Copyright © Emmi Lawrence
All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission from the author.
Short Story (Approx 1900)
The first photo showed up on an otherwise normal Thursday morning. I found it tucked under the cash register, the bottom edge showing just enough to have me scouring my mind for when it might have been hidden. The photo itself had me blinking in surprise to see a twenty-something man with short spiky brown hair grinning back at me in an obvious selfie. The watch display from my pawn shop was fully visible behind him.
I immediately checked my alarms, both the ones bought from ADT and the ones I’d commissioned from a spellcaster. Then I did an inventory, starting with the watches. By the end of the day, I still hadn’t found anything missing, though I had discovered that the man had obviously used my computer, my camera and my printer in order to leave his surprise.
Needless to say, I was angry.
I called the cops and they dutifully took down a report, but since nothing was missing or broken and I couldn’t identify the man in the photo, it seemed as if the prankster was simply going to get away with sneaking into my shop.
Except the next morning I found a new photo, this one drawn on with some of my fine-tip markers, giving the same attractive man a police vest with the badge number a neatly scrawled “ICU2.” He’d put a hand on his hip and given the camera a stern expression in a cute, but disturbing, mimicry of one of the policemen who had stopped by the shop the day before.
So I called them again, immediately, and we went through all the motions once more like a two-step dance where I was the only one who knew the routine. That evening, right before I headed home, I changed every one of my passwords, in case my new stalker attempted to hack my accounts, turned the printer off and fetched my camera from my drawer to bring with me.
Saturday morning I found a piece of paper with a realistic self-portrait of the same man, though this time he wore an exaggerated frown and huge blue teardrops had been drawn on with marker. I crinkled it up and tossed it into the trash bin, but didn’t bother calling the police this time. I did consider buying a surveillance system, but the cost made me cringe and reconsider.
All the following week I received a similarly done self-portrait of the man. Each one drawn with pencil, some with detail in the background of one of the walls or shelves in the shop to indicate setting. Some with just a few lines and the name of my shop written backwards and mirror-imaged to show he was inside rather than outside. When I took the printer paper home with me, he left numerous small images on the receipt paper at the register.
I finally relented and brought my camera and the printer paper back when I became frustrated after trying to catalogue a bunch of used first edition spell books all enchanted to self-turn pages. Mainly because I didn’t want my stalker drawing in them and reducing their value.
He must have been ecstatic to have the camera back because I received three photos the next Monday, all selfies, though one was only of his eye. He’d managed to get a reflection of my computer in his pupil, showing a filthy image of a man and a woman getting randy. The other two were cleaner, one just his smiling face, a camera drawn in his hand in marker, the second of him holding a marker to his chin and staring off into space as if thinking about what to draw next.
At this point, I became concerned for him rather than annoyed. I went through my inventory again, searching everything, especially recent acquisitions, for anything that might have been used to trap someone. I found a lot of possibilities, but nothing concrete.
So I left him a note, explaining that if he took a photo or drew a picture of what might be holding him in my shop, I would contact a caster to look into freeing him.
The next morning I found a photo of him laughing, his eyes twinkling fiercely. So I gave up on getting rid of him and just smiled at the photos and stored them in their own drawer in my desk.
I actually started to look forward to lifting the register and finding out what strange thing he’d drawn on himself. I hung my favorites on the board near the register, turned so they were pinned up for me, not for customers.
Once or twice a week I would find something sexy drawn in pencil on a piece of paper. At first, the man and woman were just a few sketched lines, as if he was testing the waters, seeing how I might react.
Slowly, they became more realistic, the two bodies entwined tighter, faces contorted in obvious need. He created beautiful works of art, the eraser debris left all over my counter as a tiny reminder that he’d stood right where I stood all day as he lovingly drew a well-endowed man in the process of entering a woman with long, dark hair that looked exceedingly similar to my own.
In fact, as the months slid by, everything about the two figures that would randomly show up under my register began to seem quite familiar. The woman had a slightly turned up nose, a part along the left side of her head and a body shape similar to my own figure…though it seemed as if he added just a little in the front and the back. The man’s lead-drawn face always looked remarkably like my stalker’s cheerful one, though I had the sneaky suspicion he probably added a tad more to a certain appendage that stood at attention and fully ready in every single picture.
I started leaving some in return, tucked under the register as I left. They weren’t nearly as good as his, but they always disappeared so I figured he liked how I drew him on his knees before me, his hands against my thighs and his tongue curling out of his mouth.
I left photos too, mostly silly ones, using my rudimentary skills to draw on an umbrella and rain or a sword and shield or some equally pointless, but fun, way to incorporate my poses in the same way he did. The photos, like the drawn pictures, never showed back up, as if they went wherever he did during the day.
One lazy afternoon, I went all out and drew him a humorous cartoon of the two of us role-playing in the bedroom, him a vampire since he only showed his face at night. My artistic ability left a little something to be desired, but I got the point across.
He responded by giving me a detailed flip book of the two of us stretched on top of the jewelry case, him thrusting in and out of me until my back arched. On the last page, he lay collapsed over me in a spent position, his lips curved up and his eyes staring right at me. Me, not the woman drawn to look like me.
I brought that one home with me and flipped through it many, many more times that night.
The next morning I walked in to find nothing under the register at all. No photo. No picture. Nothing.
I searched the entire area, sifting through the paperwork on the counter and in the file cabinet. Then I double-checked that the printer and computer were working. I found nothing hidden around my workspace or on any of the cases or shelves. Not even a scrap of paper with a quickly scribbled smile, which is what I would do on days I’d been too busy to do anything else.
The day passed achingly slowly with a total of two customers coming in and only one buying anything. Despite not finding anything under the register, I left him a small note. Just two figures hugging one another with arms that looked like sticks. One had my hair, the other his.
The following morning the note I had drawn remained sitting untouched under the register. I tried not to be upset since he had been nothing but pictures and photos and fancy. It wasn’t as if I knew what his voice sounded like or had ever listened to his laugher. Regardless, I missed him throughout my day, a part of me certain that for the first time in almost a year he no longer lingered in my shop.
I’d never find another funny photo after a rough day or discover another suggestive picture entwining us together. That depressed me more than it likely should have.
That evening I turned off the computer, closed up the shop and drove home with lead in my heart despite having a good sales day with a huge enchanted diamond being bought with barely any haggle on the customer’s end. That sale should have made me happy, but all I did afterward was sift through a pile of photos to memorize a face I’d never seen in real life.
At home, I slipped off my flats and started to make a late dinner. Then nearly had a heart attack when the floor creaked and someone cleared his throat.
I whirled around, my drink hitting the ground and splashing across my bare feet.
He stood there. Real flesh and blood with a twinkle in his eye that I recognized from countless photographs. He wore a pair of jeans, the line of his underwear showing. His hair seemed softer than normal, as if he’d forgotten to do it.
In his hand he held a piece of paper. Blank on the side I could see.
I licked my lips carefully and curled my toes in the spilled water as I regained control over my pounding heart. “Hi.”
His grin grew as he stepped forward. Then he turned the paper around, the dark smudges that decorated his fingers smearing lead along the edges of the picture. He’d drawn me lying in bed, my fingers slipped into my panties and my breasts perfectly exposed. On the pillow next to me sat the flip book he’d drawn.
“You finally brought me home with you,” he said. “I waited a long time for you to do that.” Concern entered his gaze. “I am allowed here?”
I let out the breath I’d been holding and put a hand on my hip. “I’m going to miss you at the shop.”
His smile brightened, crinkling his eyes, and confidence entered his stance, heightening his handsomeness tenfold. “But you won’t miss me here anymore.”
I shook my head and laughed, then beckoned him closer so I could touch him for the first time, feel warm skin rather than cool photos. The water on the ground caused me to slip as I reached for him, but he caught me in a hard embrace, his body firm under my hands, his arms strong and his grin infectious. I sucked in a breath, shivering as he drew a hand along my spine, his fingers sure and steady as I knew they would be.
Below us, the water soaked into the picture, blurring the lines he’d created. I started to reach for it, but he stopped me.
“Don’t worry. I’ll make another.” Then he kissed me. Hard and greedily, proving just how long he’d been waiting.
The first two attempts at this story had a lot more to do with the pawn shop, but by the time I got a beginning out that actually seemed to be going somewhere the shop had become unimportant. She could have been anywhere really. Doing anything. But that’s why the title is the way it is and why she’s located in that sort of shop in the first place.
As for why he can only come out at night, I have no idea. I think perhaps he’s cursed. Let’s go with that. Strange stalker is cursed. Maybe she’ll help free him, after they, you know…