Stupid, stupid Walmart.
If I had just gone to Safeway, I could’ve avoided everything that had happened.
But no. I went to Walmart.
It started at noonish last Sunday. Normally, I wouldn’t even be out of bed at noon, because weekends are for sleeping in. If I go to the grocery store at all—I’m 15, so my parents do most of the shopping—it’s at midnight or so.
Not this time.
I had a checklist, okay? It was on PAPER. Weird, I know. Too bad—I only follow a checklist if it’s written out. What was this particular checklist about, you ask? Well, this checklist was random things I wanted to happen this month:
My Checklist (Finish Before February):
☐ Go to Virginia Beach even though it’s winter
☐ Go to Walmart at NOON, not midnight
☐ Read a book that isn’t epic fantasy
☐ Attempt to eat a shrimp
☐ Meet a magical creature (LITERALLY ANY MAGIC)
☐ Buy some scissors
☐ Teach Dad about Siri
☐ Get a DOGGY!!!
I made a new one every month. A magical creature sighting and going to Walmart at a reasonable time were the two tasks I could never accomplish, though, so they were on EVERY list.
Where was I? Right. It was noon, so I hopped in my car and drove to Walmart.
It was snowing extremely lightly when I started driving.
It was storming into a monster blizzard by the time I got to the supermarket.
I live 5 minutes away from Walmart.
I was a bit disturbed, but I still parked my car and ran into the store. I would be there for a while, waiting out the blizzard.
I walked in…just as everybody was leaving.
And I mean everybody. Huge swaths of people were jogging out of the huge store—even Walmart regulars, which was especially weird. When those people go to the store, they go to the store.
Besides, while the blizzard was freaky, it was better to wait it out in a store than drive in it. Nobody seemed to realize that, though—everybody was trying to scurry out of the supermarket in record time.
I didn’t care. I had gotten this far to check off a task on my checklist, so I was going to buy a pack of Lays.
My feet clacked against the tiles as I marched into Walmart. Only the cashiers were still there, but then something came over the speakers:
“ATTENTION, ATTENTION,” a gruff voice boomed, “THIS WALMART IS CLOSING DUE TO AN EXTREMELY LARGE BLIZZARD THAT IS TOTALLY NATURAL. SO… YEAH, GET OUT.”
I didn’t stop.
I was getting those chips.
The cashiers started to pack up. Soon, I was the only person in the Walmart—which was super freaky.
The Walmart near my house was huge. It’s usually bustling with noise and people, though. Now, there was no sound, no inhabitants minus me.
I groaned. The cashiers were gone, so I couldn’t buy the bag of chips in my arm.
I placed the Lays down and started walking towards the exit. Right before I walked out of the sliding doors showcasing the snowy wonderland beyond, I heard something that made me stop in my tracks:
I slowly started to walk towards where the sound had come from. Right before I entered the jewelry aisle (yep, my Walmart has one of those) I saw something: a figure clad in black, a bag full of something swung over his back.
Normally, I would’ve called 911, or at least screamed “ROBBBBER! SOMEBODY CATCH THIS GUY! HE’S STEALING STUFF! STOP HIIIIM!”
But I didn’t. Not just because there was no one around to hear me—I had my phone, after all.
No, I didn’t do anything because of one crucial fact: the figure wasn’t that of a grown person. It was maybe a foot and a half tall.
Hint hint: the robber was...
I hadn’t realized I had said those words out loud until I had, well, said them out loud. My voice echoed in the giant supermarket as I rounded the same corner the baby had previously.
When I turned onto the card aisle, there was a baby giggling on the floor.
The baby looked like a baby. It had a dreamy smile and was drooling a little, wiggling around. I wasn’t fooled—his all-black outfit was snagged on a nearby Happy Birthday! card.
Right, the baby was naked.
“Ack!” I exclaimed. I grabbed the black jumpsuit and threw it on the baby. “Put your robber outfit on!”
I stopped short in my tracks. What was I doing? I was probably hallucinating. Yeah, that was it. No baby would actually be robbing a Walmart with a black outfit and some strong legs. Nope, that wasn’t possible.
I took my thoughts back an instant later, when the baby caught the jumpsuit, stood up (and I don’t mean the baby version of standing up. I mean this infant was standing tall [as tall as an infant can stand…]), pulled it over his head, then groaned and started talking.
“Seriously?” The baby grumbled in the voice that had warned people to leave over the speakers. “You didn’t fall for it? Most people would see a baby and help it, not act like it can talk and put on its own clothes!
My jaw literally dropped. The baby was talking. DANG, this day was weird. I mean, I suppose since I had just seen the baby RUNNING and ROBBING, talking like a grown human wasn’t so strange, but still. You try seeing an infant speak in complete sentences and not being shocked.
After an awkward moment of silence, I finally recovered from my suprise:
“But you can talk and put on your own clothes.” I pointed out. “And no, I’m not falling for it because I just saw the same baby running. And robbing.”
“But still!” The baby threw his chubby little arms up. I stifled a snort. “I worked hard to conjure up that blizzard!”
“Wait, you conjured it up?” I squinted. “Actually, I guess that makes sense. Hold on…you're the guy who made the announcement, right?”
The baby nodded.
“Then why the heck did you add that the blizzard was totally natural?”
“I thought it would shake everybody off.”
“No!” I scowled then pondered a second. “You’re not very bright, are you?” I shook my head. “Oh, who am I kidding. You’re a baby.” I scratched my head as I studied the kid. “You. Are. A. Baby. Geez. How are you talking? And walking?”
“I’m not a baby, stupid!”
I laughed. “Suuuure. The baby calls me stupid.” I shook my head again, but this time to clear it. “I need to go. I’m definitely hallucinating.”
I started to walk away but a small hand pulled me back. I turned around and found the baby standing there. “I’m not a baby. Well, I am, but not a baby human. Well, I can be, but not all the time…” his voice trailed off and I said, “Whuh?”
A moment later, there was no infant standing in front of me. There was a baby unicorn.
Next, a newborn tiger.
Third, a tiny dragon.
Then, a baby goblin—what I think a baby goblin would look like anyway. He was maybe two feet tall, with green-brown skin and a shock of purple hair.
The goblin grinned at me. “See? Not a baby. A goblin is my normal form.”
“Normal…form…” my brain put together the words with what I had seen. “You’re a shapeshifter?”
“Yeppers. And now, since I can’t have you tattling on me, goodnight.”
I was about to ask what the heck he meant when the tiny goblin-robber swung his heavy bag into my head.
I woke up in my bed.
My mom was sitting on the end, typing. She was a doctor but in her free time, she was an author. When she noticed I was awake, she smiled and scooted over. “So glad you’re up, Tyler.”
“Yeah,” I mustered.
“The police found you unconscious in the Walmart. The whole place had been robbed. Everyone’s so glad you’re okay!”
I mumbled, “Thanks.”
“Do you, by any chance, know who the robber is?”
I racked my brain but couldn’t think of a single good answer. Any lie could backfire, and the truth was…iffy. “Ummmm…”
“You kept muttering ‘it was a goblin’ right before you were about to wake,” Mom recalled, “but goblins don’t exist and you were probably just saying whatever.”
I thought about the baby goblin/unicorn/tiger/dragon/human. “Nope. No idea who the robber is.”
Mom kissed my forehead and left the room, and I grabbed my checklist-containing notebook.
I flipped to January’s checklist. Grinning, I checked off the box for Go to Walmart at NOON, not midnight.
Grinning wider, I checked off the second box I could never accomplish.
“Meet a magical creature,” I whispered as I capped my pen, “check.”