I was feeling uneasy because of the economy and many maladies. My rent was hungry and my stomach past due. Moodily, I grabbed my cane and last roll of quarters which felt slimy in my palm and clip-clip-clopped down to the corner bodega. The resident rat catcher (unbothered, flourishing) shot me a disinterested look as the little bell chimed when I pulled the door open and entered. Perusing the aisles, I needed a deal. The pops of colors were begging for my attention: the sweet little interlopers, the meddling, salty snacks. And lo, my attention was turned to the object of this tale: the little square packages, the new ramen flavor for a limited time. The void.
“Aye, that’s forty percent off,” the usually surly bodega man announced with a twinkle in his eye when he saw me examining the purple package.
The gods had taken pity on me and really it was in the nick of time because that very morning I had received a stack of colorful threats from my various creditors in the mail. I stared hard at the ramen. Instead of some elegant chicken or well-to-do bovine, the artwork displayed the darkened, lush grounds of a well-manicured cemetery. Ominously, in bold lettering: side effects may vary. Feeling proud, I plopped my lunch on the counter and relinquished five quarters from the roll. The bodega man flashed me a crooked smile.
When I turned to leave, I was instead sucked into some darkly wet abyss that opened up within the floor.
Through the porthole, I emerged on the other side. The space was eerily similar to the shop I was so familiar with. Milling around, zombie-like consumers stalked the tidier aisles, still chasing deals under a threatening and blotted-out sun. Time continued to tick away. It’s become clear to me over my years here that the exchange had one crucial fault, one dastardly trade-off: that in an effort to save eighty cents, I was doomed to a hell of subpar sustenance which dragged down my health and exaggerated my cholesterol levels to unhealthy proportions. And now I’m sending this missive, which I’ve managed to shoot back through the void.
To whom it may concern,
You’re probably thinking “I’ll save a little money.”
They have set up the void to cater to this notion.
They might tell you that people looking for a deal make bad decisions.
That their lives are this way because of their choices.
That you’re doomed to unrelenting horrors because your quarters are almost out.
In this hell, they’re calling the shots.
I spend my sullen days in the void bumping into the elbows of other shoppers. The sun never sets, and we keep getting sicker. In the lavender hue of that rotting place, with its misshapen fruits and off-brand snacks, I watch as other apparitions go for the throat over in the clearance aisle. It seems to me unethical that someone should benefit from this ghastly curse, but here we are.
Art by Ashley Yu