Night of the Undead Shoppers

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

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Short story based on a short film script I wrote several years ago. Looking for a way to improve my story as I feel it can be very funny. It is based on a nightmare I had when working retail.

Night of the Undead Shoppers

The morning air is cool, betraying the summer weather most were used to the past few days. The cold air almost seems to be a precursor to an early fall. But something seems off about this sudden cold front. Something cutting right to the bone. A window fan sucks in the cool air, turning the room into an almost makeshift freezer. Jacob wakes up shivering and wraps a blanket around himself as he rises from his bed. He stumbles over and quickly turns off his window fan. “God it’s freezing!” He says to himself. “What happened to summer?” He hears random moaning outside. One of his elderly neighbors probably fell doing yardwork again. His mind adjusts and realizes he needs to see what time it is and deduce how much time he has to relax before getting ready for his day. Looking at the time on his phone, he groans. In bright, illuminated digits his screen reads 10:14 A.M. Over an hour after his shift was to start. “Crap, my alarm didn’t go off. Again.” He is late for work. The usual for him. Ever since he took a semester break, he has had trouble waking up on time.

A deep rooted, subconscious case of depression, he guesses. Who knows, he doesn’t feel smart enough to analyze things such as this. And apparently not smart enough to finish this latest semester. Over spring, his grades slipped substantially. He had a major difficulty focusing. Or maybe he just was no longer interested in his courses. “A break will do you some good” his mother told him. In the back of his mind, he is worried he will never go back. Then, he will be doomed to a life working retail. Doomed to a life dealing with what he deems “mindless shoppers”. He quickly dials the number of his manager. One ring. Two rings. Three. With each one, he grows more anxious. A fear fills his body. “What if they fire me?” he thinks. “Mom will kick me out of the house, Donna will break up with me, I’ll be homeless…” He catastrophizes. A problem his therapist says he needs to get a handle on.

Finally, his manager picks up the phone. “Save A Bunch, Mike speaking, how may I service you?” His manager says, in his usual bored tone. Not one for customer service, despite being a manager. In interacting with customers, Mike comes off more like a sleazy used car salesman than a manager. Jacob takes a deep breath. “Yes hi, it’s Jacob. I’m going to be a bit late. I forgot to set my alarm, or it didn’t go off, I dunno. But I will get there as soon as I can.” His manager lets out an annoyed sigh. “Look, you’re late far too often, and we have been lenient. But if you don’t clean up your act, we will have to let you go. We can’t keep letting you just show up when you want. The store is too busy for that nonsense.” Meanwhile, Mike is standing at the service desk watching YouTube videos on his phone.

The store is empty, save for an elderly woman shuffling across the sales floor. An old man in the far back can be seen lumbering. Looking half dead, he wanders past the furniture section. Back at home, Jacob feels a pang of worry. “I know, it won’t happen again. I promise, I will never show up late for another shift.” Mike merely grunts and hangs up. Jacob sets the phone down and gets his work uniform ready.  The bright orange polo shirt looks ridiculous to him. But he is stuck wearing it. Mandatory, deems his bosses. Always must wear the company colors while on duty. The shirt is baggy on him. “Bones” was always his nickname in school, due to his slight frame. His jeans are the smallest waist size for his height, and yet he still has to put a belt on the very last notch. He sighs as he looks into the mirror. What looks back at him never seems to please him. “The epitome of nerdom” he always thinks.

Jacob rushes downstairs, nearly tripping on his half-tied shoes. Rummaging through his fridge, he hopes to find something quick and easy for lunch. Despite his slight frame, he has a large appetite. He happens to come across a couple eggs. “OK” he thinks, “I can make scrambled eggs in the microwave with this. But I still need something else.” As if to answer his thoughts, his hand bumps an unopened package of chicken nuggets. “Perfect” he thinks, “I should be fine. Just need to find a bag.” But as he is packing his lunch, he hears some loud moans coming from outside.

Looking out the kitchen window, he sees a short, balding middle-aged man in a dirty white t-shirt, barely covering his girth, and a pair of golf shorts. Sandals adorn his feet, with socks under them. Mr. Polumbo, his neighbor, a former teacher. Looking disheveled, the elderly man wanders, almost in a trance. He stumbles around the back yard, carrying a shovel, and re-enacting some prior event known only to the old man. His eyes look bloodshot, and his skin an eerie pale complexion.

Jacob goes to the back door and calls out to the man. “Mr. Polumbo, are you alright? Have you been drinking again?” But the old man doesn’t respond. Just keeps muttering something which Jacob cannot fully understand. “Is this discounted?” The elderly man mutters, waving the shovel. “It has a small scratch!” Jacob looks on, confused. “Mr. Polumbo, what are you babbling about?” But the old man doesn’t acknowledge him. He just continues rambling to some unseen individual. Jacob shrugs, and closes the door. As he continues getting ready, he heads for his car. Parked on the street, his sedan sits solemnly, the only car on the block. Jacob looks around and notices every vehicle in his neighborhood is gone. “Did they finally revoke everyone’s licenses?” Pulling out of the driveway, he is startled by someone crashing into the side of his car. He slams on the brakes as his head snaps to the left.

Pressed against the car is another neighbor, Mrs. Johnson. She is holding a bottle of shampoo and has a rabid expression on her pale, wrinkled face. “Do you have any more of these in the back?” Jacob begins feeling uneasy and calls out to her. “Mrs. Johnson, are you off your meds again?” She doesn’t reply but continues with her strange rant. “I know sometimes you have more and don’t put them all out. Can I come look?” Jacob, his confusion growing, stares at the strange woman. “I have no idea what you are talking about, Mrs. Johnson. I have to go to work now. Can you back away from my car? I don’t want to run your feet over.” She begins to drool on his window, making him feel disgusted. Her dentures fall out, momentarily distracting her, allowing Jacob to pull away.

To forget about the bizarre start to his day, Jacob turns on his radio. Turning the stations, he notices every single one is nothing but static. Finally coming across a station which is actually broadcasting, he stops channel surfing and continues his ride. However, Jacob notices something peculiar about this station. No music is playing. What he does hear is rather unsettling. Moaning, almost primitive, almost undead sounding. Attempts at words are said, but through vocal chords that seem to be disintegrating. It is as if someone gathered a bunch of corpses and forced air through their decaying flesh. A chill runs through him, and he turns off the radio. Focusing on his drive, he notices something else. No cars are on the road. He doesn’t even see any public buses on the main street. All he sees are older people wandering about. Their clothes are dirty, and they are waving coupons and various items at invisible people. “What on earth is happening?” he asks himself. “Is there some sort of shortage on geriatric meds? Is it old people get drunk day?”

Jacob pulls past the elderly care home and notices another odd sight. The main door is hanging on by one bent hinge. Windows are shattered, and orderlies are lain about the recreational field. One is missing an arm. Another looks as if his neck was broken. A third has the top of his skull removed, and his brain exposed, bleeding on the pavement. Patients are staggering away, carrying the coupon pages of local store ads. One heavyset man is carrying a carton of milk. Out of his crusted mouth he yells “Are you sure the sell by date is when I can still drink? Do you have any that will last several months?” Jacob, in a state of bewilderment, starts to pull over to make a phone call. “I need to see what is going on. I wonder if there is something in the water.” He begins to dial his mother’s work number. The line is dead. The line is never dead at her clinic. A spot in his stomach churns. Something isn’t right. Then he remembers, he needs to get to work. He can figure out what is going on later. Maybe it’s nothing. Full moon, yes, that’s what Jacob decides is going on. A full moon is making everyone act bizarre.

Pulling into work, he sees no cars in the parking lot. And not just for his store. The surrounding craft and grocery stores have no cars in the parking lots. He shrugs, and puts his car in park, before grabbing his lunch. He steps out of the car and is blindsided by an elderly man. The man is in a tattered suit, and his long greasy hair frame his withered face. The man looks Jacob in the eyes and delivers a prophecy like none ever heard. “When there is no more room in hell, the dead shall walk the department stores!” Jacob stares at the man, who grasps the young man’s shoulders firmly, digging his long, dirty fingernails into flesh. “For it is written, thy discounts shall pull them in, and thine hours will bring out their fury!” Jacob, unable to speak, shrugs free of the man’s grip, and dashes into the store.

Cautiously entering, Jacob doesn’t know what to expect. His boss said it was busy, but there are no cars in the lot. He’s been bombarded with strange encounters all day. “What else could happen?” he asks himself. At the front counter, the first thing he sees is Stephanie, the head cashier. She is wearing her usual layers of makeup, with long fake nails, and is scrolling through her phone. He cautiously walks over to her. The worst part of his job is probably dealing with her. “Hey Steph, have you seen Mike?” he asks. “What do you mean by that? Are you trying to hit on me or something?” “What? No! All I did was ask where Mike was. I need him to punch me in since I am late.” Stephanie turns from her phone, and glares at him. “I don’t like the tone you are using with me, I think I may have to go to corporate about this. I think I feel harassed right now.” Jacob panics and backs away. “Look, I’m sorry!” he quickly states. “Forget I said anything, I can go find him, don’t worry.” He walks away but hears her dialing the store phone. He stops walking and does his best to eavesdrop.

“Yes, I’d like to make another claim of harassment.” Jacob groans and walks away, frustrated. More worries about losing his job fill his entire being. He attempts to calm himself as he enters the stock room. As he walks, he looks around for any other signs of his fellow employees. Not a single sign is found. “Where is everyone?” He asks. Befuddled, he goes to the managers office, and knocks. Pausing, he knocks again. No sounds of occupancy are heard. Jacob grows frustrated. “How the hell am I going to get clocked in?” He asks aloud. Turning around, he bumps into a squat, putrid smelling man. “It’s about time you got here. I had to do everything by myself.” Mike tells him. Jacob takes a step back, attempting to give himself some fresh air. “I got here as soon as I could, I’m sorry. It doesn’t look that busy though.” “That’s because stupid kids like you ignore what hard work needs done around here. I need you to change all the sale signs in furniture, build all of the new wardrobe models, and make sure the furniture sales reach 2 grand today.” “But how can I do all of that? I would have to be everywhere at once!” Mike smacks Jacobs shoulder and laughs. “Your lazy ass needs to learn how to work hard. Back in my day, we did all that while building trains from scratch, and fighting the Nazis.” Mike turns and walks away. Jacob watches him and wonders aloud “But you told me you lived off your mom’s trust fund in the 70s….”

Jacob wanders to the furniture department and grabs the first wardrobe that needs built. He attempts to move it, but it feels like he is trying to move a mountain. He cannot budge it. He plants his feet, and using all his strength, heaves. Out of breath, he finds that the package still has not moved, despite his efforts. To finally move the wardrobe, he tries to walk the wardrobe over to the build area. He loses his balance and falls backward. Landing on top of him is the heavy wardrobe. Almost seeing his life flash before his eyes, he feels a burning pain through his body. Air is squeezed out of his lungs. He struggles to slide from under the massive piece of furniture. He begins calling for help. No one is in sight to answer. He squirms, frantically. He finally manages to wiggle out from under the heavy box. Scrambling away, his hand lands on a dirty dress shoe.

Jacob jumps back, leaning against a wall of small televisions. Looking up, he sees an elderly man, balding, with ants and worms all over him. The man is waving a bottle of furniture polish in his face. His voice is a ghostly howl. “How much is this?” The old man asks. Jacob looks at the bottle. A large “Only 99 cents!” Sticker is plastered across it. Jacob looks up at the man. “It…It clearly says it is only 99 cents.” The man stares a hole through him. “Are you sure? I didn’t see a price.” Jacob feels his skin crawl, and a cold feeling enters the pit of his stomach. “Yes. It’s clearly marked. Right there on the front of the bottle.” Jacob points, with his arm trembling, at the bottle. The old man shambles closer, until he is inches away from Jacob’s face. The insects crawling on the old man’s clothes drop onto Jacob. The young man squirms, trying to get away but is stopped by the shelves.

The man’s breath reeks of alcohol and fresh soil. Jacob gags, and tries to push the man away. Suddenly, a loud crash is heard. The old man turns, as the middle of the store is littered with merchandise. Another customer knocked over a large display, sending bottles spilling everywhere. The customers shambling over begin chanting almost in unison. “Can I get this discounted?” They say, grabbing at the scuffed bottles. Jacob scrambles out of sight. “What the hell is going on?” He asks himself. He flees to the sofa section and attempts to catch his breath. He sits down on a dark brown sofa and lets out a sigh. His head spins. He cannot grasp why everyone seems to be acting so peculiar.

His breath slows as he feels himself calm down. Suddenly, a cold weight drops onto his shoulder. He whirls around to see a dirty hand grabbing him. Jumping up, he sees a woman holding the sign for the sofa he was sitting on. The sign, reading “Chocolate Mocha Sofa” is being waved around by the customer. Her haunting voice fills Jacob’s ears, making him shiver and cringe all at once. “Does this come in any other colors?” She asks him. Jacob backs away, horrified and growing annoyed. “No… The name Chocolate Mocha clearly describes the sofa…any other color would be a different name.” Jacob then begins walking faster, calling back to the woman. “The names of the sofas clearly describe the only colors they come in!”

Jacob sprints away from the woman, getting trapped by several people in the apparel section. They are standing in front of shelves of folded clothes. The shelves have large signs which say, “Please do not touch, if you would like to see a clothing item, ask an associate for assistance”. They ignore the sign, reaching their hands in. Clothes fall onto the dirty floor. Items get unfolded, stacks get knocked over. Items are shoved back onto shelves in messy crumpled balls. Jacob looks on in horror as they ignore the clearly posted sign. “No, it clearly states not to touch anything…you’re all making a mess!” The customers look at him, then wave the clothes at him. A short, frail man speaks. “This has a stain on it! Can I get a discount?” Jacob backs away from them and responds. “No, that stain was clearly your doing! It matches the mud on your hand!” Jacob bumps into something as he flees the isle. A customer bursts up through the tile, with their own shopping cart. The cart is filled with dirt and maggots, as if the cart and customer were buried in a grave for decades.

Jacob trembles with fear, wondering how this could possibly be happening. “It’s like some sort of bizarre nightmare!” He thinks. The woman pushes her cart towards him, slowly, methodically. “Where are your clearance items?” She bellows. Jacob backs up, looking behind him. “It’s clearly marked. With big signs! They’re yellow and they clearly say ‘Clearance’ on them!” Jacob notices more customers bursting out of the tile. The woman moves closer to him, like a shark pursuing a piece of meat. “Show me where the clearance items are!” The woman demands. Her voice grows shriller with every word.

Jacob dashes away from her, trying to find one of his co-workers. He explodes into the stock room, trying to find his boss. Mike’s office door is found wide open, but no sign of him. It is as if he abandoned his job, leaving every sign of his existence behind. Jacob finds the store phone in Mike’s office. He attempts to call the main desk, only to find the line has been severed. Upon turning to leave the office, he finds that the customers have followed him. “You aren’t supposed to be back here! This is employees only!” The customers don’t listen to him, and corner him, leaving him no escape. A human prison surrounds him, moving closer. “I need help finding an item!” one tells him. Another grabs his arm. “I need you to reach something for me!” A heavy-set man gets right next to his face and breathes right in Jacob’s mouth. “I need to find some cold medicine!” The man tells him. “No, please give me personal space! I don’t want to catch your illness! I’m unable to call off!”

Fingernails claw at him, opening bloody gashes. One customer pulls his arm nearly out of it’s socket. Another grabs his hair, ripping it out by the roots. It is painful and Jacob feels his life flash before his eyes. Jacob screams, and tries to shake himself free. His eyes suddenly snap open, and he is in his bed at home. His bedroom is chilled, from the window fan pulling in the cold air. Shivering, he wraps himself in a blanket trying to keep warm. He rises from his bed and turns off the fan before remembering he is supposed to work today. He looks at his phone.  The screen reads “10:14 A.M.” He is late for work. A cold feeling fills his stomach as he wonders if this was just a dream, or a terrifying omen. Outside, he can hear Mr. Polumbo bellowing something about a “discount”.

The End


Submitted: April 01, 2019

© Copyright 2022 Albert Mann. All rights reserved.

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hullabaloo22

This was one entertaining read. I really enjoy a good zombie tale, and this had all the right elements plus one hell of a lot of humor. Excellent!

Tue, April 2nd, 2019 8:14pm

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