19
Oct
09

The All-Night, One-Stop Apocalypse Shop, Part 2

The All-Night, One-Stop Apocalypse Shop – Part 2

Hour Four

It wasn’t the weekend, it wasn’t a holiday, and it wasn’t even quite time for the after-bar rush, so the OneStop had no business being this busy.  Caleb had hoped to clear the line within minutes then shut down the store, but the customers just kept coming.  It wasn’t the normal late night munchies they were buying, either.  Darla must have already spread the word of the impending doom, since everyone was buying unperishable items like canned foods and Ho-Hos.  At one point Caleb had to break up a fight over the last can opener.  In the end the two combatants simply came to the conclusion that they didn’t need a can opener, since they could both just use the horns on their heads.

There wasn’t a lull in the customers until about 1:30, but by that time Caleb had begun to think that maybe Athena wasn’t going to show.  Maybe Darla had been wrong.  Caleb had almost made himself believe that by the time she came.

Caleb was in the back room working on tomorrow’s doughnut order when Gloria poked her head through the door.  “There’s a woman asking for you out front.  If it’s Athena, I’ll never stop making fun of you for as long as I live.”

“What does she look like?”

“Pretty hefty.  Black hair.  Dressed weird even for here.”

“Fuck.  Why didn’t you just tell her I’d gone home sick or something?”

“Screw that shit.  I’m not going to lie to the customers for you.  What the hell’s the big deal, anyway?  She looks completely harmless.”

“Yeah, well, you’re not the one who used to date her.”

Caleb stalked out of the back room before Gloria could start laughing.  Athena had taken her moment alone to grab the biggest cup available in which to empty the Froztee machine.  There had always been something about her that Caleb had found pretty, but whatever it had been Caleb couldn’t for the life of him find it now.  Her hair, which looked like it hadn’t been washed in over a week, was pulled back in a sweaty ponytail and her face looked like she’d washed it with bacon grease.  Even with these things she would have been completely unremarkable in this section of the city if it wasn’t for her cloak and weapons.  The dingy brown cloak thankfully hid most of her ample body like a curtain, leaving only enough room at the front to see the small assortment of fake daggers hanging at her belt.  A broadsword hung at her back, but that was probably fake like the daggers.

“God damn it, Athena.  What the fuck are you doing here?”

Athena turned and smiled at him.  Maybe it was the smile that he’d been attracted to.  There was just something about the way her small, Twizzler-red lips would part ever so slightly and show the barest hint of her teeth.  It made her seem cute and innocent.  Only a handful of people knew she was really a raving psycho. 

“Last time I checked,” she said, “this was a public store.”  She turned to him so quickly that half her Froztee slushed over the cup’s top and splushed to the floor.  She looked at the half-full cup, shrugged, then refilled the missing half with a different flavor.

“And last I checked,” Caleb said, “you promised you weren’t going to do this anymore.  I think by now this legally counts as stalking.”

“I have a right to be here.  I just want a Froztee and nachos.  I’m not here because of you.”

“Athena.”  Caleb’s voice dropped a little, and he chose his words carefully.  “There are one hundred and thirty-one OneStops in this city.  It’s an hour walk from your place to here.  Don’t try to tell me you just dropped in.”

Athena put a lid on her Froztee and set it on the counter.  “Get over yourself.  I was in the neighborhood because I was buying a sword.”  She cocked a thumb at the broadsword on her back.  “Wanna see it?  I call it Meg.”

“No, I don’t want to see it, and don’t even try to tell me that’s why you’re here.”

“Whatever.  Do you have the key to the bathroom?”  Caleb pulled the key from his pocket and handed it to her.  He watched her disappear into the bathroom, then turned and almost slipped in the melting Froztee slush on the floor.

“Graceful,” Gloria said, and Caleb looked up to see her leaning in the back room’s doorway.  “Your supreme sense of balance is right up there with your golden way with women.”  She walked up next to him and leaned against the Froztee machine.  “I don’t get it.  I mean, she doesn’t seem that bad.  What is she, some sort of vamp hunter?”

“This week I think she’s a ranger,” he said.  “Last week she was probably an orc, next week she’ll probably be a dwarf.”

Gloria frowned at the bathroom door.  “She’s a shapeshifter?”

“Nope, she’s a dungeon master.  As in Dungeons and Dragons.”

“I don’t get it.”

“She’s a mundy that’s lost in fantasy land.  She doesn’t even know what sort of things hang out on the Hill.”

Gloria’s eyes widened as she looked at the door again, then leaned closer to him and whispered.  “So the whole getup, the knives and the sword…”

The bathroom door opened and they both stopped talking.  Athena stepped out with her cloak under her arm and gave them both a long hard look.  “So what’s the deal?  You two going out now or something?”

Gloria’s eyes widened.  “What?  Uh… no… there’s nothing… uh…”  Caleb smiled at her reaction.  Neither one of them had ever said anything even remotely romantic to each other, but the idea of dating Gloria had occurred to Caleb on several occasions.  She’d never struck him as the type that would go out with him, though.  He was positive that if he ever asked, he would hear the magic words “I think of you like a brother.”  Every time he asked a girl out she would say that, and immediately he would begin to feel dirty, like she really was his sister and he’d just proposed incest.  But with the way she was stammering, could it be possible that he’d been misreading her signals?

He forced the entire train of thought out of his mind and brought his concentration back to Athena.  “No, we’re not,” he said, “and it wouldn’t be any of your business even if we were.”

Athena threw her cloak back on her shoulders and refastened the clasp.  “Well, I was just asking.  No need to throw a hissy.”

“I’m not throwing a fit.  This has got to stop.”

“Fine.  If that’s the way you want it, I’m gone.”  Without a further word Athena grabbed her Froztee and left.  Caleb was so relieved she was gone that he didn’t realize until too late that she hadn’t paid for the Froztee.

“Now you see why I like this job so much?” Caleb said.  “Ghouls, ghosts, and rotting things I can deal with.  It’s role players I can’t handle.”

Hours Five and Six

Last call at all the local bars was between two and two-thirty, so that was always the single busiest time of the night.  Both Gloria and Caleb had to man the registers as wave after wave of drunk customers, some living and some dead and many in various states between, came for their after-bar munchies.  At one point Gloria was forced to stop what she was doing and tried to shoo away poltergeists when merchandise was flying off the shelves, but mostly the rush went without any major mishaps.  The only real problem was the earthquake just before three.

Gloria was just taking care of the last customer in line and Caleb was putting out the freshly delivered doughnuts when it happened.  Caleb stared at one of the long johns, licking his lips.  At first he thought the low rumble was just his stomach growling, then the screaming started.

“What the hell is that?” Gloria asked.  The customer in front of her looked around the store frantically as if the noise were coming from somewhere inside, then slapped a palm to his forehead.

“Shit,” he said.  “They started the sacrifice without me!”  The man ran out the front door without his purchases, leaving Gloria to stare after him.

“Sacrifice?” she asked Caleb.

“Remember the Cthulhu-related disturbance?  This must be it.”  Caleb cocked his ear and listened to the screaming.  It sounded like it was outside somewhere pretty close.  The noise was shrill, but not that loud.  “Sounds like some cultists are sacrificing a hundred virgins.”

Gloria gaped at him for a moment, then grabbed her duffel bag and started for the door.  “Well, what are you waiting for?  We’ve got to stop them.”

Caleb caught her arm and smiled.  “When I said a hundred virgins I didn’t mean human virgins.”  He chuckled, and Gloria pulled her arm away from him with a scowl on her face.  “It’s sort of hard to find virgins nowadays, especially in this neighborhood, so most of the local cultists have taken to using guinea pigs.  They still haven’t figured out yet how many it takes to appease the Great Old Ones, so they keep trying more and more.  As far as I’ve heard, Cthulhu just gets pissed and eats the cultists.”

“Then why the hell do they even try to summon him?”

“Well, if you worship Cthulhu you really aren’t that bright to begin with.”

The shakes continued for several minutes.  A couple jars ended up falling off the shelves and shattering.  Caleb mumbled about how much he was going to have to mop up tonight until he went into the back room and found the mop and bucket gone.  The quake had opened up a crack in the floor, swallowing them both.

“That’s going to be hard to explain to the boss,” Gloria said as Caleb took a roll of paper towels off its shelf and started to clean up the broken jars.

“Not as bad as the time a customer tried to conjure Yog-Sothoth into the freezer case.  It was nasty.  I couldn’t tell the tentacles from the pudding pops.”

“Uck.”  Gloria paused and leaned on the counter, her eyes narrowed over a somewhat disturbing grin.  “So you haven’t told me yet what the whole deal is between you and this Athena chick.”

Caleb kept his back to her as he tossed the towels into the garbage.  If he let her see any stray emotion on his face he would never hear the end of it.  “I really think we should stick to the problem at hand.  We only have, like, two hours before the world ends.”

“And most of the events have already happened before we could do anything about them.  If we’re going to stop it, we’re going to have to do it while it’s supposed to be happening, whether we like it or not.  So don’t change the subject.  Tell me about your girl.”

“She’s not my girl and there’s nothing to tell.  She’s a little psycho, so I dumped her.  She gets so into that role-playing stuff that she doesn’t even have a grip on reality sometimes.  She thinks it’s real.”

“Um, hello?  You work at the corner store from hell.  That role-playing stuff is real.”

“Yeah, but she’s never been exposed to any of this.  It’s all a game to her, kind of like it is with…”  Caleb trailed off and attempted to cover the silence by rearranging the salsa.

“Wait,” Gloria said.  “You think this is a game to me.”

“Did I say that?  I didn’t say that.”

“You were about to, you prick.”  Startled, Caleb looked up at her.  She stood straight with her hands on her hips.  “Don’t you dare try to accuse me of not taking this all seriously.  I’m just as good at this whole thing as you.”

Caleb went up to the counter and stared her straight in the eye.  “Of course you are.  You come in here and after one month you’ve seen it all, haven’t you?  Nothing fazes you, huh?”  Caleb noticed his voice rising, but he made no attempt to control it.

  Gloria blinked and leaned towards him, her face only inches away from his.  Her voice was more controlled, but only barely.  “And just where the hell do you think you would be if I up and quit right now, hmm?  How would you stop the end of the world then?”

“The same way I’ve always done it!” Caleb yelled.  “Every month they give me someone new to work with, and every month it’s the exact same damn thing.”  He began to count on his fingers.  “Daryl was eaten by a were-snake.  Harold quit.  Erin was vaporized by a fire demon.  Jessica quit.  Roger quit and then accidentally staked himself.  I never expected you to be any different.  If you can’t hack the life, then just get the hell out!”

“Can’t hack the life?  What the fuck do you think this is, the army?  You are a convenience store clerk.  You are at the bottom of the shit-pile!  In the grand scheme of things you mean absolutely dick!  So you slay a few vamps, close a few dimensional rips, beat back a few elder gods.  So fucking what!  Haven’t you actually seen where we are?  Anybody from this neighborhood could do this.  You are not special.  You’re just like everyone else.”

She stopped to catch her breath and for a moment looked like she was about to say more, then her entire body relaxed.  Caleb was too stunned to respond at first.  When he did, he wasn’t able to manage much more than a whisper.  “Fuck you.  This store would collapse without me, sometimes literally.  You’re just jealous…”

“Of what?” she said, her voice much more patient now like she was talking to a confused child.  “You’re superior skill at fighting the beasties?  Come on.  We could both be eaten this very instant and nobody would care except for the people who’d come in right away to steal shit.  We are nothing.  We can be replaced.  If we’re not going to enjoy it then why even bother doing it?”

Caleb tried to hold his gaze to hers, but her eyes were too unwavering, too confident.  Caleb dropped his head.  “Bullshit.  You’re full of crap just like everyone else.”

Gloria threw her hands up in the air.  “Fine.  You know what?  That’s it.  I’m going to help you finish out the night and then I’m gone.  I don’t need to take this shit.”  She grabbed one of the inventory clipboards and stalked over to the walk-in cooler, slamming the door shut behind her.

Hour Seven

This was always the slow part of the night.  The bar rush was over and the morning rush to work wouldn’t begin until about six.  The only people likely to be out for the next hour or so would be the insomniacs and the walking dead on their way back to their graves.  It was the best time to actually get work done, but there wasn’t much left.  Gloria and Caleb, in their attempts to do absolutely anything rather than talk to each other, had finished the few chores that still needed doing within fifteen minutes of their fight.  The only thing left undone was the floor.  It was completely filthy again, but Caleb wasn’t about to try fishing the mop from the abyss in the back room.  The boss was just going to have to practice her bitching today.

While Gloria sat in the back room smoking a cigarette, Caleb kept a vigil at his register, watching the clock tick off the minutes until Doomsday.  There were more important things to worry about right now other than Gloria’s temper tantrum, but his mind kept wandering back to her anyway.  He’d thought of this whole thing as a game as well when he had started.  Exploring the darkest secrets of the world had been fun.  He’d enjoyed the job because it hadn’t felt like a job.  Being a convenience store clerk had felt coincidental compared to his self-appointed title of beastie-basher.  Night after night he’d faced the creatures of his childhood fantasies, and he’d thought that would be enough.  That was before he realized that no matter how many monsters he fought and killed, the boss, completely clueless about the nighttime activities at her store, would still find things to complain about come morning. 

Gloria didn’t understand that yet.  She never would, either, if she followed through on her threat.  That was just fine by Caleb.  Everyone left him eventually.  Caleb had just hoped that for once it would be different.

His thoughts were interrupted when the door opened and Darla stumbled in.  Her dress was torn in several places and her wig was gone completely.  Her hands had the stretched look of a werewolf who’d tried to change before the full moon.

“Holy shit,” Caleb said as he ran around the counter and let Darla lean on his shoulder.  Gloria stepped out of the back room with her arms crossed, the concern evident on her face despite her attempt to continue looking peeved.  “What happened?”

“I’m sorry, man,” Darla said.  “I’m so sorry.  I couldn’t stop them.”

Caleb looked to Gloria, then back to Darla.  “Stop what?”

“I found some vamps.  Followed them, hoping I could figure out what they wanted in the neighborhood.”  Darla looked away from Caleb’s gaze.  “If I’d known who they were after, I’d have thumped their asses as soon as I saw them.  I was too far away to stop it.”

Caleb grabbed Darla and shook him.  “Stop with the cryptic shit already.  What’s going on?”

“The vamps killed Athena.”

Caleb froze.  His fingers went numb and Darla was able to pull herself away.  Gloria rushed to them.  “When did this happen?” she asked.  “And why were they specifically looking for her?  If they needed to feed why not just kill the first person they found?”

“It wasn’t even half an hour ago, I think.  I passed out for a couple of minutes after they kicked the shit out of me, so I’m not sure.”  For the first time Darla seemed to notice that her dress was ruined and took a moment to frown down at it before she continued.  “I overheard them ask her something about the Omega.  She didn’t seem to know what they were talking about.”  Caleb backed away from them and leaned onto the counter for support.  His knees shook and his feet felt as numb as his hands.

“The Omega,” Gloria said.  “What the flying fuck is that?”

“I heard a couple of other people mention it after I left here.  I think it’s the mystical thingy the vamps are after.”

“But why would they think Athena had it?  She didn’t know jack about that sort of thing, did she?”

“As far as I know.  I didn’t really get a chance to ask them, since at that point I was too busy having my face stomped in.”

Moisture started to roll down Caleb’s cheek, and finally his legs gave out from under him.  As he slid down the side of the counter into a crouching position, Gloria finally took notice and crouched next to him, her face scrunched up in confusion.

“Caleb?”

“No,” Caleb muttered through his tears.  “No, she can’t be dead.  No.”

Gloria looked up to Darla, who turned away as if to say that this wasn’t her conversation, then looked back to Caleb.  “I’m sorry, Caleb, I don’t understand.  I thought you hated her.”

Caleb buried his face in his hands.  “It was supposed to protect her.  This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

Gloria tentatively put a hand on his shoulder.  “I don’t understand.  What are you talking about?”

Caleb looked up at her.  “You saw her.  She was always in her own little world.  If she ever found out about the sort of world I lived in…well, it would have just been another role-playing game to her.  She would have run off and done something stupid.”  He wiped the tears away from his cheek and sniffed.  “Don’t you see?  I broke up with her to keep her safe.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

Gloria helped him up.  “I… I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.  I wish…”

“Don’t say anything.  Just don’t, alright?”  He turned away from her and went to lean against the back room doorway.  Gloria stared at him for a second, then looked to Darla.

“We don’t have much time.  It’s almost five.  We need to find out what and where this Omega thing is.  Can you see what you can find?”

Darla gave a mocking salute then turned and went out the door.  Gloria watched her go, then turned to Caleb.

“Caleb?  Caleb, listen to me.  I’m sorry about Athena.  And I’m sorry about our argument before.  I guess I may have been…”

“Right,” Caleb said.  “You were right.  I’m not really anything.  Just a clerk with delusions of adequacy.”

“You can save the fucking guilt trip for later,” Gloria said.  “The Apocalypse is within the next hour and we still don’t…”

The front door slammed open and Darla came flying through, her body limp with a shiny silver stake buried in her chest.  The body slid to a halt in front of Gloria, her eyes wide and her hands covering her mouth.  Caleb rushed to the body and checked for a pulse, but there wasn’t one.  The dress was slashed to ribbons right beneath the stake, and Caleb moved the shredded fabric aside to see something carved on her stomach.  Gloria went to the door and peered out, then ducked her head back in.

“Caleb.  Outside.”

Caleb stood next to her and looked out.  A handful of bodies littered the parking lot, most likely people who’d made the mistake of trying to come in for coffee before work.  Grubby and shabbily dressed vampires surrounded the parking lot.  Caleb guessed there had to be about fifty of them.  One of them, the only one who didn’t look like he’d pulled his clothing from a compost pile, stood slightly beyond the others.  His head was cocked to the side in an expression of mild interest, a small smile on his face.

Caleb ducked back in and turned to Gloria.  “That’s a lot of vamps.”

“No shit, Sherlock.  What the hell do they want?”

Caleb pointed to the exposed part of Darla’s stomach.  A message was carved neatly into the flesh in very careful handwriting:

Give me the Omega.  NOW.

To Be Concluded

And don’t forget to check out The Apocalypse Shift, available at Amazon!

((c)2007 Derek J. Goodman)

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2 Responses to “The All-Night, One-Stop Apocalypse Shop, Part 2”


  1. 1 floridapossum
    October 20, 2009 at 12:22 am

    I loved Darla, 😦

  2. October 20, 2009 at 5:53 am

    I loved this part, more please!!!


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