My mind races, recalling everything I’ve seen and heard since I came into town as I head back to the register. I think I recall seeing someone turn down an aisle as I entered but I’m not sure. I wasn’t paying attention.There were two abandoned shopping carts of food by the entrance, which I AM sure of as I can still see them there.
“Hello?!” I raise my voice, hollering. My voice echoes through the store as it rebounds off the walls. I think I hear whispers, but my ears seem to be ringing now. I’ve been alone in my cabin for weeks and my solitude never bothered me… but there are supposed to be people here. The silence is getting to me.
“Huh, I guess there is a storm coming?” I look down at all the food sitting on the conveyor. Stores don’t usually abandon their posts until a few hours before the storm. I wonder if I will have time to get home. I don’t know anybody in town or I might ask to bunk there. Maybe I can go hide out in the police station? They’re just around the block.
“Well, shit.” I can’t just leave the food here. It could potentially be days before anyone comes back to work. I pile most of the stuff back into the cart and hurry off to shove it into the nearest freezer. I keep only the essentials; coffee, a few microwave dinners, coffee, some candy bars, a six-pack of soda, and, of course, a can of coffee. I’ll come shopping again once the world is back to normal.
I hit the buttons on the cashier’s computer, figuring I’ll just ring myself up so it’s not theft. The register is very helpful and kind as it assists me through my purchase. Scan items. Press here to pay. Credit or debit? Do you want cash back?
I press no, take the receipt, toss the bags back into the cart and head for the exit. I slow by the notice board to see if I missed an evacuation notice, or a big party at the Cruise house, or something along those lines.
The rain hasn’t settled since my arrival, which only furthers my belief in the coming storm. Those clouds on the horizon do look a bit dark. I abandon the cart before stepping into the rain and picking up my pace into a light jog. I reach my car, shift everything into one arm, and fumble for my keys to open the trunk. I slide the keys in and freeze as I hear a sudden and alarming screeching on the other side of the parking lot.
Turning around I immediately find the source, and the first signs of life since… well, since I locked myself in my cabin. A seemingly drunk driver swerves around a corner at a very high speed. Their pickup truck wobbles, tipping up onto two wheels for just a second before settling roughly back on all four. The driver seems to struggle to regain control of their vehicle, jerking the wheel around the straighten the wheels and pull out of a fishtail. They almost have it, but a streetlight gets in their way and their truck comes to a very sudden halt through it. The horn blares as they fall on it, the headlights flicker for a few seconds then die, and the front wheels spin in the air as the front end of the vehicle is proper up off the ground, resting on the bent post.
I stare, amazed.
Did that just happen? Holy shit! Did that really just happen? Are they alright?!
The groceries get tossed on the roof of my car so I can fish my phone out of my pocket, suddenly realizing that I’m the only person witnessing this even. I start walking toward the incident as I dial nine-one-one, and pick up into a light jog as I press the phone to my ear. I get a recording telling me that I have no service.
The phone is dropped into a jacket pocket as I pick up the pace a bit further. I’m a hundred yards from my car when a small group of people round the same corner the truck emerged from. I notice the uniform one of them wears and I slow my pace as the group rushes to the truck. An officer of the law; he can do a lot more in this situation than I ever could, and they’ll get there much sooner than I will. They will probably want to talk to me as a witness once they get the driver on an ambulance.
I’m halfway through thinking what good fortune it is that an officer was so close when the world takes a deeper dive into the Twilight Zone. The officer leaps up, springs off the bumper of the truck, and vaults himself into the empty bed. He smashes into the roof of the can, raises his fists and pounds down upon it like an agitated gorilla. Three others round the side of the truck, one bashes at the door, another at the side window, and the third climbs upon the hood to pound on the windshield.
I stop in my tracks.
What the fu-
The side window shatters and the attacker half climbs inside. They grab the limp form of the driver and violently yank them from the seat, pulling them through the glass shards of the window and throwing them to the ground. The others join them, swarming upon the unconscious, or possibly dead form. The driver isn’t resisting or showing any sign of consciousness. The assailants fall upon their prey, crawling over each other as they reach, grab, yank, punch, pull. They throw blows at each other, and at the unconscious driver. Two of them grab the unconscious form by either arm and begin to tug as though trying to tear them in half.
What the hell is happening right now?
My mind searches its database of reality for any sort of logical explanation for what I’m seeing right now but all I can come up with is; there isn’t one. This is nonsense. This doesn’t happen in reality.
“HEY!” Someone yells. It takes me a moment to realize that the someone is me, yelling on some sort of instinct I would have told myself to avoid if I had considered consulting with me before doing so. The officer and the other individual not currently playing tug-o-war stop fighting and look at me. Their stares are lost and confused, but realization breaks across their faces and they instantly start sprinting at me; not jogging, not running, but full-on sprinting.
I manage an “Oh shit!” as I back up a few steps, turn, and begin running back toward my car. The short distance between the car and myself didn’t seem that great just a moment ago, but suddenly it feels like a mile. I run it as fast as I can and slam into the side of my car, not wasting my time by slowing down. I risk a glance over my shoulder as I shove my hand into my pocket. They’re gaining, quickly… and my keys aren’t here. I waste half a second before recalling that I left them in the lock of the trunk. I round the car, grab the key-chain, yank, and snap the key in the lock.
“Shit,” I say under my breath. My eyes yes dart back and forth over the back of the trunk. I’m not sure what I’m trying to think up, some plan, maybe, to get inside? I was another second.
The station is around the block, on the other side of the market. If I can maintain a safe distance from the others for that long, I can get inside to the safety of the police. I take off around the car and quickly regret my diet of cereal and ding-dongs. Those weeks of sitting and writing have left me tired very quickly but my life is at stake here! I’m running on adrenalin. I can’t stop.
I peek over my shoulder; they’re much faster than I am. They’re only 50 feet away by the time I round the corner of the market. I can see the station in the distance. 25 feet away.
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!
Even my internal voice is out of breath.
I reach the last corner. The station is only across the street, but I miss my footing as I hop the curb and stumble into the street. The nearest one dives and manages to grab my ankle. I trip, topple and smack my face into the ground. I roll onto my back, throwing a kick at the face of the man and I see the officer right behind him. He dives into the air, leaping over his accomplice. I clench my eyes shut and wince.
I hear the thunk, followed by the most indescribable pain… and everything goes black.