The Record Realm

A blinking neon sign hung on the siding of a blocky beige colored building. Xero paused a few steps before it, entranced by the fading fluorescent colors and funky writing. ‘Record Store’, it promised. The name was as nondescript as its facade but for Xero it was a beacon in the dusk covered town. The sun was setting, casting its last embers across the area. Street lamps began to turn on, as the pink and purple hues painted the canvas. Palm trees began to sway in the gentle breeze. With no destination in mind and all the time in the world, Xero decided checking this place out couldn’t hurt.

As he pulled the door open, a bell rang above him.

Probably to alert the shopkeeper, he guessed.

The sight of the shop was impressive. Much more impressive than its nondescript exterior. Floor to ceiling full of records: boxes filled to the brim lining the two aisles, each of them on rollers so they could be shifted and make room to access even more records hiding behind them. It seemed overwhelming, the amount of options. Xero felt nervous as he glanced around, looking for something to catch his eye. Album covers of all types shouting for his attention. But the strangest thing, he noticed as he got closer to the racks, was that none of the albums had names or titles on them.

How peculiar, he thought.

The shopkeeper sitting at the back was leaning over the desk, eyes closed and entranced by the music that was playing through his headphones. Xero noticed that it was a cassette player.

Old school dude, I guess, he figured as he continued further into the shop.

The stale and musty smell of cardboard mingled in the air with some herbal incense burning away in the far corner, the smoke wafting the air in a circular motion. Peeling posters decorated the walls. The floor was a gray carpet that seemed like it didn’t have a cleaning since the store was open decades ago. This place definitely did not care about aesthetics. 

A violet colored album caught his eye. There were stars strewn about, a hazy azure swirl dancing across the width. Curiously, he rolled up the sleeves of his burgundy sweatshirt and picked up the album, making his way towards the record players on the top of the shelves, excited to listen to this mysterious album. Taking the record out of the sleeve, he placed it gingerly onto the player, setting the needle and placed the headphones over his head. The unmistakable crackling of the records started to pour through the headphones.

And then, the record store disappeared.

All of a sudden, a black canvas replaced the shop. The azure swirl from the album cover appeared before him, dancing in the darkness. It started to swirl around him and he felt a cool sensation wash over him. Stars started to sparkle and appear before the dark expanse, each blinking to its own rhythm. A melody trickled in…it sounded like wind chimes. Unsure of how much time passed, Xero felt lost in this space. It felt like no time at all yet all the time in the world.

Soon, the swirl started to fade and so did the darkness. The shop came back into view. He felt like he gently reentered the world that he had so suddenly left. Startled, he threw off the headphones. What just happened?? he thought. And as if the shop keeper read his mind, he stood up from his desk and walked over to Xero. 

“So, I guess you found the Blue Mist Portal.”

“Blue Mist Portal???”

The shopkeeper laughed as if he asked a silly question.

“Yeah. It’s in one of those smaller galaxies a couple light years from ours.”

Xero reeled in confusion.

A different galaxy? A couple light years? He knew that music had a psychedelic effect in the fact that it could take you to a different world but this was just too surreal for him.

Luckily, the shopkeeper went on.

“Oh, sorry bud. I should give you a little more backstory. You see…this isn’t just a regular record store,” he paused and smiled before continuing.

“It’s pretty special. You see, we specialize in records…but records of a different kind. They’re the type that brings you to different worlds. Different timelines. Different lives, if you wish. They’re records of different lives. You probably noticed that there are no words on the albums. Usually, you pick whatever draws you. Whatever pulls you in. Some people come in here looking for a different experience. For knowledge. For something to spark their soul. You can see what your life would be like in a different century. Maybe a ranch hand in the west. A mother in a rural village in India. A quiet life with your high school sweetheart that you broke up with. What it would be like to be pure consciousness in an alternate dimension. You know…we’re all looking for something. So this place gives you the opportunity to find what you’re looking for. Or try on a new shirt, so to say.”

The shopkeeper paused and lowered his glasses as he leaned in closer to Xero.

“So…what exactly is it that you’re looking for?”

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