Sucker

Mist seeped in, we knew it might, we’d heard it on the news. I didn’t smell anything, but my teeth felt metallic, then the rage. The man next to me, his beard thick and curly, I grabbed it, yanked, pulled. Put my palm on his forehead for leverage and leaned back. A thick wad of facial hair tore from his chin. He screamed but I was already pushing his head to the ground. I stepped on it, lifted my whole weight, both feet curved around his face, the rubber grinding against eye socket, I slipped and toppled. Someone came at me, lifting a food court chair over their head, ready to bring it down on mine. I dove at their legs, rolling awkwardly into their knees. They fell back, I rotated to bring my torso weight down and felt a shin snap. The chair was mine now. I stood, gripping the back tightly, the legs aloft like a baseball bat. Someone yelled, did they say the supermarket? That’s where I had to be. To my left and right, people tore at each other, beat one another. A child threw another into a store window. It rattled, then the kid speared the dazed victim, taking the pair of them through the glass, disappearing into a tangle of organic baby clothes. I stomped to the supermarket’s cul de sac. The bakery in the middle of the area was under siege. A mass of hungry shoppers were being held back by two aproned attendants. The employees were spraying boiling water out of their dish sink hoses into people’s faces, the unlucky gargling in pain as their comrades pushed them down and trampled over the top. I skirted the mob but caught the attention of a grandmother. She swung a length of pipe, the base from a broken table. I held her at bay beyond my chair, legs pointed at her face. She slowly circled me like a lion in a circus. Her milky eyes thought they saw an opening and she jabbed the pole at my flank. I twisted the chair, the legs snagged her weapon and I wrenched it out of her frail hands. She lifted them in defence but my chair came down hard. By the time she’d crumpled to the tile, I only had a tangle of cloth and soft metal chair legs hanging from my hand. I tore the best leg out and kept on to the supermarket. The cash registers were the front line. Green-clad clerks were forcing clientele faces into the suction tubes, or caving in skulls with socks full of coin rolls. I picked what seemed a weak point and sprinted as fast as I could for a thin, weedy teen. He saw me coming and turned to face me, but I threw the metal leg at his face. He ducked and it clanged against his shoulder. No real damage, but enough time for me to crash tackle him, lifting up his body and then bringing my whole self down on him. His back crunched against the plastic bag holders. I stood up. His face was contorted in pain, one leg convulsing. Leaving the broken teen, I walked though his checkout lane into the supermarket. Where were they kept? I couldn’t remember, blood and fury fogging my mind. Someone fell backwards over a display stand of batteries, immediately swarmed by two mothers using their pram as a battering ram, and I remembered: impulse displays. I stalked into the aisle, saw a brightly coloured stand. At the far end, three overweight family members were slamming one another against the aisle, meters from the stand. I collected glass jars of jam and threw them as hard as I could, one by one, into the doughy melee. Most hit the softest parts of their bodies, but one clocked a skull, the glass holding firm, the jar pinging off at a sharp angle. The target’s eyes went blank, his huge body stiffened and he collapsed. The other two looked at me, but I kept throwing, closing in on my display stand. They retreated. I turned to my destination, hungry, saliva pouring out of my mouth, mixing with the sweat already soaking my shirt. No! All the chupa chups were gone! The display had been pillaged, bloody handprints smeared over the small round lollipop stick holders. I roared, furious, and began crying as I climbed an aisle and scrambled over the top. I fell into the other side. A small boy was angrily gnawing on the stump arm of a body. He looked up at me and growled, but I shoved him out the way and ran, slipping on blood that covered the entire length of the floor. Then I paused and turned back. The boy was apoplectic, making it hard for him to stand back up as he swung tiny fists in the air, unable to contain himself. I squinted, my head throbbing. As the boy finally got to his feet, I saw it: in his pockets bulged a trove of them, their white sticks poking out. The boy realised what I was looking at and froze. I launched down the aisle, but the blood made it difficult and I had to grab at the shelves for balance. This gave the little rat time to understand, and he turned tail. I pulled myself along fast, slipping, running, until I dove onto the corpse and slid to the end. I came out into the frozen section and saw the boy manoeuvring around a couple arguing with broken mops. The wife screamed, piercingly loud, and ran the sharp end of her snapped handle through her husband’s belly. He slapped her away, but looked down at the protrusion, blinking. The boy skirted around the confused man and into the meat section. Beyond the mess, I could see the kid’s aim — a pair of flap doors into the storage area out back. Suddenly, blocking my view, the wife, her long hair a wild mess in her face. She sized me up, saw my comparative bulk, then looked at her still baffled husband. With a hard yank, the mop handle and his intestines came spurting out. The wife charged me, the slick sharpness careening for my own soft belly. I ran at her too, batted the stick away, but it angled down and pierced my thigh. I swung around, my momentum flicking the wife around me like a sped up carousel. She flung off into a stand of canned soup, the terrible weight of it all crashing down around her. I looked up from my bloody leg and saw the kid in a tangle with the deli counter ladies, who were trying to strangle him with sausage links and salami. I ripped the mop out and limped forward. One woman, her hair net soaked in viscera, was beating the boy over the head with a heavy mild Danish. Another grabbed the distracted boy’s legs and started dragging him to the slicer. The boy reached out and desperately clawed the first woman’s face. Yowling, she returned the favour by thumping him out cold with her cured weapon. Her scratched eyes bulged with indignant frenzy as she ran to the slicer and spun it up. She kicked off the guard and waited, her mouth a twisted, foaming smile as her companion heaved the unconscious boy onto the slab and tugged his small hand to the spinning blade. My fist slammed into the companion’s throat. She fell choking to the ground. Her workmate groaned and came at me, kneeing me in the groin. Then the wife was on my back, biting into my shoulder, tearing out a hunk of muscle near my neck. In a sudden panic, I reached up, grabbed hair, ducked down and flipped her over my head. She toppled into the slicer and I heard a sawing noise that went low and strained, then disappeared in her screams. The last deli woman ignored us both and was dragging the boy off the slab. She lifted a heavy boot and began stomping the child. I watched, in horror, as a heel came down on the boy’s pocket, and saw a few chupa chups fall out, crushed into powder, spilling out of their wrappers. My leg was hot, my energy pulsing out with the blood, but this shocking sight gave me perhaps my last burst. I threw myself at her, simply aiming to push her away, and scrambled at the limp youth’s pockets. I ripped the chupa chupa out and stood, five of the beautiful things in my hand. I couldn’t believe it, the majesty of them, round, hard in my fist, their little sticks poking out between my fingers. I feverishly began the difficult process of unwrapping one, oblivious to the deli worker stalking towards me with a butcher’s cleaver. Enraptured, I threw the plastic wrapping to the ground and held the exposed lollipop up to the fluorescent light, marvelling at the cola colouring. The cleaver bit into sinew and bone, knocking the chupa chup from my partially severed hand. I cried out in anguish at the lost candy, my eyes darting around for where it might have fallen, absently holding my forearm above the dangling mess of meat and fingers. The deli worker took advantage of my fevered distraction and lifted her cleaver for a second, killing blow. The flap door suddenly burst open and a round of automatic fire splattered her insides across the deli counter window. The cleaver clattered the ground. I turned to it and saw, with a delight greater than seeing the face of God, my unwrapped lollipop. I ran to it. The special operation group police standing in the doorway took it as a sign of aggression and opened fire. The feeling of burning acceleration threw me back, away from my treasured prize. I fought on, pushed forward, reaching out for the chupa chup next to the butcher’s cleaver. More loudness, more searing pain all through my body. As I fell, I reached out, my last hand falling onto the sticky treat. With the last of my strength, I flexed my hand, closing my fingers around it, holding it, my chupa chup, finally and forever mine.

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