That Time I Swallowed a Genie
Nikki R. Leigh
I thought that passing the tiny urn I’d swallowed a few hours earlier was going to be the worst part of my day. The worst part of my day, to be sure, that would then lead to the best part of my month—selling my stolen goods for that sweet, sweet cash payout. But no: as it turns out, when you swallow something a genie inhabits that genie still wants out, no matter where his home lives.
I really believed that I was making one of my smarter decisions in life. I was tired of getting caught for stealing, but I still really wanted and needed to find some items to boost my income. Seems that spending a year in prison doesn’t make debts go away, and I still owed a hefty sum. Into the pawn shop I went, looking for something accessible, valuable and worth my time. It was sitting in a jewelry case. The shiny and expensive looking urn (or was it a jar?) was small enough—about an inch long and a half inch wide—that I thought I could easily get away with it.
It had a remarkably small handle on one side—and was that a tiny spout? The hard projections should have been enough to deter my efforts, but I told myself it’d be just like swallowing a chip you didn’t chew enough. The pawn shop owner was, no doubt, trained from years of experience in catching shoplifters to look for the shuffle of a bag, the opening of a coat and the hand too close to the pocket. I was taking a gamble that a subtle well-timed cough wouldn’t tip him off. I had the additional advantage of being a petite blonde girl which certainly seems to strike a little less suspicion around these parts.
I had asked to view the urn along with a couple other items to make it harder for him to remember what I’d asked for. He obliged my request, placing the urn, a few rare coins, and one bracelet onto the countertop. I pretended to hem and haw over the items, and another customer called the shop owner over. Carrie, I thought, it’s now or never. Down the hatch!
Once he was out of sight I took the urn, got my water bottle ready and then coughed loudly, bringing my hand to my mouth and stuffing the trinket inside. Unlike the rest of my plan so far the urn did not go down smoothly, and I fought tears as I swallowed, swallowed again, then gulped, trying to get my throat muscles to move it downwards. The air became less and less available to my lungs, and my neck strained with effort, all while I tried to appear inconspicuous as I continued looking at the items, my back turned to the rest of the store so they couldn’t see my bulging eyes.
At long last the urn reached the point of no return and decided it would go down, and relief flooded my mind as I was able to take a breath again. I drank some water to help the tiny metal piece on its journey, and when all was clear I let out a few bursting coughs, squeezing out an 'excuse me' when I could.
The shop owner returned. I told him I’d pass on the items, but I thanked him for his time. I walked towards the door, in the clear, and as he walked away I swear I heard a muttered 'dirty thief' from his lips. Ha, I thought. I’d like to see him prove it.
I made it home, my trailer in a dark corner of the woods. I’d inherited it from dear old Dad, along with his drinking habits and troubles with the law. I opened the door and flopped on to my couch, stained from previous binging activities, and contemplated the day’s work. I was excited to see how much I could get from the urn—once it made itself present outside my body, that is. It seemed like a unique piece, and I was hoping for a couple hundred dollars. Not bad for a day’s work, considering it was just the cherry on top of all the other stuff I stole from cars on the way home.
As I was congratulating myself on my victory my stomach began to rumble loudly, and the urge to relieve myself hit strong. I didn’t know if I wanted to throw up, or take the biggest dump I could muster. Not wanting to give in just yet, in hopes that it would pass, I rubbed my stomach trying to dull the cramping. I should have just puked.
Without warning something burst out of me. Not the something I was expecting from the somewhere I was expecting, but rather a bright flash of light that shot itself straight out of the center of my stomach and through the skin, only to coalesce in front of my face as it floated above my living room floor. My skin burned and tingled after the form osmosed its way through my body; never had I felt a fire in the pit of my stomach spread to my throat, through my eyes and down to my toes like this before.
“How can I be of service?” a booming voice asked from the space the bright light inhabited. The light slowly began to focus itself. Standing in front of me was a man, or something like a man. His body had a stout trunk, his legs stiff beneath him, and what looked like claws emerged from the tips of his fingers. They protruded from his skin, in and out, like those of a cat. And his face, or what might pass for a face, came together in a sharp point in a beak of sorts, with holes on either side of his nose. His eyes, though, were jovial and welcoming.
I tried to ask him who he was, but all that came out was a strangled mewling noise I had never heard myself make before.
The man…person…entity smiled at me with his beak-face, then took my shaking hand between his paws.
“I am Adeel. You seem to have summoned me from my vessel, and I am now in service to you to grant you three things that you desire. And you are...?”
A genie. I summoned a genie. I shifted, confused and still pained from the urn—oh, the urn!
“Uh…I’m Carrie. Did you…did you come from a tiny little jar, about yay high, silver, little spout and handle?” I asked, voice conveying the disbelief I felt. At this point he could either be a genie from the urn-lamp, or that small trinket contained a large amount of lead and I was slowly suffering from poisoning.
“That’s the one!” he excitedly responded.
“Why is your lamp so…small?” I hesitantly asked. It’s never easy asking a man about the size of his lamp.
Adeel rolled his eyes and took an exasperated breath. “It’s like a snail. You know how you don’t often see snails when they’re itty bitty and have those super tiny, fragile shells? But then, all of sudden, BAM! You’ve got this colony of bigger snails with those crunchy thick homes on their backs. Genies are like that too.”
“Oh…” I scratched my head, causing dandruff to fall to my shoulders. Bad habit.
“Snails get older, more experienced at doing snail things, and their shells grow around them. Genies have to start somewhere, so we’re usually given a tiny trial lamp. The more wishes we grant and lives we change the bigger our lamp gets.”
“So you’re like, a newbie then?”
“Fresh outta the energy vortex I was born from. The more I’m able to change the lives of those who summon me the faster I can move up the ranks. Only granted a few wishes so far, including the owner of that shop you got me from.”
“What were his wishes?” I asked.
“A genie doesn’t usually like to give those away—makes the wishes impure—but if you must know: he wished for a new car, his wife to come back to him, and, well, the last wish I just can’t quite remember,” the genie replied, tapping the side of his strange, over-sized head.
“Okay then,” I thought out loud. “Do I like, get some wishes?”
“You bet! Whenever you’re ready just rub your tummy and I’ll be there for you, ready to take your wish order.”
I knew I should really take the time to contemplate my wishes, to make sure there was no monkey paw business going on with them, but my mind was racing with ideas.
“Well, I have a wish now, if I could ask it.”
This one was a no brainer. “I wish that my debts would be erased.”
“You got it!” God, this was such a perky genie. Adeel swayed back and forth, his eyes rolling back into his head. I heard a faint pop, then he was back and staring at me with that smile on his face.
“How do I know that worked?” I asked, unsure of how to proceed.
“Call one of your associates. I’m sure they won’t say a word about any debt.”
I picked up my cell phone from the sofa seat next to me. I called Cal, the guy I was planning to sell my items to. Three rings, no answer.
“He didn’t pick up,” I said to Adeel.
“That’s because he’s dead! HA!” Adeel shriek-laughed.
“Dead? I asked for my debts to be erased, not my creditors to be killed!” I shouted at him.
“A deal’s a deal. Debts are gone. I promise it was quick.”
I was skeptical. “What’s your idea of quick?” I asked.
The genie’s eyes lit up with what I suspected to be malice. “A flash fire, burning through a warehouse for Cal. Jen drowned in a bowl of soup, and Malcolm...well, I sent an errant bus his direction.”
I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. I should be even more careful with my second wish; even when trying to be clear that paw still got monkeyed. I didn’t like the idea that I was responsible for three deaths, but it was kind of nice to have those debts erased. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all?
As soon as I had that thought it felt as if the universe laughed at me and yelled Psyche!, my stomach starting to rumble yet again. This time the fire burned intensely, even worse than before. It felt like my insides were beginning to liquify. My fingertips were vibrating, like the nails were beginning to separate from the rest of my finger. Actually, scratch that: it didn’t just feel like it—they were. Bloody rivulets began to run down my arm from my fingers and my stomach screamed in agony. I fell to my knees and groaned.
“So, Adeel,” I asked through gritted teeth. “This lamp that I swallowed…is it, like, made of lead?”
Adeel shook his head. “No, no. We’re just as sensitive to lead as you are, and iron. Our lamps are made of special material. Come to think of it…” he trailed off, scratching his head. I looked up at him, trying to urge him on. “Come to think of it, the materials we use in our lamp are likely very toxic to you humans. You say it’s in your stomach?”
I nodded my head as vigorously as I could, though at this point I wasn’t sure if it was because of the shaking of my body.
“Hmm,” Adeel thought out loud. “You should probably complete your wishes soon. I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep that thing in there.”
He was right. Every passing moment was agony. My nail beds continued to bleed, and it started to feel like my eyes were dropping out of my face. I didn’t want to check to see if they actually were; I guess cosmic genie energy lamps really don’t do a body good. I needed to come up with my next wishes quickly, but I could barely think straight through the pain and disorientation. Maybe I could just try and upgrade my life a little. I always hated this trailer.
“Uh, I dunno,” I stammered. “I wish for a new house.”
“Done!” Adeel chirped. His eyes rolled, his body shook and that pop sounded a lot louder this time, closer to my ears, almost inside my head. As soon as the pop resounded a roar began. I managed to look upward through the skylight in my trailer and saw a huge shadow plummeting towards me. If I didn’t know better, I’d say...
A new house literally fell from the sky. The wind howled as the house made contact with the ground, absorbing my trailer into its body. Most everything in the trailer was flattened, and splinters of wood made their way towards my face. I covered my eyes, huddled as debris flew all around me.
“Christ, Adeel! Was there no way to do that, I dunno, more smoothly?”
“Sorry! I’m still pretty new at this. Baby snail, remember?” Adeel looked genuinely sheepish. “Alright, two wishes down. Debts paid, new house. What else can I do for you?”
I didn’t know how to respond. The pain was continuing to mount, and I had no clue how not to make a wish without disastrous results. That new house almost killed me, and I was pretty sure that if I didn’t make my third wish soon I’d die of Toxic Lamp Syndrome. I remembered then that the shop owner had somehow survived his three wishes; he was there, after all, for me to steal this lamp in front of. He even got the joy of calling me a dirty thief, which I was, but that’s besides the point. Wait, he knew I stole that lamp, and he let me walk away? Almost as if he…
“So, Adeel,” I started, trying to sound confident through the radiating flames in my gut. “About the wishes the shopkeeper made. Did you screw those up just as good as these?”
“I didn’t think so, but I suppose I did.”
I pressed on. “He wished for a car?”
“He got a fancy, red sports car, just like his brother’s. Actually, it was his brothers: he had left it in his will for the guy, so I just sped up the process.”
I could see where this next one was going. “And his wife to come back to him? What’d you do, kill the guy she ran away with?”
“Well, actually, she was dead already. I guess you humans aren’t as thrilled by people coming out of their graves as I might have thought.”
Okay, I guess I didn’t see that one coming.
“And his last wish?”
“His last wish was to get rid of me. As it turns out I’m very bad at this job.”
“And that’s when I came in?”
“Yep, and swallowed me down.”
So that’s how he survived this. Got out before things got worse. Smart man. Alright, I can do this too. I’ll just figure out how to get rid of this lamp inside of me. As I went through various scenarios and wording in my head, a new wave of nausea and torment ripped through my body. At this point I was pretty sure my eyes were bleeding and, for the second time today, bulging from my head. Except this time the bulging was bordering on falling out. My nose dripped, my mouth filling with the taste of iron and bile. The room rushed around me, turning and turning as the pain reached new heights.
“I wish…” I stumbled to my elbows.
“Speak up!” Adeel shouted, trying to reach me through the thunderous strikes of white searing in my head.
Was I even alive anymore? I could barely utter words, let alone think of how to word this just right. Delirium was kicking into overdrive, and it felt like my brain was hemorrhaging along with every other cell in my body. One shot. One shot left.
“I wish this lamp was out of my body!” I yelled with as much force as I could muster.
I’m sure the genie did his eye and shaking thing, but since I couldn’t see clearly anymore I wouldn’t know. My ears worked just well enough to hear the loud pop indicating the wish being granted, but this was accompanied by a rip.
That rip came from my stomach.
The lamp shot out of my midsection, leaving a bloody hole in its wake. It clamored to the floor, and I tipped over onto my side. My vision fluttered in and out.
“Done,” Adeel said, kneeling next to me. “Thank you for allowing me to serve you. I feel as though I have changed your life very much, and appreciate your sacrifice in allowing me to grow.” He gave me one last look before a bright light appeared, flashing as he sank back into his lamp.
I was surrounded by a growing pool of blood, and I knew that I had royally screwed that wish up. If I could move I’d kick myself. It may not have been the best life I could be living, but damn it if I didn’t want to keep living it. As things began to fade the pain finally dulled as my breathing slowed. I opened my eyes, fixing them on the lamp. Maybe if I could reach it again, rub it one more time, then I’d get more wishes and I could fix this. I reached out, my bleeding fingers almost brushing its surface.
The lamp vibrated. I wasn’t sure if I was hallucinating or not, but in my last moments I swear I could see the lamp inch away, like a snail, leaving a trail of my blood behind it.
Nikki R. Leigh is a forever-90s-kid wallowing in all things horror. When not writing horror fiction, she can be found creating custom horror-inspired toys, making comics, and hunting vintage paperbacks.
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