Chest heaving, you sprint back to the street where the shop is – or was, because now there’s an ice cream shop in its place. Sticky fingered kids grasp dripping ice cream cones while bored parents sit at grimy tables, staring at glowing screens.
You look around, double and triple check, but you’re sure this is where the antique shop was. What was the name of the place? You must look strange, because a woman eyes you carefully, asks if you’re okay, keeps her distance. You nod distractedly, walk to a nearby alley and sink to the ground.
Sitting there, questioning your sanity, and you hear that sound again. Like windchimes, but this time they sound like they’re buried beneath the earth – muffled, hollow. You leap up, jerk your head back and forth but you can’t see anything except dumpsters. And a fat orange tabby on top of one of them.
He looks at you – is he laughing? You swear he’s laughing. He stretches, arches his back towards the afternoon sun, stares at you for a minute, then jumps off the dumpster and saunters in the opposite direction.
You hear the chimes again, and smell something sweet, something that reminds you of a tea shop your grandma used to take you to in London. Roses mixed with nutmeg, you think, but you aren’t sure. The cat looks back at you, as though to see if you’re following him, then wanders on.
You do follow him, because what else have you got to lose at this point? The cat quickly weaves between cars and garbage cans, but not too quick that you can’t keep up. The sound of the chimes drifts in and out of your hearing, and the scent grows and fades, as though carried on a strong autumn wind.
The cat stops at a worn wooden door tucked in a narrow alley, nearly overgrown with wisteria, clearly choking out another, less fortunate vine. The cat leaps onto a nearby bench and into an open window, from which you can smell something baking. Maybe that’s where the scent is coming from.
The door itself is deep green, adorned with a sizable brass knocker of a lion’s head. You lift your hand to the knocker. It hovers there, waiting for something, you’re not sure what. No sounds drift through the open window, but the tabby stares down at you from the open window. He’s definitely laughing.
You pull yourself together and lift the knocker, bringing it down hard once, twice, three times. You wait. And wait. And wait. And finally, a young woman comes to the door. Ashen hair frames dainty features, though her blue eyes bulge dramatically from her pale face. She can’t be more than sixteen.
She says nothing, instead swinging the door wide for you. You hesitate a moment, and she waits patiently, as though she’s used to this sort of behaviour. You look left and right, then straight past her into the dim hall. You sharply suck in your breath, and step into the house, the door closing behind you.
You can find part one here.