Bending Reality

The parking lot was empty as the woman pulled into her normal spot. It was odd, but she wasn’t worried. She got out, locked the car, and headed up to the building, ready to start her shift in the nightmare that was retail employment. The door was unlocked when she tried the handle, so she just went on as usual. Walking down the empty back hall, nothing felt unusual, so Rachel simply put her headphones in and headed toward the store. When she arrived, there was a note taped to the door with her name on it. 

“Rachel – I’m going to be late today. Just set the displays as normal and I will see you by noon. – Tara,”

She read. Again, it wasn’t the oddest thing in the world for Tara to be late. She was, after all, a bit of a space case some days. Rachel put the worry to the back of her mind and went into the store. Within a half an hour – still forty-five minutes till opening – she had everything prepared and was leaned back against the wall behind the counter. She couldn’t see the front door of the store from where she was, but as the gate was still down, no one could get in anyway. 

As she was about to do another check of the store – she hated just standing around – she heard someone rattle the gate. Now that was odd, because no one should be out in the main halls of the mall yet. She walked out from behind the counter and toward the front of the store. Her footsteps halted just before she would have stepped into view of whoever was out there as another sound came to her attention. Something metal tapping on glass. There wasn’t a glass window at the front of the shop, but there was one along the far side. A window that looked out over the parking lot.

She moved closer to the window, keeping out of sight of the front gate. Rounding the last corner of one of the stacks, she could see out the window. There was nothing out there. She looked back over her shoulder to the gate that was still rattling every few seconds. “What in the hell?” She asked the empty store. 

The only response was the rattling and the knocking. Her attention swung back and forth from the window to the direction of the gate, wondering which mystery she should try to solve first. She moved a step closer to the window, her eyes scanning the lot outside. There was nothing out there that could be tapping on the window. “Screw it.” She said, moving away from the window and turning around toward the gate. 

As she reached the end of the display again, she paused, took a deep breath and stepped around the metal stand. Her eyes landed on a figure on the other side of the gate. “We aren’t open yet,” she said. 

The person standing on the other side of the gate straightened. “You won’t be opening today, or ever again,” it said, its voice deep and rough. 

Rachel stepped back involuntarily. “What?” She asked.

“I said, you won’t be opening this place ever again,” it said. It stepped forward, pushing his hands against the metal of the grate. 

“I don’t think you have that power,” she said, reaching up and making sure the lock on the wall was flipped to the closed position. That would keep whoever this was out of the store.

It pushed harder, bending the metal in until it squeaked. “Might as well unlock it and let me in. I’ll get in either way,” it said. 

She stepped to the side of the door, unwilling to let whatever was standing there in. Moving as far over as she could, Rachel reached into her pocket and pushed the button on the side of her phone three times in rapid succession. She prayed the 911 dispatcher would listen when she didn’t immediately speak. “Well, I’m not letting anyone in before business hours,” she said.

“I’m not waiting.” It pushed against the gate again. “And you will not be leaving at all.” 

Rachel shifted. “Do you plan on hurting me?” She asked.

“I plan on killing you. You and every other person to steps within these walls.” It said. 

Rachel backed away trying to find something to defend herself. Working in a clothing store didn’t seem to give her any real options. A creek of metal on metal warned that the gate wasn’t made to hold up against that kind of pressure. “Shit, shit, shit,” she said. She tried to get far enough away to be out of sight, but the moment she rounded the display she heard the gate give way.

Yanking her phone out of her pocket she glanced at the display feeling an instant of gratitude when it said the call was still connected. She raised it to her ear speaking without bothering to wait to see if the dispatcher was. “Saint Mark’s Boutique in the Westwind Mall.” 

As the words left her lips the figure rounded the display and in one strike of what should could now see was a clawed hand it knocked her phone away. The pain ripped through her chest as the claws tore her open. Rachel dropped to the floor as a second strike came at her. This one taking out her throat. The last thing she heard was the back door of the store opening. It looked like Tara was back early after all. Too bad.

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