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Rise Of The Retailer

By JT Lewis Author All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Horror

Rise Of the Retailer

It had come!

Wrapped in a manila envelope for your personal privacy, Stan Medford could feel the CD case within just like the man had claimed.

His world was about to change!

Stan’s hands shook with excitement. Should he go to work, or slough it off? This was, after all the first day of his independence…shouldn’t he just go ahead and get started?

It was only noon…his wife wouldn’t be home until five. He should have a good start by then. Lifting the phone, he called in to the plant, feigning sickness with a laryngitis-filled voice.

He would be there tomorrow, he promised.

No need to burn his bridges just yet.

But Stan had confidence now…a confidence born of his new-found knowledge, the secret knowledge passed down to a select group of intellectuals from an ancient Magi.

He couldn’t believe his luck!

It had been so simple!


Scouring the internet a week ago, he had happened across the posting while searching out something for his wife.

Flowers! He scoffed. The stupid flowers that his wife had nagged him to find for weeks had ultimately lead to the discovery that would change his life!

The words on the posting were simple…too simple…but they had stopped him in his tracks!

What is the meaning of life?

Stan had studied the post for twenty minutes. Those were the only words…it offered nothing…no get-rich-quick schemes, no promises of treasure or enlightenment…just the simple question…

What is the meaning of life?

After studying the post, he then gave some thought to the actual question.

Clicking on the email link below the question, he stared at the blank page as he formed his answer.

Such a simple question, yet so hard to put into words.

He gave some thought to that too as he watched the cursor blink on the page…why was this so hard to put into words?

When the answer hit him, he smiled.

The meaning of life is different for everyone, he wrote.

We must all form our own definition to life as we see it. Whether that be wealth, happiness or even just a nice meal once a week, it is a personal endeavor that must be felt and acted upon by the individual.

That is the meaning of life.

Stan Medford

He hadn’t given the email much thought after that as he had realized it was time to leave for work. Slapping a sandwich together, he had to rush out to his car and head off for the twenty minute trip to zombie land.

Standing aside a line of soda bottles as they flew by on the production line for the next eight hours didn’t leave much room for actual thought after all. When nine o’clock finally rolled around, he was too tired to think of anything as he slid into his car and made the return trip home.

His wife was already in bed…as usual…and she hadn’t made him anything for supper. Grouchy, Stan popped a frozen dinner into the microwave.

As he stood next to the humming machine, he thought about the travesty that was his life. His wife and he hardly talked anymore, and that was probably for the best as they had forgotten anything they had in common ages ago. All he did was go to work, come home, and eat lousy food. Even on the weekends, when they were both off of work they seemed to use any excuse to stay away from each other.

Taking his steaming tray of Mac and Cheese into the living room, Stan plopped down in his chair and clicked on the TV. Nothing was on worth watching of course, but it didn’t really matter…the noise helped him forget why he was there.

It was the best he could hope for.

Finishing his meal, he set the empty tray on the floor and raised the foot of his recliner. Most nights he slept there, as it was often more comfortable than lying beside his snoring wife.

As his eyes were just starting to close however, his laptop pinged beside him.

Rousing himself a little, he pulled the laptop off of the side table and onto his lap. It was seldom that he got an email, at least one that wasn’t some sort of spam. Not really hopeful that it was anything more than an ad for erectile dysfunction, Stan enlarged the email software on his screen.

Right on top was a message that made his heart skip a beat.

What is the meaning of life?

Opening the email, he started to read.

Dear Mr. Medford (Stan)

I was pleased to receive your email earlier. Not only do I usually not get many answers to my post, very few of them contain the correct answer.

For you see Stan, I hope it is ok to call you Stan, this is the way that the invitation is designed…to weed out those that are unworthy of the wisdom.

Yes, I said invitation, for in reality that is what my posting was in actuality.

Let me explain…

First, my name is Jupiter, and I have been tasked with the mission of seeking out those of high intelligence and understanding by my masters. We belong to a secret organization that holds the knowledge and wisdom of Barcus, an ancient Magi.

Before you spend any time searching out his name, let me warn you that you will not find it. He, as well as his accumulated wisdom are but a whisper in the wind to most of the world. Only those few of the chosen that have demonstrated the innate skills are even allowed to hear his name.

You Stan, are now one of those few. Your answer to the question has ranked you as a man with unusual mental skills, skills that show a unique understanding of the world around you.

Because you are now a new initiate, I would like to welcome you to the fold and send you some secret materials that will get you up to speed on how to expand your mind. With this imparted wisdom, you will no longer have to be tied to the drudgery of modern life.

People will pay you for your knowledge.

You will be able to set your own hours as you help the world. As our organization grows, we will be a force to contend with. Governments will bow to our wisdom and seek us out to repair the world.

Unfortunately, you presently live a few thousand miles from me. If you would be so kind as to forward $20 US to me to cover my overhead, I will send you your information. It will be sent in a plain manila envelope to protect your…as well as our privacy.

Once I have your money in hand, I will email you the user name and password needed to open the packet.

PLEASE! Do NOT share this with ANYONE! If someone of a lesser intelligence were to get a hold of this information…well…lets just say that the world as we know it could easily be in jeopardy! 

I look forward to hearing back from you Stan…just hit the link below to send your payment.

Thank you for revealing yourself to me Stan. Our organization…as well as the world around us has just taken a stellar leap forward from your actions!

In highest regards,

Jupiter

Stan’s heart beat wildly in his chest! Even knowing it could all be a ruse, the thought of belonging to such an organization staggered his mind.

Besides, what’s twenty bucks?

Clicking the link, Stan quickly entered the credit card information. He was immediately rewarded with an email containing his username and password, the email further explaining that the username was his new identify within the group.

Cepheus!

Stan let the name roll off of his tongue.

Cepheus…Cepheus…Cepheus…

A name full of wisdom and wonder…


Now it was here!

Taking the packet into the living room, he carefully slit the envelope so as to not damage any of the contents. The CD case slid out in his lap, as well as a short note on a piece of thick, vellum paper.

Thank you again Stan, the note said in a fine calligraphy, just insert the CD into your drive and the wonders of the world will be revealed to you. Please make sure that your computer is connected to the internet as this is an interactive program.

Jupiter

Snapping open the case, Stan then tapped the button to open the CD drive, carefully placing the CD into it before closing the drive once more.

Stan’s tensions ramped up in sync with the drive’s whine. As the sound leveled out, Stan noticed a low noise emitting out of his speakers, so low it rumbled into his bones through his legs.

An image suddenly popped up on the screen…the image was of a vine-covered tree.

This is the Tree of Wisdom of one of our members, the words imparted to him as they appeared under the tree.

He is a great leader in the world, it continued. This is your goal, to bring your own Tree of Wisdom to this height…or greater!

The image faded away, only to be replaced with a short, thin, vertical stick. Stan also felt the frequency of the noise change through his legs, and could now also sense a higher frequency in the air.

This sapling represents your current state of knowledge, the words communicated as the panned across the screen. Are you ready to start building your own Tree of Wisdom?

“Oh hell yeah!” Stan nearly shouted at the screen as he fumbled with the touch-pad to move the cursor over the Yes button.

Immediately, his ears were inundated with a loud, mid-frequency sound. Finding it initially annoying, Stan soon forgot about it as a quiet symphony started playing in the background, the first question simultaneously appearing below the sapling.

Answering it quickly, he watched as the sapling grew a limb, the symphonic background growing in intensity.

Another question appeared, followed by another answer, and yet another limb.

Stan was beside himself with joy! The answers were flowing out of him like lightning from a cloud as his tree grew rapidly, already approaching the size of the tree in the example.

At this rate, he would easily surpass the world leader’s wisdom…

“Holy crap!” he exclaimed when it first happened.

The last answer had started a vine growing up from the now gigantic trunk. As he watched, it slowly wound up the tree and started to follow one of the biggest lower limbs.

When it had finally stopped…it had extended two inches outside the screen!

“Holy crap!” Stan uttered again.

His mind reeled at the implication!

He was wiser than the wisest of the wise!

Another question posed itself on the screen. Stan’s hands literally trembled as the moved toward the keyboard.

There was no stopping him now!

Faster than it takes a meteorite to cross the sky, Stan’s fingers now flew over the keys. As his mind sank into itself with the accumulated wisdom, he watched the vine grow exponentially with each keystroke, the music filling his soul with cadenced wonderment.

Soon the constructed vine wrapped around him, seeming to comfort him as it gently squeezed him with each new answer. Parts of it were spilling off the chair, crawling across the floor and winding themselves up everything they came into contact with.

Stan watched in wonder, his body, mind and sight now three distinct entities, each working separately but harmoniously together.

The headiness of the moment enthralled Stan, his heart rate also increasing exponentially with every new answer, every new inch of vine, every new squeeze of his loving construct.

Abruptly, he found that he couldn’t breathe as the cognitive construct squeezed harder. Innately knowing he had complete control over the creeping plant due to his now-expanded wisdom, he simply closed his eyes and ordered it cease with his thoughts.

Nothing happened…the vine continued to squeeze as his heart rate, now fueled with panic also continued to escalate. Glancing around the room, he nevertheless took solace at the extent of his mind’s expansion.

As the life ebbed out of his body, Stan watched with awe as a new tendril grew in front of him, the end of it morphing into the head of a snake as the symphony ramped up to its finale.

Mouth open now, Stan tried to scream, but there was no breath left in his lungs for sound.

Convulsing as he watched the last moments of his life ebb away, Stan’s eyes finally closed when his chin fell to his chest, the final movements of the music stamping out its insistent Coda, bringing the piece to an end.

Moments later, smoke filtered out of the CD drive as the enclosed software disintegrated.


At five o’clock, an arrogant Sabrina Medford entered the house. She had noticed the car still in its spot…Stan had sloughed off work…again!

“You had better be sick or dead,” she called out as she entered the kitchen door. “You know the mortgage payment is due next week!”

Hearing nothing but silence, Sabrina huffed and moved toward the living room.

“Stan! Where the hell are you?”

Her breath caught in her throat as she entered the room.

Now silent, the room was no longer filled with the vine-cover construct of Stan’s mind, nor that of the strange noise, the symphony…or the convulsing.

All that was left was the lifeless body of Stan Medford, hunched over the melted remnants of his laptop.


The man known as Jupiter smiled when the man’s inputs quit appearing on his screen. Sighing happily, Jupiter tapped a few keys to send the destruct sequence to the man’s computer before severing the connection.

He wasn’t worried about anyone backtracking the man’s last connection, as it was hidden in layers of Virtual Private Networks and a special browser.

Pulling up the man’s page, he glanced over the accumulated information.

“Well Stan Medford, you have indeed graced me with a treasure trove of information.”

Jupiter now had to get to work. He only had a few hours at best to safely use the accumulated credit card information. After making a few needed purchases, he would then set up some additional credit using Stan’s Social Security number, birth date and home address.

“All information freely given to me by poor Stan before he so suddenly passed,” Jupiter giggled.

All the time thinking he was answering questions to save the world, his thoughts continued as he grinned.

Jupiter sighed contentedly. “The things I must do to compete in this cutthroat retail environment.”

Amazingly, Jupiter had obtained the software from just such an ad as he himself had placed. Another retailer had sold the sound-based, mind control software to him by placing a mysterious ad on a message board. Of course, he had forked out much more than $20 to obtain it…but it had been worth it!

Oh…how it had been so worth it!

A pinging on is computer caught his attention. Bringing up the email software, he noticed another interesting email.

What is the meaning of life?

Smiling, Jupiter clicked on the email and started reading.

What is the meaning of life?

As far as I’m concerned, it’s to take care of yourself first. Yourself, your family, and if there’s anything left, maybe give a little to charity.

But that’s just me.

Barry Long

Jupiter grinned as he hit the reply key.

Dear Mr. Long (Barry)

I was pleased to receive your email earlier. Not only do I usually not get many answers to my post, very few of them contain the correct answer.

For you see Barry, I hope it is ok to call you Barry, this is the way that the invitation was designed…to weed out those that are unworthy of the wisdom.

Yes, I said invitation, for in reality that is what my posting was.

Let me explain…


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