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Closing Time

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PC300595
Around eight-thirty was the time I went to the supermarket and had the worst night of my life. I didn't mean to go so late, nor spend so much time in the store, but the simple matter was that I had already had such a bad day at work and, coupled with the stress that it was a long day, it was not adding up to much good.

First, I should tell you a bit about myself. I am in my thirties, not much to look at, blond hair, stubble. I work as a technician, which is more interesting than it sounds. The benefit of this job is that it is very friendly and casual, and mostly everyone knows each other. But the downside, unfortunately, is such long hours. The boss keeps us in the office until something goes wrong, then we are called on to fix it. I suppose this job has kept me more up to date with computers and my personal laptop at home. But there are, I suppose, there are still some things we will never know, even in the end - and I have had my fair share of experience with those now.

Like I said, the downside of the job was that it only let me out at around six-thirty in the evening, and until then it had sounded too good to be true - casual dress, double pay and smoking tolerant. But everything has its downside.

The result, anyway, was that I got home at about seven-thirty, and then spent a good half hour ruffling through my cupboards and pantries. Finding that there was nothing to eat apart from a fridge full of beer (and beer is not a food, is it?) I realized that there was nothing else I could do- I had to go down to the supermarket. The bad thing was that it closed at nine thirty sharp, and they did their best to push you on your way. But it was only five items I needed, and I could deal with them in like five minutes.

It was as soon as I went into the store twenty minutes later that things took a turn for the worse. It was almost pitch black outside. This night looked worse than ever due to the lack of moonlight, and all the street lamps were on, but they had a dark, eerie feeling. I couldn't stop shivering as I crossed the threshold - and it seemed like I was crossing over into Limbo or somewhere. The temperature immediately dropped.

It was back then I remembered that awful July where the store was closed because of vandals and we all had to use the other, ridiculously overpriced store across the street, which ate into my wages.

The store was normal, despite the feeling I got at the door. The people were normal too, some last-minute shoppers, some dejected-looking staff, the usual.

I went up through the aisles, hurrying past the meat section - oh yes, I remembered now. The "vandals" had actually been protesters about the high amount of unethical meat the store had held. The meat had been taken from animals which had been mutilated and - OK, you don't want to know. You never do. But that is a lesson I would soon learn was more essential than it seemed. We never do want to know.

I was right up by the bread aisle and it was almost nine p.m., and I wanted to hurry because I knew the store would soon close, and now the time was moving on. Suddenly the worst thing happened - my phone rang.

I fished it out and looked suspiciously at it, but seeing it was my boss, I immediately answered it.

"Hey boss, what is it, I can't talk long, I'm in a shop -"

"Hey, I wanted to tell you how ridiculously stupid your last submission was. You totally blew a gift. You not only submitted stupidly false links, you completely destroyed any hope of being taken seriously."

I was so confused, I felt the time moving on, and my legs were getting wobbly. I felt like going to sit down for a bit, but fortunately I remembered I was, in fact, in a shop.

"Sir, I am in a sho -"

"I don't care if you're in a show, you can go and work in the show business if that really is so important to you, you're just a loser, and I am going to tell you to not even bother coming into work tomorrow. YOU'RE FIRED."

That totally threw me. How could my boss be so callous and just fire me after what had seemed like a good day? I was walking, as if in a trance, and could not see where I was going, and so I slipped through an open door, wandering down a hallway, and so I found myself in a part of the store I had never seen before- the loading area.

It was full of crates, being a bit less impressive than I had imagined - I was amazed, in fact, that they had just let me walk in right through that empty door, but it was quite unguarded. The man at the meat counter had gone ages ago, and this backstage area was kind of fascinating.

I was mesmerized, however, by my boss's callous comment, and sat down on a bale of what looked like cereal, with my head in my hands. I was not thinking of shopping at all. About ten minutes later, a voice rang through the store, saying "closing in five minutes, all last-minute customers check-out now," but I ignored it.

I stretched out my legs and just sat there. Once I recovered my senses enough, and got over most of my shock, I staggered to my feet and moved out of the room.

What I found was an empty shop. Completely empty.

The lights were still on, but there was nobody there, no human movements. It was remarkably still, silent and eerie. I had never seen a shop so completely silent before.

I took my phone out of my pocket. It was now quarter to ten.

Outside, in the car park, there was not any movement, it was still. I saw a last-minute employee get in his car and drive out and away, his tail lights blinking into the distance and dissolving.

So, there I was, stuck in the store. It looked like I really would have to spend the night in here, and take the total embarrassment of having been found in there the next morning. This was just too much. First, being sacked, then, this. I looked all around, but could not see any sign of human life. From a store which had been so busy and noisy a while before, it was now a totally silent, almost a dead store. I had never seen a store so devoid of human activity.

It stood, as empty as a destroyed hive, with its lights shining bright, more radiant than stars.

I wandered round gently, fearful of making noise, thinking, Oh well, I've got some food to last the night. Could even go into staff quarters and make coffee. But I told myself then, I'd get in serious trouble for opening items in a shop, I'd better wait.

But what about my car? I thought suddenly, Oh God, it says no overnight parking.

But then I slumped against the fish aisle and told myself I would just deal with that when it came.

Suddenly, for no reason at all, the aisle across from me was now in complete blackness.

I looked up curiously, and saw a whole aisle in blackness, with its single light above flickering, a dull white. Was I hallucinating? It sure didn't look like it.

The light looked somewhat unnatural.

Then the second aisle down began to flicker, then completely blew, suddenly blacking out in on itself like it was dead.

Two aisles were now in blackness. Suddenly alarmed, I looked around the empty, silent store.

Only it was suddenly not so silent anymore. I had not realized how precious human movement was, no matter how muffled; it meant there was still sanity around. But this was somehow far from human, this noise was the very edge of insanity.

It sounded like something being dragged, like something hobbling. I looked at the doors just as a third aisle went into darkness, and soon a major power cut seemed to be sweeping the store, the lights shining so brightly they gave me a headache, and then winking into blackness.

The noise was getting closer. The darkness of the power failure prevented me from seeing exactly what it was, and of course this gave me more nightmares than I needed. My imagination went crazy. I could sense it, taking my throat in an embrace with its hooked claws. I could sense it, cradling my neck. I could sense it, snapping my neck. I began to move faster.

The noise was getting louder, and the whole store was almost in darkness. I half-ran, half-walked to the door just as the final light plunged out and the whole empty shop was now in darkness.

I could feel heavy breathing as I fumbled with the automatic door which of course wouldn't open. I felt the breath on my neck, smelling like a furnace. The breathing sounded roasted, tortured. But just when the stumbling noises were at their loudest - I turned back, terrified of what was behind, and saw - nothing.

Just blackness.

Something moved at the far end of the aisle. I could not see what it was but it was too quick to register. Nothing was visible but something moved.

I turned around and grappled with the door.

I began to hear the stumbling, dragging noises again, but these were now softer and fainter, which meant that I must be getting away, and this gave me more hope, away from whatever this horror was. I hammered on the glass, and the empty streets and the winking street lights outside seemed to be mocking me.

I then turned round, and suddenly, to my alarm, saw something right in front of me. I still did not see what it was, but it shifted its feet. I did the only thing I could. I reached for the rack of carrier baskets beside me, picked one up, and threw it right at the thing.

It was like smashing a mirror. Some sort of noise erupted, like a sob or a snarl, and ripples seemed to come through the air around it, in the dark.

The next thing I knew I was being hurled right through the air, through the doors, and right into the entrance hall. Closer to the exit than before.

I must have passed out or something because I woke up at six in the morning. Way before opening.

As expected, I had to pay for the broken doors, which was made more difficult because I didn't have a job now and I couldn't risk more money loss. They offered me a job there to pay back the loss, but even though I needed the money, I refused. I didn't want to go back in there again.

I have since moved far from the place and I will never go late shopping again.

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