Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cursed, Part One

The Riverwalk was covered in flickering Christmas lights this time of year in San Antonio, the various couples walking, arms interlinked as they watched their breath fog in front of them as they scurried about downtown to complete their shopping. Thomas was no exception, the tall spiky-haired youth rushing along to get to the jewelry store to search for a perfect silver ring for his girlfriend.

They’d been going out for two years, and he felt it was time to get her an engagement ring. Nothing too fancy, just a simple silver band. He knew she would love it as she loathed diamonds due to the stigma they received from the slaves languishing in Africa mining away for the precious stone. This was all the better as Thomas, as a teacher, barely had the money to get a silver ring, let alone one with a large rock on it.
Stepping around a couple who were chattering excitedly, Thomas caught sight of a shaggy-haired man, dressed in a heavy fur jacket, staring at him with intense green eyes. Just as he made eye contact, the man turned and moved into an alleyway, walking briskly away.
“Huh,” Thomas said aloud, stopping long enough to earn a bark of disapproval from those who were behind him. “Oh, sorry!”
Moving out of the way, Thomas ducked into a store to escape the Christmas crowd if only for a little while. A thick scent of incense permeated the narrow shop, the whole room perhaps seven feet wide while going twenty feet deep. Sitting at the cash register, smoking from a hookah, was an olive-skinned man with a goatee and a carefree smile.
“Welcome! Welcome to Omid’s Emporium, the only place to find the mystical in all of San Antonio!”
“The mystical? You mean you sell magic things here?” Thomas asked.
The man huffed once on the hookah before waving the pipe at Thomas. “You do not believe in the mystical, yes?”
“Um, yes. I teach science for a living, and rarely have enough room in my life for such things as magic.”
The short man laughed, pulling a pocket watch from his sash. “You would be wise to keep your mind open for such things, as you never know what you could get. Is there something in particular you are looking for this evening?”
“Not unless you sell silver rings, no,” Thomas said as he eyed a small straw doll set on a shelf, several needles sticking into its arms and legs. Next to it was a shriveled heart, along with a jar of teeth and a set of dominoes in an ivory case.
“As a matter of fact I do. Would this be for you, or for a lucky lady, hmm?” The man asked, inhaling through his pipe slowly as he watched Thomas with narrow eyes.
“Um, my girlfriend. She really loves silver but dislikes gemstones. She can be kind of hard to shop for.”
“As all young ladies are good sir, as all young ladies are. Come right this way and I will show you what I have in stock.” The man said, setting his hookah pipe into a holder before hopping down from his stool behind the counter, revealing his height to be somewhere around Thomas’s waist.
Thomas stared at the man before walking around the counter, following him. The man stopped behind a glass case filled with jewelry, from bangles to rings, even necklaces and earrings. They ranged from silver to gold, to red colored metals that Thomas had not seen before in jewelry.
“So you wish this girl of yours good health, yes?” The man asked, hopping up onto what must be a hidden step to rise above the case. “I have a silver ring that would give her good health for many years, allow her to bear you many sons.”
“Whoa now,” Thomas laughed, holding his hands up. “She and I aren’t even married yet, no need to talk about kids.”
The man gave Thomas an odd look. “Do you not intend to marry her? Sons are the natural occurrence for those who have joined in Allah’s holy sight.”
“I do, but we don’t want kids actually,” Thomas said, not knowing why he was explaining himself to the strange man. It was as if he couldn’t keep his mouth closed.
The man’s face grew dark. “Oh really? Then you might be interested in a deal I offer to those in your… situation. But this deal is only if you intend to marry this girl!”
Thomas smiled. “This is going to be an engagement ring, so yes, I intend to marry her. What kind of deal are you offering?”
“You sign a contract and I give you any ring you see here. The contract gives me the rights to your first born son. If you never have one, then you get a ring for free.” The man, presumably Omid, said.
“I don’t know… wouldn’t she have to sign this instead of me?” Thomas joked, earning a hard gaze from Omid.
“I am not seeking daughters, so no, the future mother would not need to sign. It would be you as the father who is bound. Your first born son would come to me upon his first birthday, or I would send someone to gather him.”
Thomas laughed, nodding slowly. “Right. Let me see this contract and I’ll think it over while I look at your inventory.”
Omid smiled again, this time one full of teeth that seemed almost predatory. “But of course good sir, but of course. Never sign a contract you do not get to read beforehand, free advice.”
“Advice well taken,” Thomas said as he leaned over to look at the jewelry. Scanning over the items arrayed in the case, he spotted several silver rings though they all seemed too… gaudy for his tastes. He wanted a simple silver band, something that would look good on Amanda’s slender finger.
He almost gasped as he saw it, sitting between a trio of gold rings inside a turquoise bangle. A simple silver ring, plain to the eye but somehow shining with an almost lustrous beauty; it was perfect.
Omid returned, holding a rolled up piece of brown parchment and a lit lantern, shedding light over the darkened corner of the store. “Have you found something that catches your eye?”
“Yes,” Thomas said, looking up at Omid. “Yes, I have.”

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