22 Mar The Dead Man’s Mouth
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"The Dead Man's Mouth"Written by Adam Bolander
Estimated reading time — 3 minutes
Would you believe me if I told you that genies were real? They are, but they’re not like anything you’d expect them to be. The stories say that you have to rub a magic lamp to get them to come out, but that’s only half true. It doesn’t have to be a bottle. It can be anything. Do you want proof?
There’s a street at the edge of town where nobody lives. I forget the name, but you know which one I’m talking about. Go there. You will need a carton of milk and a candle.
Every one of the houses on that street are empty and falling apart. The one you’re looking for doesn’t appear any different from the others on the outside, but it’s what’s inside that makes it so special. Go inside, shut the door behind you, and go up the stairs. They look weak, but don’t worry. They won’t collapse on you. Once you come to the hallway at the top, go all the way down, and there will be a closed door on your right. Knock on it. No one will answer, but it’s rude to simply barge in.
Inside, there will be a man sitting in a chair facing the door. Don’t worry, this man is dead. He has been dead for a long, long time, but his skin is still attached to his body like he only died a week ago. You might notice that his stomach looks bloated. It’s supposed to be that way. No, of course he isn’t looking at you. He’s dead.
It’s always dark in that room, no matter how bright the sun is shining. Set the candle on the table and light it. It will not illuminate the back of the room. That’s all right. You don’t want to see what’s back there.
Now comes the fun part. Take your milk in one hand, and with the other reach out and open the dead man’s mouth. Pour the milk inside. All of it. Don’t stop. Then once its all gone, step back and wait. You might hear something moving inside the dead man’s stomach. Don’t worry, it’s supposed to do that.
Strange thoughts will come to you. You will remember a song your mother sang to you when you were little. Even if your mother never sang, or if you never knew your mother, you will remember this song. Sing it. Once you are done, you will see the strange thing inside the dead man’s stomach, the thing that made him look bloated, move.
It will rise up through his chest, then up his throat, and then finally it will force the dead man’s mouth open and fall out onto the table. You won’t know how to describe it. All red, oozing meat, and teeth, eyes, and a long tendril that runs from it back into the dead man’s mouth. It almost looks like a fetus, though certainly not a human one. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt you. This is the genie you came to see.
It will say something in a language nobody knows, and a hand you cannot see will place something on the table in front of you. Take it. It’s not polite to refuse gifts. It will be one of three things, and what happens next depends on what you receive. Once you take it, the genie will go back inside the dead man’s stomach to sleep.
If you receive a small copper coin, thank the dead man and leave. Take the milk carton. Do not blow out the candle. Go home and go right to bed. When you wake up, something good will happen to you. It’s different for everybody, but the result is always good.
If you receive the head of a tin soldier, you will blink and find yourself back on the sidewalk outside the dead man’s house, and you will see yourself going through the front door. Do not follow yourself inside, because this time the door will not lead into the dead man’s house. Go home.
If you receive the eye of a cat, the candle will go out. I’m not sure what happens after that. Sometimes they’re never heard from again. Other times, when a new adventurous soul ventures inside to see the genie, the dead man… or woman… might be you.
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