Hello, my unwashed masses! I wrote this short story a few months ago, so I thought I’d share it with my citizens. It was inspired by my employment at Kmart, and the many bizarre customers I encountered there. Perhaps one day I’ll share some of those stories, but in the mean time, here is the first of hopefully many fictional works that I’ll post here.
The hallowed halls of the local Kmart gleamed gently with a handsome finish that only skilled custodial appendages could have wrought. The cash registers shone from the storefront like diamonds, and in the back there sat a towering metaphorical pillar of efficient intensity know in ancient legends as the Layaway Department. In between were the endless product badlands, and the fearless roamers that protected them from rabid, delinquent customers. I stood, vigil, at my post by register 6. My eyes scanned the grizzled landscape… for around twelve minutes, before I began to hum a Beach Boys song and dig through the bargain movie bin.
As I skimmed through two or three old Coen Brothers movies and thirteen copies of Bio Dome, I heard footsteps before me. I shot up and saw a customer standing there. She was a middle aged warrior with confidence in her stride and a coupon savvy gleam in her cold, dead eyes that told me that she ate eager little Kmart rookies like me with her gluten free wheat blend.
The ancient chant waxed powerful from my darkest mental recesses. I spake its verse with tender respect and awed finality.
“Hi! Are you a rewards member with us today?”
She stared at me intensely. Who was I to question her extensive savings prowess with the assertion, the mere question, that she had not harvested the use from another plastic savings card? I gulped nervously and I walked around to my sanctuary in register 6. She began to unload her cart onto the table. Twelve juice cartons. Twenty cob web ridden Halloween costumes. A long-discontinued flavor of pudding. The mass was astonishing. Mardi-Gras beads in a three pack. Five pristine sweaters, all blue light specials.
After several minutes, it was finished. The scanner, its internal lithium ion battery depleted, blinked soft, calm green flashes that filled the small register space. I sighed in relief. I had done my work well, one obedient little worker bee in an exhausted sea of shuffling minions, and soon I would have the paycheck to prove it. But alas, my brief respite faded back to its dirty mental cage as she opened her purse. A hail of flapping white paper burst from its chic red zipper pockets that filled my eyes and blacked out the flickery florescent sun. Coupons. Masses of them.
My trusty scanner in hand, I dove diligently into the pile, sustaining paper cut after damaging paper cut in my quest to mark down her five pound cat food bags and discount bin Donna Summer best of CDs. The slick wax paper slips faded endlessly into the harsh white glow of the Kmart savings app as I plodded dutifully through mile after mile of shop your way madness.
The time drew nearer. The hour was close at hand. I flicked off the overhead light. Mind, body, and soul combined into one intense ache for the awkward silence I would soon partake in with several other exhausted and bedraggled Kmart associates, run ragged by their lust for mild monetary gain. The muted yellow lighting and the broken vending machine of the employee break room beckoned me softly with open arms. St. Jude claimed it’s donation. The Shop Your Way points were redeemed. My thousand yard stare widened as plastic brushed against plastic in one last, triumphant swipe of the debit card.
Calling my soul from its preliminary stupor was a harsh, grating beep. My eyes shot up from the panty hose I was packaging. On the screen, in a small, sky blue box, were two words written in a simple, unassuming bold print. “Customer Banned”.
My brain, confused, suffered a momentary lapse of reason. Due to the heavy glare on the little screen, the customer had not yet noticed the accusatory lettering. I barely mumbled out a sickly little story about needing to see a manager. I picked up the page phone and struggled to type in the number of customer service. I heard the peppy voice on the other end of my boss.
“Yeah, umm, I’ve got a customer, and my screen is displaying a “Customer Banned?”
A slight pause. When she spoke again, her voice was low and strained.
“I’ll be right there.”
Click. I shrugged. I walked back over to the register and told the customer my manager was on the way to fix a computer problem. She looked suspicious, but held her tongue. A tense few seconds went by. No one spoke. I looked around and noticed that most of the customers and staff had cleared out. Save a few custodians, the woman and I were all who remained. Suddenly, from out of the clothing section, my boss emerged.
“Beast!” She bellowed. “I name thee Xanadei, Demoness of the Festering Wastes!” The woman was looking down now. She glanced up. Her eyes gleamed a dull yellow.
“You should not have banned me. You will give me 112% off my purchase. Or you will fall to your knees before the Princess of this realm.”
Tentacles erupted from her back, black and boney, brushing the ceiling with a crack, and her fearless grin erupted into shining ivory spines. A roar escaped her pale lips and her body moved as a blur as she exploded towards the boss, blowing the coupons into a towering inferno behind her.
A split second before she collided, the boss raised a sword from it’s sheath and brought it down hard on the monster’s open maw. She quickly swung the sword in an arc that took off and ear and sliced the beast’s cadmium retina into pieces. The Demoness’ bony back arched as she clutched her empty socket with clawed fingers. Her roaring screams ripped through the air, and her forked black tongue twisted hypnotically from the pit of her dripping mouth.
Faster than the eye could follow, a second sword sliced clean through the dark empress’s exposed gut. Xanadei’s sunset eyes narrowed. Her claws extended ten feet out, and she brought them together in a blazing fast strike on the Kmart guardian. The boss leapt backwards, crashing hard into a display rack full of tasteful, summery skirts. The Demoness shot forward again, and this time took her adversary off guard, sending her strait into the celebrity fall line. The boss stood up, her eyes closed in concentration. She spit a tooth out and wiped the blood and saliva from the corner of her sneering mouth.
Her eyes shot open, and she brought her twin blades up alongside her and charged Xanadei with grim determination. Quick as a flash, she jumped up, spinning in mid air, and brought the blades down in an arc that raked the demon’s chest and neck. As she landed she slid, giving Xanadei enough time to lay a blow across her left leg and lower torso. She cried out, but didn’t waver, instead delivering a powerful uppercut to her enemy’s empty eye socket. The dark princess reeled, and brought her arms and tentacles up wide for one last powerful strike. The boss did the same, swinging her swords around for a final blow to Kmart’s last great threat.
They collided, an unstoppable force locked in mortal combat with an immovable object, their eyes narrowed in concentration as a centuries old conflict was resolved by one last epic fisticuffs. The twin blades carved their way through the ancient fingers, and Xanadei screamed in pain, falling to her knees. The boss brought her swords together around the Demoness’ head in a deadly X of sacred steel.
“The ancient enemy is at last purged. Pray to God one last time, Xanadei. Perhaps he will spare you.”
The Demoness summoned the last of her strength and spit into the face of her captor. The boss’s eyes narrowed.
“Then so be it. Thank you for shopping at Kmart.”
She pulled the blades apart, sending them effortlessly through the sinew and bone of Xanadei’s wretched neck. A stream of coupons and black blood poured out of the filthy neck hole like a floodgate had risen.
The boss walked over to me.
“Thank you for alerting me. Please get a mop and clean up the mess that she made in the store. The spill magic works wonders.”
She began to walk away, but soon stopped to straighten some tabloids. She continued walking, down the aisles, until she was out of sight. I got the mop and cleaned up the blood. Then I went to the break room and made some ramen in the microwave. It was alright. I think I put too much water in.