Slightly Askew

Askew Pic

In an alley off the boardwalk David noticed a light in the window of a small shop. Red letters on the sign above the door announced, “Krapes Emporium.” He thought there might be something familiar in the shop to bring him back to reality. So far whatever he experienced seemed so bizarre that he felt lost in a mad man’s dream.

Everything inside was covered in layers of dust. Glass cases crowded the floor leaving very little room to maneuver. In one corner there was a metal grate beneath a sign that said “pawnbroker.” David felt slightly reassured by the apparent normalcy of the place, but the more he looked at objects behind the glass the more his reassurance disappeared. Some items were labeled — he saw “unicorn horn” and “dragon wing.” There were small black-cubes labeled egglets and glowing objects identified as oospheres. He noticed several large jars under a sign that read, “glandular conditions.” He was relieved because the glass on the jars was so discolored and cloudy he couldn’t make out the contents. A tall purple crate stood in a cage near the back of the shop with a sign that read “Martian Mummy.”

David was about to leave when he was accosted by Captain Crunch — at least it sounded like the cartoon spokesman for the cereal by the same name. “How goes it, matey m’boy.”

David turned back and saw a cadaverous man in a red-striped jacket, wearing black lipstick and an Andy Warhol wig. He was smiling. There was a bad taste in David’s mouth, “I was just about to leave.”

“Nay, matey — stay. I’ll show you some wonders. Perchance we can strike a deal. What’s your pleasure?”

“Just looking — really. I need to get back to my room.”

“No fun in that. Perhaps you have something to sell. I’m a pawnbroker — best in town. Of course I only handle unusual items. If you have an ordinary ring to sell I don’t want it, but if you have a ‘power ring’ I’m your man. I pay the highest prices anywhere. Let me show you some of my precious cargo.”

“Not really interested in selling or buying anything.”

“Don’t be a spoil sport, m’boy. Come along.”

David found himself drawn toward the smiling cadaver as he wove his spell.

“That’s it lad. This way. I deal in Neoteric Dimensions. I sell a preparation called ‘mental slop’ — you might be interested. It is guaranteed to grow hair follicles inside the brain — quite an extraordinary experience. I keep a regular stock of Loomies, but sometimes I run out of Draco Nins. I personally authorize all virgin births in the area. I have a large collection of poly-globular eyeballs. Right this way. For a small price, I sell glimpses of the future — invariably accurate. Well, matey is there anything I can temp you with?”

David’s stomach was doing flip-flops. He was convinced that none of it was real, but didn’t know how to escape. “I have everything I need . . . Just want to get back.”

“Going somewhere so soon. We’ve hardly had time to get acquainted. Let me give you a parting gift to show there are no hard feelings.” The cadaver handed David a stone.

“What’s this?”

“Don’t worry dear boy — it won’t bite. It’s the eye of a Venusian Swort. The creature died in the arms of an astronaut — a tragic love affair. The astronaut sold the eye to me in prostrate destitution. Stare at it — it will help you see.”

Nothing happened when David looked at the stone, but when he looked up he was on the street outside the shop.

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