Today I am delighted that my friend Andrew Roberts is visiting my blog to share his short story, 'The Emporium'. Andy is an accountant by profession and a writer by choice. We share a love of telling stories and attending Swanwick Writers' Summer School. We both very much hope you enjoy this tale.
I have always been very bad at buying gifts. My cousin’s birthday was two days away and I still had no idea what to get him, and then I saw the shop. I had not seen it before, had not heard ‘word on the street’ about it, either. I was simply walking home from work and there it stood on the corner: ‘The Emporium of Strange Delights’.
It was hard to ignore when its somewhat gothic facade stood out from the rest of the shops on the High Street. As always, curiosity getting the better of me I stepped inside in the hope of finding some interesting gift. My cousin had a profound interest in all things horror so I figured there should be a good find or two to be made.
The interior was dark with thick cobwebs adorning every shelf, every nook and every cranny. I don’t how many of them were decorative. Perhaps none of them. A man stood behind the counter, a pallid-looking figure with dark-rimmed eyes that hinted at an aversion to natural light. Maybe he was a hard-core gamer
‘Welcome,’ he looked me up and down as if I were a museum exhibit. That look along with his Vincent Price voice sent shivers down my spine. ‘May I be of assistance?’
‘Hi ... I’m just browsing.’ I mumbled.
He didn’t react to my comment, didn’t even move, but I could feel his gaze following me around the room.
As unnerving as the shopkeeper appeared, as eerie as the Emporium felt, I was impressed by the variety of weird and wonderful items filling the shelves and peeking from behind the veils of cobwebs. Like my cousin, I too was a scholar of the arcane, so I recognised much of the paraphernalia, and there were trinkets aplenty suitable for any birthday. Some Voodoo dolls and chicken feet; myriad charms used in Ancient Egyptian funeral rites; forbidden tomes of eldritch power. They all appeared to be real.
There were many assorted boxes of bric-a-brac, and as many more filled with those trashy things most folks use for Halloween decorations. And for no explainable reason a box of selfie sticks!
‘One of our more … nefarious products,’ the shopkeeper said, eyeing my reflection in a pock-marked mirror. I snorted in disbelief.
Knowing my cousin’s predilection for the unusual I felt something magical would be a good choice, and my sights were soon set on gnarled, wrinkled hand, more animal than human.
‘What’s this?’ I asked.
‘It is ... an appendage, which grants your every desire.’ The shopkeeper was suddenly standing behind me, his cold breath raising the hairs on my neck. I hadn’t heard him move across the room.
‘It does?’ I paused, searching my mind for a certain memory. ‘That reminds me—’ I started to say.
‘That is I am sure that I have once read of this … a monkey’s paw? But I cannot recall… How much?’
‘I shall accept whatever payment you deem appropriate. But take care what you wish for, because you should know that every wish carries with it a heavy price.’
I thought for a moment. The Emporium was in an up and coming area so I didn’t think the shop would be trading for very long. I had to take the opportunity to buy now else the opportunity would be lost. Despite my better judgement I could not resist buying the ugly old paw.
After all, I thought, what could possibly go wrong?