Simmy curled his long-nailed fingers around the chain at her neck. The fiery metal burned against her skin as he drew the amulet out.
“What do you want with it?” Laina pressed the chain against her chest and recoiled.
He let it slip from his grasp and slowly lifted his gaze to her eyes. Drool leaked from one corner of his sneer. “Don’t fret, puppet. I don’t want to take it from you. Quite the contrary, I’m pleased you have it.”
She studied the pulsing green glow of the center stone. “I was told it attracts evil. On an apocalyptic scale or something.”
Laina glanced up at him. “So, do I get rid of the amulet or destroy it?”
He slammed an open hand on top of the counter, puffing two lines of white powder into the air. “Neither.”
Acid splashed up into her throat. She swallowed and shook her head. “I don’t understand. If evil is drawn to this, I have to make it stop. Is there some kind of ritual–”
“No!” He leaned over the counter, his ring-fringed ears reddening. “You don’t have what it takes and you can’t buy it. No man has the power to end this curse. No human enchantment is strong enough to ward off this level of darkness.”
“You can’t help me?” She pointed to the tins and vials. “What is all that for?”
“I’m mixing myself a trance-inducing elixir. Would you like some?” Simmy grabbed her hand and flipped it over. He traced his pinky nail over the lines in her palm.
A queasy sensation grew, as if an eddy in her gut drew her into its own abyss . She jerked her trembling hand away. “I didn’t come here for a palm reading. Let me just pay for the book and I’ll be on my way.”
He tilted his head. “Keep it. My help to you is a bit of advice, cherie. The darkness is coming.” Simmy winked at a corner to his left as a shadow faded into the wall. “Best get on the right side of it.”
Laina sprinted toward the exit. Murmurs swirled by her in the patchouli-scented air. She stumbled up the steps. The voices grew clearer. Some chanted strange languages. Others rasped her name.
As she grabbed the door handle, Simmy called after her. “My friends and I are gonna have such fun!”
She burst into the alley’s scant evening light as the door closed on his throaty laughter.
“But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”- Matthew 6:23