Hangman

Featured Items: Zibska ~ Falkor (We ❤ RP) & [White~Widow] Sing (Winter Trend)

“Be careful with those – they break easily,” Mr Ralphie cautioned Dagger, as the young, tall and lanky teen lifted the box of clanking crystal figurines from the shelf.

The proprietor, Mr Ralphie, was a skinny, unassuming figure, with what looked like red-skinned hands, polished black fingernails, and he wore a chipped and worn porcelain mask. The mask covered his entire face, and only left his eyes to be hinted at through slits in that visage-covering appliance. He wore a sober black suit, and white button-down shirt, with a slim red tie, and handkerchief stuffed in his breast pocket to match. His hair was full, and soft brown, and was pulled back into a braid.

He had a label maker in his hand, and he was typing in the name, sku, and location of the box of figurines, and hit the print button on the device. A white label with a barcode emerged from the printing port, and the owner seemed pleased. “Who says I can’t modernize?” The shop owner said, in a smug tone.

The young man helping the owner was named Dagger. He had been working at the shop, the “World of Curiosities”, for quite some time now – at least 3 months. According to what he’d heard, that was longer than any other “assistant” had ever lasted at the place.

The shop was in an older building, seemingly built in the early 1900’s, and it sold a bizarre mixture of different items. Some were rather modern and new, but if you looked around the shop, it was dominated by older things from a different era. Each item had a hand-written white tag on a string, displaying its price.  

There were stands of umbrellas, racks of strange clothing, carnival-style prizes that seemed from the 1930s, or even earlier. Glass cases with swords, shelves of musty old books, figurines and curios from around the world and many cultures.  Jars with creatures preserved in them were next to a shelf of containers of candy and marbles and all manner of things. What dominated the view of the high-ceilinged shop were the shelves of books along the walls. Some shelves stretched up to the high ceiling. And that was just what could be seen at a glance. So many things, that it boggled the imagination.

Dagger was lanky, about 18 years of age, with shoulder-length crimson hair, and pale skin. He had vibrant green eyes, and he was very tall – like NBA tall, such that he was always being bothered by the coaches on the basketball team to try out (That was an absurd notion for the bookish young man). He wore faded black jeans, with a black simple belt at the waist, a gray hoodie over top of a faded black T-Shirt, and a wallet chain that clinked softly against his thighs, riding from his front belt loop to his back pocket. He was wearing a knitted cap of dark brown pulled low over his ears, and he had on a pair of white cloth gloves.

Mr Ralphie insisted on him wearing the gloves when he worked. They appeared to be cotton,but the stitching in them was of a silvery, almost wiry consistently, which the proprietor said was essential to protecting him from some of the more ‘esoteric’ items in the shop.

The boy stepped back, and Mr Ralphie affixed the label to the wooden shelf, after peeling the backing off the label tape, and then gestured for Dagger to put the box back in place. He complied, with minor clinks from the box, which for a change didn’t seem to bother the proprietor to admonish his assistant.

“Satisfactory. Now, we must be careful with the next items.. “ Mr Ralphie began in his ‘lecture voice’, as Dagger thought of it.

“Don’t you say that about everything in the store?” Dagger interrupted, with a slight smirk on his lips.

Mr Ralphie put his hands on his hips, the label maker clutched in the one, and looked up at the exceedingly tall young man. “I remind you of this, dear boy, because you seem to have forgotten last week’s mass-escape of the Bird Toys?”

Dagger winced at the admonishment, remembering that fiasco, as he bit his lower lip. “Sorry, Mr Ralphie, It’s just.. Sometimes, I wonder if there isn’t anything that’s NOT dangerous in this place.”

The shop owner shook his head, and smiled, “Ahhh, so the idea is FINALLY penetrating that hormone driven brain of yours – yes, indeed, EVERYTHING can be dangerous here, if not treated properly. So you MUST be careful. That’s why I hired you, my boy. Your talents are .. developing, as I told you before, and I need a tall bloke like you to reach the higher shelves. Now..if you’re done making OBVIOUS observations?”

“Yes, sir,” The young man said, with an apologetic bob of his head.

“Good.. now.. We’re going to be looking at the Tarot Cards.. A particularly special set of cards. Whatever you do, do NOT start playing with this deck. It belonged to a Romani from the old country, and she was particularly gifted with them. Some say the deck is ‘blessed’ by the gods, and can call down actual manifestations, besides predicting your fate. “

“What do you mean by ‘manifestations’, the young man inquired, curious, his eyes going wide. His gaze strayed to the deck of exaggeratedly large tarot cards that Mr Ralphie revealed with a flourish from under a 9×13 wooden box. The ‘deck’ looked like it was made of thick slightly yellowed cardstock, each one about the size of normal letter size paper, and each had a beautifully hand drawn and painted motif of interlocking patterns, with the face of a herald angel (or if you looked closely, it was a fallen angel) engraved on each card back.

The proprietor, took the deck in both hands, after setting the label maker aside. The deck was difficult to get out of the box, seemingly, because it was bulky and there wasn’t much room to get his fingers down the size to get a grip. He did manage, however, and then carefully laid them on the a nearby table with a white sheet over top of it, which he was using for the inspection. “You will need to count the number of cards, and make a note of the condition of each one, but I warn you again .. DO NOT turn them OVER. Can you do that for me, Dagger?”

The tall young man nodded, and settled into a dark wooden folding chair beside the table, and began his inventory on a legal pad beside the box, as Mr Ralphie left to go attend something else in the shop.

He numbered each card in serial fashion, “Card 1, Card 2, Card 3, “ and so on in his notes, and made meticulous comments on the condition of each as he picked one up, and placed it carefully on the ‘discard’ pile.

Halfway through the stack, one of Mr. Ralphie’s companions, a cat of midnight black, came bolting through the shop, chasing a mouse. The little gray rodent seemed to vanish behind the tall teen racing behind some nearby shelves, and Dagger just grinned. The cat was playing with his new ‘toy’, catching and releasing it, so he could continue the chase over and over. The two vanished, and so Dagger turned back to his work.

And then the mouse landed on top of the table from – he didn’t know where – “HOW DID IT GET THERE?” His frantic first thought was to guard the Tarot cards, so he reached to cover the deck to protect it, when the cat leaped from above, and landed on top of the discard pile.

Dagger’s eyes widened as the cat’s hind legs seemed to spin in place on top of the slick card backing, trying to get traction for its next leap to go after the frantic mouse, and two of the top cards flew out from behind its feet, and fluttered down to the ground.

One landed face down. The other did not. It was The Hangman.

Dagger glanced down at the exquisite card, and gulped, as he saw a beautifully depicted white haired creature, perhaps a demon or satyr? He wasn’t sure, but the creature was upside down, with penetrating eyes, beautiful alabaster skin, exquisitely tattooed, and it wore a collar. It had a barbed tail and cloven hooves, and was dangling from a long red ribbon tied to a circled hoop of a serpent eating its tail. Painted lanterns and orange and red blossoms were depicted on their stems, and Dagger could swear he could smell their fragrance. The alluring creature was naked to the waist, slender, and attractive in a strange way. He just couldn’t take his eyes from the scene.

The card was so life like! It was as if it were a window looking in on some other world, on the other side. He could smell a musk that was arousing him, as well, in a way that had seldom happened, especially in the shop.

That’s when the figure in the card moved. It LOOKED at him, and smiled, and reached out a hand to Dagger, and he heard a voice in his head. “Mmmmmm boy.. Come join me in here. I wish to show you what crossroads you are at, “ The satyr-like being said. Dagger watched as the creature uncoiled himself from the hoop. It stepped closer and closer to the ‘window’ of the card, before its face filled the card face, and it smiled a seductive smile. “You can discover so much more about yourself, if you just.. Say yes.. “

“HELLS BELLS!” Mr Ralphie’s voice thundered from behind Dagger, as he grabbed hold of the tall boy’s arm and yanked him backwards from the card. The proprietor stepped in front of his assistant, and threw his arms out sideways, blocking the boy from the card with his body.

The face of the beautiful satyr smirked and arched a brow, and its seductive voice cooed out of the card, “What is the matter, Ralphantantilis? Afraid I’ll set one of your boy-toys on a new path?”

Mr Ralphie’s expression was hidden, but his body language said it all. This was a dangerous thing, and Dagger was the target. “Don’t listen to him, Dagger. Back away and do not look at that card!“

“But.. I’m sorry.. The Whiskers, and a mouse…” Dagger began, apologetically, trying to frame an appology, his eyes straying unconsciously towards the figure in the card. He couldn’t be for certain, but the card seemed to be growing, as well as glowing, and the claw-tipped hands of the satyr was gripping its edges and seemed to be pulling the opening wider.

“Stop babbling boy!” Mr Ralphie shouted urgently and in consternation. The owner turned, pushing the young man with a surprisingly powerful shove. “Go!! Get up to the office, lock the door, and do NOT come out until I say so! GO!”

Dagger leaped backwards at that last barked command, and he turned and rushed to the stairway, and rushed up to the office on the second floor. He gave one last look behind, which had the card now the size of a full 4×8 doorway in the floor, and the Satyr was climbing through the card-portal. Mr Ralphie had pulled out a pocket watch made of silver, and was waving it back and forth by the chain, as well as weilding a magic wand in his other hand. Mr. Ralphie looked over his shoulder and huffed in exasperation, seeing that Dagger was peeking out still. He hissed something in a sibilant language, pointed the wand at the office, and the door SLAMMED hard, and the lock clicked. Dagger was shut in.

What happened next, Dagger never found out, but there were some crashes, breaking glass, and cracking wood; Scuffles, and grunts. And Mr Ralphie’s voice called out in that sibilant language, over and over. Dagger’s skin crawled every time he heard those words, like they should mean something to him. All he could do was press his ear to the office door, and wonder what was happening.

Finally, there was what sounded like a “WHUMP!” and then there was silence on the other side.

A few minutes later, there was the sound of a ‘click’ of the lock at the door, and Mr Ralphie pushed the door open. There was a new crack in the mask he wore, and his coat had a torn sleeve, his tie was askew, and the shirt was ripped open, buttons missing down the front. , Dagger could see bite marks on his boss’s tattooed neck and chest, as well as claw marks here and there. The proprietor closed the door, and went behind his desk to the old, leather squeaky chair, and sat down heavily. He opened up one of the oak-desk drawers, pulled out a bottle of old scotch, poured himself a ‘snootful’ and then downed it in one gulp, lifting his mask just enough to drink.

Dagger coughed. “Umm.. What happened, sir?”

“You could say, I had my first date in years. Or you could say, I sent him back to the OtherRealm, through that damned card portal. But don’t worry about it, my boy. Just… Don’t ask me any other questions. It’s too embarrassing to have to tell you anything more. Just.. take the rest of the day off. Oh, and lock up on your way out. I’m taking the rest of the day off.“

When the owner spoke in such a way, Dagger had learned not to argue. He left the slump-shouldered little man at the desk, and went out of the office door. WHen he looked out over the shop, he had expected mass destruction or a bomb crater where the tarot card had been. But there wasn’t a single sign of anything amiss. And the Tarot desk was also not to be seen.

Dagger slowly gathered his things from behind the service counter, went to the front door, turned the “open” sign around to “closed” and locked the door behind him.

Some days were just bizarre.

But what in the world had that creature meant?

He pondered that as he gave one last look back at the shop, and wondered what had happened to that deck. He didn’t know if he ever would.

~Fini~

Story by: Dehrynn Shepherd

Body:
Hair- Tableau Vivant \\ Louis (TMD)
Hoof/Horns/Collar- [CX] Krampus Night (The Arcade)
Tail- [CX] XenoTail (Store)

Outfit:
Pants- ::GB::Buckle strap pants (FaMeshed)
Arm Wraps-[CX] Belted Onslaught (TMD)

Makeup:
Eyeshadow- Zibska ~ Falkor (We ❤ RP)

Tattoos:
[White~Widow] Sing (Winter Trend)

Decor:
Ring/Lamps/Flowers- {anc} CAMELLIA. (The Arcade)

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