Gary walked his rotting corpse along the beach, his red leather jacket as tattered as the rest of his clothes, several gold chains around his neck, the sole obsession of his mind to find fresh brains, but little things that might offer meat distracted him along the way. Open tin cans, piles of bones, and minivans often provided a morsel or two.
He’d finished shaking the sand out of a forsaken tennis shoe when gold gleamed a few steps away. It shined like the teeth of that farmer he’d torn to pieces. He dragged himself over to it, grabbed a golden handle, and pulled a strange container from the sand. Somewhere in the rotting memories came a name. Aladdin.
The object had a spout and a lid, which gave him hope it might contain something fleshy. He pulled on the lid with no success. He jammed his thumbnail between lid and rim, but the thumbnail tore off, dangling by a corner. He worked it with his hand, turning it and rocking it to get it loose, but it wouldn’t budge.
Smoke came out of the spout. Gary stuck his disintegrating nose into it, and it surrounded his head, then whirled around above him, settling on the beach and materializing into a man who seemed to be wearing lampshades and colored bedsheets, one wrapped around his head.
“Today brings you luck, my frie—”
Gary lunged at him. He hadn’t been this close to fresh brains for weeks. The colorful man spun away, becoming partial smoke, then landing again a few feet to the side, materializing again.
Gary lunged again, this time following through and guiding his momentum the direction the man spun, but the man dissipated into a cloud and passed through Gary. Gary cocked his head to see the man solidify behind him. Gary turned and stood, smelling the flesh, the blood, the brains.
“You silly ass,” said the man. “You can’t catch a genie. The only time that has ever happened was when the Viceroy of Korpolos caught Majaharami during Egypt’s second kingdom, and he had the magic gloves of Jevericho.”
The man crossed his arms. “Be not so foul of spirit, dear friend. Today brings you luck. I will grant you three wishes, so long as they adhere to the codes of Jinn.”
Gary’s eyes narrowed.
“What is your first wish?”
“Brains,” said Gary.
The man’s eyebrows rose, then furrowed like the scowl of that preacher before Gary crushed his skull. The man held his hand out as if grabbing someone’s head before twisting it off, and smoke appeared, billowing into a sphere, then dissipating to reveal a platter with brains on them.
Gary roared and grabbed the brains, shoving them into his mouth and biting, ripping, chewing the flesh, it’s juices running down his throat and smearing his face. It was good, but it was not human. Probably cow. It enflamed a greater lust for human brains in him. He finished it and licked the platter until the flavor was gone.
“What is your second wish?”
“Human brains,” said Gary.
“The code of the Jinn does not allow it,” said the man.
“Man. Alive man.”
“The code of the Jinn does not allow it.”
Gary roared, then sulked, sniffing toward the man, hoping for a whiff of his cranial fluid. He stomped his feet then dropped his head, leering at the man. “Cow brains.”
“The code of the Jinn does not allow wishes to be repeated.”
Gary roared. “Brains!”
“No,” said the man.
Gary spat and hissed. “Anchovies.”
Smoke from the man’s hands produced a platter piled high with anchovies. Gary grabbed handful after handful, stuffing them into his mouth, enjoying the oily crunch of the bones between his teeth. He licked the platter and threw it on the ground, staring at the man and sneering.
“What is your third wish?” said the man. His words were tight, like the voice of that one policeman after Gary had bitten a chunk out of his leg.
Gary plied the putrid decay of his brain, forcing it to bring words together, arranging them and matching the shape and movement of his tongue to say what he wanted. The effort strained him. He brought his mind to bear where only the words, the speaking, and the man in front of him were present to him. As the rest of his mind went cloudy, his mouth tensed and twisted, and then he spoke.
“Magic gloves of Jevericho.”
Jane was a survivor. She’d traveled the west coast by herself for many months, looking for living people after the plague killed off everyone she knew. But she was alone with no sign of others that she could see.
She caught a few fish off an unusually sturdy dock and set up a fire to cook them. As the fire grew, the flame reflected off something gold floating against the dock’s side. She pulled it out to see it was an old-style oriental lamp. She dried it off with her shirt, and smoke poured out of the spout, spinning into the air, encircling her, then landing a few feet before her as it materialized into a genie.
A grotesque, flesh-rotten, garishly grinning genie that oozed everywhere of brownish purulence.
He hissed a laugh. “Today brings you luck, my friend. I will grant you three wishes, and then I will eat your brains.”