It was Laura Cho's first day at the Handy Pavilion, and her trainee badge was pinned to a neatly ironed apron over her polo shirt. Her excitement on starting her new job was rapidly dwindling, since Adam had parked her close to the entrance and told her to wait for her supervisor.

That had been half an hour ago. Not only was she bored, customers kept coming up to her and asking questions that she couldn't possibly answer, then getting annoyed when she didn't know.

She wished she could go hide in the break-room, but she didn't know where it was.

"Excuse me?" came a voice.

"Yeah, no, I'm new here, so…" she turned and nearly jumped to see a little man in a Handy Pavilion uniform. He had slate grey hair and a deeply lined face, and stank of tobacco. "Oh, sorry, I thought you were a customer."

...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 19 Origin Story"

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"Are you sure about this?" Wellsey asked.

"Could you be any more clichéd?" Belinda said. "'Are you sure about this?'" she added in a high-pitched mockery of Wellsey's voice. "Gahd."

The Handy Pavilion was spooky in the dark. No, Wellsey thought, not spooky. Terrifying. The huge shelves towered up into the darkness, dark and ghostly pale in the dim moonlight. The air hung still and hot, undisturbed by the vast ceiling fans that hung idle beneath the ghostly ceiling. The building seemed at the same time too large and too small, dwarfing Wellsey and yet leaving him all too aware of the many places some terrible thing might hide. Wellsey stood in the middle of aisle eight, his growing dread focused on the folding table, covered with black candles and surrounded by director chairs.

"Fuck you," he said. "I don't mean, 'are you sure we should be doing this?', I mean, 'are you sure this will work?'" ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 18: From Across the Veil"

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Gwen watched as Ms Shan dropped a pencil near the information counter, and Norman rushed to pick it up. He smiled winningly as he handed it to her. She acknowledged his action with a gesture and moved on, leaving Norman staring, sighing at her back. Gwen bit her hand. What a fool. What a fool she had been! To have given so much up, only for nothing.

All around her were the Handy Pavilion staff, going about their business as if it were just another day. It was a quiet day. Fiona lugged a box of taps. Adam laughed uncomfortably at one of Belinda's jokes. Axel Platzoff, rubbing his eyes, was being lectured by Sadie MacGregor. Marlon and Wellsey were deep in conversation. Customers were few, but present. An elderly man in a tweed jacket staggered under too many cans of paint. A carpenter's apprentice eyed expensive hammers with a wistful sigh. A short woman and her tall husband pushed a trolley full of plants.

No one looked at Gwen. If the world ends with aliens or fire and brimstone or zombies, then everyone is in on the fight. When the world ends in heartbreak, there you are, alone. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 17: A Bad Deal All Round"

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There were two coffee shops at the South Hertling Super Centre. One, in Captain Stellar's opinion, was quite a nice one. It was located just in between the Barbecue Imperium and Arthur C. Clock's Timepiece World. The barista there was a slightly annoying but basically quite nice hipster woman named Carol, who sold organic coffee and gluten free wraps.

The other was in a dingy little corner of the Handy Pavilion, just by outdoor furniture. It sold second-rate coffee at first-rate coffee prices to those too tired or lazy to walk all the way across the vast car park to Carol's.

Captain Stellar would have liked to go to Carol's, but without his coffee he didn't have the energy. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 15: Light and Dark"

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Marlon had never liked Jasu Shan, but now he was happy beyond words to see her. Ms Shan was abrasive and talked over him and would change the topic of conversation right in the middle of one of his sentences, and there wasn't a damned thing he could do about it because she was the General Manager and he was just the Duty Manager.

When Ms Shan taken ill, Marlon had been quietly pleased. He'd expected corporate to put someone else in charge for a while, preferably some quiet little pen-pusher who would take care of the big picture stuff and leave Marlon to the rest. In fact, head office had made Marlon acting manager. He'd been doing double duty as General Manager and Duty Manager in exchange for a nominal--and temporary—raise in salary.

Even that he might have coped with, had sales not started tanking when the DIY Barn had opened. That had put him in the awkward position of being both the good-guy boss he liked to believe himself to be--champion of his staff against the penny-pinchers at head office--while simultaneously acting as a penny-pincher from head office. It was vexing. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 12: Tea and Scandal"

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A man was looking at melamine boards. He checked their lengths for defects, then raised them it to eye height and held it straight ahead to see if it was straight. He was doing a terrible job of it, taking too long about it and picking a bunch of boards that even from five metres away, Gwen could see were sub-par.

The customer had probably never had to check boards before. He'd probably learned the technique out of a book or a YouTube video. Men who were just starting in on woodwork tended to be like that. There seemed to be a weird belief amongst men that woodworking is in the blood, and so asking for help was admitting something was wrong with them.

They seemed perfectly okay with asking about paint, though. Colours. Women's stuff. A bloke could be forgiven for not knowing. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 9: The Phial"

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"Will this take an LED bulb?"

Sadie McGregor looked up from the manifest she had been checking, to see a huge fat man. At first she took him for a glutton, but a closer look told her he was not. Perhaps he had a glandular condition? It didn’t matter. What mattered was the box he was thrusting a standard lamp at her.

"It will take any bulb with a standard Edison screw," she said.

"You sure? I don’t want to have to bring it back."

Sadie looked up from her manifest and gave the man her full attention. His eyes widened, startled and he swallowed hard. This often happened to people on the receiving end of Sadie’s full attention. She stared further into his eyes. His soul was in relatively good shape, other than some mild office pilfering and... ah. A short, doomed affair that he’d never told his wife about. He really should tell her.

"Here,’ she said. "I will show you." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 6: Luminiferous"

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Axel sat in the loading dock. It was nearly midday and it was as hot as an oven. A little drop of sweat made its way down his face to the point of his chin. It hung there for a moment, then dropped down to the green collar of his Handy Pavilion shirt, where it soaked into the fabric. Axel ignored it. His eyes were focused on a spot between the Place O’ Pets’ building and a parked truck. He could only see a little sliver through this gap – a busy roadway, and beyond that a small section of concrete wall, painted an unpleasant yellow.

The DIY Barn.

The enemy.

“Hot out, eh?”

Axel was aware of the voice in the same way he was aware of the drops of sweat down his face--there, but distant from his thoughts. He heard his own voice reply: “Going to get hotter, they say.” ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 5: The Shirts"

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Gwen sipped her coffee in the breakroom that smelled of smoke, but didn't light up herself. She smoked, but she did not care for tobacco. For all his laxness on OHS, Marlon did not appreciate it when anything else was smoked in the workplace.

She drummed her fingers on the plastic table. There was much on her mind. She lived a simple life, and seldom found herself with great moral choices to make. What Pennington offered… It can’t have been the right thing to do. And yet, how could she say no? Legally, Pennington’s plan was probably okay. No law against it – or if there was, it were part of some old law against witchcraft, something that remained on the books even though no one had cared since the dark ages. No, there was no law against it exactly. But there were similar things--modern things--that were pretty damn illegal. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 4: Coffee Break"

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