By Shelli Frew
Kip tentatively opened his eyes and peered around the shop. Only, it wasn’t the bookstore. Instead of the marine cryptobiology section, the shelves displayed rows and rows of lace, some slightly singed at the edges. A large quantity of star charts and compasses replaced the teen romance. Strangest of all, by far, was the old person giving Kip a pointedly annoyed look. The eyes peering out from behind their shiny spectacles looked like goat eyes. Small antlers sprouted from their head and when they opened their mouth to speak, Kip spied sharp teeth like a cat.
“Young creature, I do say! I did not request any messengers this day. And your friend has damaged some of my lace!”
“Ummm…Sorry? Did you see where the woman went?”
“I don’t know about any woman, but the phoenix just left. Popped in and out, just enough time to cause mischief I see.”
Kip realized he still clutched his undrunk coffee. It had indeed evaporated. Lamenting the lost caffeine, he cleared his throat. “You wouldn’t happen to know about a fifteenth door, would you?”
The shopkeeper sighed with much more force than seemed necessary.
“You’ve gone laterally when you wanted to go diagonally. Tsk. You should head to Highgate, I’m sure someone there could set you to rights. Just ask politely, won’t do to be rude to a ghost. And here.”
The shopkeeper took Kip’s empty cup, dropped a flower into it, and handed it back. As they did so, the flower melted and filled the cup with a purplish liquid.
“Should do you well. I think Lieneye isn’t busy, they can take you to Highgate. Give them a sugarstar.” As they spoke, they gestured to a tin sitting by the front door, filled with small star shaped candies. Kip grabbed a few and stepped out onto the street.
The cobblestones overflowed with people of a similar nature to the shopkeeper. They all gave him peculiar looks, some smiling and some frowning.
Just by the front door, nibbling on some grass sprouting in the cracks of the sidewalks, stood a small yellow pony. A ribbon tied around his neck held a name tag in place, reading Lieneye.
“Oh. Hello, Lieneye? The shopkeeper said you could take me to Highgate?”
The tiny pony nuzzled Kip’s hand, demanding the sugarstars. Kip handed the sweets over and Lieneye happily crunched them before nodding his head back towards the leather saddle on his back. Kip took it to be an invitation and climbed aboard.
He felt a little silly sitting on the little pony, his feet almost touching the floor. But the pony didn’t seem to mind, so he tried not to as well.
The odd pair made their way through the winding streets, past hurried citizens of the strange London. Kip sipped his new, purple drink and found it to be similar but not quite like coffee. He hoped it contained caffeine, at least. He needed it.