“Cleanup in Aisle 23!”
Aisle 23, water filtration. That kid has gotten into the calcium hypochlorite sacks again. We only used to sell it by the gram but lately people have been fighting over it like the last turkey at Thanksgiving. So now we sell it by the sack. Large burlap sacks filled with the stinking stuff. There’s this kid who thinks it’s hilarious to run up and down the aisle with a pocket knife and slice the sacks open.
I’ve worked here long enough to know a cleanup in that aisle can only mean one thing. Even from the checkout bay I can smell the stuff. I grab the intercom.
“Code blue in Aisle 23. Code BLUE!” Maybe this time that halfwit Adam will remember to take his oxygen mask with him and not pass out during the clean up. I am not in the mood to carry his ass to the First Aid room again.
I studied Prepping in college and landing this job was a real coup for someone in my field. They taught us the history of Doomsmart. Not too long ago it used to be some place called Costco where people could buy groceries in bulk, which seems rather redundant considering those people weren’t prepping for anything.
We have a regular customer who comes into the store every single day. He has unruly hair and always wears a long black trench coat like something out of a movie. I can’t help but stare whenever I get the chance. Some days he doesn’t even buy anything, just walks around the store and leaves. Some of the employees think that he’s a secret shopper. My colleague Tracy thinks he is “mysterious and dreamy” which I think says more about her than him.
“Welcome to Doomsmart, the end is coming.”
“Welcome to Doomsmart, the end is coming!”
I’m on greeting duty today with Tracy. It’s the easiest job in the store but it doesn’t really allow me to use any of my prepping knowledge. Tracy uses it as an opportunity to gossip and ogle the male customers.
“So you know that cute guy?”
“You mean the one who’s in here every day — not cute, creepy? Yes, I know the one.”
Tracy rolls her eyes. “Well, it turns out he isn’t a secret shopper, he’s a Chosen One. He comes to the store because it’s where he gets his visions about attacks and future threats.”
Now it’s my turn to roll my eyes. “You don’t really believe all that hokey stuff, do you?”
“It’s true! Apparently… Welcome to Doomsmart, the end is coming! Apparently Head Office pays him on a freelance basis. It’s why there’s mandatory overtime next weekend. He told them to order more stock.”
Ugh, mandatory overtime again? I hope the apocalypse comes before next weekend. I emailed Head Office to ask if they would pay us overtime if we worked on Doomsday but they said no. Cheap bastards.
During the morning meeting we’re told that we have the day off tomorrow because everyone needs to stay underground for 24 hours while some airborne virus passes through the city. I make a mental note to remember to pick up some extra supplies before leaving work.
“I hope you found everything you were looking for, sir?” I ask the ‘Chosen One’ as he stands at my register. “We have a sale on oxygen tanks in preparation for tomorrows bunk-in if you’re interested?”
He just shakes his head and smiles. Okay, so I can see what Tracy means; he is pretty cute in that quiet way. There’s a silence while I bag his items and I can see him trying to decide if he should speak or not. Finally he does.
“You won’t need an oxygen tank. You won’t even need to stay underground tomorrow.”
I’m confused by his outburst and it must show. He changes his tack.
“When was the last bunk-in, do you remember?”
“Last quarter,” I answer. “End of the financial year.”
“And when is the end of this quarter?”
“This weekend…” I trail off.
“Head Office said the sales have been a tad low this quarter, am I right? They need a last minute boost.” He looks around the busy store: people scrambling for last-minute supplies, spending entire pay checks in one shop. “It’s working, isn’t it?”
I just stare at him while I process what he said. I realise my mouth is hanging open and I shut it hard too quickly and bite my tongue.
He only smiles and walks out of the store, no oxygen supplies in tow, just some flare guns and jelly beans which might be the strangest combination I’ve ever checked out.
All I can muster as I watch him walk away is a mumbled, “Thank you for shopping at Doomsmart, we hope to see you alive again.”
Anamarija Slatinec is an Australian writer living in Sydney. She spends most days reading, writing and making impassioned speeches about things nobody cares about. She has been referred to as “delightfully strange”, which she liked, and her father says her writing is wonderful, so it must be true. She is currently working on a novel so stay tuned. You can find her on Twitter @Ana_Slatinec and her blog anaventures.wordpress.com.