Gathered survivors, surviving together, wondering about death, the death of each other, of themselves, what it’s like, where it happens, when, why and how, and who they will or won’t be with.
That Sort of Thing
The supermarket had exploded, sure, but it had also sustained them somehow, let them live on, wondering about death, about purgatory, apocalypse, Lost, that sort of thing. How, when, why, where, who with. All the ‘w’s.
Seven of them here, but more elsewhere, obviously. Only humans make that sort of far off noise that they could sometimes hear, far off. But they stayed gathered in the Breads and Bakery aisle, extreme western end of the downed supermarket. They tried to eat the breads around them – the cinnamon love buns, the poppyseed anxiety foccacias – consuming it all now before it went mouldy. But they couldn’t keep it down. It spewed up in great chunks barely minutes after being eaten. They slept bewildered sleeps between crusting piles of vomit, thinking, wondering.
Janelle, store assistant, part-time, can last remember stocking the Breads and Bakery aisle and thinking about Jessie J. Is no longer quite sure what a ‘Jessie J’ is.
Diane, actress, full-time, can last remember shooting an advert for the supermarket, can no longer remember which supermarket, thinks it might be ASDA, but is too scared to ask. Craves essential oils, doesn’t know why, does a lot of advert acting.
Yuri, cameraman, freelance, can last remember wondering what Diane looks like naked, wondering also if she would let him film it. Still wonders. Thinks that he might have a better chance now, post-apocalypse.
Arthur, retired, fascinated by Egyptology, can last remember trying to decide between thick-cut and medium-cut, pretended to be dead for the first three hours until someone stood on his hand quite deliberately. Refuses to speak.
Rowland and Esme
Rowland and Esme, students, full-time, second year, recently split-up but still on good terms, according to Rowland, but not to Esme. Can no longer remember each other, both suspect they might be siblings. Esme last remembers deciding to do some baking, maybe cupcakes or something, Rowland last remembers sneezing.
And Wendy, who is a mystery to everyone, especially herself.
All human, all alive, all survivors, surviving together, but none can successfully eat food anymore and now worry that their survivalhood will not last much longer. Singing songs and telling jokes has not helped. They are still hungry. They also think about leaving the aisle and seeking assistance. But they do not. The idea of it worries them.
A squeaky squeak squeaks its stereotypical, clichéd way through the Supermarket, twisting and turning between the debris and the dead. It is, of course, a trolley. And it contains Rumour, a new-born Goddess from a pantheon as yet undiscovered and unconceived. She is creation myth, and she knows it.
She has made her way through the whole supermarket, from car-park edge, to Home and Furnishings, and has finally weaved her way to Breads and Bakery, to the last huddled bunch of surviving survivors.
They turn to her, a smokehole of black greyness ripping and slicing from a realm beyond, echoing the shadow of herself. But quite obviously a woman, quite obviously, because Wendy says so, even though it takes them ages to see detail, and then only fleeting glimpses, not of breasts or hair, but of old film clips showing 1920s versions of romantic comedies first released in the early 2000s.
Some Sort of Goddess
‘Some sort of Goddess,’ says Yuri, eventually.
The head of the black mass nods. The survivors say nothing more, but they make their best attempt to look unhappy, because of the hunger.
She, Rumour, the Goddess being born, she, Rumour, says; ‘There’s a girl near the front of the shop eating Heat magazine.’ And they see her face and her lips as she says it, and it warms them for a time, and they pass that liturgy between them, ensuring that it sticks and that the girl in question doesn’t accidently become a boy, or a woman, or an animal, and that the magazine too is remembered; something about being hot, or fires or something.
‘Heat,’ says Arthur, his first and only word, and that helps them to remember better.
Rumour squeaks away, unnoticed.
Narrative Pace, Pretend Corpse
And, with tedious inevitability, the seven of them spend a frantic ninety minutes adventuring through the rest of the supermarket, being picked off one by one in increasingly horrific, disturbing and narratively paced ways. One is taken by Karl, Lord Protector of the Spirits, after trying to steal a bottle of branded vodka. Another two succumb to Value Price, the sentient meat-cadaver ogre, who smothers them with Quorn. One takes a sudden sniper bullet to the head, shot by the pretend corpse of Neil Buchanan from Art Attack. Finally, the third-to-last of the gang is driven to madness and despair when he or she catches reflections of his or her self and, thusly horrified, climbs into the only working freezer and locks his or her self in to ‘sleep it off.’
The Final Two
The final two, and you the reader can choose which two according to your own prejudices, finally reach the front of the shop where the kiosk with magazines once stood. And yes, glorious healthy happy people are sitting there, welcoming and bright. They eat, but not just magazines – they eat everything; plastic, glass, cardboard, aluminium foil. Some are licking the metal of display stands, nibbling on the industrial card of the signage.
And there, in the centre, a wide circle around her, shrine-bound by the rumour spread by Rumour, sits the girl. And she is eating. But it is not Heat magazine. She is eating Zoo magazine. Her young teeth nibble across photographic reproductions of busty women, with bustier smiles, and the bustiest eyes.
So the survivors sit down and begin to eat. But they have to wonder about that. They have to think about that for a bit.