The Milk’s Gone Bad

This was an entry for SF London Flash Fiction

They allowed a maximum of 1500 words… I used 1500 words.The theme was “Disrupted”and the line prompt was “Sorry, but it’s been on my mind…. Did you cancel the milk?”

“Sorry, but it’s been on my mind…. Did you cancel the milk?”

“The milk? Why would I cancel it?”

Jack looked around the darkened store with meaningful intent.

Lisa said, “You don’t think this power outage will last through tomorrow, do you?”

Jack put down his mop and walked over to her saying, “It’s already been two days. They haven’t even announced what caused the problem. What makes you think they’ll get it back on?”

Jack avoided saying the obvious. Everyone knew why the power was out, it didn’t matter if the government was trying to cover it up. Lisa looked worried and Jack was getting the impression that she didn’t want to face the issue. Typical Lisa, always burying her head in the sand. Jack was surprised she had even come downstairs this morning. Lisa had spent yesterday in bed reading her Kindle until its power ran out. A group of soldiers jogged passed the little corner store distracting them both for a moment. When Jack looked back at her she was biting her lip.

Jack said, “Nevermind, I’ll call the company and cancel it myself. We can reschedule the delivery for Wednesday.”

Assuming everything would be back to normal by then.

He continued, “I should make the call before my cell phone dies.”

Jack started walking over to the counter, before he got to it he heard, “The generator still has a quarter tank. We can recharge everything again later…. Can’t we?”

He replied, “Sure babe… We can run it later.”

Jack didn’t want to use up the fuel. He didn’t know how long it would last. He picked up his phone and looked for the dairy distributor in his contacts, hands trembling as he swiped. He hadn’t realized his own nervousness or maybe it was just low blood sugar. Jack decided he would eat a candy bar when he finished his call. There was a loud rumble and Jack saw a tank moving down the street when he peered through the sign coated window. After it passed Jack made the call. He was somewhat surprised when the call rang through and even more surprised to get an answer.

“Anderson’s Dairy”

“Hello, I’m calling from Henderson’s Quick Stop. I need to change my next delivery.”

He heard a grunt on the other end of the phone before she said, “What’s the account number?”

“13-6672-24”

There was a pause while he heard keys clicking on the other end of the line.

“Are you Frank Henderson?”

Jack sighed, Frank was his father. He had tried getting all the account information switched into his own name after his father retired last year and gave him the family store. For some reason, the dairy couldn’t seem to get the switch correct.

He said, “This is Jack Henderson. Frank is my father.”

There was some more key taps on the other end and the bells on the store door rang. When Jack glanced around he saw Mrs. Wilson entering the store. Jack gave her a wave as she looked at him.

“What change do you want to make?”

Jack’s attention went back to his call. He considered the question before saying, “Switch Tuesday’s delivery to Friday please.”

That should be enough time, this can’t go on all week. Another group of soldiers passing the window gave him the lie. He finished up his call without letting Lisa hear how long he had extended the lapse in delivery. She would only freak out if she thought he was worried.

Mrs. Wilson brought a few of cans of soup and some bread up to the counter and said, “I’m surprised you have anything left. Tesco is cleaned out.”

Jack gave her a weak smile and said in a voice that he hoped Lisa wasn’t hearing, “We were closed all weekend. Only been open for an hour.”

“Still… You might want to close back up. Although, I do appreciate being able to buy a few things.”

Jack said in an even lower voice, “Have you seen any of them?”

Mrs. Wilson laughed nervously and said, “Oh my no. They haven’t come anywhere near here.”

Jack didn’t think the military would be so active if the government didn’t expect something. Looking into Mrs. Wilson’s eyes he saw something that prevented him from saying anything more. She was like Lisa, she didn’t want to think about it. Jack looked back over at Lisa, she was finishing the mopping he had started. Then he saw the flash of something running across one of the aisles. Damn mice, need to put some fresh traps out again.

Jack said, “I’m sorry but I can only take cash right now.”

Mrs. Wilson pulled out a few bills from her wallet and handed them to him. He needed to use his phone to add everything up correctly and his keys to open the register to make change. He noticed that the battery on his phone was down to 20%. Maybe he should start the generator again. He completed the transaction and Mrs. Wilson left the store.

After the woman left, Jack looked around his shop. If things got bad… like really bad Lisa and he could live on this food for a month or more. Jack had visions of empty shelves. The way people panicked and bought everything they could when a snowstorm was in the forecast. They could use the money from a cleaned out store but maybe they would prefer the food. Jack went to the front of the store and flipped the open sign to closed, then locked the door.

Lisa came up behind him, “What are you doing?”

Jack said, “I think we might be better off staying closed until this gets straightened out.”

When he turned back to her he saw the mouse scurry by again.

“Damn.”

“What?”

“Mouse… or mice. Second time I saw one today”

Lisa turned to follow where he was looking.

“Where?”

“Down aisle two”

They both started moving quietly to the aisle. When they got there they only saw the empty floor.

“It’s gone now.”

Then they heard a small voice say, “No.. I’m still here.”

They both jumped back from where they were standing.

Jack let out a “Shit!”

Lisa screamed and moved behind him.

“Please do not do that.”

Jack grabbed the mop and started walking back down the aisle toward the sound. He was shaking and he could just imagine a crowded movie theater where the audience was shouting at the screen, “DON’T GO DOWN THERE!” Dumbass.

“Who’s down there?”

The store may have been dark but with the morning light coming through the windows it was enough light to see that there was nobody in the store with them. Jack cursed himself for not recharging his phone earlier and switched on the flashlight app anyway. He shined the little light down the at the floor in front of him and moved it around.

He heard, “Up here.”

Shaking, Jack moved the light up the shelf until he saw it. It wasn’t a mouse. Obviously dumbass. The thing was about the size of a mouse. It had four legs like a mouse. It even had a tail like a mouse. But the head… the head was more like a lizard. Not scaly like a lizard just shaped like one, the sort that has a spiny ridge across the top. It was gray… or brown, tough to tell in the dim lighting. He wasn’t carrying any sort of weapon that Jack could see. He actually looked pretty harmless.

“Hi,” the creature said.

Jack stepped back again.

“You think you could get that out of my eyes.”

“Sorry… I… I”

“Yes, I know. You are all scared of the big invasion thing. Except, we are not invading.”

Lisa had been holding onto the back of Jack’s shirt and now she was pressing her chin into his left shoulder looking at the thing. Jack could feel her own trembles but he was glad to not be alone.

Jack said, “If you’re not invading then what are you doing?”

“Visiting. We have been watching you for about a thousand years.”

Lisa finally spoke up in a frantic rush, “You shut off the power… Why?”

“Was not us. I think it was your government’s idea to keep everyone from knowing what was happening. You people do some weird things.”

It made sense to Jack, sort of… except the phones still worked.

Jack asked, “Why land here?”

“We landed everywhere.”

“Yes, but why not go land on the Capitol lawn?”

The thing shook like a dog flicking water off its coat then said, “Are you kidding? Have you seen your movies about alien invasions? Would you trust the government? Even when Hollywood portrays the aliens as good the government will still want to dissect them. You remember E.T.? Cutest little guy in the world and they wanted to lock him up!”

Lisa said, “So, why did you come inside our store”

“You got any milk?”

 

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