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All Miracles Fifty Percent Off

As soon as Bane walked through the door, he knew he was home. The shop was dim, lit only by a chink of light through the dusty shopfront window. Tiny motes disturbed the air, filling his sinuses and falling from the ceiling under the skitter of mice. The atmosphere was one of age and regret, cheerful pastels worn with time and abandonment.
Bane smiled, and limped his way to the counter. On his way he passed wonders of another age. Golden staffs and glittering wands, thin wheels of regal carriages, and blown-glass bottles of potions in every color. They brought him back to a simpler time. The woman behind the counter, however, was less than magical.
"What do you want?" she asked, showing him the dark stains of her teeth, and staring him down with once-kind eyes, and smile wrinkles turned to drooping.
Bane chose his words carefully. Best not to start off on the wrong foot. "Is this the Fair--"
"This is my shop," she snapped, her sour gaze curdling. "Buy something or get out."
Wrong foot it was.
"I'm here about your ad," Bane said. "A certain product I've been looking for, that only you can provide." He lowered his voice, and glanced around the shop, wary of noble onlookers. "It's said you sell happily ever afters."
She snarled. "I do. Not that the world has any use for them anymore."
It was definitely her. Her plump figure had withered, leaving the thin crone who stood before him, looking the part of the evil witch. It became her.
"Why is that?" Bane asked, making conversation.
The shopkeeper snorted, and looked down at him. She surveyed his black robes, and the scepter in his hand, the shadow of his malevolent face. "You don't get out much, do you? Exile, I suppose?"
Bane shifted, but didn't answer.
"Crowdfunding," the shopkeeper said. "Nobody needs magic anymore. Your evil stepmother works you to the bone, and you just know that with a dress and half a chance, you could turn everything around. That used to be my bread and butter. Now that same girl posts her sob story, and thousands chip in to get her a makeover, and they throw in a new house. Palaces, connections, corrective spine surgery. They can get whatever they want, no magic required."
Bane nodded. He had heard much the same, and seen it firsthand. He decided to take a risk. If he was to have what he wanted, there would always be risk. "Henchmen," he said. The shopkeeper glanced up. "In my day, henchmen were loyal, and could be paid a pittance. They were happy to do the job, and to be a part of something bigger than themselves."
The shopkeeper looked him over. "Social media."
He nodded again. "'Oh, I'll be your henchman,' they say. As long as it doesn't require anything more than calls to action and poisoned apple-memes. Not real henchmen, no. If you want them, you need interviews, and insurance plans, and Human Resources. How am I supposed to afford that?"
"Crowdfunding?"
"I'm not very personable."
The shopkeeper nodded. "It's about time people like us got what we deserved."
"That's what I'm here for. I'm tired of plotting and scheming. I'm tired of tireless pursuits and setbacks, when everything is handed to them just because they are beautiful, or have a the right backstory. Where is the justice in that?"
The shopkeeper considered him a moment, twisting her hair around a thin finger. "I can help you," she said. "But I want some changes. I give you this, and you use your power to change this."
"Of course!" Bane said.
"No more crowdfunding."
"None at all."
She smiled, and lifted a glittering wand, raising it high above his head. "To the future." She shook the wand, and tapped it on his head.
The world swirled in stars and light, and the shop fell far behind. In its place, a palace rose before him, tall and majestic, spires piercing the clouds.
Bane looked down to the frills of his dress, and the glass of his slippers.
It was perfect.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, June 5th, 2017

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