Wizard’s Curse (Excerpt)

Sam looked behind her at the clock on the wall. It read 8:45. Sam smiled; it was her favorite time of the work day—closing time. Her manager was already in the back of the pharmacy straightening the shelves full of bottles of aspirin, ibuprofen, and other drugs. Sam had already straightened the shelves at the front, the ones with the candy, snacks, batteries and magazines. The last two hours moved slowly, as very little foot traffic entered the store, and Sam had begun cleaning the display cases near the registers early in order to get out of there quicker.

It was always slow this time of night on Sundays, once the pharmacy closed at 6. She shook her head as she sprayed watered-down Windex on the counter and wiped it dry with a paper towel. From her peripheral vision, she saw headlights flash through the glass door into the store as a car pulled up to the front. She turned her head towards the car, fearing it was some college students trying to buy packs of condoms and snacks for a last-minute party. Sam grinned when she recognized Tony’s, her boyfriend, metallic grey SUV parked at the curb. She waved at him, brushed back a loose strand of pink hair from her face, and returned to work.

The counters clean, Sam looked at the front door and sighed. She had the mind to lock the front door and close the register early. It always took her a long time to count down her drawer, usually she had to do two or three recounts of the money to make sure what was in the drawer matched what the computer said she should have. Getting a head start would allow her and her boss to leave at a reasonable hour.

Bells jingling caused her to look up. Someone had come into the store. An elderly man with a short white beard and silver hair down to his neck stood in the doorway. The man wore dark grey pajamas set of pants and a pullover shirt. His brown eyes were wide as his head turned to survey the room. He took a few steps forward. Sam noticed the man hobbled slightly as he walked.

Sam looked at the time on her mobile phone. 8:55 pm. She rolled her eyes. Shit. This guy looks like a confused child. He’s probably senile. Just what I need: to stay here after closing dealing with this crazy grandpa.

“Excuse me, sir,” said Sam, “but we’re closing in five minutes. I hate to rush you, but can you make it quick?”

The man jerked his head back as if stricken. He looked at Sam and proceeded towards her, moving surprisingly quick for a man with a limp. When he reached the counter, the strange old man stared hard into Sam’s face.

“Can I help you?” said Sam. She tried not to frown at the man, but her eyebrows betrayed her restraint.

“Ah…hmm…yes you can, ah, Sam.” The man’s voice was deep yet raspy.

“How do you know my name?” The man’s eyes shifted to the left side of Sam’s shirt. “Ah yeah, I always forget I have this name tag on. So what are you looking for? Like I said, I’m in a bit of a hurry. I’ll point you to the right aisle.”

“Oh, no, no, no! I’m not here to buy anything.” The old man’s lips cracked into a smile. “I’m here for you, Sam.”

Before Sam was annoyed, now she was scared. This crazy old man walked into the store at closing time and declared he was there for Sam. Not to mention Sam found the old man’s smile not warm or appealing, but rather frightening, sort of like Dracula’s smirk.

“Look, I don’t know what kind of drugs you’re on, old man, but all I have to do is scream and my manager will be here to escort you out.” She nodded towards the outside. “Besides, my boyfriend is out there, waiting for me. He can see everything through the glass. Try something, Grandpa, and he’ll be in here to kick your old ass just like that.” She snapped her fingers.

The old man shivered, as if genuinely frightened. He raised both palms up in a defenseless position. “Do not be confused. I am not here to hurt you, Sam. In fact, I need you more than—” The old man’s body tensed, like a mouse ready to dart. His eyes narrowed and began to dart back and forth, like ping pong balls being batted between two expert players. “Hmm, they are closer than I thought. We must leave at once.”

Sam shook her head. “I’m not going anywhere with you.” She turned to the back of the store. “Henri! Henri! I need your assistance over here!”

The old man grunted. “We have no time for this!” He grabbed Sam’s arm tightly. He put one forefinger close to his lips and whispered in a language Sam didn’t understand. His arm shot up, finger pointing towards the ceiling.

A blinding light engulfed them both.

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