The ruined building had stood at the corner forever; melancholy with the architecture of a bygone era. The roof remained, though the walls had long ago crumbled into piles of rubble, like a pie crumbles when sliced with a dull knife. It looked like a big gaping mouth.
Byron walked past it every day. He felt a strange connection to the ruins and often speculated what they had housed and who had built them. One particular mystery were the faded posters pinned to the fence which flapped in the wind; they also littered the rubble. A picture of a young girl named Maggie took up most of the paper; ‘missing’ printed on top, ‘reward’ at the bottom. She’d disappeared in 1974, and Byron wondered about her.
One cloudy day, as Byron walked past the sun peeked through the pesky clouds that set the icy breeze on the world, and shone on the ruins.
A glint in the rubble caught Byron’s eye. A tiny shimmer of something glimmered in the subdued sunlight just before the yawning entrance into the belly of the building.
“Kids,” he muttered, supposing some had dropped a shiny toy while playing.
He walked two paces, then stopped and glanced back; the shiny object winked at him.
I must be part magpie; he realized he could not walk away without knowing what shone in the rubble. A memory floated up his spine, but Byron suppressed it. It involved a Hot Wheels, a glaring policeman blocking a toy store’s exit, and a can of whoop-ass his mom had opened at home.
Byron realized not that he licked his lips and wrung his hands as the thing twinkled again. A quick glance; no one watched. Byron climbed the fence with the agility of a monkey. He trudged and traipsed through the stone crumbs toward the sparkle.
A haze had fallen on the street and the air smelled like rain.
“Curiosity killed the cat,” he grumbled as he almost turned his ankle on a precarious rock.
“But satisfaction brought it back,” he said when he reached the dark mouth of the ruins.
He scanned the ground for the gleam; his heart skipped when he saw it.
“Ha!” He exclaimed and picked it up.
He turned it in his hand and held it up to the glimmering light. It was an old coin; its engraving defaced by time and earth. Byron shrugged, and with a tiny ember of dismay, turned to go, when his eye caught another flicker further inwards. Beyond it, something else winked at him, and something else beyond that.
Byron grinned, unaware he did so, and a greedy sparkle shone in his eye. The memory of him shoplifting returned, and with it a feeling, a wish he’d buried that day, awoke. The Magpie stirred deep inside his body and compelled him to move, kneel and collect all the tiny shiny things scattered among the rubble.
It absorbed him, and before he knew it, he’d entered the deep guts of the building, never wondering how it could continue for so long and so deep.
As he picked up the last of the defaced shimmering coins, he glanced up. Darkness surrounded him, cavernous and tomb-like. The dense and musty air stifled him, and Byron’s first thought was I need to leave now. Yet, how? His eyes could not pierce the pitch dark.
A cold, ominous draft blew from within, and the surrounding walls rumbled with a deep groan. A terrifying thought snaked through his mind. The beast is awake.
Torn and yellowed posters pleading for the whereabouts of Byron Elster clung to the rusty fence as Rob’s eyes flickered with yearning for the winking trinket by the derelict building.