Seth gave me a list. He needs some kind of root, a few mushrooms, and bugs. Lots of bugs.
I’m not looking forward to the bugs.
The sky is still a sort of light blue. The moon is out, although it’s nowhere close to full. Everything is quiet. Still.
It’s nice, being out of that house. I feel so…stuck, sometimes. There’s the waffles and the refrigerator hum and the ticking clock. There’s the sunbeams moving across the floor, the dust floating in the light. And there’s Seth out in his garden, out at his lab, doing his alchemy.
And what am I doing?
I wonder what it’s like to be a tree. I wonder if they talk to the other trees, if they twist their roots around each other, if they find companionship even though they’re rooted to the same spot for their whole lives.
Maybe I’m a tree, and that’s what I do. I wind my roots around Seth’s roots, and I keep him steady and upright.
I wish he was here. I thought he would be here. I thought he would say yes, that he would come with me.
He looked so kind when he said no.
I park the car and get out. The door slams shut.
Aleister’s Elixirs and Sundries.
I wish it was the kind of magic shop that moves. I know it’s not. I’ve never been here before, but it’s been here for decades. I drove past it every day when I used to work at the diner. A proper magic shop should disappear into another dimension after you buy a cursed item. But here, apparently, they accept returns.
It’s much more yellow than I imagined.
Yellow and red and brown. Fall colors.
I don’t see any lemur toes. I want to buy a lemur toe. I think it’d be fun. I could take it home, put it under Seth’s side of the bed. I would think that it would make him more virile, but really it would call up zombies from under our floors. I would fight my way through the horde, cutting off zombie heads with my chef’s knife, and I would come back here, covered in blood that wasn’t mine, and I would want to return the lemur toe. But the shop wouldn’t be here.
But this isn’t a proper magical shop, and so it would be here, and I could return the lemur toe, and the zombies would go away, and I would be stuck looking at my chef’s knife.
The man behind the cash register is very much not yellow. I like his red button down shirt and the rose in his lapel.
“May I help you?” he asks. His voice is low and rough.
I tell him what Seth told me. I try to ignore the jar full of freezer bunnies on the counter. I think I can hear them screaming, faintly.
He gives me a look.
I probably messed up. I don’t know anything about alchemy. I’m stupid. Seth should have come to get his own bugs and mushrooms and whatever.
He’s going to be mad when I get home. I’ll just tell him that he should have come himself, that I don’t know what I’m doing, that I do everything wrong. Except waffles. But I think I do waffles wrong too, because he just plays with them and gets the syrup everywhere and he never actually eats them. So I throw them away, and I wash his plate, and me and the refrigerator hum a song, and the clock ticks and ticks and ticks.
The cashier man looks at me. I wonder why his eyes are so red, and what the tattoo on his neck means, and why his skin is such an unhealthy color. I look at the wands on the wall behind him. Maybe it was a magical accident.
He opens his mouth. I decide that his tattoo means that he belongs to the Sharp and Incisive Debate Gang.
“Lady, you sure that’s what you want?”
Why is it so hard to buy mushrooms and bugs? I just want to buy mushrooms and bugs and go home to my husband and and give him the mushrooms and smash the bugs in his face and go to bed. Why is that too much to ask?
I try to remember the list Seth gave me.
“Yes, I need mandrake roots, glow orbs, and lots of rhinoceros beetles. It’s for my husband. He’s doing an experiment.”
The cashier man looks at me some more.
“All right, give me a few minutes to find everything,” he says.
He wanders off into the back of the store, and I explore.
The alien fetus in the jar is not screaming, not even faintly. I think it might be waving at me.
The bottles and jars are so colorful and pretty. I’ve never been in Seth’s alchemy lab. I always imagined it as a white spare space, all sharp angles and stainless steel.
Perhaps I will hold on to the bugs, and I will tell him that he can’t have them until he lets me into his lab.
I pick one of the bottles up and look at the label.
Do Not Drink Alone At 2 A.M. In A Kitchen With A Bare Fluorescent Light Bulb Hanging Over The Chipped Sink With Wooden Cabinets On Either Side EVER!!!!!
Hmm. I wonder what’s inside it. Perhaps it’s liquid death and despair, and if you drank it in those circumstances it would overload your death and despair circuits and you would just die, right there on the kitchen floor, with the bare bulb flickering above you. I like to think that there would be syrupy plates in the sink. And the refrigerator would hum a happy song.
The cashier man comes back. He gives me a bag, and another look. I don’t think he’s happy with me.
I pay him and walk out.
“Be careful with that,” he says. “Also you might want to start doing cardio.”
I think that he must be the lowest ranked member of the Sharp and Incisive Debate Club.
I hear a woman’s voice behind me.
“That for your man?”
Where did she come from?
“Woman! I said, is that bag for your man?”
She must have been in the store. Maybe she was near the fireplace.
I stay away from fire.
“Yes, this is for my husband.”
The door closes behind her. I hear her breathing.
“You’re Sarah Morrigan, right? Live in that big house right by the park? I didn’t know he ever let you out.”
What do you say to that?
She keeps talking.
“I heard what he wanted. I’m surprised Snypes let you have it. I’d be careful, girl, if I was you.”
I mutter a thank you and keep walking to my car.
I get out. I get out a lot. It took me a few minutes to get used to driving, and it seemed surreal to see the streetlights and the houses and the bushes and the cashier man. But that doesn’t mean anything. So I don’t go shopping much. I go out. Just earlier today I was out in the yard with Seth. I don’t stay in the house all the time.
Also how did she know my name? I don’t know her. I’ve never seen her. But she knew my name.
I walk towards the house, with its lights and its sink and its cabinets, and I remember that I should not drink alone in the kitchen at 2 a.m.
I walk past the clock, past the refrigerator. I don’t see Seth anywhere. I dump the bag of ingredients on the kitchen counter and head upstairs.
I am so tired. I just want to sleep. Let the beetles eat the counter if they want. I don’t care.
Upstairs, I find that Seth is not in his alchemy lab. He’s already in bed. He lies there, snoring.
I look at him.
I think about this afternoon. About his fingers. His mouth. His skin.
I remember how he said my name.
Tomorrow, I will make him waffles for breakfast. I’ll give him the ingredients. He will be grateful, and he will touch me again, his mouth pressing against mine, his fingers sliding across my skin. The shadow will stay away, and he will be here and he will be mine, and I won’t have to be careful.
I don’t want to be careful.