I could smell the musty funk as soon as I yanked opened the door. I flinched as if I had been punched in the nose with a fistful of dust and unfamiliar sweetness.
My mother begged me not to go; afraid I might touch something unclean and bring something unwanted home. Afraid I might be unable to easily banish it from my life. I didn’t listen. Who listens to their mother?
She doesn’t get it. I’m a hunter. It’s the thrill of chase. You never know what you might find. Something that wasn’t there weeks ago may suddenly appear. It’s exhilarating but not without its deterrents.
I walked from room to room debating what was okay to touch and what was best left alone. A flickering overhead light created the perfect spotlight for a well-loved porcelain doll balanced atop an antique tricycle. She looked exactly like one I had when I had when I child, except for a small chip in her neck. Cradling her in my arms I hoped to resurrect a forgotten childhood memory.
I ran my finger over the old neck wound. But unfortunately my memories had been buried way too deep. Her timeworn injury was smooth except for one small spot which preserved the pain from its prior damage. It nipped my finger, drawing a tiny swell of blood. Aggravated, I tossed the vampiric doll back onto the tricycle. Disregarding my mother’s warnings I sucked the blood from my finger hoping I wouldn’t come regret my decision. Who wants their mom to always be right?
As I shuffled through the room I heard whispers to my right. A set of lovely mermaid bookends carved from alabaster sat on a shelf. Their ornately-etched eyes stared at me, begging for my attention. I couldn’t afford being at their mercy. But their siren song was persuasive, with their enticing voices singing “We see you. Come over here. There’s something we have to tell you.”
If I gave in and listened to their pleas, I knew I’d be taken down like a wayward sailor and eventually drowned. That’s not why I came here. I took out my phone and snapped a photo. You never know what you may capture. Somehow, I found the strength to turn my head and continue on.
That’s when I felt the possession. My attention was trapped by a worn mink stole perched on a coat rack decorated with various dated hats. I loathe fur, even fur that was taken decades ago.
But for whatever reason I had the overwhelming urge to touch it, as if something had taken control of my movements. I found myself draping the stole across my shoulders. Clipping the hinged mouth of the mink to its once glorious tail, I suddenly caught a glimpse of an elderly woman primping for Sunday services. She slipped on her pressed white gloves before adorning herself with what seemed like her prized possession. The sheen on the mink’s blonde fur was wet and glossy. And the eyes were intact,embellished with highly polished glass. The woman inspected herself one last time and disappeared,leaving me alone in her fur.
I could hear my mom now. “I warned you not to touch it. You don’t know where it’s been.”
In this instance I did agree a proper cleansing would be necessary before anyone should wear the piece. And with that thought, I stripped the stole from my shoulders and returned it to the coat rack, no longer in its thrall.
A slight chill ran through my body. I could hear my mother.
“Someone’s walking on your grave.”
This was always her answer when I’d shiver without being cold. It would creep me out when I was a kid. And I hate to admit it, but the idea still creeps me out.
My time was almost up for this hunting expedition. As I inched toward the door I could feel something pulling at me. I reached into my pocket, referring back to the photo I had taken earlier. The mermaids were still tempting me but there was something else vying for my attention. An elegant brooch, encrusted with crystals, was almost hidden behind the jealous bookends. I ran back to the mermaids, ignoring their seductive airs.
I snapped up the jewelry and inspected it. I could feel an electric energy oozing from the piece, filling me with the excitement of a hunter snaring his prey. I held the piece to my chest. This is it. This is why I was here. This is what I came here for. I could feel an all-too-familiar force rotating the brooch, turning it over in my hand. I was horrified at what I saw.
Forty-five dollars! That price is a bit stiff for costume jewelery.
Disappointed, I tossed the piece back onto the shelf and heaved the cheering mermaid bookends into my handcart. As I hauled my quarry from the thrift store I could hear my mother’s warning echoing in my head.
“What junk are you bringing home now? You didn’t try anything on did you? You don’t know what bugs you’re going to pick up. They can be tough to get rid of.”
My neck started to itch.
Dammit, why does my mother always have to be right?
I suddenly felt compelled to turn around. Returning to the shelves strewn with the rejected ghosts of strangers past I snaked my way through the aisles and found myself at the mercy of the mink stole.
As if bitten by the dead critter’s teeth, I was pricked by a sharp and wicked thought. It made me smirk as I dug my fingers into the skin of my neck even deeper. I snagged the influential little devil off the rack and added it to my stash.
It would make a nice birthday gift for my mom. I’m certain it will remind her of gramma. Maybe I’ll have it cleaned…maybe.