Supermarket aisles

My mother had been terminally ill in a hospital for some time throughout my childhood, so my sister mostly took the title of mother for me. Dad… well he was somebody I'd never met nor been told about. As a curious 10 year old child I'd ask often about my father; however, my relatives frequently ignored me or said they were "too busy to talk right now." It was something I'd never understood. My deceased cousin was someone nobody told me about either. Relatives often mentioned how he was a great man, who died so young. But how he died… I was never told. I was very clueless throughout my childhood and grew up to question whether people acknowledged that I was part of the family let alone even there.

I was too young at the time to stay home alone, but I always believed it was better than food shopping with my older sister. As much as I enjoyed being bought a bar of chocolate, it was an immensely strange and paranoia filled experience. Even my sister seemed extremely nervous when walking down the aisles of shelves filled with products ranging from food to cosmetics to hygiene. She often clutched onto my hand tightly and kept me close beside her as she held a basket in her opposing hand.

There was a cashier who was almost always at the cash register closest to the door. He had abnormally light blue eyes that fixed on me every time we entered the shop. The man looked around 38-45 years old at the max and had a poorly shaved beard and head. He wore a name tag, but I was never close enough to read it. Usually, he would stand in one position and nothing would move apart from his eyes. If he wasn't doing that he wasn't there at all.

My sister never looked at him as far as I know and when paying she went straight to the self checkout - even then the man was still glaring at me. I occasionally looked back at him to see if he was still looking at me, because looking away for more than a few seconds was unbearable. My sister would never take very long in the supermarket. She couldn't drive and this was the closest shop to our house that only took a maximum of five minutes to walk to. That made her able to quickly grab what she needed and go.

I vaguely remember my sister being shouted at by a woman who I swore was my mother; she had a recognizable voice along with an extremely pale complexion. I only heard snippets of the argument, "Your insane! What if… putting yourself in so much danger… You know what they've…" My sister then fought back with, "If he was so much of a… for a lifetime sentence rather than nine years!" At this point, the woman - maybe my mother - got into a car and drove off and my sister stormed off in a completely different direction to the way home. As far as I know the only buildings that were up the way she was heading was the police station, post office and a broken down church.

Being young and left alone, I had no idea what to do. My eyes welled up and things went blurry from the tears. I pulled my sleeves over my hands and wiped my eyes. I opened my eyes - that were now half dry - only to look up at a tall man looking down at me. The cashier stood before me and a sudden terror rattled through every single bone in my body. A numb, bitter chill crept down my neck. I took a glance at his name tag, which had no name at all, but a smudge of black ink.

He clutched my hand securely and kept me close beside him. He walked me into the shop, which seemed to be oddly quiet for a Saturday lunchtime. As we walked through the automatic doors, he softly said, "Your cousin used to work here you know… did you know that?" I didn't answer. He stopped at the start of the sweet aisle and told me to choose whatever sweets I wanted as he closed up the shop and called the police.

As soon as he went out of sight, I fled down the aisle as fast as I could to escape. For some odd reason the aisle kept getting longer and I didn't get anywhere. In the corner of my eyes I could see the shelves edge inwards. I felt my lungs tighten and I began to gasp for air. I wasn't able to inhale any oxygen, and within a few seconds I had collapsed to the ground becoming immersed in darkness.

After nearly a year, I awoke. A doctor sat beside me, looked at the hospital bed opposite mine and, with a familiar voice, spoke. “Your mother used to be here… did you know that?"