Tiny's Museum of Small Curiosities
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Step inside Tiny's Museum of Small Curiosities. . .
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Tiny stopped outside the shop that nestled in the nook between Badger Pass and Windwhistle Way. The window display was so peculiar, she wondered how she’d never noticed it before. She walked up to the marble entranceway which seemed a little too grand for such an ordinary shop. The doors were heavy and ornate, and seemed to stretch to the sky.
A sign read, “Museum of Small Curiosities. Now open!”
Ooh, I love small things, she thought, and clambered up each of the tall marble stairs.
As she reached the top step, she noticed the door to the museum was open a crack. She peered inside. Her belly did a back-flip. The room was full of space. Not the empty space that was full of nothing, but the space you see when you gaze through a telescope, or in the books at the library.
Moons and planets, comets and stardust swirled together in a dense black cloud. She could barely make out the door that stood open on the other side.
She poked her head into the darkness and called out. “Hello? Is there anybody there?”
There was no response. She took a small step forward. If she had a quick look around, she’d be home in time for tea. What harm could it do?
Tiny tiptoed past the door and stepped into the museum foyer. It was though she had stepped off a rocket-ship and fallen right into space. She floated in the cool darkness—as free as a dandelion seed—past bright stars, meteors, and planets suspended in their own orbits.
What happened to the gravity? she wondered, as a fiery-tailed comet heading headed straight for her path. As she body-swerved to avoid it, the force sent her spinning, and she cried out in surprise. But when she gazed up to see how far she had spun, there was no ceiling to stop her, only miles and miles of space.
Beads of sweat crowded her brow; she would have to stop her trajectory before she disappeared forever. She grabbed the doorframe, flip-turned against the molding, and torpedoed across the foyer through the door on the other side. Tiny fell to the ground with a thud. As she rose to her feet, the museum stretched ahead of her.
She bit her lip wondering if it was safe, then remembered the strange bird-shaped doll in the window that had made her heart flutter. She had to find it.
Tiny stood in the half-dark of the hallway. The only sound she could hear was the deep rhythmic thumping of her heart. Soon she heard another sound—a quiet mewling, followed by a hiss, then a purr. She looked to her left. Huddled in the shadows sat a kitten. Tiny sighed in relief, and inched a little closer.
As she approached, the cat turned to face her and gave a devilish smile. Tiny’s breath caught in her chest. Its body was a fading grey porcelain, and it wore smeared lipstick. One ear was chipped, an eyeball was missing, and the once-red bowtie was now a dusty pink. It stared at Tiny with unblinking yellow eyes.
“Hello, I’m Lucy,” it purred. “Are you here to take me home?”
“No, I’m afraid not,” stammered Tiny, finding her words. “I’m just looking around.”
The kitten’s face fell. “I’m waiting for my dad to take me home. He said he’d just be a minute. Feels like I’ve been waiting forever.”
Tiny gave a half-hearted glance over her shoulder. “I’m sure he’ll be along in a minute. What’s his name?”
“Nathan. I think. Some people call him Mr. Beelzebub. I just call him Dad.”
Tiny felt her stomach turn cold, but kept her voice steady, not wanting to sound rude. “If I see him, I’ll be sure to tell him you’re waiting.”
“That would be wonderful,” mewed Lucy, her face brightening. “Enjoy the museum! It’s a curious little place.” She stared into the darkness, expecting a door to open.
Tiny gave a quick wave, and walked briskly in the other direction.
Tiny left the kitten purring in the darkness, and scurried down the echoing corridor. She gazed all around her, eyes as big as buttons. The museum stretched in every direction with no end in sight. Objects, toys, tools and artifacts crowded the shelves—each desperate to be noticed—all waiting for their moment to shine.
As she scanned the dusty bays, she heard a clack clack clack on the smooth wooden floor. She turned to see a giant porcelain leg lumbering towards her at an alarming pace.
“Oh hello there,” called the leg a little out of breath. “You haven’t seen my twin have you, he’s around here somewhere.” The leg was missing both sock and shoe, and didn’t seem to mind. For that matter, it had lost the rest of its torso.
Tiny felt her cheeks flush. She had only been here five minutes, and she was already being asked questions she couldn’t answer—first by Lucy, and now by this funny old leg.
“Well if you see him, tell him I’ll be waiting by the Wall of Eyes on Bay 876. I’ve nearly got my 5000 steps in!”
Tiny raised an eyebrow.
“We share everything,” said the leg as it clattered by. “Even our morning constitutional. Cheerio!”
Tiny gave a feeble wave, but the disembodied leg had already faded into the distance.
She bit her lip. Bay 876? How big is this place? The day was getting stranger by the minute.
Tiny continued on her journey. Her eyes trailed the towering shelves for the mysterious bird-shaped doll she’d spotted in the window. She sidestepped a swirling dust bunny, and almost tripped over a red plastic shoe that was small enough for Tiny’s foot to slip into. Her senses tingled as she turned a corner—she had the distinct impression she was being watched. A flash of movement caught her eye, and she snapped her head up to see a shadow disappearing between the tins and bottles above.
“Ay up love, you’ve just missed ‘im,” said a low husky voice. “If yer quick, ye might just catch ‘im.”
Tiny searched desperately for the source of the female voice. It seemed to be coming from a jar on the highest shelf. She placed her hand over her eyes, and squinted into the flickering fluorescent light. “Use that there ladder. Hurry up!”
Tiny looked about her. Hidden in the shadows was a rickety wooden ladder. On its base was a set of wheels—it looked just like the ladder in the village library. She gulped. It seemed to stretch up to the sky. But she gathered her courage, grabbed it with both hands, and slid it to the left.
“Nay, lass,” bellowed the voice. “The other left. That’s right.”
With the ladder in position, Tiny took a deep breath. She placed one foot on the rung, then another, until she was climbing towards the wooden countertop, her stomach swirling more furiously with every step.
‘Don’t look down,’ sang the voice. But it was too late. As she glanced down to the ground below, the ladder wobbled, and slid backwards on its wheels. Tiny leapt towards the counter, just as the ladder crashed to the ground. There was no turning back.
“Oops,” giggled the voice.
Tiny watched the ladder sprawl helplessly on the ground. Now there was only one way she could go. The voice was still giggling. “Sorry love. Come on up.”
Tiny began to climb the shelves, squeezing past bottles, pots, and boxes.
“Well excuse me!” said a haughty jar of hand-cream.
“Oi! Watch my corners!” squealed a crisp paper carton.
Tiny apologized profusely. As she heaved herself over the topmost shelf, Tiny’s hand flew to her mouth. She was face-to-face with a headless doll. It was stuffed into a plastic container, and wild frizzy hair frothed from the top like a geyser.
Well, what did you expect, a supermodel?” guffawed the voice.
Tiny stammered. “Ah, hello. I’m Tiny.”
I’m Barb. Y’alright?” She continued without waiting for an answer. “I used to be Malibu Barbie, but had an accident with a jet-ski. Been in a bit of a bind ever since.” Barb grinned, waiting for Tiny to speak. Tiny was speechless.
“Hey, do ya fancy a drink? It’s a bit lonely up ‘ere on me own.” Barb’s eyes glistened. Tiny couldn’t bear to say no. Barb reached behind her and pulled out two glasses of Pina Colada.
“I always have ‘em ready. In case I get visitors.”
Not wanting to be rude, Tiny nodded and reached for the drink. She took a sip, and her taste-buds tingled, the sweet pineapple and coconut instantly transporting her to a tropical island.
Barb watched, a dreamy smile on her face. “My favorite surf-side tipple.”
They sipped, and chatted. It was nice. Drinking cocktails, with Malibu Barbie, dreaming of sunsets.
Tiny drained her glass, and licked her lips. “Thanks, Barb. You mix the best potions.”
Barb blushed. “If you’re looking for that bird-man, you’d best be quick. Just go through the hole in the shelf. He can’t be far.”
Tiny gave a final wave, and slipped through the circular hole into the pitch black tunnel.
Tiny ducked her head and entered the jet black tunnel. The Pina Colada that Barb had prepared churned in her stomach like a flea-circus ferris-wheel.
She sat for a moment until her eyes adjusted to the dark. She was inside a long, black tube. Behind her, Barb snoozed in her plastic blister pack, and ahead in the distance, a milky white circle hung like a moon in the shadows.
“It’s the light at the end of the tunnel,” Tiny said out loud, and the belly-fleas stopped as though listening. “It must be where the bird-doll ran to.”
Tiny got on her hands and knees and started to crawl. She placed one hand on the cool black surface. A light illuminated overhead. She lifted her hand up. Darkness surrounded her again. She repeated the gesture with one hand then the other, and two lights appeared in bright geometric shapes. Tiny crept tentatively through the space. The lights popped on one-by-one, until she was inside a kaleidoscope of color that sparkled and glowed like a disco tunnel.
Goodness. What was in that drink? thought Tiny. But in that moment, the tube began to revolve-slowly at first, but gathering speed. Tiny’s breath quickened.
She crawled faster, panting and sweating, and desperate to escape this peculiar carnival ride. When the deafening organ music boomed and the lights started to flash, Tiny jumped to her feet and ran. The light was almost blinding. With eyes squeezed shut, she leapt through the circle of light, and disappeared into the great unknown.
Tiny leapt through the bright circle of light. With eyes squeezed shut, she held her breath, and waited to fall. Instead, she found herself floating in a pine-scented breeze—suspended in a landscape that was soft and padded, and constructed entirely from fabric. Birch trees cut from heavy brocade stretched high into a blue velvet sky, and far below on the ground lay a bright patchwork eiderdown, which undulated in patterns of flowers, stripes, and swirls.
Tiny drifted on her belly, as though paddling through a vast ocean of air. A formation of birds glided overhead, and when she peered closer, she noticed they were elegant, gold-plated scissors. Tiny waved, and almost tipped over.
“It’s a small human,” trilled the largest of the scissor-birds, flapping open its handles to propel itself forward. “Hello, smallest human. What are you doing all by yourself in the Space Behind the Shelf?”
“I’m looking for the bird-man,” called Tiny, trying to keep her balance.
The scissor birds looked at each other, snipping their razor-sharp beaks.
“He came through the circle just a minute ago,” She added.
“Time has no meaning here,” said the bird. “A second could last a minute, could last an hour, could last a day. . .”
Tiny stopped swimming and treaded air, wondering how much time had actually passed.
The scissor-bird positioned itself in front of Tiny. “Hold onto my handle, girl, and we’ll get you out of here in no time. We don’t want you getting trapped in a time-patch.”
Tiny obliged without protest. A dark faux-fur cloud was growing in the distance. She grabbed the smooth curve of metal, and sailed through the landscape, feeling the rush of air around her eyeballs. It was turning out to be the strangest of days.
Tiny sailed through blue silk skies. Gripping tightly to the scissor-bird’s handle, she marveled at the fabric patchwork that formed the landscape below. The sun was already setting in the Space Behind the Shelf, and a glittering sequin orb drifted towards the horizon, filling the air with a metallic orange glow. The scissor-birds slowed, and Tiny watched the ground rise up to meet her. Her feet bounced on the cushion of crocheted green moss.
“You’ve reached the end of the room, smallest human. This is as far as I can take you,” snipped the scissor-bird. “Enter the door to the watercolor forest. And tread lightly.”
Tiny furrowed her brow, and looked towards a door frame that hung in the middle of a tall brick wall.
“Time has no meaning here; space has no meaning there,” said the scissor-bird, nodding towards the door.
Tiny smiled, although none of it made any sense. She thanked the birds for the ride, and waved until they were miniscule pricks of light, merging with the silver star buttons that emerged from the darkening sky.
Tiny wandered towards the brick wall. In its center, a doorframe appeared to lead to a watercolor painting of a forest where pine trees swayed in a breeze. The sun was setting in this land too, although it was different to the sky in the Space Behind the Shelf. Its colors swirled in ribbons of soft light, carrying a scent of peach, gold, and raspberry cream. Tiny closed her eyes to breathe in the intoxicating fragrance. She reached up her hand, and pushed it inside. The air was cozy and delicious, and Tiny’s hand felt like it was wrapped in a blanket of love. She climbed onto the doorframe, felt the light warm her face, and stepped into the painting.
Tiny hopped down from the frame of the painting, and landed on the ground with a crunch. She was a small clearing in a forest. The earth was covered with a carpet of bronze pine-needles which glinted in the warm golden light. She turned to look at the painting, but all she could see was the other side of the brick wall. There was no turning back.
In the center of the clearing stood a signpost with metal signs pointing in three different directions. She read each one in turn. ‘Exit through the gift shop’ said the one pointing to the left. Tiny felt a twinge in her belly that was part joy, part dread. I love gift shops, she thought, but I’m not ready to leave just yet. The second sign read, ‘Pot luck!’ She shuddered. Too daring. The third sign pointed somewhere vaguely to the right. It said, ‘The Little House of Senses.’ It sounded intriguing, and the only option left.
As Tiny turned to move in the direction of the sign, the trees encircling the clearing bent back their trunks to reveal a crooked path. A flurry of rainbow bubbles rose from the ground, and she heard a gentle tinkle of wind-chimes. As she stepped onto the trail, the air was suddenly glittery and scented with peach. Tiny’s chest fluttered. The museum wants me to go this way! This is going to be fun. And without a second thought, she skipped towards the House of the Senses, stepping over the half-broken sign that read, “Now Under New Management.”
Tiny followed the trail of rainbow bubbles. She could hear a delicate clink and a clack, and looked up to see that the trees were filled with dozens of miniature wind-chimes. Some were made from dessert forks, others from elegant spoons, and one was made from a china tea set.
‘It’s like having tea with the wind!’ She thought with a chuckle.
But soon the tinkling grew quiet, the bubbles faded, the forest was filled with an ominous silence. The moment she rounded the corner, her breath caught in her chest, and refused to come out. Towering high above, was the tallest birdhouse she had ever seen, with a beastly looking owl as its gatekeeper.
The owl stared at her from mismatched eyes. His torso was cut crudely from cardboard, and he wore a thick velvet cape. On seeing Tiny, he hopped forward, and his face broke into a buck-toothed smile. “Welcome to the Houses of the Senses!” he announced excitedly. Choose your sense, stranger.”
“Oh, I’m not sure,” Tiny stammered, trying to remember them all.
“You may choose from five,” continued the owl. “Six if you are a wizard, which I presume you are not.”
"I’m sorry, I’m not a wizard,” she answered. “I’m just visiting the museum. I’m looking for a bird-man.”
“Not to worry,” said the owl, “everything you need is right inside.”
Tiny bit her lip. “I’ll pick sight.”
“Perfect choice,” he said quickly, herding Tiny towards the entrance.
“Come along now, get a move on,” he said through gritted teeth, and a half-crazed expression invaded his face. Tiny barely had time to object as she was propelled forward, feeling a knot of regret tightening in her stomach.
Tiny fell through the door to the House of Senses, landing face-down on the floor. She shivered, as though she was being watched. As she staggered to her feet, she jumped back in surprise. A hundred pairs of spectacles hung on the walls around her—sunglasses, goggles, bifocals, and monocles—and behind each lens, stared an eye. They blinked slowly, their gazes piercing. Tiny’s heart-bird fluttered, and she took a deep breath to calm it.
You chose sight! She scolded herself. Be Brave!
In the center of the wall, a pair of icy-blue eyes glared through cat-eye glasses. Its eyelashes were long and luxurious, and as they blinked, Tiny felt a cool breeze.
A high clipped voice filled the room. “You stand before the Wall of Eyes. What do you wish to see?” It sounded like a schoolteacher.
Tiny tried to find her voice, which she found hiding behind her heart-bird. “I’m looking for the bird-man,“ she stammered. “I saw him in the Museum window, but he ran away—in this direction, I think.”
The blue eyes rolled as though already bored. “Very well,” said the voice, “but first you must answer three riddles. ”
Tiny felt her palms grow sweaty, and she nodded in agreement.
“What makes our eyes feel lonely?”
Tiny thought for a moment, then blurted out the answer. “I know. It’s eye-solation!”
Blue-Eyes glared. “What do you call a pig with three eyes?”
“That would be called a Piiig,” replied Tiny in an instant.
Several eyes blinked rapidly as though giving applause.
“And finally,” announced Blue-Eyes, “what do you do if your teacher rolls her eyes at you?”
“That’s easy. Roll them back.”
Every eye on the wall creased at the corners. Tiny giggled too.
The blue eyes sparkled, and gave Tiny a wink. “Proceed young lady, and keep your eyes and ears wide open.”
A door in the floor opened up, revealing a spiral staircase.
Tiny stepped onto the spiral staircase. A noise drifted upwards—it sounded like music, maybe even singing. Something stirred in Tiny’s chest. She pattered down the stairs, her head spinning faster with each turn. As she reached the bottom step, the sound was booming. She clapped her hands over her ears, and turned to face the music.
A man stood on a stage in a forest clearing, surrounded by speakers, and a guitar in hand. His eyes were closed, and he seemed lost in the metallic twang of an electric guitar.
“Hello, I’m Tiny, just passing through,” yelled Tiny.
Spotting the girl, the man stopped playing. “Hey, I’m Jimi. Are you experienced along the watchtower, foxy lady?”
Tiny turned to see who he was talking to. Realizing he was addressing her, she blushed, and shook her head rapidly.
Oh baby, listen now,” he continued. "Technically, I'm not a guitar player, all I play is truth and emotion."
“You’re really good,” replied Tiny shyly. “Mister Jimi, the Eyes told me a bird-man came this way. Have you seen him?”
“Just a night bird flyin’ through the night.”
Tiny frowned. “So he did come this way?”
“With the power of soul, anything is possible,” he said smiling.
Tiny chewed her lip, trying to understand what Jimi was saying. “Do you mean that if I want something with all my heart, I’ll find what I’m looking for?”
Jimi looked her in the eye. “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens. Excuse me while I kiss the sky.”
Tiny nodded and sat down. She watched Jimi’s hands move along the guitar neck like dancing spiders. The sound he produced was like a rock-star angel—raw, fresh, and cool.
When he finished playing, Tiny stood up and gave him a clap. “Thank you, that was lovely.”
“Peace, love and happiness,” Jimi replied with a wink, and a door slid open in a nearby tree. Tiny waved, then scurried through it to the next room.
Tiny stood in the pitch black of the tree trunk. She sniffed at the air, and detected a heady blend of woodsmoke, toasted marshmallow, and overripe apples. It smelled like crisp autumn evenings in Willow Tree Cottage, and she felt a shiver of delight.
"I’m in the House of Senses,” she reminded herself. “I’ve visited sight and sound. So, this must be. . .”
All at once the lights came one, and Tiny found herself at the beginning of a long corridor. She stared, wide-eyed. The most unusual wall-sconces hung at intervals on the wood paneled walls.They were slender, furry, and capped with glistening red-brown noses. Tiny smiled in recognition. I know that snout!
She called up to the nearest light fitting. “Penny-dog, is that you?”
“No way!” came a high-pitched yelp, which was immediately replaced with a throaty boom that echoed through the hallway. “I am the nose that knows.”
Tiny frowned. “It’s just that you sound exactly like my best friend Pen. . .”
“No, Tiny,” interrupted the voice, now sounding a little cross. “I am the all-powerful nose that knows.”
Tiny pursed her lips, not wanting to cause a scene.
The snout twitched its silver whiskers. “Through the corridor, please. No running. No jostling. No . . . eww! Tiny, I think you need a bath.”
Tiny hung her head, feeling the hot flush of blood in her cheeks. She sniffed at herself and wrinkled her nose. “Sorry, Pen, I mean, all-powerful nose that knows. I might have missed my bath last Sunday.”
The nose snorted. “Follow the scent-guide. Last door on the right. Knock three times, stand on one leg, make a piggy nose, and stick out your tongue.”
"No, only kidding. Just knock. Professor Nosenthal will smell you.”
Tiny suppressed a giggle and followed the ribbon of scent that snaked through the corridor. It smelt surprisingly like Miss Rose’s Sunday roast. She licked her lips and scurried towards Professor Nosenthal’s study.
Rat a tat tat. Tiny knocked on the heavy wooden door to Professor Nosenthal’s study. The door creaked open, and a delicate wooden doll appeared in the doorway wearing an old-fashioned flowery dress.
“Ah, here at last,” she said. “I’m afraid Professor Nosenthal is on vacation—trekking barefoot in the Andes, I believe. Do come in.”
Tiny hesitated, feeling her arms prickle.
“Don’t worry, it’s all quite safe,” she replied with a giggle, pressing a button to her side. The melodic tones of a Viennese waltz filled the air, and Tiny entered a laboratory. She followed the doll as it floated inches off the floor towards a table set for afternoon tea where a stiff wooden mannequin stood to attention.
“I am Ana Lucia, and this is Joseph. Please sit.”
Joseph shuffled menacingly towards Tiny, giving her no choice but to take a seat. The table was filled with a mouthwatering spread—sandwiches, tarts, and delicious looking cakes. As Ana Lucia took a seat, Joseph leapt straight into her lap. Tiny stared goggle-eyed. Ana Lucia had neither nose nor mouth. A shiver ran down her spine.
“Eat. You must be hungry,” said the doll.
Tiny’s stomach churned, but she picked up a jam donut and took a small bite.
“Mmm, delicious,” cooed Ana Lucia, as though eating it herself. Tiny nodded, her mouth as dry as the Sahara.
“Now take a bite of that,” said the doll impatiently, pointing to a chocolate cupcake. Joseph rocked with excitement and clattered his wooden feet together.
“It looks lovely, but I’m quite full,” Tiny croaked.
Ana Lucia screeched back. “I will decide when is enough.”
Tiny felt her face flush red. She pushed the panic back into her chest and nibbled at the cupcake. A tiny slither of paint appeared on Ana Lucia’s face. With each bite, the paint-stroke grew until it morphed into a pair of cherry red lips. Tiny watched in horror as Ana Lucia licked them with relish.
To be continued. . .