I used to Work at a Flea-Market. Not Anymore.
Originally published at NoSleep on June 4, 2023.
I had always found stories of ghosts and people’s re-telling of their own personal supernatural events amusing. Honestly, The Exquisite Trinket Extravaganza was filled with a lot of weirdos and strange people who wanted to tell me their stories. I’d politely listen as I rang up their purchases and then promptly forget.
Oh, yeah. I work at one of those indoor flea-markets. Those places where it’s a giant warehouse and there are rows of cubbies and shelves where vendors can hang their crap and hawk their wares. A lot of our vendors are only on premise for a few hours a day but each has their own unique sticker code and my job was to ring them all up by their vendor numbers so they all got paid at the end of the week. It was a boring job but it paid well.
It was closing time at the old flea-market and it was always a somber affair. The dusty aisles echoed with the fading footsteps of weary customers either leaving or getting the last minute deal run up, and the vendors who were still there were hurriedly packed up their wares, eager to escape the encroaching darkness. Many of the customers and vendors reminded me of cockroaches on how quickly they scurried away and abandoned this place. It was during one such evening that I found myself alone, a lingering customer lost in the maze of forgotten treasures. I normally tried not to be the last one here as my boss liked to lock up but I had to go back three times to check on a price at the far end of the warehouse for a customer who decided they didn’t want it in the end. I had put the cracked vase back in its spot when I realized that the place had gotten eerily quiet.
The air hung heavy with the scent of aged wood and musty fabrics, creating an otherworldly ambiance I had never really noticed before. The flickering fluorescent lights casting eerie shadows on the chipped linoleum floor, making the forgotten trinkets appear like macabre relics of a bygone era. Unease crept through me, but I dismissed it as exhaustion. There was nothing here that I hadn’t seen a million times before.
As I made my way toward the exit to find my boss and tell her I was done, the hollow sound of my footsteps resonated throughout the cavernous space. The silence was deafening, broken only by the distant creaking of doors and the occasional gust of wind rattling the windows. It appeared a wind storm was building up. Something common in the Nevada deserts. A chill ran down my spine again, and I quickened my pace in a mixture of confusion and irritation. Why was I freaking out so bad?
Just as I reached the last row to then make a dash for the office, a glimmer in the corner of my eye caught my attention. I turned to face the source, my gaze falling upon a peculiar artifact—a tarnished pocket watch just hanging with a bunch of other junk I had seen before. Its ornate engravings seemed to come alive in the dim light, whispering tales of forgotten souls. I had passed this point many times but had never seen something like this before. Curiosity overwhelmed me like I had never experienced before and before I stopped to think about it, I reached out for it.
The moment my fingertips brushed the cold metal, a wave of icy air washed over me, sending shivers through me as if I was dumped into the arctic ocean. The world around me seemed to blur, and when my vision cleared, I found myself standing in front of the same aisle but everything had taken on a newer look. The other thing that I realized was that I was not alone. There was a bustle of noise from shoppers around me and I started in surprise as something brushed up against me.
I turned to tell whoever it was that we were closed but I lost the ability to speak. There were shoppers alright, shifting through dusty books, examining shipped plate ware that deserved to be trashed but these...things…were not human. It was like looking at something out of focus. I knew they were dressed but they seemed to shimmer and shift, the only feature that I could make out was the fact that their eyes glimmered like brilliant stars.
Confusion gripped me as I searched for familiar faces among the crowd, but the sea of strangers offered no solace. Panic surged through me as some part of my brain realized that these were not human.
I fell back and tried to skirt my way around these things that had not seemed to have noticed me. I made my way through the crowded aisles to where the office should have been but found it was just a blank wall. My heart racing and my breath shallow. The noise of the market faded into a distant hum, replaced by the sound of my own thundering heartbeat. Every step felt heavy, as if an invisible force were pushing me down, guiding me toward an unknown destination.
As I turned a corner in my desperate quest to escape, a figure materialized in front of me—a ghostly apparition, pale and translucent. I could not tell if it was male or female. Its eyes gleamed with an otherworldly light, fixated on me with an intensity that sent shivers coursing through my veins. Unlike the other “shoppers”, this one was looking right at me. Its presence was suffocating and its energy palpable and suffused with an overwhelming sense of malevolence.
Fear consumed me, paralyzing my body as the apparition drew closer, its gaze never wavering. I tried to retreat, but my legs refused to obey. A cold sweat dripped down my forehead as I desperately sought an escape, my mind clouded with terror. The ghost's unearthly presence seemed to seep into my very being, stripping away my sanity.
“You do not belong here,” it sang in an off-key tune but I never saw its mouth move nor its eyes turn away from me.
“You do not belong here.”
My brain finally kicked in and I jumped to the side, luckily under a standing rack of winter coats and army-crawled my way into another aisle. I rolled out into the neighboring row and popped up startling some of the parishioners from hell. They seemed to only notice me in an oblique way that one would notice an ant on a sidewalk.
“You do not belong here.”
I turned from where I was crouching to see the ghostly guardian float around the corner with determination, her eyes never breaking from me as it swerved between the shoppers.
I began to sprint as fast as my legs could take me down the hall dodging the others also. I felt the feeling of wanting to vomit and the world turning itself upside every time I got too close to one of them. Still, that thing was on my tail saying the same thing with arm outstretched.
“You do not belong here.”
“I know!” I screamed back at it in terror.
I kept weaving through the aisles and the rows dodging this relentless hunter as I desperately tried to find the exit. This warehouse seemed to have no way out nor could I seem to get closer to the walls I could see down the aisles. All the while it was only a few steps behind me. Twice it almost grabbed me and I felt an icy pull that scared me worse. I knew that if it got to me, things would be bad for me. I tripped and fell landing into a pile of coats that smelled like dead animals. I smelled from their places on the highway and could feel the thing behind me.
“You do not belong here,” it sang only a foot away from me. In my mind's eye I could see it reaching for me, to grab me and do horrible things to me for being where I should not be.
It was when a power grip on my wrist wrenched me forward deeper into the clothes that I felt the icy shift of the world around me. My eyes popped open and I found myself staring into a pair of gray ones of the owner of the Exquisite Trinket Extravaganza. Harriet Powell was a heavy set woman but it was not fat. I had seen her lift furniture and move things that would have made my scrawny arms buckle. Anytime I offered to help, she just gave me a mocking laugh and did it without me.
I jerked my head around looking side to side for the monster that was chasing me but found myself alone in the flea-market. The watch was gripped by it’s chain tightly in my hand and Harriet had her hand fastened tightly on my wrist.
“Harry,” she said firmly, causing my panicked expression to come back to her. “Give me the watch.”
“What?” I said speaking. My voice came out as if I hadn’t spoken in years.
“Give me the watch, Harry,” she said again firmly.
With great effort, I forced my fingers open and the chain slipped through my fingers. With the other hand, Harriet caught it and whisked it into her gray vest emblazoned with the logo of the place. She led me dumbly to her office where she wrote something and stuffed it in my pocket and took me to my car.
I sat there for an hour not able to move or speak before I drove home on autopilot. The first inklings of what had happened only came to me when I woke up in my bed still dressed.
The paper that Harriet had stuffed in my pocket was a check for my pay plus two weeks. It appears that I have been fired from the Exquisite Trinket Extravaganza which was not a problem with me. I would have quit when my senses came back to me.
I did want to go back and demand an explanation for everything that happened but when I saw the building, I could not bring myself to pull into the parking lot.
So, that’s my story. I’ve already packed up to leave and I’m posting this before my internet is shut down. I plan to move as far away from this town as I can. Even the thought of seeing that building again keeps me up at night. Maybe at my new place, I can finally sleep again.
I don’t think it’s healthy not being able to sleep for an entire week.
— © Jonathan J. Snyder, All rights Reserved Like what you read and want to buy me a cup of coffee?