The puddles of yesterday still linger today. It reflected the messy sky of blue and white; it might rain again at 4pm. I have nothing important to do this day so my grandmother told me to buy her favourite tea at the oldest variety store within street 10 in downtown. The train was always a crazy ride because you get to meet all kinds of weirdos and nice people that go by their businesses. From time to time, they get on each other’s way and some entertainment begins. After passing the door that was blocked by two arguing housewives. I felt lucky because I usually get caught and they throw me around even I was not planning to settle them down. I’m 17, nobody and too slim which is why I easily get bullied and rejected by my peers. To avoid that situation, I always try not being too smart and silent around people. Since I happen to pass by the sweet shop that my friend/classmate is currently doing his summer job, I visited him and bought a regular cup of Pistachio ice cream. He was surprised at my arrival that he announced my presence to everyone. I wasn’t a big deal to me; I continued what I mean to do so we proceeded to ask how-you-dos then I left the place with a treat in hand. And before we said our goodbyes, he told me that the old variety store where I’m going to buy my grandmother’s tea is owned by a witch and everything in sale is made from dark magic. I didn’t take him seriously; I just nodded and gave no further comment. I’m not really the type who is into superstition like some of my friends, I am interested sometimes but I never let it bother my normal life. He also added that they are looking for a clerk about a week now and he suggested I should try to enter and debunk the rumours. It’s good to know he’s none of those extremes but he sure is curious as to why people would describe the place that way and why it sells strange products. Actually, when my sight landed at the store in between a café and an electronic repair shop, it does look mysterious but not sketchy because otherwise their neighbours would call the police. It’s not looking run-down but the fading reds on its walls and windows do give it a classic antique store vibe. Since I saw people come and go in the establishment, I didn’t feel fear or shyness as I pushed its saloon doors and enter the world of scents and enchanting colors. The store is amazing! It had large jars filled with dried barks, leaves, flowers and spices in the racks of their walls. The standing dark shelves on the middle of the room were crowded with cloth bags, wooden boxes and other peculiar shaped bottles – encasing all sorts of objects from shiny and shimmering dust to dead and living insects. They also have kitchen wares and utensils that I’ve never encountered but what really surprised me most are the bizarre instant food that came from places I never heard before. I did not let anything pass my senses, I checked every nook and cranny. I really want to know what more could this incredible store can offer but I wasn’t able to take all the time that I need because my grandmother is waiting and she’ll be worried sick if the rain falls before I could arrive home. I said I would control myself so I made the last choice of checking one of the box chest storage drawers that were located on one of the 6 pillars in between the standing shelves. As I did that act, I heard chains being dragged on the floor but I did not put any dangerous implication on it because asking for assistance on finding my grandmother’s tea is more important. I questioned audibly to the lady near the vintage cashier register but she doesn’t seem to notice me for she was bookkeeping old-style with a record book and a quill. Since there was no one else at the counters who could help me find the pine-raspberry tea, I waited for her weird snake yellow eyes to respond to my presence at least. I actually didn’t wait too long because an elderly customer called her out (I found out that Sunday was her name) just to make her discontinue and starting being a cashier. As she was packing the goods he bought, I asked her again for guidance but she just glanced at the large jar on the third counter as a response. I didn’t ask her further questions and approached the object. Upon checking its label, I discovered that it was what I was looking for but I just need 400ml of the tea so I told her the amount I needed. To my surprise, there was another person over the counter! It was a very, very old man – there were wrinkles all over his body, his lips were totally gone inwards, big pupils, fully bald and quite short (not to be rude but he looks like a shell-less turtle). He took a specific scoop under the counter very, very slowly and got a paper bag. Then he began putting the dried leaves from the jar and into its new container. While this process was done, the paper bag was above a mechanical scale – that was the only modern object in the place – but the paper bag was not its final resting place, the tea leaves were transferred to a thin wooden box and was labelled:
Derc & Yrau Merchandise
(1897) Baked Pine Cambium &
(2008) Dried Raspberry Leaves
400 ml Original #26 - Sweetened
Best Before: 20XX
Minutes later, I brought it to the counter to be paid. This time, Sunday spoke to me as she pressed the numbers again, she asked if I’m related to Kayle Burrows because of the facial similarities and my grandmother also mentioned to her that she had grandsons. I admitted that we are related and I also added that she wasn’t doing well because of her knees and legs, which is why she wasn’t able to do the transaction. Upon knowing my grandmother’s condition, the lady fixed her black ombre hair a bit with sad hum before suggesting I should also buy ‘Cho-Do mixed with Ca100%’ and make her have it for a week after meals so she’ll be good as new. It sounded convincing so I took the mixture from the bottom left shelf in section 18 and used my allowance to have enough to last a week. Sunday packaged the powder using a hand-operated rolling machine that hardened it with melted maple sugar (I believe she purposely did it to mask the mixture’s taste and since old people like hard candies) and the product was small oblong sweets which my grandmother would totally love. I exited the store afterwards but it got a bit crowded so I was stuck for a while and when I finally pushed the door to get out of the place, I was met by the sales lady. She was greeting with the typical please come again dialogue and welcomed patrons. Since I noticed her looking at me as I was trying to leave, it dumfounded me on how she was able to be present outside in just seconds. Sunday gave me a smile before telling me that the store has been very busy lately because it has become popular these past 4 years so they needed an extra hand around – a clerk is what she meant. I told her that I don’t know anyone in particular who needs a part-time at fall but I added that I will inform her if anyone would be interested. Then we waved goodbye to each other because the long day just started and it will be busier in the hours to come.
When I arrived home, lunch time had passed and I was left with almost nothing because my older brothers took most of the rice and meat. As I was eating, my grandmother asked me why I bought the Cho-Do mixed with Ca100%. I told her that it was on sale and its good for her knees so I bought it with the tea. I had to lie because she’s such a worrywar; she would not like me spending that much for her. Then as I washed the dishes, my grandmother asked me how was my experience at the store. I simply told her that I enjoyed every second of it and I’m planning to return and buy some of those bizarre instant foods because I’m feeling adventurous. She also asked about the state of the workers – Sunday and Eltrou. I replied that they were not doing as fine for the customers have been increasing. Grandma Kayle said she would be willing to work there for the owner of the store helped her in a great deal in the past. But because of her age, she can’t do much if she wanted to assist them so she suggested that I should be the one who will volunteer to make both sides even. I almost thought she was being serious until she giggled upon looking at my worried and confused state. I mean, I’m quite attracted at the opportunity but I don’t know really. And I also mentioned to her that the lady is not really good to new customers; my grandmother laughed more before telling me that it wasn’t Sunday’s usual self but there are days that she’s too stressful so she gets grumpy and unreachable. She does know a lot about that woman at the counter, they might be friends but I never heard her talk about such person before. Maybe they just know people that is why they ask and tell about people so I did not ask more questions and head towards my room for an afternoon nap.
I have a reoccurring dream about a fox in a meadow. The graceful creature was hopping around the flowers and grasses, playing with the little insets, occasional birds and sleeping under the sun. Sometimes, he would look at my view point but continues to go on with his carefree ways and sometimes make weird noises. I would like to touch him, play with him but I can’t move in my dream. I can only watch him and be jealous... helpless. But this afternoon, was quite different because I did not let him win. I fought back the force that was holding me until my naked feet landed on the grass -- on the wild flowers and dirt. Then I ran towards the playful fox, however, I wasn’t able to capture him… for a herd of horses came and they threw me into air. When I landed on the ground, I saw my broken leg and felt a indescribable pain on my ribs so I screamed. Seconds later, I noticed someone has been asking me if I was fine, if I needed help but the moment I looked to confirm help, I saw a stallion and it landed its heavy feet on my chest. There I remembered my death. After the memories flooded through me, I asked Sunday with the last of my consciousness ‘why am I still alive?’ She answered ‘Because your grandmother proposed a good trade to the owner’.
The rain was loud outside. And the thunders lightened the sky with loud rage. It wasn’t typical of me to remain the lamp on as I sleep so I forced myself up and turn it off. The switch doesn’t seem to be there as I remembered it so I proceeded to stop being lazy and go down stairs to wait for lunch. That was when I realize it wasn’t just a nightmare; because I’m in a massive warehouse! I did not let panic and fear eat me, I started to comprehend what was happening. I can recall that I died when I was 5 years old because of a horse-riding accident, I can recall the fox who I almost touched and I remembered Sunday trying to help me for I was in pain. Wait a minute, where is she? Was she truly the horse who murdered me? As these thoughts flooded me, I heard someone telling me from afar that I must stop over-thinking. I looked at the direction of the origin of the echo and saw someone wearing a fox mask; he seems to be younger than me. Because his hair evenly matched the colors of the mask, I almost thought his head was a fox until he came closer and stared at me in complete silence (I can’t even hear him breathing even if he’s just 10cm away and the place was dead silent). On the later, he asked me to follow him for he will explain everything. After we departed the warehouse, first thing I saw was a planet. It did not look like earth so I didn’t held back and asked, where in the universe am I? He replied that we are in the first moon of Eichico and we are here to harvest some herbs but first, we should all enjoy Poloumei tea. As he guided me around the corridors, I found the second moon and I also saw the endless field of greens that we suppose to harvest. In reaction, I asked him if it’s even possible for both of us to harvest everything without collapsing in fatigue, he answered that its possible before pointing at a group of people that consist of Sunday, Eltrou and a man named Prima. Upon approaching my seat, I noticed the chain on one of the ankles of the lady and the old man. Just like reading my mind, he said that he will explain it after drinking the tea (but this time he sounded a bit pissed). The hot drink tasted fresh, earthy, bittersweet with hint of mint; I enjoyed every sip of it that I almost forgot my dilemma and notice the strange language they started speaking with. I whispered to Sunday who was sat next to me at the round table, I asked her if they are speaking Italian because it sounded musical or it might be just be English at its traditional form for I heard some rhymes. She raised her brow – I almost didn’t notice it for those were just a patch of hair that was near the bridge of her nose – before saying that I should be able to understand by now or it would be a problem on the night shift. I wanted to ask about the night shift she was talking about but she ordered me to listen closely and with great concentration for my five senses are so used with the human gesture, expressions and sounds that I limit their capabilities. As minutes passed with the blankness of my mind, I heard a bit of my language in theirs then as time passed with looking at the eyes of the person who’s talking, the sounds turned into sentences and began to be an understandable conversation. Yet, I wasn’t able to join the talking because the young owner told us to start picking the vegetation. He wasn’t actually the bossy type because he was harvesting with us and he even wore one of the large baskets on his back to show his dedication to the job. To my disbelief, it just took us 3 or 4 hours to gather everything; that was my I thought until Eltrou explained that it took us days but since the sunrise and sunset is quite vague on the moon, we didn’t notice it. As well as the fact that we don’t get tired because this is a magical place, he added, I must be familiar with it for we will experience more incredible situations in the future. Slowly but surely, we carried the baskets full of plantation into the warehouse then we dumped all of it in a gigantic clay jar that has ¼ full of preservation oils in it. After putting cloth on top to seal it for many years, the child with a fox mask wrote instructions on the jar saying: to be stirred every three years and dried on the forty-fifth year to be packaged and sold on the next day. It was short and clear but that sure is a long period of time, I would be 62 before I get to see its final product. Sunday really surprised me when she said that she could not wait to use the rub on some BBQ meat; she even wished that the patrons won’t buy it all so she could prepare her favorite ribs and maybe roast some chicken with it. I told her she would be 68 or younger (I don’t know her age) before that so why wait? There are many accessible meat rubs in this world that she could appreciate as much. Sunday laughed then explained that she, Eltrou and the owner are not from earth that is why they age longer and even if it’s 45 years, it will feel like minutes to them because they age every 1000 years in the time of Eichico. So in comparison to human time which faster than theirs, there is a possibility that my family has died in old age or the world has ended because I already spent days in the universe of Eichico. I experienced crisis with this revelation but the young owner stopped me from panicking by informing me that he is able to manipulate time so when we return home, only the night has passed and nothing has changed but my perspective; he also showed disapprovement to the behavior of Sunday by telling her that it is disgusting for a 25,000 mammalian-reptile to be a bully. She just chuckled at his correction and told him that she just simply enjoy the radiation of negative emotions so she must be forgiven. Very well, was his reply and he told us to prepare ourselves because the sun has risen and sales must be done. His two employees began walking towards a door on the left corner and went down some metal stairs that was ending on the street where the Derc & Yrau Merchandise is located. I was about to follow them but the owner halted me when said that he doesn’t want us to be his slaves, he wants us to be his servants and the chains will remain until we fully understand what freedom is. Afterwards, I realized that I had a chain on my ankle and he disappeared – never to be seen again. As I followed their steps heading down and to the right, I saw the store move. It pushed the space of the stairs and the door of the warehouse into the walls of the electronics repair shop but it did not damage its neighbor or even shake the ground by the action. It was like a secret portal – only to be revealed by some individuals. Even the next door owner was unlocking his shop and the people getting their coffee at the café didn’t notice us walk downstairs.
I was doing one of the chores, cleaning our part of the pavement on the street, I heard my mother call my name. She was across the street then she ran towards me to hug me before slapping me and telling me why I left the house in the evening without permission. I don’t know how to explain it to my mother – the happenings are all too bizarre to be realistic, or even believable. So instead of explaining it to the three of them since my father and grandmother came running at me as well, I just ask them if they could remember that I died in an accident. My mother tried to avoid the question by dragging me back home but I know it’s useless, the chains will drag me back here so I confessed to her that grandmother Kayle trade my life to the owner so that our family would be complete even just for a while. My father wanted to smack me because he thought it was all lies and bad excuses but my grandmother stopped him and said that it is the truth and if they disobeyed the deal with the owner, he will put a curse into the family so that everyone will suffer slowly before they die. They still didn’t believe me or my grandmother so they continued dragging me into the car. However, my chains have a limit so before I was even able to touch the seat of the car, I was teleported back in the store – in the backroom specifically. Minutes later, they came barging in the store to take me; the other employees let them – Sunday was clearly enjoying this scene. And again, I teleported back there the moment I was too far from the premises but this time, I calmly sat on the chair within the dimply lit room. I waited for them to come back and finally give up, which they did on the fifth try because they finally accepted the inevitable truth of the trade as well as the incredible powers that is preventing them to win. My grandmother asked me if the young owner was kind enough to limit my time here and be home again, I told her that it is possible that he will keep me here forever because he sounded like he means business from the begging of our meeting till the last words he told me that night. With better understanding of the situation, my mother told me that they will visit me here by and by to make me less lonely and make me feel like nothing has changed. I comforted her by admitting that I don’t feel that sad and sorry for myself, for this feels like the begging of a great journey, a fairytale came true. I mean, not many in this world knows that there are other existing universes and not many have worked with humanoid creatures in their whole lives so in conclusion, it is an amazing opportunity to be employed at Derc & Yrau Merchandise.
Eltrou tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I feel tired because we’re having a nightshift today and this Friday as well – there isn’t a regular schedule on when the store would be 24/7, so we just need to be prepared. I answered that it’s quite incredible that I don’t feel any numbness in my body even if I’ve been dusting every nooks and cranny of this old place. I even polished all the jars before the store gets the 2 hour resting period (and to be opened again at 11:30 pm). He nodded to my response and told me that it’s good to know that the incense is working as the product claimed; I thought that I was just excited on how the day will be that is why I’m quite energetic and enthusiastic but it was actually the enchanted incense. I was also thinking that it was suppose to lessen the diverse scents of the store but it was actually for me because unlike them, I’m completely human so I get tired (the owner does care about us in some passive way). While I did my next task which is to give the second copy of receipts a recheck if it matches the decrease of inventory, Sunday disturb my silence by telling me that my clothes are not appropriate as an employee of the establishment as well as it is not pleasing to wear something so earthly during the nightshift. I wasn’t able to ask why because she dragged me into a crowded storage area – that was accessible by the door on both of the hallways – and opened a small cabinet that was hidden behind walls of linen rolls. Then she pulled out some white dresses and dark colored ribbons, which she later on requested me to wear the white clothing because she has to get scissors to make it fit me perfectly. After making it to my size, she began tying the ribbons all over my body but it did not bind to mummify me but it just came to be a second layer to the dress. Sunday also cut some floral linen to be my apron and hair tie; I might be as fashionable as her now but she wasn’t satisfied yet so she took a mortar and pestle out of nowhere and began mixing powders before adding some water and pouring it onto my head. I initially thought she was just bullying me again so I defended myself this time and asked her to stop or I’ll do something that we’ll both regret. And her immediate respond was confirming if I’m planning to kiss her. She threatened, that I’m the one who’s going to regret it because her jaw could break mine like it’s made of twigs. She was truly superior but I won’t tolerate her behavior nor encourage it so I pushed her away from me – since we were almost face to face because of the tight space available to stand without stepping on any goods – but she was sharp, she dodge faster than my senses could respond so I ended up falling onto the floor. Before exiting the room as calm as she always is, Sunday told me that I should fix my hair and there’s a mirror at the backroom to help me with it. Without any second to waste, I exited the room by the other door and stared at my reflection. I could not believe it was me who was looking at myself – I completely look like one of them, but eyes are still normal orbs of gray like my mother’s. I’m wearing traditional clothes like Sundays but a bit bulkier because it’s a male’s style with burgundy above vermillion as the short sleeved coat and lotus pattered honey colored square waist apron as well as hair tie. I kind of felt girly with the mint green ombre hair but it fitted my yellow skin well so my anger was all gone and I had my courage again to face the people of this store. When I walked back to the counter, the last thing I expected was the horde of people coming in the store for it just opened. Speaking of the costumers who only took seconds at the shelves and began lining up with colored cards on their hands, they were all weird looking like Sunday and Eltrou but more animalistic. To be specific, the place was almost like a zoo! From farm animals to arctic animals, I don’t know if it’s just fatigue finally hitting me but I can see giraffes standing from aisle 2 and 3, birds with western clothing flying everywhere and rabbits bellow the counter asking if we have Popping Grapes. There is more creatures coming in and the situation is becoming crazier and erratic but somebody came into my sight that covered the madness by mere height. He looked normal – with human features and his hair was blossoming with pinks – until I noticed the elongated ears and he was also speaking that weird language. I was starting to tune in however, the rabbits claimed they asked for assistance first but when they saw the face of the stranger, they bowed. I didn’t not know if I should bow as well yet it was resolved when Sunday came into the scene; she actually did nothing but tell me that there is no time to be amazed which is why I should start running errands or I’ll do all the cleaning later. I suddenly came into my senses because I remembered that my life is currently in a dream like state because of the impossible things I will witness from now on. I gave an audible cough to the people in front of me and told them to line up if they wanted to be entertained; which they did immediately. Since the furry little hoppers were planning to but a lot from the store – I saw the long list they were holding with their little paws – I just gave them a copy of the shelf map of the store for their convenience. While the stranger was waiting, the animals began talking loudly for he is said to be the King of the Elves. He asked if the body essential set he privately ordered from the owner was available. I did not know what he was talking about and I can’t talk to Eltrou about it because he’s been working on his top speed (or in normal human speed), I can’t get aid from Sunday as well because the lines are getting longer at the register by the second. The beautiful man asked me again if the products are ready to go and he also asked if I’m feeling quite pressured because I’m new here. He’s quite observant or I’m getting too disoriented by animals on clothes and the gigantic snakes trying to pick up the stuff they involuntarily fell because they have to be on the shelves to see most of the goods. Seconds later, I was able to lock my eyes on his again and told him that I’m going to check the storage room at the back if it’s there. It turns out to be available and on top of it was a list but it fell off and got lost in the mess as I ran back to the counter. He seems to be nice, he said thank you as he received it and showed me a black card that had a galaxy shimmer when swayed. And again, I don’t know what to do with the situation yet I wasn’t stuck alone this time because Sunday came into view and told me to use color tray (forehand, they told me that it can be found in one of the counter spaces but I totally forgot what purpose they told me it had). It’s great that I recalled the instructions but the people in line to make an inquiry are beginning to pile up so I went back to my seriousness and started stamping the receipts in reference to the color of their cards. It seems that the costumers during nightshift don’t use money to purchase; I concluded because I could not see anyone taking paper or using coins. As I could remember, Eltrou said it’s because they only get what the owner permits them to have. It’s totally a different system from the dayshift but I didn’t question further; especially now that I can see how it goes, I guess the process of payment just got better with trust. Going back to the stranger or I should say ‘royal’ – the term I caught up just by listening how loud the crowd is getting at – he asked me if I knew the ingredients of the body essentials set. I told him the truth, I said no but he looked doubtful in the way he had his face neutral. We were silent for a while until he asked another question; he wondered if the owner is currently in the store. Again, I answered truthfully, no. But just as before, he was trying to break into me with those glowing wheat colored eyes. He gave up seconds later because the impatience of the beavers and the gazelles are starting to beat the floor with rhythm. Getting into the complete state of how-may-I-help-you-today-ma’am/sir and bagging stuff as sold was going smoothly until I saw the rams that Eltrou warned me about. The owner informed them that those mammals use the goods for black magic so it must not be given to them; which is why recently, they have been stealing. But they fear the young owner greatly so we just have to stare at them to warn them on any attempt. Yet they were not intimidated with me looking at them as they were putting some items in their coats but when Sunday tapped her long naturally gray-green nails on the wooden counter loudly, they just smiled and immediately retuned what they hid. I guess she is the reason why they don’t need security here.
Hoards of creatures come and go like the place was a theme park than a store. But the events were sometimes calm, mostly manageable and the errands can be stressful, the worst is when the customer can’t decide properly. I believe these moments are normal in a busy store or within the peculiar world beyond those doors; I was told not to go out during nightshift but I wasn’t told not to take a peek. Many goods were taken that night as well as many needs to be restocked or replaced. We closed the store before sunrise and to be opened again after 3 hours; in that realization, I felt drowsy as I was scrubbing off the mud and vegetation the crowds have brought with them. I thought I should not be tired because of the incense but it seems that they forgot to light another one for they were busy doing their jobs during that time and they are cleaning with me now. With the small amount of strength left in me, I went back to the counter to get another one smoking. Sunday was sitting on a wooden chair as she was rearranging the stuff under our side of the counter, she noticed me as I tried to find the box of incense. She asked if I needed the object in her hands, it was what I looking for but she did not hand it immediately even if she knows my situation. I begged her to give it yet the annoying lady changed the topic by asking me how was I able to tell lies to a royal. I didn’t tell any lies, I told her then she added that she knows there was a list of ingredients above the product and the owner was at the backroom playing cards with a sorcerer. So how was I able to evade such power from an enchanted king? I laughed at her struggle and told her my convenience that I accidentally dropped the list on the mess and got too many things on hand to get it, and as to the owner’s whereabouts, I did not notice him as I passed near the second arches because I became too focused on the job than my surroundings. In response to my explanation, she laughed with me and Eltrou came into the scene as well to laugh as loud. The day and night ended well but I collapsed in exhaustion and before I drift into complete unconsciousness I saw an alligator with cat ears and a turtle hovering over me.ns220.127.116.11da2