The Button Collector: Part I
Swain finds the world of lost things
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Updated: Friday, April 19, 2013 16:04
This is a story about lost things and the place where they end up.
This place has neither a proper name nor one precise location, and so it cannot be drawn up on any map, and it cannot be sent letters. Now of course there are ways of getting there (or else we might not believe that it existed at all), but the tricky thing to doing it is discovering the doorway, which always seems to be shifting itself about, changing its face and hiding just out of sight. Probably it does this because it gets rather bored waiting to be found (you might look to see if it is there in the corner of your pocket right now, waiting to have a go with you).
The doorway once appeared in the form of a quaint little cottage that hovered sixty feet above the ground, much to the confusion of the townspeople below (perhaps the oddest thing was that the cottage’s chimney stack was always smoking, although no one had been able to get up to it and they didn’t know who could have lit the fireplace). It has sometimes laid itself out into a frame of sorts, disguised as a landscape or a portrait, and you might dash into it then, but really that would be rather foolish, because even if you managed to fold yourself up into a painting you could not easily get out of it again.
It has happened once or twice that someone stumbled into the world of lost things completely by accident, when only a moment before they believed themselves to be going someplace else. This is because ordinary people do not recognize the doorway when they see it, and they are so often preoccupied with carrying sums and divisions in their heads that they haven’t much room for anything else. We might take a moment to grieve for them, and make efforts not to end up that way ourselves.
The doorway, in whichever form it takes, always lets off a strange glow, even if there are no bulbs nearby to shine on it. This light could be in the flashing face of a clock or the still eyes of a porcelain doll, and once you were nearer to it, you could hear a distant ringing at the back of your ears, which is actually made up of a million little voices whispering all the lost secrets of the world. You mightn’t know it at first, but that is what it is.
So it was by knowledge of these rules that when Claude Swain saw a light dance upon a glimmering button on Mrs. Gordon’s coat, and when he heard the thing giggling as she passed by, he knew the matter in an instant. He leaped out and made a grab at the button, and this is where our story begins.
Topher Daniel can be reached at email@example.com