Jeremy spotted the tables of knick-knacks on the front lawn of a dilapidated old house and pulled over. After spending the morning perusing garage sales anyway, he figured one more wouldn't hurt.
He loved the rush of excitement in finding a rare piece of memorabilia someone considered an outdated piece of junk. He'd haggle, get it for next to nothing, and then sell it for a nice profit, capitalizing on other people's stupidity.
Jeremy found a box of hand-blown Christmas ornaments that appeared hand-painted on the inside in the style of Currier and Ives, and perhaps dated back to the late 1800's. He picked it up, and breathed the Christmassy, outdoors aroma of pine needles emanating from it.
The decorations appeared to be in good condition, except for their lost luster. Paint cracks marred the detailed images of people on sleigh rides or sitting hearthside staring outward at the ornament glass.
His hands trembled as he carefully examined each of the fragile glass orbs. The last one's highly reflective surface made it look nearly new, and not part of the set. A faint image on the inside that resembled a countryside scene of new fallen snow illuminated by a full moon, made it look like it was an unfinished piece.
“May I help you?” A gravelly voice from behind said.
“Uh, yeah,” he said, nearly dropping the ornament.
He spun around to find a hunched over, wafer thin old woman, brow furrowed and head cocked to one side staring up at him.
“How much do you want for this mismatched set of old ornaments?”
“Why would you want those old things?” she asked, waving her hand. “You can buy new ones for about the same amount of money.”
“I know, but there's a nostalgic feeling about them,” he replied, fighting back a broad smile that said he was about to screw her out of them.
She wrinkled her blood vessel road mapped nose. “How about twenty dollars?”
“Are you serious, lady?” he said. “Look at the paint cracks, and how faded they are. Besides, they're not even a complete set.”
“You trying to take advantage of an old lady?”
“No ma'am. They remind me of some ornaments my grandparents put on their tree when I was a kid,” he said, fighting back a smile that said she was about to be screwed. “I really loved Christmas at their house. I'll give you five bucks. That's a buck a piece, and I'll even take the one that doesn't match the others.”
She studied him for several seconds. “Well, it sounds like you want to relive better times. Tell you what, give me ten dollars, and it's a deal.”
“Great,” he said.
Jeremy hurried home, and checked the ornaments on numerous websites, but found nothing that even resembled them.
After awhile he felt tingly, like his arms and legs had fallen asleep. Jeremy stepped away from the computer and walked around to get the circulation going. Then, he poured himself a glass of wine and sat in his easy chair with the box of ornaments.
Jeremy re-examined each one until his eyes burned and the ornaments' images appeared blurry. The tolling Westminster chimes on the grandfather clock told him it was late.
He gulped the remaining wine in his glass, and rested his head against the back of the chair. As he rubbed his tired eyes, little specs of light flashed behind his eyelids.
A few hours later, he awakened shivering uncontrollable. He stood alongside a country road ankle deep in freshly fallen snow, wearing Victorian style winter clothing. It was nighttime and although there was no moon or stars, a silver sheen illuminated the wintery landscape.
He heard some bells jingling and the “clop, clop, clop” of a horse. Jeremy waved frantically and tried to run toward a couple approaching in a horse drawn sleigh.
“Help me, please!” he yelled, but his feet were stuck to the ground.
The couple drove by, smiling and cuddling up to each other. They ignored him as though he didn't exist.
The old woman stepped from the shadows in Jeremy's living room. She held the glass ornament up to the light.
“Ah, my collection is finally complete,” she said, admiring the silvery image of a man standing alongside a road waving to a horse-drawn sleigh.
She set the ornament in the box and closed the cover. Jeremy stood alongside the road screaming helplessly as a shroud of sudden darkness swallowed him up.
Harold 'Hal' Kempka is a former Marine and Vietnam Veteran. His short stories have been published in Dark Valentine, Thrillers Killers and Chillers, Night to Dawn, Golden Visions, House of Horror UK, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, Night to Dawn, Blood Moon Rising, The New Flesh, Sex and Murder, and Death Head Grin, among others. Hal also has stories appearing in upcoming anthologies from Pill Hill Press and Blood Bound Books. He is a member of the FlashXer flash fiction workshop, and lives in Southern California. His email address is: email@example.com