This is a sample chapter from the novel fabled enigma
Elena was walking through the rain, puddles making the edges of her long skirt soaked and dirty looking, but she hardly noticed. It matched her mood perfectly as she made her way back to her shop, trudging past the fountain in the middle of the town centre gardens. The fountain was not on as usual; too cold they said. What else did they expect though, it was Manchester after all, always raining, always cold and unforgiving. It especially seemed so today, with all the buildings looking grey and sad, the rain lashing down like a curtain of beads, bouncing off every surface, including her face.
She was glad she didn’t have far to walk. The bank was only on the other side of the gardens, but it felt like a million miles away, with its grandiose style and stuck-up attitude. Elena’s thoughts turned bitter, ‘These banks should show a little gratitude to us taxpayers. We did bail them out a few months ago, but they seem to have easily forgotten that they owe us. It’s not like I was asking them for millions or anything.’
Lost in her reverie, she almost walked past her little shop and had to stop and back-track a couple of steps. Stepping into the doorway of the shop she paused, a deep sense of loss enveloping her and slowly rising from chest to throat in a helpless ball of choking pain. Swallowing down the ball before a cry escaped her lips she took a deep breath and entered.
The shop was named Crystal Clear, and was everything that mattered in the world to Elena. For the last seven years, she had poured her heart, soul and every penny she had into her dream. The realisation that it was all about to end brought a deep sadness to her very being. Held within this sadness was anger at the person responsible for the mess she found herself in now.
Standing just inside the doorway, Elena closed her eyes and took a moment to breathe in the calming scents and general peacefulness the shop offered her. Today the scent in the shop was a wonderfully sweet and fruity hint of honeysuckle. Immediately feeling calmer, she opened her eyes, smiled, and took a long look around. There were shelves lined with books on spiritual development, magical enlightenment, awakenings, witchcraft and other metaphysical and general interest subjects. Tables displaying crystals and ornaments of all shapes and sizes, racks with necklaces and bracelets made from semi-precious stones and other materials. Large displays depicting everything from angels to demons and all things in between were spread tastefully around. Her smile faltered when she saw that the shelves were half empty, the display tables with large spaces where ornaments should be, and the racks dismally lacking in colour from the usually vibrant display. Business was brisk, but stock was running out, and it broke her heart to acknowledge that a closing down sale was imminent.
With a long sigh, her shoulders sagging, she began to walk through the shop to the back area in search of her gran. Entering the kitchen, she took off her coat, shook it a little to get the rain off and hung it on the back of the door. “Hi gran, I’m back.” As she turned around to see her beloved gran rising from her chair to make a cup of tea, she smiled. “You’re back already? That was a quick meeting.” Tonya, her gran, was a stooped elderly lady with greying hair in tight curls. At the moment she had it pulled into a tight bun on the top of her head. Her kindly face held many laugh lines, and her green eyes sparkled with long forgotten mischief, and a well of intelligence and knowledge. She pulled her blue woollen shawl around her shoulders a little tighter against the cold draught that had followed her granddaughter into the shop.
“I know and I got nowhere.” Elena said, “The bank manager said, and I quote, ‘the bank is not interested in advancing me any monies at this time.’ You would think they’d be a bit more lenient considering I’ve never asked them for anything in the past, but no, they practically threw me out without even listening.” Elena sat at the table and groaned, placing her arms on the table, followed by her head. Her wrist jewellery tinkling loudly at the disturbance. She looked up and said, “What now gran? The bank was the last resort. And I doubt the shipment is going to arrive now, it’s been five weeks.” She moved her hands to her neck and began fiddling with her bright bead and crystal necklace.
“I don’t know Elena, dear. The stock in the shop is the last we have. Maybe you should go and talk to the supplier again? Try to reason with him.”
“He can’t be reasoned with gran,” Elena said sadly, waving her arm in a resigned gesture, “He doesn’t believe in the supernatural, and he talks to me like I’m ten kinds of crazy. I just want to slap him. It’s a good job we’ve only spoke on the phone, else I probably would.” Elena slapped her hand on the table for emphasis, and smiled at the satisfaction she got from that small act. Tonya reached across and gave Elena a towel, and she proceeded to dry her long, chestnut brown hair. Her voice was muffled as she said, “I can’t believe it has come to this.”
“Elena, he may not believe, but he still took your money.” Tonya said, placing a cup of steaming tea in front of Elena, “and you still have the receipts, so I can’t see the problem, really.”
“The problem is that although I have receipts, he has a packing list and delivery order saying the goods were sent, so he kind of needs to find the shipment to prove we never got it. Or we do, to prove he never sent it. Either way, the shop will close, and he really doesn’t give a crap, which is why it has taken so long; he isn’t looking for it, and why would he? He has his money and just ignores me now. They won’t even put me through on the phone anymore.”
Tonya sat down opposite Elena at the table, a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face, and said, “We both know there are many ways to get someone’s attention Elena. We just need to be a little inventive that’s all.”
“I know that look gran,” Elena smiled at her gran’s mischievous look, “What are you planning?”
“Well…” and she hesitated just for a second, then plunged on, “Even a non-believer will pause for thought if you wave your hands around a little and mumble some words at him that sound authentically like…oh, I don’t know...a curse of some kind?” Tonya’s eyes twinkled and she laughed at the thought.
Elena laughed too, “Gran, I can’t curse the man, even if I was pretending. I don’t know where you come up with these ideas. You’re terrible, you really are.”
They sat quietly for a short while drinking their teas, then Elena’s face became thoughtful. She looked at her gran and asked, “Can I? Do you think it would work?”
Tonya eased herself out of her chair, walked around the table to her granddaughter and placed her hands around Elena’s face, “You are a powerful psychic Elena. With the vibes that come from you when you’re angry, I’m sure you can pull off a fake curse. Besides, you’re only trying to make him stop and think for a moment, and he did steal your money, so he at least deserves a little upset to his day. Non-believer or not, he will feel the shift in the room when your anger rises and your vibes start spitting energy.” Tonya clawed her hands like a cat and hissed in good humour, laughing. Elena shook her head at her gran, her eyes shining with amusement.
“Okay, I’ll go and talk to him in person since phone calls and emails are doing me no good. I might do it now actually, seeing as I’ve nowt else to do.” She giggled at the notion of pretend cursing a non-believer, and decided it could be a little bit of fun in an otherwise horrible day. “Wait until the rain has stopped Elena. No need to go getting yourself wet again. Have some of these pastries from next door that I nipped out for while you were at the bank.”
Eating their way through the creamy, fresh pastries, Elena turned her attention to the counter-top next to the oven. “What are they?” she asked, pointing at a colourful bundle of material all jumbled into a pile.
“Oh, those?” asked Tonya, looking sheepish, “They are just some clothes I put together for the jumble sale at the local junior school.”
Elena laughed again, “You still having trouble getting in?”
“Elena, they have a spirit there and it is scaring the kids. The head teacher obviously can’t see it so won’t listen to me and she thinks the children all have over-active imaginations. The only thing I can think of to get in there and deal with it is to take the clothes and then have a scout about for it, see if I can get it to leave.”
“Gran, they aren’t going to let you wander around on your own. You need to talk to the caretaker after the school has closed for the day. He will let you in, he has seen it.” Elena said, then thoughtfully pointed a finger at her gran and said, “Or you could take Father Thomas with you. He is a regular at the school and helps with all their fund-raising stuff.”
“Well, he was the one who told me about the spirit actually. Apparently the church don’t get involved in things like this, but he knows the kids are frightened and so he asked for my help.” Tonya replied, “Yes, I will ask Father Thomas to get me in there tomorrow. What about you anyway? Did you sort out that problem for the old lady?”
“She didn’t have a spirit problem,” Elena smiled, “She was just lonely, but we had a wonderful chat, and she feels much better now.” Just then the shop bell tinkled to indicate a customer. Tonya looked up and then turned to Elena and said, “I’ll get that, you sit and dry off for a while.” She turned and walked into the shop. Elena stood up and walked to the doorway leading into the shop, watching her gran talking to the customer. She listened as Tonya explained the best way to deal with a psychic attack from a known person, and promptly sold the customer the required mirror, books, crystals and incense.
When the customer had left, Tonya turned to Elena and smiled, “That woman is no more being psychically attacked than I am, but if it makes her feel better to do the defense stuff, who am I to stop her. I just wish these ridiculous books would put the real spells in them, and not the usual tripe.”
“Gran, you know that if the real spells were in the books then the world would go crazy casting spells and stuff all over the place.” Elena laughed. “Think of the mess we would have to clean up if everyone in the world had access to true magic. It would be chaos.”
“I know Elena.” Tonya sighed, “But it’s the reason people think we are cranks and never take us seriously. The magic they try out of these books never works. It just annoys me.” Tonya said.
“I know,” Elena approached her gran and wrapped her arm around her shoulder. “But just think of all those people we have helped. They are believers now, and their problems dealt with.” She smiled lovingly at her gran and led her back into the kitchen. “And speaking of problems, I best get going if I am to catch this Mr. Hughes bloke.” She took her coat off the door and put it on, then turned to her gran again and said, “Wish me luck. I shouldn’t be too long.” Smiling, she walked back through the shop as she heard her gran shout, “Don’t forget to wave your arms around a lot Elena,” and then she heard her gran laughing as she walked out of the front door and headed towards the suppliers offices.
The suppliers office was only a couple of streets away, so she decided to walk. The air was fresh now the rain had stopped. The grass in the centre gardens had a ‘clean’ smell to it that was nice and crisp. It was still cold though, so she pulled her coat closer around her shoulders and turned up the collar.
Crossing Piccadilly Gardens, she walked up Oldham Street and took a left down a side alley. Coming out of the alleyway she turned right onto Tib Street, which led her straight to the offices of the supplier. She entered the building and headed towards the lifts. “Here goes nothing.” She said to herself as the lift arrived and she stepped in, took a deep breath and pressed the button for the third floor.
The lift tinged its arrival at the third floor, and Elena stepped out onto a plush beige carpet. The entire office area consisted of neutral colours such as this, which made it seem both opulent, yet isolating and unwelcome. The curved desk she could see in the reception area was made of light wood and had a glass top. Behind it sat a young woman with a pleasant yet bored face, and she was fiddling with a mobile phone. “Good morning,” the receptionist smiled, putting the phone down on her desk, “How can I help you?”
“I would like to see Mr. Hughes please,” Elena replied.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Hughes is busy at the moment, may I take a message?”
Elena shook her head and purposefully strolled passed the receptionist, her long skirt swishing in her wake. The receptionist rose from her chair and began to follow, talking rapidly in a disapproving tone, tottering on her heeled shoes which seemed far too high to be practical. Elena ignored her, opened the door to the left of the reception desk and strolled straight in.
“Mr. Hughes, I am so sorry for the interruption, but this lady just barged past me.” The receptionist said in an apologetic tone, looking daggers at Elena, who was walking up to the desk.
“It’s alright Lucy.” Mr. Hughes said, with a wave of his hand, “I will handle this, don’t worry,” he waved her away dismissively and Lucy retreated from the room and closed the door behind her.
He turned towards the woman now in front of his desk. Before she had even spoken, he knew who she was. She was exactly as he had pictured her in his mind when speaking to her on the phone. She was obviously the crazy psychic who had been harassing him the last few weeks. Her clothes alone spoke volumes to him, and he sighed quietly to himself, hoping to get this over with as quickly as possible. “Miss Anjerona, I presume?” He asked her, indicating a chair.
Elena took off her coat and sat down in the chair, crossed her legs and slowly arranged her long skirt neatly. She had no intention of being rushed, and decided to simply wait for him to speak again. “I am a very busy man, miss, so may I enquire why you are here?” He finally said.
“You know perfectly well why I am here. I want my order delivered as promised.” She replied. He sighed heavily this time, and sat himself back into his chair noisily, knowing that this was not going to go well. He ran his hands through his hair and looked at her, wondering how to explain it to her, again. He stood up, then walked to his office door, opened it and turned back around to her, “If you will excuse me for just one moment, I need to find your file.” He left the room, closing the door after him.
Left to her own devices, Elena took this chance to have a look around. The office was not very large and the desk was its main feature, it was huge and seemed much too big to be in a room of this size. Made of solid wood, it had a glass top, which was tinted a beautiful dusky black. The effect was spoiled by all the paperwork piled on it. There was so much that three piles of it wobbled precariously, threatening at any minute to simply fall over from its own weight. To the left of the room was a bureau, over which a mirror was hung on the wall. The bureau was empty on top, but one of the doors in the front of it was slightly open and she could see, again, mountains of paperwork.
She noticed a door to the right, and assumed it was a side office, or maybe a bathroom. “I bet there is paperwork in there too,” she mused. “The pictures on the wall are nice though. I always liked landscapes.” Hearing Mr. Hughes coming back, she turned around in her seat and faced the desk again. He entered, calling instructions to Lucy about some meeting he was due to attend in a few minutes. Elena smiled at the ruse, and rose out of her chair to face him. “Mr. Hughes, I really don’t have all day, so can we just get this sorted out, please.” She noticed that he was carrying a file folder in his hand, which he placed on his desk and opened, rifled through for a few moments and then handed her a sheet of paper.
Sitting down again, she took the paper and looked at it. It was a delivery order, dated five weeks earlier. “Mr. Hughes, we have been over this. I am aware you have a packing list and a delivery order and that it has been stamped, but I did not receive the order. My shop is on the brink of closure because this delivery never appeared, and I would appreciate it if you would look into it properly. I’m sure you will find that my order is still in your warehouse somewhere.”
“Miss, I don’t have the time to go chasing up orders that I can see from the file were sent out over a month ago.” He told her.
Lucy then opened the door to inform Mr. Hughes that he is due to leave for his appointment very soon. “I’m not leaving until you have looked into this, there has obviously been some kind of mix up on your end, and you need to sort it out,” Elena said, sitting down again and refusing to leave.
Mr. Hughes realised that he was in for a long morning and informed Lucy to change his appointment to this afternoon. He then turned back to Elena and said, “Look, miss, there is nothing I can do for you. It is quite clear that your order was shipped. Let me get us both a drink and then I will show you all the processes we go through here, including order listing, packing and shipping,”
For the next half an hour they were bent over papers discussing the order, arguing and agreeing on different areas, until they had exhausted everything and had gotten no further to an agreement. Both were frustrated, and faced each other, each confident that their own case was solid, and neither willing to bend and give in. Mr. Hughes went back to his side of the desk and sat down wearily. Elena also sat back down, and stared angrily at the man. As she continued looking at him, her anger at her situation began to grow, and she flung her arms out in frustration, ready to give another onslaught to the fat, balding, horrible man in front of her.
It was then that she noticed a shimmer on the wall to their left. It was very slight and she almost missed it, would have done if she had blinked at that moment. Her attention now shifted to the wall, but she saw nothing else, so turned back to Mr. Hughes, who was looking at her strangely. This was the last straw for her and she leaned forward aggressively, almost meeting Mr. Hughes over the desk as he did the same.
The arguing continued until she saw it again, a shimmer in the wall, larger this time. She also sensed some spirits outside the office door as well now. Her psychic switched on, total focus in her face, she watched the wall. ‘Oh no,’ she thought, ‘this can’t be good. I need to hurry this up and get the hell out.’ As she watched the wall she saw the shimmer become bigger still, and then was shocked when a creature crawled out of the wall and began to walk along it. It then jumped to the floor and went to the window, where it did nothing but watch the two of them argue. ‘Oh shit, what the hell is that?’ she thought.
Elena was frightened now. She had no clue what this creature was; she couldn’t sense it at all, and that was unusual for her. She watched it raise its arm, and then felt the pull on her energy, which was leaving her quicker than it ever has before. Keeping a watch on it out of the corner of her eye, she turned back to Mr. Hughes. She knew the creature was taking her energy and needed to get out of there, fast.
“Mr. Hughes, if you don’t send me my order, then I shall put the word out amongst the other shops in the area that you are a swindler and a cheat! I either want the things I have paid for, or I want my money back!”
“And I have already told you, miss, be reasonable. Your order was shipped to you weeks ago; I have the delivery note right here!” He waved a piece of paper at her. “If you think you can get double your order by accusing me of trickery, and threatening me, think again. I am not scared of you, or your accusations. This company is a good one, and if you don’t leave this instant, I shall be forced to call security!” He shouted back.
‘I have had enough of this,’ thought Elena, her energy getting weaker by the moment. ‘Time for the curse and then to get the hell out before that creature sucks me dry.’ She rose out of her chair, her knees feeling weak and her fear of the creature rising. She raised her arms and began to chant, aware of the spirits outside the office entering and surrounding her, the creature in the corner becoming more interested and seemingly excited, and Mr. Hughes jumping out of his seat in shock. She was aware of paper flying around, but her attention was focussed on the creature. She never once looked directly at it, she was too frightened of it; she had never seen anything like it before, and her energy was becoming dangerously low.
She finished her chant, and with the last of her energy, she pointed at the man behind the desk and said, “Take heed of this curse, Mr. Hughes. Deceive anyone else from this day, and you yourself will lose everything within a week.” She then looked over at the creature, turned on her heel and left the room quickly, surrounded by the buildings spirits and a large swishing of skirt.
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