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Little Shop Of Dreams
e stood apprehensively in a crowded corner, surrounded by shelves filled with an array of bottles, powders, and glass jars. The bottles were labeled with narrow curly writing, on yellow slips of paper.
“Extract of humility, extract of prudence, extract of honesty, extract of reverence….”
He read underneath his breath.
The extracts were round and small, and just barely filled with clear liquid. He glanced around him. The store was wide, and three floors high, connected by a winding, spindly metal staircase in the center. The checkerboard floors were clean but a little worn, sometime alienating into red carpet. High wooden ceilings gleamed from the afternoon sunlight, pouring in from a large circular window stretching two floors. The shop’s walls, completely hidden by closets, shelves, doors, and tables, were filled with all sorts of curious elixirs and containers. Amazed, he glanced at Ms. Macy, the shopkeeper, reading behind the counter. She was thin, short, and wore an alarming amount of necklaces and earrings, fuchsia lipstick and hairspray in her fairly high, black beehive. She had on a pair of elaborate, sweeping jade kimonos and rose tinted Benjamin Franklin glasses. She glared at him shrewdly in retort. Orchid passed by, flicking her fingers, and causing several of the cardboard boxes to follow behind her. She flicked her hand again, and the door shot open. Within minutes, the influx of customers was unbelievable. Loud talk and gasps replaced the previously serene atmosphere, as crowds of teenagers hung around every banister and winding corner.
“Oi, Jack, get over there and handle the counter. Macy’s with a customer.”
Orchid called to him from atop the third floor. He hastily maneuvered through the sea of people, put on an apron, and stepped up to the counter.
“Who are you??”
A bossy looking pink haired girl said. Her groups of punky friends were all around her, teasing each other and fooling around with the wares. He gritted his teeth.
“I’m the cashier. How can I help you?”
She looked dissatisfied.
“Oka-y, but where’s Macy?”
“She’s out with a customer. Sorry, but we’ve got a line, how can I help you?”
She soured her expression and pointed a fish net clad finger at a row a bottles behind him.
“I want that bottle, second on the left.”
He took off a little rectangular black and green striped bottle labeled “Concentrate of Rock stardom”.
“Seven- seventy five that is.”
She shook her head and whispered.
“No, not that. The one next to it!”
He raised an eyebrow. The one next to it was labeled “Concentrate of Pop stardom”.
“Uh, sorry, there you go. Six-seventy five.”
She briskly grabbed it and put a handful of coins and grubby bills on the counter.
The next six teens wanted the Concentrate of Rock stardom, one old man wanted Writer’s Unblock, several women wanted Potion de Amour, two fat guys wanted Buffer Sports Drinks, three young ladies wanted De-Guilt erasers, and a few jokesters wanted weed. They didn’t stock weed of course, and Ms. Macy kicked them out, meanwhile slipping something in their pockets.
Orchid kept Jack busy the entire day, up until eight o’clock, when the shop was emptied from customers. Ms. Macy handed Orchid and him two mops.
“I want these floors squeaking.”
They stared glumly at the mops. As soon as Ms. Macy disappeared through a side door, Orchid handed him her mop.
“Right, well I’m not cleaning today.”
She threw her apron on the counter.
“Why not? It doesn’t take too long, with the both of us.”
She rolled her eyes, and grabbed her jacket. Jack exasperated a sigh.
She said and left.
Without people, the shop was a little creepy. Strange sounds and whirs emitted from some of the potions, and some things kept moving around and switching their places. He mopped noisily, trying to block the sounds of the shop. Time seemed to be moving slowly without Orchid. He kept glancing up at a clock, but then realized the many clocks around the shop were all at different times. The largest clock was the loudest, and the grandest. Jack stood before it. It was decorated with thousands of tiny mother of pearl clovers, round sapphires and silver sheaths of wheat. There was no glass protecting its surface, yet its outside looked smooth, and reflective. He stared at his reflection. He looked older than sixteen, and thinner than he had last remembered. Curiously, he extended a finger toward the glass-like reflection. Its surface rippled, and his finger went right through, unhindered, into what felt like a sort of cool, feathery gas. He extended his hand farther, to touch the designs, until he felt a sudden sharp stab of pain. Quickly he pulled back his arm, his heart pounding out of his chest. He anxiously checked the door Ms. Macy had disappeared through. Stepping away from the clocks, he put the mop and buckets in a corner. With no direction where to go from Orchid or Ms. Macy, he sat on the metal staircase, waiting for Ms. Macy to perhaps come upstairs. The railings were intricate, wrought with elaborate symbols; a house floating in the sky, a lanky man with a top hat, doors opening inside a globe, people sleeping, stars, tiny bottles…. He yawned. The moon was out, shining majestically through the great glass window. Jack waited for a few minutes longer and then decided to go, perhaps find a place to stay for the night. He opened the door and gasped.
The shop seemed to have uprooted itself from the ground, floating unsupported through the sky. The little wooden sign, ‘Little Shoppe of Dreams’ swung wildly in the wind. He felt a sense of panic, and confusion. Land wasn’t visible from this height.
“Jack, I beseech you to close the door.”
He startled. A tall, emaciated man, wearing silver poulaine shoes, a grey frock coat, and a tall grey silk top hat (that hid his eyes) had appeared on the store floor.
“I-I-I’m sorry sir.”
He stammered, gulping at the stranger. The man removed his hat and swung around. His eyes were ghastly, in a livid shade of emerald green, enormous and seemingly bulging out of their sockets.
“That’s quite alright.”
He strode to the opposite side of the room and shut the door. The buckets and mops inched away from him as he passed, hiding themselves in the appropriate closet. Jack noticed that the noises from the bottles had vanished and the clocks stopped ticking. The room was completely quiet.
“Come Jack, we’re going on a trip tonight.”
He walked to the clocks and Jack, still startled, cautiously and slowly moved toward him. He was staring at his eyes, for he thought he saw an electric blue current fizz through them. The man seemed to know the shop well fiddled with some switches by the wall with the clocks. He turned a dial. The mother of pearl clock started to spin.
“I manufacture and deliver dreams. My name is Sir Shalom; you may call me Sir. “
He fiddled with another switch.
“Of course, I’m not the only ones who does it. We’re part of a confederation.”
A different clock started turning.
“But we’ve been here a while.”
A Japanese clock started switching around its numerals.
“What do you mean, we, Sir?”
Jack uttered nervously. Sir stopped and smiled.
“Macy and I. We started a business a few decades ago selling weakened versions of dreams for people to use personally. It’s quite illegal, but it pays well.”
The mother of pearl clock clicked. Quickly, Sir stepped right through it, pulling Jack through with him. This time, there was no pain. Jack felt as though he had just stepped into a dreamy, wispy atmosphere, foreign and weightless. It was like floating through soft feathery nothingness, with the occasional hazy glimmer of light. Sir was walking briskly ahead of him, and Jack’s eyes had to focus in order to keep up. As they strode, he saw traces of people around him in the darkness, all sleeping soundly. But as soon as he came close to them, they disappeared.
Ahead, Sir kept taking out bottles and powders from his coat, dabbling here and there into the nothingness. He held a large plastic bottle in his arm, filled with a shiny gold powder. He dabbled with it frequently.
“Artificial happiness. My most used ingredient.”
He sighed sadly, emptying it over the outline of an old woman in a hospital bed.
They floated around for hours, across oceans that Jack dizzily and hardly noticed. The atmosphere began to change, after a while. It began to feel warmer, and then suddenly he walked right onto the checkerboard floor of the store. He shook his head, dazed. Orchid was sitting on a red armchair, chewing on a piece of toast.
“It’s like six o’clock in the morning, Dad. What took you so long?”
Sir strode to the coat rack.
“Came home rather late, dear.”
She shrugged and grabbed a Rolling Stones magazine toward her. She was in a bathrobe, but Jack saw she was still wearing the same jeans as the day before.
“So, how did you like your first Somnium, Jack?”
“My first what?”
He said, bewildered.