Friday, November 25, 2016

Patient Zero (#FlashFicFriday)

Some of us are trying to bring the fun of flash fiction back to Twitter. Here’s my contribution, inspired by Daughter Dearest’s text this morning: Walmart is empty, like nobody in the parking lot. That would be as much a sign of the zombie apocalypse as anything…

Do join us! Go to the #FlashFicFriday blog and leave your link in the collector.



Heather was alone in the unruly crowd, but she was closer to the doors now. After all the stress of the Thanksgiving family gathering, her friends Brit and Becks (aka The Bs) invited her to a party followed by Black Friday shopping. Seemed like a great idea at the time. “Maybe it’s food poisoning,” she muttered to herself. Aunt Tammy made the most god-awful side dishes, and insisted everyone get some. Not to put too fine a point on it, she felt like shit. Thank God for the crowd, she thought. It’s the only thing holding me up.

A vision of being a Black Friday statistic brought her to her senses.”Girl up,” she growled. “You’re on a mission.” Big-screen TVs were $125 at Mallet’s (“don’t go to the maul, go to Mallet’s!”) and she meant to get two—one for her, one for her cousin Whitney, the only family member she ever looked forward to seeing nowadays.

She looked at the big digital clock over the doors. 4:54 a.m., and Mallet’s would open at five. Her vision was blurry, and her mind wasn’t much better. She focused, trying to piece together what had happened. She never got hammered enough to black out. Maybe Becks was right, and that guy she had hooked up with at the party gave her a roofie. The Bs ended up carrying her to the car, after threatening the guy’s life, and drove with her window open until she came to.

Her shoulder itched, and she winced as she scratched. A memory sputtered to life: the guy had his hand in her shirt—but behind her neck, gently scratching her shoulder. It felt good, so she hadn’t made him stop. The way it felt now, he must have taken a few layers of skin off. “Some pervs have the weirdest kinks,” she said, and this time the mom in front of her glanced over her shoulder.

Plan. Focus. Get what you came for. The terrified employees lined up a bunch of carts, staggered so you could slip between them to get to the first row. The digital clock went to 4:59, then 4:59:30, then the crowd counted down the last ten seconds.

The doors slid open, the employees got the hell out of the way, and the stampede was on. Heather made the most of her solid build, pushing the mom aside, elbowing her way forward, rolling with her staggering run, letting nobody slow her down. She weaved through the carts, grabbed one in the second row as the first row sprinted into the store, and joined the mad chase.

At Electronics, she found the stack of big-screens, and shoved two onto her cart. Someone grabbed her hoodie, trying to yank her backward, and she stepped back and threw an elbow. The stout middle-aged woman grunted and staggered back, and Heather pushed the cart away from the growing melee around the TVs.

Now that she had what she wanted, her resolve and energy crashed. Slumping against the cart, she trundled to the customer service desk in the back.

“You okay?” the flack behind the counter asked. “Do I need to call 911?”

“No,” she managed to reply. “Just need to rest a couple minutes is all.” She collapsed onto the bench and knew no more.


“Hey. Hey.” Shaking. “Hey. If you’re not sick, you have to go. I’ll call 911 if you want.”

She pushed herself up with a grunt, swaying a little. The TVs were gone, so was her purse, but she had no memory of those things. She was here for…

Rrrrowlrrrrr, went her stomach. She was here to eat. And the meat standing before her was as good a start as any.

12 comments:

  1. I love it!!! That twist at the end was delicious :)

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  2. this put me in mind of the stampede you get at Mecca during the holy week. USA's religion is shopping and Black Friday its holy day?

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  3. Sylvia, I kind of telegraphed the ending with the title and graphic, but I'm glad it worked!

    Marc, that's not too far from the truth. Unfortunately.

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  4. See? All the reason not to go to Black Friday shopping. Zombies. You'll survive longer because you'll be asleep in bed. XD

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  5. Patricia, Wal-Mart was full of zombies even before the apocalypse. ;-)

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  6. Shopping as a contact sport -- the zombieism was bound to show up sooner or later. Loved that this was from the POV of the local Patient Zero.

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  7. Thanks Katherine! I think the bargain hunters are still going to be hunting. ;-)

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  8. Oh, this was good!!!! I've never been to a Black Friday sale (and, if life is good to me, I never will), so I got sucked into the horrifying details—seriously, a countdown to 5am? and "terrified employees" made me laugh out loud :D Because my attention was so taken by this cultural phenomenon, the ending hit me like a wrecking ball. I'd totally forgotten the title, and even your Zombie Apocalypse reference. That's some good writing, Larry—thanks for sharing!
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

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  9. Guilie, I wasn't exaggerating. My daughter has been on both sides of a Black Friday (as a shopper, and as a retail employee). She's not terribly fond of either role.

    Thanks for the thumbs-up, that's like one of the best compliments I've gotten on a story here!

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  10. Black Friday just got even worse ^_^

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  11. Ooh great parallel between Black Friday madness and the start of the Zombie Apocalypse! It's sad cousin Whitney won't be getting her big screen TV, though she won't be needing it with the zombies and all...

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