Milk Bottles is a ghost story about a shopkeeper who encountered a very mysterious customer late at night with a strange obsession with bottles of milk.
One evening, the shopkeeper was about to close up for the night when he realized there was still one customer left in his store. It was a pale and thin young woman in a filthy dress. She was standing silently in the corner, and seemed to be waiting for him to notice her.
The shopkeeper asked the young woman what he could do for her. She would not look him in the eye and, without a word, stepped forward to the counter. She extended her arm and pointed at the refrigerator behind the counter where the storekeeper kept his milk bottles.
The storekeeper picked up a bottle of milk and set it upon the counter. The girl pointed again to the refrigerator, so he removed a second bottle of milk and set it on the counter as well.
Suddenly, the shopkeeper heard something fall off a shelf behind him. When he turned back around, he was shocked to see the young woman had disappeared, along with the two bottles of milk. He checked the door of his shop and found it was still locked. Then he searched around the store, but there was no sign of the mysterious woman.
The next day, just at closing time, the young woman in the filthy dress appeared again, almost out of nowhere. One moment the store was empty and the next moment she was standing at the counter pointing at the refrigerator. This time two empty milk bottles sat on the counter.
The storekeeper looked into her hollow eyes and saw streaks and stains from many tears making paths in the dirt on her face. He was a compassionate and generous man and he knew that this young woman was in need of help. So he took two new bottles of milk and set them on the counter for her. Then he turned his back to allow the poor young woman an opportunity to leave without having to pay. He never heard the door open or close, but when he turned around again, she was gone.
On the third day the storekeeper was determined to find out who this woman was and what her circumstances might be. It was possible he could give her husband a small job sweeping out the store or stocking the shelves. H
Again, just before closing time, the young woman appeared out of nowhere and stood pointing at the refrigerator. The storekeeper put two more bottles of milk on the counter and tried to ask the woman some questions. Just as he was about to speak, the cash register drawer flew open and fell to the floor. When the storekeeper looked up again, the woman had gone.
This time he was determined to find out more about her, so he locked up the store and took off down the road leading out of town. He caught a glimpse of her up ahead as she turned off the road and walked down an old overgrown path. He followed her, creeping through the woods until the path led him to the town cemetery. The cemetery gate stood open and he heard a strange sound coming from inside. He followed the sound deeper and deeper into the cemetery until he reached the newest graves.
Now he could hear the sound clearly. It was the distinct sound of a baby crying. What terrified him was that it was coming from beneath him. Standing over a fresh grave with no headstone to mark it, he could plainly hear the cries of a baby growing louder and louder.
Grabbing a nearby shovel he began to excavate the shallow grave and soon reached a wooden coffin. Falling to his knees and scraping the dirt aside, he tore open the coffin’s lid.
There before him lay the dead body of a young woman. The same young woman in the torn and filthy dress who had visited his store three times. Her skin was grey and her eyes were just hollow sockets, and in her arms was a cold and hungry baby, still alive and crying. And in the coffin, beside the baby, stood two empty milk bottles.
(Note: After doing some research, I discovered that this story is actually based on an old Japanese folktale called Ame-Kai Yurei (the candy-buying ghost). In the original version, a sad-faced woman shows up at a shop several nights in a row to buy a small piece of candy. The shopkeeper eventually follows her to a cemetery, where she vanishes over a recent grave. He digs it up and finds the mother dead, but the child is still alive and surrounded by candy wrappers; either the woman died while she was pregnant and gave birth in the coffin, or they were both ill and when the mother died the baby was thought to be dead too and was buried with her.)