This is a guest post by Marissa. Inspiration for this sketch came from this image.
Every Sunday afternoon he would walk down the long row of antique stores. During these outings, he would always have this feeling, this terrible nagging at the front of his brain, that he urgently needed to find something. It was one very particular, very specific something. Or maybe a collection of things? The constant calling of it after him worked on his nerves; made his teeth scrape and his eyebrows knit together in a constant expression of worry.
For all that though, he never seemed like a desperate man. He would spend hours in a single shop, but he wasn’t obsessive or fastidious like many of the regulars. Anyone watching would only notice the care he took in examining things. He’d pick up an object, turn it in his hands delicately and close his eyes for a moment, as though he was gauging its weight, and then he’d place it back on the shelf. He felt sure that as long as he was calm enough and careful enough, he’d know whatever it was when he saw it.
For how often he was there, you’d expect him to be friendly with the shop staff. Usually the stores had a single owner who was also the sole clerk. He certainly got to know their taste in music and he’d listen in to their conversations. He preferred to keep to himself though. Plus, he worried that if he grew too close to one store owner or another, he’d lose focus on his quest.
His favorite place was probably the vintage toy store or maybe the rare bookshop. He never grew tired of pouring over the little, brightly colored miniatures that populated the toy store’s shelves. He also loved to flip through the books, reading over their stilted language, their illustrations’ old-fashioned flourishes.
After all this time though, he was surprised one day by a new store. A dilapidated furniture factory which had sat vacant in the midst of the other antique places had finally been converted. He walked in, anxious to see what new wares it had to offer.
Mostly its narrow, winding aisles were crowded with heavy, expensive furniture, which he found dull. He walked through row after row of oak bureaus and cherry wardrobes, bedposts and bookshelves. In addition to furniture, they stocked old musical and electrical equipment. Jukeboxes, 50’s televisions, and gaping Victrolas with bells that could swallow his whole upper body.
He also noticed that they seemed to specialize in taxidermy. Plenty of the other antique stores sold novelty moose heads and antler racks, the kitschy pseudo-legacy of this western city, but this was different. The entire bodies of exotic animals had been taxidermied here. Not only that, they had been strangely placed through the store. He wasn’t sure if it was intentional, a macabre joke of some kind, but several were hidden in the shadowed space under a desk or tucked between two larger pieces.
As he walked through the aisles, he wouldn’t see them at first, but he felt watched. Then suddenly, he’d catch a flash of some monstrous thing out of the corner of his eye and after a moment’s jolt, he’d see that it was one of the poor, stuffed animals. Even after he figured out what was happening, he felt unsettled and distracted.
He turned another corner and some creature, a cat maybe, leapt at him. He let out an involuntary welp and stumbled backwards. Instead of crashing into the furniture though, horrible furry arms enclosed him. He covered his face with his hands and hunched over his knees.
There was a long moment of wordless terror until he realized he was sitting in a chair. The legs and arms of a bear had been patched together and used to cover the limbs of an armchair.
The force of his laughter made his body shake, his chest wheeze. He ached with joy and forgot what he had been looking for.