Isn’t it funny how sometimes you just don’t notice things? I can’t remember how many times I’ve walked up and down Gurtle St. Is it hundreds? Thousands? Not once in the last three years have I ever noticed “Majestico’s Magnificent Menagerie of Mysticism”. Surely the name alone would have attracted my attention? It’s not a name you hear every day is it? Dullard though I am, at some point in the past the large weathered purple and orange sign with the large ostentatious yet fading green letters should have impinged upon my consciousness. I’ve wracked my memory but try as I might I don’t have any recollection of the place and that’s the most surprising thing. Jammed between a newsagent and a secondhand book store the tiny shop, with the crooked doorway, chipped and crumbling brickwork and stained windows looked like it had shouldered its way in between its neighbours and was now squatting there patiently, like a large old toad, as if waiting for me to notice it.
Today had been just like yesterday and the day before that and the day before that, my usual humdrum existence punctuated by a regular midday visit to the sandwich shop on Gurtle St. Although if I’m honest, today was different, today I’d tried a different type of sandwich. Instead of my normal ham and cheese in a wholemeal bun, I decided I would splash out, try something new. So, completely out of character for me, I asked Julie, the pretty girl behind the counter, to choose a sandwich for me. Her well plucked eyebrows rocketed high above her pale almost azure eyes as she recoiled in shock and disbelief. I can’t blame her, every day for three and a half years she had diligently prepared for me the same ham and cheese bun with just a thin layer of butter on one side and an equally spartan covering of mustard on the other, and now here I was asking for something new. I didn’t fully understand it myself, but today, for reasons I couldn’t express I wanted to try something different. After recovering her senses and no doubt mentally checking the date to make sure it wasn’t the 1st of April, she suggested “chicken and sweet mustard in a toasted ciabatta loaf”. “That sounds great”, I said, giving her what I hoped was a winning smile. I had no idea what a ‘ciabatta loaf’ was but today it sounded perfect.
A few minutes later I found myself almost strutting down Gurtle St. happily munching on my surprisingly delicious discovery. Since today was a day for new experiences I decided I would go to the park, find myself a nice patch of grass and lounge in the sun for a while, I might even share some of the extremely tasty ciabatta loaf with the birds. But then, just as I was passing the newsagents, disaster struck and a large glob of mustard dripped from the end of the sandwich and plopped down onto my shirt. My tiny bubble of happiness imploded and I stopped, snarling at my misfortune. I jabbed angrily at the blob sitting defiantly on my freshly cleaned white shirt. It was no good, all I managed to do was spread a dark yellow stain across my chest, deflated I sighed and stopped my ineffectual prodding. All I had to look forward to now was an afternoon of ridicule from my work colleagues, all thoughts of basking in the sun sharing tidbits of ciabatta with new feathered friends had left my mind.
I looked up from the carnage adorning my shirt and recoiled as I saw the garish and colourful sign for a strange little shop. In large faded green letters set against a bright tangerine background it proudly said “Majestico’s Magnificent Menagerie of Mysticism”. Everything about the place looked bizarre and out of place. Below the sign and embedded deep within a crumbling red brick wall two grimy misshapen windows glowered at me. At some point in the distant past the windows had probably been square but now they were thrust so far out of alignment by the sagging wall around them it was a wonder the glass remained within their distorted frames. Like the windows the door had been gnarled and twisted from plumb by time and the weight of bricks above but it was the colour that struck me the most. The door was exactly the same shade of dark sickly yellow as the mustard currently befouling my shirt. “That’s weird,” I thought dumbly and on impulse, my second for the day, I walked towards the door, not noticing I had dropped the remnants of my sandwich to the floor. As I approached I reached for the grimy round brass handle, twisted it, pushed and with a loud squeak the door creaked open. A fruity, pungent odour invaded my nostrils and my nose twitched at the sudden invasion. Beyond the doorway it was dark, the bright midday sun making the interior as black as pitch but today at least, I wouldn’t be deterred, confidently I strode inside.
I jumped as the door slammed shut behind me and began to panic as the darkness of the shop engulfed me. After a few moments my eyes began to adjust to the gloom and I realised the room did have some lighting. On either wall a single small yellow light flickered within grimy glass lanterns, their feeble light casting eerie dancing shadows around the room. Were they candles? The room itself was small, barely a handful of meters across and the far wall was lost in darkness. Apart from two low wooden tables that appeared to be covered in a variety of objects the room was empty with no one in sight.
“Hello,” I called out, my confidence in the daylight had deserted me in the strangeness of the shop and even to my ears my voice sounded weak and feeble. “Is anyone here,” I continued hoping that I didn’t sound as much like a frightened child as I felt. Patiently I waited, thinking, nay hoping, that at any moment a shopkeeper would emerge from the darkness to greet me. But no one came. I considered leaving, just turning around and escaping back into the safety of the bright midday sun but once more something inside me decided to go against my instincts and so I stayed. A curiosity was creeping over me and I had a strange urge to explore the tables, to see what treasures they might hold.
I walked to the table at my left, my eyes had adjusted well to the dimness of the room but I still found myself bending over the table to get a closer look. Some of the items looked entirely mundane, a tea cup and what looked like a small diary with a lock on the front, further away sat a set of keys and a pencil but other items looked bizarre and incongruous next to their more commonplace neighbours. There was a tiny Christmas tree with a squat goblin looking creature on top, a gold snake encrusted with glass beads and what looked like a sea urchin shell and they were things I could actually recognise, some of the items I can barely find the words to describe. A small piece of white card had been propped in front of each trinket and on it was written a message. I picked up the card in front of the Christmas tree. The neat cursive handwriting would put my own sloppy scrawling to shame, it said, “Christmas cheer will always appear for those who never scrimp with an Imp.” I had no idea what it meant and I wasn’t sure I wanted to either. Another card, in front of a small black box with a red eye carved into the top said, “Do not hate what you cannot succour.” Yet another before a pentagon shaped mirror said, “Where there is a why there is a will.”
Baffled I returned each card to its place and moved further along the table. Then a glint caught my eye. Looking over to its source I saw a pair of plain, round spectacles. Now I must confess, ever since I was a small boy, I’ve had a secret fantasy about wearing glasses. Before drifting off to sleep at night I would imagine I was a secret agent and would wear glasses to disguise my real identity, why I thought my fictional enemies would be fooled by this ridiculous notion I don’t recall. I suppose, looking back, I naively thought they would somehow make me look smarter or more attractive to girls but my eyesight has always been perfect. As I grew older my desire to save the world while wearing round and unassuming glasses diminished and yet my secret yearning has never completely faded.
I picked up the card that sat before them, it said, rather cryptically “You might perceive but do you see all?” With a shrug I put the card down and picked up the glasses. They were exactly as I had imagined my “secret agent” glasses to be as I child. Small and round with thin black metal frames, a part of my dream had suddenly come to life before me. Desire bloomed within me and I decided right then that regardless of cost I had to have them. I would pay anything. Today I was going to indulge my childhood fantasy, yes I wouldn’t be James Bond and save the world from a comic book super villain but perhaps I could wear them and pretend, if only for a little while. I cast a nervous glance around the shop, checking to make sure I was still alone, then put the glasses on. In a flood of nostalgia I was instantly transported back to my childhood bedroom, once more I was “Marcus Smith”, secret agent saving the world and getting the girl. Of course the memory didn’t last long, I grew out of my secret persona for a reason, I grew up, I got a job and the world didn’t need saving, not by me anyway. Yet my urge to keep the glasses persisted. Yes I would keep them, I just needed to find the shop keeper.
For the second time in less than five minutes I nearly jumped out of my skin as a quiet voice behind me said, “So a selection has been made?”
I spun around, bumping into the table as I did so, the various items rattled and clinked as the table wobbled. Before me stood one of the strangest people I had ever seen. I am not a tall person but he barely reached my shoulders. He was dressed in a long black jacket buttoned up to his neck and the sickly glow of the lamps gave his face a sallow, diseased look. He peered at me intently with large black eyes that flanked a narrow hooked nose set in a long thin face.
I fumbled for something to say, pointing stupidly to the glasses on my face I blurted out, “How much are these?”
He tipped his head to one side in a disconcerting, almost alien way and for a brief moment I was reminded of the raptors from the Jurassic Park film.
“The cost is that which you will pay,” he said and as he spoke I could see flashes of small sharp yellow teeth.
I was starting to get annoyed, I seemed to be in some kind of cryptic crossword puzzle where everything was a clue and I had no idea about the answers.
“But how much are they?” I persisted.
“This is not a shop,” he said, his mouth cracking open into a disturbing smile, “Items are not to be purchased, only selections made. You may borrow the item for seventy two hours, after that time we ask that you return the item at precisely 12:30 pm and no later otherwise the cost incurred may be more than you are prepared to pay.”
I felt deflated, I could only have them for a couple of days? Still it was better than nothing but what if I wanted to keep them? And what did he mean by “more than you are prepared to pay”? Out loud I said, “what do you mean by more than I’m prepared to pay?”
“Each of our items,” he said, “endows the recipient with a benefit. The benefit incurs a cost. The cost is sometimes more than the recipient is willing to pay. The spectacles you have selected will allow you to see things as they truly are, this benefit must be weighed against the cost of seeing things as they truly are.”
I was still confused, cost versus benefit? It sounded like one of the boring marketing meetings I was forced to attend at work. I made a decision, I’ll “borrow” the glasses as he said and then bring them back on Friday at midday as he suggested, at least I’ll have them for a few days.
“Ok,” I said, “I’ll bring them back on Friday.” I turned, quietly thankful that my dealings with the strange little man were nearly at an end. I moved to the door and was brought up short as he grasped my arm with surprising strength.
“A warning, take heed,” he said, his voice still quiet and measured. “Just as you should return the item understand that you may not return the item until the allotted time either.”
“Yes, ok,” I said not caring for his cryptic warning, even through my shirt his hand felt cold and I could feel sharp nails pressing into my flesh. At his touch I had an overwhelming urge to leave the shop as quickly as possible. I pulled away from his grasp and rushed to the door, an urge to see the sun again had gripped me and I tore the door open and bolted through it. The feel of the sun on my face felt wonderful after the gloom of the shop and relief washed over me as I walked briskly away, not daring to look back. I left Gurtle St. and turned into the shopping centre, for once I felt pleased to be part of the crowd.
What had just happened? It seemed like a dream. Had I really just gone into a dark shop with a strange name and “borrowed” my perfect pair of glasses from a creepy little man? But the glasses seemed real and solid enough. What was it the card had said? Something about “perception and seeing all.” If so they weren’t working, everything looked the same, my perception seemed fine.
I was stirred from my musings by a man asking, “Do you have the time mate?”
“No, sorry,” I mumbled in response and realised I didn’t actually know what the time was, as he moved on I looked around searching for a clock. I walked to the window of a nearby jewellers, a display full of cheap watches told me that I only had five minutes of my dinner hour left. Damn, I had to get back to the office, how long had I been in that stupid shop?
I rushed back to work, the profit forecast report for Dave needed to be done by 3 pm and I was only half way through. Originally I’d only planned to have a quick lunch, maybe twenty minutes at most but now I’d lost half an hour. The office was mostly empty when I returned and before long I was engrossed in the report. I managed to finish with barely ten minutes to spare. I couldn’t help sighing with relief, the last time I’d been late with a report for Dave he’d spent what felt like an hour at my desk towering over me and lecturing me in a barely constrained shout about how I’d nearly ruined his presentation for upper management.
Feeling buoyant that I’d dodged a bullet I walked to the coffee room to get a drink of water but as I turned the corner to enter the coffee room I heard “them”. Dean and Shaun, or the Chuckle Brothers as I call them. I nearly turned tail and slid back to my desk as I usually would, but no I thought, today I won’t turn and slink away, let them do their worst. They were giggling like schoolgirls as I entered, probably over some smut they had found on the internet and Shaun nudged his unevolved accomplice as he saw me. Dean, the louder and more obnoxious of the pair, turned and appraised me in his usual way, like a lion looking for some weakness in its prey, unfortunately today he had plenty of fuel for his puerile humour.
“Oi, oi,” said Dean, “here comes my favourite accountant. I told you all that wanking would make you go blind. You’ve still got some cum on your shirt you dirty bastard.”
Shaun could barely contain his guffaws and slapped his playmate roughly on the shoulder in approval. I tried to smile but could only manage a grimace, past experience had taught me it was best to keep quiet, retaliating was akin to throwing petrol on a fire. Turning my back on them I pulled a cup from the water cooler and then Dean’s grinning baboon-like face came into view.
“Come on then,” he said, his face so close the stench of stale cigarettes and his “dinner time pint” made me recoil in disgust, “let’s ‘ave a go with your wanking goggles,” and before I could answer he ripped the glasses from my face. Out of nowhere my anger rose up and I literally saw red. I’d like to think I was concerned he might damage the glasses but I think it was something more, something I had suppressed for far too long.
I turned and saw Dean had put on the glasses and was dancing around in front of Shaun making masturbation gestures with his hand. I grabbed his hideous orange and blue stripped tie, yanked as hard as I could until his face was just centimetres from mine and snarled, “Give me them back you cunt.”
I will treasure the look on Dean’s face until the end of my days, fear enveloped his ugly features and the terror in his eyes told me he realised he’d overstepped the mark. I dropped the plastic cup from my other hand, all thoughts of getting a drink gone from my mind then reached up and roughly pulled the glasses from his hateful face. It was only after I’d returned them to their rightful place on my own face did I release his tie, then turning on my heel I marched from the coffee room. It was the first time I’d ever heard silence from those idiots. My hands shook and the thump, thump, thump of my pounding heart in my ears was almost deafening. I couldn’t believe what I’d just done. I’d nearly garroted Dean with his own tie and I’d savoured, no loved, every delicious moment of it. But as I reached my desk and sat down my new found confidence drained away, I could barely grasp the mouse I was shaking so badly. To make matters worse a new email from Dave was sitting in my Inbox, it was ominously titled “Urgent!!! Don’t ignore.” I groaned, it was probably an all caps affair shouting all the various ways I’d messed up the sales figures I’d sent him yesterday. After a few deep breaths I opened the email. Thankfully it seemed I hadn’t messed anything up but his big meeting with the head of marketing had been moved to 9 am tomorrow and he needed more figures adding to the report to show next years projections. I groaned, there was no way I could get all that finished by tomorrow and then I noticed the last line of the email, it read:
“I need this by 6 pm tonight. This is important. Don’t mess this up for me.”
Another wave of anger flooded over me, finishing the changes by tomorrow would be next to impossible, to have them done by tonight was unthinkable. It would take me three or four hours just to assemble the figures and check them. I grabbed the keyboard and started bashing out a response, anger fueling my quivering hands. Then, before I knew what had happened I jabbed at the “Send” button, the email disappeared and I instantly regretted it. Not even the spellchecker had saved me from my folly, for the first time in my entire life I had written a mistake free email. I couldn’t even remember what I’d written, frantically I clicked on the Sent Items and pulled up the email, read the first line and sat back in horror. I’d written:
Frankly you are asking a lot and I don’t appreciate being treated in this way. I will make the changes but I cannot and WILL NOT guarantee that they will be done by 6 pm tonight. In future please ensure you give me at least 48 hours notice when changes of this size are required.
I nervously scanned the office, expecting Dave to appear from the lift and storm towards my desk ready to rip me apart. But five minutes passed, then ten and finally a new email appeared in my Inbox. It was a reply from Dave. It said simply:
“Ok, let me have it as soon as you can. Dave.”
I sat back, stunned and read it once more. After the fifth read I finally convinced myself it was real. What a day I was having, I’d never felt so good. Jubilant at my successes I set to work on the changes Dave wanted, I probably wouldn’t finish them today. But what did that matter? Dave would have to wait until I was ready. I became so wrapped in the work I didn’t notice Cammy standing behind the partition on the other side of my desk.
I nearly jumped out of my skin as she said, “Hello stranger.”
“Uh hullo Cammy,” I said looking up.
“Ooo, a new look. I like it.”
“What?” I said, probably looking as dumb as I sounded.
“The glasses,” she said circling one eye with her finger, “I didn’t know you needed a prescription.”
“Oh, no, I don’t. I just saw them in a shop today and thought I’d get them.”
“Oh impulsive. They suit you. I approve. Do you wanna grab a coffee?” She nodded her head suggestively towards the coffee room.
“Yeah ok,” I said rising from the chair, I felt stiff all over, I hadn’t moved since reading Dave’s email. “What time is it?”
“Just gone five, has Dave been cracking the whip again?”
“No, not really. I just got busy with some changes.”
“For Dave,” she said and I giggled as she twisted her face into her “Are you really bending over backwards for him again?” pose. “I should hack that guy. Just give me the word and his hard drive will have the biggest collection of compromising My Little Pony pictures you could dream of. I’ll do it you know. I’m a techie on the edge.”
I didn’t doubt it. Cammy was probably the smartest person in the building. She worked in the IT department and basically ran the place. She was wasted down there. Her manager, Simon, was a borderline moron. He made Dean look like a potential MENSA candidate. Without Cammy the entire place would fall apart.
“Are you wearing a dress?” I blurted out, as I moved around the partition wall.
“Do you like it?” she said twirling in front of me and as the purple flowery skirt billowed I caught sight of plump white shins and thick, black heeled shoes. “I was supposed to be going to the theatre with the girls tonight but the Japanese servers went down again and it’s taken all afternoon to get them back up. Simon, bless his tiny, tiny mind, decided to tinker with the backup schedules and move the partitions around without telling me so I’ve spent ages hunting for the right images. And I’ve got to wait around until we’re sure the servers won’t fall over again. Anyway, I’m rambling, long story short I’m all dressed up and nowhere to go.”
“You look nice,” I said, “really nice.” And she did and I felt a pang of shame that I’d never noticed before. Usually she wore her “slobbies”, her word not mine, which consisted of a combination of baggy jumpers and faded jeans with her long black hair always pulled back into a pony tail. But now her hair sat around her face, framing her pale round face and deep brown eyes.
“Are you wearing makeup?” I said, as far as I could remember I’d never seen her wear makeup before but her lips were definitely redder and her cheeks had more colour.
“Ok, seriously,” she said, “do you want to get all the ‘Are you’ questions out of the way now cause otherwise I might have to slap you or something.”
“Sorry, sorry,” I said feeling dumb, it was just that the more I looked at her the more I realised she looked lovely, beautiful even. How had I not seen it before? “You just look a bit different.”
“You sound like my parents. Dad nearly fainted when he saw me in a dress at graduation. I can do the ‘woman’ thing you know. I don’t always dress like a homeless cat lady.”
“Sorry,” I said again.
“Come on Mr. Sorry,” she said, linking her arm in mine, “I need a coffee and no I’m not wearing makeup.”
The office was almost empty, only a couple of people were still camped behind their desks. The coffee room was also empty, the Chuckle Brothers, I knew, always left early. I don’t think I’d ever seen them in the office at this time of day.
“So what was on at the theatre?” I said as I poured coffee for us both.
“Evita,” she said, “it’s a shame I really wanted to see it again.”
“You like it then,” I said, handing her a cup.
“It’s my favourite,” she said and for a moment her eyes glazed over, lost in a memory, “my parents were huge theatre buffs. They took me to see it all the time as a kid. I still cry when she dies, every time.” She paused and I saw that something over my shoulder was catching her eye. “Look out, Delicious Diane alert.”
At the name I spun around, eagerly searching through the window for the only woman in the office I found attractive. Diane. Now, I’m the first to admit, I’ve never been very confident around the opposite sex, it wasn’t that I didn’t get on with them, I just don’t know how to approach those I like, or what to say when I do. I’d always either say something stupid or nothing at all and after too many failed attempts at contact with the opposite sex I had taken what I considered to be the wisest choice and stuck to observing them from afar. I resigned myself to just hoping that Miss Right would come along and sweep me off my feet. It’s never happened, in case you were wondering.
I do have female friends, Cammy for instance, who I’d say is my best friend. It’s just whenever I’m near anyone I find attractive I turn into a tongue tied idiot. But things were going right today, things were going my way for a change, today was my day. Maybe I could finally approach Diane and actually speak to her not just stare at her from a distance like a stalking weirdo. But looking through the window, I couldn’t see her. There were four women, all slim and blonde but only one of them had Diane’s thick flaxen hair, but that couldn’t be her, surely? She looked like she’d forgotten to put any makeup on. It didn’t look like her at all. I watched them all walk to the lift, giggling to each other, lost in their conversation. Was that really Diane? It couldn’t be. She looked… haggard.
“Do you need a drip tray?” whispered Cammy in my ear and I recoiled, my fascination broken.
“No,” I said and doing my best to act nonchalant took a large gulp of coffee and immediately regretted it. I made a dash for the sink and quickly spat the burning liquid out.
It was a while before Cammy’s laughter subsided.
“That’s an awesome special skill you have there M,” she said between snorts, “Can you teach me?”
“Yes, yes,” I said glowering at her, my cheeks red with embarrassment, “look I need to finish that report, I’ll see you later.” And without waiting for a reply I stomped from the room.
It was a while before I calmed down. I just sat and stared at my screensaver draw increasingly weirder shapes across the monitor. I didn’t blame Cammy, she hadn’t done anything wrong. I was angry with myself. I must look like such an idiot drooling over Diane, I’ve never even spoken to the woman and I barely knew anything about her. I need to take control of my life and get over this Diane thing, either that or actually ask her out. But the way she looked tonight. That was weird. How come no one else noticed? One thing I did know, I didn’t want to fall out with Cammy about it, she’d always been a good friend and, if I was honest, a confidante. I don’t know how I would have survived the Chuckle Brothers without her.
We’d both joined the company at the same time, fresh from University. All the new hires had to endure a three day “team building induction programme” and it was about half way through the first morning that I was paired with Cammy for a problem solving exercise. It had something to do with getting some animals across a stream without being eaten, or something, I don’t remember. Even on her first day she was dressed in her slobbies. I was wearing one of the pristine white shirts my mother had bought for my “first proper job” and a tie my father had given me from his “this was fashionable in the 1970s” collection. Cammy worked out the problem in five seconds and spent the rest of the time making up ridiculous “back stories”, as she called them, for the other new hires. I don’t think I’ve ever guffawed so much in my life. We’ve been firm friends since.
I sent her a chat message that said simply, “Sorry…”
A few seconds later my screen flashed up her reply, “Sok, sorry for the windup. How’s the mouth?”
“Bit sore,” I typed back. It was then I realised I hadn’t eaten anything since my sandwich mishap at lunchtime. At the thought of food my stomach decided to add a growl of disapproval. Maybe I should call it a day and get some food. Usually, far too often in fact, in fear of missing a deadline I would just order some fast food into the office or stop off at the Chinese takeaway on the way home. But tonight, without that particular sword hanging over me I could actually go out into town and look for something I wanted to eat, maybe even go to a restaurant. And then I had an idea, I could invite Cammy.
“Wanna grab something to eat?” I added.
“Best idea I’ve heard all day,” came her reply, “give me an hour. I’ll meet you out front.”
“kk,” I wrote back and relieved that we’d made up and I would soon be eating I went back to work on the figures for Dave although if I’m honest, I spent most of the time browsing the internet.
Cammy was waiting for me at the doors as I came down into the foyer.
“You like pizza don’t you,” she said as I approached, “I know this great place.”
“Yeah cool,” I said, I hadn’t given much thought to what we would eat.
“You’ll love it, it’s called ‘Deep Pan Nine’, they do sci-fi named pizzas.” Her eyes twinkled and again I was struck by how beautiful she looked. But it wasn’t her dress which I couldn’t see under her large duffel coat, it was just her. Her face was glowing with happiness, she looked almost radiant.
“Are you ok?” she asked, her expression changing to worry.
“What? No no I’m fine.”
“You looked a bit weird there, like your brain had switched off for a bit.”
“No sorry, I’m probably just hungry, I haven’t had anything since lunch.”
“Hmm, ok, well how does a ‘2001: A Meat Odyssey’ sound?”
I almost cried with laughter at the name and we were half-way through the town centre before my giggling subsided. I seem to giggle a lot around Cammy. My self-control wasn’t helped by her listing off some of the other bizarrely named pizzas they had available. My favourite was definitely the “Quattromass Formaggi” which didn’t really work but I had to give them extra credit for trying.
The place itself was nothing special. Just a small takeaway tucked down a side street with a few sci-fi posters on the walls. The sign above the door was interesting with a hand painted picture of a TARDIS and a couple of Doctor Whos next to the “Deep Pan Nine” name. I decided to get the Formaggi, with such a great name I had to try it. Cammy went for a “Ham Solo” which, unsurprisingly, was plain ham and cheese.
We ate in the park near the shopping center, perching our pizza boxes on a low stone wall. While we ate Cammy had me in stitches with stories about her boss, Simon. How he hadn’t brought the whole building down around us was a miracle. The Formaggi was delicious, even the cottage cheese, which had been a surprise on the first bite. I always thought it was something you put on crackers when you wanted to get serious about losing weight but it turned out it was excellent on a pizza.
“Fancy a drink, I know a great pub near here,” she said as I finished my last slice, she had eaten little of her own pizza. I couldn’t help admiring her and being a little jealous, she was everything I wanted to be, easy to talk to, funny, interesting and intelligent. Yes she was a little plump and wasn’t as attractive as some of the other girls in the office and seemed to deliberately shy away from makeup but she was genuine and didn’t have a bitchy bone in her body. I’d never even heard her say anything bad about Diane, who was hated by at least two of the secretaries and envied by all the others.
“Yeah sure,” I said, my mouth was ready for a nice cold drink to wash away the taste of cheese.
“Don’t worry, it’s not sci-fi or anything.”
The moon had risen high in the sky by the time we reached the pub which unlike the pizza shop had the rather boring name of “The Red Shield” but it was warm inside and they even had a real open fire near to the bar with two worn leather armchairs on either side of the hearth. It had been a while since I’d been into a pub and I’d forgotten how welcoming they could feel. It seemed Cammy was well known to the lady behind the bar because she called out “Hello Cammy dear, usual?” as we reached the bar.
“Yes please Maggie,” replied Cammy.
“And what can I get your beau?” said Maggie looking at me with piercing eyes from under a strong furrowed brow.
“What would you like M?” said Cammy and even in the low light around the bar I could see she had blushed.
I looked around, sizing up my choices. I’d never been much of a drinker and not dared to experiment much, the odd pint of Snakebite at University was as adventurous as I’d ever been but I’d always wanted to try Stout and since today was my day for new things I found myself saying.
“Do you have any Stout?”
“I do, I’ve got Chocolate, Guinness and Woody.”
Chocolate Stout? That sounded awesome and insane. I’d heard of Guinness, who hasn’t? But chocolate beer? I didn’t know you could get such a thing.
“Chocolate please,” I said before my brain could get control of my tongue and order a more sensible option.
“I thought you were going to see Evita tonight dear,” said Maggie as she pulled one of the large levers towards her, filling a pint glass with Cammy’s drink.
“I was, but I got stuck at work and wound up all dressed up with nowhere to go.”
“I see you found some pleasant company though,” said Maggie and she gave me another look that was half smile and half leer.
“This is Martin,” said Cammy, “we work together, sort of.”
“Nice to meet you Martin, you’re in luck, quiz night is about to start, if you’re quick you can still sign up.” She handed me a bottle and I was about to hand her a twenty when she held up her hand and said, “These are on the house dear.”
“Oh, thanks,” I said.
We found a free table near the back wall under a large picture of a knight holding a large red shield on a battlefield, he didn’t look like he was in a winning position judging by the angry spearmen surrounding him. In one corner of the room a large, rotund man in his late forties was holding a microphone and as he saw Cammy he called out, “You playing Cammy?” to which she turned to me and said, “Fancy it?” “Sure,” I said and took a seat on the couch behind the table. I wasn’t sure how much use I would be, I’m good with numbers but general knowledge isn’t my strongest suit. “Yeah ok,” Cammy called back and sat down on a stool in front of the table.
“Me and the girls usually play, we’re ‘The Big Birds’,” she said.
I took a swig of my Stout and Cammy giggled as my face screwed up in a mixture of shock and confusion. I’d never tasted anything so strange, it was as if someone had stuffed a handful of earth in my mouth and then thrust a piece of stale chocolate in there for good measure. And you know what? I really liked it. What was wrong with me today? I took another long swig.
“Oh, nearly forgot,” she said and rising from the table quickly grabbed a piece of paper and pencil from the table in front of the man with the microphone.
“Question 1,” said the man as Cammy returned to her seat, as she sat down she smiled at me and again I was struck by how beautiful she looked, her face seemed to be almost glowing.
“What is the capital of Bangladesh?” said the man and Cammy leaned over to me and whispered, “So how’s the Stout?”
“Really good,” I whispered back, “but it tastes a bit like worms. I think the answer’s Dhaka.” The only reason I knew was because there had been flooding in Bangladesh the previous week and it had been on the news.
It was the only answer I knew but Cammy knew them all, even “In the human body, what is the hallux?” Did you know it was Latin for big toe? At question twelve, with both of our drinks gone and my mumbling contributions not really helping I went to the bar for a fresh round of drinks.
“Same again?” said Maggie as I approached and I nodded but as she again began pulling the pint I couldn’t help noticing she looked different, her features were harder and softer at the same time, more defined yet she had some of the same glow around her face as Cammy.
“Quiz not too hard?” said Maggie as she placed Cammy’s pint onto the bar, “Bob’s always worrying about the questions, tries to get new ones every week off the internet, silly old bugger but it keeps him busy and outta my hair. No dear these are on me as well. It’s about time Cammy had some good luck and you look like good luck.”
“Thanks,” I said not knowing what she meant about me being “good luck”. By the time I reached our table again it was question 14, “Granadilla is another name for which fruit?” “It’s a passion fruit” hissed Cammy as I sat down.
“Oh,” I said feeling stupid but I didn’t care, I found myself entranced watching Cammy listen to the question and then, with an almost childlike glee her face lit up as the answer occurred to her.
To my surprise I knew the answer to the final question, “What is the name of the policeman in the Noddy stories?” but I remained quiet and just nodded my approval when she whispered “PC Plod,” to me over the table.
We won of course, well I should say Cammy won, my meager contribution made no difference to the outcome and by the Noddy question I was on my third bottle of the increasingly sour tasting Chocolate Stout and I’d stopped taking much notice of Bob. It was far more enjoyable to just watch Cammy. And I kept going back to the same thought, why I had never noticed her beauty before? Why I had never noticed how radiant and lovely she looked? But then I wondered, was it the glasses? What had the shopkeeper said about them? Something about seeing things as they truly are. Maybe they had some kind of filter on them that made everything look nicer. I removed the glasses but no, there was no change, Cammy still looked the same, she still had that soft glow that gave her an almost angelic look. Other people in the bar looked the same, but I had nothing to judge against. I’d never seen any of them before. There was one exception, a thin rugged looking man sitting at the bar. I could only see the side of his face but he looked almost as if a shadow was sitting across his features, he looked tense, almost angry, as if his face was caught in a snarl, like a predator trying to intimidate its prey.
“I don’t think he’s your type,” said Cammy, breaking me out of my thoughts.
“Do you think he looks a bit weird?” I said nodding towards the man, looking at him was making my skin crawl but I was also having trouble not looking at him.
“He looks ok to me,” said Cammy, “I don’t think he’s my type either but he looks ok. Why what’s wrong with him?”
“Oh nothing,” I said, finally tearing my gaze away, “I think the Stout has gone to my head.”
“Do you want another? Let’s celebrate our victory of a $50 gift voucher.”
“Yeah ok,” I said, “but no more Stout, maybe a lager.”
“One lager coming up,” she said and set off towards the bar. Just as she turned back towards me, drinks in hand, the thin man leaned towards her. Cammy recoiled at whatever he had said and hurried back to our table. Whatever the thin man had said had troubled her.
“You ok?” I said.
“Yeah fine,” she replied but I could see she was shaken, “actually do you want a game of pool?”
“What did he say?”
“Nothing, nothing, come on, let’s go play pool,” and before I could say anything else she took the drinks and began walking to the other side of the pub where a pool table lay empty. I followed, putting the man out of my mind.
I can honestly say I’ve never had so much fun playing pool and I was glad I held my own, although I lost.
It was a shock when the sounds of a bell rang out across the pub and Maggie called, “Time please, last orders at the bar.” We’d been playing pool for nearly two hours and spent most of that time giggling like schoolkids. It had been close to an hour since our last drink.
We said our goodbyes to Bob and Maggie and once outside I was shocked at how cold the late night air felt after the warmth of the pub.
“I’ll walk you home if you like,” I said. I knew she lived near the city centre.
“That would be very gentlemanly of you,” she said, linking her arm with mine. She had a mischievous, almost impish look in her eye.
She lived much closer than I thought and barely three streets later we were stood outside a large nondescript house nestled unobtrusively in a row of other nondescript houses.
“Well, this is me,” she said waving to the house behind her, “thank you for a lovely evening, it was more fun than Evita.” She leaned forward and kissed me on the cheek. My skin tingled where her lips had been.
“Yeah it was, we should do it again.”
“Definitely,” she said and I got the impression she was hesitating. There was a moment of awkward silence, our first of the evening and she said, “You could always come up for coffee?” She left the question hanging and another awkward silence followed.
What I said next is definitely the stupidest thing I have ever said or am ever likely to say. In my defense, at the time I had no idea Cammy felt the way she did about me, I’d never suspected, I really did think she just saw me as a friend.
“I better not,” I said, “if I have coffee I’ll be up all night and I need to finish that report in the morning.”
“Oh,” said Cammy, and the look on her face changed abruptly, she looked like she’d been slapped, “ok then, I’ll see you around,” and before I could say anything else she had opened the door and disappeared inside, closing the door abruptly behind her.
I stood there for a good ten seconds, dumbfounded, what had I said? I really didn’t want to have coffee, I really did need to get up the next morning, I really did need to finish that report. And then it struck me, her meaning finally penetrating my seemingly lead lined cranium. I stared at the door, a sudden urge to try and explain nearly overwhelming me, to reverse my idiocy. But then I stopped. Cammy may like me, “that way”, but did I feel the same? I’ll be honest, physically speaking I’ve never found her that attractive. My preference has always been for slim blondes like Diane but I would be the first to admit it had never been a successful strategy. My last steady girlfriend, a good three years ago now, had been a brunette called Jean but she hadn’t been particularly slim either. Come to think of it, of the three girlfriends I’d ever had, none had been blonde. Cammy was much more than looks though, she was everything I’d always wanted in a partner but my own blinkered vision had prevented me from seeing it and tonight she had looked stunning. Do clothes maketh the woman or was I gaining a new perspective on her? Was I seeing her as she really was and I was just too thick to notice the stunning, funny and intelligent beauty before me? All I’d wanted since Jean had told me she’d fucked the best man at her friend’s wedding and was “moving on” was to be swept off my feet by someone just like Cammy and tonight it had happened and I was too dense to notice.
“Yes,” I said aloud, “I do like her, I do find her attractive.” I rushed to the door, to hell with it, I’d explain to her how I felt and Dave could stick his stupid report up his cockhole. But I recoiled at the sight of the four doorbells at the side of the door, numbered one, two, three and four. There were no names beside them and I had no idea which number she was in. She could be at the back of the house and there were lights on in the rooms at either side of the front door. I wanted to scream, not only had I upset Cammy but I also had no way of explaining my mistake to her. I didn’t even have her phone number, I’d never thought to ask for it, I’d never needed it before.
Deflated and annoyed I turned away, hoping I might hear the door open behind me and she had returned to ask me up for coffee again. But no, there was no sound or sign of her and with a final backwards glance at the closed door I trudged away.
I walked back towards the city centre, my own meagre flat lay on the other side of town. The center was busy with people in various states of drunkenness and undress milling around, the pubs had all closed and the remaining dedicated revellers had begun moving onto the nightclubs. I did my best to ignore everyone and briefly considered getting a taxi home before dismissing the idea. In a taxi I could avoid the drunks and the teenagers who seemed to be communicating in a mix of incomprehensible shrieks and giggles but it would be a huge waste of money for a journey that would only save me a handful of minutes.
It was just as I was walking towards “Cherries”, the best nightclub in town so the sign above the door said, that I noticed him. He was standing against a wall opposite the nightclub, smoking. He seemed to be watching the people lining up to go in. At first I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. His face seemed warped, almost twisted. Like the man in the pub, his features had a dark, shadowy appearance. In fact he looked almost demonic and I swear I saw a glint of red in his eyes but that could have been a reflection from the bright flashing cherry logo outside the nightclub. I slowed down as a I approached, fascinated, almost transfixed. He didn’t look like he was going to the club, I didn’t think it likely that they would let him in, at least not dressed in dark track pants and an equally dark hooded top covering his head. I could see he was staring at a group of young girls in the line, his mouth twitching and writhing and now and then I would see the tip of his tongue flick out and circle his lips. He looked like a slavering wolf ready to tear a bite out of a fresh kill. How come no one else could see him? How could no one else see how weird he looked. Suddenly there was a blurt of a siren behind me and swinging round I saw a police car pull up. Two burly policemen got out and began walking towards the nightclub door. When I turned back the man was walking briskly away.
I knew then what he intended to do, he was a predator looking for prey and it was my guess that he wasn’t finished for the night. I followed. I had no idea what I was going to do but if I could just stop him from attacking anyone, that would be good, surely. I picked up my pace, he was a fair way ahead and dressed all in black it was difficult to pick him out. He looked like he was going back towards the centre of town. He stopped opposite a taxi rank. Lurking in the dark shadow of a building I stopped further down the road, barely twenty meters away. I could see his eyes clearly, like two bright coals of malevolence scanning the line waiting at the side of the road. Nearly all of those waiting were young girls, all long legs with short skirts and low cut tops. Then one, in a skirt that would better be described as a large belt spoke in the ear of a clearly drunken friend and then quickly tottered away on her giant heels to a nearby alley.
The predator stiffened and his eyes flared for a moment then he slunk across the road, being careful to stay out of the streetlights. I froze, not knowing what to do, the girl had disappeared into the alley, he was nearly across the road, I knew what he was going to do but what should I do? Should I run back to the nightclub for the police? Would that be too late for the girl? Would they believe me? Were they still there? All these thoughts flashed through my mind and before I could think on it more I found myself sprinting across the road. By the time I reached the alley I could see neither the girl or the man, it was completely dark, but I could hear them. He was growling at her, telling her to keep quiet or he’d cut her, she was only moaning in response, as if something was covering her mouth. Again I was struck with indecision, what should I do? The girl needed help but what help could I offer?
And then I found myself shouting out into the darkness, “Hey, leave her alone.” There was a moments silence, I heard the girl struggle, she screamed “Help”, then I was shoved roughly and I went slamming into the alley wall. I heard rather than felt my head connect with the brick and I knew no more.
When my eyes opened again it was bright, I was in a small room with white walls, laying on a bed with a raised metal rail at the side. My head was complaining in ways I didn’t know were possible and it was a few minutes before I realised I was laying in a hospital bed. What had happened to the girl, I hoped she was ok. Had they caught the predator or had he escaped? Gingerly I reached up to feel my head and from the door I heard “Probably best to leave that alone.” In the doorway stood a nurse but it was strange, she had a sort of white aura around her, it was as if she was glowing with an inner light.
“You’ve had a nasty knock,” she continued, “but you should be ok. Do you know where you are?” A moment later she was at the bed and gently she took my wrist in her hand and began checking my pulse.
“Am I in hospital?” I said and she peered intently at my face.
“That’s right, you’ve been in the wars a bit.”
“What day is it?” I said, suddenly wondering how long I’d been unconscious. The clock on the wall opposite my bed said 2.35pm.
“Wednesday,” she said as she began wrapping a black piece of cloth around my left arm.
“Really?” I said, astonished that I’d been asleep for so long. It was only then I noticed the pain in my right shoulder. “What happened to my shoulder?” I said.
She switched on the blood pressure machine and as it began chugging away to itself I felt the cloth tighten around my arm.
“You were stabbed, nothing serious but you’ve got some stitches. Quite the adventure you’ve had. The police will be round later to talk to you. They want a statement.”
“The police?” I said, I was still astonished at what had happened.
“Yes, you’re quite the hero, you saved that girl from who knows what. They didn’t catch him though.”
“She’s ok then?”
“Yes, a bit shook up, we had her in ED for a bit but she went home a while ago.”
I was relieved the girl was ok but I wished her attacker had been caught, he was evil, there was no other word for him and it bothered me that there were people like that in the world, roaming free to prey on the innocent.
The blood pressure machine stopped and there was a tearing sound as she removed the cuff.
“All normal, the Doctor wants to keep you in overnight, just to keep an eye on you. If you start to feel dizzy or nauseous or suddenly feel like you really need to sleep then press this button.” She paused and laid a small plastic square with a large button on it on my bed then walked to the end of the bed and began scribbling in a folder of papers. “You should be able to go home tomorrow,” she continued, “is there anyone I can call for you?”
I thought for a moment. What little family I had lived two hundred kilometres away and my only real friend was Cammy. I wished she were here but I didn’t want to disturb her and she probably hated me after last night.
“No, there’s no one,” I said and for a moment felt lonelier than I ever had since leaving home.
“Ok, well if you change your mind just let me know.”
With that she left the room. I looked about and to my surprise saw my new glasses on the table next to the bed. Someone had helpfully left them there. On impulse I put them on, they felt more comfortable than ever but more than that they felt “right” and I wondered, I would have to return them soon but could I? I wanted to keep them, they made me feel and see things I never had before. I felt more confident and sure of myself but better still, for the first time in my life I felt at ease with myself. Could I give that up? Would I? I didn’t know, all I knew was that I wanted them more than ever.
The police arrived just before 5pm. The two detectives were friendly and I noticed each had the same white aura around them like the nurse, only fainter. One of them did all the talking while the other took notes. He asked me what had happened, what I had done and whether I could describe the man. It was all very straight forward and mundane. I told them I was on my way home after a night out with a friend and saw the man follow the girl into the alley, I followed, suspecting something was wrong. I described her attacker as best I could but I didn’t mention the man’s eyes or my feeling that he was evil. They left after twenty minutes and asked that I visit the station the following day to make a formal statement. As they reached the door to leave I remembered I hadn’t asked them how the girl was and said, “Is the ok?”
“Yes sir, she’s ok,” said the detective, “you did a very brave thing, but next time call the police instead.” He gave me a wink and disappeared.
I arrived home just before 11am the next morning. I had to wait for the Doctor to come and give me a once over and sign some papers saying he was happy for me to leave. The nurse reiterated once more that if I noticed anything wrong with my vision (Ha!) or felt any nausea then I should call an ambulance. I considered ringing Cammy at work but I didn’t dare, besides she was probably busy and wouldn’t want to be bothered by my troubles.
I hadn’t called work to let them know what happened. I really didn’t care, Dave could stick his presentation up his arse. I would ring in sick tomorrow, the hospital had given me a sick note for the week, I wouldn’t be rushing back.
The events of the past two days had started to make me really think about life. What did I really want out of it? What did I want to do? I was 28, stuck in a dead-end job, producing shitty reports for shitty people in a shitty office, there had to more to life than this.
I tried watching television but everyone looked strange, it was as if I could see below their makeup. They all looked bloated and cracked, like mannequins with painted on faces.
For a long while I just sat on the sofa and the same thought kept bouncing around my mind, “What should I do with my life?”
It was a while before I noticed the doorbell. I think I might have fallen asleep but wasn’t sure. It was close to 6pm. My head was sore and my shoulder ached. The hospital had given me some pain killers but I hadn’t taken any yet. I considered ignoring the door. Who would be visiting me? Probably someone trying to sell me religion or worse. But the doorbell didn’t stop, whoever it was seemed convinced I was inside.
Grumpily I stomped down the hallway to the door, determined to tell whoever it was to “Fuck off and leave me in peace.” I threw the door open and gasped as I saw Cammy on the doorstep, she looked radiant, almost like an angel, a warm orange glow surrounded her and she looked so beautiful my heart almost melted.
“Hi,” she said and her expression was so sheepish for a moment I wondered what was wrong. “I brought pizza,” and she offered the box in her arms up towards me, on the top it said “Deep Pan Nine” in bright blue letters.
I just stood there transfixed by her, my mouth hanging open like a hungry dog waiting to be fed.
“Are you ok?” she said.
“Yeah, yeah,” I said, “do you want to come in?” I stood to one side and she walked inside. Her perfume smelled wonderful as she walked past, like fresh cut flowers.
I followed her down the hallway into the lounge. She turned towards me as we entered.
“I wanted to say sorry about Tuesday night,” she began, “I shouldn’t have asked you to, you know…”
“No, no,” I said, saying the words so quickly they nearly ran into each other, “I’m sorry, I was really dumb, I didn’t know what you meant, I thought you wanted coffee.” It was strange, just being in her presence made me feel better about myself, as if her glow was warming me from the inside.
“Really?” she said and I could tell she was searching my face for a lie. “You’ve never been asked to ‘come up for coffee’ before?”
“No,” I said, feeling a little ashamed of myself, “never.”
“Oh, I thought you didn’t…” but she didn’t finish the thought. “Are you hungry? The pizza will be getting cold.”
I suddenly realised I hadn’t eaten since being in the hospital that morning. My stomach growled with displeasure as if to underline the point.
“I’m starving,” I said.
She flipped the lid on the box and offered it to me, I hungrily dug a piece out and shoved it in my mouth.
“So where have you been? You weren’t at work,” she said as she picked out her own piece and placed the box on the coffee table.
It didn’t take long to tell the story and by the time I had finished her eyes were the size of dinner plates.
“Can I tell you something?” I said after a brief pause.
“Of course,” she said.
“I think it was these glasses that made me see what he was going to do.”
“What do you mean?” she said giving me a look that made it clear she thought I was going mad.
“I see people differently now,” I said, “you look different, the guy looked different, he had red eyes, even the nurses at the hospital looked different.”
“The nurses had red eyes?”
“No, they had like a white glow around them, you’ve got an orange glow around you and you look different. It’s as if I can see the inner person now.”
“Are you sure you’re ok?” It was clear she was beginning to think I’d gone mad.
“Yes, I’m sure, I just feel different, everything’s different but better.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“I’m supposed to give them back tomorrow and I don’t want to.”
“You’re supposed to give them back? Where did you get them from?”
I told her of my visit to “Majestico’s Magnificent Menagerie of Mysticism” and the strange shopkeeper.
“You know there’s no such shop on the high street,” she said.
“I know,” I said, “but I didn’t make this up. I have to give the glasses back tomorrow at 12.30, otherwise ‘the cost incurred may be more than I am prepared to pay’,” I finished my quote in the creepiest impression of the shopkeeper I could manage.
“So you can see something around me at this moment?” said Cammy.
“Yes, you have a sort of warm orange glow around you.”
“And I look different?”
“How do I look different?”
It was a while before I answered and I studied her face. I knew exactly what I wanted to say, I knew exactly the word that described her and yet I was nervous to say it. I didn’t want her to laugh in my face.
“You look beautiful,” I said.
She blushed a deep red and looked away, for a moment I thought she was laughing. When she turned back I could see she had a tear in her eye.
“No one’s ever said that to me before,” she said.
“That makes us even then,” I said and on impulse leaned towards her and kissed her soft red lips.
We awoke late the next morning, wrapped in each others arms. Neither of us had coffee.
Cammy called in sick to work, she feigned a cold and I had to put a hand over my mouth to stop myself laughing as she coughed and spluttered down the line. I also rang in, although I didn’t give a reason, only that I would be back next week and would drop in the doctor’s certificate then. I wanted to spend the day with Cammy. I also wanted her to come with me to the shop, today was the day I had to return the glasses and I didn’t want her to think I had totally lost my mind. I could tell she still wasn’t convinced about my story. It would be a risk going out after calling in sick but I’d stopped caring. I refused to be stuck in that dead-end job any longer and had already committed myself to handing in my notice by the end of the month. I had some savings, I could survive for a while without a job. Anything had to be better than spending all day churning out crap for that wanker Dave.
Cammy made breakfast and even though it was just toast it was the best breakfast I’d had in years. After breakfast she went for a shower and then invited me to join her, which I did and it wasn’t until just after 12pm that we managed to get out of the house.
To my lasting relief the shop was actually there and Cammy could see it, I wasn’t completely mad. It was still nestled between the newsagent and the bookstore, like a tiny sibling squished in between its older, larger brothers. I was reassured by Cammy’s comment that she’d “never noticed it before but it looks like it’s been there forever.” Thankfully this wasn’t all a dream.
I hesitated at the door, in truth, I didn’t want to give the glasses back, in fact I knew I wasn’t going to leave the shop without them. My life had changed so much in the past three days but it had been for the better. I’d made decisions and changes that even a week ago I wouldn’t have dared even consider, and, of course, I’d finally realised that the most wonderful person I’d ever met actually liked me, I wasn’t going to give that up, not without one hell of a fight.
Reluctantly, I grasped the brass handle and pushed the door, it squealed in protest. We both stepped inside.
Inside the shop was no different from my first visit. The tables were still there, as were the stained, yellow lamps. The shopkeeper was nowhere to be seen and I called out, “Hello, I’m here about the glasses you lent me.”
But there was no answer, so I called out again, “Hello, is anyone there?”
Still there was no answer and Cammy said, “Maybe he’s having a lunch break?”
I frowned, “This happened last time, it wasn’t until I picked something that he appeared.”
But Cammy didn’t seem to be listening, she had moved to the table in the middle of the room and had begun looking at its collection of seemingly random knick-knacks.
I was growing impatient, I just wanted to get it over with, I had no idea how I would convince the shopkeeper that I was keeping the glasses, I hadn’t actually thought that far ahead.
“Ha!” said Cammy and I saw that she had picked something up from the table, “this is funny, it looks just like a coin my Dad gave me when I was a kid.”
“It’ll have some freaky writing on a card with it, they all do.”
“Yeah, it does, it says ‘A flip a day keeps indecision away.'”
“Very deep,” I said and wondered whether I should go into the back of the shop to find the shopkeeper.
“It’s weird though,” said Cammy and I could see her rolling the coin over the back of her fingers like a magician, “my Dad used to tell me that life is one coin flip after another, every decision you make can go one way or the other.”
She flipped the coin back along her fingers and it suddenly disappeared as it reached her index finger.
“So a selection has been made?”
I shouldn’t have been surprised but I nearly jumped up to the ceiling as I heard the quiet voice of the shopkeeper behind me.
“I’m here about the glasses,” I said spinning around and trying to recover my composure.
“Indeed,” he said, “you are here to tell me that you wish to keep the glasses, that you will pay any price. But let me ask you, do you need the item or do you want it?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” I said.
“Yes, you do. Now think, do you need the item or do you want it?”
I still wasn’t sure what he meant. Did I need the glasses? Did I want the glasses? Had the glasses changed me or released me? If I gave them up then would I go back to how I had been? Did I want to go back? I knew the answer. No, I didn’t want to be the person I was three days ago, I had changed, I had moved on. I would find a new job, a new life, even a new place to live and I wanted Cammy to be part of it all. No the glasses released me and I wanted these changes to continue. I didn’t need the glasses, I wanted them.
“I want them,” I said, fully expecting him to demand their return or pull them from my face but he did nothing except give me that unsettling grin that exposed too many pointed yellow teeth.
“Then you may keep them and our transaction is complete. Now if you would excuse me I have a new customer who requires assistance.” He turned to Cammy and said, “So a selection has been made?”
Even a brief feeling of irritation at being shunned couldn’t suppress my excitement, I’d been given a new way to look at those around me, to see them as they truly are. No longer would I be fooled by facades and fakery, no longer would I toil for monsters and simpletons, yes I would see the worst in people but I would also see the good. I had a new perspective and I intended to make the most of it.
From the Author,
Thank you for reading “A New Perspective”, I hope you enjoyed it, if you did please feel free to share it and tell others about it.
And no, the shopkeeper is not the devil.