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by Gori Roriksen Varangian

Caveat Emptor

Hi! Gori here again. It's my first day sorting out the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies basement and I already know I'm going to have my work cut out! I might have to extend my internship by another six years...

The trapdoor to the basement is old and gnarly. A bit like Igor. I asked her about the letters carved deep into the wood. “Caveat Emptor?” she said, “I think it means ‘Cellar Beware’”.

I helped Igor heave open the trapdoor. The wood thudding to the shop floor sent a cloud of shed werewolf hair into the air. Thankfully, I'm not allergic. There was probably a cloud of Well's invisible cat hair in there as well. It was hard to tell.

The top shelf shook so violently I worried we'd have another incident with a shattered jar of assorted eyeballs! Thankfully, the jar only wobbled, the eyes swivelling to watch what we were up to. I could have done with a pair to peer into the gloom of the basement. I was only just able to pick out the large pile of things where the steps ended.

I asked Igor what all the stuff was. Apparently, before the space behind the shop became what it is today (some sort of farm for tenderising the brains of human children, I believe, though I may have got that wrong?) it had been hired out to any monster who needed it, from a dismembers-only speak-easy to a mad scientist's laboratory. Even the Monster Supply shop used it, for items well past their worst-before date. Over the years the basement proved a convenient place to sweep anything the residents wanted to forget.

Igor said it was an ‘oubliette’. A mess, is what I call it! The pile started directly beneath the trapdoor; lucky, because that's where I fell when I ran out of steps.

I dusted off the cobwebs. A whole host of eyes glittered at me - the owners of the cobwebs. Oops! I apologised, of course, and decided to tackle the clutter on the other side of the pile.

It seems Igor, or maybe an Igor before her, was a hoarder. Prone to the occasional Transylvanian castle clearance, many of the larger crates had remained unopened since their delivery. Some are coffin sized and shaped... I'll investigate those another time. There's also a haul from a car boot sale; quite a lot of the boots still have the original feet in them, which is a definite plus. They should contain a bumper harvest of toenails, for when shop supplies run low.

Now, you may be asking, as I was, how I could see anything at all? Igor had closed the trapdoor behind me, saying she didn't want any of her customers to fall down it. But it wasn't totally pitch black down there. I had dislodged the top of one of the smaller crates in my scramble down the pile and a faint glimmer escaped from its lid.

The label on the side said “British museum: fire sale”, which seemed a bit odd, since when does a museum have a deep discount, everything-must-go sale? But it made a little more sense when I opened the crate and there was a puff of ash and smoke.

I suppose I should write down everything I find, starting with this one. Igor will want to know what's down here!

So, in the museum box there was:

  • one glowing gemstone scarab beetle
  • one rather worse-for-wear and heavily scorched tape recorder, (picture included)
  • and one sheet of paper, the museum manifest, I guessed?

The beetle worked well as a light so I put it on top of an old pile of empty human preserve jars (catering size). I clicked the play button on the tape recorder. Amazingly, it still worked!

Stay tuned for my next blog instalment, when I'll tell you what I heard.

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