Talib never thought much about it until he comes to live in the mansion. It is then that he realizes the differences between himself and the friends he left in Palestine. His mother told him that he was once sick with influenza sometime before his second birthday, but since then, he had not been sick. Not so much as a cough or a runny nose has troubled him. Talib has the uncanny ability to visually remember things. There are times when he walks inside someone’s home and remembers with perfect detail, what is in each corner of each room, the furniture placement, and the paint color on each wall. At a young age Talib falls from the roof of a friend’s house, landing flat on his back, but remarkably suffers no injuries. He has not so much as a scratch on his body from the fall. Valda, his mother, thinks it is a blessing from Allah. “He is all powerful,” she says and often reminds Talib of how grateful he should be for Allah’s protection.
Such reminders often humble Talib. Before meeting Kate and Fiona, following the cultural Islamic lifestyle is never difficult for him, especially since it is what everyone around him does. The rhetoric is part of his daily life and norms. He often eats meals in the front room, sitting on the floor, dishes surrounded on four sides by his brother, mom, and dad. They use their hands to eat because it is considered the blessed thing to do. By the time he is eight years old, Talib is an expert at taking handfuls of cooked rice, squeezing it into a perfect ball and placing it in his mouth without wasting a single grain. He has few memories of eating without the presence of one of the four family members. They often sit on a red-dyed cowhide rug. Valda uses the good dishes on Friday after the community prayer because Friday evenings are special to them and their worship. It is the day designated for family and oftentimes, Talib sacrifices that time away from his friends to talk with his parents or enjoy common entertainment. The dogma of his religion is embedded in him so deeply that he conforms without knowing. When he steps inside a room, he does so first with his right foot. When he enters the bathroom, he does so with his left foot. Talib removes the shoe from his left foot before the right. He uses his left hand to clean his lower parts and offers items to others with his right hand. Before each time Talib puts food in his mouth, he says, “Bismillah,” and he calls out “Asalamu Alekum,” whenever he enters his home from the outside.
Living with such a regimented lifestyle, Talib comes to see Hassan as a unique inspiration. He is drawn to Hassan’s magnetic personality and inspirational light. What Talib does not know is that this vibrant inspiration causes him to reconcile the strict fundamentalism that he is accustomed to in his daily life. Hassan becomes, to Talib and his friends, the epitome of a modern Muslim. Talib learns that Hassan is righteous in every way; he makes all five prayers, fasts and remains celibate. He studies the Quran and memorizes the surahs, but seems to have an advanced understanding and connection to their current lives. Talib appreciates the differences that Hassan has over the older stringent religious teachers. He enjoys Hassan’s stories about King Solomon and his power over the spirits by use of his magic ring. When Talib listens to those stories, something happens inside of him – something mysterious, empowering yet elusive awakening deep within him. He feels oddly connected to the spirits in the stories as if he knew them at some other place and time. He wants to know more about them and as time passes, he wants to literally interact with them.
When Talib comes to accept his connection to the spirits in ways he never imagine, everything becomes clear to him. The religious dogma that once restrained the part of him that was ancient and part of the spirit world, becomes suffocating; forever demanding his conformity. But this part of him has not originated in the physical and material world. It came to him as a gift called the gabamnoteh. It is the surviving fragment of an ancient conscious spirit that lives dormant inside of him. It is the working of that gabamnoteh that protects him from sickness, injury and a dozen bullets from an automatic rifle. It is that same energy living inside of Talib, sharing the consciousness that enables his photographic memory and as it shares his consciousness. Talib can see and experience the adventures of that spirit. These adventures come to his consciousness in the form of dreams – often frightening dreams; and as fate pulls him closer to Kate and Fiona, those dreams become more vivid. Little does he know, until it is too late to protest, that the gabamnoteh is answering a call from the universe. It is a call wrapped in the coverings of an esoteric spell. As such, Talib, with almost no choice is lead from the war torn Middle East and into a subtle, barely noticeable war of ancient spirits.