“What in the world is that you have, Charlie,” I asked, in a hushed voice, as I glanced around to see if anyone else was nearby. We were outside, on the side walk, about 2 blocks from Throckmorton’s, where we’d just been, and I had just gotten the two of us an ice cream from the little street vendor.
I noticed my friend, Charles Draper, was holding what looked like a snowglobe in the palm of his hand. We had just come out of the old 2nd Hand shop down the street, as I mentioned – “Throckmortons”. It was a strange but interesting shop, that had this odd collection of antiques, rare items, and strange things that were supposedly collected mainly from estate sales, auctions, plus some things that the pawnbroker side of the business brought in. The store had various agents that combed both in-city sources and networked around the country, not to mention overseas.
We often frequented the store, occasionally, just to window shop most of the time, because a lot of the items were way too much for teenaged boys to purchase with the money we’d make bagging groceries at supermarket or cutting grass for all the neighborhood biddies.
My name is Thomas Pharos, and I’d been best friends with Charlie for as long as I could remember. And in this case, my red-headed young friend seemed to have done something that his 17 year old self had not done since he was 15, when he got caught by his dad for shoplifting. Well, I think that little snow globe thingee in his hands was something from Throckmorton’s, and I don’t think he had paid for it. At least, that’s what I suspected. I tried to be the conscience of my friend when I could, but it was never easy to know what he would say or how he would react.
I handed him the ice cream cone, a swirl of chocolate and vanilla, whose peak was starting to droop a little. “Oh, this is something I picked up from the shop. Don’t you think it’s kinda cool?“
I glanced at the globe, and sure enough, there was still a white price-tag attached to the wooden base, next to a small brass plaque that said something like “Come Rest Where You Will Never Be Burnt”. I furrowed my black brows, and ran my free hand through my raven tresses, scooping the hair off my shoulders and tossing it back. I was wearing a zippered hoodie, red with black lettering that said “THRILL KILL KULT” on the back, and I had on black jeans and my fav pair of Doc Martins. Like Charlie, I had on a leather friendship bracelet, ones that we’d made for each other many years before. But my expression was one of questioning at his explanation. “Draper, don’t take this the wrong way, but did you… “
He interrupted me. “No, Tom, I didn’t pay for it. I.. I picked it up, and honestly I thought I’d put it down on shelf again. But.. well.. found it in my pocket just a moment ago.” He said that last hesitantly, and quietly, like he was trying to figure out how it had gotten in there.
“Damnit, Charlie!” I said, as I saw he was already going to spin a tale of ‘it just happened’. But as I exclaimed, he held up his hand and had this strange look in his eyes – like the time when he’d picked up the 32 oz soft drink, and the bottom of the cup had fallen out, splattering soda all over my mom’s new rug. I knew he didn’t mean it then, and that’s the kind of look he had now. I furrowed my brow, and pursed my lips, stopping my angry rejoinder. I took a breath, let it out slowly, and said, “Ok, Charlie.. just tell me what happened.”
He was wearing a fall coat, not too thick, but it was cotton and zipped halfway up, showing off the black t-shirt he had on from the SPLATTERCON convention he’d attended last year. He was really into horror flicks. He shrugged his shoulders and looked into my eyes and said, “Well, I remember noticing that globe last week when we came in. And when we were in the store today, I got curious to see if it was still there. I wandered over when you were looking at the katanas on the wall, and this was on the shelf nearby. So, I picked it up. The next thing I remember, you were shaking my shoulder, and dragging me towards the doorway. I thought I’d put the thing back on the counter, but.. here it is. “
He held up the globe, and said, as before, “Don’t you think it’s kinda cool?”
I took the globe from him, and he seemed almost reluctant to let go of it, but I managed to pry it from his grip with a little jerk. He furrowed his brow, like the act of me taking it was perturbing, but he’d been the one to hold it up to my face to look at. I always got annoyed by people when they wanted to show me something but not let me hold it.
I lifted it up, and it was the strangest little scene I think I’d ever beheld until then. It wasn’t exactly a snowglobe. It was more like a burnt out small island – really a disc of scorched earth with a dead tree in the middle. It was in the middle of an acrylic ocean or lake, maybe, and on the island was a figure. And I was really not sure I could believe my eyes with the detail I was seeing. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my reading glasses, settling the round steel-rimmed spectacles on my nose, and looked deep into the globe.
The figure was half naked, with burns all over his shiny skin, wearing torn black jeans showing burns through the holds in the pants on thighs and knees. They rode low on his hips. The band of “Not So Bad” underwear rode up along the waistline, and he carried an enormous cutting blade. It was like a cleaver from one of the dungeons of an old gory video game. His arms were artificial, or at least parts of them were, as the flesh was missing from mid-forearm to the wrist on both hands, showing support struts underneath – like a terminator, but less complex. His hands had long black nails – more like claws that were hooked to points on the ends. He wore a collar around his neck, and his ears were strangely shaped.
The skin was covered in burns that had partially healed, except for perfect nipples that seemed oddly untouched. He had no shoes, and his long dark brown hair covered half his face. But his face was entirely covered by a porcelain mask. The mask itself looked like it had trails of black blood coming from the eyes, nose and mouth, as if the figure behind the mask weren’t entirely human. Was he a monster? Was he a machine? Was he both?
I blinked my eyes after a few moments, when I thought I saw something move, like the figure’s hand gripping the hilt of the cleaver a little tighter and adjusting it on his shoulder, the head shifting slightly as if looking up at me a little more directly. I know I had to be imagining things, but I held out the globe to Charlie and coughed, as I felt icecream slithering over my thumb, where it was melting. Charley was licking his, and he chuckled as he took the globe back. “You’d better eat that, dude. “ I started to lick at the ice-cream, but I could hardly take my eyes off the globe now. I got a shiver running up and down my spine, but I attacked my cone until it was gone. But my stomach was unsettled.
“So, Charlie, what do you think we need to do now? With the globe, I mean?” I asked that in a soft easy questioning way, like I did when I wanted him to invite me over to dinner when his dad was grilling steaks or his mom was making one of her cheesy pasta dishes. My mom always worked late, so I wound up making my own dinners way too often.
“I know what you think I should do – but I’ll get in so much trouble if I try to take it back now, won’t I?” He said that in a tone of utter guilt but not wanting to get in trouble for it.
“We could try to sneak it back in, or else go in and pay for it, if we get in trouble, “ I said.
“We – what do you mean we? I’m the one that took it, Tom.”
“I said ‘we’ cause I’m not going to let you take the fall by yourself. “
“You think we have enough to pay for it with what we both have, “ he asked hopefully, as he started to settle into the idea. I pulled out my wallet, the chain attached to my belt jangling as I did, and I had a few jackson’s, and he had about the same. We looked at the little price tag on the wooden base, and we had just enough to buy it. So, we stood up, and walked back down to Throckmorton’s.
As we came through the doorway, a tall, thin man in what looked like an undertaker’s suit from the late 1800s met us at the doorway, with a thin smile, and his eyes were white, almost like he were blind, but he saw us well enough. He had yellow teeth that seemed to protrude in his mouth, making them look elongated, and he had an odd smell of chemicals and dry things about him. “Well, well – fancy meeting the two of you – coming back to the scene of the crime, boys?”
We both looked guilty, as we stood there, before this man- he had a black nametag with white letters that said “Throckmorton’s” and underneath it read “ Mr Blithe”.
“We didn’t mean anything by it, sir.. it just sort of accidentally .. “
“Accidentally got stolen? Now hand it over, young man – you’re in a lot of trouble, but if you give it back…”
That’s when Charlie said, “I want to buy it from you, sir.. See, we have enough to buy it. “
“Oh you don’t want to buy this, my young scofflaw, “ he said in a chiding tone. His voice had a soft, British accent, but that of a very old man with a long history of smoking. It sounded deep, and sticky in his lungs.
“But I do want it! I feel like it chose me, “ Charlie said after a few moments, and I felt an urge .. and found myself agreeing , “yeah we both want it. Its like it wants us .. “
“Boys, boys, boys.. it DOES want you.. like the One Ring wanted Bilbo, and later Frodo, to put it on and use it.“ Somehow, Mr. Blithe knew we both loved ‘Lord of the Rings’, or expected us to get the reference.
“What’s that got to do with this globe? Mr.. “ Charlie looked close at the name tag, “Mr Blithe? Honestly, I came right back as soon as I realized I had it.. But I want to … “
Mr Blithe reached in to take the globe from Charlie.
Charlie gasped and his teeth gritted, and his eyes blazed with rage.
I was shocked by Charlie’s attitude, but the elderly looking Mr. Blithe was fast for an old man.. For any man, to be honest – and he had a hand on the globe’s top, while Charlie had a hand on the bottom of the globe.
Mr. Blithe hissed like a snake, and his eyes turned to slits and his tongue flicked out – I swear it was like a serpent’s tongue! And he said, “Now boy! Let go – or I might just GIVE you the globe.. The burnt hand teaches best, after all..” he hissed out.
Charlie hissed back – not like a snake, but with anger and almost hate in his eyes, “I’ve been burnt before, old man! “ I grabbed hold of Charlie, and tried to pull him away from the old man – old demon.. Whatever this freakin’ dude was! It was scaring the crap out of me!
And that’s when things got .. weird. When Charlie said, “I’ve been burnt before.” the globe started to glow, and Mr. Blithe let go of the globe and Charlie feel back against me, and there was a flash. We both stumbled backwards and my back hit something – it was a cracking brittle sound, and the lighting changed. It was like we were on this little island – a rather fake looking burned island, with acrylic water frozen all around us, and there was a weird tree that I’d fallen against.
Charlie was pressed against me, and I was holding him in my arms, and he was gasping for breath, as we both looked around, astonished. Until we looked upwards, and saw the burnt man that had been inside the globe – with the porcelain mask. He was looking down on us through some kind of glass dome we were under! We were somehow INSIDE the globe! And that figure was outside!
Mr Blithe hissed and screamed -”STAY BACK!” and the figure whispered to the two of us through the globe, “That’s it boys – sit tight. Don’t go anywhere, you hear? I’ve got some business to take care of. “
And with that, he set us on the shelf, and limbered up that giant cleaver, and sprinted after Mr Blithe. And all we could hear was the screams of a snaky old man, and the laughter of a man that had been burnt badly.
I looked at Charlie and he looked back at me, and we both wondered what terrible curse we’d let loose on the world.
“I’m never going to shoplift again, “ Charlie said, in a weak voice. I put my head in my hands and hissed, “That might just be our epitaph. “
Later, when the Burnt Man came back, we would learn more about who he was, and Charlie and I had to learn how we were now being pulled into the curse. It would take years before we were free, but one thing was for certain: Charlie never did shoplift ever again.
Tree- Rekt & Violetility – Ritual Tree (We ❤ RP)