In which Katy headbutts a guy, becomes an internet sensation (the bad kind), and the Racist finally gets what he deserves.
The Beginning of the End: A Grocery Store Horror Story
I reach the back of the library and see the Voices gather around a wooden table. Guy’s back is to me, Regina and Rain sit across from him, and Arnold takes a spot to the left leaning back against a wall. He stifles a smile as Rain and Regina look up at me for the first time. My head jerks at Regina’s squeal and subsequent crushing hug. Arnold huffs in laughter.
“You’re ok! You’re ok, right?” She checks me like a mother would, and I squeeze my eyes shut for a second and enjoy the attention. When I open them, Rain gives me a small grin, but nervously looks over at Guy’s face. He stiffens at Regina’s racket, clenches his fists for a moment, and doesn’t turn around. That’s fair, I suppose. I look back at Regina.
“I’m good, I mean other than the fact that a literal monster is trying to track me down and kill me,” I laugh hysterically, and the others look at me with concern. “I honestly don’t know what to do.” I pull away from Regina and square my shoulders. “But I’m not going down without a fight.” It’s a cheesy line, but it seems to rally my friends.
“I might have a plan,” Guy throws over his shoulder.
“Well, don’t leave us in suspense bossman,” Arnold sneers, his faux-masculine facade taking over again. I come over to the table and sit in a chair between Guy and Rain. Guy’s eyes flick to mine and away in cold indifference. I expect his standoffishness, but it still stings all the same.
“First, what do we know?” Guy asks the group.
“He-it can change shape,” I chime in, “and looks incredibly dark, like ink on a piece of paper. Out of place. Not smoky like you guys can.” I rub my face and think. “And it doesn’t look humanoid like y’all either.” Guy nods and continues.
“What else? You need to tell us everything.”
“It’s insanely quiet when that thing comes around.” I lean back as the exhaustion from the night starts to creep up on me. “That’s all I know.”
“Katy created us with her mind.” Everyone looks in shock at Rain, who sinks into her chair. “I mean, I’m pretty sure she did. If she can do that, then maybe this thing is something she made on accident.”
“All of us are accidents,” Arnold quips. Images of giving birth flash through my mind, and nausea hits the back of my throat.
“Don’t say it like that,” I gag out.
“Speaking of gagging, where’s Tom?” Arnold waits for my answer, but I don’t respond right away. After a deep breath, I tell them about the other monster.
I wake up to James shaking my arm.
“Five more minutes,” I groggily request, until I realize where I am. “Shit! Christina’s gonna kill me.” I leap up and off the couch and headbutt James right in the forehead. He leans back in a grimace, and I sit back into the couch. “Fuck, I’m so sorry.”
“I’ll accept the apology this time,” he painfully laughs at me. James rubs his forehead, then sits down on the couch cushion next to me. “Sleeping on the job, I see.”
“I guess I needed a nap. How pissed is Christina?” It’s like asking if water is wet or if customers are assholes.
“She sent me upstairs to get you, but she just left for her lunch break, so you’re safe for now.” James pulls a small bag of beef jerky from his pants pocket. It occurs to me that his break was supposed to follow mine. I guess I’m the asshole now. I leave the breakroom in a hurry and meet Carlos at the front. He dismisses my apology with a pat on the back, and I get back to bagging. Approximately 15 minutes later, James comes back to the floor and helps me bag a large order. He gives me a nervous look.
“Um, well, when I was upstairs, I was on my phone, and a friend of mine shared a video that I don’t think you’re gonna like.” His face looks like three kinds of bad news. I stare at him in confusion until it dawns on me.
“Wait, am I in this video?” Please no, God no, oh crap. James rubs the back of his short blonde hair.
“Ya, some racist dude was yelling at you and the girl recording, then the guy stumbles into his truck like a moron. It’s really not that bad.” His effort to comfort me is sweet until he tells me the number of views it has so far.
“100,000!” The customer glares at both us, and we quickly shut our mouths and finish the order. My heart races at the potential consequences. One: this is incredibly embarrassing and could follow me around for a while. Two: I could lose my job since it’s pretty obvious to tell where I work based on my shirt. Telling off a customer is a fireable offense, I’m sure. I pretend to clean the cubby below, sink to my knees, and covertly pull out my phone. I find the video after a quick search and replay the scene over and over. It looks like the person who posted it wasn’t the girl I met. Someone must have copied the video before she deleted it. I scan the comments, and while they all seem to be in my favor, the people posting are livid. One of them even found out the Racist’s name, where he works, and pushed the others to make calls to his employer. A tremble of glee reverberates through my body, which feels suspiciously like Guy. Did the Voices follow me to the store?
“Sir, I understand your frustration…” I hear Carlos placating a customer, which doesn’t catch my attention until I see who he’s talking to.
“You don’t understand shit,” the Racist’s voice rises, “your employee made me lose my freakin’ job!” Carlos puts his hands out in a calming gesture. There is no way my luck is this bad.
“Sir, I’ll speak to my employee and get to the bottom of this-” He cuts Carlos off with a sound of disgust. Not knowing what to do and unable to handle the situation, I leave the checkout lane and sneak outside through a side door. This side of the store is dimly lit, and shadows dance around me in mockery. I want to run far away, where none of this can catch me. I contemplate beating my head into the cement wall to make my thoughts go away, but the sound of steps disrupt my thought process. Thinking it’s James or Carlos, I huff out a breath.
“Look-” A pair of hands push me into a wall with enough force to rattle my brain.
“Why? Why’d you do it?” One hand grabs me by my ponytail and yanks me back to look into the Racist’s bloodshot eyes. Terror keeps me from answering, and he throws me to the floor. I put my hands out to keep my head from hitting the cement. The irony and hard sidewalk make me gasp in pain and inappropriate laughter. The shadows continue to romp as the wind blows through the trees, and a faraway light flickers in and out.
“I didn’t do anything!” I cry out as I try to sit up. “It isn’t my fault that the other girl’s video went viral, and I didn’t ask anyone to go after your job.” I look around for an escape route, a person who can help, anything, but find none. Weighing my fear against the need to be right, I blurt out, “and it sure as hell isn’t my fault you got caught being a racist jerk and suffered the consequences.” Big mistake. He looms over me, and I cringe into myself. Before he can land a blow, I spot what I can only describe as boiling smoke creep out of the shadows and up the Racist’s foot. The smoke twines around his leg like a snake and yanks it out from under him. He hits the floor with a moan as three hazy figures step into the dim lighting. Tom is the first to assume his more human form. He ignores me and smiles at the Racist.
“What do we have here?” Insecurity stalks his prey, and I honestly feel sorry for the poor man on the floor.
“What the hell is going on?!” The Racist stares straight through Tom and looks at me in fear. He tries to get up, but a tendril presses down on his back. Arnold reverts to his humanoid appearance next and savagely kicks the scared man in the ribs once, twice, three, and finally four times.
“How-do-you-like it!” The funny and secretly-kind fragments of Arnold’s personality melt away to reveal his default factory setting: unadulterated rage. I flinch as each kick lands. The Racist starts to cry in confusion, and I move toward him like you would a whining baby animal. The third figure steps forward, and tendrils of smoke shoot from its body and swarm the Racist.
“He doesn’t deserve your sympathy,” says the figure in a rough voice.
“Guy?” His form doesn’t change, but I can almost taste the hostility. Guy ignores me, and the mass of smoke tendrils lift the man into the air. They seep into his skin, mouth, nose, ears, and eyes. His body begins to shake like he’s having a seizure.
“Help…me…” The Racist begs, and I feel guilt. Not guilt born from the religious teaching of my youth, my parents’ guidance, or societal rules, which are all well and good. I feel the pain in his voice, the shake in his hands, the loss of control, and the violation, and it’s more than I can bear, even for a man like him.
“You like to hurt others, and you think that wouldn’t come back to haunt you?” Guy seems to be having the time of his life. “Oh, I know you can’t hear or see me, but it doesn’t matter.” Hate grins maliciously, and the Racist’s middle finger suddenly snaps backward with a pop. He gasps and swears in agony. Guy claps his hands together. “So. Many. Choices. With enough force, I could make your head explode into tiny chunks. Or make your guts fall out of your ass.”
“Dude, really? That’s just nasty.” Arnold looks a little green, but Tom is all smiles.
“Fine, fine. It’ll take some maneuvering, but good old-fashioned castration might do the trick. The best part is,” Hate brings the Racist down to his eye level, “he’ll always wonder why and how this could have happened to little poor him. Men like him don’t have the sense to understand just how wrong and evil they fucking are. He doesn’t deserve mercy, and the world would be better off-”
“Stop.” I lift myself off the ground and move to stand in front of Hate, my Hate. “You’re not gonna hurt him.” I spread my arms and fingers out, and the rawness of my palms make me wince. The monster in front of me fades away until I see the familiar blue jeans, black t-shirt, and short black hair. He looks at me viciously for a moment and growls.
“Get out of the way, Katy. I won’t say it again.”
“I’m not moving.” I can only hope my bravado works. Guy’s face is still hazy and hard to decipher, but I swear his now-brown eyes (when did that happen?) look lost. “Please, just let this go.” He hesitates, most likely debating the merits of restraining me. Apparently, my approval wins out, and he slowly lowers the Racist to the floor, who passes out soon after. The tendrils evaporate along with the Voices. I feel a weight lift from my chest and sigh before I go back in to grab Carlos and have him call an ambulance.
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Image by 3881102 from Pixabay
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