In the center of the small town of Linemell, a place shrouded with its own curious secrets, crept a quaint road named Main Street. On one side of the street were family-owned shops and restaurants, and on the other side stood a towering, old brick building that dated back to the time of the great pioneer, Daniel Boone. In fact, one of the town’s proudest moments was the night Daniel Boone slept in Minnie Ponder’s spare bedroom in that very building.
However, since then the building had changed hands a number of times. Mrs. Ponder eventually sold the building to a businessman who turned it into a hardware store. Then, that businessman’s grandchildren, who inherited the building, sold it to another businessman that turned it into a mattress store. After a good run, that businessman retired, closed the store and the space remained vacant for a number of years. That is, until another businessman, Kevin Kennedy, moved into the area and opened an antique shop in the tired, old building; an antique shop called Kennedy Antiques.
Now, if you’ve never been in one, there is something wonderfully mysterious about an antique shop. They are filled with fascinating items like old dressers with secret compartments and shelves stacked with leather-bound books and clocks and vases.
It’s the perfect kind of place for a bird lover to find an 1879 carving of a cardinal. Or the perfect kind of place for a cartographer to find a hand drawn map of the Pigeon River. But even more than that, it was the perfect kind of place for someone like Eddie Billings to take a part-time job, or at least that is what he thought when he took the job.
But who is Eddie Billings? Well, one could say Eddie was an awkward sort of guy of average height with light brown hair and inquisitive blue eyes. That he usually dressed in mismatched clothes found at a thrift store or that he didn’t have many friends or get out enough. And all of those things might be true.
However, the most important things to know about Eddie Billings are that he was an overly-curious conspiracy theorist, junk food enthusiast, tinkerer and, in this particular moment, a disinterested antique store clerk, who was dusting off a porcelain angel figurine when his eye caught a clock sitting on top of an old bookcase - it read 2:50 p.m. He thought to himself...
“Only ten more minutes. Only ten more minutes and my shift is over. If I’m lucky, maybe today’s shift will be a good one.”
Now, Eddie’s shift began at 1:00 p.m. and ended at 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. His main responsibilities were to assist customers, arrange inventory, and keep the place clean, which was what he was occupied with at the moment… Well, that - and counting down the minutes to 3:00 p.m.
You see, Eddie didn’t mind arranging inventory or keeping things clean. He could do that all day long and be quite content. It was assisting customers that made Eddie anxious. That’s why a “good shift” to Eddie was a shift that didn’t involve assisting customers or even seeing a customer. So far, today’s shift had been a good one.
So with only ten minutes left on the clock, Eddie remained pessimistically optimistic that this shift could actually end up being one of the rare and cherished “good ones.”
As Eddie continued cleaning various items arranged on various counter-tops, shelves, and display cases, he heard a faint, dissonant whirring sound coming from the back of the dimly-lit antique store. Intrigued, he slowly peeked his head around the corner of a large wooden dresser. He looked toward the dark hall that led to the back office where his boss, Kevin, worked behind closed doors.
As Eddie peered down the ominous hall, suspicion surrounding the strange noise began to fill his mind.
“What is that, a fan? No, it can’t be. The pitch changes too much. A radio? No, there’s not any static. Maybe it’s some sort of communication device...”
Then Eddie had an epiphany...
“Like an alien communication device!”
Now, granted, an alien communication device isn’t the kind of thing to jump into most people’s minds. But then Eddie isn’t like most people. Remember, he’s an overly-curious conspiracy theorist. And overly-curious conspiracy theorists are very good at coming up with creative explanations for things that seem out of place.
So, with the misplaced noise ringing in his ears, Eddie resumed his dusting and speculating.
“Could that actually be an alien communication device? If so, why is it in Kevin’s office?”
Looking for the next item to clean, Eddie saw a remarkably filthy old milk bottle sitting on the lower shelf of a bookcase. He crouched down to grab it. As he did, he thought to himself,
“I just don’t get it. An old milk bottle being sold for eighteen bucks. Who in their right mind buys an old…”
Eddie’s thoughts were interrupted when he saw something very peculiar, yet lately, increasingly more familiar.
“Another one!” He said under his breath.
There, lying behind the milk bottle, was a snake-like shedding of skin.
The reason Eddie said “another one,” was because in the past week alone he’d found ten such skins. But the truly interesting part was that in the four years he’d worked at the store he’d never once seen a snake. This caused Eddie to wonder whether they actually belonged to snakes at all.
“Whoa, that’s a big one!”
Eddie held it up for inspection, then proceeded to carefully place it in his shirt pocket. From the same pocket he removed a notepad and pen, items that never left his person. On the cover of the notebook were the words…
My Particularly Interesting Findings
Looking down at his wristwatch he read the time, 2:53 p.m. He found a blank page in his notepad and jotted down the time, date, and location where he found the skin. He also added a note about the strange whirring noise coming from the back office.
As he was writing, a loud bell rang out, startling him. It was the front doorbell, and to Eddie’s dismay, someone had arrived.