10:30 PM, Almost Closing Time
Damn it, I gotta hurry.
“Coconut vodka, check. Mac and cheese, check. Where’s the red velvet cake?” I say to myself.
I quickly paced across the aisles; I knew I saw it around here somewhere. In the corner of my eye, I spot something on the floor. I stop the cart to look.
A baby? What’s a baby doing in the middle of an aisle? I peek my head out of the aisle for a second. No one’s here. Huh, it’s a little quieter than usual. Okay, I guess I got a baby to take care of now. I picked her up.
“Aw, she’s so cute!” I said to myself.
But she’s sleeping. I hope I don't wake her. I place her down safely in the cart, and continue my search. Oh my GOD! Where is the Red Velvet Cake?
“Oh, thanks!” I reply.
Wait, who the hell said that?
“Me.” She said. It was the baby.
“Oh, shi- shoot! You can talk?” I said, startled.
“Yes, why does that come as a surprise to you?”
“Um…. we should get you to Child Protective Services.” I said.
“NO!” the baby shouted.
“Um… What’s going on?” I asked, confused.
“Look, I’m just trying to get out of here, same as you.”
“Wait, whose kid are you?”
“You wouldn’t know them anyway.”
“True, True.” I agreed.
We went to the checkout center. Weird, no one’s here; no one at all. Just me and the baby.
“Cool, we don’t have to pay!” She said.
“Ha ha. Where’s the manager? We can talk to them.” I said.
I went over to the back room door. Locked. What now? I look out the window. The snow was swirling around the parking lot, toppling onto the cars. About 4-5 feet already on the ground. Looks like we weren’t getting out anytime soon.
“Um, what should we do?”
“I don’t know, you’re the adult.”
“Yeah, okay. Uh…. you hungry? I got Red Velvet Cake.”
“Are you stupid? I’m a baby, I need baby food.”
“Right, right. Wait, how am I not questioning your vocabulary for your age? How old are you?”
“Months.” she finished.
“What? 5 months old talking like that?!”
“What can I say? I’m an advanced child.”
“Ok, but for real.”
“Almost 1, but I consider myself 26.”
“Why so specific?”
“It felt right to say.”
“Okay then. Baby food aisle it is.”
11:17 PM, Closed
We were in the baby food aisle. I was sitting on the floor, leaning on a shelf. I had already eaten a piece of the cake. The baby was just making a mess of her food.
“So… how’d you get here?” I said.
She gurgled, then spoke.
“My mom came here with me, said she was gonna get something real quick, then left me.” She explained.
“Woah, that’s a pretty sad origin story.”
“A sad story about an orange? I’m good, thanks.”
“That's not what I-- nevermind. What’s your name?”
“Huh. So… Samantha, have you ever tried red velvet cake?”
“What? No.” She said, disinterested. But I was determined to get her to try it.
“C’mon, it’s sweet and soooo delicious.”
“Um, not really selling it for me.” She replied. I looked at her food packaging.
“It tastes better than Apple and Banana Sauce.”
“C’mon. C’monnnnnn. You know you want to.”
Her eyes were slowly drawn to the cake.
“Maybe…. just a little bite.”
She nabbed a piece with her hand.
“Gross, just use a fork, Sammie.”
She gave me a glare. Kids.
I knew I’d get her to like it. She was eyeing the rest of the cake, so I slid the rest over to her.
“So, what brings you to a Safeway?” she asked me.
“Oh, just a casual grocery run. I was gonna get some stuff real quick before heading back to my apartment. My girlfriend’s waiting for me.”
“Oooh, you got a girlfriend.” she said, teasingly.
“Yeah, she’s great.”
“What’s her name?”
“That’s a nice name.”
I sighed contentedly. I miss her. I wonder if she thinks I got lost or something.
“We were supposed to watch Black Mirror and-- cuddle, but I’m stuck here.”
“Oh, well that sucks.”
“Yeah, it does.”
“Well, can we try that?” She asked, pointing at the bottle.
“What? This?” I picked up the coconut vodka.
“Nooooo. No no no. You’re way too young.”
“C’mon, you let me try red velvet cake, I’m not even supposed to have sugar!” she whined.
“But this is different. This is…”
I tried to come up with something on the spot.
“No-no juice?” She questioned.
“Yeah, No-no juice. It’s banned in every Safeway except this one.”
“Woah…. So that must mean it’s rare.”
“Not rare, just dangerous. Drinking it could mean death.”
“Cool, I wanna die!” She said cheerfully.
“I don’t think that’s what you meant.”
Just then, a faint creak, followed by a loud noise emanated from 2 aisles over.
“What was that?” Samanta asked, now looking a little shaken.
“I’m sure it was nothing serious.”
“Uppy.” She said to me, with her hands in a grabbing motion.
“What? You want me to carry you?”
“Mm Hm.” She murmured.
I sighed. I picked her up and crept around the corner. A whole shelf knocked over, but no one was there.
“Maybe it was a ghost?”
“Ghosts aren’t real, idiot.” Samantha said. “It’s my mom.”
12:46 PM, Still Closed
“Your mom? I thought you said she left you.”
“Yeah, but not the store!”
“Oh, well, maybe I can talk to her.”
“No! You don’t understand. My mom, she’s…” Samantha froze, seemingly afraid to admit the truth.
“She’s what?” I asked.
“She’s right behind you.”
I slowly turned around. Her eyes were as big as dinner plates, with pupils the size of dots. Her snaggletoothed grin projected across her dark, gray face. She was… not human. She towered over me, maybe 14 feet tall.
“Run.” Samantha whispered to me.
I sprinted away from her mom, Samantha now starting to cry in my arms.
“What’s wrong?” I said, clutching her like a football.
“She’s gonna kill us both.” She whimpered.
“Not if I can help it.”
I slid across the Deli Counter and locked us in a meat freezer. I heard a couple loud bangs from the door before the noise began to fade.
“You’ll come out sometime!” She shouted, letting out one last bang before disappearing.
“It’s so cold in here.” Samantha whispered.
I gave her my coat. Luckily, I still had a sweater and jacket, so I was fine.
“What is your mom?”
“She’s… it’s hard to explain.”
“You can try.”
“Well, the thing is, she’s not real. None of this is.”
“What?” I was shocked to hear this.
“I’m not real, she’s not real, this store isn’t real. You’re imagining this. You’re in a asylum. It’s only a matter of time before you completely lose it.”
Her voice became clearer. What was once a child-like pitch deepened into an adult voice. I woke up, strapped to a table, two doctors holding me down.
“Lemme go!” I shouted.
“This’ll only take a minute.” One of the doctors said. My eyes slowly closed as the needle went into my arm.