FBI Man: Anomalies Unit
She was shivering in the July heat. The grocery store’s green sliding doors, normally closed to keep such heat out, were propped open. Her hands were knotted together, feeling numb as the regular greetings for a customer flew out of her head. The belt buckle of the man in front of her register was of utmost interest, her eyes glued to it. In her head, Mackenzie was wondering when her shift would end so that she could go back to her bed and stay under the covers for a week. This afternoon was truly terrible.
The sliding doors kept trying to close, but they closed again and again on the head of the man who lay on the floor. A squelching sound would come from it every time, and the doors would open back up, letting in another blast of heat. Blood flowed from his neck, which was stuck in the cart’s section. Pooling on the ground, it was enough of a mess to need a good rinse and heavy mopping.
Mackenzie kept her hands absolutely still. Her manager, Kevin, always said with angry customers that sudden movements meant you were trying to do something against them. That wasn’t a good way to calm people down, so you should find a good resting position for them. That’s what he told her. She didn’t know where he was right now. She thought she saw him by the lottery ticket counter, but nothing moved over there anymore. But he could probably calm this guy down. Kevin was always good with that sort of thing.
Mackenzie was miserable with confrontation. There were multiple times when customers walked out with free goods because she couldn’t argue with them long enough to keep them in the store. Kevin and her parents said she needed to be more confident, but it was impossible. Besides, if there were confident people all around her, that just made up for her lack of it. She was fine with being walked over. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?
The man in front of her was very good at confrontation. Especially in the intimidation department. Mackenzie kept her eyes locked on his belt buckle. It wasn’t a special one, just an oval iron piece with Levi’s logo on it. It was pretty well polished, save for the specks of blood on it. But a good rinse was all it needed.
A good rinse was what the entire store needed. Blood was everywhere, and people’s bodies were thrown haphazardly around, like tossing a pillow. It was a scene out of a nightmare. The man’s hands in front of her hung at his side. They were covered in blood too. Customers who left messes were a pain to clean up after. But Kevin always helped with that. He was a good manager. He helped his employees with any problems, messes, and confrontations.
She just needed to wait for Kevin. That’s what she told herself. Over and over. Just wait for Kevin, he’ll calm this guy down and get him to leave. As she stood below the towering man, Mackenzie wondered if she’d have to do overtime for the mess. She hoped not. She just wanted to sleep.
The man in front of her moved and she stiffened. It was a natural reflex, one that happened with anybody who moved around her. Skittish was the word to describe herself. People normally attributed that word to rats or other small creepy crawlies, but Mackenzie thought it was fine to use for herself. She was skittish, and nervous around other people. There was nothing wrong with that.
The man leaned his head towards her. He was tall, freakishly so. His skin was a grayish complexion like he had stood in a dumpster for too long. He didn’t smell though. The blood covered his natural scent. His eyes were completely red, with no other colors. He must have a medical condition. Mackenzie didn’t dare stare directly at him. Staring was rude, especially when people had things that made them different from others.
Maybe that wasn’t the right thing to say. Different makes people ostracized. The man wasn’t different. He was unique. His own type of person.
The man, his own type of person, suddenly growled.
“Girl, why has the world changed? The gods have left for so long and humanity has covered the Earth in concrete. I follow a burning road only to find metal beasts and shops like these. Where has the honor gone, the crowds who obeyed kings, the priests who respected the spirits? Now there is only rubbish, trash like those around you who don’t even scatter like insects. They simply stare in shock, shocked that they could die. The ones who brought me into this world through this man’s bodily temple promised me greatness, an easy kingdom to make. But what kingdom is there to make from this? A kingdom of roaches and roads? Where are the knights who protect villages, those who charge headfirst into the fray? All there is are bright burning lights on more of those metal beasts, with men inside who are as shocked as the peasants. No one here can challenge me. And if there is no challenge, there is no point. The world I come from is one of turmoil, a constant broil of essences mixing. One cannot decipher themself from another. Only when my name is called from your world do I truly come into existence. Tell me girl, who do you think I am? A monster sent to kill you, a catastrophe that happened, or am I simply a nightmare? Something you hope to wake up from, so that you may forget and return to your mundane life. Is this enough for you? Do you truly revel in this life? Or do you wish to do something more, something that makes your heartbeat and lungs constrict? Speak your mind, as I grow bored of mindless slaughter. The feeling of power is exhilarating, but without meaning, it is too easy. Speak your mind girl, what do you say to this monster in front of you?”
Mackenzie raised her hand shakingly to a sign to her right. She almost forgot to mention the weekly deal. You always do that when a customer comes to checkout.
“U-u-um, we have a buy-one-get-one-free deal going on with, uh, with T-Bone steaks this week. You can save up to seven… or maybe eight… ah... for your next barbeque purchase!”
The man blinked. She wondered if this was his first-time hearing about the deal. But honestly, how could you miss it? There are signs all over the store talking about it.
Rising back to his full height, the man rubbed his head and sighed. “There is nothing left to salvage in this mortal realm. I shall kill everything in sight. Thank you, girl, for helping me come to this realization. I shall grant you a quick release.”
Mackenzie turned to see a man in a black-and-white suit standing in line behind the current customer. He had shaggy black hair and a ghost of a smile on his face.
“You mentioned that T-Bone deal? Think you could grab two for me? A barbeque sounds real nice right about now.”
Mackenzie pointed toward the man in front of her register. “I’m sorry, um, but I’m dealing with another customer right now. Kinda. You can ask another attendant for some help.”
The suited man looked around the bloody store. The sliding doors closed on the head again.
He turned back to her. “Right… I think this guy can wait. That’s fine with you isn’t it?”
The current customer now turned to fully face the man in the suit. He said nothing but stared at the new arrival. Mackenzie took that as a yes and slipped away before anything could be said. That was close. But now Kevin could come and deal with those two once he sees the empty register and two customers. It sucked to do it in such a crappy way, but Mackenzie really couldn’t handle conflict. She hated it. From the raised voices to the aggressive movements, it just jarred her too much. Whenever her parents argued, even over the small stuff, she always just kind of… shut down. People called her slow, but it wasn’t like that. It was just easier to zone out when things get stressful.
Passing through the noodle aisle, Mackenzie made her way to the meat section. She passed by stains and messes everywhere as she walked. Kevin was definitely going to be mad, there was no way he couldn’t be. Sure, he was an easygoing manager, but this was ridiculous! Shelves had half their contents spilled on the ground and the floor was so slick people could trip and fall. After dealing with those two customers, she’d have to come back to this aisle with a wet floor sign. Maybe a mop too.
Reaching the meat coolers, she grabbed two of the T-Bones that had the clearance stickers on them. That way, the suited man could get a free steak and save some more money than usual. That was a nice thing to do, right?
Turning around, Mackenzie slipped on the slick floor. Groaning in pain, she looked to see blood covering the floor. Now she had blood all over her work apron just because the meat section guys were too lazy to clean up after themselves. Still, she managed to save the steaks by cradling them in her arms. Points for effort. She hobbled back up and walked back to the register. She hoped she didn’t look too suspicious. Maybe the customer would think she killed somebody trying to get the steak. That’d be hard to explain, a murder in the middle of a grocery store.
Reaching the register, the man in the suit was on the phone. He was covered in blood now too and held a steel ax in his hand. Mackenzie thought she saw a glimpse of the other customer on the floor, but she must’ve imagined it. He probably just left after waiting for so long. She put the steaks down on the conveyor belt.
The suited man glanced in surprise at her, then promptly ended his call. He turned and raised an eyebrow at her.
“... so why’d you come back?”
Mackenzie looked at him in a confused way. “What do you mean, you asked for some T-Bone steaks.”
He blinked, looked at the steaks, then looked at her again. He scratched his head.
“Are you autistic?” he asked.
“Um… uh… no. I don’t think so. I’m just doing my job, so I think that comment is a little uncalled for.”
The suited man scratched his head again. Then he shrugged. “Whatever, guess we all have our own way of dealing with things. I’ll take those steaks then.”
Mackenzie went through the motions, scanning the steaks and putting them in a bag. The man paid and the transaction was complete. As he grabbed the bag and began walking away, he suddenly stopped and walked back to her.
“Oh right, I guess you are a sole survivor, so that might connect you to some unwanted things. Here, take my card. If any more weird things happen, call me. I can at least show up for the funeral.”
Mackenzie took his card with some hesitation after that last sentence. Looking at it, she saw an FBI badge on it, along with his name and number. Agent Reilly, part of the Special Anomalies Unit.
Staring at the card, Mackenzie wondered what an anomaly was. Pocketing it, she stood once again at the register, ready to help the next customer. Glancing around, she saw there were no more customers. Just… a very big… mess.
The reality of the situation came crashing down all at once. The slaughter. Kevin being slung across the room like a doll. The screams. The blood. All of the blood. The man’s… no, monster’s words entering her ears. Mackenzie felt all of the compressed trauma at once.
She stared down at her bloody apron. She was covered in it. It soaked into her clothes, and then into her skin. The coppery scent wafted upwards, to where it was all she could smell. She realized now why the meat section guys didn’t bother to clean anything.
Mackenzie vomited everything in her stomach. She wanted to get rid of everything, her memories, the blood, everything. She began a mad dash for the door. But she didn’t make it. Her feet slipped on the mess below her, now a mix of blood and vomit, and she tripped knocking herself out on the red linoleum.
The last conscious thought she had was of that FBI agent. His friendly “Hey” amid all that carnage. Her hand holding the card. She wondered what sort of person he was. But that could wait for tomorrow. Her shift just ended, and now she could sleep.