Excerpt from Buttons

“There’s a…residue that clings to everything, like old cigarette smoke, but it’s not physical, it’s spectral. I can feel it. Everything’s tainted.”

Teag looked at me over his trendy eyeglasses. “If it’s so dark, how come we let it go to auction?”

“Sorren and I went down to the auction site while you were busy dealing with the rest of the event details. We tagged everything he and I thought had a powerful enough resonance to warrant a second look, and had it taken out of the auction until we could go through it.”

“So what you’re saying is, we’ve got a whole shipment of ‘spookies’, or at least ‘sparklers’,” he replied dryly. “Wonderful.”

“Sorren says he’ll be here after sundown to help us go through everything,” I said. “All we need to do is catalog what came in, and let him know if anything in particular gives off a strong vibe.”

“If anything gives off a vibe strong enough for me to feel it,” Teag replied, “it would probably knock you flat on your behind. You might want to let me open the boxes and have a first look.”

“Fine by me. I’m going to start on the buttons.” Buttons speak to me more often than most objects. I’ve always thought it was because they were worn for long periods of time, day in and day out, often close to the skin.

I reached for the large tray I use to sort buttons, and picked up the jar to dump it out. I felt a tingle in my hand, and I knew that I’d be picking up strong images from some of these buttons. Strong…but nothing felt evil. I promised myself I would be careful.

I watched as a river of old buttons spilled out onto the tray. Mid-Twentieth Century and older, I guessed, watching the array of colors and shapes waterfall out of the jar. Some, made of metal, wood and bone, looked much older.

I picked up a pencil and used the eraser end to poke the pile of buttons. Using the pencil insulated me from the full strength of the impressions, but didn’t block them altogether. That was helpful when I wanted to keep my wits about me.

Images flashed through my mind on many of the buttons. The echo of a child’s laugher sounded in the distance when I touched a plastic, heart-shaped button. A round ivory disk yielded a woman’s voice, humming to herself and an image of rolling out dough in a kitchen. My pencil flicked among the buttons, and in my mind I saw the blackboard in a long-ago school room from a shirt button, memories of a heavy winter storm from a coat’s fastener, and the distant strains of an orchestra from a dainty pearl ball. It went on like that for a few minutes, glimpsing fragments of long-ago lives, until my pencil hovered above one particular button.

An image came to me so clear and strong that it transported me beyond the back room of my shop.