Helping Out

by Sue Johnson

Emily made herself another cup of tea in the cramped kitchen. She switched on the lights. There had only been three customers in six hours. Two of them had come to collect reserved items, and the other was an old woman in rusty black who had come for her weekly browse. She’d freaked Emily out with her talk of ghosts – particularly the one about a girl who was looking after the shop on a January afternoon when there was a power failure during a storm, just after two customers arrived.

Emily fidgeted. Her watch showed the same time as the creepy-looking grandfather clock in the corner. About five minutes since she’d last looked. She hated this place. The shadows were doing weird things. The place smelled strange too – a combination of beeswax polish, mouldy books, and moth-balls.

It was the last place on earth Emily would’ve volunteered to work, but she’d lost her mobile phone and her mother insisted that this time she’d have to earn the money for a new one.

“A bit of hard work won’t kill you,” she said, “and maybe you’ll be a bit more careful with your things if you’ve had to earn the money.”

Emily had imagined working somewhere upbeat and fun like a clothes shop or coffee shop – not this dump of an antique shop, Casey’s Curiosity Shop. Emily wasn’t into history and had barely listened when Miss Casey had gone through everything she needed to remember before leaving for an important meeting that was only supposed to take two hours. Miss Casey had reminded Emily of a faded brown moth she’d found on one of the window sills. So far she’d been gone for more than four,  and there hadn’t been so much as a phone call to tell Emily what was happening. Not that Emily had noticed a phone. It was as if the place was stuck in a time warp.

Emily noticed that the sky had an angry yellow look to it and the wind was rattling the metal shop sign outside. The first flakes of snow buffeted the bulls-eye windows, reminding her of the story the old woman had told. At that moment the shop doorbell jangled and a man holding the hand of a pale child came into the shop. The lights flickered and died. Emily shrank back against the wall, too frightened to scream. The old woman had told her what happened next.

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