*Image courtesy of weekinweird.com*
Evelyn strode into Raith’s Miscellany, Oddities and Curiosity Shoppe with her shoulders back and her eyes straight ahead. Finian followed behind her with his hands stuffed firmly into the pockets of his jeans, his shoulders hunched and his eyes darting all over the place. Every step the two friends took along their journey only firmed Evelyn’s resolve while simultaneously chipping away at Finian’s. Still, as much as he wished to run for the hills, Finian would never abandon Evelyn. Even if following her was a non stop dance with danger.
Raith’s shop gave every indication of being as horrible as Alice King’s home had been, and the place was strange to say the least. There were marble busts of people with bulging eyes and outstretched tongues — like they were being hung at the moment of creation. There were rats, spiders, and bats swimming about in glass jars, dead animals that had been stuffed and hung from the walls, glass balls, tarot cards, hundreds of ticking clocks —all set to different times, an entire shelf of left sided clothing: shoes, gloves, socks, and all of it was covered in a thin film of dust. There was a large section of magic objects and talismans from all over the world, and so much bric a brac was strewn about on the floors and the shelves that it was impossible to focus on any one thing before your eyes became distracted by another thing. Walking through the shop itself was also a task in careful stepping so as not to knock something over or step on the merchandise.
Evelyn blew past it all without even seeing it. She wanted to speak with Raith about necromancy. She had read all she could on the subject, learning that necromancy was a kind of magic and one often associated with communicating with the dead. In Evelyn’s mind that meant this man knew ways of speaking with people who had passed into another world. She did not believe in an afterlife, as much as she believed in spirits and ghosts, but reading about necromancy flipped a switch in her mind. It was not the dead these necromancers were speaking to, but the people who had been taken over to the other side by the spirits, like those that had stolen away her brother and Finian’s family. Raith had the answers she needed.
Finian peeled off when Evelyn reached the main counter. She slammed her hand down on the service bell and Finian began browsing, trying to look for all the world like he had not come in with her. Evelyn’s tendency to go on the attack from the get go made Finian a bit nervous.
Evelyn made to slam her hand down on the bell again when a tall man with a lean face and angular features reached his thin hand out and grabbed Evelyn by the wrist.
“I heard you the first time, girl,” said the shop keeper in a slow, smooth voice that gave the impression he had sung the words. The man was of medium height but his presence was enormous. Staring coldly into Evelyn’s eyes with his white blonde hair hanging down to frame his face, his pale skin and ice blue eyes amplified by his all white suit and his delicate features, she could not help but feel that the man was beautiful in a way that men should not be.
Finian stood puzzling, how he keeps those clothes as immaculately white as they are in this shop is magic in and of itself. He tried to fight off the feeling that they had just come face to face with an angel but could not quite get past it.
“Is there something I can help you with?” the shop keeper asked.
Evelyn did not respond for several moments. She was lost in the trance of the shop keeper’s beauty and Finian had to cough several times before she was able to shake herself free.
“Yes,” she began, returning to herself in a flash. “We were sent here by a woman named Alice King. She said that you could teach us about necromancy.”
The shop keeper smiled a faint smile and clasped his pale hands before his breast.
“I am not sure what that is to mean, but I can promise you that I know nothing about necromancy.”
Finian was ready to take his word for it if it meant getting out of that shop. He was walking past a row of bottled insects when a scorpion lunged at him from inside its liquid prison. Finian jumped, letting out a high pitched squeak, and fell into a pile of books. There was several moments of ruckus as Finian broke various objects in an attempt to stay erect, only to fall back into the shelf housing the scorpion.
The shop keeper’s smile broadened a bit but he never took his piercing eyes off of Evelyn.
“You are Raith, aren’t you?” Evelyn asked.
“I am,” he said in a low whisper.
Finian managed to raise himself off the floor and began trying to piece things back together.
“We’re good over here, nothing broken. Well, nothing of mine broken. This, uh… hey! Is this a magic eight ball?” Finian shook it and then read the result, mumbling a string of obscenities under his breath. Luckily no one was listening to him.
“Then you’re the man I’m looking for. Alice King told us you wouldn’t want to help.”
“I am afraid I do not know any Alice King,” Raith said, with a slight shrug of his shoulders.
“Yes, you do. You also know about the arts of the necromancer and you’re going to help us.”
Evelyn placed both hands on the counter and drew her eyebrows down. The muscles in her arms tensed and she flexed her jaw. She was not going to be brushed aside.
Raith licked his lips slowly and then held his hands out in mock surrender.
“I am a seller of odd things, this much is true, and many times I have been mistaken for something I am not. This Alice King of yours would not be the first to have erred.”
“Hey,” Finian broke in again, “is this a picture of Ozzy Osborne? Ah, no, that’s Lindsey Lohan. Sorry.”
“That is a portrait of Nikola Tesla, my young friend, and can be had for a very reasonable price.”
“Yeah,” Finian said, running his fingers through his rust coloured hair, “I think I might have bought enough already.”
“The broken items are of no consequence. I can sell them just as easily now as before you entered.”
Finian cocked an eyebrow at Raith and began looking around him at the mess he had made. Then he took another look at the rest of the shop and realised that a man who ran a shop like this would probably prefer his items broken up a bit.
Raith turned back to Evelyn to find that she had not moved an inch or taken her eyes off Raith for a moment. He sighed and reached for the telephone at his side. He held the receiver end out to her and said in a voice that betrayed the underlying threat.
“I must ask you to leave. You have come in to my shop seeking wares I do not sell, your friend has destroyed my merchandise, and this line of questioning is beginning to border upon harassment. If you are unwilling to go I will have no choice but to phone the authorities.”
“You said the broken things didn’t matter!” Evelyn shouted.
“My willingness to forgive your friend’s accident has been altered by your stubbornness. If you will consent to leave I shall let bygones be bygones. If you insist on staying I will seek full remuneration.”
Finian started stumbling about and there was a mad shuffle behind Evelyn. Raith was denying her just like Alice King told Finian he would. Evelyn bit her bottom lip and growled deep in her throat. He had what she needed and he was not going to give it to her. If Finian had only been able to keep his feet she would still have room to pressure him, but that option was off the table the moment Finian did what he always did, fumble around and mess things up.
He came up behind Evelyn and pulled on her arm.
“We’ll go, gladly. So sorry again for everything. We wish you a wonderful selling venture here and I know now where I will be coming when my dryer eats a sock.”
Finian pried Evelyn from the the counter and she tore her arm from his grasp. She struck the door hard on their way out and Finian was certain the glass would shatter. Luckily it held but Finian had to jog to keep up with Evelyn’s furious pace. Her face was bright red and her mouth was pursed. Finian had mucked up her chance to learn something from Raith and she was going to blow up at him at any moment. Finian knew he had to make things right quick if he did not want her to hate him.
Finian placed his hand on Evelyn’s shoulder and she spun on him with lightning flashing in her eyes. She could have burned a whole forest down with all the hate radiating off of her. She shoved her pointer finger in Finian’s face and sucked in a deep breath but was stopped short. Finian was holding up a book, a really old, worn out book and the title cooled her rage in an instant. Evelyn stared at the book for a long moment and then laughed. She shook her head and then crushed Finian to her chest. Finian tensed and his face flushed. It was a rare occasion that he earned physical contact.
“Every time I start to doubt you, you find a way to prove that my first instincts about you were totally right,” Evelyn said into Finian’s ear. Evelyn’s breath was hot on his neck and the strength of her embrace was incredible. Finian stood frozen in place, too cowardly to reciprocate the hug and too weak to fight it off.
Evelyn finally pulled away and Finian realised he had been holding his breath. Looking at the book, Evelyn smiled.
“The History and Practice of Necromancy,” she whispered. “Finn, you are my hero.”
“Well, I’d love to say I broke all his crap on purpose, but the truth is I just sort of fell into that book. Literally.”
Evelyn’s smile broadened and she clapped Finian on the shoulder.
“Let’s go see what Raith was hiding from us.”
All it took was that one sentence to reignite all the nerves in Finian’s stomach. He was certain that he would be the first teenager to die of ulcers, but how could he say no to Evelyn? She would step in front of a moving train for him, he was certain of it. So, whatever the danger, they were in it together.
At least he told himself that.
The Othersiders is a weekly ongoing series that will be published every Wednesday. Please look forward to next week’s edition where Finian and Evelyn learn their first bit of necromancy.