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The Little Pet Shop Down The Road

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The world, strangely enough, did not tell many stories about haunted pet cemeteries. Maybe folks didn't want to think that their beloved Fluffy was wandering between gravestones, licking grave dirt from her fur. Maybe it was easier to just believe they all rested in peace. Most did, after all. And the ones that rarely stuck around their cemeteries. They haunted their owners, they haunted their favorite dog park. They haunted the next door neighbor's dog.

For there were plenty of pet ghosts, for all that there were fewer pet ghost stories. And like their living counterparts, these pets were prone to changing hands.

She leaned against the counter, watching the parakeets needle at each other in their cages. They were already dead, she knew. It wasn't as if they could hurt each other. Still, though, it was wise to keep an eye on them so they wouldn't get too terribly loud. Shrieking animals was very bad for business, even if her business was a haunted pet store.

It looked just like a normal pet store to outside eyes. There were just as many live guinea pigs as dead ones here, a fact which the live ones weren't particularly happy about. They knew, of course. The animals always knew. But the humans didn't. They just wandered in, pretty as you please, and played with rescue cats and snub-nosed dogs as long as the sun was in the sky. They had no idea what happened once the store's day staff went home and its night staff, comprised of one employee and one only, woke up for her shift.

To be fair, the store's day staff didn't know what she got up to, either.

But ghost animals needed homes just as much as live ones did. They were often confused about their new lease on life, knowing on an intrinsic level that the tumor had gotten them, or the car. They didn't know where home was anymore, and they missed a family that they could no longer remember. That was why it was so important to get them rehomed soon. A stray ghost was a temporary one.

She cared for them and played with them and loved them as much as she could. And every night, the recently deceased found her shop to find a companion for the end of the world.

"Do you have something -- something very small?" an old woman asked her, and she thought to herself.

"How about this?" she asked, and she led the woman back to the aquarium full of mice. Most of them were alive, were huddled up together in a snoring ball of fuzz, but there was one off to the side. It watched them with something like longing, but ghosts didn't sleep. It would be best to rehome this one as soon as possible.

"Oh, isn't he darling?" the old woman cooed, and the shopkeep smiled to herself. "Just right to keep in my pocket. I always wanted to travel the world, you see, and I think I've finally got the time to do it."

The shopkeep smiled a little wider. "I'd say you do," she said. "And you won't need to worry about Crackerjack there getting through customs."

"Well, that's just grand," the woman said, her see-through eyes going a little misty. "Maybe we'll try Paris."

The shopkeeper knew of another shop like hers in Paris, in a pretty little shop with flowers in its windows. "That sounds lovely. And please, don't worry about payment. All our pets here are free of charge."

The old woman laughed. "What would we do with the money anyway, dear?"

What indeed.

 

Every night as dawn spilled out over the horizon, the shopkeep made sure the cats were snug in their beds and the puppies weren't trying to chew on their live brethren's ears. She checked the ferrets' cage and the fish's water. And then she called her own pet, an enormous, grizzled old mutt that had been by her side long before she'd become incorporeal. She walked back to her own cemetery, which was, as the stories were happy to tell, quite haunted. And, with parakeets and lizards and hamsters dancing in her head, she went to sleep.