by Harry Brawngrout
He stuck the end of the crowbar into the dead boy’s mouth and tried to pry the jaw loose. A centimeter of space and then it snapped right back shut like it was spring loaded. Tight. The dead boy grinned where his lips had been ripped away, a demented crocodile.
He repositioned the flashlight to shine directly into the dead boy’s face. Like a golfer he pulled his arm back and then swung the crowbar into the grinning mouth. There was a crunching sound like chewing broken glass. He got down on his knees and shone the light into the gaps where teeth had been.
Nothing. He could still see nothing. He reached his index finger in blindly and felt the tongue. He managed to grip the tip and pull it out of the mouth. An inch, six inches, three feet. The entire prophecy was written there if he could only decode the ancient script.
With a machete he hacked the long tongue free. A viscous black fluid wept from the end. He felt it with his fingers. It had the consistency of motor oil and burned him slightly.
He put the tongue into his satchel and turned to leave, but the hand on his ankle stopped him dead.
He looked down at the dead boy. The milky eyes didn’t seem to understand what was going on. The boy moved his mouth and gurgled, drooling the greasy secretions down his chin.
“Now, goddammit, boy. You know I need the whole tongue.”
“Urh-urh!” the boy said, pointing at his mouth.
“I can’t give it back to you, boy. I need it, I told you!”
“Uh-uhhh-urrrrh!” said the boy, trying to stand.
“Just go on down and lay in your grave, now. Go on. Get!” He pointed to the open grave some few feet distant and spat at the boy’s feet.
The boy groaned again and stuck his fist into his mouth. He reached it far too deep and pulled out something that looked like another tongue. This one was even longer and written in the same alien script as the first. The boy pointed enthusiastically at the new tongue and chirped, “Eeee-eee-eee!”
“Hell, boy. Are you playing games with me from beyond the grave?”
The boy cracked a torn smile and handed the second tongue to him. Then he stooped and began to pick up the broken tooth fragments and place them back into his mouth.
“Well, I ‘spect you’ll be wanting your old tongue back then.”
The boy nodded, fingers still arranging ivory bits in his ruined gums.
“Well, boy, I can’t take the chance of giving back the wrong one.”
The dead boy’s eyes grew dark and he wailed.
“Hold your horses!” he said and pulled out his own tongue. With a jerk he yanked it free. He waved it in the boy’s direction.
The boy looked at it in disgust, but then shrugged and placed the tongue into his mouth. He wiggled it for a bit and then began to speak:
“Hello? Aw hell, now I talk like you! Dammit, fella!”
He shrugged at the boy and walked on, shining the flashlight alternately between each tongue, mumbling, “Urrh-urrrh-uh,” and tasting blood.
Harry Brawngrout composes works of gritty Southern Fried Gothic Noir Punk while listening to the Jesus Lizard, Buzzove*n, Mule, and Tad in his momma’s pop-up camper. His first novel was lost in a fire. He has vowed to track that fire down and make it pay.
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