Photo Source: Pixabay
Behind the eyes, I mean.
She moves the items over the barcode scanner with undeniable poetry, but it isn’t rocket science. For a moment, I consider the idea of a checkout monkey and a little giggle sneaks out, but alas nothing from—what is her name? Bethany. That’s the name on the badge anyway. What a funny name for a chimp that would be. And then I think, what wouldn’t be? Monica? Marge?
The explosion sends me reeling to the floor—a thunderclap of shattered glass. I feel some of it pierce the right side of my body but no pain registers. There is a ringing in my ears. Blood begins to seep through my crisp white shirt, and I wonder how I will ever get it out.
I see someone slowly get up—a young man, perhaps in his twenties. He dusts himself off with his good hand. His other arm is on the floor next to a green basket. He glances around, and I follow his gaze across the debris. We catch sight of each other. I have never seen him before, yet I feel close to him.
My body starts to sting as the shock wears off and I push myself up. The conveyer belt is covered in broken glass. I'll need to put that lettuce back.
I turn to face Bethany. Her face is a mess, cut to shreds by shards of glass that remain embedded in her skin—they sparkle in the evening sun like diamonds.
I start to move towards her, and she looks directly at me for the first time. Something isn’t right. Shock can affect people in different ways, but her eyes are as dead as they were before. No sign of trauma. She turns back to the conveyor belt, picks up the juice and puts it through and then roughly grabs the lettuce and asks if I want to change it for another.
The ringing in my ear starts to subside, and I can hear the sounds of people screaming and crying for help.
Bethany has just asked if I want to change my lettuce.
I scream at her then, “What’s wrong with you?”
“It has a caterpillar on it,” she replies sheepishly.
“Are you insane, woman?” I scream at her again.
For the first time, I see some fear in her eyes. It gives me some satisfaction.
Someone is pulling at my shirt, “Hey, buddy, are you okay?”
I turn around and see the guy from earlier, but the closeness has gone. He is unscathed, unmarked—both arms intact.
The manager approaches the next checkout with a broom and starts sweeping the broken jar from the floor.
It has happened again.
I need help. I’ve been back three months now, but it isn’t getting better.
I look towards the street outside and can see the enemy all around. The reflection in the window projects a much younger version of myself—gun in hand, full uniform—ready for action.
Mark recently gave up a lucrative career in sales to pursue his dream of being a writer. He has only been writing short stories for seven months now, but already his passion and belief has resulted in paid pieces in many prestigious magazines including Books N' Pieces, Artpost Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, Horrorzine, Antipodean SF, Page & Spine, and Montreal Writes. His work has also appeared on The No Sleep Podcast, and his stories will also be included in six anthologies set for release this year. Mark resides in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and two children.
You can find Mark on Twitter here.