I shuffled to the bedside table and lowered the wick on a dingy oil lamp before returning to bed. The flame sputtered causing the shadows cast from it to prance along the wall; an ominous face appeared before me and smiled. Pulling the covers up to my neck, I squeezed my eyes tight, and whispered a prayer. Witlessly promising devout servitude to whichever deity might be willing to take pity on me in exchange for protection against my conjured foe.
Nine o’clock came as it always did. Bleary eyed from lack of sleep, I dressed and left the cramped attic, walking down the rickety staircase, out the door, and into the snow. It took only seconds to reach the bookstore, but I had no desire to go in. The heat from the fire inside had begun to melt the frost from the windows and I could just make out the form of Milo Macabre stirring the contents of a cooking cauldron. The smell of rabbit stew wafted through the panes whenever he lifted the lid.
Shifting restlessly from foot to foot I danced about in what was left of the slushy drift, trying to decide if the contents of the pot were worth seeing Milo again. The decision was not mine to make however because just as I had made up my mind to make a hasty departure, the door to the bookshop creaked open. Lost in thought I hadn’t seen Milo leave the fire and now he was standing inches away, watching me, with those, those hypnotic eyes!
“Won’t you come in Master Knox?”
Though the offer was extended, it was only a formality. We both knew I was going inside one way or another. After all I had seen him the previous night, I knew what he was capable of and I could only imagine what he might do to me if I didn’t comply. I’d sealed my own fate and now I had no choice but to come to terms with it. With an audible sigh, I allowed myself be guided into dusty bookstore.