It’s a little later than planned, but the short story challenge will not be denied.
So, yes, technically I should be onto week 32 of the short story challenge as the chronometer flies. However, as I’m writing this, I’m in the recovery phase after some pretty serious invasive surgery that’s laid me low the past two weeks.
The prospect of writing creatively — or even staring at a computer screen for any stretch of time — just wasn’t on the cards. I did have to weigh up whether this meant I’d “failed” the challenge. Technically… yes.
But I want to be kind with myself, because it’s been a hell of a month, if that’s not already evident. So I decided last week that I was allowing myself a grace week to heal, maybe two if needed. It’s my challenge, and I can bend the rules if I want to.
Here for the first time? I’ve challenged myself to write a short story every week for a year. This is the 31st of those stories so far.
If you want to catch up, you can read every short story here.
In itself, this is a repeat of a challenge I did a few years back which led to an entire collection of short stories, which you can buy as an eBook, if you would be so kind:
Want something notably different and considerably longer? There’s also my B-movie novel, Sharksplosion. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d think a book with that title might be like
Enough of the eBook plugging, Alex.
The Customer Is Always…
In the deep dark below. Underneath, it lies, waiting and dripping.
Hungry. Always hungry. Eternally hungry.
Waiting. For too long now.
So, you want to become a member of the Gunderson’s Family of Sales Assistants?
We think that’s great, but of course we strive to provide more to customers than every other shopping mall out there. That’s why we only hire the very best sales assistants.
Are you just here to cash a pay check, or do you own a coffee cup that proudly proclaims that it’s nearly “hump day”? You’re not going to be what we’re looking for, sadly.
To be a Gunderson’s employee you’ve got to be willing to go that extra mile, maybe two in order to keep the customers happy.
That could be putting another layer of wrapping paper on a Christmas gift, letting them know about the specials in the deli section or helping carry their heavy shopping bags out to their SUV.
It’s that little special extra touch of magic that makes a Gunderson’s shopping experience what it is.
So, before we start, you’ve got to be sure you’re up to the job.
If a passion for sales (and earning healthy commissions!) runs in your blood, then drop your resume, references and medical reports into the service desk on level 3. One of our HR team will be in touch if we think you’re just what we’re looking for.
And remember: Always smile!
The hunger rises again, as it always does.
Gnawing at the inside, demanding to be provided for.
Never filled, never quenched. Always hungry.
“Oh For…. sake…. here comes another one, Danny.”
“Just smile Susan, and get through it. Only a few more hours until knockoff time.”
“Yeah, but we’re short-staffed, what with Katy AND Simon AND Belinda all not coming in. They didn’t even call in sick! And I’ve been working down in the bakery section all morning and…”
“And nothing! They’ve got the cameras on us, you’re still on your three month sales assistant probation period remember, don’t raise your voice and here they come…
Ah, hello Madam, and how may I help you today? Kid’s shoes? Are these for your lovely son here? Donald? With a Y? Donyld? How wonderful.
You’ll find kid’s shoes on level 4, aisle 3. Would you like my lovely associate Susan to take you up there? Susan, would you be a dear and see Donyld and his mother up to children’s shoes?”
In the deep dark below, the creature stirs.
Nobody has come.
Something must be done.
“That’s a lovely selection for Donyld, madam. The squeaky light-up soles are a LOT of fun, aren’t they?
Would you like me to store those for you while you continue shopping? You would? Fantastic.
I’ll just scan your Gunderson’s card, oh, it’s on your phone, isn’t that so convenient and lovely these days, I always think so myself, now these will be sent down to the front desk whenever you’re ready to finish shopping.
Was there anywhere else you wanted to experience Gunderson’s today?
The bakery section? It’s my favourite part of the store, I always, always love working down there, been there a few hours this morning in fact and I happen to know that we’ve got a special today on cream filled eclairs.
They’re a little bit naughty, but oh-so-nice. If you’ll just follow me down to level 2…”
Time to get moving.
“Yes, of course Donyld can have a sample of one of the cream cakes, just perhaps not the whole tray madam, there are other customers in the store today, even if they’re not in the bakery right now.
The cream filled eclairs? They’re on the shelf just to your right, next to the… next to the…
What… oh, yes, Madam, that’s…
Well, Madam, it appears that what you’re looking at is a gigantic green gelatinous cube.
Blocking the way to the stairs and lift, Madam.
No, it’s not a leftover halloween prop.
I suggest Donyld puts down the tray of cream cakes, and we run like fuck, madam. That’s what I’m going to do.
Oh. Right. The lift’s behind it. That’s not going to work.
Dave — Dave — Dave — you’re security, deal with that thing! What do you mean, how? Shoot it! Shoot it now, right between the… oh, you already tried that?
Went right through, you say? Hit the security cameras so nobody knows we’re stuck here?
Dave, you’re worse than useless.
OK, sorry, sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.
We need everyone to calm down.
Oh, fine, for sure, Madam, Donyld may as well have all the rest of the cream cakes right now, I’m not sure that it particularly matters any more.
Is that thing… smiling at us? The teeth definitely seem to be moving…”
“OK, I don’t think it can hear us, can it? It’s not ideal, but I suggest we go hide in the kitchen at the back, in the pantry cupboards.
You first Donyld, maybe put down the tray of cream cakes sweetie, then you Madam. Yes, hurry ahead now.
Dave, you bring up the rear, and don’t forget to grab one of the patisserie knives on your way through. We’re not going out without a fight… if we can work out how you kill a jelly monster, that is… maybe we could feed Donyld to it…”
The noisy-busy ones seem to be hiding.
Good. Too noisy, too busy.
Easy to find.
Now, to feed.