Mel’s Curiosity Shop by Mackenzie Jade


West Street is overflowing with bustling people as I approach Mel’s Curiosity Shop on a Saturday afternoon. Usually, I avoid this part of town on the weekends. West Street is a brick path that cars are prohibited from driving down, and it is occupied by small businesses, the kind of stuff dumb tourists and nuclear families love. The only redeeming quality about this wretched place is Mel’s Curiosity Shop. What a shame it’s nestled between a boba shop and yoga studio. 

I try to make my way through the crowd without seeing anyone I know, but luck is not in my favor. Go figure. It’s only two o’clock, and today has been one shitshow after another. Here comes the latest addition to my hellish day: Mrs. Abrams.

Mrs. Abrams is older than Christ and unfortunately my next door neighbor. This woman has been torturing me since I was in diapers. Her and her whiny pomeranian. Oh joy: she brought Sheila with her. 

“Lucy! Lucy, darling! I know you see me,” Mrs. Abrams yells through the crowd. She hip-checks the person to her left and keeps steamrolling ahead. Kill me now. I try to duck behind a larger man, but she catches my elbow and squeezes hard. “Where are your manners, young lady?”

Up your ass! I wanna screech, but I keep my mouth shut. This dumb bitch doesn’t deserve for me to make a scene. It would only make her look like a poor, helpless old woman when she is anything but. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Abrams,” I say. I try to keep the snarl out of my voice, but I know it slips through. Good. Maybe the wicked witch will get the hint and leave.

No such luck. “How has your mother been, sweetheart? I haven’t seen her in ages. She’s always so busy working back-to-back shifts at the hospital.”

Mentioning my mother was not smart on Mrs. Abrams’ part. I might despise Mrs. Abrams as much as I despise any baby boomer in this small town, but I reserve a special type of hatred for my mother. “Well, like you said. She’s always working at the hospital,” I seethe. 

Yeah, she’s always working at the hospital except for when she’s screwing Mike Donaldson, local preacher and the most eligible bachelor in this backwater shithole. My mother and Mike are the exact reason I am going to Mel’s Curiosity Shop today. It’s time for a little payback that is much overdue.

“That’s hardly an answer, child,” Mrs. Abrams chastises. 

Okay. I’ve had more than enough of this dreadful conversation. I came here for a reason, and it sure as hell wasn’t to exchange small talk with Mrs. Abrams of all people. “I have to go now, Mrs. Abrams.”

I start to walk away, but she grabs my arm. “Now hold on, young lady. I really am concerned about your moth-”

Before she can finish, I turn around and growl at her. Mrs. Abrams drops her hand, and her Pomeranian, Sheila, yowls. I growl at Sheila, too, for good measure. Serves them both.

I storm towards Mel’s Curiosity Shop, determined to get there without being stopped by another nosey neighbor. I swear they pop up everywhere like bed bug infestations. If only I could fumigate the town of everyone I despise. This place would be a lot quieter and a lot cooler. Maybe then, the boba shops and yoga studios would pack up and leave and more eccentric places like Mel’s could replace them. A girl can dream. 

I enter Mel’s, and the doorbell chimes above my head. Finally, I’m in my safe space. 

Mel’s has a dark mirage of objects for sale like usual. Plates hang from the ceiling, framed butterflies are displayed on the walls, crystals surround animal skulls in glass cases, and porcelain dolls are arranged in unnatural poses on tables. And Mel himself is leaning against the familiar ruby red counter with the old, rusted cash register to his left.

I make eye contact with Mel, and the man shudders. “You’re back,” he says, his voice flat. Good old Mel. He’s never one to greet you with enthusiasm. I like that about him. He’s one of the few people I do like.

“Of course I’m back.” I laugh and survey the shop. I didn’t come here to chit chat with Mel, as if he would ever do small talk. That’s not Mel. No. I came here to get revenge on my bitch of a mother. 

I have never gotten along well with my mother. I can admit that. I swear I came out of the womb cursing at her. It only got worse from there. My mother has always been the only parent in my life, but that doesn’t mean she has ever been a good one. Between the overtime shifts at the hospital and her revolving door of deadbeat men, my mother is all kinds of cliche. Her newest man, though, has really driven the biggest wedge between us. Mike insists I am a demon spawn, and sometimes I swear my mother believes him. Take this morning for instance. I woke up to the smell of something burning. At first, I didn’t think much of it. My mother’s not much of a cook. Maybe she burned breakfast again. She’s incompetent like that, but that wasn’t the case this time. No. The smell of burning got stronger. It wafted through the entire house. I tumbled out of bed and raced down the stairs. I found my mother and Mike standing in the kitchen. Their gazes were trained on the sink. With fumbling steps, I pushed between them to see what was causing the wretched smell. Inside the sink, they had started a small fire, and through the flickering flames of the blaze I could see my leatherbound journals.

They were burning my stories.

Mike had finally convinced my mother that I was satanic. He claimed my stories were proof, stories I’d crafted of my neighbors dying in elaborate ways. He definitely didn’t take too kindly to the story I wrote about him falling down a seemingly endless flight of stairs that only stopped when it reached the floor of Hell, and he cracked his skull on the last step. He wouldn’t listen when I said it was just fiction. And my mother just stared vacantly at me like she was catatonic. Preacher Mike had surely done a number on her. But I wasn’t in the business of saving my mother today. No. I was here to make her and Mike pay.

Mel’s shelves are crammed with all sorts of creepy objects, but none will do for my revenge scheme. I need something that will scare my mother and Mike so bad that they never step foot in my room again. If they think I’m a demon spawn, then I’ll show them a demon spawn.

As if my thoughts are heard, I round a corner of the shop to see multiple masks on display. Only one stands out to me: a mask with grotesque, green leather skin and two curling horns. Now this is a monster that could have crawled out of Hell.

I pick up the mask without hesitation and search for a mirror. This could be the perfect revenge against my mother and her holier-than-thou boyfriend. I soon find a mirror in the back corner of the shop and slip the mask over my head. The mask looks great. Scarily real even, but my long, blonde hair peeking out from underneath it and my mini skirt ruin the image. I want them to think I’m a real monster.

I’m about to turn away from the mirror in search of a better costume when my appearance starts to change. The mask begins to grow downward from the base of my neck. The green leathery material crawls over my skin until I look every bit the grotesque monster I am masquerading as. Scaly wings even sprout from my back. 

“What the hell,” I whisper, leaning forward to get a better look. 

Before I can comprehend what is happening, my reflection reaches out and grabs me by the shoulders. I am hauled through the mirror and deposited on the ground. My hands and knees scrape against rough concrete. I cry out in sudden pain. When I finally gather my bearings, I rise to my knees and stare through the mirror. My reflection is standing on the other side: a grotesque monster with leather green skin, spiraling horns, and massive wings. I feel my own face. Still harsh to the touch.

My reflection waves at me. “Don’t you recognize me?” it asks.

I shake my head no, my eyes clouding with tears. 

My reflection sighs in what I assume is feigned disappointment. It peels off the monster mask and stands before me as a blonde girl in a mini skirt. My reflection smiles. “How about now, Lucy?”

Tears trickle down my cheeks. I’m still crouched on the ground, unable to stand up. Through my blurry vision, I can make out the texture of my knees. Green leather. “Why am I still a monster?” I scream.

My reflection laughs. “Why silly. You’ve always been a monster.”


Mackenzie Jade is a horror writer from rural Pennsylvania. Her love of horror began in college watching movies almost every night with her roommate. Within the genre, she is drawn to media that utilizes the slasher subgenre and has comedic undertones. Some of her favorite movies are the Scream franchise, the Jeepers Creepers trilogy, Ready or Not, and Jennifer’s Body. She is also a fan of 90s YA Horror; her favorite authors are Christopher Pike and R. L. Stine. Mackenzie Jade feels that slashers and horror comedy (particularly excessively ridiculous gore) get a bad rap in horror, and she wants to bring a fresh perspective to them through her writing.


Published 5/12/24