So here goes… the idea is that I write part one of a scary story, and you, dear reader, continue on where I left off…
The idea was put forward by Chuck Wendig at TerribleMinds http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/10/07/flash-fiction-challenge-a-scary-story-part-one/
The first time Greg reported for night fill, the place reminded him of a survival horror game where nurses carried machetes and janitors packed chainsaws. He smiled to himself – the reality of working in such a place was incredibly dull… plenty of time to brainstorm his PhD and get paid for it. Unless he was working with Lou.
“Mustard and condiments and tasty things.”
Greg could hear Lou going off in the breakfast aisle. Lou used to work day shift in the bakery until he started singing “The Number of the Yeast” next to an old lady shopping for lamingtons. Now Lou was strictly night shift, and only then because the government paid part of his salary.
Right now, he playing air guitar with a box of rice crispies and singing at the top of his lungs. As the solo started, he pulled a tube of condensed milk of the shelf to use as a whammy bar without missing a single imaginary note. He did this at least once every night, and Greg knew what was coming next.
“Go get two packs of spaghetti strings.”
Greg grabbed two packets of toothpaste (they were the closest) and started drumming and headbanging until the solo ended.
“Do you reckon we could get compo for whiplash Lou?”
“Then I could go on tour with my songs. Buy a big bus and book all the stadiums…” Lou trailed off in Greg’s mind as he tried to go back to writing the method chapter of his PhD in his head for the third time that night. Skin cancer prevention was serious business.
Lou had moved onto the bakery section and was belting out The Ace of Cakes and The Number of the Yeast (his greatest hit) when Greg felt a slight tremor. The milk bottles in the refrigerator rattled, sounding like a gigantic startled bird taking flight. Somewhere behind him, cans fell off the shelf and jars smashed. Greg thought of the clean-up, and how he might be able to get Lou to do most of it.
“The only cake I need is the ace…”
“Hey Lou.” Silence. “You reckon that was an earthquake?”
“I’m glad you felt that. For a moment there I thought I’d had a stroke. Wouldn’t be the first time.”
“Glad you’re ok. You reckon you could clean up a couple of aisles? I think the Ace of Cakes could use a change of scenery.”
“Ok – I got some new songs I’m working on.”
“Looking forward to it.” Greg stopped to clear up an avalanche of custard creams and rebuild a mountain of minestrone soup. He sat down, and mentally tallied how much he’d get paid this week… $400 from his scholarship, just under $500 from stacking shelves. Enough to put a bit more aside for Jade’s engagement ring. One day he would propose to her on the beach at sunrise…
“Time to call it a night Greg.”
They fixed up one final display that had toppled over and killed the lights. Darkness fell over the supermarket, one aisle at a time. Lou helped Greg pull down a roller shutter at the front of the store and locked it.
Tomorrow morning, there would be at least a dozen shoppers waiting eagerly with their trolleys for those shutters to open again. He was glad that he wouldn’t have to deal with them.
Outside, the carpark was unusually dark. Half a dozen shopping trolleys had rolled out into the centre of the carpark, poised like a pack of wolves.
“Damn kids playing a practical joke. See you tomorrow.”
Greg thought the same, but might been tempted to yell out to see if anyone was there if Lou hadn’t been with him. One of the street lights was out, throwing shadows all the way to the end of the car park. Behind him, Lou started his car, music blaring. Then Greg was alone. With nobody to see how foolish he looked, he ran to his car, opened the door and turned on the light.
Ten minutes later he was home. He unlocked the door quietly and snuck inside. Missy ran up to him, her collar jingling and tail wagging.
“Hey girl.” Greg said as he patted her. “Is Momma still awake?”
He went down to the room. Jade was asleep, but murmured a little as he walked in.
“Hey… How was work?”
“Weird. I think we had an earthquake. Did you feel it?”
“No. I…” She was silent for a moment. “Right out to it.”
She had spent half the day building models of the solar system with 26 eight year olds. That had to tire anybody out. She was curled up in the foetal position in her silk night dress. It was his favourite and he knew she had worn it for him. Between his stacking shelves and writing a PhD and her teaching year three, they barely saw each other. Once he proposed, it would be different though. It had to be. Greg patted her shoulder and told her he loved her. There was no answer. Missy snuggled down in the bed with them. In four hours, Jade would have to get up for work.
Neither of them remembered hitting the snooze button when it went the next morning.
“Baby, what time is it?” Greg opened his eyes and saw Jade, hair everywhere, nightgown strap off one shoulder.
He grabbed his phone off the bedside table.
“Oh shit.” Jade wrenched at the vertical blind cord. Outside, it was still dark.
Greg sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes. He went to a news site and saw the headlines.
He read them out aloud:
TEMPORARY ABNORMAL AXIAL TILT RESPONSIBLE FOR EXTENDED DARKNESS, SCIENTIST SAYS
NO NEED TO PANIC – SUNRISE EXPECTED TO OCCUR SHORTLY BEFORE NOON, SCIENTISTS PROJECT
“There’s the solution to skin cancer right there.” Greg laughed. “Here I am, writing a book about how to get everyone to wear sunscreen, and all I had to do was blot out the sun.”
Jade turned on the TV at the foot of the bed.
There you have it. Any takers for part 2?