Omigod, all I wanted was a roll of paper towels, because sometimes, as hard as I try not to, I spill things.
I rode my bike to this gigantic place that they built over where that meadow used to be. You know the one? With the cherry trees, and the little brook that burbled over smooth stones, where wild tiger lilies grew, and little fat rabbits frolicked about, singing little fat rabbit songs? They paved half of it, ran the brook into a hole in the ground and built a giant windowless box all over the other half. The rabbits moved in with me. You should see my carrot bills.
At tremendous risk, I navigated the parking lot. What I want to know is, how do these people ever make it back to their SUVS, with all the people parking SUVS? The kill ratio in these parking lots must be spectacular. I locked my bike up, like anyone would have stolen it. Well, somebody might have taken it to feed to their SUV, I guess.
The doors hissed open like an airlock as I entered. The ceiling was so high that it wasn’t actually visible to the naked eye. Necrotic fluorescent lights and sinister black security globes, glinting like spider eyes, hung from the limitless heights. Quickly, I put on a false moustache. I grabbed a shopping cart, in case I ran across something else I might need, like some pencils or a jar of gherkins. The shopping carts were the exact size of a 1975 Cadillac Eldorado.
The first thing I noticed were the giant lines of mountainous squashy greyish people waiting at the registers. There were cash registers stretching to the vanishing point on the horizon, but no cashiers were visible. All the squashy people were bigger than me. Every item they were buying was larger than me. Giant tubs of Marshmallow Fluff, Barrels of Goober-and-Grape, 127-packs of toilet paper, genetically engineered potatoes as big as Volkswagens. IT WAS THE LAND OF THE GIANTS! But somehow less impressive than I had always imagined the Land of the Giants.
The squashy giant people were scanning their own items at electric eye devices, and stuffing plastic cards in slots for payment. I could see several lines where the YOO-SKAN SYSTYM(tm) had failed to properly scan an item, or correctly process the plastic cards. Those screens were blinking with green letters that said ERROR: WAIT FOR ATTENDANT. But no attendants were visible. The squashy giants in those lines were going to die there, and you could see the hopeless fear in their eyes.
I walked back through the store, looking for the paper towel aisle. There were three piles of big-screen televisions in the exact proportions of the Pyramids at Giza, with a Sphinx made out of Little Debbie Snack Cakes. There were squashy giants swarming over a facsimile of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus made of Beef Jerky. There was a Great Wall of Chinese Toasters. I had always wanted to see the Colossus of Rhodes, and here he was, made entirely of Hot Pockets. There were Babylonian Hanging Chia Pet Gardens. There was a Temple of Artemis, like the one formerly at Ephesus, reconstructed out of Boost Liquid Nutrition, which used to be for people too sick to eat, and which is now brilliantly marketed to people too lazy to eat.
After three hours of walking, I reached the paper towels. I was trying to find a more bikable option to the 276-Roll Pak of Brawny Ultra Absorbent Asbestos Paper Towels, when I saw him. Down at the end of the aisle was an Employee, fidgeting absently with his name tag and looking up at a wall of refrigerator-sized boxes of Froot Loops.
“Hey, excuse me-” I said, and he must have leaped three feet into the air. He whirled around, emitted a tiny squeal, and darted around the corner. I took off after him.
It’s a rare modern human that can outrun my bicycle-hardened cromagnon legs, but this little fellow gave me a good run for my money. He spilled a rack of Cheez Whiz to slow me up, then a knocked over a model of the Lighthouse of Alexandria made of cases of Fanta Orange Soda. I was nearly crushed. He dodged right through the legs of the slow-moving squashy giants in his way, and at one point scaled a mountain of Pop-Tarts so high that ice was forming at the summit. I lost him briefly, than I spotted him, pacing himself, trotting along the bottom of a model of the Grand Canyon made of Tinned Ham. I commandeered a massive shopping cart full of pineapples from a startled giant, leapt in and rode it down a precipitous incline to the bottom. The Employee didn’t see me coming until I was almost right on top of him, and then it was too late. I hurled myself from the careering cart and tackled him as pineapples and tins of ham flew in all directions.
The poor little guy was scared as hell. “Please lemme go! Lemme go! I don’t know where anything is! I don’t have any answers for you!” He sobbed, struggling wildly.
“Look, I’m not going to hurt you,” I reassured him, “I just want some paper towels.”
“I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE PAPER TOWELS FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST!” He screamed, and fainted.
When he came to I was sprinkling him with Gatorade, and fanning him with a Sports Illustrated.
“Look, man,” I said, “you don’t look well. Can I call someone? Where’s your Supervisor?”
He croaked, “There’s no Supervisor. I don’t think there’s anyone else here at all anymore. I’m…I’m so alone… first Cheryl was let go, and then Raoul. Manny was found, three weeks dead, behind the Kleenex Display. And the Customers keep coming…they want Almond Joys! They want T-Shirts with stupid slogans on them! They want Haddock, or Scrod. WHAT ABOUT WHAT I WANT???? I want companionship! I want to get out of here- but I can’t remember the way out… I’ve been sleeping in the Tupperware and living on Skittles and Yoo-Hoo…and there’s no-one left to fire me… my paycheck arrives by mail, but I have to YOO-SKAN it back in to pay for the Skittles and Yoo-Hoo.”
“You can’t find your way out? But it’s just over that way, about three hours,” I said, and then suddenly I wasn’t sure. Had I really passed that Coliseum made of Jell-O without noticing it? Beads of sweat broke out on my forehead.
“You see? YOU SEE? There is no way out. We’re going to die in here!” He hissed, and then started to laugh in a terribly screechy way that made me slap him.
“Shut up. I have an idea.” I explained it to him, slowly. Sticking close together, we snuck to a big display in the center of a milling crowd of squashy giants, where we stealthily concealed ourselves in a GIANT NOG CHUG carton. Before long, we’d been selected for purchase and joined the other gigantic consumer goods in the cart. We slept in shifts while the giant completed their shopping and YOO-SKANNED us out. Thankfully, no error message appeared, and the giant lumbered out through the doors.
“These squashy giants have some kind of homing device,” I explained to the Employee, “Look, not only can he find his way out, but he also can find his SUV among a thousand identical SUVS. Uncanny, is it not?”
It remained only for us to leap from the cart and scamper away like mice while the giant roared: “AAUGH WHERE MY NOG CHUG GO???”
I unlocked my bike, and turned to ask the (former) Employee if he wanted to ride somewhere on my handlebars, but he was already sprinting away through the parking lot, towards the setting sun. I sure hope he made it. The kill ratio in these parking lots must be spectacular.