I walked into the antique shop for the first time on a Friday afternoon. I walked with a skip in my step and a kind of child like excitement as I looked around at all the hidden treasures that were just sitting there, waiting to be discovered. I had seen this shop at least a dozen time on my way home from work and never thought anything of. The hustle and bustle of everyday life had taken most of my attention and I didn't have time for any adventures, no matter how small. I had mentioned to my wife about coming with me to check out the little shop but she declined, claiming that her schedule was already filled for the day, most likely with watching some quintessential shopping program, or lounging on the couch as she did most weekends. I didn't let her lack of enthusiasm deter me from my mission though and so I went, giddy, and full of wonder, to satisfy my new found curiosity.
The shop seemed empty and completely devoid of any life, at least as far as I could tell. I looked around for a store clerk but found none. No matter, I was happy to look around on my own with the presence of a sales person attempting to pressure me into purchasing something that I really didn't want or need. I can't say that I went into the store with the intention to buy something, I actually just wanted to see what kinds of things they carried, but should I happen upon something that I really feel I can't live without, well then, that would be another story.
The shop was full of so many things, most of them un-categorized, and just strewn around haphazardly. I didn't see any prices on anything, nor any labels with descriptions of the items; just old trinkets stuck on shelves with no order or pattern. It was odd to see so many odds and ends thrown in together like that. They seemed so sad suddenly, lost or abandoned possessions sitting derelict on a dusty old shelf as if this shop were some type of a graveyard for unwanted belongings. Some of the merchandise, if you can call it that, was nothing more than tattered junk, others would at the very least make good conversation pieces. There wasn't anything though that would be considered extraordinary and I couldn't imagine that much of what I saw could really be that overly expensive. I was, however, on that note, very wrong.
My wanderings took me around the entire show room, from shelf to shelf, exploring every cabinet, book stand or show case. Nothing stood out to me and so I had, disappointingly, decided to leave when something in the back of the room caught my eye and my curiosity implored me to examine it further. There in the shadows, amid broke down cardboard boxes and cobwebs, was an umbrella.
There was nothing spectacular about this umbrella at all. It was old and weathered. The handle was carved from some type of wood, what I could not tell because the years had worn away the varnish but the ornate design of it was still visible and that was when, upon investigating that design, I had come to realize that I knew this tattered old relic. Knew it, had seen it many times, and the very presence of it now sent a chill up my spine and caused my stomach to turn and twist and into sickly little knots. Had I been a smarter man perhaps I would have turned and ran from this macabre collection of broken dreams, but I didn't run. The peculiarity of the situation made me ponder the existence of this artifact. Where had it come from? Who had brought it here? Why was it here? These questions puzzled me greatly. If this thing were in fact the one it appeared to be, the last time I had seen it was nearly twenty- years ago, burnt to ash in a fire.
Hesitantly, and with mixed emotions, I reached out and took hold of the retched monstrosity. My hands were shaking and my heart leapt into my throat. I could barely breathe as I brought the umbrella into the light so that I could see it more clearly. The black canopy was torn in places, not like I remembered it back when it was new, but it was the same gentlemen’s umbrella that I had encounter a hundred times before in my youth, I was sure of it because engraved on the hand carved, crook handle, was my grandfathers initials, RS. I gasped and nearly dropped the thing, how could this be? No I thought to myself, this can't be, it's impossible. Still, there was no denying the initials in the handle. The fine narrow R and the long sloping tail of the S like a snakes tail slithering along the wood. The ornate design was eerily familiar as well, a carved skeletal hand wrapped bony fingers around the crook while decaying leaves, and creeping vines climbed the wooden shaft. My blood ran cold and my body suddenly broke out in goose flesh. I tossed the decrepit creature to the side and turned to leave this place when suddenly I saw an old man standing before me. The old codger looked familiar to me though I couldn't place him. Where had he come from I wondered. There was no one here a moment ago. "Did you find anything you like?" He asked me, grinning with crooked yellowed teeth. "Perhaps I can show you something?"
"I've seen enough." I bellowed at him. I pushed my way past the old man and headed for the door. I was shaking all over, perspiration lined my forehead, and my heart was pounding madly in my chest. Why did I come here I suddenly demanded of myself, why! This was a nightmare, it had to be, I was at home sleeping lazily on the porch as I often did on my days off and I was having a terrible, horrible nightmare! Oh God, I pleaded, let me wake up now and forget this cursed place. I rounded the corner and then slammed into the door with all my weight but the force of my body did little to open it. It was like hitting a brick wall though the door was made of glass! There was a thick fog forming on the other side of the glass, the windows were obscured with it. This can't be happening I thought, not to me. "Let me out!" I demanded. "Unlock this door at once and let me out!"
The old man walked up slowly behind me, the umbrella in his hand. He held it close to his body and leaned on it like a walking stick, much the same way my grandfather had. "Why the hurry?" the shop keeper asked me. "Did you not find my shop to your liking? I have many curious objects here, each with a story to tell. What story do you think this old umbrella will reveal?"
I reeled around and glared at him. "To hell with your shop and to hell with you; I have no idea how you came to possess that hideous old fossil but I want no part of it!" The man’s face soured as he glared at me. His wrinkled old visage twisted into what I can only describe as something dark and evil. "You're very rude." He growled. "But then you always have been, haven't you? You’re smug and contemptuous; an ungrateful little brat!"
"Who are you?" I screamed suddenly, "What do you want from me?"
"What I want..." The old demon hissed, "Is to watch you burn!" He raided the umbrella above his head suddenly and brought it down with a swift, hard force. I put my hands over my head and whimpered in fear as I had done so many times as a child just before the crushing blows of that dammed rod struck my back, arms, and legs. I felt my body fall backwards and the umbrella came inches from cracking my skull open. The doors suddenly flung open and I fell out into the cold, wet, night. I landed hard on the side walk, my backside exploded with pain as I hit the asphalt but at least I was out of the shop. I expected the old devil to follow me outside, swinging his umbrella madly in the night air but he didn't. The doors to the shop closed and as I looked through the glass I saw his face once more and that was when I realized why he looked so familiar to me. It was him, it was my grandfather. He was standing there staring at me just as he had twenty years ago, his face twisted into a mask of disgust and loathing. "You're not real." I whimpered to the face in the window. "I watched you die!" He smiled at me then but it was a wicked, tormenting smile. Slowly the face ebbed away from the glass and was replaced with thick black smoke. I swore I could smell brimstone just then and the putrid scent of burning flesh. "Burn in hell you old bastard." I sneered, "It's where you belong."