Gareth’s insomnia wouldn’t ever let up. He rubbed his sleepy eyes and glanced over morosely at his bedside table. The picture of a beaming woman stared back at him and he immediately looked away feeling the sting he always did when he looked at her. Gareth stumbled out of his bed nearly tangling himself further in a web of sheets and blankets. He also nearly tripped on a box of old photographs he could no longer bear to look at as he descended the stairs of his home. The walls were bare and cold and the emptiness of the home echoed his own profound hollowness.
Gareth slipped on his sneakers and began to walk around the neighborhood that he traveled every night that he couldn’t sleep, which was most nights. The chill air managed to keep him alert and he always thought better when he was walking aimlessly. Whether or not this was a good thing or not, Gareth couldn’t really tell you. That night however was different than any night before. While he was on autopilot like every other similar night he walked with purpose. This contradiction might have tickled him pink had he been of sober mind. That night he managed to get lost and found himself approaching the end of an unfamiliar street. He turned the corner intending to get his bearings when he let out a gasp.
The end of the street was lit up by what seemed to be an open shop. From where he was standing, Gareth saw that the storefront had many bookshelves and the enormous sign read O’Henry’s Crossing: Antique books and mementos. The sign was illuminated by two enormous antique lanterns that seemed extremely old and yet burned with the intensity of normal everyday electric and industrial lighting. The light was very odd though and while Gareth had difficulty putting his finger on why he felt that way, it seemed too bright and as though it was exuding the light naturally from within. The light also seemed to make everything else dull and dark in comparison, almost as if the light was being sucked out of everything else.
Gareth stared bemusedly at the shop and briefly glanced down at his watch and saw that it was 2:30 am. What sort of store was open this late? How on Earth had he not ever seen this place before? He had walked these streets very often in the dead of night and had never seen this place or lost his way. He might have had issues sleeping but he wasn’t so out of it that he could miss a place as garish as this. He then noticed that an elderly man with a bushy white beard was reading a newspaper under the awning in the front of the shop. He was thin and wore large spectacles. He looked away for a second because of how bright the lights were and then jumped. The man was now right in front of him his eyes warm and twinkling.
“Are you lost young man” the elderly man asked not unkindly. His voice was soft and warm and he spoke deliberately. Gareth felt a bit taken aback at how quickly the man had approached him and barely had time to reply before the man turned quickly around and began to walk briskly towards the shop. “I thought so, we have been expecting you after all. Please come in” he said without waiting for Gareth to reply. Gareth didn’t know what possessed him to follow him into the store but what followed would be the longest night of his entire life.
To be continued