NaNoWriMo - an extract

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
A poorly-edited chunk of my Nanoprocrastination for this year.

Submitted: November 04, 2011

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Submitted: November 04, 2011



West Breckham Dazzling DIY and Garden Store was “The Jewel in the Crown of West Breckham”, according to the large sign that protruded far enough onto the B7623 to threaten the wing mirrors of anybody driving too close to the side of the road. In reality, it was a large unsightly warehouse in the middle of nowhere.

The store looked utterly dreadful from a distance, but its appearance only deteriorated further to anybody with functioning eyes as they drove closer: the car park had been laid decades ago and had become so dangerous that it was more sensible to just park on the grass, the building itself also looked like it hadn't received any attention for decades, and the automatic doors only slid open half way -- resulting in a humbling squeeze for anybody attempting to enter the store. The interior was no better.

“Ah, Lily!” roared the voice of Mr Largo Peaches, the Store Manager. “What a glorious day for selling bags of compost!”

Largo Peaches was a walking paradox, a jigsaw of anachronisms incorrectly put together. He had a large bushy moustache, greased-back long hair and weighed eighteen stone. He spoke with received pronunciation and alternated between hazy delusions and passive-aggressive threats -- when he wasn't puffing away on a cigar.

“You see, the profit markup on this stuff is huge. Every time one of those bags sells, I feel incredibly warm inside, because that's bloody great business. I managed to get 800 bags of the stuff in for absolutely nothing. Dirt cheap, it was. Get it?”

Lily died a little inside. Firstly, the pun was awful. Secondly, it was her, the Assistant Store Manager, that had ordered the dirt-cheap compost. She gazed blankly into the distance as she wondered exactly what purpose Largo had, aside from talking absolute nonsense. It was her, pushing thirty and over-worked, that took care of the store's vital day-to-day operations, while Largo just pretended to have ordered compost.

At this point Lily was just hoping Largo would decide to wander away to a far corner of the store, but he continued to lean with one arm against the customer service desk as she braced herself for the next round of nonsense to come from his mouth. “You know,” he began, pausing for a second to disassemble anything in his head that may have inadvertently offered any vague hint of insight, “this place is buzzing today. Take a look at that car park: it's buzzing. This looks like a great day for business.”

The car park was indeed looking quite busy, but Lily was all too aware that most of the cars didn't belong to customers. There was a small lake nearby and it was a bright summer weekend, so most of the people using the car park were simply arriving for a walk and a picnic, and not to purchase any of Mr Peaches' prized compost. Being stationed near the front of the store, Lily could easily see each customer as they entered or exited; there must have been no more than a dozen customers in the store at the moment, she thought. It appeared to her that the store was running at a massive loss, but the manager was either already rich enough to not care, or completely oblivious to it. “Yeah,” said Lily, “it's buzzing.”

Largo again paused for a second before turning to grab a large packet of mints from the adjacent counter. “Mint?” he asked, as he struggled to open the bag. Eventually he held the bag out in front of him and pulled it apart with both arms outstretched at once, resulting in the packaging splitting completely down the sides as well as along the top, and dozens of mints fell to the floor. Pausing for another second, he switched back to his attempted conversation, as if the last twenty seconds had never happened.

“Well, as you know, I've sent Malcolm on a fact-finding mission at the Lively Lighting Emporium, and Claire is on leave. So I need you to get over to Gardening and make sure those customers leave here with trolleys full of stuff. Trolleys, baskets, vans, whatever. I want sales. You got me?”

“I'm on it!”

Lily wasn't going to risk saying anything more than those three words in case he changed his mind. She wasn't too pleased with Largo's tone, but she was pleased enough to be getting away from him and to have the chance to breathe the fresh outdoor air of the Gardening section. She dashed past the end of the Lighting aisle, where all the display lights were on but only about half were working. She dashed past the end of the wood aisle, where long thin pieces of wood were laid to rest; nobody had ever bought anything from that aisle. She dashed past the power tools aisle, which was rather unsurprisingly stocked with power tools, although nobody knew what half of them were actually used for, only that they made a lot of noise and had strange proprietary names. She dashed past more and more aisles until eventually reaching the back of the store and the exit to the Garden section, and little did she know she would never return to that store again.

The Gardening section stretched for the full width of the store, but every row seemed to contain the same thing over and over again. Compost. Bags and bags of compost were stacked highly for two full rows. The next row contained hundreds of mostly dead potted plants, and the row after that contained a full line of sheds of slightly different sizes. Bags of compost were also placed in random locations along these plant and shed rows, as if to tell people: “If you don't go home with a shed today, at least pick up a bag of compost.” Behind the sheds was a tall fence to keep intruders out, which seemed rather pointless to Lily as there wasn't really anything anybody would steal out here anyway.

Despite the goods being just as shoddy here as the goods inside, Lily was far more content being in the Gardening section, which at least had some vague feeling of life. Behind the back fence was the footpath to the lake, and while the lake wasn't quite visible there was still something reassuring about seeing the rows of trees and the birds in the distance -- unlike inside the store where the most interesting sight was now the mass of spilled mints that littered the floor near the customer service desk. Whenever Lily managed to get a break she would often walk down the footpath to the lake and scribble down random thoughts in her diary: “I'm 29.” “I am still working in this awful store despite finishing my master's degree.” “Why don't I ever meet anybody interesting in West Breckham?”

Surprisingly, there were a few other people wandering around the Gardening section in search of sheds, plants or compost. Lily began to move towards a woman in a green coat who she could see was browsing near the far end of the plants section. She wondered why anybody would be wearing any kind of coat in this hot weather, never mind a thick green coat like that. Before she had taken more than a few steps, Lily heard a voice behind her and turned to find a scruffy young man holding a guitar case in one hand and a small potted plant in the other.

“Hey, can you help me? You work here, right? Oh, I see your badge, sorry, that was a stupid question. I should have looked at your badge first but you were facing the other way and I wanted to make eye contact first to not look creepy.” He continued to speak at an uninterruptibly frantic pace: “Lily! I'm looking for a shed. It needs to be, like, pretty big, because I'm in a baroque country band and we need to practice in it, and also I might need to keep like some weedkiller in it or something like that, I don't know.”

“I'm not sure we have any sheds that big,” replied Lily. “The biggest shed we have is at the end here: the Apex Predator. Anything bigger than that is a specialist job, and would probably cost a lot of money.”

“Well, I guess I could do the band practice someplace else and just use it for storage then,” the young man cheerfully said. “Actually, it's for my Mum, or at least my Mum told me to get it. She was watching some thing on the telly and apparently it adds value to your house. So can I take a look at the Apex Predator?”

Lily had never previously attempted to sell a shed; so, as she walked with the young man towards the shed, she struggled to find much to say. “The timber here is, um, of the highest quality, so it won't let you down, and there's room in there to swing a bouzouki. Also you've got, um, a window there and, like it says on this sticker, there's high light penetration.” They both felt kind of useless. Lily had confirmed her suspicions that she would struggle a bit at attempting to sell a shed, and the young man had suddenly realised he had no idea what he was really looking for.

“Truth be told, I have no idea what I'm really looking for,” said the young man. “I guess I thought sheds would be quite simple, but there's all this stuff like high light penetration and I just don't know any more. My name's Ian, by the way. Will you be in my band?”

“I'm sure that would be fantastic, but I can't really play anything or sing, so I'd just be embarrassing myself.”

Ian gazed into Lily's eyes. “Oh, I'm sure you're fantastic. I mean you were just talking confidently about timber, and that's like timbre, and timbre is incredibly important in music. See, you're a natural.”

Lily wondered if Ian was interested in buying a shed at all, or if he was just out looking for somebody to share his timbre with, having exhausted all the usual venues and ending up in West Breckham Dazzling DIY and Garden Store. Lily did appreciate the attention on some level; however, since she was aware it was completely whimsical and she didn't find him particularly interesting, she decided to quickly change the subject back to sheds: “Why don't we take a look at another shed? If you look at a few sheds and weigh up the differences, you may end up with a better idea of what you're looking for.”

Ian followed Lily about half-way down the row of sheds to a slightly smaller shed, which had a flatter-looking roof, no windows and was dwarved by a huge tree which was overhanging from the other side of the back fence. His attention was briefly diverted by the site of a shed even further down the row, which had decomposed so much that it looked like it could have been delivered as a recovered wreckage that had been lying at the bottom of the ocean for a few centuries. Maybe one of the passengers on board the Mayflower had gone mad and started building a shed. As Ian turned back to the shed he was supposed to be looking at, he decided that one must have just been put there to make the other sheds look better.

“This shed has a flatter-looking roof and no windows,” explained Lily. As she looked towards the label on the side of the shed for more information, she thought she could hear a noise coming from inside the shed.

“Is that noise coming from inside the shed?” asked Ian. The noise from the traffic passing along the road to the side of the store was enough to drown out most quiet sounds, but there were occasional pauses after the cars passed; during the last pause, Lily and Ian had heard the same thing.

They both listened carefully to the shed and Lily shrugged her shoulders. Whatever noise there was had now stopped, but Ian in particular was still curious. “This shed looks okay actually, I'll have a quick look inside,” said Ian.

Lily was curious too, of course, but as an assistant store manager she was worried about opening the door in front of a customer. There could be a dangerous animal inside, and she was certain that disturbing dangerous animals was not a particularly good way to impress customers or guarantee their safety. There could be a person inside, homeless or taking drugs, and that would be unlikely to impress customers either. But Lily could hardly say that they should just look at the shed over there that looks like a wreckage from the bottom of the ocean, so she reluctantly smiled and pulled the shed door open, as Ian stood next to her with a curious look on his face.

What had been going on inside the shed quickly became apparent as the door scraped open. It may have been dark around the shed due to the large tree overhanging from across the fence, but it was definitely light enough to make out the pile of clothes, mysterious black bag and can of WD40 that lay in the doorway. Further inside the shed, they could make out two naked silhouettes clutched together in the corner, and this time Lily was entirely speechless.

Everybody remained still and in silence for a moment, until Ian broke the silence by bursting into laughter. Lily couldn't help giggling too, in a manner as professional as possible, as the couple inside the shed reached for their clothes.

“Can you help me?” enquired a voice from behind Lily. It was the woman in a green coat whom she had seen in the plant section earlier. Before Lily could reply, the green-coated woman had glanced at the shed and caught sight of the two naked figures inside as they scrambled to get their clothes on. “Good Lord!” she squealed. “What on earth have they been doing in that shed?”

The green-coated woman glared at Lily, who was now trying her best not to laugh, as if she was to blame for the entire situation. “This is dreadful. I'd like to speak to the manager, please. I came here to buy a plant, not to see this kind of debauchery. This country, I swear, is going to the dogs.”

“I'm terribly sorry about all of this,” remonstrated Lily, “this kind of thing has never happened here before, as far as I am aware. As the assistant manager of the store, I really do feel great shame at discovering this going on. It's definitely not company policy to allow people into our sheds for any purposes unrelated to trade.” She had no desire to bring Largo into this.

The couple stepped out of the shed as they put on the last of their clothes. They were in their early thirties, one male, one female, and were now suddenly quite well-dressed in stylish designer clothes; this drew a further glare of disapproval from the green-coated woman, who proceeded to unleash another barrage of anger.

“Let me tell you,” she wheezed. “I have been married for fifteen years and I am extremely happy. Never once have I felt the need to degrade myself in a shed or anything remotely like that. What they should do with people like you is put you in the army. That'll sort you out. Pah, sheds indeed.”

“Well, Daniel and I were going to spend some time together down by the lake,” the female shed person responded, “but it was exceptionally busy today because the weather is so nice. We decided to come here instead and thought nobody would ever come looking at this shed because the Apex Predator one at the end looks far better. We aren't exhibitionists or anything; we're deeply embarrassed.”

“It's true,” added Daniel, as he did up the final button of his flashy designer shirt. “We just popped in to have a look around and maybe buy a plant, just like you. Kate suggested we had a look at the compost selection and I don't know what happened then. Before we knew it we ended up in this shed. I'm sorry, we really didn't mean to cause you any harm.”

“Well, you DID cause me harm,” replied the green-coated woman, “and I still want to speak to the manager.”

Meanwhile, Ian had put down his guitar case and taken a few steps away as he did not want to get involved in the confrontation. He could hear the green-coated woman repeating herself, Lily repeating her apologies, and Daniel and Kate also calmly attempting to diffuse the situation, but only managing to wind the green-coated woman up further. Ian was just pretending to be interested in the rotting shed in front of him.

“Is everything okay here?” shouted a voice from the distance. It was Largo Peaches, complete with his huge “MANAGER” badge and confident stroll. Lily gasped nervously as she saw him approaching; Largo was the last person on earth who could possibly be helpful in this situation. She remembered the time he had cancelled all trade with their only supplier of tiles because they had decided to stop supplying hexagonal border tiles and offered octagonal ones instead; that was too much for Largo, even though nobody had ever bought any of the hexagonal border tiles.

Lily, Ian, Daniel and Kate stood in silence as the green-coated woman delivered an extended rant to Largo about the moral bankruptcy of the nation and his complicity in it. “Look at these two!” she raved. “I can see they're no-good libertines straight away, so why on earth did you let them into your store? This is a family store, isn't it? Lively Lighting Emporium doesn't have problems like this. I think I'll have a word with the Police and our Member of Parliament about this. It's a disgrace!”

As the green-coated woman continued to rant, something far more significant happened. The group near the shed was suddenly engulfed a huge dark shadow, which stretched for the full length of the Gardening section and beyond. They all looked up to see a huge saucerlike object covering the sky and centered directly on their position, and suddenly the argument was over.

“What the fuck is THAT?!” exclaimed the green-coated woman, breaking her prudish veneer. Ian wandered back to rejoin the group as they stared at this mysterious saucer hovering above them. Lily, Largo, Daniel and Kate gazed in silent awe as the craft continued to hover motionlessly above them. “You don't see one of those every day,” remarked Ian.

The saucer-like object was black all over, with no other discernible exterior features apart from the massive red beam, which suddenly appeared from the centre and covered the group as they were examining the lack of discernible exterior features. Now they were all completely unable to move a muscle; they remained powerless as the beam caused them to float upwards towards the saucer-like object which by now was obviously a flying saucer abducting them, and I'm afraid to say that the story really does go downhill from here.

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