Night of Jinxes
A Moonlight Dragon Short Story
Copyright © 2016 Tricia Owens
All rights reserved. This story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Read more from Tricia Owens at
Moonlight Dragon series
Forged in Fire (coming soon)
Rise of the Dragon (coming soon)
Night of Jinxes, short story
Night of Jinxes
The voice on the phone said, “I’m going to kill you.”
Considering my phone was currently in Google maps mode, I was a tad concerned.
I closed out the map program and checked to see if I’d somehow turned on the call feature or accessed my voice mail. The answer was no for both. My phone shouldn’t have spoken to me in that flat, featureless voice and it sure as hell shouldn’t have threatened me.
“This might be a problem,” I mused aloud.
I wasn’t one to freak out over nothing. I’d dealt with necromancers, vicious shapeshifters, demons straight from Hell, and I’d been bitten by a vampire, among other things. I knew what trouble was and what it wasn’t. This wasn’t flashy like the other trouble I’d encountered, but I recognized that it had the potential to be a serious pain in the butt. And yeah, maybe dangerous enough for me to fear for my life.
A few feet away from me, my best friend Melanie sat in the haunted rocking chair near the door of my shop. She looked up with interest. “What problem?”
“Either my phone has suddenly become possessed, or something in here wants to kill me.”
“I thought something was always trying to kill you,” she offered helpfully. “Or at least curse you in a nasty way.”
“Well, sure, but this is different. This sounds sort of personal.”
Melanie scrunched up her nose. When she did that, she looked very much like the monkey shapeshifter that she was. “What do you mean?”
I motioned at the shelves of the shop. They were packed with all sorts of junk that people had pawned or sold to me in moments of desperation. Since Moonlight Pawn was located right next to Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, many of my customers were curious tourists and gamblers looking to replenish their bankrolls.
However since I was a dragon sorceress on the downlow, my shop attracted members of the magickal community as well. That meant there were some pretty strange items on the shelves, some fantastic, some that were more than a little bit creepy.
“Most of the magickal items in here are cursed in passive ways,” I pointed out. “Nothing happens until you interact with them in some way, like when you pick it up or open its drawer or try to use it.” I held up my phone. “The feeling I just got from this message is different. It knows me and it wants me, not any poor sucker who comes along. I’m telling you, Melly—something bad is about to go down.”
Her dark eyes widened and the ends of her blue dyed fringe nearly poked into them. “Like what?”
“I wish I knew.” I eyed the inventory in the shop. “I’ve had most of this junk for a long time and nothing’s happened. Now, though, I’m wondering if I should mistrust all of it.”
Moonlight Pawn was situated in a house that had been converted for retail. My studio where I slept, showered, and ate was separated from the shop floor by a simple bead curtain. The nearness was convenient, but there wasn’t much defense against anything, really. I couldn’t even stop a breeze.
Bothered, I emptied the old hat box I was holding of its last item: a shallow bowl with a glass lid. The bowl held a couple of inches of sand. I lifted the lid and lightly ran my fingers across the sand. Immediately the sand shifted to form letters that made a word: ASK. Cooler than a magic 8-ball any day, but I couldn’t help wondering if this was the source of the threat I’d just heard.
“You think it’s that?” Melanie asked, reading my thoughts.
I shrugged. “This and five other things were left on the sidewalk this evening. I hadn’t sensed anything malicious from any of them, but maybe I was wrong.”
“That’s kind of suspicious, isn’t it? Someone just leaving that stuff for you?”
“Not really. Magickal beings dump stuff here more often than you know. They don’t care about making money; they just want it away from them.” I placed the glass lid back on the bowl of sand. “Maybe a demon is on the other side of this, talking back.”
Definitely possible. It was also possible that the other five items—a mug, a pair of gloves, a scarf, and a teapot—carried nasty curses. I considered removing them from the shelves where I’d already placed them, but I hadn’t sensed evil from them. It kind of irked me to trash them without justification.
Just in case, I went out onto the shop floor and collected all six items and placed them together on one shelf so I could keep an eye on them and possibly narrow down any nasty business to that area.
I nearly added the hat box to the trash pile since it was so battered, but at the last second I decided to keep it for storing shoes or something. The majority of my stuff was in Tupperware containers, which weren’t exactly stylish. I tossed the box into my studio.
“When I was little, my dad told me a story about our ancestors and curses,” Melanie said as I returned to the counter. She rocked once on the rocking horse. “Monkey shifters are descended from the Mayan people, right? But how? My ancestors weren’t sleeping with monkeys or anything.”
“I had wondered about that,” I said straight-faced. I grinned when she stuck her tongue out at me.
“My dad told me that a long, long, long, looong time ago on the first day of the Mayan solar calendar, a ceremony was held called Night of Jinxes. Like, the Mayan gods all stood in a circle around a cenote and threw jinxes at each other, trying to knock each other into the water. This went on for fifty-two hours on the longest night in Mayan history. One by one the gods fell into the water: the jaguar god, the feathered snake god, the rain god and mountain god…until at last there were only two gods standing: a howler monkey god and one of the gods of maize.”
I nodded, wondering what the heck this had to do with my angry crank caller.
“The two gods threw jinx after jinx at each other. All different sorts, trying to find each other’s weaknesses. People saw jinxes they didn’t know were possible! And yet it seemed that neither god would win. Then suddenly the howler monkey god collapsed.
“‘No way, he lost!’ everyone cried.
“The god of maize celebrated. He was the greatest god of jinxes! He turned to tell the Mayan people to worship him and that’s when the howler monkey god sat up and threw a banana at the maize god’s head, knocking him into the cenote.” Melanie giggled. “The Mayan people were so impressed by the trickery of the howler monkey god that eight of them begged to be made into the image of a monkey to honor him. And that’s how monkey shifters were born!”
“Melly, that’s really cool. I think you’ve got plenty of your howler monkey god attributes,” I teased. “But what in the world does that have to do with anything that’s happening here?”
“Duh, we need to hold a Night of Jinxes and try to trigger all the curses that are in here until we find the one we want!”
My eyes bulged. “What?! That sounds like a terrible idea. That’d be like—like a magickal Armageddon.”
“Nah, you said it yourself: there’s nothing aggressive in here. Except for one curse. Your curse. When it can’t help itself and jumps on the bandwagon and reveals itself, we isolate it and pounce on it.”
“Or, it kills me.”
She winced. “Well, maybe, but I really doubt it, Anne. Seriously.”
“As long as you doubt it then why should I fear?” I shook my head. “Triggering everything in here would be the last thing I’d do, Melly. Who knows what would happen.”
She looked around, her attention pausing on various items before moving on. “I don’t know. The most dangerous things you’ve got in here that I know about are the zombie nutcrackers. And they can only bite your fingers if you stick them in their mouths.”
“You’re wrong. The most dangerous thing in here—one of them that I know about, anyway— is this music box.” I turned and pointed at the small, black lacquered box sitting on the shelf behind me. “It opens to somewhere in deep space. Literally. I’ve opened it twice to peek inside and both times I was nearly sucked into the thing and pulled into orbit around a planet.”
“That’s kinda cool,” Melanie murmured to herself, completely missing my point. I’d forgotten that she admired some of the cursed things in here and felt that she could have created better ones if given the chance.
“I should get rid of this box,” I mumbled. “It’s too dangerous to sell.”
“Uh, I don’t think you can just toss it in the trash, Anne. You gotta have someone magickally destroy it.”
She was right, which was annoying. The music box was both valuable and dangerous. I’d only gotten hold of it by an awful twist of fate: a witch had called the shop, informing me she would be bringing the box in. But either accidentally or due to cosmic forces, she had been hit by a car in the street just outside the shop. The box had rolled to the front door of Moonlight Pawn and though I’d tried to find relatives of the witch, no one had ever come calling. If that wasn’t a sign that I was supposed to take the music box I didn’t know what was.
Anyway, the music box from space was dangerous but it wasn’t what had sent me the angry phone message, otherwise it would have done so months ago when I’d first obtained it.
“The music box isn’t my problem,” I said. “But I don’t know if provoking everything that’s in here will determine which one is.” However, my subconscious had grabbed hold, and now an idea began to form. “Unless we record things from a safe distance…with a camera.”
“It’ll be like found footage horror.” Melanie’s jaw fell open. “It sounds super scary. Do you think maybe we should call the guys for this?”
I gave her a look. “You’re telling me you need a big, strong guy because you’re a scared, helpless little female?”
She thought about it before squeaking, “Maybe!”
“Tsk, tsk, Melanie. We’re doing this on our own. It was your idea, so now you have to live with the consequences. Just like when you dyed your hair blue.”
“But blue hair isn’t scary!”
“Try telling that to your mom. You remember how she flipped out when she saw your bangs.”
Melanie slumped. “Yeah. Dios mio…”
“This won’t be nearly as bad as that.” I wasn’t sure how this had suddenly turned into my project, but I was pushing it to happen. “In the morning after I close up, we’ll set up a camera and set off some curses. Who knows what we’ll find.”
Famous last words.
Four a.m. on Thursday morning and it was time to close. Oh, there would be more business if I kept the neon Open sign lit—Vegas never slept—but I always had to draw the line at some point and say enough was enough.
Tonight had been particularly busy. Bad night on the tables for lots of people, apparently. I’d had a steady stream of gamblers in, selling me all sorts of things. A handful of tourists had skimmed the items and made a few purchases, and I was pretty sure the guy who’d purchased a pair of magicked golf balls that would return to you when you whistled had been a minor warlock. So, pretty good, sales-wise. But I had other things on my mind than money.
My eyes tracked the last customer in the shop, an elderly woman wearing an unflattering pair of mom jeans and a red CSI: Las Vegas T-shirt. The clothes meant I’d initially painted her as a tourist, but as she lingered in the wannabe witch’s section, I reconsidered and decided to pay her a visit.
“So many interesting items,” she said with a wobbly smile when I joined her beside the shelves.
“I try to keep a good variety in stock,” I said. “Is there anything in particular you’re looking for? I have some items in storage as well.”
“No, no, nothing specific. Thank you. I only came in here because…” She trailed off, her brow creasing as though she were confused. Her expression was enough to worry me.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes, I’m…” The woman touched the tips of her fingers to her forehead. I didn’t think she was feeling faint; I thought she was using some kind of magick. “There’s something in here. It drew me in.”
That raised my hackles because surely this wasn’t a coincidence. “Can you describe what you felt?”
She opened her wrinkled lips, then paused and cast a wary look at me. “Do you mind…you’re not ordinary, are you?”
I smiled slightly. We were alone and the risk of being overheard was minimal. “I’m not. I’m a sorceress.”
“Ah, I’d thought as much. My magickal ability lies along yours, I think, though my specialty is in sensing power, nothing more. I can’t actually perform any magick, but I can tell you when someone else is using it.”
“So you can sense it in here. Something’s active.”
“Active.” She rolled the word in her mouth for a moment. “I suppose that’s as accurate a word as any. Yes, something is active in here. But hidden,” she added with a warning look. “It doesn’t normally like to be found.”
That was vague enough to be annoying, but I understood that this woman could be helpful. “Is there any chance you can pinpoint what it is for me? It’s a little concerning to have something active on the shelves for anyone to buy.”
“Possibly.” The woman began to move, so I stepped back to give her room. With the fingers of one hand lightly touching the center of her forehead, she drifted along the aisle. Every time I expected her to stop on an item that I felt was suspect, she continued on, proving that I really had no idea what was potentially dangerous in my shop.
She eventually paused in front of the shelf holding the six items that had been left on the sidewalk. Her gaze lingered on the coffee mug and a pair of gloves. A-ha! I thought.
The mug was nothing special. It kept liquids warm for a few hours. I expected it to sell soon. The gloves were of a similar vein. You put them on and they heated your skin pleasantly all the way up to your shoulders. Handy if you went around in hipster vests during the winter.
“Once upon a time,” I heard the woman murmur as she studied the items, but she didn’t pick up either of them. After a few seconds, she continued inspecting the rest of my inventory.
To my frustration, she paused only once again, midway between the main selling floor and the counter. She glanced at the bead curtains.
“Lots of curses back there,” I told her, “but they’re old and attached to the building.”
She nodded. “That explains it.” She lowered her hand from her forehead. “I apologize. I can’t narrow down the feeling. It seems to touch several items here, but nothing is as strong as what I felt out on the sidewalk.”
A cumulative effect? Could be, but that didn’t much help me find the main culprit.
“I think I’ll go now.” The woman sounded uncomfortable, but she paused just before the door and looked back at me. “If you’re here all alone…you should be careful.”
A chilly finger ran up my spine. “You think whatever you felt is dangerous?”
She didn’t pull any punches. “Yes. So don’t, well, don’t lower your guard. I’m sorry I’m not more help.”
“No, you have been. Thank you. Have a good night.”
After the woman left, I locked the door, counted up the till and tidied up. The cursed cameo pieces yammered at me for a little while but I ignored them and the bitchy Victorian faces eventually fell silent. I pulled up a book and kicked back behind the counter as sunrise began to lighten the eastern skies.
I didn’t end up reading much, though. My attention kept drifting beyond the cover of the book to my shop where apparently something nasty lurked. Running a cursed pawn shop wouldn’t have been my first career choice, but I thought I did a fairly decent job of it. Under my control, the inventory had nearly doubled.
Though, maybe that wasn’t such a good thing after all. If all those items were cursed or haunted, were they really beneficial to sales? I made sure that non-magickals didn’t get their hands on anything dangerous, but they were usually repelled by them anyway. I guess they could tell subconsciously when something was magickal and they steered clear of it. And the cursed items that I had sold had gone to magickal beings that I sensed could handle them. We just had a way of knowing when the magick on something was within our realm of control.
That would probably explain why the worst offenders remained on the shelves. Maybe they’d still be sitting there long after I left this place. After all, who really needed a taxidermic snowy owl that followed you everywhere you went with its golden eyes? You could just tell the thing wanted to peck at your face. Or what about the photographs of little girls with eyes that bled? Something had to be really wrong with you to enjoy having one of those photos hanging on the wall of your home.
And there were worst things in here. Things I’d rather not dwell on while I was alone, and according to the woman who’d just been here, items I’d better not turn my back on. Nothing had yet hurt me, but hey, there was a first time for everything, right? Just because I was a dragon sorceress didn’t mean I was invulnerable. Far from it. If I used too much of my sorcery I risked losing my humanity and turning into a fire breathing dragon. Big no-no, as far as the magickal big bosses were concerned.
I blew out a breath. I couldn’t wait until my best friend arrived. All at once I was feeling very, very vulnerable.
Melanie arrived at the shop just after eight. Even in the morning the sun was already blazing in the sky and pouring light through Moonlight’s two front windows. After setting the magickal wards around the property to keep out any magickal beings, I locked the door of the shop.
“It’s not so scary when it’s daylight, yeah?” my best friend said, shooting me an anxious smile. She held up a pink bakery box stamped with the name of her family’s food truck, Todos Tortas. “I brought some snacks so we’ll be energized. No way you can fall asleep with a bunch of sugar in your veins!”
“You’re trying to put me into a diabetic coma,” I complained, but that didn’t stop me from snatching the box from her and checking out what was inside.
As I made my first choice of the day—something with a yellow jelly on it that smelled like passion fruit—Melanie slowly wandered between the shelves. She’d been inside Moonlight tons of times, but I realized in that moment that I’d never seen her actually checking out the items up close. She usually just hung around the counter with me.
Maybe because she’s been scared of it all.
“Hey, you know you don’t have to do this with me if you’d rather not,” I told her around a mouthful of bread. “I don’t want to guilt you into this.”
She looked back at me. “It was my idea, you know. Besides, I can tell you’re scared.”
I made a face, prepared to argue. But she was right. I was scared. Scared of the unknown, because I didn’t know if my particular brand of sorcery could fight it off. If I needed to defend myself or go on the offensive, my magick came out in the form of my familiar, a Chinese dragon I called Lucky. Lucky could be a wisp of air or he could be a corporeal dragon capable of burning the entire city to the ground.
But that strength came with a price: it required my life energy and it would most likely cause me to lose all touch with humanity and plummet into the consciousness of my dragon, essentially becoming the dragon. Bad news, that. So I tried not to use my dragon that often.
And the truth was, maybe my dragon would be ineffective against a cursed or haunted object. I had no idea what I was dealing with here.
“I’m a little nervous,” I admitted, “but I’m also a big girl. Don’t feel obligated to stay, Melanie. I can handle this on my own.”
“Nope, too late. I’m already here. You’re stuck with me.” She patted a porcelain faced doll on its head, then immediately jumped back when one of its arms lifted toward her. “Wow, yeah, this place is Creep Central. It’s definitely better that you know what you’re dealing with here so you don’t wind up smothered in your sleep.”
“Gee, great visual, Mel. Thanks!”
She laughed and came back to me. “So what now? We run around and poke everything?”
“I guess that’s one way, but it seems like a lot of effort and unnecessarily risky. Let’s try something first.”
I had an old Sony camcorder on the shelves that I took down and placed on the counter where the register was. I aimed it out at the shop and checked the viewfinder.
“We’ll record the shop while we’re in back,” I said, stepping away from the camera after pressing Record. “Something might show up just because we’re not watching. If the quality is crappy I’ll use my phone, but I’d rather not get it involved in case it’s, you know, tainted.”
“Ooh, this is going to be fun!”
I looked at the camcorder hopefully. “As long as the Blair Witch doesn’t show up I’ll be happy.”
While the camera recorded, Melanie and I lay in bed and watched video game walkthroughs on YouTube.
“How are they so good?” she wondered aloud as we watched whoever was playing the game defeat an army of demons with a bunch of complicated maneuvers that likely would have broken my thumb had I been the one holding the game controller.
“I think they play these things over and over until they’re experts at it. Then they film themselves. At least, I hope that’s what they do. It’s too depressing to think they might be this good from the get-go.”
“If I were that good, I’d play nothing but RPGs. Ones with cute boys, like Final Fantasy.”
“I’d play horror survival just like this.” You would have thought I’d had my fill of monsters and ghouls, but apparently not. Or maybe the prospect of blasting them with various weapons and gaming magick was what appealed to me. In the gaming world, I could be powerful without risking life and limb.
Melanie turned onto her side and peered up at me. “Do you ever think that maybe one day, magickal beings will outnumber normal people?”
“God, I hope not. Think about all the crazy things that are out there, Melly. And that’s just the things we know about, the things that have been seen in the light. The creatures that could always be in hiding? No thanks. That’s way beyond my comfort zone.”
“Ugh, that’s totally true,” she whispered fiercely. “So many monsters. So many things created by black magick. Lots of things are probably out there that shouldn’t exist. Like they’d make you go insane if you saw them or heard them.”
A shiver crawled over my skin. “I don’t want to try to imagine them. You shouldn’t either. It’ll just give you nightmares.”
“I think it might be too late.” She rolled over onto her other side, so she faced the bead curtain. “You ever wonder if maybe all the stuff in here might one day attract something like that? Something scary?”
I sat up. “Are you trying to freak me out?” I closed my laptop lid. “My uncle has been running this shop since I was a kid. Nothing came after him.”
But of course, as soon as I said it, I had to acknowledge that no one knew what had become of Uncle James. He’d been missing for two years now, which was why I was running Moonlight Pawn.
“I’m just saying, Anne, be extra careful from now on.”
She had me spooked, which admittedly wasn’t difficult to do considering the circumstances. I slid out of bed. “Come on. It’s been a couple of hours. Maybe the camcorder caught something.”
I peeked through the beads first, though, just in case I spotted something in motion. Despite my sneakiness, it was no dice. Everything appeared nice and quiet.
Sure it was.
I pushed through the curtain with Melanie right behind me and picked up the camcorder. I depressed the Record button to stop it and then angled the viewfinder so my friend could see it, too.
“Ready?” Feeling just a bit more excited than scared, I pressed the Play button.
I expected about two hours’ worth of boredom. We got something else.
“Yeah,” I agreed with Melanie. “Holy cow.”
The interior of the shop showed up clearly in the video. Everything on the shelves were still, just as they were now. It was what moved within the shop that shocked us. A ghostly figure danced up and down the aisles. She was transparent and didn’t have facial features that we could make out on the screen. She held the hem of her dark dress, revealing bare feet, as she moved around the shop. Her hair was as white as snow or maybe a pale blonde, falling past her hips. Though she moved smoothly and elegantly, like she was an accomplished or practiced dancer, the hairs rose on my arms as I watched her.
“I guess I should have checked first to see if this camcorder was haunted,” I muttered.
“You’ve got a ghost in here! Is it part of the shop?”
“I have no idea. I’m hoping it’s only part of the camera.”
We watched the video for several minutes. The ghost didn’t seem to tire, so I fast forwarded it. The ghost danced manically and then abruptly disappeared.
“Whoa.” I rewound it until she was back on the screen, then pressed Play again.
She was dancing as usual, but then ten seconds later she suddenly stopped with her back to the screen. Then, to my extreme discomfort, she turned around and faced the camera. Even lacking a face, I could tell her attention was on the camera. She began to walk toward it, as if curious, but then rushed at it with clawed fingers.
Melanie and I cried out and leaned backward as the screen filled with white mist. My heart was pounding as I stared at the screen and the now-empty shop view.
“Where did it go?” Melanie whimpered.
Very, very slowly, I turned my head.
“Thank god.” I slumped. “I thought it might be behind us.”
Melanie spun, too, but fortunately she didn’t find anything creeping up on us either.
“Well, this was something I regret in a big way,” I drawled. I studied the camera for a long minute. “I need to know if this ghost is in the shop or in this camera.” I aimed it at the shop and pressed Record.
I watched the viewfinder, cringing, as I panned the camera over the interior. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
“Anything?” Melanie whispered.
I turned to her and the viewfinder filled with her worried face—and the ghost standing right behind her.
My fingers flexed and the camera fell right through them. It hit the floor and shattered into dozens of pieces.
“Well, damn,” I said as I stared at the wreckage. “Now I’ll never know if there’s a ghost in here or if it was only on this camera.”
“Try your phone!”
I did, and nothing unusual showed up. Was the ghost merely hiding? Or had it gone the way of the camcorder?
“I don’t like mysteries,” I declared with a scowl.
“I guess it’s true what they say,” Melanie said, looking haunted. “Ignorance really is bliss!”
After the scare with the ghost, I needed some concrete answers.
“This thing came in recently,” I told Melanie as we stood before the bowl filled with sand. “The timing is too perfect. It must be connected.”
“What does it do?”
I lifted the glass lid and dragged my fingers through the sand grains. “This.”
The granules shifted, wiping out the furrows I’d made and replacing them with a word: ASK.
“Is there something in this shop that wants to hurt me?” I asked aloud.
The sand rippled, like there was a gopher beneath it, displacing the grains. Then the sand reformed into a word: YES.
“Perfect!” Melanie exclaimed, then hunched her shoulders at the look I gave her. “Okay, not perfect, perfect, but at least we’ll get an answer now.”
“Unless it’s lying to me or trying to trick me.” Both were serious considerations.
“What item wants to hurt me?” I asked the sand bowl.
More shifting granules. Then: GIFT.
I thought about it. “That’s no help. I haven’t received any gifts lately that weren’t flowers or food.”
“I swear my goodies weren’t cursed!” Melanie quickly told me.
“Yeah, right. Calories and fat are a curse, you know.” I sobered. “Maybe it means something that I received for free?”
That seemed likely, but it also narrowed down my list to about twenty things, including the bowl of sand and its buddies in the hat box. Magickal beings ditched things at Moonlight on a regular basis, apparently aware that I was dumb enough to take them without questions.
I looked down at the sand again. “Can I prevent it from hurting me?”
The sands formed a new word: REMOVE.
Big revelation there. I capped the bowl with its lid.
“Alright, enough of this. We need to go big or go home. We need to hold your Night of Jinxes, Melly.”
She clapped. “Yay! This’ll be exciting.”
That wasn’t exactly the word I would have chosen.
“I need to set the mood,” I told her. “Hold on.” I ducked into my studio and came out with a couple of bed sheets. “Help me pin these up.”
Together, we pinned two bed sheets over the front windows. The fabric wasn’t opaque enough to cast us into complete darkness, but it was enough to turn Melanie into a short, shadowy figure by my side. It was now officially spooky.
“Just in case some things only operate in the dark,” I explained to her.
Melanie edged toward the bead curtain. “And activating all the curses?”
Instead of replying, I reached into that rumbly core behind my breastbone where I felt that my sorcery lived. Normally I willed it to take the form of Lucky, my dragon. But this time I didn’t give it shape, I just sort of…let it bleed out of me. I could see it as a faint glowing mist, but I knew that Melanie wouldn’t. She kept looking at me, waiting for me to respond.
“There,” I said, as my sorcery began to climb the shelves and slowly rise up over the items resting there. “I’m infusing everything with magick.” My heart was racing. Was this the craziest idea ever or the cleverest? “Let’s duck back behind the curtain now and see what happens.”
“Your plan might make me sneeze,” Melanie whispered from where she lay on her belly beside me.
We were stretched out on my duvet which I’d spread on the floor of my studio. Each of us held small hand mirrors which we had thrust through the bead curtain so we could see what—if anything—occurred within the shop.
“Maybe the warden will be by soon with some Benadryl,” I whispered back. I felt like a prisoner watching for the daily mail cart as I angled my mirror this way and that, trying to catch something in motion.
“What do you think is going to activate first?”
I shifted the mirror, aiming it at the shelf with the six items I’d taken in the night before, including the bowl of sand, all items that could be considered gifts since their owner hadn’t demanded payment in exchange for them. None of the items seemed to have become activated by my sorcery, though. I muttered a curse beneath my breath. I wanted this to be over and done with.
But though my main suspects looked innocent enough, something else had begun happening. “Check out the second lowest shelf on the far shelves!”
It was an old toy fire truck, made of metal and weighing what felt like fifty pounds. What kind of kid had been strong enough to push that thing around? Guess kids were tougher back in the old days.
Most of the red paint had been scraped off the body of the vehicle but the wheels were intact. The upper torso of a fireman would periodically pop up through an opening in the roof of the car as you pushed the vehicle along. He was popping up right now, even though the fire engine wasn’t moving. Also, the formerly smiling, friendly fireman was now a skeleton and the rest of the fire truck was in flames.
“Holy—Anne, that’s gonna burn down the shop!”
“It’s supernatural,” I murmured, trying to keep cool even though I was shocked. “See how the flames are tinged blue at the edges? And nothing around it is affected.”
Melanie nodded eagerly. “That’s kind of cool, then. Did you know it did that?”
“No.” And that worried me. I thought I had just about everything in my inventory pegged. If I’d missed a flaming, skeleton-driven fire truck, what else had I missed?
Eventually the flames died down and the skeleton regrew his skin and became the nice fireman again, but I’d never look at it the same way again. I practically felt betrayed by it. But I didn’t have to dwell on it for long. One of the mini-Chinese vases was overflowing with blood.
“Ugh,” Melanie grunted when she noticed it, too.
“No biggie,” I assured her quietly, “it’s not real. I’ve never had to clean up anything around it, so…”
“Maybe it’s better that you don’t know what any of these things do,” Melanie suggested.
I was beginning to think she had a good point.
She and I startled as the zombie nutcrackers on the counter began to chatter as though they were yelling at each other. I relaxed when I saw they weren’t going to do anything else. But then the cameos started in and they actually were yelling.
It’s coming! Anne Moody, it’s coming for you!
It lives with you…
Anne Moody, prepare for it!
They were annoying enough when they were only moaning to me but now, with them shrieking, I gasped and covered my ears with my hands.
“What is it?” Melanie asked, pushing up onto her knees. She couldn’t hear the cameos. No one else could.
“The cameos,” I gasped. “They’re going nuts.”
It’s coming! It’s coming!
Coming for you!
Anne Moody, prepare…
“Argh, I can’t take it!” I jumped to my feet and burst through the bead curtain with Melanie just a few feet behind me.
At the counter, I slung open the jewelry case door and sent my dragon inside. Lucky, although taking the size of a cat in order to fit inside the case, widened his mouth enough to gobble up the tray, cameos and all. I’d never tried this before, and to my amazement and relief the harping voices became a low, indistinguishable murmur while they sat within Lucky’s closed mouth. It wasn’t something I could maintain forever—non-magickal people would see this magickal dragon sitting there and question what was up—but for now, it would keep me sane.
“Thank god,” I sighed, slumping back.
“Anne,” Melanie whimpered, “look!” She pointed out at the shelves.
A woman’s hand attached to an arm was sliding along the shelves. It originated from somewhere behind other, larger items, so I couldn’t tell what curse had born it. The hand and arm both were filthy, as though they’d clawed up through the soil of a grave. Its long nails were mostly broken and jagged. What bothered me most about the thing—beside the fact that it existed at all—was the tension in the limb. Cords of muscle and tendons strained beneath the dirty skin as the hand crept along, as though it were angry and looking to seize hold of something, or someone.
Would the rest of the woman climb out of the shelves, too, once she’d found what she was looking for? Or would she yank her victim into the depths of where she had come from?
“No way that’s been in here all this time,” I choked out, equal parts horrified and angry. “No way!”
Melanie yelped when the two porcelain dolls leaped off the shelves, landing on their faces on the floor. Their soft, short limbs moved, pushing the dolls slowly across the floor, heading toward us…
Something began to laugh. It was low pitched and masculine. But then a pair of higher, girlish voices joined it.
“What’s doing that?” Melanie cried out, backing against the counter.
“I don’t know,” I muttered. “It sounds like it’s coming from everywhere. From—” I swallowed, “—multiple things.”
Jesus, all these things had been cursed and I’d slept peacefully just a few yards away?
And then I heard a sound that really worried me: the tinny tinkle of a music box. The door to space had opened on its own right here in my shop.
“I have to stop this,” I told Melanie, “or we’re both going to end up circling Jupiter.” White-faced, she didn’t argue.
I ran to the closest window and yanked off the sheet. Light poured into the shop. Melanie did the same with the other covered window, though she yanked so hard on the sheet she didn’t pull the tacks off but just ripped through a corner of the sheet. I didn’t care. She could have blasted a hole through the front door with a shotgun so long as we got some sunlight in here.
The laughter stopped. The arm immediately shrank back and disappeared into the shadows of the shelves. No more blood poured from the vase and the cool, otherworldliness of space no longer felt present.
“That wasn’t fun,” Melanie declared in a shaky voice. She shivered as she folded up her sheet and dropped it on the haunted rocking chair.
“No, and it wasn’t helpful, either,” I muttered.
Annoyed, I chucked my sheet through the bead curtain, making them slap this way and that. Through their swinging lengths I caught sight of the hat box that I’d placed back there last night. I’d hit it with the sheet, upending it.
And revealing the sigils drawn in blood on the bottom of it.
I slapped my palm to my forehead. “Seriously? I am an idiot.”
I called up my neighbor across the street, Orlaton, a kid who knew too much about the occult for it to be healthy. I described the sigils and he cheerfully informed me that the curse on the box was non-specific; it would be content with attacking anyone.
Since I had no way of knowing if whoever had left the box had known about the sigils, I was unable to say whether I’d been targeted or just been unlucky. Either way, I burned the box up using my dragon.
“You must feel better,” Melanie said later.
I snorted. “Now that I know I live in a house of horrors?”
“Yeah, but you’ve been living here all this time and you’ve been okay.”
“True.” And that was the crux of it, wasn’t it? My life was doomed to be filled with monsters, jinxes, shapeshifters, and other unmentionables. There was no point in wishing for anything different. Not while I still ran Moonlight Pawn.
“You up for scary movie night on Friday?” my best friend asked as she stepped out into the vicious Las Vegas sun.
“Only if I can record your reactions while you’re watching,” I said with a leer.
“Anne!” she yelped. She spun around in a circle like a dog chasing its tail. “Now I’ll always be worried that I’ve got a ghost behind me.”
“Maybe she’ll become your new best friend.”
“I don’t need any more! Argh, Anne, you’re so mean!” But she giggled as she ran through my yard and out to her Prius.
I stood in my yard and waved as she drove away. But was it a trick of the light, or had I seen a pale head sitting in the backseat of her car?
Read more from Tricia Owens at
Moonlight Dragon series
Forged in Fire (coming soon)
Rise of the Dragon (coming soon)
Night of Jinxes, short story
When a spooky, disembodied voice in Moonlight Pawn threatens to kill Anne Moody, she's angry and annoyed. She doesn't have time for this! But if she wants to catch a wink of sleep in the near future, she know she has to figure out which item in her magickal pawn shop is out to get her. Unfortunately that's easier said than done. Anne lives in the retail equivalent of a haunted house. As she and her best friend Melanie, the monkey shapeshifter, soon learn, everything is cursed! This is a fun and creeptastic Moonlight Dragon short story.