I sat and drummed my finger nails on the counter at the dry cleaners where I have worked for two years. I hate this job but it’s a job none the less. I wish I could have gone to college like all of my friends last year after we graduated high school but unlike their parents, my parents were not rich. My parents are blue collar workers. Each of them works in factories. My dad makes dash boards for diesel trucks and my mom works at a factory that makes baby clothes. They could barely pay the bills, saving for college just wasn’t in the budget. My grades didn’t qualify for a scholarship so here I am working in my Aunt Sue’s dry cleaners. I have my own apartment; most people my age don’t live away from home, so I was proud of that fact. It’s a Friday night; I don’t have any special plans. Plump girls like me don’t have many dates on Friday’s. I decided tonight I was going to go to the grocery store and pick up a taco dinner kit, a movie and just go home and relax. It looks like it’s going to storm anyway. I looked back up to the clock. “Yes!” it’s five o’clock. I run back to Aunt Sue’s office.
“Aunt Sue I’m leaving.” I said with a smile.
Aunt Sue looked at her watch. “Is it five already? Gosh, where did the day go? Well clock out and go home sweetie. See you Monday.”
I ran to the back and grabbed my purse and keys and headed to the front door. When I reached the door I turned the closed sign around and locked the door behind me. I walked across the street and headed for my used mustang. I love this car even though other teens have brand new cars, I don’t think I would trade my car for theirs. It had character. The seats were dark blue leather and it matched the dark blue paint of the car. I even loved the way it sounded loud when I cranked it. I pulled away from the curb and headed for the Mountain Side grocery store. It was the biggest store in my tiny town of Bryson NC. When it came into town there was a lot of fuss because it put a lot of small stores out of business. They sell just about anything you can think of. As I drove down the quiet street I noticed some clouds rolling in. I better hurry. I pulled into the grocery store parking lot and found a space close to the front entrance, just in case it rained. I hate getting soaked. The doors quietly slid open and a burst of cool air hit my face. It felt good. It always seems to get humid in the mountains before it rains and I don’t have an air conditioner in my car, so this was a welcomed sensation. I walked over to the grocery buggy rack and grabbed a small cart. I don’t need a lot so a small cart works best. As I headed toward the first aisle a greeter said “Hello and welcome to Mountain Side grocery store. If there is anything I can do to make your shopping experience better. Please let me know.” I didn’t even acknowledge her; I have heard that line so many times. Most people don’t listen either. It didn’t bother her, I heard her start the same sentence to someone behind me as I pushed on through. Lettuce was first on my list; I loved to pile on the lettuce and cheese on my tacos. Maybe that’s why there is an extra spread on my rear. I zig zagged through the fresh vegetables and picked out the freshest head of lettuce they had. I then went up and down the aisles to get my taco dinner kit, cheese and sour cream. My mouth was already watering; this was going to be good. I grabbed a soda and headed for the check outline. The front of the store had big picture windows. I could see it had grown really dark outside. It was catching the attention of the shoppers waiting to be checked out. The sky was pitch black and rolling with thunder and lightning. Before I knew what was happening a roll of thunder hit so hard it sounded like a sonic boom. Then several things happened at once. The electricity blinked twice and then it went completely dark. Then a wave of ‘oohs and ahh’s’ and a few ‘oh no’s’ ripped through the store. Then the rain started to pour with a steady purpose. I was only guessing but it seems to me like a tornado was blowing over. The staff of the grocery store jumped into action. It was almost like a military base. Everyone knew what to do and where to be and the managers handed out flash lights and began to bark orders. They moved fast, I didn’t expect that. One of the managers started to call out. “Everyone in the store make your way to the front please! Everyone in the store please make your way to the front.”
Flash lights where moving up and down the aisles as the workers searched for stragglers or potential thieves. I had to admit, it made me feel nervous. I had never been in a store when the power had gone out and I was unsure on how to act. I looked around at all the nervous faces watching as two beefy looking stock boys went to the front doors as the managers were saying “They can leave but no one can come in!” No one was leaving at this point, everyone was still holding out hope that the power would come on and the rest didn’t want to go out there in the rain; including myself. We all made small talk and some sat on the benches that were by the front doors. My feet started to ache after thirty minutes of just standing in one place. One by one people were abandoning their carts and heading out the door. I still held out hope because I didn’t have any food at the house. Another flash lit of the sky but this time it came from the road. It looked like a power line exploding in bright blue light. I looked around to see the other box boys removing ice from the ice machine into a cart and taking them to the meat department. Other workers methodically began to take the abandoned carts filled with food and quickly returned the items to the shelves in which they came. I had no idea this store was so efficient, I was almost impressed. The store became worse; I had never witnessed a store of this magnitude before. Before I knew it the manager yelled out “For everyone’s safety no one is to leave the store! There is a real threat out there!” The beefy stock boys moved to the middle of the door way. Now I was scared. I abandoned my cart and moved to the front window and stared out. I couldn’t even see two feet in front of me. It’s crazy they have to keep people here for their safety. I wonder why people go out in that kind of weather. I thought to myself as I watched the rain drops hit the glass and run down faster and faster with each new drop.
“I love a good storm.” Said a man sitting on the bench with his back to the window.
I jumped at the deep tone in his voice piercing through the tense moment at the window. I looked down at him; he was sort of handsome with shoulder length blonde hair tied at the nape of his neck. If you were deaf and looking at him, he would appear as if he was relaxing in the sun on a bench in the park. He had such a relaxed demeanor. The dark blue pin striped suit he wore made his clear blue eyes stand out. I didn’t know how to respond to him so I turned back to the window. It was the greeter from the front of the store who spoke to him.
“Well I can’t really agree with you sir. I mean that is really scary out there, not to mention dangerous.” She said as she pulled out a hair tie form her pocket and pulled her hair into a bun.
“Well I am a professional observer so to speak. I enjoy watching all the individual reactions to storms. Fascinating.” He said with a half smile.
Ok I’ll bite. “What could be so fascinating about people’s reactions?” I said in disbelief.
“Ahh, I see you don’t like my opinion. But that is ok, I’ll explain. I learn a lot about myself and human nature and it helps me in my approach to people. I can read people really well, for instance I can see that you’re a home body. This probably isn’t your first visit to this store this week. I sense loneliness from you.” He said as he stared into my eyes. My heart raced. I wanted to yell at him or deny it. I was embarrassed that he would do this in front of other people. Before I could respond he threw up his hands in false submission. “I’m sorry I should not have done that, it’s a rude habit of mine.”
“I thought it was cool! Do me!” Said the door greeter.
“Humm you’re a girl with a lot of courage and confidence with a flair for getting the guy you want. It is a clever trick however because you are not straight.” He said as he leaned toward her and gave her a wink as her smile slid off her face.
“You’re wrong.” She said as she scowled at him and turned her back.
Everyone became quiet. I guess that is the human reaction to having a weird person in your presence. No one really knows what to do so they try to ignore the person till they leave. We all shifted from one foot to the other as we all grew tired of standing. I looked at my watch, seven o’clock. Great I have been here two hours almost and the rain still has not let up. The once cool air conditioned store was becoming stale and warm with all the bodies packed in there together. I looked around and the flash lights were still moving around the store. There was no one still trying to shop but I guess it was for security that they still kept checking. Everyone was up front near the windows for what little light was cast from outside. I counted maybe ten shoppers. The rest were workers, I counted maybe fifteen of them but that could be off. It was so dark in there and the flash lights were confusing. Hail started to beat on the windows as I went to lean up against the wall across from the windows and sat down on the floor. I put my purse next to me.
“It must be hard being so lonely.” The man in the suit said as he focused in on me.
“Sir, if you don’t mind. I really don’t care to talk to you.” I said with as much kindness as I could muster up. My mother always told me not to make crazy people angry.
“Yeah man, why don’t you leave her alone? We are all just trying to ride out this storm and unfortunately we have to do it here in the store.” Said beefy stock boy by the door. I looked up at him and smiled.
The manager came to the front with a small cart filled with cold sodas. She handed them out to everyone. “I know it’s stuffy in here guys, hang in there. This storm will be over before you know it. I have seen a million bad storms in my life. This one is bad too if not worse but like my daddy always said ‘this too shall pass’ and it has always held true in my life.” She smiled to each of us as she handed out the drinks. The strange man in the suit waved his away however. He assessed the manager as she walked past him a few times handing out drinks.
“What a pretty name.” He said as he pointed to her name tag. “Victoria, I always thought that name sounded like beauty in its purest form.” He smiled at Victoria as she stopped to stare at him. “You have a need for beauty don’t you? I bet you were told your whole life how ugly you were so you became obsessed with making yourself beautiful. From the scars behind your ears I can tell you have had some work done. That doctor of yours is a miracle worker yes?” He said with a sly smile.
Victoria stood frozen. She snapped out of it as her bottle of soda hit the floor and thunder slammed hard against the blackened clouds. “Just who the hell do you think you are?” She said with a shaky voice.
The beefy stock boy moved away from the door he was guarding and moved to stand near his boss. “Look like I told you just a minute ago. Leave the customers alone. If you can’t be quiet I’ll be forced to throw you out and I know you don’t want to go out in that storm do you?” His chest heaved with controlled anger.
“Tommy is it?” The strange man said as he examined the stock boys name tag. “I can read you too. How many breaks do you take to examine the porn websites on your boss’s computer when she’s not looking? You can do what you want right because your mommy always says ‘boys will be boys’ right?” He said with a boyish grin that looked out of place on his face. The longer he sat there the more I noticed his face changing. He looked older somehow but yet he didn’t. It was almost as if he was hiding the wrinkles behind stage make up.
Tommy approached the man. “Look man, I don’t know who you have been talking to but I think you need to check your facts before you start running that big mouth of yours.” He said as he cracked his knuckles in the strange man’s face.
The strange man began to laugh as he stood up. Everyone who had once been making small talk had become quiet to watch the strange scene unfolding. The thunder became louder and the lightening became brighter and more frequent. “You stupid people! You’re like sheep easily led anywhere. Even to the slaughter! I can read you because I have been around a long… long time!” He laughed even harder. “Take you for instances.” He said as he pointed to the woman sitting close to a young man with his arm around her. “You’re not even supposed to be with him are you? Where is your husband?” He laughed as he face turned red. “And you, your just pissed because you need a drink huh sir? You’re thinking about walking back to the beer and wine section and downing one right now aren’t you?” He said as he pointed to a man in hand me down clothes looking startled holding his throat. “And you are looking all dignified in your business suit. I bet when you hired your workers you forgot to mention that you are on the sex offender’s registry and that you secretly wish you were still at it.” He said to the manager gawking at him with his mouth open. “And you miss lonely heart. I actually relate to you, I too walk this world alone and no one would ever notice if I disappeared from existence. You suffer from gluttony unfortunately. Some people choose whiskey; you chose food to drown out the pain. You really wanted to go to college didn’t you? Did your parents give a damn about you and save the money you would need? Of course not they told you to sink or swim and you sank.” He said with an evil grin and as he exposed his teeth. All of them were sharp and jagged and they poked his lips causing them to bleed. The thunder crashed down all around the store but the rain had turned to blood splashing crimson against the window. A fresh round of gasps swept through the shoppers as they backed up against the wall and as they held on to a loved one. As he looked around at all the frightened faces his grin became demented and his eyes became blood red. I slid up the wall to stand. Fear ripped through my body and he turned to look at me. “You’re brave… afraid… but brave.”
“Who are you?” I whispered.
“I knew you would be the one to ask.” He said as his front tooth pierced his lip causing blood to trickle down his chin. “I am the darkness that I am.”
“Are you the devil?” I said with uncertainty.
“I have been called that before but I have many names. I love them all. All of them strike up fear in all of you. You make me strong, you help me to live!” He hissed like a snake when he spoke. I knew I had to stand up to him or die.
“I’m not afraid of you!” I said as loud as I could. “Go away!”
He laughed a strange laugh this time; it was deep almost like a growl. “How dare you tell me what to do little girl! You’re not enough to make me go away!” He hissed again, this time showing a snake like tongue.
I looked around at everyone. “Come on! Stand up to him! He is feeding off of our fear!” I held out my hand and I was grateful as one by one everyone stood up to hold my hand and then the hand of the next person. “We are not afraid of you! Go back hell to where you belong!”
His face became contorted with rage as he began to pace. He threw his hands up in the air and screamed so loud that the windows shattered all around us and before I knew it, a bright light flashed all around us and a strange force threw us all backward. I lost my grip on Tommy’s sweaty hand and hit my head on the wall. A warm sensation trickling down my neck assured me I was hurt. I put my palm against my head and managed to pull myself up to a sitting position. The strange man was gone and so was the storm. I looked around at all the disoriented people. Everyone was trying to regain their balance and some were attending to their injuries. I guess I wasn’t the only one to get hurt. I turned and looked outside. The sun was setting and the birds were chirping. It was if nothing had ever happened, there was no evidence on the ground that it had even rained blood.
After I had been attended to by the EMT’s I went home. I watched the news and the reporter passed it off as a freak storm that had isolated its self over the grocery store. I however knew differently. I know I saw pure evil today, Satan to be exact, but you won’t see that on the evening news. Now would you?