Issue No. 3, Winter 2012

Flourisher Department Store
David Massengill

Seventh Floor, 2012

Helene Lightfoot looked at herself in the mirror of the private dressing room and said, “This is the one for me. I think I’ll wear it on New Year’s Eve.” She ran her palm along the front of the dress, which was green with gold fringe.

The sales girl smiled and said, “I must say I’m thrilled to be helping a member of the Flourisher family. I’ve never met any of you.”

“Oh, right,” Helene said with a weak smile. “Sometimes I manage to forget I’m one of the family. The name didn’t stick with me when I got married.”

She saw a shadowy, leering figure dart behind her in the mirror, and that’s when she began sweating. She lowered herself into the chair in front of the mirror. Hives formed along her bare arms, and her breathing became wheezing.

“Should I get you a glass of water?” the sales girl asked.

“Please call 911,” Helene said. She touched her swollen belly and said, “I’m concerned about the baby.”

Sixth Floor, 2006

Doug Lightfoot tried not to look nervous after Helene left him alone with her mother in the Flatware Department.

“You don’t have to talk to the Dagger-Tongued One while I’m in the restroom,” Helene had whispered, pinching his rear. “Just pretend like you’re focused on looking for our wedding silverware.”

Doug peered into a glass case containing sets of solid silver while Marla Flourisher inspected shelves displaying Russian saucers. He froze when he saw a fork that appeared to be coated in blood. The crimson liquid pooled on the white cloth beneath the utensil.

“This can’t be real,” Doug said.

Marla soon stood behind him and said, “You’re probably not used to silverware as fine as that.”

Doug ignored the insult. He understood he was the only one who saw the blood. He wondered whether he was hallucinating.

Marla said in a gentle voice, “It isn’t my or my husband’s greatest desire to introduce you to our world. We know the problems that can happen when people of diverse backgrounds mix. But we’re respecting Helene’s choice because of her past…problems. Do you think you can adjust to our setting, Doug, and become like one of us?”

Doug glanced at her and back at the fork, which was now gleaming silver. He attempted to conceal his confusion when he said, “I do.”

Fifth Floor, 1996

“Come quickly!” Marla Flourisher called to the sales girl standing behind the counter of the Juniors Department. She glanced back down at Helene, who lay on the yellow carpet near a rack of floral summer dresses. Helene’s eyes were round with panic, and her entire body trembled.

The teenager looked at her mother and said, “I saw him. He was sneaking around behind me.”

Marla touched her daughter’s cheek, which was pale and cold. “Darling,” she said, “I was in the restroom with you. No one else was in there.”

“He was like a shadow,” Helene said. “And he had wings. Fleshy wings.”

“Mrs. Flourisher?” the sales girl asked in a nervous voice. She kneeled near the mother and daughter.

“I need someone to carry Helene to a private, quiet room,” Marla said. “I don’t want a scene. Maybe a fellow from the Shoes Department can help.”

“There’s a janitor repairing one of the dressing room doors,” the sales girl said. “He has his son with him.”

“Get him,” Marla said. “Now.”

She saw that Helene had closed her eyes. The trembling was lessening. Marla thought of all the therapy and medications her daughter had received since the age of 10, and still Helene was off. Surely, she and Robert could find the right doctor to fix her.

“Ma’am?” a man asked.

Marla glanced up and saw a dark-featured, middle-aged fellow standing over them. He wore a brown janitor’s uniform. Beside him was a younger and more handsome version of himself.

“We’re here to help,” the man said. “This is my son, Doug. I’m Caleb Lightfoot.”

Marla nodded toward Helene and said, “I ask that you not speak with her. She doesn’t know what she’s saying.”

Fourth Floor, 1976

Caleb Lightfoot sat on a bench near a door bearing the sign PERSONNEL. He was concerned about dirtying the white leather beneath his rear. But the hiring manager had told him to wait here while he talked to someone inside the office.

Caleb heard a chorus of high-pitched laughter, and he glanced up to see another crowd of elegantly dressed, snowy-haired ladies enter the cafe next to the office.

“This is a mistake,” Caleb muttered to himself. And yet he thought maybe it wasn’t.

He’d been outside Flourisher’s, on Pine Street, when he heard the voice, masculine and whispering.

“Your purpose is inside this store.”

So he stopped his wandering around downtown Seattle. His mother used to tell him, “Listen for your guides, baby. They speak inside your head, and they’ll tell you just what you need to do.”

Caleb entered Flourisher’s for the first time in his life and spoke to a woman arranging watches beneath a glass counter.

“I need a job, ma’am,” he said. “Someone said this store might have one for me.”

Caleb now heard the door to the office open. He turned to see the hiring manager standing beside a young, golden-haired man in a sky-blue suit.

The young man held out his hand and said, “I’m Robert Flourisher. And you must be our new janitor.”

Extending his hand, Caleb had the crazy thought: What if that voice he’d heard didn’t belong to a guide, but something less benevolent? After all, it hadn’t come from his head. It came from the store.

Third Floor, 1965

Robert Flourisher followed his grandfather toward a group of sales girls congregated in one corner of the Hosiery Department. Robert saw that the girls were giving Grandpa Vince suspicious looks.

“Where is she?” Grandpa Vince spoke in a growl. Some of the sales girls flinched at the sound of his voice. Robert understood their fear. Grandpa Vince was 6’5,” broad-shouldered, and thick-limbed, and he had the sloping back of an ogre. Robert never dared contradict the man—even when Grandpa Vince told him, “You’ll be spending every Saturday of your senior year working at Flourisher’s.”

As they neared the sales girls, Grandpa Vince whispered, “Watch your elder and learn, boy.”

“So you’re not going to give her up?” Grandpa Vince asked the sales girls. “You’d prefer that you all lose your jobs?”

One of the sales girls—a pretty, red-haired one—folded her arms over her cream-colored uniform and said, “We don’t know who you’re talking about, sir.”

“The witch,” Grandpa Vince shouted. He held up the bundle of desert sage he and Robert had discovered beneath his desk. Someone had tied two long white feathers to the bundle with a strip of red ribbon. “My secretary said she saw some of the girls from the Hosiery Department leave my office.”

“It was me.” One of the sales girls stepped forward. While the other girls’ hair was sprayed or tied up into tight buns, her black locks fell to her shoulders in natural waves.

“This store is damned,” she said, glaring at Grandpa Vince. “You can make the place glitter and glow and hide the truth from all your ‘girls,’ but the spirits know what happened here.”

Grandpa Vince reached for her arm, but she dodged his grasp.

“You’ve got a very dark complexion, girl,” Grandpa Vince said. “Where are your people from?”

The sales girl’s gaze remained locked on his. “The spirits know what happened here,” she said, “and now I know what happened, too.”

“The only thing you know,” Grandpa Vince said, “is how to get yourself fired.” He turned to Robert and said, “Take our little sorceress down to the street.”

Robert stood staring at the sales girl, trying not to reveal his fear. He wondered whether he should try to grab her.

The sales girl grinned and shook her head at him. She asked, “Do you have any idea what you’ve inherited?”

Second Floor, 1927

Vince Flourisher led the long-legged sales girl up the darkened stairway, past the banner that read:

FLOURISHER DEPARTMENT STORE
Flourishing for 20 Years

He glanced behind him to make sure nobody had followed them from the anniversary party. He at least had the assurance that his wife had gone home with a migraine.

“There’s this new sofa in the Furniture Department,” he told the sales girl, slipping a hand inside her open-backed dress. “It bounces real well.”

The sales girl laughed drunkenly until she froze at the top of the stairs. Vince looked up to see the source of her hesitation.

His mother stood hunched over the railing, a ghostly white hand pressed against her chest. She wheezed as she eyed her son, and then she collapsed on the marble floor.

“I’m sorry, Mother,” Vince cried, running to her. He kneeled and squeezed her frigid hand. “I didn’t know you were up here. I never meant to cause you shock.”

Lise Flourisher looked at him with horror. “Not you,” she said. Only half her mouth moved when she spoke. “Him.” She stared in the direction of the Suits Department. The area was utterly dark.
“Somehow he’s returned,” Lise told her son. “And he’s grown his own wings.”

Vince ran into the Suits Department, ready to pummel whoever had so frightened his mother. He thought he saw a figure, but it was only his silhouette in a gilded mirror.

Mezzanine, 1905

Lise Bjornsen peered up at the gold leaves bordering the ceiling. She backed up until she was in the center of the room and staring at the painting of Aphrodite on the ceiling. The naked, voluptuous figure was surrounded by a ring of variously colored flowers and fruits. Aphrodite looked as if she were in her early twenties, like Lise.

Lise heard her own footsteps echoing throughout the space.

“The emptiness of this building unsettles me,” she had told her fiancé, Theodore Flourisher, before he went upstairs to speak with some of the construction workers.

“Just imagine all that it will hold,” he replied. “Jewels, gowns, furs. And you, my young beauty, will be the queen of my empire.”

Lise sensed someone nearby. She gasped when she saw the stranger standing behind her.

The man’s black hair was long and matted, and he wore only a mud-caked blanket. Attached to his back were wings crudely made from driftwood, animal hides, and crow feathers. His widened eyes revealed his insanity.

He didn’t move to touch her, but he fell toward her after Theodore charged him and swung a metal pipe into the back of his head.

“I should have guessed you’d try to attack my family,” Theodore said. He swung again at the winged man, who now lay on the floor at Lise’s feet, bleeding.

“But he didn’t-” Lise said in too soft a voice.

She looked up at the flowers and fruits on the ceiling as her fiancé continued to beat the man. Her eyes were on a pineapple when she heard what must have been the crushing of a skull.

Ground Floor, 1899

Theodore Flourisher stared out the cabin window at the crowd gathering around the slabs of marble. That was where the stairway would be built.

“It’s the damn Indians protesting again,” Theodore’s brother Arthur said. “They came during the night, with the fog. The Climbing Pines clan, some new ones, and, of course, the Lightfoots.”

Theodore picked up his rifle from beneath the illustration of the future Flourisher Department Store. “We warned them,” he told his brother. “Get your gun, and tell the others to do the same. This is private property. Trespassers will be shot.”

As he marched toward the mass of Indians, he heard a cackling from behind him. He turned to see that silly member of the Lightfoot family who was always hopping about with the wings on his back, pretending to be some kind of bird or bat. The young man was obviously off.

“You should be the first to go,” Theodore told the young man, cocking his rifle. “No one will miss you.”

The man continued laughing, looking mad with his slanted eyebrows and dropped jaw.

Theodore brought silence with one shot, but he didn’t bring death. The winged lunatic dashed into the evergreens bordering the construction site.

The following cries of the Indians caused all the other men to lift their rifles and fire.

Basement, 1897

Arthur Flourisher stomped through the mud toward the ladder, cursing to himself. He should have left Millie in New York until the store was complete. He didn’t need her out here, meddling in his business. She thought too much for a woman.

“You’re cross with me for coming, aren’t you?”

Arthur looked up the length of the ladder and saw Millie peering over the edge of the pit at him. Her gray stallion remained feet away from the drop.

“It’s raining, Millie,” Arthur said as he began to climb. “You shouldn’t be traipsing about outside.”

“It’s been raining for the past three months,” Millie said. “I wanted to see your work.” She pointed into the pit.

Arthur paused on the ladder and looked down at the rows and rows of bundled Indian bones. At the end of one row was a huge mound of skulls.

Arthur blushed as he looked up at his wife again.

“You didn’t tell me you were building a store in a graveyard,” Millie said. “Are you going to make all those skeletons your employees? Or perhaps you’ll sell them.”

“Very funny,” Arthur said. “We’re getting rid of them. Today. I’m going to have the men dump them in Elliott Bay.”

Millie continued staring at the Indians’ remains. She had a distant look in her eyes, as if she were imagining some horrible scenario. She then peered into Arthur’s eyes and asked, “And what happens if the bones wash up on shore?”

*

Pine Street and Sixth Avenue, 2034

Doug Lightfoot, Jr. stood across the street from Flourisher Department Store, staring up at one of the tinted seventh floor windows. That was the floor on which his mother had given birth to him before the paramedics loaded them inside the ambulance. Doug’s mother had died from internal bleeding on the drive to Harborview Medical Center.

“And my father inherited nothing,” Doug mumbled to himself. “Eleven stores across the West Coast, and the damn Flourishers didn’t give him a dime.”

Doug removed his cell phone from his coat pocket and began typing the pass code. The first would be the one stuck with gum beneath the table in the ground floor cafe, then the transparent one on the stall door in the sixth floor men’s restroom.

Before tapping the DECONSTRUCT icon on the screen of his phone, Doug recalled his father insisting, “I never wanted a piece of that store. There’s something awful about that building. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it.”

“Maybe people will see it now,” Doug said.

All seven bombs detonated just as Doug had planned during his stints in jail and his father’s slow demise from throat cancer. He’d anticipated the locations of the flames and the screaming shoppers pouring out of 650 Pine and the billowing, blackened sky.

What surprised him was the winged thing that emerged from a smoking hole in the side of the building and lifted into the air.


David Massengill lives in Seattle. His short stories and works of flash fiction have appeared in numerous literary journals, including Eclectica Magazine, Word Riot, 3 A.M. Magazine, Pulp Metal Magazine, and Yellow Mama, among others. His stories have also appeared in the anthologies Gothic Blue Book: The Revenge Edition (Burial Day Books), State of Horror: California (Rymfire Books), and Long Live the New Flesh: Year Two (The New Flesh). Read more of his fiction at www.davidmassengillfiction.com.