Jack watched the clock turn to 1 o’clock. It was his favorite time of day. A bell sounded as a man in a tan uniform walked into his store with a stack boxes.
"Hey, Jack," the deliveryman said, "You have a few packages today. Just sign here."
Jack signed the confirmation paper. "Thanks, Todd. Your family well?" Todd smiled and nodded. Jack made a point to get to know each of the deliverymen, especially since they came nearly every day. Todd thanked Jack and then left, leaving Jack with his new treasures.
Jack owned a store named Random Junk. Every day, he looked online and bought things he found interesting. He would examine the item and use it until he was bored. Afterwards, he would put a price on the item and try to sell it in his shop. Most of the stuff he bought were useless trinkets, especially since he was drawn to the occult and magic. He also liked comics, board games, and video games, but he kept most of those hidden.
Three years previous, Jack was at college studying business. His parents were wealthy business people, so Jack never had to worry about money growing up. However, both his parents died in a car accident, leaving Jack, their only child, with all of their money.
Depressed, Jack dropped out of college. After selling most of the property his parents owned, including the house, cars, and stock, Jack began to live in isolation. During this time, he began a hobby of buying things online. After a year, his apartment began to get very cluttered. He also realized he was miserable, spending all of his time alone.
So, as a result, he opened a shop to sell the junk he had collected and also to force himself to talk with other people. He had all the money he ever needed, so he sold most of his stuff really cheap.
Jack ripped the tape from the first box. He started to think he was getting addicted to the smell of cardboard. After digging through the styrofoam peanuts, Jack found a unique board game. He set it aside to play it later. Next, he found a short sword. After examining it, he realized it was poor quality and set it in the pile to sell immediately with a price.
Over the next two hours, Jack sorted all of the items, which included some comics, video games, retro clothing, and scented candles. Finally, the last package he opened was somewhat small. Inside were eight jewelry boxes and each box held a ring. When Jack first found the rings online, he was very skeptical that they would be low quality. However, they looked to be made of high class materials. Each ring held a stone of a different color. Jack was sure he could sell one ring for ten times as much as he paid for all of them.
As Jack was examining the ring with the red stone, a bell sounded, signaling a customer had entered. Jack slid the ring onto his forefinger of his right hand and hid the seven other rings under the desk; he wanted to look at them more before deciding whether to sell them or not. Jack felt a tingle spread throughout his right arm, as if he had just hit his funny bone. It only lasted for a moment and Jack quickly forgot about it.
Jack looked at the person who entered the store. "Welcome to... Oh, it's you guys. How was school?" Two middle school teens walked in and hung their backpacks on a coatrack near the front door. Hugh had black hair and was tall for his age; Quinn had blonde hair, heavier set, and always seemed to be looking at his feet.
"Hey Mr. K," Hugh said, "Get anything good today?"
"Sure did. I know you like scented candles so much," Jack said, holding up the one of the candles. Hugh gave him a sarcastic look. Jack laughed. "The comics and video games are in that box. Also, there's a board game I'd like to try out when more people show up."
"Excellent," Hugh said as he dug through the box.
"Be careful with that, Quinn," Jack said, "Even though it's a crappy sword, it's still sharp."
"Sorry," Quinn mumbled, as he set the sword back down.
"Come on," Hugh said, lifting the box, "Let's go back to the room." They each dropped a quarter into a jar and went to the back.
As the kids moved to the back, Jack tried to remove the ring on his finger, but it wouldn't come off. Oddly enough, the ring seemed to glow softly. He would probably have to get some grease to get it off later. Jack grabbed the other rings and put them into his safe.
The bell sounded once again. A group of four guys and two girls walked in. "How was school today?" Jack asked the high school students.
"Boring as always," said Thomas, a boy with black hair and a lopsided smile, "When I graduate, I want to start a business like you, Mr. K. How come you hired Patrick instead of me?"
"Because," Patrick, a short redhead with a lot of freckles, replied as he walked behind the counter, "The first time you came in here, you tried to steal something."
"But that was before I realized how cool Mr. K actually was," Thomas said defensively.
"So if I was lame, it would have been alright?" Jack asked with a smile, "You don't want a shop like this, Thomas. I pull no profit and I have to babysit kids like you. Go on back; I'll be there in a second."
All of the kids left for the back dropping a quarter into the jar, except Patrick. "Get anything interesting today?" Patrick asked looking through the pile of stuff.
"I did get a set of rings," Jack said, showing off the ring on his finger, "If I want to sell them, I think I can get a good price."
"Fancy, but I didn't take you to be a jewelry person."
"I'm not. It got stuck when I tried it on. I also got a few comics and games I'm going to try out now. Could you sort out and shelve the rest of the junk?"
"Can do. It's what you pay me for."
"Thanks. Let me know if anything happens."
Jack made his way to the back room. Four TVs with couches lined the back wall. Hugh and Quinn were playing a racing game and Thomas and his girlfriend Tara, a blond ditzy girl, were starting up a shooter game. Jane and Derek were rummaging through the new stuff on the game table in the center of the room and Tyson was browsing the bookshelf on the right.
"We'll be starting a game in a few minutes. I think it can have up to eight people. Derek, can you read and explain the rules? Jane, can you set it up?" They both nodded. Jack suspected they liked each other, but both were too shy to act on it. "Anybody else want to join the game?"
"I do!" a perky voice sounded from the door. Jack turned to see a short red headed girl looking smug that she was able to make it there before the game started.
"You always livening things up, Kim. Did you say hello to your brother?"
"Patrick's too boring. Oh, oh, oh, guess what? I brought a friend today!"
"I see that. Hello, Ms. new face. What's your name?" Jack asked the dark-haired girl standing behind Kim. She didn't seem to be shy, but more uncomfortable being in a new environment.
"Pleasure to meet you, Anna. My name is Jack Kearl."
"But," Kim interjected, "You can just call him Mr. K."
"Thank you, Kim. Yes, you can call me Mr. K if you want. Do you want to join us for the game?" Anna nodded her head. "Great. Derek? Jane? Are you ready?"
"Yep," Derek replied.
"We're playing too," Hugh said, joining the group at the table with Quinn.
"We've got room for one more. Any takers? No? Okay, let's play."
The group of seven started playing. "Mr. K, this game is sooo boring," Kim pouted, laying her head on the table.
"It's only been ten minutes. Give it..."
"Mr. K!" Patrick said, rushing through the door, "We've got a Code 2!"
Everybody in the room perked up, especially Kim. "Code 2? Are you sure? Good quality?" Kim asked.
"Go get her, Mr. K," Thomas shouted from the couch.
"What's a Code 2?" Anna asked.
Jack sighed. "These kids feel like I need to start dating someone, so they make sure whenever a girl my age walks in, that I talk to her."
"The correct term is flirt with her," Patrick said with a smile, "Try to get her number this time; she's a keeper."
"Right, right. Pat, take my place. I'll be right back." Jack wasn't too sorry to leave the game. It was a little dull.
Jack walked back to the store. The girl was easy to find; she was the only customer. She had medium length raven hair that was pulled back into a ponytail and glasses that covered her emerald eyes. She had on a casual blouse that showed a little bit of cleavage and khakis that fell between her ankles and knees. Jack was immediately entranced by her, not just by the way she looked, but the way she moved and the intelligence behind her eyes. She studied each random item deliberately, as if she was trying to understand its purpose.
Jack had to shake himself to keep himself from staring. "Are you finding everything alright?" he asked.
"Oh, you surprised me. I'm just browsing, not really looking for anything."
"I see, fair enough. What made you enter my humble store today?"
"Well," she said, turning back to browse the shelves, "I had some extra time today. I pass by this store everyday on the way to work and the name Random Junk always intrigued me." She held up a jade skull. "The store definitely lives up to the name."
Jack laughed. "I try. I buy anything that catches my eye and sell anything I don't want to keep."
The bell sounded and a middle school boy with short blond hair entered the store. "Hey, Mr. K. Are Hugh and Quinn here yet?"
"Hey, Robert. Yeah, they're in the back. Don't forget to leave your bag at the door."
After Robert went to the back room, the girl raised an eyebrow. "Mr. K?"
"It's a nickname the kids in the neighborhood gave me. One day, they found my stash of video games and now I can't get rid of them. I don't mind; I like the company. By the way, my name is Jack." He held out his hand.
"Desiree," she said, shaking his hand cautiously. Jack couldn't help but notice how soft her hands were. She smirked, "So, Mr. K, what random junk would you recommend to me?"
"Hmm, I did get some scented candles today. Interested?"
"Sure, one can never have too many scented candles," Desiree said as they walked over to the front counter. She picked up one of the candles. "Even fish scented."
"It intrigued me ok. I'll tell you what, buy that one and I'll give you a regular vanilla one for free."
"You have yourself a deal, Mr. K."
Jack packed the candles into a bag. "There you are. Is that everything for you?"
"Yes, thanks. I'd love to stay, but I really need to get work."
"I see. Well, Desiree, it was a pleasure to meet you. Feel free to stop by any time. I might even show you the back room next time."
"That does sound intriguing. Next time then." She smiled and gracefully left the store with her candles.
"Feel free to stop by any time?" Kim said as she walked out, "That's the most uncommitted question. Not even a question, more of a hopeful statement. Next time, I'm going to help you get a date with her."
"Anybody tell you it's impolite to eavesdrop? Not necessary. I mean, who would want to date an owner of a junk store?" Kim raised her hand. "Oh, I'm flattered."
As they walked back to the back room, Jack couldn't stop thinking about Desiree. He was starting to regret not getting her number. She was funny and smart. Also, Jack thought with a smile, she had a really nice figure; that never hurts.
Right when they reached the door, Jack's body began to tingle. He felt goose bumps form on his arms as a chill ran through his body. He would have dismissed it but then he started to feel really nauseous.
"Mr. K? Are you okay? You look really pale."
"Uh, I'm just feeling a little sick. I'll be..." Another wave of nausea swept through him and the room started to spin. He had to lean against the wall to prevent himself from falling. "On second thought, not okay."
They entered the back room. Jack spoke loudly, so everyone could hear. "Sorry guys, I'm going to close the store early today; I'm not feeling very well right now. You can get your money back. Patrick, can you handle everything?"
Patrick nodded. There were a few complaints, but everyone was getting up to go. Jack left everything to Patrick and went up to his room.
Jack closed the door behind him. The chill he had felt before was gone. Now, his chest felt like it was on fire. He lied down on his bed in pain. He felt the skin on his chest begin to stretch, as if someone was twisting it the wrong way. Luckily, the pain only lasted a moment and his body seemed to normalize.
Breathing hard, Jack could feel sweat dripping from his forehead. Jack slowed his breathing. "What was that?" Jack said to no one. Even though he wasn't in any pain, something still felt a little weird, like there was weight where it didn't belong. He looked down and saw his shirt raised above his chest.
Almost against his will, he lifted his arms and pressed his hands against the elevated shirt. Strange sensations shot through his body. In his hands, he felt something soft, round, and warm under the shirt. His chest tightened and he felt it push back against his hands. Both these feelings together caused the world to spin around him. A feeling of dread poured over him.
Jack jumped up clumsily and stumbled toward the bathroom. In the mirror, Jack saw his reflection. He looked exactly same except two mounds forming on his chest. He took off his shirt; sure enough, he had very feminine breasts sprouting from his body. They weren't overly large, but they were definitely noticeable. Jack held them again. Touching them directly made the sensations double and caused the world to spin faster. The disorientation was too much for him; he buckled down over the toilet and lost his lunch.
Sitting topless on the bathroom floor with a nasty flavor in his mouth, Jack tried to keep himself from panicking. He thought about how this was even possible. "What did I do differently today?" Jack thought out loud, "I met that pretty girl, but I doubt she had anything to do with this. The kids came over, but they didn't do anything strange. I opened up the packages as... Wait a second, the package, the rings!"
Jack looked at his right hand. Previously, the stone had been bright, like it had a light inside. Now, it was dim. Jack had finally found a magical item. He looked down at himself; it was a bit different outcome than he predicted. He was excited and scared at the same time. Excited he could prove magic existed, but scared because he didn't know how to change back or control it.
Jack took out his phone and looked up the person who sold him the rings. No information was given. He did a quick search online, but found no concrete answers. As he sat there looking at his phone, trying his best to ignore his new body parts, his body began to burn again. He looked down at his chest and saw the mounds recede back into his body until he was flat. He had stayed changed for about twenty minutes.
Jack let out a sigh of relief; it wasn't permanent. He looked at the ring, but it was still dim. Hopefully, it was just recharging. He tried to take it off, but it was still stuck. Jack put his shirt back on and walked back to the store. Patrick had done a good job of closing everything up.
Jack looked through the box with the remaining rings, but there wasn't anything noteworthy. He then collected any books about magic he could find and turned his computer on. He prepared himself for a long study session to find anything at all about magical rings.
About four hours into his research, the ring began to glow like ember.