I was just getting done feeding the last skink when I heard the door rattle. Years of honed retail instinct to straighten and greet the customer warred with my personal sense of dread. As a result, I raised my torso with a sudden jerk instead of a smooth professional glide. A stray cricket bounced to the floor and scurried under a nearby shelf. I sighed and put on my game face.
“How may I help you today?” I didn’t bother with sir or ma’am, I was too often wrong about that and not interested in another beating from the Master.
The customer grinned at me, shuffled closer and handed me a piece of paper. A servant sent out with a shopping list, I supposed. I gave it a glance. Great, Mortal Enochian… aka “Fauxnochian.” Guessed this thing’s master must’ve recently died, and hadn’t learned any better yet. “Sorry Bub, you’re going to have to tell your Master we only deal with professionals here…”
It frowned and glowered at me, pushing past me and beginning to crudely rummage through the wares, pushing aside ancient bottles and charms. I was barely in time to catch a vintage boxed kit as it tumbled to the floor. “Hey, hey now, I’m going to have to ask you to leave!”
It was then I noticed my hands were feeling warm, very very warm… hot… burning, even. I looked as the fauxnochian note discorporated along with my finger tips. The customer was also becoming faintly radiant as it frantically began shoving things into its pockets. Where it touched, product smoked and scorched.
“Shit!” I yelled, diving for the phone. I dialed the Master. “Sir, sir, we’ve got one of those Lifeys in here! No, no I didn’t call the cops yet… wait, what? ………Sure… No, I don’t think… alright.”
I followed the directions given to me, and pulled out a long bone staff from behind the counter. Normally I wouldn’t have touched a relic this old, beyond the occasional dusting but the Master deemed this a sufficient situation to warrant it. “Gigantopithecus blacki, don’t let me down.” I muttered. By now the Lifey had found what it was looking for, since it was chewing furiously on something I couldn’t identify anymore and chugging a quart of what I think was aqua vitae. The hot, living glow of it was fading and it was shuffling back to the door. I took a breath and stepped in front of it, holding out the staff. “I’m sorry but I’m going to have to ask you to stay.”
The customer snarled and lunged at me, and I smacked it hard with the bone. There was an unnaturally loud bang as the bone made contact. The thing in the store went down hard, smoke rising from the welt on its face. Blood, beautiful and warm and red sizzled on the floor. The bone itself was bleached where it had hit the creature. Its chest rose and fell, shuddering.
Just then, I heard the familiar clumping of my Master’s hooves as he raced down the stairs from the upper apartments and flung the back door open. He stood there, gnarled horns almost snagging in the door frame. He was an Ancient One, not as ancient as some, but enough that he didn’t look very human at all anymore.
“Damn it, you didn’t kill it did you, you worthless little puke!?”
“It’s still breathing, no worries.” I rolled my eyes. “That thing could have ended me, you know.”
“Good, good.” The Master stomped over to the counter, then tossed me a pair of heavy leather gloves. “Put these on, then take that to the basement. I’m going to grab the #17 shackles. Tell no one. No one. I invoke the geas on this command. You will tell no one of this Lifey here, beyond the merchandise we are going to extract from it, and only then to our special customers… do you understand?”
I sighed, for the millionth time that night it seemed. “Yes, Master.”
“Good. And when we’re done, clean this shit up. I’m going to be down there for awhile.”
As I hauled the repulsive thing downstairs, I’m pretty sure I heard it whisper, “Help…”
“It’s what you get for being a shitty customer.” I told it.