It’s cold. Some would call it freezing. The snow crunches under my boots as I make my way to the entrance of Kroger’s, praying to god the door will open. The parking lot is empty, but I’m just hoping that means that people aren’t here because of the coming blizzard.
Hopefully, there’s still employes in there.
My teeth clatter as I pull the door. It opens. I close my eyes and say a prayer of thanks as I walk in. The cold is left behind, and I’m suddenly hot. The heaters are on, and I begin to sweat as I take off my hat and gloves and shove them in my purse.
It’s quiet. There isn’t anyone here. No shoppers, no whining kids, and no employes either. But, the store is big. I’m sure they probably just sent very little workers because of the blizzard. They’re all bored at the cashier right now, on their phones, playing candy crush, and wishing they were home. Yeah, that’s it.
Satisfied with my conclusion, I make my way to the snacks aisle. I need hot cocoa. It’s freezing, so it’s necessary. After carting that, I head to the dairy aisle and get a couple of gallons of milk.
Now...what to make for dinner tonight…..Soup. Chicken noodle soup. Perfect. I walk to the noodle aisle and try to choose the perfect one.
A wail interrupts my thoughts. Sounds like...a baby. At least I’m not the only one shopping here.
“Waaaaah! Waaaaaaaaah!” Okay, I don’t mean to be rude to the mom or anything, but can’t she stop her baby’s crying? Like seriously, trying to pick some noodles here. I settle for a random box and walk to the poultry aisle. The wailing gets louder and louder. Hope I don’t bump into the mom.
I’m pacing all around the different chicken cuts when my foot hits something. The crying is amplified by 50%, and I quickly look down to see what my foot hit. On the floor, in a pile of clothes, is a baby. I quickly pick the baby up, who has nothing but a diaper on and start rocking it(him?!?!?! her??!?!?!?!) back and forth. The crying stops almost immediately. I balance the baby on my hips and bend down to look at the pile of clothing. There’s a pair of jeans, a dark green sweatshirt, and a blue apron. An employee apron. On it is a metal pin with the name Spencer.
“Spencer?” I read it aloud. The baby in my arms begins flapping his arms and nodding at me. “Hold on-what?!” my mind begins to register what’s going on. A baby. Was on the floor. In a pile of an employee’s clothing. The baby is also responding to the name on the apron of the clothing left on the floor.”Is your name Spencer?” I ask the baby. Imagine how crazy I look, talking to a baby. But the baby nods. I sigh.
What is happening? Whatever is going on, I can’t just leave the baby on the floor. So I huff and buckle the baby, Spencer I guess, into my cart to continue shopping. I just want to go home.
I select a cut of chicken at random and quickly make my way to the checkout section. I have all the spices I need at home.
On my way, I hear another wailing sound. I look to Spencer, but he’s silent and sucking his thumb. I sigh and follow the sound. Surprisingly, I realize it’s coming from behind the cashier.
I also notice there are no employees behind any of the counters. I peek behind the one where the sound of crying is loudest and gasp. There, in another bundle of clothes, is another baby.
Are you serious? What type of sick joke is this?
Again, though, I can’t just leave the baby there. I walk over and pick up the baby, buckling her in the spot besides Spencer. I then ruffle through the pile of clothes, a chic yellow sweater and light blue jeans with the employee apron, and read the name tag. Lily. I knew she was a girl.
I walk back around and stand there with my cart, waiting for the employee to come back from his bathroom break. That’s the only explanation, right? He’ll come back laughing picking up the clothing and the babies, saying he wanted to prank the person who would be dumb enough to shop in a snow storm. I’d shake my head and laugh, paying for my items.
After waiting for two minutes in silence, I know that’s not going to happen. I leave Lily and Spencer and start wandering around the aisles. Someone has to be responsible for this. Around the produce aisle, I hear sniffling.
Great, more babies.
But it doesn’t sound like a baby. More like….a little girl, nine or ten is seated against one of the shelves.
Seriously, when I get my hands on the parent of these children….
“Don’t come any closer. Or you’ll end up like them.”
“Them? Wha-” I practically feel her rolling her eyes as she rubs them and stands up.
“Spencer and Lily.”The babies?!
“Oooookay then. Do you know what’s going on?” I ask the girl, keeping my distance. She looks down at the ground.
“Yes. No. Maybe…” she mumbles, " just leave me alone.”
“Um, kinda hard to do when I suddenly have two babies in my possession and you seem to know something about it.” The girl rolls her eyes again. Who does she think she is?
Ugh, I hope Spencer and LIly are okay.
“Look, leave. Me. Alone! Can’t you take a hint?” the girl says, leaving me speechless. THERE ARE LITERALLY BABIES IN THE STORE WITHOUT PARENTS, AND APPARANTLY A RUDE 10 YEAR OLD TOO. WHAT IS HAPPENING!
The girl runs away. I sigh. I can’t believe I’m doing this.
I run after her.
In the dairy aisle, I see a tall, blonde teenager who looks like she’s picking out some milk product. Um. She was definitely not here before.
“Excuse me?”I say. The girl makes eye contact with me. She looks familiar. Her eyes...They’re the same a the ten-year-old I was just chasing, I’m sure of it.
She must see recognition in my eyes because she starts running directly. In front of my eyes, as she runs I see her turn into a really short toddler with brown curls.
I’m stuck in Krogers during a blizzard, chasing a kid who happens to have some sort of power, who may or may not be responsible for 2 babies who were suddenly left abandoned, who may or may not be employees.
I stop and begin panting. Definitely should’ve spent more time working out. I hear a sound of crying.
Ugh, Spencer, and Lily.
Up ahead, I see the girl in front of, sitting against one of the shelves like when I first found her. She’s crying again.
“Look, I….I don’t really know what’s going on, but something tells me this isn’t all about blizzards and babies is it?”I say, making sure not to get too close to her, remembering her threat from earlier.
She shakes her head and continues sniffling.
“I-I-I made a b-big mistake….” she mumbles finally.
“Okay, hon’.....Look, why don’t you show me how you actually look. Then you can tell me what your ‘mistake’ is so we can fix it together okay?”I tell her. She nods. I mean, it’s just a little unsettling not knowing the true age of this kid. If she ever is a kid.
She transforms into the ten-year-old I first saw her as. Ugh, I was hoping she was older.
“Spit it out, there’s kind of two babies in the front of the store that I need to take care of. Not to mention a powerful ten-year-old.”I say the last part under my breath.
“That’s the thing! I-I-The babies are my fault!!!” she says, full-on sobbing now.
“Whoah, whoah! It’s okay….”I say, cautiously going over to her and patting her on the back awkwardly.
“No, it isn’t! I want my mommy….”
“Tell me what happened. All the details. Except, not too many details, cause like I said, babies.”
“W-well, we were shopping, and then a man said something about a blizzard on the speaker, and I was scared, and my mommy doesn’t hear very well, so I was shaking her clothes so I could tell her we had to hurry up, and th-then, I don’t know, I turned her into a baby, okay?!”
“Slooooow down. You turned her into a baby?!”
“Y-yes. And then I tried to undo it, but she just-just poofed…..And so I was looking for an em-em-empoyee and I turned them into babies too, so I ran before making them poof too…”
So, from what she’s told me, looks like this girl can somehow reverse people’s ages...and completely reverse them out of existence. Obviously, though, she doesn’t know how to control it.
“Um, one question, how did you change how you looked before?”
“Oh…….I-I don’t know…… I just think about how I want to look, and I change. I didn’t want to get in trouble, so that’s why I did it before…. So will you help me fix my mistake?”
“You said...You said you would help me!”
“Oh, um, and I’ll try, but-”
“NO! NO NO NO! YOU LIER!” she says breaking away from my touch, she then stands up, holding her palm outward towards me.
“Wha-” but I don’t finish.
Suddenly, it’s as if the world is hazy. I’m….I’m being picked up. Ah….Yes, this feels warm and cozy. The person who picked me up rocks me.
The calming motion lulls me into a deep, sound sleep……………………………..