The stuffed animals stared down at him as if they knew something he didn’t.
That thought hit him like a truck. His hair stood on end…
The urge to vomit climbed up in his throat. It came so sudden, that he barely managed to fight it back. The nausea calmed after a moment, and he took a deep breath. Everything was back to normal. Just the stuffed animals… They still looked pitiful at him.
What was it with today? Such a cold, gray January-day charged with static electricity… Winter at its best, or worst… A blizzard was coming. The weather forecast kept warning since two or three days. He felt it since he opened his eyes this morning. In bed, he first thought he was back in the hospital and got scared. Then he remembered, the mint-green ceiling was Anna’s idea. His hands found the empty hollow, where she used to sleep. She answered his calling right away. Their daughter, Alexandra, had a nightmare, so she slept with her.
This day was different. He couldn’t put his finger on it. Even the toast tasted funny. More like …dust. His imagination was playing tricks on him. Surely.
As he opened the shop. There was this distinct sensation of emptiness as he entered. Emptiness and darkness. As if danger was stalking him. He shook it off.
The Teddies. They sat lazily, lined up in a row, staring down from the shelf, with a malicious glee sparkling in their glass-eyes …No. That could not be. He must be imagining it…
Those animals were ancient, older than himself. By far. The antique shop was full with them. The owner loved and specialized with stuffed Teddies. And those looking at him so viciously were the most precious ones. He walked up and down in the shop, like a caged tiger. He felt tension creeping up his back, attaching itself to the space between his scapulae. Right there, it burned his skin with an icy sensation, drilling itself deeper. The piercing chill got stronger as he exhaled, making him burst in cold sweat.
No customer showed up, so he went to the entrance and opened the door. The bell chimed with its usual hollow jingle. He managed a strained smile at the passers by. No one noticed him, or they ignored him. The wind blew in some snowflakes. He had to close the door, humidity is bad for the paintings and the etchings… He turned on his heel.
Again. The Teddies were staring his way. Something… Fury burning in their eyes.
“Come on, Albert. You’re imagining things. You’ll jump at your own shadow.” He told himself loudly. It only helped a little bit. The stabbing sensation in his back made him whimper. He tried to sit down, but missed the chair and fell. The expensive Persian carpet felt good under his palms and back. It was soft, thick and smelled good.
The pain left him. Albert closed his eyes and breathed. Tears ran down his face. He started crying, he noticed with surprise. There was no reason for it. He wasn’t sad, or anything… His life was stable, without problems, enough to live and to eat. There was a loving wife and a daughter waiting for him at home. He was satisfied. At least he believed it…