For 2022, I’ve been wanting to write more ‘creature features’ and generally improve my short story writing. My partner got me a Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual for my birthday so I came up with the idea of writing a story every week based on a different creature from that – All There in the (Monster) Manual. Hope you enjoy!
This Week’s Inspiration: Minotaur
Doug’s new gig as an overnight security guard for Irrgång sounds like a breeze, just watch the cameras and every once in a while walk around the massive furniture store. But at night, the twisting path through the showroom somehow becomes even more of a maze. And worse, there’s something in there with him.
“Bro, this place really is like a maze.”
“That’s on purpose, it encourages customers to buy more,” the head manager, Mr Gibson, replied.
“It’s called the Gruen Transfer, it’s a series of small disorientations in the store environment. You follow a twisting path past these artificial living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, like little glimpses into people’s lives, but it’s all unreal. You lose your sense of direction and you can’t see enough of the store from any one place to make out the greater context. And there’s so many options that you’re more willing to grasp onto something familiar or appealing. Plus, it’s such a maze that if you see something once you might never make your way back to it, so you feel the need to grab it when you see it rather than think too hard about it.”
Gibson looked proud to have knowledge to impart. In his mid-fifties, he was stocky and heavyset as well as balding. His moustache and combover were neatly groomed. Despite its ugly shade of orange, his Irrgång uniform had been neatly pressed and his flair was arranged in perfect parallel above the left side of his breast.
“Did they teach you that to become a manager?” Doug asked.
“No, I have a degree in retail management,” Gibson said. “Although I’m sure it helped with my promotion. This is a flagship store you know, bigger than most of those in the Irrgång chain.”
Doug looked back at the laminated maps of the store’s showroom and sales floor, and its warehouse. At first glance the different sections looked normal enough, but for no immediately logical reason they were laid out like a bunch of Tetris blocks. Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, Bathroom, Home Office, Children, and Storage. The path customers were expected to move along meandered through all of them like a nature hike. Shortcuts cut between sections at certain points but only served to make the overall layout more confusing. The sales floor, full of tables and shelves of smaller goods, was set out in the same way with even more sections. Only the warehouse was laid out in a straightforward grid, for the flatpacks of larger items, but by that point the store had already made their sales. Now that Mr Gibson had explained it, the disorientating, patternless patterns made sense, sort of. Gibson sat back on the edge of his Chefen desk, panelled in faux mahogany.
“You’ll work from ten PM to six AM. Watch the cameras, and walk the showroom and sales floor once an hour,” Mr Gibson said. “If you see anyone, don’t engage them, we don’t have the liability for that. Don’t confront or try to detain anyone, just call the police and secure the store if need be until they arrive. Does everything sound alright?”
“That all sounds fine, but I don’t really get why you need me? I mean, you’ve got cameras, you’ve got motion sensors and alarms on the doors. What am I doing just by being here?”
Gibson looked uncomfortable. “We’ve been having some teething problems with the security systems. Nothing with the door alarms, nobody has been breaking in as far as we can tell, but the motion sensors are useless. Some nights they just go haywire for no reason at all, we’ve had to turn them off. And there’s been faults with the cameras as well, shutting off at random times or doing strange things. It wouldn’t be an issue but some of the staff claim things get moved around during the night. We’re not registering any more stock loss than other stores so head office don’t care and don’t want to hear about it. I’ve only got the budget to hire you to keep the rumours from getting worse.”
“Sure thing, I guess I can understand that.”
Doug collected what he needed and went home. He tried to nap ahead of his first shift but struggled since his body wasn’t on a night schedule yet. When he returned, he parked on the edge of the vast parking lot. The building looked like an immense, white cinderblock. Irrgång’s name and orange logo occupied one upper corner. Apart from the sign, the front doors, and the massive air conditioning units on the rooftop, the building looked featureless.
Sighing, Doug got out of the car and adjusted his belt. Big and heavy, Doug was barrel chested and overweight with glasses and dark hair. His uniform, unlike the orange shirts and tan slacks of Irrgång’s salespeople, was dark navy and vaguely authorative with an ID pegged to the breast pocket. Although he’d been told not to engage with anyone, Doug had hooked a Maglite flashlight to his belt that could easily double as a club just in case.
The last of the staff finished clearing up as Doug arrived. All the customers were gone. The manager on duty was a young woman around Doug’s age named Stephanie.
“You’ve got your keycard, right?” Stephanie asked. “And you’ve got a phone with you?”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Doug said. “Mr Gibson mentioned, like, rumours about what’s been going on at night. Is there anything I should know about?”
“Oh, it’s stupid, I guess it’s pretty normal in any big place like this but there’s rumours the place is haunted.”
“Haunted? Why’s that?”
“Things move around, they’re not where the closing crew left them, or so they claim. There’s been stuff knocked over and broken, but it’s probably nothing. Just the wind.”
“What wind? We’re inside.”
“I guess, I don’t know, you know what I mean.”
The last of the regular Irrgång employees left, and the front doors were locked and reinforced. Lights fell to their overnight setting. Standing in the entryway, Doug watched Stephanie and the other staff depart. He took comfort in touching the butt of his Maglite. Off to one side of the entry, escalators led up to the showroom and sales floor but they were turned off for the night. In the other direction were registers, a rank of fifteen of them including multiple self-service lanes, and beyond that the offices were hidden. Bottom floor was the warehouse and Irrgång food court. Third floor was the showroom while the sales floor was on the second level. No people, no music, little light, the building felt eerily empty.
Doug returned to the security office to check the cameras and alarms. The soles of his new boots snicked on the linoleum. Everything looked in order. On the cameras, Doug could see across the whole store like a god whose omnipresence had become severely limited to one particular area, as well as the parking lot and outskirts of the building. High quality as the cameras were, everything looked grainy and colourless in the low light. Nothing moved and nothing looked out of place, at least to Doug’s untrained eye.
Gibson had told Doug to patrol the store and put his eyes on things for himself. Doug realised though, thanks to the flagship store’s size and twisting paths it would probably take him over an hour just to walk through the whole thing. But Gibson might also check the recordings on the cameras to make sure Doug did his job, so he had to do something. Returning to the entryway, Doug took the lift to the third floor. He stopped at the edge of the showroom with artificial living rooms showcasing Irrgång furniture to either side of him. Across the showroom, only every fifth light in the ceiling remained on and even those were dimmed. Weak pools of light cast a twilight across the showroom and left many displays buried in shadow. Doug’s flashlight beam swept over the backs of dozens of sofas and armchairs.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” Doug shouted.
Doug’s heart ran a marathon in his chest. He didn’t know why, there was nothing to be afraid of. Nothing existed in the dark that wasn’t there in the light. If someone had answered him back though, he had no idea what he would have done. Doug didn’t have strong feelings on the existence of ghosts one way or the other if he was honest, but it wasn’t something he anticipated having to deal with in his life.
With the talk of things being moved around, broken, or cameras not working right, Doug had started to form a theory that maybe the Irrgång was home to some kind of crazy homeless person or people. During the day, they could mill around with the customers, maybe stealing scraps from the food court and blending with the crowds. Then at night, they had some hiding place when the place shut down and the staff cleaned up, and after the lights went down that was when they came back out again. They could know where the cameras were positioned and how to avoid them, or how to mess with them, hence the problems the cameras had been having. To the right kind of homeless person, this place might seem like a paradise and Doug worried what they might do to someone who got in the way of them continuing to live there.
Doug went down a level and repeated his performance at the entrance to the sales floor. His flashlight skittered off glassware, thousands of pieces of it, as well as plates and bowls and cups in the distance. After that, he returned to the security office, doing a quick look across the face of the warehouse behind the registers as he did so. Scores of towering metal shelves, each far, far taller than him and loaded with flatpack boxes, stretched away into blackness.
Nothing changed on the cameras flicking around the store. Doug fell into the squealing desk chair, one of Irrgång’s own models of course, a Datornörd office chair. For the next hour, Doug fiddled on his phone and glanced occasionally at the screens in front of him. He was grateful the Irrgång store’s wifi didn’t shut off overnight, at least.
“Shit.” Doug realised after nearly an hour that he’d forgotten to charge his phone that afternoon, and that the battery was almost drained. “I should have brought a charger. Ugh, next time.”
Doug shoved the phone back into his pocket. He’d save some battery just in case he really needed it. Fiddling with the cameras for a few minutes, he quickly grew bored and figured he should do some of his actual job. Easing forward, he grabbed his flashlight. His eyes flicked across the cameras one last time. Nothing seemed amiss at first, but Doug noticed several screens flickering. They almost looked like they were resetting themselves, again and again and again.
“What the hell?” Doug tried to use the keyboard controls but couldn’t fix anything.
Listening to his own footsteps, Doug returned to the entryway. He carried his flashlight in one hand and kept touching the phone in his pocket with the other. Doug travelled up to the showroom on the third floor again. Artificial living rooms, impossibly artful and clean, carved in half but designed to look like glimpses into people’s lives, lined the wall to his right. Sofas and armchairs lined the path to his left. Doug’s eyes could have adjusted to the low illumination but he kept using his flashlight instead, bathing huge sections at once in colourless light. Nothing stirred, nothing looked out of place. Everything still and sterile.
A couple dozen sofas didn’t seem excessive for a furniture store, in a range of different colours and textures. But then there were armchairs, and normal chairs, and stools. The Irrgång must have had at least two hundred varieties. Stor chairs and Föga chairs. Mjuk and Svåruthärdlig and Precis Rätt, and Ordförandeskap chairs. It felt excessive. No one needed so many options as to where they parked their ass. Beyond those, living room tables and cabinetry, and more room displays.
“Guess this job is going to be pretty boring,” Doug said, but he didn’t feel bored. He felt creeped out and mostly spoke to reassure himself.
Doug crossed from Living Room into Dining Room. More chairs, and ranks upon ranks of plain, flat tables. Turning in a slow circle, Doug played his light over tabletops and between legs, and over a few display rooms. The beam settled on a large, square door set into the wall. Of course, he didn’t need to follow the path, he could move much quicker through the shortcuts. They led between the twisting sections, he could hurry through them and still patrol the whole floor.
The door looked heavy but hissed open at the slightest touch. Doug moved through and cast his flashlight around. Beds, dozens of them, and beyond them bedside cabinets, and wardrobes. Fake bedrooms, with big beds for mom and dad or bunks with spaces for desks underneath them lined one wall. Doug stopped for a moment, he’d gone further than he intended to.
“Hang on, I think I skipped Home Office and Storage.”
Doug turned left, and headed back along the main path in the direction opposite the natural flow of traffic. Some of the display rooms formed little mazes of their own. Not just one room but several interconnected with one another, even around corners, like little houses. Bedrooms transitioned into ensuites and bathrooms. Doug began seeing rows of toilets and sinks, and other bathroom fixtures.
“Wait, shit, this is-, this is the wrong way, right?” Doug tried to remember the map, certain Bathroom came after Bedroom and not before.
Doug figured he’d gotten turned around. He spun on his heel and walked back through Bedroom. They were such big sections, and with so many walls and shelves and displays it was impossible to see from one to the next even without the dim lighting. At least his confusion was great enough to chase away his uneasiness. His boots squeaked against the floor. It’s not like he was actually worried about getting lost, ultimately the path would lead him out. With an eight hour shift and nothing else to do, he had time to waste anyway. Actually, it was kind of funny.
Bedrooms, children’s bedrooms, playrooms and toys. Doug stumbled to a stop. He found himself surrounded by baskets of stuffed animals and dinosaurs. Nallebjörns, Sammets Kanin, and Tyrann Ödlor. Displays filled with wooden train tracks and colour coordinated toys, blankets and wall hangings. But Children was the last section before heading down to the sales floor, like the candy shelves before checkout in a grocery store, designed for the most impulsive buys.
“How the hell did I skip everything else?” Doug said.
Continuing forward, Doug headed past hundreds of baskets and shelves of toys, decorative items and baby stuff. The exit down to the sales floor had to be around here somewhere but the section was bigger than he’d thought. Finally, between two display rooms, he saw another shortcut. On impulse, Doug veered toward it. The door hissed open. Amazed, Doug found himself all the way back at the beginning of the showroom, in the Living Room section.
“What the hell?” Doug said.
Doug thought he must be misremembering the map and the way the sections matched up. He’d thought the first and last section, Living Room and Children, were on total opposite ends of the building. Clearly not, because here he was.
Feeling for the phone in his pocket, Doug saw he had a message from Mr Gibson. He stumbled over and collapsed on a Soffpotatis couch to read it. Gibson had messaged just shy of midnight to see how Doug was handling things. Doug quickly flicked back a reply but he noticed the way the circle spun and spun before finally turning into a little ‘X’.
“No signal.” Doug checked the wifi as well but suddenly he couldn’t connect.
Something snuffled in the darkness. Doug heard a thump and scrape, and he jumped. He hadn’t heard any sounds not created by his own movements in the last couple of hours. His crazy homeless person theory crashed back to the forefront of his brain. Raising his flashlight, Doug turned toward the sound.
“H-hey, is someone there?”
Another scrape and thud. Someone moved down the far end of the Living Room section, deep enough in shadow that Doug couldn’t make them out. But they, or it, looked big, towering against the nearest shelves and blocking a significant patch of light. Scrape and thump, they shuffled a little closer. Doug started to make out details but his brain refused to make sense of what he saw.
The intruder emerged into the cone of light cast by Doug’s flashlight. Eight foot tall, powerfully built and covered in a thick shag of fur. Two terrific horns sprouted from the creature’s head. It stood upright, and had a chest, shoulders and arms like a person, but its legs and horned head with its blunt muzzle were those of a bull. Half-man, half-bull, Doug found himself looking at a minotaur straight out of myth.
“What-, is this?” Doug mumbled.
Once he’d recovered from his shock, Doug thought he must be looking at somebody in a costume. The two of them regarded one another. The minotaur looked so real, though. Its chest rose and fell as it breathed, and it blinked in the bright light. Its golden-brown fur was full of coils and tangles. In one hand it carried some kind of battleaxe, an enormous, heavy blade, crudely made and well used. The minotaur only wore a kind of leather loincloth which hung between its powerful thighs. As it started forward again, the toes of its hooves scraped on the linoleum then it thumped as its full weight came down with each step.
“What is this? Who are you?” Doug said. “If this is some kind of-, reality show, it’s pretty pointless!”
The minotaur picked up speed, hooves scraping and thumping. It raised its monstrous axe. Muscle rippled under its fur. It moved so naturally, not at all like someone in a bulky suit. A thick smell, like a barnyard animal, wafted ahead of it as it approached, veering around several other couches. Everything screamed to Doug that the creature, as impossible as it seemed, was real and really present.
With a yell, Doug threw himself backward off the couch. The minotaur’s axe came down and carved through the back the Soffpotatis, Ärtsoppa green upholstery tearing and something in the frame snapping with a loud crack. The couch split in half right where Doug had been kneeling moments ago. Whatever the hell the minotaur was, the threat of it was very real.
The minotaur grunted, pulling its axe loose from the remains of the couch. Lips pulled back from teeth that, in spite of the cowlike muzzle, looked like the teeth of a predator. Curved, yellowing fangs like a lion. The original minotaur from the stories ate people, Doug recalled. Seven virgins a year or something? Seven boys and seven girls? Maybe that’s why it attacked the second it saw him, it wanted food. The smell of the minotaur clogged his nostrils, musty, animal stink. He could also smell its breath, meaty and rotten.
Doug fled in the opposite direction, away from the sofas and past the display rooms. He headed for the escalators. The minotaur grunted and freed its axe. Doug kept running but the escalators didn’t appear. He found himself surrounded by displays, it occurred to him they were on the wrong side, and then bathrooms, toilets, sinks, white cabinetry and fake bathrooms filled with Irrgång accessories. Doug stumbled in confusion.
“Wait, what? What?” Doug said.
A shortcut door lay ahead, looking out of place, while the path veered to the right. Doug wondered if he’d gone in the wrong direction but even then he was sure it shouldn’t be possible to pass from the Living Room section into Bathroom. Behind him, Doug heard the minotaur’s thudding footsteps. The flashlight swung from his hand. He didn’t have time to wonder over the mystery of the shifting sections but it killed the last of his desire to believe that this was some kind of reality show or elaborate prank. Even if whoever was behind it got some big dude in a hyper-realistic costume to chase him around, they couldn’t move around whole sections of a giant furniture store on a whim just to confuse him.
Doug veered into one of the bathroom displays. A Brödrost I bathtub took up much of the space. Another doorway led deeper. While the lights were still on throughout the showroom, the displays were dark. Doug staggered through what looked to be a walk-in closet organised with Skräplåda storage boxes and then into a bedroom. Behind him, he heard the minotaur roar, a deep, bassy, rageful sound.
Doug emerged into a living room, with a Soffpotatis couch in the middle, armchairs, and a Fyrkantiga Ögon television unit to one side. Another door led into a kitchen, with a front door and window to the left. It took Doug several more moments to recognise where one wall was cut away to make the whole thing a display. The minotaur roared, and Doug caught a glimpse of its hairy bulk and a blur of motion as the creature whipped something around and toward him. Doug dived behind the couch. An Åska Låda toilet the minotaur had picked up off the showroom floor hurtled through the display and smashed into the front window. Bits of plastic shattered, collapsing on the dropcloth of false scenery outside.
The minotaur rumbled closer. Doug staggered to his feet and dashed into the next room. It looked like a kitchen that had been designed to look like a cafe, or a cafe designed to look like a kitchen, it wasn’t clear. Doug crashed into a row of Rövstöd stools, knocking them down with a clatter. He fled from there into the Kitchen section, knowing it didn’t make sense. Bedroom had led into Bathroom before but the sections kept moving and shifting.
Kitchen was even more confusing than the other sections. Kitchen islands, big Slaktarblocks and screens blocked the path and split it into different directions. Doug stumbled down a couple of false starts then found his way forward, sprinting across the section. The minotaur followed but its horns got tangled in a metal Matlagning pots and Fräsning pans rack dangling from the ceiling of one display. It thrashed its head and roared with anger.
Doug fled from Kitchen into Home Office. Again, he was certain that was not how the sections had been arranged on the map but he’d figured he’d just have to accept the unreality of it all. Desks and Datornörd chairs crowded the sides of the path. Råttlåda cubicle walls divided up displays decorated with Sjukt Ledsen world globes and Oförskämd Gest artist models. Doug’s heart strained in his chest. Finally, he had the thought to switch his flashlight off. There was enough light overhead to see by. Doug dropped to the floor. Before the minotaur could appear into view, he crawled quickly under a Jobbar Knappt desk.
Breathing hard, Doug tried to stifle any noise. If he could hide long enough, let the monster go past, he might be able to lose it. Looking around, he spotted another shortcut door between sections. Part of him wondered if using the shortcuts was what led him astray in the first place. He checked his phone but he still didn’t have any reception. Irrgång was like a maze but it wasn’t a true maze, it was maze-esque. Somehow, Doug thought, he’d slipped sideways into some other dimension. Somewhere that imitated the Irrgång showroom but turned it into a real labyrinth. Maybe this place was built on an Indian burial ground or something. Maybe in some places, when it’s midnight and you’re all alone, reality just gets kind of thin and lets things like this happen.
Snuffling and growling, the minotaur emerged along the path through Home Office. Its hooves scraped and thumped, axe swinging at its side. Doug huddled beneath the lip of the desk, eyes wide. Having lost Doug, the minotaur didn’t just go charging into the next section like he’d been hoping. Instead, it slowed and started to inhale. Its nostrils flared as it scented the air.
Suddenly, the minotaur hauled around and slammed its axe into one of the nearby desks. Cheap plywood under a kind of vinyl coating splintered, shattering, and the desktop collapsed in on itself. Luckily, it wasn’t the desk that Doug had hidden beneath. He watched in terror. The minotaur ripped its axe loose from the wreckage, hauling around and slamming the blade into a filing cabinet. It created a large gouge and sent the cabinet spinning into a crash landing. In a flight of rage, the minotaur flung its axe around and flattened the desk right next to the one where Doug was hiding.
Doug exploded out from beneath the Jobbar Knappt, struggling to his feet while the minotaur’s axe was buried in the wreckage of the other desk. Yelling, Doug swung around with his heavy Maglite. It glanced off one of the minotaur’s arms, switching itself back on. The blow did nothing but the glare blinded the minotaur temporarily. It staggered back, snarling.
Doug broke away and ran to the doorway he’d seen between sections. Hissing, it swung open. Doug found himself emerging into the Children section again. It might have even been the same doorway that had led him from Children to Living Room earlier. He sprawled forward, landing on a table covered in Irriterande Högt stuffed animals that squeaked and wheezed as his full weight landed on them. Doug righted himself and turned to face the doorway.
The minotaur exploded through the door, knocking it completely off its hinges. Roaring, it charged at Doug but he spun aside at the last second and the minotaur smashed into the table of squeaking toys instead. They scattered everywhere, making squealing sounds. Unable to control its momentum, the minotaur stumbled, half-tripped, and slammed into one of the display rooms. Furniture shattered and one of the walls broke in half and fell in on itself.
Sick with exhaustion from running and fighting, Doug stopped and watched. His heart burned in his chest. The wreckage heaved. From underneath, the minotaur rose and shook itself. A stuffed toy had wound up impaled on one of its horns. Glaring at Doug, it lifted its monstrous axe and weighed it in its hand. Doug swung the flashlight he’d been carrying, casting a powerful beam, wildly from side to side.
“Okay! Okay, you want some? Come get some!”
Doug had been told not to engage with any intruders, just make a call and secure the scene. But given his phone wasn’t working, and they were stuck only God knew where, and the intruder was a minotaur who wanted his blood, he didn’t see much choice. Raising the flashlight behind his shoulder, Doug ran at the half-bull, half-man. As if in disbelief, the minotaur was slow to start but it threw off the last of the debris and started toward Doug as well. Doug yelled and the minotaur roared, lifting its axe.
Gibson was concerned when he didn’t get a message back from his new security guard. The phone in the security office rang and rang without answer. But he wasn’t concerned enough to follow it up until the next morning. He didn’t want to drive all the way out of the store in the middle of the night, and he didn’t think the matter was serious enough to involve the police. When he arrived at six AM, he found the entryway and the security office, and the rest of the staff area, clean but empty. Curious and annoyed, he went up the escalator looking for Doug.
“Oh, no, no! What is this? What happened here?” Gibson said.
As soon as he entered the showroom he saw one of their display couches destroyed. Gibson hovered over it, unsure of whether he should touch it. The Soffpotatis had been broken right down the middle. Whoever had done it must have needed a chainsaw, Gibson thought. He pulled the phone out of his pocket to call the police but hesitated.
“Doug? Hello, Doug? Are you in here?”
The lights had come on, fully illuminating the showroom. Gibson came across a destroyed display between Living Room and Bathroom, with a toilet embedded in the back of the display’s fake room. And Home Office had been destroyed, with two desks and other bits of furnishings broken to pieces. Gibson spotted some deep gouges in the floor as he followed the pathway, as if someone had been dragging a tool or a pair of tools across the linoleum as they walked. He followed a shattered doorway into Children where more displays and tables had been churned apart as if a hurricane had gone through the place.
Gibson was outraged at the level of wanton destruction. It didn’t even look like anything had been stolen, just smashed apart. He couldn’t have been angrier if his own home had been vandalised in such a way. In fact, he was even angrier than he would have been in that circumstance. This was his job on the line, his career, everything he’d been working toward. He’d insisted on hiring a night security guard, vetted Doug for the role, and he’d turned around and done this!
“If there’s anyone still in here, I’m calling the police!” Gibson yelled impotently at the seemingly empty showroom.
Gibson backtracked through Storage first. Suddenly, a heavyset figure exploded from behind a row of wall-hangings designed to be storage space for wardrobes. Wildeyed, their uniform torn and bloodied, it took Gibson several moments in his shock to recognise his new hire, Doug. A broken flashlight dangled from one of Doug’s fists.
“Is it gone? Is it morning?” Doug said. “Am I back?”
“Is what gone? Yes, it’s morning! What the-, what happened to my store?”
“The minotaur! The minotaur, is it gone?”
“What are you talking about?”
Doug grabbed Gibson by the front of his orange uniform and pushed their faces almost together. Doug was bigger than Gibson, and given the insane look in his eyes Gibson suddenly worried he was in physical danger.
“Did you do it on purpose, you son of a bitch? Did you try to feed me to that thing?”
Gibson fended him off, pushing Doug’s hands away from his shirt. “What thing? What are you talking about?”
“The minotaur!” Doug yelled. “You and your damn maze, your flagship store, your Gruen transformation or whatever! You made this place into a labyrinth, and you know what lives in labyrinths? Minotaurs!”
“There’s no minotaurs! This is insane, it’s a sales technique not a-, magic spell!”
Doug ripped the staff card off his shirt and shoved it into Gibson’s chest. “You can keep your job, I quit! If you’re going to hire someone else, I suggest you give them a gun! Or hire an army! And give them a ball of string or whatever to find their way out!”
Doug marched off toward the exit, through Children where another set of escalators led down through the sales floor. Gibson regained some of his authority. He held his phone over his head.
“You can’t leave! Not until you explain what you did to my store! I’m calling the police!”
Doug turned back on him for a moment. “Oh, yeah? You call the police, and when you do you can show them this!”
Doug dug around in his pocket for a moment and came out with a small, jagged object. Gibson froze, fearing he had some kind of weapon. Doug tossed whatever he had at the store’s manager. It bounced off Gibson’s chest and hit the floor with a skittering sound. Doug spun back around and kept going, disappearing from view.
Breathing hard, Gibson looked around and found the object Doug had thrown at him on the ground. It was pale in colour, and came to a sharp point on one end. The other end was jagged, as if it had snapped off something larger. Gibson bent over, recovering it, and studied it in the light. It was definitely made of natural material, some tufts of hair had caught on it as well. The material, the sharp point, it almost looked like part of a bull’s horn.
I’ve worked a lot of jobs although I’ve never worked as a security guard. I did work though as a projectionist for a couple of years before cinemas switched from 35mm prints to doing everything digitally. The projection booth was very long, and always dark of course, and at the end of the night it would only be myself and a manager in the building when I had to check all the cinemas were empty. Certainly something creepy about being all alone in a big empty space.
The worst of it was, well, we used to keep all the old standees (those movie displays that are usually made of cardboard) in the booth if no one wanted them but they were too good to throw away. And for a while there we had three big statues, not cardboard they were plastic or something, of Alvin and the Chipmunks from one of their movies. And they were big enough that these chipmunks were almost as tall as I was. And I swear this is true although I don’t know why this is, they were wearing sunglasses but for some reason the pupils on the eyeballs behind the glasses all faded away even though the rest of the paint didn’t fade. So they all had these demonic looking white eyeballs with faded, milky pupils if you looked behind the sunglasses. The projectionists would pretty regularly play pranks on one another with the standees, placing them just inside the door or inside our bathroom to freak one another out. But I swear if at any time if I’d seen one of those chipmunks out of place, I would have run, and run, and run.
Next Week’s Inspiration: Wererat