TWENTY, 2.0

One day without a hitch, that was all Regina thought about, her mantra, as she descended all five flights of stairs to the sidewalk.

She’d gone through her morning routine with ease, as usual: cereal, shower, hair flattened, teeth brushed, lotion applied to face, shoelaces double-knotted.

How else could she be expected to be taken seriously if the spirits thought she looked like a mess?

At the usual bus stop she climbed off the bus and made her way to her shop’s back door, down the dank alley she shared with the butcher shop.

She walked through the backroom without a hitch — which should have made her feel better, but she instead took to mean something ominous was afoot.

The coat hook fell from the wall as soon as Regina placed her coat upon it, and the soft THUD on the ground startled her, even though she’d watched the coat fall.

The lights to the shop suddenly flickered on and off as the walls began to shake.

Regina pulled out the remote, deciding now was as good a time as any, and pushed the button.

A sudden flame sparked out of nothingness, and struck the ceiling sprinklers — washing Regina’s bookshop in water, and leaving her drenched in disappointment at her failed homemade bomb.

It took two weeks to dry out the shop, and another to re-stock her inventory.

No matter what she would try, be it dressing to impress or burning her shop down, the Spirits would never allow Regina to give up her post.

Even if she had, in fact, moved in before they ever did.

She didn’t care how many people had jumped off of the roof, spattered on the sidewalk, or cut themselves bloody in the bathtub on the third floor.

This would always be HER building, HER bookshop, she should be allowed to run it as she pleased, not at the behest of a superstitious beast.

At the shop’s grand re-opening — the giant sign posted at the insistence of the Beast — Regina had over two-dozen customers — some enthusiasts, others curious, and just a handful of actual book-readers.

No matter their reasons, Regina felt happy to have the company, and the business, which ultimately felt genuine for a change.

Perhaps she could find a way to co-exist with these spirits after all?

As the thought came to mind, she watched as a bright green waft of a spirit held onto the backpack of a young woman, obviously a student, and followed her out of the shop.

The woman would be dead within the week, but Regina couldn’t blame herself.

Being in charge of Death’s transit center was a thankless, eternal task that could never be surrendered, so she’d have to remain complacent…for now.

 

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