Fiction Funny Science Fiction

The ding of the bell echoed through the desolate store as a lone customer entered. Samuel gave a subtle nod from behind the check out counter and returned to his half-finished crossword puzzle. He checked his watch. It was seven in the evening and this was the first person to come into Samuel’s convenience store for hours.

Samuel let out a bored yawn and closed the newspaper. Newspapers were rare, they only print about fifty copies a day. Mostly as a novelty for people like Samuel, who still found the quaintness of flipping pages charming. 

“Can I help you find anything?” Samuel’s voice echoed through the store. He started walking through the aisles of his store. “We have a special on Milk. Two cartons for the price of one.”

Inspecting the products as he walked, Samuel continued, “We also have sixty percent off all perishable goods. Closing Sale. We’re practically giving them away.” Samuel picked up a box of Lucky Charms and read the expiry date, “Cereal too.” Placing the soon-to-be-expired cereal back on the shelf, Samuel glanced at the half-dome security mirror, but didn’t see the customer.

Samuel spun towards the back of the store when he heard the sound of a fridge opening. “Soda’s on sale too. Don’t pay attention to the dates. Those are suggestions, really.” Before Samuel got to the back of the store, the fridge slammed shut and the sound of scampering feet rushed towards the exit.

“Hey!” Samuel called towards the customer rushing out of the store, his arms full of beer cans. “Thief!” A few cans dropped to the ground as the customer dashed out. “Stupid kids,” Samuel lamented and scooped up the dented cans and dropped them on the counter.

“Everything okay?” Calvin, Samuel’s assistant, asked as he darted from the back office. “I heard you yell. Did we get robbed?”

Samuel sighed and snapped the tab on a dented beer can and took a long swing. “It doesn’t matter.” He held the beer in his hand and inspected can. “These are expired anyway.” Samuel took a deep breath and gazed around his store. The shelves were fully stocked, but the inventory hadn’t been rotated because customers were a rarity here. Ever since 2.0 debuted, Samuel’s store went from a bustling bodega to a barren market. He had stopped ordering new inventory a month ago when he decided to throw in the towel. His was the last convenience store in the entire city. The last warrior standing in the lonely battle against progress.

“Do you want me to fill out an incident report?” Calvin asked shuffling the dented cans. “Lucky none of these burst. Would have been a mess.”

“At least it’d give us something to do,” Samuel replied melancholically and drained the rest of the beer. “You can go home. I’m gonna close up early.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, it’s our last week. A couple hours isn’t gonna save us.” Samuel popped the tab on another damaged can. “I didn’t think it would end like this,” Samuel said motioning to the empty store. “I envisioned a welcoming place where you ran into your neighbors. A store that cared for the community. Somewhere you wanted to go.”


“It was for a while.”

“A short while,” Samuel bemoaned. “My father told me it was a bad investment.” Samuel starred at his at the floor, defeated. “I can’t believe we’ll go the way of Blockbuster.”

"You can’t fight progress.” Calvin said as he grabbed a dented can and popped the top. “Well, you can. But you won’t win.”   

Samuel slid the rolling gate in front of his store and secured it to the ground with a padlock. He stood up too fast and immediately regretted the second beer as his head spun. He steadied himself on a wall and decided to take the long way home and walk it off.

When Samuel moved to the neighborhood the streets were alive with a steady stream of commuters, locals, and tourists. The cacophony of blaring horns, raucous children and impatient crowds was what drew Samuel to the city. The vibrant power of the busy city gave him vitality. He mourned that energy as he sauntered through the empty street and passed abandoned playgrounds and shuttered businesses.

The soft buzz of drones darting through the sky thousands of feet above replaced the chaotic city babble. A distant, indecipherable yell cut through the white noise of Samuel’s lonely evening stroll. The muted unease of the vacant streets made Samuel yearn for the days of screaming Street Preachers sermonizing while people tried to avoid eye contact. But even they’ve moved into 2.0.

Samuel continued and passed boarded up storefronts and looted pharmacies with their windows smashed. He walked by banks that had shuttered their physical stores years ago and were now shells from a simpler time. A homeless man cloaked in a tattered wool blanket lay in front of a locked storefront. Curled up, against the wall for warmth, with an empty coffee cup gladly accepting donations.

Samuel dropped a bill in the coffee cup and turned down his residential street. He was disheartened that he’d be closing his last store but felt fortunate. He sold the other twenty stores when the market started turning and even if he held on to those, he’d have been fine. His grandfather sold his taxi fleet to Uber in the early days of ride sharing.

When Samuel started up the porch of his home, a drone zoomed up into the sky from his front door. Dozens of boxes littered the house’s entrance. Samuel sighed and grabbed a couple boxes and left the quiet street for the bombastic blast of an aging nuclear family.

His sixteen-year-old daughter was blaring techno music from her room while her fourteen-year-old brother was playing in 2.0 at full volume. Congruently, they were yelling over the noise, arguing about adolescent nonsense. Samuel found his wife calmly setting the dinner table surrounded by opened delivery boxes.

Samuel dropped his armful of boxes on the kitchen counter and kissed his wife. “There’s like nine more of these outside.” He said pouring himself a glass water. “It’s such a waste.”

“Well, the drones are electric, so no more exhaust from cars” his wife replied playfully. “Plus, your store aren’t filling the oceans will plastic bags.”

Pop! Samuel cracked an air pocket of bubble wrap that was splaying on the counter. “Right. No plastic.”

“Well, at least we don’t order everything. You brought home the milk, right?”

“Damn, I forgot,” Samuel replied and slapped his forehead. “I left early and totally spaced. I’ll just run back it’s only like ten minutes.”

“2.0’s faster.” Denise countered and pulled back the drapes and looked outside. “Plus, it’s almost dark. It’s not safe. Just jump into 2.0.”

Samuel shook his head defiantly. “You know I hate going there. Why can’t you do it?”

“I’ve already gone twice today. You forgot, so you do it.”

Samuel lumbered upstairs and greeted his distracted children who subtly acknowledged him with slight waves. He walked into his wife’s office and reluctantly threw on a pair of virtual reality goggles, grabbed the control pad, and arrived in 2.0.


He was met with vivid colors, twirling icons, and upbeat music. The 2.0 guide let him know that another five billion people were currently logged in. The guide offered a stream of options from banking and shopping to amusement parks and exotic trips to Venus.


Samuel chose Convenience 2.0 and was flung into a gorgeous marketplace overlooking a Venetian coast. The cathedral ceilings and ancient artwork felt more like a posh museum than a bodega. Lively avatars zipped by through the virtual store. Some frantically shopping and others lazily ambling the aisles conversing with other avatars. Some of this was new to Samuel, who hadn’t entered 2.0 since the last seven updates.


He followed the colorful directory signs to the milk section but stopped when he heard a familiar voice. “Sam?” Turning, Samuel was met by a cartoonish polar bear wearing a purple top hat. A display popped up in Samuel’s view indicating the genteel carnivore before him was his next-door neighbor, Brandan.

“Oh hey,” Samuel replied. “How’ve you been?”

“Good. Retirement suits me well.” Brandan had owned a small chain of restaurants, but shuttered the last one years ago, when they started moving into 2.0. “I heard you’re closing this week.”

“Yeah, unfortunately.”

“We should go fishing!” Brandan exclaimed. “I love fishing. So peaceful.”

“I haven’t been in years.” Samuel said optimistically. I think I still have a tackle box in the garage.”

“You don’t need that,” Brandan laughed. “I fish here. Yesterday I was in Reykjavik and caught a gorgeous Salmon. Iceland’s beautiful. You ever been?”

Samuel and Brandan made plans to fish in Auckland next week and Samuel reached the milk section where countless options were on displayed: Coconut, almond, or rice milk; Goat, camel, or cow. Samuel chose cow and two percent. Next the display flashed options for country of origin, then state of origin after Samuel picked American. The last option was the time of day the cow was milked. Samuel chose six a.m. He didn’t know it mattered.

By the time Samuel had logged out of 2.0 and joined his wife in the kitchen, the doorbell rang. The carton of milk was already there. Samuel collected the milk and the rest of the packages from the front door. When his family had gathered for dinner, Samuel plopped the milk on the table. “Gross,” His daughter said inspecting the carton. “6 a.m.”

The next morning Samuel woke at seven and performed his normal routine before leaving the house for his store. He was depressed that he only had a few more days with his store but was looking forward to finishing the crossword puzzle he started the day before. He might have to cheat with the answers in today’s newspaper, he thought.

When Samuel closed the front door behind him, he was astonished to find the streets packed with people. This was not normal. Samuel thought maybe Pokémon Go released an update. The government forced Niantic to release an update every couple of years to encourage the pale population to embrace some Vitamin D.

Samuel realized the crowds had nothing to do with Pokémon Go when he reached his store and throng of people were patiently waiting for the it to open. Surprised and excited, Samuel quickly released the grate in front of his store and let crowd in.

“What’s happening?” Samuel asked the first woman that made it to the check out. “2.0 went down late last night,” she said and continued piling groceries on the counter. “Do you have this in 8 a.m.?” she asked holding a carton of milk.

For the next few hours Samuel was busier than he’d been in years. He regretted giving Calvin the day off, but happily struggled to keep up with demand. When the crowds started to thin, and Samuel had a moment to relax he opened yesterday’s newspaper to the crossword puzzle.

After solving one clue, the ding of the front doorbell rang, and Samuel genuinely welcomed the customer and directed them to the back for cold drinks. When Samuel lost sight of the customer, he walked to the back of the store and heard feet scattering to the exit. “Thief!” Samuel yelled.

The thief ran to the exit with his arms full of beer cans. At the exit the thief was close lined by a man at the door. The cans of beer flew through the air and fell to the ground. With his arms empty, the thief quickly jumped up and pitifully scampered out.


“Thanks,” Samuel said as he collected the beer cans from the floor. “No problem, Sam,” It was the familiar voice of Samuel’s neighbor, Brandan. Samuel forgot how tall Brandan really was. Not quiet as big as a Polar bear, but big, nonetheless.


Samuel offered Brandan a dented beer and the two clinked cans and drank. “So, are you gonna stay open now?” Brandan asked. “You’re in demand with 2.0 down.”


 “I’m not sure. Today’s been great, but it’s only because 2.0 went down.”


“That’s true,” Brandan admitted. “But, if it’s out long enough maybe people will remember what the real world has to offer.” Brandan said taking a quick sip. “Actually, can I borrow your tackle box? I think I’m gonna try real fishing. It’s kind of gross, but it might be fun.”


“You could be right. Maybe I’ll call my supplier and extend another month. Just see what happens.” Samuel said optimistically. “I could even add new products and reshuffle the store. Maybe invest in a pinball machine like the old days.”


“Yeah, I’d help!” Brandan replied excitedly. “It’d be fun. We could even-” Brandan was cut off by a ding from his smartwatch. He plonked his beer can on the counter and turned to leave. “Well, I’ll see yeah.”




“2.0 is back on.”




“So, I’m going fishing.” Brandan quickly left, Samuel finished his beer and returned to his crossword puzzle. 

July 16, 2022 03:54

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Jim Firth
09:17 Jul 20, 2022

Christopher, A very enjoyable read, with great descriptions :) Simply referring to the virtual reality as 2.0 lends it a very all encompassing feel. Your narrative gave a good overview of the situation with the empty streets and drones flying around. We get a good glimpse at Samuel's life and the way his livelihood is being affected. I feel that Samuel could do with a little more characterisation. He seems a little neutral or indifferent about having to shut up shop--though you did make it clear that he doesn't like visiting 2.0. The end...


23:26 Jul 20, 2022

Thanks for reading it! I really appreciate your feedback too. You're right about Samuel lacking characterization. I could have added more to him on the emotional side. I'll definitely look out for that with my characters in the future.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.