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“Welcome to Jefferson’s Toy Store, how can I help?” the spritely woman asked behind the counter.
While my mother tried to explain that she was looking for something for me to give my friend on his birthday, I wandered through the small store looking at the many toys that lined the shelves. There was an assortment of stuffed animals in the dim store, but I was looking for something different.
“Do you mind watching him for just a moment?” I heard my mother asked. It was the third time she left me in a store today, but somehow, I found this one unsettling.
“Uh...no problem, ma’am,” the counter girl replied. “What’s his name?”
“Tim,” mother replied.
“Like Timmy,” the counter girl smiled.
“Timothy if you want to push it,” mother replied. “Tim is just fine, he thinks Timmy is childish.”
The counter girl’s disappointed was noticeable, but I simply focused on the wooden toys. I was seven and curious, so I began to fit them into each other thinking I was constructing something amazing. However, I was simply making a mess of things. My mother marched out the small store down the street, no doubt visiting a friend who worked in another store.
“Hey, Timm...Tim,” the counter girl greeted behind me, surprising me. I dropped the wooden blocks in a panic and turned to here. “Relax, little guy, is there anything you wanted to get your friend?”
“I-I wa-wa-I wanted-ted,” I murmured at first, but then paused and took a deep breath. “Action f-f-figure.”
“An action figure? He likes action figures?”
“Sh-She likes them.”
“Well, she sounds like a nice girl. We don’t really have action figures here, but if you want, you can join me in the cellar downstairs and we could look for one?”
I stared up at her, oblivious to what she was asking. However, I didn’t want to embarrass my mother, so I nodded and followed the counter girl deeper into the store. Soon, I was behind the counter, staring at the shelves below the register. There seemed to be small plastic bags, tied off with ribbon. Small bags with price tags, but inside them was nothing more than scrunched up napkins. I could barely read the label.
The door behind me creaked loudly, causing me to jump the second time since entering the store. The counter girl had opened the cellar door and began walking down a set of stairs into the lower floor. She didn’t seem to be so concerned with me, which only made it easier for me to follow. I was one of those kids that preferred it if people ignored me, pretended I wasn’t there.
I was also a careful kid, so before I followed her down, I pushed a box in front of the door to keep it from closing. I was still an idiot for following her down in the first place, but hey, I could have been worse. I still made it out of there alive.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
As I descended into the darkness, I heard the counter girl’s footsteps grow in echo until they surrounded me. I stood at the bottom of the steps, staring into the darkness, waiting. I was first greeted with silence as the footsteps stopped. My eyes widened, but I stood strong. Next, I was greeted with light.
“There, that should make it easier,” the counter girl told me from the other side of the room after pulling a light chord. The click was soft, but the light strong, filling the room, although there were still some dark sections of this large cellar. “Now, I’m not sure about action figures, but there are certainly some cool dolls that might as well be action figures. Does that sound good?”
The counter girl smiled in my direction, so I nodded. Her smile turned from innocent to sly.
“Don’t be afraid, this is actually the most wonderful place in the store,” she explained to me. “All the best toys are down here, but some of them are a little scary for some kids. You wanna see them?”
The counter girl knew how to trick children, because those words certainly worked on me. I felt a little more confident and nodded once more. That is when everything turned sinister. It was as if that agreement was what she was hoping for. There were two sounds that followed as her face turned calm and cruel.
The door slammed.
The light clicked.
I was thrown into darkness and I began to panic. I wasn’t too scared of the dark, but I was terrified of being so vulnerable. Being in the dark with her was what filled me with fear. So, in that moment, I nearly killed myself as I ran up the stairs. Fear was a wonderful energy booster, but it also made me clumsy.
Only when I reached the top of the stairs did I see the door was still open and when I looked back the lights were on. However, I wasn’t about to stop running. I jumped through the doorway right into the counter girl.
“Woah, careful, Tim,” the counter girl smiled as I pushed myself back up.
“Timothy!” my mother yelled from the other side of the counter. “Get here this instant, stop playing the fool!’
I looked at my mother and the counter girl with a mouth hanging open. Looking back, I saw the cellar door was closed, the box placed in front of it.
“I-I-I…” I began, but eventually groaned, fear still inside me. I ran back to the front of the store towards the street while I overhead my mother apologising to the counter girl.
Once on the pavement, I took a breather and looked back inside the store. My mother chatted with the counter girl and once finished, the counter girl handed my mother a small bag from behind the counter. I watched as she refused, to the counter girls disappointment. Once the goodbyes were said, my mother joined me outside.
“What got into you, Tim?” she asked. “That poor woman was trying to watch over you, why were you in the cellar?”
I didn’t say anything, because I knew that if I did, I would only struggle with my explanation. Instead, I took the lecture and we returned home. Although, I felt different when I got back. I felt lighter.
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