Chapter Twenty – Shopping

29 Jul

The bright orange sign on the shop window said something like ‘Holiday? Don’t stress! Summer dresses 40% off!” but that was the only thing we could see through the window. It stood out against a spattered backdrop of blotchy dried ink. If I squinted slightly, one of the ink spatters actually looked a bit like a pyramid. In fact, three of them did. Then five. Then ten. Dammit, I hate synchronistic viruses!

Rosie tried the door handle and nodded to me before pushing the door slightly. It creaked and crackled as it opened to reveal nothing but darkness. Luckily, I’d left my torch in my jacket pocket and although the light was still fairly weak, I could just make out the outlines of clothes racks and people standing in between them. For a second, I was puzzled – most people would have fled the store at the first sight of all that ink.

As soon as I saw one of the people move their left arm in a single, precise motion, I knew that they weren’t people. Rosie must have worked this out too because she gasped and I could hear her stepping back suddenly. It moved it’s right arm in exactly the same way. I slammed the door.

‘Should we call the police?’ I asked, reaching for my phone.

‘No, trust me. You don’t want to deal with the police here.’ Rosie shook her head.

‘How do you mean? They can’t be that different to the ones in the real world… I mean, in the other town.’

‘No, the police here spend more time filling out forms and smashing things up than actually solving anything. This one time, one of my friends lost his wallet at the train station and decided to give them a call. Within two minutes, they’d broken out the riot gear and called in four firearms squads, just in case. When they finally found his wallet – it turned out that he’d left it under a bench – they covered it with a crime scene tent before destroying it using a controlled explosion.’

‘Wow, that’s a bit disproportionate.’

‘That isn’t even the worst part.’ Rosie sighed ‘After all of that, they declared a half-mile exclusion zone around the station for a week. The whole town was pretty much a ghost town. And, when all that was over, they wouldn’t reply to anyone’s calls for two months because they had to dedicate every officer to filling out all the forms for dealing with a lost wallet. Seriously, don’t call the cops.’

‘So, what do we do instead? I mean, we can’t just leave the shop like this. Can we?’

‘It’s probably for the best, we’ve got more important things to do.’ Rosie was already looking at the cathedral. There was a gargoyle missing from the roof and our inky footprints were still on the ground outside the door. Strangely, they still looked wet too.

‘You’re not seriously suggesting that we go back in there again? You almost got lost the last time. Plus, my torch is dying too.’ I looked at it again, the bulb was glowing faint orange and I was starting to wish that I’d just bought a proper LED torch before I ended up here.

Rosie just shook her head again before walking up to the cathedral and pointing at the door. I crossed the street and looked closely at it. Although it was firmly closed, large droplets of ink ran along the edge of the doorframe and dripped onto the edge of the pavement. I stepped back, but Rosie just stood there and stared at it. Finally, she turned to me and said: ‘This isn’t right. It’s completely full.’

‘I guess that they just don’t build doors like they used to.’ I put on a slightly old-fashioned voice and grinned at her.

‘No, I mean, the shop wasn’t filled with ink. Why is it only affecting the cathedral?’

‘Well, we can’t exactly open the door and find out, can we?’ I sighed.

Rosie just nodded and reached out for the door handle.

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