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News & Features » March 2019 » “Bottlemouth” by Justin Haynes

“Bottlemouth” by Justin Haynes

Akashic Books is proud to introduce a new flash fiction series, Duppy Thursday. Though we’re based in Brooklyn, our location envy of the Caribbean is evident throughout our catalog. One aspect of Caribbean literature that appeals to us is the integration of folklore into contemporary stories—a perfect example being Jamaican author Marlon James’s debut novel John Crow’s Devil, which we published to great critical acclaim in 2005. Whether it be the spider Anansi, the devil woman La Diablesse, the Soucouyant, Mama Dlo, or Papa Bois, these mythical beings have injected life (and death) into the literature of the region. As with our other flash fiction series, we challenge you to tell your story in 750 words or less.

This week, a spirit from a bottle is suspected of a little girl’s disappearance.

by Justin Haynes
Douen, baccoo; Trinidad and Tobago

Q: [tapping the photograph] Where’s the little girl? Where’s Anisa Quashie?
A: We do not know Anisa Quashie.

Q: How long were you in the bottle?
A: We were not in a bottle.

Q: You were discovered in San Juan beside the main road. A pedestrian said he unstopped the bottle and you appeared in smoke and a scratch-bomb thunderclap. All not too far from where Anisa was last seen. Where did you take Anisa Quashie?
A: We do not know that name. 

Q: We? Is only one of you. Where’s the rest?
A: We are all at once.

Q: You’re the first person plural?
A: We are legion.

Q: Would you like something to eat? Drink? Banana? Milk?
A: We do not.

Q: Don’t baccoos like bananas and milk?
A: We are not baccoo.

Q: When you were released from the bottle, did you rampage? Explode everything? Raze all around you?
A: We were not in a bottle. We are omnia.

Q: Where’s the little girl? Where’s Anisa Quashie?
A: We do not recognize this name.

Q: Have you been imprisoned before?
A: Our existence is the antithesis of imprisonment. We are the tapestry of freedom.

Q: Can you cross water?
A: We are survive.

Q: Can water extinguish you?
A: Be like water.

Q: What do you remember from before being bottled up?
A: We were not bottled. We witnessed London in the year of your lord 1666.

Q: Regional historians suggest you’re older than Egyptian rivers.
A: We have read the ancient scripts.

Q: [cupping his chin] Did you take Anisa Quashie for ransom? Her parents are wealthy business owners. They’ll pay a substantial fee for her safe return.
A: We do not recognize this name.

Q: [taps the photograph] This is her. She’s a little girl. She was getting ready to be baptized and make her first communion.
A: One is like the others. All are like the same.

Q: How were you created?
A: We have witnessed carnival in its cradle.

Q: Are you a demon?
A: We have been gifted multiple affixations. We are greatly misunderstood.

Q: How were you created?
A: The first law of thermodynamics denies.

Q: How were you created?
A: We bore witness to Makandal executed in fire. Saw the Good Friday massacre in Saint-Domingue. The Canboulay murders. And you ask about one child.

Q: How were you created?
A: Through accretion of ἁμαρτία.

Q: Of what?
A: ἁμαρτία.

Q: Can you destroy yourself?
A: We do not desecration.

Q: I thought douens used to wear conical hats when they snatched children?
A: What is douen? What is conical hat?

Q: What the nuts vendor used to wear at football matches. Salt and Fresh? No pussin?
A: We don’t know this nuts vendor.

Q: [taking out a scratch pad] Conical hat?

A: We do not recognize.

Q: You have an interesting face.
A: This is not question.

Q: I thought douens were faceless? Not supposed to hold features?
A: What is douen?

Q: You know Carrera prison? On the island just off the coast? Not too far from here, you know. We won’t send you to Golden Grove. We’ll lose you where you’ll be surrounded by water, pal-o. You’ll be locked up until Christ returns. You might not survive the trip.
A: That is not a quest—

Q: [cutting off] Do you think you’ll survive crossing so much water?
A: We have survived many travails.

Q: [exasperated] Are there such things as jumbies?
A: What are jumbies?

Q: Are there such things as lagahoos?
A: What are lagahoos?

Q: Do phantoms exist?
A: Phantoms reside everywhere. This place right now holds many phantoms. They press against the walls and hang from the light-bulb chain. They slide between the entrance and the earth. They tangle in the laces of your boots and crimp through your hair. They slink through cane fields eternal.

Q: Where is the little girl? Where is Anisa Quashie?
A: We are what was and what will.

Q: Where is Anisa Quashie?
A: More will disappear in short order. We fulfill your past demands.

Q: Where is Anisa Quashie?
A: The little girl is smoke. The little girl is taken away. The little girl is a finger-snap prologue. The little girl is lost to island history and forever, and congratulations.


JUSTIN HAYNES‘s writing and research explores Caribbean folklore and carnival. His writing has been published in Caribbean Quarterly, The Caribbean Writer, PREE, and other journals.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Duppy Thursday flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a Caribbean location and incorporate some aspect of folklore, whether centrally or tangentially.
—Include the location and the referenced folk tale or figure of the story with your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Duppy Thursday are typically posted 2–4 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Mar 7, 2019

Category: Original Fiction, Duppy Thursday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,