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The Shoppe on Brackenbury Lane by Grace Nuth


Titania's missing hair comb sits in the dusty corner of a rummage shop in Least Pickings, nestled between a tarnished silver vanity brush and a cracked mirror, half wrapped in moldering leather. The Shoppe on Brackenbury Lane might as well have left the "e" off their name, since it tilts precariously on the worn sign hanging above the door, threatening to death leap onto any prospective customer who might dare walk through the creaking front door paned with grimy leaded glass. But this is where the faeries go to hide the things they want to forget, or may want to have found. If mortals lived for hundreds of years, they might also find that they accumulate objects laden with memories, treasures that no longer charm or delight. Or items so dangerous they need to be taken out of Faerie, and hidden somewhere they can be forever overlooked and neglected. It is common knowledge among the fae that in such circumstances, the nondescript secondhand store would always be on hand to assist, albeit with the human proprietor's absolute obliviousness to their ethereal comings and goings.

 

The Shoppe never updates the offerings in the front windows, but no one can see through them anyhow to be beguiled by the wares, and Archie (the aforementioned proprietor) has no interest in enticing. Inquire with him for a price, and he will peer at you down his nose through his smudged glasses, huffing and sniffling, and mutter what could be "three quid" or "sod off" in equal measure. An ancient handwritten sign by the dusty cash register shouts "CASH ONLY" in all capital letters. The befuddled person who might stumble through the door might marvel at how such a place manages to stay open. To that all I can say is...faerie magic is quite a remarkable thing.

 

The especially stubborn, intrepid, brave, or resolute individual who determines to explore further has passed the first test, but there are more to come. The front room is filled with a labyrinth of piled furniture, perilously prepared to topple at the slightest nudge from a hip or a handbag. Glass cases are filled to overflowing with prim porcelain figures of cherubic children. Look extremely closely, and you might see one whose mouth opens wide not in wonder, but a never-ending scream. 

 

Climb the stairs, take several turns, and you will emerge in the attic, lungs accosted with the pungent and entirely foul smell of mildewing fabric. This is where Archie tosses any textiles he acquires, and perhaps decades ago they began in piles, but now the slowly rotting heaps rise like mountains to either side of you as you traverse narrow passageways through. If anyone was valiant enough to plunge a hand into the bank of the hillock three mounds to the left of the window, they would be rewarded to discover the forgotten fairy godmother's long lost spinning wheel. Be careful with the spindle. It can still draw mortals into an eternal sleep with a single prick.

 

You didn't make it that far? Turned at the doorway and ran back downstairs? So do most, my dear. I cannot blame you. And not all of the hidden treasures at the Shopp"e" are as perilous as all that. Through the largest downstairs room there is a door that leads to a hallway of chairs. Wooden legs stick out in piles of all directions, resembling a peculiar sort of forest. Walk down the hall, turn a corner, and keep walking. And walking. No one has ever found the end. But if you focus on the journey and not the destination, as the human saying goes, you might notice a space where two gothic armchairs and an ottoman with threadbare velvet form an opening that resembles a doorway. Congratulations, you have discovered a portal to the Realm of Faerie.

 

Archie's hoard spills out of an open door into the back garden, where trestle tables pile high with silver platters and ancient flatware. In the mass closest to the thorny rose bush, if you carefully brush aside a few forks and knives, you may see a pair of scissors with the words "armis natura" etched into the blades, and intricate ferns sculpted along the handles. Take these with you to the moors on a midsummer day, and you will be able to cut the mist into a fine fabric, or walk to the hawthorn tree, and you can slice the dew-beaded spiderweb in her branches into a gossamer tulle more beautiful than human eye has ever seen. Search harder in the pile and you may find the needle that will allow you to turn them into garments. But needles in haystacks are far more easily discovered. 

 

Perhaps no one will ever find these priceless artifacts. Maybe they will be unearthed tomorrow. There could be less dangerous places for the faeries to hide their treasures, but I'll be damned if they don't find this far, far more amusing.



Archie Hawthorne is my name, entirely human proprietor of The Shoppe on Brackenbury Lane in Least Pickings, Yorkshire. I’m the oblivious, crotchety old geezer who doesn’t notice the pixie dust right under his own nose. Or so the Faeries believe. 

 

They never stopped to wonder why their human’s shop has been around for two centuries and has never changed hands. It isn’t easy you know, being able to pretend you don’t see them, ignoring their hair pulling, their nose hair tickling. It takes the patience of a retired wizard to keep them from realizing you see them at all. 

 

But someone has to keep them from causing trouble. And oh lord and lady, they are the absolute worst at supposedly hiding their treasures. Just a few days ago I found a fairy godmother’s wand stuffed into a glass shoe right at the front of one of the display cases. It’s a full time job, relocating these valuable items to safer spots. 

 

And then of course I need to have the wisdom to decide what items should stay hidden, and which customers deserve to take them home. Behind this grumpy face and these grumbled mutterings are a protective mind and heart. I only want those objects that will do good to match with those who need their help. And if a lesser cursed object or two gets tucked into the coat jacket of unsavory thieves, well…I’m just the puppet of fate, aren’t I? 

 

Not all is as it seems in Faerie, friend. Nor is it in my Shoppe. The E, you see, stands for enchantment. 



Grace Nuth is the co-author of The Faerie Handbook, and former Senior Editor of Enchanted Living Magazine. At her day job as a librarian, she matches stories to readers, and she’s currently working on one of her own; a sapphic novel about a selkie and an ocean ghost. 


Image is from a Crystal Palace Exhibition illustration.

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