Hey there! I had the privilege of hosting a monster-themed short story contest this month and am happy to share my favorite entry with you. The author wrote this story to be a humorous twist on what I was expecting, but I found it tasteful and entertaining all the same. Enjoy!
Every Town – by Joel Bigman
Every town has its monster.
Kalispell was lucky. They got a slimy giant slug eye-sucking monster. Those are picky eaters, only eyeballs will do. It takes a lot of eyeballs to satisfy one, but you could hear it sucking and slurping along long before it got close enough to lash out with one of its tentacles and suck out an eye.
The Kalispell Eye Sucker, though ravenous, wasn’t very bright. A simple pair of safety goggles was enough to confuse it or him/her/him-and-her. The creature’s gender was not its most important characteristic.
Though denied a proper diet by the local populace, the monster managed to eke out a living, preying on tourists who came to the national park and the occasional out of state hunter. Its
moderate reign of terror ended when it choked on Henderson’s glass eye. Everybody chipped in to buy him a new one. The next monster delivery was in 2029, so his sacrifice had brought them
six years of quiet.
Bartlesville wasn’t so lucky.
They drew a smart, sneaky monster, a shape-shifter to boot. Anderson, the stock boy at United Supermarket, was the first to notice. He restocked the coffee shelves Monday morning, as usual. It was the first time he’d seen completely empty shelves. Not
a single jar of Maxwell House nor a crumb of Taster’s Choice. Ground coffee? Gone. Whole roasted beans? Only a memory. There weren’t even any of those awful capsules left.
Anderson shrugged, wiped off the shelves, and reloaded them with the jars and bags of the trade. Must be
one of those statistical flukes or uncertainty principles. On to the breakfast cereal shelves.
Eight a.m. Tuesday morning. The breakfast cereal shelves were nearly full, and didn’t require his attention. The coffee shelves, however, were completely empty. Again. Anderson went back into the stockroom and loaded up a cart with coffee. Summers, his boss noticed.
“What’s with all the coffee?”
“Don’t know. I restocked yesterday, but it’s all gone already.”
“Hmm. Must be one of those statistical things, or maybe an uncertainty principle.”
Anderson restocked the shelves.
Two hours later the cashiers were getting complaints. No coffee on the shelves! Soon Summers and Anderson were standing in front of the shelves, scratching their heads. That amount of
coffee should have lasted a week.
“Anderson. This isn’t statistics.”
“Nope. I wonder what it looks like.”
“Easy enough to find out.”
They quietly surveyed the cashiers. Who bought coffee this morning? They all reported the same thing. All sorts: men, women, singles, couples, tall, short, old, young. All sorts, and lots of
“Anderson, what do you think?”
“Yep. Let’s catch it.”
“Restock the coffee, we’ll wait next to the shelves, and nab the beast.”
“What if we grab a real shopper?”
“We’ll wait for one that looks too stereo… you know, stereotypical. Somebody who looks too much like what they’re supposed to be.”
Anderson shrugged and went off to restock the shelves. Soon he was standing with Summers, waiting for that fake customer to show up. First there was middle-aged guy with a pot belly, plaid shirt and heavy boots.
Anderson whispered, “Too obvious, Mr. Summers. Let’s grab him!”
“It’s my neighbor, Wilson.”
A lanky teenager, complete with torn jeans, tee shirt and acne was next. He couldn’t possibly be real, but Anderson knew him.
Next were Anderson’s French teacher, Summer’s cardiologist, highly suspicious non-descript housewives, a gas station attendant, then a few grandmothers. They were all suspicious, but there was no way to tell which one was the monster. They came faster and faster, and the shelf was emptying out at a furious rate.
Summers stroked his chin.
“Most of them are the monster. He/she/it is going into overdrive on all that caffeine. But we’ll never be able to tell who’s real, and who’s the shape changer.”
He scratched his head.
“Well, stock the shelves. That’s what we do.”
Anderson shrugged, and filled up the shelves again, and again, and again. Four or five times a day. The stockroom was soon emptied. They ordered more coffee from the regional warehouse,
which lasted for another week, but then the warehouse refused to ship anymore.
“You’re using up more coffee in a week than you normally use in a year. We’ve got other stores to supply. What’s going on– you having a caffeine orgy there?”
Somebody was having a caffeine orgy, but it wasn’t the tired residents of Bartlesville. Teachers fell asleep in classrooms. Two roof repairmen dozed off, fell, and suffered minor injuries. There was an upsurge in automobile accidents, and the audience at the local baseball stadium snored through the national anthem. When a surgeon at the St. John Jane Phillips hospital fell asleep in the middle of an appendectomy, even the most optimistic Bartlesvillian admitted that they had a problem.
Coffee sales at the supermarket had reached a frenzy. There was a lot of profit in coffee sales, but few other shoppers showed up, so sales in other departments were way down. After all,
who wants to share a supermarket aisle with a monster?
Summers and Anderson were in the stockroom, eyeing their last pallet of Taster’s Choice.
“When it finishes that, we’ll be done.”
“Anderson- we’ll be done, but the darn thing will just move on to another store. It’ll keep going till the entire county is dry.”
“I heard that out in Ponca they’ve got a leg chewer. Centipede a yard long, grabs hold of a leg, and slowly chews it off. It can take two days till it’s done. Once it latches on, you can’t get it off
till it’s eaten the whole leg.”
They pondered the coffee. There were other pallets surrounding it. Flour, sugar, crates of vegetables, decaf coffee, cans of tuna….”
Summers was stroking his chin.
“You don’t suppose…”
“It wouldn’t fall for it.”
“I’m not sure it evens opens the jars. It might eat them whole.”
“What do we have to lose?”
Summers set to work opening and emptying the red jars, while Anderson opened the green decaf ones and poured them into the red ones. It took a few hours, but in the end they had a
pallet of red jars full of decaf and buckets full of loose instant caffeinated coffee. The entire stockroom smelled of coffee.
Anderson brushed off his clothes, loaded up his cart, and went out to do battle, i.e. restock the shelves. A grandmother stood in the coffee section, complete with shawl, cane and wire framed round glasses. She grabbed two jars, and hobbled off far too quickly to the checkout counter. A
tall mustached lanky guy in new jeans, plaid shirt and sandals was next, followed, in quick succession, by every teacher Anderson had had in the past three years. The thing must be
reading his mind. The figures were moving faster and faster, till they became a vague blur. Oddly enough, they always paid, and cash piled up in front of the registers.
Summers joined him.
“It’s desperate for caffeine now. Shouldn’t take long.”
A teenage girl in a flowered dress walked slowly down the aisle, blond braids swinging behind her. She slowly reached for one of the few remaining jars, collapsed on the floor, and melted.
Summers smiled. He just couldn’t resist.
“Good to the last drop.”
© All Rights Reserved