Written as a comission for a Fiverr client and posted under request.
It was late
It was late, so to speak.
The place wasn't closing any time soon, as it was an open twenty-four seven kind of deal, with twelve hour shifts with unpaid vacations and no insurance, much less security cameras. No one actually cared for that, as the store was in Nowhere Town, Emptynapolis. She used to work in one too, the very same she was actually standing in the middle of, not a long time ago.
Exactly three weeks and five days ago.
And yet, there she was, dressed in that sickening blue and orange two-piece uniform that looked like a rejected design for McDonald's. The date on the calendar was wrong by exactly three weeks and, you might have guessed, five days. It took her a little more than a couple of hours to realize she was wide awake, and that not even her worst nightmares would have brought her to the infernal experience of customer service.
On the bright side, there were no customers. The time was a quarter past eleven and, if she remembered correctly, it was Tuesday. Tuesdays were boring and slow in a way that made you feel like a snail climbing a wall under the summer heat. She snorted as she thought of the analogy she stole from the manager; he always came up with colorful phrases that made everyone forget that he was a really bad person.
The kind of bad that appeared in national news as an escaped convict guilty of second-degree murder. And possibly more, but no additional charges had been pressed. The only victim that had been linked to her manager had been fourteen year-old Claire McLain. Model student, good daughter, sister and friend, will be missed, or so her epitaph said.
She would know that, of course. She'd been at her funeral. She'd even delivered a speech in front dozens of people whose names were unknown to her.
The name written on the uniform tag read Susan Brown, but her birth certificate said something different. You see, her real name was Cathy McLain and she was taking a well-deserved two-month vacation to mourn the loss of her younger sister. In said vacation, Cathy decided to go somewhere far away from her family and friends, but her old car, inherited from her grandparents, thought otherwise and stopped working there, a place she not so lovingly called Nowhere Town.
It didn't appear on the map she'd bought for the travel, and the phone signal was too weak for her to check the GPS. Still, the town did have a mechanic and he, good ol' John, fixed her car free of charge. So Cathy thanked him and insisted in, at least, buying him something if he wasn't going to accept her money.
So she went to the nearest convenience store to be greeted by a kid with the most bored expression she'd ever seen. And by the manager complaining about him.
Of course she'd recognize him. But he didn't.
And when he smiled and greeted her, she told him: Hi, I'm Susan. I'm looking for work.
Lucky you, Susan! There was an opening for the night shift. And so, Mourning Cathy became Lucky Susan. She used her savings to cover her stay at the only motel in town, slept by day and worked by night. Only ol' John knew her name, the rest of the townspeople called her Susan. Susan this, Susan that.
During her first, and only, week of working there, she became a novelty amongst others as the most recent resident in many years. People started frequenting the store at night just to speak with her and with that, sales increased. It was both horrible and kind of relaxing to work in something so mind numbingly simple in comparison to her actual job as a data analyst.
The manager loved Susan enough to confess to her, with a wide smile on his foul-smelling mouth. He put on the news channel and there it was, her sister's case and her murderer's picture on the side. It's been on the news all day, he said, and it'll be there for a while. They will never find me.
She slipped, just a little bit, and asked why?
Have you ever seen something so small and weak that you'd get this sudden urge just to crush it between your hands?
Susan took a deep breath, smiled, and continued working while Cathy planned. She was good at making decisions on the spot, as one had to be fast enough to keep up to date with the market, and for a while, things went smoothly.
The manager made jokes, the day shift guy shared miserable looks with her, and the pharmacist flirted with her every now and then and might have gotten her to skip work for a drink if he wasn't actually married, with two kids. Good ol' John even went to get some beer on Tuesday night around eleven thirty and greeted her happily as Cathy.
Lucky Susan became Mourning Cathy again, because the manager had just entered the store and heard it. They shared a look and realization fell upon both of them. I knew you looked familiar, he spat.
Cathy didn't answer. There was a rifle under the counter and she grabbed it with firm hands. The manager was bigger than her, but also slower. As he lunged at her, she aimed and shot right between his eyes and his head, whatever was left of it, went flying all over the place. The kickback made her loose her footing and she fell with John's screams in the background.
Cathy, still in shock, watched as John ran away.
Half an hour later, the police came to pick her up.
While her sentence had been lessened under the pretext that the deceased was a dangerous fugitive, she'd still killed a man in cold blood according to John's testimony. It was not her place to be neither judge, jury nor executioner, she would have thought if she felt any way other than right. Just right. The only thing that she regretted was those three weeks, and five days, she spent in jail.
Until she woke up on Tuesday afternoon at the motel room.
At first, she thought she'd been dreaming about freedom and those boring days on Nowhere Town had been sort of relaxing, so it made sense until she had to deal with customers once more, it was terrible enough to make her realize she was completely awake and had been granted with another chance.
At night, good ol' John came for a beer just as she remembered but before he could speak, she asked about his day. The small talk they had didn't attract the manager's attention at all, so he paid them no mind as he went to his office after a brief greeting. When she was left alone at the store, she grabbed the rifle from the underside of the counter, her cold hands steady, and the keys.
Cathy locked the main door and turned around the open and closed sign. After turning off the lights, she walked to the manager's office and knocked twice. He told her to come in and she did, rifle hidden behind her.
He was watching a soccer game on the old TV he kept in the office and his team seemed to be losing, she supposed by his expression. With a light but firm grip and straight writ, she supported the rifle's butt against her should and aimed.
The first shot landed on his shoulder, where she was aiming, and as he began to scream, Cathy rammed the rifle into the man's mouth and spoke.
Have you ever seen, she began, something so small and weak?
She shot a second time and there was silence.
Cathy walked out of the mess she caused using the back door, rifle still in hand and made her way in the middle of the night to the motel. Grabbing her belongings, she went to John's workshop and got into her car. Cathy drove away and didn't look back to Nowhere Town, Emptynapolis.
Three weeks and five days passed, with Cathy back at her home, and with no news about the incident on the web, nor anywhere else for that matter, ever appeared. As time went on, she wondered less and less about what could have happened to those people after finding the dead manager and the missing woman named Susan. Was it even real? Had everything really happened at all? She'd disposed of the rifle at lake on the way back and burned the uniform in a trash can…
There was nothing to assure her that it hadn't been a dream, except for remnants of an urge to crush something between her hands.