Erick arrived promptly for duty at 6:00 PM. He worked as a security guard for an upscale clothing store in the ritzy part of town. It was a pretty cushy gig; aside from the occasional trust fund kid doing a line in the bathroom or a sticky fingered girl needing her purse turned out, his shift generally involved watching monitors for twelve hours. This was even more true of the night shift, since the store closed at 9 PM. The lone guard watching the monitors through the night could sleep through half his shift and no one would be the wiser.
The chumps that worked the parking lot patrols in the shopping complex thought it was boring. To Erick, it was bliss.
The normal store hours wound down just as they always did, with customers walking the aisles, inspecting the clothes, and making trips to and from the changing rooms. Erick shifted in his seat, wishing there were cameras in those changing rooms. There were quite a few top quality trophy wives that shopped in this store, after all. Of course, the changing rooms were off-limits for cameras due to privacy reasons, so Erick leaned back with a sigh and began poking at his smart phone to pass the time.
Closing time came and went, and the monitors now showed empty aisles and abandoned cashier stations. The store was a darkened temple to consumerism, and Erick was the lone attendant priest. He passed the time intermittently glancing at monitors and playing the latest hit mobile game, doing his best to stay awake despite the quiet and solitude.
At around 12:30 AM, some movement on camera #9 caught his eye. Erick's eyes shifted from his phone to the screen, narrowing as they searched the CRT display. He saw nothing. Lowering his eyes back to the smart phone screen, he continued his imaginary conquests in his game. A half hour passed before he saw movement again. He glanced up again, then did a double take. He leaned forward in his seat, setting his phone on the counter and staring at the screen.
There was someone standing in front of the clothing rack.
The picture on the CRT was grainy, but judging by the length of the hair and haggard appearance of the clothes, it appeared to be a woman. Perhaps it was a vagrant of some kind? This was a hassle Erick did not need.
Erick stood from his chair. As he did, the figure's head inclined; it appeared to be looking in the direction of the camera, but the resolution made it impossible to tell for sure. Slowly the figure turned and walked towards the changing rooms.
Shit, Erick thought, moving quickly towards the door. He did not want to play hide and seek with the homeless at 1:00 AM. Grabbing his flashlight, baton, and his keys, he left the guard station. He turned, locking the door behind him before walking out into the store's showroom floor.
The eerily silent store spread before him as he made his way through the racks towards the changing rooms. Each stand seemed to loom larger in the shadows, and Erick moved carefully to ensure that each one was just that - a shadow. As he passed through women's wear he glanced up at the wall. There was a model there, clad in only bikini style underwear. He smiled up at the attractive woman as he walked, then felt himself bump into a large humanoid figure.
Suppressing a shout, he simultaneously shoved and scooted backwards, creating distance so he could draw his baton. He peered meaningfully at the fallen figure. A mannequin. Erick cursed under his breath, sheathing his weapon. He bent down and set the mannequin back upright, shamelessly coping a feel before straightening the blouse that it wore.
A soft thumping sound brought him out of his reverie and back to the task at hand. Resolutely, he strode the remaining distance to the changing rooms directly, intent on confronting the intruder and getting this whole thing over with.
The changing room was illuminated only by the emergency exit lights. Four faux-oak stalls sat in front of him, their doors shut. Erick called out, but there was no answer. He spoke again, more loudly, demanding the intruder come out. Still no answer but the hum of the HVAC. Finally, Erick stated he was coming in, and that they'd better make themselves known quick.
Once again there was no response. Erick moved to the room on the far left. He placed a hand on the knob and turned slowly. The cool metal turned without a sound, as did the door on its well-maintained hinges. Erick clicked on his flashlight and, shoving the door open, stepped back and inspected the stall.
It was empty. Three more to go.
Erick moved to the second stall, apprehension rising like bile in the back of his throat. He grabbed hold of the knob, firmer than before, and gave the door a firm shove in. Again, the changing stall was empty. Despite himself, he began to sweat. Only two stalls remained.
He took a few deep breaths. This was not a big deal. After all, he'd kicked out unwanted people before. Besides, if the person was violent or wouldn't leave, Erick could just call the cops. With those thoughts, he pushed the nervousness down, clasped the handle of the stall, and opened it.
Hairs prickled on the back of Erick's neck as the stared at the one remaining stall, fear surging back to the front of his mind. They were in there. They had to be. He called out to them, telling them to come out now, or he was coming in. He received no response.
He listened closely, but could hear no breathing. There was no smell, either. Given their haggard appearance he expected a nasty stench, but instead there was nothing but the high-end citrus cinnamon smell of the wall-mounted deodorizers. He should have been relieved, but the disparity just unnerved him more.
He steeled himself to open the door. It was time to turn this person out on the street. This had ruined his evening, and as he thought about it Erick actually began to get angry. What a hassle, a headache, an annoyance! He resolved that he might even be a bit 'rough' with the intruder if he had to, just to teach them a lesson.
Hands now shaking with fear and anticipation, he drew his baton back and, rather than turning the knob, kicked the door in violently. What he saw there caused his stomach to drop into his shoes.
Nothing. There was no one there.
Enough was enough. Erick wasn't going to play this game. He put away his baton and reached for his smart phone to call the police, but found that it wasn't there. He had set it down in the guard station room earlier.
Erick walked back to the guard station, regularly looking about and over his shoulder for any sign of the intruder. When he reached the locked guard room door, he fumbled out his keys and shakily undid the lock. When the mechanism clicked open, he glanced briefly over his shoulder - nothing there - before hastily entering the station and locking the door again behind him.
He sat down at the console in front of the screens, rewinding the footage on all the monitors. He reached the point at which the mystery person appeared. He watched them walk into the changing room as he dialed the local police precinct contact number. As the phone rang, he watched himself appear on the monitors.
A woman answered the phone, asking how to direct his call. Erick asked to be transferred to the on-watch officer for his area of town. As he waited, he watched the tape as his past self stumbled into the mannequin, then moved to the changing rooms.
As his past self appeared camera #9, a flicker of movement appeared on camera #5... the camera displaying the outside of the guard station door. He turned to look.
The haggard woman - he was sure of that now from this new view - had appeared on camera #5's display, just as he had arrived at the changing stations. Where had she come from? He watched, his heart speeding up, as the figure walked towards the door. He had locked it. Erick knew he had locked it.
As the figure reached the guard door, the screen flicked off. Behind him, Erick could hear a slow creaking sound. He watched in terror as, in the reflection from the surface of camera #5's dead monitor, the storage closet behind him began to open...
"Hello, area 425 precinct, how can I help you?"
"Hello? Anyone there?"
This pasta has received a rating of 6/10 or higher and has moved on to the finals of the 2015 freestyle pasta challenge.