Gothic Tales of the Thrift Shop
One person’s trash is another’s treasure, or so the saying goes. And nowhere is this more true than within a thrift shop! With Thrift Shop Day fast approaching, here’s a considerably darker look at the possibilities of within those stores. But beware, these tales are not for the faint of heart.
“Hi, I’ve never been here before,” the man said. He eyed the expanse of other people’s cast-offs nervously. “Men’s jeans are…where, exactly?”
“The shop continues,” the woman behind the checkout counter said. Her skin on her face was oddly textured and beige, entirely the same color of her sweater which was the same color of her knitting. She did not look up.
“Soooo….back there somewhere?” the man said. He looked closer at the woman. The knitting she held with raw red fingers appeared to be connected to the sweater she was wearing. Was she knitting the very garment on her back?
“The shop continues,” the woman said again. Her red fingers were wet, leaving bloody stains on the needles. She looked up, and the man saw that not only were the knitting and sweater connected, but so were the sweater and the skin on face of the woman. The stitches around her mouth stretched and pulled apart as she spoke, revealing glistening ruby muscle around impossibly sharp teeth. “The. Shop. Continues.”
“Ah, yes, of course,” the man said, backing away. He looked for the door that he came in from, but it didn’t seem to be there anymore. It was just a doorway to another room, filled with clothes and pots and books and shoes. Which led to another, and another, and another. And endless maze discarded outer trappings of other people. It didn’t matter where he went. The shop continues.
She had a thing for weird curios. Suggestively posed lawn gnomes. Noxious cookbooks from the '70s. Things made out of glass that never should have been. Yard sales were good for this sort of thing. But she liked thrift shops the best. A yard sale, you could guess from the state of the house and the location of the neighborhood how likely something strange would be for sale. But thrift shops? Thrift shops were something else. An unknown quantity. She never knew what she might find there.
Take for example, this vase she just found. A dark onyx or obsidian, with an iridescent sheen that was mesmerizing when the light hit it. She felt whole when he held it, as if her entire life had been spent in order to get to her to this point to trace the tentacles carved on the vase with her fingers. A strange song in an unknown language filled her head as she looked into the vase, the dark void within it calling to her.
When the stone tentacles uncoiled from the stone to wrap themselves around her head, the suffocating, crushing pressure felt more warm and welcome than any lover’s embrace she’s ever felt.
The first room is all coats and jackets. Long wool trenches. Puffy, fluffly parkas. Patched and faded demin. On the walls are shelves of boots, made of leather and rubber, organized according size and color. They smell of weather, of the elements, of cold days spent outside in the wind.
The next room is shirts and pants, of all sizes and all genders. Jeans and slacks, button-ups and tees. A colorful collection of cotton and wool and polyester blends. They are worn in the armpits, and the knees and the elbows, the memories of a million repeated actions of their owners rubbed away on their threads.
Through another door is underwear, boxer shorts, bras. “Intimates,” reads the sign above the door, and there are few things more intimate than the items for sale here. Some were barely worn, purchased on a whim for one special night, before being shoved into the back of the drawer. Others carry a clear discoloration of constant wear. Who would think to sell such things? Who would buy them?
It’s best not to ask such questions.
The next room is organized by color, from almost translucent pale white to brown so dark it is almost black. Rack and racks of full suits of human skin, each cleaned and tidily hung. Empty eye-sockets stare out above agape mouths. Hands like empty gloves dangle, the fingernails still attached. Each one contains the imperfections of the human condition, the moles, the skin tags, the scars and burns. What was the life that wore this skin? And why did they cast it aside?
And, would it fit you? No harm in trying one on, right?
Jadzia Axelrod is an author, an illustrator, and a world changer. Throughout her eventful life she has also been a circus performer, a puppeteer, a graphic designer, a sculptor, a costume designer, a podcaster and quite a few other things that she’s lost track of but will no doubt remember when the situation calls for it.She is the writer and producer of “The Voice Of Free Planet X” podcast, were she interviews stranded time-travelers, low-rent superheroes, unrepentant monsters and other such creature of sci-fi and fantasy, as well as the podcasts “Aliens You Will Meet” and “Fables Of The Flying City.” The story started in “Fables Of The Flying City” is concluded in The Battle Of Blood & Ink, a graphic novel published by Tor.She is not domestic, she is a luxury, and in that sense, necessary.