The sign swinging above the shop reads: “Haggler’s Home: There’s Always a Price”. I step inside and start down the winding rows, trying not to inhale too much dust. My eyes are already watering. A silent fire flickers blue in the corner, illuminating jars of squishy oddities. Smoke swirls inside a crystal ball. There’s a sign taped on an empty pot declaring, “Magic Beans- see shopkeeper for price”.

“Misses, who are you shopping for?”

I nearly piss. Hidden behind the next aisle, the shopkeeper stands behind the cash register. His beady eyes gleam when he sees me clearer. “I have just the thing.” He hobbles into the back room, leaning on his marble cane.

I consider leaving. The shopkeeper looks like an evil half-orc, half-wizard from my little brother’s Dungeons and Dragons game. But before I can leave, he’s back carrying a ruby encrusted box which he sets on the counter.

“What’s inside?”

He beckons me closer. “Open it.”

When I put my hand on the lid, my thoughts slip away. My heart rate slows. I lift the top off. Music rises out of the bottom, sweeter than I’ve ever heard. A longing wrenches my stomach forward. A film passes over my eyes, painting over the world with images in bright light.

I’m in a meadow, the warm breeze caressing my face. Voices from the village drift nearer, the sounds of home. I try to walk forward, but my legs are stuck.

The lid snaps shut and I’m back in the dim shop. The owner sneers at me. I reach for the box, but he moves away. “Just what you’ve been searching for?” His voice is rough and muted compared to the sounds from the box.

“How much is it?”

He tuts his tongue, running his fingers over the top. I want to snatch it from him before he gets it all grimy. “What are you willing to pay?”

Pressure starts to push against my brain, the beginning of a headache. The shop is too dark. The sounds are too dull. Why won’t he speak up? “Anything.”

Fiction

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