Story one: rain
The light behind the large windows that were partially covered by posters had long faded and only somewhere far away, the horizon still glowed softly, in gray-pink hues as if to remind everyone that the working day was over and it was time to go home and get comfortable in your favourite armchair.
The nature’s subtle hint went unnoticed.
In the large darkened room, where only one lonely lamp was lit, there was no one aside from the girl who was busy arranging papers behind the counter. And no one were to join her either, because the doors were locked – the store closed. But work was not yet over for the dark-haired girl wearing a mildly tired expression. As the the owner of the store and a person who, out of the kindness of her soul, had let her assistant leave before the closing time, she had to finish the work. She didn’t catch any of the beautiful sunset, because large buildings were blocking the view outside. For her, the world had just once again turned dark.
Although the lights were almost completely off, aside from the one above the counter, the interior of the room could still be seen. This particular store was the kind of place that most of the time only attracted two kinds of people. Some would admire it, regardless of whether they found the place by accident or came on purpose, here they found feelings of joy and kinship, a brightly coloured cheerful world that was a place close to their own hearts. The other kinds of people, well, they passed the store and wondered who on Earth would spend money and time on that kind of nonsense? Maybe their own childhood (or perhaps their whole life?) had been too dark to enjoy something simple and bright, or maybe they were simply the sort who lived in the “harsh reality”, where there was only room for responsible decisions and the struggles of life. Well, they were both entitled to their opinions, to each their own. But regardless of what some people thought, the store continued to exist, delighting fans of anime, TV series, comics, films and many other things with various goods.
But it wasn’t really the store itself or even the things that were sold there that made it so attractive for some and even caught the attention of others. The thing that made the store so pleasant to be in, was not a thing at all, it were the people, who worked there.
The girl behind the counter looked tired. She had grown frustrated with the deep and profound sense of disappointment she constantly met in the outside world, the one that was full of those living in the “harsh reality”, people who considered the meaning of life to be money and who tried hard to prove their importance and the fact that they belonged in this society by spending their time trying to make it to the highest step of the corporate ladder. She was frustrated with the world, where she witnessed most people simply doing their jobs to survive, working long and hard as part of a mass of grey, tired, indifferent people serving hundreds and thousands of people just as indifferent as them, people who are used to being taken for granted, to being used, only so that by the end of the day they could go and sit in a comfortable chair at home. Our shopkeeper did all she could so that her life would not become like that. She did everything she could in order to bring joy to her own life as well as to the lives of her clients and taught her employees to try and do the same. Her goal was to do whatever it took not to become just a salesperson, a soulless robot serving others.
If one’s work is done with joy and passion it would turn this place, and any other place, special and magical. That was the way work should be done. And the girl did her job well.
So she was tired from a job well done, although there had not been many customers that day, whenever possible she had talked to every one of them, had smiled, and joked. Some of their names she had already known, some she would remember after today. She answered her visitors’ questions, explained things and apologized if a client could not find what they were looking for. Opening a store from scratch a few years ago and making it a place that embodies the very essence of what they sold had not been easy. But she had known it would be the right thing to do. She was tired, but she paid it no mind, already used to it – she was used to finishing things up, no matter how much bookkeeping or cleaning there was left by the end of the day.
She only lifted her gaze from her calculations when rain began to drip from the now simply dark grey sky, distracting her. She looked outside and suddenly found herself thinking that working so much somewhat contradicted her goals. But if she didn’t do all the work, who would? Someone had to take the opportunity, do the initial hard stuff so that others could freely pick the fruits of a job well done. Someone had to become the filter between the bright and colourful exterior of the store and absorb all this bureaucracy that came with it.
She ran her hand over her face, that now, when the day was over, could express some of the fatigue that she felt had accumulated over the course of the day. Still, despite her struggles she would remain determined, as she once again dove into her papers, standing behind the white, shiny counter that reached up to her waist.
Some minutes had passed when the door, located just three meters from the counter, suddenly opened slowly, letting in the noise of the street and the rain. Judging by the figure, a woman, in a long, dark gray and wet raincoat, with her high lapels pulled up so high that her face could not be seen, entered the room. She took two confident steps inside and stopped, staring deep into the room, as if she was looking for something. The door behind her closed with a click. The young shopkeeper looked up and smiled out of habit, genuinely happy to see a late customer.
“Hello! How may I help you?”
The girl’s voice was pleasant and clear, greeting her customer automatically and only then realizing that the store was closed. Closed in all senses of the word.
“This is my last assignment,” a low, unemotional deep voice sounded from under the hood. “I’m tired. And you can help me, yes.”
The voice itself did not seem tired, instead it was rather thoughtful and sounded a bit spaced out, as if the person speaking were expressing some distant heavy thoughts. But the figure itself, the way she entered and held herself, did seem tired. Or rather radiated the fatigue of a long journey. There was something very familiar in that … almost noble, deserved tiredness. It was similar to the feeling the shopkeeper often felt. For some reason, she could easily recognize it. The guest’s voice seemed strange – the way she sounded – but the girl didn’t immediately pick up on what about it alerted her.
The shopkeeper never got to finish her question, because the guest turned to face her, throwing off her hood and revealing slightly curly, pitch black hair that reached her shoulders. Looking at her, the shopkeeper froze, obviously startled. The guest just gauged her the reaction in silence. Water was still dripping to the floor from her raincoat.
A few seconds passed and then suddenly, for no apparent reason, the shopkeeper exhaled and all the tension and surprise left her, as if she had reached some sort of a decision. A slight smile touched her lips, but her gaze became serious and attentive.
“You know,” she said slowly, tilting her head slightly to one side: “I think I may have been waiting for something like this for a long time.”
“Of that I have no doubt,” the visitor answered confidently, also smiling slightly. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be here. My name is Anix. I have come to tell you my story.”
They say there is some power in the universe. Some force that exists always and everywhere. It can have different forms and bear different names, come and go, create or destroy, be understandable or absolutely incomprehensible. It may exist at different times and then cease to be, but the essence of this force remains unchanged. And it’s essence is Balance.