The news said it was a pack of stray dogs, but he knew better. Hell, he’d seen them. The only problem was, when you were getting paid to create nightmares, nobody believed the ones that were true.
Greg Davidson walked down the aisle, shoving boxes and cans into his basket. He did this without thought, not caring to check what he was grabbing. There was hardly anyone in the store, and he didn’t have to fight for items or navigate his way through crazy shoppers running for sales. The only customers he encountered were two women with their baskets pressed together, engaged in conversation.
“I heard the police found another body,” said the first, a skinny woman with too much eye shadow. “What’s that make the count now? Twelve? Fourteen?”
“Too many,” said the second. “I told my husband we should leave town before it’s too late, but you know how men are.”
“Yeah, stubborn bastards. Everyone else is leaving and we’re stuck with the only two who would work through the apocalypse.”
Greg pushed past, barely giving them a glance. He stopped when a box of chocolate chip cookies caught his eye. He tossed it in with the other food. Before it even had a chance to settle, he was off.
For the little one, he thought.
When he got to the register, he nearly abandoned the basket. He was third in line, and the woman currently placing her items on the belt moved with the speed of a sloth. What made him stay was the simple fact that they needed to eat.
The line moved painfully slow until a single customer, an obese woman in a one-piece pullover, stood before him, placing two bags of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups onto the belt. Greg felt an urge to shout Put that back, you fat bitch, you’re only going to make it worse! but decided against it. It didn’t matter. Let her enjoy it. She wouldn’t live long enough to see the fat plaster to her thighs anyway. Although, that might not be entirely true. Some of them didn’t die; some of them weren’t that lucky.
After the obese woman waddled off, the clerk totaled Greg’s order.
“That comes to thirty-two ninety-five.”
Greg handed her his MasterCard. She took it with a wrinkled, palsied hand. With the way her fingers trembled, it was a wonder she could even operate the register.
“Is this credit or debit, sir?” Through her dentures, sir came out thurr.
She swiped his card with visible effort.
“You sure have a lot of items, and along with that portable grill I’d have to guess you’re going camping.”
The clerk wasn’t dissuaded.
“Well, if you’re not going camping, are you going hiking? I’ve done my fair share of each. Except we didn’t have things like portable grills back in the day . . .” She paused, reminiscing, then said, “You’d actually be amazed at what ‘the day’ used to be like.”
Greg didn’t care. He shifted from foot to foot. The only thing he wanted the old woman to do was hand him back his credit card. On second thought, she could keep it. He put his wallet back and was just about to push the basket away when she held it out to him. Greg grabbed for it. At the last second, she pulled it out of reach. “You know, there’s a coupon on your receipt. You can only use it if you’re a rewards member. Would you like to sign up?”
She waved the credit card in front of his face. “It won’t take long. I promise.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Greg said. “I really have to go.” He wanted to get back to the car. He wondered how the three inside were doing.
“Oh, but they pay me to worry about it, sir. It’ll just take a moment.”
He knew a lie when he heard one and walked off, muttering, “Have a good day.”
He didn’t even turn around when the clerk ran after him with his credit card.