Hilly stopped at the window. “The Boutique of Fulfillment: Wishes Caught and Granted” curved in dark green script at the top. Probably some collection of antique trinkets Hilly thought. Joanna Hilliard was not interested in antiques. She was at the beach on vacation; the school year had ended a week ago and she had no plans to explain to anyone the efficiency of strong verbs, or to ask students to remark on the significance of color in Gatsby. She smiled knowing she wouldn’t have to hear Lindsay Welton ask, “How’s reading this book gonna get me a job?”
She spotted an old View Master in the window display. Her hand turned the doorknob, brass, worn to a sheen. The View Master would make a great gift for her brother, Skyler. He collected old toys.
“Welcome to the Boutique of Fulfillment.” A robot stood just inside the shop, to the side, like a metal butler, a serving towel draped squarely over its bent arm. “One woman’s Nightmare is Another Womens Dream”, printed in bold face. Hilly sighed, but made no mention of grammar or rules of possession. The robot seemed to be a design from the 1950s: round, can-like head, barrel shaped body, and spindly arms and legs. Nostalgic, like something from The Jetsons.
Hilly bent over the window display and picked up the View Master, but there were no discs. “Hmm…” She turned to leave, but she saw another View Master on a back shelf; a neat stack of the round discs beside it. The whole store was lined with shelves. Shelves packed with memorabilia, figurines, board games, and old fruit packing labels. Some boutique, she thought. At the back shelf, she reached for the View Master. The door closed behind her as she pulled one of the discs and popped it in.
“Oh, Skyler and I had this one,” she muttered as she clicked through the images. “Snow White, Bambi.” She grabbed another disc and let out a laugh. The Grand Canyon in Technicolor. “We had this one too! Guess they were pretty popular. How much is this?” She turned, expecting to find a clerk nearby, the someone who had closed the door. But it was just the robot, now closer and facing her. Hilly took a step back and puffed in surprise. “Oh, uh, hello? Is someone here?”
Finally, a man came from a back room. “Hello. I can help you.” He was tall with blond hair combed back. He wore gray slacks and a cream-colored sweater, fashion suited from the 50s. He smiled. “Oh, it’s you. We’ve been waiting for you.”
Hilly stepped back again and hit her head on one of the shelves. “I just want to get the View Master, but I also want to look at a few more discs.” She was certain she had misheard him.
The man nodded reassurance. “Yes, a fine idea. Here try this one.” He handed her a disc he had been holding behind his back. “I think you might also recognize it.”
Hilly took the disc. The man watched her carefully. It gave her the creeps.
“Huh, I don’t think I’ve seen this one… wait, it’s a classroom, cute.” These images were like Disney discs, little miniature scenes like a diorama; they had depth, and dimension. She started. She recognized the dark brown wool slacks on the teacher standing at a student’s desk. Then she looked at the walls and the whiteboard, all neat and tidy little replicas from her room. “This looks like my room…is that me? What the hell?” She lowered the View Master. “Where’d this come from?”
The man stood impassively; his smile smoothed away. “Yes, it is. Look again. Notice anything else?”
Hilly gauged if she could push past him and out the door. The exit was no longer visible. Her heart began to thump and she couldn’t get enough air.
“Really, you will better understand if you take another look.” Hilly couldn’t remember if she had met the man before. But she lifted the View Master again. “There now, do you see who else is in the room with you?”
“Students, but I can’t tell… oh, that’s third period, juniors American Lit. I’m talking to Lindsay Welton; that’s Javier Gomez behind her…” She needed to get out. “Ok thanks, this is weird, but I’ve had enough.” She looked around for the door. Time to go.
“I know you must be confused, but it will be so much easier if you cooperate.” The man stepped closer. Hilly slid farther along the shelf.
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about…”
“Right, I apologize, I don’t mean to cause you alarm, but the fulfillment must be made and it is so much easier if you cooperate. There is no way out. We simply caught Lindsay’s wish that day and now it must be fulfilled. So come along.”
“Uh, no. Lindsay’s wish?”
“Look again. Do you remember that day?”
Hilly looked again. Lindsay was a challenge for her. She knew it wasn’t fair, but she really didn’t like the girl. “I don’t remember what I said…”
“You said, ‘And that is why flipping burgers is the best job you will ever hope to have.’ She didn’t appreciate that, and she wished you were dead.” Hilly’s heart sank. Her words had been cruel, she knew.
“But you can’t really think she wants me dead?”
“Oh, she did,” he chuckled. “So, we caught her wish and we have to grant it.” He reached out with one hand and captured both of hers, his grip tight and unbreakable. Hilly saw a glint of light in his other hand; a needle. “Shush, it will be over soon.”