The old electronics store had closed down years ago. But those who remembered it knew it was so much more. Every child would beg their mother to stop on their errands to run into the store and see him. The pride of the quiet town. He played every Friday and Sunday, from 12:30 to 1, a schedule every kid had engraved into their brains. And on those days, when the summer days got hot, or when the winter wind rushed through the playgrounds, people of all ages would sit down on the cold marble floor, stare up at the blinking lights and the bright red curtains, and watch the show unfold. First came a voice from behind the velvet, a scratchy yet energetic growl, “Who’s ready for showtime?” And the children, and more often than not the parents, would shout, “Not us!” And even the cashiers at their booths would smile when the voice called back, “Awwww garsh”. The audience would then scream as loud as they could, and a twitchy nose would poke out from behind the curtains. Then the hands, furry and big, then a mouth, with buck teeth and a bright red tongue. Finally, a brown bear with a shining coat and an even shinier smile would jump out, and when everyone cheered, he would look them up and down and say, “See, I knew you wanted to see this old fuzzball”. Then, for the rest of the half hour, the bear, that the regulars lovingly nicknamed “Fuzzball” would entertain even the stiffest of people, by doing tricks on his little unicycle, playing a shiny gold saxophone, and telling jokes that didn’t have much of a punchline, but with Fuzzball telling them, he could have been reciting a dictionary by heart. For years, the giggling bear delighted all those around him, and it seemed it would stay that way forever. That is, until his unicycle began to squeak. And his nose wore down from brushing agains the curtains, which seemed to lose their splendor as well. The problem with having free shows, is that people come for the bear, and leave with full purses. Soon the electronics store couldn’t restock its shelves, let alone buy oil for an unicycle. The slap of flip flops on marble in summer and the clomp of boots in winter slowly faded, and with it, Fuzzball’s magic. He was brought up at playdates, then dinner parties, then nearly forgotten. Those that sat eagerly at the foot of the stage were now across the country, or being cared for by their grandchildren, or simply, faded away. The for sale sign stayed on the double doors of the store for years, as if by some unspoken promise, none shall enter the resting place of their childhood. That is, until you came.
Ah yes, the quiet town seemed perfect for you after the stress of college, and with nothing to call your own, you settled in at the apartments across from an odd little store, seemly abandoned vintage time capsule. Now, you may not have ever gotten that wife and kids you always wanted, but you did get a mighty fine degree in early technology of the World War ll era, enough for you to wake up every morning and stare at that place across the street, yearning to go inside, just for a minute. One night, after the moon is as high in the sky as you are, you wander into the parking lot of the quiet shopping center. Although you ride the wave of adrenaline, you force your eyes to unglaze and focus on the double doors in front of you. You expect there to be a lock, but it opens with a shove or two, and you walk into history. The ivy that was found all over the town has taken its toll on this place and, with no one to tend to it, has left the place overgrown, with cables merging with vines, running up and down the high ceiling of the store. You walk through the aisles nonchalantly, taking samples of technology the world had forgotten, thing that had sold for a nickel then now worth a fortune, and you stuff your pockets full. As you walk, your head clears, and you begin to take in more details. Some packaging is spotted with a sticky syrupy substance, like that of amber, trapping a bug before it even realizes its too late. The floor is moist, and you have to step to avoid small puddles on the uneven marble tile. You stay for a bit longer, then, pockets full and rust covered, you begin your way to the front. As you do, you hear a small noise, a continuous one, one that reaches into the depths of your brain so you can’t ignore it. A soft squeaking. It’s funny, you don’t remember seeing any signs of rodent infestation here, but you shrug and ignore it. As you see the double doors in the distance, your eyes are drawn to a large, shadowy mass, hidden in a corner of the store you hadn’t explored yet, but you swore it wasn’t there when you entered. You decide to take a look, loot any last parts of this time capsule. As you get closer to this object, you see the puddles getting closer and closer together, until the base of your converse are coated, and you have to walk slowly to avoid splashing. Once you are even closer, you realize it's a type of base, with vines and ivy covering up a hidden nook inside. If anything valuable had already been stolen, whatever was in here certainly hadn’t. You feel your confidence wearing off as you place on foot on the rotted wood of the base, but you take a deep breath to steady yourself. As you do, you hear that same squeaking noise, louder than ever. You couldn’t pinpoint it then, but you could almost swear it was coming from just behind those vines...
A static sound that was building up before suddenly blares from a place near your ear, and although you can’t decipher what in the world it could be trying to say, your confidence has worn out, and you yelp loudly, your voice traveling through the acoustic halls of the store. The speaker, that you quickly turn off once you locate it, has gone strangely quiet. But there’s another noise, much softer, like a 8bit character speaking underneath a pillow. It glitches over and over, but you begin to make out a sentence,
“W-w-wh-o-oos rrrr-e-ea-dddd-dy fffff-or-“
The audio dies off, but not before you see more substance seep out from beneath the base. The lights had burned out years ago, and the entire place was dark despite the time, and you check your watch, around 12:30 in the afternoon. You audibly gasp, as you could have sworn the store was lit by moonlight only hours ago. It doesn’t help that you realize you had a job interview at 11:45, and you mutter under your breath, “Why me”. You decide to give up on whatever could be behind the cover of ivy, and start your trek back to the exit. Just as you turn away from the stage, you hear a small swish, like something passing through a thin material. You turn, squinting back at the vines, but everything seems too overgrown for anything to be living in there. Swish. A set of metal poles emerge from behind the covering, with something like a wet towel drooping over them, as if left out to dry. Although the store has holes in the ceiling, the sun doesn’t reach you here, and your shiver as the scene plays out in front of you.
Another piece appears to view, a large, bright red mouth, made of cracked rubber, which, you later realize, should have faded after all these years, and yet the crimson looks unbelievably fresh, like wet paint left to dry. You walk a bit closer, trying to see where this is going, head still a bit woozy from last night’s partying, when suddenly the vines pull away like curtains, and you stifle a scream. Before you is a great mass of wires and metal, some parts left bare, some almost wearing the ivy like a coat, and some with the same dripping material as the paws, paws that seem to reach out a bit farther than they should. And the eyes. The eyes, scratched and drained of all color, and yet seem intent on a task, the only thing on this beast that would suggest life. The eyes, though glued to its huge head, seem to scan its surroundings, entire being unmoving yet terribly focused. It scans the empty cashier booths, the deserted aisles, his revenged stage, and finally, on you. You stand just below the stage, and with creaking, determined movements, he stands over you, eyes staring, body dripping, and you can almost swear you hear a heavy breathing coming from it. A small voice, barely a whisper, enters your ears, starting pained and raspy, but forming words clearer and clearer,
“S-ss-see, I-I-I k-k-n-ew y-yy-you w-wanted t-t-to see th-this old f-f-f-“
The creature seems to get caught on this word, and you lean closer to hear it.
It all happened so fast.
A wire buzzed.
A dripping paw swiped and grabbed.
The ivy around a stomach opened up.
Now puddles weren’t the only thing you tried to avoid.
You now knew what they were made of.
You will never forget.
The old electronics store had closed down years ago. But those who remembered it knew it was so much more. It was the reason no one ever bought the old property, why the for sale sign stood in the window of the double doors for years more, why it would outlive many of the children who sat on the cold marble tile those lazy afternoons. After all, childhoods never die. They can only be remembered. So never forget them.