Curiosity shop

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
In a world after a great war that decimated the land, a young girl sets out to find the cure for her town, only to discover the owner of the curiosity shop that holds the cure is missing and something dangerous lurks in his place.
Inspired by fall out and the story of Charles Dickens The Old Curiosity Shop and written in the style of horror writer H.P Lovecraft.

Submitted: May 03, 2017

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Submitted: May 03, 2017

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My name is Nell Raven, my age is either 27 or 28, for I am an orphan and was found trailing the desolate waste land some 20 years ago. My farther, the towns head doctor, adopted me along with his wife, my new mother who was a robotic specialist. When I was old enough they said they could never find my actual parents, thou they did try but this land is barren and people are always traveling. I however could not remember ever having a mother or farther and theory's surrounding my past range from kidnapping to abandonment. A trade or simple case of a curious child straying from the safety of the village and getting lost. It's a miracle I even survived in such a toxic land and inhabited by creatures of hideous proportions. I took up a profession of a capture and trainer of creatures capable of thoughts other than to kill the first thing they saw, Teto was my first. His species was called Tank equites cornibus, Latin for tank horned horse, a breed that varies in colour, size, diet and lifespan. His breed is simply known as Fera Spiritus or Wild spirit because of their aggressive and unpredictable nature along with unmeasurable strength.

I met him the day I lost my right arm and eye, for it was Teto that caused it. The beast had got itself snared in a viper rat trap while trying to reach a water store at the bottom of a steep ditch. The trap was buried and where common since viper rats are a food source for most people. While trying to free the beast his tenders that made up his tail whipped round and, despite the beast’s tired nature having spent countless days trapped, he still had enough force to blind my right eye and shattering my right arm. It took a while for the pain to go numb yet once freed the creature did not leave my side and even took me back to my home. This was the first documented event of a wasteland creature like Teto interacting with anyone in a none violent way. Once home, the villages kept their distance and started taunting the beast with sticks and hurling stones, thankfully my mother put a stop to such brutality. "If this is a dangerous beast, Nell simply wouldn't be here." I remember her shouting before I passed out. When I awoke a few days later my arm was replaced by a mix of light weight titanium and wires, my injured eye now robotic thou visually I can tell no difference between it and my other normal eye. Mother and farther had worked tirelessly to fix the damage caused, using the best naturals that they could find or buy. Teto had not left the porch of our shack house and he too was being fed and cared for by the people that had come to terms with the beast.  We have been together since and have travelled to other towns and villages, helping move out nests or capturing problem creatures to put them out in the wild. Not everyone agrees with what I do, but most say the creatures don't come back unlike those who kill and cause a "wave" or "swarm" of creatures that avenge their pack member.  Naturally not all creatures that somehow survive in this irradiated and toxic land are trainable, the super predictors like Death Rakes and Shrednorts, names given purely due to the fact that very few have survived an encounter. The events that I am about to recant to you and those that read this, holds a creature that stands above all on the food chain. A monstrosity so vile and unspeakable that most don't believe until it's too late. It is not a myth. The killings are real and the events I speak of are true to the word. As real as the sun and ground you walk on.

 

It was on the third day of the summer, a time when clean water is in short supply and the dangers from the creatures grow. The temperatures had not climbed that high for it was early in the day when I rode out. I was travelling back to my home town of Neoton from the small city of Elipsa after a week of persuading a small nest of Linch Worms to more on to a more acceptable location then the city's parks. My home of Neoton was a like any other small town, its houses were a mix of corrugated iron and wood, plastic sheets to cover the holes on the roof. It was a shanty town, a take and make do like every other settlement in the region. The cities like Elipsa had the benefit of brick buildings left from the old world before the Year of Apocalypse, however they too build back up with the same materials as everyone else. As I approached the familiar walled boarder of home, Teto gave a small grunt, his ears retracting a little, a sign he was unsettled about something. I gave him a pat under his frill to reassure him as we entered through the gate, having to duck due to the height of the beast I rode. Once in the gate shut behind and it was then I noticed the people. They were sick, you didn't need to be a doctor to see their flesh was lumpy and pail, patches of skin showed in the hair of some. Radiation poisoning.

I jumped off Teto and ran to the centre of the village where my house and the practice was, there I weaved my way through the mass of people, some looking worse than others. The whole village seemed infected as they stared at me, grabbing and pulling at my clothes begging for help I don't have. Once inside I closed the door with some difficulty as I didn't want to trap fingers or feet of the horde outside. In the kitchen to my right, my farther, James Raven, sat hunched at the table, head in his hands and a vast scattering of notes and incomprehensible scribbles. The kitchen sink was now a small lab of foul smelling chemicals of varying colour being boiled, steamed and mixed. Hearing the door and my boots on the old wood floor, the tied and drained face of my farther raised slowly, as if the effort to do so was great.

"Oh Nell your home!" His voice sounded happy and for a moment I saw a spark in his eye.

"Yes, I just managed to get in." I replied, giving a small smile. "Thou I would like to know what's going on." Before I finished my sentence the man that looked older than his age from lack of rest, sighed heavily and looked back at his papers.

"It's the water. We had a leak in the pipe and now the whole lot is contaminated with radiation above what we normally take." He stood slowly and gazed over his chemistry set up. "Naturally we didn't notice and drank, now the radiation is causing effects. We ran out of Rad off and Barrier and the delivery of supplies from The Curiosity Shop never came." He leaned on the counter, I frowned at the statement for the deliveries where never late, but before I could voice it my farther continued.  "The pipe is fixed and the water is safe as of yesterday but the damage has been done. Young and old have been mostly protected, the strongest of us have waited for the delivery to come. We would have sent someone to investigate but we don't have the strength to fight anything we may face beyond the wall in this state." He tapped a beaker causing the clear liquid to become cloudy with bits of some material I could not identify.

"You waited for my return?" I asked, glancing over the notes and discovering that he was trying to make Rad Off himself, thou with some materials where missing causing the delay and the stress that ran threw the man’s body.

"Yes." Another heavy sigh. "I knew you would be back sometime soon and here you are. You already know what I am asking."

"Yes, you want me to go to the shop and get the medicine." I went to the fridge and pulled out a thick slice of meat for my companion.

"You’re the only one with the health and the strength to make the trip. You also have Teto with you which is worth at least 20 men-"

"You don't have to justify it dad, I will go and get what we need. How is mum?"

"Alice is in bed sleeping, she is infected but it won't kill her. Your mum will be fine, she's a strong women." He embraced me and kissed my unwashed blonde hair. "Be swift and be safe."

"I will, as long as you get some rest." My dad nodded with a weak smile and as I walked to the door he climbed the stairs to what I hoped was to rest, but a man like that it was hard to tell.

 

Once outside I was again bombarded by the people of Neoton, all begging for the medicine that wasn't here. Teto let out low growl of sorts, his ears now retracted close to his skull, a tell tail sign of aggression. It gave me the chance to climb up into the saddle I had crafted and away from the mob. I informed them that I was going to The Curiosity Shop and would be back within a sort amount of time with the Rad Off and Barrier. Handing my ride the meat to which he swallowed in two chunks, we then quickly left at a gallop, the scorched earth uneven an rugged but no issue for Teto since his hooves where adapted to it. It took an hour and some to get to the Curiosity Shop, a journey that would have taken at least 5 on foot. The shop was very old and isolated in the landscape; its placement wasn't well known outside the area, for the large upheaval of earth that formed a cliff a at its base a rare sight, a small but flowing water fall. It was beside this wonder the shop was built, using the running water to make the medicines for Neoton and 4 other towns in the radios. The shadow cast by the cliff far outstretched that of the building, hiding it and its secret from passing thieves or competing traders.

Once close enough I dismounted and approached on foot, the plastic cover over the wire mesh domed window was pulled up, showing that someone was in and active. Teto however kept his distance, sensing something I couldn't. I dismissed it due to the fact he had never been here before, and that the chemical air was off putting to the creature. It's now I should have heeded his warning, but in the end the result would be the same. I entered the shop to find it in disarray. The usual cluttered shelves lay over turned on the ground, spilling its contents onto the already crowded floor. A thick haze floated in the air, clinging to my throat and making me gag. I had to use the ribbon round my neck and tied it over my nose and mouth in order to ease my breathing. I backed out and retrieved my laser gun form Teto's saddle, a gift from mother, before I entered again. Beast or man that waited inside was not going to stop me getting what I needed. Keeping low to the floor and over tuned stands, I noticed claw marks cut into the wooden structure and shelves within the room. It seemed out of place, the door and entrance was untouched and closed, if a creature entered then it too would be smashed like the interior. My thoughts where interrupted by a sound of something close to a snort, it was like nothing I had heard before. Moving slowly round the corner I could see the back door to the lab room lay on the floor, it was from this room that a large shadow moved in heaves agents the wall, cast by some unseen creature.

Taking safely off I crept forward to the door frame and peeked hesitantly round. I had not felt this fear before, dispute having faced many creatures, the sight I beheld that day will forever be engraved in my minds eyes till the day I die. In the corner, a humanoid shape crouched by the side wall, its spine visible through its ghastly grey leather skin. The spine followed down on to a bone pieced tail, skin pulled tight around each segment as if it didn't fit. Bulging shoulders seemed to grow and fall with each breath it took, more noticeable because of cracked bone like plates that stretched out like a cliffs edge from the body. Its head was oddly shaped and smaller than the body from my view point, it was flat with two ridges on both sides and a third in the centre leading to a spike in the end where the three met. Beneath this shield lay a mass of tentacle like strands, how many I couldn't tell for they writhed in and flayed in response to whatever the creature was eating. So stunned and repulsed by what I was seeing that I hadn't noticed the creature had fallen quiet. Its head slowly turned to face me, revealing its two horns, the cold black eyes and short muzzle bearing teeth so large they jutted out of the sides of its jaws. This thing, this beast that had a presence so unsettling, so repulsive, that when it stared at me it seemed like an age. It turned on its two clawed feet and showed it’s stretched out arms it now used to balance its weight. A step. Then another. One more... And on the fifth it leaped but missed by mere centimetres as I rolled back and darted for the exit, tripping over fallen objects as I went. I managed to get outside just as the creature leapt again, just managing to make the gap of the door and skidded to a stop. I fired my gun in quick succession, each shot finding its mark. The creature made a sound beyond words I can find to describe it as it turned once again to me. Larger than a Death Rake with twice the aggression I had no choice but to fire twice more as my companion gave it a swift kick to its side. A crack of bone lay beneath its shill squeal as it hit the ground and slid to a holt where it stayed.

Breathing hard I went closer, gun raised and my companion by my side. It was still alive, breathing lumbered with barely audible noises escaping. A crack of dried earth under my boot caused its head to turn and tendrils to flare before it uttered words before its head slumped in death. To this day I have never repeated what the creature said, for the horror I had just witnessed caused my tongue to silence. Even now as I write this I find my hand shaking...  On the creatures left hand was a ring, due to its size it would never have gone on the creature’s un-even finger. I must have stood there for hours for when I finally looked away it was dark, a cold wind blew loose sand and gravel around my feet. I don't remember much after that beside somehow retrieving the Medicine I came for and riding back to Neoton. I think I cried, maybe hummed a little with the insanity. Once home I said nothing but gave my farther what he and the others needed and went to bed. Naturally I was asked what happened but I couldn't utter a single word on the matter only that that curiosity shop owner was dead.

 

A week later I went back to the shop with my farther, now recovered, as someone needed to for-fill the role of owner and healer. The plan was that Teto and I were to distribute the packages and supplies while my dad would run the shop and make the medicine. As we approached the building the body of the creature lay where it fell, untouched since its death, only then was I able to tell farther what happened. How the man simply known to everyone as Grandfather had become this beast from taking and eating some plant I had never seen or seen since. How I was sure from the ring on his finger and that he had spoken in the same tone. Yet I did not say the words he spoke before death. That I couldn't say.

The monsters head, now dried and preserved, sits in a glass box next to a coat of arms and a collection of old world posters. An item that is just another curiosity in the shop and that people believe is fake. We do not speak of it nor do we say it ever existed at all. When they ask we say that grandfather simply died from an illness overnight and that my farther himself had cared for him. We say he is buried beside the waterfall, where a cross and gift are laid. But the grave is empty of anything reminiscent of a man save for the ring on its ugly mutated left hand.

 

This is a warning to all how read, be careful of what you eat. Be careful of what you drink. For the disappearances of people and the slaughter of life stock from a creature no one has seen before is no animal of the wasteland. The origins of this monster, is human.


© Copyright 2017 AtomWolf. All rights reserved.

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