Donna cast an eye over the morning deliveries of light-bulbs and sighed. She had never realised just how much work Sadie had accomplished, until Sadie hadn’t been there. Now, even though business was poor and customers were thin on the ground, Donna could barely keep up with doing the work of her supervisor as well as her own. Marlon had given her some extra hours to try to deal with the workload, and Donna’s studies were suffering. Still she endured.
She endured because that was what Sadie would have wanted. Sadie never quit or gave in. Sadie’s job had been shedding light on her customers, and that is what she had done. She had never wavered, never faltered. Not until the end. Not until she had fallen into darkness.
A lump formed in Donna’s throat. Sadie had been a strict boss, but a good boss. She had taken Donna under her wing and helped her protégé overcome her crippling addiction to hozinoko — a form of Japanese pornography so terrible that it cannot be found even on the internet. Sadie had taken her, a lazy, deceptive young girl and helped her become an upstanding young woman.
As she carted the light-bulbs from the loading dock to the lighting section, she noticed Fiona and Norman chatting in garden furniture. She sighed. At Sadie’s suggestion, Donna had befriended Fiona, hoping to be a good influence on her. Donna hadn’t realised just how lost Fiona had been, until she had confessed her involvement in an armoured car robbery, alongside Norman.
And then, Sadie – Sadie of all people, moral, upright Sadie – had perjured herself and taken the blame for the heist. It made no sense.
Donna’s new duties left her little time for her friend. She hoped that hanging around with Norman wasn’t a sign that Fiona wasn’t going back to her larcenous ways.
It was worrying, and she didn’t need worries on top of stress. Maybe some hazinoko…
No! No, that was the old Donna.
“Excuse me?” said a customer.
Customers. Always customers. It was this fancy looking guy, looking for Christian. Somehow, Donna misinterpreted this as ‘looking for Norman’, so she pointed him the wrong way and the man was halfway to garden furniture before she realised her mistake.
It didn’t matter. Norman probably had a better idea than she did of what Christian was up to, anyway. Besides, she was beset with another customer, a lumpy looking guy.
“I need lights.”
“Don’t care. I just need a lot. Cheap ones, I guess.”
The lumpy looking customer looked sheepish. “Well it used to be that all my chores were done by a brownie.”
“Not like the girl’s service group ‘the Brownies,'” he added quickly. “I mean a literal brownie. A benevolent pixie.”
Donna sighed. Asking more questions wasn’t going to get this guy’s house lit any better, but he looked like he wanted to tell his whole story. “Like a house elf?”
“Right, yeah. You’re meant to leave a saucer of milk out for ’em, but never give them any clothes, I think that’s the deal. It always seemed a little hard, you know? Brownie working so hard, but always dressed in rags. So I think, what can I do for the poor guy that doesn’t involve clothes. But I saw him struggling with my washing line…”
A chill ran down Donna’s spine. She stood up straight, bracing herself for the coming blow.
“So I bought him a pulley,” the lumpy customer said. “And the Brownie hasn’t run away, but he’s gone all… funny. Dressing in black. Growing a goatee. Running an email scam from my laptop. You know. And all that creepy running around of a night-time? You know the deal, giggling, a pattering run, vague shadow. That sort of thing.”
Donna shook her head slowly. She tried to breath, but even as her lungs clawed for oxygen she felt like she was suffocating.
“You know… You do know that you must never give a pulley to a brownie, right? You know that if one is ‘feeding Gremlins after midnight’ and a ten is ‘invite a vampire into your home’, what you did is about a fifteen, ‘the only thing that can stop Godzilla is a robot Godzilla?'”
The customer pondered this. “Shit, ay?”
In the pause that followed, a man with a neat beard asked to see Fanaka. “Ask Nalda in crafts,” Donna said.
Once the newcomer had left, she addressed the lumpy customer. “You are going to need all the lights you can get. And probably an exorcism. My supervisor could have done that for you. She was good at exorcisms. But, for reasons that need not concern you now, she’s in prison for a crime that she did not commit.”
“Well I’ll be jiggered.”
Donna looked down at her hands, then up at the huge range of lights that surrounded her. Did she have the strength to do this? Did she have the unflinching resolve, the deep personal holiness, the spiritual strength, the light? Well, there was only one way to find out.
“I will exorcise the corrupted spirit,” she said. “Give me your address. I will drive out the unclean thing.”
“We’ll get a new Brownie, yeah?”
“My guess is no.”
“The wife’ll be spewin’.”
“I can live with that. Now go! Leave me to prepare myself.”
The lumpy customer walked away. Donna looked over her pallet of unsorted deliveries. Over by her counter was a stack of incomplete paperwork. Down the end of the aisle, Zorbar was screaming as he fought a band of humanoid mushrooms. It was one of those days — and yet this was the day where she had to reach inside herself and find the strength to do what needed to be done.
It was Angela, Sadie’s twin. Donna knew Sadie didn’t like Angela, but never quite understood why.
“Angela. I’m a little…”
“Won’t take a minute. It’s just, I know you’re into that manga stuff, and someone delivered this to me accidentally. Do you know what it is?”
She handed a magazine to Donna. Tentatively, she opened the cover and… Oh! What were those space aliens doing with that goldfish? Why was that naked man dancing on stilts? Hazinoko! It had to be hazinoko.
“Is it like a Pokemon thing?”
“No,” Donna said through clenched teeth. “It’s… it’s a little more specialist. Do you want this?”
“Don’t know why I’d need it.”
“Be my guest.”
A blood-curdling scream rang out, echoing from the tin roof. Sounded like Zorbar had got one of his assailants. Donna barely took it in. She was busy, caressing the cover of the little pulp-paper comic. Angela smiled and walked away, leaving Donna to her thoughts.