Arctos: Second Life Thrift – Part 1 (Patreon Early Access)

There’s a new story up for Patrons! If you support me at the $5 level or higher, you can find it here. For everyone else, here’s a sneak peek. It’s got two parts, I’ll post the first part next week, and the second part the week after that, but Patrons will get early access to them both, today and tomorrow!


Well, he’d made it. Life as a single dad wasn’t what Brian had signed up for, and raising his son all these years while holding down his job had been a struggle, but the moment that he’d been aiming for was past–his son, Tim, was off to college, a find young man himself now, and Brian found himself sitting in his now much emptier house wondering, “Now what?”

He’d been ecstatic at first. Privacy! Time to finish the projects in the garage he’d started, but that had always been delayed because of Tim’s school work, or extracurricular activities, or community service work. But that eagerness lasted about a month, when the depression set in. The projects were still sitting there. Brian was spending more and more time after work just sitting in front of the TV, a microwave dinner in front of him with a beer or six, drinking and wondering why his son didn’t call him more often. Is this all he had now? He thought back to when he was younger, and all the things he’d wanted to do, a life he’d pictured for himself before his family had taken over so much, but it was hard to remember any of it. It was a ghost, really, lingering in the corners of his mind, haunting him. 

He didn’t remember how he stumbled on the web site. An online ad, probably, for some service provided by a company called Arctos, and after clicking through a few links, he’d found himself poking around an online thrift shop. It was called Second Life Thrift, which seemed like rather intense branding for some second hand clothing. But one thing kept dragging his attention back, day after day–this biker jacket. It was well worn but still in decent condition from what he could see. He’d always wanted to own a motorcycle, but it had been cast off, just one dream like so many others that he’d never managed to fulfill, too busy making sure his son was provided for. But what was stopping him now, exactly? He dropped a mention of it to his son in a phone call, and Tim laughed at the thought of his dad wearing a bunch of leather and riding around on a bike. But rather than snap him out of it, it only made Brian consider it further. The price was a bit steep for second hand, but it wasn’t like you could find stuff like this at every thrift store. One night, after a couple of extra beers, he pulled the trigger on it. More likely than not he’d wear it around a bit and then it would gather dust in a closet somewhere, but at least, for the moment, he’d feel like he had control of his life again. Maybe it would pull him out of this funk, at least.

It wasn’t until he perused the confirmation email, and noticed that it had been divided into three shipments, that he realized he hadn’t just bought a leather jacket–he’d bought an entire lot of second hand goods! No wonder the price was so steep. There was no inventory of what was included, but he did figure out that the shop wasn’t so much a thrift store, as a front of estate sales. All of the goods belonged to one guy, apparently, who was, sadly, no longer alive. A bit morbid, really, but at least the name made more sense now. No wonder the shop didn’t advertise that more extensively.

A few days later, the first shipment arrived. He wasn’t quite sure what he’d been expecting, but three sizable boxes were left for him while he was at work, and he dragged them into the house. They were numbered from one to three, so he decided he might as well start with the first one. He broke the tape, opened it up, and coughed a bit from the smell–leather, but also…well, he wasn’t quite sure what the musk was rolling off the contents of the box was. He pulled the first item out, and found himself looking at the jacket he’d thought he was buying all along, so at least he had that. It…stank a bit. He’d have to get it dry cleaned at some point, but he couldn’t quite resist the desire to try it on. He did, and was a bit annoyed to find it was too big. That was the problem with buying stuff over the internet, he supposed, you never quite knew what size you were getting. If everything else was this big, well, a lot of it would be going to the dump today. Underneath the jacket was a bunch of denim jeans, all of them unwashed as far as he could tell, and covered with dirt and stiff with unidentifiable stains. He pushed them away, not really wanting to touch them, and pulled the next box over–only to be further disgusted–sitting there, right on top of the second box, was a pair of clearly soiled briefs. He didn’t move them, but under those he could see other clothes, socks, more underwear, some t-shirts, and the stench was…well, his eyes weren’t quite watering, but it wasn’t good. The third box didn’t have clothes at least, but it’s contents were no less disappointing. On top, wrapped up in some bubble wrap, was a clock, surrounded by a neon sign that said, “It’s always drinking time!” and below that, was a humidor well stocked with a collection of cigars.

Brian wasn’t much of a drinker, and he’d never smoked a cigar in his life. Still, he might be able to sell them and get the cost back for what he’d paid. For now, though, all of this was going out to the garage where it wouldn’t stink up the rest of the house, and left the jacket on top of the boxes with the rest. He’d try wearing it again after he got it cleaned up.

The rest of the evening passed normally, aside from the fact that Brian couldn’t quite shake the sensation that he wasn’t alone in the house. It wasn’t the first time he’d felt jumpy since his son had left for college, but this was different, somehow. Like there was something around him, something poking around his house, poking at him too. He probably just felt weird after going through the boxes–after all, he had a dead guy’s stuff sitting out in the garage, why wouldn’t he feel weird? He turned in a bit early, worried that he might be too unnerved to sleep, but he didn’t have trouble at all–but once he was out, that was when the dreams started.


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