Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Strange Streets (Urban Fantasy in Carlisle, Pennsylvania)

Last week I found myself wandering the streets of Carlisle in south-central Pennsylvania marveling at the little odd shops and boutiques: doll stores, oriental noodle restaurants, stores that sold women's fashions modeled on those of the 1920s, and the seeds of a story began to germinate in my fevered little brain.

Life has become very busy with major responsibilities and I've temporarily retired my novel, Doll Wars, but I still have time to play with the short story format. Strange Streets is about a young man and his cousin exploring the streets of Carlisle and they find themselves in ... well let's say they find themselves in the odd part of town.

My only dilemma is that I'm torn between three very different endings.

Here's an unedited sample of the story itself:


Yet, before I could come to the full realization of what I was seeing, Darcy had floated to the next window, I obediently following in her wake.'

The next window contained smoking pipes, but ones of a style and material I had never seen before. Odd arabesques of what appeared to be wood and meerschaum created fantastic structures barely serviceable for their intended use.

Open wooden boxes of what I first took to be tobacco lay scattered about the display, but this time my Darcy-befuddled brain saw through to see the absurdity of their contents. “Surely, they don’t mean to smoke that!” I said.

Darcy narrowed her eyes and peered through the window at the display. “Why is that, James?”

“It’s not tobacco,” I said. “Look, those are dried ferns there and that one is nothing more than a box filled with tiny flowers. And, see? Over there are dried mushrooms.”

“Maybe,” Darcy said after a moment’s pause, “they are there only for display?”

I laughed. “Then they are carrying the joke a little too far. They have prices per ounce on each box. I bet the police watch this place closely.”

As Darcy led me away to the next window, I saw out of the corner of my eye movement deep within the interior shadows of the store. The silhouette was certainly human, but something about it gave me a moment’s pause as if there was something slightly wrong about the store owner whose outline I had glimpsed. Probably, I thought with a burst of dark humor, the proprietor has been sampling his own wares.

The next store had in its display window a simple pile of broken tree branches. I looked at Darcy and shrugged.

“Maybe they are for artistic arrangements?” she mused aloud.

I laughed. “Carlisle is a college town. Heaven knows what oddities they sell and why.”

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