Before Zach arrived, Terra Incognita was in decline. It had all the ambiance of an opium den. Near the front door, there were a few ragged cardboard boxes full of old comics in their plastic bags, but in the darkened rooms and dim aisles in the back, the slightly sweet smell of aging paper pulp and incense lingered in the air. Shelves lined the walls, sagging beneath the weight of paperbacks and comics and magazines, their edges beginning to yellow and flake. Shifting stacks spilled onto the floor, a Life magazine with a portrait of Liz Taylor or a Mad Magazine and Alfred E. Newman asking what me worry or Little Lotta or Richie Rich. Soft sounds within — the flutter of pages, the knock of a chair leg on the hardwood floor — came from a deceptive distance, someplace close and yet, somehow, very far away. A page would softly turn, and a pale face might glance up, a figure shifting now in the gloom, then gone, motes churning slowly in the dead air. It was easy to imagine getting lost in the close spaces and never finding your way back out.

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