What is Wrong with the World Today?
Richard went to work that day because he was not fond of shopping. Even less fond of camping out in front of the latest technology store to buy a half-priced flat screen TV. The least fond of people who did that sort of thing. For Richard, Black Friday was just another day at his employer’s mediocre grocery store. Each year, the store owner, Carmichael, would attempt to catch the attention of local shopaholics and coupon-crazies with “unbeatable deals” on rotisserie chickens and the like. Each year would be slower than the last, as the world progressively materialized.
“Hi, Richie,” his coworker greeted him, strutting through the motion-sensored doors.
“Angie.” Of course, Richard never expressed any emotion, and so his love for her remained unknown. He sat on the stool behind his cash register, sipping the blackest of coffees, admiring in the most confidential of mental filing cabinets.
She tossed her jacket underneath her register. “And what is wrong with the world today?”
“I’m afraid that the short version is too long.”
“Fantastic. Life is meaningless and everyone deserves to die!”
“Attention!” Carmichael interrupted their small talk with the morning announcements. They all sounded the same. He discussed the daily coupons and whatnot. He eventually ranted about his wife. Angie disappeared to the bakery to retrieve her daily breakfast. Richard scribbled on the back of his apron with a black Sharpie, contemplating which pre-packaged frozen dinner he would bring back to his lonely apartment that night. Something about half-priced peas. That day, he was feeling the shredded pork and cornbread. Something about buy-one-get-one frozen crab cakes. Eventually, the store opened and just like every other morning at seven o’clock AM, customers were scarce. More small talk.
“Bet you that there’re less than fifty customers before noon,” Angie uttered between corn muffin crumbs.
“I don’t do bets.”
“What do you do, Richie? Are you a spy? A secret agent? Are you one of those cage fighters?”
“I saw this movie about a cage fighter once,” she interrupted, placing about three fourths of the muffin between her glossed lips.
“Scintillating,” he replied. He noted the crumb on the right corner of her lip.
“I wasn’t finished. It was pretty violent and this guy was the typical poor-guy-turned-hero, whatever, and the problem was that he was a total coward and showed up to the final fight late ‘cause he was embarrassed about fighting in front of the woman he loved!”
“You chose to watch it.” She wiped the crumb away, just as a can dropped in the aisle across from them. A startling sound. Carmichael rushed to the scene, hurriedly. Soon, the slamming of car doors and large groups of people filled the parking lot. They rushed to the store. Richie and Angie watched through the glass windows infested with “ONE TIME ONLY” posters.
“Let Black Friday commence,” Angie declared.
“So this is it?”
“The sales worked, people! They actually worked!” Carmichael beamed, zipping between registers.
“I guess so,” Angie unconvincingly murmured.
It took a little time to pick up. Speed-walkers. Men with large duffel bags ready for transport. Soccer moms in sweats and slicked-back hair, as if they’d come from yogalates. A few vloggers here and there documenting their experiences. Soon, sprinters. Fighting over non-perishables. Water jugs thrown. Canned goods clanged together, making an unsettling symphony of chaos. The people were manic.
“They must love those half-priced peas,” said Richard in disgust.
“Must be sick of Thanksgiving leftovers already,” replied Angie. More people. More swarming. Suddenly, cars pulled up to the front of the store. It began to pour unnaturally outside. Broken glass. Fender benders. Thieves. It all got out of hand fast. And yet, Angie’s eyes stayed glued on her cell phone screen as Prince preoccupied her ears. Richard did Sudoku, still sipping on his coffee.
Then, the terrifying, oddly-high-pitched shriek of Carmichael Lane. The two innocent grocery store clerks were shook from their dazes. In front of them was a jungle of rabid beasts and ruthless monsters. Theirs mouths hung open. From behind their cash registers, they quickly ran. In every direction, they saw clerical-workers-turned-psychopaths and school-teachers-turned-lunatics.
“What the hell is going on?” Richard questioned. Angie’s phone received a notification.
“Look!” The screen read, APOCALYPSE WARNING! NOT A DRILL! Richard didn’t know what to think or say. The store was no longer safe. He gave Angie a quick look before taking her hand and bolting out the door.
“Fuck Black Friday!” Richard bellowed behind them.