As she ran her hands over the various colors of fabrics, the vintage secondhand coat on the re-sale rack demanded her attention immediately; she had a knack for scouting all things that seemed like they were from another time and another place, but this bright red coat definitely was a score that felt transportive in its power. She stood in front of the full-length mirror and watched the trench-coat style jacket flow coyly past her knees. Yes, this was the find of the day for sure, she thought as she slipped back out of the jacket, returned it to its wooden hanger, and walked with a satisfied grin over to the cashier line, thinking to herself “you did it again, Lacey, you fashionista you!”
As she placed the coat on the counter, the woman behind her started praying, chanting “Oh Lord, bless us and purge us from the sin in our souls as the streets run red with your blood, your sacrifice.”
The cashier locked eyes with Lacey before rolling her own, and gave her a nonchalant shrug. Lacey stifled a laugh in response, and watched as she rang her up then zipped the red coat into an opaque gray bag. “Careful in the rain out there” the cashier said then mumbled under her breath “the rains of salvation” as they both shared a quiet laugh.
The woman chanting “Oh Lord, bless us and purge us…” faded slowly into the background as she walked out of the store, the bell chiming behind her signaling the last of comfort, as she stepped into the chaos of the offending pelting rain. She ran to the bus-stop with the bag over her head, and made it just in time as the bus flashed around the corner. She paid her dues and made her way to the seats in the back. Now wet, cold, and shivering she decided it was as good a time as any to put the coat to good use. She unzipped the bag and welcomed the warm velvet onto her skin with open arms, as she rested her head against the seat and closed her eyes.
The sound of the rain on the window was contrasted by a baby crying in the front of the bus. She placed her cold hands in the warmth of the coat-pockets, only to feel…. There was something. There. Her eyes shot open. A strange, cold, almost octagonal type shape. She clasped her hands around the object and pulled it out. It was a ring. Golden at the band, with some kind of foreign inscription of symbols inside. And set in the center was a huge, jutting, multi-faceted emerald stone. The stone had to have been as large as a silver dollar, and glared with green hues so deep, that it practically screamed “I am no costume jewelry accessory.” The weight alone in her hand, was heavy and demanding, made it feel all the more authentic.
Her heart began to race. How did she pay $7.00 for a hand-me-down jacket, only to find a ring that was easily worth $1,700 in the pocket? Should she return it? It technically wasn’t the store’s property to begin with if it was donated, right? And she had, purchased the jacket, therein including its contents, surely, belonged to her right? The inscription on the ring, did not suggest a name, so finding an owner was out of the question, right? As she saw it, it was simply a fortuitous turn of luck, right? She could go to the pawn shop tomorrow morning and actually have enough money to maybe get her mother a Christmas gift this year, right? This ring, was the gift that would keep on giving. She tucked the piece of jewelry safely back into her pocket.
When the bus stopped, she sloshed her way through the puddle outside its doors and rushed into her apartment. She knew her mom wouldn’t be home until past midnight because she was working a double shift today, so smuggling the ring into the house would be easy this time around. She went straight to her room, and placed it in the front drawer of her desk--- “Oh Lord bless us and purge us---” she shuddered as the woman’s words echoed in her head, why was she thinking about them now? The rain pummeled the window from conflicting angles. She took one last glance at the ring, then closed the drawer and took a deep breath. There’s no way what she was doing was actually wrong, right?
Either way, she honestly couldn’t wait to be rid of the thing. First thing tomorrow, she would pawn it. And maybe then her heart could stop racing. Not wanting to think about it much longer, she walked into the kitchen and made herself a turkey-sandwich and sat on the couch to watch Ebenezer Scrooge deal with the ghosts of his past. She didn’t remember at what point she actually fell asleep on the couch, she just remembered waking up to the eerie green light.
A bright, harsh, green light that made it hard for her eyes to adjust. Where was it coming from? The light made the hair on her arms stand on end. She put one hand in front of her eyes and looked down at the ground, at what seemed to be writhing, alive shadows with dark green ooze. I have to be dreaming…. She thought. But she followed the source of it, growing brighter, from behind her bedroom door. She placed a hand on the door-knob which felt hot to the touch, and she pushed tentatively as it gave way beneath her hand. The entire walls of her room were engulfed in green flames, licking their way up the wallpaper, hungry to devour everything in emerald hues. The desk rattled furiously as the flames tried to swallow it whole. The door shut behind her. She grabbed the handle, as it turned into ash, a pile of dark green dust in her hands. She banged her fists against the door screaming for help! Only to hear her mom on the other side,
“Lacey, I thought I told you not to leave your dinner plates on the coffee table?!”
“MOM! Mom, I’m in here! Please help me!”
“I swear child, if you weren’t asleep already, I’d come right on in there and make you wash this plate!”
‘MOM! I’m not asleep! I need you! Please!” she screamed desperately as the flames grew closer, until she could scream no more, and the green colors bled into red.
“Lacey, I’m headed out! You up and ready for school yet? It’s Monday!” the mother called impatiently.
When she didn’t answer, Trish grew concerned and opened the door to her daughter’s bedroom. The bed was still made. And her daughter was no where to be found. She shook her head, as she picked up the phone to dial Lacey’s cell. She got her voicemail, “now, if I told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, if you’re going to spend the night at Kamen’s you can at the very least let me know so you don’t worry me into a stupor! Call me back, now, or you’re grounded!” And then something caught her eye.
There, in the center of the room, lay a lone ring, emerald in stone. Trish picked it up,
“Now where in the hell did she find this thing?” she thought, eyebrows raising as she raised the stone closer to her face for inspection.
There. She could almost. Swear she saw. But only for an instant. No, it couldn’t be. She was simply beyond tired from working all those doubles lately is all, simple hallucination. She really needed to get some rest in soon. There just wasn’t. There was no way that she saw her daughters face behind the stone, frozen in a horrific gasp. You’re losing it, Trish, she thought. But shuddered nonetheless.
Trish was raised in a very non-traditional household, were voodoo and curses and black magic were as real as Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny in other households. And she knew the color green was a bad omen, as it was the same color that gave away the snake in the Garden of Eden. She held the ring in her palm and walked to the garbage can outside on the curb, all the while chanting, “Oh Lord, bless us and purge us from the sins in our souls as your streets run red with the blood of your sacrifice.” As she made her way back up the apartment she passed the bulletin board of Missing Girls in the area. There unfortunately were rumors of heavy human trafficking in the area, and she was working double shifts just so she could save up to get her and Lacey out of the neighborhood soon. But, unfortunately after 24 hours of no returned phone calls, Lacey’s picture soon joined the rest of the missing persons cases pinned to the bulletin board.