Flash Friday 11/11/2016: Plenty in Store
For ten months a year, Ella loved her family and friends more than anything else in the world. For two months starting the moment the Halloween decorations came down and November came around, she’d find her mind wandering to cutting off ties simply so she could save on Christmas presents.
Not that it was a total chore. When swamped with knitted clothes and vouchers for stores they’ve never shopped in (and never dreamt of, ever), everyone looked to Ella for the perfect gift that matched their needs. And she always did match them. She would make a bulldog smile with the thoughtfulness of her gifts.
The only problem with being thoughtful was the actual thinking, with each gift selected being the survivor of a bloodbath between other gift ideas, all perfect for the person it was planned for, multiplied by the amount of people Ella got along with. And Ella got along with everyone.
Still, she thought to herself as she looked down at her half-completed shopping list, walking blindly toward the next shop. She had made a nice dent on it, and still in November too. The idea was to leave all the gifts that could still be panic-bought on Christmas Eve to last. She was doing a good job.
Still looking down at the list and not where she was going, she pushed the shop’s door open and entered. Now she was in the bookstore, she could nail the new book that came out, written by her friend John’s favourite author. Yes, he was going to love this book, she knew. There was one problem, however.
Why did the bookstore smell like incense?
“Aah!” came a raspy male voice, causing Ella to jump a mile. She suddenly realised she was not in a bookstore whatsoever. The walls were lined with shelves, which were the only normal thing in the room. On the shelves were trinkets and items, none of them familiar, all of them magical in some way.
At the far back of the store, in front of even more shelves of items, was a desk. Behind that was a man in a black robe, his face hidden in darkness bar a pair of red eyes. They were currently looking toward Ella with a pleasant look in them. “Welcome,” he said in his raspy voice. “I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure of meeting. I am Eldoyer, and you have found yourself — so luckily — in my shop of magical interests and treasures. Now then! What would you like, good madam?”
Ella blinked, looked around the room once more to validate it was still there, then looked back to Eldoyer. “Sorry, this…doesn’t look like Waterstones.”
Eldoyer’s eyes faded into mild concern. “No,” he said. He pointed to the wall to his right. “That’s next door.”
The pair stood in awkward silence.
“So,” Eldoyer continued. “I take it you’ll be leaving–”
“Oh, no no, no,” Ella quickly added, looking around the shop again. “No, this is, uh, exactly the sort of thing I’ve always dreamt of being in.”
Eldoyer’s temperament immediately improved. “Good, good! I am pleased. So, what would you like?”
“I don’t know. How on Earth did I get here?”
“The front door, mostly.”
“No, but…I’m sure I was headed for the bookstore and then ended up here.”
“Then you must have missed the bookstore and walked through the door beside it, which leads here, a shop which only those of special magical inclination know the existence of. I believe you’re the first non-magical person ever to visit here. Congratulations!”
“But you’re literally just a shop on the high street. How come you’ve had literally no non-magic people enter all this time?”
“Go outside,” Eldoyer said with amusement. “Check what store you just walked into.”
Ella left to check. Sure enough, the bookstore was to the left of Eldoyer’s. The shop she had just walked into had no windows, and was simply called BOB’S SECOND HAND PARLOR. The front boasted WE SELL IT ALL! • DENTURES • UNDERWEAR • FLOSS. ALL UNCLEANED AND IN ORIGINAL CONDITION TO PRESERVE AUTHENTICITY.
“I see,” Ella said, re-entering. “I feel somewhat ashamed now.”
“Ah, but don’t be! For you have stumbled upon something marvellous, my friend, and that is something few of us get to say at the end of the day. What were you originally shopping for?”
“Christmas presents, like books, and a box of chocolates, and–”
“No no no no,” Eldoyer said, interrupting her list with a carefree wave of his hand. “None of that. Throw those thoughts away. Why buy your loved ones those when you can buy…”
On this comment, Eldoyer ducked behind the counter. Before Ella could fully approach and look over to see what he was doing, he was already back up, placing what looked like a bird made entirely of iron wires. He opened its beak and placed a small rock inside. Upon closing the beak, the bird’s stomach began to glow a bright orange, submerging the rock in light. The glow dimmed, and Eldoyer pushed the bird’s head downward, causing it to lift its tail in the air and deposit a chocolate egg.
Eldoyer picked it up and took a bite under his hood. “Certainly beats a box of chocolates,” he said, jovially. “The best bit is, with all this technological mumbo-jumbo around these days, you can probably pin the magic on that instead. I’ll sell such a novelty trinket for you for twenty; that is,” he said, tapping what Ella presumed would be where his nose is in the dark shroud. “If you can promise to keep this whole thing secret.”
Ella nodded. “Absolutely.”
“Excellent. Well, then, do you want anything else, or is this it?”
“Depends,” Ella said, looking around the store like a child at a sweets shop. “Do you take Mastercard by any chance?”