywhere.

In one of the many incidents of criminal violence on University grounds, Azra was one of forensic detectives participating in the investigation. He had to fingerprint some students, which included Jinni.

He found a family link between Jinni's fingerprints and that of a member of the family of a wealthy official close to the tyrant leader himself.

Azra immediately saw this as an opportunity to gain the favour of the tyrant himself. He, in violation of official proper procedures, disclosed to his superior officer, Jinni's family link to the tyrant's close official. The maneuver succeeded. Azra had been promoted. He was put in secret charge of uncovering Jinni's family link to the official's family.

He had to get close to Jinni. This was fairly easy since he had been given more-or-less unlimited access to official resources. At some step in his sleuthing, he sensed a danger to Jinni, not far from when he uncovered the fact that the adopted daughter of the tyrant's official had been Jinni's fraternal twin. He had paused in his investigation in order to surreptitiously learn from Jinni, the name of the adopted child. When he had to eventually conclude Jinni was unaware she had had a fraternal twin sister, Azra was in a dangerous dilemma.

To be loyal to his employer who was showering on him all kinds of powers, and privileges in order to facilitate his investigation, he would have to divulge that Jinni was completely ignorant. Azra knew too well that, under the tyrant, torture was the automatic recourse against professed ignorance.

It would be especially worse for Jinni, since the official did not know where his adopted daughter had fled.

Along with the teenager's name, Melnin, Azra learnt she had eloped with a rival family's son. The official had had that entire family murdered when they had refused to divulge the whereabouts of the eloped couple.

What that official and Azra and Jinni would never know was that Melnin's fiancée, knowing the danger they were in, had fled the country with Melnin. And that he had died under suspicious circumstances within days, before they could get married, as refugees. Melnin, ever believing he had been murdered by the tyrant's agents, dared never again to allow herself into a romantic relationship.

Azra had no romantic feelings for Jinni. He was nearly twice her age. In a way he did not understand, he cared for her safety. He knew her continued health, if not her life, was at serious risk if the official was informed there was a direct link between Jinni and his long-lost disgraced daughter who had brought shame to his name and his family, and had cost him dangerous loss-of-face, temporarily, in the eyes of the tyrant himself.

Quite easily, Azra persuaded Jinni that if she did not flee the country without her family knowing, both she and her family were in danger of being rounded up and killed by the Secret Police.

Jinni did not feel it an important sacrifice to flee in secret inasmuch as both her parents and all their generation in their family had died of natural causes years ago.

Azra had helped her flee. He whispered to her that it was not a sure thing that he would not be following her. Years had passed; he had not followed her; she had seldomly thought of him.

When Melnin received a phone call that a new arrival at the refugee center was a man mentioning Jinni's name, both of them went on red alert.

The only refugee in months. They were afraid. No name was given them. Jinni, inexplicably to herself, instinctively knew it had to be Azra. Melnin reasoned Jinni had no reason to believe it was Azra. Jinni was adamant.

The rules allowed them to not get involved in person at the refugee centre. Melnin pleaded. Most of the times refugees who met with fatal accidents, had neglected the rules. Every refugee was provided with only one phone number, and one official contact, and was advised that when they were accommodated outside the refugee centre, they were to never return to the centre in person. When these three rules were not followed, a refugee was at dangerous risk.

Melnin was extra insistent on the fact that Azra had informed Jenni that Jenni probably had a twin fraternal sister alive somewhere, and that if Azra located Jenni again, he most probably would use Jenni to continue his search for the sister. Even so, eventually, Jinni obliged a most reluctant Melnin to agree to Jinni's mere drive-by the centre, alone in Jinni's own car.

Jenni broke the agreement. She rationalized that since she had taken the precaution to park in a City parking garage, her violation of her word to her sister was quite pardonable. Anyway, Melnin would never know.

Jenni had not seen Azra in years. She might have had problems recognizing him. Inside the refugee centre, persons did not go out of their way to be easily recognizable. Azra had been good to her. He had risked his career and life to help her escape the tyranny. And he had neither asked for nor expected anything in return. A pure friend.

Surely, he had earned a right to be heard. Surely, she owed him even if the briefest of glimpses of each other, even in secret. Azra would not be hard to identify. He was middle-age. Neither Jinni nor Melnin had heard of a refugee older than about thirty.

She was dressed in a manner that would make her unrecognizable to someone who had last seen her years and years ago.

For one, her hairstyle and color were completely different. Two, she now wore a hat whenever she was out in public; never in her home country. And---, and, nowadays, she wore lipstick; Melnin still did not.

Jinni walked towards the refugee centre. The thought she could be seeing Azra in the next few minutes caused her heartbeat to accelerate; brought a smile of pure joy to her face.

She turned a corner and stepped in front of a screaming crowd running towards her. There was some sort of riot in full progress. She turned to run. A gas tank of sorts behind her, blew up. The flames incinerated into ashes in seconds every living thing within a radius of about five miles in the open. 

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