Max stood in the long shadow that spread outside the door of Pyewacket’s Emporium of Magical Mystical Objects, his hand on Hector’s, watching the tall lamppost-man in his long black cape and his flock of tourists leave. They always looked the same whether they were Americans or Japanese or German – a mess of bright coloured rain coats, stupid grins, baseball caps and overstuffed backpacks that jarred against the dank grey streets of Witches Crossing.
It was a month now since Max and his mother had moved here, and each day Max had come to peer through the shop’s window. Everything about the shop was incredibly old and covered in a thick layer of dust, dirt and grime. Each day, Max would come and wipe at a patch of the sticky muck with his sleeve so he could peer in through the window, his eye pressed hard against the glass, but always the next day the dirt was back, same as it was before. But Max found himself drawn to the shop, and every day he stood, stroking his pet stuffed raven Hector, looking through a hole in the dust to see the strange and marvellous objects inside its murky interior.
As Max stared through his window peephole, something caught his eye. Half-hidden beneath a large one wheeled bicycle was a wooden box with the initials Z.A.M. embossed in gold upon the lid. But it was the words underneath that interested him the most:
Max entered the shop, and the brass bell above the door rang loudly, announcing his arrival. A billow of the same thick dust that covered the outside of the shop rose from the floor, creating a mini tornado that, as the dust caught the light that broke through the windows, looked for a moment like the outline of a person before it sank to the ground. Momentarily stopped in his tracks by this strange sight, Max looked around but no one seemed to be in the shop.
All around the shop were stuffed animals, their glass-bead eyes following him as he moved around. The animals did not look like anything Max had ever seen. For one thing they were all dressed. Cats wearing pointy hats and carrying books of spells, mice dressed in robes, and moth eaten snarling fox wearing a monocle and a tattered waistcoat. Max felt Hector on his shoulder, and wondered if he felt naked amongst this well-clothed menagerie. Max imagined Hector pulling away from his shoulder, and flying up to the shelves above where he would take tea with the Hedgehog wearing a bonnet and tiny leather gloves. Before Max had a chance to move closer to a stuffed weasel dealing out tarot cards to a rather weathered looking badger, he heard a noise.
He looked into the depths of the shop. Out of the darkness emerged a walking pair of glasses, which in reality was a very large pair of glasses being worn by a very small man.
This must be Pyewacket, thought Max.
Out of Pyewacket’s hawkish nose sprouted hair that had decided to say “hello” to his moustache and join his beard. His beard had been platted, and at the end of it was a pink ribbon, like the ribbons used to bind legal documents. Behind his thick magnifying glass lenses a pair of eyes, dark green like spinach that has been boiled too long, could be seen. However it was his ears that were marvellous: they were shaped like the bells of a trumpet and stuck out from his head at a strange angle, meaning that his bowler hat floated on top of his head as if a gust of wind had lifted it up and it had got stuck. Dressed in a formal black suit with a yellow flower in his buttonhole he stopped and stared at Max.
Max stared back and silently pointed at the Ouija board.
Shuffling forward the little man produced a cane from behind his back. Smacking the counter hard with it, several books were disturbed and fell with a loud thud down to the ground.
“That box is NOT for the likes of you, “ he said, his voice coming as much out of his nose as from his mouth. “How about some crystals, yes? Or some obsidian dug up from the depths of the haunted marshes; they are good - VERY good - at warding away the evil eye.” He reached out his tiny hand, covered in a clean white glove and thrust a shiny black crystal towards Max. Max ignored it.
Close to Max now, Mr. Pyewacket looked at the Raven on Max’s shoulder.
“Where did you get that from?” he asked, reaching out to touch the bird. Max moved back beyond his reach. Mr. Pyewacket moved closer to him, tapping his cane in his hand as he walked, “Who did you take it from? Who are you, boy?”
Suddenly this very small man seemed to be getting bigger, looming over Max as shadows filled the room. His eyes moved back and forth from Max’s face to the Raven. Max felt the counter against his back and knew he could not move even one inch further back. Pulling Hector into his arms he waved his finger at Mr. Pyewacket. Still keeping his eye on the bird, Mr. Pyewacket seemed distracted, and suddenly his eyes widened and his mouth formed an ‘O’ as if someone was whispering in his ear that Max could neither see nor hear. He took a step back and said:
“Five gold Albions and the Ouija board is yours. Come back one day and tell me who speaks to you. I should like to know.“
Outside the shop, clutching his stuffed Raven under one arm and the newly purchased Ouija board under another, Max bowed his head and ran away towards the Screaming Woods.