By Jeffrey Bishop
Where was this story idea three weeks ago?!
Tell Time: 6 minutes 30 seconds
Scare Rating: 2/5 Ghosts
Donna was chilly, but she jogged in place outside the MightyMart in her comfortable walking shoes and rubbed her mittened hands together briskly. That and her excitement at the hunt for good deals kept her warm and in good cheer as she waited for the store to open early for her and a few hundred other early morning shoppers that Black Friday.
“I’ve got my eye on that PlayBox for my son,” she told the woman standing in front of her. “I just finished paying off all my credit cards in October so I could get one for him this year!”
The woman showed her disinterest in Donna’s remark by turning her body to face completely ahead and took a couple steps forward — as many as she could take in the tightly packed queue. She wore a stern expression, and by Donna’s estimation, looked like she’d sharpened her elbows just for the occasion.
“We’re going to be here together for a while; we may as well make the best of it,” Donna thought to herself with a shrug. Undeterred, she turned to the man standing behind her.
“I carb loaded last night so I could last all day if I have to!” she exclaimed. “Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls. And second helpings, too!”
The man let out a hearty laugh, from deep within his robust center. His head was crowned in thick, white hair and a broad white mustache. Donna thought if only for want of a full beard and a “Ho, ho, ho!” instead of a “Ha, ha, ha!” the man could have been Old Saint Nick himself.
“Not me,” said the man. “I may look like a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, but really, I’m just a meat-and-meat kind of guy!”
Now they both laughed, and as they struck up a merry conversation, it was clear that each was grateful for the other to help pass the remaining 47 minutes — per Donna’s report — until the store’s holiday shopping Bacchanal opening at 4 a.m.
“Aren’t you worried about all the l tryptophan making you sleepy? From all the Thanksgiving turkey you ate?” asked Donna.
“L trypto-what?” asked the man.
“You know, that natural chemical that’s in turkey that makes a person feel sleepy after eating it,” Donna explained.
“Nah, I aint worried about l tryptophan,” the man replied, “but I’d worry about ol’ ‘el-trip-your-butt‘ ahead of you when the doors open and you’re racing for the PlayBoxes!”
Donna stifled a laugh behind her mittened glove as the angry-faced woman turned around just enough to shoot both of them a scornful look.
At that moment, the store manager appeared behind the store’s glass doors, to save the duo from an awkward moment, and to save everyone in line from further shivering and anticipation of the deal.
“Folks, the bargains are all ready for you,” he announced as he swung the doors wide. “Just be calm and orderly … ” he never got a chance to finish his sentence, as the throng streamed past him and quickly filled every aisle of the large super store.
“Good luck!” Donna shouted to the man as they were quickly separated by their separate missions and the larger primal human forces that drove the entire crowd throughout the store.
Donna’s early morning gambit paid off, as she managed to get one of the few available PlayBox’s at the great Black Friday price. With her one-item mission accomplished, she scooted past the crazed crowd to the check-out lanes, which remained vacant of shoppers who were still filling carts and baskets with sale-priced bounties.
Suddenly, every light in the store went black. Immediately, the entire store became quiet, as each person’s first reaction was stunned silence, followed by quizzical searching with ears. But as the darkness — and then silence — endured from moments to seconds, panicky screams quickly emerged to fill the inky vacuum with something.
The screams snowballed as shoves, and then a stampede, developed in the darkness
“Turn on the lights!”
“Get off me!”
“Where’s my baby?!”
With sustained screams of terror, the store’s populace, en masse, pushed itself toward where ever it remembered the front of the store to be, with no heed for obstacles, including shelves, racks of clothing or fellow shoppers.
“Settle down folks!” called out an associate to the mobbing crowd. “We’ll figure out the power situation. Just calm down!” His appeals were unheeded, in part because for the most part they weren’t heard.
Finally, something happened to calm the store’s population. With a loud, deep ripping sound, the ground started to shake violently beneath the store, knocking many to their knees. Within seconds, the shaking stopped. The shaking felt somewhat like an earthquake to those who had been through one before, except that after the shaking subsided, there was still a feeling of momentum, and of heaviness — as if each person was being pushed down against the store floor.
Slowly, a few lights came back on in the store — emergency lights.
“Attention MightyMart shoppers,” came a voice over the store intercom. “We are now departing your home planet Earth, en route to our planet of Karnellak in a spacecraft that until today closely resembled a standard human shopping center. Your experience is simultaneously occurring at MightyMart stores across the globe.
“Soon you will play a special role in our Black Friday celebration — a festival of thanksgiving modeled after your own,” continued the voice. “However, we have opted to hold ours on the last Friday of what you call November, for very practical reasons that you will appreciate first hand.
“We will, of course, be having you for dinner. Why am I telling you all of this?” asked the voice. “It’s because when you humans are scared, your meaty flesh fills with a natural chemical, adrenalin, that tenderizes and enhances your flavors. It also makes us incredibly sleepy, which supports our hibernation cycle.”
As the store — now spaceship — filled again with panicked screams, the voice gave the shoppers the final message they’d ever hear:
“Thank you for shopping with us this Black Friday!”
Donna had just set her bag into the trunk of her car when she heard the loud grumbling sound from the store and felt the ground shake under her feet.
“What in the world?” she asked aloud as she shut the trunk lid and looked back at the store. She could see the store, now darkened inside and out, shaking on its foundation — although everything around it was still and calm.
Donna saw her new friend was standing near a pick-up truck a few yards away — also intently focused on the store — and walked toward him to ask him about what was happening. As she approached the man, both witnessed the store rise off the ground and quickly accelerate up into the air and toward the dark pre-dawn space beyond. The store seemed to be propelled by a pale blue light that .brightly silhouetted the boxy store’s rectangular floor plan.
Across the sky, Donna and the man could see two other blue rectangles also rising into the air — from the general location of their city’s other MightyMart locations, Donna realized. The stores kept rising until the blue lights disappeared past their planet’s atmosphere.
“Well, did you get what you came out to shop for, at least,” Donna said with a chuckle. Having never been in such an incredible situation before, she frankly did not know what else to say.
“To be honest, I didn’t come out to buy anything. I just wanted to witness first-hand what all the Black Friday craziness was all about,” replied the man.
“That’s something I don’t reckon I’ll ever see again!”
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