The Victorian-style shop lurks behind the thick fog which oozes endlessly along Main Street. The morning sun remains cloaked by the murky horizon. I squint at the carved shop sign: Mallory’s Magical Incantations. It’s my first week as its sales associate. Clumps of snow slip off my coat sleeves as I unlock the bulky wooden door.
No more job shadowing. Here we go, the first time I get to open up the shop alone.
Well, technically I have done this thousands of times before.
But that was another lifetime ago.
Goal for week one: Nobody can put a curse on me. For the past few days, I’ve been doing every single protection spell imaginable. The black salt around the store, the hourly chants, the tinctures, the cord cutting, the warding spells…
I am NOT dropping dead in front of this shop – again.
As the clunky door opens, frankincense aroma greets my nostrils. The ancient shielding scent I set up during last night’s closing.
AGH! A vintage lamp by the entrance just crashed by my feet. Don’t read into it! It was just a gust of wind. There’s no voodoo at play. I just moved into this sleepy town – no way someone would already want to harm me.
I toss my coat next to the dusty cash register over the old oak desk. Rows of exquisite spell books line the shelves behind me; their ornate covers glisten in the distance. Their passed down pages are lined with intentions, both good and evil. I can’t wait to hone my sorcery further. I have so much to master – again. Once I save up to buy this shop, I’ll do the most minor upgrades. Decor like the black wallpaper with the speckled golden stars and the faded old family portraits is all here to stay.
This shop is the real deal, authentically curated by Mallory. Not like that gimmicky “magic” shop that used to be across the street. What a joke that place was. You could hire a kid’s magician for parties from there. A true mockery of the dark arts.
See that purple velvet Victorian chair by the front window, where the navy velvet curtains slightly peek open? I do recall my old lady butt cozying up on that cushion while customers milled about. Midnight, my black cat would linger over my arthritic toes. Rest in peace, dear Midnight. Sorry I wasn’t there to comfort you during your final days.
I barely remember my last solo shift here. My last day on earth.
Oh God, I can’t believe I have to stare at that hideous plaque every day. How can I get rid of it?
It reads: In Memory of our founder, Mallory Crowe, who always practiced her skillful magic in the service of others. Why did they pick that atrocious photo of me? Why not younger or more glamorous? At least one where I don’t look so caught off guard.
I guess the irony is that my death did catch me by surprise.
“Hello…are you open?” A voice trails off in the winter wind.
“I’m just opening up the shop now, but you’re welcome to step in to stay warm.” I light a match and ignite a golden beeswax candle – at least twenty more wicks to go.
A teenage girl with chopped jet black tendrils pops inside. I’m probably a few years older than her. I’m not one for small talk which makes people squirmy in my presence. They usually reveal way more than they intended to, just to fill the void.
As I stare at her, I try to guess which spell she wants to cast. Something for confidence? A crush?
“Why are all those things covered up in blankets?” she asks as she fiddles with her mittens.
“I was just about to take the sheets off. I cover up the mirrors each night to make sure that spirits don’t get trapped inside them at night. You wouldn’t want anyone haunting the store forever, right?”
After the last mirror is unveiled, I admire my reflection. My dewy supple skin. The rosiness in my soft freckled cheeks. I have my whole life ahead of me now. After I gaze into my chestnut eyes for long periods of time, Mallory’s face always emerges in my reflection. Only I can see her. It makes me sad for her.
And beyond livid that someone wanted her gone.
It was NOT a freak accident.
I pull my copper locks into a tight ponytail and shout, “By the way, my name is Arla if you need anything! Just a reminder, don’t photograph any of the books. It’s super bad luck. I can help open them and you can write the incantations down yourself on the papers provided. We sell a bunch of spell ingredients here too.”
I drag my crimson lipstick across my lips. I desperately wish I remembered more. The flashbacks of Mallory’s life were so vivid when I was little. No one believed that I used to be her. Being back at the shop triggered some of my past life memories, but not enough.
One thing became clear: I am destined to stay here. I share Mallory’s passion for magic and I will do everything in my power to continue in her legacy.
At the desk I revisit my diary for the week. Any notable suspicious activity? I can’t help feeling paranoid after what happened to Mallory.
Monday: a guy (15?) nervously asked for something to get his classmate to come out of the “friend zone.”
Tuesday: an elderly woman asked for something to get her “lazy, useless husband” out of the house so she can “have a moment alone.”
Wednesday: a woman (60s?) said her children were taking their “sweet ass time to have children” and asked for something that would “finally make her a grandma before she dies.”
Thursday: a few girls (11?) ran in screaming ‘bloody Mary’ and I had to kick them out.
I scribble today’s date in my diary: Friday, December 16, 2022.
“Good morning!” A woman in her mid-sixties doused in a peculiar stench approaches me. Those thick eyebrows and wide set eyes, there’s something familiar about her.
“Oh pretty thing, you’re new aren’t you? I’m Darcy Vari.”
I half smile. Something about her name.
She places her palms on the desk. “‘I’ve actually had quite a love-hate relationship with this place. But now, I’m a regular.”
I eye her.
Her finger traces the wood grains. “I’ve had good luck at this place. Spells have really worked wonders for me. It’s actually quite astonishing what I’ve conjured up…what I’ve been able to manifest in my life.”
My jaw clenches and my pulse becomes rapid.
I already know the answer but have to ask. “Did you know the previous owner, Mallory?”
She has such a menacing glare. “Yes, what a shame. What a way to die. Struck by lightning right in front of this very store. Mother nature can be so cruel.”
I sharply inhale. “Yes… tragic.”
“You’re actually talking to your new boss. I finally purchased this place. Took me ages with all the crazy legal stuff. But it’s happening! The universe really has been coming through for me.”
This cannot be happening. I have waited almost twenty years to finally return to this sleepy town – to find my rightful place in the world.
“Um, excuse me. Can you help me find something?” The teen girl asks softly.
I study Darcy. “Congratulations, how exciting. Will you excuse me for a moment?”
“What are you looking for?” I impatiently ask the customer.
“I um, need some kind of truth spell. My friend is hiding something from me. Something doesn’t feel right.”
“Give me a second, I know just the book and section. Remember, don’t touch the ink, it’s delicate and faded.”
The front door slams shut. Darcy must have left.
I google her on my phone. A bunch of results pop up.
Local magic store owner out of business after arrival of rival magic store.
Self-proclaimed town “witch” ousted from magic shop by new competition
Of course, Darcy owned the dreadful magic shop across the street. But, in no way did her store’s demise have anything to do with Mallory’s success and vision.
Oh, and this story I’ve read before, my death was interesting enough for The New York Times.
Town fears black magic played a role in shopkeeper’s unusual death
Darcy was plotting all along. And that lightning bolt was definitely her doing. This whole time I have been focused on strangers and their malicious intentions. Not the former shopkeeper across the street.
I carve her name onto a large black candle.
My hands tighten as I near the back of the store.
I hear the teen’s voice, but everything becomes a blur. “Oh, you’re in the revenge spells section. I don’t need anything like that. Just something to get her to be real with me. I don’t want anything bad to happen to her.”
“This isn’t for you. I’m grabbing something for myself.”
A moment later the door shuts in the distance. Might have just lost a customer.
This is my shop until eternity. How dare Darcy use Mallory’s magic tools against her.
Enough is enough.
Darcy Vari, I’m putting a deadly hex on you.