Working Overtime
rating: +6+x

I sneezed, sparkles flying out of my nose with the sound of ringing bells as a blue cloud enveloped the books I was trying to clean. Arcane dust, always such a mess to deal with. Blegh.

“Hey, this is your last day on the job,” I could hear my co-worker, Sylvia, say behind me, moving her hands to swipe away the magical particles I scattered with her own mana. “Make sure you don’t ruin the place, I’m still coming back tomorrow.”

Must’ve been much easier to handle with everything when you have an affinity to enchantments and the like. All she had to do was buy one of those attunement necklaces and practice, practice, practice… Okay, when I put it like this it stops sounding so easy, but still. It’s not like she would stay in this position forever, I know the boss had plans to move her up the ranks. Someone that can create enchanted items is always better than someone that can only clean them.

“Sorry, you know I’m not good with this stuff…” I wiped my nose before she could see the pink snot coming out. What I could never learn to accept, despite all these years working directly among incantations, is the fact some of them could just go and alter your body as they pleased. Humans weren’t made to interact with this stuff from so up close, at least not humans like me, with the old genes. At least I never grew a pair of horns… yet.

“Oh, don’t worry, I’m well aware! Remember that time you were infected with the Flux? Your body was volatile for the rest of the day… Oh man, that was fun. How many arms did you sprout, again?”

I could only wince as the memories involuntarily returned to the front of my mind as I reached for a broom. Hopefully nobody mixed a flying one with the normies again.


“You don’t understand, you can’t leave! The children love you, and the adults laugh at you! We haven’t had this big of a crowd since Oliver cloned himself 20 years ago and challenged every man he encountered to a duel! Please, Marco, my wallet’s at stake here!”

I tried to move ahead, despite the tall man dragging me back with his arms and his magical gloves that allowed him to lift thrice his weight, which wasn’t much at all, really. Now that I had more arms and, consequently, more muscles, I was able to make my way half out of the enchanted barrier that protected the store, my boss still glued to me as the magical wall wavered with contact from our bodies.

“I’ll pay you double! Triple! Just- please, stay!”

I immediately stopped. If this were a cartoon, I’m sure my eyes would turn into cash registers and a sound similar to- CHA-CHING… Right. The Flux. I forgot about that. Best not to think about any other changes to my body, I might give that magical virus more ideas.

"Ah hah, yes!" My boss continued, "You've got that something you really want to buy, don't you? Well, come on! Get closer to that goal! Turn around and make everyone happy! Sell some minor protection amulets while you're at it!"

He pushed me back, and I almost fell over one of my shelves if it weren't for Sylvia stopping my fall with a barrier of her own. She threw her ginger hair back with a flip, red sparkles crackling as they left her pale fingers and the light screen was undone. She hung a few necklaces on my arm, patted it and went on her way. "Good luck, big boy!"

Well, this wasn't that bad. I mean, everyone in the store was looking at me, and that almost made me wish I could shrink down and disappear… wait, why is that shelf getting bigger and bi- THE FLUX! Oh, no! Bigger! BIGGER, I SAID!


"Eight… eight arms, counting the original pair. It- hey, stop laughing! It sucked! And that wasn't even the worst part!"

"Oh, come on, you big baby. I found you before anyone stepped on you, didn't I? Although we did lose a few customers, it wasn't fun to laugh at someone you couldn't really see."

Sylvia turned the page of the magazine she picked to read while I tried to wrestle with the broom I was holding. As it turns out, it was a flying broom, and no, I did not have a license.

I saw one of the massive potion shelves that extended up to the ceiling of the shop, and noticed I was about to collide with it. No. Not again. Deep breath, and…

CRASH

Pain. Lots and lots of pain, everywhere. Did I break an arm? I tried to lift it- ow, no, still working… for now. I scrambled out of the mess of tomes I had fallen into. A few of them flew away, much to my dismay. Of course I crashed SPECIFICALLY on the enchanted pile of tomes, not into the normal pile of mundane tomes, right beside this one. "Why isn't anything working out for me today…" I couldn't help but mumble.

"Maybe the store doesn't want you to go." Sylvia lowered her book to gaze at me, her emerald eyes somehow locking straight into me, and the small smile that found its way into her face made me want to smile as well. "Maybe it's trying to say it'll miss you."

"Wait, really?" I beamed.

She laughed. "Of course not, you idiot! That's not how stores work." She casually approached me, stepping into solid clouds of red mana dust that formed in front of her and climbing upwards, taking one of the tomes, closing it and then sliding down in front of me. "… Or is it?"

"Not any other shop, I'm sure," I took the book from her hands and set it on its place in the small pile. "But this one? I honestly have my doubts."

We continued that for a while, collecting the flying grimoires and putting them on their place, making small talk as we fixed the little bit of damage I did to the linguistics area until we made our way to potions. We had, quite literally, a mountain to clean and label.

"Why're you quitting, again?"

"I got the money to buy what I wanted."

"Yes, but… why are you quitting?"

I stopped cleaning the brown, fur-growing potion in my hands to ponder about her question. Why was I quitting? I mean, this was only supposed to be a temporary job, I aimed to stay here for a few months, maybe a year? And here I am, four years in and counting. Well, I suppose I'll be able to stop counting soon, right? But… why should I?

"I guess… I don't know. I didn't plan to stay this long here, really, but… damn the inflation. You can't get what you want when prices just keep rising and rising!" I chuckled, looking down. "So a year turned into two, turned into three… I think I'm just accomplishing my goal. Get the money and quit."

"But do you really want to, is the question."

"Do you want me to quit?"

"What? No. Why would I want you to quit?"

"Why would you want me to stay? You're getting promoted soon, anyway, it's not like we'll still see each other."

"But I wish we would."


The walk to my boss’ office was silent. Sylvia didn’t come with me, neither did any of the bad luck that seemed to be following me around the front of the shop. I actually pondered a few more times if a store could feel things, and if it could miss me. It made me feel a little bit better, knowing I’d be missed. It meant they cared, didn’t it? Not many people cared about me, and I don’t blame them. Old humans are hard to care for in this new and ever-changing world. Made me wonder why I was even born like this, for a while.

I stopped doing that, though, after I started working here. I stopped doubting myself, I stopped counting the minutes for the day to end, I stopped oversleeping and I stopped feeling… empty. I don’t know when exactly that happened, but I wasn’t hollow anymore. Was it Sylvia? Was it any of the customers? The regulars are always special, that sweet old ogre, the bratty snake kid…

Sylvia made me think, and I hated when she did that. She always had that effect in me, making me stop and consider things that I wasn’t even aware I could. Routine’s a killer, and before I knew it I was making things robotically, which is terrible for a human, to lose one of the few things that made them, y’know, human.

“Marco, I can see your shadow under the door, are you coming in or what?”

I coughed, opened the door and headed inside. The room had even more trinkets than it did the last time I came here. A small, old wooden desk stood in the center of it, and my boss was bathed by the light of the stars in the sky behind him, the window large enough to paint its own version of "Starry Sky" with the swirling glass that covered it. Hundreds of books, marbles, colorful wooden birds and even astrolabes of all kinds decorated the shelves and the table he sat behind. A holographic globe of the planet spun gently as the goblin stared at it before finally acknowledging my presence.

"Mr. E, sir."

"Marco, please. Have a seat."

The chair moved on its own, and I did just that. He crossed his arms together and laid back on his chair, staring me down. Neither of us said anything for an entire minute.

"I… I would like to make a purchase." I finally managed to take that weight out of my throat and push it past my lips.

"Yes, you did mention that last month. You also said you'd like to quit when that purchase was complete. Are you still certain about that?"

"I… don't know."

One more minute of silence.

"You're one of my best workers, Marco," Mr. E shifted in his seat, pushing his chair closer to the table with those long, spindly arms of his. "Because you're loyal. None have ever stayed as long with me as you have. Not Sylvia, not Jackson, not Esther, no one."

"I'm not gonna lie… this place was good for me, I think. It's hard to find a job when you're like me. Everything nowadays involves magic, and when you have my genes, that basically means I could die at any corner."

"Yet you still chose to work here, in a popular magic store."

"It was the only one that'd pay enough… and that'd have me."

"You're always welcome here."

More silence.

"Do you have it?"

Mr. E lowered his arm to his right and pulled a small, ragged brown purse from under the desk. It seemed pretty beaten, both from use and old age, yet clearly still worked if the boss kept it. I've seen that kind of leather before, that scaly one. It's daemon leather, from whatever creature prowled the abysses below. It wasn't easy to get, nor was it cheap, but it was worth it for Collectors.

"I expect you to bring this back to me once the process is done."

"So… they're inside it?" I poked the small bag, curious, tempted to take a peek, but I know I shouldn't, not here. The souls could try to escape, and capturing them would be a whole 'nother trouble…

"Yes. All seven lives, jumbled up in a soul sphere perfectly convenient for setting into a feline's body. It'll be seventy seven thousand ruls, just like we agreed. You still have the body, right?"

I nodded, grabbing the purse and pulling it closer to me. I couldn't help but smile warmly at the thought of finally, finally being able to buy this after four years…

"So, about the job…" Mr. E extended his neck slightly, getting even closer. "What will it be?"


Sylvia readied a pepper spray spell as she grabbed the doorknob of the store's entrance, her stance of someone ready for an ambush. She was supposed to be the only worker around and the barrier was active when she arrived, but the fact that there were lights on inside set off a few alarms in her head. Too bad they didn't set the ones inside the commercial building.

She calmly, trying to be as silent as silent as possible, turned the doorknob and entered the building, leaving the door open behind her for a quick escape. She went further ahead, noticing the wands and feather quill sections organized, with the items set on boxes for their respective brands and enchantments. She was sure she hadn't done that yesterday, so unless this thief had obsessive-compulsive disorder, this meant…

"Mrow!"

Sylvia almost jumped at the feeling of fur against her legs. She looked down, noticing a large black cat staring back at her with bright, yellow eyes.

"Oh… hey there, little guy, who let you-"

"Good morning, Sylvia!"

She turned as fast as she could, her body trembling slightly after hearing his voice. There he was, flesh and bone, holding a normal, non-flying broom this time, and waving at her from afar.

"Marco…?"

"Yeah, uhm, before we keep talking, could you undo that?" He pointed at the pepper spray arcana she was still holding in her hands, which she promptly dismissed as blood rushed to her cheeks, slightly embarrassed.

"Fuck, you almost gave me a heart attack! I thought you were some kind of thief…" she wiped a drop of sweat threatening to fall down her forehead. "Is this your… cat?"

"Yeap! Galileo, meet Sylvia, Sylvia, Galileo."

"Mrow!"

"But I thought he was…" She patted the cat as it proceeded to rub her legs again with his body.

"He was, isn't anymore. I bought seven more lives for him myself. He should be alright for a while now."

"And you're still here… why?"

"I mean, I stopped to think about it, thanks to you, you always bring the best in me- anyway, you never know when he'll need seven more lives, right? I should start saving early. Why, don't want me here?"

Sylvia let out a sigh of relief and smirked, content, trying to stop her face from becoming more red with his comment. What was she, a middle schooler? "You know it's not like that."

"Oh, well then… about what you told me yesterday…"

As he scratched his head, Sylvia turned around, using that to hide her reddening face. She thought he would be gone by now, and that there would be no greater consequences to her actions. She hated when she actually had to deal with those. "D-Don't worry about-"

"Are you free tonight, after work?"

A few seconds of silence. Something that was becoming increasingly common in Mr. E's Shop.

"Yeah. I am."

Unlike Galileo, Marco didn't have six extra lives at his favor, and thanks to Sylvia, he stopped to think. It was time for him to enjoy his stay here while he could.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License