The Emporium Of Dreams

The Emporium Of Dreams

A Story by alanwgraham
"

If it's in your head it's in my shop - read this at your peril!

"

The Emporium Of Dreams

 

That day started as one of those happy days when there wasn’t a worry in my head. I'd spent the last hour of the morning in the spring sunshine, ambling across the Meadows. Then I’d stopped at Summerhill for coffee and cake. I was still licking the chocolate from my lips as I crossed into Newington road where I would head down to Waverley station. Walking down the long street of small shops triggered memories of my student days and our daily walk down to lectures in George square. In some ways those days of youthful angst and exhilaration seemed almost within reach, but I had to pinch myself to believe that I was now well into my forties. Time is indeed a very strange bedfellow!

 

Strolling casually, I stopped from time to time to admire the varied window displays of the small independent shops. Then something strange happened - some subconscious feeling actually stopped me dead in the street. I stood for a few seconds feeling oddly discombobulated and then looked around to see if I had dropped my wallet or forgotten to pull up my  zip. You know that feeling don’t you - something isn’t quite right but you can’t put your finger on it! Then, behind me, I became aware of a small shop which was noticeable by its very un-noticeability. A sudden frisson gave me the certainty that it was this shop that had stirred my subconscious.

 

Standing in front of the shop I could see why I had walked past it. The shop-front was grimy grey with a half open, peeling grey wooden door. A small window to the right of the door displayed an odd and dusty selection of small ukuleles, crocheted arm rests and antique, regimental belt buckles. Above the door was a small black shop-sign in faded grey lettering that read - ‘EMPORIUM OF DREAMS.’ I laughed! A small handwritten sign on the door read - ‘Always open - please enter’

 

Then something quite weird happened - I experienced an unstoppable urge to enter the shop. It felt just like I was the water in a sink spiralling remorselessly down the plughole. The door creaked as I was sucked in and a bell tinkled to announce my arrival. The whole thing felt like an out-of-body experience and it took me a few seconds to come back to myself.

 

Then I realised that something wasn’t quite right and I gradually became aware that the noise from the busy street outside had totally disappeared.  It was such a strange sensation that I actually wiggled my fingers in my ears to clear them. I looked around the small room in amazement. A narrow passageway, wide enough for one visitor, led a few paces from the door to the centre of the murky room from where three short passages led left, right and ahead. On each side of the passages piles upon mounds upon heaps of indistinguishable bits and pieces, a veritable cornucopia of tat filled the room from floor to ceiling. The dingy mounds of stuff seemed to suck the very light from the single, unshaded bulb dangling from the roof.      

 

Just then a feeble, quavering voice issued from somewhere on my right.

‘Ah, Mister Lost, you have come to pay my Emporium a visit - I’ve been expecting you.’

I looked around for the speaker but he was nowhere to be seen.

‘I’m here, Mr Lost.’

I looked again and could see a movement - it was a hand. Suddenly I could see him perched on a stool. His dingy clothes and his pasty grey wrinkled face appeared to blend in with the piles of bric-a-brac surrounding him but I could make out his bright blue eyes and his pair of shining dentures when he spoke.

‘I think that you have the wrong person Mr … ehm  - I’ve never been in here before.’

‘That’s what they all say Mr Lost, but how else would I know your name?’

 

‘By the way, I’m Mr Full - just like my shop, full! Ha ha! Now, to business - what exactly are you after Mr Lost?’

‘I .. I just came in for a look around. What is it you actually sell in here Mr Full?’

‘I have everything. No-one ever believes me but no-one ever leaves unsatisfied.’

I laughed in disbelief. I thought for a few seconds and then remembered my favourite childhood toy. ‘Do you have a Dinky model fire engine with a turntable ladder?’ Mr Full leapt off his stool and went straight to the opposite aisle. He lifted some magazines and eased something out. He placed it in my hand and I examined it under the light.

‘This is unbelievable - it’s just like the one I used to have.’ I turned it over and gasped when I saw my unmistakeable initials, JL. I had scratched them there in June 1962. I felt a bit light headed.

‘What’s going on here? How could you possibly have this?’  

Mr Full replied cryptically. ‘If it’s in your head, it’s in my shop!’

‘What nonsense!’

 

Just then a whooshing noise grew in loudness above my head until a ping sounded!

‘Ah, it’s arrived.’ Mr Full reached up to open a small hatch in a metal tube protruding through heaps of teddy bears. He lifted out a small envelope.

‘Here you are!’

I opened the envelope and was surprised to find a handful of photographs.

The first showed me with my drinking pals on my first pub crawl at eighteen. It showed that embarrassing moment when I staggered towards a lady to be rewarded with a hefty wallop across the face with her handbag.


The next one showed me as a rooky teacher attempting to teach the ‘birds and the bees.' I had just started when I became aware of a critique of inspectors all shaking their heads and marking crosses on their check lists. Then, a fresh faced lad raised his hand and asked, 'Sir, what's the difference between an orgy and an orgasm?' I still cringe and have relived that lesson many times in my dreams.


Another showed me starting my marriage speech when I fumbled in my sporran below the table and was stupid enough to announce that I had something to show my new wife - talk about a c**k up! To say the last photo was weird would be an understatement. It showed me gliding along above the pavement about a foot from the ground.’ This last one quite definitely depicted a recurrent dream that I have often.

The strange thing was I had never seen these photos before or had any knowledge that they had been taken.

‘Where the hell did you get these?’ I was getting angry now.

‘I told you.’ Mr Full laughed. ‘If they’re in your head, they’re in my shop!’

 

I closed my eyes and tried to calm down but Full’s irritating voice interrupted.

‘Is there anything else you would be interested in?’

‘You said anything?’  I thought for a few seconds. ‘Do you have a pair of these seventies pink flared trousers.’ I had just been thinking about how cool (I thought) I looked when I used to walk down to uni’ in 72.

Full looked momentarily flummoxed then almost dived into a ceiling high pile of clothes. I could hear bumping and cursing coming from the mound until only his ankles protruded. I could just make out a muffled shout of ‘pull’ and I heaved on his ankles until he popped out. He was clutching something pink.

 

I held them up and inspected them in amazement - they most definitely were the real McCoy. I checked the size - a 30 inch waist. I was a slim dude then! I slipped them on and checked myself out in the mirror that Full had pulled out from a mound of magazines.  ‘All I need now is the hair and tache!’ I laughed. Full pulled out a drawer, opened a tiny door in the back and fished out a replica of my dark flowing locks and the moustache that I sported two greying decades ago.  I sighed deeply for my lost youth and thinning hair .

‘Check your pockets Mr Loss.’ Full interrupted my thoughts.

I pulled out a ticket stub for a Deep Purple concert I had attended in 1973. In the other pocket I found a small, woman’s hanky initialled RW - she had a thing about leaving a ‘calling card’.  I didn’t have to think too hard. Rebecca was hard to forget!

 

'Anything else you need Mr Loss?' I thought for a minute and recalled one of my alpine climbing trips with my Irish mate Neill. On our second attempt to climb the Matterhorn we had reached the vertical rock face below the summit roof when I somehow lost hold of my ice axe and I turned to watch it spiralling down the three thousand feet of the north face.

‘Ah! - I thought you might mention that axe,' Mr Full said cryptically. Come along here.’ I followed him to the end of the passage. He bent down and pulled open a small wooden trapdoor.

‘Down the stairs!’ He pointed. ‘Keep going straight ahead and you’ll find what you’re after.’

I hesitated, but in truth the whole experience was beginning to feel like a dream now. I descended the steps and found myself in a dim, narrow passage which burrowed away into heaps of random rubbish.

‘This is ridiculous - how will I find it?’

‘Don’t fear - it’ll find you!’ He laughed.

 

I tucked my elbows in and started wriggling forward. The light grew even dimmer and the passage narrowed.  Suddenly my oft repeated dream of exploring a (nonexistent) warren of dark cellars and tunnels below my house came flooding back. I broke into a cold sweat - what the hell was that all about?

 

Suddenly I could see a light above and I looked up. Bizarrely I could see rock, ice and blue sky and then a tiny object spiralling down which soon resolved itself into an ice axe heading straight for me.  I screamed and squeezed myself into the side of the passage. I heard it falling beside me. Shaken, I retrieved it, reversed back along the passage and climbed back into the shop. I examined the axe - unbelievably it was the axe I had lost twenty five years before - it should be buried deep in that glacier at the foot of the Matterhorn.

‘Do you treat all your visitors like this?’ I asked the old man angrily.

‘It was you that mentioned the ice axe!’

 

‘I’ve had enough of this twaddle. I’m off - and don’t expect me back!’

‘But there is just one thing left to see before you go.’ This suggestion gave me a bad feeling.

‘Right, Mr Full, let’s get this nonsense over - but no more tunnels!’

‘Excellent. Go along the passage to the right and make a little space between the pile of tap dancing shoes and the collection of tea pots. Feeling a bit stupid I used my hands to ease open a crevice and could see a small, lit circular glass porthole at the end. I leant forward and looked through. The scene was distorted at first but gradually cleared to show blue sky, blue sea and a beach with a man in a white robe facing away. I had an unsettling premonition. I’d been here before many years before - in a dream!

The man turned. Yes - white hair, long white beard.  I was on the beach watching.  Yes - he was holding the clock. I knew what was going to happen - there was no stopping it! The hands of the clock started to turn - slowly at first and then faster, faster, faster!  I could somehow see myself. I was aging - slowly at first and then faster, faster, faster!

 

Once I had gathered my wits I returned to Mr Full .

‘Well Mr Full this has been an experience but I can’t say it’s been a pleasure! I doubt that I will be back in a hurry.’

I made my way back through the door feeling a bit shaky. Finding it hard to concentrate I thought that a coffee and a sit down might help me calm down. At the next café I stopped to check out the menu in the window. I was puzzled by the reflection of the old man in the glass - stooped, bald head and white beard. The old chap looked to be well into his seventies. It must be someone standing beside me I thought but there was no one there. Then I looked again, more carefully and my blood ran cold - the old man was me!

 

Note - The dream of ‘Father Time’ was a very vivid dream that I did have as a young man. I am indeed, now grey and stooped!  

 

 

 

 

 


© 2017 alanwgraham



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Featured Review

This is brilliant! Your storytelling has gone up a few notches lately, with every one humming from start to finish. This is so imaginative! It's showing us your memories in a completely original way. There's so much bright imagery & dynamic interactions, despite this being a blasé junk shop! Who else could make a hoarding sort into an adventure!?!? The ending is also sobering & a little chilling . . . for those of us who are living a racing timeline to its end these days! Your interesting ability to go way beyond the dots, while also imparting something basic & ordinary . . . I'm just plain jealous! (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 3 Days Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

2 Days Ago

Thanks Margie. As soon as I saw this shop it brewed away in my head. My first idea for it proved too.. read more



Reviews

Well written, says Duncan ...he enjoyed this (Sheila)

Posted 51 Minutes Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

42 Minutes Ago

Thanks Duncan. This was fun writing but some of the details were a bit too close to life for comfort.. read more
Duncan Brown

4 Seconds Ago

You're welcome ...more like this would be nice to read ...slightly spooked but in a good way haha
This is brilliant! Your storytelling has gone up a few notches lately, with every one humming from start to finish. This is so imaginative! It's showing us your memories in a completely original way. There's so much bright imagery & dynamic interactions, despite this being a blasé junk shop! Who else could make a hoarding sort into an adventure!?!? The ending is also sobering & a little chilling . . . for those of us who are living a racing timeline to its end these days! Your interesting ability to go way beyond the dots, while also imparting something basic & ordinary . . . I'm just plain jealous! (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 3 Days Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

2 Days Ago

Thanks Margie. As soon as I saw this shop it brewed away in my head. My first idea for it proved too.. read more
Outstanding! Thanks to your story-telling skill, I easily inserted myself into the tale. I saw the old man, Mr. Full and his dusty, cluttered shop full of impossible but possible items. I'd really like to find that box of arrowheads I traded off for pennies when I was 11. Now, How do I get to his shop?

Posted 1 Week Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

1 Week Ago

Thanks Samuel. From you I take this as a great compliment. I have laboured over this one since I spo.. read more
Samuel Dickens

1 Week Ago

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one, Alan.

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Added on December 1, 2017
Last Updated on December 11, 2017

Author

alanwgraham
alanwgraham

Fife, Scotland, United Kingdom



About
Married with three grown up kids, I retired early from teaching physics but have always enjoyed a second life enjoying the outdoors, particularly the mountains. In my mid forties I experienced a manic.. more..

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