Kickaha visits the shop that wasn’t there yesterday, and him and the owner swap stories about the various acts they’ve played as karmic tricksters in the universe.
The bell rang at the door to the shop that wasn’t there yesterday and wouldn’t be there tomorrow. The clerk behind the counter straightened himself up in an alert position that showed he definitely had not been asleep up to this point. The door being around a corner, the clerk hadn’t seen the customer yet; so he quickly took a moment to go over his own appearance, straightening his cloak and pulling his head up over his head so that all that was visible was the shadow of some inhuman maw. And then the customer appeared.
“Oh. It’s you.”
The clerk spoke in a somewhat disappointed sounding tone and he slumped back into a relaxed posture. The customer was one that he was quite familiar with by now. A foxyote, with orange and white fur and a brown diamond upon his white chest, clothed in nothing more than a green cloak. The fact that he was a frequent customer was weird in and of itself, since the store tended to disappear before previous customers could return.
“You don’t have to sound so disappointed.” Kickaha, the foxyote flashed a friendly grin as he had entered. “I mean, you always wind up making a sale when I show up.”
“It’s not quite the same.” The clerk left out a hefty sigh. “There’s not as much fun to be had when the customer already knows what’s going to happen.”
“I see.” Kickaha nodded and approached the counter. Being only three feet tall he had a hard time seeing over it. He quickly pulled a stool from a corner to climb up onto so he could actually talk to the clerk. “So I take it you’re having a slow day, Gary?”
“Pretty much.” Gary was not the store clerk’s actual name. His real name was Garentuiliea Yornaeoth of the Silver Void, the Dream Specter Whom Stalks the Darkness of Eternity, Ruler of the Ninth Court of Autumn Leaves. However, that was all a bit much to go by in casual conversation so it was easier to go by Gary. “You’re the first one to come in all day.” Gary and Kickaha had a somewhat bizarre relationship, mostly in that Kickaha was — much to Gary’s confusion — his only recurring customer. Gary wasn’t supposed to get recurring customers. His store would be there one day for a specific client, and should that client ever return they would find an abandoned shop.
But Kickaha was like a magnet for weird supernatural things. And even if Gary’s store wasn’t weird and supernatural, at least 90% of its contents would still fit the bill. It essentially met that wherever the store chose to appear in the universe would just so happen to be the place Kickaha had also wound up that day. The first time Kickaha returned to the shop had certainly been a surprise to Gary. And it led to an even bigger surprise when the foxyote bought an entire shopping cart of goods before promising to come by again later.
Since that day, the two had formed something resembling a friendship based out of professional respect. Though their methods varied they essentially had the same job. Both of them were tricksters who specialized in the transformation of others. Kickaha simply went out into the world to do his work while Gary waited for people to come to him. Occasionally, they did each other favors, often trying to locate specific magical items.
“If you want, you could take a break and I watch the shop for a bit.” Kickaha offered. “I still owe you one after the whole ordeal with the stamp collector and the squirrel.”
“No. No. Absolutely not.” Gary shuddered. “I still remember the last time I let you run the shop. Look, you just, invite a certain amount of chaos with you wherever you go, and while the shop brings a little chaos itself… Well just last time things went really, really bad when your weirdness and the shop’s magic interacted.”
“Oh come on, it wasn’t that bad!” Kickaha grinned. “There’s no reason to be so dramatic over it.”
“You nearly lost the entire shop in a high stakes poker game with a dragon the size of a squirrel!” Gary retorted.
“Yes, but we were both kobolds the size of his paw at the time, so I thought it best we play along with his game.” Kickaha shrugged. “Dragon tempers are bad enough in general. A dragon with small dog syndrome, though, that’s a wrath you don’t want to wake. Besides, I won the game! You kept the shop! And the dragon was forced to turn over part of his hoard for you to sell as merchandise.”
“Yes, and half the shop was on fire thanks to how angry it was, and it took me a month to brew a potion to get back to my normal form and size.” Gary growled. “Not everyone can bounce back from these things as fast as you.”
“I mean, I could have helped change you back.” Kickaha suggested.
“We both know it would have somehow only escalated things.” Gary shook his head, very briefly revealing a hint of blue fur beneath his cloak. Kickaha didn’t actually know what Gary’s true form looked like. The cloak kept everything covered, and so the only time the foxyote had seen the shopkeeper’s body was when he had been transformed into a different form that could no longer wear the robe. Strangely enough, size changes or age changes had never revealed his true form. Or, to be accurate, anytime he had become so small or so young that his cloak would have fallen off, some random spell or cursed item went off that changed his species before his true form could be seen. Kickaha was very curious what Gary actually looked like and just what species he was, especially considering his true name. But it seemed rude to ask.
“We don’t know that.” Kickaha paused. “Okay, yes, we did know that! But it could have escalated in a way that made things better.”
“By definition, escalating a bad situation automatically makes it worse.” Gary stated bluntly.
“That is simply a matter of perspective.” Kickaha held up a paw in a lecturing manner. “After all, any setback is worth it for a truly unique experience.”
Gary chuckled. “So I should have left you in that crate heading for Timbuktu back at the stamp collector’s place?”
“That would not have been a unique experience.” Kickaha shook his head adamantly. “Been there, done that, no desire to tangle with the Postmaster General again. There are just some people you do not mess with.”
“By the way, whatever did happen to that guy?” Gary asked.
“Well, after he realized squirrels were small enough to slip into public mailboxes and steal the stamps off of letters, he decided he’d rather be turned into a squirrel himself than have his wife changed back. Now the two live in a tree in the park that is stuffed so full of stamps it’s about to burst.”
“Wait… That’s illegal.” Gary gave Kickaha a concerned glance.
“For humans, and maybe for civilized animals, yes.” Kickaha shrugged. “But you can’t really prosecute a feral animal in the court of law. Trust me, I know this from experience. I’ve used the feral animal defense a number of times when defending people in court.”
“Were these people guilty of their crimes?” Gary gave Kickaha a serious look.
“Of course.” Kickaha grinned. “That’s why I suggested such a legal defense tactic. It’s hard to claim your innocence when you livestreamed the entire bank robbery.” His grin grew wider. “I can hardly be blamed if they didn’t think about the long-term consequences of such a tactic.” This got a laugh out of Gary.
“Kickaha, never change.” Gary managed to say through bellowing laughter.
“Changing is pretty much the only thing I do.” Kickaha stuck his tongue out.
“But anyway, back on subject, yeah, I’m good. I can watch the shop.” Gary paused. “But, since it’s so completely dead right now I don’t mind if you want to hang around for a bit before you get whatever you came for.”
“Hnnnmm, it was only a quick errand.” Kickaha shrugged. “But I’m not in a huge hurry. I don’t need it for a month. I can stick around for a bit.” The foxyote paused as he looked around the shop. “By the way, I notice it’s unusually quiet in here. What happened to the flying pig? That thing was always squealing and crashing into things.”
“Against all odds I finally sold it.” There was a note of triumph in his voice. “And good riddance too.”
“Huh.” Kickaha’s ears flattened a bit. “I was kind of fond of the little guy.”
“He made running the shop a nightmare.” Gary threw up his hands. “You know what he does right?”
“Aside from being a flying pig, not really.” Kickaha leaned closer to the counter from his stool. “But now you’ve got me really curious, both about what it does and about what happened to the person who bought it.”
“The flying pig reverses all probabilities within a ten-foot radius.” Gary began his explanation. “It made inventory a nightmare. I’m very meticulous about where I store everything. As a result, I know where 100% of my inventory is located at all times. While that blasted pig was still flying around, that got reversed and I had a 0% chance of knowing where anything was. I had to just sell people random things I could find instead of something that would add an ironic twist to their goal. Not to mention, it also meant my cash register went missing.”
“Okay, I can see how that would cut into the profit margins,” Kickaha conceded. “Not to mention the karma margins.”
“Well, eventually, as you already know, you just have to learn to work with the chaos. I just started tossing things aside at random, paying no attention to where they wound up so the odds of me being able to find them again were near zero… Which meant of course I found them.” Gary paused. “Although after finally selling the thing, it really took forever to get the store back together since now, I didn’t know where anything was by design. I had to close for a week to reorganize.”
“So who bought the pig, and what wound up happening to them?” Kickaha wagged his tail eagerly
“Well…” Gary leaned back. “There’s roughly an 80% chance of anyone who buys something from this shop being transformed in some way. Since the probability was reversed, that means that there’s now an 80% chance absolutely nothing happened to him at all. Of course, there are all sorts of things to consider. Like what are the odds of just waking up a new species for no reason? One in infinity? So, then it becomes infinity to one. But the odds are only like that because he bought the pig which the odds of the pig causing a transformation got reversed. The probability of one outcome changes another and you get a giant chain reaction making it utterly impossible to know what’s going to happen. That’s why I wanted the dang thing out of my shop. So… Whoever bought it, they might be living a normal life, or they might be in another universe. Who knows, it depends on how many beings like you they encounter.”
“Like me?” Kickaha’s ears perked up. “What do you mean by that?”
“Tricksters, or just people who leave a trail of chaos behind them.” Gary explained calmly. “A human who meets you isn’t likely to stay human. Which meant if the pig owner now met you he would be likely to stay human. So the more magical creatures like you he encounters the less likely that there will be any major change.”
“Well I imagine the odds of running into a bunch of us is pretty low.” Kickaha mused. “I mean, it’s not as if I’m going to run into one of your customers right after they leave or any of my other- Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh.” He suddenly understood. “Okay, yeah, definitely no way to guess what happened. So I guess he’s probably still human?”
“But does that mean he’s probably not human?” Gary snickered. “Kidding, just making it more complicated needlessly. It doesn’t reverse the reversed probability.” He shrugged. “It’s not my place to watch people after they leave the shop, so I don’t really know. But, I have a few friends who come by from time to time who like to fill me in on things.”
“Wait. You mean I’m not the only person who shows up here multiple times?” Kickaha looked surprised.
“You’re the only customer who has shown up and BOUGHT things multiple times.” Gary clarified. “I have plenty of friends that come by to visit every now and then. Crow and Bill were in here just the other day. I think you’d like them.”
“Bill?” Kickaha tilted his head.
“Magic coyote. Doesn’t talk, but somehow everyone can always understand what he’s trying to say anyway.” Gary explained quickly. “Anyway, Crow checked into the guy who bought it for me, and he’s still human, still living his normal life.”
“That’s so weeeeird.” Kickaha rubbed his chin.
“Which is precisely why it turned out that way!” Though Gary’s face was not visible, the smug grin from beneath his cloak could be felt. “And why I’m glad to be rid of the thing.”
“It still seems like it could have been fun to have around.” Kickaha grinned. “You’d just have to be very careful with where you positioned it. But you know… If I had that thing on my side I could have finally gotten them to add mice to the school cafeteria menu.”
“I’m sorry, what?” A blank stare came from the other side of the hood.
“Oh right, I never told you. Guess it must have slipped my mind.” Kickaha’s tail wagged eagerly, betraying his emotions, suggesting that not only had it not slipped his mind he was waiting for the chance to bring it up. “I got elected school board president.”
“How… What…. I mean but you…” Gary was confused. “I mean, you live in the woods, are you even considered a citizen? Or are you legally an animal? How would this happen?”
“I know, right?!” Kickaha leaned all the way into the counter. The stool wobbled. “I’ve seen a lot of weird things. I mean it’s kind of my job to either cause weird things, or to get caught up in them. But even this one was too surreal for me. But it happened. And I got them to make some significant changes to the curriculum. But try as I might I couldn’t get them to serve mice in the cafeteria. The vote was always unanimouse against me.”
“Did you just say…” Gary started to ask.
“But anyway, that’s over now.” Kickaha sighed. “It seems that school board members who actually improve the schools and help students aren’t very popular. A lot of smear campaigns. Commercials that’d say things like ‘Kickaha is teaching your children dangerous things! Like how to question what they know rather than accepting everything they believe as reality.’ Those were the actual words. Lost the next election by a landslide.” Kickaha growled. “Was really annoying. The entrance to my burrow was blocked by it, and by the time I dug my way out it was too late to submit the official paperwork and I was disqualified from the election.” Kickaha sighed wistfully. “Maybe it’s for the best. Having one student is already a handful. I’m not sure I’m ready for an entire school district.”
“I see.” Gary was mostly following Kickaha’s story. He had been through enough of them to know how to keep up.
“You had any interesting sales lately?” Kickaha asked. “I mean, aside from the normal interesting. Unusual interesting. Things that subvert the tropes.”
“I know what you meant.” Gary waved a hand dismissively. “And we did have an incident lately. Not with a sale per se, but well… You know the rules. You break it, you buy it.”
“Right.” Kickaha nodded. “So someone broke something inside the shop.”
“Someone broke MANY somethings inside the shop.” Gary fumed. “So, some teenager shows up. I do my usual greeting, ask him if I can help him find anything… And he has the gall to tell me that it’s okay, he can find it himself. This is a shop of unique magical curiosities of which I happen to be the only expert in existence who knows how any of them work! And he has the gall to say he can find it without me?”
“Isn’t the entire setup of your shop that they don’t know it’s magical until after they’ve bought something?” Kickaha asked. “I mean, I don’t think he’d really have any idea that this store was any different from others, and probably just wanted to browse.”
“Well! That!” Gary paused. “You may be right, but that’s not how it works! You know the drill! Someone shows up to my shop, they tell me about some problem they have. THEN they look around as I make sure something related to their problem winds up in their line of sight. I give a vague warning about its true purpose then make the sale. That’s how it goes! You can’t just go changing the formula! That’s not how it’s done!”
“Okay, okay, I get it.” Kickaha really wasn’t taking Gary’s side in this one. But it wouldn’t do any good to get Gary worked up. Actually, Gary was the type of person in general you didn’t want to get angry. It’s not that Kickaha was scared of him, it’s just that Gary was a vast well of arcane knowledge that was far beyond Kickaha’s, or any mortals’ comprehension. It was even beyond most immortals’ incomprehension. He had to be that good, or else he wouldn’t be able to run the shop and know what everything did. This also meant that if angered, Gary was the type of person who could put Kickaha in a situation that he wouldn’t quickly bounce back from. Sure, he’d be back to normal eventually. But well, genie bottles weren’t the best accommodations, and it could take forever to get someone to say the right words that unbinds you from them.
Not that Kickaha had ever angered Gary to ever get caught in a situation like that. Not a second time at least.
“Anyway, he’s browsing the shelves, taking forever to pick anything up. Then finally after an hour picks up a toy wooden griffin. He snaps his finger in the thing’s beak, setting it off, and of course he drops the thing and breaks it. Next thing you know, I have a 300-pound griffin stuck between two shelves unable to move, thrashing around, knocking over shelves, breaking even more merchandise, including a crystal mirror that turned out to have a faerie sealed inside of it. She was bound to give him a gift for helping her escape, but was also a faerie so…”
“So goes about it in a way they find entertaining rather than actually helpful. Kickaha nodded. “I’m familiar with faeries and the chaos they can do.”
“So the kid, he’s still freaking out, bumping into things. So for the faerie’s gift she says she’ll take him back to before he was so big and bulky. He agrees, and naturally it turns out she wasn’t referring to ‘take him back’ as in ‘previous events in time’, but as in ‘his new life cycle’, so he winds up a griffin cub equivalent to like a five year old child by human standards. So, he was still freaking out, but at least he wasn’t knocking over shelves or breaking things. This went on for several minutes as I tried to calm him but couldn’t be heard over his squawking.”
“That does sound a little annoying.” Kickaha nodded along. “Gryphons aren’t exactly poetry in motion. More like poultry in motion.”
“Well, eventually, get this, the kid calms down on his own, and notices that he has wings. And he decides to try to put those wings to use, but rather than go outside where there’s plenty of room, naturally he decides that the store is a perfect place for flight practice.”
“I mean, the pig did that all the time too.” Kickaha interjected. “So, I’d think there’d be plenty of room.”
“A griffin cub is a little bigger than a tiny flying pig.” Gary grumbled. “So more things got knocked off of shelves. I had to get a net and throw it over him to get him down, and then explain what happened and how much merchandise he had broken and how much he owed me. And get this. He didn’t have any money on him. Didn’t even have a credit card. He was never planning to buy anything at all! Just window shop!”
“I would think you’d get those pretty often.” Kickaha tilted his head. “I mean your shop is certainly curious in appearance and contents. That’s kind of the point, right?”
“Yes, but it’s always drawn people who will BUY something. THAT’s the point.” Gary spread his arms in exasperation. “The shop doesn’t teleport out of its way for window shoppers. It must have popped up for someone else and that kid just happened to wonder in before the actual customer. And with the mess he made I couldn’t exactly keep the store open, so who knows what kind of sale and story I missed thanks to him.”
“But, at least you got a good story out of it in the end, right?” Kickaha smiled hopefully.
“I prefer stories where my stuff doesn’t get broken.” Gary gave Kickaha an annoyed look. “Anyway, with no money he had no way to pay. So I offered him two choices. He could either become the merchandise. I’m sure someone would love to buy their kid a pet griffin as a birthday gift. Or he could work at the shop till he paid off everything he had broken. He chose the latter… But, you know it was hard for a quadruped feral griffin cub who can’t talk to do any actual work. So I wound up giving him a potion on the house that made him mostly human. Mostly. Still had wings, lion-like paws, a tail and ears. But eh, turning people back into humans was never my specialty. That’s about as close as I’m gonna get. Then he has the gall to complain about being naked and it’s like… Maybe you shouldn’t have gotten yourself turned into a griffin and then released a magical faerie from a mirror! I mean I have clothes in stock but well…”
“They all have magical effects and would wind up changing him again or making the situation worse?” Kickaha already knew.
“Bingo.” Gary nodded. “So instead I wound up tearing up the t-shirt he had been wearing and making a makeshift loincloth out of it so he could feel less embarrassed helping around the store when other customers were there. I mostly had him stocking shelves. Occasionally I’d have him sit at the register if I needed a break, reminding him to wait till I got back to let a customer buy anything. Just wanted someone there to watch for shoplifters.”
“Yes, I believe the standard practice is they became the merchandise, yes?” Kickaha grinned. “Usually something based on what they tried to buy. I remember when you had that dragon egg for sale, apparently that was one of them. Then there was the tiny rabbit who could fit in the palm of your hand.”
“They should have known better.” Gary huffed. “Not because it’s a magical shop but because it’s something you don’t do.”
“True.” Kickaha would never really go as far as Gary though. Sure, he might turn someone into an animal, but he wasn’t going to sell them for profit.
“So anyway, one day while the kid is minding the shop and I’m out back taking a break and engaging my vice.” This phrase was one Kickaha had heard Gary use many times, and he still didn’t know what it was. At first he thought it meant going out to smoke, but Gary didn’t smoke unless he happened to be a dragon about to unleash a fireball at the time. Also, there was no ‘out back’ to the shop. At least none Kickaha could perceive. So he had no idea where Gary disappeared to or what ‘vice’ he was engaging in. He could only guess that it had to be one of those things that only extradimensional beings such as Gary could do.
“And he broke something while you were out?” Kickaha asked.
“No, even worse.” Gary’s voice was filled with dread as he said the next sentence. “He made a sale.”
“Wait, that doesn’t sound too bad.” Kickaha was confused. He understood Gary wanted him to wait, but if he was able to run the register and sale products it seemed like this would be good news.
“Only I make sales.” Gary said firmly. “And with good reason. He sold someone a scroll of Familiar Binding. With that, even someone with no magical talent can tie themselves to an animal and use their magical energy to start learning spells. Pretty nifty thing. The kid however didn’t know how it worked, and so encouraged the girl who had come in to read the scroll. I think he wanted to see what would happen. Maybe he was hoping I’d wind up with a second helper so he’d have company.”
“He might also have just been trying to be helpful. Not completely impossible.” Kickaha suggested.
“Well, doesn’t matter.” Gary slammed a hand against the counter. “The closest thing to an animal when the girl read the spell was the boy, what with him being part griffin. So, he wound up bound to her spiritually in a way where even I can’t untangle it. And that meant when she left the shop he was going to have to go with her and he hadn’t paid off his debt yet.”
“I can see how that would bother you.” Kickaha nodded.
“Right, and well, the girl, I think she was in middle school. Either way, having a five year old griffin boy following her around everywhere was bound to raise questions. And I was rather mad at the kid for making a sale. So… I gave the girl complimentary gift wrapping of her new purchase.”
“Meaning?” Kickaha was waiting for the follow up with bated breath.
“Meaning I shrunk him down to the size of a mouse, put him in a shoebox and handed him over to her.” Gary explained. “And I told her as his master she could change him between his griffin boy form and a full griffin. Technically, the kid has been able to change forms this entire time. I just neglected to tell him because it wasn’t useful in running the store.”
“So, she left the store with a tiny pocket-sized griffin familiar.” Kickaha nodded. “Well, I would think you’d get some satisfaction in the karma that he got stuck like that.”
“You’d think.” Gary hissed. “But here’s the thing. The girl, turns out she’s really nice. And she wanted to do a good job taking care of her familiar, and so asked him what he wanted and what he needed. Then apparently her new magical power awakening was sensed and she got an academic scholarship for sorcery. Now they’re both off having fun adventures in some far away school out of the country while I still hadn’t made back the money I lost.”
“Well at least with him gone he couldn’t make any more mistakes, right?” Kickaha suggested. “So your shop was probably safer.”
“Yeah, I suppose that’s true.” Gary admitted. “Maybe it was for the best.”
“By the way, what qualifies as out of the country?” Kickaha was curious because he knew that this shop could appear anywhere on Earth, in any country. So there was no place that was technically out of the country from the shop.
“In an alternate timeline there’s a country ruled by wizards. This country doesn’t exist in our timeline.” Gary explained. “That’s where the school is.”
“How’d they wind up in a different timeline?” Kickaha gave Gary a quizzical look.
“Magic.” Gary shrugged. “They can scry on not just their own universe but others. They take in potential talent from all universes and timelines. It’s part of what makes their country the most powerful in their universe.”
“Huh.” Kickaha thought about it for a moment. “So I guess in the end he got to go on a pretty big adventure, and all because he picked up one wooden toy.”
“And he didn’t properly pay for it!” Gary huffed. “But, whatever, it’s over now. I’m sure you’ve had days or incidents where nothing went as planned.”
“Well there was that time I tried to fly a kite.” Kickaha straightened up. “Wound up stopping an invasion of molemen, stopped an eldritch abomination from outer space with a baseball bat, and discovered what happened to the lost colony of Roanoke.”
“If you don’t have any good stories you don’t have to make something up.” Gary let out a weary sigh.
“But!” Kickaha started to object — every word he had said was true, after all. But as he recounted the events in his head, he realized how fantastic they sounded even by his standards. Had he not experienced them himself he would have been skeptical as well. “Okay then… A different time my plans got derailed.”
“Uh huh.” Gary waited for Kickaha to continue.
“Okay, so here’s the thing. There’s this kitten. Well, werekitten. Except I’m pretty sure he’s a faerie but I don’t think he knows that he’s a faerie. It’s complicated. You’d like him. He kind of leaves chaos in his wake without even trying. Though… Maybe you shouldn’t let him into your shop. I don’t think it would end well.”
“Can’t be worse than letting you hang around.” Gary replied.
“You’d think that but…” Kickaha tried to think of how to explain it. “This kitten has his own special brand of weirdness. Aside from being a weirdness magnet like most magical beings, reality seems to align itself to his world view. Pretty sure it has something to do with him probably being a faerie, but again, pretty sure he doesn’t know that. Also pretty sure he doesn’t know that his very existence warps reality.”
“Really now?” This piqued Gary’s interest. “Someone like that I would think I would already know about.”
“Yeah, you’d think a lot of powerful people would know about him.” Kickaha shrugged. “But there you go. Seriously, weird things happen. I took him to a field full of delicious mice to try to teach him to hunt, and came back to find all the mice were intelligent now and enjoying meals at a swanky restaurant he had opened. Those were just normal mice earlier, and now there’s an entire civilization there. I checked back recently, and now there’s a little tiny mouse sized city where that field used to be.”
“I bet that must have been really frustrating for you.” Gary grinned smugly. He knew what Kickaha’s favorite snack was.
“You have no idea.” Kickaha slumped.
“So then, something happened with him?” Gary asked.
“Yeah.” Kickaha nodded. “I enjoy his company, his own weirdness combined with mine always results in something interesting happening, and he’s quite affectionate with those he gets close to. Sometimes you wish he was less affectionate.”
“Gets too close?” Gary asked.
“Nah.” Kickaha shook his head. “He’s a biter. He bites the things he loves. And I have the bite marks on my tail to prove it.”
“Wait… You said he was a werekitten. Does that make you…” Gary grinned.
“Yes, I was. Turned into a kitten on the full moon a couple of times. Turns out, his curse is surprisingly easy to remove. I think the curse itself has a playful nature to it, not unlike the person whom it originates from. And so I think it’s easy to cure simply because if you’re trying to remove the curse then it thinks you’re not having fun. Well, obviously the curse can’t think. But I think it only really sticks permanently for people who want it to.”
“Okay, okay, enough explanation of him. Get to the actual story already.” Gary was getting tired from what Kickaha would consider to be some pretty good world building. But alas, it seemed he needed to just get to the point.
“So… The other day I was sort of babysitting him. Or would it be more hanging out?” Kickaha looked thoughtful. “I mean I guess I’m better than leaving him alone with no adult supervision at all, but come on, it’s me. So… He decided to play a little trick on me. Though, maybe he didn’t think it was a trick. It might have just been his way of saying he wanted to play.”
“What’d he do?” Gary was curious.
“Pelted me with a water balloon that turned me into an eight-year-old.” Kickaha gave a playful smile. “Cloak was fitting a little loose after that. Anyway… Turns out he only had the one balloon that he was vague on where he got it from, and lamented the fact they there weren’t more people closer to our age to have a bigger group to play with.” Kickaha paused. “Oh, he’s six and a half himself, don’t forget the half. He won’t let you.” Then he resumed his story. “I’m pretty sure he made the first magic water balloon and didn’t even know it. But, seeing a chance for some fun mischief, rather than get him back, I offered to create more magic balloons to make people younger. Then we found a good tree to hide up in the branches of directly above a sidewalk, and we’d drop the balloons down on people as they dropped by, no doubt making their day very interesting when they’d find themselves in the range of five to ten years old.” Kickaha grinned.
“Huh, picking people indiscriminately doesn’t seem like your normal thing. Aren’t you more about karma?” Gary asked.
“It was fun, and I made the spell on the balloons temporary. Everyone who got hit woke up at their normal age the next day.” Kickaha shrugged. “It was just a little playful fun.”
“But then something went wrong.” Gary leaned forward.
“In a manner of speaking…” Kickaha paused simply to add tension to what he was about to say. “We wound up hitting someone we knew, well the kitten knew, I was only briefly acquainted. A self-proclaimed super villain. Dr. Pandamonium. And after shrinking down to about seven years old and struggling out of his clothes he looked up and saw us in the tree. Then he went into a really long-winded speech. Like, I fell asleep for part of it. But he kept going on about being all-powerful, and how dare we, and that retribution was due. Like I said I missed most of it. Apparently, the kitten stood awake for the entire thing, he said it was a professional courtesy. Anyway he finished his speech and I woke up, and that was when the robots appeared.”
“Robots?” Gary gave Kickaha a deadpan stare.
“He is a self-proclaimed supervillain. Long story short, we’re suddenly being chased by robot pandas shooting lasers from their eyes. Lost the bag of water balloons on a tree limb running, and well, I could try to magic them but technology and magic, not always that predictable what would happen.” Kickaha shrugged. “So instead we ran, but the kitten seemed to have an idea of where to run to.”
“Really? And where did he take you?” Gary was curious.
“A private mail store.” Kickaha sighed. “He grabbed a bunch of cardboard boxes and apologized saying he’d pay later but it was an emergency, dragged me out of the door and told me to get to work folding the boxes into their proper shape. We had about twelve cardboard boxes set up when the robots caught up with us.”
“So, how exactly did the cardboard help in this situation?” Gary asked.
“Well, the kitten gave a shout of ‘Kitten Bots! Attack!’ And then the cardboard boxes began to move of their own volition, crashed into the robot pandas, and the two armies fought. The kitten and Pandamonium threw insults back and forth at each other, with Pandamonium insisting he’d win because the lasers would just set the boxes on fire, but my kitten friend insisted he had installed heat resistant shielding, and sure enough things didn’t catch on fire and the cardboard boxes won the battle.”
“You’re kidding. None of this is true.” Gary insisted.
“As I mentioned, reality tends to bend around the kitten.” Kickaha explained. “So, the panda fled, and the kitten said we couldn’t let him escape justice. Part of me felt I should point out we actually started it this time, but I kind of just went with the moment. He jumped into a cardboard box and dragged me in with him, then the box took off moving at high speeds along the sidewalk as we chased the panda all the way to an old playground. But it was a trap. The panda climbed into the jungle gym forcing us to leave the box to pursue him, but as he left the structure and we got in, the entire thing suddenly lit up as walls of light blocked every exit from the jungle gym we were trapped! And of course Dr. Pandamonium starts another monologue, cackling to himself about what device he should test on us first. The kitten just stated bluntly ‘Let me guess, it’s between regressing and shrinking?’ and I guess the panda has a pattern of repeating his past plans and did not like being called out on this. And I really wish the kitten hadn’t said anything because that provoked Pandamonium into doing something truly evil. He pulled a remote control out of a hidden sandbox, hit a button, and energy flooded the entire jungle gym. Next thing I know I’m buried underneath my own cloak. But no, it was worse. It was so much worse. We hadn’t been shrunk.”
“Then what happened?” Gary asked.
“We had been turned into mice!” Kickaha threw a paw over his forehead. “The absolute nerve! I couldn’t believe he would do that to me! And there we were still trapped in the jungle gym, like well… Rats in a cage, but well mice. Pandamonium approached our cage, clearly with evil intent, but the kitten-mouse had a brilliant realization. He began to dig, and discovered that the walls of light only covered the jungle gym, not underneath it. And so we were able to dig our way to freedom, but that still left the now giant panda to deal with. Who knew what machinations he would release on us now after giving us this terrible fate?”
“So, how did you get out of it?” Gary was hooked now.
“The kitten-mouse leaped into the air, head butted him, knocked him into the jungle gym, shattered the walls of light and the panda turned into a mouse too. He squeaked furiously at us a bit, none of us could really talk now but I assume it was something about how he’d get us next time, and then ran off and the battle was over. Oh right, he has super strength, probably should have mentioned that earlier.”
“That doesn’t seem so bad.” Gary looked at Kickaha. “I mean, kind of anticlimactic. You beat the bad guy, even if you did start the fight, and it was over. Don’t really see how that was so bad.”
“I was a mouse!” Kickaha exclaimed. “Me! And it was a transformation caused by science! I tried to magic myself back and it wouldn’t work! We had to go all the way back to the kitten-mouse’s house as mice to get help and be changed back. It was a three day trip. I was stuck as a mouse for three days!”
“Again that really doesn’t seem that bad.” Gary replied dismissively.
“I don’t know how to make it any clearer. I was a mouse for three days! I can’t be a mouse! I’m not supposed to be tasty and nutritious!” Kickaha sighed. “But I guess you just can’t understand the indignity of it.”
“It really seems like everything worked out really quickly and easily though.” Gary shrugged.
“Again. A mouse.” Kickaha spoke through gritted teeth. Then he gave a heavy sigh. “But anyway, I’ve been here awhile, and I should probably get going soon. I just came by to ask you a question.”
“Oh, so not buying anything today?” Gary seemed disappointed. “What’s up?”
“Any strange-looking books suddenly pop up in your shop recently?” Kickaha asked. “I figure this is the type of place I should look.”
“Well I have plenty of books in the store, you can look through them if you like.” Gary pointed to a bookshelf near the back. “But I do inventory every day and all of those have been there for months now.”
“Then it’s not there.” Kickaha paused. “Unless it time traveled.” He paused again. “No, that would be dumb. It just must not be here.”
“So, what kind of book are you looking for exactly?” Gary asked. “Is it rare?”
“Yes, but not in the valuable sort of way.” Kickaha explained. “Rare in that it’s one of my own possessions that had certain enchantments on it. Was just playing around when I made it. I had it in my cloak pocket before I got turned into a mouse. But when I went back to the park in my proper form later, I found my cloak, with everything else in it, but no book. So now I’ve been looking for it everywhere. I was sure your shop was a good place to check for it.”
“Well, someone probably just picked it up.” Gary suggested.
“I thought of that, but the magic in it didn’t go off. I would have felt it if it did.” Kickaha rubbed his chin. “Which means no one has read it yet.”
“Maybe it found its way to the library somehow?” Gary suggested.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Kickaha scoffed. “Books belong in the library. And since has anything I’ve been responsible for been where it belongs?”
“Fair point.” Gary conceded.
“Well, guess if it’s not here then it’s back to searching. Was fun to swap stories for a bit, we should make this a regular thing.” Kickaha jumped down from the stool. “Hopefully the day picks up for you, I’m gonna get going!” With that the foxyote went around the corner from the counter and Gary heard the bell ring as the foxyote left.
“Back to monotony.” Gary sighed and leaned back in his chair. But then, the bell began to ring again as the door opened. It would seem someone else had arrived. Well, it looked like he was getting a customer today after all.