I’ve decided to write a novel in a new way.
Instead of doing draft after draft with editors and publishers and all that business, I’m going to write it in chunks, and use the feedback from readers as inspiration for subsequent chapters. I’ve done the first part, and have a rough idea of the second, but beyond that the story is open to a multitude of possibilities.
This story is called The Junk Shop, and is inspired by a real shop I pass every day on the way to New Cross Gate station, pictured below. One day I’ll tell you more about it, but for now here is my interpretation of what happens inside.
This novel is mainly written on my phone whilst on the London Underground. There’s no phone signal, so it’s the perfect place to concentrate on nothing but your own imagination.
THE JUNK SHOP
Every morning I pass the strangest and most curious shop on a quiet corner of the high street. It’s a junk shop. A junk shop so strange and so curious that, until now, I’ve felt far too strange and curious to enter. It has that effect on me, you see. But today all that was going to change.
Today I was going to go inside.
Stepping closer I approached the shop’s wares. They spilled onto the pavement like arms of tasteless tat trying to grab passers-by. I pretended to admire the variety of goods in front of me but couldn’t quite work out their purpose. Who needed computer spares from 1996? Who wanted a 3ft wooden tiger carved by a one-handed eight year old? Who desired a box of discarded shells? (Shotgun, not seaside.)
“You liiiike?” Said a voice, creaking the words out like a seldom-used door.
I turned quickly, having been put on edge by the bear trap snapping shut on the desk in front of me. Note to self, if something in this shop looks like a bear trap it probably is a bear trap and I don’t need to test it by poking it with my biro.
I pocketed the end of my shattered pen and took in the man’s visage. (FYI – That’s French for face.) He looked like a raisin. Not just any raisin, but a raisin that had been left out in the sun too long and shrivelled to the point where other raisins made jokes about it falling asleep on a sun lounger. Add spectacles and a bob hat and I think you catch my drift.
“Just browsing…” I croaked, picking up a computer mouse to add realism to my claim. It was one with the ball on top. I never quite got those.
“I’m Abduuuul” said the raisin, holding out a hand. I swear, had he not just not just walked and talked and done human things I’d have thought I was greeting a scarecrow, so skinny and twig-like was that extended limb. I shook it with minimal contact, too unnerved and unsure to grip like a man.
His hand felt like parchment.
He grinned a tombstone smile. Not wanting to make any more eye contact than was strictly necessary, I averted my eyes and ‘admired’ the shop front. On closer inspection it looked like more had been eaten by insects than had been left behind. A chipped and peeling panel above the door was the remains of a green sign with dark yellow lettering that read ‘Abdul’s Treasures’.
“This…is my shop” he rasped. “Would you like to come iiiiin?” He was still holding my hand. I thought about bashing him with the computer mouse but it seemed a bit extreme.
Then the words popped out before I had chance to bite my tongue. “Not really, no.” How incredibly un-British of me.
Abdul burst out in a raspy laugh. It reminded me of when I owned a petrol lawnmower. He released my hand and beckoned me with his shrivelled finger into the shop. “Come, funny man, come inside and see what treasures await you…”
Like a magnet I found myself walking forward through the doorway. I think my mouth was open, as I felt quite gormless from head to toe. Half a dozen steps later and I was inside the murky interior.
“You are a tricky customer… Back in Eeeengland you must be a saleseman, yes?”
Hold on a blimmin minute, I thought. Someone’s said that to me before. Yes, it was on a holiday to Egypt, when I was being sold a quad biking trip for double the price. In fact, hold on a minute more, I am still in England! This old crone was messing with my head.
“I say Abdul, I am in England…” It sounded pathetic even to my own ears.
He laughed a wheezy laugh once more. It sounded like he’d been punched in the stomach. “Oh funny man. You are in Abdul’s Treasures… Eeeengland is over there…” I turned back to the doorway. Like looking down the wrong end of a telescope the shining daylight of the outside world seemed a long way away. So far away I wondered whether I’d need my passport and jabs to get back in.
I currently didn’t have either.
“Ignore Abdul…” he said, doing that weird third person refererencing thing. “Take a look around and see if you find what you seek.”
What did I seek? A Playstation 3? A four-day weekend for double my wages? A nice girl with a gap in her teeth and big knockers? Somehow I felt Abdul’s treasures would have none of these things, but I was compelled to go deeper into the shop.
The first thing that struck me was the smell. The musty air seemed thick, causing me to breathe in the shortest gasps possible to avoid getting asbestos or fungus or whatever else on my nice pink lungs.
Then I realised how much stuff was in there. Seriously, just… stuff. Rooms and rooms of it.
An Aladdin’s cave of utter shite.
As I went deeper through the maze of rooms I saw house clearance remnants lining every wall, with wardrobes, chests of drawers, tea sets, statues and even a zebra’s head poking out to look at me. I felt sorry for the zebra. It would have been quite magnificent were it not for the fact it was bodyless and stuck to a plywood plinth. Oh the indignity.
Then I saw it. The mirror.
In a room of beige it sat like a gemstone. It looked old. From the 1700s maybe? Venetian? Parisian? I don’t know, I’m not on The Antiques Roadshow and I don’t intend to be either, I couldn’t stand the ‘tache and Toby jugs simply depress me. Look, it was a mirror. Ok, that’s a massive understatement. It was a beautiful mirror. In fact on that day, before my perception of beauty was altered forever, I can safely say it was the most beautiful object I had ever laid eyes on. The mirror seemed to shine without light being cast upon it. It calmed me the more I looked at it, like the soothing sound of a trickling stream. My blood warmed and my mind unknotted, any cares I had falling away the more I basked in its presence. Hypnotised, I found myself easing closer to this immaculate object. A warm breeze fluttered through the shop and the surface of the mirror began to ripple. I wasn’t frightened when that happened, I was simply entranced by the beauty of it. The closer I got the more I could feel a throbbing pulse from its surface, like the thud of the main stage from a distant glastonbury field. I reach my hand out ever so slowly, enjoying the building beat in my chest, as though the mirror itself had reached inside and began pumping my heart with its bare hands. And then I heard Abdul’s voice, close yet distant as though it were the sound of my own mind.
“Come now friend the time has come
To push the glass with hand and thumb
And if you make it back at all
From this face ten years will fall.”
And with that soothing chant echoing in my mind I closed my eyes and leant on the mirror’s mercury surface. It was warm and silky on my fingertips, a wondrous feeling, so I kept on going, pushing my arm deeper inside. Then I felt the warmth on my face and there was nothing I could do but succumb to this new sensation, pouring myself inside the mirror to merge with it as one.
Now I don’t know quite when it was that I snapped back to my senses. It may have been when my face went smack bang into the damp stone floor. Or it might have been when I turned and realised the mirror, the shop, everything had disappeared as if it were never there.
There was only one thought running through my mind…
Should I continue to write The Junk Shop? Feel free to leave your thoughts…