It’s dark and the streetlamps deter much of the natural light from touching the ground,
The wind is a faint whisper in the leaves and a gentle caress against your cheek,
The hum of the city is a muted cacophony behind you
As you walk along the curb,
Balancing on the cement,
The comforting weight of the old bottle in your pocket,
The smooth glass against your fingertips,
Your scarf like a billowing cape.
Why, you could take on anything.
Then you hear the boughs of the old neighborhood oak creek,
The branches of a shrub rustle,
The light rap of water dripping from a nearby drain,
The soft tap of shoes,
Someone is following you.
You whirl around to look,
The breath catching in your throat like a lump of Grandma’s barely digestible fruit cake,
But there’s nothing,
No one there.
You’re alone on the street corner.
You blow a breath out through your nose in relief and swallow back the stale taste of the holidays.
Still, you pick up your pace,
No harm in getting home a few minutes early.
And just like that there’s that sound again,
But this time you don’t turn around.
Your eyes stay glued on the road ahead and your feet are a blur on the ground.
The night brings forth a clinging chill,
And your breath billows white in a brilliant fog,
Your heart spikes and your head pounds,
You have no time to enjoy an otherwise marvelous sight.
You can’t hear anything over your heartbeat but you can see,
The darkness gathering and bunching,
With you at the center,
As if to feed.
You’re almost home,
With that gruesome thought in your mind,
You hurry down the driveway
And rush to pull out the key,
Scrambling to get up the steps,
You trip over a loose board,
You catch yourself at the door,
You fumble to thrust the key into the lock.
The door swings open.
You stand at the threshold and release a shaky laugh,
Your tension dissipating as you talk to yourself.
“Thank God, I made it home alright.”
You aren’t prepared for what comes next
As two glowing eyes appear from the darkness of the entry hall,
A smile of wickedly grinning teeth below.
“Hasn’t anyone ever told you? You only say thank you after you’ve received your gift.”
Just like that your muscles freeze,
Your jaw clenches and your eyes widen,
You suck in air as if you can’t breath,
You grasp for something, anything
Your hands opening and closing,
Your fingers reaching,
Your eyes searching,
But there is nothing there.
As you crumple to the floor,
Your cheek pressed against the worn wood of the porch,
A skeleton of a man steps over you,
His spindly fingers flashing into your pocket,
Drawing out the bottle and rubbing it with his thumb.
Still a malicious smile
Painted on his melted face,
He leans down to whisper the last words that you will hear for a long while,
You can feel his dry lips against your ear.
“I’m afraid I’ll have to thank you for your gift, though I can give you nothing you desire in return.”
And he sighed as if in pleasure
And your vision has gone black.
“Now that I’m free from that horrid prison, I guess I’ll have to go.”
And the jinn turned and went on his way.
Too bad you will not be going anywhere.
Not until someone releases you from the bottle.