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Today was the strangest day of my life.


It started out like any normal Friday. I was up by six o’clock, my roommates being both early risers and loud at the breakfast table. My morning routine: awakened by the sounds of cutlery and an argument, shower, eat, on the phone, and out of the apartment by eight o’clock at the latest.


Today was a little bit different, mainly because it was my first work day at a new job. I recently got hired at a weird little store called “Myst and Myth.” Besides being a mouthful for anyone with a lisp, the place is located in countryside that seems straight out of the Middle Ages. The only signs of human habitation within a mile of the place are the stone-paved road leading up to it and a small family farm where sheep graze on the side of a hill.


Despite the scenery, I usually wouldn’t be caught dead that far from civilization. However, the owner of the store was paying good money, and with the economy the way it is, I wasn’t in a position to be choosey.


I pulled into the store’s parking lot around 8:40, twenty minutes early. The signs said to park around back if possible, so I pulled my car around the side of the building. As I did, I noticed that it was a stone construction with a small tower at each corner of its roof and crenellations all around. It reminded me of a castle. I figured it was meant to, since that similarity meant it fit perfectly into the scenery. As I walked toward the back door of the store, I realized that if it wasn‘t for my car, I would have no problem believing I had walked into medieval England.


I had found the advertisement for the job in the paper and been hired over the phone, so when I knocked on the back door, I didn’t know what to expect of my new employer. I kind of suspected that he would be weird from the name of the store. I wasn’t disappointed. The man who opened the door was swathed in a blue, star-and-moon-spangled robe, and he carried a walking stick as tall as himself in his left hand. As far as I could tell with the shadow of his hood hiding his face, he seemed to be looking me up and down.


“Here,” he said abruptly, pulling a black robe out of some hidden pocket. “Put this on. It will be your uniform for as long as you work here.” I was right; he was weird. But he was also my boss, so I did what the man said. As I pulled the robe on over my head, he told me that I should call him Mr. Wisser (I found out later that the name means “one who knows” and comes from the same root as the words “wise” and “wizard”).


The store didn’t open for another fifteen minutes, so Mr. Wisser took me on a tour. The store was much larger than it looked from the outside, and included sections of Apparel, Arms and Armor, and what I could only call Magical Aids and Ingredients. The latter category included a talking crow named Wodinsi. By the end of the day, I wasn’t sure whether the wise-cracking feather duster would end up on someone’s shoulder or in their cauldron.


I couldn’t help but notice that most of the merchandise, like the surrounding countryside and the building itself, seemed displaced from medieval Europe: robes, tunics, swords, shields, and leather-bound books that looked suspiciously like grimoires were all on sale.


Mr. Wisser told me that my job, at least until I was more used to the way things worked in the store, would be to track down the item a customer wanted while he himself closed the deal. Then we settled back behind the counter to wait for customers.


The first one entered just a few seconds later, his entry causing the bell above the door to jangle loudly. My jaw dropped at the sight of him. He was a black-haired and black-bearded man dressed in a full set of plate armor. His shield was emblazoned with a red cross, and was dented. He strode (which is a word I normally avoid, but what he did was too determined and noble to call walking) up to the counter and asked in a heavy British accent for a sword “yea long, and of heavy heft” to replace the one he had lost “fighting my last dragon.” When I didn’t move, Mr. Wisser glared at me from under his hood and snapped, “Hop to it, apprentice!” So I did.


When I came back, I found that Mr. Wisser had pulled down his hood, so for the first time I could see his face. He was an old man, with silver hair and a short silver beard, but he was the sort of old man who could have been an elderly fifty or a particularly spry hundred. He concluded the deal quickly, and the man in armor left swinging his new sword and whistling happily.
After the man had left, I screwed up my courage and asked a stupid question. “Was that… was that really Saint George?”


I was expecting Mr. Wisser to look at me like I was insane and tell me that no, the Renaissance Fair was in town this week. Instead, he smiled, he chuckled, he flat-out guffawed… and then nodded, once. I sat down hard.


The doorbell rang. And rang.


The rest of the day was a blur. I remember a man with amazingly bushy gray eyebrows and a beak-like nose who was dressed in gray rags and who asked for “white raiment,” and who Mr. Wisser referred to as Mithrandir. Judging by their conversation, Mithrandir and my employer were old friends.


The main thing I remember, though, was the feeling of unreality that permeated the day. With the exception of one perfectly normal tourist who appeared puzzled as to where he was (but who ended up buying a beautifully-crafted sword as a souvenir just the same), everyone who came into the store seemed to be some sort of mythical or mystical being. When I got home that evening, my head was still spinning from the people and things I had seen. I successfully dodged my roomies and collapsed into bed completely dressed.


I woke up about an hour ago, and started typing this into my computer right away because I’ve noticed that in stories where the main character has really bizarre experiences, he tend to forget everything afterward. But if I leave this file on my computer, Mr. Wisser or anyone else who tries to wipe my memory will be out of luck. So I’m leaving an additional little note to myself:


Hey, Me! For the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to Monday. I think I’m finally going to enjoy going into work every morning. So do us a favor? Don’t lose this job.

------
Some things never change... some things do.


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